Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Institute to Explore Improvisation as Key to World Harmony

U of G professor Ajay Heble

GUELPH, Ontario June 4, 2013 - University of Guelph Release - How can people learn to live together in an increasingly global world? An important clue may be found through improvised performance practices, says University of Guelph professor Ajay Heble.

Somehow, musicians who have never rehearsed together or even met, who play different instruments, and who may not even share a common language can come together and make magic happen, he says.

“There’s something going on in the moment, something that resonates with musicians and artists adapting to each other,” said Heble, an English professor, musician, and artistic director and founder of the renowned Guelph Jazz Festival.

That “something” might translate to other venues and issues, providing lessons about co-operation, negotiating differences, fostering trust and meeting social obligations.

In fact, musical improvisation just may hold the key to building successful communities, here and around the globe, he says.

The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) seems to agree. The federal agency awarded Heble and his research team a $2.5-million Partnership Grant to launch an International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation. The announcement was made Friday by Gary Goodyear, minister of state, during the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Victoria.

Following extensive peer review, Heble’s initiative was ranked No. 1 among finalists for the grant, which was one of 20 awarded nationwide. The new award builds on an earlier $2.5-million SSHRC Major Collaborative Research Initiatives (MCRI) grant.

“This is incredible news and well-deserved recognition of the groundbreaking work of Ajay and his team,” said Kevin Hall, vice-president (research).

“This prestigious grant is testimony to their creativity, ingenuity and innovation. They’ve established a new field of interdisciplinary study and firmly positioned Guelph as the leader in research on improvisation.”

The new institute stems from the Improvisation, Community and Social Practice (ICASP) research project directed by Heble, now in the seventh year of a seven-year SSHRC MCRI grant. ICASP uses musical improvisation as a model for building successful communities.

Heble plans to broaden the scope with the new partnered International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation. Using improvisation as a teaching and learning tool, he aims to improve society by bringing together the arts, scholarship and collaborative action.

The institute will involve 56 international scholars from 20 institutions -- including McGill University, University of British Columbia, Memorial University of Newfoundland and University of Regina – as well as more than 30 community partners.

“Our MCRI grant established such tremendous momentum – nothing like it existed previously – and we were looking for ways to sustain it in the long term. This institute at Guelph is the next phase in the development of our work,” Heble said.

“To know that our proposal was ranked first is fantastic. It’s wonderful when the work you are doing is recognized and appreciated.”

Institute programs will bring together people from different backgrounds and help build and sustain co-operation, change and adaptation, including in countries all around the world, focusing on three key research priorities: community health and social responsibility; practice-based research; and digital technology.

The venture will build on the successes of ICASP, including forging partnerships with varied groups, facilitating programs for children and at-risk youth through workshops, and creating novel software programs.

“What we’re doing is unique in the world. We’ve propelled Guelph into a world centre for improvisational music as a form of social practice, an engine for change,” Heble said.

He emphasized that conceptualizing the institute and developing the grant proposal was a collaborative effort.

“I’ve benefitted tremendously from the input, support, and involvement of many amazing people,” he said. “In so many ways, our project seems to me to represent an exemplary instance of what a vital, resilient, and socially engaged community can be.”

The team includes Prof. Daniel Fischlin, University Research Chair and professor in Guelph’s School of English and Theatre Studies; Prof. Frederique Arroyas, School of Languages and Literatures; Kim Thorne, ICASP project manager; Prof. Eric Lewis, McGill University; Prof. Ellen Waterman, Memorial University of Newfoundland; and Musagetes, a Guelph-based organization fostering community and culture through art.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Canada's big cities headed for financial crisis

CFIB report demands an urgent conversation among local government leaders on overspending

VANCOUVER, May 29, 2013 /Canada NewsWir/ - With municipal leaders from across the country gathering in Vancouver later this week for the annual Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) conference, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is calling on them to take action on municipal overspending. CFIB today released a report showing that spending has grown more than three times the rate of population over the past 12 years in Canada's three largest cities - Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver - and in Canadian municipalities overall.

"Most of us can appreciate that the cost of running our cities must keep pace with population growth, and factor in the cost of inflation," says CFIB executive vice president Laura Jones. "But our research shows spending is increasing by as much as three to eight times the rate of population growth in Canada's largest cities. Municipal officials claim they lack sufficient revenue, and argue that cities need even more revenue and increased taxing authority. Our report shows the real problem is overspending."

This spending problem is not just confined to Canada's largest cities. From 2000 to 2011, inflation-adjusted spending grew by 55 per cent in all Canadian municipalities while population only grew by 12 per cent. The increases in spending are largely driven by public sector wages and benefits which consume between 52 to 67 per cent of local government operating spending in the three big cities.

"From 2000 to 2011, city staff in all Canadian municipalities increased by 25 per cent, more than double population growth," says Mike Klassen, CFIB BC director of provincial affairs. "Combine that with wages and benefit packages that are more than one-third higher than comparable occupations in the private sector, and you can begin to understand the causes of overspending by our cities. It adds up to a cost of over $10,000 per Canadian family of four during the same period."

"It's time that we changed the conversation to move away from the persistent requests for new tax revenues from our local governments to one that addresses spending challenges—responsible policy-making depends on it," suggests Laura Jones. "CFIB hopes this report is a catalyst to start this critical conversation."

To read Big City Spenders report, please visit www.cfib.ca.

CFIB is Canada's largest association of small and medium-sized businesses with 109,000 members across every sector and region of the country.

Monday, May 20, 2013

New Book CATALYST - A Collection of Commentaries to Get Us Talking

VANCOUVER, May 20, 2013 /Canada NewsWire/ - An awareness of the problems around us isn't enough.

Understanding the issues - how they connect and affect and ripple out to the edges of our lives - is the only hope for a better tomorrow. Catalyst: A Collection of Commentaries to Get Us Talking is a tool to encourage conversation about subjects that are sometimes hard to talk about.

Alex Sangha has produced a critical, yet positive, book that covers a range of table topics from environmental conservation to reconciling religion and sexuality, to depression and arranged marriage.

What sets Sangha apart is that he doesn't just want readers to agree blindly with everything he says; he encourages critical thinking and debate by posing a question at the end of each article.

Catalyst is a great conversation starter and social discussion book designed for the informed citizen, as well as for parents and teachers who want to get young adults thinking and talking about the world around them.

Catalyst is a companion to The Modern Thinker, Sangha's well-received book of 2011. All the articles in The Modern Thinker have been revised and 10 new articles have been added.

About the Author

Alex Sangha is an award-winning social worker and human rights activist who lives and works in the Metro Vancouver area of BC. Sangha has advocated for marginalized people including those with mental illness, South Asian immigrants, and gays and lesbians. Sangha is always interested in meeting new people, developing new friendships and relationships, and learning new things. He believes anyone can bring about social change and make a difference; all it takes is effort.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Hospital CEO salaries continue to rise while frontline healthcare workers struggle to make ends meet

RICHMOND HILL, Ontario, March 28, 2013 /Canada NewsWire/ - Today's Sunshine List reveals that many of the CEOs of Ontario's hospitals continue to receive generous wage increases while salaries for frontline healthcare workers remain frozen.

"It's completely unacceptable that rich CEOs and administrators paid from the public purse should see their salaries increase while many on the frontlines of health care have had their $12 to $14 an hour wages frozen," said Sharleen Stewart, President of SEIU Healthcare, which represents more than 50,000 healthcare workers in Ontario.

"To fix the healthcare system in Ontario we need to start making investments on the frontline, not the bottom line, by putting a hard cap on the salaries of healthcare CEOs who have been pocketing millions, and close loopholes so that the wealthiest 1% pay their fair share toward public healthcare," continued Stewart.

The Sunshine List reveals the tremendous amount of money being spent on administration in the healthcare sector, which, if put into frontline services, would result in better care for patients. In fact, of every public dollar invested in homecare, only 35 cents goes to actual care.

In one of the most outrageous findings, the list reveals that Kevin Mercer, former CEO of the Waterloo Wellington Community Care Access Centre, collected a whopping half-million dollar pay package in 2012 despite being terminated after a government-commissioned report found "dysfunctional" management practices that led to long waiting lists and poor use of funds.

"With more than 6,000 people on waiting lists for homecare, families want to hear care will be there when they need it, not that CEOs have made off with the loot," said Stewart.

Meanwhile, hospitals continue to cut their budgets on government orders but still pay exorbitant salaries to their CEOs and senior managers.

"It's unconscionable that under budget cuts hospitals eliminate beds and lay off the front-line staff who deliver care to patients, while at the same time continuing to pay hospital CEOs and senior administrators hundreds of thousands of dollars," concluded Stewart.

Selected highlights of the 2012 Sunshine List of wages / benefits:

...$753,992 / $74,560 Robert S. Bell, President & CEO of the University Health Network, Toronto.
...$737,003 combined - William Reichman, President & CEO Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care, Toronto.
...$714,999 / $45,627 Barry McLellan, President & CEO Sunnybrook Health Science Centre (A 2% increase in salary from ...$703,311 and nine fold increase in benefits from $5,184) Mr. McLellan's benefits alone are the equivalent of the annual salary of a full-time Registered Practical Nurse working 35 hours a week for 52 weeks.
...10 Vice Presidents at Sunnybrook collected $3,588,622 in total compensation.
...$690,201 combined - Joseph Mapa, President & CEO Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto.
...$453,180 - Gillian Kernaghan, President & Chief Executive Officer, St. Joseph's Health Care, London. (A 6% increase in base salary from $428,700)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

2013 Governor General's Awards in Visual and Media Arts - National Gallery of Canada exhibition celebrates recipients

Marcel Barbeau

On view from March 22 to June 23, 2013

OTTAWA, March 20, 2013 /Canada NewsWire/ - From Friday, March 22 to Sunday, June 23, 2013, visitors to the National Gallery of Canada (NGC) will be able to admire outstanding works by the seven recipients of the prestigious 2013 Governor General's Awards in Visual and Media Arts, awarded by the Canada Council for the Arts, in an exhibition that pays tribute to the laureates. The exhibition is organized by the NGC in collaboration with the Canada Council for the Arts and His Excellency The Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada.

Significant pieces by painter and sculptor Marcel Barbeau; performance artist Rebecca Belmore; filmmaker and director William MacGillivray; sound artist and composer Gordon Monahan; artist-potter Greg Payce, recipient of the Saidye Bronfman Award; and sculptor Colette Whiten are showcased in the exhibition, as is the outstanding contribution of curator and art critic Chantal Pontbriand. The exhibition includes both loans from the laureates and works from the collection of the National Gallery of Canada.

"Once again this year, we are proud to present an exhibition that unites the outstanding works of these great Canadian artists, whose powerful artistic contributions have been shaping our visual arts landscapes for decades," said NGC director and CEO Marc Mayer.

The Awards, funded and administered for the 14th year by the Canada Council for the Arts, were announced March 12 during a press conference held in Montreal. They recognize distinguished career achievements in the visual and media arts by Canadian artists, as well as outstanding contributions through voluntarism, philanthropy, board governance, community outreach or professional activities.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

United Church Says Limits to Freedom of Religion Are Reasonable

TORONTO, Ontario February 27, 2013 /Canada NewsWire/ - In a statement released this afternoon, the Moderator of The United Church of Canada, the Right Rev. Gary Paterson, welcomed today's Supreme Court ruling that says there are limits to freedom of religion when it comes to hate speech.

"Freedom of religion is not absolute," says Paterson. "It does not include the right to engage in religiously motivated hate speech, and it does not extend to conduct that harms or interferes with the rights of others."

Today's court decision, explains Paterson, confirms the position taken by the United Church when it appeared before the Supreme Court in October 2011 as an intervener in the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission versus William Whatcott appeal.

That appeal originated with a human rights complaint that was filed in Saskatchewan against William Whatcott, an activist who was found guilty and fined for distributing anti-gay flyers that he said expressed his religious beliefs about homosexuals. This ruling was later overturned by the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal.

For over 30 years the United Church has publicly condemned discrimination against gays and lesbians and has advocated for the inclusion of sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination in human rights legislation.

The church's long history of commitment to gays and lesbians placed it in a unique position to assist the Supreme Court by bringing different philosophical, religious, social, and moral perspectives from those being offered by other parties.

In its oral presentation to the court the church said,

"The United Church strongly supports the robust protection of freedom of religion for all Canadians, including Mr. Whatcott. However, the United Church recognizes the difference between the expression of a religious view—even a controversial and unpopular view—and hate speech. A prohibition on the latter does not prevent anyone from exercising their freedom of religion."

The church argued

"that all Canadians, including Mr. Whatcott, have the right to hold whatever beliefs their conscience dictates, no matter how abhorrent those beliefs may be to others. Likewise, all Canadians, including Mr. Whatcott, have the right to engage in public debate and to reasonably express their religious views, including views that are critical of homosexuals and other identifiable groups—provided that the words and expressions used are not so extreme, hateful, and dehumanizing that they cross the line into hate speech."

The United Church also argued that hate speech causes real and lasting harm to its victims and to Canadian society. That harm, said the church, is not reduced or mitigated simply because of a claim that the hate speech was motivated by religion. The harm is the same.

"Hate speech encourages derision, hostility, and abuse of already vulnerable persons, causing them pain, indignity, and loss of self-worth," says Paterson. "It encourages others to share in a hateful and discriminatory point of view, which damages Canadian society and threatens social stability."