Annual conference and business meeting

Friday, October 23, 2015 - 17:00 to Sunday, October 25, 2015 - 12:30


In 2015, the Council celebrated 30 years of bringing people together to act for social justice. You have been a part of our past success and more importantly, you are a part of our future.

Thank you to everyone who was able to join us from October 23-25 in Windsor as we reflected on the federal election results and what the new Liberal majority government means for civil society and for Canada. We looked to the future to imagine the country we want with good green jobs, a vibrant democracy, a strong public health care system, clean water and a healthy environment, justice for Indigenous peoples and opportunities for youth.

Audio recordings:

Photo highlights:




Chief HillierChief Louise Hillier
Chief Louise Hillier is a citizen of the Caldwell First Nation, which has a tribal affiliation to Pottawatomi. Caldwell First Nation is part of the Three Fires Confederacy. Chief Hillier was elected in 2007 and was the first female chief for Caldwell First Nation. During her first term of office, she and other First Nation Council members settled the land claim that had been outstanding for more than 220 years. In 2010, this was the largest per capita land claim settlement in Ontario.

Keynote Speakers

Maude Barlow
Maude BarlowMaude Barlow is the National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians and chairs the board of Washington-based Food & Water Watch. Maude is the recipient of twelve honorary doctorates as well as many awards, including the 2005 Right Livelihood Award (known as the “Alternative Nobel”), the 2005 Lannan Foundation Cultural Freedom Fellowship Award, the Citation of Lifetime Achievement at the 2008 Canadian Environment Awards, the 2009 Earth Day Canada Outstanding Environmental Achievement Award, the 2009 Planet in Focus Eco Hero Award, and the 2011 EarthCare Award, the highest international honour of the Sierra Club (U.S.). In 2008/2009, she served as Senior Advisor on Water to the 63rd President of the United Nations General Assembly and was a leader in the campaign to have water recognized as a human right by the UN. She is the author of dozens of reports, as well as 17 books, including her latest, Blue Future: Protecting Water for People and the Planet Forever.

Pam PalmaterDr. Pamela D. Palmater
Pam Palmater is a Mi’kmaw citizen and member of the Eel River Bar First Nation in northern New Brunswick. She has been a practicing lawyer for 16 years and is currently an Associate Professor and the Chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University. Pam has worked on First Nation issues for more than 25 years on topics such as poverty, housing, child and family services, treaty rights, education and legislation impacting First Nations. She came in second in the Assembly of First Nations election for National Chief in 2012 and was one of the spokespeople, organizers and public educators for the Idle No More movement in 2012-13. She has numerous publications including her book, Beyond Blood: Rethinking Indigenous Identity. Her political blog, Indigenous Nationhood, has been reposted and reprinted in numerous formats and will soon be published as a book. Pam is frequently called as an expert before Parliamentary and United Nations committees dealing with laws and policies impacting Indigenous peoples.

Jerry DiasJerry Dias
Jerry Dias is the National President of Unifor and leads the union’s ambitious efforts to help change the country into one in which we can all benefit from good jobs, safe communities and a prosperous, inclusive economy. Jerry began his work life in 1978 at de Havilland Aircraft (now Bombardier Aerospace) where he served as steward, plant chair and eventually President of Local 112. In 1993, he was appointed to the union’s national staff as the aerospace sector co-ordinator, and four years later, he was appointed an assistant to the CAW National President. Jerry is an effective negotiator who has taken on corporate giants such as General Motors, Boeing and Coca-Cola. He has also led numerous campaigns during his four decades in the labour movement, including many that have prevented workplace closures and others that have led to the implementation of important improvements for workers’ safety and rights. Over the last three years, Jerry and his son Jordan have raised funds for the Halton Women’s Place, a women’s shelter and centre in Burlington, Ontario.

Gordon LaxerGordon Laxer
Gordon Laxer is the founding Director and former head of Parkland Institute at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. He is a political economist and professor emeritus at the University of Alberta. His latest book, After the Sands: Energy and Ecological Security for Canadians, outlines a bold plan for Canada to end carbon energy exports, phase out the tar sands, get to a low carbon society and ensure that every Canadian has access to a basic amount of non-carbon energy in future. A previous book, Open for Business: The Roots of Foreign Ownership in Canada, received the 1992 John Porter Award for best book written about Canada. Gordon participated with seven others in the very first meeting of the Council of Canadians at Mel Hurtig’s publishing company’s office in Edmonton in January 1985. He was first chair of the Council’s Edmonton chapter and served on the Council’s board from 2004 to 2009. His website is


Panelists – Water Justice: Struggles and strategies around the Great Lakes and beyond

Vanessa Gray is a 22-year-old Anishinaabe kwe from the Aamjiwnaang First Nation, located in Canada's Chemical Valley. As a former youth Green Teens community organizer, Vanessa worked with community members to bring awareness to the health issues due to the toxic surroundings. She is an organizer with  Aamjiwnaang and Sarnia Against Pipelines and continues to speak for the health of the environment for future generations of all people.

Maureen Taylor was elected State Chair of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization in 1993 and has  led this union for over 20 years. Michigan Welfare Rights Organization is a union of public assistance recipients, low-income workers, unemployed persons and economically disenfranchised people based in Detroit. Maureen is a professional social worker by trade and a revolutionary by choice. Maureen is a popular speaker and frequent guest on television and radio programs including, “Ask Welfare Rights,” a weekly show on WHPR in Highland Park with NWRU Co-President, Marian Kramer.

Meera Karunananthan is the international water campaigner for the Blue Planet Project, an international project with staff in Mexico City, Delhi, Cape Town and Ottawa. The Blue Planet Project works with groups and communities around the world to defend the global water commons and promote the human right to water and sanitation. Over the past two years, Meera successfully campaigned with allies at the United Nations to have the human right to water and sanitation included in the Sustainable Development Goals that were launched this September. 

Ray Letheren is a teacher and designer who lives in Bayfield, Ontario. Since retiring in 1995, Ray has committed his time to protecting our waters. He is the founder of Friends of the Bayfield and co-founder of the Bayfield River Valley Trail Association. Both organizations are committed to source water protection. His environmental activism influenced the change in culture at a local hospital where he served as Foundation Chair. He was recognized as the Conservationist of Year in 2003 and 2005. Over the last ten years he has worked to have Bayfield recognized as a Blue Community.  He and his colleagues on the Bayfield Blue Community Project continue to promote awareness of the risks that human behaviour pose to the Great Lakes.

Panelists – Reframing Our Collective Future

Baijayanta (Baj) Mukhopadhyay is a family physician who lives in Montreal and works in northern communities in Ontario and Quebec, particularly in the James Bay Cree territories. He trained at McGill University and the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. His main clinical interests are the impact of socioeconomic contexts on health outcomes, in particular, the realities of colonization and resource extraction apparent in the north. He is the co-coordinator of the Canadian chapter of the People’s Health Movement, which is a global network of health justice activists, working on the health impacts related to such issues as climate change, extractivism and free trade.

Gus Van Harten is a professor at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. He is the author of Sold Down the Yangtze: Canada's Lopsided Investment Deal with China, which explains and debunks the Canada-China FIPA of 2014. He has written two academic texts on investment treaties: Sovereign Choices and Sovereign Constraints: Judicial Restraint in Investment Treaty Arbitration and Investment Treaty Arbitration and Public Law. He has a blog at He lives in Burlington, Ontario.

Marion Overholt has practiced law in Windsor and Essex County for 33 years. She is the Executive Director of Legal Assistance of Windsor and Community Legal Aid. She was a staff lawyer at Legal Assistance of Windsor for many years and has represented clients in public law benefits practice while training law students in the practice of poverty law. Over of the years she has been a board member of numerous community agencies and social justice initiatives. For ten years Marion was the Social Justice Representative on the Windsor and District Labour Council Executive Board.

Mark Bartlett has been working since 1985 to make environmental sustainability a top priority for Unifor (formerly the Canadian Auto Workers union). Mark served on the Ontario Environment Network, the Canadian Environment Network, the Canadian Centre for Pollution Prevention Roundtable, the Windsor/Essex County Environment Committee and is currently co-chair of the Windsor & District Labour Council Environment Committee. Since 2007, Mark has worked full-time as the UNIFOR Local 444 Community Environment Representative. As President of the Unifor Windsor Regional Environment Council (UWREC) he represents 40,000 members. He initiated the UWREC Green Jobs Campaign and co-founded Green Collar Jobs Ontario.

Workshop facilitators

Fathima Cader is member of the Network to Eliminate Police Violence. She is a poverty lawyer based in Toronto. She has appeared before a variety of tribunals and courts and has provided research assistance on a range of Charter cases. She taught at the Faculty of Law at the University of Windsor.

Andrea Anderson is a criminal defence lawyer and doctoral candidate in law at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University. Her research focuses on intersectionality, race and the criminal justice system in Canada. She has served as a former board member of the Chief Advisory Committee of York Regional Police.