Keynotes & Events

Keynote abstracts and biographies are listed chronologically as per the programme.

To jump to a specific keynote presenter, please choose from the following:

Thursday, 18 May 2017 at 6:30 pm

Keynote Event
Decolonizing the Canon:
An Evening of Poetry, Performance, and Painting

George Elliot Clarke, Cris Derksen, and Kent Monkman

On Thursday May 18, 2017, three of the most creative artists working in Canada today will engage in an evening of performance and conversation that draws on poetry, music, and visual art to challenge what it means—and what it feels like—to remember the history of Canada. The national Poet Laureate, George Elliott Clarke, the Juno-award-winning cellist Cris Derksen, and the internationally-celebrated visual artist Kent Monkman will join each other on stage at the National Gallery Theatre, in a mix of performance and dialogue. All three artists work within and against canonical forms to renarrate and resist the colonial story of Canada, with questions of religion and spirituality in play. A highlight of Restorying Canada: Reconsidering Religion and Public Memory in 2017, this plenary session is free for conference registrants, and open to the public as a ticketed event.

George Elliot Clarke George Elliot Clarke, Poet Laureate

George Elliott Clarke is the E.J. Pratt Professor of Canadian Literature at the University of Toronto, and currently serves as Canada’s Parliamentary Poet Laureate. An award-winning novelist, poet, and scholar, Clarke is a writer and teacher of immense versatility. He returns often to themes of religion, family, sexuality, and racism in his writing, anchoring these themes in particular times, places, and lives in Canada. Having coined the term “Africadian”, Clarke is a formative theorist and storyteller of African-Canadian experience, including that of Black loyalists and slaves who came to the Maritimes in the wake of the American Revolution. An engaging thinker and a riveting orator, George Elliott Clarke will be an excellent plenary speaker for Restorying Canada. (Photo from Parliament of Canada.)

Cris Derksen, musician

2016 Instrumental Album Juno Nominee Cris Derksen is an Indigenous cellist/composer known for building layers of sound into captivating performances. Originally from Northern Alberta, there is a line of chiefs from North Tall Cree reserve on her father’s side and a line and a line of strong Mennonite homesteaders on her mother’s side. Her music braids the traditional and contemporary in multiple dimensions, weaving her traditional classical training and her Aboriginal ancestry with new school electronics, creating genre defying music. Dersken’s composer credits include 8th Fire, a 4-part television mini-series for CBC TV; ReQuickening, NEOindegina, and TransMigration for Kaha:wi Dance. She has performed and collaborated with Buffy Sainte Marie, Tanya Tagaq, Kanye West, Naomi Klein and A Tribe Called Red to name a few.

Kent MonkmanKent Monkman, artist

Kent Monkman is a Canadian artist of Cree ancestry who works with a variety of mediums, including painting, film/video, performance, and installation. He has contributed to a number of international group exhibitions and has had solo exhibitions at numerous Canadian museums including the Montreal Museum of Fine Art, the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art in Toronto, and the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Monkman has created site specific performances at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, The Royal Ontario Museum, and at Compton Verney, he has also made Super 8 versions of these performances which he calls “Colonial Art Space Interventions.” His award-winning short film and video works have been screened at various national and international festivals, including the 2007 and 2008 Berlinale, and the 2007 and 2015 Toronto International Film Festival. His work is represented in numerous public and private collections including the National Gallery of Canada, the Denver Art Museum, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Museum London, the Glenbow Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, the Mackenzie Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian and the Vancouver Art Gallery. (Photo by Ryan Van Der Hout.)


Friday, 19 May 2017 at 9 am

Plenary Session
Restorying Islam and Judaism in Canada

Zarqa Nawaz, Sheema Khan, Valérie Amiraux, and Shari Golberg

Muslims and Jews have come to Canada from countries around the world, finding ways to adapt, adopt, and resist dominant religious and cultural structures. They have fought for rights in courtrooms and classrooms. They have engaged as interfaith partners with the Christian majority. They have found themselves at the center of debates about accommodations—and occasionally the victims of xenophobic violence. This panel brings together four “storytellers” to discuss their approach to working in different media and the publics they engage: Zarqa Nawaz (filmmaker), Sheema Khan (journalist), Valérie Amiraux (scholar and writer of children’s literature) and Shari Golberg (scholar and feminist art instigator). Panelists will discuss their ongoing projects in light of recent events and assess the impact on Canadian Jewish and Muslim communities—present and future.

Sheema Khan Sheema Khan, Journalist

Sheema Khan, the acclaimed Globe and Mail columnist, holds a doctorate from Harvard in Engineering. Turning to writing, Khan quickly became known for her incisive and compelling contributions to the public debate in Canada on issues as diverse as Islamophobia, religious toleration and multiculturalism, the nature of terrorism, and Islamic feminism. The founder of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, Dr. Khan is also the author of a book of essays entitled Of Hockey and Hijab: Reflections of a Canadian Muslim Woman.

Zarqa Nawaz Zarqa Nawaz, Filmmaker

Zarqa Nawaz, a journalist, filmmaker, and writer, is best known for her documentary Me and the Mosque and her long-running CBC TV program Little Mosque on the Prairie (2007-2012), both of which, in their different ways, use humor, irreverence, and irony to address burning and serious controversies and misunderstandings, both those existing within the diverse Muslim community and those arising between Muslim Canadians and their non-Muslim neighbours. Her recent memoir, Laughing all the Way to the Mosque, was shortlisted for a Stephen Leacock award.

Valérie AmirauxValérie Amiraux, Scholar and writer

Valérie Amiraux is Professor of Sociology at the University of Montreal, where she holds the Canada Research Chair for the Study of Religious Pluralism. Her main fields are religious pluralism, the relationships between Muslim minorities and European and Quebecois societies, Islamophobia and discrimination. Her current research interests centre on an ethnographic analysis of the articulation between pluralism and radicalisation, with a special emphasis on the interaction between majority societies and Jews and Muslims as minorities in specific cities of Europe and Canada. Recent publications include a contribution to a special issue of Critical Religious Studies on “The Muslim Question” and a co-authored monograph with D. Koussens titled Trajectoires de la neutralité (Presses de l’université de Montréal, 2014). She is also co-author with F. Desharnais of Salomé et les hommes en noir, a children’s book published with Bayard Canada in 2015.

Shari GoldbergShari Golberg, Scholar and feminist art instigator

Shari Golberg has a PhD in Religion from the University of Toronto and an MA from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her academic work and teaching explores feminist approaches to Jewish and Islamic texts, along wih contemporary text-based collaborations. From 2015-2016, Golberg delivered workshops across Ontario for the Canadian Race Relations Foundation on competing rights and issues of religious accommodation and discrimination in workplace contexts. She also co-ordinates and facilitates Shema & Iqra’: The Jewish-Muslim Text Project, a grassroots initiative which brings Muslims and Jews together using classical religious texts as a springboard for dialogue. In 2014, she served as the Project Director of Beyond Calligraphy, an art exhibit of Muslim and Jewish artists. She also recently launched Blood, Milk, and Tears, a course and arts collective that examines the relationship between gender, embodiment, and creativity in Jewish and Islamic discourses.


Friday, 19 May 2017 at 1:45 pm

Plenary Session
Museums, Religion, and Public Memory

Joseph Weiss, Aviv Milgram, Jon Johnson, and Jean-François Léger

Bringing together curators and exhibit designers from three innovative public history organizations, “Museums, Religion, and Public Memory” focuses on creative, site-based approaches to remembering and retelling stories of religion, spirituality, and religious diversity. The Museum of Jewish Montreal started by offering walking tours of Jewish life in the storied area of Boulevard St. Laurent; now it has its own museum space right across from Schwartz’s Charcuterie Hebraique. First Story, based out of the Native Canadian Centre on Ishpadinaa Road, also centers on walking—and taking bus tours—through Toronto to reveal and remember the Indigenous history and present of the land. Working at a larger scale, The Canadian Museum of History has recently curated highly interactive exhibits focused on religion, including Vodou and God(s): A User’s Guide. The curators and designers will discuss the big ideas that drove the creation of their organizations/exhibits, how visitors respond to their tours and exhibitions, and the challenge and importance of spaces of public history today.

Joseph WeissJoseph Weiss, Curator

Joseph Weiss is Curator of Western Ethnology at the Canadian Museum of History. His research explores indigenous political life, Indigenous-settler relations, ethics, and the power of time, with a particular focus on the Indigenous Haida First Nation. He has abiding interests in Truth and Reconciliation in Canada and research ethics in the social sciences. Dr. Weiss holds a PhD in Anthropology from the University of Chicago. His doctoral thesis, funded in part by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, examined how the members of the Haida community of Old Massett conceived of and built futures for themselves and for their settler neighbors. He is currently preparing a monograph based on this work for the University of British Columbia Press. Dr. Weiss has also collaborated with the University of Chicago and the Field Museum of Natural History on the “Open Fields Project,” examining museum-Indigenous relationships, and published with the International Journal of Canadian Studies.

Aviv MilgramAviv Milgram, Museum Community Manager

Aviv Milgram is the Community Manager at the Museum of Jewish Montreal, where she manages the museum’s oral history program. From collecting oral testimonies and overseeing oral history fellows and volunteers, to organizing storytelling events and developing oral history outreach projects, she is working to build community and strengthen intergenerational and intercultural relationships through storytelling and oral history preservation. Aviv has a Master’s degree in Religion in Global Politics, with a thesis focusing on religion and multiculturalism in the Canadian context.

Jon JohnsonJon Johnson, Interdisciplinary Researcher

Jon Johnson is an interdisciplinary researcher who works within Toronto’s Indigenous community. At Restorying Canada, he will discuss his work as an organizing member of First Story Toronto, a program at the Native Canadian Centre devoted to researching and sharing Toronto’s Indigenous heritage through a variety of popular educational initiatives. As a part of this program, he leads walking and bus tours, gives public talks for diverse audiences, and has helped develop a variety of artistic and historical community projects and collaborations. Some recent First Story collaborations include Talking Toronto Treaties (with Jumblies Theatre) and the First Story smartphone application (with COMAP) which maps stories of Toronto’s Indigenous heritage.

Jean-François Léger, Museum Creative Development Specialist

Jean-François Léger is a Creative Development Specialist at the Canadian Museum of History. He works with multidisciplinary teams combining creative, pedagogical, and museological practices on a wide range of museum products including exhibitions. His work on the exhibition God(s): A User’s Guide was recognized at the AAM MUSE Awards in 2012 in the category of “digital communities.” Alongside Gods, he has collaborated most recently on the CMH exhibitions Vodou and The Greeks: From Agamemnon to Alexander the Great. His writings have appeared in Curator: The Museum Journal and Museum Ideas Volume 2: Innovation in Theory and Practice. Mr. Léger’s work focuses on visitor experience, making sure that exhibits and other Museum projects are not only accessible to Museum visitors, but also resonate with them intellectually and emotionally. He holds a Bachelors in Psychology and a Masters in Sociology from the University of Ottawa.


Friday, 19 May 2017 at 7 pm

Keynote Panel
The Future of Religion in Canada: Utopia or Dystopia?

Margaret Atwood and Leah Kostamo

Composed of iconic Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood and environmental activist Leah Kostamo, the panel will explore the rich, complex portrayal of religion in the Canadian imaginary as a powerful, yet ambiguous force which has the potential to renew and to shatter: bringing liberation and oppression, hope and fear. In a career spanning forty years, Atwood’s seminal work has explored the past, present, and dys/utopian future of religion in Canada: imagining religion as everything from the justificatory ideology in the terrifying patriarchy of A Handmaid’s Tale to the outmanned but idealistic eco-liberatory group, God’s Gardeners, in her Flood Trilogy. The presence of Christian environmentalist Leah Kostamo broadens the discussion from the simply the speculative by providing a unique example of how life can imitate art.

Margaret AtwoodMargaret Atwood, Author

Margaret Atwood is perhaps Canada’s premiere living novelist and poet. The author of seventeen novels and fifteen poetry collections, she is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, among them the Governor General’s Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the E. J. Pratt award. Much of Atwood’s work: fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, explores and exposes Canadian identities, ethos, and attitudes – past, present, and future. By turns evoking the vanished worlds of the Canadian past, both distant and recent (in works such as Alias Grace, The Journals of Susanna Moody, and Cat’s Eye) and creating speculative Canadian futures which are by turns playful and nightmarish, optimistic and dystopic (in The Handmaid’s Tale, Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, The Heart Goes Last) Atwood’s always scintillating, powerful, and provocative work is a challenging and thought-provoking assessment of Canadian realities and potentialities.

Leah Kostamo Leah Kostamo, Environmental Activist

Leah Kostamo is a self-described “earthkeeper” and the author of Planted: A Story of Creation, Calling, and Community. A real-life Christian environmentalist (much like the fictional “God’s Gardeners” of Atwood’s dystopian “Flood” trilogy) Kostamo seeks spiritually to ground and empower the contemporary environmental movement and is active in the struggle for social justice in Canada. Kostamo is the founder of the A Rocha Environmental Centre.


Saturday, 20 May 2017 at 11 am

Plenary Session
Social Imaginaries of Quebec

Jean-Philippe Warren and Solange Lefebvre

Over less than a generation Quebec went from the most religious place in North America to arguably the least. The Catholic Church went from the institutional center of public life to one aspect of a diversified société laïque. It went from being at the heart of the French Canadian definition of self to a much debated aspect of Quebecois patrimoine. This panel tackles some of the biggest questions about religion in Quebec through the work of two eminent scholars and public intellectuals, Jean-Philippe Warren and Solange Lefebvre. Over the course of their conversation they will explore the roots of secularism, historically and today, and ask whether and how religion continues to find a foothold in la belle province today.

Jean-Philippe Warren Jean-Philippe Warren, Sociologist

Jean-Philippe Warren holds the Concordia University Research Chair on the Study of Quebec. His work, which is highly interdisciplinary in nature, examines Quebec popular culture, Canadian Native peoples, the Roman Catholic Church in Quebec, and Quebec-based social movements. He has written or edited a dozen books and published more than a hundred articles or book chapters, as well as articles in Liberté, Le Devoir, and The Globe and Mail. In 2015, Warren was awarded the Governor General’s award for his study of Honoré Beaugrand. Like his previous work, it seeks to deconstruct the negative image of French Canadians before the Quiet Revolution, during the so-called Great Darkness. Warren will tie the panel together by discussing the development of the social scientific study of religion in Quebec, as well as popular cultural motifs that have accompanied religious shifts since the 1960s.

Solange LefebvreSolange Lefebvre

Solange Lefebvre is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and holds the Research Chair in Chair of Cultural and Religious Diversity Management at the University of Montréal. Her areas of interest include religion in the public sphere, religion and politics, laïcité and secularisation, youth and generations. Among other publications, she is the author of Cultures et spiritualités des jeunes (Bellarmin, 2008), editor of Le Patrimoine religieux du Québec (PUL, 2010) and co-editor of Catholicisme et cultures. Regards croisés Québec-France (Presses de l’Université Laval et Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2015) and Religion in the Public Sphere: Canadian Case Studies (University of Toronto Press, 2014) and Public Commissions on Cultural and Religious Diversity: Analysis, Reception and Challenges (Routledge, forthcoming). She is regularly consulted on religious matters by governments, the media, as well as public and private organizations and was a member of the Committee of Experts in the context of the Consultation Commission on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences (CCPARDC), chaired by Gérard Bouchard and Charles Taylor (2007-2008).  She co-coordinates the Canadian section for the European Data Base ( and runs her own database (PLURI) that makes hundreds of documents on religious pluralism available to the public.