Keynotes

(We will be adding more speaker names to this page as they are confirmed)

Leigh Bursey

Leigh Bursey is a 30 year old, second term Brockville City Councillor who comes from poverty. Working hand in hand with a variety of social justice organizations, and performing as a singer/songwriter with his band Project Mantra, Leigh experienced homelessness in high school due to an unstable household and the perils of domestic violence. He is also an author, a local television talk show host, president of the Brockville Non Profit Housing corporation, and a board member for the Ontario Non Profit Housing Association. Earlier this year, Leigh produced a musical compilation CD through his record label Recovery Records, which featured fourteen artists from the capital region with profits benefiting both Equal Voice Canada and the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness.

Deputy Mayor Jenny Gerbasi

Jenny Gerbasi graduated from the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Nursing in 1986, receiving the University Gold Medal. She worked as a nurse with the VON for 11 years and taught nursing at the University of Manitoba. Jenny was first elected Councillor for the Fort Rouge — East Fort Garry Ward in October of 1998, and re-elected in 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014 and is Deputy Mayor. Jenny has been the City of Winnipegs’ representative on the board of Federation of Canadian Municipalities since 2007 and was is now serving as President of FCM. She has represented Winnipeg Transit on the Canadian Urban Transit Associations’ Board Members Committee since 2005. She was the first woman to chair the Historic Buildings Committee and has done so since 2000. Jenny has championed such causes as Rapid Transit, inner city housing, environmental issues, neighborhood safety and citizen participation in city planning and in civic government. Jenny has also chaired the Access Advisory Committee for 12 years, during which time Winnipeg became the first city in Canada to implement a Universal Design Policy. Jenny is a mother of three and has one grandchild.

Ryan McMahon

Ryan McMahon is an Anishinaabe comedian, writer, media maker & community activator based out of Treaty #1 territory (Winnipeg, MB). Armed with a degree in Theatre & as a graduate of the prestigious Second City Conservatory (Toronto), Ryan’s comedic storytelling style is fast paced, loose & irreverent as he explores the good, the bad & the ugly between Indian Country & the mainstream.

Since 2010, McMahon has recorded 3 National comedy specials (Welcome To Turtle Island Too, UnReserved & Red Man Laughing) & 2 taped Gala sets at the prestigious Winnipeg Comedy Festival. In 2012, McMahon became the 1st Native comedian to ever record a full mainstream comedy special with CBC TV (Ryan McMahon – UnReserved) and later that year made his debut at the prestigious Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal, QC where he was named to the NEW FACES list at the festival.

Ryan’s latest full length CBC comedy special, Red Man Laughing, aired Nationally on CBC Radio 1 in 2015.

McMahon’s new live show, Wreck-On Silly Nation, is scheduled to tour across Canada in 2017. It tackles massive themes like reconciliation, Canada’s 150th birthday party & the intricacies of moose meat pie.

Ryan has written for the Globe & Mail, VICE, CBC, CBC Aboriginal, and APTN among others.


Dr. Pam Palmater

Dr. Pam Palmater is a Mi’kmaw lawyer, author, social justice activist, and Chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University from Eel River Bar First Nation in New Brunswick. She has 4 university degrees, including a BA from St. Thomas in Native Studies; an LLB from UNB, and her Masters and Doctorate in Law from Dalhousie University specializing in Indigenous law.

Pam has been volunteering and working in First Nation issues for over 25 years on a wide range of issues like poverty, housing, education, Aboriginal and treaty rights, and legislation impacting First Nations. She was one of the spokespeople and public educators for the Idle No More movement in 2012-13 and has continued her public advocacy in many forums since then.

She has been recognized with many awards for her social justice advocacy on behalf of First Nations generally, and Indigenous women and children specifically, including the 2012 YWCA Woman of Distinction Award in Social Justice, the 2012 Women’s Courage Award in Social Justice, Bertha Wilson Honour Society 2012 and Canadian Lawyer Magazine’s 2013 Top 5 Most Influential Lawyer in the Human Rights category, Canada’s Top Visionary Women Leaders 2014, and the 2015 UNB Alumni Award of Distinction.

Mayor Madeleine Redfern

Madeleine Redfern, LLB, was born in Iqaluit, Nunavut. She is currently the Mayor of the City of Iqaluit. Madeleine has more than 25 years of experience working on issues related to housing, education, employment and training, justice, community services, preschool child care, health care, business and economic development, and governance. She is a graduate of the Akitsiraq law school with a law degree from the University of Victoria. After graduating, she worked at the Supreme Court of Canada, and then as a legal researcher with Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., Executive Director of the Qikiqtani Truth Commission and is the Chair of Nunavut’s Legal Services Board. In these capacities she has done extensive work in the areas of governance, law, legislation and policy. Madeleine’s expertise is grounded in partnership-building and developing local capacity towards fulfilling the goal of self-government and good governance.

Beth Sandor

Beth is a Principal at community Solutions, where she co-directs the organization’s systems change work to help communities end homelessness throughout the US and around the world. In this role, she leads the organization’s national Built for Zero campaign, a rigorous follow-on to the 100,000 Homes Campaign designed to help a dedicated group of 70 communities do whatever it takes to end chronic and veteran homelessness. Beth brings more than 15 years of experience working in the field of supportive housing and community development in both the United States and the United Kingdom. From 2010-2014, she led quality improvement for the 100,000 Homes Campaign, for which her work was highlighted in both The New York Times and The Harvard Business Review. Beth holds a B.A. from Boston College.


Jesse Thistle

Jesse Thistle is Cree-Metis on his mother’s side, and Algonquin-Scot on his father’s side. Jesse is a P.E. Trudeau and Vanier Scholar, as well as a Governor General Silver Medalist. He is a Ph.D. student in History at York University, studying under Dr. Carolyn Podruchny. His journey from homeless addict to successful university student is unusual among graduate students, but his lived-experience path has shaped the way he approaches homeless studies, Indigenous history, social work, and addiction studies.