High Ground 2020: Civic Governance Forum

UPDATE: High Ground 2020 Cancellation

As you know, our annual civic governance forum was postponed on March 12 due to conditions around the COVID-19 pandemic. Our hope was to reschedule the event in the fall or early winter. Given the outlook provided by public health officials, as well as the state of uncertainty around public gatherings of 50 or more, we have decided to cancel the 2020 event. In light of this decision, we are now planning a series of webinars, and we hope you’ll follow along as we share news of the digital offerings in the coming weeks. Also, please stay tuned for news of a date and location for High Ground 2021! Please contact Thea at tsample@columbiainstitute.eco with any questions.

ANNOUNCEMENT: High Ground 2020 Postponed

Dear High Ground participants, speakers, sponsors, volunteers, and colleagues,

After much consideration, we have decided to postpone our civic governance forum (aka High Ground) from March 27-28 in Vancouver. We are also exploring options for a new date with the Pinnacle Hotel and will keep you informed as plans become clear.

We have been monitoring developments and reviewing COVID-19 updates from health organizations, such as the Public Health Agency of Canada and the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control. We have also been in regular contact with the event venue, the Pinnacle Hotel.

High Ground is about inspiring, informing, and connecting with friends, allies, and colleagues. It’s also about people spending time together. With the safety and well-being of our participants and staff as our highest priorities, we are mindful of growing concerns surrounding COVID-19 and committed to acting with caution during these unusual times.

We know that you have invested significant time and resources into planning for this event. We also know that this decision directly affects you and your work. We are sorry for any inconvenience that this may have caused you.

If you have already registered for High Ground 2020, our team will be reaching out directly to you with information about refunds early next week.

On a final note, we will keep you updated on a new date via email, social media, and our website and we very much hope you’ll join us.

We appreciate your understanding and support – and all that you do.

The Columbia Institute Team

March 27–28
Pinnacle Hotel Harbourfront,
1133 West Hastings, Vancouver, BC

High Ground 2020, our annual civic governance forum, will be held at the Pinnacle Harbourfront Hotel in Vancouver, BC from 1pm on Friday, March 27 to 4:30pm on Saturday, March 28, offering plenty of time for learning, connecting, and inspiring (and being inspired).

At this special 27.5-hour event, which will take place under the banner of “Committed to Action,” we aim to foster peer learning, offer insights on how to nurture inclusive, equitable, and sustainable communities, and spark new collaborations. 


Friday, March 27




PRE-FORUM: Refocusing from reconciliation to decolonization: Gaining truth and trust for reconciliation

This pre-conference workshop is designed to take participants on a personal journey of decolonization leading to Reconciliation. Learning the true history of these lands, gaining a place-based understanding, and looking at history through an Indigenous lens will allow for self-reflection and a deeper understanding of the ongoing trauma and harm from colonization. By the end, participants will be better able to demonstrate cultural literacy and discover ways to better serve the populations with whom they work. Participants should bring with them an open mind and an open heart to get the most out of what is sure to be an enlightening experience.

Please pre-register via email to tsample@columbiainstitute.eco.

Rhiannon Bennett Andrea Hilder

PRE-FORUM: How to be an ally

Please pre-register via email to tsample@columbiainstitute.eco.

Ryan Stewart

PRE-FORUM: Women in leadership dialogue


Indigenous opening and welcome

Ballroom 1 + Ballroom 2
Rhiannon Bennett

PLENARY: UNDRIP - From universal declaration to provincial action

Ballroom 1 + Ballroom 2

Remarks from Khelsilem Tl’aḵwasik̓a̱n (Squamish Nation Councillor)

Khelsilem Tl’aḵwasik̓a̱n (Featured Speaker)

IN CONVERSATION: Minister Shane Simpson, Social Development and Poverty Reduction

Ballroom 1 + Ballroom 2
Shane Simpson (Featured Speaker)

WORKSHOP: Tackling anti-poor stigma in your community

WORKSHOP: Cooperative economies

WORKSHOP: We painted our rainbow crosswalk, now what?

WORKSHOP: Mobilizing in the digital age


WORKSHOP: Equity, diversity, and inclusion: how to turn a commitment into a reality

WORKSHOP: Communities making a commitment to zero waste

WORKSHOP: Can we make change happen? (Revisiting protocols, charters, and more)


Networking reception


Dinner and conversation with Minister Judy Darcy, Mental Health and Addictions, and Pecha Kucha

Ballroom 1 + Ballroom 2

We’ll kick off the evening program with a conversation with Minister Judy Darcy (Mental Health and Addictions). After that, we’ll move into Pecha Kucha, which focuses on climate action this year.  Here’s what we have lined up so far:

  • Students working to save a warming world
  • A collaborative approach to climate action
  • Why municipalities need to act on climate
  • Taking a different approach to fighting climate change begins with reducing inequality
  • TBA
Judy Darcy (Featured Speaker) Kevin Millsip (Moderator) Lilah Williamson Arjun Singh Toni Boot Sharmarke Dubow

Saturday, March 28



Ballroom 1 + Ballroom 2

PLENARY: Public education and privatization (K-12)

Ballroom 1 + Ballroom 2

Our education keynote — Sam Abrams of Columbia University’s Teacher’s College — will speak about how the rise of market forces and a commercial mindset in public education (K-12) threatens our values. He’ll also speak about what can been done to deal with this challenge and lessons we can adopt from other areas of the world. After that, there should be plenty of time for Q&A.

Sam Abrams (Featured Speaker) Paul Shaker (Moderator)

IN CONVERSATION: Minister Selina Robinson, Municipal Affairs and Housing

Ballroom 1 + Ballroom 2
Selina Robinson (Featured Speaker)

WORKSHOP: Can we house our residents?

WORKSHOP: Climate change and impacts on health: 101

WORKSHOP: Big lessons from the world's best public schools (Finland and Sweden)

WORKSHOP: How to navigate UBCM / FCM / LMLGA


Coffee & tea break


PLENARY: Emerging Issues

Ballroom 1 + Ballroom 2

What’s next with childcare?

We don’t discriminate against disabled people…do we?

Finding the tools to spot and fight intolerance in our schools (via video) 

Vaping: what do we need to know?

One doctor’s response to managing opioid use

How do we talk about China in our community?

Sharon Gregson Tracy Humphreys Jennifer Reddy (via video) Bonita Zarrillo Christy Sutherland Kevin Huang Seth Klein (Moderator)

LUNCH & IN CONVERSATION with Minister Scott Fraser, Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation

Ballroom 1 + Ballroom 2
Scott Fraser (Featured Speaker)

PLENARY: So your community declared a climate emergency, now what?

Ballroom 1 + Ballroom 2

Now that municipalities across Canada have declared a climate emergency, what does it mean when it comes to planning and implementation? In our closing plenary, you’ll hear from different communities across BC about how climate emergency is being tackled in real time.

The session will open with Minister George Heyman, Environment and Climate Change Strategy.


George Heyman (Featured Speaker) Cheeying Ho (Moderator) Christine Boyle Karen Elliott Nadine Nakagawa Rik Logtenberg

WORKSHOP: How these electeds pulled it off


Closing remarks

Ballroom 1 + Ballroom 2


Amy Lubik

Councillor, City of Port Moody

Andrea Hilder

Co-Founder, Hummingbirds Rising

Anita Ansari

Trustee & Chair, Board of Education, School District 40 (New Westminster)

Arjun Singh

Councillor, City of Kamloops

Ben Geselbracht

Councillor, City of Nanaimo

Bonita Zarrillo

Councillor, City of Coquitlam

Cheeying Ho (Moderator)

Executive Director, Whistler Centre for Sustainability

Christine Boyle

Councillor, City of Vancouver

Christy Sutherland

Medical Director, PHS Community Services Society

Dale Littlejohn

Executive Director, Community Energy Association

Donna Sargent

Director, BCSTA

Ela Esra Gunad

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer, HEU

Elodie Jacquet

Manager of Knowledge and Practice, Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, SFU

Elsie McMurphy (Moderator)

Vice-Chair, Board of Education, School District 63 (Saanich)

Elvezio Del Bianco

Cooperative Portfolio Manager, Vancity

Gaetan Royer

CEO, CityState Consulting

George Heyman (Featured Speaker)

Minister, Environment and Climate Change Strategy

Jennifer Reddy (via video)

Trustee, Board of Education, School District 39 (Vancouver)

Jonny Sopotiuk

Founding Member, VALU CO-OP

Judy Darcy (Featured Speaker)

Minister, Mental Health and Addictions

Karen Elliott

Mayor, District of Squamish

Kevin Huang

Executive Director, Hua Foundation

Kevin Millsip (Moderator)

Executive Director, BC Libraries Cooperative

Khelsilem Tl’aḵwasik̓a̱n (Featured Speaker)

Councillor, Squamish Nation Council

Kim Novak (Moderator)

President, UFCW Local 1518

Lilah Williamson

Lead Organizer, Sustainabiliteens

Madeleine Shaw

Co-Founder, Lunapads

Marika Albert

Policy Director, BC Non-Profit Housing Association

MaryLynne Rimer

Proprietor, MLR Consulting

Matt Smith

President, Stratcom

Meenakshi Mannoe

Criminalization & Policing Campaigner, Pivot Legal Society

Megan Dykeman

Chair, Board of Education, School District 35 (Langley)

Mike Hurley

Mayor, City of Burnaby

Moyra Baxter

Trustee & Chair, Board of Education, School District 23 (Central Okanagan)

Nadine Nakagawa

Councillor, City of New Westminster

Nikki Hill (Moderator)

Principal, Earnscliffe Strategy Group

Patti Bacchus

Education Columnist, Georgia Straight

Paul Finch

Treasurer & CFO, BCGEU

Paul Shaker (Moderator)

Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Education, SFU

Phyllis Joseph

Peer Support Specialist, RainCity Housing

Rhiannon Bennett

Co-Founder, Hummingbirds Rising

Rik Logtenberg

Councillor, City of Nelson

Ryan Stewart

Trustee, Board of Education, School District 40 (Burnaby)

Sam Abrams (Featured Speaker)

Director, National Centre for the Study of Privatization in Education, Teachers College, Columbia University

Sav Dhaliwal

Councillor, City of Burnaby

Scott Fraser (Featured Speaker)

Minister, Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation

Scout Gray

SOGI 1 2 3 Program Lead, ARC Foundation

Selina Robinson (Featured Speaker)

Minister, Municipal Affairs and Housing

Seth Klein (Moderator)

Advisory Council Member, Centre for Civic Governance at the Columbia Institute

Shane Simpson (Featured Speaker)

Minister, Social Development and Poverty Reduction

Sharmarke Dubow

Councillor, City of Victoria

Sharon Gregson

Provincial Spokesperson, $10aDay Child Care Campaign

Stephanie Lynn

Director, Research & Engagement, Stratcom

Sue Maxwell

Principal, Ecoinspire Planning Services

Sussanne Skidmore

Secretary-Treasurer, BC Federation of Labour

Tiffany Muller Myrdahl (Moderator)

Senior Lecturer, Department of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies, SFU

Toni Boot

Mayor, District of Summerland

Tracy Humphreys

Chair, BCEdAccess

Trevana Spilchen

Teacher & SOGI Coordinator, School District 37 (Delta)

Val Avery

President, HSABC

Viveca Ellis

Interim Community Organizer, Poverty Reduction Coalition

Testimonials from High Ground 2019

  • “It was a fantastic opportunity to share and build relationships.”
  • “I met so many interesting people and had such great conversations about issues that concern all of us.”
  • “Very informative and perspective-changing.”
  • “Brilliant and essential conversation.”
  • “Great diversity of speakers and topics.”
  • “A must attend annual event.”
  • “After every High Ground forum, I’m involved in interactions with participants. There’s learning and exchange during each forum and that tends to continue after the forum. High Ground 2019 was fantastic.”


Your Education Matters
WE Consulting
UFCW 1518
Hummingbirds Rising