Press Release: “What is Democracy?” NFB Documentary to Kick-off Canada’s Only Democracy Summit Written by DXC on December 11, 2018




Astra Taylor, Filmmaker to Give DemocracyXChange Opening Keynote Address


Toronto, ON – DemocracyXChange presented and co-founded by Open Democracy Project and the Ryerson Leadership Lab is a new annual summit taking place January 25 to 27 at Ryerson University for Canada’s emerging democracy sector to connect, learn and share ideas and methods for driving change, from the ground up. The three-day summit will bring together 350 thought leaders, community activists, companies, media-makers, academics, public servants, decision-makers and citizens, from multiple countries and across the ideological spectrum. They will come together for lightning talks, conversation salons and participatory workshops with a focus on strengthening democracy and positive social change.

Attendees will hear from more than 50 speakers beginning with Astra Taylor, documentary filmmaker, author and director of What is Democracy? who will launch the summit with a keynote on that topic followed by an evening screening. Featuring a diverse cast—including celebrated philosophers, trauma surgeons, factory workers, refugees, and politicians What Is Democracy? connects past and present, emotion and the intellect, the personal and the political, to provoke and inspire. If we want to live in a democracy, we must first ask what the word even means. An official selection TIFF 2018 the film is written and directed by Astra Taylor, produced by Lea Marin and executive produced by Anita Lee at the National Film Board of Canada’s Ontario Studio.

This year’s Summit will also feature:

  • •  Shauna Sylvester, former Vancouver 2018 Mayoral candidate;
  • •  Rayne Fisher-Quann, sex-ed activist/organizer of the largest student protest in Ontario’s history;
  • •  Leah Bassel, Professor and author of The Politics of Listening;
  • •  Jonathan Smucker, author, Hegemony How-to: A Roadmap for Radicals and Co-Founder and Executive Director of Beyond the Choir, an organization that “build(s) movements capable of winning real change, by doing more than just “preach to the choir.”; and
  • •  More speakers to be announced in the weeks ahead.


Participants will also get access to Democracy in Action site visits, that provide an inside look at civic engagement programs and initiatives in Toronto run by neighbourhood organizations actively driving change in their communities.

Globally, the indicators are clear. We are in the midst of a democratic recession. But as we enter a federal election year, in an age of polarization, it’s more important than ever to connect across borders and political orientations, and focus on ground-up community change.

With co-presenting partners, Samara Centre for Democracy, the Toronto Public Library and the Ryerson Faculty of Arts, DemocacyXChange is positioned to be the place where these meaningful conversations will take place.

For more Information/Tickets


Suggested Tweet: Want to learn more about #democracy and #CivicEngagement? At @dxcsummit you will hear from filmmaker @astradisastra and watch her film. For details visit #DXC19

Ryerson Leadership Lab is an action-oriented think tank that takes a leadership development approach to today’s most pressing civic challenges. Through three activities — research and policy development, education and public engagement — we are building a new generation of skilled, nimble leaders, at all ages and stages, to help build a more trustworthy, inclusive society.

Open Democracy Project is a not-for-profit working to empower everyday citizens to drive change through civic and political action. Open Democracy Project programs include DemocracyKit, a resource library for planning and running municipal election and other civic campaigns; and DemocracyXChange, the annual summit for Canada’s emerging democracy sector to connect, learn and share.

Follow Democracy XChange on Twitter at, on Instagram at or on Facebook at

What is Democracy? Press kit here.


Download Press Kit