The Walrus Talks on tour: How to make a better Canada

Canada 150
The Walrus Talks national tour with Conversations about Canada.

What would make Canada a better country? The Walrus Talks hits the road this year asking some of our nation’s greatest minds and influencers to answer. The Walrus Talks Conversations about Canada: We Desire a Better Country, a Signature Project of Canada 150, comes to every province and territory in 2017.

Based on the Latin motto for The Order of Canada: desiderantes meliorem patriam, or "They desire a better country," The Walrus Talks national tour features 50 youth leaders and 50 Order of Canada recipients addressing key issues surrounding the future of our country. Order of Canada presenters include household names like Margaret Atwood, Julie Payette, Atom Egoyan, Adrienne Clarkson, and Clara Hughes. Each event features four Order of Canada speakers and four youth leaders, tickets are free and all the talks will be livestreamed, broadcast by CPAC and CBC Radio. Walrus Foundation Executive Director Shelley Ambrose tells us more.

What inspired the Order of Canada and The Walrus Talks to join forces as a national tour?

We’re dedicated to creating forums for the Canadian conversation, and The Order of Canada is turning 50 in 2017. They were launched during Expo in 1967 for the centennial celebration of the country, so we came up with the merging of The Walrus Talks and The Order of Canada. They thought it was a great idea to combine current members of the Order and youth leaders who are, as we say, aspiring to the Order of Canada. It’s nice to elevate the profile of the Order of Canada in its 50th year with all kinds of Canadians.

The confirmed speakers are an impressive list of Canadians, how were they selected?

At The Walrus we're looking for diversity of perspective. Diversity can be geographic, or age, but we're looking for diversity of perspective so that the audience will leave thinking "I never thought of it that way." We had a list of 3,000 living members of the Order of Canada, we separated them into their areas of expertise, for example scientists, musicians, or lawyers, and then into regions, then made our approach.

For our youth leaders, we have about 15 organizations giving suggestions, so we had Fulbright, Royal Roads, Quest University, Concordia, the Trudeau Fellows, The Next 36 , The Jeanne Sauvé Foundation, Indspire and Inspirit youth leaders, and chose 50 youth from those organizations.

For people who would like to hear speakers in different cities, how are the Talks being broadcast?

Even if you can only be in, say, Whitehorse, you can still livestream, listen, or watch all of them on Walrus TV, CBC Radio, or CPAC. CPAC is broadcasting us every Sunday while we're on the road, and CBC Radio is providing smaller pieces of it and packaging the youth leaders as a summer replacement program. We're looking at the 100 voices together as the future of the cabinet of Canada: 50 elders and 50 youth who will be our next leaders.

Walrus Foundation Executive Director Shelley Ambrose at The Walrus Talks.
The tour focuses on big picture ideas for Canada’s future, what kind of topics can the audience expect?

We’re looking at the big issues facing Canadians, and a lot of those issues are topics with different perspectives. We're using the Latin motto of the Order of Canada as the theme for the tour ("we desire a better country") because of course Canada is a great country, but we can be better. We're looking at challenges like water, energy, reconciliation, the Arctic, innovation—everything from food security to immigration, and talking to different communities.

Is there a speaker you're most excited about?

I'm excited about all of them, we've had over 450 "Walrus Talkers" over the past 5 years, and what I find is that it’s always a mix of names people recognize, and then some that you've never heard of. Often the one you've never heard of is the one that just blows everyone away.

What do you think audiences will take away from The Walrus Talks tour?

I'm hoping they take away a "gee, I never thought of it that way," I'm hoping they join the conversation. There's a realization that most of us working on, or participating in Canada 150 won’t be there for the 200th, so it’s about starting a conversation so it can be continued. At The Walrus we're not interested in telling people what to think, we're just saying, please think!

The tour runs from March 1st to June 1st 2017, check the listings on The Walrus Talks Conversations about Canada website to find upcoming events in your area, purchase tickets, and livestream the talks on Walrus TV.

Date modified: