Big Thinking

Big Thinking

The Big Thinking series is held throughout Congress and brings together leading scholars and public figures who present forward-thinking research, ideas and solutions to the critical questions and issues of our time. The series is free and open to all Congress registered attendees and the general public. Simultaneous interpretation will be provided.

The 2019 Big Thinking series will feature the arts as a platform to engage with scholarship in the humanities and social sciences. It is organized by the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences and The University of British Columbia, with the generous support of series sponsors. 

All Big Thinking events will be in Frederic Wood Theatre on campus. 

Meet this year's speakers:

Esi Edugyan

Esi Edugyan
Canadian novelist
June 2, 2019 - 12:15 to 13:15

Esi Edugyan is the author of the novels The Second Life of Samuel Tyne and Half-Blood Blues, which won the Scotiabank Giller Prize and was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize, the Governor General’s Literary Award, the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and the Orange Prize. Her most recent novel, Washington Black, won the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize and was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize. In 2014, she published her first book of non-fiction, Dreaming of Elsewhere: Observations on Home. She lives in Victoria, British Columbia, with her husband and two children. Photo credit © Tamara Poppitt

Simon Brault

Simon Brault, O.C., O.Q.
Director/CEO of the Canada Council for the Arts
June 3, 2019 - 12:15 to 13:15

What is the price of reconciling freedom and responsibility in a changing democracy? 
The arts and culture are often conducive to creating spaces where discussions and encounters can take place, spaces which are increasingly rare in democracies bogged down with polarized opinions. These spaces rely on trust to ensure that the creative freedom of artists and the cultural rights of all citizens are exercised simultaneously and fully. Increasingly, the social responsibility of public organizations like the Canada Council for the Arts is linked to civic awareness, an understanding of society as a whole, a commitment to citizens and an ability to create spaces of trust. Join Simon Brault in a discussion on cultural citizenship, inclusiveness, equality and the price of change.

Simon Brault is the Director and CEO of the Canada Council for the Arts. He launched an ambitious transformation of the Council in 2014, with the implementation of a new funding model and a strategic plan that proposes a bold vision for the future of the arts in Canada. Brault has been a major player in culture for over 30 years, and he is a much sought-after speaker at national and international events. He has received numerous distinctions for his commitment to the social recognition of the arts and culture. Photo credit © M. Lipman/FPAC

David Suzuki

David Suzuki and Ian Mauro
Beyond Climate: Science, storytelling and solutions
June 4, 2019 - 19:00 to 21:00

Join two of Canada’s leading science and environmental communicators for a screening of their latest film, Beyond Climateand engage with them in conversation about the role of film in research, community engagement, and solution-making. Addressing many of the pressing issues facing BC – from pipelines, liquified natural gas, salmon, and Indigenous rights – this film and Big Thinking event are timely contributions to the province and country as we grapple with climate change, the paramount issue of our time. 

Ian Mauro photo

Dr. Suzuki is a world-renowned scientist, broadcaster, author, activist and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. He is best known as the host of The Nature of Things – a landmark television series with over 50 seasons, the longest running on CBC – and Suzuki has been host since 1979. David has written or co-authored more than 50 books, nearly 20 of which are for children. 

Dr. Mauro is the Principal of the Richardson College for the Environment, Co-Director of the Prairie Climate Centre and filmmaker at the University of Winnipeg. He is a former Canada Research Chair, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists, and has served on expert panels related to food security, energy issues, and climate change.


Storytelling and strength: Voices from Indigenous theatre in Canada
Sylvia Cloutier, Margo Kane, Lindsay Lachance and Corey Payette
June 5, 2019 - 12:15 to 13:15

This panel discussion brings together award-winning performers, writers, and directors to explore how their artistic process reconnects them with self, family and their cultural heritage and illuminates sometimes difficult questions. Panelists will discuss their artistry as a way to help express their identity and cultural practices, how they negotiate the inclusion of personal experiences in their projects, and how their work manifests their connections to their homelands and ancestral knowledges.  

Stan Douglas

Stan Douglas
Visual artist
June 6, 2019 - 16:30 to 17:30

Stan Douglas is a visual artist who works in photography, video and theatre. Survey exhibitions of his work have been staged at major museums in North America and Europe and he is currently core faculty in the Graduate Fine Art Department of Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.



Big Thinking series sponsors:


Date & time Event Speaker(s)sort descending
Jun 5
12:15 - 13:45
Jun 4
19:00 - 20:30
David Suzuki, Ian Mauro
Jun 2
12:15 - 13:15
Esi Edugyan, Dr. Minelle Mahtani
Jun 3
12:15 - 13:15
Simon Brault, O.C., O.Q.
Jun 6
16:30 - 17:30
Stan Douglas