Couchiching Connects: January 2016

In this Issue:

Couch News

The President's Message

2016 Couchiching Gala

2016 Summer Conference



Couch Community News

Members on the Move


Alumni in the News

Books of Note

Calling All Readers!

News Flash!

Anne Golden PhD, CM, OOnt has been selected as the 14th recipient of the prestigious Couchiching Award for Public Policy Leadership. The award will be presented on April 11th at the Couchiching Gala 2016 in Toronto. Click here for a synopsis of Ms. Golden’s illustrious career.

The President's Message
Adam Redish

Happy New Year to all Couch Connects readers!

And what a great Couch year 2016 is going to be …

We are certainly off to a great start. First of all, I am delighted that we have just announced Dr. Anne Golden as the recipient of the 2016 Couchiching Award for Public Policy Leadership. Many Connects readers will know Anne from her participation in past Summer Conferences and the Gala, for her work at the Conference Board of Canada and the United Way of Greater Toronto, for numerous Government Studies and Commissions, as well as for her work as one of our country's strongest public policy and social justice voices. I am sure you will all join me in congratulating Anne!

I also had the pleasure of attending the premiere of The Spirit of Social Change documentary that was created as part of our Spirit of Social Change Conversation series. Many thanks to the Inspirit Foundation for their generous support for the Conversation series and documentary and congratulations to Ahmer Khan, Chair of Conversations, and the Conversations Committee, past and present, for leading the project over the past two years and pulling off this brilliant event.

We are also moving forward with the planning of the Gala. Vass Bednar and her team have lined up great table hosts! The Gala is always an evening of sparkling conversation and thoughtful discussion and will feature the presentation of the public policy award to Dr. Golden. It’s an evening you won’t want to miss!

And let’s not forget the Summer Conference. The draft conference outline has been posted and many of you took advantage of our "holiday special" to get your tickets early, even before Conference co-chairs Emilie Nicolas and Armine Yalnizyan have put the finishing touches on the Conference framework. Stay tuned for updates on speakers and additional Conference details. Better yet, register now by going to our website.

All this and more: Read on for all the details and look forward to updates over the coming months.

Remember! Book your Gala and Summer Conference tickets now!

P.S. Several members took advantage of our suggestion to make your last-minute 2015 charitable donations. On behalf of the Institute, I would like to thank all of our donors, last minute and not!


The Couchiching Gala 2016: The Institute’s Signature Toronto Event
Couchiching Award for Public Policy Leadership

April 11th, Great Hall, Hart House, University of Toronto
Chair, Public Policy Award and Gala Committees, Vasiliki (Vass) Bednar

I'm delighted that we have an outstanding group of thought leaders and raconteurs who challenge us to think better and harder about Canadian public policy issues. We'll be sharing more details about the hosts and the Gala in the weeks to come, but I wanted to take this opportunity to emphasize that the Gala, though social and glamorous, is the primary vehicle through which we are able to provide scholarships to the Summer Conference. So if you can't attend in April or don't live in Toronto, consider purchasing a ticket and donating it to a young scholar. I'm pleased that this is the first year we will be offering a "Young Professionals" rate for those under 35. But I only have a limited number of these seats, so grab (or sponsor!) them while you can. Hope to see you in April! And if you have any questions or comments, hit me up.

Distinguished Table Hosts Confirmed

Michael Adams is the President of the Environics group of research and communications consulting companies which he co-founded in 1970. In 2006, he founded the Environics Institute for Survey Research, where he serves as President. He is the author of six books including Sex in the Snow: Canadian Social Values at the End of the Millennium; Fire and Ice: The United States, Canada and the Myth of Converging Values; and Unlikely Utopia: The Surprising Triumph of Canadian Pluralism. Fire and Ice won the prestigious 2003/04 Donner Prize for the best book on Canadian public policy and was selected by the Literary Review of Canada as one of the 100 most important books ever published in the country. He is a noted commentator on social values and social change in North America and a popular public speaker. His speaking repertoire includes a long-range look at the evolution of Canadian public opinion on a range of issues from public policy to national identity and diversity. A Fellow of the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, the highest honour that can be bestowed upon a member, he received an honorary Doctor of Letters from Ryerson University in 2009.

Denise Balkissoon is an editor and columnist at The Globe and Mail. Prior to that, she was a long-time freelancer for publications including Toronto Life, the Toronto Star and The Grid, with which she won a National Magazine Award. She is also a co-founder of the five-year-old blog, the Ethnic Aisle, which focuses on issues of race and ethnicity in the Greater Toronto Area and beyond.

Desmond Cole is a freelance journalist, a former candidate for Toronto City Council, and a regional winner of the local democracy initiative, City Idol. He spent his first several years in the city as a youth worker, then became the project coordinator for I Vote Toronto, a campaign to extend municipal voting rights to non-citizens. Desmond also worked as a community animator at the Centre for Social Innovation. He is staff writer for Torontoist and his work also appears in the Toronto Star, The Walrus, VICE, Now Magazine, and the Ethnic Aisle. Last spring, his piece for Toronto Life, "The Skin I'm In", triggered a renewed conversation about racism in Canada. You can read it here.

Jonathan Kay, a former comment-pages editor of the National Post, is editor of The Walrus Magazine. He is also a columnist for the National Post op-ed page, and a blogger for the National Post's FullComment web site. His freelance articles have appeared in various U.S. publications, including Commentary magazine, the New York Post, Harper's, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, and Newsweek. He has received Canada's National Newspaper Award, both for Critical Writing and Editorial Writing. His book, "Among The Truthers", was published by HarperCollins in 2011.

Dr. Jack M. Mintz CM became the President’s Fellow of The School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary as of July 1, 2015 after serving as the Palmer Chair and Director since 2008. He also serves on the boards of Imperial Oil Limited and Morneau Shepell and is chair and vice-president of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. He is the National Policy Advisor for the accounting firm EY, serves as an Associate Editor of International Tax and Public Finance and the Canadian Tax Journal, and is a research fellow of CESifo, Munich, Germany, and the Centre for Business Taxation Institute, Oxford University.

Ratna Omidvar OC OOnt is the founding Executive Director of the Global Diversity Exchange (GDX) at the Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University. She is Chair Emeritus of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council, Co-Chair of DiverseCity: the Greater Toronto Leadership Project, and a director of the Canadian Club of Toronto, The Environics Institute, and Samara. Ratna is co-editor of Five Good Ideas: Practical Strategies for Non-Profit Success (2011) and co-author of Flight and Freedom: Stories of Escape to Canada.

Follow Ratna Omidvar @ratnaomi

Dr. Enid Slack is the Director of the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance (IMFG) at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto. She is one of Canada's foremost experts in municipal finance. She is a member of the Advisory Boards of the Ontario Municipal Performance Measurement Program, the International Property Tax Institute (IPTI), and CarbonTalks, and of the Editorial Board of State and Local Government Review.

Armine Yalnizyan is one of Canada's leading progressive economists. She joined the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives as senior economist in 2008. Armine has a twice-weekly business column on CBC 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. Armine is Vice President of the Canadian Association for Business Economics.


The 2016 Summer Conference - The Canada Project: Identity, Citizenship, and Nationhood in a Changing World
August 5th to 7th, 2016
The YMCA Geneva Park Conference Centre, Orillia, Ont.
Co-chairs Emilie Nicolas and Armine Yalnizyan

More than just a conference, this historic event is unlike any other event. The shores of Lake Couchiching provide the ideal backdrop to explore issues shaping our world through panel discussions, interactive breakout sessions as well as chats around the campfire. Everyone is welcome to attend and contribute to the discussions and overall Couchiching experience.

On the eve of Canada's 150th anniversary as a federation, the annual Couchiching Summer Conference asks: who are we as a country, and what kind of country do we want to become? For better or worse, the social experiment that is Canada offers a cutting-edge example of response to a world with increasingly blurred borders.

The 2016 Summer Conference will tackle the big picture questions about citizenship, immigration and identity and how these shape the evolving notion of nationhood. From coast to coast to coast, communities and individuals may live within the geo-political boundaries that define Canada, but our experiences vary greatly. It is often said our strength as a country arises from the diversity of our identities. How will our differences intersect with the values we share to shape our public policy debates for the next 150 years?

Read more about the Program


2016 Summer Conference Reading List

See link for our suggested reading list related to this year’s topic courtesy of Manticore Books.



Couchiching Conversations
Chair Ahmer Khan

“The Spirit of Social Change”, a Documentary Premiere and Conversation, took place on Thursday, January 14th.

Ahmer Khan reports:

The Spirit of Social Change is the culmination of a two-year Couchiching Conversation Series centred around youth empowerment, spirituality, and social action. The goal was a nuanced discussion on the intersectionality between spirituality and social change. The film reveals that there are many different ways we can view our religions, our actions, and our moral codes to make the spaces we occupy better and that social change is a path towards building better societies. It reveals that spirituality means different things to different people in different contexts and different periods of growth, but there certainly is commonality.

The 13-minute film features two activists - Simon Black and Nayani Thiyagarajah - who explore their evolving relationship to spirituality and examine it as a force for personal transformation and social change. The screening was followed by a panel discussion with filmmaker Tendisai Cromwell of New Narrative Films and Simon and Nayani moderated by CBC journalist Pacinthe Mattar, a producer at the Current.

The room was buzzing with energy with over 250 people in attendance. The event was opened by spoken word artist Faduma Mohamed from Rise Poetry who was part of our 2014 "Raising the Spirit" Conversation on Spirituality and Social Change using poetry as a medium. It was symbolically meaningful to host the closing of the Series at the same venue with an artist from the start of our initiative. Speeches were made by Couchiching President Adam Redish, past Conversations Chair Salim Rachid, and me. We reminded our audience that this initiative spanned more than three Institute presidents, two Conversations chairs, a plethora of community and organizational partnerships, and over 20 committee members across Canada.

The Documentary was designed to present nuanced perspectives on spirituality and how individuals use spirituality to push for social change. We tend to compartmentalize our perspectives from our issues or measure progress only through quantitative means. This Conversation aimed specifically to not only document how spirituality helps produce better communities, but also documents how individuals view themselves amongst their larger communities and how they feel about their spiritual attachments. The Conversation delves further into understanding how a more holistic approach to social issues can be possible, both as an individual or a community. How we view social issues is crucial to how we approach solving social issues.

The panel discussion began with forgiveness, self-identifying with religions, and perspectives on social change movements. The Q&A jumped from one or two questions to more than 20 hands at a time with audience members replying to other audience members. The organizer of the Black Lives Matter Toronto Chapter (insert name) was also on hand to answer questions on social change. The Conversation, as large as it was, became exactly what we wanted it to be: a safe space for an intimate and difficult discussion. The Conversation was so amazing, so important that we lost track of time and before long it was 10 PM. And to think it all started with a handful of people.

I look forward to providing even better and more enlightening Conversations throughout the year. Do send me your ideas. What a great start to 2016.

View the documentary trailer here.

Couchiching Conversations are free public events that aim to provide a safe space for challenging discussions. For more information, visit or email us at Find us on Facebook at or follow us on Twitter @couchiching.


Chair Karen Hamilton

New Year …. New Resolutions … Same but enhanced commitment to the Couchiching Institute, in its incarnations of Summer Conference, Conversations, and Gala, as a civil place to disagree, as a vibrant vehicle for building Canadian democracy one great conversation at a time.

Let us resolve with this new year to be persistent in our commitment to informed dialogue, especially as it pertains to the nature of citizenship on this eve of Canada's 150th.

Let us resolve with this new year to be consistent in our commitment to supporting such dialogue, adding an average of $15 a month to our givings to Couchiching in engaged honouring of our 150 years as a country.

A Happy New Year of engaging in what really matters, present and future, to us all.

Couchiching Community News

Members on the Move

Diamond Isinger is Special Assistant, Office of the Minister of International Trade, Hon. Chrystia Freeland, at Global Affairs Canada | Affaires mondiales Canada. Diamond has been a member of the Institute since 2011.


Opinions: Our Alumni Write …

The Globe and Mail, January 18th: With customary wit, long-time board member Douglas Gibson remembers the late George Jonas.

Read more

The Globe and Mail, January 18th: Preston Manning wrote: “Conservative-oriented political parties in Canada are now out of office federally and in eight of the 10 provinces. This has generated much hand-wringing on the right and a flood of advice from pundits and Monday-morning quarterbacks.” The founder of the Manning Centre for Building Democracy was the 2007 recipient of the Couchiching Award for Public Policy Leadership.

Read more

The Globe and Mail, December 18th: Bessma Momani wrote: “The municipal elections in Saudi Arabia last week saw the first participation of women as both candidates and electorates for the first time in its history. In a country that has the most draconian laws and rules about women in public life, from the well-known ban on women driving to the official segregation of the sexes in all public life, Saudi Arabia is an unlikely place to think of as reforming. But it is.” Bessma, the associate professor at the University of Waterloo’s Balsillie School of International Affairs and Senior Fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, was a speaker at the 2012 Summer Conference, “The Arab Spring: Implications and Opportunities For Canada”, (

Read more


Alumni in the News

The Globe and Mail, January 16th: Roy MacGregor wrote: “Most Canadians would think, after this week, that Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman have nothing in common.” He was the closing speaker at the 2011 Summer Conference, “From the Ground Up: Civic Engagement in our Time” (

Read more

The Globe and Mail, January 14th: John Leicester of Associated Press wrote: “IAAF leaders must have been aware of the full scale of doping in Russia but did nothing to stop it, and the track and field organization itself was riddled by corruption, a report by a World Anti-Doping Agency panel said Thursday. ‘It is increasingly clear that far more IAAF staff knew about the problems than has currently been acknowledged,’ said the report, written by former WADA president Dick Pound.” He was a speaker at the 2014 Summer Conference, “More than a Game: The Politics and Potential of Sport (

Read more

Inside the Games, January 9th: Reporter Nick Butler wrote: “International Association of Athletics Federations officials, including the body's current president, Sebastian Coe, should have acted quicker to remedy problems in the organisation, the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency's Independent Commission Richard Pound has claimed.” Dick was a speaker at the 2014 Summer Conference, “More than a Game: The Politics and Potential of Sport (

Read more

Historian and author Margaret MacMillan has been promoted to a Companion of the Order of Canada. The warden of St. Antony’s College and professor of International History at the University of Oxford was a speaker at the 2010 Summer Conference, “Watershed Moment or Wasted Opportunity” (

Past board member Alex Himelfarb delivered the opening keynote entitled “The Decline of the Collective” at the Parkland Institute’s 19th annual conference, “What’s Left! Alberta and the Future of Canada”, November 20th-22nd, in Edmonton. He is the chair at Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness.


The Boston Globe, December 23rd: Staff reporter Shira Springer wrote:When Dick Pound investigated Russia’s systematic, state-sponsored doping program, he wanted to send a message: Beware, no country is too big to escape scrutiny and punishment.” He was a speaker at the 2014 Summer Conference, “More than a Game: The Politics and Potential of Sport (

Read more

The Current, December 22nd: “In recent years, Canada has seen an explosion of low-skilled temporary foreign workers. Though outsourcing is not new, the practice is under renewed scrutiny—especially given the recent alleged in-sourcing of workers at RBC and the HD Mining case in British Columbia. Armine Yalnizyan ... contextualizes the outsourcing problem in Canada and its troubling consequences, including a disappearing middle class.” She is senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and co-chair of the 2016 Summer Conference.


The Hill Times, December 14th: Sheila Fraser, former Auditor General of Canada, will be a speaker at “Crown Director Effectiveness”, a one-day course for directors, February 14th, in Ottawa. She was a speaker at the 2013 Summer Conference, “Coming Together as One: Navigating the Relationship Between Indigenous Peoples and Canada” ( ).

Read more

The Tyee, November 28th: Reporter Kate Harris wrote: “Caleb Behn introduces himself a little apologetically, shoving aside boxes of bullets and books so I can squeeze into the front seat of his gunmetal-grey Tacoma. The back seat is a tangle of rifles, clothes and more books. On the dashboard, a Yoda figure sagely nods its plastic green head.” The ''lawyer by training, shitshow by life'' was a speaker at the 2013 Summer Conference, “Coming Together as One: Navigating the Relationship Between Indigenous Peoples and Canada” (

Read more

University of Toronto Mississauga (online), October 7th: Somalia featured prominently in the news ... after al-Shabaab, a terrorist group that started there, attacked the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, killing at least 67 people and wounding many others. In the wake of the deadly incident, Elaine Smith talked with Rima Berns McGown, an adjunct professor in the Department of Historical Studies at U of T Mississauga, about Somali-Canadians, the impact the incident had on them, and their experiences in Canada. Rima is a past president of the Institute and currently serves on the board.

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Books of Note

Grant Fuhr: The Story of a Hockey Legend, by Grant Fuhr with Bruce Dowbiggin, Vintage Canada. Bruce was a panelist and closing speaker at the 2014 Summer Conference, “More than a Game: The Politics and Potential of Sport” ( ).

Read more and

Arab Dawn: Arab Youth and the Demographic Dividend They Will Bring, by Dr. Bessma Momani, UTP Insighta, University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division © 2015, World Rights.

Read more

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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