Gregg Sareksky, WestJet CEO, is one of the keynote speakers at the the Second Character Canada Conference.

Leading with character makes a lasting impression

The Second Character Canada Conference held in Abbotsford features keynotes Gregg Sareksky, WestJet CEO and Olympian CassieCampbell-Pascall teaching the value of character-based leadership

  • Sep. 13, 2017 1:57 p.m.

Can character-based leadership leave a lasting impression on the world, transforming how we lead, learn, do business, andraise children?

Character Canada, and its Abbotsford-based chapter, Character Abbotsford, believes that all of the above is true—and that it’s critically important that others catch this vision. That’s why they are hosting the Second Character Conference at Abbotsford Senior Secondary School on Oct. 20.

This dynamic, youth-friendly event will feature Gregg Sareksky, WestJet CEO, and Olympian Cassie Campbell-Pascall askeynote speakers, as well as breakout sessions on how to develop character-based leadership.

The event is also emphasizing local culture and business, with vendors such as Restaurant62, Lepp Farm Market and FieldHouse Brewery.

The theme of the conference is “Make Your Mark,” allowing participants to explore what it means to lead with character inorder to make a lasting impression. In particular, speakers and facilitators will be focusing on the impact character can haveon education and the school system, sports and athletics, and for-profit and not-for-profit organizations.

Why “Make Your Mark”? Organizers believe it’s a message worth spreading, especially among the young people who will beleading the cultures in these three arenas—all of which are arguably ripe for the positive impact of character.

“Imagine students, athletes, and organizational leaders being inspired and taught to integrate values into theirorganizations and communities,” says Character Abbotsford council member Gina Vanderheide. “That’s what ‘character’means: people actively defining and incorporating the values that are important to them and reflective of what matterswithin their organization.”

Conference organizers believe that to help people learn about character, they must start by sharing stories that vividly bringthe concept to life. To that end, keynote speakers Gregg Saresky and Cassie Campbell-Pascall will surely inspireparticipants with their stories of leading with character.

Saresky, as WestJet’s President and CEO since April 2010, has been honoured multiple times as a business leader with atransformative impact. WestJet’s capability to deliver remarkable guest experiences has set the company apart in anindustry that is often dogged with negative consumer perceptions. Saresky is responsible for both the strategic direction ofthe company and the day-to-day operations of the airline. Clearly, he has a lot to share about making a lasting positiveimpression by choosing to lead with character.

Cassie Campbell-Pascall is an iconic athlete and leader; the only captain—male or female—to lead two Olympic Gold Medal-winning Canadian hockey teams. She is also the winner of six world championships, and the only woman ever chosen toprovide commentary on Hockey Night in Canada. For these and other achievements, Campbell-Pascall has received theOrder of Canada, as well as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the nation’s highest honour. Campbell-Pascall’s story is one ofexceptional skill, but also commitment to developing that skill and supporting others to do the same. As such, organizersbelieve she is the perfect example of a character-based leader, and that her insights will inspire and educate participants.

The seeds for Character Abbotsford were sown in 2006 after Abbotsford school system leaders presented what they hadlearned at a Toronto Character Conference to their Board of Education. In 2011, leaders from across Abbotsford’sorganizational spectrum met to establish a common language for the city’s character movement. This group, which activelyforgoes ties to specific religious and political groups, embraced six values as the foundation to “good character.” Thosevalues were: Respect, Responsibility, Integrity, Empathy, Courage, and Service. However, they believe their work as charactermovement representatives is to encourage citizens to define what values matter to them, and actively integrate them intotheir organizations and daily lives.

Organizers believe that the Character Conference, with its phenomenally inspiring speakers and facilitators, will leave alasting impression on the community of Abbotsford. Those inspired to attend can get more information or purchase tickets,which cost $65 for students, and $135 for adults (or $115 until Sept. 30), at

“Come and discover how you can become a leader of character,” says Vanderheide. “We’re excited to meet you and help youmake your mark.”

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