Couchiching Connects: September 2014

In this Issue:

A Message from the President

The 2015 Summer Conference

The 2014 Summer Conference

Call for Nominations

Couchiching Conversations

Marketing and Communications Committee


Couchiching Alumni in the News

Calling All Readers

A Message from the President Amanuel Melles

Nahom Tsehaie Berhane

On behalf of Couchiching, I extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Nahom Tsehaie Berhane. Toronto has lost an amazing young leader to senseless violence over the past weekend.

Nahom, a Heath Promoter with Access Alliance Community Health Centre, was a highly respected community leader who has touched the lives of many families and communities in Toronto. In the last few years, as a CITY Leaders delegate, he has actively participated at our Couch conferences. We will miss him immensely.

Welcome to a new Couchiching year!

With the close of another excellent Summer Conference - demonstrating once again that sport can be profoundly political - we are beginning to plan for the coming year. Be sure to read conference co-chair Doug Gibson's report on the conference below.

For those of you we saw up at the Lake, it was a pleasure to reconnect or to meet for the first time. We hope you will continue to be engaged with the Institute and come out to our year-round events, posted regularly on and disseminated through Couchiching Connects, our monthly newsletter.

In early November, we will be releasing our new Strategic Plan, which will guide the Institute for the coming three years. The Plan will chart a clear path for expanding the Institute in collaboration with relevant and key stakeholders. We are looking forward to recruiting new volunteers to contribute to the vital work the Institute does to engage the people of Canada in open and inclusive discussion on the critical public affairs issues of our time. As a primarily volunteer-run organization, we are always keen to bring new and engaged talent into the fold - so if you would like to participate on a committee to plan next year's Summer Conference, plan our year-round events, help us develop our fundraising and outreach strategy, or assist with marketing and social media, please let us know by writing us at

It's also a good time to mark your calendars for the 2015 Summer Conference outlined below, which will take place August 6-9, 2015. We are in the exciting early stages of planning a conference focussed on intergenerational equity, including questions such as intergenerational transfers of wealth, what sort of world we are leaving for our children, and how to think about our obligations to generations not yet born. It is sure to be a uniquely engaging conference! We look forward to keeping you up-to-date on the activities of the Institute. In the meantime, enjoy the autumn colours and the changing landscape!

The 2015 Summer Conference - Intergenerational Transfers: What Are We Leaving Them?
August 6th to 9th, 2015
Conference Co-Chairs,
Heather Keachie and Helen Tewolde

We hear it all the time: "What kind of world are we going to leave our children?" We hear it particularly in the world of government finances - the debts and deficits that "we" are leaving to the next generation. Let's not kid ourselves - the debts the next generation is inheriting are multitudinous: environmental, social, economic, and political.

Pity the next generation!

But wait a minute! We are also told that the next generation is going to inherit the amassed wealth of the generation that is passing, wealth that a recent estimate put at over $12 trillion. Not only will the next generation inherit this largesse, they will get all the improvements in health care and increased life expectancy with which to enjoy it.

Suddenly things aren't looking so bad for that next generation.

Join us next summer for the 84th Summer Conference to explore the issues of intergenerational transfers:

- Who is leaving what to whom?
- What are the consequences for Canadian public policy?
- Is there a moral imperative to leave the world a better place?
- What role should intergenerational equity play in public policy?

So much to explore! And what better place to do it than on the shores of Lake Couchiching at the 84th Summer Conference?

If you are interested in helping to shape the conference, the program committee and co-chairs Helen and Heather are always on the lookout for keen volunteers. It's early days in the planning process, and volunteers are welcome! The program committee meets the third Tuesday of every month from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. Watch Couchiching Connects for regular updates or contact us at

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

A Report by Doug Gibson

From the evening of Thursday, August 7th, until 1:30 on Sunday, August 10th, the people who attended our Summer Conference were immersed in sports.

The conference was opened with welcoming remarks by Councillor Ronald Douglas from the Chipawa Rama First Nation who was accompanied by three Rama First Nation youth who were part of the Ontario team that won a silver medal in July at the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG), the Rama Police Services Drum Group that performed an honour song prior to the welcome, and Sherry Lawson, Administrator of Heritage Services, who lead a blessing and smudging ceremony. These greetings were followed by a welcome from Elizabeth Dowdeswell, former Couchiching Board member and Ontario Lieutenant Governor designate.

Read more

Couchiching Nominating Committee Report
Gwen Burrows, Chair, Nominating Committee

At the Annual Members Meeting on August 9, 2014, the Institute elected and re-elected its 2014-2015 Board of Directors who include six new board members and several who were re-elected.

New to the Board:

Vasiliki Bednar (Vass) is a Senior Policy Advisory to the Minister of Education in the Government of Ontario. She was on the Board of Directors for Meal Exchange, and has worked at the Martin Prosperity Institute and done research for the Mowat Centre. She is also a member of the Banff Forum. She notes: "Public forums or debate and exploration continue to make me a better policy thinker, and that is why I adore Couchiching. Public engagement was also core to my role at the School of Public Policy and Government."

Karen Hamilton is an ordained minister in the United Church of Canada, Karen is the General Secretary of the Canadian Council of Churches, which brings together 25 major Christian denominations, representing 85% of Christians in Canada.

Rachel Laforest is Associate Professor and head of the Public Policy and Third Sector Initiative in the School of Policy Studies, Queen's University. Her areas of expertise are the study of governance and welfare state restructuring. Her current research interests focus on poverty reduction strategies and welfare state restructuring. She is also interested in intergovernmental relations and Canadian politics. She is the author of Voluntary Sector Organizations and the State.

Brian Livingston is a former General Counsel and Vice President at Imperial Oil and a Fellow at the University of Calgary School of Public Policy.

Ed Moran, with previous experience in the private sector, now works in Enforcement with a Financial Industry Self-Regulatory Organization. Ed studied History and Political Science at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, and York University.

Emilie Nicolas is a graduate student at the University of Toronto in Anthropology and was recently appointed an Action Canada Fellowship. She currently serves as VP External Affairs and board member for Québec Inclusif and is a member of the Banff Forum on Public Policy.

At the upcoming October Board meeting, we anticipate welcoming three additional new Board members: Velma McColl, Patrick Kennedy, and Ahmer Khan.

We are also losing many long-serving and talented Board members, a natural result of Board turnover, but bittersweet nonetheless. On behalf of Couchiching, I want to express our gratitude to each for contributing their significant talents, reach and time on the Board and for their loyal participation in the governance and operations of the Institute over many years.

  • Rima Berns-McGown was Immediate Past President, co-chair of several Summer Conferences, and leader in outreach and development of Couchiching Conversations. Rima served on the Board for ten years.
  • Melanie Ching served as chair of marketing during the first year of her Board term;
  • John Gregory was chair of the 2009 Summer Conference and was secretary for several years. He served for six years most recently, having been recruited back to the Board after many years.
  • Gerald Filsen served on the Board for nine years, actively participated in program development, and chaired the 2008 Summer Conference.
  • Margaret Lefebvre is a long-standing contributor to the Institute and served on the Board for well over 15 years. She was president from 2000 to 2002.
  • Martha Hall Findlay served on the Board for three years and chaired the 2012 Summer Conference.
  • Alex Himelfarb served on the Board for three years.
  • David McGown served on the Board for well over 15 years and was president from 2002 to 2006. He chaired several Summer Conferences and led fundraising for many years.
  • Salim Rachid served on the Board for three years, leading the successful development of the Couchiching Conversations series in cities across Canada.


Click here for the full list of the Board of Directors

Couchiching Conversations

Upcoming Conversations

October 1st Toronto Conversation: A Conversation on "Case Study: Somalia, Building Here vs. Building There": The Somali Diaspora's Double Burden will feature Faduma Mohamed, community activist and co-founder of Positive Change; Abdi Hersi, an advocate for equal education and a member of the Mosaic Institute's Advisory Committee; and Hibaq Gelle, a social justice organizer and Couchiching's Conversation curator. Join us at Room 1014, Tel Building, York University from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. This Conversation is a presentation of the Mosaic Institute's Toronto Fall Discussion Series, Couchiching Conversations, and the Centre for Human Rights/Centre des Droits de la Personne.

To register:

Marketing and Communications Committee
Sheila Robertson, Vice-Chair

The Institute carried the conversation on the potential and politics of sport beyond the conference, and was featured on Orillia Sunshine 89 radio station and in the Orillia Packet. Speaker Richard Pound was interviewed by Sunshine 89 about the current use of drugs in sport, and Conference co-chair Heather Keachie discussed the theme of this year's conference. Visit Sunshine 89's website to hear podcasts of the interviews from August 8, 2014. The Orillia Packet covered the "Healthy Bodies, Healthy Citizens" session examining the individual versus government responsibility for getting people moving and healthy.

For a behind the scenes look at four days in YMCA Geneva Park, visit us @Couchiching for twitter coverage of the conference.


An Important New Book

New Beginnings is the sequel to Eric Koch's The Golden Years: Glenn Gould, Marshall McLuhan, Lester B. Pearson, Rene Levesque & John G. Diefenbaker, published by Mosaic Press in 2013. Once again, Eric, the Institute's Director Emeritus, is inventing a new literary form, crafting intimate stories about fascinating and important figures in Canadian history. New Beginnings focuses on key characters in the history of post-World War II Canada - Tommy Douglas, Igor Gouzenko, Maurice Duplessis, Mackenzie King, Vincent, Massey, and Andrew Allan. He captures the essence of these figures through poignant fictional anecdotes. Fascinating, insightful, and informed, these stories appeal to anybody who wants a new take on our Canadian history and its array of characters.

Eric Koch has been at the heart of Canadian public affairs for more than half a century, with a career spent at the CBC followed by teaching at York University. His literary and creative output is unique in Canada. The Oxford Companion of Canadian Literature declared that "Koch's imaginative agility, inventiveness and stylish wit have enabled him to create original and highly entertaining works."

To purchase Eric's book, go to:

Outstanding Alumni Activists - the 2014 City of Toronto Municipal Election

In Ward 2, it's Munira Abukar:


In Ward 1 it's Idil Burale, like Munira, a young Couchiching-er:

Read more:

Board member Drew Fagan, Ontario's Deputy Minister of Infrastructure, is a member of United Way Toronto's 2014 Campaign Cabinet and chair of the Provincial Government Campaign.

Couchiching Alumni in the News

The Globe and Mail, September 10th: Reporter Carrie Tait wrote: "Jim Prentice, soon to be Alberta's 16th premier, has worked for years to earn the trust of two warring camps in the battle to build an oil pipeline to the west coast: the energy industry and Canada's First Nations. Now he faces a conundrum: how to get those camps to trust each other. He was a speaker at the 2011 Summer Conference, "From the Ground Up: Civic Engagement in Our Time"

Read more:

The Globe and Mail, September 8th: Reporter Gary Mason, national affairs columnist covering events in western Canada, profiled Jim Prentice.

Read more:

The Globe and Mail, September 5th: Reporter Bill Curry wrote: "A group of high-profile Canadians - including aboriginal leaders, a former Supreme Court justice and two former prime ministers - are launching a new non-profit organization aimed at tackling the problems facing aboriginal Canadians." Among the leaders of the group, to be called "Canadian for a New Partnership" are former prime minister Paul Martin, a speaker at the 2013 Summer Conference, "Coming Together as One: Navigating the Relationship Between Indigenous People and Canada"; Ovide Mercredi, the former chief of the Assembly of First Nations and a speaker at the 2011 Summer Conference. and former prime minister Joe Clark. On the board of directors is former auditor general Sheila Fraser, also a speaker at the 2013 Summer Conference.

Read more:

The Globe and Mail, August 28th: Tom Flanagan, a speaker at the 2010 Summer Conference, "Watershed Moment of Wasted Opportunity wrote: "Provincial premiers and native organizations are finally taking the initiative on the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women, compromising on their calls for a federally led inquiry in favour of a national roundtable organized by the provinces. Federal involvement was never likely to accomplish much, because almost all programs and services with a bearing on the prevalence of murder are under the control of the provinces or aboriginal people themselves." He is professor emeritus of political science and a distinguished fellow at the School of Public Policy, University of Calgary.

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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