Connor LaRocque

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Amy MacLeod

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Eli Fathi

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Jim Perkins

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Anna Lambert

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Dr. Phil Wells

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Katherine Cooligan

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TEDxKanata 2016 : Breaking Barriers



Located just west of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Kanata is a hub of captivating people with extraordinary ideas. In addition to its fascinating, talented community of thought leaders, Kanata is also home to world-class companies such as Mitel, Halogen and You.i.

With so much talent in its very own backyard, TEDxKanata’s organizers and partners came together on March 31 to deliver a second annual event filled with engaging speakers, innovators and collaborators that nurtured interesting ideas and generated thought-provoking discussion throughout the entire evening. This year’s theme—Breaking Barriers—was sure to live up to its title.

The evening kicked off at 4 PM in a conference room at the grand Brookstreet Hotel, which was transformed to reflect the Breaking Barriers theme. As the crowd of over 275 anxious attendees took their seats, Jenna Sudds, TEDxKanata’s Curator, delivered her opening remarks and acknowledgements.

Craig Gauthier

Jenna’s welcome was followed by the first speaker of the night—Craig Gauthier, who shared the importance of perspective in our ever-changing technological landscape. A successful entrepreneur, investor, filmmaker, author and speaker, Craig overcame several challenging health problems at an early age—which fueled his lifelong drive for success. Perspective is everything, he told the crowd during his time on stage, and technology is an incredible tool. But does it separate us, rather than connect us? Are we losing perspective on real world problems, and our ability to contribute to something meaningful? Craig ended his talk with a call to action: let’s engage and connect with one another more in the moment to drive change.

Doug Smith

The next speaker was former NHL star Doug Smith, who at 18 years old, was drafted 2nd overall into the NHL to play for the Los Angeles Kings as their youngest player ever. The next 11 years were defined by hockey successes, hockey failures, his lack of awareness and the culture of a collision sport. His career ended suddenly at 29 years old when he shattered his spine during a game. Doug spoke about the mental vs. physical effects of trauma, and how the mind could very well be one of the strongest barriers we consistently face. As such, we don’t know the power of the mind, nor do we know much about what goes on “behind the scenes” – even in our own bodies. What can be said for our physical versus our mental boundaries? The reality is, he pointed out, is that at one point or another, we all suffer from a trauma. There are blurred lines between the mental and the physical – and also, a surprising beauty, opportunity, and positive outcomes that can be teased out from any trauma, or initially perceived negative experience.

Bruce Linton

After a short break, the crowd was ready to welcome its next speaker, Bruce Linton, CEO of Martello Technologies and CEO and co-founder of Canopy Growth, a medical marijuana provider. Bruce began by sharing his thoughts of business and entrepreneurship, and “the opportunity that happens when you’re there early, and when you navigate quickly.” He tackled numerous barriers during his time on stage, from legislation and regulation, to criminalization – all challenging when it comes to the issue of certain substances, such as marijuana. Throughout his talk, Bruce demonstrated the ability of barriers to create opportunities. “Barriers” are often perceived in a negative light. But, maybe – if we change our semantics and associations, and if we learn to thank our barriers, and to use them as an opportunity for growth rather than as a limitation – we can create something useful to many.

Alex Munter

Alex Munter, President and CEO of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO), was up next to discuss the barriers and limitations and the potential future trajectory of the Canadian health care system. He highlighted some major complex issues, such as childhood obesity, mental illness, poverty, creating healthy communities, and smoking. Behind solving these issues, he said, lies a question: do we want our collective interest to further the needs of society to trump or concede to our individual interests and beliefs? These often imply making controversial and difficult decisions, and involve using taxation and limitations on marketing and advertising.

Justina McCaffrey Antonia

The evening of inspiration kept right on rolling with the story of Justina Antonia, and her changing name. As a highly respected fashion designer, Justina shared her knowledge on the importance of branding. Businesses place a strong emphasis on the power of branding, she said, but also suggested that we should think of ourselves, individually, as brands as well. She asked, what happens when your name, or brand, becomes recognized not only locally, but globally? Is that success? And what happens when divorce hits? You realize that on top of the emotional turmoil, you’re also suddenly caught in the middle of negotiating in a heated battle of intellectual property. Who owned the brand? Who owned the designs? Protect your name, Justina urged the audience, and protect your work.

Sheema Khan

After a second short break, the crowd returned refueled and recharged, and ready to welcome the next speaker—Sheema Khan. Sheema emigrated from India to Montreal at three years of age and earned her Masters in Physics and a Ph.D. in Chemical Physics from Harvard University. She also completed her post-doctoral research at MIT and McGill. She began her talk by asking the audience, who’s writing your story? Are you? Or are you living the story that has been written for you by others? “Writing our own story speaks to our individuality, our independence, our integrity,” she said. “It speaks to our humanity.” Sheema continued by discussing the spread of constructed narratives and agendas concerning the traditions, heritage and culture of Indigenous people – and how we apply this critical view to all cultural identities. She added that the Canadian landscape is a diverse and multicultural one, and posed the question, how do we preserve our cultural identities? How do we protect a culture, and prevent cultural genocide? Sheema closed with her most powerful question of the night: “I choose to write my own story, with the pen of my conscience. And so I ask you, will you buy into an official story, written for you, by others – or will you be your own author, and using the pen of your conscience, write your own story?”

Katherine Kortes-Miller

When you open your TEDxKanata talk with the line, “Life is a terminal illness, which is sexually transmitted” – you’ve officially got everyone’s attention. That’s what Dr. Katherine Kortes-Miller did as she took to the stage to share her insights on death and dying. A researcher, author, lecturer and former social worker, Kathy has also taught a variety of subjects including gerontology, social work, grief and loss. Kathy highlighted the importance of opening a dialogue about death and dying, and envisioned an ideal world where we no longer avoid “the elephant in the room” and feel comfortable to talk about, and explore, the reality of our mortality. She encouraged the audience to take back the narratives on death and rely on strengthening our communities and personal support systems in handling the transition to “the other side.”

Andrew Pelling

Dr. Andrew Pelling rounded out the evening as the final presenter at TEDxKanata. A biohacker and experimental scientist, Andrew uses low-cost, open source materials to create technologies of the future – including his team’s current work of growing human cells in apples and living skin on LEGOs. Andrew has studied around the world, earning a Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles, and was a senior research fellow at the London Centre for Nanotechnology. He has also been published in several patents, books and publications. Andrew began by asking the audience, how can we break the boundaries between the academic world, and the everyday world? Academia influences our culture, society, economy, politics, along with our relationships, our city’s stories – basically, every aspect or our lives, and yet, we rarely get to take a look, contribute, participate in, or sneak a peek behind the scenes at how all this research and intellectual community functions. Andrew shared his vision of relying on the curiosity and creativity of the community, in providing them with accessibility and resources, to accomplish great things. He believes that once you provide the necessary ingredients in the recipe, you are destined to yield a fruitful result. Bringing research off campus and into the local, accessible scene allows for people of the community to just walk in off the street and be transported into a world of real research, cutting-edge design, and brand new developments, all ahead of the curve.

That’s a Wrap for 2016

With tons of excitement, social media buzz, and over 275 attendees at this year’s extremely successful, sold-out show, not only did TEDxKanata have everyone reflecting on the question of the night: ‘What does the concept of “Breaking Barriers” mean to you?’ but it also firmly established Kanata as a collaborative and inspired community that is paving the way for Canada’s future.

Heidi’s Favourite TED Talk


Talk: re:Think Children’s Media by Lesli Rotenberg, Senior VP, Children’s Media at PBS


Why: I love Lesli Rotenberg’s talk because, as a mother and media professional, I think a lot about the impact of media on children and am interested in viewpoints offered on it. However, I have found that there is a tendency to paint all media – games, television, movies – with one broad stroke: BAD.

Lesli takes a nuanced approach. She concedes that there is actually good media out there and, while working with the world’s largest creator and distributor of high quality children’s programming may have an impact on her thinking, her arguments do not begin and end with public/educational television.

She talks about how media, even the games that we as parents love to hate, can teach children powerful lessons in grit and tenacity and inspire curiosity.

Because, as she notes, our job as parents is to prepare our children for the rest of their lives. And, if media can live up to the aspirational goals of cultivating the positive qualities we wish to see them develop, then the media is doing its job, just as we expect our teachers and scout leaders and the other adults in our children’s lives to do.

She notes at 15:40 in the talk: “All media should spark children’s curiosity and should expand their possibilities and it should give them the confidence to keep trying and never give up. And if we could do that, then the content we create can have an impact so much longer.”


About Heidi Lasi (Design)

Heidi Lasi, an award-winning director, producer and writer with over 25 years of experience, is president of Communicarium, a firm specializing in strategic communications, marketing and PR.

At Communicarium, they believe in the value of strategy and a cohesive vision to bring your goals and objectives to life. While the media landscape changes, the message must remain focused and true. They integrate traditional media approaches with social and digital in all their forms, to their greatest benefit and effectiveness.

Their tagline “The playground for serious communications” says it all: They take a fun, creative dynamic approach to state of the art communications reflecting clients’ brands in a modern, dynamic, exciting and accessible ways integrating graphic design, copywriting, social and traditional media, video production, and digital.

Review of TED 2015 and TEDActive


I had the pleasure of travelling to Vancouver and Whistler last week to absorb TED 2015, and participate in TED Active.

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It was 5 days of talks and over 100 speakers yet somehow it seemed to abruptly end on Friday.  Just as quickly as it began, it was over.  This surprised me for some reason, and left me wanting more.

Many have asked me all about the experience, so I thought I’d share!


How was the conference?

Incredible. Overwhelming. And then incredible again. The people and conversations were unbelievable.

What is the difference between TED 2015 and Ted Active?

TED 2015, or “big TED” as it was often referred to during the week, is in Vancouver. It is the full lineup of talks happening live.

TED Active is hard to put to words.  TED Active mostly happens in Whistler, where the talks are broadcast live from Whistler.  The entire conference is organized to maximize conversations and activities for attendees.  The majority of attendees are TEDx organizers, who are able to take advantage of seminars and break out sessions answering our questions on all things TEDx. So although we do watch all the talks happening in Vancouver, we do a heck of a lot more between the sessions as well!

 Which speaker was the most inspiring and what was your favourite talk?

This is a really tough question. There were so many incredible talks.  However there were two sessions that definitely had me on the edge of my seat.  These were “Life Stories” and “Just and unjust”.  These sessions left me with a serious headache due to the emotion they evoked!

If I was to create my top ten list of talks from the week, these would be my favourites:

  1. Monica Lewinsky
  2. Gary Haugen, Human Rights Activist
  3. Anand Giridharadas, Author
  4. Alice Goffman, Professor of Sociology
  5. Sarah Jones, Playwright and Performer
  6. Roman Mars, Digital Storyteller
  7. Dame Stephanie Shirley, Philanthropist
  8. Abe Davis, Computer Scientist
  9. BJ Miller – Palliative Caregiver, moving. Compassion
  10. Tony Fadell, Product Creator

 Why is it better to attend in person than just watch the talks when they are released?

The TEDActive conference is not simply a conference room with the talk’s webcast. It was back-to-back events that connect you to the smartest and kindest people from around the world.  These TEDx organizers covered companies, Universities, Cities, States, and Countries.  I was constantly listening and learning from those around me.   The reflection and sharing of the ideas after those talks solidified a meaning around them.

 What did you learn?

A lot. I learned that the attendees really make the conference what it is, and we all have our own skills to contribute to a bigger cause. I have never felt out of my league in a room of international superstars, but I also have never felt more inspired.

TEDActive maintains a brand for not promoting a company agenda for a good reason.  When you strip a selfish layer of speaking-up at a conference and start to listen and contribute shared ideas, this is where real building and collaboration happens.

It was an incredible week.  One that will be hard to beat professionally in the years to come.  However, I`m happy to be home now and looking forward to our TEDxKanata event this week.

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