Big Thinking

Big Thinking

The Big Thinking series is held throughout Congress and brings together leading scholars and public figures who present forward-thinking research, ideas and solutions to the critical questions and issues of our time. The series is open to all Congress registered attendees and to members of the general public registering with a community pass.

Big Thinking schedule 

  • May 28, 2021 - 12:00 to 13:00 (MT)
  • May 29, 2021 - 12:00 to 13:00 (MT)
  • May 31, 2021 - 12:15 to 13:15 (MT)
  • June 1, 2021 - 12:00 to 13:00 (MT)
  • June 2, 2021 - 12:00 to 13:00 (MT) 
  • June 3, 2021 - 12:00 to 13:00 (MT) 

Meet this year's speakers: 

The Honorable Ethel Blondin-Andrew 
Yáázǫ Kéorat’ı̨ (We see the daylight)

May 28, 2021 | 12:00 to 13:00 MT

Blondin-Andrew will discuss how clean water, good jobs, and active participation in diverse local economies through Indigenous-led conservation are pathways to healthy futures for land and for people. 

About the Honorable Ethel Blondin-Andrew

As a Dene child, Ethel fled Grollier Hall residential school to live in a “tent town.” Years later, she earned an education degree at the University of Alberta and taught in three NWT communities, eventually specializing in Indigenous language curriculum development in Yellowknife. Ethel marshaled her courage and continued on to become the first Indigenous woman elected to Parliament, serving for 17 years as a Member of Parliament, 13 of them in Cabinet. In 2019, Ms. Blondin-Andrew received the Maclean’s “Lifetime Achievement Award.”

Shirley Anne Tate image

Shirley Anne Tate 

Racism's touch: 'I can't quite put my finger on it'

May 29, 2021 | 12:00 to 13:00 MT

In an event organized by the University of Alberta's Black Graduate Students' Association, Tate will critically examine the academy’s ‘post-race’ sensibilities and question the quotidian transmission of racism through the flinching away from Black touch. 

About Shirley Anne Tate

Dr. Shirley Anne Tate holds the Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Feminism and Intersectionality in the Sociology Department of the University of Alberta. For more than a decade, she has turned her analyses – rooted in Caribbean decolonial and Black feminist thought – to the academic world itself. Her current CRC research investigates anti-BIPOC racism and decolonization in universities across Canada, Brazil, South Africa, Sweden and Finland.

Ibram X. Kendi image

Ibram X. Kendi  

How To Be An Antiracist

May 31, 2021 | 12:15 to 13:15 MT

With opened minds, people are actively trying to understand racism. In this deeply personal and empowering conversation, Kendi will shift the discussion from how not to be racist to how to be an antiracist. He will also share his own racist ideas and how he overcame them.

About Ibram X. Kendi 

Ibram X. Kendi is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University, and the founding director of the BU Center for Antiracist Research. He is a contributing writer at The Atlantic and a CBS News racial justice contributor. Kendi is the 2020-2021 Frances B. Cashin Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University.

He is the author of many books including Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, which won the National Book Award for Nonfiction, making him the youngest ever winner of that award. He also authored three #1 New York Times bestsellers, How to Be an Antiracist; Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, co-authored with Jason Reynolds; and Antiracist Baby, illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky. His newest books are Be Antiracist: A Journal for Awareness, Reflection, and Action; and Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, co-edited with Keisha Blain, which will be out in February. In 2020, Time magazine named Kendi one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

For more information on Ibram X. Kendi, please visit

Alice Sheppard headshot photo image

Alice Sheppard

Disability Will (re)Make The Arts 

June 1, 2021 | 12:00 to 13:00 MT

Speaking to and from the history, aesthetics and cultures of disabled people, the newly re-emerging intersectional disability arts movement promotes work by disabled people, work that features disabled people, and work that imagines a disabled audience as primary. Access is not a retroactive accommodation or service, but a creative and generative aesthetic in the work itself. Rather than repeatedly justifying, arguing, and explaining disability to the nondisabled, a loosely connected web of artists in the vanguard of the movement ground themselves in the intersectional politics, histories, cultures, and aesthetics and lived experience of disabled people. Alice Sheppard situates Kinetic Light in this movement and speaks to some of the ensemble’s practices.

About Alice Sheppard

Alice Sheppard trained with Kitty Lunn, performed with Infinity Dance Theater, and then became a core company member with AXIS Dance Company. Sheppard is the Artistic Director of Kinetic Light, a project-based ensemble, working at the intersections of disability, dance, design, identity, and technology to create transformative art and advance the intersectional disability arts movement. A USA Artist, Creative Capital grantee and Bessie Award winner, Alice creates movement that engages intersectional disability arts, culture, and history, challenging conventional understandings of disabled and dancing bodies. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times and such journals as Movement Research Performance Journal and Catalyst.

Photo description: Alice Sheppard, a multi-racial Black woman with coffee-coloured skin, blonde, copper, and red striped curly hair gazes towards the camera. She wears a black shirt; her face rests in the palm of her hand, her elbow sits on her thigh, and a gold necklace gleams at her neck. [Accessibility caption provided by artist.] Photo credit: Beverlie Lord 

Maria Campbell

Maria Campbell

Ni'wahkomakanak: All My Relations

June 2, 2021 | 12:00 to 13:00 MT

“As a child I understood ni’wahkomakanak to mean “all my relations.” […] We understood and lived that word, celebrating wakotowin and ni’wahkomakanak with visiting, feasting, and helping each other regardless of differences.” 

“I was 12 years old when that started to change, beginning with the state scooping our children and forcing our people off the land; and families migrating to urban centres to find work. Boundaries made up of policies and laws divided us and worst of all, we started to believe these divisions defined us. It’s hard to understand that kind of division, the destruction of ni’wahkomakanak, unless you have lived it. Family, community, place all becoming smaller and smaller.”  

About Maria Campbell 

Writer, playwright, filmmaker and teacher Maria Campbell has published 7 books, she is best known for her 1973 bestselling memoir Halfbreed. The most recent book Keetsahnak / Our Missing and Murdered Indigenous Sisters, co-edited with Kim Anderson and Christi Belcourt was released in 2019. 

Maria taught Indigenous Literature, Creative Writing and Métis History at the University of Saskatchewan for 15 years, retiring in 2012. She is the Indigenous Cultural Advisor at the College of Law University of Saskatchewan and at Athabasca University.

Sheila Watt-Cloutier

Sheila Watt-Cloutier 

Everything is connected: Environment, economy, foreign policy, sustainability, human rights and leadership in the 21st century

June 3, 2021 | 12:00 to 13:00 MT

An environmental, cultural, and human rights advocate, Watt-Cloutier offers a new model for 21st century leadership by approaching urgent issues such as the environment, the economy, foreign policy, global health, and sustainability not as separate concerns, but as a deeply interconnected whole. 

About Sheila Watt-Cloutier

Sheila Watt-Cloutier is an environmental, cultural and human rights advocate. Her work demonstrates that the pressing issues of today – the environment, the economy, foreign policy, global health – are deeply interconnected. Watt-Cloutier is a Nobel Peace Prize nominee (2007) for her advocacy work in showing the impact of global climate change, especially in the Arctic, on human rights. She is also an Officer of the Order of Canada, and the recipient of the Aboriginal Achievement Award, the UN Champion of the Earth Award, the Norwegian Sophie Prize, the Jack P. Blaney award for Dialogue, and the Right Livelihood Award. She was Canadian President of the Inuit Circumpolar Council from 1995-2002, and International Chair of the ICC from 2002-6. Her memoir, The Right to Be Cold: One Woman's Story of Protecting Her Culture, the Arctic and the Whole Planet, was shortlisted for Canada Reads in 2017.



The Big Thinking series is sponsored by:

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