Couchiching Connects: January 2015

In this Issue:

Couch News

The President's Message

The 2015 Summer Conference


2015 Gala


Couch Community News



Members on the Move

Alumni in the News

Relevant Readings

Calling All Readers!


News Flash!

The Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs proudly announces that Hon. David R. Peterson, P.C., Q.C., O. Ont., will be the Honorary Chair of the Couchiching Gala 2015.

Read more about David Peterson's illustrious career here.

See below for Gala details.

A Message from the President Adam Redish

Wow, mid-January already! Can you believe it? It seems like only yesterday it was the holiday season and then - pow! - right back into the thick of things.

As you will see in the updates below from the portfolio leaders, the Institute is busy on many fronts, and 2015 is off to a great start. Planning for the Summer Conference and the Gala are well underway and we have already held our first exciting Conversation of the new year expertly moderated by former president Rima Berns-McGownand featuring activist Taiwo Bah, who discussed the role of "allyship" in improving relations between black and white communities in a post-Ferguson world.

We are also moving forward with the Gala. I know you all have April 13th inked in your calendars. And as nominations have now closed for the Public Policy Award, I anticipate that the announcement of the 2015 winner of that auspicious prize is imminent.

We, of course, are also continuing with Summer Conference planning, undertaking fundraising, and moving forward with the Strategic Plan (more on that next month). Additional updates are provided below along with Sheila's usual potpourri of updates on Couchers in the news and a moving tribute to Eddie Greenspan by Doug Gibson.

The 2015 Summer Conference

In Fairness To The Future: Who owes what to whom?
Financial, environmental, and institutional transfers between generations

August 7th to 9th, 2015
Conference Co-Chairs, Heather Keachie and Helen Tewolde

As we look towards the 2015 Summer Conference, we hope you will join us in beginning the discussion. Every month in Couchiching Connects we will share articles on generational (in)equity that members of our Conference Committee have reviewed. The articles will be posted on social media and we invite you to comment, question, and engage with the ideas and arguments presented. To get us started, we review two articles. The first takes a look at global demographics in the past, present, and future. The second argues that the "battle over how cash-strapped governments should divvy up their limited resources between young and old is only likely to heat up as the biggest wave of Baby Boomers enters retirement over the next decade". We'd love to hear your thoughts!

To submit a review of an article, please email the Conference Co-chairs.

The Economist, Daily Chart, November 18th, 2014, John Parker: "The world reshaped: The end of the population pyramid"

John Parker's article comes complete with graphs. Using the graphs to make his point visual, he points out that the pyramid shape is a traditional way of visualizing and explaining the age structure of a society. Until very recently, if one drew an age chart with each age group represented by a bar, with the youngest age group at the bottom and the oldest at the top and with the sexes separated, the pyramid was the shape thus represented. With the drop in fertility rate between 1970 and 2015, the shape of the chart is more like a dome. By 2060 such a chart will look more like a column making visual the reality that by that date, for the first time in human history, children will be barely more numerous than any other age group up to age 65. The implication of this, its relevance to the 2015 Summer Conference is that by 2060, caring for parents and grandparents will be as big as or bigger a societal requirement than caring for children and grandchildren. Read the article, view the charts, and start thinking in more concrete, specific terms about the implications of this inter-generational transfer. - Karen Hamilton

Read more here

Maclean's, September 6th, 2014, Tamsin McMahon, "Seniors and the Spending Gap"

Tamsin McMahon throws some pretty sharp numbers around, making the point that the new inequality story in Canada is between generations. According to her, it's more than just a demographic shift seniors have successfully lobbied for policies that favour older generations. The Conference Board of Canada Report that came out this fall noted that the federal government spends $45,000 per Canadian over 65 per year, compared to just $12,000 per Canadian 45 and under. And the inequality is deepening, quickly. In the 1980s, a typical senior in Canada was four times wealthier than an average 20-year-old. Today, boomers are on average 20 times richer than millennials. Boomers are buying prime urban real estate and driving up house prices, forcing millenials as first time home buyers to go deeply into debt while boomers watch their investment appreciate. Boomers are literally getting richer as millenials get poorer. McMahan offers what is almost a throw-away line in the middle of her article, but it deserves more attention. Boomers, she argues, are getting the policies they ask for because they are the ones going to the polls. Politicians understandably respond to a demographic that will get them elected. It's an interesting turn - if seniors have been so successful in lobbying for advantageous policies, it's because they voted with their, well, votes. McMahon's article leaves no uncertainty with respect to big winners and losers right now, but she's a little more ambiguous on the question of how we got here. - Heather Keachie

Read more here

"In Fairness to the Future: Who owes what to whom? Financial, environmental and cultural transfer between generations"

By Karen Hamilton and Ross Anderson

A Happy New Year of fund-raising to us all!

Conference calls, emails, and fund-raising letters abound as the Couchiching Fund-Raising Committee reaches out to corporate and government sectors with the invitation to participate in the Summer Conference, the Gala, and the Conversations through involvement and financial contributions. Recognizing the importance of a space and place in Canadian society that brings together public and private sectors and offers both a vital networking opportunity and a civil place to disagree, financial contributions for this next year and the next three years are starting to come in. More contributions are very much needed, however, so please consider one person you can approach to assist with the funding of all that is unique to Couchiching. Approach them yourself or pass along their name and contact to us.

The Couchiching Gala 2015: The Institute's Signature Fundraising Event
Chair, Public Policy and Gala Committees,
Vasiliki (Vass) Bednar

The Couchiching Gala dinner, our annual Toronto event, will be held on Monday, April 13th at Archeo in the Distillery District with the Hon. David Peterson serving as Honourary Chair. He was the 20th Premier of Ontario, from June 1985 to October 1990, and served as Chancellor of the University of Toronto from 2006 to 2012. In September 2013, he was appointed chair of the Toronto 2015 Pan Am and Parapan American Games Organizing Committee.

Look for the Public Policy Award winner to be announced in the February issue of "Connects", along with the first round of Gala table hosts.

Remembering Eddie Greenspan

By Doug Gibson

The death in December of the celebrated Toronto lawyer, Eddie Greenspan, produced many fond and admiring recollections. There are seven people in the city who could have added a special tribute. I am among them.

At the 2014 Couchiching Gala, on April 24, 2014, supporters who bought a ticket could choose to sit at a table hosted by a specific celebrity guest. Among many interesting possible table companions, for me and my wife Jane the most fascinating prospect was Eddie Greenspan, widely recognised as Canada's leading defence lawyer. We signed up for an evening of Eddie's table talk, along with five others.

I had an extra role. As a Couch Board member, I was asked to "host" the table, in effect to direct the discussion, to make sure that Eddie held the floor, and to keep the table centred on one conversation. I was not a bad choice for the role. Leaving aside the question of natural assertiveness (some might use words like "rude"), I was a friend of Eddie's. We had met way back in the 1970s, when I edited "By Persons Unknown: The Strange Death of Christine Demeter", written by George Jonas and Barbara Amiel. The 1977 account of what was then the longest murder trial in Canadian history was a huge commercial success, won prizes for its authors, and was useful to my career as a trouble-making, non-fiction editor.

Much more important, the Demeter trial brought the junior defence counsel, Eddie Greenspan, into the limelight, until he eclipsed the famous defence lead, Joe Pomerant. It was clear to everyone around the famous trial that a legal star had been born.

I met Eddie behind the scenes in those days, and was impressed by this comfortably-built man with a thick head of hair and a very direct look. I especially liked his natural style, which included the straightforward use of simple language. This is a gift not universally shared, as we were reminded when Eddie later took on the case ofConrad Black. Sadly, the verbose Conrad proved to be a poor loser when he went to jail, and his attack on the performance of his chosen counsel, Eddie Greenspan, prompted Eddie to write a wry defence in the newspaper, where he noted that it is not unknown for people in jail to blame their lawyers.

Because of our link, I once took the chance to see Eddie in action in court. It was not an especially important case, except to Gordon Allan, Eddie's client, who had been accused of murder. I went along for Eddie's summing up. He said, in effect: "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, we've been here for many days, and we've heard many confusing suggestions about what happened on the day of this sad event. Let me try to explain to you what really happened...." And he went on, very simply, with no courtroom theatrics, no fancy oratory, just kindly explaining it all.

When he had finished, and we broke for lunch, it was obvious that Eddie's client was going to be found not guilty. And he was.

I began our evening conversation by recalling that trial, and Eddie described the details well. Then we were off, ranging across his cases over the years, from Demeter to Black, and dealing with wider issues such as the wisdom of juries against the errors of judges, and the whole issue of his successful fight against capital punishment. It was all frank and witty, and such a constant source of information that I had to interrupt to allow him to snatch a bite to eat. At the end of the evening, Eddie slipped off into the night after I had ushered him to the door, trying to express the deep gratitude of all of us at the table.

I saw him again in November, when once again Eddie was slipping away from another legal-book event. We hailed each other, but did not have the chance to chat. The Couch Gala remains a vivid memory, however, of the unforgettable Eddie Greenspan.

Couchiching Conversations
Chair, Conversations, Ahmer Khan

Greetings, folks! We have had a very strong start to the new year with our first Conversation, "On the Art of Being Uncomfortable: Good Allyship from Toronto to Ferguson", being sold-out at Samara! The Conversation focused on how to be a true ally. A special thank you to our guest speaker, Taiwo Bah, MaRS Fellowship recipient, Couchiching alumnus, and community advocate, and to Rima Berns-McGown for moderating the event. There will be plenty more Conversations like these throughout the year.

Read more about the MaRS fellowship here.

January 29th: A Conversation on "Coming Forward: Harassment, Abuse and the Path to Empowerment" will take place with John Moss Award recipient Samra Zafar on January 29th at the Toronto Bahά'i Centre, 288 Bloor Street West, 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

Click here to register! Act now as seats go quickly!


Violence toward women presents itself in many ways, be it through physical harm, sexual assault, or psychological trauma. Sometimes the abuse comes in all three forms. Abuse and harassment are based on the misuse of power, and we seldom see the imbalance of this invisible power struggle corrected. Why is it that we begin to pay attention only when women come forward? What is the value of sharing one's story and how does awareness lead to empowerment? What can bringing stories of such violence to the attention of a community do for inequality?


Samra is the founder of Brave Beginnings, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping women find support for their hidden pain and empower them to break free from abuse. In 2000, at the age of 16, she arrived in Canada as a teenage bride in an arranged marriage and entered a decade-long cycle of abuse, oppression, and opposition against her education. Secret counselling sessions and the motivation to show her daughters a better way of life gave Samra the courage to leave her marriage. In 2013, she became the first mature student and woman of colour to win the prestigious John H. Moss Scholarship, an award given to the most outstanding University of Toronto student. Samra has started her career at RBC Capital Markets and is a board member of Interim Place, the largest shelter for abused women and children in the Peel Region.

Read more about the John H. Moss scholarship here.

Stay tuned for more updates, venue locations, and e-blasts. Please contact Ahmer Khan (@ahmercankhan) to share Conversation ideas.

Visit for upcoming Conversations, series, and news.


The Globe and Mail, December 26th: On the death of Edward Greenspan on December 24th, reporter Sean Fine wrote: "Shortly after he turned 13, Edward Greenspan ventured into the library of his father, a scrap dealer who had just died of a heart attack, and discovered a trove of books about idealistic criminal lawyers from the United States and England." Mr. Greenspan was a table host at the 2014 Gala.

Read more here


Ottawa Citizen, January 10th: Reporter Andrew Seymour wrote:"A University of Ottawa professor renowned for her work on sex discrimination will lead an investigation examining Dalhousie's faculty of dentistry after sexually offensive comments were posted to a Facebook page by male students. Dalhousie University president Richard Florizone announced Friday that Constance Backhouse, a professor from the faculty of law at the U of O, will lead the external investigation." Constance is a long-time participant at the Summer Conferences.

Read more here

Maclean's Magazine printed the contribution of Board member Vasiliki Bednar @VassB to its request for a description of #2015in15words. Her provocative submission: #CDNPOLIWILL(MIGHT)GET SERIOUS,INNOVATIVE,ENTREPRENEURIAL, REGIONALLYEXPERIMENTAL+ITERATIVEON#CHILDCAREPOLICY.

Members on the Move

Board member and Summer Conference co-chair Helen Tewolde has been appointed Manager, Community Partnerships Office, at George Brown College.

Alumni in the News

Maclean's, January 19th: In an article entitled "Refugee time bomb" byMichael Petrou, Bessma Momani was quoted as saying the West's response to the Syrian refugee crisis has been "abysmal, just abysmal - Canada included...Most countries, Canada included, accommodate for a one- to two per cent increase in population growth. What does that mean when you have instantly a developing country with a 25 per cent population increase?" Bessma is an associate professor at the University of Waterloo and a senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, and was a speaker at the 2012 Summer Conference, "The Arab Spring: Implications and Opportunities for Canada".

Read more here

The Globe and Mail, December 30th: Bessma Momani wrote: "Four years after the Arab Spring, we know of the revolutionaries who took to the squares and city streets to protest their governments' inept policies. What we don't know is that the fire of change remains burning among Arab youth."

Read more here

The Globe and Mail, December 26th: Mark Carney, O.C., was named an Officer of the Order of Canada. The former Governor of the Bank of Canada was the 2013 recipient of the Public Policy Leadership Award.

Richard Pound, CC, OC, became a Companion of the Order. He was a speaker at the 2014 Summer Conference, "More than a Game: The Politics and Potential of Sport."

Read more here

Globe and Mail, December 20th: Alex Himelfarb talks to Adam Kahane about "austerity, inequality, and 'trickle-down' meanness. Alex is a former clerk of the Privy Council and a past member of the Institute board of directors.

Read more here

Associated Press, December 16th: LONDON - Reporter Stephen Wilson wrote: "Former World Anti-Doping Agency chairman Dick Pound vowed to get to the bottom of allegations of systematic doping in Russia as he leads an investigation into a case that has shaken the sport of track and field."

Read more here

The Mail on Sunday, December 13th: Reporters Rob Draper, Nick Harris, and Ian Gallagher wrote: "One of Britain's most famous athletes was last night drawn into an investigation after it was claimed that the sport's governing body failed to act upon 'suspicious' drugs test samples. Dick Pound, a former chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), told The Mail on Sunday he had been asked to lead an inquiry into allegations that hundreds of abnormal readings could indicate doping was covered up."

Read more here

Relevant Readings - 2015 Summer Conference

"The Bank of Mom and Dad: confessions of a propped up generation",Toronto Life, November 2014.

Read more here

An Interview with Paul Kershaw on public policy and intergenerational equity. He is a leading scholar of public policy, a faculty member in the Human Early Learning Partnership at the University of British Columbia, and founder ofthe Generation Squeeze knowledge mobilization campaign.

Read more here

Malcolm, Candice (Director, Canadian Taxpayers Federation), "When it Comes to Finances, Gen Y Should Be Called 'Gen Screwed'," The Huffington Post, November 20, 2014.

Read more here

Schraad-Tischler, Daniel and Najim Azahaf (Eds), "Intergenerational Justice in Aging Societies: A Cross-national Comparison of 29 OECD Countries," Bertelsmann Stiftung.

Read more here

Calling All Readers of Couchiching Connects!

Please send information on Newsmakers, Couchiching Alumni in the News, and Opinions: Our Members Write to Sheila Robertson, Editor, Couchiching Connects,

2016 Summer Conference

The Canada Project

Identity, Citizenship, and Nationhood in a Changing World

August 5-7, 2016
The YMCA Geneva Park Conference Centre, Orillia, ON

Read More


Couchiching Connects
April 2017
View Now

Sign Up for our Newsletter!