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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Friday 14 December 2012

Democracy: If You Don't Use It, You Lose It


Canadians are very lucky – we have a democracy to neglect.  We don’t face threats on our boarders, as some nations do.  We don’t get killed by government authorities.  Most Canadians (but not all) have access to the basic necessities required for life.  Because we have it so good, it can be easy to take these hard-one privileges for granted, but they are not entitlements.

Our democracy isn’t under attack, but it is eroding – and it’s all of our fault.  We’ve stopped working together and holding ourselves accountable.  We’re buying into the spin, making do with the cake we’re given.

But no so these students.  They are setting an example of active engagement we should all pay attention to.
Sometimes it takes the children to lead, doesn’t it?

Thursday 13 December 2012

How To Save Your Business Money

- by keeping your most valuable tools - your employees - in good working order:

Time to take mental health to work 

Dr. Rosana Pellizzari
By Rosana Pellizzari, Peterborough City-County Health Unit
With the growing openness to talk about mental health and illness, it’s time to take mental health to work! With most adults spending 60% of their waking hours at work, the work environment becomes a key driver in people’s physical and mental health. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), one in five Canadians will experience mental illness in their lifetime and the other four will know someone – a friend, family member or co-worker – who has. It touches us all.
Some employees come to their workplace with a pre-existing mental illness. For others, their mental illness, usually depression and anxiety, is a result of their work environment. According to one study, almost three-quarters of all people with a mental illness are working.
The effect of mental illness is not just felt by the individual but by their co-workers and their workplace. CAMH reported that “mental health is the number one cause of workplace disability in Canada, accounting for nearly 30% of disability claims and 70% of the total disability costs.”
To raise the profile and provide support to workplaces, a new voluntary Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace standard has been created, to be launched in 2013. The standard outlines 13 psychosocial risk factors that can either improve or worsen a worker’s mental well-being: organizational culture, psychological and social support, clear leadership and expectations, civility and respect, psychological demands, growth and development, recognition and reward, involvement and influence, workload management, engagement, balance, psychological protection and protection of physical safety.
To properly support employees with mental health problems, we need to challenge our own assumptions and stereotypes. In addition, workplaces need to create an environment that makes it safe for employees to talk about aspects of their lives that are having an impact on their mental health. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), “employees who were diagnosed with depression and who took the appropriate medication saved their employer an average of 11 days a year in prevented absenteeism.”
What can we do if we believe a co-worker is struggling to cope with depression, anxiety or any other mental illness? Here are some tips.
1. Encourage the co-worker to enlist the support of someone they trust who can help to advocate on their behalf (e.g., union steward, a sympathetic work friend, family member, or friend).
2. Make the co-worker aware that there is a psychological health and safety standard as well as other resources that may help guide the support she or he can ask for in their workplace.
3. Suggest to the co-worker that they make use of other services/resources available in the community and through work (e.g. employee and family assistance programs or benefits).
If you or someone you know needs help, visit for a list of services in our community. Employers who want to ensure that your workplace is psychologically healthy and safe, visit for resources that can help you get started.
The World Health Organization predicts that depression will be the single biggest medical burden on health by 2020. A recent report by Pubic Health Ontario and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, “Opening Eyes, Opening Minds” found that the burden of mental illness and addictions in Ontario is more than one and a half times that of all cancers, and more than seven times that of all infectious diseases. Early detection and timely treatment are critical. Whether at home, at work, or at play, let’s all take note and take care of one another.
Dr. Rosana Pellizzari is medical officer of health for Peterborough city and county.

Is Ontario In the Closet about Stigma?

It's a sad fact, but homophobia still plays a role in politics; so do racism and gender-bias, among other stigmas.  Sheila Copps was regularly dismissed in a way she never would have been if she were male.  There are still plenty of folk in the United States who simply refuse to accept the notion of a black president and try to confabulate reasons why  Obama can't be legit.  

At the same time, Sheila Copps was an elected politician; POTUS Obama was just elected for a second term.  There was a time when women weren't allowed to vote and black men were enslaved.  In the Ontario Liberal leadership race, there are candidates who are gay, who are women, who are visible minorities - there's even one with a physical disability.  These accomplishments are significant victories that have been hard-won and need to be vigorously maintained, but we're headed in the right direction. 

I have enormous respect for trailblazers who refuse to believe there are certain positions that are simply off-limits to some and choose not to accept that some blatantly stigmatic attitudes aren't worth challenging.  In changing society's perceptions, these outliers enrich us all by forcing us to think more broadly.  Some of them make excellent leaders, given the opportunity.

Discrimination is like wine (easy to consume but leaves a nasty hangover) but with time, in iterations, it's being watered down by experience and understanding.  Stigmas are the same as any phobia - they can be overcome, but only when confronted.  

Wednesday 12 December 2012

Check Your Ego at the Door: Tips for Creative Collaboration

Man, there's a lot of folk that need to read and absorb this:

Check Your Ego at the Door: Tips for Creative Collaboration

Everyone loves each other at the Oscars. You never really see cat fights on camera or behind-the-scenes feuds made public because that would spoil the fantasy. As anyone who has worked in a close creative partnership knows – it’s not always such a pretty picture.
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 18:  (L-R) Outstan...
Tina Fey, Martha Plimpton, Melissa McCarthy, Amy Poehler, Edie Falco, and Laura Linney (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
Creative collaboration, whether it’s in the arts or business, can beinspiring, fun, and invigorating, and it can push you to new and exciting places professionally and personally. It can also give you an ulcer, bring on insomnia, and lure you into occasional daydreams about tearing up your collaboration agreement or your LLC paperwork and throwing it in your partner’s face, and then storming out the door while the pieces of paper flutter into their lap and they realize the error of their ways. (They’re probably having the same daydreams about you, by the way). Because you signed paperwork before starting this beautiful creative endeavor right? Please say “yes.”

Every collaboration has creative aspects. If you’re teaming up to start a financial consulting business, there’s a certain level of creativity – logos, a company name, branding. I’ve collaborated in creative partnerships that involved making comic books, films, and writing, and the end goal is the same as any business: A product that can be bought, sold, processed or make you a ton of money. Or, a product that fulfills you creatively and looks great on your resume. Either scenario is a win. Here are some tips for navigating creative collaboration and avoiding an unwelcome, stress-induced ulcer:
1. Sign on the Dotted Line: For most collaborators, signing a contract right off the bat is a no-brainer. Not so much for “creative types.” We paint and sing and dance. What we do is ethereal so why do we need to taint it with confusing, mundane legalese? Because you’ll get screwed if you don’t that’s why. I’ve made this mistake. It’s hard talking about money and who gets what and who owns what. It’s uncomfortable. If you’re worried about offending your partner or sounding greedy or petty – stop worrying and get the uncomfortable stuff hammered out. Get it out of the way and then you can move forward in a productive, healthy way.
You can ask for a lawyer’s help, or if money is a factor you can ask around on tracking boards or groups you belong to. I’ve gotten free legal advice by sending a message to a tracking board for women in film. You probably have the resources at your disposal, so don’t be afraid to ask around before you throw a chunk of money away. Don’t be afraid to tackle the unpleasant things first – sign that paperwork. Six months down the road, you’ll sleep easier knowing it’s in place. Trust me.
2. Listen: Like any relationship, this is a must. It’s not always so easy, right? You get an idea in your head and you’re sure it’s The Way. One of the best things about collaboration is that you can make each other better. You raise each other’s game, if you’re not a stubborn egomaniac about everything. Even if you’re convinced your idea is IT, open your mind and listen to your partner’s idea. More often than not, they’re right, and your separate ideas together will be better than you imagined.
3. Accept Their Style: Opposites attract in love, and that’s true of creative collaborators too. I’m insanely impatient and like to DO, and some of the best partnerships I’ve had are with people who are infinitely patient and like to THINK. It’s not always easy to deal with a vastly different working style, but if you take deep breaths you might just learn something. I’ve learned that it’s OK and even wise not to jump head-first into things at times, and I’ve shown partners that over-thinking a decision can sometimes be detrimental. It’s not your way or the highway – you’re a team, right?
4. Know When to Walk Away: The beginning of a creative collaboration is always like the beginning of a relationship: You’re giddy, excited, the possibilities are infinite and the two of you will rule the world! Then you realize they like to start work at noon instead of ten and they leave dirty dishes in the sink. The honeymoon phase ends and you’re having those fantasies about ripping up your LLC paperwork. Sometimes, you just need to take a step back rather than make a sudden, dramatic decision like dissolve the partnership or strangle each other because your disagreement about your business card font has sent you into a tizzy. Depending on the nature of your business (if you have tight deadlines obviously you can’t just take off for a month) you might need to get some perspective. Step away for an hour, a week, a month, and see where you’re at. Then jump in again – with an open mind and your paperwork in place.
In the film world, intense creative collaboration usually involves a big group of people working and living together 24/7 for weeks or months on end. Fights break out, tears are shed, people exclaim, “I’m never speaking to her again!” in the makeup trailer. Then they see the final product, realize what they’ve accomplished, and everyone at the wrap party loves each other and can’t wait to do it all again. That’s creative collaboration at its best.
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