Keynote Speakers

Dave Meslin

Building a Culture of Engagement

Multi-partisan and fiercely optimistic, Meslin’s presentations focuses on how we can overcome cynicism and create a culture of participation. His unassuming presence, creativity and sense of humour keep audiences enthralled. Meslin encourages those present to find what was important to them and become engaged in the process of promoting change by creative participation.

The Toronto Star has described him as “mad scientist”, “a start-up genius” and “a peripatetic public convener”. The Globe and Mail simply calls him a “persuasive rabble rouser”.  Dancing between the worlds of mainstream politics and grassroots activism, Meslin has found positive ways to bring them both together and turn energy into action.

He’s the author of Teardown: Rebuilding Democracy from the Ground Up.  His TED talk “The Antidote to Apathy” has been viewed over 1.7 million times and translated into 37 languages. A CBC appearance in 2015, involving towers of colourful LEGO, has been watched 2.5 million times on Facebook.

In 2021, he launched the inaugural Ontario Municipal Democracy Index on voter turnout, gender balance, BIPOC representation and UX Design. 

Meslin’s resume of non-profit start-ups also includes the Toronto Public Space Committee, the Ranked Ballot Initiative of Toronto, City Idol, Spacing Magazine, Unlock Democracy Canada, the Downtown De-Fence Project, Dazzling Notice Awards, and DandyHorse Magazine. While he feels most comfortable working with small grassroots non-profits, Meslin has also donned a suit and tie and worked as an Executive Assistant at both City Hall and Queen’s Park. 

Advocating for systemic change and promoting equity and inclusivity

Anthony Johnson and Dr. James Makokis are renowned as the trailblazing Two-Spirit team on the Amazing Race Canada. Their compelling victory in Season 7 brought pivotal gender, sexuality, and Indigenous issues to the forefront of national consciousness, reshaping societal perceptions. Distinguished in their individual capacities, they bring rich, diverse experiences and a profound depth of expertise to their advocacy efforts, championing the rights of First Nation and LGBTQ2S+ communities.

Residing in Treaty 6 Territory, Edmonton, Anthony Johnson is dedicated to the resurgence of Traditional Cree Medicine practices in Kehewin Cree Nation. Together, they are a formidable force, advocating for systemic change and promoting equity and inclusivity. Their journey transcends the Amazing Race; it’s a continual stride towards societal transformation, galvanizing communities, and allies alike to dismantle prejudices and foster a more inclusive, empathetic world. Their narrative is not just one of triumph but a compelling call to action for unity, understanding, and relentless pursuit of justice.

Dr. James Makokis & Anthony Johnson

Stand up with Pride: Navigating Diverse View-points with Compassion and Respect

Building a Culture of Engagement

Keynote Speaker: Dave Meslin

Apathy is all around us. Most people have become disengaged not only from politics, but also from our schools, workplaces and associations or organisations. Increasingly, those in leadership positions are asking themselves “How do we boost public participation?”, “How do we engage our students?” and “How can we inspire our membership to get involved?”. Dave Meslin encourages us to recognize apathy as a web of barriers that reinforce disengagement – and that we can work together to dismantle the obstacles. His seven-minute TED talk about apathy has more than 1.4 million views. This in-depth version of the talk for NSB clients, incorporates anecdotes, humour and examples of best-practices. He reminds the audience that we all have something to contribute and that the strongest cities, schools and associations are the ones that have learned how to tap into the collective creativity, passion and knowledge of their constituents.

Stand up with Pride: Navigating Diverse View-points with Compassion and Respect

Keynote Speakers: Dr. James Makokis and Anthony Johnson

Taking a stance and advocating for meaningful change can be a challenging endeavour, filled with potential criticism and conflict. In a world that values authenticity and compassion, it is essential to navigate these situations with dignity and empathy. Dr. James Makokis and Anthony Johnson, known as “Team Ahkameyimok,” embody the power of authentic leadership and offer valuable insights on how to take a stance while maintaining compassion and understanding.


Drawing from their remarkable journey on The Amazing Race Canada and their tireless commitment to equality for First Nation and LGBTQ2S+ communities, Dr. Makokis and Anthony provide practical solutions for navigating challenges through a compassionate lens. They share their personal experiences and lessons learned, empowering individuals to embrace their authenticity and confidently address controversy and conflict.
By emphasizing unity and investing in knowledge, The Amazing Two-Spirit Couple encourages individuals to understand the perspectives of others in order to engage in respectful and productive conversations without being offended. They demonstrate the importance of self-reflection, continuous education, and humility in order to manage oneself and relate to others with empathy and compassion.


In this empowering presentation, participants will learn how to develop the mindset and skills needed to navigate conflicts while staying true to their values. Dr. Makokis and Anthony provide strategies for self-awareness, effective communication, and fostering a culture of inclusivity and respect in the workplace through an inclusive lens. Through their guidance, attendees will gain the tools to approach challenging conversations with dignity, build bridges of understanding, and make a positive impact in their personal and professional lives.


Dr. James Makokis and Anthony Johnson take you on a transformative journey of authenticity, compassion, and advocacy so that individuals can better understand how and when to stand up, and how to educate others on your perspective without impacting you or your peers. By embracing these principles, individuals can create positive change within themselves, their teams, and their communities.

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