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Woman of the Week: Karen Farbridge

Karen Farbridge is a straight-forward, confident, and extremely successful woman in Ontario’s sustainability community.  As a previous leader in municipal government, she is charismatic and focused on making the world a better place.

When the former Mayor of Guelph is asked about her proudest accomplishments from her 11 years on council, she is quick to bring it back to the importance of community engagement. “Advancing our practice around engagement and rethinking how local government is involved with sustainability is what I feel the most proud of,” Farbridge says. “People are looking for connections to place and community and they find them in different ways in their lives, and I found it in this way in my own life.”

Farbridge has been involved in the environmental and government non-profit and public sectors for over 20 years. Most recently, she established her consulting agency, Karen Farbridge and Associates after her final term as mayor in 2014.  “The key focus is to implement projects that accelerate growth to create low-carbon and resilient communities,” Farbridge says. “That can entail work with the public sector, [for example] with Natural Resources Canada and Municipal Affairs Ontario, and also in the private sector. It also includes work with Research institutions, such as University of Guelph and York University and the Columbia Institute out of B.C.”

Farbridge has several projects on the go and uses her extensive experience in the political realm to help various organizations with sustainability initiatives. She helped the Columbia Institute in B.C. write a report, Top Asks for Climate Change: Ramping up Low-Carbon Communities, that included a report card assessing climate change initiatives, labelling the successes and which areas needed improvements. The report was released on June 1 and focuses on how the federal government is progressing towards goals pertaining to the Paris Agreement.

Farbridge is also contributing to a collaborative project with the Ontario Climate Consortium and the University of Guelph via the Community Energy Knowledge Action Partnership. This project studies net zero and low-carbon developments across five different Ontario municipalities, taking into account testimonies from a number of urban planners, economic development officers, and community management officers.

Long before becoming mayor, Farbridge was involved in municipal politics. She became a city councillor in 1994 while also working for the Ontario Public Interest Research Group Guelph at the same time. She obtained a PhD in biology and spent 10 years in academics at University of Guelph. Farbridge encouraged council to develop a group plan on climate change that focused on the Kyoto protocol. As her career progressed, she served her first term as mayor of Guelph in 2000-2003 and her second and third terms from 2006-2014.

In between her terms as mayor, Farbridge worked with the University of Guelph to develop a community energy plan that was later implemented. “I ran again for Mayor in 2006. That community energy plan was brought forward to the new council and it was adopted,” Farbridge says. “Since that time, I put a lot of time into promoting the community energy plan.”

Farbridge has received several awards including the City Builder Award from the Canadian Urban Institute in 2014 for her leadership in sustainability and community energy. She also received the Clean 50/Clean16 Award from Delta Management Group in 2014, which is awarded annually to 50 individual leaders who are advancing clean and sustainable development in Canada. In 2012, Farbridge was the recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal from the Governor General of Canada for her contributions and achievements to Canada. Farbridge was elected Guelph’s first female mayor in 1999.

Farbridge is passionate about mentoring women and plays an integral role in environmental charity Nature Canada’s Women for Nature initiative, which promotes women leaders involved in nature. The organization is currently creating a mentorship program where Farbridge and other notable women in the environmental sector help younger women forward their careers. She is also a part of a mentoring project to help women who have a start-up businesses in Guelph, and has a relationship with a woman in the city to help her build up her start-up.

When Farbridge is taking a break from combatting climate change, she enjoys gardening, hiking, and is looking forward to a canoeing trip in Algonquin Park this summer. She is clearly a nature lover and has made a considerable impact within the sustainable community in Ontario.

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Is Canada Day worth celebrating?

Canada Day is an opportunity to appreciate a great country to live in….or is it?

It seems that most people look at the national holiday as a chance to work time and a half, and make a little extra cash on the holiday. But, where is the sentimentality for the great north? Does it exist or are Canadians feeling less celebratory than usual?

It has been an interesting year for Canada, full of good intentions and bad decisions. A new government was voted in, bringing the Liberals back into power after a disastrous end for the Conservative party. This was a shining moment for Canadians, as everyone young and old swept out a government that was actively pushing frightening bills such as Bill C-51, the anti-terrorism act (which is currently still on the table). Canadians came together and decided that a country that didn’t support multiculturalism and democratic interests was not going to get another term. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau represents a new and fresh agenda for Canada and, whatever his flaws, he advocates on behalf of valuable issues such as equality and Aboriginal rights.

Canada also saw its first gender-balanced cabinet and female NDP leader in Alberta — Rachel Notley —which is unprecedented in the province. Canadians saw people rally when the Fort McMurray fires nearly wiped out an entire city, and proudly took in Syrians as the refugee crisis continued. Canada was a strong attendee at the first Paris Climate Change Conference and is making waves adopting new climate change legislation to try and cut down on greenhouse gas emissions.

On the other hand, the Mike Duffy trial was a disappointment, and the new gender-balanced cabinet made an embarrassment of itself when Trudeau accidentally elbowed NDP member, Ruth Ellen Brosseau. Canada also granted a U.S. town permission to take 8.2 million gallons of water from Lake Michigan, which opens up our great lakes for the taking.

Overall, Canadians should be celebrating a country that makes mistakes, but actively tries to promote its founding principles of democracy, respect, and equality for all. Canada has its flaws, but even though it is often compared to our American big brother or our cranky British grandmother, it also has its own identity. It is a blessing to live in a country of great beauty that is not suffering from many of the world’s desperate problems such as water scarcity or a lack of essential social services.

Canada is young, but worthy of national pride. Even if you are working or otherwise engaged and cannot attend any Canada day events across the country, take a moment to celebrate being Canadian. I am definitely proud to don red and white, and pledge towards building a new and better future for this country. Will you do the same?

60 second workout is a dud

What if you could work out for 10 minutes a day instead of losing a whole hour to exercise?

A new study was released by graduate students from McMaster University that indicates 60 seconds of high intensity workout training followed by recovery exercises has the same impact as 50 minutes of endurance training.

Twenty-five men were divided into two groups — endurance and SIT — and observed over a 12 week period. The endurance training group would workout for 50 minutes with a warm up and cool down period before and afterwards. The men participating in SIT would do intensive exercise for 20 seconds followed by two minutes of recovery and then cycle through again for a total of 10 minutes.

It was concluded that “twelve weeks of brief intense interval exercise improved indices of cardiometabolic health to the same extent as traditional endurance training in sedentary men, despite a five-fold lower exercise volume and time commitment.”

It appears that SIT could be beneficial for people on a time crunch and can provide similar health benefits to longer exercise.

Though SIT has potential time-saving benefits, I have concerns about embracing this new exercise fad wholeheartedly without critical inspection.The intense exercises have the potential to remove the natural high that is created in fitness activities. It becomes an almost cathartic and relaxing escape from deadlines and helps to relieve stress and release endorphins. Will fans of the gym achieve the same level of happiness if they constrain their workout to a 10-minute routine? Joy is, arguably, an essential result of daily exercise. It would be interesting to analyze the level of satisfaction for both study groups in their respective exercises.

Another concern is the level of skill needed to participate in this intensive fitness activity — there is no need to lose a limb. Pushing yourself to your absolute physical limit to ensure you are getting the most out of your one minute of exercise may be a recipe for pulling a muscle, or having an asthma attack. Endurance training helps to slowly adjust your body to working out and doesn’t endanger you, or push unnecessary limits.

The study also includes 25 men and NO women. It is unclear whether fast-paced exercise would be appropriate for both sexes, and it is interesting that they were not a part of the primary study in the first place. The students did mention that a second study is underway for women. The experiment also did not indicate whether people with chronic injuries or women who are pregnant could do SIT.

The 60-second exercise phenomenon appears to be an exclusive trend that includes men who want to push themselves to the absolute brink of their physical limits and not waste time, or enjoy their workout. I think it is safe to say SIT training can get up and walk out the door to join other failed workout fads.

Here are the women rockin’ the upcoming Junos

Canadian bands and musicians are flooding Western Canada in preparation for the upcoming Junos Awards and the accompanying week-long festival. On April 3, the 45th Junos will be held at the Calgary Saddledome, and many amazing Canadian women are in the running for awards. Personally, I’m looking forward to watching Buffy Sainte-Marie perform along with several other talented Canadian musicians.

Alongside the Junos, Junofest will run from March 28 to April 3 brings together local musical acts alongside Juno nominees across venues in the city. In preparation for this show-stopping event, I went down to check out the Juno Hub, a pop-up shop (824 8th St. S.W) dedicated to all things Juno. The first thing I noticed was the displays from nominees and past Juno award winners that decorated the walls. Upon entering, classic rock musician Buffy Sainte-Marie’s dress was being showcased. Drake’s shoes were also in the window display, having been sent from the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto for the occasion. An outfit from Russell Peters was in the shop and shoes from hip-hop artist K-OS were also showcased.

This year’s Junofest will include some amazing performances by 36?, Milk&Bone, Lucette and The Wet Secrets. Calgary is also hosting the Juno Photography Exhibition and the Juno Tour of Canadian Art, which includes art selections by past Juno winners, including 54-40 and The Trews.

I combed through the award nominees, specifically focusing on the female talent being showcased. Classic rock artist Buffy Sainte-Marie has a double nomination for contemporary roots album of the year and as well as aboriginal album of the year. She is one of the headliners at the Junos and her performance is sure to impress. Sainte-Marie originally hails from the Piapot Cree First Nations Reserve in Qu’Appelle Valley, S.K., and is a renowned aboriginal rights activist.

Long-time Canadian band, Metric, led by front woman Emily Haines, has been nominated for group of the year. Walk Off the Earth with singer Sarah Blackwood has been nominated for pop album of the year. Alessia Cara is a popular contender, being nominated for both breakthrough artist of the year and R&B/ Soul recording of the year.

Heavy metal band, Diemonds, which is frontlined by female rocker Priya Panda, has also been nominated for heavy metal album of the year. Diemonds is a well-loved metal band in Toronto and one of the few all-female metal bands in the country.

I hope that some of these female musicians take the win at the Junos this year.  It is important to remember how hard it is (even today) for women to climb up in the industry, especially in the male-dominated heavy metal genre. Fingers crossed for the women involved, and even if they don’t win, supporting Canadian female music year-round may lead them to a Juno in the future.