Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Q4, 2019

Welcome, somewhat belatedly, to the final AQR of 2019!!

The Communications Committee hopes that you will enjoy reading the latest edition of the Academy Quarterly Review in which we showcase more of your fellow members, revealing aspects of their lives that may be unknown to you.

We begin with our former President Margrit Eichler’s account of her work with Our Right to Know, previously published in the TAN newsletter. TAN is the umbrella organization for Third Age Learning groups in Ontario, but since it is unfamiliar to many members, we asked webmaster Cathy Spark to describe its origins and function.

Next, we invite you to share some of Brian Gaston’s passion in the first of a new series of articles by Academy photographers, followed by an illustrated interview with Caroline Gray.

We wrap up with Old Black Mask by Lorna Poplak – a particularly gruesome tale on a subject all too familiar to most Torontonians.

We welcome your comments and suggestions for future issues.

Gillian Long, Editor

Events Calendar

January 15  -  Forum - Measles: the Disease, the Vaccine, and the Legislation

January 29 - Forum - Slip and Fall Prevention

February 12 - Forum - Bel Canto Canada

February 26 - Forum - What Makes a Good Life?

March 11 - Forum - Presenting the Presenters

March 25 - Forum - Spring Thaw Comedy Show

March 26 - Spring Luncheon

March 30 - Term Ends


The Harper government waged a war against science which was particularly aimed at environmentalism and human rights.

They used multiple means to repress public science - by committing a  knowledge massacre: closing libraries, dumping their books into dumpsters or sending them into landfills. Some government scientists had to borrow students’ library cards to access necessary information after their primary library was closed.

Environmentalism in Canada was officially considered a “domestic terrorist threat”. The Census, one of the most important ways in which we as Canadians know ourselves, was converted from a mandatory survey into a voluntary one, increasing its cost while hugely diminishing its value.

Many research organizations were shut down, others had their budgets slashed.

Government scientists were forbidden to talk with the media about their work. It would have been laughable had it not been tragic: a science fiction author who was an employee of Environment Canada was prohibited by a call from the Office of the Environment Minister to attend a lunch that had been organized in his honour. His novel was about climate change.

Overall, government scientists were no longer able to communicate freely with the public, or with their national and international colleagues via conferences, uncensored publications, and in other ways.

Protests abounded: by Canadian professional and scientific groups, advocacy groups, international science organizations, editorials in national and international magazines, and open letters by scientists. All to no avail. Evidence for all of this and much more can be found here.

It was in this context that I started a Working Group on the Muzzling of Science at Science for Peace. We started to meet, and soon decided that what we needed to do was to bring our concerns to the general public rather than to people who were already committed to some form of knowledge generation. That meant finding other tactics than holding meetings at a university. Science for Peace is a charity, and had a President anxious not to endanger its charitable status because of political activities. We therefore decided to incorporate as a separate advocacy group without charitable status, leaving us free to organize different types of events, including the first science march in Toronto, and creating a series of YouTube videos. It was a steep learning curve!

We called ourselves Scientists for the Right to Know. Our aim was to make public science an issue for the 2015 election. And for the first time, parties did include public science on their election platforms.

After the Liberals were elected, they reversed many of the destructive policies of the previous Conservative government – they reinstated the mandatory census, appointed a Minister as well as an Advisor of Science, bumped up funding for basic research, and more. See the evidence here. However, much of the damage is irreparable. The contents of libraries that were destroyed cannot be recreated. And although the top policy makers and bureaucrats took the muzzle off government scientists, there continue to be problems not at the top but at the middle management level – bureaucrats who were socialized during the Harper years, who still think that scientists require permission and oversight to talk with the public.

We decided to change our use name from Scientists for the Right to Know to Our Right to Know – because so many people told me “yes, I believe in what you are doing, but I am not a scientist ….” We are a small organization, staffed by volunteers, and we continue to document what is happening to public science in Canada, as well as across the world, to the degree that it comes to our attention.


Margrit Eichler, President, Our Right to Know
reprinted from the TAN Newsletter, December 2019.


25+ years ago, when our founding members built the Academy from the seeds of an idea, I wonder if they knew that they were on the forefront of a lifelong learning movement, and that they would offer up a successful model that would inspire other organisations?

In the last decade in particular, growing numbers of like-minded individuals across Ontario have wanted to be part of lifelong learning groups where they could be exposed to new ideas, delve more deeply into the past, explore the future and, more generally, expand their minds in the company of like-minded individuals. While some educational institutions offered programs, they were expensive and often difficult to access. There were some volunteer-run options – like the Academy – but successful, dynamic ones were few and far between.

As the Academy did in its early days, individuals often developed an interest in starting their own groups, but many didn’t know how to get started. The “unknown” seemed overwhelming, and potential risks were often a deterrent. As a result, many groups never got up and running.

10+ years ago, recognizing this, some members of the lifelong learning community in the GTA – including our own Sheilagh Hickie – decided to form an organization that could provide guidance to members of the 55+ community who sought help in establishing, administering, and growing their own groups – and the Third Age Network (TAN) was born.

Since its creation, TAN has grown to more than 30 member organizations across Ontario, with new ones joining each year. (Wasaga Beach started a new group this past December). TAN offers each new member practical help in getting started in areas such as publicity, funding and financial planning, finding a location, governance, and finding speakers, and helps them to make valuable connections to other members and to external sources for information.

Once a new group is up and running, TAN provides them with a strong network of fellow members, as well as opportunities for information sharing and benefits such as access to affordable insurance. Members are also provided with opportunities to share ideas and lessons learned through a range of webinars, workshops, symposia, etc. A dynamic bimonthly newsletter and a website also provide valuable information to TAN groups, helping them to stay in touch with other members as well as developments in the third age learning community in the broader sense.

While the Academy offers a mix of workshops, discussion groups, talks, walks and social events, other TAN groups operate under a different model – with lecture series being their main focus. As a result, both similarities and differences in approach provide a rich source of expertise, experience and lessons learned which can be shared across the Third Age Network.

The lifelong learning ‘world’ is changing rapidly. Individuals are retiring sooner, and technology provides opportunities for viewing online or streaming across multiple locations. Groups such as the Academy will also play a future role in societal initiatives such as Age Friendly Cities and Age Friendly Universities. These will provide challenges as well as opportunities. Each TAN member wishes to not just grow in size, but to develop and stay relevant over time. TAN provides them with a framework in which to do that.

Like its own members, TAN relies on a dedicated group of volunteers who work tirelessly to help organizations form, grow, and succeed.

You can learn more about TAN and its members by:
• checking our website –
• reading the newsletter - a link to the latest issue is posted on the Academy website’s news section
• emailing

Cathy Spark

Brian the Photographer

There is usually only one pursuit that we can call a lifelong passion.  For some Academy members, it is movie or art appreciation, the study of science or listening to music.  However, for a handful of us, it is the lure of photography.  To kick off what we hope to be an on-going series, I will explore what photography means to me.

Brian Gaston

Click here to share Brian's thoughts on some of his favorite shots.


Organizations are known to perform best when a balanced work environment exists within. To this end, the developed world hires skilled personnel who can provide the best of services while keeping the work environment healthy. Such organizations also believe in laying down a set of rules to be followed by everyone employed there. To enhance and transform the careers of the skilled, there exist numerous educational institutions that provide a variety of educational courses.

Academy member, Caroline Gray, the Chairperson of the Canadian Training Institute (CTI) is today a role model for those who intend to enhance and transform their careers and be recognized in their specific industries.

Click here to read more about Caroline's contributions in a recent issue of Knowledge Review.


Everyone has a raccoon story.

In fall 1952, naturalist Charles Sauriol, co-founder of the Don Valley Conservation Association, described a neighbour’s great excitement at finding five baby raccoons near his home in Toronto. Sauriol wrote with great affection of “old black mask” rummaging “in garbage pails with the familiarity of a house cat; he is a loveable, mischievous addition to our near-to-home wildlife.” Raccoons, once hunted to near extinction, were making a comeback on the streetscape of Toronto.

My raccoon story started with an 8:00 a.m. call on an already sweltering Thursday morning in July. It was Rob, who, in their absence, was renting my son and daughter-in-law’s house in east Toronto —not too far from the Don Valley, where Sauriol used to hang out. There had been a deathly smell around the place for a few days, and Rob had just found maggots in the bathtub. They seemed to have dropped from the skylight set into the deck above the bathroom.

I made calls. First to 311, which referred me to Toronto Wildlife Services. They told me to contact private wildlife removal firms. The first company quoted me between $295 and $395. They could send out a technician the following Monday. Many fruitless calls later, a cheery voice assured me that yes, someone could come over that same day, and that the cost would be $225, with an online discount coupon of 15 percent.

It seemed too good to be true.

Gerry, a short skinny guy in blue overalls, was waiting for me when I arrived at the house, and we went up to the deck together.  We were overwhelmed by the stench of dead animal. Gerry inspected the deck, and found a small space between the skylight and the floorboards. He said that this was how the deceased must have gained access to its final, as yet unknown, resting place.

Eventually Gerry followed his nose, so to speak, to the far corner of the deck. He claimed that he could see the body of a raccoon below. He prized up a couple of boards, trying unsuccessfully at the same time to keep his nose covered with his T-shirt.

With just a pair of blue plastic gloves and a couple of smallish, thinnish black plastic bags at hand, the poor guy was woefully underequipped. I couldn’t watch; instead, I retreated to the kitchen to raid Rob’s supplies of Lysol, which Gerry used to neutralize the thriving colony of maggots at the spot now vacated by the deceased. Then he carried his two flimsy bags full of dead raccoon down to his truck.

I paid him (taking advantage of the online discount), and we went our separate ways.

Charles Sauriol died in 1995, so perhaps he lived long enough to appreciate the prophetic nature of the final words of his 1952 raccoon article: “The very forces which set out to destroy his race have been the means of his survival. From now on, we will have to put up with him and his tricks.”

                                                                                                            Lorna Poplak 

  1. A password is needed to access the member-only items on our website. Not sure what the password is? Send an email to

  2. Want a pdf version of the AQR? Click on the pdf symbol by the Academy Quarterly Review header.

Write for us

Would you like to write an item for our Academy Quarterly Review? Or do you have an idea for something you’d like to have included? If so, just send an email to The AQR is the voice of our Academy, and your input is welcomed.


Academy Quarterly Review

Gillian Long