Previous Meetings

2022-2023 Speakers

James Gordon, Musician and Writer

The Ark of the Oven Mitt

James Gordon has had a remarkably diverse and resilient career in the Canadian cultural sector. As a solo singer-songwriter and with the ground-breaking trio Tamarack, he’s recorded 40 albums and toured relentlessly around the world. He’s written for symphony orchestras, musical theatre and dance works, scored films, and for more than ten years was heard on CBC radio as songwriter-in-residence for the ’Basic Black’ and ‘Ontario Morning’ programs. Between tours, James is a record producer, playwright, community activist, theatre director and currently has had a part-time ‘side hustle’ as a Guelph City Councillor from 2014- 2022. Recently he is known as the composer of the viral internet hit “Crybabies Caravan”, about the so-called ‘Freedom Convoy’ in Ottawa which has received more than 300,000 views and stimulated a lot of inspiring discussion.  James will be speaking about his “musical novel”, The Ark of the Oven Mitt, which has been named among the top humor books in Canada and was short listed for the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour.

Christine Allum, Senior Advisor, Ontario Securities Commission.

Fraud Prevention

Christine, as a Senior Advisor in the Investor Office at the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC), partners with various groups and organizations to deliver investor education and fraud prevention workshops. Prior to joining the OSC, she worked at the Toronto Stock Exchange. Her financial expertise includes adult training, financial literacy education, curriculum resource development, relationship management and community outreach.
The rise in eCommerce has brought an increase in fraud which is a massive problem, especially for seniors. In recent years, three and one half million adults have been swindled out of more than 3 billion dollars per year. During this presentation, Christine will describe fraud prevention and discuss how to make more informed financial decisions. We will also learn about common frauds and scams, tips to protect ourselves from fraud, scamming of registered savings plans and how they work and resources available to all Ontarions.

Janelle Brady, Assistant Professor, School of Early Childhood Studies, Toronto Metropolitan University

Anti-racism education: Lessons learned from a Black mothering approach for Black Futurities

Janelle is an Anti-Racist Educator, Activist Researcher and Community Organiser.  She serves on the boards of directors for several organisations and groups and recently defended her PhD in the Department of Social Justice Education at Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, where she explores Black mothering experiences of navigating anti-Black racism in the schooling and education system for their children. She has recently accepted a position in the school of Early Childhood Studies at Toronto Metropolitan University, formerly Ryerson University.

Janelle has been featured by a plethora of national and local media outlets.  She is the Co-founder and Director of The Downsview Advocate, a local newspaper in Toronto’s north end and is also the 2019 recipient of the International Day for the End of Racial Discrimination University of Toronto Award.

Daniel Kraus, Director of National Conservation, Wildlife Conservation Society Canada

Stopping the 6th Extinction

Dan is the national director of conservation at Wildlife Conservation Society Canada. He has over twenty-five years of conservation experience in the public, private and NGO sectors. Dan has authored reports on topics ranging from great lakes islands to freshwater key biodiversity areas to natural capital. Most recently he led an initiative to develop Canada’s first list of nationally endemic wildlife and published papers on Canada’s “crisis” ecoregions and approaches to endangered species recovery. Dan is a member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission and Connectivity Conservation Specialist Group and the Committee on Species at Risk in Ontario. He believes that conservation science needs to be made accessible to the public, and his editorials, articles and interviews have appeared in media across Canada. Dan also teaches about wildlife extinction and recovery at the University of Waterloo.

Carol A. McMullen, Beth Isaiah synagogue, Guelph

Are All Jews Created Equal? Racism within the Jewish Community

Carol is a Jewish lay leader and lay cantor at the Beth Isaiah synagogue in Guelph and at Temple Shalom in Waterloo. She is a serious student of Judaism as a member of several study groups and the Guelph Multifaith Group. She does occasional writing and speaking on various Jewish topics and is a strong advocate for greater understanding and exploring the common humanity between Jews and non-Jews.

Whoopi Goldberg caused a public storm by her recent comment that the Holocaust massacre of Jews was “not about race”. Many other people also consider Jews to be wealthy, white, and entitled. This presentation will explore the rich ethnic roots and current diversity within the Jewish tribal family and how persistent racism continues to affect all Jews, whether from outside or inside the Jewish community. How does racism impact the “Zionist” label? Prepare to have some of our assumptions and stereotypes challenged.

Madhur Anand, School of Environmental Sciences, University of Guelph

The Art and Science of the Climate Crisis

Madhur believes that the rapid pace and far-reaching potential of ecological change in the face of globalization and climate change is creating stress within ecosystems all over the world. There is an ever-increasing threat of extinctions of species, communities, and ecosystems along with the biodiversity services and functions that they support. Understanding the complex effects of ecological change at many scales (local to global, recent to historical) on biodiversity is thus of critical importance for predicting human-mediated changes to the environment, conserving biodiversity heritage and sustaining global economies. The CRC in Global Ecological Change recognizes the increasing international stature of ecological problems and their solutions. 

Madhur is also the author of This Red Line Goes Straight to Your Heart which was the winner of the 2020 Governor General’s Literary Award for Nonfiction.

Kevin James, Scottish Studies Foundation Chair, University of Guelph

The Grand Tour: A Very Brief History

At a time when many of us are emerging from two years limited to armchair travel, Kevin takes us on a journey through Europe and through time as we explore popular routes and travel practices on the Grand Tour. Then as now, Europe’s landscapes and people captured the popular imagination and motivated travellers from Britain and beyond to visit the continent. We will explore the most popular routes and sights as we ask what helped to make the Grand Tour a rite of passage for generations of travellers.

Kevin has been a member of the Department of History at the University of Guelph since 2000. He holds the Scottish Studies Foundation Chair, directs the Centre for Scottish Studies, and teaches and advises students exploring many dimensions of modern Scottish history, especially nineteenth-century travel cultures.

Eric Coates, director, administrator and actor

Walking the walk – a reflection on Indigeneity in colonial theatre

As a theatre artist who has lived and worked white for most of his life, Eric Coates experienced a profound shift in his own artistic practice and worldview when he connected to his extended family members of the Samish Indian Nation. This talk provides a candid view of the challenges and rewards inherent to meaningful activism within the established order of white colonial theatre. Eric Coates has worked as a director, dramaturg, administrator and actor since entering professional theatre in 1986. The bulk of his career has been spent working with playwrights to bring new scripts to production. To date, he has commissioned and/or developed and premiered over forty scripts. Most recently, he directed the premiere of Laura Michel’s Echoes of the Homesick Heart, a verbatim piece on Secwepemc language for Western Canada Theatre (WCT) in Kamloops. In Toronto this September, he directs the Young People’s Theatre premiere of Bentboy by Anishinaabe playwright Herbie Barnes. He served as the Artistic Director of Ottawa’s Great Canadian Theatre Company and as Artistic Director of the Blyth Festival, where premieres included Innocence Lost: A Play about Steven Truscott by Beverley Cooper and Reverend Jonah by Paul Ciufo, both finalists for the Governor General’s Award. He has directed productions for the Shaw Festival, Theatre Calgary, Drayton Entertainment, Thousand Islands Playhouse, Lighthouse Festival, and CBC Radio. Eric served as the President of the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres (PACT) from 2009-2015. He is a tribal member and canoe skipper of the Samish Indian Nation and is an active participant in Straits Salish language revitalization.

2021-2022 Speakers

Cyndy Moffat Forsyth, Chair Guelph Community Foundation

“Youth Mental Wellness: One of the Options”

Cyndy has been the Director of the Integrated Youth Services Network since July 2020. This network, led by the Rotary Club of Guelph, hopes to bring an integrated youth services model to Guelph and Wellington County in which youth aged 12 – 26 are at the centre of available services and have equal access to a continuum of services. Their vision is to build a system to better meet the needs of youth in our community. Prior to this appointment, Cyndy was the Chief Development Officer at Homewood Research Institute. She is passionate about improving youth mental health.

Jasmin Habib, Dept. of Political Science, University of Waterloo

Why Understanding Trump’s Supporters Still Matters.”

It’s been several years since our eyes first trained on the Trump campaign which seemingly came out of nowhere and first took on the Republican and later the Democratic Party to win the White House. Soon thereafter, news of Brexit hit and in early 2019, Israeli populism outflanked left, right and centre parties to victory.  This presentation will share stories and experiences from the field — both Israel and the United States — that can help us not only to understand some of the “what’s happened” but also allow us to consider how political strategies and mediated politics easily shift our attention away from the meaningful to the superficial.

Robyn Doolittle, The Globe and Mail

Robyn Doolittle is member of The Globe and Mail’s investigative team and is a two-time winner of Canada’s Michener Award. Since coming to The Globe in 2014, she has probed suspicious business contracts, political corruption and Canada’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Her “Unfounded” investigation, which explored the ways that Canadian police services handle sexual assault cases, prompted a national overhaul of policy, training and practices around sexual violence. That series was awarded a National Newspaper Award for investigative journalism among other honours, including two awards at the international Online Journalism Awards. Her latest book, “Had It Coming – What’s Fair In The Age of #MeToo?” was shortlisted for the RBC Taylor Prize for non-fiction. Doolittle was named Journalist of the Year in 2017.

Dr. Melanie Wills, Director, G. Magnotta Lyme Disease Research Lab, University of GuelphLyme disease

Melanie is the Inaugural Director of the Research Lab, which she developed from the ground up. The research lab has a mandate to improve diagnostic testing and treatment of Lyme disease. Prior to this, Melanie co-founded the Canadian Lyme Science Alliance in 2014 as a platform through which academics and clinicians promoted rigorous scientific study, thoughtful dialogue, and ethical stewardship of tick-borne illness. Melanie has also fostered innovation in the classroom, and developed a first-year University course on science communication. Her leadership and scholarly achievements have been recognized with several awards, including the Governor General’s Academic Medal.

Joan Hug Valeriote – Modern Day Logging with Horses

Joan is a film-maker, a certified Studio Teacher in the film industry and a professional quilt artist and quilting teacher. Joan has produced and directed independent documentary films, including Swiss carnival in 1981 that was broadcast on TVO and CBC. In 2007, Joan and her husband took up residence in the house her parents had built on the Paris-Galt Moraine which included 80 acres of swamp, bush and a Christmas tree plantation. In 2011, the front section of the bush was logged for hardwood. Due to the steepness of the terrain and to minimize impact on the land, Greg Parker and his team of Belgian horses were hired to bring out the logs and Joan decided to document their work on video. With minimal narration and music composed and performed by Wendi Hunter and Neil Sharp, this documentary evokes times past. We will view the film and Joan will be present to answer questions about the film and horse logging, joined by Greg Parker, the teamser.

Kim Anderson and Rene Meshake

Injichaag: Storytelling and the Soul of an Indigenous Artist

Anishinaabe Elder and artist Rene Meshake will share stories related to his recently launched book Injichaag: My Soul in Story (University of Manitoba Press, 2019). This work was done in collaboration with Metis scholar Kim Anderson, who will speak about the process of working with story and in particular how Meshake’s story fits in the context of a larger narrative of Indigenous peoples in Canada throughout the twentieth century. The two will perform and read from their collaborative work, which includes history, story, poetry and Anishinaabe (Ojibway) word bundles. Rene is an Anishinaabe Elder, storyteller, visual and performing artist, award-winning author, flute player, multimedia artist and a Recipient of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee Medal. Kim is a Metis writer and educator, working as an Associate Professor in the Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition at the University of Guelph. Dr. Anderson holds a PhD in history and is a Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Relationships. 

Susan Ratcliffe, board member, Yorklands Green Hub

Their Past, Our Future –A New Life for the Reformatory Lands

Yorklands Green Hub aims to create for Ontario’s public domain a self-sustaining education, demonstration, and research hub at the former Ontario Reformatory site in Guelph, Ontario. It will bring together businesses, organizations, and people of all ages and interests – to learn, work, share and innovate, with the common purpose of being engaged stewards of our land, food, water, cultural heritage and our overall well being.

Kathie Remley and Aaron Farrell

Forgotten People Connection Charity

Forgotten People Connection Charity is a hands-on group of Guelphites who donate their time and skills in Kenya, Uganda and Mexico to build schools, women’s shelters and cottage industries with their free labour and any donated money they manage to collect. They use local workers, teaching them skills and local supplies to help stimulate the local economy.  Although the principles who started this charity are Allen Remley, Kathie Remley and Aaron Farrell, many others have joined their charitable endeavours.

Kathie Remley has been instrumental in setting up a program to teach women how to sew using treadle sewing machines. For these women, who lack an education and a marketable skill set, this has enabled them to sew for their family and earn a living sewing for others. 

2020-2021 Speakers

Ian Evans, Adventure traveller

“LUNATIC – Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”

Ian has embraced adventure all his life – from scaling the shed roof at age 3 to skiing to the South Pole at age 58.   He has also climbed 5 of the “7 Summits“, cycled 5,000 kms solo and unsupported across Australia (twice), around the coastline of Iceland and to the Arctic Ocean and run 10 marathons. Ian is a passionate speaker who shares the lessons learned from his adventures with his audiences.

Jeff Hollingsworth, Program Manager, Homewood Health Centre

“Mental Health Services in the Community”

Jeff has worked in the field of mental health for more than 17 years in a variety of different programs with people aged 12 to 90.  Over this time he has worked as a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Liasion Nurse, a charge nurse on the Acute Crisis floor, Program and clinical care manager and most recently on the Community based ACTT mental health team.  A majority of his experience has come from working at the Homewood Health Center.

Douglas Gibson, Editor, publisher and writer

“Great Canadian Writers”

Doug was born in Scotland, moved to Canada in 1967 and is best known as the former president and publisher of McClelland and Stewart. In 1974 he became editorial director of Macmillan of Canada and became publisher in 1979. While at MacMillan, he negotiated Mavis Gallant’s first Canadian publishing deal and established relationships with Robertson Davies, Bruce Hutchison, Jack Hodgins, Alice Munro and Morley Callaghan. He also contributed film reviews to CBC Radio’s Sunday Morning and contributed to The Globe and Mail, the National Post, Books in Canada, Toronto Life and Maclean’s. He moved to McClelland and Stewart in 1986, became publisher of the company in 1988 and president in 2000, before retiring in 2008.  In 2011, Stories About Storytellers, Gibson’s long-awaited memoir, was published. His second book, Across Canada by Story, a continuation of his experiences working in the publishing industry, was published in 2015. Both were turned into stage shows. To celebrate Canada’s Sesquicentennial, he created a new stage show entitled “150 Years of Great Canadian Storytellers 1867 – 2017” which celebrated the greatest storytellers since Confederation; english, french and indigenous.

Nicky Carswell, Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo

Human Trafficking”

Nicky is the Coordinator of the Anti-Human Trafficking Program at the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region. This program provides flexible and unique wrap-around supports to those at significant risk of experiencing or have experienced sexual exploitation and sex trafficking within the region. It represents a piece of the Ontario Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking and it has recently been recognized for serving over 140 unique individuals and was granted annual funding. Nicky is passionate about her role and spends her time addressing service gaps and advocating for our community’s most vulnerable people.

Peter Sweeney,  CEO YMCA of Three Rivers

The Y and Wellness in Guelph

Peter Sweeney is currently the CEO of the YMCA of Three Rivers, Canada’s newest Y, following the October ’20 amalgamation of the YMCA/YWCA of Guelph, the YMCA of Stratford-Perth, and the YMCAs of Cambridge & Kitchener-Waterloo, where he had been CEO since September 2016. Previously, Peter served as the President of the St. Mary’s General Hospital Foundation from 2004-2016. In 2010, he was also named President of the St. Joseph’s Health System International Outreach Program where he managed global health projects in Uganda, Haiti, and Guyana. Peter was named as one of the Waterloo Record’s inaugural 40-under-40 and was recently awarded a Paul Harris Fellow by his local Rotary Club. He and his wife Krista have three children and live in downtown Kitchener.   

Anne-Marie Zajdlik, Founder, Bracelet of Hope

“A tale of two pandemics and why humankind is clever enough to defeat both”

Dr. Anne-Marie Zajdlik is a family physician and regional HIV specialist. She is the founder and Medical Director of the Masai Centre for Local, Regional and Global Health, a provincially funded HIV/AIDS clinic in Guelph, Ontario. In 2010, Dr. Zajdlik, opened Masai’s satellite clinic in Waterloo. The clinics now provide care to 700 HIV positive patients in Guelph-Wellington, Grey Bruce, and Waterloo Region. In March of 2019, Dr. Zajdlik founded Hope Clinic, the new Center for Excellence in HIV Treatment in the region.
Dr. Zajdlik is the founder of Bracelet of Hope, a charitable community-based organization that raises awareness of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa and funds for HIV/AIDS relief in Lesotho, Africa. She is a previous board member of the Ontario Hospital Association’s OHAfrica project and member of the OHAfrica Canadian Medical Team that helped open the first HIV/AIDS clinic in Lesotho in 2004.