High Ground 2020: Civic Governance Forum

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Friday, March 27 (1pm start) to Saturday, March 28 (4pm end)
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 4pm on Saturday, March 28, offering plenty of time for learning, connecting, and inspiring (and being inspired).

At this special 27-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. 

Take a look at last year’s program.

Register now


Friday, March 27




PRE-FORUM: Personal journey to reconciliation

NEW: Personal Journey to 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 for this workshop via email to slipp@columbiainstitute.eco.

Rhiannon Bennett Andrea Hilder

PRE-FORUM: How to be an ally

Please pre-register for this workshop via email at slipp@columbiainstitute.eco.

Ryan Stewart

PRE-FORUM: Women in leadership dialogue

Please pre-register for this workshop via email at slipp@columbiainstitute.eco.

Sussanne Skidmore

Acknowledgment 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 to be announced

Ballroom 1 + Ballroom 2

WORKSHOP: Tackling anti-poor stigma in your community

WORKSHOP: Cooperative economies

WORKSHOP: We've introduced SOGI, 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: What we're learning on the job (role of trustees)

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


Networking Reception


Dinner and Pecha Kucha

Ballroom 1 + Ballroom 2

This year, we’re focusing on climate action. 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
Arjun Singh Sharmarke Dubow Toni Boot

Saturday, March 28




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)


IN CONVERSATION: Minister to be announced

Ballroom 1 + Ballroom 2

WORKSHOP: Can we house our residents?

WORKSHOP: Climate change and its impact on your community's health

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

WORKSHOP: How to navigate UBCM / FCM


Networking and coffee & tea break


PLENARY: Emerging Issues

Ballroom 1 + Ballroom 2

Childcare: what’s next in growing the public system across the province?

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

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

Vaping: what’s going on and what can we do? 

How do we talk about China in our community

Sharon Gregson

Tracy Humphreys

Jennifer Reddy

Bonita Zarrillo



Ballroom 1 + Ballroom 2

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.

Cheeying Ho (Moderator)

Christine Boyle

Karen Elliott

Nadine Nakagawa

Rik Logtenberg


WORKSHOP: Working session on climate change implementation

WORKSHOP: How these electeds pulled off big wins


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

Elvezio Del Bianco

Cooperative Portfolio Manager, Vancity

Gaetan Royer

CEO, CityState Consulting

Jennifer Reddy

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

Karen Elliott

Mayor, District of Squamish

Khelsilem Tl’aḵwasik̓a̱n (Featured Speaker)

Councillor, Squamish Nation Council

Kim Novak (Moderator)

President, UFCW Local 1518

Madeleine Shaw

Co-Founder, Lunapads

Matt Smith

President, Stratcom

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 Shaker (Moderator)

Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Education, SFU

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

Seth Klein (Moderator)

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

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

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
UFCW 1518
Hummingbirds Rising