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The Empire Club at 120: A Celebration of an Iconic Institution

Thursday, November 23, 2023

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For 120 years, the Empire Club of Canada has provided a forum for speakers to engage, debate, and educate, advancing dialogue on issues of importance to Canadians. Since its inception, the Empire Club has hosted more than 3,500 prominent Canadian and international leaders, including Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan, the Dalai Lama, Indira Gandhi, Audrey Hepburn, Christopher Plummer, Roberta Bondar, Maureen Forrester, Adrienne Clarkson, Margaret Thatcher, Vladimir Putin, Bill Gates, and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

This event is a tribute to the Empire Club’s long and storied history as an integral part of the Canadian landscape. Having first launched at a Toronto restaurant on November 25, 1903, The Empire Club of Canada began its mission to bring political, business, cultural and social leaders to its podium to help Canadians better understand the issues of the day.  Its significant contributions to the National Dialogue through our speakers’ forum was only rivaled by an unwavering commitment to record all speeches — making them available to the public at no cost. Our “Red Books,” as they became known, of The Empire Club speeches contributed greatly to the education of generations of Canadians.

On November 23rd, you will hear some of the magic moments in the thousands of speeches delivered at the Club over the past twelve decades and the iconic stories behind these moments.

At 120 years old, it remains at the forefront of thought leadership in Canadian life.  In 2023, it continues to offer Canadians access to newsmakers and thought leaders of the day in innovative and relevant ways, ensuring that the next 120 years will be even better than the first.

Please join us in celebrating The Empire Club of Canada.  

headshot of Catherine R. Charlton, M.A.

Catherine R. Charlton, M.A.

Past President, 1984-1985, The Empire Club of Canada

Catherine Charlton was one of the young women who burst forth from Canadian universities in the late 1960s and ‘70s, intent on breaking barriers and lifting “ceilings” in all sectors – government, business and not-for-profit.

By virtue of numbers and education, there were many women who started to assume leadership in their professions; they were often the “firsts” as they moved into management. Catherine herself started with the Ontario government as Executive Officer in Premier William G. Davis’ office, became the first woman manager at Ford of Canada, Principal of her fundraising consulting business, the first woman President of the Empire Club of Canada, and founding Executive Director of the foundation “ProAction Cops and Kids” supporting Toronto Police programs for kids at risk.

As President of the Empire Club in 1984-85, she prepared the Club for the future hiring the first full-time Executive Secretary, Anne Lato, and developed a working business office. 1984 welcomed the Pope to Canada and we hosted the Prime Minister of the Vatican, Cardinal Cassaroli, along with international leaders in business and government. Thanks to our forefathers and hardworking Directors, all speakers were recorded in the Club’s annual yearbook for Members and Schools, now being digitalized for even greater accessibility. Work that records achievements, events and memorable dates for the education of all.

headshot of Kelly Jackson

Kelly Jackson

Past President 2021-2022 & Board Director, Empire Club of Canada, Vice-President, External Affairs and Professional Learning, Humber College

Kelly Jackson is Vice-President, External Affairs and Professional Learning at Humber College, one of Canada’s largest polytechnics. In her role, Kelly oversees a wide range of service departments that support Humber’s external relationships, continuous professional learning, workforce development and access strategies, and reputation management.

Prior to joining Humber, Kelly held numerous roles in provincial politics including Director of Communications to the Ontario Minister of Finance. In this role, she led the communications team for the Minister responsible for one of the largest provincial budgets in Canada. Kelly was also Director of Policy to the Minister of Education and Senior Policy Advisor to the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities.

Kelly spent a number of years overseeing strategic and integrated planning, public affairs, privacy and freedom of information issues, and communications at Seneca College. She also has experience in research project management having coordinated international conference series and academic publications at the Centre for International Governance Innovation.

Kelly holds a Master of Arts in Political Science and a Graduate Diploma in German and European Studies from York University and has studied at Ruprecht-Karls Universität Heidelberg and the University of Sheffield. Kelly is currently President of the Empire Club of Canada Board of Directors and a Board Director of the North York Harvest Food Bank. She is co-author of the children’s book, Our Canada: A Year With Canuck Kids (Blossom Books Press, 2021).

headshot of H. Ian Macdonald

H. Ian Macdonald

Past President, 1969-1970, Empire Club of Canada

H. Ian Macdonald graduated in Commerce and Finance from the University of Toronto in 1952 with the Governor General’s Medal for the top degree in the Faculty of Arts and Science and the trophy for the best contribution to the athletic life of University College. He proceeded on a Rhodes Scholarship to Balliol College in Oxford University, where he acquired three additional degrees.

Returning in 1955, he joined the Department of Political Economy at the University of Toronto, where he taught Economics for ten years and was Dean of Men in University College for nine years. In 1965, he was appointed to the newly created position of Chef Economist in the Ontario Public Service and continued as Deputy Minister of Treasury, Economics and Intergovernmental Affairs until 1974. At the same time, he was Chair of The Ontario Advisory Committee on Confederation to Premier Robarts(1965-1971) and Premier Davis(1976-1978). 1974 saw him return to academic life as President of York University, a position he occupied for over ten years.

He was a competitive athlete in hockey and track and field both in Canada and abroad, served on many corporate boards such as Chair of Hockey Canada (1987-19940 and was Chair of the Commonwealth of Learning (1993-2003). In 1977, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada and received numerous honorary degrees and awards. He continued teaching at York University until he was eighty-eight.

headshot of Gordon McIvor

Gordon McIvor

President, Empire Club Foundation, Past President 2015-2016, Empire Club of Canada

Gordon McIvor is a real property, communications and public relations professional who has well over 35 years of experience in the industry. He has worked in the private and public sectors, both in Canada and abroad.

Gordon is well known in the industry in Canada for his 23 years as Vice-President, Strategic Acquisitions, Public and Government Affairs at the Canada Lands Company (formerly CN Real Estate) where he was the company’s primary spokesperson and advocate, bringing many new communications programs into that organization such as Balanced Scorecard Reporting (Corporate Social Responsibility) and social media. He played a major role in taking the Company from relative obscurity at its founding in 1995 to the position of being one of the most respected government-owned companies in Canada.

After Canada Lands, Gordon worked with numerous clients on communications, governance and real property issues, including an 18-month contract with the World Bank in India and Colombia.

Gordon served as the Executive Director of the National Executive Forum on Public Property from 2013 to 2016, and was also a Senior Communications Advisor to one of Toronto’s most respected PR firms, the award-winning Jesson + Company Communications Inc.

He is the Immediate Past President of Canada’s largest language School, the Alliance francaise de Toronto, and is perfectly bilingual and bicultural. He also served as Chair of the Communications and Public Relations Foundation of Canada, and is a Past President of Canada’s two most celebrated speakers podia, the Empire Club of Canada and the Canadian Club of Toronto.

Throughout his career, Gordon has received many awards and distinctions, both from the PR/Communications industry and from his extensive volunteer and community work. He is the Past Chair of Canada’s oldest think tank, the Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs.

A regular speaker at conferences and a guest lecturer at universities, Gordon’s wide-ranging interests and experience have positioned him well to assist various organizations with their real property and communications objectives and challenges.

headshot of Mike Van Soelen

Mike Van Soelen

Past President, 2019-2020 & Board Director, Empire Club of Canada, Managing Principal, Navigator Ltd.

As Managing Principal, Navigator Ltd. Mike helps leading organizations reach and engage their most important audiences.

Mike helps lead the Navigator team by providing clients with honest counsel on strategic and crisis communications, public affairs and research. His track record speaks to his unique understanding of how messages properly delivered can facilitate concrete, measurable outcomes.

Before joining Navigator, Mike founded and ran a successful boutique public affairs and communications firm with offices in Toronto and Ottawa that served leading organizations across Canada. Mike sold his firm to Navigator in 2015 and brought his unique insights and results-focused style to the Navigator team.

Prior to running his own company, Mike worked in journalism, communications and government. He began his career in the grassroots of Canadian journalism at two regional daily newspapers, winning several awards for his writing. He moved from journalism to politics, where he served on countless political campaigns. His posts in government have included Chief of Staff to an Ontario Minister and Director of Communications in Ottawa. Mike also worked at one of the country’s largest public relations agencies, supporting clients in the finance, health and technology sectors.

Mike appears regularly as a commentator for media outlets such as Global TV, AM 640, CP24 and Newstalk 1010. He also serves as an executive on the board of the Empire Club of Canada.

headshot of Anthony A. van Straubenzee

Anthony A. van Straubenzee

Past President, 1988-1989, Empire Club of Canada

Married with three daughters and six grandchildren.
Retired – former Management Consultant in Executive Search.
Graduate from the University of Alberta.
Former President of the Empire Club 1988-89.
Former Chairman of the York Club.
Fundraiser for many charities in the Arts, Education and the Anglican Church. Recipient of the Order of the Diocese of Toronto.
Author of Rhind in the Marmalade.