Inequality hurting social inclusion in Canada

November 19, 2013 9:42 am

Widening gap between the rich and the rest a looming crisis

by Senator Art Eggleton

Recently, I tabled a study in the Senate from the Social Affairs Committee about social inclusion. We wanted to know how significant poverty, homelessness, a lack of affordable housing and income inequality in Canada have affected our cohesion as a society.<>

Inclusion and cohesion are vital to the national social fabric. They are vital to the everyday interactions amongst Canadians. They are vital to our interconnectedness and a shared experience of our nation.

So are we inclusive? Do citizens feel they are a vital part of our communities? Do they feel like they have a voice?

We learned that despite the challenges many communities face, and thanks to our multicultural and integration policies, we have a broad sense of inclusion in Canada. The rising numbers of immigrants who own homes, who take out citizenship and who intermarry point to inclusion.

But everything is not perfect. We have fault lines. We have far too many people living on the margins. This has been made more challenging by rising income inequality in Canada, where 4% of Canadian households control 67% of total wealth. And where middle and low incomes have stagnated or decreased.  <>

We can see this growing divide playing itself out in our urban areas as well.  A report by University of Toronto professor David Hulchanski found that Toronto is now made up of three cities, not one. One part is wealthy; one is a huge area of poverty.  And the portion once occupied by the middle class has shrunk from about 66 per cent, in 1970, to just 29 per cent in 2005.

This widening gap between the rich and the rest is a looming crisis.  A society in which a small group is benefiting unfairly can lead to dissension, increases in crime, loss of participation, and isolation.  <>

To deal with exclusion, first and foremost, we need collaboration between the federal government, the provinces and territories, local governments and community organizations. Together, we need to develop goals for social inclusion and cohesion. These goals should be used in the design and evaluation of policies, programs and activities. Then we need to measure them to determine if we are meeting our goals for inclusion.

Our study found that, more specifically, certain groups are far more likely to face exclusion. Recent immigrants, visible minorities, aboriginal people, people with disabilities, seniors, youth and sexual minorities all struggle with exclusion in Canada.

We offered ideas for how better to include these groups. For recent immigrants who are overrepresented in poverty, we need to better prepare immigrants before they arrive to Canada. We also need enhanced efforts to combat racism and other forms of intolerance for both immigrants and visible minorities by developing pan-Canadian educational programs.

In our Aboriginal community, access to post-secondary education and training was identified as one of the best opportunities for social and economic inclusion.

For young Canadians, employment remains a big challenge with 14% youth unemployment, making it difficult to pay for tuition, pay down debt or afford housing. Once out of school they often experience underemployment, job insecurity, temp work, rising costs for food and housing. We need programs to increase labour mobility and also tax incentives for companies that hire and invest in young Canadians.

To help stem income inequality we recommended a review of the Income Tax Act to ensure progressivity and fairness and to stimulate job creation.

These are just some of the 39 total recommendations our cross-party committee put to the federal government.  We hope they listen.

For 146 years we’ve built this country based on a simple premise — and a higher purpose: that helping our neighbour, looking out for one another and giving everyone a shot at success is the best way to build a society.

It is again time to focus on sharing our prosperity more widely — to make sure we continue on an inclusive path, where everyone feels they have a stake in their community and their country.  And where they will participate and know that their voices will be heard.


Art Eggleton is a former Toronto mayor, Member of Parliament, and is currently a Canadian Senator.  He is currently Deputy Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology.

Political Power Brokers of the National Capital Region

October 7, 2013 11:50 am

“It would not take long for a future tax-and-spend government to imperil the economic stability Canada enjoys”: An Interview with Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre (Nepean-Carleton)

As told to Harvey F. Chartrand

Pierre Poilievre is the 34-year-old Minister of State (Democratic Reform) and four-term Conservative Member of Parliament for Nepean-Carleton.

After defeating the incumbent Liberal Defense Minister in the 2004 election, Poilievre has since been re-elected four times.

As Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury Board President (2006-2008), Poilievre helped stick-handle the Federal Accountability Act through the House of Commons. As Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (2008-2011), he was the caucus lead on the Conservative Party’s 2011 election platform, where he pushed for spending reductions, less red tape for small business and tax fairness for families with a stay-at-home parent.

As Parliamentary Secretary to the Transport Minister (2011-2013), Poilievre launched a new House committee study on how competition and private sector investment can lower the costs and improve the quality of our roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

In 2005, Poilievre took the idea of a Children’s Fitness Tax Credit from an Osgoode farming family to Stephen Harper who campaigned on and implemented it.

It was also in Osgoode that he met Jim Duquette. The Army Major left to serve the Canadian Forces in the Middle East just days after the birth of his son. He returned to learn his parental benefits under EI had expired while he was serving overseas, depriving him of the chance to spend time with the son he had not seen in a year. Major Duquette learned that, according to the rules, he could have deferred his benefits for the purpose of serving a prison sentence, but not for the purpose of serving in a Canadian Forces mission.

Poilievre fixed this injustice, with the Fairness for Military Families Act. It allows soldiers to defer their parental leave until after they return from military missions, giving them precious time off with their small children.

As a leading voice for the future Strandherd-Armstrong Bridge, Poilievre has landed one-third of the project’s needed investment. Construction is now well underway as a result. He also secured the neighbouring airport land required for the Limebank Road expansion.

Poilievre was appointed Minister of State (Democratic Reform) on July 15, 2013.

The Interview

Ottawa Life: Under Stephen Harper, has Canada set itself on a course that the Liberals (should they be re-elected) can’t ever steer back to the way things were in 2006 under Paul Martin?

Pierre Poilievre: I don’t think anybody who runs on a platform of taking the country back a decade will ever win an election. Bill Clinton’s old campaign song was Don’t Stop Thinking about Tomorrow. All elections are always about the future. The Liberal Party has been trying to win elections on the promise of bringing back the good old days. Someone once said that the Liberal slogan should be: Towards a better yesterday. I don’t think the country wants to go back to the Liberal past. That being said, in the next election, I expect that all three parties will provide competitive visions for the future. We can’t take for granted that our vision will automatically win. That’s why we have to make sure our plan is the most meritorious and best-suited to the interests of the everyday Canadian voter. We can’t take for granted the gains we’ve made. If you look around the world right now, you’ll see that previously successful nations were able to squander their prosperity in a very short period of time, so the stability that we enjoy today is very much contingent on continued wise government.

Despite the fact that we kept our deficit spending and taxes low, it would not take long for a future tax-and-spend government to reverse that prudent management and imperil the economic stability we enjoy. I mean, 25 years ago, no one would have imagined that Detroit would be basically bankrupt or that Greece would be on the verge of economic collapse, but big-spending, irresponsible governments can do tremendous damage in a very short period of time. Unfortunately, the gains we’ve won are important, but they can’t be taken for granted.

Ottawa Life: What are some of the major problems facing Canada today, and how is the Conservative government dealing with them?

Pierre Poilievre: I’d like to focus on one principle challenge – the economy – and then identify some of the sub-categories. We face economic risk from abroad and those risks emanate from a number of serious mistakes that foreign governments have made. One is – they piled up unsustainable debt levels by spending money they did not have on things they did not need. That has brought several European countries to bankruptcy. Similar phenomena have emerged in a number of municipal and state-level jurisdictions in the United States. If there is a financial collapse of these governments, there is no question that Canada would face some of the indirect consequences. We sell products to these jurisdictions. We buy products from them. Our financial systems are necessarily integrated at some level, so we can’t expect to avoid all the consequences and mistakes of foreign governments, but we can avoid making those mistakes here in Canada.

That is why we’ve limited our borrowing. We plan to balance the budget within two years. We’ll be one of the first governments in the developed world to balance its budget and one of the only to do so without raising taxes. That would be an exceptional achievement.  We have government debt levels in Canada that are about a third the size of the entire economy, which is very reasonable when you consider that in America it’s more than twice that. In Europe, many countries have bigger debt than their economy has output, so by comparison we’re doing extremely well. That’s the first thing we need to do to avoid the economic challenges from abroad.

The second thing is we need to do is to keep our taxes low. We want to attract the brightest and most hard-working people and companies from all around the world. That requires a low-tax environment, where people can invest and spend the resources that they’ve earned. We’ve managed to keep taxes very low. The federal tax burden is now at a 50-year low in Canada. We’ve cut taxes about 150 times. That has meant more money in the pockets of the average family. I think we need to continue that. As soon as we get the budget balanced and we have more surplus, we need to lower taxes again to help Canadian families get ahead and to make our economy more competitive for the future.

Third, we need to trade more. Trade gives companies a world of consumers and our consumers a world of choice.  So we’re working to conclude a free trade agreement with Europe, which is the biggest economy in the world, and India, which is the second most populous nation and one of the fastest-growing (economies), and we’re hoping that we can conclude agreements with these two jurisdictions and give our companies a whole new advantage.  We’ve got to avoid being too reliant on the United States. As we’ve seen through some of the trade disputes we’ve had and the difficulties our American friends have suffered, we need alternatives and intercontinental trade (with other countries) would give us those alternatives.

Fourth, we need to keep our red tape and our administrative burden light, so companies can build a mountain of success rather than drowning in a sea of paper.

Fifth, we need to continue to reorient our immigration system to attract people our economy needs. There are certain sectors in our economy that have grave labor shortages. There are people from around the world who want to work in Canada and have the necessary skills to fill those shortages. Our goal is to reorient our immigration system to bring (skilled workers) into our country.

Ottawa Life: What other legislation are you working on?

Pierre Poilievre: My two major projects over the next year will be to push for Senate reform. There has been a lot of debate over what the federal government can do in our Constitution without involving the provinces. So we’ve asked the top court in the land to answer those questions for us. The hearings will start in November and the results will come back next year. We’re hoping the Supreme Court will give us a how-to guide on Senate reform. If the results come back as we hope, then we should be able to bring in term limits for Senators, and also allow provinces to hold elections and recommend candidates for the Senate for the Prime Minister’s appointment. Those would be two important incremental steps towards  a more democratic and accountable Upper Chamber. But we need to wait until we hear back from the Supreme Court in how we can achieve those objectives. Secondly, we’ve committed to updating Canada’s election laws, so in the coming session, we’ll be introducing legislation to do that.

Ottawa Life: What do you think of Justin Trudeau as Prime Ministerial material? What effect would his leadership have on the country?

Pierre Poilievre: This is not a vote for Canadian Idol. The next election will be a serious decision about the future of our country. The Government of Canada is a quarter-trillion-dollar enterprise, over which the Prime Minister is effectively the CEO. He has to make life-and-death decisions on everything from terrorism to violence in the Middle East, to protecting our economy here at home. I don’t think people are going to entrust that kind of role to someone whose only platform is to legalize marijuana. So far, we’ve seen literally nothing else from him. He has no agenda for the country and he’s now said that he won’t tell us what his plans are for at least another two years. At the end of the day, elections are about choosing someone who can execute very important responsibilities and they are not mere popularity contests. As we get closer to that decision date, I think peoples’ prudential instincts will remind them of that.

Ottawa Life: I’d like to ask you about the NCC  and if anyone is ever going to fix it and if we’ll ever have an organization in place that actually does something to benefit the national capital. What accounts for the NCC’s phenomenal incompetence? What is the NCC’s real purpose at the present time?

Pierre Poilievre: The basis for the NCC is to try and elevate the capital in the interests of the whole country. Naturally, when we have two bodies that deal with one city, there is going to be some regular tension. You’ve got the City of Ottawa, which is a municipal government, and then you’ve got this unique body that no other city in the country has to face, because we’re the only capital there is. So we have to work every day to make the NCC more practical and responsive to peoples’ needs. I’ve actually noticed a few improvements. As an MP in the National Capital Region, I have a whole level of local responsibilities that most MPs wouldn’t face. The NCC must be the biggest landowner in my riding, if not  then very close to it. They own the Greenbelt, which goes right through part of my riding, then on the South Gloucester side, there are a lot of federal lands that the NCC has input over, so anytime the municipality wants to do anything, the NCC has to approve it. When I first took office back in 04, the NCC was very bureaucratic  and unresponsive. I found a slow progressive improvement in dealing with basic problems with the NCC. When we rebuilt Limebank Road, the NCC was one of the fastest agencies to get their approval out of the way. The NCC gave us no problems with the construction of the Strandherd-Armstrong Bridge. And I rarely ever hear a complaint from a resident about NCC policy on the surrounding lands, so there has been some improvement. That is why I hesitate to get into talk about fundamentally reforming the NCC, because we’ve been talking about that for years. I’d rather talk about how we can address individual problems that come up, so if a constituent or a city councillor is having a problem with the way the NCC is handling an issue, I just try to tackle that one issue, because finding a city-wide and then national consensus on NCC reform is much more difficult than just dealing with each problem as it comes up. I guess that’s kind of a Canadian response: slow, incremental improvement.

Ottawa Life: What accounts for this new spirit of cooperation with the NCC?

Pierre Poilievre: They faced relentless public criticism about ten years ago and realized that if they didn’t become more responsive to the local population, they wouldn’t survive as an agency. I think the NCC has changed its culture somewhat towards a more service-based culture. I know that if I call to ask and say: look, a constituent has a problem with the way the NCC is building a pathway on the Greenbelt, I get a call back, a very substantial response within less than 24 hours. They try to meet with people in the community very quickly. When I first started off about ten years ago, dealing with the NCC was just like pulling teeth. I think the NCC has learned it needs to serve the community in order to maintain public support. So in my neck of the woods, I’ve noticed an improvement at the NCC.

Conservation First, Results Later

October 1, 2013 10:52 am

The rallying cry of many contemporary environmentalists is “conservation” – emphasizing the need for the preservation and restoration of our natural resources. Critics have often accused the Ontario Ministry of Energy of ignoring the importance of conservation. For the Hon. Bob Chiarelli, Ontario’s recently appointed Minister of Energy and current MPP for Ottawa West-Nepean, conservation ranks as a chief priority. However, reducing energy consumption can only be achieved through an increase of energy spent on projects that promote sources of clean and sustainable energy, coupled with the assurance that Ontario’s Liberal government will listen to the concerns of its municipalities. Chiarelli’s plans are long-term; many argue that this renewed interest in conservation has come too late, while others simply feel ignored.

Earlier this summer, Chiarelli unveiled Ontario’s energy strategy by releasing Conservation First: A Renewed Vision for Energy Conservation in Ontario. The paper examines the Ministry of Energy’s past projects and is meant to stimulate discussion which will result in the review and update of Ontario’s Long-Term Energy Plan, due later this fall.

“Conservation is the cleanest and least costly energy resource, and offers consumers a means to reduce their electricity bills,” says Chiarelli. “That’s why it is at the forefront of our plan to meet Ontario’s electricity needs.”

According to some critics, the Ministry’s commitment to conservation is a welcome plan – albeit overdue.

“For years, environmentalists have been identifying conservation as the missing piece that ought to be the first piece,” says Dan McDermott, director of the Sierra Club’s Ontario Chapter. Yet McDermott remains optimistic: “They’ve announced a commitment. That’s frankly more than we’ve seen in the past.”

Since being appointed Minister of Energy in February, Ottawa’s former mayor has busied himself by renewing past efforts such as the Smart Grid Fund, which originated in 2009 with the aim of creating efficient grids operating as modernized conservation tools that reduce energy consumption and increase clean, dependable and sustainable energy. Chiarelli’s championing of the program has revitalized the Smart Grid Fund, allowing for further projects to use the benefits of conservation.

“We have a real opportunity to build one of the most advanced electricity grids in the world,” Chiarelli says. “The smart grid projects will give consumers more power over their electricity use, while ensuring our entire system uses energy as efficiently as possible.”

This past August, Chiarelli, in wanting to give “consumers more power,” introduced the Municipal Energy Plan (MEP) and the Aboriginal Community Energy Plan (ACEP). These optional plans function as counterparts to Ontario’s Long-Term Energy Plan by isolating the energy consumption of individual communities and thereby adapting to each municipality’s distinct necessities and targets.

“The Municipal Energy Plan and the Aboriginal Community Energy Plan will help communities identify goals and new opportunities to save money and reduce their environmental footprint,” says Chiarelli. The call to save and reduce safeguards prospective savings for Ontario residents.

Yet critics of the Minister’s plans feel ignored when the topic turns to the controversy concerning wind turbines and wind farms. In August, 60 municipalities demanded that they be granted a more significant position in the planning process with the aim of assuring their right to vote against projects which they oppose. The group stands firm as “unwilling hosts” to wind turbines in their respective communities. Chiarelli argues that they represent “a very significant minority,” one refused the right to veto. “That’s not to say they don’t have legitimate concerns, which in their opinion should be advocated,” he adds.

In September, the group Mothers Against Wind Turbines (MAWT) approached Chiarelli at his recent visit to the Babcock and Wilcox nuclear manufacturing facility in Cambridge, Ont., stressing the health, safety and financial issues surrounding the presence of wind turbines in their neighborhoods. “You are ruining our province,” says Anita Thornton, a member of the group.

The various anti-wind groups fear they are being ignored. “We are not sure if Minister Chiarelli was listening or if it will lead anywhere,” says a representative for MAWT after their meeting over the Ministry’s plans, “but we did appreciate the minister’s time and willingness to meet with us.”

Chiarelli is no stranger to politics and knows that criticism, concerns and controversy are all part of the process. Before his latest appointment, he was MPP for Ottawa West from 1987 to 1997, Chair of the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton (1997-2000), Mayor of the amalgamated City of Ottawa (2001-2006), Minister of Infrastructure (2010-2011) and Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation (2011-2013). His focus is now on conservation and energy plans.

Conservation has only recently been placed at the forefront of Ontario’s energy plans; it is an ongoing, long-term process. “Ontario has already made great strides in reducing electricity use,” Chiarelli says. “But we can do much more.”

Interview with Cho Hee-yong, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Canada

September 27, 2013 10:53 am

Interview with Ottawa Life Magazine – Ambassador Cho Hee-yong 

OTTAWA LIFE MAGAZINE: What is your background as an Ambassador and when did you first arrive in Canada? What are your impressions of Canada since arriving in Ottawa? 

AMBASSADOR CHO HEE-YONG: When I was first offered the position in Ottawa, my wife and I were very honoured and pleased to be given the special opportunity to serve in Canada. Canada is one of the most well-known and respected countries among Koreans. We have such a positive and favorable perception of this country. In fact, Canada always ranks among the top four most appealing countries in the world by the Korean public.

Sept13_Top25_KOREAN AMB_IMG_8791

His Excellency Mr. Cho Hee-yong, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Canada

We arrived in Canada at the end of July 2012, so we have spent over one full year here in Ottawa. Before I assumed my post in Canada, I was working as the Ambassador to Sweden and Latvia. In fact, I have been working in the Foreign Service since 1979 and have travelled all over the globe: from China to Japan to the Philippines, and from Washington to Scandinavia. Now, after so many years serving as a diplomat, I have finally made it to Ottawa; one of the best postings for an Ambassador.

Over the past year, I have travelled to most major cities across the country: Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto, Regina, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver, and in a few weeks’ time I will be visiting Halifax, Charlottetown, Moncton, and Saint John. During these past trips I have had the privilege of meeting with and speaking to so many Canadians, from leaders in government, business, the community, and the world of academia, as well as students, teachers, and the truly inspiring Korean War veterans.

These experiences have confirmed my initial understanding and perception of Canada; that Canadians come from all over the world, they respect, celebrate, and welcome diversity and multiculturalism, they are compassionate, inviting, and generous, and as I quickly discovered, they have an unrivalled love of hockey. Not only that, I was surprised to learn that there are more similarities than differences between Canadians and Koreans and that we both think very highly of each other. Finally, Canadians are very open to others, making it a favourable and positive environment to engage in diplomacy.

Another interesting thing that I have learned over the course of my visits is that most Canadians I have met have some personal connection to Korea. Some have travelled or taught English in the country, or have friends who still teach in Korea. Others are the children or grandchildren of men and women who fought in the Korean War. I recently met with a Korean War veteran who told me that because he is too old to travel, his granddaughter, an English teacher in Korea, frequently visits the UN cemetery in Busan to pay respects to his fallen comrades. I was so deeply touched to hear this story. It shows that the memory of Canada’s Korean War veterans is being passed down from generation to generation and it gives me the hope that our extraordinary friendship, forged in blood, sweat and tears, will endure for years to come.

Overall, I think that these personal connections to Korea are a very important feature of our two countries’ relationship. These ties that bind Korea and Canada make our partnership even closer and stronger.

OTTAWA LIFE MAGAZINE: What makes 2013 an important year for Korea and Canada? 

AMBASSADOR CHO HEE-YONG: As you may know, I was very fortunate to have arrived in Ottawa at the start of an incredibly important and historic year. 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of official diplomatic relations between Korea and Canada and the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice. In honour of this double milestone, our two Governments declared 2013 to be the “Year of Korea in Canada” and the “Year of Canada in Korea.” In addition, Veterans Affairs Canada designated 2013 as the “Year of the Korean War Veteran.”

This momentous year has given us an incredible opportunity to look back and reflect on all that has been accomplished since the establishment of Korea-Canada diplomatic relations and garner some insight and ideas on how we can further enhance our two countries bilateral relations for the next 50 years.

In looking back, while the alliance that we celebrate today was formally recognized in 1963, it existed long before our 1963 treaty; our shared history started over a century ago. Before diplomats, there were nearly 200 missionaries, teachers, and physicians working in Korea in the late 19th century, forging the first links between Canadian and Korean people. These early envoys also brought notable cultural, scientific, and social contributions to Korean development; contributions which helped modernize Korea. We Koreans still remember the legacy and achievements of Canadians like John Gale, Dr. Francis William Schofield, and Dr. Oliver Avison.

Our partnership was then solidified in 1950, when thousands of brave Canadians fought and hundreds died alongside Koreans to resist the Communist aggression and preserve South Korea as an independent and free state. Today, there are fewer and fewer Korean War veterans among us, so it is important that we take time to honour them and their familes, listen to their stories, and ensure that they live on for years to come.

Throughout this past, Korea and Canada have steadily developed a Special Partnership based on our shared history, common values, robust economic ties, and close people to people connections. We have also achieved countless successes together as staunch allies, ideal partners, and like-minded countries. It is fair to say that our relations have never been closer or stronger than they are right now.

So, as the Ambassador to Canada during this special year, I appreciate that I am in a very unique position to further develop and strengthen Korea-Canada relations and bring this partnership to the next level. Not only that, I cannot think of a better time to recognize the tremendous support and collaboration from the Canadian public.

OTTAWA LIFE MAGAZINE: How did Canada contribute to the Korean War and what is the role of the UN on the Korean Peninsula? 

AMBASSADOR CHO HEE-YONG: One of our greatest shared experiences began 60 years ago when Canadians and Koreans stood shoulder to shoulder in the Korean War. This represents one of the most significant military engagements in Canada’s history and its third largest military deployment in the 20th century. In fact, last month on July 27th, the anniversary of the signing of the armistice agreement, Prime Minister Harper said, “The Korean War was one of the most challenging chapters in Canada’s proud military history. In proportion to its population, Canada’s contribution of troops was one of the largest within the international force.”

Koreans still remember the legacy of the Canadian soldiers who fought in the battle of Kap’yong, which Prime Minister Harper stated is among Canada’s greatest victories and most illustrious moments in its military history. Thanks to efforts of Canada’s Princess Patricia’s, the Chinese invasion into Seoul was halted, allowing for the UN counterattack that drove the invasion back over the 38th parallel. This is indeed a story that resonates in the hearts and minds of the Korean people, and it is a story that should be remembered and shared for years to come.

Korean’s also remember the contributions of Mr. Lester B. Pearson, who was actively involved in UN efforts to resolve the war, leading to the successful signing of the armistice agreement on July 27, 1953. In fact, when Mr. Pearson was asked what he considered the greatest single achievement of the Security Council and of the United Nations itself, he replied that the most important single achievement had been the organization’s action in Korea.

Overall for Canada, nearly 27,000 Canadians served throughout the Korean War and a total of 516 of these young men and women made the ultimate sacrifice. We Koreans have never forgotten the extraordinary contributions and tremendous sacrifices of these Canadians who defended a country they never knew and a people they never met.

Last month, on the 60th anniversary of the armistice, President Park Geun-Hye visited the UN Memorial Cemetery in Busan. There, she laid flowers and paid a special tribute to Canada’s Hearsey brothers, who participated in the Korean War and whose graves now lay side-by-side with so many other brave Canadian veterans. The story of these two Canadians is that the younger brother joined the Canadian Armed Forces to fight in the war. His older brother, out of concern for his younger brother’s safety, joined the war a short time later and was killed in action. After 61 years of missing his brother, the younger Hearsey left a final request that he wanted to be buried beside him in Korea. At their tombs, President Park renewed her commitment to never let their sacrifices be in vain.

Indeed, thanks to Canada’s veterans and so many Canadians over the years, Korea has become a strong, prosperous, and sovereign nation. To quote Minister Blaney, “There would be no ‘Gangnam Style’ if it had not been for the sacrifices of Canadians.” I think this statement reflects the pride that Canadians feel over their significant role in shaping Korea as we know it today.

In addition, I fully agree with the comments of President Obama. I believe the Korean War was a victory for the South. Since the war, we have become a genuine democracy; we have transformed from an aid-recipient to a donor country; we have emerged as the world’s 15th largest economy and member of G20; and we are now a full-fledged partner in some of the great councils of the world. In fact, Korea is seen as a model country for other developing nations in terms of democracy building and economic development.

In regard to the UN, Korea is often said to be its beloved child, which indicates the special bond forged in history between the ROK and the UN. By many accounts, the ROK is a success story for the UN.

As you know, the Korean War was the first war in which a world organization, the United Nations, played a military role and defeated the enemy. Since the signing of the Armistice Agreement, peace has been kept by a military armistice commission, of which Canada is a member. This UN command continues a program of regular guard post inspections throughout the southern portion of the DMZ, and conducts investigations of any alleged Armistice violations which come to its attention.

As such, the UN is still very much present and relevant in Korea. Today, sixty-three years after the Security Council authorized a coalition of forces to fight under the UN flag against North Korean forces; and sixty years after an Armistice Agreement ended hostilities on the Korean Peninsula, the UN flag still flies over the Demilitarized Zone.

[Free Trade Agreement]

Of course, these are all encouraging and exciting trade and investment areas, but there remains between us massive and untapped economic potential. There is no doubt that the FTA under negotiation would further enhance and upgrade our economic partnership.

Both sides will need to show more flexibility and compromise in order to seize the momentum of this special year and conclude the FTA swiftly. It would represent a historic turning point and key milestone in the relations between our two countries and set the stage for greater shared prosperity in the future.

[People to People Exchanges and Contributions of Diaspora]

Of course, the strength of our partnership is more than just our economic and political alliances. We have been very encouraged to witness the increasing trend of people-to-people exchanges between our two countries.

Tourism is booming, with roughly a quarter of a million people travelling between Canada and Korea each year. Of them, more than 23,000 Canadians have settled in Korea and more than 230,000 Koreans have immigrated to Canada. 90% of these Korean-Canadians now live in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec, but a growing number are joining communities in Alberta and Manitoba.

Why? Because Koreans have a very positive and favorable perception of this country. As I mentioned, Canada is consistently rated among the top four most appealing countries in the world by the Korean public and is often regarded as a first choice for potential Korean immigrants. In my opinion, with the state of immigration in Canada, the opportunities and possibilities for Koreans are endless. For instance, I mentioned that I have had the opportunity to visit cities across Canada and from those trips, what I have realized is that many descendants of Canadian immigrants currently hold leadership roles within their communities or positions in the provinces. By witnessing the success of these individuals I can see that Canada truly respects diversity and multiculturalism.

I am particularly pleased to note that Korean-Canadians themselves have made enormous contributions to the communities they have joined. While the Korean community still lacks sufficient political representation relative to the difficulties they face as a visible minority group with a short immigrant history, they have grown quite rapidly within the past few decades as one of the more prominent communities in Canada.

Not only that, there is an increasing trend of mobility and exchange among our young people. For instance, there are 4,000 annual exchanges in the Working Holiday Program. In addition, there are more than 5,000 Canadians teaching English as a Second Language to young Korean students. Koreans respect Canadian teachers. We estimate that there are around 100,000 Canadians who have taught in Korea. They are playing an excellent role in enhancing public awareness about Canada and developing mutual understanding among our two populations.

Similarly, there are about 22,000 to 23,000 Korean students studying in Canada today, making up the third largest international student population in the country. They bring to Canada our country’s unique ‘Hallyu’ or ‘Korean Wave’.

[‘Gangnam Style’ and the Korean Wave]

This refers to the global spread of Korea’s culture, such as our music, arts, dance, entertainment, food, and brands. You know “Gangnam Style” by K-pop artist Psy or you may use a Samsung cell-phone. Maybe you even own a Kia or a Hyundai and practice the traditional martial art Taekwondo. Of course, when I was growing up, I could never have dreamt that Korea would have cell-phones and cars and kimchi in Canada.

In my opinion, through “Gangnam Style”, I can feel that the world is more familiar with Korean culture, more fond of Korean culture, and more interested in learning about Korean culture. This can only have a positive impact on Korea’s future relations with the world.

While Psy has done so much to create interest in our country and bring Korean culture to young people around the world (he was recently awarded the Ok-gwan Order of Cultural Merit by Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the third highest level of cultural recognition by the government), myself and the Embassy have also been hosting a number of cultural celebrations and events, such as the Embassy Speakers Series, Korean movies nights, school visit programs, and cultural caravans, to help strengthen our people-to-people ties and spread awareness of South Korea among Canadians.

OTTAWA LIFE MAGAZINE: What is South Korea’s policy in dealing with North Korea? 

AMBASSADOR CHO HEE-YONG: Over the years, South Korea has made continuous efforts to achieve reconciliation and peace on the Korean peninsula, despite the North’s consistent and frequent military threats. As part of the Park Geun-hye Government’s Trustpolitik, the government seeks to advance a trust-building process on the Korean Peninsula. The goal of this process is to establish sustainable peace on the Korean Peninsula and eventually lay the foundation for peaceful reunification.

In order to start building trust between the two Koreas, it is important to respect agreements, no matter how small, and whether they are inter-Korean or international. The Park Geun-hye Government will continue its efforts to develop inter-Korean relations in such a manner. It also seeks to promote positive change within North Korea with the support of the international community. Although it is most important for North Korea to make the right decisions and take steps toward genuine change, it is also necessary for the international community to create an environment whereby North Korea has no other option but to change.

This trust building process is composed of two parts. One is to safeguard peace based on strong deterrence, and the other is to build peace on the Korean Peninsula and within the region.

As you are well aware, North Korea’s provocations over the past year – launching long range missiles and conducting a nuclear test in an attempt to advance its WMD capability – pose a serious threat to the peace and stability of the international community. As such, our position is clear. We, along with our allies in the international community, strongly adhere to maintaining a strong deterrence against North Korea and we will not tolerate their nuclear development. To make substantial progress on denuclearization, necessary pre-steps must be taken in advance. We simply cannot allow the repetition of the vicious cycle that begins with North Korea’s provocations, followed by compensation, and leading to yet further provocations. North Korea has used such tactics in the past.

Our effort to make peace continues even at this moment. If North Korea makes the right choices, Korea and the international community will provide the necessary assistance. However, we will not forsake our principle for short-term political benefit, as there is no room in Trustpolitik for rash conclusions of convenience. We urge North Korea to abandon the path of confrontation and isolation and take the path toward peace and prosperity.

OTTAWA LIFE MAGAZINE: What is your outlook on the future of bilateral relations between Korea and Canada? 

AMBASSADOR CHO HEE YONG: Before I leave my post here in Ottawa, I would like to continue four key activities that will help Canada and Korea achieve a Strategic Partnership in the days ahead. First, we must work to expand and strengthen our institutional frameworks, such as revising our Working Holiday Agreement and developing a joint Energy Strategy, as well as finalizing the FTA. We must also work to strengthen Korea and Canada’s partnership on the global stage as like-minded, constructive powers. We must highlight the importance of our people-to-people exchanges, particularly among young people, and we must continue to honour the Korean War Veterans through initiatives like Korea’s Ambassador for Peace medal and our Revisit Korea Program. Most importantly, I wish all of Canada’s Korean War veterans the best of luck and continued good health and longevity so that they may one day join Koreans in witnessing the fruits of their sacrifice: the foundation of a democratically unified peninsula.

As you know, the world is constantly changing, but what remains constant is the geography and history of each country. I envy Canadians. You only have one super-power as a neighbour, while we have so many. You are blessed with valuable natural resources, while Korea has so few. Also, you only have a couple hundred years of history with your neighbours, while we have a shared history that spans thousands with ours.

Of course, all politics is local. It is a reality that each country has its own priorities in addressing issues and challenges. Canada will always place great importance on its relations with the U.S. and the EU – based on geographic and historical ties.

But, I would like to remind Canadians that despite our geographical distance, we have remained close friends and staunch allies for more than six decades. Now, it is incumbent on both of us to ensure that the invaluable sacrifices of the young Canadian men and women who served during the Korean War were not made in vain. I urge both of our countries to remember all the ties that bind us and the significant investments made over the past 100 years and to continue growing our relationship for future generations.

This year, let us turn our attention toward each other. It is time to take hold of the momentum we’ve established to date, grasp the opportunities ahead of us, and take the steps necessary to develop a Strategic Partnership.

Lastly, I would like to say that I am truly optimistic about the future of Korea-Canada relations, and this is never more evident than when we look at the growing number of exchanges between our young people. They are doing so much to bridge our two countries, pushing us closer together every day. So, I think now is the time for everyone – young and old – to come to Korea, taste our food, listen to our music, and experience for yourself what the real “Gangnam Style” is all about.


Part two of this interview will be published in print and online at in November 2013  

A Good Corporation: “Conscious Capitalism” Is Sprouting in Ottawa

September 23, 2013 10:24 am







In early September, Céline Bak drew three bottom lines under her company. From now on, Analytica Advisors – a clean technology consultancy based in Ottawa – officially stands for the triple bottom line of people, planet, profit. Bak has a Benefit Corporation (B Corp) certificate to prove it.

A Good Standard

A B Corp certification is to sustainable business what LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification is to green building, or Fair Trade certification is to coffee. A B Corp certificate is provided by B Lab – an independent non-profit based in Wayne, Pennsylvania.

In 2006, three entrepreneurs decided to change the world of business for the better: Jay Gilbert, Bart Houlahan and Andrew Kassoy founded B Lab – a non-profit that assesses companies’ business practices. If businesses have a positive impact on the community, their employees and the environment, B Lab grants them a B Corp certificate.

In 2007, 55 U.S. companies undertook a B Lab assessment, and received B Corp certificates. Among them were businesses of every type. The group signed the B Corps’ Declaration of Interdependence, promising to meet B Labs’ rigorous standards of environmental performance, accountability and transparency.

It seems that Canadians share the same values. In 2010, Better the World – a technology-based social enterprise in Toronto – became the first B Corp-certified company in Canada. Since then, the B Corp movement has spread from coast-to-coast here.


Today, there are 81 B Corp-certified companies in Canada, with 43 in Ontario – and Ottawa’s business ecosystem has just welcomed a third B Corp company. Analytica Advisors has joined the ranks of the city’s two other B Corp companies – RocketOwl and Homestead Organics.

Aaron Emery, a B Corp Fellow at the MaRS Centre For Impact Investing in Toronto, thinks the B Corp movement is just gaining traction in Canada.

“The B Corp vision of using business to solve social and environmental problems is quintessentially Canadian,” Emery says. “So while the Canadian B Corp movement doesn’t have a Ben & Jerry’s or Patagonia on board elevating the visibility of the certification north of the border – I believe it is only a matter of time until some major Canadian companies step up into this leadership position.”

MaRS Discovery District in Toronto is a non-profit, which serves as the hub for the B Corp movement in Canada. Emery handles daily communications with Canadian B Corps members and prospects. He says he is inspired by the work that B Corps companies are doing: “Big banks are investing in clean-tech ventures. Caterers are hiring from and operating in under-resourced neighborhoods. People are making copy paper at industrial scale and competitive price points out of surplus straw rather than trees. This stuff is all happening in Canada—and it’s great. As the B Corp movement continues to grow, I am excited to see what kind of potential can be unleashed when entrepreneurs feel like the permission to do good through business is mainstreamed.”


Supporting a Good Business Movement in the Nation’s Capital

For Analytica Advisors, it was important to support the B Corp movement; joining B Corps is manifesting a good business ecosystem, Bak says. “B Corp certification involves taking stock in what matters to the company and to the people who make it up. It also involves formalizing not just why we do what we do, but how and with whom. It enables us to learn about important resources and to formalize how our company contributes to the sustainability of other companies.”

Analytica Advisors’ research on innovation-based companies is transforming the investment and policy landscape. Bak’s company brings together investors, entrepreneurs and governments with one mission – to have a positive impact on the environment and the economy, while providing good jobs to support families: “At Analytica Advisors, we are focused on enabling companies whose very existence is predicated on sustainability,” Bak says. “These are companies that are focused on commercializing innovation to improve how we use energy and water resources, and how we can be good stewards of our environment.”

On September 24, Analytica Advisors launched the 2014 Canadian Clean Technology Industry Survey. The research is a beacon for the federal and provincial governments to determine green policy, and how to regulate natural resources.

Third-Party Verification

A second-generation food processor, Tom Manley says a B Corp certificate confirms that his company – Homestead Organics – is operating in a beneficial way. The certification sends a message to investors, customers and the community that his business stands for the social and environmental good.

“Lots of companies say they are good corporate citizens, but you have to take their word for it, subject to interpretation,” Manley says. “But if I can brag about what we do and also have an independent agency verify that – I think it gives our customers a greater sense of comfort, and I am sure, a greater sense of transparency on our part.”

Tom Manley and his wife Isabelle Masson took over a family business in Berwick in 1997. They turned a small shop into a resource centre for organic farmers. Homestead Organics provides organic farmers with feed and seed, fertilizers, pest controls and books – serving 700 organic farms in Ontario, Quebec, the Atlantic provinces and New York State.

Yet, even after being B Corp-certified, Manley says Homestead Organics can’t have a better recognition than his customers’ trust and loyalty. “It feels good to provide service to people who appreciate it and say thank you, and reward us with their loyalty.”


Play to Make a Change

Ottawa’s software world isn’t left behind. In December 2012, RocketOwl became the first B Corp-certified company in Ottawa. RocketOwl is a video game developer of online social and mobile games. The video games are eco-friendly and promote sustainable living and environmental stewardship.

Jasvinder Obhi, who has a doctorate in physics, is a co-founder of RocketOwl. As an expert in green technology, Obhi would often be asked about alternative energy and always enjoyed providing answers… so much so that he started thinking how he could share his knowledge with more people.

When Obhi met Graeme Barlow, an expert in games and online media, he knew he had found a pathway to a bigger audience. Obhi and Barlow created a mobile game to raise awareness of social and environmental issues. They envisioned a hub where players united by a game could discuss climate change and seek solutions.

“The idea is being able to do something in the virtual world and having a real-life impact,” Obhi says. “For instance, in our game, we have certain levels where you can purchase a tree and we can plant it in the real world. Or you can purchase an endangered species within a game that will help support them in real life as well.”

In 2012, RocketOwl released GreenSpace – a social gaming app. The game takes place in the future, and the player as a SpaceJanitor must save the galaxy from accumulated human waste. The player has to clean up and restore planets by seeking sustainable  alternative energy sources.

By November 2012, RocketOwl had planted 10,000 trees with the help of the reforestation non-profit Through GreenSpace, the company aims to plant 250,000 trees.

“B Corp certification is a step in making sure that everyone is aware of our values,” Obhi says. “Corporations now have to start looking at more than just profits. We have to look at people, planet, profit. We only have one planet, and we all have to look after it.”

Winds of Change

Against all skepticism and doubts, a ship with a B Corp flag is set to sail across the world. Today, 830 B Corp-labeled companies operate in 27 countries in 60 industries – and the movement to do good business keeps growing.


The Renaissance of Downtown Ottawa Is at Hand… but the Federal Government Is Still a Hindrance to the Process Rather than a Help

September 16, 2013 11:47 am

Downtown Ottawa is undergoing an architectural renaissance. Unsightly parking lots are gradually being replaced by gleaming condos and office towers.

Ottawa Life Magazine spoke to city councillor Diane Holmes, who represents Ward 14 Somerset. “When I first was elected in ’82, I thought I’d never see people from the suburbs wanting to come downtown again. We fought for 25 years to maintain the inner-city residential neighborhoods, keep them viable, keep the schools, maintain some traffic calming on the streets so kids can walk to schools, so people can have a pleasant pedestrian walkway… and over the years, people have started to come back downtown. The 60s and 70s were so destructive of our downtown.


City councillor Diane Holmes

“My main concern is the federal government leaving the downtown. If DND (Department of National Defence) empties and moves to Kanata, what will be done with DND headquarters? We are spending a billion dollars building a light rail system to bring commuters downtown. We want to keep downtown Ottawa as a main office site. My concern is more that the federal government is not considering the downtown as a prime federal district that they should be investing in and maintaining an office component in.

“Losing significant office component downtown would be a really negative factor. That billion-dollar investment in light rail is terrific for Centretown.

Having said that, Holmes notes that “the federal government keeps wanting to build the cheapest and ugliest office space – glass boxes and cement blocks. So they are the ones that go for the low bid all the time.” Esplanade Laurier looks like a bombed-out eyesore. Public Works (which now owns the twin-towered complex ) is trying to decide what to do with the building, which takes up an entire city block and has been very badly maintained.

However, the coming LRT will do much to rejuvenate downtown Ottawa. “When the LRT comes along, we can reinstate Albert and Slater,” Holmes says. “With fewer Transitway buses, these streets can become more pedestrian-friendly, with trees and outdoor cafes. At the moment, Albert and Slater are so unattractive! So spumy and dark and treeless. The Transitway was great for moving people but there was no idea of urban design, no idea of anything than to get those buses through those downtown corridors as quickly as possible. Commuters were crowded onto inadequate sidewalks with tiny little bus stops… And Queen Street, now with the two big underground transit stations in the works, those sidewalks will have to be widened because of the thousands of people constantly entering and exiting from those stations, so Queen will start to get dressed up and upgraded. The downtown streets will look a lot healthier in the future.  South of Sparks is so ugly… the sidewalks so narrow, very little shopping offered.  The NCC (National Capital Commission) has to figure out some way to animate the corner of Sparks and Metcalfe! There is nothing there for all the tourists who visit Parliament Hill.”

In the coming years, the condition of Rideau Street will improve immeasurably, as the LRT becomes operational and the Rideau Centre triples in size, Holmes predicts. “The Rideau Centre is a very successful shopping centre, even though it destroyed Rideau Street for 30 years. Absolutely no question, the LRT will be a big boost for the area.” Tourists now avoid Rideau Street in its present condition of squalor, garbage, bus fumes and as a magnet for social undesirables.


The route of the Western LRT has not been decided yet. The NCC is very unhappy with the City’s plans to run the LRT along the Ottawa River Parkway. “I prefer Carling Avenue myself as an LRT Western Extension,” Holmes says. “It would cost more, but we’re building for 100 years! So we should be investing (along Carling). I won’t be at all unhappy if the NCC keeps on with its refusal to let the City use the Ottawa River Parkway, so the City will finally be forced to take a serious look at Carling Avenue.  Toronto kept their streetcars because the tracks and the cars were in good shape, but Ottawa had let all that infrastructure deteriorate and then along came the big car companies and talked Ottawa into getting rid of its streetcars. Big mistake! ”

More condos are on the drawing board all through the Gloucester-Nepean-Lisgar area, because more people want to live near their downtown workplace. The hope is that more parking lots will disappear but “the Tribeca is bringing on so many condos that I think the market will take a ‘condo rest’ for a while. But give it 10 years and we’ll see more coming up, if the condo market is still viable.”

Holmes agrees that development in her ward is more enlightened than it has been in recent years, even though the height restriction has been lifted: “The development charges are now back on. We reinstated them about six months ago, because the development charges holiday is no longer needed as there is so much interest in building downtown. We no longer have to provide municipal incentives. We just have to provide the zoning capacity. And the community development plan for Centretown has provided high-rise zoning north of Somerset, and then south of Somerset it’s more medium-rise (about nine stories) and then protecting the two low-rise residential communities – the Golden Triangle in the east and Kent to Bronson in the west. So there is room for high-rise to the north, medium-rise in the middle and protecting the two new low-rise residential communities. So I think there is capacity downtown for many more years to come.”

Another good thing coming along is that a lot of new businesses want to locate in Little Italy on Preston Street. Of course that’s a double-edged sword because that kind of development will attract high-rises, including the mega-condo at Preston and Carling, which will be the highest building in Ottawa. “We’ll see how the condo market goes,” Holmes observes. “We’re going to need a very health condo market for that to happen. Bank Street is coming along. It’s taken a long time for it to recover from the Rideau Centre but we’re seeing lots of new businesses wanting to come on the street – and new condos surrounding it. You need residential health in order to have businesses nearby. And Elgin Street remains healthy, with lots of new people moving into the area. Unfortunately, the ByWard Market has turned into a bar strip, which is costing us a fortune in policing. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, half the police service is down there.”  That is a problem for condos coming in, because people may not necessarily want to live right beside a noisy bar street… and close to a cluster of homeless shelters. Is the ByWard Market rescuable? Holmes isn’t sure.

Holmes would like to see the old Ottawa Tech site go back to being a trade school. “If we ever have the provincial funding for that, that would be the best use for the site. It’s on the Transitway… great access. So if the school board hangs onto it long enough, perhaps Tech will come back again… So we have all our schools, we have our two low-rise residential areas. They’re safe and quiet. The traffic has been calmed there. We keep getting requests for more speed humps, but I think we’re kind of “speed-humped” out. And so the middle area from Cartier to Kent is designated now as a medium-rise area. So we can have lots more condos and lots more capacity for increased residential units. There’s still capacity for more commercial buildings. Two good new ones are planned for Elgin Street and they will have interesting architecture. That’s a main Parliamentary Precinct street and it’s good to see two more parking lots going and good quality commercial buildings coming in. So we’re seeing investment in the downtown commercial area and we’re seeing investment in the residential area, and that’s pretty good news for the future of Ottawa.”

Does Holmes think the NCC is doing a good job redeveloping LeBreton Flats?


“No. Many years ago I went to the announcement that the NCC made about which developer had won the competition to do LeBreton Flats and they announced that it was Claridge Homes. There had been three companies bidding and the other two stepped out (Minto was one) because they couldn’t meet the NCC’s expectations. The NCC wanted too much, which is sometimes the case with them. The head of the NCC at that time was very pleased that they had found one developer to do this very large piece of land, which I thought was a major mistake. They should have broken it up into smaller pieces of land with small developers and different architects. It would have looked less institutional and more like a real community. And then when the NCC signed on with Claridge there was no end date (stipulated in the contract)! So this developer could take another 50 years to finish the job. The NCC is still scooping toxic soil out of the Flats after all these years. This costs a fortune. So the NCC must be losing money significantly because they have to clean the site. Either that or give the land away. They have to clean it in order to sell it. But it’s probably the most toxic land in the city. Dump sites, waste disposal sites, old garages… Anyway, I think the redeveloped LeBreton Flats so far looks like an institution. It looks like a hospital complex to me because all the buildings look the same and use the same brick and style of architecture. We get a lot of complaints from the buyers of condos on the Flats who find out that they could be living beside a construction site for the next 20 years. There isn’t even a grocery store on the Flats, so those condo buyers are marooned.”

Because of NCC bungling, LeBreton Flats’ bland and snail-paced progress is a stain on the future development of a dynamic and people-oriented national capital that all Canadians can be proud of, rather than the world architectural showcase it deserved to be.

City and YMCA-YWCA partner for successful TRY Supportive Housing Program for Women

11:22 am
Ottawa Councillor Mathieu Fleury, TRY Program participant Cheryl, President and CEO of the YMCA-YWCA of the National Capital Region Deirdre Speers, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, Councillor Mark Taylor, Councillor Katherine Hobbs and Janice Burelle, Administrator with the City of Ottawa’s Housing Services, cut the cake during a celebration at the Taggart Family YMCA-YWCA on Friday, Sept. 13. 2013. The City joined together with the Y to celebrate the successes of the TRY Supportive Housing Program for Women.

Phase 1 of the TRY Supportive Housing Program for Women  was established in 2011 to provide temporary housing to women 18 years of age or older who are homeless or at risk of being homeless. After hearing feedback about the positive improvements in the residents’ lives, the program was expanded in 2012 (Phase 2) to address the need for additional temporary housing in this community. The TRY program has resulted in a decrease of six days in the average length of stay by women in the emergency shelter system, from 55 to 49 days. The program is funded in part by the $14-million Housing and Homelessness Investment Plan (HHIP).

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and Councillor Mark Taylor, Chair of the Community and Protective Services Committee, were joined by Deirdre Speers, President and CEO of the YMCA-YWCA of the National Capital Region and “Cheryl”, a current participant of the TRY Program, to celebrate the success of the supportive housing program.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, Councillor Mathieu Fleury, Councillor Katherine Hobbs and President and CEO of the YMCA-YWCA of the National Capital Region Deirdre Speers (right), listen as Councillor Mark Taylor speaks about the successes of the TRY Supportive Housing Program for Women. The City of Ottawa and the YMCA-YWCA partnered together to establish the program in 2011. Today, the TRY program provides support and accommodations to 43 women who were homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, Councillor Mathieu Fleury, Councillor Katherine Hobbs and President and CEO of the YMCA-YWCA of the National Capital Region Deirdre Speers (right), listen as Councillor Mark Taylor speaks about the successes of the TRY Supportive Housing Program for Women. The City of Ottawa and the YMCA-YWCA partnered together to establish the program in 2011. Today, the TRY program provides support and accommodations to 43 women who were homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

“The TRY Program is the type of support that changes peoples’ lives,” Watson said. The program is offered through the YMCA-YWCA of the National Capital Region at 180 Argyle Street and provides support and accommodations to 43 women.

“We will continue to support programs that create solutions to our affordable housing problems,”  Taylor echoed.

Friday’s  announcement celebrated the achievements of the 72 women who have participated in the TRY program. Twenty three “graduates” have moved on to permanent housing. In addition, 15 women returned to school; 11 found employment; seven attended school while working; two women continued to volunteer while attending school; and two are actively involved in volunteer activities in the community.

“We are honoured to support the participants of the TRY program and for the opportunity to inspire personal success among these remarkable women,” said Speers. “Our ability to make a positive impact in our community is so much greater in partnership with the City of Ottawa, and we look forward to continuing our work together.”

Bingo Halls’ Profits Plunge due to Online Bingo Sites

September 3, 2013 9:52 am
empty bingo hall

With online bingo sites launching left, right and center –  will traditional bingo halls survive?  Unfortunately, this isn’t great news for people who use bingo games as a form of raising money for charity.

As well as new bingo sites being launched all the time – there is competition from casinos too!  Mobile bingo and casino sites were introduced.  All of this coupled with the smoking ban – there is no real reason for people to head out to a bingo hall or charity event when they can relax and do what they want from the comfort of their own home. Unlike bingo halls – bingo brands can lure players in with no-deposit cash and tonnes of free bingo treats and offerings which will be much less expensive for players.

What you also need to think about are the prizes. With online bingo sites making so much money – they can afford to offer much bigger and better prizes to roomies, making them hard to resist. Due to the surge in online bingo, revenue generated at bingo halls has decreased substantially –  so much so that bingo halls are trying everything they can to keep themselves afloat by introducing a higher level of technology so players don’t need to mark bingo tickets off and can try to up their prizes – but again an online bingo site can be difficult to compete with.


An example of this is a bingo hall in Ontario where traditional bingo tables cater to the older generation of greybeards and the blue rinse set, but there are six brand-new computers arranged in a circle for players to use. These new devices allow you to go off for a break and then come back and catch up on your numbers – so similar to online – you can play without actually being there. As well, the hall has introduced free buffets to encourage players to play in their hall. There’s no doubt about it – freebies do tend to go a long way.

The computer aspect of it is called “EBingo” and the bingo industry is looking to roll that out to other halls and would include slot machines, live entertainment and more. Will this be enough to revive the traditional bingo hall? Who knows?


Police wrongdoing on rise, changes needed now

August 23, 2013 9:37 am
police 1

There are no easy answers to explain why a Toronto police officer shot a knife-wielding 18-year-old who posed no public threat nine times, but it does raise a red flag that something is seriously wrong with the way police deal with crisis situations.

By Darryl T. Davies

It would be an understatement to say that people are upset about Toronto police shooting to death 18-year-old Sammy Yatim. Indeed, more than a million people have watched the video footage showing a police officer shooting him nine times on YouTube.  In the outrage following this incident, many people asked the question, “Why would the Toronto police shoot a man holding a knife who posed no immediate threat to the public, the police, or himself nine times and then taser him after he was lying on the floor of the street car?”  There are no easy answers to explain the actions of the officer involved but it does raise a red flag that something is seriously wrong with the way police deal with crisis situations.  The negative impact of this event and the way in which it was handled by the Toronto police will have a profound and negative effect not only on the victim’s family and friends but also on the increasingly precarious relationship that exists between the police and the public.

In the past five years, police at the municipal, provincial and federal level have been severely criticized for the manner in which they have handled encounters with the public.  To add to the problem the number of incidents of wrongdoing by police, has escalated significantly across the country.  For example, from January 2012 to July 2013, a total of 18 officers in the Ottawa Police Service have been convicted under the Police Services Act of Ontario for discreditable conduct.  In one case a police officer pleaded guilty to 23 Police Act charges. The charges included using unnecessary force, abusing authority, pepper spraying a woman, disposing of drug evidence and doing police database checks on colleagues, relatives and himself.  His punishment was one year without pay and extensive retraining.  In another case, a staff sergeant pleaded guilty to personal use of the national police data base and insubordination for accessing police databases 169 times over a three-year period to check on the activities of a former lover. In this case the sanction was a mere demotion for a six-month period.

When the public reads and hears about these incidents what impact does it have on their respect and trust for police? When police officers across the country are slapped with only minor penalties by the courts when they break the law what does this say about police accountability?  When the public sees police officers break the law with virtual impunity how can the public believe that the rule of law in our society applies equally to all classes of persons? What message does this send to other police officers and how does it affect police credibility in our communities?

The various oversight bodies such as the special investigations unit (SIU) and the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) have done little to allay the public’s cynicism and lack of trust in policing.  Several years ago André Marin, the Ombudsman of Ontario, issued a scathing report on the SIU.  His report called into question the SIU’s impartiality pointing out that more than 85 per cent of the SIU’s investigators were ex-police officers. Of the 3,500 investigations conducted by the SIU less than three per cent found any wrongdoing by police.  Since the work of the OIPRD is outside the ombudsman’s jurisdiction it has avoided similar scrutiny.  However, a strong case can be made that this body like the SIU is equally ineffectual in holding police accountable.  If the Ontario government is serious about police oversight they should scrap these two bodies and establish a completely independent Civilian Review Commission that will work to ensure that police are held accountable for their actions under the rule of law. Until this happens nothing will change.

Some people think that the use of technology such as body cameras will help increase police accountability.  The fact is that policing is about helping people in crisis. While innovative technology is useful it’s only one element of an overall approach that will help improve policing in Canada.  If we want to improve policing we need to completely overhaul police training so that officers in the 21st century will be skilled not only in use of force scenarios but also in mediation, communications, race relations and alternative dispute resolution.

We cannot take a cookie-cutter approach to policing people who are mentally ill or in crisis situations.  Police training needs to be greatly expanded and lengthened.  Given the salaries police officers are paid, an eight- to 12-week training course is hardly sufficient to ensure they are adequately and properly trained.  We should also demand that the Ontario government take responsibility by providing the necessary funding and support required to start the process of renewal and rejuvenation of all police agencies in the province.

Criminological research shows that the behaviour of new recruits changes dramatically after they join a police service.  Given this fact, psychological tests should be administered every five years to ‘street cops’ to ensure that they are still mentally and emotionally fit for the job. We also need to hold police officers, like private citizens, accountable in law whenever they commit offences or abuse the public’s trust. The penalties for police officers convicted under the Police Services Act or the Criminal Code of Canada should result in more than a demotion in rank, loss of pay or an absolute discharge. Sammy Yatim was an 18-year-old teenager in crisis. He could have been your son or mine. The fact the Toronto Police Service thought that the only solution to help Mr. Yatim was to kill him by shooting him nine times should be a wakeup to the government of Ontario and to all citizens that policing has to change in this province and that it has to change now.

Darryl T. Davies is a criminology and criminal justice professor in the department of sociology and anthropology at Carleton University.

The Hill Times

The Real Russia

August 9, 2013 1:11 pm

Interested in Russia? Interested in what’s really happening in Russia? The Institute of Modern Russia looks to nurture relationships founded on principle and strengthen respect for human rights as well as cultivate Russia’s democratic development.

Visit or more information.

Performance Review

July 24, 2013 11:10 am

This spring, Canadians were astonished to learn that the former head of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal – the federal authority responsible for investigating allegations of discrimination – was fired for “gross mismanagement.” The report filed by the Public Integrity Commissioner, following a two-year investigation prompted by a union complaint, found that the Conservative appointee “repeatedly harassed employees at all levels by referring to them in derogatory terms, by questioning their competencies in the presence of their colleagues and by spreading misinformation about them in the workplace.”

To some, long accustomed to the Harper government’s ideological aversion to accountability, this comes as no surprise. After all, a government that demonstrates so little regard for the environment and the opinion of climate scientists should hardly be expected to care more for human rights and the people hired to investigate violations.

It’s one reason why the announcement in late May by Treasury Board President Tony Clement that the government would be introducing mandatory performance reviews has raised such suspicions. The current government’s record simply fails to reassure anyone that new mandatory performance reviews will be implemented fairly or with actual employee performance in mind.

Of course, mandatory performance reviews are exactly what professionals in the union I represent want and expect to receive. Feedback, negative and positive, is essential if one hopes to grow in any profession. But Clement’s May 28 press conference gave cause for concern even before the microphones were switched off.

“There is simply no way that virtually every single person that the federal government hires is going to perform to the standard we expect,” remarked Clement, referencing rates of dismissal in the private sector of between five and 10 per cent.

Coming midway through the Conservative government’s third term and massive government job cuts, the announcement left the unmistakable impression that “mandatory performance reviews” are downsizing by another name – a sort of permanent quota reduction system tied to private-sector rates of dismissal. It’s not about you. It’s about cutting staff.

After all, it’s not as if managers have been deprived of the opportunity to manage employee performance before now. And as long as managers perform their functions, unions will continue to perform theirs. That’s the way the system is supposed to work, with reference to labour and human rights laws as the occasion warrants.

But there is something else in the air, and unions both public and private know it.

Where once the public sector set the standard for resolving many labour relations issues, now the private sector – with its supposed higher rates of dismissal and lower rates of unionized workers – is held up as the example to follow. That this is happening at the same time some Conservatives federally and provincially are noisily advocating for U.S.-style right-to-work laws and a rollback of legislated provisions that ensure all union members pay their fair share of dues is no coincidence.

The rights and protections of all workers are under assault. For evidence, one need look no further than Bill C-377, recently amended by the Senate, the private member’s bill that claims to make union expenses transparent (unions already make their expenses available to members), and which even Conservative Senator Hugh Segal has said “has an anti-labour bias running rampant.” After the parade of federal budget and financial scandals of recent years – from exorbitant F-35 fighter jets to the missing $3.1 billion in funds earmarked for fighting terrorism – the Harper government’s standards of financial accountability are as tattered and hypocritical as its records on human rights and climate change.

Mandatory performance reviews, while good and necessary in principle, are only the latest tool for a scandal-plagued Conservative government determined to divert attention elsewhere, advance its smaller-government agenda, and reduce the influence of unions. They misuse them at the risk of provoking larger disputes in the future.

Gary Corbett is President of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, the largest union of scientists and other professionals in Canada.


Tragedy Touches Lac-Mégantic

July 16, 2013 10:20 am
Destruction at ground zero in Lac-Megantic

Just over a week ago, the picturesque Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic entered the public lexicon for all the wrong reasons. On Saturday, July 6, at 1:14 a.m., an unmanned runaway freight train belonging to the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic (MMA) Railway Ltd. derailed in the heart of the town. But this was no ordinary derailment. The train was 1.5 kilometers long and consisted of 73 cars, all but one of which were carrying crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken region bound for an oil refinery in New Brunswick. The runaway train entered the town at a speed of 101 km/h without any warning — almost 10 times the maximum safe speed of 10 km/h — and upon reaching the curve in the tracks behind the main business district of Lac-Mégantic, many of its tanker cars and their highly flammable cargo derailed. They piled up like a gigantic iron accordion, exploding into flames on impact and quickly turning the heart of Lac-Mégantic into an unimaginable inferno.

Almost 40 buildings were instantly destroyed and dozens of residents were killed, many of whom were likely vaporized by the extreme heat from the explosions and subsequent fires. To date, 33 bodies have been recovered from the destruction and at least 17 more individuals remain missing and are presumed dead.

The scene was set for tragedy when, around 11 p.m. on Friday, July 5, more than two hours before the accident, the ill-fated train’s engineer parked the train on the mainline for an overnight stopover in Nantes, some 10 kilometers up track and also uphill from Lac-Mégantic. At that time, the engineer’s shift for the night was over. He took a cab to a hotel in Lac-Mégantic to sleep as the train sat on the tracks awaiting his replacement who would guide it further along its way to the New Brunswick refinery. As is the standard (and required) operating procedure, one of the train’s locomotive engines sat idling overnight. However, shortly after the engineer’s departure, smoke from what turned out to be a minor fire caused by a ruptured fuel or oil line in the sole running locomotive caught the attention of nearby residents of Nantes. That fire was promptly extinguished by local firemen. In putting out the fire, the firemen may have turned off the power to the locomotive. This may have been the true starting point for the chain of events that would ultimately result in catastrophe because, in order to keep the entire train’s airbrake system functioning, at least one locomotive must be running at all times. Without that one engine running, there would be no power to provide the pressurized air that maintains the air braking system itself.

That said, it is important to note that the airbrake system is not the sole braking system used to prevent a parked train from moving. All trains still use manually-set handbrakes as well. Each car has a handbrake. And, when a train is left unattended, whether overnight or just momentarily, the train’s crew must apply numerous handbrakes. Herein likely lies the answer to the mystery as to how and why the train began its deadly roll downhill towards its unscheduled final destination in Lac-Mégantic.

The key question in discovering why the accident occurred will likely be the following: did the engineer apply a sufficient number of handbrakes to keep the train stationary on the track’s downhill grade of 1.2%? But before an answer to that question can be found, it must be noted that the phrase “sufficient number of handbrakes” can best be described as subjective. This is because there is no cast-in-stone rule which determines how many handbrakes on any given train could be considered sufficient. While many railroaders use the so-called “10% plus two rule,” which stipulates that a sufficient number of handbrakes to prevent a train from moving can be achieved by applying the handbrakes on 10% of the cars making up the train plus an additional two cars, there are no hard and fast rules on this subject. In other words, what would be deemed a sufficient number of handbrakes on any given train often differs from one railway to another and from one crew to another.

MMA Chairman Edward Burkhardt addresses the media in Lac-Megantic

MMA Chairman Edward Burkhardt addresses the media in Lac-Megantic (Photo: John Kennedy, The Montreal Gazette)

Shortly after the accident, MMA Chairman Edward Burkhardt stressed the fact that, as far as he knew, the engineer had indeed adequately secured the train for its overnight stop, despite the track’s downhill grade of 1.2%. However, Burkhardt has since claimed that a total of 11 handbrakes needed to be activated to prevent the train from starting its deadly descent into Lac-Mégantic, and that the accident itself indicates that the engineer failed to do this before leaving the train unattended overnight. Determining whether or not the engineer did set the required 11 handbrakes will not be an easy task, given the scope and scale of the destruction on the ground in Lac-Mégantic. However, the locomotive’s event data recorder should be able to help clarify one aspect of the handbrake mystery.

The event data recorder will allow investigators to match the locomotive engine’s mechanical and instrumental performance with the timing of events following the train’s being secured for the night and preceding the outbreak of the minor fuel line fire and the engine’s possible powering down by Nantes’ local firemen. The preservation of such information would allow investigators to judge whether or not the engineer took any action indicative of testing the train’s handbrakes prior to turning in for the night. After setting what is deemed to be the appropriate number of handbrakes on a train, engineers are required to test the effectiveness of their handbrakes by trying to start the train and move it either forwards or backwards. Should the train move forwards or backwards while the throttle is depressed, an insufficient number of handbrakes has been set. The engineer must apply more handbrakes and then try the test again. It is only when the train cannot move under power that the test has been passed and the train truly secured. The event data recorder should indicate whether or not the handbrakes (sufficient in number) were tested in this manner before the train’s throttle was placed in its idle position and before the engineer called it a night.

Quite aside from the root cause for the runaway train, the accident itself has drawn public attention to the resurgence of the practice of shipping oil by rail. Because the volume of oil waiting to be brought to market from Canada’s oilsands as well as from the vast shale oil fields in North Dakota and Montana far exceeds the existing pipeline capacity and because the costs (both financial and regulatory) associated with expanding existing pipeline capacity have increased substantially (as has the virulence of organized environmental opposition to such projects),  the volume of oil and petroleum products shipped by rail has increased markedly over the past few years. For instance, according to Statistics Canada, the number of Canadian railcars delivering crude oil or other petroleum products has doubled between April 2012 and April 2013. In April 2012, 7,194 railcars were used to deliver Canadian petroleum products. By April 2013, 14,217 railcars were used to deliver Canadian petroleum products to refineries and, ultimately, to market.

But it is when we look south of the border that we see more clearly the increasing importance of shipping oil by rail. In the United States, during the first half of this year alone, 355,933 carloads of oil were shipped by rail compared to just 5,358 carloads during the first half of 2009. Even so, with a combined Canadian and American oil production of some 11.26 million barrels per day, data reveals that less than 8% of North American oil was brought to market by rail during the first half of 2013.

Sadly, the tragic accident in Lac-Mégantic is now being harnessed by those on both the left and right of the political spectrum in an attempt to further their own political agendas. On the left, environmentalists are urging Canadians to re-examine and ultimately — but unrealistically — abandon fossil fuels not only because of their environmental impact but also their supposedly inherent risks to mankind as witnessed by the trail of destruction left behind in Lac-Mégantic. Also from left of the aisle, Thomas Mulcair, the Leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP) and the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, has spuriously claimed that the accident could have been related to “public safety-related” spending cuts made by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government. On the right, advocates of the seemingly politically-toxic topic of pipeline expansion are claiming that the accident in Lac-Mégantic highlights the pressing need to greenlight present and future pipeline projects, given that shipping oil by pipeline generally results in fewer accidents than shipping oil by rail. However, data has shown that, while oil delivered by pipeline may indeed experience fewer accidents (and therefore spills) than oil delivered by rail, pipeline spills tend to release a greater volume of oil than rail-related spills.

Rhetoric aside, neither the tragic accident in Lac-Mégantic nor its probable regulatory fallout will fully satisfy the vested interests on the left or right of the political spectrum. While the derailment may marginally slow the expansion of shipping oil by rail and usher in the replacement of the widely used, but prone-to-rupture-upon-impact, Class 111A tank cars with safer and stronger tank cars constructed of thicker tank shells, the need for oil to produce everything from gasoline to plastic patio furniture will ensure that the oil trains keep rolling above ground and the pipelines keep flowing below ground.


Top Photo: Bell Media

No More Mudslinging: Deeper Focus on Accountability Needed on the Hill

June 13, 2013 5:39 pm

 Senate spending scandals shouldn’t be an excuse for pointing fingers, but an opportunity to improve accountability across the board in the Canadian government. 

The latest investigations into the expenses of Conservative and Liberal Senators Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau, Mac Harb and Pamela Wallin, have proven troubling. After being reviewed by the internal economy committee, it turns out Brazeau owes $48,745.13 in wrongly claimed expenses while Harb owes $231,649.07. While Wallin’s audit is still ongoing, it’s still difficult to believe that she spent over $330,000, more than any other Senator, on “other” travel expenses since 2010. It’s no wonder Canadians are feeling goosed by the Senate.

The scandal with Mike Duffy reaches all the way to Nigel Wright, Stephen Harper’s former Chief of Staff. It was revealed that Wright wrote a personal cheque to Mike Duffy for $90,000 to help him repay money he owed for wrongly claimed living expenses. News of a million-dollar secret slush fund controlled by Wright for the Conservatives should raise serious concerns about what taxpayer money is truly being put towards. In the meantime, Wright and Duffy refuse to show the cheque or discuss the situation publicly, while the RCMP launches an investigation into the case.

Outside of the Senate, it’s been revealed that Dimitri Soudas failed to pay his taxes while he was Harper’s Communications Director. Given that taxes are sourced deductions from one’s salary while working for the PM, this raises questions about other sources of income Soudas may have had during his time working for Harper. This is a question in the public interest, given that the PM’s aides are all government employees.

There’s no doubt that the rules of governance don’t allow for any of this, but the spotlight shouldn’t be solely placed on Senators or on the Conservative Party. A lack of accountability for personal spending is prevalent throughout the House of Commons and Senate, regardless of party affiliation.

While members of the NDP have been the first to jump at the opportunity to criticize and denigrate the Conservative Party, it may be wise for them to take a look at their own track record.

Recently, two NDP MPs, Hoang Mai and Tyrone Benskin, have revealed they owe thousands of dollars in back taxes to Quebec’s revenue agency. While this isn’t directly related to the expenses they’ve claimed as a part of their positions, they’re still showing a blatant disrespect for their duties as taxpayers and government leaders to the Canadian people.

And yet, these problems aren’t a recent occurrence. A serious lack of accountability has been displayed among the highest echelons of power in recent years.

Olivia_Chow_Photo_Press_Conference_2013-02-22In 2011, Olivia Chow and Jack Layton were named Ottawa’s “million-dollar couple” by the Toronto Star for their lavish personal expenses. While they defended themselves fiercely, claiming they didn’t break any rules, they nonetheless revealed their extravagant living expenses, charging over $42,000 in one year for their Ottawa apartment and per diem expenses. In total, the couple claimed around $1.16 million from taxpayers in just one year. How is this possible and allowable? Why wasn’t a line-by-line listing of these expenses released immediately, in the public interest?

Ironically, the CBC and CTV have had Olivia Chow on their shows as a pundit and spokeswoman for the NDP to comment on the Senate expenses scandal. It is a marvel to watch Chow criticize the Senators when she has yet to release all the documents related to her own expenses in 2011. The accused Senators all argue that they haven’t broken any rules, just as Chow did in 2011. And yet, they’ve still been told they’re in the wrong after being audited. What does this have to say about these Senators, Olivia Chow, and the standards of accountability that all of these politicians maintain for themselves?

The Senate scandal has landed with the same impact on Stephen Harper’s desk as the sponsorship scandal did when Paul Martin was Prime Minister. Harper was going to change all that – but not much has really changed on Parliament Hill.

The only good thing that has come out of all this is that Canadians uniformly seem to want permanent institutional changes to the system and greater oversight. The easiest way to do this would be for the Board of Internal Economy committees of the Senate and the House of Commons to be subject to regular audits by the Auditor General, just as every other government agency is.This would include the AG monitoring the personal expenses of MPs and Senators.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has, in a positive step, called for even further measures, advocating for greater transparency in spending for MPs and Senators. He’s recommended to open up the Board of Internal Economy, making the personal expenses of all MPs and Senators visible to Canadians. He’s also demanded the publication of quarterly, publicly accessible expense reports from each MP and Senator.

While the Conservatives supported Trudeau’s calls, the NDP has refused to do so. It’s time for them to put their partisan differences aside and get on board with Trudeau’s vision. Given their refusal, one can’t help but wonder what they have to hide.

Accountability and transparency to Canadian taxpayers should be the first priority of all Senators and MPs. No party has a clean record – it’s time for government leaders to admit to this and stand up for real change by making themselves accountable to the Auditor General of Canada. After all, what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

Time for Toronto’s Media Elites to Take a Look in the Mirror

1:05 pm

By Joanna Plucinska

All journalists should be concerned about recent decisions taken by the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail concerning the standard of evidence they require in reporting. In their quest to “investigate” the actions of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and his Councilor brother Doug Ford, many in the industry are rightly concerned that the papers have severely damaged their brand with the public and compromised several important ethical standards in journalism.

With recent reports of a video showing Toronto’s mayor smoking crack cocaine, the Canadian media, led by the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail, has spun itself into a flurry of hearsay, rumors and, at the end of the day, unproven accusations.

News of the video broke with a blog post on Gawker, an online scandal sheet, on May 16, followed by an article in the Toronto Star, the newspaper with the highest circulation in Canada. Reporters for both pieces claimed they had seen a video of Ford smoking crack cocaine. The story soon spread to countless international news sources, including The New York Times and the BBC.

The Globe and Mail continued to feed the fire. A few days after the scandal broke, the Globe published an “in-depth” front-page feature which they positioned as an “investigative piece” on the Ford family’s alleged connections with the Toronto drug community. Specifically, Globe reporters claimed that Doug Ford, Rob Ford’s brother and a Toronto City Councilor, had been a drug dealer while in high school. In publishing the story, the Globe implied that the Ford family, and by association, Rob Ford, had in some way been involved in the Toronto drug trade.

It holds true that Rob Ford has been no stranger to scandal. His indiscretions are frequently splashed across the pages of Canada’s newspapers. Most recently, he was accused by former mayoral candidate Sarah Thompson of being inebriated and of “grabbing her ass” at a social gathering in Toronto. Others at the event said it didn’t happen. Rob Ford vehemently denied it. Nonetheless, the media spotlight was on this he said-she said story for weeks.

With such speculative stories appearing about Ford, it’s important to remind oneself of fundamental standards and ethics in reporting. The duty of journalists is, first and foremost, to provide the public with the truth – verified and publicly verifiable, evidence-based truth. As the Ryerson School of Journalism’s very own Rules of the Game, the student handbook for journalists, outlines, “Not only must the student stand ready to provide verification of each fact, but the audience should, as a general rule, be able to evaluate the reliability of the information.“

It appears this standard has been set aside by the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail in their coverage of the Ford brothers. For example, none of the claims against Doug Ford have been verified with even one on-the-record source. The Globe and Mail’s Editor-in-Chief John Stackhouse has suggested that readers should not worry about this and “trust them.” It is ironic that Stackhouse’s words seem more like something a politician would say to a reporter, rather than a statement the press would make to the public.

The Star has further contributed to this dismaying behavior. In a race against Gawker to publish the story about the alleged video showing Mayor Rob Ford holding or smoking a crack pipe, the Star seems to have sacrificed accuracy for the sake of expediency. While the Star’s publisher John Cruickshank, and Editor-in-Chief Michael Cooke both claimed that their primary motive in running the story was the public interest, they don’t deny that they knew Gawker, an online gossip blog, was going to run the story.

The Star’s leaders felt that, even without irrefutable facts or proof, they should break the news regardless, simply to compete with Gawker. The decision of these two key decision-makers at the Toronto Star, to hold themselves to the same standards of journalism as an online scandal sheet is troubling – it screams that they have lowered the bar simply to sell newspapers.

Michael Cooke, the current Editor-in-Chief of the Toronto Star, who’s honed his skills at tabloid newspapers such as the New York Daily News, doesn’t see any problem.

Rob FordIn a recent Toronto Life profile, Cooke said: “I can’t imagine The New York Times running a front-page investigative story full of holes in the hope that someone would phone them up. But when you print what you haven’t got, sometimes people actually give it to you.” Why was the Star not going to hold itself to the higher New York Times standard and instead publish a story full of holes? Evidently, it was in the hopes that the video would then magically appear.

This strategy clearly hasn’t worked for the Star. While Gawker raised $200,000 to purchase the video through a so-called “Crackstarter” campaign online, the Star refused to pay for the video, claiming this would compromise its “ethics.” The video’s apparent owner says it is no longer available, leaving no solid proof that the mayor did in fact smoke crack cocaine. Without Gawker, how does the Star plan to prove its allegations now?

We trust journalists because their role is to provide all the facts – should we believe them when they can’t even meet this basic requirement?

And yet, other media organizations don’t see the problem. In these sorts of situations, shouldn’t journalism schools, considered the bastions of education on the ethics of journalism, be speaking up for the very standards they’ve set?

Their leaders have been doing the opposite. Ivor Shapiro, chair of Ryerson’s School of Journalism, stated in an interview with The Grid TO that the media has done nothing wrong – that the public doesn’t need to see raw evidence in order for something to be true.

The journalism school mavens also failed to point how the media frenzy has wider consequences than one may foresee. These reports have raised questions in the public mind about the Ford family’s role in public office. More seriously, many feel that the excessive coverage has hurt Toronto’s reputation internationally, giving the impression that Canadians allow themselves to be led by unqualified and irresponsible politicians.

Publishers and columnists are saying that Ford is responsible for ruining the city’s good name. But is it solely Ford’s fault? Has the coverage of these issues by The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star not done more to damage the city’s reputation? While columnists and journalists are quick to place the blame on Ford, it may be wise for them to examine their own role in exacerbating the city’s image problem.

It’s time for the Toronto Star and the Globe to reflect on whether their coverage is really worthy of the sacrifices they’ve made to their own reporting standards. With no “crack video” in sight and no one prepared to go on the record to support the Globe’s accusations against Doug Ford, the credibility of both papers in reporting serious stories fairly and accurately is now in question.

Journalism should be about providing a fair, balanced and truthful perspective on multiple facets of many different stories. The Canadian media needs to return to these standards for the sake of Toronto and for the sake of standards-based and principled reporting.

City Must Put Western LRT into Underground Tunnel: Partially Buried Trains Won’t Save Parkway Greenspace

June 10, 2013 11:12 am
Running LRT on Parkway

The City of Ottawa must ensure that the Light Rail Transit (LRT) it proposes for the Western Parkway is moved to an underground tunnel, said Lesley Taylor, president of the community group Underground Solution.  “The City of Ottawa’s proposed trenched LRT route will drastically reduce access to the parkland of the Ottawa River Parkway and impede the use of bike and walking paths,” said Taylor. “While our community favours efficient transit to the Western suburbs, we will not sacrifice Canadians’ open access to, and use of, the green space on the historic Parkway, which is a national treasure.”

LRT on Ottawa River CorridorThe City will unveil measures June 13 that it claims will “mitigate” the dramatically negative impacts of its shortsighted Western Parkway LRT plan. With the apparent support of Mayor Jim Watson and Kitchissippi counselor Katherine Hobbs, the City’s plan would see two trains hurtle in opposite directions, in a trench, through the peaceful green space between Dominion and Cleary Avenues every two to five minutes.

“Deep train trenches, berms and other so-called ‘mitigation measures’ will not do the job,” Taylor said. “The Underground Solution is demanding that the City preserve the neighbourhoods and this green space for everyone by moving the LRT trains fully underground into a tunnel.”

The city’s proposal would destroy more than 1.2 km of irreplaceable public parkland enjoyed by thousands of Ottawa residents and visitors to our capital. The beautiful Westboro-McKellar Woodland Path is used daily for fitness and recreation, including walking, cycling, snowshoeing, birding and cross-country skiing. Seniors with walkers, mothers with baby strollers, and other Ottawans will find it much more difficult to enter what is now the most accessible stretch of Parkway parkland west of Tunney’s Pasture.

LRT Shares Ottawa River Parkway

On Being a Day-Tripper At 24 Sussex

10:50 am

By Jean-Pierre Allard 

“Just watch him”, I heard Maggie tell the nanny one balmy afternoon in September 1972 while I was slowly making my way upstairs at 24 Sussex. Pierre was at work on the Hill, so I knew she had to be referring to her 10-month old baby Justin.

And now look at him. As Yogi would say – not Sexy Sadie, but the baseball catcher – it’s déjà vu all over again for the Trudeaus.

It seems like it was just yesterday that the Beatles got everybody’s mojo rising in February 1964 and instantly made us forget about Castro, Kruschev and Kennedy. Alas, Beatlemania was all but dead just a few short years later, in what was to be a sober precursor of today’s fleeting fame.

However, unforeseen relief came again, this time, in the unlikely political persona of one Pierre Elliott Trudeau, whose meteoric rise to power culminated in his winning the April 1968 Liberal Convention held at Ottawa’s brand new Civic Centre.  A year before young people literally shook the centennial building with their foot-stomping at concerts, the joint was rocking on that spring Saturday.

Thus began Trudeaumania, in which we all took turns watching this most unorthodox and globe-trotting man who somehow made it cool for youngsters to tune in to politics, at a time when most were dropping out, courtesy of Timothy Leary. In no time, PET became as hip as The Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger, no doubt aided by his looks which coupled with his bachelor status appealed to women of all ages… but also by his ability to fully grasp and apply Marshall McLuhan’s dictum that “the medium is the message.”

The country would never be quite the same. Neither would I, for that matter, after being a day-tripper at the PM’s residence four years later.

Earlier on, repercussions from the Fab Four’s new musical twist on the old beatnik blues had been immediately felt in Ottawa when the legendary Staccatos and Esquires hit the AM charts, which soon led to an eruption of local bands (The Townsmen, The Heart, 5D, Don Norman and The Other Four or Scoundrelz) and happenings (The Roost, The Rib, Parkdale United Church, The Hub and The Oak Door) all over town – a mini-British invasion, if you like.

On Saturday nights, we would hitchhike to far-away Pineland’s Dance Hall on Riverside Drive to dance with the hot west end girls, but instead invariably ended up fighting their boyfriends whom we recognized as the same ones we had just lost to earlier in the day in our Cradle League hockey games at the old Auditorium on Argyle. Pierre’s government may not have had any right to stick its nose in the bedrooms of the nation, but we judiciously decided that hockey grudges had every business to be settled on the dance floors of the national capital. In our world, passion always presided over reason, with all sincere apologies to Trudeau’s mantra.

Another day in 1968, we were at Harvey Glatt’s Treble Clef record store on Rideau Street listening to Cream’s Sunshine Of Your Love when we heard that something called The Jimi Hendrix Experience was coming to the grand and lavishly decorated Capitol Theatre on Bank Street, but it hardly sounded like a rock band to me so I passed, idiot wind that I was.  Just as well though, for the Yohawks or Squirrels’ gang members would surely have brass-knuckled us for having the audacity to wear those long, black-caped overcoats, which, when coupled with our mod French haircuts and dernier cri fabrics from Le Château boutique, made girls’ erogenous zones go all gaga, even if les têtes carrées at school were never impressed and sneeringly termed them “queer clothes.”  So when we saw Trudeau at the 1970 Grey Cup in his black cape and matching hat, you’ll understand that we weren’t nearly as impressed with his risqué adornment as the entire with-it generation was, perhaps even becoming the first ones to coin the very blasé expression “been there, done that.”

Two short years later, in April 1970, I was an usher at the old Nelson Theatre on Rideau Street the night that Pierre Trudeau came to the premiere of the Academy Award-winning epic war film Patton. While I was still dazed and confused from attending the seminal Led Zeppelin concert at the Civic Centre just the night before, I do recall that there was quite a buzz that night in the old cinema house. Little did our Prime Minister know that only six months later, he would deliver his most famous quip “Just Watch Me” while being questioned by the CBC’s Tim Ralfe on how far he was willing to go to neutralize Quebec’s FLQ terrorists at the height of the October Crisis, culminating in his government invoking the War Measures Act three days later. During those tense weeks, it was rather creepy to see a bunch of army trucks lining the streets on my way to work at the Nelson where by that time, another war movie was flashing on the marquee, albeit the much lighter Kelly’s Heroes whose lovable Oddball character was played by Canadian actor and Montreal Expos fanatic Donald Sutherland (who I encountered in Olympic Stadium’s underground parking concourse years later, but that’s a story for another day).

By the fall of 1972, one of our high school friends had found employment taking care of Pierre and Margaret Trudeau’s first son, Justin, born on Christmas Day the previous year.  She was never shy about sharing stories from the PM’s residence with her close entourage, which included this skeptical rapporteur. So, on a dare one afternoon, when the Canada-U.S.S.R. Summit Series had resumed in Moscow and caused my buddy Fuzzle and I to miss way too many second-year university classes to even think of ever catching up, she invited us to her nanny’s quarters at 24 Sussex Drive to groove on tunes and tales. I recall that even before we made our way upstairs, we were already walking on air. And in a dream, I caught a glimpse of Maggie with her kid in the hall. All at once, Rod Stewart’s Maggie May resonated in my head “It’s late September and I really should be back at school.

Upon leaving the storied grounds much later, all I could think of was “screw you Andy Warhol and your little 15 minutes of fame for everyone.”  Ours had lasted much longer than that, pal. Anyways, a whole lot longer than it took Team Canada’s Paul Henderson to forever become a Canadian household name when he scored The Goal to beat the Soviets just two days later.

And while there has been nary a time since those halcyon days when we haven`t obsessed over watching someone, one could easily argue that it’s been all rather pointless.

Until now, when Pierre and Margaret’s first born has come of age. Justin Time.


Sinbads of Kazakhstan

May 29, 2013 5:04 pm
The Sinelniks 7

The Sinelniks team request assistance from the Russian Military Forces to sail through the pirate region. The destroyer Admiral Levchenko escorted the Rusich  through the Horn of Africa for three days. (Photo: Eleanor Wilks)


“There’s nothing better to behold

Than for friends to roam around the world

And close friends the hardship do not fear

All the roads they’re sure to find dear.

All of them we always find so dear.


Our carpet is the field of flowers.

Giant pines – they form the walls of ours.

Our roof – the vast blue sky up there

Our joy – one destiny to share!

Yes, to have one destiny to share.”

From Soviet cartoon The Bremen Musicians

(musical version based on the Brothers Grimm tale)


Sinbad’s spirit of adventure will make you sail seas and oceans, cross deserts and climb mountain peaks. On foot, on motorcycles or on boat, twin brothers Sinelnik roam the world, and keep coming up with more adventurous travels. They have just returned from a 2½-year sail from Russia to Australia that they have accomplished on their Viking boat replica, sailing 17 seas and three oceans, circumnavigating 26,000 kilometers on the world’s waters.


Twin brothers Sergey and Alexander Sinelnik dreamt of traveling to faraway lands since childhood. As teenagers, the brothers always packed snacks and went camping on the banks of the Ural River in their home city of Uralsk (in Kazakhstan). In the boys’ minds, they were exploring the unknown lands, crossing barriers and facing challenges. They dreamt that one day they would head off into a real adventure.

Rusich: A Vessel of Dreams

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The Sinelnik brothers driving through the eastern Sahara as part of their Around the World project that lasted 660 days. (Photo: Sinelniks)

Now, the Sinelnik brothers are well-known in their hometown and abroad for their travels. One day, people would read in the newspaper that the Sinelniks were the first to drive around the world on Ural motorcycles, covering 75,000 kilometers. Another day, the twins covered 1,000 kilometres on foot through the Western Sahara Desert. Later, they were the first to drive on IZH motorcycles through the seven largest deserts of the Earth without any escort.

After conquering deserts, the Sinelniks challenged themselves to climb the world’s seven highest mountain peaks. They have already climbed Kilimanjaro (5,895 м), Kosciuszko ( 2,228 м) and Elbrus (5,642 м). These are just a few examples of their many extraordinary travels.

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The world travellers stopped to meet Nilote – a local of Marsabit, Kenya. (Photo: Sinelniks)

When it came to exploring the world’s waters, the brothers decided to build their own boat. The Sinelniks wanted to sail a boat that would tell a beautiful story to the world.

They decided to build a 10th-century rook, a Viking and East Slav replica. In the 10th to 13th centuries, Vikings and Slavs occupied Northern and Eastern Europe. They shared part of the land and culture. Together, they built vessels and committed predatory raids on Byzantium.

Like Vikings and Slavs, the Sinelniks built their coast-dweller of hewn trunks of pine and oak, with oars and square sails. Like Vikings and Slavs who once gave Russia its name, the Sinelniks dubbed their boat Rusich. Built in the Russian city of Petrozavodsk in 2006, the twin brothers’ rook was 15-meters-long, four-meters-wide, and had a capacity of 11 people.

The twin brothers planned their first expedition as a historical experiment: to sail their Viking boat as if they lived in the 10th century. They assembled a team of researchers and chose to sail the ancient Volga trade route. The route went from Northern Russia to Persia (Iran) via the Volga River where it connected with The Great Silk Road.

Once their boat was ready, the Sinelniks’ team set sail and reached the Iranian border. At the time, social unrest in Iran made it dangerous to cross the border, so they returned home.

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The Rusich’s navigation tools: GPS and fathometer (uses sound waves to determine the depth of water) (Photo: Eleanor Wilks)

This trip taught the brothers that they could sail in a 10th-century boat, wearing Viking garments and using Viking tools on the river; but to navigate the world’s waters, they would still need modern technologies like GPS (Global Positioning System).

Soon after returning home, the brothers announced that they would sail again – this time to Australia. Their family and friends were worried: the wooden rook is a coast-dweller, and is not meant to sail high seas. But the Sinelniks were determined.

It took them four years to gather a new team and to raise funds. Sinelniks’ team members were people from all walks of life and different countries, who dreamed of sailing the world. Some of the crew members had never sailed before; some had never even seen an ocean. The crew helped finance the voyage. Boris Filatov, a Ukrainian journalist and lawyer, organized different fundraisings to help Rusich lift anchor and  sail away.

To Sergey’s disappointment, his twin brother Alexander could not start the journey with him. He had a contract job in Ukraine – he was painting a cathedral in the city of Dnepropetrovsk. But Alexander would eventually join the Rusich crew in their sail around Australia.

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The Viking boat replica Rusich sailed 26,000 kilometers across the world, crossing 17 seas, passing three oceans. (Photo: Eleanor Wilks)

Life at Sea

At last, after lengthy preparations, Sergey Sinelnik raised Rusich‘s sails on the Volga River. It was August 10, 2010. The Volga River took the boat to the Black Sea. Then, Rusich sailed the Marmara Sea, the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.

The team lived on deck and slept on planks. They had GPS, maps and a small motor that was used when passing through steep channels; but most of the time, they sailed by catching winds and monsoons.

Sergey Sinelnik taught every team member how to operate the ship and how to sail. Day and night, each team member carried out a four-hour shift on the rook. The boat had one designated cook. Mostly, the crew ate canned and imperishable food; sometimes, they bought fresh vegetables at ports. Their shower represented a barrel with holes that came with a rule: wash yourself with sea water and rinse with less than two litres of fresh water.

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Almost everyone who sailed the Rusich had a 10th century garment. (Photo: Eleanor Wilks)

After sailing 7,400 kilometres, Rusich reached Djibouti, a dangerous pirate region in the Horn of Africa. Sinelniks’ friend, the famous Russian traveler Fyodor Konyukhov, advised them to take a military escort while passing Somalia.

Dangerous situation in Djibouti, piracy threats and uncertainty – the crew was falling apart. Six of them left the ship.

Not knowing what to do, Sergey Sinelnik – with help from the Russian Embassy in Djibouti – sent a telegram to Russian Forces’ headquarters asking for a military escort. While waiting for the support to arrive, the Rusich crew received some help and protection from NATO soldiers, who provided them with food and water.

The escort came in a week. A large destroyer – the Admiral Levchenko with 400 sailors on board – was ready to accompany the rook. The destroyer was part of the Russian operations to combat piracy off the Somalia coast. The ship escorted them for three days.

“Imagine such a big high-speed ship traveling with our slow dragging boat for three days, in waters where every small fishing boat could be a pirate boat,” Sergey Sinelnik remembers.

When Rusich safely reached the Sultanate of Oman, the team could not obtain visas for a long time. They had to leave the boat in Salalah and return home. After five months, Sergey Sinelnik returned to Oman with a new team. The only problem was that their pine vessel had dried up under the scorching sun. The flatboat’s planks drifted apart, and it was sinking into the water. The crew had to rinse the rook with 20,000 tons of sea water before they could sail it again.

On May 1, 2011, Rusich sailed into the Indian Ocean. After sailing for 6,000 kilometres, it reached Thailand. In the shipyard there, the crew replaced 12 planks and made a few repairs. Rusich resumed course to the shores of Australia.

In less than six weeks, the sailors reached Darwin where the media and the public were excited to welcome them. By that time, Alexander Sinelnik finished painting the cathedral and rejoined his brother on their dream vessel.

“I am a Celt. This adventure is my heritage.”

Meanwhile, Andy Gray – an old friend of the Sinelniks – was waiting for the Viking boat to arrive at its next destination in Brisbane. Like the Sinelniks, Gray is also a craftsman and an artist. He designs jewelry, sculpts in clay, carves in wood, creates works from leather and metal. Passion for art and travel allowed him to stay friends with the Sinelniks for nine years. Gray was about to join the Rusich expedition.

But Gray’s intention to sail around Australia made his family and friends uncomfortable. They well knew the waters of Australia and the dangers they represented.

“I had a lot of people worried and expressing their concerns of the dangers of this voyage, but I knew this is a once in a lifetime opportunity that should not be missed,” Gray says. “I am a Celt. This adventure is my heritage.”

Gray and two other Australians boarded the rook in Brisbane, but only Gray was brave enough to sail with the Sinelniks through the Bass Strait to Tasmania.

The Bass Strait is a sea strait that separates Tasmania from the south of the Australian mainland. Like the Bermuda Triangle, the strait is known as a Devourer of Ships – a treacherous combination of wind and sea conditions, semi-submerged rocks and reefs that wrecked many vessels, small and large. Over the past 200 years, more than 400 ships sank in these treacherous reefs.

Together with the brothers Sinelnik, Gray sailed around Australia, through the Arafura, the Coral, the Tasman seas, passing by the Antarctic and the Pacific oceans. Movement along the east coast of Australia required great skill, but the Sinelniks and their team made their way, rounding their trip to 26,000 kilometres. The ancient flat-bottomed Rusich sailed 17 seas and crossed three oceans.

The Rusich adventure changed Gray’s life. The Australian says he learned that language has no barriers and humour is universal; that time at sea broadens the mind and nothing beats fresh fish, eaten raw off the deck. But most importantly, the journey brought him lifelong friends.

“I felt welcomed and a part of a family,” Gray says. “I don’t know if it’s the communist influence or that they are orthodox, but the attitude towards sharing is much more in depth than I have ever seen or experienced. It was quite refreshing to see and be a part of.”

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The Rusich team members in Darwin, Australia. (Photo: Eleanor Wilks)

Gray says he is honoured and proud to call the Sinelniks his friends, and trusts them with his life: “They are true adventurers and explorers. They have so much respect for everyone and everything. I am humbled by their attitude towards life.”

What was the biggest challenge during their voyage? Sergey Sinelnik answers: people.

“One of the main difficulties were not winds and storms, but compatibility of different personalities in the team. Members of the team didn’t know each other. Some of them had never been to sea. Some got seasick and were disappointed that they spent money on the journey. But from the very beginning, I would tell them: if you are seeking pleasure, you have to take a cruise!”

What Dreams May Come

The brothers agree they have a much harder time adjusting to life on land than at sea. The Sinelniks say every time they return home from their travels, they become disenchanted with reality, finding that people are obsessed with buying things, taking credits, and then buying more. It’s easy to lose a dream in such a world, according to the Sinelniks. Sergey observes: “There was a Soviet song with the lyrics: ‘Don’t let the heart stop beating.’ I think it is very important to keep the fire burning inside your heart. And more important is to carry it into adult life.”

Alexander Sinelnik says since childhood, their dreams helped them at work and in life. “Our dreams do not give us rest, and our imagination is always illuminating a new path. This gives us strength in difficult life problems.”

“I am happy to have a twin brother,” Sergey says. “When it gets hard in life – we meet and we dream, and the fire keeps burning.”

The twins plan a special anthropological art project – to create sculptures of major world cultures and peoples. The brothers want their project to celebrate and cherish the beauty of the world’s diversity.

Also, the Sinelniks plan to rebuild Rusich, so that next time, they can sail the world with their families. Both brothers are happily married with children.

At the end of the interview, the twin brothers asked for the inland waterways map of Canada. So don’t be surprised if one day, you see the Viking boat Rusich on the Rideau Canal!

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