Keynote Speakers


Candace Brunette-Debassige

Assistant Professor at Western University London Ontario Canada

Candace Brunette-Debassige is a Mushkego Cree iskwew of Petabeck First Nation in Treaty 9 with Cree and French lineage. Raised in small town northern Ontario, Candace is a professor at Western University, located on the lands of the Anishnabek, Haudenosaunee, and Lenapewak Peoples. In 2021, Candace was awarded a teaching fellowship in Indigenous education at Western to focus on bridging diverse peoples and ways of knowing, and to advance reconciliatory change. Beyond her passion for teaching, Candace has extensive leadership experience driving institutional policy change at the K-12 and postsecondary levels. She has served as Acting Vice Provost /Associate Vice President (Indigenous Initiative), Special Advisor to the Provost (Indigenous), and Director of Indigenous Services at Western where, after the release in 2015 of the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, she actively led the development of Western’s first Indigenous Strategic Plan. Candace is the author of Tricky Grounds, a 2023 book focusing on Indigenous women’s powerful leadership roles in advancing reconciliation and Indigenization movements in postsecondary settings. Tricky Grounds is based on her doctoral dissertation, which was awarded the 2021 George L. Geis dissertation of the year award by the Canadian Society for Studies in Higher Education. Candace is also the proud recipient of a 2019 Peace Award for Truth and Reconciliation from Atlôhsa Family Services, and a 2021 international Peace and Reconciliation Award from the Association of Commonwealth Universities.


Carl James

Professor, Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community & Diaspora

Carl E. James is the Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community & Diaspora in the Faculty of Education at York University where he is Equity Advisor to the Dean of Education. He holds cross-appointments in the Graduate Programs in Sociology, Social and Political Thought, and Social Work. A Distinguished Research Professor, he holds a PhD in Sociology, and studies the experiences of racialized people noting the ways in which race and intersecting identities mediate their cultural, social, educational, and economic opportunities, trajectories, attainments and lived experiences. Premised on notions of equity, inclusion, and social justice, James’ research considers how institutional structures influence individuals’ participation and realization of their aspirations. Specifically, his work has critically examined the experiences of marginalized students in Canadian postsecondary institutions and includes publications such as: First-Generation Student Experiences in Higher Education: Counterstories and The Equity Myth: Racialization and Indigeneity at Canadian Universities. He has received numerous awards for his work and gained recognition at the national (e.g., Outstanding Contribution Award, Canadian Sociological Association, 2020) and international (e.g., honorary degree from Uppsala University, Sweden, 2012) level and. Throughout his career, James has served in several equity-related administrative roles including Senior Advisor on Equity & Representation in the Office of the Vice President of Equity, People & Culture, and the Affirmative Action, Equity & Inclusivity Officer (2006-2020; 2003-2006).