Treehouse Talks


Since 2010 we've been giving some of Toronto's most curious and creative people a chance to connect over great conversations. Attendees have been inspired by a range of dynamic speakers, first at the MaRS Discovery District (2010) and then at the Toronto Reference Library (2011-Present).

All Treehouse Talks are free for anyone who would like to come.

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TREEHOUSE TALKS | November 14, 2014

Join us from 6:30-8:30 on Friday, November 14 in the Beeton Auditorium at the Toronto Reference Library (789 Yonge Street) for the first Talks of the new season, featuring:

  • Jillian Kohler: A Clear and Present Danger to Health: Bad Medicines
  • Nicholas Parker: Shifting Perceptions: Making Sustainable Prosperity Possible
  • Marshall Pynkoski: Baroque Opera and Ballet in Toronto: The Founding of Opera Atelier

For more information please contact Nicolas Rouleau at

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Take a look at videos of previous talks here, or browse under Previous Talks below. 

Jillian Kohler 

The potential for corruption to limit human development has gained traction within the global development community since then World Bank President James Wolfensohn’s 1996 speech on the “cancer of corruption." As the global conversation on corruption has progressed, attention has shifted to how it can be prevented, with an emphasis on good governance. Since then, there have been a number of important milestones including, most notably, promotion of good governance as a core element in the post-2015 development agenda carrying forward the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). But is it enough? And what is the evidence that we are eradicating this threat? Corruption in the pharmaceutical system persists globally as we continue to witness the growth of falsified and diverted medicines, as examples. This talk will illuminate how corruption in the pharmaceutical system presents a clear and present danger to human health.

Jillian Clare Kohler, PhD is an Associate Professor and Director of Global Health at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy and the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto as well as the Director of the Collaborative Doctoral Program in Global Health. She is cross-appointed to the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. Her professional background includes in-house pharmaceutical policy work at Unicef, the World Bank, and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), where she did field work in a range of countries including Brazil, Bulgaria, Haiti, and Romania. Dr. Kohler’s research is focused on fair access to essential medicines with a particular focus on good governance and intellectual property rights. She pioneered the methodology on good governance in the pharmaceutical system for the World Bank, which was subsequently adopted by the WHO and has been applied in over 35 countries globally. 

Jillian is the author of over 100 policy papers, journal articles and book chapters on pharmaceutical policy and is a co-editor of The Power of Pills: Social, Ethical and Legal Issues in Drug Development, Marketing and Pricing Policies (2006) and Access to Medicines as a Human Right: Implications for Pharmaceutical Industry Responsibility (2012). Dr. Kohler is a technical adviser for the Access to Medicines Index and WHO Good Governance for Medicines Programme. She was a Peter and Patricia Gruber Fellowship in Global Justice at Yale University in 2013. She earned her B.A. and an M.A. in Political Science from McGill University and a PhD in Politics from New York University.

Nicholas Parker

For over three decades, Nicholas Parker has pioneered sustainable venturing ideas and initiatives around the world. He is currently Founding Managing Partner of Global Acceleration Partners Inc. (“GAP”), a financial enterprise established in 2012 to address global megatrends shaping basic needs for resource-efficient clean energy, food, water and infrastructure by accelerating cross-border deployment of proven technologies and business models into high growth emerging economies. GAP seeks both superior value creation and positive impact at scale.

Marshall Pynkoski

Marshall Pynkoski`s fascination with music, theatre and dance of the 17th and 18th centuries began in classes with the late Leonard Crainford and John Marshall, respectively Chairman and Major Examiner, Royal Academy of Dancing in London. His further studies with Florentina Lojekova (Master Artist of Czechoslovakia) and David Moroni (the Royal Winnipeg Ballet) were pivotal in his decision to pursue a career in ballet.

Early in Mr. Pynkoski’s professional career, he had the opportunity to undertake in-depth studies of Baroque opera and ballet in Paris. His studies continued with renowned Baroque dramaturge professor Dene Barnett at Flinders University in South Australia.

In 1985 he founded Opera Atelier with his partner Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg and he has since directed a wide range of period productions of Baroque and early Classical opera and ballet in close collaboration with Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. He has acted as guest instructor at the Centre for Baroque Studies under conductor Marc Minkowski with whom he premiered North America’s first period productions of The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni. Mr. Pynkoski has collaborated with many of the finest artists in the world of early music and his productions of opera and ballet have toured throughout North America, Europe and Asia.

He is recipient of numerous awards including the Toronto Arts Award, the Ruby Award for outstanding contribution to opera in Canada, and the TIME Magazine award for Classical music. He was named Chevalier dans l`Ordre des Arts et des Lettres following his international tour of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas with Marc Minkowski and Les Musiciens du Louvre. Mr. Pynkoski most recently directed Mozart's Lucio Silla for the Salzburg Festival in 2013. In 2015 Mr. Pynkoski makes his directorial debut at La Scala, Milan.

Coming up in the 2014/15 Season

December 12

  • Scott MacIvor: Rooftop Agriculture: Food, Function, and Failure?
  • Liz Haines The "AHA" moment - What Really Counts
  • Mark Daboll Singing Happy Birthday and Other Debilitating Pastimes: A Vocal Self-Exploration


January 9

  • Owen Roberts On Biotech
  • Joe Berridge On Urban Development
  • Allison Hunt On Marketing


February 13, 

  • Mark Kingwell: TBD
  • Trevor Haldenby: Bringing The Future to Life
  • Michael Barbezat: Deviant Ritual Sex in the Middle Ages and the Transformative Power of the False

March 13 

  • Arjumand Siddiqi: From cells to society: the making - and transforming - of our health
  • Chad Gaffield: On graduate level education in the 21st century
  • Robin Sacks: Like No One's Watching: A 20-minute Experiment in Self-Awareness

April 10

  • Aarthi Ashok On Prions
  • Joseph Pickerill South Sudan: Emerging State or Descending Chaos? 
  • Katie McKenna On the Social Impact of the Arts


May 15

  • Lisa Foreman A Human Right to Health 
  • Michael Valpy: Intergenerational Strife in Canada
  • Aziza Chaouni: TBD

June 12

  • Christina Davy: TBD
  • Bryan Good: TBD
  • Britt Welter-Nolan: TBD

Previous Treehouse Talks

2014 Sessions

Alex Jadad: Living a happy and healthy life until our last breath: our greatest challenge
Arvid Ågren: Jumping Genes and Mendelian Outlaws
Derek Quenneville: Making at the Library
Gail Fraser: Avian Life
Jim Harris: The Impending Revolution: Reasons for Hope 
Lauren Segal: Being an Opera Singer: A physicist's view on the preparation, practice and performance of Opera
Lorna MacDonald: Alec and Mabel: Alexander Graham Bell in Baddeck
Marni Jackson: Culture as Barnraising: Al Purdy and The A Frame Story
Matt Risk: Faith, Fear, Fraud, and Fascination
Meaghan Johnson: The Art of the Audience
Mel Cappe: InCome InEquality InCanada
Nora Young: Cyborg Selves: Bodies, Big Data, and Technology
Ralph Baker: Financial Literacy: If a 12 Year Old Can Master It, So Can You
Rene Harrison: Microgravity: Not just about bad hair
Rudy Boonstra: The Role of Chronic Stress in Natural Populations
Vince Tropepe: Stem Cell Science: A brave new world
Wallid Hejazi: Islamic Finance
Willy Bloome: Eulogy for Winter

2013 Sessions

Bridget Stutchbury: The triage concept: should we let some species go extinct to save others?
Ian Clark: Can MOOCs help reform Ontario Universities?
Elizabeth Edwards on microbial diversity: Getting to the Root of the Tree of Life
Hendrik Poinar: De-Extinction: Reviving lost species of the Pleistocene- hype or hubris?
Dr. Herbert Kronzucker: The Ecology of Hunger: The Reach of the North American Dinner Fork 

Dr. James Maskalyk: Helping others without hurting yourself  
Jeffrey Rosenthal: Why Statisticians Don’t Believe in ESP
Jennifer Spear: Everything is an Offer
Leila Boujnane: Wild About Cheese

Matt Thompson: The Open Manifesto: how to work smarter, supercharge collaboration and redesign the world
Maydianne Andrade: Everything I need to know about evolution, I learned from a cannibalistic spider 
Michael Anton Dila: A Start-up is a Bomb
Michael Hartley: Time for an Aral Spring? Why the Arab Spring did not penetrate Central Asia
Oona Fraser: Ambiguity, conflict, nuance and paradox.
Rob Spekkens: If correlation doesn't imply causation, what does? 
Sandra Martin: The ten top myths about obituaries 
Stuart Candy: Confessions of a guerrilla futurist
Susan Kates: We & Them: Teaching GenY, GenX & Boomers
Tim Hurson:Why We All Go to the Same Different Meeting Together
Timothy Nash: Sustainable Investing 101
William Thorsell: Three Helpful Ideas for Toronto

2012 Sessions

Andrea Hamilton: Social Networking Meets Crowdsourcing Offline
Andrew Westoll: Releasing Your Inner Ape
Assaf Weisz: Changing the Future
Camilla Gryski: The Labyrinth: Path, symbol, and metaphor
Darryl Gwynne: Why Are Males Masculine, Females Feminine and Occasionally Vice Versa? (Darwinian Sexual Selection as an Exercise in Critical Thinking)
Denise Balkissoon: Why Can’t I Quit Facebook?
Erin Bury: Tapping into Interest Graphs to Curate Online News
George Elliott Clarke: Harper’s Tea-Party Government
Ilana Ben-Ari: Toys as Tools for Change
Jeff Warren: The Elements of Experience
Dr. Jody Culham: How many brains do you have?
Dr. John Godfrey: Is Global Citizenship possible?
John Sobol: Know Your Media, Know Your Self
Jon Duschinsky: The (New) Power of People
Jorge Ulloa: The Global Water Cooler — Multiculturalism in the Workplace
Karl Schroeder: Tomorrow’s Toronto: A Foresight Exercise on the Future of our City
Katerina Cizek & Graeme Stewart: Re-imagining our Vertical City
Laurence Packer: Bees
Marcius Extavour: Science and politics don’t mix… or do they?
Mariella Bertelli: “Happily ever after?” An exploration of the fairy tale, its past, its future and its place in today’s culture
Mandy Wintink: The Sweet Smell of Failure
Stan Chu Ilo: Do We Still Need Religion Today? A new look at Islam, Christianity, and the Secular West
Stephen Morris: A physicist in the sandbox
Tom Heintzman: The Role of the Individual in Transforming Energy Systems

2011 Sessions

Andrea Dana Eisen: Being a Teacher to the Stars
Aruna Handa: Eating Our Words: Making good on the promise of a better life
Craig D. Adams: Input Output Cinema & Other Nonsense Buzzwords
Eric Boyd: DYI Transhumanism
Gabrielle McLaughlin: The Boulevard of Baroquen Dreams
Harvey Weingarten: The Future of Canada’s Public University System
Dr. James Robert Brown: Thought Experiments, Or How to Learn Cool Stuff Just by Thinking
Jessa Gamble: Daily Rhythms Around the World
John Beebe: More than diverse: Faces Of Complexity: A Photographic Exploration
John Paul Morgan: Invention Is As Often About Decision As It Is About Discovery
Dr. Jordan Peterson: Planning the Ideal Future, Rationale, & Strategy
Father Joseph Ogbonnaya: The Challenges of Integral Development
Lee Smolin: Is Time Real or an Illusion?
Miroslav Lovric: What if we could touch infinity?
Dr. Monika Havelka: How to Build a Whale: Mechanisms of Macroevolutionary Change
Nathalie Desrosiers: Liberty and Twitter: Civil Liberties in the XXIst Century
Justice Robert Sharpe: The Canadian Constitution as a Living Tree
Ryan North: A Brief History of Comics, And How Comics On The Internet Will Save The World (Or At Least Save Comics, But That’s Still Pretty Good)
Salima Syera Virani: “The Personal Brand” and its Importance for Entrepreneurs
Sheila McCook: Newspapers: A Physical Check-Up
Simon Cole: Collecting Contemporary in Toronto

2010 Sessions

Abigale Miller: Mealworms: Food or Not Food?
Amie Sergas: The Social Value of Roller Derby
Ana Serrano: No, Interactive Storytelling is Not an Oxymoron
Bob McDonald: What if everything you know is wrong?
Dan Falk: The Enigma of Time
Darren O’Donnell and The Torontonians: You, Too, Can Be 14
Donna Francis: Knitting Science and Art Together
Jeff Woodrow: Thinking of Someone Else for a Change
Leehe Lev: The Seven Dimensions of Wellness
Loreen Barbour: Life in Northern Russia
Micah Toub: The Jungian Shadow: How to turn your enemy into a role model
Mike Paduada: Careers from Math to the Moon
Mirella Amato: The Challenges of Beerology
Nadja Sayej: Fear and Loathing in the Art World
Nicolas Rouleau: Law and International Development
Nogah Kornberg: Teaching the G-Word to 9-Year-Olds
Russell Zeid: Nexialism
Sasha Grujicic: Technology and Change: How it’s happened, how it’s accelerating, and how we need to deal with it
Sasha Van Bon Bon: Decriminalizing the Sex Trade in Canada and Beyond
Shawn Micallef: Stroll: Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto
Shirley Khalil: Empowerment and healing using music
Steve Ferrara: Street Art in Toronto
Susan G. Cole: The Age of Queer: Does the word ‘lesbian’ still mean anything?
Zahra Ebrahim: Design and Social Change