Category Archives: Programs

Walrus Talks Philanthropy

A few of the directors went to the Walrus Talks Philanthropy on November 25, at a full Koerner Hall in Toronto. As per the format of Walrus Talks, each of the 8 speakers had 7 minutes in which to address the subject, and as per the usual unusual perspectives at Walrus Talks, the speakers put forward some challenging points of view. It was a provocative evening and, in a nutshell, none of the speakers said that philanthropy is just giving money to good causes. Among the highlights, with the link to watch each one via the Walrus website:

Michael Koerner explained how entrepreneur skills and philanthropy could be used effectively together, and the hall where the Talks took place was the evidence (the brilliant acoustics were put to good use when the sound system cut out later in the Talks, and Bill Young was able to proceed perfectly audibly).

 Justin Poy tackled the subject of philanthropy among recent immigrant groups, and said that there’s no short-cut: getting to know the community and its values is the only way to make the connection.

Terry O’Reilly (no relation of mine) jumped right into using the power of the consumer and active choices to market philanthropic consumption.

Bill Young fearlessly challenged foundations to be more than growth-based mutual funds with a slightly-higher-charitable-rate-of-giving, and use their capitol for active projects.

And Tom Jackson framed all the discussions with the point that each person’s sense of community is the driving force behind charity, and the point is to always widen the community.

There’s no doubt that Walrus Talks bring out new points of view, and this was one of the best yet. We’re very happy to continue to be Walrus Foundation supporters.


Canadian Institute for Advanced Research


Last week, we had the chance to hear the news about the four new research themes at CIFAR. His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston was in attendance to express his enthusiasm for the network-creating philosophy of CIFAR and its impact on Canadian science. Dr Alan Bernstein (President and CEO) described the CIFAR as being a global university without departments – that is, scientists from a variety of areas work together on the most important themes in science today.

Chawkers funded one of the Global Scholars in the Earth System Evolution program this year, Ken Ferrier, whose area of research is earth surface topology changes and the implications for climate. Global Scholars are young researchers who are brought into the multi-disciplinary groups and contribute to the collaborative design of the research. They also work with mentors who will stress the development of leadership in their field.

At the dinner, CIFAR announced that it will be creating research teams in four areas: photosynthetic photovoltaics, the molecular basis of life, microbes and humans, and brain-mind-consciousness.


PACT Grow to Learn


Yesterday, I had a chance to visit the amazing schoolyard garden run by PACT. It is a huge (and growing) garden on the northwest part of the John Polanyi Collegiate property, near Bathurst and Lawrence in Toronto. Even as the garden winds down for the winter, the work put into the garden and the output (vegetable and human) are impressive.

Adam Dirks gave me a tour of the vegetable plots, the chicken house, the learning area and the compost facilities. He was on his lunch hour, between morning and afternoon programs with the high school students. Teachers at John Polanyi bring their classes out to work in the garden, cook, study nutrition, plan marketing, run markets, design community outreach, and sometimes just to use the space as a thoughtful place to be and learn. Students from many elementary schools also visit the garden regularly, and Isabella, one of the facilitators, says that the programs are designed to help students learn with all their senses, which gives them a powerful, positive and long-lasting learning experience about food, ecology and the outdoors.

Every type of vegetable that you can imagine, and many that you might not have heard of (cardoon, anyone?) are grown, and the range of fruit and nuts is expanding in the next few years as well. The produce is donated to food banks and some is sold at farmers markets and food co-ops in Toronto, with proceeds going back into the program.

After the tour, Adam made pizza in the oven (that the students built), and served it with one of the best salads (made of fresh young lettuce) that I have ever had!

As well as teaching the practical skills and knowledge that go into producing food, the garden is a community hub for the area, and outreach into the neighbourhood connects students and adults from across cultures and backgrounds. The garden gets great community support and attention, and through that, runs all summer, even when school’s out.

There are many ways that students can work in the garden: teachers can bring classes out occasionally, or on a regular basis, students can do a co-op course for a term, and young people can get paid positions or volunteer over the summer. What the garden proves so well is that many students learn best outside a traditional classroom, and the garden provides that opportunity in both a multi-faceted and an integrated way.

PACT runs four other garden facilities around Toronto, and is looking to expand its greenhouse so that it can run winter programs as well. The Chawkers Foundation helped to fund the development of more classroom materials for high school and middle school, which will be available for teachers to use when they plan a visit to the garden.

To find out more about PACT’s many other programs and their other 4 beautiful gardens, go to their website at .

Guelph Jazz Festival



One of the unique cornerstones of the Guelph Jazz Festival is the academic study of improvisation, through its connection to the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation, largely centered at the University of Guelph. We had a chance to visit the Guelph Jazz Festival Colloquium this month, where we dropped in on a morning concert (Jesse Stewart and Dong-Won Kim) and then one of the many panel discussions. The three-day Colloquium is a free part of the Festival and open to the public, in the beautiful spaces of the MacDonald Stewart Art Gallery at the corner of College and Gordon, in Guelph. The panel discussion (Jazz Beyond Humanity) ran the spectrum from Human-Equine Improvisation to the Extra-Normal Voice in Jazz to Visions of Jazz Automatons. The knowledgeable audience had no shortage of questions for all the panelists and in many cases, suggested more resources and lines of inquiry for the researchers to follow. It’s a unique platform for researchers to meet the public and for jazz musicians to follow the latest research in critical practice.

To find out about past and future GJF’s, you can look at

The Osborne Collection: Lest We Forget


Last week, I was able to go to the opening of the Lest We Forget exhibition at the Lillian H. Smith Library on College Street, in Toronto. The Osborne is a special collection of children’s literature within the Toronto Public Library, and its collection is available to student groups, from the elementary school level to university programs. On the hundredth anniversary of the beginning of World War I, this exhibition brings together a stunning variety of children’s literature relating to war, spanning The Napoleonic Wars in 1805 to Afghanistan in 2012. The material not only presents the stories of children’s experience in wars and conflicts, but also illustrates the differing ways that wars and conflicts have been presented to children over time. The exhibition begins and ends with the tragic direct role of children in war, as drummers, buglers and young sailors in the Napoleonic Wars to the child soldiers in modern conflicts. Yet the theme throughout all the works is the ultimate yearning for peace.

The Chawkers Foundation helped with the costs for the beautiful catalogue, written by Elizabeth Derbecker, and many foundations helped with the other costs of the show. Publicity was very successfully planned and school groups are already booking tours and workshops. See for more information.

Charlie’s Freewheels

Last week we saw the Charlie’s Freewheels program in action. In conjunction with the Regent Park Community Health Centre, Charlie’s Freewheels runs a Queen Street storefront bike program for youth in Regent Park. There are programs six days a week for a wide spectrum of ages.

wed night at Charlies Freewheels

The winter term Build a Bike program was nearing completion, and last Wednesday, the guys were working on shifters and derailleurs. Bike frames are donated to the program, any parts that can be safely reused, are, and new tires, cables and brakeshoes are supplied. The young people keep the bike at the end of the program and are also given a free helmet and set of bike lights.

A lot of volunteer mechanics help the students through the whole process every week. The atmosphere in the storefront is so positive that the “alumni” keep dropping in,  and many are learning skills in advocacy and doing presentations for bike events.

If you want to find out more, their website is


We had a chance to visit Everdale Environmental Learning Centre in July. Everdale has launched an urban farming facility in partnership with Toronto Regional Conservation Authority and other local agencies, on the Black Creek property near Jane and Steeles. Much of it will be modelled on the work done at the Hillsburgh property of Everdale:


Everdale runs programs in organic agriculture, including vegetables, crops and livestock. We had a chance to see the facilities that have been constructed over the past 25 years of their impressive history. Chawkers gave funds in 2013 for the exciting and progressive new venture at Black Creek.

Their website is