Parkland Fall Conference 2021
This conference took place November 19-21, 2021

Building the Future We Need

Hope, Transformation and Action

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed and exacerbated many of the world's problems. Even as the COVID-19 crisis evolves, we must return our attention to those issues. We also face the challenges of tackling the climate crisis, addressing growing inequality and racism, and impending government austerity. But there is an urgent desire for transformation and action to address systemic issues and the ongoing legacy of racism and colonialism that sparked Black Lives Matter and the decolonization movement. We must seize this opportunity to transform the social and economic structures of Alberta and our world to build a more just, more sustainable society. “Building back better” is not enough. We can and must begin to build the kind of future we need. This year’s Parkland Institute annual conference explored how to build that future.

Parkland Institute's 25th annual conference was held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thanks to our wonderful sponsors, the conference was free for current Parkland Institute supporters who have contributed $500 this year or more.


This conference took place Nov 19-21, 2021.
Recording of keynote presentations will be posted in December.

Keynote Presenters

2021-11-19-1900 Working Together to Save our Peoples and the Planet
Friday speaker • Nov 19, 7PM

Working Together to Save our Peoples and the Planet

with Dr. Pamela Palmater

Right-wing extremism, white supremacy, and corporate greed all work together on a global level to privilege the few and exclude the many. Governments and trans-national corporations work in tandem to control access to and profit from life-sustaining resources in the endless pursuit of power and wealth, with devastating consequences for peoples and the planet. Now more than ever, our communities must work together to ensure the health, safety and well-being of our families and help address the current climate crisis. It's only by working together, across multiple intersectionalities, that we can save our peoples and the planet from further destruction.

Dr. Pamela Palmater is a Mi’kmaw lawyer, professor, author and social justice activist from Eel River Bar First Nation in New Brunswick. A practicing lawyer for 22 years, Pam has been volunteering and working in First Nation issues for over 30 years including socio-economic conditions, Aboriginal and treaty rights, and legislation impacting First Nations. Read More

Dr. Palmater's talk is sponsored by Athabasca University and SKIPP.

2021-11-20-0900 Doughnut Economics for Thriving Communities
2021-11-20-0900 Doughnut Economics for Thriving Communities
Saturday Session • Nov 20, 9—10:15 AM

Doughnut Economics for Thriving Communities

with Kate Raworth and Ben Geselbracht

Doughnut Economics seeks to create 21st-century economies that meet the needs of all people within the means of the living planet – so what would it look like to aim to get there? Join this session and discussion to explore new economic thinking of regenerative and distributive design, from principles to practice. Kate Raworth, author of Doughnut Economics, will introduce the core concepts of the approach, including how it can be downscaled to a town, city or province, and Coun. Ben Gesselbracht will talk about how these concepts are currently being put into practice in the city of Nanaimo.

Kate Raworth is a renegade economist focused on making economics fit for 21st-century realities. Her internationally best-selling book Doughnut Economics: seven ways to think like a 21st century economist has been translated into over 20 languages and has been widely influential with diverse audiences, from the UN General Assembly to Pope Francis to Extinction Rebellion. Read more

Ben Geselbracht is a Nanaimo city councillor and Regional District director. He is currently the 2nd Vice President of the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities. He is working with his colleagues to apply the doughnut economics framework to the city of Nanaimo’s programs and planning to guide developing a thriving city that respects the health of the whole planet and well-being of all people. Read more

This Parkland Conference session is sponsored by the University of Alberta Sustainability Council.

2021-11-20-1045 Changing Work, for Good, After COVID
Saturday Session • Nov 20, 10:45–noon

Changing Work, for Good, After COVID

with Jim Stanford

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an unprecedented economic catastrophe: entire sections of the economy were deliberately shut down to protect health, and unemployment soared to Depression-like levels. Recovering from this catastrophe will require years of economic and social rebuilding, that must inevitably be led by government: with its unmatched financial resources, planning capacity, and regulatory and social authority. It will take years to recreate decent work for Canadians who saw their livelihoods evaporate. As we rebuild the quantity of work, however, we must also improve the quality of work: its safety, fairness, and sustainability.

Long-standing fault lines in Canada’s labour market were brutally exposed by the pandemic. Repairing those structural failings is essential for reconstructing the national economy on a sustained basis. Reforming work is not just a moral imperative: something we desire, because we would like a fairer and more inclusive labour market. It is also an economic necessity: put simply, Canada’s economy will not be able to function successfully after the pandemic, without focused and powerful efforts to fix these long-standing problems in the world of work. This presentation will identify 10 concrete ways that work must change for good after the pandemic.

Jim Stanford is one of Canada’s best-known economists and Director of the Centre for Future Work. He served for over 20 years as Economist and Director of Policy with Unifor, Canada’s largest private-sector trade union (formerly the Canadian Auto Workers). Stanford is the author of several books, including Economics for Everyone: A Short Guide to the Economics of Capitalism (second edition published by Pluto Books in 2015), which has been published in six languages. Read more

2021-11-20-1445 Youth Activist Panel
Saturday session • Nov 20, 2:45-4:00 PM

Still Hopeful: Intergenerational Dialogue on Climate Activism and our Future

with Maude Barlow

Maude Barlow will discuss her new book (to be released in March 2022) called Still Hopeful: Lessons from a Lifetime of Activism with two young Canadian climate activists.

This intergenerational dialogue will explore the vital role that hope plays in activism and the many lessons learned from one of Canada's most prominent activists for people and the planet. The young climate activists will talk about their own inspiring activism at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow Scotland and reflect on how youth are engaging in the democratic process and advocating to build the future we need.

About Maude Barlow »

Featured panelists
Haruun Ali

Haruun Ali is an activist, environmentalist, and community organizer. In 2021, he ran for Edmonton City Council unsuccessfully but managed to build a campaign from the ground up at the age of eighteen. His current work focuses on issues like policing, public transit, housing, as well as the environment and climate change.

Sadie Vipond

Sadie Vipond is a fifteen-year-old Grade 10 student who lives in Calgary, Alberta. She attended COP26 in Glasgow Scotland where she was interviewed by national media on youth climate activism. Back home in Canada, she was also interviewed by The Sprawl. Sadie is one of fifteen litigants suing the federal Canadian government for a safe climate future for her and all youth. She has a passion for the outdoors and feels happiest when she is skiing in the mountains, hiking Alberta’s Badlands in search of dinosaur fossils, and everything in between. Sadie is working toward a safe climate future for all creatures, which hinges on preventing the worst effects of the climate emergency.

2021-11-21-1430 Why we should all be activists: What Haudenosaunee philosophy can teach us about our responsibility to the Earth
Sunday session • Nov 21, 2:30–3:45 PM

Why we should all be activists: What Haudenosaunee philosophy can teach us about our responsibility to the Earth

with Alicia Elliott

It seems that every week another scientific study comes out telling us climate change apocalypse is imminent. Latest estimates put us at 2050 – a short 30 years from now. But to look at the decisions Canadian politicians are making on behalf of the entire country, you wouldn’t be able to tell. In this talk, Alicia Elliott leads us through the history of Haudenosaunee philosophy and literature to examine the nature of activism, and who is considered dangerous “activists” in a post-Oka, post-Caledonia Canada. How is an Indigenous person’s free speech impacted when practicing their culture, when merely existing is considered an impediment to national “progress?” From there, Elliott examines what the role of a government actually is. In our post-capitalist society, is government’s responsibility to the people it governs, or is it to capital? What do we lose by allowing one over the other? And what would happen if we all decided that a person’s responsibility isn’t only to themselves and their families, or even to the government of Canada, but also to the Earth upon which all of us depend? Maybe the time has come, Elliott argues, for all of us to be activists.

Alicia Elliott is a Mohawk writer living in Brantford, Ontario. She has written for The Globe and Mail, CBC, Hazlitt and many others. She was chosen by Tanya Talaga as the 2018 recipient of the RBC Taylor Emerging Writer Award. Her first book, A Mind Spread Out On The Ground, is a national bestseller. Read more

Alicia Elliot's talk is sponsored by the Canadian Literature Centre and SKIPP.

Taking Action Workshops

2021-11-20-1300 Taking Action Workshops

Conference participants will be able to choose between four excellent action workshops on Saturday and another four workshops on Sunday. This will be a great opportunity to hear from a number of insightful experts, leaders and activists on these themes, learn some new skills and participate in a discussion about how we envision and build the future we need.

Saturday, Nov 20 1:00–2:15 PM

A - The Future of K-12 Education in Alberta - Finding Solutions in a World Defined by Cascading Crisis

This workshop will facilitate a discussion around the opportunities and challenges facing kindergarten to grade 12 (K-12) education in the province of Alberta over the next several years. As the pandemic moves into a recovery phase, Alberta schools will collectively be confronting the psychological, social & economic fallout of the coronavirus. Chronic challenges like inequity and mental health have become acute stressors and will need innovative and action-oriented solutions. This session will use the wisdom of the crowd to source how we might support and bolster our K-12 public education system in the province of Alberta.


Dr. Phil McRae is executive staff officer and associate co-ordinator, research with the Alberta Teachers' Association (ATA), and adjunct professor within the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta, where he earned his PhD. He represents the teaching profession and field of education in Canada on several provincial and national committees and as director on several boards, including Parkland Institute.


Jason Shilling was elected president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association in 2019 following two years of service as vice-president and more than eight years of service as district representative for South West. As vice-president, Schilling chaired the Central Table Bargaining Committee and the Finance Committee, served as a member of the CTF (Canadian Teachers’ Federation) Committee and acted as Provincial Executive Council liaison to the English Language Arts Council. He was an English and drama teacher at Kate Andrews High School, in Coaldale, where he worked for 17 years.

Brandi Rai is President Alberta School Councils Association. Brandi lives in Edmonton and has five children in grades 6 through 11, and is a strong advocate for parent voice in public education. Formed in 1929 as an affiliate of the Canadian Home and School Federation, the Alberta School Councils' Association (ASCA) has changed over the years as parent involvement and engagement in education became increasingly valued and supported. In 1995, revisions to the Alberta School Act included mandated school councils - a forum for parents to advise the principal and school board on education matters.

B - Care for the Long Term: Rebuilding Seniors' Care for Today and Tomorrow

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated the entrenched problems and gaps in long-term care in Alberta and across Canada. Despite these tragic lessons, inadequate staffing, burnout among healthcare workers and decisions based on profit over people continue to leave our seniors vulnerable. This workshop will consider recent Alberta-based research from Naomi Lightman, Rebecca Graff-McRae, and national seniors' care experts to explore solutions that centre the best interests of residents and workers. These actions will form the basis of our advocacy for the future.


Naomi Lightman is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Calgary and Board member of the Parkland Institute. Her areas of research expertise include aging, care work, migration, gender, inequality, and research methodology. Her current research involves community-based interviews with immigrant women health care aides in long-term care in Calgary, examining how the pandemic has impacted their livelihoods, health and well-being.

Rebecca Graff-McRae has been a Parkland Institute research manager since 2015. She completed her undergraduate and doctoral studies at Queen’s University Belfast (PhD Irish Politics, 2006), and has held post-doctoral fellowships at Memorial University Newfoundland, University of Alberta, and University College Cork. Her work for Parkland has focused on ways evidence-based policy can improve and expand public supports and services—from healthcare and seniors’ care to education and basic income.

C - Can The Water Speak? Conservation Policy through an Indigenous Trans-systemic lens

How do we maintain sustainable water sourcing? Is it a right or a responsibility? The answer is 'Yes!' A 'single world view' in policy creation has been inadequate in addressing the challenges of environmental, governmental, and social conditions affecting water conservation. Indigenous populations have been developing water conservation strategies based on natural law, since the beginning. By acknowledging the water as an essential sacred source, Aboriginal peoples have developed procedures for water use that maintain due regard for the environment as a whole. Lack of acknowledgement of those strategies has been tied up in the legal struggle over rights and ownership of the water (and all the resources contained therein), thereby holding up any real action for change to this day.

Join conservationist Harvey Locke, and Anishinaabe Elder Peter Schuler as we ask the question: How can we support a Trans-systemic approach to water conservation that addresses both ongoing supply, ecological, and spiritual demands?


Don McIntyre is a member of Parkland Institute's board of directors and an assistant professor at the Dhillon Business School in the Faculty of Management at the University of Lethbridge. He holds a bachelor's and master's of laws from UBC Law School and is ABD on his PhD in laws looking at legal pluralism, property, and how Indigenous trans-systemics can enhance and improve Western legal paradigms. Don’s parents are Scottish and Algonquin, and he has spent much of his life working to reconcile the position of Aboriginal populations in Canada.


Peter Schuler is a grandfather and Elder of the Mississaugas of the Credit, and a member of the Minweyweygaan Midewin Lodge in Manitoba. An amateur writer and artist, Peter tries to pass on traditional Ojibwe teachings through storytelling, art and craft making. He has recently co-taught a course entitled Introduction to Indigenous Environmental Knowledge with Professor Dan McCarthy at the University of Waterloo.

Harvey Locke worked as a lawyer for 14 years before pursuing his passion for protecting wild places. In 1999, after many years of volunteer work for conservation initiatives, he became a full-time conservationist dedicated to national parks, wilderness, wildlife, large landscape and connectivity conservation and climate change. Harvey is co-founder and senior advisor for Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative and Nature Needs Half.

D - Using online tools to effectively communicate for the world we need

Effective advocacy depends on good communication between you and your audience and understanding how to use online communications tools is critical to this. Learn how to effectively plan communications activities and use social media tools to influence the public and government. While online communication will never replace face-to-face communication, it does provide us with new and immediate ways of connecting with people, sharing information and promoting your issues on an ongoing basis.


Dave Cournoyer is an award-winning writer, podcaster, and communications professional based in Edmonton, Alberta. He launched in January 2005 and it quickly became one of the best-read political websites in Alberta. He currently works as a Communications Advisor with the United Nurses of Alberta and is a member of United Steelworkers Local 1-207.

2021-11-21-1300 Taking Action Workshops
Sunday, Nov 21 • 1:00–2:15 PM

E  - Queering the Revolution! 

Join activists Gary Kinsman and Kathryn DeLucia-Burk for a rad envisioning of what it could mean to queer the revolution! How do we make revolution an object of desire and that which we cannot not want? How do we do the work of transformative social change in this particular historical moment? What insights from past and contemporary queer struggles can we bring to urgently "build the future we need?" Come with your queer dreams, solidarities, and insurgencies!


Suzanne Lenon (she/her) is associate professor in the Department of Women & Gender Studies at the University of Lethbridge. She teaches and researches in the areas of critical race feminisms, and law, gender and sexuality. Her current research focuses on the topic of inheritance as a way to apprehend the workings of social inequalities and to imagine their transformation. 


Gary Kinsman lives most of the time in Tkaronto, and is in solidarity with Indigenous struggles. He is a queer, anti-racist, and anti-capitalist activist involved with the No Pride in Policing Coalition, the Anti-69 Network and the AIDS Activist History Project. He is the author of The Regulation of Desire, co-author of The Canadian War on Queers, an editor of We Still Demand! and many chapters and articles on sexual and gender politics. He is currently working on a third edition of The Regulation of Desire.

Kathryn DeLucia-Burk is a 4th-year undergrad at the University of Lethbridge in the Bachelor of Social Work program. She is a student organizer and president of OUTreach Southern Alberta Society. Katie is an equity, diversity and inclusion consultant and educator for the University of Lethbridge on issues that impact transgender and gender non-conforming students.

F  - Taking Action to Build the Cities We Need

Join Public Interest Alberta and activists from across Alberta to develop actions and networks for how we can create effective tactics for change now that the municipal elections are over. Public Interest Alberta engaged hundreds of candidates, in partnership with allies including the Parkland Institute, to promote the public good at the municipal level and we learned some important lessons. This workshophalf lessons learned and half planning for whats nextwill help get us out of the backroom and retool for the struggle ahead in the next four years. While this municipal election saw a sea of change at the level of representation across the province, it is imperative for workers and activists to build and leverage power in creative ways to ensure this shift results in significant policy change. If you want to organize and mobilize for the cities we need in the future,then this workshop is for you. 


Brad Lafortune is executive director of Public Interest Alberta, a position he has held since April 2021. He previously worked as the director of campaigns for Western Canada at Point Blank Creative (2019-2021); chief of staff to Labour Minister Christina Gray (2016-2019); and as the director of government relations and political action for the Alberta Federation of Labour (2014-2015).

Laura Kruse is the Director of Communications and Organizing for Public Interest Alberta. She is also a facilitator, an educator, and one of the co-founders of Climate Justice Edmonton's grassroots free transit campaign. Her writing has appeared in The Edmonton Journal, Progress Alberta, and Jacobin magazine.

Lucas Costello is an organizer with Point Blank Creative. Lucas spent years getting progressive candidates elected at every level of government across Canada – from school boards to the House of Commons. Most recently, he was the Digital Organizer for the Calgary's Future municipal campaign.

G  - Mobilizing Workers: Building Stronger Worker Organizations

Alberta has never been an easy place to organize and mobilize workers, and COVID has made the task even harder. This workshop will look at some innovative strategies and tactics workers and unions are trying today and will engage participants in a conversation about what workers and their allies can do in the future to more effectively mobilize workers in Alberta.


Jason Foster is Director of the Parkland Institute and an associate professor of Human Resources and Labour Relations at Athabasca University. He is the author of Defying Expectations: The Case of UFCW Local 401, and co-author of Health and Safety in Canadian Workplaces. His research interests include workplace injury, union renewal, labour and employment policy, and migrant workers in Canada.

Mike Dempsey has been a vice-president for the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees for seven years. Prior to that, he worked for the Government of Alberta as a forest officer, timber management specialist, compliance assurance officer, and environmental protection officer. Representing AUPE's members in the northeast region of the province, Mike chairs the union's Committee on Political Action and sits on the Board of the Parkland Institute. 

H  - Standing Up for the Public Healthcare System We Need

The COVID19 pandemic has demonstrated how critical investments into our public healthcare system and how important front-line healthcare professionals are. Yet the Jason Kenney government is continuing to push for greater privatization of our public health services and threatening to scale back the salaries and benefits of Alberta’s care providers at the same time that they are disinvesting in broader social determinants of health that operate outside of the healthcare system to keep people well. Rather than just trying to stop the UCP attack on our healthcare system, it is important that Albertans envision the public system we need for the future. One that will address the social determinants of health and expand public health to pharmacare and dental care. Join other conference participants in this important discussion about what standing up for a better public system for health and healthcare would look like.


Mike Parker is President of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA). He has been a first responder since 1992 and graduated as a paramedic in 1999. He has been involved in the labour movement for many years, serving as a steward and as vice-president of his local with the Canadian Union of Public Employees. He became a member of HSAA in 2009 and served on the board before being elected as vice-president in 2015. The following year, he became president.

Lindsay McLaren is a Professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences and the O’Brien Institute for Public Health at the University of Calgary where her research and teaching focus on healthy public policy and social and ecological determinants of health. She is also a Research Associate with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives - National Office. Lindsay is past-president (2014-18) of the Alberta Public Health Association, and currently serves as Senior Editor for the Canadian Journal of Public Health and Co-Editor for the international peer-reviewed journal, Critical Public Health.