Keynote Speakers

Diana and Charles Tisdall Lecture in Communications:
Disrupting Bias — Overcoming Our Discomfort with Differences

Presented by the Communications + Public Relations Foundation and the McMaster-Syracuse Master of Communications Management program

As we work to build a more diverse, inclusive and innovative environment within the public relations industry, the critical first step is to identify and interrupt biases—in particular, unconscious biases. When we know how to interrupt and address biases, our workplaces are more inclusive, and our teams are happier, more engaged, and are better positioned to target diverse markets.

In this highly practical session, Ritu Bhasin will draw on the latest neuroscience and leadership research to explore how discomfort with differences manifests within the public relations industry.  Ritu will identify how to address challenges that arise when working across cultural differences with team members and clients, and provide strategies for becoming more inclusive and culturally competent when working across cultural differences.

Ritu Bhasin, LLB, MBA, President, bhasin consulting

Ritu Bhasin,, LLB, MBA, President of bhasin consulting inc., is an award-winning speaker, author, and globally recognized expert in diversity and inclusion, women’s advancement, and authentic leadership.
Since 2010, Ritu has delivered leadership training, coaching, and advisory services across sectors, working with top organizations and senior leadership teams around the world to develop inclusive cultures. Ritu is known for her expertise in cultural competence, unconscious bias, and neuroscience strategies, and has coached hundreds of professionals, leaders, and executives to be more inclusive. A passionate advocate for authenticity, inclusion, and empowerment, Ritu has won numerous awards for her work, including the City of Toronto’s William P. Hubbard Award for Race Relations in 2014.
Ritu’s Amazon-bestselling book, The Authenticity Principle: Resist Conformity, Embrace Differences, and Transform How You Live, Work, and Lead, was released in the fall of 2017. In the same year, Ritu also co-authored a ground-breaking research study, called Sponsor Effect: Canada, with the Center for Talent Innovation, which examines the experiences that people of colour, Indigenous peoples, and women have with advocacy and sponsorship in the workplace.

When Celebrity Culture and Science Clash

Celebrities are everywhere! And this matters. Seriously. Research shows that popular culture has a profound influence people’s health and that our ideals of beauty and success are framed by a celebrity-dominated worldview.  In this fun and provocative presentation, Timothy Caulfield will examine what science tells us about the influence of popular culture. He will also debunk common health myths and provide practical, evidence-based, recommendations relevant to both healthcare professionals and to individuals seeking to live a healthy lifestyle.

Timothy Caulfield, Professor of Health Law & Science Policy, University of Alberta

CPRS_EDM-Headshots_15April20194.jpgProfessor Timothy Caulfield is an unrivalled communicator who debunks myths and assumptions about innovation in the health sector — from research on stem cells to diets to alternative medicine — for the benefit of the public and decision-makers. He is a Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy, a professor in the Faculty of Law and the School of Public Health, and a Research Director of the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta.
Over the past several years, he has been involved in a variety of interdisciplinary research endeavours that have allowed him to publish over 350 articles and book chapters. His research focuses on topics like stem cells, genetics, research ethics, the public representations of science, and health policy issues. The recipient of numerous academic and writing awards, Professor Caulfield is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the Trudeau Foundation, and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences.
Professor Caulfield also writes frequently for the popular press on a range of health and science policy issues and is the author of two national bestsellers: The Cure for Everything: Untangling the Twisted Messages about Health, Fitness and Happiness (Penguin, 2012) and Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?: When Celebrity Culture and Science Clash (Penguin, 2015). His most recent book is The Vaccination Picture (Penguin, 2017). He is also the host and co-producer of the award-winning, hit documentary TV show, A User’s Guide to Cheating Death, which has been shown in over 60 countries and is currently streaming on Netflix.

From Me to We – The Kielburger’s Approach to Humanitarianism, Activism, and Social Entrepreneurism

Marc Kielburger, Social entrepreneur and co-founder of the WE organization

CPRS_EDM-Headshots_MarcKielburger_9May2019-(1).jpgMarc Kielburger is a social entrepreneur and the co-founder of a family of organizations dedicated to the power of WE, a movement of people coming together to change the world. Along with his brother Craig Kielburger, Marc co-founded WE Charity, which provides a holistic development model called Free The Children’s WE Villages, helping to lift more than one million people out of poverty in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Back at home in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, WE Schools and WE Day provide comprehensive service learning programs to 10,000 schools, engaging 2.4 million young change-makers. Lastly, he is also the co-founder of ME to WE, a pioneering social enterprise, the profits from which help sustain the work of the charitable organization. His work has been featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show, 60 Minutes and the BBC. Marc graduated from Harvard University with a degree in International Relations. He won a Rhodes Scholarship and completed a law degree from Oxford University. He has also received 10 honorary doctorates and degrees for his work in the fields of education and human rights. Marc is a New York Times bestselling author, who has published 8 books, as well as a nationally syndicated columnist. He is the recipient of many honors, including the Order of Canada, and was selected by the World Economic Forum as one of the world’s Young Global Leaders. Marc was also recently inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame for his humanitarian efforts and his work to empower youth to change the world. In 2015, along with his brother Craig, he was named Canada’s Most Admired CEO in the public sector.

High Performance Trust Builders: Hear from the Leaders

Sponsored by: Proof Inc.

Trust is the oil that lubricates the engine of our economy. It is the foundation of a civil society and the works of government, courts, police and other public services. Now in its 4th year, the Proof Inc. CanTrust Index measures and tracks where Canadians place their trust in leaders, industries and information sources. Bruce MacLellan of Proof will lead a discussion on the detailed findings of this distinctly Canadian study. The complete 2018 CanTrust Index is available online.

Discussion leader:
Bruce MacLellan, APR, FCPRS LM
CEO, Proof Inc.
Bruce MacLellan haCPRS_EDM-Headshots_Bruce-MacLellan_22Feb2019.jpgs worked in public relations consulting for over 30 years. His areas of expertise include corporate communications, issues management and marketing communications. He has also served in senior political positions in government in Ottawa and Ontario. He is a Life Member of the Canadian Public Relations Society.

In 1994, Bruce became the founding CEO of Proof Inc. The Proof family of companies now have annual fee revenue of over $30 million and provide PR and marketing services to more than 100 organizations in Canada and the United States. Bruce has fostered a quality work environment and exceptional client service, and the company was ranked #1 on the list of Best Workplaces in Canada for 2010 by the Great Places to Work Institute.

Bruce is a graduate of the University of Toronto with an M.A. in Public Administration and an Honors B.A. As a committed volunteer, he serves as Chair of the National Board of the Nature Conservancy of Canada. He has also been the volunteer Board Chair of the Communications + Public Relations Foundation and the Lake of Bays Heritage Foundation, a community land trust. Bruce is the author of two local history books about the Lake of Bays area in Muskoka, Ontario.

Can business solve the local news crisis? 

Rising polarization, hate speech and misinformation is threatening healthy public discourse and, ultimately, our democracy. A big part of the problem is the decline of local news. With the disruption of publishers’ advertising business model, 260 local newspapers have closed in 190 communities across Canada in a decade. Research shows that people who live in communities without local news are less likely to volunteer, vote and trust their neighbours. Local journalism is an essential part of the social fabric that unites us as communities.
Join Erin Millar, founder and CEO of The Discourse, for dispatches from the frontlines of entrepreneurial media. Find out how her team is reinventing the local paper by empowering community journalists to directly serve people who have been historically excluded from public discourse. Get to know this disruptive new category of digital news emerging in communities across Canada, how they're shaping the future and how you can be part of it.


Erin Millar, Founder/CEO, Discourse Media

Erin Millar is founder and CEO of The Discourse, a media startup building a new kind of journalism CPRS_EDM-Headshots_15April2019.jpgin Canada. Millar was recently named one of the top seven women-led ventures in Canada at the SheEO summit. She was a Bob Carty Fellow by Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, Storyteller-in-Residence at Ashoka Canada, and an AmEx Emerging Innovator in 2015. She has hosted talks and workshops across Canada and internationally, including the Canadian Association of Journalists and Italy’s International Journalism Festival, and reported from more than a dozen countries for Canadian and international publications. Millar taught journalism at Quest University Canada and Langara College, is a trustee of the Uncharted Journalism Fund, and serves on the board of the National Magazine Awards Foundation.Erin Millar is founder and CEO of The Discourse, a media startup building a new kind of journalism in Canada. Millar was recently named one of the top seven women-led ventures in Canada at the SheEO summit. She was a Bob Carty Fellow by Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, Storyteller-in-Residence at Ashoka Canada, and an AmEx Emerging Innovator in 2015. She has hosted talks and workshops across Canada and internationally, including the Canadian Association of Journalists and Italy’s International Journalism Festival, and reported from more than a dozen countries for Canadian and international publications. Millar taught journalism at Quest University Canada and Langara College, is a trustee of the Uncharted Journalism Fund, and serves on the board of the National Magazine Awards Foundation.

Fixing broken communication: The art of listening in a digital era

Traditional methods of producing and publishing ads, newsletters, email, posts, and online content is missing the vital other half of the opportunity that comes from communication: the listening. With technological advances, it is easier than ever to communicate with customers and stakeholders and engage in a meaningful dialogue.

In this presentation, Jeff Silvester of AggregateIQ will share stories and insights from their experience working on some of the biggest issues and campaigns in recent memory and talk about some of the lessons learned along the way - including from Brexit. He will also show how organizations can make listening and learning central to their operation, all while inviting participation and questions from attendees.

Learn how, by not paying attention and not listening, organizations are taking their customers and stakeholders for granted - opening themselves up to disruptors who recognize an opportunity and are capitalizing on it - both in the corporate world and in politics. AggregateIQ has successfully helped campaigns and companies integrate tools, change their process, and learn how to leverage technology to turn their one-way communications into conversations.


Jeff Silvester, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer, AggreCPRS_EDM-Headshots_JeffSilvester_26Feb2019.jpggateIQ

Jeff is the Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of AggregateIQ, an online advertising, software development, and web development company based in Victoria, British Columbia. AggregateIQ has been at the forefront of digital advocacy in Canada and around the world with a demonstrated history of success working in support of companies, candidates, political parties, and issue advocacy organisations.

Focusing on data driven decision making, thoughtful solutions, and continuous learning, their applied approach to communications, and public engagement has helped their clients identify powerful insights, new audiences, strategies, and better ways of communicating that help them achieve their goals. AggregateIQ was also recently featured in “Brexit”, an HBO film on the UK’s EU Referendum.


Armed with Ethics: Winning the Battle Against Information Warfare

Strategic communicators play an important role in the information environment, which is currently being faced with several systemic challenges. The most troubling of these being, perhaps, the increased use of information warfare and digital propaganda.
Many ethically questionable methods are being used to carry out such campaigns, ranging from using big data and targeted marketing tactics, i.e. behavioural advertising, to falsely creating an appearance of a groundswell of support through digital means. What makes these most effective, and consequently most dangerous, is that these not only capitalize on a climate of reactive fear from both policy makers and society, but they also reinforce it. 
There’s no question the tools available have made large-scale persuasion more possible. However, even as tech companies begin enforcing appropriate use of their platforms more and more, the line between what is and isn’t acceptable continues to blur. As a result, now more than ever, there is greater scrutiny on those who aim to persuade.
This is a perfect storm for practitioners, and public relations now stands at a crossroads.
Fortunately, while there are indeed choices that need to be weighed carefully by today’s communicators, there are also many opportunities to do good.
Weaving together anecdotal evidence with her own research and modelling, in this presentation, Alicia Wanless will not only paint a realistic picture of the current state of affairs, but also provide practical advice on how to continue practicing according to a strong code of professional ethics to win the war against fake news.

Alicia Wanless, PhD Researcher, Kings Centre for Strategic CommunicationsCPRS_EDM-Headshots_AliciaWanless_26Feb2019.jpg

Alicia Wanless is an internationally recognized researcher of information warfare and strategic communications in a digital age. With more than a decade of experience in researching and analysing the information environment, Alicia conducts content and network analysis, and has developed original models for identifying and analysing digital propaganda campaigns.

Alicia applies this learning to integrating information activities in support of tech companies, governments and military attempting to address related challenges, including in training exercises. She has shared her work and insights with senior government, military, industry leaders and academic experts at Wilton Park, the Munich Security Conference, the Hedayah Centre, NATO’s ARRC and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Alicia’s work has been featured in the CBC, Forbes, and The Strategy Bridge, and she has co-authored numerous academic papers and chapters related to propaganda. Alicia is currently a PhD Researcher at King’s College in London exploring alternative frameworks for understanding the information environment.