Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Biweekly, Monday, 12 – 2, Week 1

Reports of Indigenous people’s issues and actions are everywhere in the media.  Join us for an Academy year of discovery.  By focusing on the realities of life in a variety of Northern communities, we will get to know their history, geography, economic and climate challenges, and creative expressions – all the issues that make them such an important yet little-known part of Canada and the world.  Participants will be expected to make an approximately 20 minute presentation on the pertinent aspects of a community selected from a list provided by the co-facilitators.  During the Fall Term, there will be one presentation at each workshop, followed by extended discussion time.  In the Winter Term – conditions permitting – we will be able to gather in our classrooms at Tartu, and to supplement our discussion with videos and documentaries.


Marilyn Friesen ( has a rare knowledge and love of the Canadian Arctic, having taken 21 trips there, including a year-long residency in the woods of the Northwest Territories. A graduate of Physical and Occupational Therapy at U. of T., it is not surprising that her activities include white water canoeing, kayaking, and backpacking.

Clare Mian ( is a retired teacher and administrator at both the elementary and secondary level. She enjoys history and politics and has recently added the study of Indigenous peoples to her lifelong interest in Africa and the Middle East. She takes courses at U. of T. and occasionally writes for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.


Information for participants



Biweekly, Friday, 12 – 2, Week 2

Songs are a vital part of our lives. First, participants will give presentations on their choice of historical periods of song, composers (e.g., Cole Porter, Jim Webb, and Lennon & McCartney), performers (e.g., Tiny Tim, the Beatles, Mel Torme), or favourite songs. Second, we will sing the songs we discuss. No experience is required – just enthusiasm for singing. We can sing a capella, or with a karaoke machine or with the accompaniment of whichever instruments members of the course wish to play (piano, guitar, accordion, percussion).


Paul Nash ( has performed at Open Stages around Toronto. He led the senior sing at the Tranzac Club and has years of experience leading and following in amateur performances.

Andris Rubenis ( was born in a post-WWII refugee camp in Germany of Latvian parents and came to Toronto at the age of 2. He was a family physician, eventually concentrating in long-term care medicine – all in Toronto. Other interests: grandchildren, music, guitar, singing, anthropology, astronomy, archaeology, paleo-anything, history, Latvian heritage, travel, and lifelong learning (just for the sake of it).


For the past several years, this workshop has studied the rise of China, the US response, and their ensuing conflicts that affect the global order.  Canada is now firmly caught in the middle between its two largest trading partners, as best exemplified by the proceedings to extradite Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s CFO to the US.

The workshop will consider the range of current issues and options potentially available to Canadian policymakers, and will discuss events as they occur in a world that is fraught with uncertainty.”


Greg King ( is a retired lawyer, corporate director and community participant. His interests are diverse, ranging from politics to gardening.

Rick Guisso (



Biweekly, Monday, 2 – 4, Week 1

Climate change (Global Warming) is not going away during this pandemic year of 2020/21. With all of this extra time on our hands, has YOUR thinking changed? Has the world’s changed?

Bring your opinions to this workshop and be part of an exploration of an updated look at the causes, effects, mitigations, and adaptations to climate change. Topics include the effects we can see today; anthropogenic causes; tipping points; effects on global economic activities; adaptations and their costs; impacts on human health and the natural world; population migrations; and present-day mitigations. When do we stop burning fossil fuel? What should we do as Canadians?

With our smaller-sized 2-semester workshop this coming year we are asking each participant to do a 20-minute presentation and, optionally, two.

We will have extended discussion time and plan for dialogs and possibly a debate in the 2ndsemester and are open to suggestions.


Ron Miller ( had a long career in the aerospace industry after graduating as an engineer from McGill University. He now spends his time making up for his narrow science and engineering education by participating in many Academy workshops. Ron is interested in multidisciplinary topics such as climate change when he is not playing tennis. Ron co-facilitated the Iran workshop in 2018/19.

Laura Tyson ( worked in the airline industry after studying sociology and history at York University. She has spent the last 18 years working as a PI and conducting market research in retail sales. She is a volunteer Caring Clown and amateur actor/singer. Laura is presently working on an inter-generational initiative with seniors and high school students using singing and music.






Biweekly, Monday 2 – 4, Week 2

The workshop will cover a number of subjects including addressing the tensions within a democracy (populism, protecting the interests of minorities, intolerance etc.), the mechanisms for moving from dictatorship to democracy (e.g. Poland, Spain, Iraq, and The Gambia) and the safeguards needed to minimize the risk of democracies sliding into dictatorships.

Using ideas from Conflict Resolution theory and practice, conflict remediation at the international level, as well as reconciliation within nations (e.g. Rwanda and South Africa) will be examined. The role of outside intervenors such as UN, NATO and ‘coalitions of the willing’ will be included in the discussion.

Each participant will be expected to make a 20-minute presentation on a topic such as ‘Does Proportional Representation Enhance Democracy?’; ‘Is Singapore the Model for Democracy in Asia?’; ‘The UN’s R2P (Responsibility to Protect) Doctrine’; and ‘What Went Wrong in Venezuela?’


Stephen Johnson (  is a Chartered Accountant and is the co-founder of a Toronto asset management company. He is interested in history and current affairs. He has also facilitated the Equality and Inequality workshop.


Workshop Notes




Biweekly, Friday 10 – 12, Week 1

Europe during the 1920s and 1930s experienced great highs and lows. Radical ideas and changes were unleashed in politics, economics, and society, many with unexpected and sometimes devastating consequences. It was also a time of modernization and experimentation in the arts (visual and plastic arts, music, literature, architecture, film, fashion) and in science, medicine, and technology. Women started to come to the fore and the world changed, dramatically and permanently. In this workshop, we will explore the actions, ideas, trends, and innovations of these tumultuous decades, and the people behind them, sharing insights and discussing how they affected and were affected by each other. Participants will present and discuss the person, group, or innovation of their choosing.


Peter Steiner ( retired (sort of) from teaching high school physics and chemistry about 10 years ago. Academy interests include science, history, art, and current events, usually with some connection to societal effects.

Jeff Biteen ( is a retired Human Resources executive and history buff. He previously co-facilitated the Makers of the French Revolution workshop.




Biweekly, Monday 12-2, Week 1

Gain a greater appreciation and understanding of birds from many different perspectives. Learn about the importance of birds; the migration of birds; how they understand and adapt to their world; the evolution of birds; the impact of climate change on birds; bird extinction; famous ornithologists such as Audubon; birds in literature and art; and why birding is so popular. Each participant will be asked to prepare a 20-minute presentation on a topic related to birds followed by group discussion. A suggested list of topics, with articles and references, will be provided.


Alan Silverman ( is a semi-retired teacher and high-school administrator who still works part time at OISE. He has facilitated workshops on Art for several years as well as a workshop on Israel-Palestine. He loves birds, birdwatching, and has been on several bird watching trips.

Yvette Matyas ( worked for more than 20 years in health care administration, including leading teams and facilitating retreats. She has facilitated architecture workshops for several years, as well as workshops on aging and dance. She loves birds, birdwatching, and has been on several bird watching trips.


Introductory letter

Suggested topics with references

Presentation Schedule




Biweekly, Friday 10-12, Week 2

Now known as the Scotiabank Giller Prize, this jewel of a Canadian literary award is 26 years old and honours an author of a novel or short story collection published in English the previous year. Among the distinguished list of 26 winners we will be discussing are these authors and their work: Rohinton Mistry, Mordecai Richler, Alice Munro, Joseph Boyden, and Esi Edugyan. Each participant will present on either the author or their winning book.


Sheilagh Hickie ( was born in Montreal, graduated from Sir George Williams College (now Concordia) and spent most of her working years in publishing, on the advertising side. She is fascinated by the literature that shaped us.

Ellen Edmonds (  was born in Denmark where she taught Danish, English, and Latin. She immigrated to Canada in 1966, received a B.A. from York University and an M.A. from U. of T. She taught English until retirement.


Info on the Giller Prize




Biweekly,Thursday 2-4, Week 2

Jazz music is considered to be America’s greatest original art form and is well known for its creativity and innovation. Since its emergence at the beginning of the 20th century, its evolution has been closely woven into the tremendous changes and upheaval in American society.

Our Jazz Appreciation workshop features examples and discussions of various different eras and personalities and how the evolution of jazz has reflected and contributed to those changes.

Each participant is requested to select a musician, personality, or genre and prepare a presentation of approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Examples of recorded music should be provided to share with the group and time allowed for group discussion to follow.

This is an enthusiastic, highly interactive and fun class in which all are welcome from curious beginners to those who have enjoyed all aspects of jazz for many years. Wherever possible, we invite a guest musician to explain and illustrate the role of their own instrument in jazz.


Colin Gordon ( has been an active student of jazz and jazz musicians for 60 years from the basement clubs of London, England to the concert halls of North America and is a keen supporter of local Canadian musicians. A few years ago, he took up the trombone and played in a local seniors’ band. He finds jazz and continuing learning a great way to nourish the brain.

Frank Richmond ( retired after forty years as a trial lawyer and moved with his wife to Lake of Bays. He spends most of his outdoor time hiking, swimming, sailing, and canoeing. He spends most of his indoor time collecting jazz recordings, listening to jazz (which has been his passion since his early teens) and drinking wine.




Biweekly, Wednesday 10-12, Week 2

Participants will discuss articles taken from a wide range of journals, newspapers, and other sources. Topics should be substantive enough to be worthy of discussion. The group will consider the case made by the author in the light of experience, alternative points of view, and other material that may be offered by the presenter. Participants are expected to read articles chosen for review, take turns introducing an article and starting the discussion, and are encouraged to suggest suitable articles from their own reading.


Bill Davis ( is a Chartered Accountant. Most of his working life was spent as an officer of the United Church of Canada, latterly as the senior financial officer. Interests and achievements are in ecumenical social justice work and local community work with Residents’ Associations and youth groups.

Jim Pike ( is a Professional Engineer who worked at IBM in a number of sales and marketing roles. Cottaging, travel, and technology augment his continued interest in the Academy.




Biweekly, Friday 2-4, Week 1

Pandemics have been with us since ancient Greece and have occurred throughout the centuries. The Black Death plague and the Spanish Flu killed millions, but we don’t commemorate them as we do wars. In our lifetime we have witnessed AIDS, Ebola, SARS, Zika, and now Covid-19. This workshop will look at epidemics, plagues, and pandemics and their impact on society. What can we learn from past pandemics? How do societies change after pandemics? Are conspiracy theories and scapegoating common? How do politics and epidemics interface? What are the implications for civil liberties and privacy? Are pandemics inevitable? What’s in store for the future? Each participant will be expected to research one topic and make a presentation to be followed by discussion. Suggested topics and references, with many online articles, will be provided.


Yvette Matyas ( worked for over 20 years in healthcare administration, including leading teams and facilitating retreats. She has co-facilitated workshops on Architecture, Reflections on Aging, and Dancing and welcomes the opportunity to explore a variety of perspectives on pandemics with other Academicians at this critical time.

Thea Herman ( is a retired judge, lawyer and senior civil servant. In retirement, she is enjoying pursuing various interests, including Spanish and music (flute and piano). She is a co-facilitator of the dance workshop. Thea welcomes the opportunity to explore a variety of perspectives on pandemics with other Academicians at this critical time.


Introductory Letter 

Topics with References

Presentation schedule 




Biweekly, Monday 10-12, Week 2

This workshop will cover the science behind the physical fitness imperative and the various ways we can become fit or maintain our fitness as we age. Each participant will pick from a number of topics dealing with the science of fitness and the various modalities that are available. Presentations will be given and discussed in the first hour. In the second hour you may choose to try some simple exercises, while seated or standing, to illustrate the techniques discussed. Additionally, some techniques will be demonstrated so that participants may try or practice them at home. While this is not a fitness class or a work-out, participants are encouraged to wear loose comfortable clothing and to bring a tennis ball and stretch band to the workshop.


Priscilla Platt has been a life-long fitness enthusiast. After retiring three years ago, she became a certified Pilates instructor and has been teaching fitness classes weekly since then.

Patti Stoll ( developed a commitment to fitness after being handed a prescription from a doctor to ‘just walk 30 minutes daily’. After retiring as a professor of management she expanded her research interests to exploring the connections between fitness, happiness, diet, fun, and a good life.




Biweekly, Monday 2 – 4, Week 1

Join us for a wide-ranging discussion of ‘privacy’, what it was, is now, and where it might go in the future with the advent of even more technology. In 1999 the Chief Executive Officer of Sun Microsystems said, “You have no privacy, get over it.” Was he right then and is he right now? Since 2000 there has been an explosion in the use of electronic devices and social media. What information is being collected? Are ‘smart’ devices, like Alexa, acquiring even more information about our behavior 24/7? Did you know that some Silicon Valley companies have amassed vast wealth by obtaining our behavioral data from our devices and social media? This data is being sold in the new “behavioral futures market” to enable better predictions about our behavior and greater influence over our future choices – how we vote, even how we think. Do some organizations have too much privacy? What privacy rights exist in Canada, and elsewhere, and what can we do in these perilous times to protect ourselves?

Participants are asked to select from a list of topics and prepare a 20-minute presentation.


Priscilla Platt is a retired lawyer who practised privacy law for over 30 years in both the public and private sectors. She has written and spoken often on privacy law topics over the course of her career. A member of the Academy for 2 years, she also co-facilitates “Stand-up Comedy for Seniors”.

Sue Wessenger is an almost retired educator who continues to work as a faculty advisor in the OISE MT program. With a strong science background she is interested in partaking in a variety of Academy offerings and expanding her knowledge base by learning with others.


Privacy in the Technological Age Topics




Biweekly, Thursday 10-12, Week 2

Propaganda has existed as far back as reliable recorded evidence exists. Now thought of as a nefarious thing; prior to WWI it was an accepted way to shape ideas.

Through presentations and lively discussion, we will explore:

  • the definition of propaganda
  • techniques like radio, film, speeches, print/posters, music and iconography
  • the role that propaganda has played in areas like war; science and health; religion; politics; advertising; and journalism
  • current issues in the era of social media and “fake news”
  • great propagandists like Hitler, Julius Caesar, Michael Moore, Stalin, and Tokyo Rose

Each workshop member will be required to give a 20-minute presentation. There won’t be a required reading list, but we will develop a detailed bibliography for further exploration.


Cathy Spark ( A marketing, strategic communication and change management practitioner, Cathy is passionately curious about all things social history. She likes nothing better than sharing that excitement by exploring and exchanging ideas with others.



Presentation Schedule




Biweekly, Thursday 12-2, Week 1

In this fun-filled workshop you will have an opportunity to mine your life experiences to develop your own unique approach to humour. We create a “writing room experience” so participants can help each other develop and refine original jokes. Our textbook is Comedy Writing Secrets, 3rd Edition by Mark Shatz with Mel Helitzer, Writer’s Digest Books. This book features practical tips on how to structure jokes and each chapter ends with writing exercises to hone your comedy skills. Each workshop participant chooses a favourite comedian and prepares a short presentation on how that comic got their start in the business, what makes their approach to humour unique and how they get laughs. We use video clips of stand-up performances on YouTube as teaching aids.

At the end of the workshop in March 2021 the group will, if they wish, perform a comedy show of their own material for Academy members. No memorization for this course is required – participants can write their jokes on index cards if they wish.


Ian Darragh ( and Priscilla Platt

Ian Darragh and Priscilla Platt completed two years of the Academy’s Stand-Up Comedy workshop facilitated by Michael Cole. Ian has taught writing at Ryerson University, George Brown College, Carleton University and Algonquin College. Priscilla studied stand-up comedy at Second City and performed at Absolute Comedy.




Biweekly, Friday 10-12, Week 1

This workshop explores the problems and potential solutions surrounding the crisis in Toronto housing. Participants will be expected to read four non-fiction books and prepare a 20-minute presentation. We will watch and discuss two films.

A sampling of the issues to be addressed: affordability; Sidewalk Labs; the influence of global forces; how class, race and ethnicity affect place in the city; climate and resiliency of our housing; homelessness and shelters; public housing and public space; density versus sprawl; zoning and the ‘Yellow Belt’; housing for seniors, disabled, migrants; lane housing, co-ops, communes and rooming houses.


Maureen FitzGerald ( is an editor, an ex-academic (anthropology) and ex-publisher. She continues to be interested in joining in and contributing to conversations about the pressing issues of inequality.

Sally McLean ( is a retired intercultural communication consultant and continues to wrestle with social justice challenges. She leans towards workshops that push us to consider troublesome issues, such as the notion that housing is a human right.

Sally and Maureen have previously co-facilitated the workshops Reading through Race, Racism and Resistance; and Reading through Borders: Displacement, Migration and Refuge.


Workshop Notes




Biweekly, Wednesday 12-2, Week 1

Each participant will present on a specific philosopher in the Western tradition, from the ancient Greeks onward, describing his* life and one or more of his* ideas, as he tries to think clearly. We will primarily reference two recent (2016) acclaimed books by Anthony Gottlieb: The Dream of Reason and The Dream of Enlightenment. These books are “well-researched, eminently readable” and available through the Toronto Public Library. Here is a chance to dip your toes in an intriguing stream of literature or return to an old love. Even experienced readers will enjoy Gottlieb’s take.

(* Sorry, but it’s true: they are all old, dead, white males.)


David Brodie ( has been a member since 2003 and has attended and facilitated numerous workshops on a variety of topics – few of which relate to his academic background – but all of which he enjoyed.

Martin Jones ( has been an Academy member since 2016. He is a retired business executive whose interest in the history of philosophy began in university and developed during a career in which he spent way too much time on airplanes and in airports, foreign cities and jungles with little to do but read.


Welcome letter

Presentation Schedule

Topics – Suggestions – Dates