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The 2023 Canadian Human Connection Conference is pleased to be bringing new speakers, moderators and panelists from across Canada and around the world to share their information, insights and efforts to address the growing issues of social isolation, disconnection and loneliness through human connection and more.

Stay tuned for updates upon the completion of our call for abstracts and confirmation of speakers, formats and more!

Let’s spread the word and build a more connected Canada and world! Stay connected!

Sandra Allison

Sandra is an accomplished public health and preventive medicine specialist and a community-centered physician.

Pete Bombaci

Pete is the founder of The GenWell Project and is proud to be leading a movement that he truly believes can make the world a happier and healthier place. The idea, in the making for over a decade before it’s launch in 2016, was inspired by the events witnessed during the summer blackout back in 2003. Kindness, generosity, empathy and most importantly, human connection. Formerly the Canadian Country Director for Movember Canada, Pete led an amazing team of people responsible for raising $142 million dollars over five years, and putting a much needed lens back on men’s health. Having spent time in the for profit and not for profit worlds, Pete believes that there is a great opportunity to combine the interests of business, schools, government, foundations and individuals in the solution to the disconnected world that we find ourselves in today.

Bobbie Breckenridge

Bobbie is a trauma-informed social worker, somatic coach, and project management specialist. Passionate about building a more connected Canada, she brings to the GenWell Project almost a decade of experience in organizing community initiatives that promote health and wellness. Bobbie has also been featured in the Toronto Sun, CTV news, & radio news stations for her advocacy work on self-care and youth mental health initiatives. Bobbie has presented keynote speeches to thousands of people on her personal story from survival to thrival and has supported her community in raising over $100,000 for local youth social services.

Sydney Elaine Butler

It is Sydney’s understanding that their professional purpose must be to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to be successful regardless of barriers in their way and that they must as a professional remove these barriers. Sydney conducts training and consulting for other companies on how to be more Accessible and Inclusive from a Human approach and how to recruit and retain more diverse individuals through the lens of Intersectionality/Human Resources as well as other areas of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in an authentic manner at the company they founded called Accessible Creates due to understanding the barriers that exist within the workplace for diverse individuals. 

Dr. Kiffer G. Card

Dr. Kiffer is an Assistant Professor with the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University. He received his training as a behavioural epidemiologist, social ecologist, and health services researcher from Brigham Young University (B.Sc.), Simon Fraser University (Ph.D.), and the University of Victoria (PDF). Building on this training, Dr. Card’s research is focused on the ecological, political, and social determinants of health — with an emphasis on understanding how emotional distress and coping responses impact health, well-being, and equity. Dr. Card approaches his work by leveraging community-based mixed methods study designs — with an emphasis on theoretically-informed quantitative analyses. He primarily conducts his research among and with marginalized communities, including gay and bisexual men, youth who use drugs, and other populations who experience stigma, discrimination, violence, and social exclusion as a result of their social position and identity.

Dr. David Conn

Dr. David is the Executive Vice-President of Education and Chief Academic Officer at the Baycrest Academy for Research & Education. He is the Co-Chair of the Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Mental Health and the Principal Investigator for this project. He is a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto and is a Geriatric Psychiatrist at Baycrest. David is founding Co-Chair of the Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Mental Health and Past President of the Canadian Academy of Geriatric Psychiatry. His academic interests include nursing home psychiatry, telepsychiatry, guideline development and knowledge translation. He is the author or co-author of more than 100 publications and is the co-editor of three textbooks including “Practical Psychiatry in the Long-Term Care Home: A Handbook for Staff”. He has received numerous awards including the Canadian Academy of Geriatric Psychiatry Award for Outstanding Contributions to Geriatric Psychiatry in Canada and a Distinguished Service Award from the International Psychogeriatric Association.

Troy Glover

Troy is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies and Director of the Healthy Communities Research Network at the University of Waterloo. Professor Glover’s research explores the process of transformative placemaking that shapes the public realm to facilitate social connectedness and improve the quality of community life.

Catherine Hart

Catherine is the Communications and Project Specialist at Engage Nova Scotia. A self-described Swiss army knife, her role at Engage weaves her background in academia and community-based research project management with her writing skills and drive to improve quality of life in Nova Scotia for all. Catherine is passionate about creating and coordinating social connections projects to bring people closer to the people and places around them. As an enthusiastic and lifelong learner, she is always looking for a new book or podcast recommendation. When not at work, she can be found weightlifting (think: the snatch and clean and jerk), playing hockey, cuddling her chocolate lab Gus, reading, volunteering, or enjoying the outdoors.

Yvonne Heath

Yvonne is the Founder of Love Your Life to Death and the #IJustShowedUp movement. Using heart and humour she shares her message globally helping people of all ages learn to take care of themselves. She is an award winning author and a celebrated TEDx Speaker. Yvonne has her own #RealLifeTalks television series and #IJustShowedUp radio program. At age 50, she took a leap of faith, left her nursing career and blazed a new trail to help create a culture of change. Yvonne shares her message—with heart and humour— using intelligence, empathy and genuine uplifting spirit, to combine a powerful mix of personal insights and lessons. to demonstrates how we can live well, and transform our world into a happier place.”

Tennesha Joseph

Tennesha is a Project Coordinator at 8 80 Cities, passionate about finding new and creative ways to make public spaces accessible for all. Although an introvert at heart, she is always looking for underused/unconventional spaces to connect with friends and family outdoors. Through her public space initiative, ‘Are You Afraid of the Dark T.O.,’ she uses outdoor LED-lit furniture installations to create public spaces that are welcoming and safe for women & girls to connect after dark. Her installations have been featured in an underused laneway in Brampton, ON, as part of Activate Downtown Brampton and Downtown Kitchener’s first-ever pop-up park. When she isn’t curled up with a good book, she enjoys exploring the public parks in her local community, especially at night. Tennesha holds a Bachelor’s in Urban and Region Planning from Toronto Metropolitan University.

Mabe Kyle

Mabe Kyle is a disabled queer white settler who lives on their family’s farm on Anishnaabe, Haudenosaunee, and Attawandaron territory along the Haldimand Tract. They are a creative professional with a passion for healing and self expression who has practiced and honed their skills in six countries. With a strong foundation in social justice and leadership experiences, their open mindedness and active engagement in continued learning, enables them to have a unique perspective to problem solving and the development of communities. Mabe is currently an Expressive Arts Therapist in training and a peer support worker in practice.

Robyn Lee

Robyn is a Masters student at Simon Fraser University’s Urban Studies program and research assistant for the Hey Neighbour Collective. Building on HNC’s interest in community resilience in high-density environments, her research focuses on how apartment dwellers cope during extreme heat or very hot weather. Her project is a focused study on thermal management in the context of heat action plans and its implications for household cooling practices.

Yeeun Archer Lee

Yeeun is on track to complete her PhD dissertation in Psychology at the University of British Columbia in August 2023, and will soon start her role as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Toronto. Broadly, her research aim is to gain deeper insights into the ways people pursue positive life outcomes through prosociality and social connection. She is particularly passionate about intervention science – how to translate scientific findings into evidence-based solutions to societal problems including loneliness and social disintegration.

Kristi Baerg MacDonald

Kristi is a PhD student at University of Western Ontario. She studies personality and individual differences and has a particular focus on loneliness.

Kathy MacLeod-Beaver

Kathy MacLeod-Beaver is a proud Anishinaabe kwe and member residing at Alderville First Nation Mississaugas of Rice Lake. She loves being a Nokomis to Holly and Faye and momma to Mary, Sarah and son-in-law Jeremy. Kathy has been married for 40 years to her wonderful hubby Ken and worked 32 years in Indigenous Health.
She has had the great honour to work in her own community as a Community Health Representative.
Nogojiwanong Friendship Centre as an Indigenous Mental Health Worker. The past 10 years as the Indigenous Navigator with the Central East Regional Cancer Program Lakeridge Health Oshawa. Working with community and allies to create safe equitable access to health care for positive patient outcomes based on the teachings of our Ancestors.

Victoria McCutcheon

Victoria is a Master of Planning candidate within the School of Urban and Regional Planning at Queen’s University and holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and Urban Studies from the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on immigrant and refugee settlement in rural municipalities and shrinking cities.

Julia Nakamura

Julia is a second-year doctoral student and Vanier Scholar in the Health Psychology program at the University of British Columbia. She integrates theories and perspectives from health psychology, epidemiology, gerontology, biostatistics, and translational science to identify, understand, and intervene upon the dimensions of psychological well-being and prosocial behaviors that promote health and well-being. Julia also engages in multiple translational science efforts with non-academic partners, including United Way Worldwide, IDEO, Red Cross, and the Consortium on Analytics for Data-Driven Decision-Making.

Cherie Ann Pereira

Cherie Ann is a registered social worker with over 15 years of experience of working with children and youth from marginalized communities across the world. Her work has mainly focused on rescue and rehabilitation of children and youth in crisis. She has also worked in the health, education and public policy sectors. Cherie Ann has a second Master’s Degree in Social Work Research and is passionate about evidence, evaluation and impact measurement. She is currently working with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto as the Manager of Evidence, Learning and Impact.

Shayna Skakoon-Sparling

Shayna Sparling has a PhD in Applied Social Psychology. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Psychology Department at the University of Guelph and is the National Team Manager for the Engage Cohort Study, a longitudinal study of the health and well-being of sexual minority men in Canada’s urban centres. Shayna’s research examines the need to belong, with a current focus on the roles of loneliness and social support in the health and well-being of marginalized populations such as sexual minority men.

Bette Watson-Borg

Bette is the Project Manager for the Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Mental Health project of developing clinical guidelines for social isolation and loneliness in older adults. She is a high energy and results-oriented professional with over 30 years experience working with others from across Canada on programs, projects, and complex multi-year social impact initiatives – with a focus on growth and development for everyone involved. She has a passion for collaborating with communities and across sectors, to set strategic direction and take action, resulting in new solutions to complex social, community and organizational challenges. Ultimately, Bette is focused on co-designing processes with her client’s to meet their goals, whether they are individuals, groups, teams, organizations, communities and/or systems. In her capacity as facilitator, coach, trainer or developmental evaluator, Bette prioritizes welcoming, engaging, and celebrating the rich diversity of backgrounds, skills, experiences, perspectives, and ideas needed for true social impact. Working together with others, for social change, is the thread that ties all of the work that Bette engages with her clients and their communities. 

Dr Britt Wray

Dr Britt is the Director of the Special Initiative of the Chair on Climate Change and Mental Health in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences of Stanford University School of Medicine. Her latest book Generation Dread: Finding Purpose in an Age of Climate Crisis, is an impassioned generational perspective on how to stay sane amid climate disruption. Britt holds a PhD in science communication from the University of Copenhagen and she completed her postdoctoral training at Stanford Medicine’s Center for Innovation in Global Health. As a practicing science communicator, she has hosted several podcasts, radio and TV programs with the BBC, NPR, CBC, and is a Canadian Screen Award winner. Dr Wray has spoken at TED and the World Economic Forum and is a Chicago Council on Global Affairs Next Generation Climate Changemaker. Dr Wray is also the creator of Gen Dread (, a popular newsletter about building courage and taking meaningful action on the far side of climate grief.

Cindy Yu

Cindy Yu is a Social Epidemiologist at the GenWell Project and the Canadian Alliance for Social Connection and Health. Based off of both personal experience and research, Cindy recognizes that social isolation and perceived loneliness are underappreciated risks to our health and well-being, and is proud to support work that aims to encourage social connection. She holds a Master of Science in Epidemiology (MSc, University of Ottawa), and a Bachelor of Health Sciences (BHSc, McMaster University).