Past Speakers

Is there a speaker that you would like to see at a future Forward Thinking Speaker Series presentation? Please send us your recommendations to events@epl.caopens a new window.


It's Time: A Conversation about Domestic Violence in Edmonton

With the Edmonton Community Foundation and in partnership with the City of EdmontonIt's Time: A Conversation about Domestic Violence in Edmonton began with a screening of the CBC documentary The War at HomeThe film was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Ward 2 Councillor Bev Esslinger and featured Executive Director of Aboriginal Counselling Services Association of Alberta, Sue Languedoc, Community Advocate and survivor, Johanna Baynton Smith, City of Edmonton’s new Branch Manager and previous CEO of YWCA Edmonton, Jackie Foord, and co-founder and Executive Director of the Women's Centre for Social Justice, Nneka MacGregor.

Dr. Safiya Noble 

Dr. Safiya Umoja Noble is an assistant professor at University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communications. Dr. Noble’s academic research focuses on the design of digital media platforms on the internet and their impact on society. Her work is both sociological and interdisciplinary, marking the ways that digital media impacts and intersects with issues of race, gender, culture, and technology design. Dr. Noble’s best-selling book on racist and sexist algorithmic bias in commercial search engines is entitled Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racismopens a new window . 


Neil Gaiman

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than 20 books, Neil Gaiman is known for works such as contemporary fantasy novel American Gods, young adults’ story Coraline and children’s novel The Graveyard Book. His Sandman comics have been called groundbreaking, and he is known as a creator of not only fiction and comics, but also of screenplays, song lyrics, poetry, journalism and multimedia works. A self-described “feral child who was raised in libraries”, Gaiman describes his varied art as: “I make things up and write them down”.

Candy Palmater

Candy Palmater is a comedian, activist, broadcaster and host of The Candy Show.opens a new window Candy speaks from the heart, using story telling of her life experience. Through words of guidance and personal stories, Candy shares her passionate perspective on equity, self- acceptance and the love of reading.

Arlene Dickinson

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Arlene Dickinson is one of Canada’s most renowned independent marketing communications entrepreneurs. Dickinson is best known to Canadians as one of the venture capitalists on the award-winning CBC series Dragons’ Den, The Big Decision and marketing expert on Recipe to Riches. She is the author of two books, the number one bestselling book, Persuasionopens a new window and the best-selling release, All Inopens a new window.

Jen Kish

Edmontonian and one of the best female sevens players in the world, Jen Kish was the captain on the team that recently won Bronze at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics. In addition to numerous championships, Jen is a passionate advocate for supporting youth engagement in the sport of Rugby and supporting the fight against Cancer. Jen discussed leadership in sport, diversity and inclusion, and inspiring young athletes to take to the pitch.

Marie Henein

During Freedom to Read Week, EPL hosted lawyer, Marie Henein as part of the Forward Thinking Speaker series. As a lawyer, Marie sees her role not to judge the guilt or innocence of the accused, but to ensure that the legal truth prevails. Whether or not we agree with Canadian law, Marie works to uphold every person’s fundamental right to a defense. Weaving in her experience with the Canadian legal system, she shared her experiences with justice, social change, intellectual freedom and on finding success as a woman in a male-dominated industry.

Anita Sarkeesian

Anita Sarkeesian is a media critic and the creator of Feminist Frequency, a video webseries that explores the representations of women in pop culture narratives. Her work focuses on deconstructing the stereotypes and tropes associated with women in popular culture as well as highlighting issues surrounding the targeted harassment of women in online and gaming spaces. You can hear an exclusive interview with Anita Sarkeesian on Edmonton Community Foundation's The Well Endowed Podcastopens a new window


Choir! Choir! Choir!

Choir! Choir! Choir! is the international singing phenomenon that exemplifies the best of creativity, collaboration and community-building. Founders Nobu Adilman and Daveed Goldman talked about these themes—but they make audiences experience their message through song on December 11, 2017 at the Chateau Lacombe Hotel. 

George Takei

George Takei presented to over 1,600 people at the Shaw Conference Centre on November 29, 2017. Mr. Takei shared pearls of wisdom and captivating stories from his 80 years. His experience spanned from being a child wrongly imprisoned with his family in an internment camp for four years, to being openly gay and an advocate for the LGBTQ community, to his successful career as an actor and now his role as a social media guru with over 10 million Facebook followers. 

Rt. Honourable Kim Campbell and the Honourable Anne McLellan

Former Prime Minister the Rt. Honourable Kim Campbell and former Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan were part of the Women in Politics panel hosted by Paula Simons on September 26, 2017. They chatted about their remarkable careers and experiences as women taking prime positions in what is otherwise an underrepresented role for women. 

Andre Picard

Andre Picard: "Hello, How Are You?": Combatting Urban Isolation took place on Monday, May 22, 2017 at the Chateau Lacombe. Picard explored the isolation that often occurs in urban settings and how, as a community, we can come together to build connections. You can watch the entire presentation here.opens a new window 


EPL hosted A Conversation with Joseph Boyden on Thursday, April 27, 2017 at the ATB Financial Arts Barn. The presentation will includes an introduction with Elder Wilson Bearhead (Nakota) a member of the Wabamun Lake Indian Band in Treaty 6 territory. Joseph Boyden discussed his life to date as a writer including recent events.



EPL was proud to host TRC Commissioners Chief Wilton Littlechild, Dr. Marie Wilson on February 28 at the Ramada Conference Centre Kingsway. The event was moderated by Honourary Witness Shelagh Rogers. 


Mayors' Forum: Building Strong Communities took place on December 7th, 2016. The event which was moderated by Paula Simons featured both Mayors answering questions from Edmontonians. If you were unable to attend the event you can watch the entire presentationopens a new window.

Sir Salman Rushdie

Sir Salman Rushdie: Freedom of Expression took place on Tuesday, October 11th, 2016 at the Chateau Lacombe. One of the most celebrated authors of our time. A brilliant provocateur, he’s penned a handful of classic novels, influenced a generation of writers and received a Queen’s Knighthood for his service to literature.

Paula Simons

Paula Simons: Digital Disruption and the Discourse of Democracy took place on Thursday, September 15, 2016 in the Stanley A. Milner Library Theatre as part of the Forward Thinking Speaker Series. Paula shared how the world of journalism has and is evolving, especially in the midst of our social media revolution, and how these two worlds converge.

Brian Burke & Anastasia Bucsis

Championing Equality header

EPL presented Championing Equality: LGBTQ (ac)counts in Sports  on Wednesday, August 24, 2016.   The panel conversation featured Brian Burke, President of Hockey Operations for the Calgary Flames Hockey Club and an advocate for LGBTQ equality and acceptance in the NHL community and beyond. Also featured was Olympian speed skater Anastasia Bucsis who has competed in 46 World Cups, six World Championships and two Olympic Games.  Moderating the session was the University of Alberta’s Dr. Kris Wells, Assistant Professor and Director of Programs & Services at the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services.

Karina LeBlanc

Karina LeBlanc: Making Every Moment Count took place in the Stanley A. Milner Library Theatre on Saturday, July 9th, 2016. Karina LeBlanc is the longest serving player in Canadian soccer history and has proudly represented Canada in three Pan American Games, four FIFA Women’s World Cups, and two Olympic Games including the 2012 London Summer Olympics where she helped lead team Canada to a historic bronze medal win. Pulling from her childhood experiences to her time as a professional athlete, she spoke to how sport can be one of the many ways that can empower us to believe in ourselves.

Dr. Tim Beatley

EPL presented Dr. Tim Beatley on June 2nd, 2016 in the Stanley A. Milner Library Theatre as part of the Forward Thinking Speaker Series. Dr. Beatley is an internationally recognized sustainable city researcher and author, and is the Project Director for Biophilic Cities. Much of his work focuses on the subject of sustainable communities and creative strategies by which cities and towns can fundamentally reduce their ecological footprints, while at the same time becoming more livable and equitable places.

Dr. Reza Aslan

EPL presented Dr. Reza Aslan as part of the Forward Thinking Speaker Series on Wednesday, May 18, 2016. Dr. Aslan has a Ph.D. in world religions and is considered the foremost expert in his field. Since the Syrian refugee crises began, Dr. Aslan has been an outspoken advocate for Islam, educating the masses on CNN and Fox News on the fallacies that fuel islamophobia. His presentation gave ideas on strategies to stop islamophobia.


Dr. Dawn Lavell-Harvard

Dr Lavell Harvard enlightened audiences on the challenges, such as violence and abuse, Canada’s indigenous women face on the road to finding vibrant fulfilling lives in December 2015. While in some cases the realities are bleak, Dr Lavell Harvard shared ways that Edmontonians can help to make a difference. Ending a cycle of violence and creating promising futures needs the support of our communities coming together to find solutions.  Whether you’re a single parent, university student, prominent business leader or simply a passionate Edmontonian wanting to make a difference, Dr Lavell Harvard’s presentation left you with concrete ways to support Canada’s indigenous women. View the slides from her powerful presentation. You can now watch her full presentationopens a new window.

Lorne Rubis

Many business models are being disrupted. Companies like Uber, Airbnb, Netflix, OpenTable and others are changing the customer experience. Subsequently what disruptions can we expect to happen in the workplace? How will work communities and work itself likely change in the next 5 years? Lorne Rubis, Chief People Officer at ATB Financial shared his insights on today's workplace and where we are headed. Watch his presentationopens a new window; Lorne Rubis: The Workplace Community 2015-2020.

Gordon Neufeld

Dr. Gordon Neufeld is a developmental psychologist with over 40 years of experience with children, youth and caregivers. He  graced our EPL audience in June 2015 when he spoke about raising children in the digital era. He is an international speaker with a widespread reputation for making sense of complex problems and for opening doors for change. Dr. Neufeld devotes his time to teaching and training others.

Roméo Dallaire

Lieutenant General Roméo Dallaire held a powerful presentation on leadership, risk-taking, difficult ethical situations and the role intellectual freedom and freedom of expression has played  to play in Lieutenant General Dallaire's leadership and throughout the world. This presentation was hosted in February 2015 as part of EPL's celebration of Freedom to Read Week.


Margaret Wheatley

On Monday, Dec. 8, 2014 a thoughtful and inspiring conversation with internationally acclaimed speaker and advisor to Fortune 100 companies Margaret Wheatley was held. She presented the principles that make for healthy community engagement so that the citizens and leaders of Edmonton can learn from their successes and continue to build a thriving and resourceful community. Watch her presentationopens a new window; Margaret Wheatley: Whatever the Issue, Community is the Answer.

Dr. Gabor Maté

Dr. Maté has extensive experience working with patients in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and has championed a compassionate approach to supporting vulnerable populations . Dr. Maté spoke about compassion, addiction and inclusion, and what Edmontonians can do to support their fellow citizens in November 2014. .

Delivering Happiness

Why is happiness becoming a buzzword in the most successful organizations today? Because it inspires passionate, motivated and engaged employees! Building on the best-selling book by Tony Hsieh; Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose, the Delivering Happiness Company has worked with major corporations across North America and around the world. A dynamic presentation was held by Sunny Grosso in October 2014, coaching and Culture Chief at Delivering Happiness™and leader of the DH@Work team.  Sunny used the success story of online shoe retailer Zappos to offer tips on how to inspire passion and purpose in your organization create a positive, sustainable culture.

George Kourounis

On Tuesday, September 16th, 2014, EPL welcomed global explorer, adventurer, and storm chaser George Kourounis for a free speaking event for EPL cardholders in the Stanley A. Milner Library Theatre.

In front of a jam packed crowd George Kourounis wowed the audience with his presentation called "Chasing Dreams" which covered his journey into a volcano, his intercept of the world's largest volcano, going into the flaming gas crater in Turkmenistan, and talking about being in the middle of Hurricane Catrina. Following the event George Kourounis did a Q&A session with the audience and took pictures with some very happy attendees. Watch his presentation here. opens a new window