I have had a life-long interest in our heritage, in government, and in creating connections between people, communities, and countries. I grew up in an active political family in Ontario in the small town of Gore Bay on Manitoulin Island, the largest lake island in the world. My great grandfather became the mayor of our town and went on to be our Federal Member of Parliament. My grandfather was also a long-time mayor of our town and my father was a member of our city council.
I remember accompanying my grandfather to the local airport to greet Lester Pearson, one of Canada’s prominent Prime Ministers and our Member of Parliament, as he emerged from his 4-seater airplane with my cousin, his campaign manager.
Politics was a big topic of conversation at our dinner table and in elementary school I played the role of a candidate and spoke on local issues impacted by Federal policy. As a child I was very concerned about the deep divisions between the “whites” who lived in the town and the” Indians” who lived on the reserve and occasionally attended our school where they were decidedly unwelcome. These early experiences have dominated my life.
I majored in English and History at University and began my career as a Secondary School teacher. I taught English, History, and English as a second language in Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia and had the privilege of teaching multi-cultural and multi-lingual groups of people and the pleasure of bridging the gap between these groups by bringing stories of the history and culture of their chosen country alive. During this period I married and had three children.
1983 was a turning point for me. My youngest child started school and I began my Masters in Canadian Studies in history and political science. I had come to understand and appreciate that people are passionate about our heritage when they hear stories that touch them and make history come alive for them. My interest in political history led me to work at Laurier House in Ottawa, the home of Prime Ministers Wilfred Laurier and Mackenzie King. I then moved to the National Capital Commission where I was responsible for political heritage, including the restoration of the Mackenzie King Estate in Gatineau Park and creating programs for the Estate, Rideau Hall, and Parliament Hill. At the Estate we developed building tours, videos, and school programs. At Rideau Hall, the home of our Governor General, we developed a tour program of the grounds. On Parliament Hill we created Capital Vignettes a theatre program that presented moments from Canadian politics, a Confederation game for school children, and a walking tour “If the Statues could talk, what stories would they tell?”. I finished my ten-year career with the National Capital Commission reorganizing the Corporate Secretariat and the National Advisory Committees and introducing the program evaluation function to the Corporation.
During this time I completed my MA thesis, “Barriers to Women in Canadian Politics”, under the direction of Monique Begin, Minister of Health in the Trudeau cabinet. I became a founding member of an organization which worked towards creating equal representation for women in Parliament. I was selected for the Governor General’s Leadership Conference where I participated with people from different sectors and provinces who traveled in small groups to all parts of Canada to explore inclusion in the work place. We came together at the Citadel in Quebec City to make presentations to the Governor General. Our group presentation centred on the Bette Midler song, “From a Distance” which talks about how all divisions and borders disappear when the world is seen from space.
In 1992 I was encouraged by a Federal Cabinet Minister to move back to Vancouver to seek a nomination for the 1993 Federal Election. I did not succeed in becoming a member of Parliament but the experience gave me the opportunity to connect with Vancouver’s many ethnic communities and experience first hand how politics works on the ground.
My move to Vancouver marked the beginning of the next phase of my life. My husband and I divorced, I left my government job, and I became heavily involved in politics at all levels. I ran for Vancouver City Council and started my personal consulting business, Kinexus Consulting. My business focus was on program evaluation. I met with people to explore how things were working to come up with creative recommendations about what could work better. In 2004 I contracted to play the role of the Executive Director for the Heritage Vancouver Society.
My focus with Heritage Vancouver has been to move the society from “Demolition is Forever” to “Creating a Future for Our Heritage, create community events where heritage buildings become the stage for “history to come alive”, and provide the community with opportunities to explore and contribute ideas to creating possibilities.
It became obvious we will be forever challenged in preserving and appreciating our heritage with an “us and them” attitude. We increase our chances of being successful when the entire community, including our government, developers, architects, real estate agencies and businesses come together and we work as a community.
My creative interests
I am now embarking on a new journey as a creative contributor to quantumideas.com. We are creating opportunities for people to tell their stories, express their point of view, and work together to create community enterprise around our common interests.
My interest as a community leader and community journalist is to bring my ability to think and write creatively, my experience in bringing people together, and my understanding and appreciation of how government and community function to contribute to creating a new form of community governance and a world that works for everyone.