The Forum

We have an amazing, diverse line up of confirmed, plenary 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.

*Qajaq Robinson and Dr. Kwame McKenzie are regretfully unable to speak at the Forum due to circumstances beyond their control. We are grateful for their ongoing support for the Forum’s goals.

Here is our incredible speaker line-up, in alphabetical order. They’re going to set the stage for much more. Click here to download the full Program

Yves-Marie Abraham

Yves-Marie Abraham is a professor at HEC Montréal, where he teaches the sociology of economics and conducts research on the theme of degrowth. After co-directing the publication of Degrowth versus sustainable development: debates for the future of the world (2011) and Digging How Far? Extractivism and limits to growth (2015), he recently published with Écosociété a personal synthesis on degrowth, entitled Healing the Evil of the Infinite. He is also responsible for the specialization in social innovation management within the Master’s degree at HEC Montréal, where he has offered a course on “sustainable degrowth” since 2013. Yves-Marie Abraham is also a member of the independent research collective « Polémos décroissance ».

Tracy Smith-Carrier

Tracy Smith-Carrier is a professor and the Canada Research Chair in Advancing the UN Sustainable Development Goals in the School of Humanitarian Studies at Royal Roads University in Victoria, British Columbia. Dr. Smith-Carrier’s program of research touches upon many different fields in the social policy arena, including access to income and food security, social assistance receipt, health equity, basic income, and climate justice. Tracy is an adjunct research professor at the Arthur Labatt Family School of Nursing at Western University, a research affiliate at the Centre for Human Rights Research at the University of Manitoba, chair of the National Strategic Planning Committee for a Basic Income Guarantee, and editor of the Taylor & Francis journal Critical Policy Studies.

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.

Sid Frankel

Sid Frankel, Ph.D. is an associate professor in the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Manitoba. His research interests include poverty reduction policy and non-profit sector-state relations. Recent publications include Frankel, S. (2022). Poverty as a human rights violation. In Canadian Yearbook of Human Rights. (Volume III) and Forget, E. and Frankel, S. (forthcoming) Flirting with a basic income in Canada, International Social Security Review.  Dr. Frankel is an executive board member of the Basic Income Canada Network, a member of the Basic Income Manitoba board of directors and a member of the national steering committee of Campaign 2000 to End Child Poverty.

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. 

James Janeiro

James Janeiro MA, MPP, is the Director of Policy and Government Relations at the Canadian Centre for Caregiving Excellence (CCCE), where he leads an ambitious national and pan-Canadian advocacy and policy development agenda focused on substantive and practical policy reform. Before joining CCCE, James worked in the Government of Ontario and served in various roles in the political and non-political spaces, including as Social Policy Advisor for Premier Kathleen Wynne. In this role, he was responsible for a diverse array of policy areas including poverty reduction, housing, the Basic Income Pilot, disability issues, autism services and municipal affairs.

Sarah Kennell

Sarah is the National Director of Public Policy with the Canadian Mental Health Association, responsible for driving systems change in mental health and substance use health at the federal level. This effort includes working to realize a vision of universal mental health care. With over 15 years of policy and advocacy experience— within and outside government— she has successfully advanced strategic policy priorities and led coalition-based strategies to secure multi-million-dollar investments. Sarah is also the Vice-President of the Board of Directors of the South-East Ottawa Community Health Centre.

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.

Kerry Lubrick

Kerry Lubrick is a retired public servant with more than 30 years of experience, front line and management, in the field of Human Services. Seeing first hand the inadequacy of social assistance in Ontario (and Canada), the numerous sub-systems created to assist those living in poverty, and learning about the positive outcomes of Basic Income Pilots, she now supports and advocates for a national basic income.  
Kerry is the current facilitator of Ontario Basic Income Network, involved in many basic income working groups and in addition to this volunteer work, she is also active in the Anglican Church and the Primates World Relief and Development Fund.

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.

Senator Kim Pate

Kim Pate was appointed to the Senate of Canada in 2016. First and foremost, the mother of Michael and Madison, she is a nationally renowned advocate who has spent 45+ years working in and around the legal and penal systems of Canada, with and on behalf of some of the most marginalized, victimized, criminalized and institutionalized — particularly imprisoned youth, men and women. Senator Pate graduated from Dalhousie Law School in 1984, was the Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies (CAEFS) from 1992 until her appointment to the Senate, is a member of the Order of Canada, and recipient of other awards including six honourary doctorates. 

Elaine Power

Elaine Power is a Professor in the School of Kinesiology & Health Studies at Queen’s University. Elaine’s researches the intersections between food, health and class, with a particular interest in food insecurity. She is a founding member of the Kingston Action Group for a Basic Income Guarantee and co-author, with Jamie Swift, of The Case for Basic Income: Freedom, Security, Justice (BTL Press, 2021). Currently, Elaine is working with a small team of scholars and artists to create a graphic novel introducing children and youth to the structural factors that lie at the root of food insecurity, encouraging them to consider solutions beyond the traditional charity model.

Sheila Regehr

Sheila is a founding member of the Basic Income Canada Network, its chair since 2014 and co-author, with Chandra Pasma, of Basic Income: Some Policy Options for Canada (2019). She is a former Executive Director of the National Council of Welfare, which published reports on solutions to poverty and inequality, the position from which she retired after a federal public service career that included front-line work, policy development, and federal/provincial/territorial relations. Her expertise includes income security, taxation, child benefits and pensions. Much of her career focused on gender, race and the public policy implications of caregiving and other non-market work.

Joan Riggs

Facilitator, Ottawa Aboriginal Coalition​

Bio coming soon.

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).

Jamie Swift

Kingston writer/activist Jamie Swift is the author of thirteen books, from forestry and biography to the contending cultures of war commemoration and the politics of civil society. His Vimy Trap: Or, How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Great War (with Ian McKay) was a finalist for the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing and the Canadian Historical Association Scholarly Book Prize. He’s a co-founder of the Kingston Action Group for a Basic Income Guarantee and author (with Elaine Power) of The Case for Basic Income: Freedom, Security, Justice. 

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.

Jiaying Zhao

Dr. Jiaying Zhao is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology and the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia, a faculty affiliate with the Center for Effective Global Action at UC Berkeley, and an invited researcher at J-PAL at MIT. Dr. Zhao is a Killam Research Prize recipient and UBC Sauder Distinguished Scholar. She uses psychological principles to design behavioural solutions to address financial and environmental sustainability challenges. Specifically, she examines the cognitive consequences of poverty and designs cash transfer interventions to alleviate the psychological burdens in low-income individuals. Moreover, she develops behavioural interventions to encourage climate action, recycling, and biodiversity conservation.

The Program

Download the BIG Forum Full Program here

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.