On Civil Society Fall 2019 Lineup

August 23, 2019 | Jorge Amigo

Comments (3)

Civil Society web banner

Friends, Torontonians, library fans, lend me your ears! 

I'm excited to share the fall 2019 lineup for the On Civil Society series at the library! This is the fourth season we've programmed this series, and it just keeps getting better.

To read about some of the past events, or get updates about upcoming ones, follow along at #OnCivilSociety on Twitter.

Also, don't miss the On Civil Society playlist on YouTube. 

And now...**drumroll**... here's this season's highlights: 


Immune to Populism, Eh?

Monday, September 9, 7-8 pm at the Toronto Reference Library - Beeton Hall

In 2016, the world witnessed a wave of right wing populism taking hold of Western democracies, from Brexit in the UK to the election of Donald Trump in the United States. Ever since then, Canadian academics, political commentators and pollsters have obsessed over the question of whether or when this phenomenon will happen in Canada.

Some experts argue that Canada’s unique embrace of multiculturalism, our exceptional institutions and our unique values, prevent this type of xenophobic populism from taking hold here. Last year, TPL hosted a talk with Michael Adams about his book Could It Happen Here? where he presented data and arguments to support this view.

Other experts, however, see our current political landscape, look at the latest polling data and point out that it’s too late: populism has already taken root in Canada.

So as we inch towards the October federal election, what can we expect?

Come hear political scientist Dave Moscrop, author of Too Dumb For Democracy? and journalist Fatima Syed of National Observer discuss the rise of populism in Canada and its effect on the coming election.

Moderated by Brittany Andrew-Amofah, Senior Policy and Research Analyst at the Broadbent Institute.

From left to right: Brittany Andrew-Amofah, Dave Moscrop, Fatima Syed

Related book:

Book cover for 'Too Dumb for Democracy?'


Eric Klinenberg: Palaces for the People

Wednesday, September 11, 12-1 pm at the Toronto Reference Library - Atrium

We are living in an era of rising inequality where our communities are becoming increasingly polarized. How can we solve this?

Eric Klinenberg believes that our shared spaces hold a key to reducing our social divisions. In Palaces for the People he argues that social infrastructure, like public libraries, childcare centres and parks, are crucial for uniting our communities and giving everyone equal opportunities and a sense of belonging.

Come hear Eric discuss his new book in the Atrium of the Toronto Reference Library, our very own palace for the people.

Eric Klinenberg is a professor of sociology and director of the Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University.

Hosted by Zahra Ebrahim, a human-centred designer, urbanist, executive advisor to Deloitte on civic innovation and board chair for Jane’s Walk.

From left to right: Zahra Ebrahim and Eric Klinenberg

Related book:

Book cover for 'Palaces for the people'


Does Automation Threaten Democracy?

Wednesday, September 11, 7-8 pm at the Toronto Reference Library - Appel Salon

Over the past few years, citizen discontent across the world has led to populist movements and the rise of ethno-nationalist leaders that threaten the liberal democratic order. Many policy analysts and pundits blame this discontent on the combined forces of globalization and automation as inequality widens and workers feel pushed aside and replaced.

For some, the future looks bleak. Self-driving cars, the rise of artificial intelligence, and the entrenchment of the gig economy signal a world of increasing social divisions, where opportunistic politicians can prey on angry voters. But for others we’re merely in a transition period, and automation presents new opportunities to re-shift our economy and provide a dignified life for all.

Come hear a discussion with historian Gwynne Dyer, author of Growing Pains: The Future of Democracy (and Work), Sheila Block, labour markets expert and senior economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, and Chuka Ejeckam, director of research and policy at the BC Federation of Labour.

Moderated by Vass Bednar, head of public policy at Delphia.

From left to right: Gwynne Dyer, Vass Bednar, Sheila Block, Chuka Ejeckam

Related book:

Book cover for 'Growing pains'


Fighting "Fake News" Ahead of the Election

Monday, September 16, 7-8:30 pm at the Toronto Reference Library - Appel Salon

Over the past three years, the precipitous rise of "fake news" online has become one of the biggest challenges for democracies around the world. Academics, political experts and journalists warn that the easy spread of misinformation affects public debate and drives polarization in our societies.

So how can we protect ourselves from "fake news"? Is the government doing enough, or has this become too big of a problem? What about the responsibilities of the social media platforms that amplify misinformation? Most importantly, how can we ensure that in the run-up to the October federal election Canadian citizens don’t fall prey to misinformation as they make up their minds on who to vote for?

Come to a special evening of discussions on what to do about "fake news":

First, you’ll get to hear a conversation about the science of fake news with Mitchell Moffit and Gregory Brown, the Canadian YouTubers responsible for wildly popular AsapSCIENCE, a YouTube science channel with over 8 million subscribers. Moderated by Supriya Dwivedi, host of The Morning Show on Global News Radio 640 Toronto, and a regular panelist on CBC's Power & Politics. 

From left to right: Mitchell Moffit, Gregory Brown, Supriya Dwivedi

Then, we’ll present a discussion with Kaleigh Rogers from CBC News and Jane Lytvynenko from BuzzFeed News, experts on how misinformation is spreading in Canada. Moderated by Farah Nasser, from Global News.

From left to right: Kaleigh Rogers, Jane Lytvynenko, Farah Nasser

TPL is excited to partner with the Canadian Journalism Foundation (CJF) on this event. Come learn about the rollout of CJF’s NewsWise 2.0, the second phase of their news literacy initiative.


#OnCivilSociety at WOTS Plus:

For the second year in a row, Toronto Public Library is excited to program a stage at The Word On The Street (WOTS), as part of WOTS Plus 2019!


Come to the library's stage on Saturday, September 21, for these discussions about the impact of technology on civil society: 


The Big Business of Invading Your Privacy

Saturday, September 21, 12:30 - 1:30 pm at Harbourfront Centre

We live in an age of distraction where we spend countless hours each week staring at our phones or computer screens, endlessly scrolling on “free” social platforms designed to harvest our attention. The internet, which initially promised a world of open and freely accessible information, is now a place where a handful of corporations capture our preferences, track our location and sell our personal data to advertisers.

Does it have to be this way? How can we democratize the digital sphere and take back the internet?

Come hear Tim Wu discuss his latest book, The Attention Merchants, about the corporate domination of the internet and what you can do about it. In conversation with Ziya Tong.

Tim Wu & Ziya Tong

Tim Wu is a writer, activist and professor of law at Columbia University. He famously coined the term “net neutrality” and is one of the world’s leading experts on technology policy and concentrations of power.

Ziya Tong is an award-winning science broadcaster and writer, who was the co-host of Daily Planet, and recently published The Reality Bubble.

Related book:

The Attention Merchants book cover


When Algorithms Disrupt Social Justice

Saturday, September 21, 2:00 - 3:00 pm at Harbourfront Centre

As we move towards a world dominated by digital tech and artificial intelligence, understanding the intent, ethics and accountability of the computer algorithms that organize every aspect of our lives has become urgent. What if the new technologies that make our lives more convenient are also replicating or even deepening social injustices? How do we make sure that this new digital economy does not increase inequality, undermine labour protections, or usher in an age of big data surveillance?

From left to right: Norma Möllers, Sarah T. Roberts, Adwoa Afful

Norma Möllers is a sociology professor and researcher at the Surveillance Studies Centre at Queen’s University. Her research explores how positivist cultures of computing discourage computer scientists to consider questions of justice and human dignity in their work.

Sarah T. Roberts is an award-winning social media scholar and professor of Information Studies at UCLA. She is the author of Behind the Screen, a groundbreaking book about the hidden industry of content moderators that clean our social media feeds.

Moderated by Adwoa Afful, a writer and researcher based in Toronto, who is interested in how the growing role of tech companies in urban planning impact Black women, communities of colour and gender non-binary people across the GTA. 

Related book:

Behind the Screen book cover


Re-Imagining Tech for a Better World

Saturday, September 21, 3:30 - 4:30 pm at Harbourfront Centre

Over the last couple of years, concerns about the impact of digital technologies on our lives have gone mainstream: scathing newspaper editorials, bestselling books and hearings in legislative bodies across the world are now common. As more and more citizens push back against the power of Big Tech, it’s time to re-imagine how technology could help create a better world for all.

So what can citizens do to advocate for responsible innovation? How do we build a digital economy that provides decent work for everyone and helps eliminate racial and gender discrimination? And can we imagine a world where big data and "smart" technology are used to increase civic engagement and enrich life in our communities?

From left to right: Takara Small, Beth Coleman, Saadia Muzaffar

Saadia Muzaffar is a tech entrepreneur, author and advocate of responsible innovation, decent work for everyone and prosperity of immigrant talent in STEM. She is the founder of TechGirls Canada and the co-founder of Tech Reset Canada.

Beth Coleman directs the City as Platform lab. She is a professor at the Institute of Communication, Culture, Information and Technology and the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto. She is the author of Hello Avatar.

Takara Small is a technology columnist for CBC's Metro Morning and the host/producer of the Globe & Mail’s podcast I'll Go First.

Hello Avatar book cover


Maude Barlow: Whose Water Is It, Anyway?

Monday, September 30, 7-8 pm at Runnymede Branch

Maude Barlow is the Honorary Chairperson of the Council of Canadians, and the former senior advisor on water to the 63rd President of the UN General Assembly, where she led a campaign to have water recognized as a human right.

In her latest book, Whose Water Is It, Anyway? she chronicles the history of the Blue Communities Project, which is dedicated to recognizing water and its sanitation as a human right, promoting publicly financed and owned water and water services and banning or phasing out the sale of bottled water at municipal events and facilities.

She encourages readers to become water activists within their local communities and gives them the information and resources needed to get started.

Hear Maude Barlow in conversation with Falen Johnson, Mohawk playwright and writer, and host of CBC podcast The Secret Life of Canada.

From left to right: Maude Barlow & Falen Johnson

Related book:

Maude Barlow book

(book not yet available from the Library)


Ken Greenberg: Toronto Reborn

Tuesday, October 8, 6-7 pm at the Toronto Reference Library - Beeton Hall

Why does Toronto look the way it does today? How did the old postwar city transform into the unique, modern metropolis we live in?

Ken Greenberg presents his new book, Toronto Reborn, where he takes a look at how the work and decisions of citizens, NGOs, businesses and governments since 1970 have combined to shape Toronto's neighbourhoods and urban spaces.

In conversation with Cherise Burda, Executive Director of the Ryerson City Building Institute.

From left to right: Ken Greenberg & Cherise Burda - blog

Related book:

Keen Greenberg book


House Divided: Solving Toronto's Affordability Crisis

Tuesday, October 8, 7-8 pm at the Toronto Reference Library - Atrium

Housing affordability has reached crisis levels in cities around the world as unregulated real estate speculation has turned homes into global commodities. Toronto is no exception. As the city experiences its largest condo boom, tens of thousands of citizens are being pushed out of their communities, suddenly unable to afford a home in their city.

Some say that this is simply a problem of housing supply, but urbanism experts insist that this misses the reality of how global commoditization of real estate distorts housing prices in our city.

So what’s the solution to our affordability crisis, then?

An increasing chorus of expert voices argues that we should be focusing on the "missing middle": housing that is neither detached single-family homes nor high-rise apartments.

Come hear housing experts and editors of the new anthology House Divided discuss how targeted planning reforms combined with the "missing middle" are the answer to creating affordable housing for all ages and demographic groups.


From left to right: Ana Bailão, Annabel Vaughan, John Lorinc, Alex Bozikovic

Related book:

House divided book cover


Jamil Zaki: Building Empathy in these Divisive Times

Tuesday, October 17, 7-8 pm at the Toronto Reference Library - Beeton Hall

How do we build empathy in a fractured world? That’s the question that Jamil Zaki, Director of the Stanford Social Neuroscience Lab, sets off to discover in his new book The War for Kindness.

He shares cutting-edge research, including experiments from his own lab, showing that empathy is not a fixed trait — something we’re born with or not — but rather a skill that can be strengthened through effort.

Come hear Jamil Zaki discuss how we can build empathy, reduce polarization and build a better future for our society.

Moderated by Nadine Chevolleau, head of the Toronto Star Classroom Connection division, which publishes educational resources for youth and educators.

Jamil Zaki and Nadine Chevolleau

Related book:

Jamil Zaki book.jpg


David Wallace-Wells: The Uninhabitable Earth

Thursday, October 31, 7-8 pm at the Toronto Reference Library - Appel Salon

In 2017, David Wallace-Wells wrote an article titled "The Uninhabitable Earth," explaining the horrifying future that awaits us due to climate change. It was the most widely-read story in New York Magazine's history, and it led to a wave of commentary.

Wallace-Wells has now expanded the article into a book of the same name, where he explains why it’s now too late to avoid a 21st century that is completely transformed by the forces of climate change. He presents harrowing scenarios: widespread ecosystems collapse, severe impacts on public health, agriculture, geopolitics and an earth that is inhospitable to human civilization.

And yet, amidst its terrifying predictions, the book serves as an impassioned call to action, one that is designed to shake us out of our complacency and move us towards climate action.

Come hear David Wallace-Wells discuss The Uninhabitable Earth with Kai Nagata, environmental activist, conservationist and communications director of Dogwood Initiative.

From left to right: David Wallace-Wells and Kai Nagata

Related book:

David Wallace-Wells book.jpg (1)


Harold R. Johnson: The Case for Indigenous Justice in Canada

Tuesday, November 12, 7-8 pm at the Toronto Reference Library - Atrium

In early 2018, the verdicts in the deaths of Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine caused outrage and confusion across the country, as people called out the failure of Canada's justice system to deliver justice to Indigenous people.

This inspired former Crown prosecutor and bestselling author Harold R. Johnson to write a powerful critique and examination of Canada’s justice system, and explores the struggle for peace and dignity that Indigenous people face in this country.

Come hear Harold Johnson discuss his new book, Peace and Good Order.

Harold R. Johnson

Related book:

Harold Johnson book


#MeToo: The Press, The Mess, The Movement

Monday, November 25, 7-8 pm at the Toronto Reference Library - Appel Salon

In February 2017, Canadian journalist Robyn Doolittle published Unfounded, her 20-month-long investigation into how police across Canada handle sexual assault allegations. Her work sent shockwaves across all levels of government, with everyone from Federal ministers to Prime Minister Trudeau announcing plans for better police training and oversight, and pledging funds to specifically combat gender-based violence. Doolitle was named Journalist of the Year in 2017 by the Canadian Centre for Journalism.

In October 2017, American journalists Megan Twohey and Jodi Cantor published their New York Times investigation into sexual abuses by Harvey Weinstein, which helped start the global #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and assault. In 2018, Twohey and Cantor were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for this work.

What did it take for these journalists to uncover these stories? How has reporting on sexual violence changed after the #MeToo movement sparked debate around the world? And have these and other investigations led to a widespread cultural shift around sexual abuse and consent?

Come to a discussion between award-winning journalists Megan Twohey and Robyn Doolittle on what it was like to publish their investigations, and what has happened since then.

Moderated by Garvia Bailey, broadcaster, co-founder and host of jazzcast.ca.

From left to right: Robyn Doolittle, Megan Twohey, Garvia Bailey

Related books:

She Said book cover

Had it Coming book cover


I hope you're as excited as I am about this season's lineup! Please spread the word, check out #OnCivilSociety discussions on Twitter, and I hope you can make it to many events. Oh, and remember to book your free ticket in advance for the events in the Appel Salon...follow the links below event titles for details. 

See you there!