High Ground 2022: Civic Governance Forum

High Ground 2022

The 2022 civic governance forum was held virtually from Thursday, March 24 to Saturday, March 26, 2022.

This year’s theme was Seeking Higher Ground: Leading Through Instability. We wanted to explore this theme as we are in a period of governing, at all levels, within ongoing, long-term, urgent and emergency conditions on many fronts. At High Ground 2022, we explored how local electeds can do their work in both proactive and responsive ways that advance progressive visions and action in their communities.

Thursday, March 24, 8:30AM – 12:45PM
Friday, March 25, 1:00PM – 6:00PM
Saturday, March 26, 8:00AM – 1:15PM

Mayors, Councillors, Regional Directors, and School Board Trustees.

Via Whova


Thursday, March 24


Acknowledgment, Welcome and Opening Remarks

Sussanne Skidmore Carleen Thomas

Opening Plenary - Land Back, What You Need to Know

In this opening plenary, we’ll come together to learn about Land Back, and what equitable access to territories and resources looks like, particularly when it comes to territory, natural resources, wildlife, climate, and ecosystems. We’ll hear from different First Nations communities in British Columbia about how we got here, where we’re at, and where we’re headed and what progressive local leaders can do to make meaningful connections.

Amber George Matthew Norris Trent Derrick Jennifer Reddy (Moderator)

Short Break


Plenary - Emerging Solutions - Spotlight One

Two fast paced ten-minute spotlights on the latest trends and issues in our communities and the inspirational steps being taken to find do-able solutions.


  1. Addressing stigma and increasing safety through collaborative community development: the Living in Community model (Halena Seiferling)
  2. Suburban Solutions: Suburbs are high cost and high carbon. They are also home to the biggest untapped solutions to affordability and climate action. (Alex Boston)
Halena Seiferling Alex Boston Ken Melamed (Moderator)

Health and Wellness Break


Plenary - Emerging Solutions - Spotlight Two

Two fast paced ten-minute spotlights on the latest trends and issues in our communities and the inspirational steps being taken to find do-able solutions.


  1. Living Wage: A solution for workers and employers during these unstable times (Anastasia French)
  2. The Case for Mass Timber Construction (Gaetan Royer)
Anastasia French Gaetan Royer Ken Melamed (Moderator)

Short Break


Session - We've had the Glasgow Climate Talks, Now What?

Temitope Onifade was in Glasgow, Scotland in 2021 at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) and will update us on what we need to know to transition to a low carbon economy globally. We’ll then hear from Liz McDowell who will let us know about what’s going on across the Province of British Columbia and then from Anjali Appadurai, who will provide insights on how local communities can support provincial, federal, and global efforts and initiatives.

Anjali Appadurai Temitope Onifade Liz McDowell Ned Taylor (Moderator)

Session - Our Hopes and Dreams for Public Education (75 mins)

In partnership with the Institute for Public Education BC

All of us come to Public Education with idealism – with values and principles we want to implement so that every child can be as successful as possible in reaching their potential.  But often we get caught up in day-to-day bureaucracy and short-term tasks.  Our hopes and dreams get forgotten or obscured or take second place.  Additionally, the context in which we do our work is changing all of the time – the unmarked graves of Indigenous children are found in their hundreds, the pandemic creates dramatic new needs, racism and inequality become more prevalent. This workshop aims to explore and clarify our common values – our hopes and dreams for public education – and to find ways to make them real in challenging times.

Christine Ho Younghusband Dan Laitsch David Chudnovsky Moira Mackenzie

Friday, March 25


Opening Remarks

Laird Cronk

Plenary - Alternative Responses to Community Safety

This plenary brings together a range of voices to share perspectives on how we can keep our communities safe, including equity in policing, shifting some responsibilities away from police — namely sexual assault reporting and responses to mental health crises, and the intersection with housing, mental health, participatory budgeting, and policy It also includes an introduction to some of the work and pilot projects going on and plans in the pipeline.

El Jones Jonathan Morris Sarah Potts Karen Ranalletta

Short Break


Session - How to Protect Older Residents in their Communities

Extreme weather, like heat waves and floods, and COVID-19 have had direct and devastating impact on older residents in our communities, especially last summer when the volume of sudden deaths came in such a short period of time. What can local governments do to prevent these crises and to respond to them with frontline resources and in a timely way?

Barbara McMillan Chinu Das Grace Park Marcy Cohen (Moderator)

Health and Wellness Break


Plenary - Emerging Solutions - Spotlight Three

Two fast paced ten-minute spotlights on the latest trends and issues in our communities and the inspirational steps being taken to find do-able solutions.


  1. Most Livable City? Wide Gaps in Life Expectancy and Multiple Causes of Mortality across Neighbourhoods in Metro Vancouver (Jessica Yu and Michael Brauer)
  2. 3D Printed Houses (Andrew Nielsen)

Moderated by: Gaetan Royer

Jessica Yu Michael Brauer Andrew Nielsen Gaetan Royer

Short Break


Plenary - B.C.'s Toxic Drug Crisis: How Can Local Leaders Lead

Despite the declaration of a public health emergency in 2016, the death toll from poisoned drugs has reached new heights. In fact, nearly 9,000 people have died of toxic drugs since, with more than 2,000 in 2021 alone. This significant rise is primarily attributed to the increasing contamination and potency of the criminalized supply, driven by prohibition and exacerbated by COVID-19 pandemic measures that isolated substance users and saw many more using alone. How can local governments show leadership in their communities around the toxic drug crisis?

Guy Felicella Mark Tyndall Michael Eglison Moira Wyton (Moderator)

Short Break


Plenary - In Conversation with... former Mayor of Calgary, Naheed Nenshi

We’ve asked Naheed Nenshi, the former Mayor Calgary, to reflect on this year’s theme: “Seeking Higher Ground: Leading Through Instability” and to consider what progressive governance looks like with ongoing, long-term, and urgent emergency conditions on many fronts. How can local electeds do this work in proactive and responsive ways that advance progressive visions and action in their communities? 

Naheed Nenshi Nikki Hill

Saturday, March 26


Opening Remarks

David Levi

Plenary - Dangerously Divided Times

With multiple emergencies on our doorstep – the Emergency Measures Act, toxic drugs, COVID 19, and climate — we are bearing witness to growing and deepening polarization and radicalization across Canada and in our local communities. This plenary explores how we got here, what this tell us about the moment we’re now in, and what are different types of engagement and preventive strategies that local governments can use to navigate difficult conversations across the political spectrum.

Jennifer Wolowic Kai Nagata Tariq Tyab Mark Gamba Amy Lubik

Short Break


Plenary - In Conversation with... Minister of Municipal Affairs, Nathan Cullen

Nathan Cullen Alison Gu

Health and Wellness Break


Session - Co-ops for Sustainability

This workshop explores the impact of cooperative enterprises in addressing the linked challenges of economic inclusion and a transition to a greener economy. By aggregating the capacities of communities, co-ops address local needs, keep capital local, and reduce the barriers to access for needed goods and services. The model is also being applied in the generation of renewable energy and is creating employment opportunities in green industries. While democratic ownership and governance brings is own challenges, co-ops are resilient enterprises capable of evolving to meet the changing needs of their member owners.

Arshia Uppal Kevin Kapenda Yuill Herbert

Session - Reclaiming Education

Four First Nations communities (Cowichan Tribes, Lil’wat Nation, the ʔaq̓am of the Ktunaxa, and the Seabird Island Band) have all ratified education agreements with the federal government. This means the First Nations communities will take control of their childrens’ education on their lands and develop school courses, set graduation requirements and certify teachers. An estimated dozen other BC First Nations are currently in discussions for their own agreements and arrangements and many more are expected to follow. This breakout workshop sets out to bring together a range of voices to share different perspectives on how we got to where we’re at, why the moment is now, and what tomorrow holds for First Nation communities and municipalities and school boards across the Province of British Columbia

Joshua Seymour Stephanie Atleo Trent Derrick

Health and Wellness Break


Plenary - In Conversation with... Minister of State for Infrastructure, Bowinn Ma

Bowinn Ma Cheeying Ho

Short Break


Plenary - Emerging Solutions - Spotlight Four

Two fast paced ten-minute spotlights on the latest trends and issues in our communities and the inspirational steps being taken to find do-able solutions.


  1. Circular Economy – What is it? Why does it matter? and how it can help us (Charley Beresford)
  2. How to Build an Anti-Racist Education System (Markiel Simpson)

Moderated by: Gaetan Royer

Charley Beresford Markiel Simpson Gaetan Royer

Plenary - In Conversation with... Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery, and Innovation, Ravi Kahlon

In this conversation, Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation Ravi Kahlon will share highlights of the government’s economic plan and how it intersects with local government across the Province.

Ravi Kahlon

Closing Remarks

Stephanie Smith Sussanne Skidmore

Testimonials from High Ground 2022

  • “Thank you for all your hard work. This is the best conference I attend each year. The learning experience is beyond compare.”
  • “Even though it was virtual, it still was very engaging.”
  • “Thank you kindly for High Ground 2022. It is always inspiring and thoughtful.”
  • Thank you for the engaging, impactful 3-day forum… So grateful to learn more in depth on emerging and urgent conditions on many fronts.”
  • “I think the Columbia Institute did a very good job of covering topics that are very relevant and important for the time we are living in.”


Thank you to our 2022 sponsors: