Keynote speakers

Naheed Nenshi “A Not Very Political Life… but Everything is Political” - Monday, July 3, in the Kinnear Centre @ 9:35 a.m.

Naheed Nenshi
Former Mayor of Calgary | Transformative Leadership

How can we help the next generation of kids continue to achieve success in a world that seems stacked against them? Naheed Nenshi went from being a poor first-generation kid in Northeast Calgary to attending Harvard, working at McKinsey, speaking in front of the World Economic Forum in Davos, and being named a World Mayor. It’s an extraordinary story, made all the more interesting and inspirational because of how ordinary it is.

During his 11-year tenure as mayor, Naheed Nenshi led Calgary through one of its most prosperous and tumultuous decades. Alongside unprecedented investment in quality of life, Calgary also saw four states of emergency called that included a devastating flood and a worldwide pandemic. Nenshi’s leadership earned him both national and international recognition, with him being ranked #2 on Maclean’s 2013 Power List and awarded the 2014 World Mayor Prize. Drawing on his extensive experience, Nenshi shares insights into Canada’s political landscape and shows leaders how to empower their teams for success no matter the circumstances.

Nenshi served as Calgary’s mayor for three terms between 2010 and 2021, during which Calgary was named one of the best cities to live in the Western Hemisphere. In recognition of his leadership, Nenshi was awarded the World Mayor Prize in 2014 by the City Mayors Foundation. He is also the recipient of the President’s Award from the Canadian Institute of Planners and the Humanitarian Award from the Canadian Psychological Association for his contribution to community mental health.

Prior to his election, Nenshi served as Canada’s first tenured professor of non-profit management at the Bissett School of Business at Mount Royal University. Before entering academia, he was a management consultant for global consulting firm McKinsey & Company, and ran his own firm, Ascend Group. His client list included the United Nations, where he explored how corporations can help the world’s poorest people, and the Gap. Today, Nenshi is an intentionally known voice on urban issues. He has presented to audiences across Canada and the world, including the World Economic Forum.

Nenshi is a graduate of the University of Calgary, where he served as president of the students’ union, and holds a master’s in public policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University where he studied as a Kennedy Fellow. He is a proud first-generation Canadian of Indian ancestry, whose parents immigrated from Tanzania. His family and his Ismaili Muslim faith instilled in him the ethic of seva, or service to the community, something he tries to live every day.


The Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, 27th Governor General and Commander in Chief of Canada (2005-2010) - Tuesday, July 4, in the Kinnear Centre @ 9:15 a.m.


The Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, 27th Governor General and Commander in Chief of Canada (2005-2010)

Michaëlle Jean was born in 1957 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. She was eleven years old when Canada offered political asylum to her parents, who were fleeing repression from the dictatorial regime in their home country. As Francophones, the family settled in Quebec. Her family experienced the ordeal of a forced exile and, like all refugees, the immense challenge of rebuilding their life elsewhere, starting from scratch, mustering all their strength and their life experiences, motivated by the desire to contribute as full citizens to the development of their host country.

At the Université de Montréal, after earning a Bachelor of Arts in modern literature and languages (Italian and Spanish), she completed her Master’s in Comparative Literature. Scholarships allowed her to pursue her studies at the University of Perugia, the University of Florence, and the Catholic University of Milan. Michaëlle Jean is fluent in five languages: French, Haitian Creole, English, Italian, Spanish, and she reads Portuguese.

From 1988 to 2005, Michaëlle Jean enjoyed an outstanding career as a journalist, presenter and news anchor on Canadian public television, both French and English networks. She also took part in documentary films produced by her husband, filmmaker, essayist and philosopher Jean Daniel Lafond.

In 2005, she is appointed Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada, the first Black woman to reach the highest constitutional office in the country, a function she served with extraordinary dedication, for a five-year term.

At the end of this mandate, on October 1, 2010, the United Nations immediately called upon her, as UNESCO Special Envoy, to support reconstruction efforts in Haiti, her native country devastated that same year by a brutal earthquake. She also served as Chancellor of the University of Ottawa from 2011 to 2014.

In 2014, Michaëlle Jean was elected Secretary General of La Francophonie, the first woman to lead this multilateral organization comprising 88 states and governments on 5 continents.

A seasoned stateswoman and diplomat, her words serve to convene goodwill everywhere in the multilateral sphere, in every UN forum, from New York to Geneva, all the way to the Security Council, as well as within the European Union, the European Parliament, the OECD, the African Union. She is best known and appreciated for her convictions, her deep sense of universal humanistic values, the principles and rules of democracy, the rule of law, justice, fundamental human rights and freedoms, which she never betrays.

Together with her husband Jean-Daniel Lafond, she has co-chaired the Michaëlle Jean Foundation since 2010, whose programs help support platforms and civic initiatives alongside some of the most vulnerable and disenfranchised—yet eager and creative—young people in Canada, for vigorous collective action against exclusion. Michaëlle Jean currently serves as Chancellor of St. Paul’s University College in Waterloo, and Chancellor of the African Development University in Niamey, Niger.


Dr. Shelly Niemi Weaving the Braid of Culturally Responsive Leadership and Governance - Tuesday, July 4, in the Kinnear Centre @ 1:15 p.m.


Dr. Shelly Niemi
Indigenous Educational Leader, Researcher, Scholar and Public Speaker

In this Session participants will explore with Dr. Niemi what is Culturally Responsive Leadership and Governance. What are the foundational Key characteristics of Culturally Responsive Leadership and how do these characteristics impact one personally within their own Leadership practice, and as a

collective through the governance structures that are found at all levels of an Education system.  Dr. Niemi will examine with participants what a Cultural Safety Continuum looks like for education and some of the Cultural Safety considerations for the Board, Senior Staff, and Education Partners before a decision is made to move towards using Culturally Responsive Governance and Leadership Frameworks. This session is intended to be disruptive as we examine personal and professional Bias and what movement towards Culturally Responsive Leadership and Governance frameworks within an education system might look like and feel like. Research in this session will reference: Indigenous Anti Racism, the 5R’s of Indigenous Pedagogy, Cultural Safety, Personal and Structural Bias and the phenomenon and characteristics of White Fragility.

Dr. Shelly Niemi is a Cree / Métis Woman, who is a descendent of Chief A’wa’wenekew /Ahenakew from Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation and a descendent of Emmanuel Champagne and Marie Letendré from Batoche.

She currently lives and works on the beautiful territories of the lək̓ʷəŋən people of the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations in Victoria, British Columbia. Where she is the Director of Education for the Greater Victoria School District – No.61.

Dr. Niemi has held Executive Leadership Roles within Indigenous Education within the British Columbia Public Education system since 2009, where her work can be found throughout many Districts, Post-Secondary Institutes, the Ministry of Education and Childcare, The BC School Superintendent’s Association, and various community organizations across British Columbia. She is also a mother, a foster parent, a highly sought-after International Indigenous Educational Leader, Public Speaker, Researcher, Scholar, and Consultant.

She obtained her first two degrees from the University of Northern British Columbia where she focused on Indigenous Education and then she obtained her Doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of Western Ontario. Her Doctoral Research is titled: Weaving the Braid of Culturally Responsive Leadership within Policy and Governance to Improve Indigenous Student Success.
Dr. Niemi’s skills, experience, passion, research and influence can be found in the following areas; Cultural Safety, Culturally Responsive Policy, Governance and Leadership, Indigenous Anti-Racism, Community Engagement, Strategic Planning, and Restorative Practice.


Riaz Meghji Every Conversation Counts: How to Build Extraordinary Relationships - Wednesday, July 5, in the Kinnear Centre @ 9:00 a.m.


Riaz Meghji
Human Connection Expert |Author of Every Conversation Counts

Long before the year of social distancing, loneliness was a pandemic in our society. In an age of polarization, disconnection, and shallow substitutes for real relationships, every professional needs to know how to build and maintain genuine relationships with clients and colleagues alike. Audiences will leave this keynote with “Five Habits of Human Connection” that offer practical tools to combat isolation and build deeper relationships.

Riaz Meghji is a human connection keynote speaker and author of the book Every Conversation Counts: The 5 Habits of Human Connection That Build Extraordinary Relationships. He is also an accomplished broadcaster with 17 years of television experience, interviewing experts on current affairs, sports, entertainment, politics and business. Along the way, he not only learned the power of a candid conversation, but also how to put it into practice.

Meghji has hosted for Citytv’s Breakfast Television, TEDxVancouver, MTV Canada, CTV News, and the Toronto International Film Festival. He is a natural storyteller with a proven ability to conduct engaging, in-depth conversations across various disciplines, making him a highly sought-after keynote speaker and moderator. Meghji is also the founder of Every Conversation Counts: a platform that shares insights from leaders, celebrities, athletes, and philanthropists all with one common thread—memorable conversations that forever altered the course of their life.

Off camera, Riaz dedicates himself to philanthropy and causes he cares about including Canuck Place Children’s Hospice and Covenant House. He holds a degree in business from Simon Fraser University and studied Leadership Communication at Harvard’s Extension School and the Canadian Management Centre.