Couchiching Connects: May 2014

In this Issue:

A Message from the President

The 2014 Summer Conference

The Couchiching Gala 2014 Report

Couchiching Conversations

Summer Conference 2013 Update

Our Members Speak

Couchiching Alumni in the News

Relevant Readings and Viewings

Calling All Readers


News Flash!!

The 2014 Couchiching Summer Conference is open for registration! Visit the website,, for details. Early rates are in effect until June 30th. Scholarships are available for students, athletes, and young professionals. 


A Message from the President
Amanuel Melles,

In this issue of Couchiching Connects, you will note that the Institute is indeed busy with various activities. We had a successful Gala. Conversations are actively underway. Preparations for what is going to be a superb 2014 Conference are in full swing.

I would like to pause for a moment and pay tribute to Base Consulting. In my last message, I informed you that we have come to an end of our 25 years of relationship with Base Consulting, which provided association management services to the Institute. Over the years, Ruth Abrahamson, the driving force behind Base Consulting, touched many lives at Couch. I have reached out to a few people to share their memories of Base Consulting and Ruth.

John Kirton: “I was there at the beginning, when Base Services first met Couchiching to launch a love affair that lasted a quarter of a century filled with great achievements and much fun along the way. At a conference at the Sutton Place Hotel in 1989, I caught the idea of a woman named Ruth Abrahamson, chatted her up, learned she was with an association management company, and I — as a new member of the Couchiching Board, recently recruited by the legendary Barbara Eastman — knew that she was just the person we were looking for. And so it proved to be, as we were immediately thrust into understanding and enjoying the new world order launched by the end of the Cold War, the new Europe, the environmental revolution, and how globalization and technology were transforming our lives. We also survived several financial crises, both global ones of intellectual interest at the conference and internal ones that caused many sleepless nights to the loyal board members of Couchiching itself, and no doubt to Ruth herself. Among Ruth’s many talents was bringing along my fellow redhead Shannon Bott, who was the perfect companion with whom to enjoy the skits produced by the students each Saturday night at the lake. The memories, the legacy, and the love will last forever, even as a new generation at Couch starts once again."

Gwen Burrows: “This was a long-term partnership.  We have watched Ruth's three children grow and develop at Couch as they helped out every year on registration desk and other areas. Ruth always promoted the interests of the Institute, and we benefitted from her reach and networks as she engaged new members in the Institute's activities.

She was the one responsible for recruiting me as a volunteer - she noted my enthusiasm at the conference and invited me to volunteer on a committee.  She may have recommended me for an executive position, as in that first year (2001), I was given accountability for the roundtables portfolio. Without her, I would not have been engaged, and I think that reflects many people's experience.

Ruth also cares passionately about people and has a huge heart. She always reached out to Rod McFadden, a regular conference attendee who used a wheelchair and made sure he was comfortable and included.

She has supported her many staff and mentored them to grow and become independent and it’s been a pleasure working with so many of them and witnessing their development over the years. Shannon, of course, is a terrific example of this. Ruth also provided valued strategic advice, was generous with her time and advice, supportive of leadership, and always held the Institute's interests at heart. “

Madeline Koch: “I remember when Ruth and her father, Brian, made their presentation to the board for the job, and we were instantly drawn to Base because of Ruth’s quiet charm and her interest in international and public affairs. And her ability to speak French. And it has been a family affair: Brian and his wife, Belle, would come to the conference, and Ruth’s three kids would work at the registration desk, and then her husband Lee would come, and sometimes his parents, too.

Ruth is the soul of discretion, and her staff followed that lead. People at the conference never knew if anything behind the curtain was going awry, and in fact most of the board probably didn’t know either although exec members probably did!).”

As is evident by these testimonials, our relationship with Base Consulting was transformative for the Institute. On behalf of the Board, I send Ruth and her team at Base Consulting, my sincere thanks!

A Brief Introduction of Zzeem

We are pleased to welcome Zzeem ( as the new player replacing Base Consulting. Zzeem is a full service association management and consulting firm with particular expertise in the business of associations. Located in Toronto, Zzeem has served the association sector for over a decade and has a team of seasoned professionals with a wealth of industry experience who are committed to the Institute’s success.

Please note that the phone number and email address for the Institute will remain the same. However, the address will change to: Box 38179, Toronto ON M5N 3A9.


The 2014 Summer Conference
More than a Game: The Politics and Potential of Sport, August 7-10, Geneva Park, Ontario
Summer Conference Co-Chairs, Douglas Gibson and Heather Keachie

Sport is big news right now. Between play-offs and the start of the baseball and golf seasons, almost everyone can find something to be excited about. But there was also a lot of disturbing news about Donald Stirling and the LA Clippers. He was broadly condemned for his racist comments and banned for life from the National Basketball Association (NBA), and may be forced to sell the team. Stirling's comments, made public, beg the question: How common are these racist attitudes behind closed doors? Some argue that they are very common. Racism may be more subtle, but is still widespread in the shockingly segregated NBA and NCAA, according to Billy Hawkins in his newly-released book entitled "The New Plantation: Black Athletes, College Sports, and Predominantly White NCAA Institutions", (

David Shribman, the executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, noted this week that Stirling's comments, and the reaction that followed, "illuminates how what happens in the arena of sports is a reliable indicator of what happens in the broader civic arena." There's been progress, Shribman conceded, "but of a grudging type". That's why the 2014 Summer Conference is on Sport. More discussion. More exposure. More progress. 

Read more:


Meet four remarkable leaders who will speak at the 2014 Summer Conference.

Olivier Bauer has spent his professional life in Practical Theology on three continents, in Protestant churches and Faculties of Theology. He studied theology in Neuchâtel, Montpellier, and Lausanne where he got his PhD with a thesis entitled “Quand faire c’est dire”, les processus de ritualization dans l’Église évangélique de Polynésie française”. He worked as a chaplain for Reformed Churches in France and Switzerland, in a Protestant high school and college in Tahiti, and as a pastor of the French-speaking Protestant Church of Washington, D.C. He taught theology at the Universities of Lausanne and Neuchâtel and, since 2005, has been a professor at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies of the University of Montreal. His main academic interests include the transmission of faith to the six senses (especially through rites and education); the cultural dimension of Christianity not only abroad but also in Western countries; sport and religion; and food and religion.

On hockey as a religion, Olivier has published three books: “Hockey as a Religion: The Montreal Canadiens”, “Une théologie du Canadien de Montréal. Montréal”, and “La religion du Canadien de Montréal”.

Personal webpage:
Blog: “Une théologie au quotidien”:

John Cawley works at the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, where he is the Director of Programs and Operations. He has graduate degrees in a range of disciplines – history, agricultural economics, and management - but believes that most of the mysteries of the universe can be understood by the practice of curling. John has 30 years of work experience in the community sector in Canada and in developing countries as a front-line practitioner, program evaluator, senior leader, and board member.

Bruce Dowbiggin is an award-winning journalist, broadcaster, and author who moves the needle. He has performed at the highest level in print, TV, radio, and books for over three decades. He knows the people who matter and how to get them to talk. He is recognized across the country for his expertise and appears on a variety of TV and radio outlets as an industry expert. He has a Twitter following of 5,000-plus and is a frequent voice in social media. Bruce is noted for his groundbreaking reporting on Alan Eagleson and Don Cherry, and is unafraid to go where others fear to tread.

As a sports columnist for The Globe and Mail, Bruce was the featured author of the “Usual Suspects” and “Daily Grind” columns, the highest-rated online columns in the newspaper’s sports section. Specializing in sports media and the business of sport, he broke numerous stories in his columns.

He is the best-selling author of six titles, including “Money Players”, nominated for Canadian Business Book of 2003. He has two new titles upcoming in 2014: “Grant Fuhr: Portrait of a Champion” (Random House) and “Best Practices: The Vancouver Canucks Controversial Search For Excellence” (McLelland & Stewart). The other titles are “Defence Never Rests” (1993), “Of Ice And Men” (1998), "The Stick" (2001) and “The Meaning Of Puck” (2008).

Parissa Safai is an Associate Professor in the School of Kinesiology and Health Science in the Faculty of Health at York University. Her research interests focus on the critical study of sport at the intersection of risk, health, and healthcare. This includes research on sports’ “culture of risk”, the development and social organization of sport and exercise medicine, as well as the social determinants of athletes’ health. Her research and teaching interests also centre on sport and social inequality with focused attention paid to the impact of gender, socio-economic, and ethnocultural inequities on accessible physical activity for all. Parissa’s work has been published in such journals as the Sociology of Sport Journal, the International Review for the Sociology of Sport, Sport History Review and the Canadian Bulletin of Medical History/Bulletin canadien d'histoire de la médecine.

See Speakers’ Profiles as reported in previous issues of Couchiching Connects and on the website:

February 2014

Orlando Bowen is the executive director of One Voice One Team.

Guylaine Demers, PhD, is a professor in the Department of Physical Education of Laval University.

Ken Dryden is a Canadian politician, lawyer, businessman, author, and former NHL goaltender.

March 2014

Pierre Lafontaine is the CEO of Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS).

Nancy Lee has held leadership roles in Canadian broadcasting and international sport for over 20 years.

April 2014

Phyllis Berck is the director of the Toronto Office of Partnerships.

Michael Chambers is a senior partner with the Ottawa law firm, Maclaren Corlett LLP.

Bruce Kidd, PhD, is Interim Principal of the University of Toronto Scarborough, Warden of Hart House, and a Professor of Kinesiology and Physical Education at the University of Toronto.

Richard W. Pound, O.C., O.Q., Q.C., Ad. E., F.C.A., is a lawyer in Montreal with Stikeman Elliott LLP.

The Couchiching Gala 2014 Report
Chair, Public Policy and Gala Committee, Leslie de Meulles,

Thanks to the hard work of the Gala Committee, this year's Gala was another success! The evening featured good food, good company, and most importantly, good conversation. The touching remarks from our Public Policy Award Winner, Phil Fontaine, garnered a standing ovation, and the Q and A was as vigorous as ever, with even Table Hosts asking each other questions!

Many thanks also go to our table sponsors: Scotiabank, CIBC, RBC, and Novantas, with a special thanks to Scotiabank for sponsoring our Public Policy Award for the fourth year in a row. Of course, our table hosts, some of Canada's finest leaders, are also due thanks: Andrew Coyne, Mary-Jo Haddad, Preet Banerjee, Donald Schmitt, Sheldon Levy, Anna Porter, Edward Greenspan and Matthew Jocelyn.

We're already looking forward to next year's Gala, but, in the meantime, check out our photo gallery to see the beautiful venue and our august attendees for yourself (

Couchiching Conversations
Chair, Conversations, Salim Rachid,; @salim_rachid

Spirit of Social Change Conversation Series

May 29th: Islam and Social Change in Canada - Join us in our final event of the Couchiching Institute’s Spirit of Social Change Conversations Series, co-sponsored by the Inspirit Foundation, and the Baha’i Community of Canada. We will be discussing Islam’s contributions towards social change in Canada. Our esteemed guest speaker, Sheikh Alaa holds a bachelor’s degree in Shari’ah from the American International University. He is a member of the Canadian Council of Imams and currently is the director of Religious Affairs at Islamic Society of North America. The event will be held at the University of Toronto at Mississauga at 6:00 p.m., Room 108 in the CCIT building. Admission is free.

Conversations Upcoming
Orillia Series

May 27th Toronto Conversation: A Conversation on “Sports and Public Space: The Revitalization of Local and Neighbourhood Sports” will take place at the LAMP Community Health Centre from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.

Couchiching Conversations blog - Check out a new piece from our Edmonton Conversation on "Reconciling the Common Spirit"

Couchiching Conversations micro-site: Registering for future Couchiching Conversations is easier than ever before. Check out our Conversations dedicated site: Also visit the site to find out more about our local partners.

For Conversation photos, visit

Summer Conference 2013 Update

The Globe and Mail, May 6th: Reporter Gloria Galloway wrote: “The federal Conservative government has shelved the centrepiece of its aboriginal policy after proposals for improving on-reserve education were widely rejected by native leaders, and prompted the resignation of the national chief who had supported them.”

Read more:

The Globe and Mail, May 2nd: Reporter Gloria Galloway wrote: “Shawn Atleo has resigned as National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations after finding himself offside with large numbers of native leaders over his support for the Conservative government’s plans to reform on-reserve education.” He was a speaker at the 2013 Summer Conference, “Coming Together: Navigating the Relationship Between Indigenous Peoples and Canada" (

Read more:

Aaron Paquette Network, May 2nd: “I am super humbled to be able to share my new - and first - book. (And offer you something cool at the bottom of this post. The book is now available for pre-order:
Pre-Order Lightfinder by Aaron Paquette here…”. Aaron was a speaker at the 2013 Summer Conference.

Truth & Reconciliation: What’s Law Got to Do with it?, May 24th, 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Listen to Justice Murray Sinclair at the Centre Wellington District High School, 905 Scotland Street, Fergus, Ont. Also present will be singer Susan Aglukark, with motivational songs and stories. Included will be a traditional meal featuring Indian Tacos, wild rice, and cedar tea. Tickets are $15.00 in advance, $20.00 at the door and are available at the high school and The Bookshelf in Guelph, Ont.

The Globe and Mail, April 19th: Reporter Gloria Galloway wrote: “The head of the secretariat that awards compensation for physical and sexual abuses suffered at Indian residential schools is asking a judge to stop lawyers and other agencies from prying exorbitant fees from vulnerable native claimants.”

Read more:

The Globe and Mail, April 19th: The lead editorial focused on First Nations’ Education, saying that “Failure is no longer an option.”

“When Shawn Atleo was elected national chief of the Assembly of First Nations in 2009, he ran on a platform that emphasized education as a priority. In his own words, that meant “better graduation rates, better schools, more postsecondary students and, simply, more opportunity for our young people to achieve their goals.”

Read more:

Our Members Speak...

The Agenda, May 1st: Alex Himelfarb said “Tax is more than a four-letter word.”


Couchiching Alumni in the News

OnManitoba, Spring 2014: Ovide Mercredi has embarked on a four-month term as a senior advisor to the University of Manitoba as it updates its Strategic Planning Framework. He was a speaker at the 2011 Summer Conference, “From the Ground Up: Civic Engagement in Our Time” (

Read more:

The Ottawa Citizen, May 3rd: Executive producer, politics Christina Spencer wrote: “Tom Flanagan is at his best when he focuses on the evolution of society’s thinking about the evils of child pornography. He is at his worst when he tries to explain what happened during the infamous ‘Incident’ in which he was videotaped talking about what society should do with those who consume kiddie porn.”

Read more:

The Globe and Mail, April 26th: Columnist Margaret Wente wrote: “One sunny winter morning last year, Tom Flanagan got in his car to drive back to Calgary from the University of Lethbridge, where he had given a talk the night before. The topic was the Indian Act, and the crowd, which included a number of native activists, had been unusually hostile. Still, he felt he’d handled it well. ‘I was feeling quite relaxed,’ he recalls.” He was a speaker at the 2010 Summer Conference, “Watershed Moment or Wasted Opportunity”  ( and is the author of a new book, “Persona Non Grata” (McClelland & Stewart).

Read more:

Relevant Reading and Viewings


Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, May 8th: “The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport has completed a consultancy agreement with UK Anti-Doping to share best practices in anti-doping intelligence and investigations.”

Read more:>

Cycling Magazine, May 6th: “Cycling Canada and the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport announced a ‘consultation’ on doping by this country’s athletes. The two organizations are looking for volunteers, both cyclists and those who support riders, to speak with an independent third party.”

Read more:

Inside the Games, May 2nd: Reporter Gary Anderson wrote: “The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has moved another step closer to banning the use of xenon gas after it was put on the draft prohibitive list of substances following a meeting of WADA's Executive Committee last month.”

Read more:

The New York Times, April 30th: Reporter Anahad O’Conner wrote: “The first cases of liver problems linked to a popular weight loss supplement called OxyElite Pro began in Hawaii last May. But it wasn’t until four months later that the Food and Drug Administration, the agency responsible for getting dangerous products off the market, learned of the outbreak.”

Read more:

The Telegraph, April 30th: Reporter Ben Rumsby wrote: “The World Anti-Doping Agency is planning a crackdown on the inhalation of xenon gas following claims that it is being used to enhance athletes’ performances illegally.”

Read more:


Inside the Games, April 28th: Reporter Gary Anderson wrote: “The revamping and building of venues for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games has created 6,000 jobs and provided a £52 million ($88 million/€63 million) boost to the economy, according to a report published by the Scottish Government today.”

Read more:

Inside the Games, April 28th: Reporter Gary Anderson wrote:“International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today signed an historic agreement between the two organisations aimed at "’contributing to a better and peaceful world through sport.’"

Read more:

Inside the Games, April 21st: Reporter Zian Shirinian wrote: “The International Olympic Committee has been told it must ensure future hosts of Summer and Winter Olympics adhere to the principles of human rights, gender equality and inclusion.”

Read more:


The Guardian
, April 6th: Writing about health supplements, Dr. Spencer Nadolsky said: “Doctors say we need them. Advertising encourages us to take them. And – with industry estimates of more than £36bn being spent on them worldwide – we are clearly buying them.”

Read more:


Inside the Games, April 29th: Reporter Gary Anderson wrote: “The Federation of Gay Games has released details of its submission to the International Olympic Committee's Agenda 2020 which calls on them to be a "rampart against discriminatory laws and practices" and urges future Games not to go to countries with a history of discrimination.”

Read more:

Inside the Games, April 15th: Reporter Zjan Shirinian wrote: “More than 110,000 people have delivered a message to the International Olympic Committee that it should not award Summer or Winter Games to countries with ‘anti-gay or discriminatory laws’".

Read more:


CanadaNewsWire, April 23rd: “The volunteer recruitment drive for the TORONTO 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games has reached a significant milestone: more than 10,000 applications have now been submitted at”

Read more:


Participaction, April 2014: “The link between physical activity and better health, both physical and mental, is scientifically proven. Understanding the connection can help you get moving and keep moving. The new ‘Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines’ explain the amount and types of physical activity needed to experience significant, positive changes to our health.”

Read more:


Washington Post, May 5, 1014: Mark Glassman, a writer and sports fan living in New York wrote: “There aren't a lot of ways to punish people in professional sports. You can penalize them within a game. You can fine them. You can eject them or hold them out a few games. And if things get as ugly as they did with Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, you can tell them they can't ever be part of the game again. Lifetime bans in American pro sports have been extremely rare.”

Read more:


The Globe and Mail, May 3rd: Features writer Ian Brown wrote: “Across the land they are lurching out of their lairs again, pilgrims preceded only by the sheen of their arrogance and the stench of their unbearable holiness.

“I am speaking of the refugees of the Great Canadian Diaspora – Montreal Canadiens fans who do not live in shining Montreal and must worship la Sainte-Flanelle, as the team is sometimes called, more humbly, wherever they are.”

Read more:


Canadian Journal for Women and Coaching Online

Read more:

Calling All Readers of Couchiching Connects!

Please send information on Newsmakers, Couchiching Alumni in the News, and Opinions: Our Members Write/Speak ... to Sheila Robertson, Vice-Chair, Marketing and Communications; 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
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