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6 Degrees Calgary Speakers

Wedad Amiri
Founder and CEO, Afflatus Hijab (Canada)

Wedad Amiri is the founder and CEO of Afflatus Hijab, a women’s clothing line. Afflatus Hijab was created in 2014 with a social platform of women empowerment and de-stigmatizing mental illnesses. Amiri decided to fully immerse herself in Afflatus Hijab after spending nearly seven years building programs for youth around mental health and character education. She wanted to change the narrative on how Muslim women were seen in the media and in society in general, so she began naming her pieces after strong Muslim women. Her other campaigns have also included strong Indigenous women and women dealing with mental illness, with pieces named after them. Amiri’s latest campaign sheds light on single motherhood and the struggles and stigma that come along with it. Amiri holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Alberta in sociology and political science.

See Wedad at 360: Where We Stand.

Francis Boakye
VP, Strategy, Centre for Newcomers (Canada/Ghana)

Francis Boakye is an educator, community worker, and advocate who, for the past several years, has worked in different capacities to enhance the lives of marginalized and isolated communities in Calgary. As part of his efforts to strengthen his ability to work with systems and policies, Boakye volunteers on several boards, councils and committees whose mission is to contribute to building a just and equitable society. Boayke has a strong interest in equity and justice issues, and an unquenchable passion for working with vulnerable individuals, families, and communities. He is currently the VP for Strategy at the Centre for Newcomers, and a sessional instructor in the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Calgary.

See Francis at the Coffeehouse.

Dr. Stephen Borys
Director and CEO, Winnipeg Art Gallery (Canada)

Stephen D. Borys is the Director and CEO of the Winnipeg Art Gallery where he is leading the development of a national Inuit Art Centre, the first of its kind in the world. At the core of his directorship is the goal of advancing a meaningful dialogue with the public, and creating a welcoming forum where art and culture are at the forefront with audiences and stakeholders.

Dr. Borys is also an adjunct professor in the Cultural Studies department at the University of Winnipeg, and has held leadership and curatorial posts at the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida; Allen Art Museum at Oberlin College, Ohio; National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa; and the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal. He holds an Executive MBA, a PhD in Art and Architectural History from McGill University, an MA in Art History from the University of Toronto, and a BA Honours from the University of Winnipeg.

Dr. Borys has organized numerous exhibitions, written accompanying catalogues and scholarly articles, and lectured across North America and internationally. He is a past board trustee of the Association of Art Museum Directors, past president of the Canadian Art Museum Directors Organization, and past board director of the Canadian Museums Association.

See Stephen at 360: Where We Stand.

Priscille Buckahsa
Spoken Word Artist (Canada/ Congo)

Buckahsa is an established favourite in the spoken word scene in Calgary; she has been writing and performing for over nine years. She has been the supporting act and headliner at various popular events in both Calgary and Edmonton. Her versatility and talent has enabled her to perform at a variety of venues such as conferences, churches, and universities, and as part of marketing campaigns spanning the entire province. Her distinguished work and style has truly set her apart as a one-of-a-kind artist. Buckahsa’s inspiration for writing comes from personal experiences, her background, other artists, and most of all her faith in God. She hopes to continue performing spoken word for bigger audiences and different platforms for various events, and inspiring young poets to use their voice to make a difference.

See Priscille at 6 Degrees Calgary Performance.

Adrienne Clarkson

The Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clarkson
26th Governor General of Canada & Co-founder and Co-chair of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (Canada)

The Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clarkson arrived in Canada from Hong Kong as a refugee in 1942 and made the astonishing journey from a penniless child to accomplished broadcaster, journalist, and distinguished public servant in a multi-faceted lifetime.

During Madame Clarkson’s mandate as Governor General, her energy, enthusiasm, and passion left an indelible mark on Canada’s history. A leading figure in Canada’s cultural life, she is the best-selling author of the 2014 CBC Massey Lecture Belonging: The Paradox of Citizenship; Room for All of Us: Surprising Stories of Loss and Transformation; Heart Matters: A Memoir; and a biography of Dr. Norman Bethune.

Madame Clarkson has received numerous prestigious awards and honorary degrees in Canada and abroad. A Privy Councillor and Companion of the Order of Canada, she lives in Toronto.

See Adrienne at What’s Next.

Ellen Close
Playwright, director, actor (Canada)

Ellen Close is a Calgary-based theatre artist with an interest in fostering civic engagement and social bridging through the arts. As a producer and eventual Artistic Director of Downstage for eleven years, she was driven by her passion to make theatre more accessible for the public to attend and participate in. Now a freelance playwright, actor, and director, Close especially enjoys bringing her theatre skills to collaborations with various not-for-profit organizations, including writing and directing a satirical panel discussion for the Pembina Institute, and co-facilitating “The Bottle Picker Monologues” with CalgaryCan.

See Ellen at Breaking Barriers.

Jan (JD) Derbyshire
Artist, producer, inclusive designer, and educator (Canada)

Jan (JD) Derbyshire is an established multi-disciplinary artist. She specializes in the design of playful and participatory experiences in theatre, movement, comedy, media, and events that push forward ideas of diversity, belonging, civic engagement, perception change, and practical applications of theory. She recently co-created participatory projects with the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, The Conference Board, Neworld Theatre Society, Vancouver International Children’s Festival, The Republic of Inclusion, National Arts Centre (Ottawa), the University of Guelph revisiting Disability Project, All in, Frank Theatre, and Young People’s Theatre (Toronto). Derbyshire is an award-winning Canadian playwright and is the co-founder of POD, a Vancouver-based citizen designer lab. She has a master’s degree in inclusive design from OCAD University in Toronto (2014). She is currently the Artistic Director of Nervous System Performance based in Vancouver and Inclusive Designer in Residence with Calgary Arts Development. Her latest show, Certified, where the audience becomes a mental health review board, will tour this year to UNO Fest (Victoria), FoldA Festival of live digital Art (Kingston), and High Performance Rodeo (Calgary), and will be part of Vancouver’s Touchstone Theatre’s 2019/20 season.

See JD at 360: Where We Stand.

Rachel Giese
Journalist and author of Boys: What It Means to Become a Man (Canada)

Rachel Giese is an award-winning writer and editor in Toronto, and the author of Boys: What It Means to Become a Man. She’s the Editorial Director of Xtra and a regular contributor to CBC Radio and The Globe and Mail. Her work has appeared in the Literary Review of Canada, Real Life, and The Walrus.

See Rachel at 360: Where We Stand and 360: Where We Go.

Mark Hopkins
Artistic Director, Swallow-a-Bicycle Theatre (Canada)

Mark Hopkins is the Artistic Director of Swallow-a-Bicycle Theatre, which generates productive discomfort through art-making, and an Associate with Human Venture Leadership, which seeks to build our collective capacities to reduce ignorance, error, waste, suffering, and injustice. He volunteers with the Calgary Foundation and the Centre for Newcomers, is a Fellow of the Energy Futures Lab, and founded We Should Know Each Other, a community-bridging initiative.

Some honours and awards include the Creative Placemaking Award (2016 Mayor’s Lunch for Arts Champions), the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, Best Screenplay (2014 Alberta Media Production Industry Awards), Avenue Magazine’s Top 40 Under 40, and The Calgary Herald’s 20 Compelling Calgarians.

See Mark at Breaking Barriers.

Shadrach Kabango (Shad)
Rapper and Host of Hip Hop Evolution (Canada)

Shad is a Canadian rapper with four solo albums under his belt, one retro pop-rock side-project, a master’s degree, and numerous accolades. On October 26, 2018, he released his highly anticipated concept album titled A Short Story About A War.

In addition to three of his records being nominated on the Short List of the prestigious Polaris Music Prize, TSOL won the 2011 Rap Recording of the Year at the Juno Awards. Since then, Shad has elevated his practice by emerging as a vital broadcaster. After hosting CBC Radio’s q, he went on to host the Hip-Hop Evolution docuseries, whose 2016 season on HBO Canada earned both a Peabody Award and an International Emmy Award.

A Short Story About A War tells the story of a fictional world consumed by war, with various factions and philosophies clashing, and in the middle of it all, one character who doesn’t believe in the power of bullets. The poetic storytelling weaves its way through themes of migration, environment, economics, politics, and most critically, the deepest parts of our spirit.

This music was created in collaboration with dozens of musicians and engineers: From genre-less luminaries like Kaytranada, 2oolman of A Tribe Called Red, and Lido Pimienta, to crafty indie rockers Yukon Blonde, and Toronto rap vets Ian Kamau, Eternia, and DJ T Lo. Their contributions bring multiple textures and colours to the singular vision Shad created. In the end, this serious record is a joy to listen to, full as it is of pop craftsmanship that doesn’t turn a blind eye to human nature.

See Shad at 360: Where We Go.

Pam Krause
President and CEO, Centre for Sexuality (Canada)

Pam Krause is the President and CEO of the Centre for Sexuality (formerly the Calgary Sexual Health Centre).  She has been with the agency since 2001, taking on the leadership role in 2004. Graduating from the University of Calgary with a BA in Political Science, Krause began her career in municipal and provincial politics.

An advocate and activist on issues related to women’s equality and social justice, Krause has worked and volunteered in the Calgary non-profit community for 25 years. Her previous roles include work with the Elizabeth Fry Society, where she advanced the opening of the first halfway house exclusively for women in Alberta.

Under Krause’s leadership, the Centre for Sexuality has grown and today is the only non-profit organization in the Calgary community that provides comprehensive sexual-health education programs and services to people across the lifespan. The Centre is recognized as a leader for implementing innovative sexual-health programs that have meaningful results for the populations they serve.

Krause’s leadership has been recognized by being named a Global Television Woman of Vision, and she is a recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for her years of community service. In 2017, Krause was named as one of 150 Calgary women who have impacted Calgary over the past 150 years by the YW Calgary She Who Dares initiative. Most recently, Krause was appointed to the Board of Governors at the University of Calgary.

Krause has a wealth of experience in leadership, governance and social innovation and is a strong advocate in her community.

See Pam at the Coffeehouse.

Abdul-Rehman Malik
Postgraduate Associate at Yale University and Program Manager at Radical Middle Way (Canada/US)

Abdul-Rehman Malik is an award-winning London-based journalist, educator, and organizer. Malik is the Program Manager for the Radical Middle Way, which offers powerful, faith-inspired guidance and tools to enable change, promote social justice for all, and combat exclusion and violence. His work has spanned the U.K., Indonesia, Pakistan, Sudan, Mali, Morocco, Singapore, Canada, and Malaysia. In January 2015, he became Director of the Insight Film Festival, a unique year-round festival that celebrates the intersection between faith and film. In 2017, he was a Yale Greenberg World Fellow.

Malik is a regular contributor to BBC Radio, hosting Pause for Thought—contemporary perspectives on spirituality—on BBC Radio 2 and presenting documentaries and programs for BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service. His recent documentary work includes The Muhammadan Bean: The Secret History of Islam and Coffee and Finding Allah at 33rpm.

A trustee of the Sandford St Martins Trust, which promotes excellence in broadcasting about religion, Malik has a keen interest in harnessing cultural production capital for social change. In addition to providing content guidance to a variety of cultural and literary institutions, he is currently working with colleagues from around the world to establish a global network of Muslim cultural leaders committed to building cultural capital and supporting cutting-edge artistic production.

See Abdul-Rehman at the Coffeehouse and What’s Next?

Antonio Martínez Velázquez
Spokesperson, Secretary of Culture of Mexico (Secretaría de Cultura de México) (Mexico)

Antonio Martínez Velázquez is a freedom of speech activist and digital rights researcher. Currently, he is Spokesperson of the Secretary of Culture in Mexico. He is co-founder of Horizontal, an independent think-tank based in Mexico City. Horizontal is a multipurpose project that includes a digital magazine and a research division focused on gender, race, class, and digital rights intersections. Martínez Velázquez recently published a book called Thinking Internet, co-authored with Iberoamericana University.

Previously, Martínez Velázquez was communications and digital content officer for ARTICLE 19 Mexico and its Central America office, where he developed the first digital rights program for the organization. In the public service, he worked as an innovations affairs external consultant for the mayor of Mexico City Marcelo Ebrard, as well as for the local government of Tlaxcala, in the governor’s office, between 2005–2009.

He co-founded the collective Open ACTA, one of the leading civil society organizations in Mexico that advocated against the country’s signing of ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement). As a digital rights activist, he has participated in several global forums such as Internet Governance Forum, NETMundial, Global Congress of Intellectual Property and Public Interest and The Global Conference on Cyberspace with a clear voice in favour of human rights on the internet. He is also the co-founder of Democracia Deliberada, a leftist group of young scholars and activist based in Mexico City.

As a journalist, Martínez Velázquez has been published in The New York Times, Foreign Affairs Latin America, Rolling Stone, El Universal, Gatopardo, Animal Político, and Reforma.

See Antonio at 360: Where We Go.

Julia Matamoros
Partnership Officer, Cultural Access Pass, Institute for Canadian Citizenship (Mexico/Canada)

Julia Matamoros is the Partnership Officer of the Cultural Access Pass (CAP) at the Institute for Canadian Citizenship. CAP is a program that builds inclusion and belonging for new Canadian citizens by encouraging their participation in arts and culture. Matamoros works with a national network of cultural organizations to engage Canada’s newest citizens by providing free admission during their first year of citizenship. Julia believes in the power of the arts to build and shape inclusive, thoughtful communities, and has engaged the public with arts discussion and practice for the past decade working at the Gardiner Museum, TIFF Bell Lightbox, Funarte, and Dawson City Museum. She has been a member of the shortlist committee at the Regent Park Film Festival and sits on the board of the Mayworks Festival, a multidisciplinary arts festival.

See Julia at the Coffeehouse.

Lachlin McKinnon
Co-founder, Prospector Executive Search & Consulting (Canada)

At Prospector Executive Search & Consulting, McKinnon finds exceptional leaders for organizations that advance the public good. He also currently serves on the boards of Calgary Opera and the Heritage Park Society.

McKinnon holds an ARCT in piano performance, an Honours BA in philosophy and political science, and a Bachelor of Laws. A mostly recovered lawyer, McKinnon also served as Special Advisor to the Governor General of Canada (2000–2004), during The Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clarkson’s mandate.

McKinnon has been fortunate to travel to all regions of Canada and holds a special affinity for the North. An avid canoeist, he has paddled several of the country’s remote wilderness rivers. In the urban environment, he mostly navigates to activities for his three delightful young daughters.

See Lachlin at the Coffeehouse.

Mii-Sum-In-Iskum (Long Time Buffalo Rock) Justin Many Fingers
Artistic Director, Making Treaty 7 Cultural Society (Kanawa Nation)

Mii-Sum-In-Iskum (Long Time Buffalo Rock) is a queer, Indigenous, disabled, and mad artist from the Kanawa Blackfoot Reserve in Southern Alberta. His Canadian name is Justin Many Fingers. He has worked with artists from Australia, Thailand, Nunavut, Japan, Greenland, United States of America, and Mexico. Mii-Sum-In-Iskum is a graduate of the three-year acting conservatory at the Centre for Indigenous Theatre. He was a member of the Soulpepper Academy, participating in their 2011/12 season. Mii-Sum-In-Iskum has trained in numerous dance styles with Jock Sotto, Neil Leremia, Frances Rings, Carlos Rivara, Bill Coleman, Alejandro Ronceria and Troy Emery Twigg. He  attended the Banff Centre’s Indigenous Dance Residence, Toronto Dance Theatre’s Intensive, Kahawi Dance Theatre’s training program and the One Yellow Rabbit Lab Intensive. Some of the directors he’s worked with are Alanis King, Peter Hinton, Genevieve Blais, Daniel Brooks, Muriel Miguel, Marion de Vries, Rose Stella, and Jessica Carmichael. The elders he has learned from and worked with are Narcisse Blood, Alvine Mountainhorse, Beverly Hungry Wolf, and Raymond Many Bears. Mii-Sum-In-Iskum has studied both Western and Indigenous performing art forms for five and a half years throughout Canada. He is now in the process of creating Indigenous performing arts in southern Alberta. Mii-Sum-In-Iskum is also an emerging curator, programmer, producer, director, choreographer, and creator.

See Mii-Sum-In-Iskum at 360: Where We Stand.

The Honourable Ricardo Miranda
Minister of Culture and Tourism of Alberta, and Member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta for Calgary-Cross (Canada/Nicaragua)

Ricardo Miranda was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, representing the constituency of Calgary-Cross, on May 5, 2015. On February 2, 2016, Miranda was appointed Minister of Culture and Tourism. He is also a member of the Social Policy Committee and the Legislative Review Committee.

He previously served as chair of the Standing Committee on Alberta’s Economic Future; member of the Select Special Ethics and Accountability Committee; and member of the Standing Committee on the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund.

Prior to his service with the Legislative Assembly, he was a flight attendant for 15 years, and worked as a servicing representative, member organizer, and research representative with the Canadian Union of Public Employees in Alberta.

Miranda holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Calgary and is working towards a secondary degree in industrial relations with a long term view of obtaining his PhD. He is multilingual and fluent in Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French, and English.

See The Honourable Ricardo Miranda at 360: Where We Stand.

Yasmine Mohamed
Director, Cultural Access Pass, Institute for Canadian Citizenship (Canada)

Yasmine Mohamed is the Director of the Cultural Access Pass (CAP), a national inclusion program run by the Institute for Canadian Citizenship. Mohamed works with a network of museums, art galleries, science centres and parks across the country to deliver free admission for new Canadian citizens during their first year of citizenship. She holds a certificate in Refugee and Migration Studies, and completed both her BA and MA in Geography and Environmental Studies at York University, studying the links between social policy, environmental outcomes, and the spatial marginalization of newcomer communities in Toronto. She is an active cyclist, a volunteer for arts and culture, an avid volleyball player, and an advocate for greener living.

See Yasmine at Making Spaces.

Nirmala Naidoo
Veteran journalist and politician (Canada)

Nirmala Naidoo is a veteran award-winning television anchor and journalist who was declared “a person of extraordinary ability” by the United States government. She is an outspoken advocate for human rights issues, fighting for the rights of minorities, immigrants, victims of bullying, and those who are marginalized or powerless by using journalism to tell their stories. Naidoo is a former politician as the 2015 federal election candidate for the Liberal Party of Canada for Calgary Rocky Ridge. Naidoo is a former Keynote Speaker for Enbridge’s Famous Five, made Calgary’s Top 40 Under 40 list twice, was named one of the 150 Women Who Shaped Alberta, and was on the cover of TIME Magazine.

See Nirmala at the Coffeehouse.

Sage Paul
Artist, designer, and innovative leader for Indigenous fashion, craft and textiles (Canada)

Named one of the Top 25 Women of Influence 2018, Sage Paul is an urban Denesuline woman and a member of English River First Nation. Based in Toronto, Paul is an award-winning artist, designer, and innovative leader for Indigenous fashion, craft and textiles—championing family, sovereignty, and resistance for balance. Paul is also founding collective member and Artistic Director of Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto.

Paul has exhibited some of her art and design at the Art Gallery of Ontario; Harbourfront Centre; The Centre for Craft, Creativity and Design; and a curated program at Western Canada Fashion Week by Ociciwan Contemporary Art Collective. Paul speaks about Indigenous fashion including engagements at Canada House, The Walrus Magazine, Ryerson University, Toronto Women’s Fashion Week and South Africa Fashion Week. In 2018, Paul presented her collection “Giving Life” at Festival de Mode & Design (Montreal) and Ohtaapiahki Fashion Week (Calgary).

Paul received the Design Exchange RBC Emerging Designer Award (2017), was recognized as a changemaker by the Toronto Star (2018), listed on the top 100 talented and driven Canadian women by Flare Magazine (2017), and was honoured by the Ontario Minister of the Status of Women as a trailblazing woman who is transforming Ontario (2017).

Paul sits on the Ryerson School of Fashion Advisory Board and is a part-time professor at George Brown College, teaching Contemporary Indigenous Fashion, an elective course she designed.

See Sage at 360: Where We Go.

Patti Pon
President and CEO of Calgary Arts Development, arts champion (Canada)

Patti Pon is a veteran community and arts champion with an extensive track record of leadership and service in Calgary.

Pon has deep and diverse experience in the arts sector, having served as Vice President of Administration at Arts Commons, as well as senior positions at the Alberta Performing Arts Stabilization Fund and Alberta Theatre Projects, among others. In the community, she serves on the board of The Calgary Foundation and on a committee for the Calgary Stampede. She was a founding board member of the Asian Heritage Foundation (Southern Alberta) and served on the steering committee for imagineCalgary, the board of CKUA Radio Network, and the Calgary Bid Exploration Committee.

Pon holds a BFA in drama and an MBA in arts administration, and has been awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal as well as the 2013 Harry and Martha Cohen Award, recognizing significant contribution to Calgary’s theatre community.

See Patti at Breaking Barriers.

Janice Price
President and CEO, Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity (Canada)

Janice Price has over 30 years of experience as a senior executive in leadership roles in the arts and entertainment sector in Canada and the United States. She was appointed President and CEO of Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in March 2015.  

Prior to her appointment at Banff Centre, Price served as CEO of the Luminato Festival, Toronto’s annual multi-arts festival, an organization she led since its inception in 2006. As the Festival’s Founding CEO from 2006 to 2015, Price helped Luminato become one of the world’s largest and most respected annual multi-arts festivals. From 2002 to 2006, Price was President and CEO of The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia, and prior to that position she was Vice President of Marketing and Communications and then Interim Executive Director at New York’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.  

Prior to her professional engagements in the United States, she held senior positions at a number of Toronto arts organizations, including the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, and The Corporation of Roy Thomson Hall and Massey Hall. From 1992 to 1996, she was the Director of Marketing and Special Projects for the Stratford Festival.

Price has served on numerous national and international arts sector boards including ISPA (International Society for the Performing Arts), the National Board of Culture Days, the Toronto Arts Foundation, and the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. She served on the 2016–17 National Executive of the Governor General’s Leadership Conference, and Chaired the national Festivals and Major Events board from 2013 to 2015. Price currently serves on the board of Business for the Arts, and on the Council of Post-Secondary Presidents of Alberta.  

Price was a recipient of the 2018 WXN Canada’s Most Influential Women Awards in the category of Arts, Sports, and Entertainment.

See Janice at Making Spaces.

Marivic Prospero
Career and Employment Associate Director, Centre for Newcomers (Canada/Philippines)

Prospero’s passion is to help new immigrants navigate their career transitions, overcome their employment challenges, and achieve their occupational aspirations in the shortest possible time. Coming to Canada as an immigrant herself and having experienced the challenges of integrating into the labour market and Canadian life, she has resolved to assist newcomers through a smooth transition.

Prospero is a Certified Career Development Professional and a member of the Career Development Association of Alberta. She holds a certificate in career and academic advising from the University of Calgary and completed her BSc and MS degrees in social work in the Philippines.  

See Marivic at Breaking Barriers.

Irfhan Rawji
Founder and CEO of MobSquad, board member of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, and Chair of the Board of Governors of Glenbow Museum (Canada)

Irfhan Rawji is the founder and CEO of MobSquad, an innovative Canadian start-up that aims to repatriate Canadian software developers and keep new STEM graduates from leaving Canada, as well as attract immigrants to Canada by creating new domestic career opportunities for software developers.

Rawji is also a Principal with Totem Capital Corporation, a private capital firm focused on investing in Canadian small businesses, and is a Venture Partner with Relay Ventures, an early stage venture capital firm exclusively focused on mobile computing with offices in Toronto and Menlo Park. Rawji is also an Adjunct Professor at the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia where he teaches in the areas of finance, public policy, strategy and leadership. Rawji is presently Board Chair of two Totem Capital investee companies: Carrot Insights, a mobile health app recognized by Mobile Syrup as Canada’s app of the year in 2017; and The Organic Box, Alberta’s largest organic food hub, offering home delivery, as well as click-and-collect grocery services.

Additionally, Rawji is Board Chair of Activate, a partnership between the federal government, private investors, and the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada. Aimed at reducing the incidence of stroke, Activate represents an innovation in social finance as Canada’s first social impact bond.

Rawji is a Director of Sage Properties, a Calgary-based real estate investment corporation and Chatter Research, a text-driven customer insight chatbot which counts Lush Cosmetics, The Finish Line, and Chase Bank amongst its customer base. Rawji is actively involved in civic affairs as Board Chair of Glenbow Museum and board member of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship. Rawji has also served on the boards of the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada (Board Chair), the Harbourfront Centre (Director, Treasurer), imagiNation150 (Director, Treasurer), the Harvard Business School Global Alumni Board (Director), Business for the Arts (Director), and member and Finance and Investment Sub-Committee Chair of the Calgary 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Bid Exploration Committee.

Rawji holds an MBA with High Honors from Harvard Business School where he was a Baker Scholar and a Bachelor of Commerce with Honours from the University of British Columbia where he was a Wesbrook Scholar. He is a recipient of The Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, the Heart & Stroke Foundation’s Award of Merit, the Sauder School of Business’ Teaching Excellence Award, Business for the Arts’ Arnold Edinborough Award and was named one of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 in 2017.

See Irfhan at Making Spaces.

Esmahan Razavi
Community organizer and activist (Canada/Saudi Arabia/Turkey)

Esmahan Razavi is passionate about empowering women. Razavi works as a political staffer for the Hon. Danielle Larivee, Minister of Status of Women. In 2018, she flew to Kyrgyzstan for a week to act as a consultant on gender equality for the National Democratic Institute of International Affairs. She sits on the board of Equal Voice Alberta South, co-founded Ask Her, co-led the 2018 and 2019 Women’s Marches in Calgary and from 2016-2018, she served as Chair of the Women in Politics committee for the Canadian Federation of Business and Professional Women. For her work in empowering women, Razavi was selected by Chatelaine magazine as one of the top 33 women in Canada in 2017. Razavi serves on United Way Calgary’s Public Policy committee and co-founded an organization called Ahlain to use technology to assist Syrian refugees moving to Calgary. Razavi loves animals and has a dog named Mia.

See Esmahan at the Coffeehouse.

Jenna Rodgers
Director, dramaturge, and Artistic Director of Chromatic Theatre (Canada)

Rodgers is a mixed-race director and dramaturge based in Calgary. She is the founding Artistic Director of Chromatic Theatre—a company dedicated to producing and developing work by and for artists of colour. Rodgers is also the dramaturge for the Playwrights Lab at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. She is a passionate arts equity advocate, an active member of the Consent and Respect in Theatre (CART) collective; the Vice-President of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion for LMDA; and the Board Chair for Theatre Alberta.

Rodgers has had the pleasure of dramaturging work at the Banff Theatre, Kennedy Center, Lunchbox Theatre, Chromatic Theatre, and fu-GEN Theatre. Rodgers is the recipient of a 2018 Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Emerging Artists, and is one of the 2018/19 NTS Artistic Leadership Residents. Rodgers holds a MA in International Performance Research from the universities of Amsterdam and Tampere.

See Jenna at 360: Where We Go and Breaking Barriers.

John Ralston Saul
Award-winning essayist and novelist & Co-founder and Co-chair of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (Canada)

John Ralston Saul proposes a new humanism through what he calls responsible individualism. His 14 works have been translated into 29 languages in 38 countries. His philosophical trilogy and its conclusion—Voltaire’s Bastards, The Doubter’s Companion, The Unconscious Civilization and On Equilibrium: Six Qualities of the New Humanism—has impacted political thought in many countries. In A Fair Country: Telling Truths about Canada, he argues that modern Canada is profoundly shaped by Indigenous ideas. He is general editor of the Extraordinary Canadians biographical series and contributed his own biography of Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine and Robert Baldwin. The Comeback, his latest release, explores how Indigenous peoples are empowering themselves for a grand return to a position of power and influence.

Saul is President Emeritus of PEN International, and founder and honorary chair of French for the Future. He also founded the LaFontaine-Baldwin Lecture. He is a Companion of the Order of Canada, a member of the Order of Ontario and a Chevalier in the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (an Order of France). His many literary awards include Chile’s Pablo Neruda International Presidential Medal of Honour, the Governor General’s Award and the inaugural Gutenberg Galaxy Award.

See John at What’s Next?

Salima Stanley-Bhanji
CEO, Humainologie, award-winning filmmaker and lawyer (Canada/Australia)

Salima Stanley-Bhanji is the CEO of Humainologie, a Canadian charity whose mission is to spread empathy, increase inclusion, and reduce discrimination. Aside from being a lawyer and yoga teacher, Stanley-Bhanji has produced and directed over 20 short films in three languages which have received nine awards and over 20 selections worldwide. Previously the executive director of Vibrant Calgary, a not-for-profit organization working in poverty reduction and advocacy, and the General Counsel of the Calgary Homeless Foundation, Stanley-Bhanji values empathy, creativity, accountability, self-awareness, and unknowingness.

In 2015, she hiked 1200 kilometres from Geneva, Switzerland, to Pamplona, Spain, to raise awareness of the world’s 60 million displaced people. She has run several half marathons (including two barefoot) and a full marathon. Stanley-Bhanji grew up in Australia, and has lived in India, New Zealand, Peru, and Canada. She feels great privilege in being a mother to one small bundle of wonder.

See Salima at the Coffeehouse.

Rabah Swaidek
Community Engagement Coordinator, Centre for Newcomers (Canada/Libya)

Rabah Swaidek attended Mount Royal University achieving her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology in 2012 and a Public Relations Certificate in 2013.

Throughout Swaidek’s career, her specific interests in empowering youth, girls, women and diverse populations have led her to work with variety of socially conscious organizations including United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Women Win, the International Rescue Committee, and Alberta Association of Immigrant Serving Agencies.

Now a Community Engagement Coordinator at the Centre for Newcomers, Swaidek’s efforts are focused on strengthening ethnocultural communities and creating strategies for fund development. She is also leading a women’s self-defence program to help empower immigrant women and reduce gender-based violence.

Spending nearly a decade living in Europe and the Middle East has left Swaidek highly skilled in cross-cultural competency, and given her an ability to engage the Calgary community with personalized, innovative and effective communication skills.

Swaidek is also an active community volunteer, donating her time to the Canadian Cancer Society and the National Council on Canada and Libya Relations. Swaidek also sits on the Sage Hill Community Association Board of Directors and is the co-organizer of Calgary’s Arab Fest.

See Rabah at the Coffeehouse.

Ryan van der Marel
Environmental strategist (Canada)

Ryan van der Marel is from North Bay, Ontario, and from a young age, he discovered joy in exploring Canada’s lakes and rivers by canoe. Today, he works with government, corporate, and non-profit leaders to develop ecological solutions that align with meaningful visions of the future. Over the past decade, he has worked primarily in western Canada on various large landscape conservation projects and watershed co-governance initiatives. Van der Marel’s expertise lies in cumulative effects management and bridging relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities to build capacity for environmental protection.

See Ryan at the Coffeehouse.