What is the Debates & Dialogue Committee?


The Hart House Debates and Dialogue Committee has a rich history and provides University of Toronto students with opportunities to find and develop their capacity for leadership, planning, and self-expression. It does so in two principal ways:

First, the Committee organizes events in which important topics of the day are discussed and explored. Founded in 1919 to protect and uphold the principles of free speech and debate in Canada, it has hosted leaders in every field, including heads of state, senior Cabinet officials, filmmakers, business leaders, activists, poets, policymakers, and philanthropists. Some of our most notable speakers include John F. Kennedy, Christopher Hitchens, Adrienne Clarkson, Noam Chomsky, John Turner, Brian Mulroney, John Tory, Margaret Atwood, Atom Egoyan, Dennis Edney, Marie Henein, and Kathleen Wynne.

More recently, the Committee has moved beyond the traditional economics and foreign policy discussions to continue to engage a diversity of audiences; those interested in the arts, technology, healthcare, social policy, and environment should find a home with us! Whether it be panel discussions, guest lectures, or more formal debating events, students participate with invited speakers and panelists, both in the event itself and in the question and discussion periods following each event. These events not only provide the student population at large with opportunities for public discussion, they also give committee members and volunteers the chance to learn how to organize and promote such public discussions.

Secondly, the Debates and Dialogue Committee co-operates with the Hart House Debating Club in enriching the opportunities for student debating. The Committee organizes several tournaments in the House and liaises with the Debating Club over the selection of, and fundraising for, students to represent Hart House in the World Debating Championship.

Hart House believes deeply in self-knowledge and self-expression – it is hard to think of a group that better embodies these values than the Debates & Dialogue Committee.

Past speakers include:


  • John F. Kennedy, former President of the United States
  • Christopher Hitchens, author and polemicist
  • Noam Chomsky, professor and public intellectual
  • Margaret Atwood, novelist
  • Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada
  • Britan Mulrony, Prime Minister of Canada
  • John Turner, Prime Minister of Canada
  • Bob Rae, Premier of Ontario
  • Michael Wilson, Minister of Finance of Canada
  • Bill Graham, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada
  • Elizabeth May, Leader of Green Party of Canada
  • Dennis Edney, defence lawyer for Omar Khadr
  • Marie Henein, criminal defence lawyer for Jian Ghomeshi, David Frost, and Michael Bryant