Who were LaFontaine and Baldwin?

Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine and Robert Baldwin are best known in Canadian history as the architects of responsible government. From Montréal and Toronto, respectively, they were both influential in early Canadian politics as lawyers and as members of their legislative assemblies.

Between 1848 and 1851, LaFontaine and Baldwin led the “Great Ministry” that established responsible government and enacted hundreds of laws. Their reforms created the roots of modern Canada by moving government away from the European model and toward the concepts of complexity and diversity.

Past LaFontaine-Baldwin Lecturers

2020: Former LaFontaine-Baldwin Lecturers +

What has the pandemic revealed about the divide between winners and losers, insiders and outsiders?  What will it take to emerge from this crisis as more just, inclusive societies?

This unique digital edition brought together former lecturers in a discussion of the critical issues of our time, led by Michael Sandel.

2019: Adam Gopnik +

Celebrated author and speaker Adam Gopnik delivered the 17th LaFontaine-Baldwin Lecture. Gopnik has been exploring “small L” liberalism and its actors for his entire career, including in The New Yorker, and his new book, A Thousand Small Sanities: The Moral Adventure of Liberalism. It has been heralded by reviewers for its relevance in a time that democratic and inclusive values are under threat.

Gopnik’s lecture on Sept. 24 questioned, illuminated, and served as an antidote to the rising tide of nationalism here and around the world. The 17th LaFontaine-Baldwin lecture also featured Gopnik in conversation with celebrated author and thinker John Ralston Saul.

2018: Sue Gardner +

“Dark Times Ahead: Taking Back Truth, Freedom, and Technology”

“Sue Gardner is on the forefront of ideas on technology, democracy, and women’s roles in our society,” said ICC Co-founder and Co-chair John Ralston Saul. “As we witness the alarming erosion of democratic institutions, I can’t think of a more relevant voice to address the challenges ahead.”

On September 24, Sue Gardner delivered the 16th LaFontaine-Baldwin Lecture, followed by an on-stage conversation with John Ralston Saul.

2017: Michael Sandel +

The 15th LaFontaine-Baldwin Lecture, delivered by Harvard political philosopher Michael Sandel on Sept. 25, 2017, began with a troubling but pertinent question — how do we decide which immigrants to let into the country? Over 90 minutes of sustained engagement with the 1000-person crowd, Sandel pressed those gathered on their fundamental moral stances, encouraging the participants to listen to and work through differences of opinion. The outcome was not consensus, but an emerging clarity; the debate about immigration is a debate about what it means to be a citizen. What are our obligations to our fellow citizens?

2016: Naomi Klein +

Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist, syndicated columnist and author of the international bestsellers This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate (2014), The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (2007) and No Logo (2000).  She is a board member for 350.org, a climate-action group, and in 2015 was invited to speak at the Vatican to help launch Pope Francis’s historic encyclical on ecology, Laudato si’.

On September 19, Naomi Klein delivered the 14th LaFontaine-Baldwin Lecture, followed by an on-stage conversation with John Ralston Saul.

2015: Naheed Nenshi +

“The Canada We Hope For”

“Each year we invite a speaker who can extend our conversation in new directions with original and inclusive ideas. Naheed Nenshi will bring the force of his thinking about citizenship and cities, along with his remarkable personal narrative, to the fore, ensuring another important Symposium conversation about who we are as a country.”

—Charlie Foran, Institute for Canadian Citizenship CEO

Globally known for his passion to make cities, especially Calgary, work better, Naheed Nenshi is currently serving his second term and is Calgary’s 36th mayor. He was Canada’s first tenured professor in the field of nonprofit management at Mount Royal University’s Bissett School of Business and a trusted business advisor to corporate leaders in Canada and the USA. Nenshi is also the lead author of Building Up: Making Canada’s Cities Magnets for Talent and Engines of Development.

2014: Robert Lepage +

“An Artist’s View on Identity and Belonging”

Many know Robert Lepage as the influence behind Cirque du Soleil’s TOTEM and shows, and Peter Gabriel’s tours, Secret World and Growing Up. For the stage, he has created Needles and Opium and The Far Side of the Moon. He also directed The Ring Cycle for New York’s Metropolitan Opera. Lepage is also the recipient of The Glenn Gould Prize, celebrating his international critical acclaim for combining diverse media into cohesive stories that surprise, challenge and delight.

Lepage addressed 350 people, and many more online watching the live webcast. It was a rare opportunity to hear him speak about his personal life and the themes that fuel his work. Insightful and entertaining, he showed us how different cultures brought together are shaping our identity: “by learning other languages we often learn about our own culture”. The lecture featured introductory remarks by Adrienne Clarkson, John Ralston Saul and Antoni Cimolino, the Stratford Festival’s artistic director. Saul also led an audience Q&A with Lepage.

Immediately following the lecture, 120 audience members participated in an intimate discussion on the ideas presented by Lepage. Seated at tables, each group was asked to work through pre-set questions and then share their table’s highlights with the room in a conversation moderated by Saul, Lepage and Clarkson. The room was buzzing with excitement as participants eagerly shared how Lepage’s ideas resonated with their own experiences.

2013: Shawn A-in-chut Atleo +

“First Nations and the Future of Canadian Citizenship”

Shawn Atleo, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, reopens Canada’s original conversation on inclusion. Influenced by the founding principles of peace, friendship and mutual respect between Canada’s First Nations and newcomers 400 years ago, his explores how these founding ideals must frame the national dialogue today.Atleo sits at the very heart of the discussion on where our country has been, and where we all need to help it go. In addition to the National Chief, the lecture featured:

  • Introductory remarks by Antoni Cimolino, the Stratford Festival’s artistic director, Adrienne Clarkson and John Ralston Saul;
  • Ceremony blessing by Lee Claremont;
  • Drumming by James Adams; and
  • An audience Q&A led by John Ralston Saul.

2010: His Highness the Aga Khan +

Featuring His Highness the Aga Khan, the 10th LaFontaine-Baldwin Lecture, held on October 15, 2010, was a huge success. The Aga Khan spoke about pluralism and diversity to a sold out audience at Koerner Hall in the Royal Conservatory’s TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning. John Ralston Saul then took the stage and discussed citizenship and pluralism in Canada. Telus streamed the event and it was shown in 60 Ismaili community centres across the country; approximately 20 000 people watched the lecture online.

On October 16, at the Leslie and Anna Dan Galleria in the Royal Conservatory’s TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning, approximately 100 people participated in a roundtable discussion with John Ralston Saul and Adrienne Clarkson to further discuss the themes and topics from the previous night.

2009: Siila Watt-Cloutier +

“Returning Canada to a Path of Principle: an Arctic and Inuit Perspective”

Siila Watt-Cloutier delivered the 9th LaFontaine-Baldwin Lecture on May 29, 2009, in Iqaluit. Watt-Cloutier, one of Canada’s leading public figures, has long been a national and international voice for Northerners and the North. She is an Officer of the Order of Canada, the first recipient of Canada’s Northern Medal and was nominated for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

An audience of approximately 500 people packed into Inukshuk High School in Iqaluit to experience the first lecture of this scope in the North. Dignitaries included the Rt. Hon. Michaëlle Jean, 27th Governor General of Canada, John Ralston Saul, and Adrienne Clarkson. The lecture was streamed to venues in Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montréal and Alice Springs by AustraliaIsumaTV, award-winning filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk’s production company.

2007: The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson +

“The Society of Difference”

We have to examine how we have the same values but look so different. Are there profound intellectual and ethical differences, or do we load the slight shoulders of visible difference with the heavy weight of crippling significance? When we take away the visual, what are we as a people? Why is difference looked upon with a mixture of trepidation and acceptance?

2006: George Elliott Clarke +

“Imagining the City of Justice”

“The City of Justice” very simply is one where all citizens bear responsibility for the success or failure of their community, where resources are shared to assure adequate assistance for the poor and the equitable distribution of the wealth gained at least in part by extraction of the peoples‟ natural resources, and where initiatives are undertaken to ameliorate past injustices. The City of Justice should be the goal of all so-called urban agendas, for while potholes must be filled as soon as possible, so must minds be expanded and hearts enlarged.

2005: The Honourable Louise Arbour +

“Freedom from Want: From charity to entitlement”


2004: David Malouf +

David Malouf delivered the LaFontaine-Baldwin Lecture at the University of Toronto.


2003: The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin +

“The Civilization of Difference”

Why does difference dominate? How can we better manage difference? Canada, like other countries, has struggled with these questions. Sometimes we have answered them with exclusion and violence. Yet even in our beginnings we find another response – the response of respect, inclusion, and accommodation.

2002: Georges Erasmus +

George Erasmus delivered the LaFontaine-Baldwin Lecture at the Hotel Vancouver.

2001: Alain Dubuc +

The 2nd LaFontaine-Baldwin Lecture was delivered at HEC Montréal on March 9, 2001.

2000: John Ralston Saul +

John Ralston Saul delivered the inaugural LaFontaine-Baldwin Lecture at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.