Meeting Speaker April 7, 2021
Rabbi Stephen Wise, Shaarei-Beth El Congregation of Oakville
The Challenges of Judaism in the 21st Century
Rabbi Stephen Wise is the spiritual leader of Shaarei-Beth El (SBE) Congregation of Oakville. He is excited to be part of a congregation as diverse, storied and unique as SBE; leading meaningful worship experiences for all, teaching thought provoking courses for adults and children, providing inspiring programming and being a catalyst for social activism.
This month we tried out a new format, wherein rather than having a prepared presentation, our speaker was "interviewed" by member Gord Stovel, to draw out thoughts and comments that relate to the topic. Gord began by asking the Rabbi what he thought about the differences between Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Rabbi Wise began with the similarities - they are all monotheistic religions (believe in one God), have a core text (Torah, Old and New Testaments, and the Koran, respectively), include group prayer to God and have core values that are similar. Differences typically relate to who each recognize as prophets.
Gord asked Rabbi Wise if he has ever been confronted by the need to identify as a Jew, what situations that might have occurred in and how he handled it and how it made him feel. The Rabbi described small acts of anti-Semitism that occur frequently, and some larger cases he remembers when he was a student at a private Jewish school in Toronto, when playing sports against teams from other non-Jewish private schools. His experiences have grown into his role consulting with schools in the area when acts of hate against other religions need to be addressed. He noted that he has never felt in any particular danger in Canada, but related a situation where he was in Denmark for several months and was advised to not be identifiably Jewish, particularly in terms of wearing his kipa, which he normally does. In that case, though, the difficulty in the country appears to have arisen in the immigrant Muslim community.
Gord led the discussion on through a description of the major Jewish holidays and how they are celebrated. They then moved on to the issue of territorial disputes and the armed conflict that has arisen as a result - Christians, Jews and Arab Muslims have lived in the territory now known as Israel for thousands of years, so in Rabbi Wise's view, conflict will occur although the goal is obviously some kind of peaceful co-existence.
The Rabbi concluded by indicating his pride in his faith and fellow Jews who "punch above their weight" particularly in fields such as medicine, the law, finance and creative arts (e.g. movie making, including writing, producing, directing and acting).
One member asked the Rabbi for his comments on the movie "Unorthodox". His opinion was that it was good, but that anyone who does watch it should also watch of few episodes of "Shtisel" to get a more balanced view on the lives of Orthodox Jews.
Before joining SBE in 2007, Rabbi Wise spent two years as the assistant Rabbi at Temple Beth El in Boca Raton, FL. Rabbi Wise was ordained from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in May of 2005, has a BA from the University of Toronto and an MA from Brandeis University.
Rabbi Wise is the chair of the Interfaith Council of Halton, a member of the Reform Rabbis of Greater Toronto, and a member of the Halton Police Service multi-faith taskforce. Rabbi Wise is an author and speaker on Israel and her role in Tikkun Olam, with his first book “Israel: Repairing the World”.
Rabbi Wise and his wife Cheryl, the director of Education at SBE, have 3 children, Jacob, Talia and Alexa.
Meeting Speaker March 3, 2021
Tom Axworthy, Senior Fellow, Munk Institute
Populism, Trumpism and Extreme Discord: Is Canada Immune?
Thomas S. Axworthy, has had a distinguished career in government, academia, and philanthropy. He served as the Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Mr. Axworthy went into an academic career first at Harvard University and Queens University following his government career.
The topic of Mr. Axworthy’s talk was “Populism, Trumpism and Extreme Discord: Is Canada Immune?” He covered the background and the current status of populism in the US and Europe and then discussed the effect of this phenomenon in Canada. Populism is a concept of a political movement which challenges prevailing established political norms. Populism generally does not take any particular policy position and hence it can have either right or left orientation. Examples of populism can be found all over the world at different times. Importantly, populism often threatens the rule of law and liberal democracy and therefore populist leaders try to bend the rules of democracy and weaken checks on democracy.
There are six drivers of populism in the US and Europe:
Overwhelming change leads to anxiety and fear
Decline of middle class
The info-demic of social media
Immigration: fear of other
Rise of the strongman
Too much change can bring about pessimism and a search for something or someone to restore both order and simplicity. Based on a number of research studies, wages have been stagnant for decades both in the US and Europe. Globalization has moved supply chains offshore which has been good for corporate profits, shareholders, and the Chinese where 800 million people have moved out of poverty, but it has made lives exceedingly difficult for former high wage workers in the US and Europe. Wage stagnation and rising costs for key aspects of the middle-class dream challenge optimism and induce stress. Share of world income growth for the people in East Asia and South Asia went up while the ultra-rich (or is it the middle class?) in Europe and North America went down in the last decade.
Social media is central to the rise of populism. Social media allows individual-created content without standards or gatekeepers. It is the perfect vehicle for spreading misinformation, connecting with the likeminded, organizing and recruiting for those anxious, angry or conspiracy-minded. Anti-immigration is a staple of populist parties. People upset with unemployment or wage stagnation blame immigrants for taking jobs. For those worried about tradition or culture immigrants can be framed as an alien threat. In a complicated world, strongman demagogues have a simple message, and that very simplicity helps followers to make sense of what is happening around them. The relationship is reciprocal: The strongman understands the values of the base and gains their trust; in turn the base will follow the leader and take their cues from his issue agenda. Social media then unites the followers into an alternative universe where they engage with each other but no one else. Populists divide the world into “We versus Them" and such a mind-set can deteriorate into believing that opponents become enemies. Democracy thrives on debate and sorting out the diverse interests of multiple groups. Partisanship can become so extreme that compromise becomes difficult and polarization can become so extreme that attaining or staying in power becomes more important than democracy itself. The United States today is an example of populism going astray and even descending into violence.
While it is clear that populism is not a dominant feature of the world view of Canadians it is not absent either. As in other parts of the world many Canadian workers have had wage stagnation and economic anxieties are real especially during Covid. Interestingly, Canada is the most welcoming country for migrants in the world (Gallup 2020). Canada has a history of events or outrages similar to the excesses of right-wing populism today. Of the six drivers of the populism, three apply in Canada (i, ii & iii). But three drivers are largely absent. Tom suggests we should not be complacent that only half the drivers apply and should work actively to ensure that extreme populism remains only a possibility.
Meeting Speaker February 3, 2021
Niten Barua, Member Speaker, Probus Club of Old Oakville Ass’t Secretary
Drug Approval Process in Canada and What is Different About Approval of Covid Vaccines
Niten’s biography includes a number of years with various pharmaceutical companies, in the regulatory affairs area, so he is well-qualified to help us with this timely topic. Niten was responsible for managing Regulatory Affairs (the group responsible for obtaining approval of drugs prior to marketing) & Quality Assurance function for a Pharmaceutical Company for over 17 years. Niten took lead role for the approval more than a dozen drugs in his regulatory affairs career spanning over 25 years. Some of the more common drugs Niten was responsible for approval recently are, Xtandi (for Prostate Cancer), Myrbetriq and Vesicare (both for urinary incontinence) and Prograf and Advagraf (for organ rejection after transplant).
Niten covered the basic Food & Drugs Act requirements for selling any drug in Canada, and then explained the modifications to the Act that allow for selling Covid Vaccines. He then went on to cover the steps involved in developing and marketing a drug, what must be included in the New Drug Submission to Health Canada, and then what the review process looks like.
The main task that a manufacturer has is to apply for and receive a drug identification number (DIN) for any new drug. That must be received and applied to the product before it may be sold. In the U.S., when there is a declared emergency, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can approve a drug without all the evidence that would fully establish its effectiveness and safety, but companies must continue their clinical trials in order to provide longer term information on safety and effectiveness. Canada has a similar process, called an Interim Order (IO). Health Canada will grant authorization on if it determines that the benefits outweigh the potential risks. Like the U.S., the IO allows the drug to be sold while additional development and testing occurs on the road to market authorization.
Niten then went on to describe the generic drug development process and timeline, from the initial research phase, through Preclinical and Clinical trials, then Evaluation and Approval. As many as 10,000 compounds might be involved in the research phase which after typically 10 years and an investment of more than $1billion, will result in one approved drug.
The contrast to the typical situation for the development of the Pfizer Covid vaccines is startling. As an example, the development of the Pfizer vaccine began in January of 2020, clinical trials began in April, and submission for approval by the FDA on November 20, 2020 – more than 10 times faster than the typical process! New drug submissions’ review timelines in Canada are typically one year, give or take. So the approval of the Pfizer vaccine in Canada just about one month later than in the U.S. is extraordinarily quick. The submitter must pay fees to Health Canada as well, which can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. With the submitter’s agreement Health Canada may also collaborate with other international regulatory agencies to fast track the process, sharing analyses and perspectives to supplement Health Canada’s usual processes. Health Canada has been following this process in the review of all Covid vaccines so far.
All in all, Niten’s talk was an eye-opening window into the cost, time and thoroughness of oversight and review that drug development receives. He assured us that even though the Covid vaccines are arriving amazingly quickly, they are still subject to all the safety and effectiveness checks that are required.
Meeting Speaker January 6, 2021
Amanda White-Pressey, Senior Director, Marketing & Communications,
Seasons Seniors Lifestyle Living, Oakville Headquarters
The Challenges of Adapting to COVID: Lessons learned and how will Seniors' Residences look in the future
Amanda White gave us a very interesting presentation focusing on how people should think about changing their housing as they age. The goal of any changes in lifestyle living should be increased peace of mind. To that end, she spoke about the real differences between retirement living and long term care.
Retirement living means independent living, but with optional access to housekeeping, meals, activities and care services. These homes generally are developed by private companies. Long term care involves access to the highest levels of care, along with 24 hour support, and is typically government funded. She talked about the types of care, ranging from independent living, independent supported living, assisted living and memory care. The care required is assessed by a medical professional who provides a detailed report which is updated annually. The goal is to understand the needs as well as the desires of the client. These professionals are trained to notice changes in the client as the years go by.
She then went on the discuss several other topics, including when is the right time to move, what are the cost to value considerations, what are the average costs of their facilities, health and safety considerations, as well as precautionary protocols established due to the pandemic. She then provided some down-sizing tips, in particular getting rid of your excess stuff while holding on to some of your favourite items. And especially, don't over-save for others (your heirs?).
Amanda concluded with a discussion of the retirement home of the future. Seasons is using focus groups to adapt service models and to establish micro-markets within the retired persons population. They are attempting to be innovative and embrace technology.
Meeting Speaker December 2, 2020
Lianne has been a history, culture and social studies resource specialist with the Toronto District School Board almost 20 years and has been the guest instructor and workshop leader for teachers across many boards in Southern Ontario. To date she has taught over 80 000 teachers and students (usually in authentic
period clothing). In 2003, she was selected by W.O.M.A.D. as one of Toronto’s Women of Influence.
She is the author of many books including two medieval novels and non-fiction books on Bangladesh, India, great women in history, historical clothing and costuming, and world travel photography. She is a contributing author of the Canadian best seller business book, The Power of Women United.
Pursuing her love of art, she has been an exhibiting artist at the Royal Ontario Museum, Roy Thomson Hall, The IDA Gallery, and The Shaw Festival.
Appearing on TV and interviewed many times on the radio, she has been the keynote presenter at many professional, academic and organization events.
Lianne Harris B.A., B.F.A(Ed), T.E.S.L.
Celebrate the season with a refreshing look at the cherished stories and symbols surrounding Christmas. Join Lianne as we go back in time and explore various cultures to better understand the origins, significance, and popularity of our most recognized Christmas motifs and well-loved stories.
Meeting Speaker 04 November 2020
Iliana Oris Valiente
Managing Director and Global Blockchain Innovation Lead, Accenture
Iliana Oris Valiente CPA, CA, CBP (Certified Bitcoin Professional) is a managing director at Accenture and the Global Blockchain Innovation Lead for the firm’s emerging tech division. Iliana is responsible for strategy initiatives and overseeing projects to conceptualize and build blockchain solutions across industries, with a focus on FSI, supply chain, healthcare and the public sector. Iliana is also the founder and Chair of ColliderX, the world’s first non-profit, open sourced, and crowdsourced R&D hub for blockchain and related technologies. Iliana is an author and sought-after speaker, regularly presenting at conferences and events around the world.
Iliana will be speaking to us about emerging trends in the world of FinTech.
Meeting Speaker 07 October 2020
Tim is a retired Vice President of Forty Creek Distillery and a graduate of the University of Toronto where he earned an honours degree in psychology.
Tim has owned and driven battery-electric cars for the past 7 years and has logged over 250,000 kilometres without the need for gasoline or diesel fuel. He now enjoys sharing his EV experience with others and breaks down many myths and misconceptions about electric vehicle ownership. Tim makes the case that we are nearing the ‘tipping point’ when electric cars will replace those powered by gasoline. He also touches on the state of self driving technology and what autonomous cars could mean for the future.
Tim is a member of the Electric Vehicle Society, a non-profit organization which works to promote the understanding and adoption of electric mobility in Canada. In his role there, he chairs the EV Society’s Mississauga Chapter.
Meeting Speaker December 2, 2020
Consumer Smarts with Ellen Roseman
Ellen Roseman is a journalist who sticks up for ordinary Canadians. She’s a champion at helping consumers fight back against injustices. People praise her direct, down to earth and common-sense writing style.
Ellen’s personal finance and consumer columns appeared in the Toronto Star for 20 years until July 2019.
She was the Star’s business editor for two years. Before that, she was with the Globe and Mail for 20 years as a columnist and associate managing editor of the Report on Business.
She's the author of seven nonfiction books, including Money 101 and Money 201, which give an easy-to-understand introduction to personal finance for Canadians.
Her latest book is: Fight Back: 81 Ways to Help You Save Money and Protect Yourself from Corporate Trickery.
Ellen has been teaching a popular adult education course, Investing for Beginners, at the University of Toronto since 2006. And she is co-chair of the Canadian Foundation for Advancement of Investor Rights, a non-profit charity that speaks for investors.