Couchiching Connects: September 2013


In this Issue:

The President's Message
2013 Summer Conference
2014 Summer Conference Announcement
Couchiching Nominating Committee Report
Conversations and Roundtables
The Big Picture
Marketing and Communications
Couchiching Alumni In The News
Our Members Write
Calling All Readers


The President's Message - Rima Berns-McGown

Dear Couchiching Community:

If you only ever attend one Couchiching conference in your life, this is the one. “Coming Together as One: Navigating the Relationship between Indigenous Peoples and Canada” addresses the heart of what it means to be Canadian.

We are all treaty people, and getting this relationship right is up to all of us. It’s going to take many conversations to fix what has been broken for so long, but the ideas, the perspectives, the issues will all be up for discussion and honest debate at Couch this summer. Come and join this essential conversation.

I look forward to seeing you there…



The 2013 Summer Conference "Coming Together as One: Navigating the Relationship between Indigenous Peoples of Canada and Canadians" Geneva Park, August 8-11, 2013

Amanuel Melles and Leon Thompson

Coordinator, Rebecca Sudsbury

A remarkable Program Committee has pulled together a landmark Summer Conference that will launch what we believe is an essential conversation for all Canadians. We welcome all of you to be a part of it. So join us at the lake. We look forward to seeing you there.

Meet five remarkable leaders who will speak at the 2013 Summer Conference.

Shawn A-in-chut Atleo is the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN). He is a Hereditary Chief from the Ahousaht First Nation. In July 2012, A-in-chut was elected to a second consecutive three-year mandate as National Chief. Previously, he served two terms as Regional Chief of the British Columbia AFN. Committed to the principles of working together through inclusion and respect, he forged the historic Leadership Accord among First Nations leadership in British Columbia in 2005. In 2008, his commitment to education was recognized in his appointment as Chancellor of Vancouver Island University, becoming the province’s first Indigenous chancellor. He has received Honorary Doctor of Laws degrees from universities throughout Canada. Awards include the University of Technology (Sydney) Alumni Award for Excellence 2011 in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for his advocacy work on behalf of First Nations across Canada. A-in-chut began his career as a facilitator, trainer, and entrepreneur, working with and for First Nations peoples. He holds a Master’s of Education degree from the University of Technology (in partnership with University of British Columbia, the University of Western Cape, South Africa, and Linköping University, Sweden).Traditional teachings have guided him to serve First Nations as a leader, facilitator, mediator, planner, and teacher.

Caleb Behn is Eh-Cho Dene and Dunne Za/Cree from the Treaty 8 Territory of Northeastern British Columbia. He recently graduated from the University of Victoria with a Juris Doctor degree and is among the first of its law students to be granted the Concentration in Environmental Law and Sustainability. Prior to law school, he was the Oil and Gas Officer for the West Moberly First Nations and a Lands Manager for the Saulteau First Nations. Caleb is the subject of a documentary film, Fractured Land, which focuses on the impact of hydraulic fracturing in Canada and Aotearoa, New Zealand. He is recognized as one of the most dynamic young Indigenous leaders and activists and is making his mark on the Canadian landscape.

Michael Redhead Champagne is from Shamattawa Cree Nation, Manitoba, and was raised in the North End of Winnipeg. He graduated from St. John’s High School, attended 1226 Fort Garry Horse Army Cadet Corps, and has taken courses with the Universities of Winnipeg and Manitoba. He received a Future Leaders of Manitoba Award, Royal Canadian Legion Medal of Excellence and a Manitoba Youth Achievement Award, all for community service. In 2008, Michael created the ARROWS Youth Engagement strategy, which empowers inner city youth to facilitate relationship-based training to the staff and adults of youth programs. In 2010, he founded AYO! (Aboriginal Youth Opportunities), a youth-led anti-gang initiative committed to breaking stereotypes and creating opportunity. 2011 saw the Meet Me @ The Bell Tower anti-violence rallies that occur weekly in the heart of the North End.

Sheila Fraser served as Auditor General of Canada from 2001 to 2011 and was the first woman to hold this position. Prior to becoming Deputy Auditor General in 1999, she was a partner at Ernst & Young for eighteen years in the Québec City office. She chaired various committees of the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI) as well as the Public Sector Accounting Board of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants. She currently serves as a public member of the International Federation of Accountants – International Public Sector Accounting Standards Board (IFAC-IPSASB). Sheila has been named as trustee to the IFRS Foundation, the oversight body of the International Accounting Standards Board. She also sits on the Board of Directors of Bombardier, Manulife Financial Corporation, and The Manufacturers Life Insurance Company. She earned her Bachelor of Commerce Degree at McGill University and has been awarded numerous honorary degrees from Canadian universities. She was awarded the designation "Fellow" by the Ordre des comptables agréés du Québec in 1994 and by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario in 2000. In 2009, she was the recipient of the ICAO Award of Outstanding Merit, the highest honour the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario can bestow upon its members.

Marilyn Poitras is an assistant professor in the College of Law at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S). She obtained her Master of Laws degree from Harvard and her Bachelor of Laws from the U of S. Her professional life has been a fusion of law, governance, community, and institutional education. Her expertise and passion is around Constitutional/Aboriginal Law with a life study of customary laws. Marilyn’s legal career began as a Native Court Worker. She moved into the area of Constitutional Law after articling with the Saskatchewan Department of Justice. She has developed a number of legal education initiatives, including the precursor to the Akitsiraq Law School in Nunavut, where she has also been a professor, and the Indigenous People’s Resource Management Program at the U of S. Marilyn has worked in private practice and litigated in every level of court in Canada. She has significant experience in the development of self-government with the Beaufort Delta Agreement, Treaty Implementation with the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations Treaty Table Justice Portfolio, and the revisions to the Saskatchewan Métis Election Process. She also works on CIDA-funded research on Ancestral Domain and land conflict in Central Mindanao.

For more information and more speakers, visit

Readings and Viewings

For a complete list of Readings and Viewings, visit


2014 Summer Conference: Candida Paltiel, Vice President, Program

Stay tuned for the announcement of the 2014 Summer Conference topic at Geneva Park in August. We thank all the proponent teams for submitting extraordinarily thoughtful and exciting proposals for our consideration. We never tire from the wealth of ideas that Couchiching members and friends bring to the table (and to the lake). It is because of your contributions, curiosity, and experience that we are able to mount successful and enriching conferences year after year. 2014 will be no exception.


Couchiching Nominating Committee Report

Gwen Burrows, Chair, Nominating Committee; Institute Immediate Past President

I am pleased to present the slate of candidates for the Board of Directors for election at the Couchiching General Meeting of Members, to be held at the Summer Conference, Geneva Park, on August 10, 2013. 

As Rima Berns-McGown’s term as President is up as of August, the first order of business for the Nominating Committee every two years is to select an individual who can ably lead the Institute for the following two years in the role of President. We are very pleased that Amanuel Melles, a long-time conference attendee, member of the Board, and Chair of this summer’s conference, has agreed to step up as President and lead the organization. Amanuel is a skilled and well-respected leader and we have no doubt he will do a fantastic job.

As ever, this year we are losing long-serving and incredibly talented Board members, a natural result of Board turnover, but bittersweet nonetheless. On behalf of Couchiching, I want to express our gratitude to each for contributing their significant talents, reach, and time and for their loyal participation in the governance and operations of the Institute over many years. I trust they will stay engaged in many other ways and we will continue to meet at the conference each summer.

Please join me in thanking:

David Caldwell, who has served on the Board for four years, during which time he has contributed his wise voice in decision-making, also stepping up as Vice-Chair of Program several years ago.

John Kirton, a long-serving Board member and Couch loyalist who has participated actively with his characteristic wit and intelligence on both the Board and Program, and has been in recent years a supporter and trustee with oversight of the Eric Koch Fund.

Howard Knopf, a former conference speaker, has served on the Board for three years, during which time he has been the animating force behind year-round programming in Ottawa, organizing a number of excellent and well-attended Roundtables in that city.

Bernie Lucht, who has served on the Board for seven years and has been a thoughtful contributor to Program, generously sharing his extensive knowledge of both ideas and people we can ask to speak to them.

Candida Paltiel, who has served on the Board for eleven years and has been an extraordinary contributor in the last few years as a member of Executive, leading a successful conference in 2011, and again this year, as well as contributing significantly to Marketing and Communications. It is no exaggeration to say that without Candy, we would not have the new Couchiching website, launched just over a year ago.

Brenda Paul, who was recruited to the Board three years ago for her extensive marketing and communications expertise and served on the Executive in that portfolio for several years, helping the Institute extend its reach.

Tom Shenstone, who has been a critical contributor to fundraising by helping to facilitate engagement with federal partners, and lending his many insights to Program over his three-year term. 

Sumaira Shaikh, who has led the Public Policy Award Program for several years and has been an active contributor to many Board discussions over her three-year term.

As ever, in bringing forward nominees to the Board, we strive for a mix of continuity and fresh perspectives, as well as a diversity of perspectives and skill sets. The candidates standing for election as Directors are:

  • Gus Constantinou – new to Board
  • Hana Gartner – new to Board
  • John Gregory – renewal for a two-year term
  • Drew Fagan – renewal for a three-year term
  • Adam Redish – renewal for a three-year term
  • Rikia Saddy – new to Board
  • Andrew Spears – renewal for a two- year term
  • Aisha Silim – new to Board
  • Doug West – new to Board

The following Directors, elected last year, will continue to serve:

Two years left in term: Kaushik BhatiaMelanie ChingDouglas GibsonMohamed HashimWenran JiangHeather Keachie, Madeline KochAmanuel MellesSheila Robertson, and Leon Thompson.

One year left in term:  Rima Berns-McGownGwen Burrows, Leslie de MeullesGerald FilsonMargaret LefebvreMartha Hall Findlay, Alex HimelfarbDavid McGown, and Salim Rachid.

The Bylaws provide for additional nominations from Institute members after the proposed slate has been circulated. If, as a member, you wish to nominate a candidate for election to the Board, make the nomination in writing to the Secretary of the Board, John Gregory. Please cc me on the nomination so that I am aware of it as well. 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 forthwith, a member. 

Because the proposed slate is almost full, additional nominations may trigger an election where not all proposed nominees can be elected to the Board. Such nominations must reach the Secretary by close of business on Monday, August 1, 2013.

I encourage all of you who are not currently a member of the Institute to become one so that you can participate in selection of the Board and support the work undertaken by the Institute. And I hope to see you at Geneva Park for the election – and for what promises to be an extraordinary conference!


Conversations and Roundtables

Salim Rachid / @salim_rachid, Chair

News about Conversations Held

June 19 Toronto Conversation: The Institute was delighted to host Jordy Gold, the Campaigns Director for in Canada for a Conversation on citizen-based social action in the digital age. Jordy shed light on the transformational campaigns being led by and other online platforms. Grassroots campaigns have used these web-based tools to increase the reach of their campaigns to a level unprecedented in history. The audience included a number of activists who had themselves been engaged in such movements and the discussion was lively and spirited as a result. Our thanks to the Baha'i Centre of Canada for hosting yet another successful Couchiching Conversation.


July 11 Toronto Conversation: Author, lecturer, and former broadcaster Eric Koch led a Conversation on the hype of the swinging 60s. Eric, in a dialogue with Jesse Hirsh, the Toronto-based internet strategist, researcher, and broadcaster, shed light on the revolutionary impact of the 1960s. What started as a rebellion against authority of all types led to a form of participatory democracy that challenged the establishment and cultural order, not seen since the French Revolution (1789-1799). It manifested itself in social policy, sexual mores, television programming, civil rights, and the technological dominating our own era. The event, which was held at the Academy of the Impossible, was a great way to end our year-round Conversations Season prior to the 82nd Summer Conference.

Eric has been an active member of the Institute for over half a century. Born in Frankfurt/Main, Germany, in 1919, he left for England as a refugee in 1935 and attended St. John’s College, Cambridge. In May 1940, he was interned as an “enemy alien” and later shipped to Canada. He was released in 1941 and continued his studies at the University of Toronto. Eric began his distinguished 35-year career with the CBC’s International Service in 1944. An author of numerous book of fiction and non-fiction, he also writes a . An author of numerous books of fiction and non-fiction, he also writes a daily blog —Sketches. His new book, The Golden Years: Glenn Gould, Marshall McLuhan, Lester B. Pearson, René Lévesque & John G. Diefenbaker, Five Stories (Mosaic Press, 2013) was launched in March.


News about Upcoming Conversations 

July 25 Toronto Conversation. Toronto journalist and activist Desmond Cole and former coordinator of the I Vote Toronto campaign will discuss the recent City of Toronto resolution to grant voting rights to permanent residents. What will this mean for Canada’s largest city? Join us at Beit Zatoun, 612 Markham Street, Toronto, M6G 2L8 - the closest intersection is Bloor and Bathurst - from 7:00 -9:00 p.m. Pay what you can at the door to cover venue expenses.

For advance information, read Desmond’s blog at

For Conversation photos, visit


The Big Picture 2013, April 25: 2013: Couchiching's Signature Fundraising Event

Leslie de Meulles, Co-Chair, Gala Committee

Lovely photos now available! Check out our Big Picture Gallery and re-visit the ambience and heated tab le conversations that took place on April 26th at Storys in Toronto. Definitely a night to remember.


Marketing and Communications

Heather Keachie, Chair; Sheila Robertson, Vice-Chair

The Summer Conference hashtag is #couch8thfire. 

All members of the Institute and friends have been invited to the Summer Conference and the word has been spread through a variety of public and private organizations that have a stake in the conference topic. The media has been alerted, with particular focus on Indigenous and local media, and we are planning to attract more media attention as the conference gets closer. Leon Thompson, conference co-chair, has done a radio interview with Sunshine Radio in Orillia, Ontario, and the Orillia Packet and Times requested information and then wrote an article about the conference (link here).

A Facebook event for the Conference can be found on the Institute Facebook page, and we encourage all friends of Couch to share the event and to let us know if they are attending. Those who are interested can also follow Couch on twitter at @couchiching



Board member Bernie Lucht C.M., was named to the Order of Canada on June 28th, and was cited “For his contributions to public broadcasting as a radio producer and for his commitment to providing a forum for intellectual discourse and debate.”

Nathalie Des Rosiers, C.M., O.Ont., was also named to the Order of Canada on June 28th in recognition of “her contributions as a lawyer to the advancement of civil liberties and for her commitment to promoting French within her profession.”

Sheelah McLean, a founder of Idle No More with Jessica GordonSylvia McAdam, and Nina Wilson, were nominated by social activist and author Naomi Klein as the “Best Representative of women in Canada in The Globe and Mail, July 1, 2013.


Couchiching Alumni in the News

Nathalie Des Rosiers will leave the Canadian Civil Liberties Association in July to become dean of the University of Ottawa’s common law program. She led the civil law program from 2004 to 2008 and was the interim vice-president (governance) from 2008 to 2009. She was the president of the Law Commission of Canada from 2000 to 2004 and also worked as a private lawyer. (The Ottawa Citizen, May 11, 2013). She was a speaker at the 2011 Summer Conference, “From the Ground Up: Civic Engagement in Our Time”.

Hon. Paul Martin, a 2013 Summer Conference keynote speaker, was presented with the 2013 Lincoln Alexander Outstanding Leader Award on May 29th by the University of Guelph’s College of Management and Economics. The late Lincoln Alexander was the 2009 Couchiching Public Policy Award recipient. Mr. Martin will also receive an honourary doctorate during the University of Ottawa’s 2013 Spring Convocation.

A Global News feature interview entitled Lunch with Elizabeth May: on shrimp, the Senate and why the prime minister is “not Canadian” was published on June 5th. Elizabeth May, the leader of the Green Party, was the 2006 Couchiching Public Policy Award recipient.

Commentary on the untimely death of Elijah Harper on May 19th mentioned that he, Phil Fontaine, who will speak at the 2013 Summer Conference, and Ovide Mercredi, a speaker at the 2011 Summer Conference, formed a ”native association” while students at the University of Manitoba.



Our Members Write...

Writing in The Toronto Star on June 22nd, Nathalie Des Rosiers and co-author Alan Broadbent said “Toronto City Council got it right. Last week, it decided to ask the province to consider extending the municipal franchise to permanent residents in Toronto.”

Four speakers from the 2012 Summer Conference, “The Arab Spring: Implications and Opportunities for Canada,” were in the news recently.

Writing in The Globe and Mail online on June 17th, Paul Heinbecker said: “Western intervention is beginning in Syria, and it is about time. The vast human slaughter in Syria has not been enough to shock the conscience of humanity into acting. But a broader understanding of self-interest has provoked action, albeit limited, because the mounting costs of not acting are becoming clearer.” He was Canada’s last ambassador to the UN Security Council and is with Wilfrid Laurier University and the Centre for International Governance.

Commenting on Egypt in the Ottawa Citizen on July 3rd, Ferry de Kerckhove called for a “look back to get some perspective before predicting the future—always a hazardous task.”He is a fellow of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute and the former high commissioner to Pakistan and ambassador to Indonesia and Egypt.

In the Ottawa Citizen on July 4th, Bessma Momani said she is “afraid people [in Egypt] will wake up to the realization that they are effectively under a military regime.” She is an associate professor at the University of Waterloo and the Balsillie School of International Affairs and a senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation and Brookings Institution.

In the Ottawa Citizen on July 10th, Tyseer Aboulnasr described events in Egypt as “a people’s coup. It’s a peaceful coup. We know it is news to Obama, but it is how we in Egypt exercise democracy. Direct democracy, Egyptian style.” On July 11th, she elaborated on her viewpoint for CBC Radio. A Canadian and an Egyptian, Tyseer is a professor of electrical engineering currently residing in Cairo. Email: tyseer_aboulnasr@yahoo.ca 



Calling all readers of Couchiching Connects!

Please send us information on Newsmakers, Couchiching Alumni in the News, and Opinions: Our Members Write... to Sheila Robertson, Vice-Chair, Marketing and Communications,

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