Couchiching Connects: October 2013


In this Issue:

2014 Summer Conference
The Big Picture
Marketing and Communications Committee
Opinions: Our Members Write...
Couchiching Alumni
2nd Annual National Aboriginal Physical Activity Conference
Calling All Readers


The 2014 Summer Conference

More than a Game: The Politics and Potential of Sport, August 7-10, Geneva Park, ON

Conference Co-Chairs, Douglas Gibson, and Heather Keachie,


One year before the Pan/Parapan American Games come to Toronto, the 2014 Summer Conference will put sport under the spotlight. Sport is a multi-billion dollar, worldwide industry that dwarfs every other leisure-time activity. It’s high time for a public policy debate over how sport is currently constructed and sold. Who wins and who loses? What’s the potential for our health and wellbeing and for social innovation? Sport as entertainment and as healthy activity; sport in education and development; sport and violence, gender, drugs, and politics … we’ll wrestle with it all.

 All of those who attended the brainstorming session at the Lake in August will recall that there was an eager group of about 40 who met in the sunshine to toss out ideas about Sport. It soon became very clear that there is no shortage of topics, and that our main problem will be to select the best among them. The co-chairs, Heather Keachie (who kept careful notes on the topics that emerged) and Doug Gibson (who was subjected to a fierce personal attack by Eric Koch, who objected that he was “just a jock”) are meeting to arrange wider brainstorming sessions in Toronto and in Ottawa, over the next few weeks. These brainstorming sessions are intended to precede … and to inform … the regular monthly meetings of the Program Committee, which will begin in October. All those interested in being involved are urged to get in touch with us.

One major decision has already been made. It was agreed that it would be foolish to have a Summer Conference on sport that kept everyone cooped up in a lecture hall day after day. So we plan to have extended “sport breaks” on both the Friday and the Saturday afternoons. Please plan to pack your swimsuit, tennis racquet and running shoes!



Salim Rachid, Chair (


Upcoming Conversations


October 23 Toronto Conversation: “Are There ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ Immigrants?” — Immigration Series

In partnership with the Newcomer Women's Service Toronto (, and with support from Samara (, the Institute is proud to invite one of Toronto's leading City Councillors, Kristyn Wong-Tam (, for an important discussion on shifts in immigration policy, voting patterns of recent immigrants, and the impacts of these trends on public opinion of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ immigrants. Join as at Samara, 33 Prince Arthur Avenue, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.


Past Conversations


September 24 Toronto Conversation: Launch of “Paved with Good Intentions”


The Institute was delighted to welcome a sold-out crowd to the book launch of “Paved with Good Intentions”, co-authored by Nikolas Barry-Shaw and Dru Oja Jay, at the unique setting of the Baha’i Centre of Canada. The authors argue that Canadian NGOs do not address systemic issues in the developing world, and actually maintain a status quo that is at the root of these problems.

Nikolas is an independent researcher based in Montreal He is a member of Haiti Action Montreal and the Canada-Haiti Action Network. Dru is a Montreal-based writer and organizer. He is co-founder of the Media Co-Op, a founding editor of The Dominion (, and a long-time solidarity activist. He is the co-author of “Offsetting Resistance”, a report about the effects of foundation funding on environmental NGOs (

To order “Paved with Good Intentions”, visit 


September 26 Toronto Conversation: “The Middle East in Turmoil: A Closer Look at Syria and Lessons from the Past” 


Since the Syrian conflict began in 2011, hundreds of thousands have died and many more have fled to neighbouring countries. Most recently, the international community expressed deep concern over the use of chemical weapons, and is renewing attempts to address the situation.

Potential international actions to the Syrian war included military interventions, economic sanctions, removal of chemical weapons, and United Nations table talks. The proposed resolutions raise a number of challenging questions: Are these the right solutions? Are they short-term strategies that will not address the larger issues? What can we learn from the history of conflict in neighbouring countries? Is this another Iraq? How would the promotion of democracy play an effective role in stabilizing the region? Finally, what are the Syrian and Arab Diasporas’ responsibilities to address the conflict? 

Although the main focus was on Syria, the Conversation revealed that it is not just Syria that needs a dialogue, but the entire region as well. Thirty people joined the event, large enough to include varying perspectives, but small enough to keep the conversation intimate. One thing is certain: the Institute will need another Conversation on Middle East issues soon. 

The speaker, Dr. Sven Spengemann (, is a visiting professor and fellow at the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs at York University. His areas of expertise include public policy, law, negotiation, international development, and research. He served with the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq from 2005 to 2012. He holds a B.Sc. from the University of Toronto Mississauga; an LL.B. from Osgoode Hall; an LL.M. from the College d’Europe in Belgium, and an LL.M and S.J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada and an active volunteer with the Compass Food Bank in Mississauga. 


Youth and Spirituality Series


The Youth and Spirituality series is designed to explore the relationship between social change and spirituality. We thank our partners, the Inspirit Foundation ( and Baha'i Community of Canada ( Many more Conversations are in the making. Please get in touch with Salim if you are interested in joining the committee.

September 11th Vancouver Conversation: Youth and Spirituality Series 

Stay tuned for videos and photos on our website ( from the third Conversation in the Youth and Spirituality Series, held in Vancouver. 

Stay tuned for a video podcast on our Youth and Spirituality micro-site: (

For Conversation photos, visit 


Readings and Viewings

For a complete list of Readings and Viewings, visit


The Big Picture 2014, Couchiching's Signature Fundraising Event

Leslie De Meulles, Chair,


The Big Picture Gala is only six months away. Our first meeting was October 10th with the next meeting planned for October 24th. As you all know, the Gala is our key annual fundraiser to ensure that the Institute can continue to do its good work. If you're interested in participating on the Gala Committee, please email Leslie. See you at our next Committee meeting! 

In the meantime, lovely photos from the 2013 gala are available online. Take a look at our Big Picture Gallery and re-visit the ambience and heated table conversations that took place on April 26th at Storys in Toronto. Definitely a night to remember (


Marketing & Communications Committee

Aisha Silim, Chair,

Sheila Robertson, Vice-Chair,


The committee marketed ongoing events for the Couchiching Conversation Series and the Youth and Spirituality Series, and drew audiences for challenging and intimate discussions around spirituality, Syria, and Canadian NGOs. 

We are seeking creative and enthusiastic volunteers to join the committee in coordinating strategic communications for the Institute. If you are interested in joining us, please email Aisha. 



Past-president Rima Berns-McGown was quoted in the October 1st issue of The Globe and Mail in an article entitled, “Why the Canadian pipeline to al-Shabab has dried up”. Rima, who teaches at the University of Toronto-Mississuagua, “has conducted extensive interviews with Somali-Canadians.” 


Opinions: Our Members Write...

The Globe and Mail, October 1st: Board member Martha Hall Findlay asked: “Who knew the normally rather staid Canadian telecom world could provide such entertainment? This summer we witnessed heated rhetoric, political populism, multi-million dollar ad campaigns and a good dose of patriotic flag waving, all over whether Verizon, a big U.S. telecom company, should be ‘allowed’ to come into the Canadian market. More specifically, whether it should be able to do so through acquisition of one of the new, small entrants who were subsidized in 2008 by the Canadian government (and thus by Canadian taxpayers) by way of spectrum set-asides, only to stand to reap even further advantage over the incumbents in the upcoming spectrum auction.” 


Couchiching Alumni in the News

City News Toronto, October 7th: On the 250th anniversary of the Royal Proclamation of 1763m which “set out rules for European settlement in North America, recognized First Nations’ land rights, and set out the treaty process,” Shawn Atleo, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said: “Two-hundred and fifty years, we still, with every government — including this one — are saying that the time for First Nations to help drive a future must be led by them.” He was a speaker at the 2013 Summer Conference, “Coming Together as One: Navigating the Relationship Between Indigenous Peoples and Canada” (

The Globe and Mail, October 7th: Rt. Hon. Paul Martin, Canada’s 21st prime minister and president and founder of the Martin Aboriginal Education Initiative, wrote: “In recognition of the 200th anniversary of the great Tecumseh’s death (October 5th), we must look to Canada’s aboriginal youths to declare themselves Tecumseh’s successors.” He and Phil Fontaine (see below) were the opening keynote speakers at the 2013 Summer Conference. 

The Globe and Mail, October 7th: Tom Flanagan said that “Ottawa’s cautious response” to the Charter of Quebec Values, “was much wiser that vociferous criticism. The facts show why.” He is a distinguished fellow in the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary, a former campaign manager for conservative parties, and was a speaker at the 2010 Summer Conference, “Watershed Moment or Wasted Opportunity”


The Globe and Mail, October 4th: Shaun Atleo said he hopes the arrival in Canada of the UN overseer of Indigenous rights will illuminate the dark corners of this country’s history and prompt a discussion about whether the past treatment of the First Nations constitutes genocide. 

The 180 with Jim Brown, CBC Radio One, October 4th: Ian Anderson, president of Kinder Morgan Canada, talked about “politics, public perception, and push back about pipelines,” speaking to the “group in the middle”, and “not opponents of his pipeline expansion project,” when getting his message out. He was also a speaker at the 2013 Conference. 

The Globe and Mail, October 1st: Speaking at the Oil and Money Conference in London, Jim Prentice, a former federal industry minister and now senior executive vice-president at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, said that “Canada needs to do more to protect its future interests ... There clearly are more sellers than buyers of Canadian energy assets at the moment.” He was a speaker at the 2011 Summer Conference, “From the Ground Up: Civic Engagement in Our Time” ( 

Ovide Mercredi was featured in an article entitled “The Great Equalizer” and was on the cover of OnManitoba, the magazine of the Alumni Association of the University of Manitoba (U of M) in recognition of him receiving the 2013 Distinguished Alumni Award. The former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations was also a speaker at the 2011 Summer Conference. sixteen  

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission announced that the U of M has been chosen to permanently host a National Research Centre on Residential Schools, housing the statements, documents, and other materials gathered during its five-year mandate. Phil Fontaine, O.C., O.M., former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations and a keynote speaker at the 2013 Summer Conference, said: “This has been a pretty happy day. I want to acknowledge the strength and incredible resilience of the survivors and following generations. I am so glad to be a small part of that journey; we still have a long distance to travel.” eight

The Globe and Mail, September 27th: Columnist Gary Mason wrote that Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi “has shattered the image of a province run by conservative-minded men.” The mayor delivered a rousing closing keynote address at the 2011 Summer Conference.

Nathalie Des Rosiers was a winner of the 2013 Lexpert Zenith Award “honouring women lawyers who have led their clients, firms, companies, departments, faculties, profession, colleagues, and/or communities, and have been a role model for other women in the profession.” She was a speaker at the 2011 Summer Conference.  


A Conference of Interest - 2nd Annual National Aboriginal Physical Activity Conference

February 19th to 22nd, 2014, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ont. 

Hosted by the Aboriginal Physical Activity and Cultural Circle, this is the nation’s largest conference on Physical Activity for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people, created for all those with an interest in sports, recreation, fitness, and traditional activity who may be band council members, health directors, representatives or health practitioners, counsellors or social workers, federal, provincial, or municipal health employees, academics, researchers, recreation workers, coaches, fitness instructors, cultural leaders, community members, and all others interested in the promotion of health and wellness through physical activity.

The Circle is hosting the conference to provide a networking and educational opportunity. There will also be a tradeshow for Aboriginal organizations and mainstream businesses to share their services and products.

For information, visit  

Callings all readers of Couchiching Connects!

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


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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