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The Many Gods of Canada Symposium: Day 1 Opening Session

October 18, 2017
6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
George Vari Engineering and Computing Centre, 245 Church Street, Toronto
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The Many Gods of Canada Symposium: Day 2 Sessions

Date           October 19, 2017

Time           9:00 AM - 4:30 PM

Location    Sears Atrium, 245 Church Street, Toronto

Open To     Public



The Many Gods of Canada: Religion, Secularism and Public Policy


We welcome you to the Mind + Action series entitled The Many Gods of Canada: Secularism, Religion and Public Policy.  This unique two-day symposium, taking place October 18 and 19, will explore approaches to navigating the intersections of religion and secularism in Canada today.

This event is bringing together leading thinkers for two days of illuminating discussion, debate, and deliberation on Indigenous Spirituality, Religion and Public Space, Balancing Freedom of Religion, Gender and LGBTQ2 Rights; and Free Speech and Freedom from Hate.

The opening lecture will be by John Ralston Saul, leading Canadian author, philosopher and public intellectual, who will discuss why and how Canada remains the most successful pluralistic nation in the world.

Day two of the event will feature a number of highly acclaimed speakers participating in panel discussions on the different topics.

Speakers include:         

  • Chief Richard Atleo (Umeek) from Victoria – author, environmentalist, philosopher, and founder of Aboriginal Studies Program in British Columbia and elsewhere
  • Prof. Lori Beaman, University of Ottawa, Canada Research Chair, Religion in a Diverse Canada
  • Rabbi Elyse Goldstein, the first woman President of the Toronto Board of Rabbis
  • Kimberly Murray, former Executive Director of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, currently Ontario Assistant Deputy Attorney General
  • Mark Freiman, former president of Canadian Jewish Congress
  • Jim Turk, Distinguished Visiting Professor and Director of Ryerson’s Centre for Free Expression, and
  • Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, City of Toronto.

This Symposium is jointly organized by the Office of the Provost and the Faculty of Arts.

We hope you will join us for this important, timely and engaging event. The symposium is free and open to all; however, registration is required.

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October 18 - DAY 1




6:30 - 7:55 p.m.


John Ralston Saul presents ‘Where Secularism and Faith Meet in Canadian Public Life’

  • Master of Ceremonies Dean of Arts Pamela Sugiman

  • Opening Remarks provided by President Mohamed Lachemi

ENG 103
8:00 p.m. Student Essay Contest Award Ceremony


ENG 103


October 19 - DAY 2




8:00 - 9 a.m. BREAKFAST  
9:00 - 9:55 a.m. Session 1: Aboriginal Spirituality and what Canadians can learn from it
  • Speakers: Chief Richard Atleo & Kimberly Murray
  • Moderator: John Ralston Saul
Sears Atrium
9:55 - 10:15 a.m. COFFEE BREAK  
10:15 - 11:45 a.m. Session 2: Religion and Public Space
  • Speakers: Professor Lori Beaman, Professor Paul Bramadat, Professor Joyce Smith
  • Moderator: Professor Myer Siemiatycki
Sears Atrium
11:50 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. LUNCH Sears Atrium
12:35 - 1:50 p.m. Session 3: Balancing Freedom of Religion, Gender Equity, LGBTQ2 Rights 
  • Speakers: Rabbi Elyse Goldstein, Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam
  • Moderator: Mme. Nathalie Des Rosiers, MPP
Sears Atrium
2:00 - 3:15 p.m. Session 4: Balancing Free Speech and Freedom From Hate 
  • Speakers: Mark Freiman, Professor Jim Turk, Azeezah Kanji
  • Moderator: Haroon Siddiqui
Sears Atrium
3:15 - 3:30 p.m. COFFEE BREAK Sears Atrium
3:35 - 4:15 p.m.

Closing Session: Reflections and Remarks

  • Prof. Charles Falzon, Dean, Faculty of Communication and Design
  • Alok Mukherjee, Distinguished Visiting Professor
  • Anver Saloojee, Assistant Vice-President, International

Sears Atrium

Keynote Speakers

John Ralston Saul

Author, Philosopher, President Emeritus of Pen International, and Distinguished Visiting Professor, Ryerson University

'Where Secularism and Faith Meet in Canadian Public Life'

October 18, 6:30 p.m.

ENG 103, 245 Church St., George Vari Engineering Bld.

John Ralston Saul is an award winning essayist and novelist. His fourteen works have been translated into twenty-eight languages in thirty-seven countries. His most recent works, The Comeback (Le Grand Retour) and A Fair Country (Mon pays métis) are examinations of the remarkable resurgence to power of Indigenous peoples in Canada and have greatly influenced the national conversation on these issues. In his book, The Collapse of Globalism Saul predicted the 2007 global financial crisis and the current surge of populism. Saul has been named a prophet by Times Magazine and is included in Utne Reader's list of the world's 100 leading thinkers and visionaries. His many awards include the Pablo Neruda International Presidential Medal of Honour. His recent writings on immigration and citizenship are increasingly positioning him as one of the leading voices on the subject.

Saul is the former President of PEN International, co-Founder and co-Chair of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship and 6 Degrees Citizen Space, the annual global forum on citizenship and immigration.

Chief Richard Atleo

Professor, University of Victoria

Day Two Opening Session

'Aboriginal Spirituality and what Canadians can learn from it'

October 19, 9:00 a.m.

Sears Atrium, 245 Church St., George Vari Engineering Bld.

Dr. E. Richard Atleo, also known as Umeek, helped to create the First Nations Studies Department at Malaspina University College (now Vancouver Island University) where he taught from 1994 to 2004. He is currently Research Liaison at the University of Manitoba, Associate Adjunct Professor at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, a Board Member of the Centre for Environmental Resources, and Champion to the Indigenous Adult and Higher Learning Association of British Columbia. In addition to serving on the Equity Committee of the Canadian Association of University Teachers since its inception, he has also been Co-Chair of the Scientific Panel for Sustainable Forest Practices in Clayoquot Sound and a member of the board of Ecotrust Canada.

He began his life in the house of his great grandfather Keesta, a whaling chief among the Nuu-chah-nulth people. He has been an assistant superintendent of education, a lecturer and Research Associate in Anthropology at UBC, a visiting assistant professor of resource and environmental management at Simon Fraser University and Professor and sometime Chair of First Nations Studies at what is now Vancouver Island University. From 1986 to 1989 and again from 1992 to 1993 he conducted a province-wide research into First Nations K-12 education in British Columbia that was meant to respond to the Hawthorn Report of 1966-67.  He has lectured overseas at Nicolas Copernicus University and the University of Silesia in Poland as well as in Germany at Greifswald University, Luneberg University, and Urania, a Scientific Society founded in Berlin in 1888. He has participated in cervical cancer research with the Vancouver Cancer Agency as well as been involved with Contemporary and Traditional Medicine with a focus upon HIV Aids in Ghana, Africa.

In external,Tsawalk: A Nuu-chah-nulth Worldview, external link (UBC Press, 2004), he introduces an ontology drawn from Nuu-chah-nulth origin stories that makes meaning of indigenous culture. His latest publication, released November, 2011, entitled 'Principles of Tsawalk: An Indigenous Approach to Global Crisis' elaborates on some pragmatic applications to the meaning of the first book. A third book is in press completes the Tsawalk trilogy.


Lori Beaman

Professor and Canada Research Chair, University of Ottawa

Lori G. Beaman, Ph.D., F.R.S.C., is Canada Research Chair in Religious Diversity and Social Change and Professor in the Department of Classics and Religious Studies at the University of Ottawa. She is Principal Investigator of the Religion and Diversity Project, a 37 member international research team whose focus is religion and diversity (

Publications include: Deep Equality in an Era of Religious Diversity (Oxford University Press, 2017) ; “Living Together v. Living Well Together: A Normative Examination of the SAS Case,” Social Inclusion, 4(2) 2016: 3-13; “Reframing Understandings of Religion: Lessons from India,” in S. Sikka, B. Puri, and L.G. Beaman (eds.) Living with Religious Diversity, 37-48 (Routledge India, 2015); “The Will to Religion: Obligatory Religious Citizenship,” Critical Research on Religion, 1(2) 2013: 141-157; “Battles over Symbols: The ‘Religion’ of the Minority Versus the ‘Culture’ of the Majority,” Journal of Law and Religion, 28(1) 2012/3: 101-138; Defining Harm: Religious Freedom and the Limits of the Law (UBC Press, 2008).

She is the 2017 recipient of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada’s Impact Award in the Insight Category. 

Paul Bramadat

Professor, Director, Centre for Studies in Religion and Society, University of Victoria

Paul Bramadat is Professor and Director of the Centre for Studies in Religion and Society at the University of Victoria, in British Columbia, Canada.

He has written extensively on issues related to Canada’s multiculturalism and immigration policies, the ways radicalization is understood and managed in Canada, and the complex ways the Canadian health system has responded to the religious and spiritual needs of its citizens. His articles have appeared in venues such as the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Studies in Religion, and Canadian Ethnic Studies, and his authored or edited books have included The Church on the World’s Turf (Oxford University Press), Religion and Ethnicity in Canada (University of Toronto Press), Christianity and Ethnicity in Canada (UTP), Spirituality in Hospice Palliative Care (SUNY Press), International Migration and the Governance of Religious Diversity (McGill-Queen’s University Press), and Public Health in the Age of Anxiety: Religious and Cultural Roots of Vaccine Hesitancy in Canada (UTP).

Mark Freiman

Toronto lawyer, past President Canadian Jewish Congress

Mark J. Freiman practices law at the firm of Lerners LLP in Toronto. He appears regularly in high profile cases at all levels of the Canadian legal system.

From 2000 to 2004, Mr. Freiman was Deputy Attorney General for Ontario and from 2009-2011 he was President of Canadian Jewish Congress.

Mr. Freiman has served as Lead Commission Counsel at the Air India Public Inquiry as well as for the Canadian Human Rights Commission proceedings against Ernst Zundel and his internet hate site, and has appeared in the Supreme Court of Canada in the Whatcott case.

Mr. Freiman frequently writes, teaches and speaks on topics related to national security, human rights and media. The recipient of numerous academic awards, he has taught extensively at the university level in both Law and the Humanities.

In addition to undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Toronto, Mr. Freiman also holds a PhD. from Stanford University.

Elyse Goldstein

Rabbi of City Shul, the first woman President of the Toronto Board of Rabbis

Rabbi Elyse Goldstein is currently the founding Rabbi of City Shul in downtown Toronto.

Rabbi Goldstein is the first woman to be elected as president of the interdenominational Toronto Board of Rabbis and is the past president of the Reform Rabbis of Greater Toronto.  

She has been a guest lecturer at universities and Jewish and Christian organizations across Canada and internationally, and is one of seven women featured in the Canadian National Film Board documentary, “Half the Kingdom.” Her articles have appeared in the Journal of Reform Judaism, Sh’ma, Lilith Magazine, Grail, The Journal of Canadian Women’s Studies and others.

Her first book, ReVisions: Seeing Torah through a Feminist Lens, was published by Jewish Lights in the fall of 1998 and won the Canadian National Jewish Book Awards in the field of Bible. She is the 2005 recipient of the most prestigious award in Jewish education, the internationally recognized Covenant Award for Exceptional Jewish Educators.

Kimberly Murray


Province of Ontario’s Assistant Deputy Attorney General for Indigenous Justice


Kimberly Murray is a member of the Kahnesatake Mohawk Nation.  She is the Province of Ontario’s first ever Assistant Deputy Attorney General for Indigenous Justice. She has been in this role since April 1, 2015.

Prior to this position, Kimberly was the executive director of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada where she worked to ensure that survivors of Canada’s Indian Residential Schools system were heard and remembered, and to promote reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

From 1995 to 2010, Kimberly was staff lawyer and then executive director of Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto. She has appeared before the Ontario Court of Appeal, the Federal Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court of Canada on Aboriginal legal issues. She has acted as counsel or co-counsel on numerous Coroner Inquests, was instructing counsel for ALST at the Ipperwash Inquiry and co-counsel for ALST at the Goudge Inquiry and the Frank Paul Inquiry in British Columbia. Kimberly is the recipient of the Dianne Martin Medal for Social Justice Through Law, the City of Toronto’s Aboriginal Affairs Access, Equity and Human Rights Award, the Law Foundation’s Guthrie Award, the Law Society of Upper Canada’s Laura Legge Award and received the 2017 National Aboriginal Achievement Award for Law and Justice. She was also an Adjunct Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School where she co-facilitated the Aboriginal Land Resource and Governance Intensive program. Recently, the Indigenous Bar Association granted Kimberly the Indigenous Peoples Counsel (IPC) designation.

Joyce Smith

Associate Professor in the School of Journalism at Ryerson University

Joyce Smith is an Associate Professor in the School of Journalism at Ryerson University in Toronto.

In addition to studying the representation of religion in mainstream Canadian, American and South African news media, she continues to examine the evolution of journalism in a digital age. She has been a Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholar, held a Rockefeller Foundation Research Fellowship and received funding from SSHRC. From its inception, Joyce has been a core member of the International Society for Media, Religion and Culture as well as a former editor for the

James L. Turk

Distinguished Visiting Professor and Director of Ryerson’s Centre for Free Expression

James L. Turk is Distinguished Visiting Professor and Director of Ryerson’s Centre for Free Expression.  From 1998 to 2014, he served as Executive Director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers.

Prior to joining CAUT, Jim was an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto. He gave up his tenure to work in the trade union movement – in senior positions at the United Electrical Workers, the Ontario Federation of Labour, and CUPE

Jim has written and spoken extensively on academic freedom, university governance, civil liberties, commercialization of universities and related public policy issues. His most recent book is an edited collection, Academic Freedom in Conflict: The Struggle over Speech Rights in the University.

Kristyn Wong-Tam

Councillor, City of Toronto


Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam is Toronto's only openly gay, racialized City Councillor. She has an extensive career investing in the City of Toronto through both the public and private sectors. Her contributions have led to the development and support of numerous social planning programs, business ventures, art endeavours and successful community initiatives.

She has championed the development of Gender-Responsive Budgeting at the Municipal level, Toronto's first LGBTQ youth shelters, and initialized comprehensive, sustainable planning policies in the downtown.  She has led the way in ensuring Toronto's downtown communities are liveable and sustainable for all residents.

$5,000 Essay Contest


We are excited to announce the 2017 Mind and Action Symposium $5,000 Essay Contest.


Eligibility & Categories:

Must be a Ryerson student in an undergraduate or graduate program.


The most meritorious essay in each category will receive $1,500 award, be recognized at the Conference, and have the winning essays published online and/or in print.

Two Honourable Mentions among the meritorious  essays will each receive a $500 award in both undergraduate and graduate categories.    


Canada was a compact between Catholics and Protestants who came together in 1867 in a political compromise that has served Canada well. Today, Canada is among the world's most religiously diverse societies. Both religion and secularism are defining elements of Canada’s population and the Canadian narrative. 

We sing: 'God our keep our land glorious and free.’ The Charter guarantees freedom of religion. Yet there are balances to be struck between that right and gender equity as well as LGBTQ rights, and between free speech and freedom from hate.

  • Option 1: Write on the challenges, riches and best approaches to living in a multi-religious, secular society. You may draw on any combination of personal experience, public events, culture, and/or academic reading to discuss how government and society can best balance diverse belief systems in a single country.
  • Option 2: You may address the question: ‘Can Religious Diversity and Secularism Co-Exist?’ You may draw on any combination of personal experience, public events, culture, and/or academic reading to discuss how government and society can best balance diverse belief systems in a single country.

Essay Length: between 800 - 1,000 words.

Essays will be judged on good writing, clarity of thought, marshalling of arguments and evidence, and persuasiveness.

There is no specified format or style requirement for your essay. It can be written as an academic essay, a personal experience, or a personal viewpoint. Include your Ryerson program of study on your essay.

Submission Deadline:  

Friday, October 13th at 12 p.m.

Submit Essays to:

For Further Information:

 Professor Myer Siemiatycki

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To RSVP for the events please register separately for Day 1 and Day 2. Click the buttons below:

DAY 1 - Opening Session ONLY

DAY 2 - All Events

Contact Us

For general enquiries, please contact:

Mia Hershkowitz at

For accessibility accommodations and to ensure your inclusion in this event, please contact us at 416-979-5000 Ext. 4040 or email

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