2020 High Ground: Committed to Action

UPDATE: High Ground 2020 Cancelled

High Ground 2020, our annual civic governance forum, was scheduled to be held at the Pinnacle Harbourfront Hotel in Vancouver, BC from 1pm on Friday, March 27 to 4:30pm on Saturday, March 28. The theme for the 2020 forum was “Committed to Action,” and featured plenaries on UNDRIP, Public Education and Privatization, and the Climate Emergency.

The event 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 decided to cancel the 2020 event.


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 (Moderator) 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

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

Sussanne Skidmore Ela Esra Gunad (Moderator)

Indigenous opening and welcome

Ballroom 1 + Ballroom 2
Rhiannon Bennett (Moderator)

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

Viveca Ellis Phyllis Joseph Meenakshi Mannoe

WORKSHOP: Cooperative economies

Kim Novak (Moderator) Elvezio Del Bianco Jonny Sopotiuk

WORKSHOP: We painted our rainbow crosswalk, now what?

Tiffany Muller Myrdahl (Moderator) Donna Sargent Scout Gray Trevana Spilchen

WORKSHOP: Mobilizing in the digital age

Matt Smith Stephanie Lynn

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

Sharmarke Dubow Elodie Jacquet

WORKSHOP: Communities making a commitment to zero waste

Sue Maxwell Ben Geselbracht

WORKSHOP: What we're learning on the job

Elsie McMurphy (Moderator) Patti Bacchus Moyra Baxter Jennifer Reddy (Moderator)

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

Gaetan Royer Paul Finch

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

IN CONVERSATION: Minister Selina Robinson, Municipal Affairs and Housing

Ballroom 1 + Ballroom 2
Selina Robinson (Featured Speaker)

WORKSHOP: Can we house our residents?

Christine Boyle Mike Hurley Marika Albert

WORKSHOP: Climate change and impacts on health: 101

Val Avery Amy Lubik

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

Sam Abrams (Featured Speaker)

WORKSHOP: How to navigate UBCM / FCM / LMLGA

Sav Dhaliwal

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 (Moderator) Bonita Zarrillo Christy Sutherland Kevin Huang Seth Klein

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 Christine Boyle Karen Elliott Nadine Nakagawa Rik Logtenberg

WORKSHOP: Menstrual equity

Nikki Hill Anita Ansari Bonita Zarrillo Madeleine Shaw

WORKSHOP: Working session on climate change implementation

Seth Klein Dale Littlejohn Christine Boyle Karen Elliott Rik Logtenberg Nadine Nakagawa Cheeying Ho

WORKSHOP: How these electeds pulled it off

Arjun Singh Gaetan Royer MaryLynne Rimer Megan Dykeman

Closing remarks

Ballroom 1 + Ballroom 2

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
Hummingbirds Rising