For all the extraordinary things our mothers do for us, their selfless natures and the ways they act in the best interest of others are among their most admirable qualities.

Their countless sacrifices can often go unnoticed, however, since most of the good work happens behind the scenes, whether at home or when working to change the world.

So this Mother's Day, we celebrate just a few of the Canadian moms who also inspire through their impressive work for the charitable and philanthropic causes they're passionate about. By shining the spotlight on critical issues, they're creating a better world not only for their children, but all children. Ladies, we salute you.

Michaëlle Jean
Jean immigrated to Canada from Port au Prince, Haiti, in 1968 as a young child to flee the dictatorial regime of the Duvalier family, and became the first female of Caribbean origin to become Governor General and Head of State from 2005 to 2010. Now 55, the mother of three was heavily involved in charity work for victims of domestic violence, spending 10 years in Quebec shelters for women. In addition, her involvement in the Michaëlle Jean Foundation, which aims to empower youth to use art and creativity to promote social change, led to her being appointed as UNESCO’s Special Envoy for Haiti to protect its culture and heritage and reforming its education system.

Elisapee Sheutiapik
Elisapee Sheutiapik first set out on her national project to have cities across Canada name a city street “Angel Street” when her sister, Mary Ann, was killed in a case of domestic violence. The mother of one and former mayor of Iqaluit, Nunavut, which has the highest rate of domestic violence per capita in Canada, successfully renamed a street in Fredericton and the street in the town that holds the only women’s shelter in Nunavut. The “Angel Street Domestic Violence Education Project” which aims to take “a public stand against violence in Aboriginal communities” is ongoing.

Nazanin Afshin-Jam
The Iranian-born Canadian, who gave birth to a baby boy in April with husband and Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay, has been a strong advocate against human rights abuses around the world involving children and women, particularly in her native Iran and the Middle East. The former Miss World Canada and Miss World first runner-up co-founded and is the current president of the Stop Child Executions organization, which seeks to stop the executions of minors across the world. She has also helped victims after natural disasters such as the tsunamis in Sri Lanka, as well as raising funds for earthquake victims in Sri Lanka.

Monique Leroux
Monique Leroux first caught the attention of the financial world when she became the first woman to head Desjardins Group (now Mouvement des caisses Desjardins) as president and chief executive officer in 2008, but the mother of one puts a strong emphasis on supporting young people and encouraging equality for women in the workplace. As president of Fondation Desjardins, which offers scholarship programs and other access to learning opportunities, the organization handed out 3,500 scholars totalling $2.7 million in 2010. She has also launched scholarship programs to support women interested in finance, and is the president of the 2013 Canada Summer Games, to be held in Sherbrooke, QC.

Kathy Knowles
Known by many Winnipeggers as “the African Library Lady,” Kathy Knowles is the founder of the Osu Children’s Library Fund, which gives many Ghanaians access to books, literacy programs and outreach activities. The 57 year-old mother of four first moved to Ghana in 1989 after her husband took a job there, and has since taught communities in Tanzania, Zimbabwe and other African nations on how to start and manage libraries in their community. She calls Ghana “her second home,” and has worked with more than 200 libraries across the continent.

More: check out these gifts for Mom that give back

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  • Chocolates

    Chocolates are a staple for many holidays -- Mother's Day included. But instead of sticking to typical chocolates, let your mom indulge in a box of <a href="http://www.godiva.com/godiva-and-feed/godiva-and-feed,default,sc.html" target="_blank">Godiva chocolates with a FEED 10 tote bag.</a> Each gift combo provides 10 school meals to children in cocoa-producing regions in conjunction with FEED the United Nations World Food Programme. How sweet. <em>Spring Ballotin and FEED Bag, $70.</em>

  • The Bag

    Your mom, like all moms, is probably a master multitasker. To that end, <a href="http://shop.autismspeaks.org/dee_ocleppo_3_in_1_handbags_s/1837.htm" target="_blank">Dee Ocleppo's 2-in-1 and 3-in-1 handbags</a> are the perfect option for a woman who leads a busy lifestyle. All proceeds from each bag goes to autism science and advocacy organization Autism Speaks. <em>Prices start at $19.</em>

  • The Hand Cream

    Though often understated, mothers could not do what they do without being comfortable in their own skins. To keep moms feeling beautiful, <a href="http://www.lush.ca/on/demandware.store/Sites-LushCA-Site/en_CA/Charities-Support" target="_blank">LUSH's Charity Pot hand and body lotion, infused with fair trade cocoa butter, ylang ylang oil and almond oil,</a> donates 100 per cent of its proceeds to grassroots organizations committed to environmental conservation, animal welfare and human rights. <em>LUSH's Charity Pot, $23, available at LUSH stores across Canada</em>

  • The Cookbook

    Everyone loves their mom's food and what better way to satiate her love of cooking (and your palate) by giving her a copy of <a href="http://www.etsy.com/listing/115680361/the-foodie-collective-book-all-proceeds?ref=sr_gallery_11&ga_search_query=proceeds+to+charity&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_ship_to=ZZ&ga_ref=auto5&ga_search_type=all" target="_blank">The Food Collective.</a> All funds from this go to Montreal-based <a href="http://santropolroulant.org/site/" target="_blank">Santropol Roulant</a> an organization that brings together different food cultures to "break social and economic isolation." <em>The Foodie Collective Book, $25 US, available on Etsy.com</em>

  • The Perfume

    For the mothers who like to keep things close to their hearts and well, smell good, check out <a href="http://www.the7virtues.com/usa.index.html" target="_blank">The 7 Virtues perfume collection.</a> The Canadian company works to ethically source essentials oils with legal suppliers in regions like Afghanistan, Iran, Israel and Haiti to encourage fair trade in those areas. Plus, the fragrances are vegan-friendly, pthalate and paraben-free, not tested on animals, and made in Canada. Mom would be so proud. <em>Vetiver of Haiti, $70, available at <a href="http://www.the7virtues.com/online_shop_canada.html" target="_hplink">www.the7virtues.com</a>. and in stores at <a href="http://www.thebay.com/" target="_hplink">The Bay</a></em>

  • Greeting Cards

    Whether or not your mom allowed you to have pets in the house, she would always root for the underdog. At hoorayfortheunderdog.com, customers <a href="http://www.hoorayfortheunderdog.com" target="_blank">can send gift or greeting cards with pictures of dogs and cats</a> up for adoption at local shelters and rescue organizations. Ten per cent of proceeds goes to shelters and animal welfare programs in the U.S. <em>Prices start at $3.50</em>

  • The Gadget

    There's supposedly never a bad time to invest in an Apple product, so why not Mother's Day? These (PRODUCT) RED iPod cases and devices donates a percentage of proceeds to the <a href="http://www.apple.com/ca/product-red/" target="_blank">Global Fund to combat AIDS in Africa.</a> <em>Prices start at $50</em>

  • The Book

    Finding a gift might be classified as a <a href="http://www.metowe.com/products/first-world-problems/" target="_blank">"first world problem,"</a> but this Mother's Day, make light heart of this meme by giving her a book that pokes fun at these so-called problems. For every purchase of <em>First World Problems</em>, Me to We sends 500 litres of water to families overseas. <em>Prices start at $4.</em>

  • The Jewelry

    Mothers deserve to be rewarded for all their hard work, and that means moms around the world too. <a href="http://www.globalgoodspartners.org/template/index.cfm" target="_blank">GlobalGoodsPartners.org sells a variety of ethically sourced and fairly traded goods, including self-produced jewelry, accessories and scarves,</a> made by artisan groups in close to 20 countries. <em>Prices start at under $10</em>

  • The Donation

    Moms are the heart of any family, so what if you could help a mom support her family with just one purchase? <a href="http://www.oxfamunwrapped.ca/" target="_blank">Oxfam lets customers buy gifts of beehives, chickens and even safe water</a> for families in developing nations. <em>Prices start at $25</em>

  • Flowers

    Flowers don't last, but what they symbolize can last an eternity. From carnations to forget-me-nots, make those feelings heartfelt and socially conscious by <a href="http://www.sierraeco.com/find-eco-flowers/retail/?country=CA" target="_hplink">ordering Eco Flowers</a>, which are independently audited to meet social and environmental standards to uphold fair working conditions, remaining eco-friendly, and ensuring that all farms remain socially responsible. <em>Prices vary</em>

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