The Forum

We have an amazing, diverse line up of confirmed, featured speakers from Canada—leaders in fields like food security, economics, race and gender justice, mental health, and the environment—and one international expert on cash transfers during the pandemic who has lessons for governments like Canada’s.

Here is our incredible speaker line-up, in alphabetical order. They’re going to set the stage for much more. Keep reading to check out the developing plans for the full Program

Yves-Marie Abraham

Yves-Marie Abraham est professeur à HEC Montréal, où il enseigne la sociologie de l’économie et mène des recherches sur le thème de la décroissance. Après avoir co-dirigé la publication de Décroissance versus développement durable : débats pour la suite du monde (2011) et de Creuser jusqu’où? Extractivisme et limites à la croissance (2015), il a publié récemment chez Écosociété une synthèse personnelle sur la décroissance, intitulée Guérir du mal de l’infini. Il est par ailleurs responsable de la spécialisation en gestion de l’innovation sociale au sein de la Maîtrise à HEC Montréal, où il offre un cours sur la « décroissance soutenable » depuis 2013. Yves-Marie Abraham est également membre du collectif de recherche indépendant « Polémos décroissance ». 

Evelyn Forget

Evelyn L Forget is Professor of Economics and Community Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba. Her research examines the health and social implications of poverty and inequality, and she is often called upon by governments, First Nations and international organisations to advise on poverty, inequality, health and social outcomes. She is an Officer of the Order of Canada, and a Fellow of the Royal Society. Her most recent books are Basic Income for Canadians: from the COVID-19 emergency to financial security for all (Lorimer and Co., 2020) and (with Hannah Owczar) Radical Trust: Basic Income for Complicated Lives.

Ugo Gentilini

Ugo Gentilini is Global Lead for Social Assistance with the Social Protection and Jobs Global Practice at the World Bank. His interests encompass research and practice on social protection from high-income countries to fragile states. With a PhD in Economics, he has published extensively on social assistance in the context of, for example, labor markets, urbanization, food security and nutrition, and subsidy reforms. His recent books include Exploring Universal Basic Income (2020), and Adaptive Social Protection (2020). He is leading the global tracker of social protection responses to COVID-19, has been a team member of the World Development Report 2019, and is co-founder of the flagship The State of Social Safety Nets in the World Series.

Josephine Grey

Josephine is a human rights advocate, community organizer and public speaker.  She is a founder of Low Income Families Together, Foodshare, the Center for Social Justice, the Income Security Advocacy Centre, and the St. James Town Co-operative and its Oasis project on food and water security. She is a champion of youth empowerment, climate change resilience and basic income. Her international work has taken her to 7 continents and involved hundreds of organizations and presentations to UN human rights bodies. She was Canada’s Official Observer for domestic issues to the UN World Summit on Social Development (1995). She was organizer and speaker at North American Basic Income Guarantee congresses in Hamilton in 2018 and in the US. 

Rabia Khedr

Rabia is dedicated to equity and justice for persons with disabilities, women, and diverse communities. She most recently served as a Director on the Accessibility Standards Canada board and a Commissioner on the Ontario Human Rights Commission, and now sits on the Minister’s Disability Advisory Group. She is the National Director of Disability Without Poverty, a founder of Race and Disability Canada, and a board member of the Federation of Muslim Women. A motivational speaker, Rabia draws on her lived experience of being blind and advocating for siblings with intellectual disabilities. She holds a BA and MA and has received numerous awards, including a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal and the Daniel G. Hill Human Rights Award.

Dr. Danielle Martin, MD

Dr. Danielle Martin, MD, CCFP, FCFP, MPP is Professor and Chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine (DFCM), University of Toronto, an active family physician and a respected leader in Canadian medicine who also holds a Masters in Public Policy. In 2006, she helped launch Canadian Doctors for Medicare. Her national bestselling book ‘Better Now: 6 Big Ideas to Improve the Health of all Canadians’(2017) is used by students and lay people who want to learn more about Canada’s health system—one of those big ideas is a basic income. 

In 2019 Dr. Martin became the youngest physician ever to receive the F.N.G. Starr Award, the highest honour available to Canadian Medical Association members.

Dr. Kwame McKenzie

CEO of the Wellesley Institute, practicing psychiatrist and international expert on mental health, the social causes of illness, and social policy.

Qajaq Robinson

Commissioner with the Inquiry Into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), practising lawyer on Northern issues.

Jim Stanford

Jim Stanford is Economist and Director of the Centre for Future Work, a labour economics think tank based in Vancouver, and Australia. He is one of Canada’s best-known economists, having served for over 20 years as Director of Policy with Unifor, Canada’s largest private-sector trade union. He contributes regular commentaries to the Toronto Star, Global National news, and CKNW Radio, known for communicating economic concepts in an accessible manner.

Jim has a Ph.D. from the New School for Social Research in New York and academic affiliations with McMaster and the University of Sydney. Among many books, articles, reports, and research and advice provided to governments, he is the author of Economics for Everyone: A Short Guide to the Economics of Capitalism (2015).

Paul Taylor

Paul is a long-time activist, non-profit leader, educator, commentator, and a co-founder of Evenings & Weekends Consulting. He has taught in areas of organizational leadership, people resources and fundraising at Simon Fraser University. From 2017-23, Paul served as Executive Director of FoodShare Toronto, Canada’s largest food justice organization where his leadership was recognized for inspiring equity-focused policies and practices. He has chaired the British Columbia Poverty Reduction Coalition, served on the Board of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and as Vice-Chair of Food Secure Canada. In 2020, Paul was named one of Canada’s Top 40 under 40, one of Toronto Life’s 50 Most Influential Torontonians, and voted Best Activist by Now Magazine readers.

Jessica Topfer

Jessica Topfer, a former Ontario Basic Income Pilot (OBIP) participant, holds a B.A., Hons in International Development and Business from Trent University. Currently, she is Executive Director at The Nourish and Develop Foundation, where she draws from her lived experience to shape community-based programs, including a shopping-style food bank and transitional housing. She also leads seminars on sustainable agriculture at Fleming College.

An active advocate, she is a member of the North Durham Coalition Against Poverty and Durham Food Policy Council. Throughout her advocacy work, she speaks about her transformative experience with basic income. Jessica recently collaborated on the Basic Income Canada Youth Network on their zine, Room to Dream, which shares stories of former OBIP participants.

The Program

Plenary Panels

You’ve seen our list of amazing speakers. As a group they reflect a diversity of perspectives on basic income coming from backgrounds in health care systems, food security, political activism, mental health, environment, labour, social protection, the disability community, Indigenous rights, racial and gender justice, and lived experience of income insecurity and the basic income pilot. They, and additional participants, will set the stage in Plenary panels, for example one focused on Work (in all its dimensions from paid precarity to unpaid care to the impact of AI). Another explores Intersecting Issues (like food, health, housing). In a practical vein, there is a plenary focused on Policy and Politics, and one on Advocacy and Action. 

Breakout Sessions

The plenaries set the stage for up to 30 breakout sessions (4 or 5 simultaneously from which we will all have to make tough decisions). They can take a deeper dive into specific issues, examine intersections among them, or build skills for action. Each can have different participants and formats. The Forum planning team is organizing a share of these sessions. Here are some of the session topics that our team is developing:

  • Municipal perspectives; 
  • Provincial/territorial developments; 
  • Indigenous perspectives; 
  • Equality, security and justice; 
  • Ecological sustainability and social justice; 
  • Care, wellbeing and social inclusion; 
  • UN Sustainable Development Goals; 
  • Canada Disability Benefit; 
  • Canadian basic income research; 
  • Policy design and administration; 
  • Networking and movement building.

The organizers of the Forum had our own program ideas. But the Forum is open to others’ ideas too. We put out a Call for Participation to invite those contributions and we are thrilled with them!! We received and accepted 34 proposals, both in groups of several people and individual ones. They include the work of students and recent graduates, along with experienced activists, academics, policy thinkers, and artists and musicians. 

  • There is a film called “Living Below The Line” followed by a talk-back with some of its co-creators. You can also meet former Ontario basic income pilot recipients, the experts with lived experienced of both the problem and the solution. Other sessions explore the use of art and storytelling for advocacy. 
  • Some sessions bring together different dimensions of food security, in the context of climate change, for example. ‘Links, ladders and levers’ is the title of a framework that moves away from a charitable food model. A ‘game changer’ describes the impact of a basic income on the eating practices of pilot participants. 
  • You can learn about a green basic income, conservation and degrowth, and about frontiers in financing a basic income that have promise (common wealth) and risk (crypto currency). 
  • There is careful attention to gender equality, from embedding feminist principles for a transformative BI to historical moments in the feminist movement in Canada that offer lessons for the future. 
  • There are sessions on human rights, on policy advances within and collective advances among Atlantic provinces, and on efforts in Saskatchewan to see basic income as economic reconciliation for Indigenous people. There is a look at how basic income is defined and how it’s portrayed in the media. 
  • You may be interested in discussing the context of women’s economic vulnerability to forms of male violence, or how some income programs support mental health while others harm. ‘Hope Training’ offers ways to bring people with lived experience into the basic income movement. 
  • There is a book launch on essential knowledge about developments in the basic income movement, especially in this large recent wave. It informs our next steps, as does a view of the pilot landscape around the world.
  • We can also build on our experience with pandemic benefits in Canada, a ‘flirting’ with basic income that had flaws but brought enormous benefits, including positive employment results, similar to the Ontario basic income pilot. 

Did you know that 2024 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Mincome experiment in Manitoba? It took over 30 years to learn how successful it was. We can’t waste any more time. The BIG Forum is our time to take everything we have achieved, learned and struggled for and carry it forward with a renewed sense of urgency.

We also can’t stress enough that everyone who comes can be an active participant with the opportunity to meet and engage with so many others who share their goals and desires for a better Canada for everyone.

Note that there is an American event taking place in 2024 called The BIG Conference and an International BIEN Congress in Bath, UK. You can participate in those too if you want but it is the Canadian BIG Forum where we really want to see you to make a difference in this country!!

The Program Schedule

Thursday, May 23

We start Thursday evening with an event that is open to the public as well as registrants (registrants can check in starting late afternoon). The event will include an interactive panel and other features and will be followed by a reception where you can meet new people and reconnect with valued colleagues. 

Friday, May 24

This is a full day from roughly 9 am to 5 pm. Many of the deliberations this day will be about exchange of knowledge and perspectives. Coffee breaks and lunch will be provided. We anticipate an informal evening get together off campus for anyone interested. Some of the best insights and discussions can happen on the sidelines of the formal program!

Saturday, May 25

Another full day from roughly 9-5 with plenaries and sessions taking on a more policy and action-oriented direction. Coffee breaks and lunch will be provided. Saturday evening is your opportunity for some time off, for small groups of people to get together as they wish, or to take advantage of attractions Ottawa has to offer.

Sunday, May 26

A little later start to this half day at 9:30 with the closing plenary session (that you’ll not want to miss) taking us to noon. Breakfast will be provided.  Following the closing session of the Forum, anyone who wishes can stay on for BICN’s AGM which will run until about 1 pm.