2014 Sessions

Sport dominates our culture. It draws the biggest crowds and inspires the deepest devotion. Sport gets the most air time, endless inches of column space, and the avid attention of the web. More time and more money go into playing and watching sports than any other leisure pursuit.

But sport is not often the subject of critical public policy discussions. Until now. The 83rd Annual Couchiching Summer Conference will dig deep into the psyche of sport, examining the idea of competition itself and the way it brings out both the best and the worst in us.

We will hear from journalists on the media mythologies around sports icons and why violence sells. We will consider how Canada has bound its national identity to a sport that is too expensive for many young Canadians to play. Experts will weigh in on the mental and physical benefits of an active lifestyle, and politicians may be asked to defend a spending policy that restricts funds for gym classes in elementary schools.

After the final bill of the Sochi Olympics is tallied and as we prepare to host the Pan Am/Parapan Am Games in 2015, Couchiching invites you to ask what the impact of international sporting events can be on cities, countries, and the public consciousness.

There is no question that activity is good for our minds and bodies, but sport is no panacea for what ails us; it is a microcosm through which we examine society. Exclusion, discrimination, corruption, cheating, match-fixing, and illegal gambling are also part of the world of sport.

In the strong tradition of a Couchiching conference, we are determined to wrestle with the good, the bad, and especially the politically charged. Join us this summer as we step up to the plate and tackle the tough issues in sport and politics.


(Subject to change)



2:00 Registration
5:00 President’s Reception
6:00 Dinner

Welcome by Councillor Ronald Douglas from the Chipawa Rama First Nation

Introduction of the Panel by Conference Co-Chair Heather Keachie

Screening of the National Film Board’s animated short “The Sweater”, narrated by Roch Carrier

Opening Keynote Addresses:

"Player, Chronicler, Administrator, Fan: Learnings from a Lifetime in Sport."
The Honourable Ken Dryden, Canadian politician, lawyer, business man and former NHL hockey player

Athlete, administrator and advocate: diverse Paralympic perspectives.”
Elisabeth Walker-Young, Chef-de-Mission for the 2015 Para Pan Am Games


Doug Gibson, Conference Co-Chair

10:00 Evening Reception



8:00 Breakfast

Morning Keynote Address: Fair Play and Foul Ball

Richard Pound, Former Founding President of the World Anti-Doping Agency

The Competitive Edge: Is the Dynamic of Win/Lose Really a Win/Lose?


Michael Chambers, Member of the 2015 Pan American/Parapan American Games Board of Directors; past president of the Canadian Olympic Committee

Colin Higgs, Professor Emeritus at Memorial University and a leader of the Long-Term Athlete Development movement

Pierre Lafontaine, CEO Canadian Interuniversity Sport


Hana Gardner, CIPA Board Member and distinguished CBC journalist

Most of our understanding of sport is bound up with the idea of competition. But competition is both a great motivator and a slavish master. Competition encourages us to achieve personal bests, but it also creates incentives to win at all costs. Can we draw a correlation between an overdeveloped competitive environment and the pervasiveness of cheating, doping, and corruption in elite sport? In an effort to encourage children, some children’s leagues across Ontario have stopped keeping score in soccer. Is part of the value of the game lost when there are no winners and losers, or can a more inclusive approach to sports foster stronger cooperation, team building, and leadership skills? Can there be sport without competition?
12:30 Lunch

The Perils and Promise of Olympic-sized Dreams


Bruce Kidd, Interim Vice President, University of Toronto – Scarborough, author, historian and former Olympian

Thomas Hall, Olympic medalist in sprint canoeing, Board Member for Canoe Kayak Canada

David Peterson, Former premier of Ontario, member of Toronto’s Olympic Bid Committee, chair, Toronto 2015 Pan American Games Organizing Committee

Parissa Safai, Professor in the School of Kinesiology and Health Sciences in the Faculty of Health at York University


John Doyle, The Globe and Mail's television critic, soccer rapporteur, and author of the national bestseller The World is a Ball: The Joy, Madness, and Meaning of Soccer

When cities successfully bid for international Games, they sometimes get more than they bargained for. International sporting events may carry prestige and glory for the cities that host them, but the costs of such Games are not always part of the public debate. There are certainly gains to be had for everything from infrastructure development to international diplomacy, but there are also costs that go well beyond municipal deficits, including corruption, bribery, human trafficking, displaced communities, and organized crime.

“In the Field­” Activities

Join our Summer Conference speakers and delegates in the field for live individual and team sports as Couchiching hosts sports games on the grounds of Geneva Park

5:00 Reception
6:00 Dinner

Let us Play: Is Sport the New Religion


Olivier Bauer, Professor of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Montreal

Phyllis Berck, Director, Toronto Office of Partnerships, City pf Toronto

Dr. Allan Downey, Member of the Nak’azdii First Nation, graduate of the PhD History Program

John Doyle, The Globe and Mail's television critic, soccer rapporteur, and author of the national bestseller The World is a Ball: The Joy, Madness, and Meaning of Soccer


Karen Hamilton, CIPA Program Committee and General Secretary for the Canadian Council of Churches

The Roman rulers offered ‘Bread and Circuses’ as a way of distracting the plebeians from the grim reality of their day-to-day experiences, providing entertainment, distraction, and a kind of vicarious triumph over personal circumstances. Sport, like religion, can be called the ‘opiate of the masses’. Sport has taken on many of the characteristics commonly associated with religion: ritual, community, devotion, discipline, and the notion of sacrifice and transcendence of self. Sport arenas are the new venues of worship, and athletes are the venerated heroes, held to a standard above the mere mortal, sometimes to their own detriment. Sport engenders a great deal of media coverage and water cooler conversation, building community locally, regionally, and nationally. It is very connected with our notions of what makes for a healthy and happy family and a healthy and happy society.
10:00 Evening Reception



7:30 Breakfast

Picked Last for the Team


Orlando Bowen, Executive Director of One Voice One Team

Dr. Guylaine Demers, Professor in the Department of Physical Education, Laval University

Paul Jurbala, Senior Associate at Canadian Sports for Life, PhD (candidate) and Research Fellow at Centre for Sport Capacity at Brock University

Lynne LeBlanc, Sports Sans Frontiers


Adam Redish, CIPA Executive Committee Chair

The realm of sport is far from immune from various nuances of social inequality. Many forms of inequality—race, gender, class, sexuality, and disability—continue to prevail in our society and sport produces and reproduces these kinds of inequalities. This is an opportunity to ask difficult and sometimes uncomfortable questions about sport and (in)equality. It is only through critical discussion that we can also take advantage of sport’s tremendous influence and transform sport itself, and our society at large, into a more inclusive, equal, and fully accessible model.
12:00 Lunch and Annual Members’ Meeting

Concurrent Sessions:

“In the Field” Sport Activities

Join our Summer Conference speakers and delegates in the field for live individual and team sports as Couchiching hosts sports games on the grounds of Geneva Park

Institute for Canadian Citizen Study on sport and new Canadians

Join Heather Steel and Gillian Smith from the Institute for Canadian Citizenship who will present their recent study on using sport as a way to integrate new Canadians entitled New Citizens, Sports and Belonging.

“The Sacred Run, the lotus and the feather” Documentary Screening

Join filmmaker Andrea Sadler for a special screening and follow up discussion of her documentary.
5:00 Reception
6:00 Dinner

Selling Dreams: Reporting Reality


Bruce Dowbiggin, Journalist, broadcaster and author

Glen Hodgson, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist for the Conference Board of Canada

Nancy Lee, Former director of CBC Sports and vice president on the board of directors of the Commonwealth Games


Chris Waddell, associate professor and director of Carleton University’s School of Journalism and Communication in Ottawa.

How big is the business of sport? Have profits/losses trumped wins/losses in the score-keeping of sport in the media? Business clearly runs the show in terms of sports on TV, treating it as the ultimate unscripted reality show; the day the first game was interrupted for a TV commercial was the day it became clear who is in charge. And when business gets involved, the sport fans become consumers, and the incentives are altered. Violence sells tickets, but it is the players who suffer the concussions. Tribalism may also be a great way to sell season tickets, but cultivating deeply-rooted devotion can at best fracture communities and, at worst, encourage violence and rioting. And finally, while we love watching sports on TV, our sedentary lifestyle may literally be killing us. Does sport on TV encourage us to stay in or get out?
10:00 Evening Reception



8:00 Breakfast

Our Journey: Canadian Tire And The Changing Face Of Sports In Canada

TJ Flood, Senior Vice-President, Marketing, Canadian Tire Retail

Healthy Bodies, Healthy Citizens


John Cawley, Director of Operations of the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation

Bob Elliott, Senior Leader of the Sports Matters Group

Dr. Anne Snowden, Chair of the International Centre for Health Innovation at Western University’s Ivey Business School

Dr. Margaret MacNeill, Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, University of Toronto


The Honourable Ken Dryden, Politician, lawyer, hockey player

We know it’s healthy to be active. But is it the individual or the government that bears the primary responsibility for getting people moving? Health is a public good and yet the funding to provide for it is under constant threat. Resources are scarce and the public policy choices are not always easy to make. Funding elite level athletes benefits few, arguably inspires many, and certainly adds to Canada’s medal count. But would that money be better spent on community level sports, particularly at a time when children are moving less and health care costs associated with sedentary behaviours are increasing? Government funded programs like ParticipACTION have been recently reinvigourated, but who bears the cost and the ultimate responsibility for encouraging healthy and active lifestyles is still a question.
12:00 Checkout

Lunch and Closing Remarks

Bruce Dowbiggin, Journalist, broadcaster and author

Akaash Maharaj, Executive Director of the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC)

2016 Summer Conference

The Canada Project

Identity, Citizenship, and Nationhood in a Changing World

August 5-7, 2016
The YMCA Geneva Park Conference Centre, Orillia, ON

Read More


Couchiching Connects
April 2017
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