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Anthony Wilson-Smith

To find out how to best move towards the future, we must look to the past.

CEO of Historica Canada | Former Editor-in-Chief at MacLean's

Anthony Wilson-Smith | CEO of Historica Canada | Former Editor-in-Chief at MacLean's
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Young Canadians Are Both More Open and More Patriotic

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Historical Context is Key to Understanding Today’s Challenges

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Sparking a Human Connection with People of the Past

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Young Canadians Are Both More Open and More Patriotic (1:28)

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Historical Context is Key to Understanding Today’s Challenges (1:43)

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Sparking a Human Connection with People of the Past (1:27)

Lavin Exclusive Speaker

ANTHONY WILSON-SMITH is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Historica Canada, the national historical organization known for their iconic Heritage Minutes. Under Wilson-Smith’s leadership, their programs reached nearly 28 million Canadians last year alone. His storied, award-winning career in journalism—including his time as Editor-in-Chief at MacLean’s—also informs his engaging, illuminating talks.

Having worked as a journalist in over 35 countries, and all of Canada’s provinces and territories, Anthony Wilson-Smith knows Canada inside and out: both in terms of what we think of the world and how we interact with it—and what the world thinks of us. Much of his fascinating journalism career was spent with Maclean’s, serving at various times as Editor-in Chief, Quebec Bureau Chief, and Moscow Bureau Chief—even living in Moscow when the Berlin Wall came down. Fluent in French and Russian, he has appeared as a social and political commentator on international media including BBC, ABC, and C-SPAN; Russia’s Moskovskii Novosti; and all of Canada’s national television networks in French and English.

“The past provides a roadmap to a better understanding of who we are today – and how we get to where we want to be in the future.”— Anthony Wilson-Smith

As President and Chief Executive Officer of Historica Canada, Wilson-Smith leads the organization towards its commendable mission of enhancing awareness of, and instilling pride in, Canadian history and citizenship. He oversees all operations and provides strategic vision to their numerous projects, including the iconic Heritage Minutes. Dramatized vignettes that recreate events of importance in historically accurate detail, the Heritage Minutes now boast a collection of over 90 videos. Historica Canada also developed The Canadian Encyclopedia—the largest free online collection of accurate and continuously updated articles focused on Canada and Canadiana. Overall, these and other programs overseen by Wilson-Smith reached almost 28 million Canadians in 2019, making Historica Canada the largest independent organization of their nature.

In talks, Wilson-Smith explores how our past can provide a game plan for our future: after all, everything that’s happening today—political unrest, economic inequality, new social movements—has happened before, in one form or another. The past lives within the present, and is inextricable from the future, which is why exploring the role it can play in planning for tomorrow opens up new pathways towards greater innovation and creativity. With engaging stories and a vast breadth of historical and business knowledge, Wilson-Smith shares how strong leaders can use history as a tool to strengthen democracy, international relations, and the very fabric of society.

Prior to his work with Historica Canada, he served as Special Adviser to the President and CEO at Canada Post Corporation, and as their Vice-President of Public Affairs and Communications. He was the senior executive responsible for overseeing the launch and growth of their commitment to its Cause of Choice, Mental Health. Wilson-Smith has been awarded for his work as a magazine journalist, and honored for his volunteer work in the mental health sector, as well as his work in promoting diversity. In 2018, he was awarded the Sovereign’s Medal for Community Service. He has also served as Chair of the Lifetime Achievement Awards at the Canadian Journalism Foundation, as a Judge on the 2019 Newspaper Awards, and is a past Chairman of Journalists for Human Rights. Wilson-Smith is also currently the Chair of the Canada Post Stamp Advisory Committee, which provides guidance to Canada Post in their selection on new stamp subjects and designs.

Speech Topics

Civic Engagement
History By The MinuteBehind the Classic Canadian Heritage Minutes

Few things are more distinctly Canadian than The Heritage Minutes, the 60-second mini-movies that tell the true stories of nation-defining people and events. Since 1991, the Minutes have instilled greater pride in, and spread awareness of, Canada’s rich history—while becoming part of that history themselves. Last year alone, their tales of triumph, tragedies, and incredible achievement were watched more than seven million times. In his engaging, informed talks, Anthony Wilson-Smith, the CEO of Historica Canada, shares the story behind those stories: how and why they’re made, and why they matter—not only for Canadians, but for history lovers around the world.

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Politics & Society
The Last Word on TruthWho Can You Trust in the Information Crisis

Thanks to the internet, we’re living in an unprecedented time in history: where we’re bombarded with so much information, all the time—be it real, distorted, or sometimes just plain made up. How can you tell who to trust in today’s age of disinformation and deepfakes? And how can you even define what constitutes the truth, when there’s so many layers of deception to sift through? Anthony Wilson-Smith, an award-winning journalist who’s worked in over 35 countries, knows. The CEO of Historica Canada and publisher of its Canadian Encyclopedia, discusses the dawn—and dangers—of the “post-truth era”, in his informative, timely, and honest talks.

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What I Learned About Business from Canadian History

Canada has always been a nation of innovators. In a country that’s enormous, cold, and lightly populated, invention was often, as the saying goes, borne of necessity. But it’s also more than that—and Anthony Wilson-Smith, CEO of Historica Canada, makes the case that Canada is, in fact, the world’s biggest social laboratory. With our enthusiastic embrace of multiculturalism, our history has set the stage for unlikely collaborations, out-of-the-box thinking, and social progress—values that translate perfectly to the business world.

What can we learn from the leaders of yesterday, like Viola Desmond, Terry Fox, Jim Egan, or Georges Etienne-Cartier about Canadian identity, ingenuity, and values? And how can we reinvigorate the best of them for business leadership in the 21st century? Wilson-Smith deftly explores a common thread in most stories of extraordinary leadership, both from leaders like PMs and from normal Canadians who rose to the challenges of their day: profound change most often starts at the bottom or the middle, and works its way up. There’s always a better way to do things, and many figures from the past demonstrate that quite literally—be they initiating political change, or cutting a hole in a peach basket to invent basketball. Leadership can be found in the most unlikely of places, and modern businesses can look to the past for guidance on how to avoid ineffective one-size-fits-all solutions in favour of tangible, tested growth and progress.

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