Speakers

Ricardo Acuna

Ricardo Acuña is the Executive Director of the Parkland Institute, Faculty of Arts at the University of Alberta – a position he has held since 2002. He has a degree in Political Science and History from the University of Alberta, and has over 20 years experience as a volunteer, staffer and consultant for various non-government and non-profit organizations around the province. He has spoken extensively and written on energy policy, democracy, privatization, and the Alberta economy. He is a regular media commentator on public policy issues, and writes a regular column for Daze Magazine in Edmonton.

Malcolm Azania aka Minister Faust

According to The Routledge Companion to Literature and Science, “Since 1960s, Afrodiasporic authors including Samuel R. Delany, Octavia E. Butler, Nalo Hopkinson, and Minister Faust have become luminaries within the SF community.”

The critically-acclaimed author of The Alchemists of Kush and the Kindred Award-winning and Philip K. Dick runner-up Shrinking the Heroes, Minister Faust first won accolades for his debut The Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad, shortlisted for the Locus Best First Novel and Philip K. Dick awards.

Minister Faust’s short stories have appeared in Cyber World, Edmonton on Location, Fiery Spirits, Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology, Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond, and elsewhere. iO9, Adventure Rocketship, Canada 150: Stories of Reconciliation Connecting Us All, Engineer Magazine, The Globe & Mail, Greg Tate’s Coon Bidness, and more have published his articles.

Minister Faust's Afritopianism draws from myriad ancient African civilisations, explores present realities, and imagines a future in which people struggle not only for justice, but for the stars.

Sandra Azocar

Sandra has been a social activist for more than 30 years in Alberta. Her previous experience is working as a child protection worker, a community organizer, and a labour activist. Prior to coming to Friends of Medicare, she served as a Vice President of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE). She was a member of the Board of Directors of Friends of Medicare for 6 years before becoming its Executive Director in 2012. Sandra believes that while we have work to do sustaining and protecting medicare, we should also look to expand the system so that Canadians health needs of all kinds can be met regardless of ability to pay.

Stephanie Bloomingdale

Elected the first women President for the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, Bloomingdale has over 20 years experience in labor as an organizer, negotiator, trainer, and activist. Stephanie served as Secretary-Treasurer of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO since 2010. Bloomingdale previously served as the Director of Public Policy for the Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, AFT, where she had a key role in strengthening the voices of nurses and healthcare workers throughout Wisconsin. In arbitrations and grievance hearings, Stephanie is known as a tough negotiator. In her electoral work, she has a statewide reputation for managing effective voter mobilization campaigns and holding elected officials accountable.

Over the course of her career, Stephanie has been committed to the ideals of organized labor and the power of collective action to create a strong middle-class. She is dedicated to building grassroots, member-driven campaigns that advocate for social and economic justice for everyone.

Stephanie was raised by working-class parents who often struggled, but always believed in hard work and education. Stephanie is married to Doug Savage, a member of AFT-Wisconsin, and has two sons, Nicholas and Spencer, who are often seen at rallies, phone banks, and door-to-door canvasses.

Don Bouzek

Don Bouzek is the founder and Artistic Director of Ground Zero Productions, an Edmonton-based Popular Theatre that for 25 years has developed original works of creative non-fiction for the stage, with a focus on specific communities, social change and Popular Education. He works in both theatre and video, with projects ranging from broadcast programs for Access TV through web-based educational video to small scale community performances of live theatre. He is the recipient of an Alberta Centennial Medal for his work in the arts.

He is a founding Director of ALHI, created in 1999 to collect, preserve and publicize the stories of Alberta’s working people and their organizations. Don has been instrumental in developing the Alberta Labour History Institute’s oral history program, an extensive collection of interviews. He developed 11 web videos for ALHI in honour of the centennial of the founding of the Alberta Federation of Labour in 2012.

Russell Cobb

Russell Cobb is a writer and academic, currently in residence as a Visiting Scholar at Cal-Berkeley. He is Associate Professor in Modern Languages and Cultural Studies at the University of Alberta, where his work bridges the worlds of print and radio journalism with the digital humanities. His journalistic work has appeared in Slate, NPR, and The Nation. He is a contributing editor and frequent contributor to This Land Press.

His books include the eBook single Heart in Darkness (2013) and the edited collection The Paradox of Authenticity in a Globalized World (2014).

Alvin Finkel

Alvin Finkel is the author, co-author, or co-editor of 13 history books including Working People in Alberta: A History, History of the Canadian Peoples, The Chamberlain-Hitler Collusion, and Social Policy and Practice in Canada: A History. He is president of the Alberta Labour History Institute and professor emeritus of History at Athabasca University.

Joel French

Joel is the Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta, a position he has held since 2015. He previously served as the organization’s Communications Coordinator and has also served in staff positions with Friends of Medicare and former Alberta NDP Leader Brian Mason. He has a degree in Middle Eastern and African Studies and Religious Studies from the University of Alberta and a diploma in Computer Systems Technology from Lakeland College.

He has worked on election campaigns at the municipal, provincial, and federal levels for progressive candidates. He also currently serves in positions that help guide the work of the Parkland Institute, the Next Up youth leadership program, and the Alberta Green Economy Network.

Winston Gereluk

Winston Gereluk worked for the Alberta labour movement in education and public relations for over 25 years. In 1993 he was nominated by the National Union of Public and General Employees to work in Europe with the International Trade Union Confederation in activities associated with sustainable development. In 1999 he joined Athabasca University as Academic Coordinator for Industrial Relations. Gereluk has a Master’s Degree in Educational Philosophy and has written numerous articles on labour and the environment, human rights and history. He is Vice-President of the Alberta Labour History Institute and is currently researching a book on Ukrainian Canadian Labour History in Alberta for the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies.

Rory Gill

President of CUPE Alberta, Gill worked in the public sector with the City of Calgary for over 20 years. He first joined the City as a seasonal parks labourer in 1997 and worked in several different capacities until he was promoted to foreman in the Parks Department in 2000.

In 2006, Gill became active in his local, CUPE 709 - the Calgary Civic Foremen’s Union, where he served as a job steward. He has been active in his local since 2010 and has served on the CUPE Alberta’s provincial executive since 2016.

Gill is originally from Aberdeen, Scotland, though he primarily grew up in Calgary. He is the proud father of two sons.

Markham Hislop

Markham is the publisher of Beacon News, a network of 28 online daily newspapers from Ottawa to Victoria. The 5-year plan is to expand into the USA and eventually have 1,000+ Beacons across North America. Their readership currently sits around 200,000 unique visitors/month. Markham is also the publisher of Energi.News and has a strong background reporting on the energy sector.

Saima Jamal

Saima Jamal is a well-known Calgary based social activist, community organizer, humanitarian, and volunteer social worker. She speaks publicly on refugee and immigrant issues, activism, anti-racism, religious discrimination and women’s issues.

As the past Program Manager of the Consortium for Peace Studies at the University of Calgary and the current Co-Founder of the Calgary Immigrant Support Society, formerly the Syrian Refugee Support Group, Saima uses a unique multi-faith, multi-cultural and multi-community approach to mobilize 1000s of Calgarians to make our city the most welcoming place for newcomers to live and thrive. 

Saima’s years of peacebuilding efforts and compassionate work as a peace activist included program development that educated Calgarians on different ways Canadians grappled with local and national calamities and conflict resolution domestically as well as conflicts in Myanmar, South Asia, Middle-East, Africa and Latin America.  Her work also covered the fight against deviant extremist groups, curbing radicalization in Calgary, and finding reconciliation for religious conflicts and sectarian issues.

Duncan Kinney

Duncan Kinney has lived and worked in amiskwaciwâskahikan (Edmonton, Alberta) for the past nine years, was raised and went to school in Calgary, was in utero in Drayton Valley during the Lodgepole Blowout and his family's Earthship is in Lethbridge County in southern Alberta.

Before Progress Alberta, Duncan worked in non-profit communications and in journalism. Duncan is a committed community volunteer and organizer, a dad to an amazing daughter and an enthusiastic walker of Bruce.

Jared Matsunaga-Turnbull

Jared, Executive Director of the Alberta Workers' Health Centre, has been with the AWHC since 2006, developing and delivering workplace health and safety and workers’ rights education programming for workers and health and safety activists across the province. He has over 20 years of experience in popular education and social action theatre with and for marginalized populations. Prior to stepping into the role of Executive Director, he was responsible for the AWHC’s Work Plays Schools Program (for young workers) and the New Alberta Workers program (for Temporary Foreign Workers, immigrants and refugees). Jared is a member of CUPE local 474, and sits on CUPE's Alberta and National Health and Safety Committees. He has recently been appointed as a member of Alberta’s Occupational Health d Safety Advisory Council, representing workers. Jared lives in Edmonton with his wife and two children.

Gil McGowan

In 2017, Gil McGowan was re-elected to a record seventh term as president of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL), Alberta’s largest union advocacy organization, representing more than 175,000 workers in both the public and private sectors.

McGowan, a father of three, has presided over a period of substantial growth for the AFL and has been instrumental in putting many important issues forward for public discussion in Alberta. He has led public discussion and policy changes on resource development, reform of the temporary foreign worker program, climate change and green jobs, a $15 minimum wage, pension reform, reforms to the labour code and employment standards, and reforms to occupational health and safety and WCB legislation.

Gil has been instrumental in coordinating the AFL’s political action campaigns, including the campaign that helped elect Alberta’s first NDP government in May 2015. That same year, Gil was named one of Alberta’s 50 most influential people. In addition to his position with the AFL, Gil also sits on the CLC’s Canadian Council and was Co-Chair of the Energy Diversification Advisory Committee (EDAC), a special committee established by the Alberta government to make recommendation about how to add more value to Alberta’s energy resources. He has recently been appointed to the Federal Just Transition Task Force to support transition strategies for workers and communities affected by the phase out of coal fired electricity across Canada.

Mike Morrison

Mike Morrison operates Mike’s Bloggity Blog, one of Canda’s favourite entertainment and lifestyle blogs. For the past eleven years, it has regularly featured travel stories, social media scoops, local and national news, celebrity interviews and contests.

Mike Morrison was a columnist with Metro for six years, a producer at Breakfast Television for three years, as well as, contributing weekly to different radio and TV programs both in Calgary and across the country. He recently taught The Basics of Blogging at Mount Royal University, and is the creator of SocialWest, a conference that covers social media and marketing for business and non-profits. He is also the author of the best-selling Calgary By Bike guide, which topped the Calgary Herald’s Best Seller for two months.

Jean Philistine Old Shoes

Jean is a member of the Blood Tribe, which is part of the Blackfoot Confederacy. She graduated from Lethbridge College’s Criminal Justice Program in 1998, and went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts – Criminal Justice Degree from Athabasca University. She is currently working on her Bachelor of Social Work at Red Crow College.

She is one of the Co-Founders of the Apiiistamiiks- White Buffalo Trail Blazers, a grassroots organization dedicated to giving a voice to those who feel they cannot speak up for themselves and bringing an end to racist and discriminatory acts.

The Apiiistamiiks- White Buffalo Trail Blazers were formed in 2018 by Jean and two of her fellow Bachelor of Social Work students (Nadine Eagle Child and Melodie Bastien).  Rather than do a year end practicum, they opted to do a group project to create an advocacy group to address and bring awareness about discrimination to Lethbridge and Southern Alberta.  They offer a safe space where people can share their stories and get help speaking up.

John Max Smith

John Max Smith is a writer and advocate who as the son of Harry Leslie Smith the World's Oldest Rebel  is continuing his father’s educational and campaigning work to fight austerity, the rise of fascism as well as supporting the efforts to end the refugee crisis. He works with trade unions, civil society, migrants support organizations, schools, universities and campaigning journalists to educate audiences about the need for fairer societies and social justice policies for all. Harry Leslie Smith (Feb 25,1923-Nov 28, 2018) was a survivor of the Great Depression and a WW2 Veteran Activist for the many. He was the author of Harry's Last Stand and four other books. Currently John Max Smith is completing a book about the political and spiritual journey he took with his father for the past 10 years to promote the importance of the Welfare State to maintain democracy. 

Don't Let My Past Be Your Future Published by Little Brown is a searing modern polemic that shows, with the indisputable force of lived experience, why the past shouldn't stay buried, and the future is ours for the taking. Available Sept 2017

Jim Stanford

Jim Stanford is Economist and Director of the Centre for Future Work, based at the Australia Institute.  The Australia Institute is Australia’s most influential progressive think tank; the Centre for Future Work is a new Institute initiative focusing on issues of work, labour markets, income, economic development, skills, and more.  The Centre was founded in May 2016, and Jim is its inaugural Director.

In 2016 Jim relocated to Sydney, Australia from Toronto, where he is one of Canada’s best-known economic commentators.  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).  He is also the Harold Innis Industry Professor in Economics at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada,and an Honorary Professor in the Department of Political Economy at the University of Sydney.

Jim received his Ph.D. in Economics from the New School for Social Research in New York.  He also holds an M.Phil. from Cambridge University, and a B.A. (Hons.) from the University of Calgary.

Jim is the author of 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.  Stanford has written, edited or co-edited five other books, and dozens of articles and reports in both peer-reviewed and popular outlets.  Jim maintains an active presence on social media through his Twitter (@jimbostanford) and Facebook (Jimbo Stanford) accounts.

Jim has designed and taught numerous courses on economics for academic and non-academic audiences, including a unique week-long popular education course in economics for trade union members he has delivered in Canada, the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand.  He is recognized for his ability to communicate economic concepts in an accessible and humorous manner.

Thevaki Thevaratnam

Thevaki Thevaratnam is the Director of Research and Education at the Ontario Federation of Labour. She is responsible for a number of policies related to socioeconomic justice, including labour and employment standards as well as pensions. Most recently, she worked for the Ontario New Democratic Party as their Deputy Director of Research and Policy for their 2018 election campaign. Her work experience also includes the Ontario Ministry of Finance, Industry Canada, and Ontario Lottery and Gaming. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in Economics and a Master in Public Policy — both from the University of Toronto.  

Siobhan Vipond

Siobhán Vipond was first elected Secretary Treasurer of the AFL at its 2013 convention. A committed trade unionist, Vipond is a tireless advocate on occupational health and safety, women's equality and the importance of workers' voices at all levels of government and industry. In her pursuit of social justice and workers' rights, Vipond has worked as the long-time coordinator of the AFL/CLC Annual Winter School and director of the AFL Kids' Camp, passing shared values to the next generation. Under her leadership the AFL launched the Fair Start Campaign for Universal Early Childhood Education and Care in Alberta.  

Siobhan is a passionate leader who believes in the power of collective action for the common good. She is a board member for the Alberta Workers’ Health Centre, Public Interest Alberta, the Workers’ Resource Centre and the Aspen Foundation for Labour Education. She served as the Vice Chair on the Premier’s Advisory Committee on the Economy. Siobhan is also a strong advocate for the arts in Edmonton, and serves as a board member and Granting Programs Committee member of the Edmonton Community Foundation.

Prior to joining the AFL, Siobhan worked as a stage and film technician and is a proud member of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), where she served as Vice President and President of IATSE Local 210. She was elected as an officer of the International of the IATSE in 2017. Siobhan is an alumni of the 2015 Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference and the Cornell University Workers Institute’s National Labour Leaders Initiative.

Susan Wright

Susan Wright is a lawyer with 26 years of experience in oil, natural gas, petrochemicals and pipelines. She writes about issues of provincial concern on her blog, “Susan on the Soapbox”. The Soapbox received a Canadian Law Blog Award (affectionately known as a Clawbie) in 2013 and was the recipient of the PIA Public Interest Award for Southern Alberta in 2016. Her posts have appeared in the Huffington Post, Rabble and Alberta Views. She is a contributor to CBC’s The Road Ahead and has appeared on political panels on TV, radio and for organizations like Wordfest.

Hassan Yussuff

Hassan Yussuff is the first person of colour to lead Canada’s union movement. After serving 15 years as Executive Vice-President and Secretary-Treasurer of the Canadian Labour Congress, Hassan was elected President in 2014, and re-elected in 2017.
Over his two terms as President, Hassan has led Canada’s unions in a major campaign to improve workplace rights for everyone and dramatically transform the way Canadians view the labour movement.

Hassan has made Canada’s social programs a key focus of his presidency. Under his leadership, the Canada Pension Plan was expanded for the first time in history. In 2017, Hassan launched the CLC’s national pharmacare campaign calling for universal prescription drug coverage for all Canadians.

Making workplaces and public spaces safer has been another key priority for Hassan. He has championed legislation to grant paid leave for survivors of domestic violence, address harassment and violence in the workplace, enshrine rights for migrant workers, and enact a national ban on asbestos.

Hassan sat on the government’s NAFTA advisory panel, as part of an unprecedented involvement of Canada’s labour unions in the negotiations.

Hassan’s advocacy has also earned him an international platform as President of the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas, from which he continues to champion equity and workers’ rights around the world, challenge climate change and strive for a better world for future generations.

Shortly after immigrating from Guyana, Hassan became a union member in 1976. He was elected union chairperson in his workplace at the age of 19. He climbed through the ranks of the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union before becoming the organization’s first Human Rights Director. This lifelong commitment to human rights has defined his career in the labour movement.