Our keynote speakers
Olympic Gold Medalist | Chef de Mission, 2012 Summer Olympic Game | Humanitarian
Mark Tewksbury is a true icon—recognized for his achievements in sport, public speaking, and humanitarianism. A sought after personality, Mark has spent decades sharing his life experience with audiences around the world. He is a charismatic storyteller whose presentations impart energy, insight, and valuable lessons.
Mark first came to prominence as the star athlete who burst out of the water to gold medal victory at the Barcelona Olympics, and who also boasts silver and bronze Olympic medals to his credit. He has even graced the cover of Time magazine, and been inducted into the Canadian Sports, Canadian Olympic, and International Swimming Halls of Fame.
While sporting achievements contributed to his early success, Mark’s remarkable life post-Olympics has truly defined him. Along with his international speaking career, Mark has hosted television shows, authored three books, and performed workshops around the world. He has been the Master of Ceremonies for the Dalai Lama’s Canadian appearances; was invited by the Government of France to address human rights at the United Nations in New York City; and was the Chef de Mission for the 2012 Canadian Olympic Team competing in London.
Mark sits on the Board of Directors for Special Olympics Canada; is the National Ambassador for CANFAR’s Legacy Group; and is a global leader on LGBT sport issues. He is the co-founder of Great Traits, a professional development company.
For his ethical leadership and active humanitarianism, Mark has received Honorary Doctorate of Laws from the University of Western Ontario and the University of Calgary.
Ad.E., President of the Quebec Commission on Human Rights and Youth Rights
Admitted to the Quebec Bar in 1988 following her studies at the University of Ottawa, Tamara Thermitus, Ad.E., acted as a litigation lawyer with Justice Canada between 1993 and 2017. In 2003, she was appointed Executive Assistant to the Deputy Minister of the Office of Indian Residential Schools Resolution of Canada where she also acted as director, Policy and Strategic planning between 2004 and 2006. As Chief Negotiator for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, she participated in the historic resolution of lawsuits filed by former school residents. From 2004 to 2010, she chaired the Quebec Bar’s Cultural Communities Committee.
Among the distinctions and awards Me Thermitus has received, she was designated Lawyer Emeritus by the Quebec Bar also receiving Le Mérite du Barreau du Québec in 2011, the Queen’s Jubilee Medal in 2012 and the Equity Leadership Award in Employement and Diversity from the Department of Justice in both 2010 and 2016.
On February 7, 2017, the Quebec National Assembly unanimously approved her appointment as President of the Quebec Commission on Human Rights and Youth Rights.
Full Professor of Sociology at Université de Montréal
Sirma Bilge (PhD, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris III) is Full Professor of Sociology at Université de Montréal. She founded and directed the Intersectionality Research Unit at the Centre des études ethniques des universités montréalaises (CEETUM) from 2005 to 2010 and is elected board member of the Research Committee on Racism, Nationalism and Ethnic Relations (RC05) of the International Sociological Association (ISA). Her work engages with the intersections of social formations of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and class, and examines how notions of national/ethnic sameness and otherness articulate themselves through gender and sexual regulation. Most recent is a research project, funded by SSHRC, looking at the neoliberal incorporation of minority knowledges in academia, with a specific focus on intersectionality. Bilge has published more than 20 peer reviewed articles in French, English and Turkish. Her most widely-engaged articles include ‘Intersectionality Undone’ (DuBois Review, 2010) and ‘Beyond Subordination and Resistance: An intersectional approach to the agency of veiled muslim women’ (Journal of Intercultural Studies published, 2010). Her recent book Intersectionality (2016, Polity Press), co-authored with Patricia Hill Collins, revisits the potential of intersectionality as a resource for studying intersecting power relations and inequalities.
First openly gay MP in Canada
Svend was the first openly gay MP in Canada, and one of the first in the world, coming out in 1988. He served in the federal Parliament from 1979 to 2004. For the past decade he has coordinated Parliamentary relations for The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, based in Switzerland. Svend has many years of LGBT advocacy in Canada and internationally, including with IGLHRC, Human Rights Watch, and Co-Chairing the 2009 Gay Games Human Rights Conference in Copenhagen. Recipient of many honours and awards for human rights advocacy. Svend lives between Cyprus, Spain and Canada with his partner Max and their dog Cohiba.
Queer activist, writer and teacher
Heather Hay is a queer activist, writer and teacher who uses the pronouns she/her. Heather began working with pride as a founding member of Out North in Yellowknife in the 80’s and is currently the President of Fierté Canada Pride. Heather spent 20 years building networks and teaching in communities throughout the NWT and Nunavut before returning to Ontario to build a house on the family farm. Professionally she is committed to community development on a local, regional and national level.
Advocate for the rights of Cameroonian sexual minorities
Yves Yomb from Cameroon is an advocate for the rights of Cameroonian sexual minorities. He has been engaged in LGBTI activism since 2005 working with Alternatives Cameroun, a local association involved in access to treatment and rights for the LGBTI community of Cameroon. He was first Prevention Coordinator of the organisation before being appointed its Executive Director.
He actively participated in establishing the Africagay Network against AIDS, a francophone African network made up of 19 identity-based associations fighting AIDS among men who have sex with men in 10 French-speaking countries of Africa. He was the Network’s spokesperson and since 2016, he is the Africagay Network’s coordinator
Group Head, Canadian Personal Banking
Teri Currie is Group Head, Canadian Personal Banking. She is a member of TD Bank Group’s Senior Executive Team, responsible for the leadership of Canadian Personal Banking and Credit Cards. Teri was one of the architects of TD’s inclusion and diversity strategy and will talk about how TD has been successful in mobilizing its employees to drive cultural change for the benefit of their customers and communities they serve. Teri will also share her unique perspective on her inclusion and diversity journey.
Teri joined the bank in 2004 as Senior Vice President, Human Resources, was promoted to Executive Vice President the following year, and then to Group Head Direct Channels, Technology, Marketing and People Strategies in 2009. Prior to joining TD, Teri held executive roles in Human Resources with CIBC World Markets and Wealth Management, and various senior management positions with Canada Trust.
Teri is currently a member of the United Way Toronto and York Region Board of Trustees, where she serves on the Finance, Audit and Risk Committee. She also serves on the Board of Directors for Communitech, a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship in the Waterloo technology cluster. Teri was named one of Canada’s 100 Most Powerful Women by the Women’s Executive Network (WXN) in 2006, 2007 and 2008, and was inducted to its Hall of Fame in 2009.
Teri has an MBA from the Richard Ivey School of Business, University of Western Ontario, and a B.Sc. in Mathematics from the University of Calgary.
Teri and her husband have two children and reside in Toronto.
Advocate for the rights of LGBT persons
Frank Mugisha is a prominent advocate for the rights of LGBT persons, a respected champion of Human Rights, and an anti-violence advocate.
Mugisha was born in a suburb of Kampala, Uganda, and raised in a strict Catholic family. He came “out” gay at age fourteen, which estranged him from some family members.
He founded Icebreakers Uganda, an organization created as a support network for LGBTI Ugandans who are out, or in the process of coming out. Mugisha is the Executive Director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), the largest and leading organization of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) movement in Uganda. Mugisha is one of the few openly LGBTI activists.
Professor, School of Social Work, University of Ottawa
Alexandre Baril’s multidisciplinary training combines ten years in philosophy/ethics and a Ph.D. in Women’s Studies. After working as a visiting professor in Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Wesleyan University and as an assistant professor with a limited-term appointment in Feminist and Gender Studies at the University of Ottawa, Dr. Baril received an Izaak Walton Killam Postdoctoral Fellowship to pursue his work on trans and crip politics in the Department of Political Science at Dalhousie University. His intersectional and interdisciplinary research places gender, feminist, queer, trans, and disability studies in dialogue with the sociology of the body, health, and social movements.
Special Advisor to the Prime Minister on LGBTQ2 Issues
Randy Boissonnault is the Member of Parliament for Edmonton Centre and the Special Advisor to the Prime Minister on LGBTQ2 Issues. Prior to his election, Randy was a successful entrepreneur, community leader, and philanthropist. He has a strong record of leadership in business, in public service, and in the not-for-profit sector.
Randy discovered his passion for leadership and public service at the University of Alberta, where he served as President of the Students’ Union. Since studying at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, Randy has worked as a lecturer at the University of Alberta’s Campus Saint-Jean, and as a journalist and political commentator for CBC Radio-Canada and Les Affaires. Randy also owned and led a consulting business that helped small and medium-sized businesses overcome their strategy and management challenges.
A proud Rotarian, Randy has a long history of charitable work, both locally in Edmonton and abroad. He founded Literacy Without Borders, an international NGO devoted to promoting literacy for both children and adults in the developing world and in Canada. He has also served as Vice Chair of TEDx Edmonton and Chair of the Board of Directors of the Francophone Economic Council of Alberta, the Francophone Sport Federation of Alberta, and the Canadian Francophone Games. He was one of the 50 founders of Startup Edmonton and was a finisher of the Ironman Canada Triathlon.
Co-founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation
Stuart Milk, co-founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation, is the nephew of the late civil rights icon, Harvey Milk. Stuart has led on the ground award winning programs in 63 countries in support of LGBT and human rights. He has been a master lecturer on Global LGBT rights at the world’s leading universities including the University of Cambridge, University of Milan, Harvard University and Universidad Peruana. Stuart is a featured contributor on US and international broadcast and cable TV, including MSNBC, NBC, and Telemundo.
He has written extensively on the legal and societal recognition of LGBT people in leading publications including the Huffington Post and Sacbee. Stuart has led collaborative international congresses on minority inclusion, diversity education, and workplace acceptance. Having over two decades of leadership experience in the private sector as Senior Vice President at Lockheed Martin and in the public sector as a senior consultant at the US Labor Department, he often consults with business and community organizations finding the intersection of economic growth and social progress.
Even though Stuart has worked alongside world leaders from former US President Barack Obama to Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu, it is the everyday activists he has come to know that he is most inspired by. Stuart has been globally recognized with dozens of distinguished honors for over two decades of tireless volunteer leadership in some of the most challenging human rights environments on five continents.
Member of the Mohawk Nation of Tyendinaga
Sylvia Maracle, is member of the Mohawk Nation of Tyendinaga and a Wolf Clan member. Ms. Maracle holds two Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa) from Guelph and York Universities. She has been Executive Director of the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres for almost 40 years. She is a member of numerous agencies, boards and commissions. Ms. Maracle is a sought-after speaker on Indigenous issues, ending violence against Indigenous women and girls, cultural knowledge, urban development, housing and education. Ms. Maracle was awarded a Indspire Award for Public Service and recently was named an Office of the Order of Canada. Ms. Maracle is a member of the LGBTQ2S community.