The CanRoots East program is available - download here

Calling all progressive organizers!

CanRoots brings together people from across the progressive movement to connect with like-minded organizers, draw inspiration from each other, and gain concrete skills to help us win more campaigns.

It's a chance to meet and learn from the people behind some of the year's most successful campaigns, and to strengthen our movement as we prepare for the challenges ahead.

Saturday, May 4 -- Toronto


Join us for a day of case studies, skill building, and learning from each other's successes.


Ilona Duverge
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Alessandra Biaggi campaigns
Born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Scranton PA, Ilona is a rising fierce advocate for justice. She served as the Deputy Organizing Director for the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez campaign and the Regional Field Director for the Alessandra Biaggi campaign this past election cycle, and is also a peer success coach at her school, John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY). Most recently, she co-founded and serves as the NYC Director of Movement School, a project of Organize for Justice (the sister organization of Justice Democrats). Movement School trains the next generation of electoral organizers to run people powered campaigns that transcend lines of race, class, and gender.

Lynn Gehl, PhD
Advocate, artist, writer
​Lynn Gehl, PhD, is an Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe. She is an advocate, artist, writer, and an outspoken critic of colonial law and policies that harm Indigenous women, men, children, and the Land. Her 2014 book based on her doctoral work “The Truth that Wampum Tells: My Debwewin on the Algonquin Land Claims Process” was published with Fernwood Publishing. Her 2017 book, titled “Claiming Anishinaabe: Decolonizing the Human Spirit”, explores her journey deeper into Indigenous knowledge and was published with the University of Regina Press. In April 2017 Lynn was successful in defeating Indian and Northern Affairs Canada’s unstated paternity policy when the Court of Appeal for Ontario ruled the sex discrimination in the policy was unreasonable.

Adam Awad
Point Blank Creative
Adam is an accomplished digital organizer with over a decade of experience in community organizing, empowerment, digital tool implementation, and a fantastic attention to detail. As Digital Organizer for Canada’s NDP, Adam produced all digital fundraising products for the NDP, contributing to the single best year of fundraising in the Party’s history. He has worked on campaigns across the student movement, in community health care, and all three levels of politics.

Alec Farquhar
Ban Asbestos Canada
Alec Farquhar is a lawyer with a long career involved with asbestos disease compensation and prevention. He is currently coordinator of Asbestos Free Canada. Previously, Alec was Director of the Office of the Worker Adviser (OWA), an agency of the Ontario Ministry of Labour which advises and represents non-unionized workers in their workers’ compensation claims and appeals. This included involvement in hundreds of asbestos disease cases. Alec came to the OWA from the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers where he was Managing Director, and before that from the Ontario Ministry of Labour where he was the Director of the Occupational Health and Safety Branch. In both of these positions, Alec was extensively involved in detection and prevention of asbestos disease as well as related regulatory enforcement.

Amara Possian
Amara is a campaigner, facilitator, and engagement specialist. She loves to help people align around a clear vision and smart strategy, and build the skills and strong relationships needed to make change happen.

Over the past decade, she has trained and coached thousands of community organizers. She has worked in universities and non-profits, built organizations, run for office, and managed advocacy campaigns including Vote Together, Leadnow’s groundbreaking 2015 election campaign.

Amara is the Canada Campaigns Manager at, serves on the board of the Centre of Story-based Strategy, and teaches digital campaigning as a part-time professor in Seneca College's Government Relations graduate program.

Andrea Bastien
Indigenous Climate Action
Andrea has an extensive, continuous, and evolving relationship with music and community engagement, one that brings her to a variety of cultural and educational projects and events. This led her to work with organizations such as Redwire NYM, UMAYC, Indigenous Media Arts Group, Raven Spirit Dance, imagineNATIVE, Toronto Aboriginal Youth Council, TDSB Aboriginal Education, and Naadmaagit Ki Group along with many others. These endeavors resonated in youth work, leading workshops, programming, planning, mentorship, and land-based initiatives. Andrea has been a: youth advocate, advisor, administrator, performer, program facilitator, and communications coordinator, to name of few of her past roles.

Andrew Burns
Point Blank Creative
Originally from New Zealand, Andrew has worked on campaigns across the world, leading innovative and world-class digital programs. Most notably, he ran the digital campaign that led to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern taking office in 2017, in an upset victory. Alongside this, Andrew has worked on other advocacy and political campaigns in New Zealand, Canada, Australia and the UK.

Brad Honywill
Engaging with media
Brad Honywill was a reporter and editor with a variety of newspapers in Ontario for 25 years, including the Hamilton Spectator and the Toronto Sun. He also taught journalism and new media at both Sheridan and Humber colleges and served as president of the union local representing journalists and other newspaper employees in Ontario for five years. He is currently a representative for Unifor 87-M, where he bargains contracts and advocates on behalf of unionized media employees.

Carolyn Ferns
Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care
Carolyn Ferns is Public Policy Coordinator at the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care. Carolyn has a Bachelor's degree in Early Childhood Education and a Master's degree in Early Childhood Studies. She is a member of the Board of Directors of both Child Care Now of Canada and the Childcare Resource and Research Unit.

Chris Rider
Chris joined CPAWS Yukon as Executive Director in March 2016. A native of Australia, Chris has lived in Whitehorse since 2012 and previously worked as Executive Director of BYTE – Empowering Youth Society, an organization that works with youth in the Yukon’s First Nations communities. Chris has a Masters Degree in Commerce (International Business) from Swinburne University in Melbourne and has worked in non-profit management since 2008. Chris is friend to a black and white dog called Hutch, who comes to work at the CPAWS office most days. Whitehorse residents may recognize them from their daily walks down Two Mile Hill.

Duncan Pike
Institute for Change Leaders
Duncan Pike is a freelance writer and editor and former Executive Director of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression. He holds a Master of Global Affairs from the University of Toronto. He formerly worked as an Analyst for the UN Development Program in Istanbul and a Policy Analyst for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.

Ellen Bowles
Ellen Bowles is a letter carrier, and Delivering Community Power campaign coordinator for the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. Delivering Community Power attempts to tackle the biggest issues of our time: poverty, climate change, and inequality; and sees our postal system and infrastructure as the green hub of the next economy.

Helen Hargreaves
Institute for Change Leaders
Helen lives in Toronto with her wife and daughter and is passionate about creating a more just and environmentally sustainable world. She is a registered Social Worker and primarily works with children and families to help them respond to strong emotions in more compassionate ways.

Jacqueline Lee-Tam
Youth Rising Montreal
Jacqueline Lee-Tam is an organizer who grew up on the unceded and unsurrendered territories of the Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations, colonially known as Vancouver, B.C. She has been involved with the resistance to the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion since 2014 and since moving to Tio'tia:ke / Montreal, has been organizing with Divest McGill and Youth Rising Montreal. She studies Environment, Gender and Economics at McGill.

Justine Smyth
Civic Institute of Professional Personnel
Justine Smyth is the Communications Officer for the Civic Institute of Professional Personnel (CIPP), the union for professionals at the City of Ottawa and Ottawa Community Housing. In 2018, Justine played a lead role in developing and implementing a highly successful grassroots campaign against one of the world’s largest pension funds to protect CIPP members’ pension benefits. Her diverse background in communications with a special interest in unique digital campaign tactics contributed to the campaign’s success as well as ongoing CIPP advocacy initiatives.

Katie Perfitt
Katie Perfitt is a National Organizer with Katie grew up in a working class community west of Ottawa. She sees her community and so many others dealing with the economic and health impacts of the climate crisis while CEO's of massive corporations rake in billions and funnel money to politicians. Katie believes that we need a plan that tackles climate change that ensures no one is left behind -- no matter the hand you've been dealt and is supporting young people who want to organize for a future beyond fossil fuels.

Laurie Monsebraaten
Toronto Star
Laurie Monsebraaten is the Star's Social Justice Reporter. She writes about poverty, inequality and social programs including welfare, child care, Children's Aid and disability rights. Other interests include affordable housing and the plight of low-wage, non-standard workers. A Star reporter for more than 30 years, Laurie’s work has received numerous National Newspaper Award nominations and has garnered three citations of merit for the prestigious Michener Award for public service journalism.

Lorraine Segato
Institute for Change Leaders
For over 35 years Lorraine Segato has earned a reputation as a charismatic and iconoclastic performer. Her unique voice is compelling and identifiable no matter what format or medium she creatively explores. Lorraine joins the Institute to add artistic and cultural training and practices into our curriculum. Lorraine draws on her extensive experience as an arts ambassador to teach organizers to utilize artistic expressions—including music, film, art, and performances—to tell their stories and motivate others to action

Maya Menezes
The Leap
Maya Menezes is a daughter of immigrants from India and Pakistan. Maya grew up in Toronto, the territory of the Dish With One Spoon agreement. She is the Senior Manager of Development at The Leap, a core organizer with No One Is Illegal Toronto, a member Board of Directors with Web of Change, a delegate to this year’s UNFCCC COP24 summit in Katowice, Poland and an alum of the University of Toronto having studied Environmental Science and Equity Studies in race, class and gender.

Monica De Vera
Progress Toronto
Monica is a Founding Advisor of Progress Toronto and is currently an Organizer on their staff team. She is also a Masters of Environmental Studies candidate in planning at York University. She has been involved in the university through committees, a graduate and research assistantship, and was a visiting student at Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main, Germany for research on climate change, social movements and the right to the city.

Olivia Chow
Institute for Change Leaders
In a political career that began in 1985, Olivia Chow has been one of Canada’s most effective and well known public figures. She now leads the Institute’s educational initiatives. In 1991, Olivia became the first Asian-born woman elected as a Metro Toronto Councilor. She was re-elected to city council five times, serving with distinction for 14 years. While at City Hall, she served as Chair of the Community Services Committee and Vice Chair of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), among other senior responsibilities. First elected to Parliament in 2006, Olivia won re-election twice. In Parliament, her Early Learning and Child Care Bill laid the legislative foundation for a universal, high quality, affordable and non-profit national childcare program. She also pushed for faster family reunification and giving a chance for immigrants to succeed through recognition of foreign credentials and employment initiatives. Throughout her career, Olivia has been at the forefront, working for progress for all. She has reached across party lines and travelled across the country, forging alliances with municipal and provincial leaders, business and advocacy groups. Outside the political sphere, Olivia is known as a tireless spokesperson, fundraiser and champion of numerous charities such as the Canadian Cancer Society and related charities, Centre for Victims of Torture, Asian Community AIDS Service and Culture Link.

Rahat Hossain
Institute for Change Leaders
Rahat is a resident physician at the University of Toronto. A trainer and facilitator at the Institute for Change Leaders, he founded HEART (“Health and Equity through Advocacy, Research, and Transformation”), a program which transforms stories gathered from people experiencing marginalization into participatory, research-based theatre as a platform for policy-making. Through HEART, Rahat has been establishing the basis for “health policy by the homeless,” seeking to disrupt how policy is shaped to center those with lived experience. He also plans and teaches a yearly session on health advocacy for medical students at McMaster University, conducts research in medical education using lived experience and theatre, and is undertaking health services and policy research to enhance knowledge and practice in health care for people experiencing homelessness.

Rayne Fisher-Quann
March for Our Education
Rayne Fisher-Quann is a student, activist, and public speaker. After founding the March for Our Education movement in response to the Ford government's education changes, she made history when she co-led the largest high school walkout in Canada's history. She has since gone on to work with the United Nations Girls' Education Initiative, and was named one of Chatelaine's Women of the Year as well as one of the Most Powerful Women in Canada by Refinery29.

Sandra Whiting
Institute for Change Leaders
Sandra Whiting has been at the epicentre of activity and change in Toronto’s African Canadian community for over thirty years. She has worked with among others: The Black Business & Professional Association, the Jamaican Canadian Association, The YWCA, Factory Theatre, Obsidian Theatre, The Caribbean Cultural Committee; The Convention Centre; the Broadcast Standards Council and many more organizations as President, Board member and volunteer and is now the President for PACE Canada.

She was awarded the Harry Jerome Award for Community Leadership, has received the JCA Award, Pace Canada Pacesetter Award; Community Service awards from the JCA & JN & the Gleaner Company and was featured on the Black History Month Legacy poster as well as being named as one of the 100 ABC Women (Accomplished Black Canadian Women of 2016).

She also has her name on a Bench of prominent African Canadian at Harbourfront Centre for her work in the Cultural arts sector.

As a writer and storyteller, Sandra uses the arts as a vehicle for change.

Sandra now concentrates on being a speaker using personal stories as her means of delivering her message.

Steph Glanzmann
Future Majority
Steph Glanzmann grew up in the suburbs of Toronto and has been organizing around climate justice and youth engagement for the past 5 years. During her time at the University of British Columbia, Steph led in the fossil fuel divestment movement, organized youth voting campaigns and maintains her sanity in queer dance spaces. She is currently a Lead Organizer for Future Majority, a non-partisan non-profit that is working to activate students on college campuses across Canada.

Tim Harper
Freelance writer
Tim Harper spent more than three decades covering politics on both sides of the border serving as Toronto Star bureau chief in Vancouver, Ottawa and Washington. He is a former national editor and national affairs correspondent at The Star. Tim covered seven federal elections and three U.S. presidential campaigns and served as a regular pundit on radio and television. Since leaving The Star, Tim co-authored Excessive Force, a study of police reform nominated for a Donner Award and has done extensive writing for a wide array of clients.


Full program

8:30 Breakfast and registration
9:00 Welcome and opening remarks
Opening keynote
Ilona Duverge in conversation with Amara Possian
Behind Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s stunning upset victory in the American midterm elections was hard organizing work - and a lot of it. Ilona Duverge was Deputy Organizing Director on the campaign; she shares her stories on how they built local power, and how this experience has launched a whole new wave of organizer training with Movement School.

Joining her is Amara Possian, National Organizing Director for’s Canadian election campaign.
Case study
Protect the Peel
Chris Rider

The Peel Watershed is one of the last remaining intact mountain river ecosystems in North America; wildlife and biodiversity continue to thrive in this pristine wilderness, undisturbed by roads and industry. For nearly three decades CPAWS Yukon has been working to protect the Peel, standing up with First Nations, other environmental organizations and the public to resist government efforts to industrialize the region. Hear about their winning strategy, and how they have continued raising the bar to push for greater protections for the Peel.
Case study
Changing the channel on Kinder Morgan
Stephanie Glanzmann and Jacqueline Lee-Tam

What does an aerial blockade of Vancouver Harbour have to do with an open letter from the Prime Minister's youth council? Join us for a discussion on the creative tactics used by anti-pipeline activists against Kinder Morgan, and how they managed to grab public attention and maintain pressure through the dips in the campaign.
Telling your story: Public narratives
Sandra Whiting and Rahat Hossain

There is nothing more powerful than a story. We connect with each other through stories, tapping into hope and emotion to break habits and drive change. In this workshop, we refine our stories of self, us, and now -- and get at the heart of why we do what we do. Through this, we start to bring people together around our causes, and show why our communities must act now.

Hosted by the Institute for Change Leaders
Effective digital campaigns
Andrew Burns

From identifying new supporters, to engaging with members, to fundraising, digital tactics are an important part of our campaigns. Andrew Burns walks us through the important elements of a strong digital campaign, rooted in his experience working on New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s upset campaign.

Hosted by Point Blank Creative
Organizing together toward a Green New Deal
Maya Menezes, Andrea Bastien, Ellen Bowles, Katie Perfitt (moderator)

The only way we will win lasting victories is by working together. The issues of climate change, Indigenous rights, economic justice, and workers’ rights are all linked -- and our response must be as well.

Join us for a conversation on how we build campaigns that reach across our various communities and unite us in common cause, and how this is starting to happen with the Green New Deal. Then come together and take action.
12:20 Lunch and group discussions
1:00 Group discussions report-back
Media and messaging: the relationship between organizers and journalists
Laurie Monsebraaten, Tim Harper, Brad Honywill (moderator)

Effective messaging is a must-have for modern campaigns, and the media plays a huge role in shaping public conversations. Our panel of veteran journalists discuss some of the best practices that organizers can use to earn media attention, and how to ensure that their causes are covered.
Case study
Mobilizing meets organizing: #StudentsSayNo and #ECEPower
Rayne Fisher-Quann, Carolyn Ferns, Olivia Chow (facilitator)

Do we go wide -- or do we go deep? In this session we look at two case studies: the social media mobilizing that brought 200,000 students onto the streets against Doug Ford, and the deep organizing that prevented a funding cut to chronically underpaid childcare workers.

When do we mobilize, when do we organize, and how can we use the best of both approaches?
Case study
Building power in unions, with CIPP and CUPW
Jamie Dunn, Justine Smyth, Ellen Bowles

How did a small municipal union take on the OMERS pension board -- and win? Hear about how the Civic Institute Of Professional Personnel built a member-focused organizing culture. Then, see how the Delivering Community Power campaign has been transforming the Canadian Union of Postal Workers in similar ways.
Engaging with media
Brad Honywill

In this follow-up to the Media and Messaging panel, you’ll have an opportunity to dig deeper in media engagement strategies. Practice your media pitch, step into the shoes of a journalist, get some help to hone your message and your media advisory.
Campaign strategy: Journalist shield law
Duncan Pike

In this workshop, you'll learn to identify a theory of change, drill down to the most important components of that strategy, and then develop the right tactics to advance your goals and grow your organization.

We'll use the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression's campaign for a press shield law protecting journalistic sources as a concrete example of strategy building.

Hosted by the Institute for Change Leaders
3:15 (coffee break)
Case study
Issue-based Campaigns and Fighting Doug Ford
Monica De Vera

Progress Toronto a non-partisan registered non-profit that fights for a more democratic, socially just and progressive Toronto. Join us for a discussion on issue-based campaigns and fighting Doug Ford from City Hall. Monica shares her experiences as a field organizer and how Progress Toronto mobilizes on the ground to bring people together on the issues that affect us directly.

Hosted by Progress Toronto
Case study
Asbestos Free Canada
Alec Farquhar

After 130 years as a leading exporter of asbestos, Canada finally banned its use, import, and export on December 30, 2018. That victory came after decades of organizing that brought together asbestos victims and their families, the labour movement, public health organizations and environmental groups. Join us to learn the key lessons from this campaign, and learn of the next steps.

Presented by the International Association of Fire Fighters
Canvassing and volunteer recruitment
Helen Hargreaves

Movements are built on relationships. This workshop will equip you to effectively recruit volunteers, deepen their commitment, and give them the confidence to take on bigger roles -- all by building deep relationships. We teach a coaching model that not only supports new members, but helps them reflect on their contributions and continually grow their capacity.

We'll also cover different canvassing techniques, both door-to-door and via phone, that help broaden our movements.

Hosted by the Institute for Change Leaders
Digital fundraising tips and tricks
Adam Awad

Digital fundraising has changed the campaigning landscape, allowing causes to connect directly with supporters and raise money through many small donations. But digital fundraising is not a silver bullet. Join us to see what makes digital fundraising campaigns successful, and learn best practices to drive your causes forward.

Hosted by Point Blank Creative
Closing keynote
Lynn Gehl, PhD
6(1)a All the Way!
Lynn Gehl has been fighting to end gender discrimination in the Indian Act for nearly 30 years, after being denied status due to her paternal grandfather being unknown. In 2017, she finally won an Ontario Court of Appeal case bringing the campaign one step closer. Hear Lynn share her story, how she got this far, and why we must push the Trudeau government to act now before Parliament adjourns in June for a fall election.
5:15 Reception



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If you are interested in sponsorship opportunities or presenting a case study, please contact us.



The territory of Toronto is subject to the Dish with One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, an agreement made between the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and the Confederacy of the Anishinaabe; and is also the traditional territory of the Huron-Wendat, Petun, Neutral, Seneca, Tobacco First Nations, and most recently visited by the Mississaugas of the Credit River.