Foundation, mental health leaders aim for systems change

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London Community Foundation president and CEO Martha Powell (right) speaks with Niagara Connects’ Mary Wiley, who was invited to speak at the foundation’s third Vital Conversation on March 28.

In 2016, London Community Foundation (LCF) released its Vital Signs report, which identified mental health as the single greatest issue facing the community.

Since that time, LCF president and CEO Martha Powell has seen a lot of meetings, but not a lot of action. That situation has left her feeling “frustrated,” but the success of a regional neighbour also has her excited for London’s future.

“The conversation needs to be continued; we need to take it beyond a conversation, it has to now become a call to action to change the system,” she said. “Since 2016 I’ve seen lots of tables, lots of conversation groups across the community meeting on different topics, but I haven’t seen a lot of action.”

Powell said she believes there is “lots of good intention, lots of great will,” in the Forest City around the issue of mental health, but there isn’t the necessary co-ordination.

Then she heard about Niagara Connects, an effort launched in that region in 2014 to create a Niagara-wide network for collaboration, planning and community action.

With that in mind, on March 28, LCF and London Health Sciences Centre brought together local mental health leaders and stakeholders to discuss how the community can tackle mental health systems change in a “collaborative and systematic way.”

Held at the Wolf Performance Hall in London’s Central Library, the third Vital Conversation offered more than 50 attendees the opportunity to learn, ask questions, and take a critical look at the current system to determine if a mental health charter could be the starting point to streamlining the delivery of care.

Mary Wiley from Niagara Connects was invited to speak about the creation of that region’s mental health charter.

Wiley explained how in 2014 her community launched the Niagara Mental Health and Addictions Charter, the collective expression of 65 organizations working across what she describes as “the mental wellness continuum.”

This connection included people working in mental wellness promotion, mental illness prevention and mental health services and care.

“When we started out there was a rough vision . . . it soon became a mental health and addictions charter. Right now, we are now at the stage where we are implementing it; that is a long-term goal,” Wiley said. “Now there are over 74 organizations that have been at the table in one shape or form. We are now morphing that working into a network format where we are actually sharing data and can measure our progress in implementing the charter.”

Wiley explained the idea of Niagara Connects was to get people looking together across a broad spectrum, but also realizing they’re all horizontal partners and that no matter their individual mandates they needed to come together “in a trusted social space” to do what was best for the Niagara area.

It also took, she explained, the understanding that meaningful change takes time.

“It’s not a five or 10-year plan, there’s an acknowledgement of it being at least a 50-year plan, if not more,” she said. “These things take time. Sometimes the steps forward may not look huge, but they are steps forward.”

At the end of the Vital Conversation, Powell said attendees were invited to sign up to answer five questions that commit individuals and organizations to taking action.

She was quick to add Londoners need to challenge themselves to think about how everyone can get the help that they deserve.

“I hope they take away a call to action,” Powell said. “We don’t want this to be another talk, we want people to say I’m going to commit my organization, or myself, to this change. Whatever it is.”

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Ignite Conference to inspire girls into political connection

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Gabrielle Guizzo, a fourth-year political science student at King’s University College, has put together the Ignite Conference to inspire female-identifying girls to get into the political process.

Growing up, Gabrielle Guizzo was the only girl in her Hamilton high school who wanted a career in politics.

Today a fourth-year political science student and King’s Scholar at King’s University College, Guizzo graduated high school with about 500 people. Being the only girl she knew who had an interest in politics, however, told Guizzo something needed to change.

After many years of thinking about what that change might look like, she decided now was right time to put her ideas into action.

“When I started my university career, I wanted to leave having made a difference, a change in some way, and I always saw that through a conference,” she explains. “I know that not every girl is going to want to be involved in politics. But now if they are understanding the gap, understanding what the barriers are, maybe they can start their own solution.”

The results of Guizzo’s inspiration is the upcoming Ignite Conference at King’s University College’s Student Life Center, on Saturday, April 7.

Ignite is targeted towards female-identifying girls between the ages of 14-19, studying at the high school level. The day-long conference is dedicated, Guizzo said, to empowering young women to consider a future in politics.

The Ignite Conference will include a series of three speakers — including the former Chief of Chippewas of the Thames Leslee White-Eye, Elgin-London-Middlesex MP Karen Vecchio, and marketing and communications professional Shobhita Sharma — a series of three workshops and then a networking lunch.

The day will end with a panel discussion to include London West MPP Peggy Sattler, as well as Carol Dyke (Green Party), Kate Graham (Liberal Party) and Amanda Stratton (NDP), all candidates in the upcoming provincial election.

Guizzo said one of the goals of the conference is to create a forum where “diverse opinions and perspectives” are presented to enrich the experience of delegates while encouraging a dialogue offering a critical analysis of women’s role in political life.

“I want to see girls enjoying and being educated and learning. And hopefully taking something away from it,” she said. “If I can see girls gaining knowledge, closing that gap, that’s going to be really impactful for society. And that’s where we’re going to see future leaders created.”

Guizzo credits one today’s leaders — her course mentor and Women & Politics founder Shawna Lewkowitz — with not only helping her get the conference together, but also providing a tangible example of how women can be meaningfully involved in the political process without necessarily running for office themselves.

For her part, Lewkowitz quickly deflects any credit and instead praises Guizzo for the bringing forward an event that fits well with the goals of Women & Politics.

“We know that getting young girls interested in politics, and knowing they have a place in politics from a young age, is really important,” she said. “Important both for them in that moment, but also for their future prospects and endeavours.”

Considering what Guizzo called “the significant disconnect” between youth today and politicians due to the current political climate,” she said each generation has the potential to create change, but for that to happen there needs to be a greater sense of co-operation.

In light of that sentiment, and with so many women eager to lend their time to the conference, Lewkowitz said she believes there is “a real willingness” for that to happen.

“When you’ve walked that walk yourself, you recognize how important it is to be mentored, to hear from experienced leaders, to build relationships,” she said. “I think it speaks to the quality of the event that Gabby’s been able to attract the people she has. It also is reflective of the women leaders in our community and their willingness to support others.”

Links to delegate applications, and further information, can be found on the Ignite Conference London Facebook page and on Twitter through @IgniteConLDN.

Feds to provide London with more than $204 million for transit

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Under an agreement between the federal and provincial governments, London will receive more than $204 million to support urban transit projects.

The long-debated question of whether or not London’s Bus Rapid Transit plan will receive federal support has been answered with a promise of more than $204 million.

On March 14, the federal and provincial governments announced the signing of a bilateral agreement that will provide more than $11.8 billion over the next decade in federal funding dedicated to infrastructure projects under the Investing in Canada plan.

These investments are designed to transform Canada in four priority areas: public transit; green infrastructure; community, culture and recreation infrastructure; and rural and northern community infrastructure.

Under the public transit stream, London will receive more than $204 million for urban transit projects that will transform the way Londoners live, move and work.

“I went to Ottawa in 2015 to help secure transit investments for this city because the people of London want and deserve a better, faster and more efficient transit system. This funding allocation of over $204 million will make that possible,” said London North Centre MP Peter Fragiskatos. “It can be used at any time and for any purpose relating to transit and is proof our government is committed to giving London its fair share.”

Fragiskatos went on to say transit projects could include the building of a new network, service extensions, the refurbishment of existing buses, the purchasing of new buses or other improvements deemed necessary by the City of London.

As part of the Investing in Canada plan, Infrastructure Canada will deliver over 11.8 billion to Ontario over the next decade through a new bilateral agreement under four funding streams:

  • $8,340,401,116 for public transit;
  • $2,848,855,330 for green infrastructure;
  • $407,159,893 for community, cultural and recreational infrastructure; and
  • $250,067,117 for wide-ranging infrastructure needs in rural and northern communities.

“I have always said London would receive its fair share of infrastructure funds, and with today’s announcement we have delivered,” said London West MP Kate Young. “We all agree that Londoners deserve public transit that gets them to work, school and everywhere else they need to go efficiently and on time.”

The projects supported through this agreement will have a total value of over $31 billion, including $10 billion committed by the Ontario government.

These projects will be cost-shared with the Ontario government, municipalities and other partners.

London North Centre MPP Deb Matthews also lauded the local investment, remarking that at its core, infrastructure is about people.

“Our government understands that Ontario needs high-quality public infrastructure to support a booming economy and a high standard of living,” Matthews said. “That is why I am pleased that London will receive approximately $169 million in provincial funding through this agreement.”

Doug Varty, Graham Lear among Jacks 2018 Hall of Fame inductees

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The 2018 Jack Richardson London Music Awards Hall of Fame and Lifetime Achievement honourees were announced on March 9. Induction will take place Sunday, April 15 during the annual JRLMA gala.

A performer known for his rockstar personas, a drummer who shared the stage with Gino Vannelli and a singer and comedian who made his name on American TV will soon add the label of hall of famer to their bios.

Announced before more than 100 people, the latest inductees into the Jack Richardson London Music Awards (JRLMA) Hall of Fame were unveiled at the John Kinder Labatt Lounge on March 9.

Acclaimed drummer Graham Lear, the late Gordie Tapp — a TV star on many country-music themed shows — and London rocker Doug Varty will be formally honoured with induction into the JRLMA Hall of Fame during the annual awards gala on Sunday, April 15. It was also revealed longtime London promoter Nick Panaseiko will receive a JRLMA Lifetime Achievement Award that night, alongside the late Saul Holiff, who was announced earlier as a 2018 Lifetime Achievement honouree.

JRLMA founder Mario Circelli helped kick off the evening, expressing his excitement for not only the announcement of details of the second annual Jack Richardson London Music Week, but for the recognition of the hall’s latest honourees.

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JRLMA Hall of Fame honouree Doug Varty.

For Varty, who fell in love with the electric guitar when he first heard The Rolling Stones at age 13 and would go on to join bands such as Sea Dog and Lowdown before establishing not only his own music, but his popular Bryan Adams and Rob Stewart tribute acts, recognition in his hometown means a great deal.

“It feels really wonderful; It’s a real honour to be a part of this group of people. The best thing about this is it’s so nice to be honoured by the people you know, by the city that I choose to live in. Even though I grew up here, I love London,” Varty said. “To be chosen by the people who are here is a wonderful thing. To be included in an elite group of people, people pointed to for an honoured position, I feel very honoured too.”

Varty knows Lear and Panaseiko personally and reminisced a little about the interconnection of the London music scene.

For example, Varty performed in the house band at Thee Image, a nightclub once run by Panaseiko, who also served as the band’s manager.

The hall of fame induction will also be special for Varty — who under the banner of The Doug Varty Band, won the 1990 Labatt’s Blue Band Warz, a contest against 1,500 groups nationwide — because of his personal connection to super-producer and JRLMA inspiration, Jack Richardson.

“I had the honour of working with Jack. I’ve had the honour of some Jack Richardson awards as well,” Varty said. “Jack is very deserving of the title of the name-carrier of this association, these awards. I’m glad to see a person who had the vision Jack did is rewarded in this way.”

Born in Plymouth, U.K., in 1949, Lear moved with his family to Ontario and first began drumming with the Police Boys Band of London at the age of eight.

Lear would not only play on some of Vannelli’s greatest hits, but he would go on to garner critical acclaim from Canadian drummers Neal Peart of Rush and Penti Glan of Alice Cooper. He also played in Carlos Santana’s band, touring with the guitar legend for some 12 years.

Tapp, a comedian, musician, storyteller and scriptwriter, was recognized for his contributions to entertainment as a member of the Canadian Country Music Association Hall of Fame in 1990.

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2018 JRLMA Lifetime Achievement honouree Nick Panaseiko.

Panaseiko’s recognition for lifetime achievement stems in large part from his role in the city’s music scene in the 1960s and 1970s.

Perhaps most significantly, Panaseiko is known for bringing both The Supremes and legendary rockers KISS to the Forest City.

Ontario, Nestlé Canada supporting more than 390 London jobs

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Ontario and Nestle Canada are partnering on an investment in the company’s London ice cream facility, one that will see 12 new jobs added while supporting 380 existing positions.

The Forest City might be renamed the Flavour City after a partnership announcement by the Ontario government and Nestlé Canada.

The province is partnering with Nestlé Canada to drive economic growth in southwestern Ontario by supporting the company’s investment at its ice cream facility in London, creating 12 new jobs and supporting 380 existing positions.

Ontario’s funding supports one stage of a four-phased expansion plan by Nestlé Canada in which the company is investing a total of $51.5 million. Ontario is investing $390,750 from the Southwestern Ontario Development Fund, supporting an additional investment of $2,214,250 from the company.

Cambridge MPP Kathryn McGarry made the announcement March 2 at Nestlé Canada in London.

With support from the Southwestern Ontario Development Fund, Nestlé Canada is investing in expanding its London 401 Ice Cream Factory.

The expansion is helping the company modernize its manufacturing processes to allow for greater flexibility within the production lines.

“At Nestlé Canada, we are proud of being a significant contributor to Ontario’s food processing and dairy sector,” said Jayne Payette, business executive officer Ice Cream at Nestlé Canada. “We are delighted to receive this support from the province to help us increase our competitiveness and make positive impact for the people of London and the region.”

Nestlé Canada, a subsidiary of Nestlé, sells a wide range of products including chocolate, coffee, frozen meals and pet products.

The latest expansion includes an increase to the factory’s current footprint by 9,000 sq. ft. to create more capacity for future growth of Hӓagen-Dazs and other popular products.

Groundwork has already begun with production planned in early 2019.

According to a media release from the province, supporting business investment in southwest Ontario is part of Ontario’s plan to create fairness and opportunity during this period of rapid economic change.

“Our government is making strategic partnerships with companies like Nestlé Canada to support their growth plan that’s bringing good jobs to London,” said Minister of Economic Development and Growth Steven Del Duca. “This expansion is helping the company continue to innovate and bring new products to the market, while providing a boost to our local economy.”

Nestlé Canada employs approximately 3,500 people in over 20 manufacturing, sales and distribution sites across Canada.

“We are pleased to support Nestlé’s significant investment in southwestern Ontario’s food processing and dairy sector,” said Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and Minister Responsible for Small Business Jeff Leal. “Our support for Nestlé Canada through the Southwestern Ontario Development Fund is helping create good jobs and economic opportunities for workers, dairy farmers and communities throughout the London area.”