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Even though a life-long environmentalist, my transformative experiences up north in Canada’s Arctic regions onboard Canada C3, moved my environmental consciousness to a whole new level.

My own journey began as a teenager in the 1960s. Being a voracious reader with a strong scientific bent, was a perfect fit for me to embrace the fledging environmental consciousness of that era.

Clearly the changes during the last half century have matured my environmental world view. An early focus on simple industrial pollution was followed by the even more serious concerns about depletion of the Ozone Layer and energy conservation, building into today’s crisis of the growing impact of human-induced Climate Change. What this passage of time, accompanied by deepening adverse impacts, has taught me is that small individual actions can have huge collective impact, and that concerted efforts to change can be successful. Sadly, for many, this simple concept is abstract allowing some to pass the buck on personal action, seeing it as someone else’s responsibility. Economists even have a label for this metaphoric “fiddling while Rome burns”, namely the Tragedy of the Commons.

Many despair that our continued procrastination on mobilizing concerted action around Climate Change. whether based on apathy and misinformation, puts the entire human race at risk. For humanity, there is a huge risk we are too late to reverse the escalating levels of carbon in the atmosphere. Although time is short, I remain committed to immediate action. In an inspiring contrast to this societal apathy, I was immensely privileged to experience the Arctic with an unbelievably diverse and passionate group of change makers last summer.

Noel Alfonso, Ichthyologist

Noel Alfonso, Ichthyologist

Ewan Affeck, Medical Informatics

Ewan Affeck, Medical Informatics

Grant Gilchrist, Sea Bird Researcher

Grant Gilchrist, Sea Bird Researcher

The Canada C3 expedition had myriad program elements, including being an ideal platform for science. In all, over 25 major scientific experiments took advantage of circumnavigating Canada’s coastline, the longest in the world, with much of that in Arctic waters. The experiments, a collaboration with major research institutes across Canada, gathered much needed baseline data such as:

  • detailed monitoring of increasing levels of micro-plastics which are becoming a major component of the biomass in all oceans. Consider the micro-plastics you now potentially ingest when you eat seafood.
  • DNA testing to determine the range of various ocean species and examine biodiversity.
  • Sampling plant species range and diversity.
  • Cataloguing Mites and other insect species.
  • Studying the emergence of the Pizzly Bear, or Grolar, an unusual hybrid enabled by habit shifts due to climate change.
  • Studying range and challenges of sea birds, again through climate change and human activity.

While none of these experiments were directly studying atmospheric carbon or climate directly, all exhibit the effects of these huge changes. That the Arctic is disproportionately impacted by climate change was directly visible to all participants. The temperature changes seen in polar regions are 3 times what we experience in the south, with our recent 1°C increase being more like 3°C up north. Thus, the Arctic  is a harbinger of our own unmitigated climate future, making the Inuit ideal spokespeople to warn the rest of the world.

Vicki Sahanatien, Wildlife Ecology

Vicki Sahanatien, Wildlife Ecology

Bianca Perren, Paleoclimatologist

Bianca Perren, Paleoclimatologist

Boris Worm & Heike Lotze, Marine Biologists

Boris Worm&Heike Lotze, Marine Biologists

One of the great challenges faced by scientists is how share their stories in our modern, digital world in which a cacophony of voices clamber for our finite attention. The scientific methodhoned over centuries, demands:

  • A slow and deliberate process of discovery, given to evaluating conjectures — hence it may take years before the findings of the science projects on Canada C3 can be shared.
  • A process favouring the probability of truth over certainty — makes it hard for scientists to metaphorically pound the table, which often puts scientific theories at a disadvantage to the general public who have no issue with asserting the truth of their, clearly less informed or even misinformed, statements.
Mark Graham, Chief Scientist

Mark Graham, Chief Scientist

Jess Jawanda, Ocean Scientist

Jess Jawanda, Ocean Scientist

Thus, in communicating their knowledge, the challenge for scientists isn’t so much that they are the introverts of popular culture nor entirely that the science is perceived as dry and academic. In my many dialogues with scientists, the issue of finding new ways to communicate the important knowledge they possess to a populist audience, was a common lament. Scientists are ever searching to find new ways to help humanity truly understand their most portentous issues, such as Climate Change.

In this video, below, you can see one amazing scientist, Bianca Perren, explaining the tabular iceberg (see photos at the top of this article) that we saw when we came toward land from the Davis Strait. Bianca, being a painter, educator and Zodiac driver on top of her work as a palæoclimatologist and quarternary scientist at the British Antarctic Survey, is sending an emotionally powerful message about the last ice shelfs remaining in the Arctic. By the way, she also makes a cameo appearance in Al Gore’s recent film, An Inconvenient Sequel during work at Swiss Camp in Greenland.

Leveraging the incredible wealth of scientific talent, the wonderfully diverse set of participants helped weave a complex tapestry of knowledge and understanding. For me it was a once in a lifetime chance to participate in a rare melding of scientists working in an environment alive with poets, teachers, journalists, artists, community activists, indigenous and youth ambassadors. The eclectic combination created a magic environment while onboard, but gave some clues as to how to unlock the dilemma about communications with ordinary Canadians, both in planned and chance conversations.

Here is a brief rundown of a few of the remarkable participants just on Leg 7 of Canada C3:

Lorna Crozier, Poet

Lorna Crozier, Poet

Phil Irish, Artist

Phil Irish, Artist

Paul Rogalski, Chef

Paul Rogalski, Chef

Lorna Crozier is a Governor-General Award winning poet, and Officer of the Order of Canada, living in Victoria. I was soo impressed by Lorna’s magic ability to help all of us  “break through the ice” and reach new levels of understanding, for example with her poem, Polar, uniquely capturing our experience onboard. Phil Irish is a visual artist and teacher based in Elora who was selected to be one of 15 artists, one per Leg, through a fiercely competitive, Canada Council led selection process. Phil, constantly sketching and painting, inspired all of us with his visual perspective on our Leg 7 experience and built on his own environmentally driven recent practice. Likewise, Paul Rogalsi of Rouge Restaurant in Calgary, was one of 15 chefs, selected for Leg 7 from Food Day Canada chefs from coast to coast to coast. Paul was a thoughtful contributor not just gastronomically, but also as an avid environmentalist keen on sustainable living.

Peter Pool, Changemaker

Peter Pool, Changemaker

Tony Dekker, Musician

Tony Dekker, Musician

Benoit Dupras, Youth Activist

Benoit Dupras, Youth Activist

Peter Poole is a renaissance man who is deeply involved in his community of Banff, Alberta and the larger world. He is a change maker with a deep commitment to conservation and honouring indigenous elders which shine through in all of his endeavours. Through other projects, he is also a very good friend. Tony Dekker is the lead singer and songwriter for Canadian indie-folk group Great Lake Swimmers. Tony is a thoughtful and down to earth musician with a strong interest in nature and relationships. Even at 19 years of age, Benoit Dupras, a Youth Ambassador on Leg 7 from northern Québec, is on a course to change the world. He is indicative of a new generation of Francophone Canadian leaders and, in his case, he aims to be a major force to move Canada, and the world, away from fossil fuels to a green energy future.

Taivitii (David) Lawson, Inuk Activist

Taivitii (David) Lawson, Inuk Leader

Joshua Stribbell, Urban Inuk

Joshua Stribbell, Urban Inuk

Tyler Waboose, Youth Ambassador

Tyler Waboose, Youth Ambassador

This last group represented Leg 7 participants from Canada’s Indigenous peoples, collectively, First Nations, Métis, and Inuit. In a later post, I will more fully explore some of the Reconciliation dialogue from Canada C3.

Taivitii (David) Lawson is an emerging Canadian Inuit leader originally from traditional lands near Pangnirtung and now living in Iqaluit. David was in the RCMP for 15 years and just prior to the Expedition, was about to embark on training to be a lawyer to “be an advocate for the Inuit people.” David has been an activist in a number of community issues, including suicide prevention through Embrace Life Council. Because David was a last minute replacement, there isn’t a bio on the C3 website. Joshua Stribbell is President, National Urban Inuit Youth Council and runs a program for Inuit youth in Toronto called Torontomiutaujugut. He grew up in Southern Ontario because his mother was adopted out in the Sixties Scoop. He has only recently started to re-connect with his Inuit heritage. A Youth Ambassador and member of the Matawa First Nation, born and raised in the urban setting of Thunder Bay, Tyler Waboose also aimed to re-connect with his ancestral heritage in the northern Canadian Arctic. Tyler is active in Roots to Harvestengaging youth with agriculture and cultivating heathy communities.

Our onboard dialogues were both planned and an by chance encounter. We had an onboard, Hollywood level “Comms Team” of 6 people constantly shooting and producing amazing content to share with Canada and the world. As mentioned, the goal was to reach over 20 million Canadians, which I believe was handily achieved in channels as diverse as Facebook Live to traditional print journalism. As a result, even thought the participant base was limited, the majority of Canadian participated to greater or lesser degrees in the education and conversation about our future. I also committed to share in various ways, including writing a series of blog posts (like this one!).

One particularly important session was organized by very thoughtful participant Peter Poole. He had several scientists, youth, artists, indigenous people and other present their thoughts on what Climate Change meant to them both personally and professionally. Being involved in my own work to “reboot the narrative around climate change”, this particular session inspired and motivated me to carry on the conversations that Peter started. While there will be more on my initiative as it evolves, it was clear that this session got many to commit to being ongoing ambassadors and champions of the unique Climate Change perspectives from the north. Also, now in 2018, watch out for various more formalized Canada C3 Legacy Projects as they are unveiled during this year.

While I could go on endlessly about Canada C3 and the environment, hopefully this does give you a taste. Collectively, I can only give a small glimpse of how the Canada C3 expedition was a life-changing one for me and all participants. The learnings weren’t so much the hard science, but instead the storytelling and narrative challenges standing in the way of getting us all onboard.

To wrap up, just as Chef Paul Rogalski always reminded us that “The foundation of great food starts with the ingredients…’, so too does making the world better start with great people. I will leave the last word to none other than that master of words, Lorna Crozier. I love the picture she paints tying in so well, and viscerally, to the earlier words of scientists like Bianca Perren who has dedicated her life to Polar Climate Science. What action will you take in response.

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In a previous post, I spoke about my involvement with Canada 150 and also the Canada C3 signature project. The latter is an epic journey divided into 15 “Legs”, on a former Canadian Coast Guard Ice Breaker vessel (the MV Polar Prince, ca 1958) refitted to sail from coast to coast to coast for 150 days, and provide an ideal platform for connections and conversations. As a participant, I can only say I was profoundly changed, inspired, enlightened and mobilized by my time.

At our 150th birthday in 2017, Canada is at a crossroads as it strives to outgrow its colonial past, to find its rôle and place in a new world order and to respond to the recent Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report on the mis-treatment of our Indigenous Peoples in Residential Schools.

Compared to the celebration of our history that was the focus of Canada’s Centennial in 1967, Canada C3 responded directly to such challenges and sought to contribute to a new sense of nation building in our country. The ambitious goal was to engage over 20 million Canadians and contribute to a Legacy for our nation as it looks forward to our bicentennial in 2067 and beyond.

Accordingly, the key themes for Canada C3 were crafted to help in this nation building:

  • Reconciliation with our Indigenous People, namely First Nations, Métis and Inuit.
  • Environment: and in particular the challenges of climate change as well as specific challenges facing our coastline and northern regions. A little known fact is that Canada has the longest coastline of any country in the world. Issues include species loss, micro plastics in our oceans, effects of higher sea levels and much more. See my post here: “Environmental Awakening Fusing of Science, The Arts and Sea Ice”
  • Diversity and Inclusion: Canada’s cultural mosaic includes people from all over the world which is a reflection of Canada’s admirable openness and welcoming nature. Although we have always been a country of newcomers. our society still has a way to go to be completely inclusive to: visible minorities, women, LGBT and those with disabilities.
  • Youth Engagement: As a baby boomer who was a teenager in 1967, I feel that my generation has proactively shaped the Canada we know today. Our generation has achieved much that is good but there are many areas to address. This is always a work in progress. Similarly, today’s youth must lead our quest for the Canada of 2067 and Canada C3 provided a great vehicle from them to learn,
    share, contribute and ultimately act to help us build a future civil society that is just and open.

I was honoured and privileged to be a Participant on Leg 7 of Canada C3, from Iqaluit to Qikiqtarjuaq on the east coast of Baffin Island in our newest Territory. Note that I will write posts on most, if not all, of the above four themes through my eyes always amplified by and learning from the amazing people onboard and in the local communities. As I’ve learned, in any human endeavour, it is extraordinary people who shape Canada, and ignite me with a huge optimism about our future. The expedition organizers did an wonderful job in curating a massively diverse group of exceptional people, some of whom might too modestly consider themselves ordinary. In this post, and the following ones, I will try to share my thoughts as shaped by these extraordinary Canadians. I have also learned that, simply by convening conversations, powerful and transformative change can be unleassed.

To illustrate this, the ship had about 60 people onboard at any one time, as follows:

  • 14 crew – from the amazing Captain Stephan Guy who also made the best bread I’ve had in a long time, and a group of hard working marine experts who worked hard 24/7 to ensure we progressed safely and on time,
  • 20 staff – The staff was led by the world’s most innovative outdoor educator, Geoff Green, CM, expedition leader. The staff complement included onboard scientists conducting 25 experiments along the coast of Canada, Zodiac drivers and interpreters; bear guard[ians]; hospitality and cooking; onboard physician; and a Hollywood grade “comms” team of six (2 nationally leading photographers, a videographer, a drone operator and two prolific video and content editors who seemed to work around the clock), and
  • 24 participants, for each of the 15 Legs or 360 for the entire expedition, selected in myriad ways, from invitation, partnership and application, including:
    • journalists from across Canada
    • a chef – each leg had one chef, part of Food Day Canada that celebrates food and food sustainability across Canada from coast to coast to coast
    • a visual artist, one per leg, chosen by a Canada Council adjudicated jury
    • a writer – ours was an Order of Canada poet who is a national treasure
    • musician
    • educators – who could take the conversations back to our schools
    • indigenous people – Leg 7 had 2 Inuit leaders and a youth ambassador from our First Nations
    • youth ambassadors – we had 3 young people, already showing tremendous leadership and passion. I believe that, at their young age, this journey will be most transformational for them,
    • partners, including from Canada Council, Apathy is Boring, etc
    • business people,
    • and many, many more.

Through my posts, pictures, and videos, you will meet some of the above people, but my focus for this post will be in the communities we visited on our journey. Since it was impossible for each and every Canadian to participate, I hope these posts can help people share and savour even a small portion of what I experienced.

While the backdrop of our journey, the east coast of Baffin Island, represents some of the most spectacular scenery on our planet, it only provided the context for our discussions and learning. Make no mistake, for those who are connoisseurs of art from the Arctic, the sense of lighting and colours seems alien to our more southern eyes, yet addictively beautiful. Compare the colours and textures of the iconic Inuit Artist Jessie Ooonark, Group of Seven member Lawren Harris, and a Brit bewitched by the north Ted Harrison to the real thing:

© Jessie Oonark

© Lawren Harris [Fair Use]

© Ted Harrison

In posts that will follow, I will focus more on the people onboardCanada C3. For this post, I thought I’d talk about people encounters in the two main communities we visited, first Iqaluit, and our terminus in Qikiqtarjuaq.

Jenna in Iqaluit

Our first activity as a group was lunch and a hike in Sylvia Grinnel Territorial Park, which introduced us to the unique foliage north of the tree line. The park also contains archaeological sites of the ancient Dorset and Thule peoples.  While there, we met a very engaging young Inuk named Jenna, shown here hamming it up for the camera. She was with her family fishing near Sylvia Grinnel Falls.

I was chatting with fellow participant, Lorna Crozierwhen Jenna approached us and offered to sing a song

Lorna Crozier in Fjord

I soon learned that this friendly engagement, even with strangers, is a common part of Inuit culture. When, expecting to learn about some local singer celebrity, I asked her what her favourite singer was, perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised that she answered “Katie Perry”.

Later our group toured the Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museumin the former Hudson’s Bay Company store, travelling there by our trusty yellow school bus.

There I saw a man whole seemed interested in our group, so I stopped and chatted with him. The video below explains why the talented artist was in Iqaluit. Jenna, riding her bike, was in the background of this interview, but got removed in editing. Charlie “C5” Johnston was definitely worth interviewing and, was it synchronicity for a person who brands himself “C5” to meet and interact with the “C3” group?

Later in Iqaluit, we got to meet many local people, including the scientists at Nunavut Research Institute, local artists, and kayak building at the local high school.

Days later, at the end of Leg 7 in Qikiqtarjuaq, most of our group climbed the hill overlooking the hamlet and the Canada C3 vessel, and we had a number of amazing encounters.

Initially I was surprised that the girl, shown above with her sister, had such a pro camera. Later, I learned that a journal and fellow participant Caroline G Murphy, had sportingly lent her camera. For more background on this budding young photographer, read Caroline’s article in Le Journal de Montréal J’ai Prêté ma Caméra a une Jeune Inuite de 9 Ans …

Jim Kyte

And, for those unable to read in French, our discussions on Diversity and Inclusion did encompass the original “Two Solitudes” in Canada, namely French and English. While Google can do a great job translating the article, the photos with the eye of a precocious 9 year old totally transcend traditional cultural divides.

David Lawson

Our final community encounter during Leg 7 was at a ceremony in Qikiqtarjuaq where we gave hockey sticks to the local children, who seem to have a passion for hockey that transcends even southern Canada’s hockey crazy intensity. Leading the presentation was Jim Kytefellow participant and the first legally deaf NHL hockey player. Jim is an inspirational leader I was happy to get to know who has overcome challenges that most would shy away from. Today he serves as Dean of the School of Hospitality and Tourism at Algonquin College in Ottawa.

Jim was joined by last minute participant, David Lawson, an Inuk leader who just resigned after 15 years serving his community in the RCMP. I am sure we will hear much more from David who just started a law degree in order to better advocate for his people. For example, he is Board President of Embrace Life Council, an Iqaluit-based suicide prevention organization. In a separate post, I will write more about my journey of learning about the Inuit people and their journey to become a vital part of the fabric of our Canadian nation.

Canada C3 made for some wonderful encounters and conversations. I can only wish that every Canadian was able to share my experiences with the wonderful diversity that is Canada. Even I took a long time to process this life changing experience. In the end, I had my understanding of my own country transformed both by the special world that is Canada’s Arctic regions, but even more so by people who now have a life long bond that will lead to action. These conversations were far from superficial and already, many of us are taking action. As we enter 2018, you will start to learn more about the Canada C3 Legacy Programs which will keep the torch of this remarkable nation building alive and further spreading that light in the form of action and education.

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As we approach Canada Day of our 150th year of Confederation, I am compelled to share my personal reflections on where our country is headed, how the lessons of history (positive or negative) are shaping our future journey and the contribution we, as Canadians, can make to our world. Beyond celebration, our nation urgently needs our care and attention. As a result, I am sharing my own journey in the form of a call to action.

Over four years ago, I received a call join a group helping to build programs to shape our Canadian sense as a “Smart and Caring Nation”, inspired by His Excellency Governor General David Johnston.  My love of our country has been inexorably shaped and enhanced through extended periods of living and working abroad. The opportunity to serve Canada and to collaborate with an unbelievably talented group of leaders, made it a no-brainer for me to accept this call. Since then, in many varied groupings, conversations about Canada and nation-building were convened at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, the Deloitte Greenhouse, Wasan Island and more. Although not apparent from the core group shown below, a diverse and impactful group of individual leaders, first nations, national and local institutions, and many change makers from the charitable and NGO sector coalesced to help shape and expand this initiative. I am eternally thankful for the leadership of David Johnston and   Community Foundations of Canada,  for their leadership in starting these conversations. My investment of time and money has been returned many times over in my own knowledge and engagement.

Those early conversations helped to architect and propel grassroots activities around Canada 150 at a time when our federal government hadn’t yet climbed onboard the “150 bandwagon”.  Although our path was initially unclear, and the group moving in several directions, eventually it became clear that the combination of passionate people inspired by a visionary challenge to create a “Smart and Caring Nation” unleashed many amazing initiatives. Some of the key Canada 150 themes started to emerge:

  • Youth Engagement – Millennials (and now, Generation Z) are the best educated generation of Canadians who are passionate and “issues”-driven, yet often fail to engage with the formal political process. Canada 150 is a great way to harness that energy and enthusiasm to shape our governance for the next generation.
  • Reconciliation with our Indigenous People – Canada has a sad record in our treatment of Indigenous People whose territory European settlers colonized and, without whom, our modern country would not have been built. The December 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report chaired by Chief Justice Murray Sinclair, painted a shocking portrait of the misguided and brutal “Indian Residential School System” previously almost unknown to most Canadians, even many in the First Nations community. Although Canada’s 150th birthday strikes a dissonant chord for many Indigenous people, it remains a unique opportunity to learn from past mistakes and to start building a better future together. In spite of the challenges raised by celebrating years of neglect and mis-treatment, I can only hope that  we can find a way forward to a brighter future for all (Indigenous and non-indigenous) people in Canada.
  • Diversity and Inclusion has become of paramount importance in our increasingly diverse country. Ensuring that everyone “belongs” and can contribute to our common future, is a key priority. Furthermore, we must arrest our growing Inequality before it unleashes the destructive and divisive social forces we see in other countries.
  • Environmental Challenges  – for many, particularly the youth, Climate Change and other environmental challenges caused by the impact of humanity on a finite planet, have gone from theoretical to becoming an “existential” crisis threatening our future wellbeing. I continue to work with others to explore ways to address what seems to be an intractable problem, not just at a government policy level but even more importantly at the grassroots level to engage ordinary Canadians.

Once these high level priorities were identified, many participants contributed to shaping thinking, leading to great initiatives such as the Alliance 150 to increase collaboration and partnership among organizations. And, as Federal and Provincial governments got onboard, these earlier efforts were foundational, setting the agenda for much of the current governmental and NGO work for Canada’s 150th. As we closed in on 2017, I channelled my focus to advising a number of national Canada 150 Signature Initiatives, such as Canada C3 and Canada 150 in our local communities, that directly descends from those early conversations.

As an Ambassador for the Canada C3 expedition, I am excited to see this project’s ambitions surpassed on all its major themes of Reconciliation, Youth Engagement, Inclusion & Diversity and Environmental Stewardship. Watch this nation building exercise grow during the Expedition as it reaches the majority of Canadians. I will use my time on Leg 7 of Canada C3, later this summer, to learn, engage and reflect collaboratively regarding our major Canadian challenges and opportunities.

What started with a request for me to make a gift of time and money, ended up as truly a life-changing gift back to me, and all those involved.

My biggest take away from this process, is that it is important for Canadians, individually and collectively, to work on nation building. Unsurprisingly, David Johnston said it best in a letter “What Will Your Gift Be?”, from his recent book The Idea of Canada – Letters to a NationNote that the proceeds from this wise work are directed to building the Rideau Hall Foundation which is another legacy of our current Governor General. In that letter:

“Each Canadian has the power within him or her to give something special to our country and help build that country we dream of. Big or small, complex or simple — it doesn’t matter what Canadians give. The gift each Canadian chooses is as unique as the person who shares that fit. .. young people in our country have a special responsibility to lead our country’s celebration of the 150th anniversary of Confederation.”

People around the world look to Canada as a bastion of democracy, decency and safety, buttressed by our reputation for being obsessively obsequious and our pioneering of international peacekeeping. As times change, our national role and aspirations also need to change. Just as we are no longer the extension to Victorian Great Britain of a 100 years ago, our post World War II Cold War era identity  also needs to be re-imagined. What will Canada look like for our bicentennial in 2067? 2017 represents a unique and timely opportunity for us to all participate in shaping our common future.

Canada seems to be such a safe and peaceful country. Yet, present and historical events show that the veneer of civil society that we all hold dear and take for granted, can be fragile indeed. I am still struck by a story told by that master story teller, David Johnston. He reflected on The Ukrainian Pioneer, a 6 panel masterpiece by Canadian artist William Kurelek. Reflecting a life journey familiar to so many Canadians, the work chronicles a Ukrainian villager fleeing Josef Stalin’s genocidal famine of 1932-1933  (Holomodor) [See No. 1] who comes to forge a new life amid the relative tranquility and plenty of the Canadian prairies. However, barely visible in the background of the last idyllic panel The Ukrainian Pioneer, No. 6 (1976) is a mushroom cloud. Kurelek wanted to remind us that the veneer of civil society is thin and needs constant care and protection.

In 2017, many forces threaten the comfortable status quo that we expect from Canadian society. Those who are privileged to lead, indeed everyone, must take these forces seriously. Mass alienation and discontent with our current civil order represents a real cry for change. However, many times those grasping for change latch onto leaders whose seductive rhetoric proves ultimately destructive of the enviable civil society we have built over 150 years here in Canada.

A country is, indeed, the product of the collective hopes, dreams and ideals of its citizens. As John F Kennedy famously said,

“Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.

Yet, sometimes our daily news feeds chronicle the disturbing forces that appear to denigrate all that Canadians hold dear, such as:

  • a new move to put “drawbridges up”, instead of embracing the global world order,
  • a pervasive failure to question “fake news”, “alternate facts” and dismissal of reasoned analysis rather than encouragement of intelligent debate and problem solving, and
  • a  shift in political discourse from a “narrative of hope”, to one that lacks civility, grace or higher purpose.

The more I travel and engage with global thought leaders, I learn that Canada is becoming the last bastion of a better way in the world. As a result, I believe those key Canada 150 themes of Reconciliation; Inclusion; Youth Engagement and Environmental Stewardship have escalated in importance from nice to have to social imperatives.

For individual Canadians, using 2017 as a springboard towards a “Smart and Caring” Nation in 2067, there are innumerable ways to make a difference with some combination of the trinity of “wealth“, “wisdom” and “work” focused on civic, social and cultural needs:

  • Volunteering to give back through a cause is vitally important to you, whether in your neighbourhood, nationally or internationally. A great example is the CANADA150FOR150 Volunteer Challenge
  • Donating to a cause that will help move the needle. Consider your local community first and your local Community Foundation may be a great place to start for new ideas and approaches, or
  • If you identify an unmet need in our society, consider starting a new Social Enterprise

Besides being amongst the most fulfilling work you will do in your life, your civic engagement will continue to help shape and grow the wonderful social and cultural fabric of this wonderful country we call Canada.

I have been inspired to continually re-think my gift to Canada, and now see it more of a journey than a destination. Stay tuned …

What is your gift to Canada? Are you prepared to do your part?

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CBC-Fort McMurray Fire May2016

CBC News

CityNews - Goderich Tornado Aug 2011


The Telegraph - Yorkshire Flooding

The Telegraph

Even though a life-long environmentalist, looking at the world through my children’s eyes drives home how pressing, and enormous, is the card we have dealt them. That legacy of unprecedented global climate change, leaves little choice between measures to achieve a rapid reversal of climate change or living with global apocalypse.

Personally, I vote for reversal, as one expects would most rational people. However, getting there requires a complete re-think of our lives, and our communities. In my daily life, I see huge opportunities.

From Central to Middle of Nowhere (West Field)

From Central to Middle of Nowhere (West Field)

Having grown up in Listowel, Ontario, I recently attended the closing ceremony for the Central Public School which will be replaced by North Perth Westfield Elementary School – the difference in the names, previously “Central” to the new “West field” says it all and is illustrated in this map.

Although we all spent time reminiscing about memories and a proud history comprising at least 3 school buildings on the “Central” site, the issue I raise isn’t about heritage. The new school will necessitate a school bus ride for essentially all students. Unlike Central, where most students walked or biked to school, that option will be closed to all but a handful.

Listowel Public School Since 1877Beyond contributing to our climate change crisis, childhood obesity has doubled in the last 30 years (Reference: Centers for Disease Control), mostly as a result of less healthy eating and lack of physical activity. In an age where Physical Literacy and promoting active lifestyles has moved to the top of our agenda, school location should be seen as a contributor to the solution instead of being a major part of the culprit.

Near Elora, Centre Wellington District High School went through a similar “de-centralizing” exercise a few years ago. Groves Memorial Community Hospital is slated to move from its central location near downtown Fergus to a “green field” site (note the prevalence of the word “field” in these decisions) in land between the built up areas of Fergus and Elora. It is notable that the founder of Groves, none other than Abraham Groves was a social innovator of the previous century, who as a doctor pioneering surgical sterilization, did the first successful appendectomy in North America, created hydro power and phone service all to drive change in his home community. I am sure that if Groves were alive today, he would be promoting walkability and carbon footprint reduction.

Urban cores, and small town downtowns, continue to struggle with the appearance of big box stores on the periphery of communities. In addition to often devastating effect on once vibrant centres of community activity, this trend further exacerbates more driving and less walking. Not a good combination.

How do these choices in pubic infrastructure relate to the apocalyptic images of destruction at the top of this post? Climate change is very real with the effects more and more visible, and traumatic as each year passes. Events like the recent Fort McMurray fire, Goderich Tornado in 2011 and severe flooding in the UK can all be  traced to the dramatic changes in global climate unfolding over the last few years. The steady, yet gradual increase in the earth’s temperature, leads to greater volatility and severity of weather events. We all know the depressing reality that, horrible as these are, things are going to get worse before they get better.

We used to call the buildup in Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, driven by human activity powered by a reliance on fossil fuels such as oil and coal, Global Warming. It has been rebranded as climate change to reflect the reality that, although the average temperature increases, the main effect is to increase weather volatility. This volatility translates into extreme climate-related events with increasing frequency. Globally, climate change may lead to famines, mass migrations and wars of unprecedented scale and attendant misery.

Faced with this stark reality, you would expect a universal call for governments and public institutions to provide leadership to address climate change?

You would think not, but recent experiences have been been vividly frustrating in showing that, in fact, our public institutions have a long way to go. How are we, as citizens, able to do our part in these circumstances?

First it helps to break down such a massive problem into its constituent parts. To start, let’s quantify the effect that our transportation has on GHG reduction. From data compiled, ironically, by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, transportation is the biggest single sector contributing to Greenhouse Gas emissions, closely followed by Oil and Natural Gas producing industries. Further, Canada has a much poorer record in this regard than other rich nations.CAPP Canadian Carbon Breakdown

We live in an era when people care deeply about the well-being of future generations. Residential homebuyers are increasingly prioritizing Walkability Scores, which include access to nearby schools in home buying decisions. No generation is more concerned than the Millenials, who have internalized the legacy that climate change will seriously and adversely impact them during their lifetimes. A major way to reverse GHG emissions growth is to tackle personal transportation – to work, schools, hospitals, leisure and shopping.

Collectively, the “M.U.S.H. Sector” (publicly funded organizations like Municipalities, Universities, Schools and Hospitals) has a huge opportunity to take leadership in our current war on carbon. While we might believe that leadership must start at the top with government, without grassroots calls for change the political cost can be too high. (See: CBC News: Politicians Are Green Until They’re Intimidated by the Electoral Price) The challenge will be to empower ordinary folk to drive a climate positive future by taking such thinking from the realm of environmentalists and making it mainstream.

We urgently need an optimistic call to action that citizens can easily embrace. I am working with people that the Elora Environment Centre, an NGO leading innovation and action on the environment, to repackage the Climate Change narrative from one that leaves people powerless, frustrated and even guilt-ridden. We aim to find ways to re-boot the climate change narrative, and unleash a crowdsourced solution coming from the grass roots. Stay tuned. Our planet and our children are counting on it!

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Business Strategy

Go East Young Startup!

March 8, 2016


“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”


Laozi c.580 BCE

Building on 19th Century US westward expansion (“Go West Young Man”), much of the current innovation in technology has been West Coast focused, particularly in California’s Silicon Valley, which has for more than 50 years been an intellectual epicentre of the technology world.

Over my long tenure in the vanguard of technology

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Middlebrook Prize on the Move

September 10, 2015

The Middlebrook Prize for Young Canadian Curators has named Adam Barbu as its third winner and is moving up to a whole new level. Founded in 2012 by John Kissick and me, with initial investments from Middlebrook Social Innovation Fund, to support and mobilize Canadian creative talent, the Prize aims to inspire positive social change through creativity and connectedness in a time of unprecedented economic, environmental, social, and cultural

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Management and Succession Planning of Angel Portfolios

August 27, 2015
How Can Angels Structure Their Portfolios Better?

[Note: this blog post also appears on the NACO Canada guest blog by Randall Howard]

Angel portfolio management remains surprisingly primitive. Many Angels have built up substantial portfolios over time, yet few give much thought to ongoing management of these valuable assets. The many various spreadsheets, documents, share certificates, warrants, emails and other essential documents are

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Business Strategy

Snapshot of the ACA Summit 2015

May 30, 2015

In mid-April, I attended the 10th annual ACA Summit hosted by Angel Capital Association in San Diego. With about 600 people in attendance from dozens of countries, it was an excellent chance to get tuned into the latest trends happening in angel world at large.

And since Angel Investing is now a global phenomenon, it is interesting to note that ACA Summit can have two faces.

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Business Strategy

Top 25 Waterloo Technology Acquisitions – Wisdom from the Data

February 8, 2015

The acquisition of MKS by PTC in 2011, caused me to reflect a bit on what good acquisitions might look like and what they might teach us about building (sometimes elusive) long term shareholder value. As a result, over the last 6 months, I’ve progressively assembled a collection on the most significant acquisitions in the Waterloo area. To my knowledge,

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The Downside of Meeting Requests

January 4, 2015

“Expectation is the mother of all frustration.” – Antonio Banderas

Meeting requests are an amazing invention. Pioneered, and standardized, almost 20 years ago by companies like Microsoft (as part of Outlook/Exchange), Novell (Groupwise) and Lotus (now part of IBM Lotus Notes) this innovation had great promise to automate an essential, yet completely routine, aspect of modern life.

The ascendency of meeting request usage,

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