Homelessness Debate

Night Out in the Cold will test candidates

PAULA TERRY-LANCASTER
SPECIAL TO THE BARRIE EXAMINER

Another autumn, another election.

And, in the Barrie tradition, on Friday, Sept. 16, the Simcoe County Alliance to End Homelessness is hosting its popular Night Out in the Cold, letting marginalized people directly access candidates.

This unique event yanks candidates from their comfort zones, depriving them of the kind of ergonomic chairs they’d enjoy at a city hall debate.

Instead, they must sit outside, no matter the weather — which in past years has featured wind, rain and even snow — a concept intended to give all candidates, including the eventual winner, a better sense of what the homeless must endure.

One hopes this will foster empathy amongst politicians who make so many decisions affecting all our lives.

This is a hotly contested election. After wresting the Barrie seat last time from 12-year Progressive Conservative veteran Joe Tascona, Liberal MPP Aileen Carroll is retiring, opening the race.

Five parties have represented Barrie at both provincial and federal levels over the past 16 years, from NDP on the left to Reform on the right. No one can claim a lock on Barrie voters.

So, come out and size up your candidates. Should Liberal Karl Walsh inherit Aileen’s mantle? Quick with a cheque from Toronto, Carroll also worked the back rooms through a deep list of inside contacts. Is Karl’s Rolodex up to the task? With the ink on his platform still wet, he’ll be in the hot seat to explain how a renewed Dalton McGuinty government can pay for this week’s shiny new promises.

How about local PC candidate Rod Jackson? Despite glowing testimonials from local supporters, his own Ward 3 constituents rejected him after a single term less than a year ago.

Meanwhile, his party leader, Tim Hudak, has been around so often one might be forgiven for thinking his tour bus was on loan to Barrie Transit.

The NDP has drafted a familiar face, Myrna Clark, fresh from a second-place finish in the recent federal election. Can NDP leader Andrea Horwath channel the Orange Wave to provincial politics, and will it be enough to beat the stress of two elections within six months?

It seems fitting the youngest party is offering the youngest candidate: Andrew Miller of the Green Party. New to politics, this local entrepreneur, with several successful projects under his belt, is keen to share innovative ideas, including those in the platform of provincial leader Mike Schreiner.

This year’s Night Out in the Cold takes place at the usual downtown Barrie location, at Memorial Square on Fred Grant Street.

Anti-poverty advocates will march in solidarity from Queen’s Park to Memorial Square, where everyone is welcome to a free dinner served at 5:45 p.m.

At 6:30 p.m., candidates will take audience questions.

So, bring your concerns and have them addressed.

For more information, visit www.endhomelessness.ca.

Paula Terry-Lancaster is the owner of Write First Time, a Barrie-based consultancy, and a former board member of the David Busby Street Centre.

Community Champ II

The flower queen of kindness: COMMUNITY CHAMPION COLUMN

PAULA TERRY-LANCASTER
SPECIAL TO THE EXAMINER

Many long-time Barrie residents remember our city as a kinder, gentler place 20 years ago, before subdivisions began to sprawl on its perimeters, when everyone knew their neighbours, and doing business was an entirely more personal experience, likely involving someone whose family you knew.

That’s the ethos that Carrie Wallisch, 44, tries to bring to her small, independent florist’s shop, City Florist, located in the Barriegate Centre in Allandale, in the small plaza informally known as the Wickie’s Mall.

Carrie was born in Orillia and has lived in Hawkestone for the past 11 years, having moved back to our county after a successful stint in Markham where she was an event planner at the Meadowbrook Golf & Country Club. On Canada Day, she will celebrate the sixth anniversary of her Barrie business. Last year, Carrie provided flowers for 52 weddings.

In 2009, she had 72. Many of them are small celebrations, but, in all cases, Carrie personally works with the bride and her family to make sure the big day is a beautiful and happy one. Clearly, this is a woman who takes pride in her work.

Carrie, who oversees her business herself and doesn’t delegate customer interaction, has attracted and retained a loyal and regular clientele. Every time the door swings open or the phone rings, Carrie welcomes a familiar face or makes friends quickly with a new referral. Almost all of her new customers come via word-of- mouth.

She tells a story of a woman who, for four years running, had phoned from London, Ont., to order flowers around Mother’s Day for her elderly mother who lived in Barrie. This year, no call came in as usual on the Friday, and Carrie worried that the elderly woman had died. On the Saturday, the door swung open and a voice said “Carrie!” It was the elderly woman’s daughter, determined to meet the friendly voice she’d grown so fond of on the phone.

Carrie was nominated as a Community Champion by her peers because she donates both her skill and her flowers to those she feels need them.

One regular client says, “She’s a giver. When I couldn’t attend one of my customer’s official openings because I was terribly ill, I called to order a basket of flowers to be delivered to the location. A beautiful arrangement was indeed delivered, but I also got one too, because I was so sick.”

Donna Douglas, the long-serving past president of Christmas Cheer, tells of Carrie, marooned in her flower shop during the busy Christmas season, asking what she could do to contribute. “Two beautiful arrangements were delivered to families who wouldn’t otherwise have had anything at all,” says Donna.

Says another grateful client: “Carrie is the first to identify someone in need and the first to respond in any way she can.”

Carrie’s story perhaps demonstrates the small joys of close human interaction in an increasingly disconnected world. In contrast to many bureaucratic business practices, Carrie is all about genuine customer service, often at a time of high emotions, such as anniversaries and funerals. She has no minimum order requirement, and will sell you a single flower if that’s all you can afford. She considers it essential that she volunteer some of her time and expertise to those who need help, and hopes that her two daughters, now 11 and six, grow up to give of themselves just as she has done.

During past winters, she’s taken her children to seniors’ residences where she sells individual stems of fresh flowers to the shut-in elderly for a nominal fee, and has her daughters handle the change.

“It’s so important to volunteer,” says Carrie. “If everyone did just a little bit for one other person, the world would be a much kinder place.”

Carrie supports the work of the David Busby Street Centre and the wonderful work its volunteers do to help people with almost nothing in a world that, despite the economic downturn, is still abundant.

“We all benefit from a little encouragement,” she says. “When you help people with so little, it helps you takes stock of your many blessings. Do something for someone else today and see how it makes you feel!”

That’s truly an enlightened, benevolent way of looking at the world.

City Florist is located at 274 Burton Ave., at 705-812-0449, or at www.cityflorist.ca.

The David Busby Street Centre focuses on reducing the impact of poverty, homeless-ness, insufficient employment, addiction and mental health issues through outreach and services to participants in the Simcoe County area. To volunteer, call 705-739-6916, or visit www.busbycentre.ca.

Paula Terry-Lancaster is the owner of Write First Time and a former board director of the David Busby Street Centre.

Community Champion

Those who care, and the need to share: COMMUNITY CHAMPION COLUMN

Paula Terry-Lancaster, Special to the Examiner

Jill Pangborne is a bit of a human dynamo. To enter her charming home in a downtown Barrie neighbourhood is to be greeted by a commotion of paws and at least a couple of wagging tails. Before you’ve hung your hat, it’s clear that this is an animal-friendly place, and that’s before you’ve met either of the cats who came for a week and have stayed for years.

Jill is a veteran volunteer, one of those community champions who give much, take little, and love what they do to pieces. She adores folk music, is on the Board of the Barrie Folk Society, and drives to Nova Scotia every year for the Stan Rogers Folk Festival, an annual event that sees the population of the little fishing village of Canso swell from 600 to more than 8,000 souls.

But, even more than her beloved music, she adores animals – especially ones that have been neglected, abused or ignored. She’s been providing foster care to animals, mainly cats, from the OSPCA shelter on Patterson Road for almost 10 years, and literally hundreds of felines have passed through her tidy bright home on their way to permanent adoption.

She’s the current Chair of the shelter’s community council advisory group, which spearheads the organization’s fundraising efforts and its general advocacy within the city of Barrie. This year, the major fundraiser is the annual walkathon at Heritage Park on Sunday May 15, to which everyone’s welcome – whether accompanied by an animal or not. The shelter also has its annual Gala, The Fur Ball, in November. “Those two events provide the lifeblood that funds all our activities,” says Jill.

Jill moved to Barrie from Vancouver in 1981. She works full-time with an agency that provides support services for public libraries in Ontario, and that helps them share resources via the inter-library loan system. She loves the city, and thinks it’s a vibrant and creative place, both culturally and from the standpoint of community involvement.

“One of the great misunderstandings about animal rescue and shelter organizations is that people think we’re government funded,” says Jill. “We’re not. Our mission is completely donation-driven. The government funds training for investigations officers, but that’s it. Volunteer efforts are absolutely critical to our survival.”

Jill’s strength lies in her large network of voluntary animal ‘foster parents’. “We have a constant need for people who might not be able to have an animal permanently, for a host of reasons, but are prepared to take an animal that will later transition to final adoption,” says Jill. “Sadly, only two per cent of cats that arrive at our facility are ever reclaimed by their owners.”

“Space is a huge issue at our shelter. It’s the same facility that we had when the city’s population was 30,000 30 years ago. Now we’re closer to 130,000 and the bylaws mean we simply can’t accommodate the number of animals that come to us in our physical space without overcrowding. Having a roster of volunteers who are willing to foster animals, often at very short notice, is critical to our efforts.”

The shelter also needs volunteers on site, whether as official ‘cat cuddlers’, dog walkers or simply to help with the massive amounts of laundry an animal shelter generates. All training will be given, and the shelter doesn’t require volunteers in these roles to have had any previous experience with animals.

What makes volunteering such a passion for men and women like Jill Pangborne?

“Well, the old adage, ‘If you want something done, ask a busy person,’ is absolutely true,” says Jill. “Having compulsive control issues is a pretty helpful characteristic within the volunteer sector, as well as being driven to bring about change for the better. Many people who don’t have enough money to donate may be in a position where they’re able to find an hour or two a month to volunteer their time instead, and others will have a particular skill they can bring to an organization on a voluntary basis.”

“The payback for me is what I call the ‘feel-good joy pain,’ that feeling in your heart that you get when you know you’ve made a difference. I would urge people not to wait until they retire to volunteer in an area they love. You’ll have a real focus later in life if you just make a commitment to an hour or two a month to start, and start right away.”

Jill’s friend of 40 years, Debra Scott, describes Jill as “the best friend animals here in Barrie could possibly have. She has a room in her basement which has been home to animals in transition for ten years. She comforts the lonely or mistreated, and transforms their lives. She frets terribly about their welfare.”

Similarly, comforting the lonely or mistreated, and transforming their lives, is what the David Busby Street Centre does – for the most vulnerable humans. “The David Busby Street Centre has the same motivation I do,” says Jill. “It’s all about compassion. Just as I know that I can improve a vulnerable animal’s life, give it a sense of hope and transform its outlook, so the centre helps transform the lives of its participants. It’s the same compassion, just in a different setting.”

Donna Douglas, herself the unofficial matriarch of community champions within Simcoe County, describes Jill as “a woman who quietly goes about her kindness . no bells and whistles. She’s there to support the animal shelter in its special events and its daily need. She cares deeply for animals. But she cares deeply for human beings, too. She’s just one of those critical people in a community, the underpinning of what makes it great.”

Both the OSPCA shelter and the David Busby Street Centre continue to be in need of volunteers. The animal shelter can be reached at 705-728-7311, or at www.barrie.ontariospca.ca . The David Busby Street Centre is at 705-739-6916, or at www.busbycentre.ca

Paula Terry-Lancaster is the owner of Write First Time and a former Board Director of the David Busby Street Centre.

AIDS Committee

Aid for AIDS: It’s never been so easy to help

PAULA TERRY-LANCASTER

As the election nears, with formal advance polling beginning tomorrow, the subject of fiscal responsibility in government continues to be an issue dear to many electors’ hearts. And the current federal deficit means many non-profit and not-for- profit organizations have seen their funding slashed as the government attempts to reduce its costs.

But any reduction in spending on HIV and AIDS prevention is a false economy, says Gerry Croteau, the executive director of the AIDS committee of Simcoe County.

The services his organization has provided, in terms of disease prevention since its incorporation in 1995, are highly cost-effective versus the costs of treating new cases of HIV via our health-care system.

“There are 30,000 people in the province who are living with AIDS, 10,000 of those outside the GTA,” says Croteau, whose organization is part of the Ontario Aids Network. “There are 2,500 new cases diagnosed in Canada each year, and we’ve had seven of those confirmed here in Simcoe County just in the last three months, all of whom were infected locally. A further 30% of people with HIV are unaware of their status.”

Overall, 25% of new infections are diagnosed amongst women, with the fastest growing groups being female teenagers aged 15 – 19 and post-menopausal women in their 50s and 60s.

“This latter group is often made up of women whose partner of a lifetime has recently died,” says Croteau. “They are newly single for the first time in over 30 years, are often lonely, and in many cases completely naïve about the need for safety in today’s ‘dating’ scene.”

According to Croteau, community- based services like his that invest in prevention, care and support programs were able to avoid between 6,728 and 13,456 new infections in the period between 1984 and 2007. At an estimated cost of $370,000 per person with HIV in the province for direct care and treatment costs alone, AIDS service organizations in Ontario saved the health-care system between two and five billion dollars in costs over the same period.

The ACSC is funded in part by the province and also by revenue from the Boardwalk Gaming Centre’s Bingo activity, but those sources provide only 70% of the required funding. The remainder must be raised through corporate and individual donations, in order for the agency to maintain its current level of programs and services.

As part of this year’s fundraising effort, entitled ‘A Taste for Life!’, two area restaurants, The Local Gastro Pub in Barrie at 37 Dunlop St. West and The Bank Cafe at 179 Mill St. in Creemore, are hosting a three-course dinner on April 27 for $40 per person, with a quarter of the proceeds going to the ACSC. A silent auction of local artisans’ work will accompany the Creemore dinner.

For information and reservations, call 705-252-9220 for the Gastro Pub, or 705-520-2233 for The Bank Cafe. Additional info is available at www.atasteforlife.org.The Aids committee of Simcoe County can be reached at www.acsc.ca,or by calling 705-722-6778.

Paula Terry-Lancaster is the owner of Write First Time, a freelance writing consultancy based in Barrie.

Census 2011

Data will always be key to proper planning

PAULA TERRY-LANCASTER

One of this year’s election issues is the decision that the federal government took last year, without any kind of consultation, to scrap the mandatory long-form census for the first time since its inception 35 years ago.

Instead, a voluntary national household survey will be issued to a third of Canadian households, who may or may not choose to complete and return them.

This will likely have a significant impact on municipalities across the country, and Barrie is no exception.

So opposed was the former head of Statistics Canada, Munir Sheik, that he resigned as a sole result of this decision last July. Another former chief statistician, Ivan Fellegi, says that, if these changes had been proposed during his tenure, he’d have done the same thing.

The government has cited ‘Canadians’ privacy issues’ as the reason for the change. However, any personal information underlying the census is only released 92 years after its collection.

The Association of Municipalities of Ontario, as well as citizens’ groups, business federations, professional associations and public and private sector unions, have all vociferously opposed the changes. They feel that the weakened, less accurate data will compromise their ability to make sturdy policy decisions.

They need good and accurate information to provide well-targeted services, eliminate waste and spend taxpayers’ money most effectively.

Because census data is used to determine a lot of program funding and delivery, any community that is rapidly growing like Barrie has the most need for an up-to-date and fully comprehensive set of data to ensure it gets the fair share of services and public spending it deserves.

The data is also used by businesses looking both for markets and for good places to establish themselves, with adequate numbers of potential employees. So if key data is not required to be reported, it weakens the census overall and could harm Barrie’s chances of attracting and keeping good jobs.

This city needs accurate and comprehensive reporting from all its wards and neighbourhoods to determine spending across a whole range of areas, from road construction to social programs. Without it, there could be a significant negative impact on Barrie’s ability to conduct a reliable and accurate analysis of municipal issues.

The city’s strategy and economic development department, as well as the planning department, both use data provided by StatsCan, along with other resources, for their planning and development purposes.

If a statistically sound percentage of households do indeed provide responses to the new national household survey questionnaire, the data may be viable enough for projection and planning purposes.

A voluntary curfew may be effective in keeping teenagers compliantly at home instead of out partying on a Saturday night.

But, by definition, the word ‘voluntary’ is opposite in meaning to ‘mandatory’.

And when it comes to municipal spending on things we need as opposed to things we don’t, guesswork will never be an adequate substitute for careful planning based on measurable, quantifiable data.

Paula Terry-Lancaster is the owner of Write First Time, a freelance writing consultancy based in Barrie. She writes for national, local and Internetbased newspapers.

Federal Parties’ Leaders’ Debate, April 2011

Toronto Rally for Democracy: A Million Voters Keep Hope Alive

Op-Ed – Special to Newz4u.net – by Paula Terry-Lancaster

The website for This Is London, the überchic club on Richmond West that hosted last night’s Rally for Democracy, boasts that it has the ‘opulence of an old-world English Gentleman’s Club’. And that may be true, but it’s precisely the more pernicious aspects of the Old Boys’ club that Elizabeth May, the feisty and tenacious leader of the Green Party of Canada, is seeking to overcome in her quest for just treatment and participation in the upcoming leaders’ debates, the first of which will be televised next Tuesday.

Dr. May is tenacity incarnate, the only one of the national party leaders to have been made an Officer of the Order of Canada. She’s also the only leader to have become a Canadian by choice, having been formerly what many of the world’s peoples continue to regard as a member of the Lucky Sperm Club – an American by birth. Her love of Canada and the values for which it once stood run river deep, mountain high. And her followers, once passionate, now incandescent with rage over what they regard as her arbitrary exclusion from the campaign’s most critical element from which to convert the undecided, have deluged the nation’s media with their indignation at her treatment, apparently (so far) to no avail. In Wildean tradition, however, the attendant coverage has meant her name has been at the forefront of prime-time, home-page news since the starting gun fired on March 26th. She has become to the national media in the past week what The Mary Ellen Carter has become to Canadian folk music.

May, one of the finest, most spontaneous orators of our times, spoke as she always does, never with notes, always with passion and fluidity. One can’t fail to be impressed by the immediate access she has to an infinity of facts and figures, completely engaging her listeners, letting the stats of recent history bear testament to the decline of the country she adores. As well as Greens in Great Numbers, unaffiliated men, women, children and youth crowded the dance floor in the same way grandmothers and young men had attended Saturday’s Slut Walk, determined to register their own personal outrage, to do everything one individual could do. This was not an amorphous community in any sense of the word. This was truly a highly cohesive, engaged, pumped group of supporters. This was the kind of highly personal rallying-round one sees perhaps most often in the wake of an unexpected tragedy, this coalescence of the shocked and the heartbroken around their beloved leader and the ideals they hold so dear.

Who’s Afraid of Elizabeth May?

Camille Labchuk, Deputy Director of Communications, entered the packed venue with May, who had just flown from BC to Toronto and was taking the train to Montreal for the next rally as soon as this one was over. “If you’re angry, express that anger into something positive,” said Labchuk. “For goodness’ sake, go Green!” Constantine Kritsonis, a stalwart supporter who had just organized a flash mob at the CBC, said that executives there, in the last hour, had admitted that in their own polls, 85% of respondents wanted Elizabeth in the debates. Yet still, they had stalled. Ralph Benmergui, former CBC stalwart turned consultant to the Greens, sounding fairly sanguine, said that May’s exclusion from the debates ‘was just a tiny part of the problem. The problem, in its vastness, is the whole need for electoral reform.’ Mobbed by a sea of green, as she made her way to the stage, May confided that Phil Tunley, the lawyer for the consortium, had stated in open court on Tuesday morning that if she took part, ‘perhaps the others wouldn’t show up’. ‘Given what happened last time’, said May, ‘that’s my suspicion.’

Mike Schreiner, Leader of the Ontario Greens, gave a brief address, followed by Chris Lea, former head of the federal party in the 1990s. He called May’s exclusion from the debates ‘patently ridiculous’. ‘In ’93, we had 79 candidates across the country,” he said. ‘Now we have a full slate and the million votes we got last time is higher than most Green parties in the world. If our votes were as concentrated as the Bloc’s, we’d already have members in Parliament.’

May’s words were scarcely audible when she took the stage until the cheers of the crowd finally dwindled. She spoke movingly of students in the Middle East and Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan laying down their lives for democracy whilst at home a group of commercial broadcasters were its arbiters, its heirs apparent. She spoke of Stephen Harper’s having been twice in the last eight weeks to within five blocks of the Green Party offices in the riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands, where she is running full-on against the Conservative incumbent. Whilst there, Harper had, with fanfare, announced the Conservatives’ position on income splitting. ‘It’s been part of our platform for fully six years,’ said May, with no small indignation.

Who’s The They?’

May was at her most vehement on the subject of the ‘corporate control of Canadian journalism’. No one knew how the ‘consortium of broadcasters’ had determined the rules, what the criteria were, what pressures had been brought to bear, and by whom. All we knew is that ‘they’ had spoken. ‘Who’s the They?’ she asked her listeners. She cited a Royal Commission of the 1980s that had declared that the concentration of media was ‘dangerous and unhealthy in a democracy’ – and that, she said, ‘was before Conrad Black bought everything up!’ She described the conflict of media interest as being ‘as broad as a barn door’ and from there chastised, like an authoritative schoolmarm, the current Prime Minister’s Office for its radical departure from traditional Canadian custom and practice. ‘The PMO under Lester Pearson,’ she said, ‘was a handful of stenographers. Now we have hundreds of people, living on tax dollars, deciding to put the interests of the Conservative Party ahead of the interests of the Canadian people! They cheer when they’re told to cheer, they jeer when they’re told to jeer, they sit down, they shut up. That’s not democracy, that’s an elected dictatorship!’ At this point, the crowd went wild, and television cameras clashed with each other at the foot of the podium.’

The American-style partisan nature of Canadian politics – ‘like a disease running rampant’ – was the next target of May’s wrath, except it’s hard to interpret it as wrath: it’s as though she’s really suffering with this, as though what politics has become is to her a very profound and heartfelt disappointment. ‘The whole thing is directed by spin doctors, who have no idea what they’re winning for, except for their own political gain.’ As to the chattering classes’ ‘fear’ of a coalition, May was completely adamant. ‘One of the most effective governments this country ever had was under Lester Pearson in coalition with David Lewis. They gave Canadians their best ever investment in the future: healthcare!’ Once again, the crowd became a swirling green sea, as the simplicity, the acuity of May’s words took hold.

I’m So Proud of You!’

May wants a Commission appointed to examine what took place on the streets of Toronto during the G20 summit. She talked about the erosion of women’s rights under Harper; the underhand excision of the clause giving female civil servants pay equity; the cutting of funds to Planned Parenthood around the world and, famously, to KAIROS. ‘No wonder Canada has lost its seat on the Security Council, and has one of its own being tortured in Guantanamo Bay because of having been forced to be a child soldier!’ she said, ever more emotionally. ‘We’re one out of one hundred and seventy countries that declares that a legally binding treaty like Kyoto suddenly means nothing to us at all’.

And then she spoke of the culture in Ottawa of divisiveness ‘even when consensus is sitting right in front of you’. She speaks, movingly, of the Veterans’ Affairs advocate, Sean Bruyea, lamenting the fact that the Harper government now pays out one lesser lump sum to vets, to avoid giving a greater sum in total over time. ‘He told me that to veterans, and to the more than 100,000 Canadians who have given their lives for their country, my exclusion from the debates is offensive.’ And she spoke of the outpouring of support she has received across the country, not just from the Ombudsman of Radio Canada, the Ombudsman of the CBC, public figures like Margaret Atwood, Farley Mowat, acerbic right-wing journalist Andrew Coyne – ‘He’s angrier than I am’ – and former PMs Joe Clark and Paul Martin. ‘But just last night,’ she said, ‘something happened that brought tears to my eyes. The Right Honourable John Turner said to me “I’m so proud of you.”’

Yesterday morning, before the Rally, the Green Party platform had been announced in Ottawa, under the triptych ‘Smart Economy, Strong Communities, True Democracy’. As May left the podium after a plea for a return to the traditional values of Canada – ‘Not “what’s in it for me?”, but “what’s in it for us?’” – and disappeared into the arms of her energized and adoring audience, I found myself thinking of the late June Callwood, Queen Mother of Canadian social justice, and found myself smiling in the darkness. I’m pretty sure she’d have had a thing or two to say about the current state of civic affairs, and I’m pretty sure Dr. Elizabeth May knows exactly what she’d be likely to have said.

Paula’s Concert Review — The Barrie Advance

THE BARRIE ADVANCE May, 2008

From Living Room to Bar-room: A house concert with Big Rude Jake, Sandra Ruttan and Paula Terry-Lancaster

By Edward Moll

View in Context

In its quiet north central residential district, Barrie had a fresh and rude awakening last weekend. It was a small, living room affair, no laser light shows or industrial strength subwoofers hammering away at the body and brain. This city attracts big-name stars to the noisy glamour of nightclubs and festivals or to the tied-down and dressed-up ambience of a symphonic concert. None matched the intimate conviviality of the house concert at the home of Sandra and Rob Ruttan last Saturday night of May 10th.

It was a delightful evening of original music, fronted by two of Barrie ’s exceptionally talented musicians, Sandra Ruttan and Paula Terry-Lancaster, and featuring singer and songwriter Jacob Hiebert, also known as Big Rude Jake.

Sandra opened the evening with a folk song accompanied by Alyssa Wright’s lovely cello counterpoint. Sandra’s poignant accounts of personal mid-life explorations and her musical settings of husband Rob’s poetry gave us a glimpse of a soul’s pilgrimage. Whether it was “Homeward Bound” (not Paul Simon, by any means), “Three steps forward, Two Steps back”, (a fetching five-four audience participation piece) or “Like a Woman” (a meditation of a life change), Sandra’s melodic line, voice and considerable keyboard skills reminded us “there is a path through every moment”. Her songs, a well-consummated marriage of poetry and music, carried us with lively images and deep feeling. They are a testament to tenacity and courage to follow your heart’s true path.

Sandra, by the way, will be a featured soloist with the Huronia Symphony Orchestra this coming fall, to play Mozart’s Piano Concerto in C major – the one with the central movement that was used in the movie “Elvira Madigan”.

Paula’s songs followed with a biting, acerbic wit and keen, discerning eye of the human condition. Love lost in “Mavourneen’s Lament”, love sought and not quite found in “Maple Sugar Sadness”, a wonderfully moving Gospel-tinged ode to her dying father in “Vandals in the Temple”, and the shattering images of a crippled justice system in “Fanfare for the Common Felon”; these songs conveyed a sense of personal longing, anger, fear and hope in Paula’s own journey of change and discovery. As she sang “In the heart of every raindrop/ is the fear of how exactly it will die,” I caught more than a whiff of the mortality and joy our human existence brings us. These women opened the way with word and melody to the headline of the evening – Big Rude Jake.

Big Rude Jake is Jacob Hiebert, songwriter and singer extraordinaire. He stopped at my place for a rest and supper before the concert. It turned out to be his first house concert. The delayed bus trip brought him in later than expected but we still had time to talk of philosophy (Nietzsche and Wittgenstein), religion(Mennonites, Zwingli and Buddhism), friends (why strong faith sometimes collapses completely in a life crisis) and family (remembering to phone home) – anything but music. That was for later, when the music did its own talking.

Jake is a man of a Mennonite background whose own journey to Zen Buddhism brings him to sing a mean and sometimes singularly raunchy lyric and piercing observation of the darker side of humanity. He has six CDs to his credit (and is working on a seventh) and a band that plays regularly at the Reservoir Lounge in Toronto . His style harks back to the traditions of early 20th century North American jazz and blues – think of Robert Johnson, Rev. Gary Davis, King Oliver, Fats Waller and Sonny Burke. There’s a big echo of Leon Redbone in the music we heard that night. That, and throw in some good old smoke- and whiskey-tinged not-so-double-entendre whorehouse blues, New Orleans funeral march, pre-war German Cabaret, punk, and some very dark lyrics (“Don’t speak to me of love/ on your lips the words sound like a sickness…), Jake sang and played with just the right amount of irony and fun – which meant in some cases being completely over the top. It was as if Noel Coward and Baudelaire got together at the Simcoe Hotel and shared more than a couple of beers on a boozy rain drenched Saturday night.

With his two-tone brogues tapping the hardwood floor, Jake regaled us with road stories and banter– which, at a house concert, turns into more of a conversation than a heckle. It was a musical joyride that took us through the lives of fools, ca ds, cynics, sad sacks (“Lovesick Lullaby,”) romantic dreamers and a particularly dark one, “The Road out of Hell”. He sang a sharp commentary of an economic downturn in Toronto , “Hard Junction Blues,” that evoked the smell of old cheap plastic and hot exhaust-drenched pavement. And we laughed ourselves silly as, in the tradition of double-entendre blues, he performed a hilarious take on Internet porn addiction and auto-eroticism. Something to do with a monkey getting caught in a candy box…

Who knew that a bartender’s view of the world could be so right, so cool and so damn funny?

Well done, Paula, Sandra and Jake! We hope to hear more from you.

The cultural planners of Barrie would do well to pay attention to these living room soirees. They are the seeds from which our community life grows.

Edward Moll is the Business Manager of the Huronia Symphony Orchestra and a teacher at The Huronia Arts Academy and Bach 2 Rock. To contact him, please call 730-5705.

Vandals in the Temple Premiere — The Barrie Advance

THE BARRIE ADVANCE May, 2008

Local musicians open for legendary swing star

By Paula Terry-Lancaster – Special

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Two local musicians have been invited to open for Toronto-based singer/songwriter, Big Rude Jake, at a concert here in Barrie on Saturday May 10th.  The pair, Sandra Ruttan and Paula Terry-Lancaster, were spotted by Jake, whose real name is A. Jacob Hiebert, when they were performing their original work at The Free Times Café on College Street in Toronto recently.

Big Rude Jake is one of the country’s leading proponents of house concerts, or informal gatherings of friends who come together in private homes to listen to performers.  In this kind of setting, especially popular within folk music circles, ticket prices are lowered because no expensive venue needs to be rented; the artists are guaranteed a packed house and a convivial crowd, and the concert itself becomes very intimate and rewarding for performers and audience alike.

Jake has been a legendary swing performer on the Toronto scene for many years.  His music has appeared both on film and television and he has six albums under his belt.  In addition to international touring and his regular performances, Jake has created a program called Aqua Vitae, which makes live music accessible to the elderly in nursing homes and hospitals.  His recent performances have had rave reviews in the Globe & Mail, the Toronto Star, Flare magazine and the Edmonton Journal.  His seventh album, Quicksand, is due to be released this summer.  For more information, visit www.bigrudejake.ca.

Sandra Ruttan, the owner of StudioVivo, will feature as the guest soloist for a performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto Number 21 in C Major with the Huronia Symphony Orchestra this autumn.  She also teaches piano at the Huronia Arts Academy on Toronto Street and has made regular appearances with Opera Barrie, the Apollo Chamber Orchestra, the New Tecumseth Singers and the Amity Piano Trio.

Selections of Paula Terry-Lancaster’s poetry will be published in the international journal, Labour of Love, this summer.  She was one of five judges at the Toronto Slam Poetry finals last week, and won the Audience Choice award at last month’s Toronto WordJam competition. Her new CD, Vandals in the Temple, is due to be released this summer.

Tickets for the Saturday May 10th concert, which starts at 7.30pm at 10 Lay Street, near the Duckworth/Wellington St. intersection, can be obtained by phoning 728-3079

For more press information, contact Paula at hellopaula123@yahoo.co.uk

Hurricane Carter Takes Busby Audience by Storm — The Barrie Advance

EXCLUSIVE TO THE BARRIE ADVANCE  May, 2008

HURRICANE CARTER TAKES BUSBY AUDIENCE BY STORM

By Paula Terry-Lancaster – Special

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Dr. Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter stormed into town last Friday night as the Guest Speaker for the Third Annual David Busby Street Centre Gala at Georgian College.

The audience of almost 150 people listened attentively as the former middle-weight champion prize fighter told his story of wrongful conviction for a crime of which he was innocent, and the horrors of spending over 20 years incarcerated in a New Jersey jail, ten of them in solitary confinement and six of those in an underground cell.

Carter’s story is indeed harrowing – but his message was one of humour, hope and liberation, and the ability of the human spirit to triumph over even the most desperate adversity – what he referred to as ‘the triumph of substance over form’.

Dr. Carter, who now lives in Toronto, and has two Honourary Doctorates in Law, one of which is from York University, began by telling his audience how thrilled he was to be in Barrie and helping to support an organization like the Busby Centre ‘whose mandate is to help people who need help’.

In fact, said Dr. Carter, now aged 71, he was pleased to ‘be anywhere’, given that he had narrowly escaped ‘state-sponsored execution’ – he had been committed to death row  – and that it had been only the quality of legal representation that he received that had made a critical difference and enabled him to escape capital punishment.

In 1985, New Jersey State Judge Haddon Lee Sarokin overturned Carter’s conviction for a triple murder which took place in Carter’s hometown of Paterson, N.J. in June of 1966, concluding that that the prosecution’s case ‘had been based on racism rather than reason, and on concealment rather than disclosure.’

Carter spoke of the ‘institutionalized hatred’ that typified the racial discrimination blacks suffered throughout the US until the late 1960s, which resulted in a huge lack of equality in housing, education, jobs, justice and basic human respect.  At his trial, the investigator, the police, the judge, the family and friends of the victims, the state witnesses, the court clerks, the guards and the jury were all white.  ‘I, at that time,’ said Carter, ‘was black.’

His message to the crowd was that there is a successful approach to life that is applicable to all people, ‘not just prize fighters or athletes, but everyone, whether you shine shoes or ride a spaceship’.  Carter’s prescription for life comes in four parts: Dare to dream; visualize your dream; seize every opportunity, and go the distance.

Dr. Carter said that this was the strategy that he’d learnt as a boxer in his early adult life and had moved him from self-hatred as a young person to self-love.  It had also sustained him throughout his prison experience.

‘When I was convicted of murder, I suddenly found that instead of fighting for a championship medal, I was now fighting for my life.’

Carter talked with great humour about what it was like being portrayed by Denzel Washington in the 1999 film The Hurricane, directed by Canadian Norman Jewison. ‘Until I saw Denzel portray me on the screen, I had no idea how good looking I was,’ said Carter.  He was also the subject of Bob Dylan’s famous 1975 song entitled Hurricane.

Carter considers personal powerlessness to be the ‘most prevalent social emotion’ of our times.  He talked about how society today is largely fear-based.  ‘People are afraid of immigrants, drugs, crime, toxic water, their inability to pay the rent, or the fact their children’s lives will not be more successful than their own.’

‘Fear is everywhere,’ he said.

Helping people who need help

He said that there’s nothing too small one person can do for another that won’t make a difference.  He talked about a mentor called Ali Hussein whom he met while he was parachuting out of planes over Germany in the U.S. army in 1966 ‘who became my David Busby Street Centre, my counsellor and my helper.’

Hussein believed in him, helped him overcome his hereditary speech impediment, channel his anger positively, believe in himself and overcome his self-imposed limitations.  When he developed the ability to think positively about himself he quite literally ‘found his voice,’ and a whole new world opened up to him.

Carter attributes his qualifying for the 1956 Olympic Games directly to the influence of Ali Hussein on his life, 54 years ago.

Carter’s message was one of optimism, of the need to never give up and to ‘keep struggling no matter what obstacles you face, because life is an obstacle course but you’ve got to run it’.  His final words were: ‘Hate put me in prison, but love busted me out’.

Carter insisted that the work of the David Busby Street Centre is critical because it involves people helping people who need help – just as he himself needed the help of Ali Husssein as a young man.  As Don McNeil, DBSC Chair reminded the audience: ‘When the Centre first opened in 1993, we saw one person every day.  Now we see one person every two minutes.’

On average, 180 people a day come to the DBSC, which is desperately seeking a new home after 14 years of being located in the basement of Trinity Anglican Church on Collier Street.  The current space has become completely inadequate in terms of providing services to the huge numbers of clients who need use it  The Centre sees a total of 38,000 clients a year, the same as was the population of Barrie just 25 years ago.

The youngest member of the audience at the $100-a-ticket Gala was Joel Fortin, 14, who is in Grade 9 at Nouvelle Alliance Secondary School and who lives in Barrie’s east end.  ‘I saw the movie and thought the character of Hurricane Carter was really interesting,’ said Joel.  ‘I’m really glad to be here tonight because the money we raise will go to helping people who really need help.’

Said Jeremy Vos, who’s a full-time counsellor and outreach worker at the DBSC: ‘I learn so much from the clients I serve, because they’ve all suffered so much.  I respect them because they’re survivors.  I always gain new insights from them – many of them are some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met.  In the 24 months I’ve worked at the DBSC I’ve received only respect from the participants.  Our clients are extremely loyal to the staff members, and it’s truly a pleasure to support people who need such support.’

The problem of poverty

Kyla Shay, aged 24, trained in community work at George Brown College and did her placement at DBSC, where she’s now employed as an administrative assistant.  ‘I had no idea how big the problem of poverty was in my hometown till I joined the staff of the Busby Centre,’ said Shay.  ‘I just love my job, helping people.’

Kim Beany, owner of Mr. Rooter Plumbing and a partial sponsor of the Gala event, said that, in his view, society should be judged solely on the way in which it treats its most vulnerable members.  ‘It’s a feature of being human, that we should feel elation when we’re giving as opposed to taking,’ he said.

Part of the problem social agencies like the DBSC face is the abject lack of affordable housing for society’s most marginalized citizens.  Chair Don McNeil confirmed that in Peel Region, the waiting list for housing is 21 years, while in Simcoe County alone there are 3,200 people on the waiting list, many of them families with children.

‘The people we see at the DBSC, for the most part, are not imports,’ said McNeil.  ‘People sometimes think our centre is a magnet, attracting the homeless from other parts of the Province.  It isn’t.  Most of the people we see are from right here in Barrie, from our midst.’

McNeil’s view is that neither the County of Simcoe nor the City of Barrie is doing nearly enough in terms of developing affordable or mixed-use housing.  ‘It costs far less to taxpayers to support our clients by providing affordable housing than it does to run shelters and organizations like ours,’ he said.

No one from City Council attended the Gala event, which local Family Lawyer, Rose Adams, a supporter of the Centre, said was ‘extremely disappointing,’ though both our federal and provincial representatives and all the candidates for the next federal election were present.

Said Green Party candidate, Erich Jacoby-Hawkins, a regular volunteer with the Out of the Cold program: ‘We need comprehensive housing support, from shelters to transitional housing through to affordable home ownership.   It costs taxpayers far less to provide housing than to deal with poverty and its effects.’

Federal  NDP candidate, Myrna Clark, believes that the provision of childcare can make a critical difference to parents in poverty:  ‘It makes so much more sense to support these people at the “front door” when they’re struggling, than at the “back door” of the prison system, which is where many of these people will end up if we don’t support them now.’

Downtown resident, Laurie O’Toole, who donated many of her possessions to the DBSC when she herself became homeless, and who is now a regular volunteer at the Centre, confirmed that what people need most is ‘encouragement, honesty, kindness, generosity, acceptance and understanding.  I know what it’s like to feel abandoned by society.  I get a lot of satisfaction from helping others who feel the same way I did, and from giving them the sort of direction I never had.’

Louise Stinson, Executive Director of the DBSC, announced that an anonymous donation of $15,000 had just been received for the Centre’s Capital Campaign.  To donate funds to help the Centre find new and adequate premises; to support the ongoing work of the Centre, to get involved or to volunteer, phone Louise at 739-6916 or visit www.busbycentre.ca

Creativity & Parkinson’s — The Barrie Advance

SPECIAL REPORT: THE BARRIE ADVANCE April, 2008

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Barrie lawyer uses creativity to battle Parkinson’s

By Paula Terry-Lancaster: Special to The Advance

Downtown lawyer, Peter Thompson, hasn’t let the diagnosis of an incurable illness almost six years ago deter him from his creative passions. A former professional musician, and a painter and photographer of some repute, he’s found that in the time he’s had Parkinson’s Disease, his creative endeavours have sustained him through the many difficulties associated with his illness.

Born in London, Ontario, in 1950, Peter’s family has deep roots in Simcoe County and Huronia. His father was appointed a Judge in Owen Sound in 1970, and Peter’s sister, Ruth Lovell, is currently Mayor of that town, having been elected 5 years ago and acclaimed in November, 2006. Peter went to elementary school in London but attended St. Andrew’s College in Aurora during his high-school years as a boarding student.

Returning to London to attend the University of Western Ontario in 1970, Peter graduated with a Liberal Arts degree in 1976, taking two years off to perform in Europe. During his student days at Western he was a familiar face on the local folk music scene, where he sang and played a variety of acoustic guitars.

Peter first moved to Penetanguishene in 1987, a town in which his ancestors had been especially prominent and where the family had always had a cottage on Georgian Bay. Peter’s grandfather, A. B. Thompson, was both an M.P.P. and M.P., representing Simcoe Centre provincially and Simcoe East federally between 1989 and 1935. Stephen Leacock, the Orillia-born humourist, regularly introduced Peter’s grandfather prior to his making speeches in the area on his political campaigns.

Peter’s great-great-grandfather, William Thompson, was almost more prominent than his son, having defeated William Lyon McKenzie for political office in the mid-1800s. Peter’s great-grandfather, A. A. Thompson, was the first Mayor of Penetanguishene, and is depicted in a mural, painted thirty years ago, which still appears at the corner of Water and Main Streets in the town. A. A. Thompson was also a prominent fur trader and was made an honourary Chief by the Iroquois tribe who regularly came down from Lake Nipissing to Penetanguishene to trade with him.

Peter’s uncle, A.B. “Aff” Thompson II, was the very first Canadian Prisoner of War in World War II. Aff later earned fame as one of the few survivors of the notorious “Great Escape” from the Stalag Luft III in Germany in 1943, and practised law both privately and as a Crown Attorney in Simcoe County until his death in 1985.

Peter’s own father, the Honourable Justice D.G. E. Thompson, Q.C., affectionately known as Alphabet Thompson, was appointed to the bench in Grey County in 1970 and remained a prominent judge both there and in Simcoe County until his retirement in 1990.

When Peter saw the Beatles in Toronto in 1966, it was an event that he claims changed his life in terms of wanting to be a musician. Despite the family tradition of a career in law beckoning, he’s managed to make a career for thirty years in both disciplines. After leaving Western he was a full-time musician on the road, travelling in both North America and Europe and returning in 1981 to begin a degree in Criminology at Simon Fraser University in B.C.

After only a year of the three-year degree program he was accepted by the University of Alberta to attend Law School, from which he graduated in 1985. After articling in his home town of London, Ontario, he became a qualified lawyer in 1987 and joined two law firms in Midland where he worked till 1991, when he took a sabbatical year in Sweden just after the birth of his first daughter, Mimmi, now 18 at a student at Western herself (he has two more children – Lina, 15, a student at Bear Creek, and Erik, 13, a student at Georgian Oaks Academy). He returned to work at the firm of Graham, Wilson, Green here in Barrie and set up his own practice in 1997 on Owen Street where he remains to this day, specializing in personal injury law.

Peter was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s Disease in 2002, a condition with no known cause for which there is no known cure. The diagnosis was an event that co-incidentally put him in the national news for a time. His doctor at the Toronto Western Hospital had been running late for Peter’s scheduled appointment, at which his definitive diagnosis of PD was made. In consequence, Peter was ten minutes late returning to his vehicle which was parked in the hospital car park under the management of the conglomerate, Impark. He was given a thirty-five dollar ticket, which a week later increased to seventy dollars.

Peter considered this unfair, and sent a letter telling the company that the reason for his being late was that he had just been diagnosed with an incurable disease. He enclosed a cheque for fifteen dollars, having already paid $7.50 originally on a daily maximum rate of $10.00. Impark sent it back and put the fee into collection, and Peter received at least 500 harassing calls for a period of over a year. Reading one day about illegal parking tickets in The Toronto Star, he contacted a reporter there telling her about his own personal experience.

Peter’s parking ticket story made it all the way to Premier McGuinty’s office and the office of the Privacy Commission. He was on the front page of The Star for two days running, and also interviewed on television by the CBC. Peter threw down the gauntlet, saying he’d donate seventy dollars to the Parkinson’s Society of Canada, if both Impark and Canadian Bonded Credit Ltd., the collection agency, would each donate a thousand dollars to it. They did, and Peter sent both organizations tee-shirts from his Super Walk for PD, together with plaques in recognition of their generosity. Two local lawyers each also donated a thousand dollars as a result of watching Peter’s television interview, and numerous phone calls were received by the media from people with similar stories to tell.

In terms of coping with the real physical disabilities that Parkinson’s patients suffer, Peter has been very buoyed by the books of British physician, author and media-guru, Dr. Oliver Sacks, currently Professor of Neurology at Columbia University. In his latest book, Musicophilia, Sacks talks about the very real, clinically-proven benefits of creative enterprise to people living with PD, and states that there is real medical evidence that creativity slows the progress of the disease and mitigates the symptoms.

“Probably one of the worst spin-offs of PD is the effect it has on one’s self-confidence,” says Peter. “That becomes a vicious circle as one avoids risks of failure. Not knowing how one’s body will react from hour to hour is not exactly inspirational. When I’m hiking or fishing, my symptoms often disappear. When I spend a few hours playing my music, painting or taking pictures, I can forget about my illness for a while. I like to stay active and optimistic most of the time.”

Peter’s creativity doesn’t just extend to his music – he released a second CD a year ago entitled Taking A Dive (Heart First) on which he’s accompanied by several internationally-known folk musicians – but he also has a passion for painting and photography. Peter was the only Canadian to have his work accepted by the New York-based Parkinson’s Disease Foundation for both their annual international brochure and their 2008 calendar, both of which feature the photographs and paintings of people with PD from around the world.

Since then, two more of his photographs have been accepted by the Foundation for sale at an auction at the organization’s annual Gala at the Prince Hotel in New York City on May 14th. All the proceeds will go to the PDF, the largest international PD research organization, whose mission is to fund research into the causes of, and potential cure for, this very debilitating disease which affects over 100,000 Canadians and over 200 people living in the City of Barrie alone.

Selected paintings and photography by Peter Thompson and Barrie residents living with PD can be viewed at the Hope on Display event, organized by the local chapter of the Parkinson’s Society of Canada on Tuesday, April 1st from 1pm – 4pm in the Rotunda at City Hall.

More information on Parkinson’s Disease is available at www.pdf.org, www.pdcreativity.org, general.info@parkinson.ca or at 1 800-565-3000. Samples of Peter Thompson’s work can be seen at www.peterthompson.ca.