The Tipping Point: The Age of the Oil Sands

I was honoured and privileged to have attended a special event at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto for an advanced screening of a new documentary by filmmaker Niobe Thompson and environmentalist and broadcaster David Suzuki. The film is called The Tipping Point: The Age of the Oil Sands which will be featured in a special 2-hour episode of The Nature of Things on CBC on January 27 at 8pm on CBC-TV.

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UNESCO Global Forum

The second Global Forum on the Power of Peace, 28-30 October 2009 was a timely occasion to build on past discussions, collaborations and activities. Within the context of difficult economic times and rapidly changing social realities, the place and efficacy of a Power of Peace Network can be reassessed.

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Taking Effective Policy Action

I recently attended a forum called, Taking Effective Action. The forum was part of Opportunities Waterloo Region‘s Community Conversations Series. The forum gave some practical advise to develop a toolkit of steps to impact policy change. The presenter was Nancy Dubois. Nancy has been a consultant with The Health Communications Unit (THCU) since 1998. She works with groups across the province in areas of planning, evaluation, policy development, sustainability, health communication and comprehensive workplace health.

Opportunities Waterloo Region, or just Opportunities for short, acts as a regional convener – a community support organization – exclusively focused on facilitating poverty prevention and reduction strategies, providing opportunities for the community to generate ideas and take action, building on existing assets and increasing community strengths.

The organization is currently underway in a campaign to influence public policy at a regional level. That campaign is for the Living Wage. The Region of Waterloo is considering implementing a Living Wage Policy for its employees and contractors and Opportunities is hard at work to inform the councillors and the citizens of the region to support such a policy. Click here for a PDF of a report from the Social Services for the Living Wage.

Here are some notes on the Conversation:

What is Policy?

  • At a macro level, policy provides more equitable access to the determinants of health; determinants such as income, housing, etc. Nancy comes from a health promotion background, so many of her speaking points make reference to health related policies, however, she did drive the message that health is very closely related to other measures of the quality of life of an individual.

“Canada is extremely progressive in terms of health promotions.” – Nancy

  • Good for Canada. I was not aware of this and it made me proud. A number of times, Nancy made reference to anti-smoking campaigns in Canada and how successful they have been. I have noticed that compared to other countries, when I look around in a populated area in Canada, there is a noticeable lack of smokers. Good clean air for all!

Why take a policy approach?

  • This question makes sense considering the audience in the room. Many of the participants of the conversation were coming from the non-profit sector that are actively engaged in community building projects and campaigns to influence attitudes. Other approaches that these organizations may take to influence and inform populations of people are awareness campaigns (large scale events to inform people of an issue), and educational campaigns (for example, the anti-smoking campaigns that used advertisements to inform people of the ill effects of smoking).

“Good” Policy is…

  • economically feasible
  • politically acceptable
  • socially acceptable
  • administratively and technologically possible

What kinds of policy work is the Ontario Government doing in regards to poverty reduction?

  • Bill 152: Poverty Reduction Act (May, 2009)
  • Ontario Poverty Reduction Strategy (Dec 2008)
  • Full-Time Kindergarden

Nancy provided everyone with a handout on how to do policy work. It is a short and clear step by step process to engage in policy change.

Click here to download a PDF of the full handout–it is a great resource.

Peace Day at UW

In 1981, a United Nations resolution was passed to celebrate an International Day of Peace and to coincide with the opening of the General Assembly. In 2002, the General Assembly officially declared September 21 as the permanent date for the International Day of Peace.

To celebrate this day, I organized an event with some fabulous helpers at The University of Waterloo and called it Peace Day at UW. The theme of the event was called, Pinwheels for Peace, and we had the campus community design and plant pinwheels on the campus green in a very central location in order to raise awareness of this momentous day.

Thank you to the Waterloo Region’s newspaper, The Record, for covering the story and raising more awareness for the day.

From the The Record:

Children, university students plant 300 ‘pinwheels for peace’

September 22, 2007



Peace is a pinwheel on a warm late-summer day.

Girl Peace Day UW
A student from the University of Waterloo plants a pinwheel for peace.

Worried that International Day of Peace might pass unnoticed, psychology student Nick Petten gave peace a chance yesterday on the University of Waterloo campus.

He invited children in a campus preschool where he volunteers to make “pinwheels for peace.”

Yesterday, the four- and five-year-old children planted their pinwheels in the ground on campus and drew pictures on the sidewalk.

University students followed the children’s example, colouring pinwheels and dotting the landscape with them.

Petten, 23, was surprised at the response.

By 1 p.m., there were 150 pinwheels. By 3 p.m., there were 300.

“A lot of people asked about it and were genuinely interested.”

Petten said he was reminded in class a couple of days ago that the United Nations passed a resolution in 1981 to recognize Sept. 21 as International Day of Peace.

“It’s definitely an ideal, but I think it’s a very important ideal that everyone should know about and should think about too.”

He said he wanted to “normalize” the concept of peace so students don’t see it as a “far-off” idea.

The sight of brightly coloured pinwheels on campus made people stop and think about how they can participate in peace, Petten said.

“Peace is a very broad term. It goes from a global scene right down to personal interaction.”

Petten himself was reminded of the importance of peace when he worked at an emergency youth shelter in Kitchener this summer.

“You hear a lot of stories about unpeaceful family situations,” he said.

“Some of the kids are homeless; some of them are kicked out of the house; some of them have come in contact with the law and had to be removed from the house.

“Most of the projects and jobs I pick up are kind of centred around some sort of peace-building, reconciling families, and facilitating communication between people.

“I think that’s all directly related to peace.”

For the children who started off the event yesterday, it was clear that peace is a concept they understand.

One child said it’s all about “letting your mom have peace and quiet,” Petten said.