Past Talks / Forums

Jay Cox, Piera Savage and Kyle Elliott in Panel Discussion: “The Justice System and Reality” (Spring 2024 Talk #4 Summary)

Panelists:  Kyle Elliot,  President of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers; Andrew Jay Cox, COO of MyRESET; Piera  Savage,  Staff Lawyer at Black Legal Action Centre

Moderator: Peter Drumm, Academy for Lifelong Learning Toronto

The final spring talk was a panel discussion with two Black lawyers and a community activist expertly moderated by Peter Drumm. The panel discussion was followed by responses to audience questions.

It was a rare opportunity for us in the Academy bubble to hear directly about anti-Black racism in Toronto. The audience listened intently and had plenty of questions in the last 35 minutes.

Media interest has waned since the Black Lives Matter movement started by the George Floyd killing in 2020. What we are seeing today in Toronto is influenced by spill-over from the US, with a backlash amid anti-woke culture wars, leading to a drop in contributions to funding Black lives issues. Issues concerning the Black community are still present but according to the panelists, there has been an improvement, even in the attitude of the police.

Peter kicked off the discussion by posing three questions to the panelists, asking Kyle to define the term anti-Black racism, Piera to briefly cover the legal landscape, and Jay to describe some personal incidents and examples. Kyle was in a good position to describe what anti-Black racism is and Jay recounted some powerful anecdotes. For example,  when police are raiding homes in the Black community, why do they cuff children and the elderly? We know about what happens when "driving while Black.” Why is it that the police do not believe that a Black person can have a nice flashy car? Piera brought up cases that she had handled involving tenant/landlord disputes and how disadvantaged the Black defendants were against wrongful charges brought against them.

When discussing the Toronto situation today, Jay felt that we might be one of the best examples of getting to racial equity mainly because of the Toronto school system and many growing up in diverse communities. He mentioned how he was treated when he bought his new house compared to how his grandfather was treated.

There was an interesting discussion on the need for data on how the justice system treats Black defendants regarding convictions, sentencing, incarceration location and parole. We do have arrest data thanks mainly to the Toronto Star reports. Other data is important whenever there are some discretionary choices to be made, but this is incomplete and slow to arrive, according to Piera.

Questions from the audience included: what about employment opportunities; is there any traction for reparations to the Black community given our major focus on aboriginal injustices; is the right data being collected to gain some insight into the biases in the legal system; what about increasing the capacity and talent pipeline into the employment marketplace?

One very important initiative that deserves mention is the holistic integrated approach that Jay’s organization is heading to re-integrate people with criminal records into society and stabilize their lives.

In summary, this panel discussion on a very serious and difficult topic did have its lighter moments. We need to continue to educate ourselves and attend more conversations such as these if we can.

by Ron Miller

Elizabeth Hay: “Don’t Touch That Dial. Reasons to Love Radio” (Spring 2024 Talk #4 Summary)

Elizabeth Hay

Sheila McCook, who knew her from the CBC in Winnipeg, introduced Elizabeth Hay. Elizabeth was born in Owen Sound, as a teenager spent a year in England, then returned to Canada to go to UofT. In 1974 she moved to Yellowknife NWT. For the next 10 years she worked as a CBC radio broadcaster in Yellowknife, Winnipeg, Toronto and Mexico, then New York in 1986. She returned to Canada in 1992 and now lives in Ottawa. Since age 15 she has written 15 books and received a number of awards, including the Giller prize for “Late Nights on Air.” “Snow Road Station,” her most recent novel, was named one of the best books of 2023 by The New Yorker. Her memoir about her parents, “All Things Consoled,” won the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction. Some of her books are related to her CBC career.

Her talk began with an entertaining quiz – eight audio clips of CBC music or voices – to see what we recognized.

The talk focussed on Radio Then and Radio Now.

Radio Then

She discussed people like Max Ferguson  (Rawhide and The Max Ferguson Show), Nathan Cohen and Glenn Gould. She loved Newfoundland and talked about how popular radio was there. She gave a brief history of the founding of CBC Radio and its evolution, through the early 1970s, into the future.

Radio Now

She discussed many of the current issues regarding the future of radio (in particular the CBC): the need to attract a younger audience, budget issues, the desire on the part of some politicians to cut funding, privatization, the impact of competition from the internet (social media), TV and podcasts. Some (often rural) people still rely on the CBC.

The talk generated interesting comments and questions from the large audience.

Many who came to Canada a while ago were impressed with CBC compared to their home country.

Some Academy members currently listen to The Morning Show, Under the Influence (Terry O’Reilly), Quirks and Quarks (Bob McDonald) and Tom Allen.

Does CBC care about older people? Consensus seems to be No! A few do listen to the CBC App and podcasts.

Final comment: Don’t get rid of CBC Radio, reform it.

Julia Matthews thanked Elizabeth and pointed out that she gave us lots to think about.

By John Weatherburn

The Honourable Kathleen Wynne: “How Federalism Can Work Better in Canada” (Spring 2024 Talk #3 Summary)

Kathleen Wynn

Margaret Prugovecki introduced Kathleen Wynne. Wynne was born in Richmond Hill, one of four daughters. She attended Queen’s University, OISE and UofT. Wynne had a 22-year political career, as trustee on the Toronto School Board, as MPP in the Ontario Legislature, as Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party and as Premier of Ontario from 2013-2018. She continued as MPP for Don Valley West until 2022. Since 2021, she has been a professor at the University of Toronto where she mentors future politicians and change-makers.

Her talk focussed on the importance of the relationship of the four levels of Canadian government: federal, provincial, municipal and Indigenous, saying “We are stronger together.” She commented that people expect governments to work together but often don’t know who is responsible for what.

She discussed two issues in particular: retirement security through such programs as health care and CPP benefits,  and solutions to climate change, including the need to shut down coal plants and to introduce cap and trade, a program designed to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

She also discussed working with other levels of government on issues such as transit infrastructure, road tolls and Indigenous issues.

She concluded by pointing out a number of areas of disagreement between the levels of government on issues such as housing, immigration, foreign students, carbon tax and LGBTQ rights. She concluded that we need more consensus. “Canada is the best country in the world; our politicians need to talk to one other.”

Her talk was followed by a number of interesting questions and comments from the large audience on topics such as other political leaders, daycare, inter- provincial trade (e.g. why can’t we have BC wine in Ontario), the automotive industry in Ontario and women in politics. Before and after her presentation a number of people who obviously knew her through various sources chatted with Kathleen.

Corinne Palmer nicely thanked Kathleen who kindly indicated she would donate her honorarium to charity.

By John Weatherburn

Bruce Sellery: “Moolala: Why Smart People do Dumb Things with Money and What You Can Do About It” (Spring 2024 Talk #2 Summary)

Bruce Sellery

Bruce Sellery is a charming, over-the-top presenter who was able to make a dull- sounding topic about personal finances engaging, entertaining, thought-provoking and insightful. No doubt many of you will have heard or seen Bruce on many broadcast media. He is a regular speaker on money matters on CBC Radio.

He personalized his talk by giving his mother as an example of someone who, like many of us, grew up with the ingrained notion that money in uncertain times must be saved for that rainy day. He challenged us to answer questions to reveal how we felt about what money is for…saving, spending, adventure, stuff, investing or whatever comes to mind.

He went on to talk about the four C’s: Context, Consequences, Complexity and Community.

Firstly, what is your money for? For Bruce, a self-proclaimed extrovert, it is adventure. The context of our backgrounds has a lot to do with how we answer this question. He said that security is an insufficient answer.

Secondly, we are most often oblivious of the consequences of our financial behaviours; we have weaknesses, both tangible and intangible. We were challenged to ponder our own attitudes to possible weaknesses that we might otherwise give little thought to. However, consequences should be addressed.

Thirdly, personal finances are complex; one cannot consider optimizing one’s investment returns if cash flows and debts are debilitating concerns.

Fourthly, and most importantly Bruce says, is community. This could be family, a group of friends, the people on your street or like-minded colleagues. It is give-and-take: with what do you need help or whom can you support when the need arises? Whom could you talk to, and what would you talk about?

As usual with our audience, there were several good questions: is it possible to spend too little money; how does one choose a financial advisor; money management between spouses; guilty feelings about frivolous spending.

Bruce gave insightful and often funny answers.

He was very ably thanked on our behalf by Margaret Prugovecki; she had obviously been paying close attention to the presentation and taken some points to heart.

by Linda Tu

Charles Pachter: “How I Learned to Survive and Thrive as a Contemporary Canadian Artist” (Spring 2024 Talk #1 Summary)

Charles Pachter

Charles said he hates the words “awesome” and “iconic.” I won’t use awesome but he is a Canadian icon, an “enfant terrible” when younger and Canada’s Andy Warhol with his “iconic” moose art. See “Monarch of the North” above. Charles painted a picture of Queen Elizabeth on mooseback that became famous and controversial overnight (Queen on Moose 1972) and he has been painting moose ever since. In the picture above, that’s Charles as a 4-year-old touching the nose of a moose at the CNE in 1947. As Canada’s moose artist, he did weigh in on Toronto’s Moose in the City project of 2000. “It looked like a horse.” He didn’t like it.

Charles talked to us while seated to view his presentation slides, not a bad idea since we felt as if we were in his living room. He entertained us for an hour with a recap of his career, some great images (of the thousands he has produced) and some shots of the five to six art studios and 20 buildings that he refurbished and resold, including the Gracie Restaurant in Toronto. Today he has two spectacular studios/residences, one in downtown Toronto, one in Orillia, with adjacent Moose Factory studios (he invited us to visit).

Charles is a very engaging raconteur and related many of his encounters with the famous and others in the art world from the mid ’50s until the present.

Charles’ first break came when, as a starving  artist, he sold a painting to Albert Reichmann of Olympia and York, the developers of First Canadian Place. He said it is still hanging there. If you want to see an accessible Charles Pachter, it is the Hockey Knights In Canada/Les Rois de l’Arene murals in the College St. subway station, which have been on display since April 1985. Nine Maple Leafs players stare across the tracks at nine Montreal Canadiens under one of hockey’s greatest shrines, the Maple Leaf Gardens.

Charles counts Margret Atwood as his best friend. Their association goes back to 1959 when they met at Camp White Pine where Pachter taught art and Atwood revelled in nature. Over time, Pachter illustrated six of Atwood’s poetry collections. The most famous was The Journals of Susanna Moodie, published in 1970. Charles showed us a slide of his illustration side by side with Atwood’s poem. It was extremely impressive.

Charles’ art has been published in several books, all out of print. You could probably purchase a painting only at an auction. His pictures hang in galleries and embassies around the world but not yet in the National Gallery of Canada, which he regrets. I am sure it is not because Charles’ grade school teacher gave him a D in art.

by Ron Miller