2023 Keynote Speaker

Humber @TIFA 2023 Keynote Speaker: Billy-Ray Belcourt

Billy-Ray Belcourt is a writer and academic from the Driftpile Cree Nation. He is an Assistant Professor in the School of Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia. A 2018 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar, he earned his PhD in English at the University of Alberta. He was also a 2016 Rhodes Scholar and holds an M.St. in Women's Studies from the University of Oxford and Wadham College. In the First Nations Youth category, Belcourt was awarded a 2019 Indspire Award, which is the highest honor the Indigenous community bestows on its own leaders.

Billy-Ray’s debut book of poems, This Wound is a World (Frontenac House 2017), won the 2018 Griffin Poetry Prize (making him the youngest ever winner) and the 2018 Robert Kroetsch City of Edmonton Book Prize. It was also named the Most Significant Book of Poetry in English by an Emerging Indigenous Writer at the 2018 Indigenous Voices Awards. This Wound is a World was a finalist for the 2018 Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry, the 2018 Robert Kroetsch Award for Poetry, the 2018 Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, and the 2018 Raymond Souster Award, both of the latter via the Canadian League of Poets. It was also named by CBC Books as the best “Canadian poetry” collection of 2017. U.S. (University of Minnesota Press) and French (Groupe Nota Bene) editions of the book are now available.

His sophomore book, NDN Coping Mechanisms: Notes from the Field, was a national bestseller. According to Open Book, the book “cements [Belcourt] as one of the most imaginative and creative writers in the country.” Of the poems, the Toronto Star says “both intellectual and visceral, [they] dazzle with metaphoric richness and striking lyricism.” It was longlisted for Canada Reads 2020 and shortlisted for the 2020 Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry, the 2020 Robert Kroetsch City of Edmonton Book Prize, and the 2020 Raymond Souster Award. It won the 2020 Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry.

His third book, A History of My Brief Body, essays and vignettes on grief, colonial violence, joy, love, and queerness, published in Canada in August 2020 with Hamish Hamilton, an imprint of Penguin Canada, and in the US with Two Dollar Radio. It was a #1 National Bestseller, a Globe & Mail Best Book, and a finalist for the 2020 Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction, a 2021 Lambda Literary Award for Gay Memoir/Biography, and two BC and Yukon Book Prizes. It received the Hubert Evans Prize for Non-Fiction. In a starred review, Kirkus Reviews called it “elegantly crafted” and “an urgently needed, unyielding book of theoretical and intimate strength.”

His fourth book, A Minor Chorus, published by Hamish Hamilton (CAN) and W.W. Norton (US), was long listed for the Scotiabank Giller Prize.