Couchiching Connects: April 2015

In this Issue:

Couch News

The President's Message

Gala 2015

Summer Conference




Call for Proposals

Couch Community News


Alumni in the News

Calling All Readers!


News Flash!

Book your place at the 2015 Summer Conference. Registration is now open.

Click here to register online or click here for the printable registration form.

The President's Message Adam Redish

As I noted at the beginning of March's issue of Couchiching Connects, the latter part of March and the early part of April were busy and exciting times for the Institute. As promised, the Gala turned out to be fabulous; the conversation sparkled, the crowd was engaged. For details on the delightful evening, see Vass Bednar's report below.

The Conversation team did us proud in presenting a truly engaging Conversation on April 1st with well-known Couch alumni, John Ralston Saul, in dialogue with Pamela Palmater on his new book, The Comeback: How Aboriginal's are Reclaiming Power and Influence. See Ahmer Khan's report below.

But it's not all fun and public events. Running the Institute takes the considerable efforts of a goodly number of engaged volunteers - Board members, the Executive, and committee members who make all these great events happen. In recognition of National Volunteer Week, April 13th-20th, I want to thank all of them for their many, many hours of dedicated efforts to support the Institute and ensure that we continue to be one of Canada's oldest and most distinguished public affairs institutes.

Which is a perfect segue to my final comment. As I have occasionally noted over the past few months, the Board has been going through a longer term strategic planning exercise. It began with the Board retreat last October, where we debated and discussed, in true Couchiching fashion, what it is that makes the organization 'tick'. What do we do? Why do we do it? And perhaps most importantly, why is it important that we do it?

This is a fundamentally important conversation to the future of the Institute. At our bi-monthly Board meetings, we have been having further conversations on the three key issues that the Board said we needed to address if we are to remain vital and relevant to public affairs in Canada:

  • How can we expand our reach and share the rich dialogue that we experience at the Summer Conference throughout the year and across Canada, bringing that Couch magic to a broader audience?
  • How and who can we partner with to help us do that? What principles should we use when establishing partnerships? What do they (partners and partnerships) ask of us? What do we ask of them?
  • How do we respond to the changes in the fund-raising world, and adopt a more relationship-based approach to fund-raising to ensure we remain financially strong and keep our events as accessible as possible?


We expect to wrap up the discussion over the next few months and present a finalized strategic plan in time for the annual members meeting at the Summer Conference . We have come away from these discussions with a renewed sense of purpose and direction, excited about the future and opportunities ahead, and committed to our vision of "building Canadian democracy, one great conversation at a time"!

The Couchiching Gala 2015: The Institute's Signature Toronto Event, April 13th
Chair, Public Policy and Gala Committees, Vasiliki (Vass) Bednar

The Gala was in the Toronto Star!

The 2015 Gala at Archeo in the Distillery District opened with warm remarks from a former Couchiching Board member, Hon. Elizabeth Dowdeswell, OC, OOnt, who spoke about the imperative of creating safe spaces to have important conversations about democracy and maintain a "civil place to disagree." The Honourary Chair, former Premier David Peterson, enthusiastically introduced the table hosts: Jesse Brown, of the popular podcast Canadaland, who spoke on the future of Canadian media; former city Councillor and former Couchiching Board member Ceta Ramkhalawansingh, who asked how we can pay for the city we want; MP Michael Chong, who spoke about democratic reform in Canada; urbanist Jane Farrow, who engaged Ontario Legislature Intership Programme interns on Arts and Citizenship, asking, "Was it good for you?"; award-winning humourist Terry Fallis, who spoke on the power of humour to affect social change; children's activist Arlene Perly Rae, who forecast how literacy can change the world; Hon. Bob Rae, Ontario's 21st Premier and formerly the Interim Federal Leader and Foreign Affairs critic of the Liberal Party of Canada, who asked, "What's happened to politics? Why has political discourse degenerated?"; playwright Diane Flacks, who broached the topic of women and religion; and Globe and Mail columnist Tabatha Southey, who engaged on the ever-popular topic of the weather.

Over dinner, spirited conversation filled the room much like the evening's humidity and the Rogers Centre for the Blue Jay's home opener. Upon being presented with the Public Policy Award by sponsor Scotiabank, Hon. Bill Davis unleashed his characteristic charm and enthralled guests with his reflections. He was celebrated by the two former premiers in attendance, both of whom praised his collaborative leadership style and skilled debating during Question Period.

Support for the Gala ensures the viability of the Institute and helps us include students and young professionals at our annual Summer Conference. Thank you to all who participated: Couchiching members, new friends, and our generous Gala sponsors Scotiabank, CIBC, Colleges Ontario, Ryerson University, Humber College, and the Investment Funds Institute of Canada. Special thanks to Henry of Pelham Estates for donating thank-you gifts.


The 2015 Summer Conference
Are We Failing Our Future? Time for a New Deal between Generations
August 7th to 9th, 2015
Conference Co-Chairs Heather Keachie, and Helen Tewolde

Mark August 7 to 9th, 2015 on your calendars and join us at the lake for a discussion of the generation(s)!

Check out our website for more information and register now to take advantage of the additional early bird discount!

Click here to register online

Click here for a printable registration form

Introducing Remarkable Leaders Who Will Speak at the 2015 Summer Conference

Dr. Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias is the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). He has over three decades of experience in biodiversity science and policy and its implementation and national and international levels. He possesses a unique combination of scientific training and extensive experience in negotiation. He was involved in the negotiations for the development of the CBD and has since participated in each meeting of the Conference of the Parties as a member of the Brazilian Delegation. Prior to becoming Executive Secretary in 2012, he was the Secretary of Biodiversity and Forests at the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment, and prior to that, the Director for Biodiversity Conservation. Dr. Dias has a degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Brasilia and a doctorate in Zoology from the University of Edinburgh.

Jane Hilderman hails from Camrose, Alta., where she grew up on a family farm. She now resides in Toronto where she co-leads Samara Canada, the non-partisan charity dedicated to improving political participation and strengthening Canada's democracy. She's also Samara's Research Director and oversees dynamic projects exploring where Canadians participate in democracy, how Members of Parliament do their jobs, and citizen perceptions of politics. Most recently, Jane helped to oversee the creation of Samara's The Democracy 360-a report card on how Canadians communicate, participate, and lead in politics. Jane frequently discusses Samara's work in the media, including CBC Radio, CTV's Power Play, CPAC's Prime Time, TVO's The Agenda,Maclean's and Global News. She joined Samara after working on Parliament Hill for both government and opposition MPs through the longstanding Parliamentary Internship Programme, a prestigious program for young professionals. Jane is a graduate of the School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Toronto and Queen's University.

Paul Kershaw is the founder of the Gen Squeeze campaign. He is a farmer morning and night. By day, he is a University of British Columbia (UBC) professor, public speaker, volunteer, and regular media contributor. Paul is one of Canada's top thinkers about generational equity with Canadian Family magazine describing him as "the 'Generation Squeeze' guru." Twice the Canadian Political Science Association has awarded him national prizes for his research. "Armed with a laptop and a raft of statistics," The Vancouver Province describes Paul as "a one-man road show trying to change BC one talk at a time." Since he knows a one-man show will never be enough, he's suiting up and spreading out with thousands across the country to ensure Canada works for all generations. At UBC, Paul is Associate Director of the Human Early Learning Partnership in the School of Population and Public Health.

Armine Yalnizyan is one of Canada's leading progressive economists. She joined the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives as senior economist in 2008, focusing on income inequality, labour markets, and public finance. She has a twice-weekly business column onCBC Radio's biggest morning show, "Metro Morning", reaching a million listeners in the Greater Toronto Area. She also appears weekly on "The Big Picture Panel", featured Wednesdays on CBC TV's premier business show, "The Exchange with Amanda Lang", and contributes to The Globe and Mail's "Debates". Armine is Vice President of the Canadian Association for Business Economics and a member of the advisory board for the Institute for Population and Public Health, one of 13 Canadian Institutes for Health Research.

For bios of speakers David Dodge and Jim Leech, featured in the March issue of Couchiching Connects, please click here.

Scholarship Applications Now Open for the 2015 Summer Conference

Are you interested in being part of a conversation on Canada's future? It's your future at stake. Students and youth are keys to the success of every conference, especially this one, and Couchiching is proud to offer generous scholarships to successful applicants. If you're a student or under the age of 25, we welcome your applications for a scholarship to this year's conference.

Young Professional Rates Available

Are you one of those "young Canadians" who feel disadvantaged in this current job and housing market? Saddled with debt with no hope of a pension? Or maybe you're a successful entrepreneur having seen opportunity where your peers saw only challenges? We need your voice at the Summer Conference. If you're less than five years into your career, you may qualify for the young professional rate, and you may be eligible for a partial scholarship. Contact us for more information.

Click here for the Scholarship Application Form. And check out our website for more information about other available scholarships. Deadline is May 30th, 2015.

Fund-Raising! Are We Failing Our Future? Time for a New Deal between Generations
Co-chairs Karen Hamilton and Ross Anderson

Being and providing a 'civil place to disagree', a venue in which to broadly and deeply engage the question of "Are We Failing Our Future?", is clearly striking a chord with many. As are the vibrant and diverse Conversations and the opportunity to highlight public achievement the Gala provides.

Many thanks indeed to those corporate donors and partners who want not only to support the Institute, but be a part of the unique, multi-sector forum that we are. Many thanks also to the individual donors and volunteers who give of their 'time and treasure' to ensure that the conversation of democratic engagement continues. There is, however, more to do. Please consider your opportunity to participate. Please consider what gift you can make to the Institute. Please consider how you want to support, in concrete ways, the challenging discussion that is our right and our responsibility as citizens and that will make for a better and more participatory Canada.

Your financial and energetic commitment will be gratefully received.

Couchiching Conversations
Chair Ahmer Khan

Upcoming Conversations

April 27th, "Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution"

About the Event
Join Mona Eltahawy, Egyptian-American activist and journalist, as she reads from her book, Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution. She wrote an article in Foreign Policy entitled "Why Do They Hate Us?" - "they" being Muslim men, "us" being women. The piece sparked controversy, making it clear that misogyny in the Arab world is something that engages and enrages the public. In Headscarves and Hymens, Mona takes her argument further.

Drawing on her years as a campaigner and a commentator on women's issues in the Middle East, Mona explains that, since the Arab Spring began, women in the Arab world have had two revolutions to undertake: one fought with men against oppressive regimes, and the other fought against an entire political and economic system that treats women in countries such as Yemen and Saudi Arabia, as well as Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya as second-class citizens. Headscarves and Hymens is a manifesto motivated by hope and fury in equal measure, and is as illuminating as it is incendiary.

About Mona Eltahawy
Mona Eltahawy is an award-winning columnist and international public speaker on Arab and Muslim issues and global feminism, based in Cairo and New York City. She is a contributor to the New York Times opinion pages, her commentaries have appeared in several other publications, and she is a regular guest analyst on various television and radio shows. She is an alumna of the Couchiching Summer Conference, as a speaker in 2011 Conference, "From the Ground Up: Civic Engagement in Our Time" and a moderator in 2012, "The Arab Spring: Implications and Opportunities for Canada".

The Conversation, a partnership with the Toronto Public Library, will take place at the North York Central Library Concourse, 5120 Yonge Street, M2N 5N9, from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Read more about Mona Eltahawy

The Globe and Mail, April 17th: Journalist Denise Balkisson interviewed Mona Eltahawy.

Read more

The Globe and Mail, April 17th: Journalist Stephanie Nolen wrote: :It's right there on the cover, in that flinchy word "hymen" - a word to make every woman who sees it wince a little, because there is no good context in which anyone talks about hymens."

Read more

The New York Times Magazine, April 19th: "Mona Eltahawy Doesn't Need to Be Rescued"

Read more

Register today on the Toronto Public Library website

Tickets are free. Limited seating is available.

May 7th, "The Future of Energy in a Carbon Constrained World"

About the Event
Join Jim Hughes and Brian Livingston in a Conversation about energy as an essential part of modern life. Yet in many ways it is taken for granted. Many people do not understand the various current sources of energy, the economic and social factors driving energy demand and future forecasts for that demand, and the role of various types of energy supply expected to meet that demand. Canada's oil sands have been a topic of much discussion, especially given the recent drop in the price of oil.

The discussion of climate change has focused on the issue of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) caused by the use of fossil fuels. The past 15 years have seen many international efforts to deal with GHGs, from Kyoto to Copenhagen to Paris, slated for the fall of 2015. The recent discussion of carbon regulation ranges from cap and trade regimes, carbon pricing, and other regulatory regimes. The recent report of the Ecofiscal Commission in Canada contains a number of recommendations that will likely become matters of public discussion, in policy circles and during the upcoming federal election.

About Jim Hughes and Brian Livingston
Jim Hughes is a retired executive from Imperial Oil, with over 40 years experience in the energy business. He has a particular involvement in the area of energy supply and demand, trends in energy usage, and international efforts in the area of greenhouse gas emissions. He continues to serve on an advisory committee to the Canadian Energy Research Institute in Calgary.

Brian Livingston is an engineering graduate from Queens University and a law graduate from the University of Toronto. He has experience with two large law firms and the federal government as well as 29 years with Imperial Oil in the legal, financial, and tax areas. Now retired from Imperial Oil, Brian is an Executive Fellow of the School of Public Policy in Calgary, the past President of the Calgary Petroleum Club, and a director the Couchiching Institute.

The Conversation will take place at the offices of Osler Hoskin, Harcourt LLP 63rd floor, First Canadian Place from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. Click here to register. Please check in with security to access the 63rd floor. Seating is limited.

Recent Conversations

March 19th, "Modern Judaism: What Have We Learned? What Can We Pass On?"

Rabbi Yossi Sapirman, the senior rabbi at Beth Torah Congregation in North York, Ont., delved into two important initiatives being pursued at Couchiching: the exploration of spirituality and social change amongst youth and the challenges faced between generations when passing on the Judaic torch. The Conversation was not limited to Judaism, but covered religiosity as a whole. Rabbi Yossi spoke of one's responsibilities towards others, of building better societies and better selves by changing routines and urged his listeners to become involved in their communities through volunteering.He provided insight into challenges facing the Jewish community when bringing tradition to the forefront of modernity.

Rabbi Yossi invites people of all denominations to worship at Beth Torah every Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to noon.

April 1st, "The Comeback: How Aboriginals are Reclaiming Power and Influence"

In a sold-out Conversation, John Ralston Saul discussed his latest book, The Comeback: How Aboriginals are Reclaiming Power and Influence. The book is a powerful narrative that explores how Aboriginal peoples are empowering themselves to rebuild their communities - and remake Canada. Moderator Pamela Palmater is a Mi'kmaq lawyer and chair of Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University. This Conversation was the first in our new series called Book(re)marks, a partnership with the International Festival of Authors (IFOA).

Over 200 people listened to John and Pam discuss how the Indigenous, Aboriginal, and First Nations peoples of Canada have recorded subtle but important milestones towards re-writing their own futures regarding governance. John stressed the importance of having multiple narratives of belonging and how these narratives need to be accepted equally by all who live in Canada. He said that the only way for Parliament and Canadian democracy to improve is through critical yet constructive debate rather than partisan politics. Also discussed was how non-Indigenous allies can help and support Indigenous peoples. The Conversation carried on well into the evening, with many pressing questions being raised.

Book (re)marks is a free public event featuring non-fiction authors whose works are of social, political, or cultural importance. The second Conversation in the series will be announced shortly.

Couchiching Conversations are free public events that aim to provide a safe space for challenging discussions.

For more information, visit Find us on Facebook at or follow us on Twitter @couchiching.

Nominations Committee Report
Chair Gwen Burrows

On behalf of the Couchiching Institute Nominating Committee, it is my pleasure to invite nominations to the Board of Directors for election at the Couchiching General Meeting of Members, to be held at the Summer Conference, Geneva Park, on August 8th, 2015.

I encourage all of you who are not currently members of the Institute to become a member so you can participate in the selection of the board. Membership is $75, for which you get a charitable tax receipt. The funds support the vital work of the Institute, including covering costs of the Summer Conference, supporting students to attend, and supporting our year-round programming.

If, as a member of Couchiching, you wish to nominate a candidate for election to the Board, please make the nomination in writing and send it Your nomination letter must include your own signature, the signature of a seconder (who must also be a member of the Institute), and the name of your nominee, plus a brief biography of the nominee and a certificate from the nominee confirming that he or she (a) is willing to serve as a Director of the Institute for up to three years and (b) is, or is willing to become within 10 days of being elected, a member the Institute.

Nominations will be accepted between now and the end of June, 2015.

I hope to see you at Geneva Park for the election - and for what promises to be another terrific conference!

Call for Proposals 2016 Couchiching Summer Conference
Deadline May 10th, 2015

The Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs is calling for proposals from members for the 2016 Couchiching Summer Conference on August 5th-7th, 2016. This is your chance to let us know what you believe would make a great Couchiching Conference topic and experience.* The deadline for submitting proposals is May 10th, 2015.

Decision-Making Process

We are ensuring an open, transparent, and inclusive decision-making process. Proposals submitted by the deadline date will be distributed to the Board of Directors and the Program Committee in mid-May. There will be two opportunities to review and discuss the submissions and we invite Members to participate in person or by phone in these discussions in Toronto. Meeting details will be provided in May. The first discussion will take place at the May Program Committee meeting and the second discussion will take place in June and will include a vote. The outcome of the vote and the final recommendation will be presented to the Board of Directors at its June meeting. The 2016 Conference topic will be announced in August at the 2015 Summer Conference.


Please submit no more than 3 pages and include the following:

  • Your name and team members
  • Conference working title
  • Conference theme: tell us why you believe it is important for the Institute to address this topic; what is the draw?
  • Brief conference descriptor (250 words), including key approach to the topic and questions to be addressed
  • Potential opening and closing sessions with potential keynote speakers
  • Panel session topics and potential speakers: Friday afternoon, Friday evening, Saturday morning, Saturday evening, and Sunday morning.
  • Anything special that you believe would be a unique feature or approach to the program, i.e. a debate, a cultural event, etc.
  • Potential sponsors and funders (corporate/ foundation/ government)

Submit proposals to:

For further queries, please contact:
Heather Keachie, Co-Chair, 2015 Conference

*Please be aware that the chosen topic will be developed further by the 2016 Conference Chair and will be subject to revision by the Program Committee in that given year.


Couchiching Community News



The Globe and Mail, March 24th: Reporter Daniel Leblanc wrote: "Conservative MP Michael Chong said he supports the government's Bill C-51, but added he also agrees with the opposition parties that a committee of MPs should oversee the work of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and other national-security operations. Michael was a table host at the Couchiching Gala 2015."

Read more

Alumni in the News

TV Ontario, March 29th: John Doyle, the TV critic at The Globe and Mail, discussed The Agenda's evaluation of the CRTC rulings based on the Talk TV hearings it has been holding. Among the many decisions is to loosen long-held Canadian content requirements. Also discussed was the state of Canadian television. John was a speaker and panelist at the 2014 Summer Conference, "More than a Game: The Politics and Potential of Sport (2014 Summer Conference, "More than a Game: The Politics and Potential of Sport ").

Calling all readers of Couchiching Connects!

Please send information on Newsmakers, Members on the Move, Alumni in the News, and Opinions: Our Members Write ... to Sheila Robertson, Editor, Couchiching Connects.

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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