I had the pleasure of taking part in the 2017 Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference between June 2 to 16, which brought together 250 leaders from across Canada to have conversations on building the future of our country and how we can best accelerate innovation, productivity, inclusion, and entrepreneurship. After the opening plenary in Whistler, the entire country became our classroom as we were divided into small teams and sent on study tours to different regions across Canada. I was lucky to be assigned to the Northwest Territories where I had never been before to learn from the land and its people.
Learning from the land and its people at Virginia Falls (twice the height of Niagara Falls) in the Northwest Territories
After the study tours, we reconvened in Ottawa-Gatineau, where we shared our experience and newfound insights with His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston (who I had the pleasure of connecting with on campus when he was President of the University of Waterloo).
Tobi Day-Hamilton (Director, Communications and Strategic Initiatives, IQC), His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, David Ha (Accounting Faculty, SAF)
I took away two wonderful lessons from this immersive experience. The first being the importance to truly understand one another. The adventure across the Northwest Territories took us above the Arctic Circle (where I got to dip my toes in the Arctic Ocean, so I can proudly say I’ve been coast to coast to coast) and allowed us to learn about the cultural traditions of our indigenous brothers and sisters. Throughout the journey, it was overwhelming to feel the warmth from the communities we visited, and to see their pride and resiliency in the face of the socio-economic challenges faced in the North. This conference gave us a chance to reflect on Canada 150 – From our successes to how we can grow as a country, but to also step back and recognize the rich history even before confederation and the need for reconciliation.
Little Doctor Lake in Nahanni National Park Reserve, NWT
For Canada to be a strong player internationally, we need to be connected at home to move forward together. That means recognizing our wonderful indigenous history. That means embracing new Canadian citizens and the skills and passion they bring. That means standing up for groups like the LGBTQ community that still have their voices questioned. If we support each other and take pride in our diverse perspectives, we can stand strong together to discover opportunities and to face challenges in a complex world.
The second takeaway is to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. What made the experience so rich was the mix of people I got to learn from as we explored the North, all with diverse ages, backgrounds, and industries. This allowed us to not only share insightful perspectives, but to also trust one another to open up and be vulnerable to reflect on our insecurities and what we don’t know to grow as individuals and as leaders. Stepping out of your comfort zone truly supports lifelong learning – Do not let yourself believe that you’ve mastered everything, be open to new ideas and change.
Taking part in the blanket toss, traditionally used to toss hunters in the air to spot animals in the distance
I have the privilege of working with Canada’s next future leaders both in and out of the classroom as a faculty member in the School of Accounting and Finance at the University of Waterloo, and look forward to sharing the lessons learned. I hope I can encourage students to be connected, resilient, and engaged leaders to be well-poised to shape the future of our country on the global stage.