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Jessikka Aro
Journalist and author (Finland)
Jessikka Aro is an award-winning investigative reporter with the Finnish Broadcasting Company. Aro specializes in Russia, extremism, and information warfare. In 2014, she started to investigate the techniques of pro-Kremlin social media trolls and the trolls’ influence on public debates outside Russia’s borders. Nowadays, her reports are widely quoted and used in troll investigations internationally.

Due to her investigations, she became the target of serious and still ongoing international propaganda and a hate speech campaign. In 2019, Aro published a bestselling investigative book about the Kremlin’s information warfare in Finnish, and the book is translated into several languages. 

Aro trains reporters and the general public to recognize and counter online disinformation. Aro is also lobbying for better legislation to counter hybrid threats and protect citizens from state-sponsored online security threats, and she has testified in the U.S. Congress. In 2019, Aro was notified by the U.S. State Department that she was to receive the prestigious International Women of Courage Award, but the award was rescinded weeks later, with the State Department claiming that she had been “incorrectly notified” that she was to receive the award.

Sherien Barsoum
Filmmaker and founding member of the Racial Equity Media Collective (Canada/Egypt)
Sherien Barsoum is a filmmaker based in Toronto. Her first feature, Colour Me, was a bold exploration of Black identity narratives. Most recently, Barsoum directed and produced Ride For Promise and Player Zero, winning the HotDocs Short Film Pitch and Best Canadian Documentary at NorthWest Fest. She produced Babe, I Hate to Go, which played top festivals internationally and was nominated for a Canadian Screen Award. 

Barsoum was the story consultant on the Oscar-shortlisted Frame 394 and co-produced House of Z, the first feature film bought and distributed by Condé Nast. 

Barsoum is the former director of programming for the Reelworld Film Festival. She serves as a board member of the Documentary Organization of Canada’s Ontario Chapter and is a founding member of the Racial Equity Media Collective. She is currently in production on the interactive project Everything Rj (NFB), and the feature documentary Cynara (documentary Channel). 

See Sherien Barsoum at the Coffeehouse

The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson
26th Governor General of Canada, and 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 Clarkson at What’s Next?

Hossein Derakhshan
Author, researcher, and blogging pioneer (Canada/Iran/U.K.)
Hossein Derakhshan is an Iranian-Canadian author and media researcher, as well as the pioneer of blogging, podcasts and tech journalism in Iran, which not only earned him the title of “blogfather”, but landed him in Evin prison in Tehran for six years until 2014. Now based in London, he spent 2018 on two research fellowships at the Harvard Kennedy School and MIT Media Lab.

He is the co-author of a report on information disorder (“fake news”), commissioned by the Council of Europe, and the author of The Web We Have to Save, an essay on the demise of the utopian internet. He’s also written several essays on the global and local socio-political implications of social media platforms, as well as the future of journalism.

Kathryn Hill
Executive director of MediaSmarts (Canada)
Kathryn Ann Hill is the executive director of MediaSmarts, Canada’s not-for-profit centre for digital and media literacy dedicated to supporting all Canadians with tools and information to develop the critical thinking skills needed to engage with media as active and informed digital citizens. 

Hill previously served in senior leadership roles at the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre, United Way Canada, HealthPartners Fund, Family Services Ottawa, and its social enterprise, FSEAP Ottawa. She has extensive experience in building partnerships and collaborations at the local, provincial, and national level, and represents MediaSmarts on panels and events internationally, speaking about issues related to digital and media literacy. Hill holds a master’s degree in social work from Carleton University and a master’s in management from McGill University.

See Kathryn Ann Hill at the Coffeehouse

Rachel Kiddell-Monroe
Executive director, SeeChange; member, Médecins Sans Frontières OCBA Agora; professor of practice, McGill University (U.K./Canada)
Rachel Kiddell-Monroe is a lawyer and an activist, specializing in humanitarian assistance, global health, governance and bioethics. She is passionate about social justice and finding ways to show humanity and solidarity for people and our planet. In 2018, she founded SeeChange, a non-profit organization that works with a radical community first approach to health to promote principles of community self-empowerment and solidarity. The first project is co-creating an innovative platform for change with Inuit communities in the Canadian Arctic to enable them to address the tuberculosis epidemic at the community level.

This initiative builds on Kiddell-Monroe’s long history of humanitarian work which began in 1989 when she left her legal practice to work on Indigenous rights and East Timorese independence with grassroots organisations in Indonesia. From there, Kiddell-Monroe joined Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and headed various emergency humanitarian missions in Djibouti, Rwanda (before, during, and after the genocide) and Democratic Republic of Congo. After becoming program director of MSF Canada, she was appointed regional humanitarian affairs adviser for Latin America based in Costa Rica. She also led the MSF Access to Medicines campaign in Canada until 2007. 

Kiddell-Monroe became the founding president of Universities Allied for Essential Medicines in 2007 and most recently, she served as a director on MSF’s international board, its highest governance platform. In 2013, Kiddell-Monroe was invited to be a professor of practice at McGill University where she lectures on international development, humanitarian action, and access to medicines.  She completed her LL.M in bioethics at McGill and her thesis focused on a multicentric approach to global governance for health. Kiddell-Monroe has (co)authored several peer-reviewed publications, most recently on access to medicines, humanitarian ethics, and the global refugee crisis.

See Rachel Kiddell-Monroe at the Coffeehouse

Abdul-Rehman Malik
Lecturer, Yale Divinity School; journalist and cultural organizer (Canada)
Abdul-Rehman Malik is an award-winning journalist, educator, and cultural organizer. In June 2019, he was appointed lecturer and associate research scholar at the Yale Divinity School. He also serves as the program coordinator at Yale University’s Council on Middle East Studies, and is responsible for developing curricula and partnerships with public schools to promote better cultural, language, and religious literacy about the Middle East to educators and students alike. 

Malik also serves as director of the Muslim Leadership Lab, an innovative student leadership program being incubated at the Dwight Hall Center of Social Justice at Yale. He is also the programs manager at the Radical Middle Way, which offers powerful, faith-inspired guidance and tools to enable change, combat exclusion and violence, and promote social justice for all. His work has spanned the United Kingdom, United States, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sudan, Mali, Morocco, Singapore, Canada, and Malaysia.

Malik is a frequent journalist for BBC Radio, offering contemporary perspectives on contemporary spirituality. Until 2018, he regularly presented the popular Pause for Thought segment on Radio 2 and Something Understood on Radio 4. 

In addition to providing curation and content guidance to a variety of cultural and literary institutions, Malik works to create platforms at the intersection of arts and social change. In January 2015, he became director — a voluntary position — of the Insight Film Festival, a unique year-round festival that celebrates the intersection between faith and film. 

See Abdul-Rehman Malik at the Opening Circle, Coffeehouse and What’s Next.

Ariel Nasr
Documentary filmmaker (Canada/Afghanistan)
Ariel Nasr is an award-winning Afghan-Canadian documentary filmmaker. He directed Canadian Screen Award winner The Boxing Girls of Kabul, as well as Good Morning Kandahar, and the interactive Kabul Portraits

Ariel’s work earned an Oscar nomination in 2013 as producer of the short live action film Buzkashi Boys. His new feature documentary, The Forbidden Reel, draws on thousands of hours of historic Afghan films to trace the second half of the 20th century through the lens of Afghanistan’s filmmakers. It premiered at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) 2019. Other recent work includes La Mosquée, which investigates the aftermath of the 2017 Quebec City Mosque Shooting. Ariel lives and works in Montréal.

Emilie Nicolas
Anthropologist, columnist, and consultant (Canada)
Emilie Nicolas is an anthropologist, consultant, and a frequent media commentator, analyst, and public speaker on equity, human rights, international cooperation, race, public policy, and gender issues. She writes a regular column at Le Devoir, and her work has been published in several journals, magazines, and newspapers, both in French and English.

Nicolas has contributed to various organizations in Canada and internationally. She sat on the boards of the Broadbent Institute, an important progressive think-tank, and the Quebec Women’s Federation, one of the largest feminists organization in Canada. An active bridge-builder, Nicolas co-founded Québec inclusif in 2013, and initiated a coalition campaigning for equality and against systemic racism in Quebec in 2016. 

As a Vanier Scholar and PhD candidate in linguistic anthropology at the University of Toronto, Nicolas focused her research on the role of a shared language in the connections between Quebec and Haiti. She also holds a master’s in comparative literature from the same university.

Nicolas is the recipient of a Harry Jerome Award for leadership and a Governor General’s Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case. She completed the Action Canada Fellowship (2015), as well as the Jeanne Sauvé Public Leadership Fellowship (2019).

Yasir Naqvi
Chief executive officer, Institute for Canadian Citizenship (Canada/Pakistan)
Yasir Naqvi is the chief executive officer of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC), Canada’s leading voice on citizenship and inclusion. Prior to joining the ICC, Naqvi served as a Member of Provincial Parliament for almost 11 years, representing a downtown, urban and diverse community in Ottawa, Ontario. In that time, he served as the attorney general of Ontario, Government House Leader, the minister of labour, and the minister of community safety and correctional services. Naqvi was also a member of the Treasury Board and Management Board of Cabinet.

Before being elected, Naqvi was the associate director and international trade counsel at the Centre for Trade Policy and Law (CTPL), a non-profit think-tank affiliated with Carleton University and the University of Ottawa. He also practiced international trade, competition, regulatory and administrative law with major law firms in Ottawa. In addition, he has served as a part-time professor at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law, and a guest lecturer at Carleton University.

Naqvi is recognized by his peers as a strong community leader and involved resident of Ottawa. He has been cited as a “Community Builder” by United Way Ottawa and listed as one of the “Top 50 People in the Capital” by Ottawa Life magazine. In 2018, he was named on Canadian Lawyer’s “Top 25 Most Influential” list for advancing technological modernization in Ontario’s justice system. Most recently, Naqvi received the Lincoln Alexander Award by the Law Society of Ontario.

See Yasir Naqvi at the Opening Circle and What’s Next.

John Ralston Saul 
Essayist, novelist, and 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.

Alexandre Soublière
Author and writer (Canada)
Alexandre Soublière is a novelist, screenwriter, and copywriter. His first novel, Charlotte Before Christ (Boréal, 2012), was unanimously praised by critics for its bold style as it ushered into literature an extraordinarily accurate portrait of an urban contemporary culture. 

He studied at Concordia University, and currently lives in Montreal.

See Alexandre Soublière at the Coffeehouse