Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Aboriginals Fail High School

A sad indictment indeed.

A recent report by the C.D. Howe Institute simply reiterates what we all know: we failed to accomodate the needs of a marginalized society (Aboriginals) and we should do something about that.

What is most depressing, however, is that the solution certainly did not require a professor, university money or a study to develop: create schools that intimately relate Aboriginals to their school curriculum and are modelled after school districts that achieve good results.

Yet, saying how ridiculous it is to study this sad state of affairs does not negate the reports findings. It does not negate the sad facts:

  • Among Aboriginals living on-reserve, high-school completion rates are disastrous in Manitoba, at 28%, Alberta at 32% and Saskatchewan at 38%.
  • Off-reserve, the completion rates are worst in the Northwest Territories at 46%, Manitoba at 63% and Alberta at 64%.
  • By comparison, for non-aboriginals, completion rates range from a national high of 91% in British Columbia to a low of 84% in Newfoundland.

Professor Richards, the author of the report, argues for creating Aboriginal-run school authorities that are able to operate on-reserve schools – independent of individual band councils. Off-reserve, provinces should build on the practices of school districts that achieve good results.

The report is available at: http://www.cdhowe.org/pdf/Backgrounder_116.pdf

Monday, October 27, 2008

Open Letter: Merrell Take Back Your Outdoor Image!

Last summer my partner and I had the opportunity to paddle and wonder through the world's oldest old growth pine forest (fortunately located in Northern Ontario -- near Temagomi).

Due to the trip, and based on my stellar recommendations, Mark bought a pair of Merrell sandals. I had waxed on about how comfortable, durable and sturdy my sandals were and he, a believer in paying for quality, had no problem forking over the $100+ for the footwear.

The outcome was less than desirable. Not only did we need to perform an emergency repair on BOTH sandals (if we had ignored these repairs Mark would have been unable to wear them as they would have literally fell off his feet), we also were absolutely astounded by Merrell's lack of concern or attention to our ordeal.

In July of last year -- while preparing for our West Coast (Pacific Rim) Trail trip and, faced with purchasing new sandals, Mark and I sat down and composed a letter of concern and complaint to Merrell.

Now, we certainly did not expect them to stop production lines, bolt to our abode and solicit our design brilliance...but at the very least we did expect some acknowledgement to our concerns and compliants.


Not even a "thanks for writing" form letter.

So, it is to my absolute dismay that I am removing Merrell from our outdoor gear purchases. I find it simply unacceptable for a company to entice purchasers with equipment touted for one use, only to ignore complaints if this equipment does not live up to these standards. It leaves me questioning: What other defects will I run into...out in the wild...when I'd like to take comfort in the idea that one CAN purchase quality products.

As such, I am posting our letter of complaint as an OPEN LETTER to Merrell...asking them to reexamine their values and ideals and return to their roots as a producer of outdoor goods that CARE about their clients' experiences.

July 29, 2008

To whom it may concern:

I am quite disheartened at the lack of response from your corporate office, with regards to an online letter/compliant I filed at the beginning of July.

My partner and I are weekend warriors. We work hard all week and look forward to our nature retreats. Last year we vacationed in a beautiful section of Northern Ontario – where Canada boasts the oldest pine growth in the world.

During that vacation my partner – a very able and athletic man – asked me to recommend a sandal manufacturer. Over the years I have used (and abused) Merrell with very little discomfort or dissatisfaction. With that in mind, I confidently recommended a pair of Merrell sandals (model/type enclosed).

To our dismay the sandals absolutely and completely fell apart during our trip. The Velcro – a silly addition to active sandals – lost all ability to grip and, by day three, we found ourselves cutting line in order to create makeshift sewing kits. We ended up having to reinforce the heel straps on the sandals, on both sides (and on both sandals). With three more nights of hiking and portaging we were truly and utterly discouraged by the experience.

As a result, we are no longer 100% comfortable with Merrell equipment. Considering we are about to leave for our Pacific Trail hike (at the end of August), I think this is a shame. As a Canadian couple, who enjoys the outdoors and the purchasing good quality Canadian products, it’s a shame we can no longer rely on a brand I once had no trouble promoting.

Even worse, is that my compliant went completely unacknowledged. No courtesy email, no letter and no follow-up phone call.

This prompts me to continue my proactive consumer stance – happy to promote products I am pleased with…and just as happy to publicly and openly dismiss products that I am not pleased with.

I would hope that in the future Merrell would have the decency to acknowledge and address a consumer complaint.


Romana King

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Top MOM -- Built Her Business On Green Values and Lots of Love


I'm not one for the hype of press releases, but I thought this was a press release on a notable topic, particularly when you consider that the job that is most taxking, more tiring, yet most rewarding is being a parent. Of course, the only thing harder is being a parent AND an entrepeneur!

A few months ago I had the opportunity to talk to April MacKinnon, president of Nurtured Products for Parenting Inc. An east-coaster and a mom, April had built a successful online cloth diaper (and other natural products) business. Before starting Nurtured Products for Parenting, April had a hard time finding products that followed her value system (human and earth friendly products and practices). Her response was to source out the products she needed; develop and create a business; now she's been awarded the award of Atlantic Canada's Mom Entrepreneur of the Year based on consumer votes (Media was provided by Roger's publication: Today's Parent).

For more information on this aspiring mom and business person read below.
For a peak into the cloth diapers debate go to: CBC Article on Cloth Diapers, by Romana King>

October 21, 2008 (Dartmouth, NS.) - Atlantic Provincial consumers have spoken in unison and they have shouted praise for the Dartmouth based online company Nurtured Products for Parenting Inc. Nurtured Products for Parenting is an online company aimed at educating and providing families with environmentally sustainable products that are unique, functional, stylish, and beautiful.

Nurtured Products for Parenting was one of hundreds of “Mom-owned” companies vying for the title of “Mom Entrepreneur of the Year”, the 2nd annual nation-wide competition hosted by SavvyMom Media. The competition named a grand-prize national winner and 4 provincial regional winners; with Nurtured Products talking the title for PEI, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick regions.

“I am thrilled that Nurtured has won the Atlantic Regional competition.” Says April MacKinnon, President of Nurtured Products for Parenting Inc. “Community building is a major aspect of what we do, and being an online retailer means that we can reach many more people both regionally and nationally.”

The regional prize includes a cash prize of $2000 for investment in the business; a T-Fal kitchen including 2 slice toaster Avante Deluxe, Elegance kettle and 2 Professional thermo-spot Frying pans (valued at $300); a Canon 5"x7" Photo Album Kit valued at $20 and a Press package courtesy of Foundation Studio valued at $125.
About Nurtured Products for Parenting Inc.

Founded by April MacKinnon in 2006, Nurtured Products for Parenting is a Canadian home-based, mother-operated online business located in Halifax (Dartmouth), Nova Scotia. Nurtured Products for Parenting is dedicated to educating and providing families with environmentally sustainable product choices that are unique, functional, stylish, and beautiful. For more information about Nurtured Products for Parenting please visit www.nurtured.ca.

CONTACT: April MacKinnon, President, Nurtured Products for Parenting Inc.
(902) 405-4367 | www.nurtured.ca

Friday, October 10, 2008

Green Numbers: The Inspiring Stats

Want to read something inspiring? How about a few stats on how green, social and ethical issues are being implemented in corporate Canada (and global multinationals) every day?

Here's a few inspiring stats:

  • What are 88% of companies willing to try?
    Nearly nine in 10 companies are currently undertaking carbon offsetting activities or would consider offsetting in the future, according to a survey of carbon management trends.
  • What can increase a company's value by 80%?
    Tackling climate change could boost company value in six sectors worth a total of $7 trillion, according to a new report by the Carbon Trust.
  • What has the possibility of cutting CO2 by 20%
    PLENTY magazineTom Casten, founder of Recycled Energy Development (RED) posits the US can cut 20% of its CO2 emissions if companies capture the wasted heat from their industrial processes and turn it into electricity. The idea of capturing wasted heat-–particularly the steam that billows from industrial stacks—and converting it into energy is again gaining buzz.
  • Who is expecting 160% ROI on climate spending?
    Cleaning products giant JohnsonDiversey has joined the U.S. EPA's Climate Savers program, pledging $19 million toward emissions reduction efforts that the company expects will save $31 million over the next five years.

Interest peaked? Want a few more stats? Go to: By The Numbers

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Food Banks Call Out In Hard Economic Times...Like Now

Open letter from
Katharine Schmidt, Executive Director, Canadian Association of Food Banks:

One month ago, a CBC/Environics poll found that37% of Canadians were worried about being able to make ends meet. Thedisturbing developments of the past week in the world's financial markets haveshown that they had good reason to worry.

The Canadian Association of Food Banks is very concerned that the currenteconomic crisis could lead to an increase in hunger and food bank use inCanada. As a national network of charitable food programs, we have reason tobe concerned during a weak economy. Food banks face an increase of people inneed of assistance, combined with a decline in donations of food and funds asindividual and corporate donors are forced to tighten their discretionarybudgets.

We are particularly concerned about two groups in particular: seniors,and working people with a precarious hold on the labour market. Seniors, whomake up a small but significant proportion of people assisted by food banks,may be facing drastic reductions in the value of their nest eggs. Workingpeople face job losses as businesses struggle with slackening demand, and withfinding the credit necessary to maintain their operations.

More than 720,000 people in Canada are assisted by food banks everymonth, and 2.7 million live in households where hunger is a daily anddistressing reality. The past 10 years have seen unprecedented economic healthin Canada overall, with GDP rising and unemployment declining. Nevertheless,food bank use was 8.4% higher in 2007 than it was in 1997.

As it is, downturns in Canada's manufacturing and forestry sectors havekept food banks busy, particularly in hard-hit areas like Windsor, ThunderBay, northern Quebec and western Alberta. According to recently-releasedStatistics Canada data, 247,000 manufacturing jobs were lost between 2004 and2007. In the past year alone, employment in the forestry sector has plummetedby 15%. And hunger is not limited to households in regions that have seeneconomic downturns. Though we hear about the thriving energy and resourcedevelopment sectors in our western provinces, many in the west are being leftbehind. Economic growth has brought with it rising costs of housing, gas,heating oil and food. It is too often the case that those who have moved westto find prosperity quickly discover that their most pressing need is to find afood bank.

After several years of economic growth, it is now crystal clear that arising tide does not lift all boats. On a daily basis, Canadians struggle withhunger. This problem has been plaguing our country for almost three decades.To properly address it, we need federal party leaders to provide visionaryleadership, focused into a realistic, long-term, actionable national povertyreduction strategy. Though it touches many, hunger is too often a problem thatgoes unvoiced. Our leaders must face up to the problem and join the search forsolutions.

(About the Canadian Association of Food Banks: CAFB is a national charitableorganization representing the food bank community across Canada. Over 720,000people access food banks each month - 39% are children. CAFB conductsresearch, engages in public education and advocates for public policy changeto eliminate the causes of hunger in Canada. In 2007, the CAFB acquired andshared 8 million pounds of food industry donations through its National FoodSharing System for hungry Canadians.)