The Human Connection Conference is pleased to be bringing 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.

Below are our confirmed special guests who will be participating in the first Canadian Human Connection Conference

Dr. Beverley Fehr

Professor, Social Psychology, University of Winnipeg
Beverley Fehr, Ph.D. is a social psychologist who specializes in the study of close relationships. She has published an award-winning book, Friendship Processes, and numerous articles on friendships, love, and commitment. She has served as Associate Editor of the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships and the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Her research is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and by the Templeton Foundation. She is past President of the International Association for Relationship Research.
We are thrilled to have Dr. Fehr as our kick-off keynote on the first day of the Canadian Human Connection Conference. As someone who has been studying the power of friendships and relationships for nearly 30 years, there is no one better  to kick our our first annual conference.

Dr. Kiffer Card

Assistant Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University
Dr. Kiffer G. Card is the Scientific Director of the Institute for Social Connection, the research and policy arm of The GenWell Project, and 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.
We are grateful for all the work of Dr. Card in supporting the Canadian Human Connection Conference and for leading the conversation on many fronts about the importance of social health for our overall well-being.

Kasley Killam

Founder, Social Health Labs
Kasley Killam, MPH, is a leading expert in social health. Drawing from over a decade of studying, sharing, and applying the science of human connection. A social scientist by training, Kasley earned her master’s at the Harvard School of Public Health with a focus on solutions for widespread loneliness. In the past, she oversaw a national community engagement strategy and partnerships for Verily (Google Life Sciences), conducted research on mental health at Queen’s University.
Kasley elevates the idea of social health as a writer and speaker and helps individuals, communities, and organizations become more socially healthy as an advisor and founder. Kasley leads the nonprofit Social Health Labs, whose programs have connected and inspired thousands of people across the US and globe since launching in 2020.
We are thrilled to have Kasley as a speaker at the first Canadian Human Connection Conference, as one of the inspirations behind the Human Connection Movement.

Dr. Frances Chen

Associate Professor and Area Coordinator, Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia
Frances Chen received her A.B. from Harvard University and her Ph.D. from Stanford University. She was a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Freiburg, Germany before she joined the Department of Psychology at the University of British Columbia and is now an Associate Professor. Her research explores the intersection of social psychology and health psychology, linking our social lives (and, increasingly, our online social lives), mental health and physical health. Frances’s work has been featured in numerous media outlets, including The Globe and Mail, Forbes, Time, NPR, Slate, and The Washington Post.
We are thrilled to have Dr. Chan share her work and passion for the role that human connection can play in making each of us happier, healthier and for impact it can have on the well-being of others.

Vanessa Toperczer

Sr. Vice President – IMI International
Driven by intention and curiosity, Vanessa’s career to-date has provided her with a 360 view of the Marketing world – spanning Agency, Brand, Not-for-Profit and the Insights sides of the business. Her experience encompasses brand transformation and optimization; growth strategy development; communications strategy and articulation, partnership and sponsorship strategy, team leadership and empowerment, plus entrepreneurial business development and hustle.
Vanessa is focused on leveraging insight to uncover strong and pragmatic direction for any business challenge.
We are thrilled to have Vanessa as part of the Canadian Human Connection Conference and for sharing her important insights on the role that human connection can play for businesses as an external facing cause, purpose or platform that employees, customer and society can rally around.

Dr. Heather Palmer

President and CEO, Maximum Capacity Inc, Strategic and innovative aging, dementia, and cognitive rehabilitation specialist
Dr. Heather Palmer Heather has more than 35 years of scientific and clinical experience in brain-behaviour relationships. Heather has been published in scientific journals and spoken internationally on the topics of cancer-related brain fog, dementia, cognitive rehabilitation and seniors’ brain health. Heather has been featured on television and radio as a leading expert in these fields and in 2014 was inducted into the Havergal College Hall of Distinction for her work supporting the aging population. As a proud mother of three, she aspires to foster multi-generational understanding about how seniors, in particular those living with dementia, can live their best lives.
Heather will be moderating the Seniors abstract panel discussion, We are grateful for Heather’s participation, support and inspiration to create the first Canadian Human Connection Conference.

Pete Bombaci

Founder/Executive Director, The GenWell Project – Human Connection Movement
In 2016, Pete launched The GenWell Project, a Canadian led, Global Human Connection Movement, which has recently become more relevant than ever, with a mission to make the world a happier and healthier place by educating, empowering, and catalyzing people in workplaces, schools and communities, around the importance of proactive face-to-face social connection as a proactive step we can all take for our health, happiness, longevity, and the betterment of society.
As a human connection expert, Pete is frequently called upon to share his knowledge and insights regarding the role that human connection can play in homes, workplaces, schools and communities and can often be found on global podcasts, radio, television and as a panelist and speaker at conferences, sharing his positive and proactive messages about human connection.

Gillian Sandstrom

Senior Lecturer in the Psychology of Kindness, School of Psychology, University of Essex
I worked in industry for 10 years as a computer programmer before discovering positive psychology. This led to me pursuing a Masters in Psychology at Ryerson University, where I developed a smile-and-wave relationship with a lady who worked at a hot dog stand. During my PhD studies at the University of British Columbia, inspired by this relationship with the hot dog lady, I started studying interactions with weak ties. My work since then has focused on the benefits of minimal social interactions with weak ties and strangers, and the barriers that prevent people from connecting.
After completing my PhD, I worked as a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Cambridge before taking on a lectureship at the University of Essex. I started my role as Senior Lecturer in the Psychology of Kindness at the University of Sussex in 2022.
We are thrilled to have Gillian as part of the Canadian Human Connection Conference and look forward to hearing about her research on human connection, as one aspect of kindness, which we can all engage in for our own benefit and the benefit of those around us.

Elder Val Nicholson

 Elder Valerie Nicholson, of Mi’kmaq, Haida, Gypsy and English descent, is a storyteller and researcher, an advocate and an artivist.  She works at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS as a co-principal investigator and community-based researcher, and brings her knowledge back to her communities. She is an HIV Older for the Weaving Our Wisdom (WOW) study, and actively works with the Canadian Coalition to Reform the Criminalization of HIV and the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network. She is an Elder for Camp Moomba, YouthCo , First Directions and Yuusnewas. In 2018 Elder Valerie received the CAHR Red Ribbon Researchers Award and in 2019 the CANFAR Excellence in Research Award.
We are very pleased to have Elder Valerie Nicholson opening up the Canadian Human Connection Conference with a welcome and opening words for the attendees and presenters. We have always been in this together, but we need to recognize the power of this community and all communities as we move forward.

Dr. John Oliffe

Professor, Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Men’s Health Promotion
Dr. John Oliffe is a Professor and Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Men’s Health Promotion at the School of Nursing, University of British Columbia. Founder and lead investigator of UBC’s Men’s Health Research program, his work focuses on masculinities as it influences men’s health behaviours and illness management, and its impact on partners, families and overall life quality. Findings drawn from his research offer guidance to clinicians and researchers to advance men’s health promotion in the areas of psychosocial prostate cancer care, smoking cessation and male suicide prevention.
John will be moderating the Importance of Relationships abstract panel discussion. We are grateful for John’s  participation, support and inspiration to create the first Canadian Human Connection Conference.

Paul Estey

Paul co-founded and led Public Inc., one of North America’s preeminent social impact agencies focused on equipping leading organizations to “profit with purpose”. He also led strategy and business development for global SaaS fundraising software leader FrontStream (formerly Artez Interactive) and began his career in strategy consulting with The Monitor Group (now Monitor Deloitte).
Paul is a University of Waterloo Mathematics graduate, proud husband, dad and dog owner, foodie, traveler, diehard Raptors fan, long-suffering Bears fan, and serves as a strategic advisor to and investor in several growing social enterprises and nonprofits all working to drive positive change in society.
He is proud to be a member of GenWell Business Advisory Board and is pleased to be moderating  the panel – Human Connection and Business: The Foundation for a Thriving Workforce, A High Performing Culture and A Successful Business

Dr. Kwame McKenzie

Dr. McKenzie is Director of Health Equity at CAMH. He is a full Professor and the Co-Director of the Division of Equity Gender and Population in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto. Dr. McKenzie is also CEO of the Wellesley Institute and a member of the Mental Health and Addictions Advisory Council to the Minister of Health. He sits on the board of the United Way Toronto and the Ontario Hospitals Association .
Dr. McKenzie is an international expert on the social causes of mental illness, suicide and the development of effective, equitable health systems. As a physician, psychiatrist, researcher and policy advisor, Dr. McKenzie has worked to identify the causes of mental illness, particularly in cross-cultural health, for over two decades. He is an active, funded researcher of social, community, clinical and policy issues, and has nearly 200 academic publications, including four books.
Dr. McKenzie has set up award-winning services. In addition to developing health policy for governments, he continues to see patients and train clinicians and researchers. Dr. McKenzie has international experience in Africa, Europe, the Caribbean and United States.

John Brewer

John has been designing and facilitating conferences since arriving in North America 30 years ago.  While he now specializes in Workplace Culture, Mental Health and Wellness, and Diversity and Inclusion, he has worked in a wide range of areas including Pensions, Blockchain, Project Management, Change, Customer Experience, Social Media, Leadership and many more. 
His podcast, Here Comes Everyone, features an eclectic mix of guests that includes experts on Coaching, Social Isolation, Diversity, Mental Health, Employee Experience, Change, Agile, Workplace Culture, Grief, Generations in the Workplace and Learning.  He is currently working on a new series “Poetry Not PowerPoint” that explores how poets and their insights can contribute to organizations.
John will be hosting the Canadian Human Connection Conference and moderating the panel on Community. We are thrilled to have John as part of the organizing team for the CHCC.

Jim Hughes

James Hughes has dedicated his career to the non-profit and social services sectors playing a pivotal role in championing social inclusion and helping to reduce poverty and end chronic homelessness in Canada.
James is currently the President and CEO of the Old Brewery Mission, and has spent portions of his career at the J.W. McConnell  and the Graham Boeckh Foundation, where he  was responsible for initiatives including Indigenous housing, public sector innovation, charitable modernization and the largest public-private prototyping-scaling initiative in youth mental health in Canadian history in partnership with the Canadian Institutes for Health Research.
Mr. Hughes is a graduate of McGill University (B.C.L), University of Cambridge (B.A. Law), and Queen’s University (B. Commerce). 
James will be moderating the Key Populations abstract panel discussion. We are grateful for James’ leadership, inspiration and participation in the first Canadian Human Connection Conference.

We will continue to update our speaker, moderator and panelist lists as we get closer to the Canadian Human Connection Conference. Check back soon to see who is coming next! #stayconnected

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