Our Honourees: Celebrating 150 Years of Canadians at Home and Abroad

Date: Monday April 17, 2017

On April 20, the Public Policy Forum is honouring extraordinary leaders who connect Canada to the world and the world to us. Find out more about our seven honourees: their accomplishments, their hopes — and who likes grilled cheese sandwiches.


Each year at the Public Policy Forum’s Testimonial Dinner in Toronto, more than a thousand leaders from all sectors of Canadian society gather to pay tribute to distinguished Canadians who have made outstanding contributions to the quality of public policy and good governance.

We hope to see you there on April 20. If not, we’ll be live-tweeting and live-streaming. And be sure to check out our Medium page for all your post-event coverage needs.



Louise Arbour

Former Supreme Court Justice and former High Commissioner for Human Rights, United Nations

Fearless and determined, the Honourable Louise Arbour has served Canada — and the world — as a lawyer, law professor, Supreme Court of Canada Justice, High Commissioner for Human Rights at the United Nations and more. She is currently a jurist in residence at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP; in this capacity, she provides strategic advice on litigation, governance and international issues, and mentors younger lawyers. Having made history with the first prosecution of sexual assault as a crime against humanity and with a history of service to her home and overseas, Ms. Arbour is a true role model to us all.

Q: What do you hope will change in Canadian public policy in the next 50 years?

A: I hope to see a real reduction in inequalities and inequities, towards a more fair and just society.

Q: What do you miss most when you’re away from Canada?

A: My dog. I also miss my children but at least I can talk to them and explain that I haven’t permanently abandoned them!


Yaprak Baltacıoğlu

Secretary, Treasury Board of Canada

Yaprak Baltacıoğlu was appointed as Secretary of the Treasury Board on November 12, 2012. Mrs. Baltacıoğlu served as Deputy Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities between July 2009 and November 2012 and as Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Agri Food Canada from March 2007 to June 2009. Mrs. Baltacıoğlu graduated from Carleton University’s School of Public Administration, where she received a Master of Arts, as well as from Istanbul University, where she obtained a Bachelor of Law degree. She believes that the most important piece of Canadian public policy is the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and hopes that within the next 50 years, environmental action is brought to the fore as the next important public policy issue to develop.

Q: Who has inspired you most?

A: My children, who are turning out to be amazing young people with the right values.

Q: What is your essential comfort food?

A: A grilled cheese sandwich!


Dominic Barton

Global Managing Partner, McKinsey & Company

Dominic Barton embodies what it means to be a bold, courageous Canadian. In his 31 years with McKinsey & Company, Dominic has advised clients in a range of industries including banking, consumer goods, high tech and industrials. He has authored more than 80 articles on the role of business in society, leadership, financial services, Asia, history and markets worldwide. He is firmly committed to Canada’s future success. He wants — as we all do — a Canada that is well-positioned in the world and equipped to offer the best opportunities to all its citizens. This unrelenting dedication flows from a love for Canada; a country that he did not know until he was seven years old, having been born in Uganda.

Q: What do you believe is the most important piece of Canadian public policy? Why?

A: Core to our heritage, and enshrined in our Constitution, is the idea of openness and inclusion for newcomers. Section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms explicitly guarantees equal protection regardless of national or ethnic origin, and our diverse and vibrant communities are a reflection of that belief. The way that this has manifested itself in our immigration policy throughout our history is something that helps define us as Canadians.

Q: The Habs, the Leafs or the Sens — or none of the above? What’s your favourite team?

A: The Habs are my favourite and I have been a fan for decades. I keep a large collection of hockey memorabilia in support of my team (including art house paintings of Ken Dryden, Guy Lafleur, Serge Savard, Rocket Richard and Yvan Cournoyer).


Johann Koss

Founder, Right to Play International

Before founding Right To Play, Johann Koss was an Olympic speed skater and is considered to be one of the greatest winter Olympians of all time. He is an internationally recognized social entrepreneur who has been widely acknowledged for his work in promoting the use of sport and play as a tool for positive childhood development. He has dedicated himself to growing Right to Play into an influential international no​n-government organization: it now operates in more than 20 countries, reaching more than one million children each week​, and is supported by more than 620 staff and 14,900 volunteer coaches worldwide.

Q: What’s one thing you hope will change in Canadian public policy in the next 50 years?

A: It’s my hope that within the next 50 years, we’ll only be using sustainable energy.

Q: What do you miss most about your home country?

As I have moved from Norway to Canada, I miss my family and childhood friends from there. But, Canada has given me so many new and very close friends. The diversity of people here in Toronto is particularly inspiring.


Margaret MacMillan

Warden of St. Antony’s College, University of Oxford

With a distinctly unique and captivating manner of story-telling, Margaret MacMillan is an accomplished author and scholar who has made history accessible and exciting to millions of Canadians. Her award-winning publication Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World won the Duff Cooper Prize, the Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction (the first woman to do so), the Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History, the Silver Medal for the Council on Foreign Relations Arthur Ross Book Award and the Governor-General’s prize for non-fiction in 2003. In July 2007, Margaret MacMillan became the fifth Warden of St. Antony’s College at the University of Oxford. Prior to taking on the Wardenship, Professor MacMillan was also Provost of Trinity College and professor of History at the University of Toronto.

Q. What one thing do you hope will change in Canadian public policy in the next 50 years?

A. I hope First Nations and the rest of Canadian society can work together to make up for some of the sad legacies of the past.

Q. Finish this question: You know you’re Canadian when …

A. … you keep wondering what it means to be Canadian.


Naheed Nenshi

Mayor, City of Calgary

Naheed Nenshi has been Mayor of Calgary since 2010. The first thing you’ll notice about him, after his brilliant smile, is his palpable love for Canada. During his first term in office, Mayor Nenshi’s leadership resulted in many positive changes in Calgary to build better communities, keep Calgarians moving, and transform government to reinforce a culture of constant citizen-focused improvement. His measured reaction to crisis — always on and always in control — earned him superstar status, as well as his very own hashtag: #napsfornenshi. Mayor Nenshi holds a Bachelor of Commerce Degree (with distinction) from the University of Calgary and a Master in Public Policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, where he studied as a Kennedy Fellow.

Q: What was your first experience with public policy?

A: I grew up in a family that discussed the news every day. I got involved in student government very early and was instrumental in improving school dance policies.

Q: The Habs, the Leafs or the Sens — or none of the above? What’s your favourite team?

What a ridiculously Laurentian Elite question. There are four other teams in Canada, you know. And one of them is actually a real hockey team. Go Flames Go!


Alika Lafontaine

Collaborative Team Lead, Indigenous Health Alliance

The recipient of this year’s inaugural Emerging Indigenous Leader award, Alika Lafontaine is a distinguished physician, speaker, consultant and the first Indigenous physician listed by the Medical Post as one of Canada’s 50 Most Powerful Doctors. At the University of Saskatchewan, Alika was the only Indigenous medical student throughout the four years he studied there. With the encouragement of his parents who instilled in him a deep appreciation for education, along with the right mentors, Alika developed the confidence to succeed. Now, as a founding member of the Indigenous Health Alliance, he works to align national medical organizations and health decision-makers behind Indigenous communities. The goal is to achieve practical implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action on Health.

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