Sustainable Ontario

Shaping Sustainability in Ontario

On July 28, 2021, Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell hosted an online conference called Our Sustainable Ontario. Within the gathering, multiple panels presented diverse perspectives on the provincial potential to act locally while thinking globally.

Sustainable Ontario

Lt. Gov. Dowdeswell  has brought her own passion to the shift towards sustainability. Her keynote address opening the event was passionate and engaging. See the full recording of the event at

At the outset of her mandate, the Lieutenant Governor wanted to take time to listen to Ontarians and to learn about the things that they collectively consider to be of greatest importance to their communities.

What she learned is that at our core, Ontarians are people who think sustainably:

  • We care about our neighbours and communities,
  • We want responsible environmental stewardship,
  • We strive for social cohesion in our communities, and
  • We expect inclusive economic prosperity.

We might not always use the term “sustainability” to describe these things, but ultimately this is exactly what sustainability is – building a future that works for everyone.

The following is a brief summary of the five panel topics and speakers, with links to their web sites. Conference topics included:

  • Science and Sustainability,
  • Sustainability and the Arts,
  • Grassroots-led Sustainability,
  • Sustainable Cities and Institutions, and
  • Building Sustainable Businesses and Economies.


Moderated by Dr. Molly Shoichet, OC, OOnt, Professor of Engineering, University of Toronto

PANEL DESCRIPTION: The cross-cutting and interactive applicability of science makes it a fascinating lens through which to examine sustainability. In discussion on climate, we routinely hear about listening to the science. But how can we apply scientific analysis and whole fields of science-based thinking to the broader challenge of sustainability? This panel of esteemed thinkers explored the exciting possibilities that this nexus holds for shaping the future.


Dr. Maurice Bitram (MB), Senior Fellow, Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy

Rochelle Byrne (RB), Executive Director, A Greener Future

Mario Rigby (MR), Eco Explorer

Dr. James Orbinski (JO), OC, Director of York University’s Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research


Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations in New York


Moderated by Marilyn Field, Founder of Pioneering Arts Education Programs

PANEL DESCRIPTION: How do we best share our stories? How do we translate global challenges in a way that can speak to everyone? Most importantly, how do we build inclusive and expressive spaces? This panel discussed how we might all use collective expression to shape an inclusive and sustainable future.


Karen Carter, Co-Founder of the BIPOC Fellowship

Kevin Loring, Artistic Director of the Indigenous Theatre at the National Arts Centre

Edward Burtynsky, Visual Artist and Speaker

Henry Kim, Former Director & CEO, Aga Khan Museum


CEO and Founder of Access Now


Moderated by Dominique Souris, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Youth Climate Lab

PANEL DESCRIPTION: Whether building educational frameworks, breaking down systems of inequality, or increasing access to necessary services for all, change at the grassroots level has always been at work to shape sustainability. This panel of activists and community leaders considered questions that explore how we might all contribute to breaking down barriers to rebuild more sustainable spaces.


Daniele Zanotti, President & CEO, United Way Greater Toronto  

Sara Wolfe, RN, MBA, Director, Indigenous Innovation Initiative, Grand Challenges Canada

John Pateman, CEO, Thunder Bay Public Library

Marcia Brown, Founder & Executive Director, Trust 15


Moderated by David Miller, North American Director, C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group

PANEL DESCRIPTION: Not only do cities define physical space, but they are also the level of government with the closest relationship to its citizens. This is where shaping sustainability through our very institutions becomes a possibility. This panel of experts in cities, planning and democracy, explored the challenges and opportunities for shaping sustainability that exist in how we organize both our physical spaces and our social contracts.


Albert Wong, Citizenship Judge

Mary Rowe, President & CEO, Canadian Urban Institute

Her Worship June Caul, Mayor of Fort Francis

Dr. Dawn Lavell-Harvard, PhD, Director, First Peoples House of Learning at Trent University


Moderated by Tima Bansal, Professor of General Management, Sustainability and Strategy & Director of the Centre for Building Sustainable Value at Ivey Business School

PANEL DESCRIPTION: Investing in our future needs to involve business leaders willing to take risks and drive change. As green business plans and circular economies become more accepted, considering equitable growth should be central. This panel discussed green business practices, business plans that give back and how business has the potential to be successful while being a central key to bringing equitable and sustainable practices to the forefront across all economies.


Annette Vershuren, OC, Chair and CEO, NRStor

Yung Wu, CEO, MaRS Discovery District

Dawn Madahbee Leach, General Manager, Waubetek Business Development Corporation

Jayson Myers, CEO, Next Generation Manufacturing Canada