Lisa LaFlamme has been at the forefront of journalism for over 30 years tackling some of the biggest issues of our time, traveling the globe, delivering breaking news and bringing it back home to Canadians.
The internationally respected journalist has interviewed major newsmakers, Prime Ministers, Presidents and Princes while always keeping the spotlight on the injustices that plague the world’s most oppressed.
LaFlamme has traveled to some of the world’s most dangerous places and through her extensive war coverage of Iraq, Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Ukraine has documented the reality of how conflict warps society, punishes the most vulnerable and benefits the most corrupt.
A native of Kitchener-Waterloo, in 1988, LaFlamme began her career in local radio and TV in her hometown before making the move to CTV National News in 1997. She moved from Prime Time anchor of CTV Newschannel to an Ottawa correspondent in CTV’s Parliamentary bureau. In September 2001, LaFlamme became co-host of the number one morning show Canada Am. Her second day on the job, 9-11, the attacks on the World Trade Centre pulled her out of the studio once again to report from New York City, the United Nations, the Pentagon and ultimately Iraq and Afghanistan.
For more than a decade LaFlamme went from conflict zone to disaster zone delivering award winning coverage of hurricanes, earthquakes and climate crises including Southeast Asia in the wake of the deadly 2005 tsunami and Japan’s devastating nuclear emergency in 2011. That same year she was named Canada’s first female anchor of a national nightly newscast replacing longtime anchor Lloyd Robertson.
As Chief Anchor and Senior Editor of CTV National News for almost 12 years, LaFlamme led the country’s number one newscast and cemented her role as the face of news in Canada. During her career, she has received critical acclaim for her live special broadcasts from around the world marking moments in history from Royal weddings to funerals, major political upheaval at home and abroad, the rescue of the Chilean miners, the opioid crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing resilience of refugees. LaFlamme has reported extensively on the humanitarian crisis facing the Afghan people and has worked intensively on helping Afghan women and girls under threat by the Taliban.
The veteran journalist is the recipient of 12 Canadian Screen Awards, consecutive RTDNA awards a Lifetime Achievement Award for broadcasting and journalism and in 2023, The Gordon Sinclair Award for her “exceptional body of work in broadcast journalism.” Over her career she has received an honorary doctorate from her alma mater University of Ottawa, an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont. and the University of Windsor and an honorary Doctor of Letters from Trent University. She is the recipient of the Order of Ontario and in June 2019, was named Officer of the Order of Canada (O.C.), one of the country’s highest honours.
A passionate advocate of democracy in journalism, LaFlamme volunteers for Journalists for Human Rights (JHR) and has traveled with the organization to the Democratic Republic of Congo to mentor young journalists in Goma, in the heart of the conflict zone. She serves as honorary co-chair of the annual JHR Night for Rights and in 2022 was awarded the JHR award for Human Rights Reporting.
Lisa is also an ambassador for Plan International and volunteers for Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan.
Jeilah Chan is a partner at Stikeman Elliott LLP, a leading Canadian law firm.
Jeilah’s desire to foster community interest in the democratic process are rooted in her experiences as a refugee.
She was born in Haiphong, Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Her family was forced to flee as part of the flotilla of refugees who became known as “boat people”. Jeilah, her family and fifty others were set adrift by their smugglers in the South China Sea aboard a small wooden boat. Fortunately picked up by the Macau Coast Guard, they were handed over to authorities in Hong Kong where they were granted refugee status and lived in the refugee camp. They were eventually allowed to settle in a one room apartment with two other families in the largely ungoverned Kowloon Walled City.
When Canada accepted a limited number of Chinese-Vietnamese refugees, a generous family in McBride, BC sponsored them. The Chans eventually relocated to Cambridge, ON where Jeilah’s parents found steady jobs, allowing Jeilah to pursue her education and learn English. With the aid of student loans and part-time jobs, Jeilah obtained a BSc Hons. (U of T) and a law degree (Osgoode Hall).
As a leading lawyer in her field, Jeilah delivers strategic advice on transactions involving intellectual property (IP), and IP enforcement, commercialization, and branding.
Jeilah is serving a two-year term as the Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian IP Review Law Journal. She is recognized in the Canadian Legal Lexpert Directory, Managing IP, World's Leading Trademark Professionals, Chambers Global and Canada, and Legal 500. Jeilah is also involved in other charitable endeavors, including Chiefs In IP (an organization promoting women in policy, technology and law) and the MINA Project (a charity that challenges inequalities and systemic barriers faced by racialized and underserved youth).
Jeilah is forever grateful for the kindness and generosity of Canadians and the opportunities Canada affords its citizens. Taking an active role in the Samara Centre for Democracy strongly resonates with Jeilah’s appreciation for Canada's stable and democratic society.
In 2007, Michael co-founded the Samara Centre for Democracy, and continues to serve as Chair of the Board of Directors.
In 2011, he co-founded and is CEO of Blue Ant Media, a company that produces, distributes, and broadcasts television programming internationally.
In 1978, Michael co-founded Atlantis Films Limited with fellow Queen’s University grads Seaton McLean and Janice Platt. He was Chairman and CEO of Atlantis (which later became Alliance Atlantis) for almost 30 years.
Michael is also the co-founder and co-owner of Closson Chase Vineyard and Winery in Prince Edward County, Ontario.
A member of the Order of Canada, Michael has volunteered with numerous community and industry organizations over many years. He is a Senior Fellow at Massey College and co-author of the book Tragedy in the Commons.
As Partner and VP Strategy for Northweather, Zain Velji brings a decade of experience in political, business, and non-profit communications, as well as marketing and engagement. Zain is also a frequent public speaker and regular political commentator who appears weekly on CBC radio and television and appearing federal election coverage for CTV and Bell Media.
Zain chairs the board of The Canadian Children’s Book Centre, and serves on the boards of the YMCA Calgary, Samara Centre for Democracy, and Pillar 9. His consulting and political experience has allowed him to work for companies and non-profits as well as notable political campaigns, serving as campaign manager for Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi in 2017.
Zain is also the host of the award-winning podcast The Strategists, where he dissects political strategy and public affairs issues of the day and the host of the Zain Velji show on Newstalk 1010. He was named one of Calgary’s Top 40 under 40 by Avenue and was awarded the Horizon Alumni Award by the University of Alberta.
Zain has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Alberta.
Chad Rogers is a strategist, entrepreneur and founding partner at Crestview Strategy, a public affairs agency. Chad helps leaders, companies, and industry associations face crisis head on, make their case, and get things approved.
The Hill Times magazine named Chad one of the ‘Top 100 Lobbyists’ in Canada. A sought-after media commentator, he’s been a member of the ‘Power Panel’ on CBC Television’s Power & Politics. A recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for public service, Chad serves as Honourary Consul of the Republic of Kosovo in Canada.
As a Country Director with the Washington, DC-based National Democratic Institute under chair Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, he’s worked with governments and political leaders around the world. He has advised leaders Armenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cayman Islands, Croatia, Georgia, Iraq, Jordan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Pakistan, Serbia, Trinidad & Tobago, and Ukraine.
Chad is an active board member of Action Against Hunger, True Patriot Love Foundation, the Samara Centre for Democracy, and Journalists for Human Rights.
Originally from Prince Edward Island, Chad resides in Toronto with his partner Mark.
Ruth Ostrower is an executive assistant supporting Michael MacMillan across both his business and philanthropic endeavours. Previously, she served as the executive assistant to Michael when he was the chairman and CEO of Alliance Atlantis. Prior to joining Alliance Atlantis (then Atlantis Communications), she worked for 12 years in the finance industry, primarily in Human Resources. She is the past president of the Toronto Kiwanis Music Festival, where she has volunteered for many years, and is also an active supporter of theatre and dance.
Leen Al Zaibak is a leader in supporting the success of Syrian refugees resettled in Canada and abroad, as both co-Founder and Director of Jusoor, an international NGO that helps Syrian youth continue their education through scholarships and mentorship. Leen currently serves on the board of Lifeline Syria, an initiative to help sponsor and settle 1,000 Syrian refugees in the Greater Toronto Area. She also sits on the Telus Toronto Community Board. She currently serves as a Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of International Relations and Protocol for the Government of Ontario.
Leen holds an Honors Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto, Trinity College, and a Master degree in International Relations from the University of Manchester. She is an advocate for arts and culture in the city serving as Chair of the Emerging Leaders for Toronto Arts Foundation and is on the executive committee for the Royal Ontario Museum’s Young Patron Circle. In 2015, she was named a Torontonian of the year, and in 2016 she was named one of RBC’s Immigrants of the Year. She has appeared on television, including appearances on CBC and Breakfast Television, and has been interviewed by The Globe and Mail, Toronto Life and featured in Reader’s Digest.
Liban Abokor is the Executive Director of Youth LEAPS, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving educational and employment outcomes for Black youth in Toronto. Liban was a founding member of Ontario's Premier's Council on Youth Opportunities, which guided the development of Ontario's Youth Action Plan and Youth Opportunities Fund.
Liban is a dedicated volunteer who has served on the boards of the Laidlaw Foundation, Central Neighbourhood House, and the Catherine Donnelly Foundation. He is now sitting on the board of Shoot For Peace and is a member of the City of Toronto's Economic Development and Culture Division's Program Advisory Committee.
He is also a co-author of the UNFUNDED report and a co-founder of the Foundation for Black Communities, Canada's first-ever philanthropic foundation dedicated to investing directly in Black communities by supporting Black-led, serving and focused non-profits and charities.
Liban holds a Doctor of Laws from Carleton University.
Alex is the Project Coordinator for the SAMbot initiative, which examines how online toxicity affects civic engagement during Canadian elections. He was drawn to the SAMbot project due to his personal and academic interests on how discourse within Canadian politics has changed during the digital age.
Alex is a recent graduate of McMaster University’s Master of Public Policy in Digital Society program, where his research focused on digital privacy law, digital democracy, and the spread of dis- and misinformation online, all within a Canadian context. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Applied Communications, Leadership, and Culture from the University of Prince Edward Island. Through holding previous working roles in research, communications, public affairs, and municipal government, Alex has had experience working within both the non-profit sector and public service.
Beyond online discourse, Alex is passionate about issues surrounding equity within public education, digital literacy, and youth engagement.
Vijai is a public policy enthusiast with a range of research experience at multiple governing levels. He has held research positions at the Indigenomics Institute, Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). He has also worked as the Policy Manager for the Bay Area Climate Change Council. Vijai holds a Master in Global Affairs from the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy as well as Bachelor of Arts from the University of Waterloo.
A proponent of community wealth building, Vijai volunteers to address the crisis of homelessness in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). He is a proponent of community land trusts (CLTs) and “missing middle” infrastructure, providing research support to community groups and nonprofits around affordable housing solutions. He also enjoys demystifying economic policy for non-economist audiences through his writing.
Having a musical background, Vijai is an advocate for the Arts, currently sitting as an Advisor to The Arts, Culture and Creative Industry Development Agency (ACCIDA) in his hometown of Brampton. He also occasionally freelances for music and culture publications like Exclaim! Magazine.
Beatrice is an award-winning researcher, teacher and passionate advocate for participatory democracy. She has taught popular courses on youth democratic activism at Harvard University, the University of Sydney and New York University. She holds an PhD from New York University and a Masters degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and has received major grants to conduct research across Canada, the United States and Ethiopia.
In addition to her academic research and teaching, she has served on steering committees and provided her research and pedagogical expertise to a variety of non-profit organizations and educational publishers, including Students Learn Students Vote, Scholastic Books, and the Faculty Network for Student Voting Rights. She is one of the founders of the Student Vote Research Network. She is frequently asked to provide commentary on democratic engagement and civic participation for diverse media outlets.
Sabreena Delhon is the Chief Executive Officer of the Samara Centre for Democracy. She has over a decade of experience directing multi-stakeholder research and outreach initiatives that have made an impact across justice, academic, and non-profit sectors. Sabreena has appeared as an expert witness before Parliamentary committees on matters relating to political participation and frequently provides commentary about democratic engagement for various media outlets such as the Globe & Mail, CBC Radio and the Toronto Star. She is the host of Humans of the House, a podcast that explores the lived experience of former Members of Parliament. Sabreena previously held senior roles at the Law Society of Ontario and advised non-profit leaders on how to increase engagement with target audiences. She holds a BA in Sociology from the University of Alberta, an MA in Sociology from Dalhousie University and is a Senior Fellow at Massey College. Sabreena is on the board of the Provocation Ideas Festival.