Concordia University Presents

The Walrus Talks Human Rights

Toronto 7 p.m. (ET), Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Concordia University


  • Mustafa Ahmed, poet
  • Ian Brown, Globe and Mail
  • Frank Chalk, Concordia University’s Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies
  • Michael F. Charles, Change DeZign Consulting
  • Wab Kinew, journalist, musician, and educator
  • Harry LaForme, Court of Appeal for Ontario
  • Kyle Matthews, Concordia University’s Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies
  • Sukanya Pillay, Canadian Civil Liberties Association

Mustafa Ahmed started writing at the age of ten as a means of expressing himself and reflecting on society. His poetry touches on the subjects of poverty, drugs, violence, and immigration. Living in Regent Park, Canada’s first inner-city housing project, Ahmed was exposed to the experiences and lifestyles he writes about. Ahmed has performed in association with various organizations such as the Children’s Aid Society, the Toronto District School Board, Hot Docs, and TEDxToronto.

Ian Brown is an acclaimed feature writer for the Globe and Mail. He is equally well known for his work on CBC Radio, where he moderated Talking Books for more than a decade and hosted Sunday Morning and Later the Same Day. He also presents pre eminent television documentaries on TVO’s Doc Studio. He is the author of Freewheeling—which won the National Business Book Award—and Man Overboard, and he edited the anthology What I Meant to Say. The New York Times chose his most recent non-fiction work, The Boy in the Moon, as one of the ten best books of 2010. He lives in Toronto with his wife and two children.

Frank Chalk is a professor of history and director of the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies at Concordia University. Chalk is co-author of The History and Sociology of Genocide (1990), associate editor of the Encyclopedia of Genocide and Crimes against Humanity (2004), consulting editor of Gale’s Genocide and Persecution series, and a past president of both the International Association of Genocide Scholars and the Canadian Association of African Studies. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on the history and sociology of genocide, the Holocaust, and US foreign policy. In May 2012, he was appointed to the Canadian advisory council of the International Task Force for Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research.

Michael F. Charles is an Ontario lawyer, a case advisor at York University’s Centre for Human Rights, and the principal of Change DeZign, a management consulting firm providing diversity, inclusion, and organization-development services. Prior to launching the consultancy, Michael practiced civil litigation and family law in Toronto for more than ten years, advocating at all levels of the Ontario Court, including the Court of Appeal. He also represented clients in various dispute resolution contexts, including arbitrations, mediations, and administrative tribunals. He currently serves on the executive committee of Human Rights Watch; he previously held directorships on the boards of Skills for Change—an immigrant settlement agency—and the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund; and he has been a guest speaker at various boards of education and at York University. Michael holds a B.A. from the University of Toronto and an LL.B. from Osgoode Hall Law School.

Liz Miller is a professor in communication studies at Concordia University and an award-winning documentary maker whose films, web initiatives, and media campaigns on issues such as water privatization and immigration are used in educational curricula around the world. Liz’s research involves documentary production, digital storytelling, cross-platform outreach for documentaries, and media advocacy, and her newest project features five women from around the world tackling climate change through policy-making, protest, education, and innovation.

Wab Kinew is the director of Indigenous inclusion at the University of Winnipeg, Al Jazeera’s fault lines correspondent, and in 2012, he hosted the acclaimed CBC Television series 8th Fire. He won an Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Award for his hip hop recordings; he received an Adrienne Clarkson Award, a Gabriel Award, and a Gemini Award nomination for his journalism; and Postmedia News named him one of nine Aboriginal Movers and Shakers You Should Know. He has a B.A. in economics and is a member of the Midewiwin.

Harry S. LaForme a justice of the Ontario Court, was called to the bar in 1979. Prior to becoming a judge, he began his career at Osler, Hoskin, and Harcourt and, after a brief time with Osler, he ran an Aboriginal law practice focusing on constitutional and human rights issues. He has appeared before all levels of court and has represented Aboriginal interests in Switzerland, New Zealand, and England. In 1989, he led the Indian Commission of Ontario; in 1991, he was made chair of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Land Claims; and in 2004, he was appointed to the Ontario Court of Appeal. He received a 1997 National Aboriginal Achievement Award in the area of law and justice, and on three occasions Aboriginal elders have presented him with an eagle feather, symbolizing honesty, integrity, and respect. He is the first Aboriginal person to sit on an appellate court in Canada.

Kyle Matthews is the senior deputy director of the Will to Intervene Project at the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies. He co-authored the book Mobilizing the Will to Intervene and has advised members of Parliament on issues related to international peace and security. He joined MIGS after more than five years of diplomatic service at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. He previously worked for CARE Canada in Albania and later at its headquarters, in Ottawa, where he managed various humanitarian response initiatives and peace-building projects in Afghanistan, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East. Kyle is the president of the Canadian International Council in Montreal and a member of the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations. In 2011, he joined the New Leaders program at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs and the advisory board of the Canadian Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. Originally from Ottawa, Kyle holds an M.A. in development and international relations at Aalborg University in Denmark, a certificate in refugee issues from York University, and a B.A. in history from Carleton University.

Sukanya Pillay is the executive director and general counsel of both the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Education Trust. She has appeared before international venues and domestic bodies—including the Supreme Court of Canada—to argue that the protection of fundamental rights is a prerequisite for peace and security. Sukanya has visited dozens of conflict zones in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East; appeared before United Nations treaty bodies and Canadian courts to speak about human rights issues; and represented clients or presented expert evidence before administrative and judicial bodies in the United States, India, Canada, and Europe.

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The Walrus Talks is a national series of events produced by the charitable, non-profit Walrus Foundation as part of an educational mandate to provide forums for conversation on matters vital to Canadians. The Walrus Foundation produces The Walrus magazine, the most awarded publication in Canada, as well as producing content at, on Walrus TV, and on stages from coast to coast to coast.

The Walrus Talks format features eight speakers for seven minutes each on various themes relating to a single topic. Each event offers lively, thoughtful, inspiring, riveting, smart, new thinking from scientists, writers, performers, scholars, and leaders of business and the arts. Each Talks event is followed by a spirited reception with attendees and participants.

The Walrus Talks delivers fresh ideas and new ways of looking at big issues. The Walrus has no “wings.” Our speakers are chosen to reflect a range of experiences and viewpoints, but they all have one thing in common: the desire for real conversation about issues that affect the future of Canada. Our goal is for audience members to think “I never thought about it that way” when the Talks are over.

Dates, details, and ticket information are available at