Breaking Barriers 2017

On May 2, 2017, Prospect’s Viable initiative was pleased to present Breaking Barriers 2017 at Mount Royal University. The event was the product of many months of thoughtful planning followed by a few weeks of frenzied activity, culminating in a few exciting hours. We research topics relevant to Viable’s work and then seek out experts whose points of view are thought-provoking, inspiring, and actionable.

Our three speakers are all barrier breakers in their own right. Michael Landsberg is a passionate advocate for mental health and the founder of #SickNotWeak. Gabrielle Scrimshaw is a First Nations activist and co-founder of the Aboriginal Professional Association of Canada. Rick Hansen, Canada’s Man in Motion, is the founder and CEO of the Rick Hansen Foundation, dedicated to creating a world that is accessible and inclusive for all.

Calgary’s Mount Royal University was the perfect barrier-free venue, which brought in 250 attendees from Alberta’s business community, leaders and stakeholders from a variety of industries.

The afternoon began with Prospect’s Director of Employer Services, Lindsay Hextall, who welcomed attendees and talked about the work that Prospect’s Viable initiative does with employers. Afterwards, elder Ruby Eagle Child gave the opening blessing.

Lindsay Hextall Elder Ruby Eagle Child


Employer participation is the lifeblood of Viable. Viable has created relationships with more than 750 employers and industry associations.

Our first speaker was introduced by Alison Pressman, HR Global Functions and Downstream, with Shell Canada.

Alison Pressman


“Michael Landsberg is familiar to millions of Canadians as the host of TSN’s Off The Record. He brings his pull-no-punches style to his role as a mental health advocate. He is also the founder of a not-for-profit called #SickNotWeak”.

Michael Landsberg


A leading sports broadcast personality, Michael Landsberg courageously chose to speak out publicly about his depression and anxiety.

He has been with TSN since the network was founded in 1984, hosting Off The Record, one of Canada’s longest-running talk shows.

Despite all his accolades and accomplishments, Michael considers his work in reducing the stigma of mental illness as his most important professional calling.

At Breaking Barriers 2017, Michael won the crowd over with his rapid fire, candid, humorous delivery. The combination of personal experience and thought-provoking anecdotes about others with depression made for a compelling introductory presentation.

“The conspiracy of silence needs to be broken. Depression sufferers will often go to any lengths to not give up their secret. Like spies with precious information, they will keep their secrets no matter how intolerable the pain gets.”

Our second speaker, Gabrielle Scrimshaw, was introduced by Michelle Mobarrez, Regional Vice-President of BMO Financial Services.

Michelle Mobarrez


“Gabrielle is a proud member of the Hatchet Lake First Nation and has studied international business and policy in Australia, Asia, the Americas, Africa and Europe.”

Gabrielle Scrimshaw


Gabrielle’s presentation combined personal anecdotes of growing up in northern Saskatchewan and economic insights about the growing potential of First Nations youth to benefit Canada.

“The aboriginal population is the fastest growing demographic in Canada. By 2026, about 400,000 aboriginal youth are going to enter the workforce.”

Prospect’s CEO Melanie Mitra introduced our keynote speaker, Rick Hansen.

Melanie Mitra


“If you compare the work that Viable does with the work done by the Rick Hansen Foundation, you find incredible synergy. But we both recognize that we haven’t reached our destination.”

Rick Hansen


Canada’s Rick Hansen has perhaps broken more barriers than anyone in the world, making him the perfect keynote speaker for Viable’s Breaking Barriers 2017.

His epic 40,000 km journey around the world took him through 34 countries, almost none of which had explored accessibility or inclusion to that point.

The Rick Hansen Foundation has translated that awareness into action. His world tour opened the eyes to the potential of people with disabilities, and the Foundation ensures that none of the momentum is lost, working relentlessly toward an inclusive world where people with disabilities are living up to their full potential.

From the moment he exploded onto the stage, Rick Captivated the audience with his vision. His message was powerful and accessible, inspiring the crowd to join him in support of removing barriers in the built environment.

“My life’s philosophy is to make a difference in the lives of others, and I feel passionate about contributing in ways that utilize my skills and strengths to help our community. I believe my best work is yet to come.”

A spirited Q&A session followed each speaker’s presentation, proving the audience was engaged and inspired.

Breaking Barriers 2017 was an opportunity to challenge employers, peers, and stakeholders with bold ideas, creative thinking and concepts we can all build on to strive for a better society. We look forward to seeing more events in the future, as well as working towards creating a barrier-free society.

Rick Hansen Crowd