2018 Speakers

Isha Adams, The Steps to Youth Leadership

Isha Adams is the LiNKS Mental Health Coordinator at iHuman Youth Society in Edmonton, Alberta. iHuman serves high-risk youth ages 12-24 in the inner city community. iHuman empowers the vulnerable population who have been negatively impacted by systemic homelessness, addiction, poverty, childhood abuse and neglect, violence, incarceration, barriers to education and employment, and intergenerational trauma by providing caring services such as basic first needs, mental health consoling and assessment, addictions work, social work services and parenting programming; and creative programming in the visual arts, music, and fashion. Through a non-judgemental and harm reduction lens iHuman hopes to heal traumatized youth in an inclusive, non- judgemental and safe environment.

Nasra Adems, Women and Words- Closing Poetry

Nasra is a 23-year-old queer, Muslim, multidisciplinary artist, community organizer and activist. She is the outgoing Youth Poet Laureate of Edmonton and curator of Sister 2 Sister: an artist collective for/by femmes of colour and Black Arts Matter-Alberta’s first all Black arts festival. Nasra is passionate about using art to disrupt, protect, educate,
inspire and build forward moving Love within her communities.

Crystal Bowen, Closing Session

Although Crystal Bowen, RSE, began her career in the construction industry as an Environmental Technologist in the 1990’s, a time in history when it was rare for women to work in the trades, she persevered to become the journeyman carpenter she is today.

In 2008 she co-developed the Sisters in the Brotherhood committee for the Carpenter’s Union and co-organized their first women’s conference in Canada. She continued to break barriers by being the first apprentice elected to leadership positions and the first female Treasurer in Alberta’s building trade unions.

She represented the voice of women in construction by serving on the board of directors for the Aspen Foundation for Labour Education, on the technical committee for Skills Canada Alberta, as a carpenter for Habitat for Humanity, and as a national public speaker for J♀urneyman: It’s a Status, Not a Gender™.

Crystal keeps herself grounded to her values by working as an instructor and curriculum developer at Women Building Futures. During her spare time, she advocates for inclusive equal opportunity workplaces and advises on gender and social factors affecting workplace culture, policy and practice, and skills advancement in construction.

Kyra Brown, Strengthening Indigenous Women’s Voices

Kyra Brown is a proud Metis Cree woman born and raised in Edmonton; her strong family roots are from the northern Lac La Biche and Conklin communities. She is trained and certified in multiple health and wellness modalities including leadership, counselling, facilitation, coaching, NLP, True Colours and Meditation. She continues to pursue experiential education that focuses on growth and leadership in herself and for the benefit of helping others. Kyra is a dynamic facilitator and personal coach, who believes in healing through deeper self-awareness and being accountability.

Her career experience has been dedicated to community frontline work in programs and projects that further the aspirations of individuals and groups. She values volunteerism where she continues to participate as a board member for various organizations, while also contributing and donating. Kyra continues to giver her time on the City of Edmonton, Public Engagement Community Leadership committee and is always striving to create ways to value, support and include our aboriginal community members.

Her personal experience growing up is one of tragedy and loss, which has compelled her to continue her wellness journey by learning and living in congruence with cultural ceremonies and teachings. This has been a grounding way of life where she uses her experiences to connect with others in furthering their own healing journeys.

Kyra believes in the ‘rippling pebble’ theory where one’s energy and actions affect those around them; she says when we grow and nurture ourselves in healthy and positive ways, we share that powerful energy with others. Her steadfast faith is that we can all find success in ourselves by stepping up to accept and love who we truly are.

Sarah Buczynski, Creating your own Community – Experiences of LGBTQ Refugees

Sara Buczynski has been working with newcomers and refugees for seven years.  Through her work, she recognized that newcomer serving agencies have limited capacity for identifying and responding appropriately to LGBTQ newcomer needs. After joining the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers three years ago, she decided to be out in her work to increase visibility and connection to LGBTQ communities for newcomer clients.  She has been part of organizing community and sector dialogues about creating welcoming communities and responding to LGBTQ refugee and newcomer specific needs, and is a co-organizer of LGBTQ+ Newcomers Edmonton, a group open to all newcomers, asylum seekers, refugees, and allies.  This group was started in 2017 by a Syrian refugee who wished to create a visible and welcoming community for LGBTQ individuals new to Canada. Initially a small group, participation has grown to over 30 members and now provides a weekly opportunity to meet and socialize in a safe environment, address settlement needs, learn across LGBTQ communities and cultures, and explore living in their new community, Edmonton! 

Daintre Christensen, Strengthening Indigenous Women’s Voices

Daintre Christensen: Was born in North Bay Ontario and grew up on Nipissising First Nation land…moved to Edmonton in 1987. First developed interest in journalism while in High School and was a workplace student at a local paper. Studied Broadcast Journalism at Canadore College in North Bay Ontario and graduated in 2003. Worked in radio as an on-air personality in Edmonton from 2003 to 2006…then took to the skies for helicopter traffic reports for several radio stations from 2006 to 2008; filed reports from Global 1 for Global News in late 2007. Became the traffic anchor/morning show co-host for Global Edmonton in the Fall of 2008 on the most watched morning news program in Edmonton.

Likes to volunteer her time with a special focus on animal groups and children’s charities. Daintre actively supports and encourage literacy in our schools and fundraising for school lunch programs in the inner city.  She also values promoting environmental awareness and responsibility for a sustainable future.  

Daintre’s career in media has afforded her a platform to bring about change in our community through social media and volunteering.

Councillor Bev Esslinger, Edmonton Women in Politics

Bev was first elected to City Council in 2013 and is now serving her second term. Her passion for safety saw the implementation of school zones as part of the Traffic Safety Initiative, she champions the women’s initiative, and she is working to build a child friendly city. Initiating the Gender Based Violence Initiative out of concern for the high numbers of families affected, she desires to see real change in attitude and reduction in violence.  She is also active locally and internationally to support local government, increasing women’s participation in municipal government and economic development.

Bev, a married mother and grandmother has lived in Ward 2 for over 20 years. Bev’s passion for Edmonton and the people of Edmonton has been demonstrated by her willingness to get involved and make Edmonton a better place to live. She has been actively engaged with people and programs and has worked tirelessly on their behalf. Her involvements have been diverse but the passion for helping people thrive is a common thread.

Trisha Estabrooks, Edmonton Women in Politics

Trisha Estabrooks is a recently elected Edmonton Public School Board Trustee. Before serving as a Trustee she was a freelance journalist, writer and broadcaster. She spent 17 years working at the CBC at stations across the country covering politics, health and education. She spent a year working in Ghana, West Africa with Journalists for Human Rights. Trisha currently hosts The Broadcast, a podcast all about women and politics. She’s lived in Edmonton for a decade and is proud to call this city home. 

Tracy Folorunsho-Barry, Growing Women Leaders and the Experiences of Immigrant Women

Tracy Folorunsho – Barry, is an upcoming author, wellness coach and founder of Gradual Rising of Women (GROW). Under GROW, she has created Project 150 which showcases the stories of accomplished immigrant women in Canada in order to educate and inspire others. This is achieved through the Speak Out Series and an upcoming book “Project 150: Gradual Rising of Women, Narrating Untold Stories of Immigrant Women in Canada.” The book unravels challenges, successes and accomplishments of immigrant women in Canada through inspiring narratives. The Speak Out Series are conversation café held across Canada. The series is a platform for immigrant women to share experiences and network, but also open to everyone.

Tracy is also the host and facilitator for Speak Out Women (SOW) Series, one-on-one conversations that inspire real changes in lives and community. Tracy has been covered by several media outlets, like CTV, Metro News, Roger Radio, CBC Radio and CBC TV among others; providing leadership, encouraging and coaching for immigrant women. She has a passion and love for helping others succeed in life, professional and business.

A community and global advocate, Tracy has won multiple awards such as Top 100 Black Women To Watch in Canada, ABEDORC Achievements Awards in Community Service, Phenomenal African Women (PAW) and while nominated for Obsidian Awards in Fitness and Wellness Coach of the Year. As the founder of GROW, Tracy’s philosophy is to SEED (Support, Empower, Encourage and Develop) women globally, because at GROW everyone seeds. 

Robyne Garton, Strengthing Indigenous Women’s Voices

Robyne Garton feels a person can accomplish most anything with the right attitude and lives by a quote by Bob Proctor, “Thoughts become things. If you see it in your mind, you will hold it in your hand”. Robyne is Metis, the youngest of five siblings, and the President of both companies – Roof Surgeons and Pink Belts Construction.

Growing up Robyne faced racism and understands how this can hold a person back. She was raised by her grandparents and at the young age of 15 found she needed to make adult choices. Robyne also understands loss as her sister disappeared in 1976, and then in 2012 her brother died of liver failure. Robyne strives to bring Aboriginal awareness into her businesses and future projects with more training to First Nations and Metis people and communities.

Robyne’s journey is varied with skills in Property Management, Nursing, and Native studies and knowledge of blueprint reading and understanding of codes through engagement with engineers and inspectors while she learned the installation process. Twenty years after being grand mothered in Robyne opened her first company Roof Surgeons then shortly after Pink Belts Construction.

Robyne’s vision for her companies is to have gender balance and expand to the United States with a Christian based company employing both females and males in a healthy structured environment with equal opportunities for both.

Robyne currently is studying Theology and has plans to minister in the trades changing people’s lives as she feels Faith is what brought her to this point.

Councillor Sarah Hamilton, Edmonton Women in Politics

Sarah Hamilton is proud to be City Councillor for Edmonton’s Ward 5. Prior to her election, Sarah worked as an educator, a journalist, a small business owner, and in various public service-oriented roles in provincial and municipal government. Sarah grew up in Lessard and graduated from the University of Alberta. Later, she received a Master of Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago before returning home to Edmonton. She enjoys Edmonton’s river valley and unique arts and culture scene.

Stephanie Harpe, Strengthening Indigenous Women’s Voices

Stephanie Harpe was discovered at the age of 18 by Canadian Icon Jeff Healey, and was taught about the music industry and inspired by his music during the course of their friendship. She started a band in 2005 (the Stephanie Harpe Band). The group became the Stephanie Harpe Experience (S.H.E), and since 2005, S.H.E has been an opening act for Trooper, Prairie Oyster, Charlie Major x2, Crystal Shawanda, Digging Roots, Savoy Brown, Tom Cochrane & Red Ryder, and Bare Naked Ladies just to name a few.

In 2008 Stephanie recorded her first CD with the help of three time Juno award winner Bill Bourne and her first single went to number one on the Top 30 National countdown on NCI fm. Stephanie has played the Indspire Awards on global TV, was the winner of the Esquao Award for the arts 2017 and was asked to write and perform a song for The World Indigenous Games 2017, for which she also acted as show manager.

Stephanie participated in the CD compilation, COLORS OF MY LIFE, dedicated to missing and murdered aboriginal woman that gained attention across Canada and at the Native American Music Awards, or NAMMYS, in NYC. It was a subject to which she was deeply connected, because of the murder of her mother Ruby Anne McDonald in 1999.  She started speaking on a national level and has presented at Red x talks, The National and CBC.

The multitalented Stephanie also has a number of acting credits, including the tv series Blackstone, and 2018 film production, Land. She acts as casting agent for her business, Shapeshifters Talent.

Basel Abou Hamrah, Creating your own Community – Experiences of LGBTQ Refugees

Basel Abou Hamrah is the first LGBTQ settlement practitioner with the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers and the Pride Centre of Edmonton. He is one of the creators of the Edmonton LGBTQ Newcomers Group. The group works with the community to build a welcoming and supportive space for this diverse population. Basel is from Syria. He came to Edmonton in late 2015.

Hannah Haugen, Steps to Youth Leadership

Hi, I’m Hannah Haugen, I’m currently in my first year of a drama degree with a gender studies minor at the University of Alberta. Growing up I attended YWCA Camp Yowochas each summer and went on to participate in their leadership training programs: LIT’s (leaders-in-training) and CITs (counsellors in training). These programs led me to leadership opportunities as a camp counsellor at Camp Yowochas and to seek international outdoor education experience as a Latitude Global Volunteer this past year. I spent six months in southern England working on the Thames river with a diverse mix of children from all around the U.K., helping them cultivate skills of confidence, leadership and teamwork. At university, I am a new member of the Beta Beta Chapter of Delta Gamma, a sorority that works closely with the CNIB to raise money and support their initiatives. Engaging in leadership opportunities is so important because they widen your worldview and really teach you just how capable you truly are.

Brenda Kerber, Women in the Workplace: Trailblazers in Business

Brenda Kerber is the owner of The Traveling Tickle Trunk, an Edmonton based company dedicated to inspiring happy, healthy sex, which has been 5 times been voted best sex supply store in Edmonton.   Brenda has worked in social work and sexual health education for more than two decades.  Her passion for sexual health education began in 1999 when she worked as an educator for the HIV Network of Edmonton.  She has completed numerous courses in sexuality education including the Sex Therapy Intensive at the University of Guelph.  Through both personal and professional experiences, Brenda has seen how sex toys can be a powerful tool for sexual self-exploration, acceptance, celebration, and healing.  In 2003, she launched The Traveling Tickle Trunk as a way to promote a positive view of sexual play.  The Traveling Tickle Trunk is dedicated to providing accurate, non-judgmental information along with safe, high quality products, and allowing people to play and learn in an atmosphere of comfort and safety.  Brenda also works with health care providers to help individuals dealing with injuries, illnesses, and disabilities find tools that can improve their sex lives.  Brenda speaks to educators, students, and professional groups about the benefits of sexual play and the sex positive philosophy. She is passionate about local, independent business and takes every opportunity to support budding entrepreneurs.

Lynsae Moon, Women in the Workplace: Trailblazers in Business

Lynsae comes by activism and relationship building inherently. As a child, Lynsae would leave her parents’ sides to sit with people experiencing homelessness along Jasper avenue, and to this day, not much has changed. She is just as passionate about using the power of personal connection to make a positive difference through many job ventures, activism projects, and volunteer roles. She started working in cafes as a teen and has since returned to the industry as a young mum in her mid-twenties before eventually earning a role as Operations Manager in a well known local cafe. These endeavors have fostered her most recent and rewarding adventure yet: The Nook Cafe. Since the cafe opened this summer, Lynsae has been recognized for contributing to inclusive revitalization in this neighbourhood and for constantly striving to help people find their voices and empower them. She would tell you that she doesn’t run a business, she creates a family. When not at the cafe, Lynsae makes connections from her little yellow house, which she shares with her partner, two kids, and countless pets. Lynsae enjoys photography, crafting, cooking, and visiting or hosting parties. She is an activist, feminist and fighter of injustice.

Lucenia Ortiz, Growing Women Leaders and the Experiences of Immigrant Women

Lucenia Ortiz arrived in Canada from the Philippines in 1994 with a background in urban and regional planning. Her experience as a newcomers motivated her to work with immigrant and refugee populations with the Multicultural Health Brokers Co-op. She completed her PhD in Human Ecology at the University of Alberta in 2003 focusing on exploring multicultural health brokering as a model for improving equity of access to health of ethnic minority populations.

Lucenia currently works as a planner with the City of Edmonton in various strategic planning and development initiatives addressing a range of social issues. Some of the initiatives she has been involved with include: coordination of the Mayor’s Task Force for the Elimination of Poverty, planning the Clareview Multicultural Centre and development of The Way We Live Plan. She is also the co-designer/facilitator of the pilot Intercultural Education Workshop Series for City of Edmonton, Citizen Services staff.

Maryann Raby, Gender Based Analysis, What is it all about?

Maryann Raby is a Senior Advisor, Gender Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) in Status of Women with the Government of Alberta and celebrated her fifth anniversary this past August. She supports the work of several ministries with GBA+ Advice and Centres of Responsibility tasks, while managing curriculum changes, and a variety of collaborative projects with partners. She holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Toronto in Political Science and Philosophy. Her work experience ranges from front-line services in Corrections, to program delivery, and Intergovernmental relations work with federal, provincial and municipal partners. She regularly guest lectures in Political Science courses at the University of Alberta. Her passion in work includes being a current Board member of the Canadian International Council, Co-Lead of Mentorship and Networking on the Women in Leadership Secretariat, designing and implementing an Administrative Advancement Series, and collaborating with the Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC). Maryann was the 2016 recipient for the IPAC Edmonton Region New Public Servant Award of Excellence and a finalist in PEI for the National Award in 2017. 

Marnie Suitor, Your Leadership, Your Legacy

MARNIE SUITOR (PAED, CMP, CMC, PFP) is a founding Principal Partner of In Synch Consulting Inc. a boutique consultancy firm, catering primarily to Indigenous communities, organizations, and individuals. Marnie had a long-standing career in the banking industry prior to her consulting profession, holding numerous senior positions in small business banking. As a management consultant, she maintained a senior management role with a large firm, then as owner/principal partner of her own business. Marnie has spent the majority of her working life supporting and encouraging others to reach their dreams. Marnie is a co-founder and currently the President of AWiLL (Aspiring Women in Leadership and Legacy) and organization that fosters and supports all women in the pursuit of leadership and legacy. 

Marnie recently embarked on a dream with her daughter Lynsae – to own and manage a community café located in the heart of the city. The aim of the café is to provide a safe and comfortable space for people of all backgrounds to meet and visit.

Marnie’s most special achievements are her 5 children, 13 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren. She enjoys spending time learning from and sharing with each and every one.

Keren Tang, Edmonton Women in Politics

Keren Tang is a health and wellness promoter. She graduated from the School of Public Health with a Master’s of Science in Health Promotion in 2014. In her professional and community life, she has been a teacher, a community organizer, a researcher, and a policy adviser in the Ministries of Health and Status of Women. She has spent most of her career working with diverse communities including Indigenous populations and newcomer immigrants. Keren currently serves as the Secretary Treasurer of the North Saskatchewan River Valley Conservation Society. She has in the past served locally as the Chair of the board of the Edmonton Multicultural Coalition, which connects immigrant and ethnocultural communities with their city, and nationally as the Chair of the board of Girls Action Foundation, which supports girls and young women in Canada as agents of social change in their communities. Keren was a candidate in the most recent municipal election to represent Ward 11 on Edmonton City Council.

Meghana Valupadas, The Steps to Youth Leadership

Meghana Valupadas is a fourth year Civil Engineering co-op student at the University of Alberta, the Vice-Chair of the Women’s Advocacy Voice of Edmonton, and a co-creator of the Diversity in Engineering Initiative to increase representation of women and minorities in Engineering at the U of A. She is also a past member of the City of Edmonton Youth Council and a mental health speaker with Jack.org. In her spare time she likes to take long walks on the beach, debate the political news of the day, and read novels by the fire. Just kidding, she actually spends her spare time eating ice cream and watching Disney movies.

Lana Whiskeyjack, Strengthening Indigenous Women’s Voices

Lana Whiskeyjack is a multidisciplinary treaty iskwew artist from Saddle Lake Cree Nation, Treaty Six Territory, Alberta. Among her early influences were her mother’s creative skills in traditional arts and her grandmother’s gifts in quilting and song. Lana studied visual arts focusing on ceramic sculpture at Red Deer College, and University of Alberta; and environmental sculpture at Pont Aven School of Arts, France. Lana followed the love of her life to Ottawa where she surrendered to academic studies, completing a B.A, and M.A. degrees at Carleton University. She recently completed her doctorate degree, combining both academic and artistic skills at the University nuhelot’įne thaiyots’į nistameyimâkanak Blue Quills (UnBQ), a former Indian Residential School where both her mother and grandmother attended. In October 2017, Lana joined the Faculty of Extension, University of Alberta, as an assistant professor. Her research, writing and art expresses the great beauty and intergenerational resilience of being a human of this earth “ayisîyiniw ôta asiskiy”.