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Northern Innovation Symposium September 2017:

On September 30th, 2017 the first Northern Innovation Symposium occurred at the Near North Enviro-Education Centre in Sundridge Ontario.


Leading experts from indigenous and non-indigenous communities shared their perspectives and knowledge in four sessions:

  • environmental sustainability 

  • rural economic sustainability

  • social diversity

  • moderated forum with all presenters


Sessions included a presentation from each guest speaker, followed by round table discussions among the attendees and presenters.


Each session provided opportunities to -- 

  • Share experiences and identify common challenges and strategies to deal with the unique issues facing rural communities and First Nation Reserves; with particular focus on Environmental Sustainability, Economic Sustainability and Social Diversity

  • Exchange ideas and knowledge between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people as it relates to environmental and economic sustainability and the enhancement of social diversity in rural and First Nation communities

  • Engage in discussions on important rural issues through a round table format 

  • Explore opportunities and demonstrate shared potential to overcome challenges through cooperation and knowledge exchange​

Symposium Thought Leaders:


John Hayes

Odji-cree Irish (Metis)

John Hayes is Odji-cree Irish (Metis) and a resident of Strong Township.  He sat on the board of directors for the Canadian Mental Health Association and was also the Aboriginal Representative for the board.  He has been involved with the Indigenous Studies program at Laurentian University as Assistant to prof. in the Living with the Land Course and as well studied in the Indigenous Studies Program. 

Currently working in a permanent part-time position at CHIGAMIK COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTRE Midland ON. in the Aboriginal Cultural Program and he also sits on the Aboriginal Elder's Advisory Committee.  

John has a great interest in Environmental sustainability, as well as the two other topics of the symposium.

Nicholas Mercer

University of Waterloo

Pursuing PhD studies at the University of Waterloo, Department of Geography and Environmental Management.  A recipient of the 2017 Energy Council of Canada Energy Policy Research Fellowship, Nicholas's research focuses on sustainability implications of renewable energy development in off-grid communities throughout Canada. In particular, the research project seeks to assess how renewable energy projects create economically, environmentally, and socially vibrant communities. Furthermore, the project aims to identify policy factors which have facilitated off-grid sustainability via renewable energy development in a global context.

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Rural Economic Sustainability:

Patricia Baxter

Anishnabe-Kwe (Ojibway)

Patricia Baxter Anishnabe-Kwe (Ojibway) has been self-employed for 25 years working in Indigenous communities on national, provincial and local levels.  She brings strong skills of facilitation, program evaluation and community consultation.  She is passionate about working with Indigenous women and on Indigenous health issues including human resources.  She has facilitated large forums such as the Prime Minister and First Minister roundtables and worked intimately with community groups on sensitive health issues.  She is active with Indigenous organizations in documenting program evaluation outcomes, particularly in the health field.   Patricia is the current Co-Chair of the Aboriginal Human Resource Council and volunteers with the Canadian Women’s Foundation.   She is also honoured to have a bursary established in her name at Trent University.

David J.A. Douglas

University of Guelph

David is Professor Emeritus, Rural Planning and Development, University of Guelph. He was Director of the former University School of Rural Planning and Development at the University, from 1985 to 1992, and Professor in the School of Environmental Design and Rural Development until 2009. He has remained active as a community trainer, a university instructor, adviser, and researcher. He has published four books on community development, community economic development, municipal viability, and rural planning and development. He continues to publish a great variety of journal papers and book chapters, the most recent on community resilience and rural governance. He is a recognized specialist in rural community and regional development, across Canada and in several international contexts (e.g. the EU, Ukraine, Iran).


He is a life-time member and former President of the Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation (CRRF).


As a management consultant (1974- ) and researcher David has worked in every region in Canada, from Newfoundland& Labrador to Artic communities, and worked with several First Nations communities (e.g. Key Band, Peigan, Six Nations). He has been teaching with the Haida Gwaii Higher Education Society for the last five years.

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Social Diversity Enhancement

Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux

Lakehead University

Dr. Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux is the former Vice Provost (Aboriginal Initiatives) at Lakehead University. Effective September 16th she is serving as the 1st Indigenous Chair on Truth and Reconciliation on behalf of Lakehead University, Thunder Bay and Orillia. She also serves as an adjunct asst. Professor for the Faculty of Anthropology and Research Affiliate of the Centre for Health Care Ethics. Her research and academic writing is directed towards understanding the continuing transmission of unresolved intergenerational trauma and grief primarily within the Indigenous community of Canada.


Cynthia is a Board Member for Healthy Minds Canada and the newly formed Teach for Canada Non-Profit. She also sits as a member of the Governing Council of the National Research Centre at the University of Manitoba, and has recently been inducted as a Honourary Witness by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.


Interested in environmental and humanitarian causes she is actively engaged in a variety of initiatives across Canada and is an active and engaging media representative.  Cynthia is a member of the Chippewa of Georgina Island First Nation in Lake Simcoe, Ontario and has dedicated her life to building bridges of understanding between people. She sees endless merit in bringing people from diverse cultures, ages, and backgrounds together to engage in practical dialogue and applied research initiatives, and is deeply committed to public education and active youth engagement.

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Symposium Moderator

Kelly J. Lendsay

President & CEO Indigenous Works

A proud Indigenous leader of Canadian Cree, Métis, and European ancestry,  a social entrepreneur who is internationally recognized as one of Canada’s foremost innovators of Indigenous social & economic inclusion, corporate engagements and partnership bringing his message of inclusion to more than 250 audiences in Canada, USA and Australia.


His dynamic and sharp communications style and social entrepreneurial success has earned him the reputation as an engaging thought leader, facilitator and effective bridge-builder between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples, companies and communities.

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