To mark 10 years since this website launched, Kickass Canadians share updates and insights about themselves and the world.
The concept for this website came together quickly. I’d been reflecting on how many people I knew who had interesting stories, and during a phone call with one of them, it struck me that other people would want to hear those stories, too. I wound up registering KickassCanadians.ca the next day, but when I was brainstorming what thread should hold the site together, “Canadian” wasn’t the first thought I had. I simply wanted to feature people who were both inspiring and doing good for the world, and who worked in a variety of fields.
The Canadians featured on this website are extraordinary, and continue to do amazing things with their lives. Yet I’m reminded all the time that there are stories everywhere. You discover them when a close friend reveals something they’ve never told you before. Or when you meet someone new. Or when you overhear conversations between strangers.
I am happy to help underscore some of the great work done by Canadians. It’s not about holding one country over others—it’s about celebrating the good we do, while also exploring how we can do better. Still, Kickass Canadians is just one project, created by one person. (Although I hope others will contribute via the Kickass Continuum!) It’s a small glimpse into the larger good being done all over the globe, by people from every background and nationality.
This past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how interconnected we are. It has also shone light on incredible acts of compassion, generosity, dedication, perseverance and ingenuity. And it has proven how quickly we can reprioritize when we decide to, and how adaptive and resilient we can be, even when living under circumstances we never imagined having to face.
As the vaccines roll out and the world works together to extinguish the virus, it’s never been clearer how important it is to collaborate, and to build strong, supportive systems that consider everyone. I long for the day when we can talk about the pandemic in the past tense. I also share the hope that it will lead to some permanent positive changes, and a time of revaluing—rather than devaluing—people and systems, as well as our natural world.
Ten years into KickassCanadians.ca, I want to thank the people featured on this website for making such meaningful contributions to our country and our world, and for bringing attention to what truly holds value.
I also want to honour three Kickass Canadians who passed away since I posted their articles: Dr. Daurene Lewis (September 9, 1943 – January 26, 2013); Julie Drury’s daughter, Kate Drury (October 15, 2007 – November 30, 2015); and Teva Harrison (August 20, 1976 – April 28, 2019). All three had a current of kindness, joy and determination coursing through them. They were sparks, beacons, and their lives continue to blaze a trail.
Finally, thank you for visiting this space! Take care, be well, and please enjoy these reflections from some of your Kickass Canadians.
“It bothers me to constantly read in the media about the demise of the industry that I have worked in, and loved, for so long—since I was 14 years old. I reject the idea that, for no other reason than that we embraced the desire to care for others, using the tools of food and drink (in person!), we should be so clearly damned because of this pandemic, which doesn’t allow for in-person human connection. What many of these stories miss is that this hospitality, this caring, is transferable. That it, too, can ‘pivot’ during these challenging times in our world, and in our dining rooms and bars. I feel the need right now to offer a counter-narrative: that the good times will return. But we need to survive as an industry in order for them to return. My intention in sharing these thoughts is not to criticize the challenges others face, but to offer hope, inspiration and encouragement to others who have made it this far—to tell them not to give up hope. To share what we have learned as a restaurant group over the past many months, with those who want to find a way to get through the next many months, so that great dining can continue to exist for both guests and restaurants, when all of this is behind us—and when great, in-person connections can be celebrated again, rather than shunned to protect our most vulnerable. Government programs, rolled out hastily, did not cover all things to all people, and have sometimes been criticized. Our restaurant group was lucky. We had three landlords that signed on early, and eagerly, to the rent subsidy program. And when the first stage ended, we were able to access direct help from the government for rent subsidies at all three of our places. When the federal government first introduced the 10% wage subsidy, it was laughable. Within two weeks, they ratcheted it up to 75% for wages for businesses hardest hit, allowing us to rehire almost 100% of our former staff that had been laid off when everything shut down. Each of our businesses was able to access a $40,000 loan, now increased to $60,000—half of which is forgivable. And thank god we live in Canada and not the U.S., where restaurants are falling like flies because of congressional bickering and half-measures due to bullshit politics. But how to generate revenue during a time you couldn’t actually do the thing you always did—care for people ‘in person’ in your restaurant or bar? We became, out of necessity, ‘Resilient Restaurateurs.’ With the lives and incomes of our staff and ourselves as the only thing that mattered, we reinvented our businesses. We created new product lines. We offered passports to adventure that showed up in boxes at people’s doors, using the trust we had built over the past 18 years as leverage. And they responded. We offered take-out from all three of our restaurants—Beckta, Play and Gezellig—where we had dismissed it entirely before, as something that didn’t travel well with fine dining. We curated custom wine cases with the amazing products we had in our cellar, and added some cheese and charcuterie that was still good in our fridges. We created incredible experiences for our guests to enjoy at home, so we could keep the lights on, and pay for the hydro that powered our fridges and the slicers that sliced those meats. When we realized that professional chefs were better suited to cooking than driving those wine boxes to homes in the suburbs, we created fine-dining meal kits that could be finished in those suburban (and urban) kitchens, so our chefs could share their true gifts, and we could rehire more of them. We recorded weekly YouTube videos to show our customers how to do the final steps themselves at home, and to feel like part of the adventure along the way. We are at #33 and counting, and it turns out, people love them. They don’t replace the connection that guests feel in the dining room, but they are enough right now. A taste of what they are missing, and a connection for us to the people who want to find a way—any way—to support the restaurants they love. We learned how to sell online, and embraced tools like Shopify in a way we never imagined. We paid for online advertising, when we abhorred it before the pandemic. We found a way to offer high-touch hospitality through email and online chats, rather than in person. It’s up to all of us in this pandemic-forsaken business we work in, to create these and other experiences for our guests at home during this time, for the good of our staff—and our industry—who are counting on us to be here on the other side. Restaurants will be around a lot longer than this pandemic. And I’m convinced that our need and desire to connect with one another over a great glass of wine, and a delicious plate of food, will endure this latest challenge. I intend our restaurants to be three of those beacons of hope, during—and after—COVID. I pray that the great majority of our compelling, local restaurants can find a way to share their unique brands of hospitality to enthusiastic guests during this unprecedented time, so I, and so many others, get to enjoy them again and again when this craziness is all over.” —Stephen Beckta, owner-operator of Beckta dining & wine, Play food & wine and Gezellig
“Many things have changed in the 10 years since my husband and I moved to Salt Spring Island, B.C. When we left Stratford, Ontario, where we had lived for over 25 years, we drove across Canada to our new home on a Gulf Island on the West Coast. It was a marvellous journey, which eventually inspired a series of paintings based on the roads we travelled. I loved designing for theatre but I was heard to say on many occasions that I was giving up design to paint! Arriving on Salt Spring, with its strong arts community, gave me the encouragement to start painting fulltime. This was a major leap from the collaborative work I’d been doing in the theater. I went from working with many artists to having a solitary occupation in my own studio. The change has been very satisfying but it’s also been a challenge to find my own voice as a painter. During our self-isolation, I have been working on three major projects. The first is a folding art book about my family’s journey emigrating from the U.K. to Vancouver in 1966. The book contains pockets, which house original documents from the journey, as well as paintings and drawings I did at that time. In addition to the book, I was asked to take part in an exhibition called ‘Collaboration.’ Curated by Margaret Day, the project pairs artists with writers, to explore each other’s work. I was assigned Kevin Patterson’s book ‘News From the Red Desert,’ a novel based on his experiences as a doctor in Afghanistan. It is a harrowing but interesting piece to work on. I created folding books and models as visual interpretations of my reactions to the book. The project I’m working on at the moment stems from my response to people expressing their ‘right’ not to wear masks and their ‘right’ to travel when they want and to do what they want, in this age of battling COVID-19. In a war, you have no real rights: you have a responsibility to other people and to understand how your actions can affect others’ lives. This project is a large work combining a 3D model with paintings and drawings based on memories of what the Second World War meant to me as a child. It is a rethinking of five painted panels, which I exhibited earlier at Ontario’s Gallery Stratford. Beyond those three projects, another recent development of significance in my life is that in 2019 I was awarded the Order of Canada for my work in the theatre—a great honour for an immigrant.” —Susan Benson, costume & set designer (Stratford Festival, National Ballet of Canada, New York City Opera), painter
“No pressure, no diamonds. It goes without saying that 2020 was a pretty rough year for everyone, myself included, and the enormity of the social, emotional and financial pressures was truly felt by all. But it was also a year of fundamental growth in many areas of my life: mentally, professionally and artistically. Even if the landscape was unclear at first, I found new and interesting ways to do what I love. This quote from Wayne Dyer pretty much sums it up: ‘When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.’ Looking forward to a new landscape in 2021!” —Richard Bernardin, fashion photographer, Canon Canada ambassador
“There have been so many changes in all aspects of my life since Amanda interviewed me for Kickass Canadians in 2014. At that time, Voice Found was in its infancy, with no office or staff, but with large dreams and a passion to end the silence around child sexual abuse. Voice Found will be celebrating 10 years since becoming incorporated and the growth has been significant. We are now a registered charity with 12 staff and four programs, serving victims of human trafficking, sexual exploitation and child sexual abuse. Our services include survivor leadership, peer and crisis support, and a specialized primary care health clinic. Our team is exceptional and I am inspired daily. Some have lived experience, and all are creative, resilient and dedicated to providing the best in trauma-informed care. Quite often, people say to me, ‘You must be so proud of what you have accomplished’ and I find that a challenging statement. I don’t view Voice Found as an accomplishment but rather something that had to be done. I was tired of people turning from difficult conversations or expressing horror at the topic but not DOING anything. I’m proud of my team and proud of survivors, who are the ones doing the hard work to heal and build the lives they deserve. Life is beautiful. I am blessed with three granddaughters and four incredible children, and am grateful for a healthy 84-year-old mom who lives close by. I’ve learned to be gentle with myself and to rid myself of the shame that has been such a big part of my life. My hope for the people we serve is that they see and nurture the beautiful beings that they are.” —Cynthia Bland, Voice Found founder
“The COVID-19 spread is no laughing matter and we must all take it seriously. In fact, from my contacts at the Centre for Disease Control, and through other frontline medical professional and government friends, I hear that the news and restrictions are going to get worse before they begin to get better. That means a lot of people in our community are going to be feeling increased stress and anxiety—including yours truly. If this is not dealt with on an ongoing basis, it can build up and cause additional long-term physical and mental health issues, which is exactly what we don’t need right now. Yes, getting out daily to exercise, with safe physical distancing, can make a big difference. But did you know that there’s another fundamental habit you can develop to help you stay healthy? That habit is: humour. Really; I’m not joking. Studies have shown that there are tremendous benefits to finding humour, even—or perhaps especially—during high-stress situations. Some people feel guilty for laughing, or making others laugh, during times like these. I say, if you have the ability to laugh or make people laugh—as long as it’s not at the expense of others—then it is your duty. Seriously. For many years, I have made it a habit to start my day by reading comics I enjoy before jumping into the news of the day. Then, at the end of the day, my habit is to find something funny on YouTube so that I end the day with some chuckles—watching one of my favourite comedians or a great comedic interview, for instance. I have found those habits to be incredibly effective in managing stress, helping to keep the ‘mental wolves’ at bay. Being consistent with this approach has helped me approach life and its inevitable ups and downs with a clearer head and a more positive outlook. I believe it will do the same for you. Yes, we all have different tastes in humour, but if you want to recommend something funny—podcasts, comics, YouTube videos, comedians—that you think will help reduce the stress level of your fellow citizens, please email me a link or post it on my Facebook page. The negative news will continue to spread faster than the virus and faster than the good news breakthroughs, but together we can maintain our good humour even during these darker times, so that our community stays healthy and thriving. It all starts with a smile at everyone you meet, even if that smile can only be seen through your eyes above your mask—for now. Be well, be smart, be community-oriented.” —Don R. Campbell, Real Estate Investment Network senior advisor
“In 2012, I started my home daycare in Verdun, Quebec with the goal of creating a pilot program for a childcare system that is unique to each individual child, which I believe we need—in Quebec and across Canada. I built on existing systems that I’ve worked with over the past 35 years, including Montessori, Waldorf, High Scope and Jouer c’est magique, and I focused on the social and emotional development of children and families. The pilot was very successful. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, I had to close my home daycare, for my own security as well as for my new baby—Sparrow, who arrived in June 2020—and my first son, Theodore, who has sickle cell anemia. Despite the closure, I remain committed to expanding the pilot, because it was so unique and so successful, and because I believe every child deserves education tailored to their needs. But it requires collaboration from the government, childcare centre directors and managers, qualified early childhood education (ECE) experts, teachers and parents/guardians. Their participation is essential in creating a practical system that works for all Canadians. The system I envision will help our children be more in control of their emotions and of the way they process and communicate them. It will also empower childcare centre staff, teachers and parents with the necessary training to communicate their own needs. Currently, I’m focused on writing a report that will highlight some concerns in the ECE sector and, I hope, build the momentum we need to address change in Quebec’s current system. I intend to get this report in front of Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, who has announced a new Canada-wide childcare system based on the one that’s already in place in Quebec. Canada’s potential for success depends on how we educate ourselves and our children. We need to recognize that learning is ongoing—for everyone, not just for our children. We must find a way to integrate ongoing education as part of the new system, with social and emotional development forming the foundation. It’s essential that we find out more about the way we feel, why we’re feeling it, and how we can communicate it in ways that people understand, so that we feel respected and whole. It’s time to make early childhood education more up close and personal.” — Lorraine Elizabeth Campbell, When We Play founder
“I will always be a proud Canadian. I have fond memories of representing my country on the rugby field, and to this day I cannot hear the national anthem at a sporting event, especially a live event, and not feel that pull on my heartstrings; I get the old pre-match nervous hand-twitch I used to have when the anthem was sung before my games, in anticipation of entering into competition as a representative of Canada. The memories, the opportunities, the experiences—good and bad—of playing rugby all across the country and around the world are part of me and my life experience. Though long retired, I do find joy in continuing to support our men and women in whatever sport I find Canada competing in. I trust that they are relishing and cherishing that role, and never taking it for granted that they live in the one of the greatest countries in the world, and are blessed to don the Canadian colours and rep the maple leaf on the world stage.” — Al Charron, Rugby Canada & World Rugby Hall of Fame Inductee, former national team captain
“Amanda Sage is the most kickass Canadian I know. Her celebration of our fellow country people is so cool, and great. I cannot wait to get invited to her Order of Canada medal ceremony! Hint, hint.” —Rob Cohen, director (Being Canadian), comedy writer (The Big Bang Theory, The Simpsons)
“In 1971, then-Health Minister John Munro proposed banning cigarette advertising. His bill never made it past First Reading; it died on the order paper. Instead of protecting Canadians, the government gave in to tobacco industry lobbying, and tobacco advertising continued unabated for years afterwards. The 1970s was a lost decade for tobacco control. If Munro’s Bill had passed, the tobacco epidemic might be over by now. Instead, the government is erring again. On May 23, 2018, they legalized e-cigarettes and their advertising. Since then, 400,000 young Canadians have started using them. Research shows that young e-cigarette users who never previously smoked tobacco not only become hooked on nicotine but are also three to four times more likely to become cigarettes smokers. If you’d like to express your concerns about e-cigarettes and their advertising, please contact Health Minister Patty Hajdu.” —Neil Collishaw, Research Director, Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada
“We all need to be affected by our world. Yet the world doesn’t need more numb, fearful and emotionally stuck people. That doesn’t have to be all there is. How do we not get crushed by the magnitude of environmental collapse and devastation? Let’s name what’s happening, honour the pain, come into allyship, fumble to find the words, practice in earnest and refuse to allow our inner lives to atrophy. Please explore how to do this through meditation (e.g. tonglen and loving kindness), bearing witness, starting a gratitude journal, embracing ceremony and ritual, exploring reciprocity with nature and finding reverence for grief. These uncertain and chaotic times are also calling all parents and educators into a new way of holding space and creating safety in a wounding world. Luckily, there is a lot we can do to support the children in our lives who are stressed, anxious and alarmed. We can help children understand that we are not separate from the Earth or each other. (And it’s not all about us.) Simple practices like art, dance, singing and story can increase a sense of connectedness, a sense of purpose, a sense of awe, wonder and inspiration. Play can take care of the heart, allowing kids to work through feelings and fears. It does require us to put relationships first—with ourselves, one another and our living world. And play like your soft heart depends on it!” —Lindsay Coulter, former David Suzuki’s Queen of Green (now @SaneAction on Facebook and Instagram)
“Innovation in neuroscience has become a very hot topic and rapidly evolving field of discovery over the last decade! For that reason, in 2014 I co-founded HealthTech Connex, an amazing company that translates the world’s leading brain technology treatments into the hands of billions through our NeuroCatch Platform for accessible brain vital sign evaluation. CAE Healthcare acquired the NeuroTouch surgical simulator, now called NeuroVR, and we partnered with B.C.’s Conquer Experience to develop PeriopSim for broader surgical application—it is now being deployed around the world. Retired Captain Trevor Greene keeps on inspiring us all by crushing the limits in recovery from brain injury (check out his recent TEDx Talk to move your heart and spirit). Trevor’s inspiration led to the recent launch of Legion Veterans Village, an innovative centre of excellence for veterans and first responders, focusing on PTSD, mental health and rehabilitation. To accelerate the translation of technologies into disruptive health solutions, we started to build a 1.5 million square foot, global leading health technology cluster, called the Health and Technology District, the largest innovation ecosystem in western Canada. And with COVID-19 links to increasing reports of brain fog, we’re going stronger than ever to unleash human brain power, performance and potential. So, nearly 10 years after my Kickass Canadians interview, Canada continues to lead the way in neurotechnology and health innovations that touch countless peoples’ lives.” —Dr. Ryan D’Arcy, neuroscientist, HealthTech Connex co-founder
“The human spirit has incredible capacity to endure. To bend. To adapt. To shape itself around virtually anything. My heart was torn apart on November 30, 2015, when we lost Kate. Enduring the grief and pain will be a life-long journey. In her short life, she gifted me many things, but mainly it was to see joy and happiness in all moments. To smile. To giggle. To wake looking forward to each day. To live with very difficult decisions. I know I don’t always do her justice. But I try. Kate’s spirit grounds me. And her brother, Jack, is my true north. And she’s left me with a legacy of looking to change how our healthcare system truly supports patients and families. To partner in care and to trust the patient perspective. To create a system that is better coordinated, safer and more compassionate. Kate Drury, October 15, 2007 – November 30, 2015.” —Julie Drury, Strategic Lead – Patient Partnership, Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement
“I am truly honoured and humbled to stand with such Kickass people! Here is to celebrating the ripple effects of Kickass Canadians over the last 10 years, and having the love and courage to kick more ass for the next decade!” —Tina Fedeski, OrKidstra co-founder, CEO & artistic director
“Helping people, having hope and being kind are at the heart of everything I do, and I think we all benefit by living our lives with that in mind. You find true leadership where empathy and courage meet, and that’s what I strive for every day.” —Dr. Andrew Furey, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, Team Broken Earth founder
“So much has happened in the last 10 years, but nothing could prepare me for the toilet paper crisis of 2020! Was thinking we’d be using Cottonelle for currency there for a second. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t happy to flush 2020 down the toilet. Happy New Year, everyone!” —Jen Grant, comedian
“With the tumult of an ever-more-connected world, Canada is in a position to kick it like never before—it’s up to us!” —Col. Chris Hadfield, astronaut, former International Space Station commander, author (An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, The Darkest Dark, The Apollo Murders)
“Amanda, congratulations on the 10th anniversary of Kickass Canadians. I am honoured to be a part of such an incredible group of people. I reflect back with pride on my Standup4Greatbear Journey along the coast of British Columbia in 2010, and remain inspired to protect the Great Bear Rainforest and to educate students about the area, through our Take a Stand for Conservation presentations. Spearheaded by our Coastal First Nations, the initiative enabled us to stop Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project and protect the magnificent coastal ecosystem for future generations. My son, Kiel, named after a Gitga’at traditional harvesting camp in the area where I work, was born in September 2013, when the salmon were running. I now share my passion and knowledge with him, and he can already feel how special the place is. He loves the bears, eagles, wolves and whales. My business, Norm Hann Expeditions, continues to guide people through the Great Bear Rainforest on standup paddleboarding and wildlife expeditions, so they can experience this life-changing environment—as I believe all Canadians and people from around the world should be able to. I want to thank Amanda and Kickass Canadians for supporting me and helping to emphasize the importance of the Great Bear Rainforest.” —Norm Hann, Norm Hann Expeditions founder, filmmaker (Anthony Bonello’s Stand Film)
“The story of our nation is a patchwork of individual identities assembled from Indigenous people, European settlers, migrants and refugees. Their stories are the building blocks of Canada. However, the essence that weaves through the fabric of identities is drawn from our rugged coastlines, open tundra and Canadian Shield; the boreal forest, with its thin and towering pines; the tall, golden grasses and vast, blue skies of the Prairies; and Rocky Mountain peaks of grandeur. Without these physical spaces, our definition of ‘Canadian’ would be altered. Our land is the common tie that binds us together as Canadians. National unity must rally not around ownership of this land but around the privilege of being its stewards.” —Colin Harris, Take Me Outside founder, author (Take Me Outside – Running Across the Canadian Landscape that Shapes Us)
“The past decade took us on an incredible journey. Ten years ago, we’d only written one musical and weren’t sure when it would be produced again. Nine years ago, we’d just returned from Gander, after making countless friends in Newfoundland and hearing the incredible stories which would become Come From Away. We had no idea what the new year would hold or where it would take us. Since then, we’ve been lucky enough to work with an incredible team, from the students at Sheridan College who first workshopped the show, to cast and crew members across the globe—they’ve all, together with our audiences, become part of this huge family that’s supported and encouraged us and made the whole journey possible. And during this pandemic, they’ve continued to help us and cheer each other up and on, online. So, when we think of everything that we’ve done this past decade, I think of the entire community behind us. Nothing gets done without the support of others. And, while we’re honored to be counted in the Kickass Canadians community, our work could only happen because of an army of other Kickass friends behind us. When we think about the future, we know that’s how we’ll get through the rest of this: by coming together, even if it’s still virtually for a while, and eventually coming together again in theatres across the world. Because just like the sun in the dead of winter, theatre and art and friends and fun and less zooming and more hugging will all come back. Here’s to a brighter year in 2021 and the many more stories we’ll all share together!” —David Hein & Irene Sankoff, Come From Away creators, writers & composers
“Tenth anniversary! Wow! Congratulations. On the one hand, we wonder about how quickly the years seem to have passed, on the other hand we marvel about all the changes that have happened in our lives, in our family, our community, our country and our planet. More and more, they are all immediately and inextricably connected to culminating with the onset of the pandemic, which unfortunately coincided with our downsizing to an apartment in downtown Kingston. We love the new arrangement even though the pandemic has put our plans to travel on hold. Our personal regret is not being able to hold the large, happy family gatherings, but as a daughter has taken over our former home in Thousand Islands, those gatherings can still take place once the pandemic is under control. During the last decade, our family grew considerably, notably with the birth of five wonderful great-grandchildren. At our Christmas dinner in 2019, the extended family counted 26 persons from the five who arrived in Canada in 1969. We consider ourselves to be proud and very fortunate Canadians. Ian had a productive decade in art conservation, notably participating in major mural conservation projects in the Centre Block of the Canadian Parliament Buildings, the United States Capitol and the Boston Public Library, the latter project winning an award from the Boston Preservation Alliance. He also received two other awards, namely the inaugural Award of Distinction from the Canadian Association of Professional Conservators and a medal from the Canadian Academy of Arts for his contribution to the development of art conservation in Canada. We are both delighted that the Master of Art Conservation Program, which he started at Queen’s in 1974, has gone from strength to strength. The past decade saw its 40th anniversary and its formal incorporation into what is now the Department of Art History and Art Conservation. Recent major grants from the The Jarislowsky Foundation for leading-edge imaging equipment, and from Isabel Bader for an associated faculty member, will consolidate the MAC Program’s position in art conservation training and education, and augment the Art History Program’s expertise in art history research. Over the decade, we have witnessed with great pleasure the growth of the ranks of Kickass Canadians and are extremely proud to be counted among its members. Thank you, Amanda.” —Jill & Ian Hodkinson, artists
“Congratulations to Kickass Canadians on their 10th anniversary! All grown up in a flash, but no matter how old we get, we can hang onto that childlike vision to kick butt and keep making a difference in the world. Here’s to the next decade for us all. You’re never too young or old to make a difference!” —Ryan Hreljac, Ryan’s Well Foundation founder & executive director
“There hasn’t been a time like the last 10 years for any generation alive today. I believe we will look over the last decade, and 2020, like reading highlighted sections of some future book of history. Our mistakes and reckonings will be underscored for the future, as much as our resolve and unity. It has been a time to appreciate the power of cinema and the power of words, and to discover ways of reaching through ‘the frame.’ We can cross distances in collectively dreaming, and through the power of our imagination. Having lived abroad and looked back on our country, it is easy to see how lucky we are. Thanks to Amanda Sage and Kickass Canadians for highlighting the dreamers and voices that bring us together. Many happy returns to each other as we step into the future.” —Sam Hudecki, storyboard artist (Sicario, Arrival, Blade Runner 2049, Dune)
“Right now is not a good time in my story. I’m selling 1001 Pots and the showroom because of COVID-19. We weren’t able to hold the pottery exposition in 2020, and it’s affected my income. But people will still remember 1001 Pots. And I’m quite sure that I’m coming back. It might take a year, but I will be back. When I came to Canada on a one-way ticket from Japan in the late 60s, I had only one suitcase with me. That’s all I had. Since then, I’ve gained so much: I have a family, a wife and children, I have so many friends around me, and the community in Val-David, Quebec. I have my work that comes from my hands. Nobody can take my hands away from me—or my head, my memories and ideas. I had a time when I was doing very well, and now I’m very low. But I really believe in this country and I really believe in the people who are in the community around me and I really believe in my work. When I first came to Canada with almost nothing, the struggle was my own. Right now, everybody is dealing with this pandemic: artists, craftspeople, taxi drivers—everybody. But I still have hope because people give me energy even when I don’t have it myself; I know that people all around the world are going through this along with me. For me right now, my life is not a success story: it’s a question mark. But it’s going to be alright. Even my unsuccess story is going to be alright because I really believe in what I’m doing. I have to make another plan, and it’s exciting; I have a chance to rebuild myself. I still have my ceramic garden and my studio, and I will start making pottery again—it’s my lifeline. Although I am low now, in a year, I will be going up. I’m going to be okay, and so is everybody. In a year, things will be better.” —Kinya Ishikawa, 1001 Pots founder
“Congratulations on 10 years of Kickass Canadians! It was a real honour to be included, and it’s been amazing to watch the community grow and to hear so many inspiring stories.” —Alex Jansen, Pop Sandbox Productions founder & owner
“Twenty years ago, I was the Artistic Director of a small company, operating from the surface of a Kenmore dryer in my laundry room with a blonde dog on my feet. Ten years ago, I was running a larger company from a small office in St. John’s that we shared with a film producer, with a new baby in my belly. Right now, despite being the AD of a large company in Ottawa, I’m still in a tiny not-really-an-office on a farm in Newfoundland, with a no-longer-a-baby asking for my iPhone constantly, and a very large black dog chewing on my feet. I could never have predicted how my life would have worked out but at least there is something consistent about where I end up. Congratulations on 10 years of Kickass Canadians; there are so many of them—I know you could keep going for a hundred more.” —Jillian Keiley, Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland founder, National Arts Centre English Theatre artistic director
“Over the last 10 years, I’ve seen my life come full circle, and the world grind to a halt. I’ve seen the world’s grey areas retreat into a stark binary that divides class, sex and political ideology. Through that, I’ve done my best to focus on the benevolence of the people close to me: my friends and mentors, my community in this city and others. For every malevolent act of aggression and injustice, I’ve seen reciprocal, peaceful acts of compassion and empathy. With that, it’s been impossible not to feel the rise of empowered bullying take shape across the planet. As connected as we are, I think most of us have struggled with a new and imposing social solitude. This time 10 years ago, I was decompressing from what would be my last European tour to date. The Acorn had never sounded better live, but the band as we knew it, was closing a chapter. What I left behind on the road—new communities, geographic and architectural wonder, local food and culture—I would now search for in my own city. In 2011, the world seemed impossibly simple, maybe because I rarely paid any mind to politics: a reaction to growing up the son of a former UN social worker who literally shushed us as he watched the 6 o’clock news at dinner time. My father was a pacifist and a Quaker, and I quietly inherited a similar desire for peace, dialogue, and a dream of a world without military conflict. Ottawa in 2011 seemed a fertile, cultural oasis, still an afterthought in the national artistic consciousness, and ripe for collaborative reimagining. Politics, my community often mused, was something that happened north of Somerset Street, leaving centretown to its own whimsical devices. Ironically, it was starting a music and arts festival with my best friend that led me to wanting to understand the political fabric that tugged at all things—this ebb and flow of humanity’s most base and binary instinct: the fear or love of change. As my friends and I quietly built this dream of an inclusive and diverse festival that celebrated our city, my instinctual awareness of bias, injustice and inequality formalized; it grew with every grant application, every artist we chose to elevate, every underserved community we aimed to highlight, and every second we spent trying to figure out how to do the most with what money we managed to scrape together. Somewhere along the way, our passion for celebrating creative expression became sullied by economic reality, red tape and that furtive fatigue that sets in when you pick too many battles. I remember the exact moment the world started to change. I don’t want to lend too much credence to this, but it seemed that when Trump set his sights on the GOP ticket in 2015, it was as though the world’s bullies were given the green light to elbow their way into our everyday lives. To some degree, we all know what happened in the increasingly divisive years that followed. What also happened was that the world fought back. We had no choice. Multiple movements sprung up to counter those who would impose their fears, bias, will and greed upon us. It’s as though the awareness of our worst instincts made manifest, forced the other half to demand we continue to evolve. Maybe we got lazy, and just assumed that, left to its own devices, society would slowly but steadily continue to skew towards civility. Maybe that was just me, and I can hear my father’s spirit chiding me about my naïveté. This is going to sound totally petulant, but growing up a pacifist, I’m a deer in the headlights when confronted with aggression. Bullies had their way with me in grade school, and continued to in the workplace and in my personal life. I think that’s why I feel like the mother of the world, to quote Bill Callahan. The peaceful and compassionate half of our collective binary is getting beat up after school. But bullies don’t like grey areas. The bully, in its frantic solipsism, targets the lush gradient that connects us all, and erects a wall in the middle. A wall that individually is impossible to scale. I’ve felt so incredibly alone in this time. I’ve often wished I could talk to my dad and ask him what he would do, but I got part of the answer when I was young. I witnessed him being belittled by a colleague, and simply bowing his head obsequiously. I remember asking him if he was okay, and he said something to the effect of, “You can’t fight bullies at their game. Bow your head and walk away.” I took that to heart, but I think pacifism needs to evolve, and I think the only way to scale, and subsequently take apart, that wall is collectively. In the last 10 years, the world waned towards individualism, but it will just as naturally wax back to the collective. That’s as far as I’ve gotten, but I think that’s the start: a desire for togetherness, in spite of our fears. I really don’t care how naïve my father thought I was. I have to believe that the pendulum can’t be held at the far end of our worst instincts forever. As I type this, the Reverend Raphael Warnock has become the State of Georgia’s first Black senator. The electoral college’s votes are being counted in the House and Senate, and various vaccines are rapidly being distributed around the world. It feels like the mortar in that wall might be losing its integrity. Now, I look to the collective to answer the remaining questions: How do we reach over to the other side and usher in a greater sense of compassion? How do we forgive those that fearfully assert their will over ours? How do we reclaim an honourable, peaceful narrative? How do we reclaim our collective grace? I think we do our best to repeatedly, feverishly, and in spite of our occasional despair, look to one another. There is no individual path forward. There never was. You were never alone, and you never will be.” —Rolf Carlos Klausener, musician-songwriter (The Acorn), graphic designer, arts advocate
“Like everyone across the country, I have been adjusting to the new normal brought about by COVID-19. It’s not just about changing the way we carry out our daily activities; it’s about really understanding the disparities that some people in our country face every day. This crisis has amplified the disadvantages faced by people living on the margins of society. Many of us have come close over the last nine months to experiencing what it means to be insecure—as far as food, housing, finances—and the devastating effect that it has on our families, friends and communities. As such, more people than ever before can relate to what it means to be poor. I am humbled to continue working with a passionate group of frontline workers who replaced their fear with pride in order to continue to keep Quest’s not-for-profit grocery market doors open throughout the pandemic. We are grateful to food suppliers who donated $8.9M worth of surplus food in fiscal year 2020, which Quest was successfully able to redistribute across 220,113 client visits, through Quest’s five grocery markets. An anonymous client’s thoughts encapsulate the ‘Reduce Hunger with Dignity’ component of Quest’s mission: ‘Thank you for adding an element of normalcy and compassion to the demoralizing and dehumanizing experience that is poverty.’ As we move forward in our recovery from this crisis, it will be critical to remember the importance of having a food-secure population and the impact that food security has—on an individual’s health but also on the overall wellbeing of our communities. —Elizabeth Lewis-Crudgington, Quest Food Exchange executive director
“When I think about the last 10 years, it feels like I have lived many lifetimes. From the passing of loved ones and the ending of a marriage, to the birthing of friendships and finding a soulmate. From a car accident and disability constantly challenging my health and preventing me from being my runner self, to learning how to honour run in a whole new way. From anticipating a year of great clarity in 2020, to discovering that its focus was going to be much different than I planned. Each of these heartaches and milestones has given my gratitude and resilience muscles quite the workout. But I know that what I see in front of me is only a tiny glimpse of the whole picture. What honour running and my ancestors have given me is a knowing that something bigger and grander is always in creation. That the frustrations I feel in a moment are only the birthing pains to something miraculous on its way. That we are ever evolving, and that change is a necessary nutrient to evolution. That everything we go through, in the past, present and future, is connected, and is a necessary part in the creation of something else to elevate and bless our world and our lives. These understandings make exercising my gratitude and resilience muscles a lot easier. As a matter of fact, these gifts are paramount to helping me see the light, when I could easily get lost in the dark. As we embark on a new era and into 2021, it is easier to see that 2020 was a preparation year. A year that elders have called a transition into ‘the time of the Sacred Feminine.’ A year where we had to go inward to reconnect to those parts of our sacred being that, for too long, have been ignored or dismissed as unimportant—like our emotions, creativity and spirituality. A time where there can be no more running around, no more distractions, no more pushing aside, but where in isolation we must be with our complete selves. A time where collectively, even disconnected, we will begin to feel our connections again. And a time where we will birth something new, something important, something reverent to elevate our world and each of our lives. With that, and the wisdom of these teachings, I say to the year 2021, “BRING IT. We ARE the change our ancestors prayed for!!!” —Shannon Loutitt, honour runner, International Indigenous Speakers Bureau co-founder
“I lend my voice to those who say that the COVID-19 pandemic should be a wakeup call. It’s finally time to face the truth. We’ve been colonizing and ravaging Mother Earth for far too long. And why? To make more money for the already rich. Humans need to recognize that they would be happier, healthier and emotionally better off without all the shiny consumer items that lure us. Without big changes, we and our children are facing a catastrophic future. I’m spending these next years of my life fighting for climate justice in the most effective way I can.” —Clarke Mackey, filmmaker (The Only Thing You Know), Queen’s University professor emeritus
“Embracing change as our new normal is where we start to direct change for a better world.” —Ian McAllister, Pacific Wild co-founder
“Writing this as I am at the end of the abominable year of 2020, it’s tough to muster any confident appraisal or inspirational credo to offer. If anything, this year has embodied the lesson that I think is most fundamental to life as a writer: persist. Keep going. What looks like victory will sometimes end up the opposite, and what feels like failure is often what allows you to find the next opportunity. When things get tough, go for a walk and find some water to look at for a while. And remember: there are people like Amanda Sage out there, who want to help and support you out of sheer goodness. Be thankful for them.” —Joel McConvey, author (Different Beasts), producer (the National Parks Project)
“Congratulation on 10 years of profiling unique voices in our country and sharing stories of inspiration and creativity! Here’s to the next decade!” —Michael McGowan, screenwriter-director (Saint Ralph, Still Mine, All My Puny Sorrows)
“I can reflect on the past 10 years with a light heart and many tears in my eyes, both happy and sometimes sad. We have all lived more than one decade, these past 10 years, and the events that befell and uplifted all of us, helped shape who we became—and are still becoming. For my own life, I absolutely marvel at everything, as I begin to head toward my 50s. Like many Generation-X punk rockers, I often find myself surprised that I am even still alive, never mind still working as an artist. No matter what on earth the pandemic has brought us, I know for certain it brought many blessings and revelations to those of us artists and lifelong students still able to feed ourselves. Moving forward into 2021, I am so sincerely hopeful about life and the world, as it is unfolding before our very eyes. Despite all of our best collective efforts to keep things going smoothly, the world needs revolutions and the bumpiness of necessary revolt. It is a powerful time in history and I am glad to be here for it, in any small way, trying to make the world a more joyful and peaceful place.” —Bif Naked, rock star (Spaceman, I Love Myself Today), author (I, Bificus)
“Retiring during a pandemic forces you to confront yourself without escape. I am discovering a more natural pace and learning to be comfortable in silence.” —Kevin Newman, journalist, former news anchor (Global National) & host (W5)
“The past 10 years have brought a lot of fear, uncertainty and instability to many corners of the world—including our own. We have witnessed the rise of ISIS, brutal war in Syria and Yemen (among many others), the evolution of Trump in the United States and ultranationalists in Europe, and now the global COVID pandemic, which has only deepened economic and health inequities. At the same time, we have witnessed individual and collective action in support of social change, from the Me Too and Time’s Up movements, to the Women’s March on Washington, March for Our Lives to end gun violence, Black Lives Matter, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Bold, diverse voices are rising to the fore and challenging the systemic barriers that have enabled racism, discrimination, misogyny and abuse for generations. Ten years in, that work is only getting started. But that these conversations are finally happening and leading to tangible change is reason for optimism: there are a lot more Canadians, today, kicking ass every day in all the right ways, and I am so grateful that Amanda continues to remind us all of their breathtaking contributions.” —Dr. Samantha Nutt, War Child Canada founder & president
“It’s never too late to have an adventure. Whether it’s climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, running a marathon in Afghanistan or helping someone to achieve their goal. The only thing stopping you is your imagination.” —Martin Parnell, Right to Play Ambassador
“Congratulations to Kickass Canadians on 10 years of sharing incredible stories. I draw on the ruggedness of the West Coast to describe the past decade as it relates to Canadian national identity. Like a rocky outcropping, some of its history revealed can seem treacherous, firm and even unmovable. However, like a migrating fish dependent on its adapted ancestral instincts to seek safe waters, its inspiration often comes from understanding and witnessing that journey. The human stories that others have courageously shared here create that same feeling. Given the storm we are collectively in at this moment, stories of struggle and triumph are particularly precious.” —Jay Peachy, artist, mental health advocate
“First off, I want to thank Amanda for featuring the Kickass work and impact of so many incredible Canadians over the past 10 years. As the world continues to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, I feel lucky to be in Canada. Reflecting on the last 10 years, there are many lessons I have learned: 1) EVERY DAY IS A GIFT. Our son Evan (16 years old) has been living with a debilitating mitochondrial disease since 2008. There is no prognosis on his future. Having just dodged a second COVID exposure bullet, every day with Evan truly is a gift and this flows over into every aspect of my life, giving me perspective on what is important. 2) THIS TOO SHALL PASS. With so many ups and downs over the past 10 years and too many months of hospitalizations to count for Evan, I am reminded that no matter what we are dealing with, we’ll find a way through and smile on the other end to be stronger as a result. 3) NEVER STOP LEARNING. I have become a voracious reader and addicted to podcasts. My reading list is growing exponentially. The more I read, the more I am intrigued by interesting topics and people that I want to learn more about. We live in an incredible time where we can learn anything we put our mind to. 4) BE ADVENTUROUS AND SPEND AS MUCH TIME AS YOU CAN OUTSIDE. I feel a stronger pull to spend more and more time outside and in the mountains. I am grateful to be fit and to live near the mountains, where there is more than a lifetime of exploration to be had, whether trail running, hiking, skiing, cycling, climbing or kite surfing. It fills my soul with joy and is my favourite way to spend time with friends, sharing these beautiful places together. 5) ROME WAS NOT BUILT IN A YEAR. Three years ago, MitoCanada was without a CEO, and in need of serious help rebuilding the organization and developing a new strategic direction. I have learned that scaling any organization or initiative takes time, commitment, and strong relationships and community. MitoCanada celebrated its 10-year anniversary in 2020, and I am proud to say that the organization is stronger than ever and has been able to navigate the pandemic to have its best year yet. 6) WORK, AND YOUR LIFE’S WORK. As I get older, I am becoming more conscious of where I spend time in every aspect of my life. I have changed my view on work, and feel a strong desire to apply my accumulated skills, knowledge and experience to do meaningful work in the rare disease and health/technology space.” —Blaine Penny, MitoCanada co-founder & director, ultramarathon champion
“What I’ve learned over the years of doing my best to leave my mark on this world, is that I can’t change the world in a day but I can do my best to leave every room I enter a little better than how I found it.” —Jonathon Power, former World No. 1 squash player
“When I’m introduced as a Kickass Canadian, it makes people laugh, but it also makes me proud to be associated with a host of truly remarkable people—like its creator—who I most certainly would never have otherwise met. Amanda’s writing and live conversations on the Kickass website bring these lives to life, but they also provide a peek into the behind-the-scenes commitments and convictions that compel people to strive, to excel and to contribute to building a country in such an engaging variety of ways. Congratulations to Kickass Canadians on 10 years of hard work and on a decade of putting a diversity of faces on excellence, positivity and hope in an increasingly troubled and fragile world.” —James Raffan, author (Ice Walker), filmmaker (Goh Iromoto’s The Canoe), Canadian Canoe Museum executive director
“This past year has been nothing short of eye-opening on so many levels. Hopefully it marks the beginning of a renaissance in global public health and beyond, in which our desires to build a new society with fresh, transformative ideals will eclipse the comforts of staying connected to an outdated status quo. Pandemics, like COVID-19, are a mirror for humanity. As societies, we create our own specific vulnerabilities. Studying the dynamics at play during this pandemic, both at country levels and on a global scale, gives us insight into standards of living, and political and personal priorities, and reflects the moral relationships that we have towards one another and the planet. Whether in relation to the emergence of new diseases or how we respond to them, the importance of understanding indirect relationships has been thrown into sharp relief. Following lockdowns in April 2020, air quality and visibility greatly improved in India. In the city of Jalandhar, where my in-laws are from, the Himalayas suddenly became visible for the first time in decades. In May, I spoke with the University of Waterloo, where I teach Global Health Innovation, about some of these important connections, as part of a larger interview on COVID-19. Expanding on some of these themes, and exploring critical linkages between global health and climate change, one of the highlights of my year came as part of the opening plenary of the 2020 Canadian Conference for Global Health. It was a great honour for me to interview the amazing Dr. Jane Goodall on behalf of the global health community. Jane and I discussed a variety of themes, including the emergence of COVID-19; interconnectedness of animals, people and the environment; political action and the importance of storytelling; Indigenous perspectives; youth engagement; and mental health and mindfulness. Undoubtedly, this pandemic has left its mark on every one of us—a shared, human experience that has reached every corner of the globe and whose consequences will be felt for decades. It has given us insights into our inextricable linkages. A key aspect of preparedness for facing these events is that we need, as human beings, to realize that we’re all in this together. The decisions of few can affect many.” —Dr. Rohit Ramchandani, Antara Global Health Advisors founder & CEO
“For much of the past decade, I’ve had the honour of being Chancellor at the University of Victoria. What a joy it is to celebrate the academic accomplishments of thousands of students. In our ceremony, the students cross the stage and halfway across, they are congratulated by the chancellor. Meeting them face to face, even briefly, there’s a sense of dreams fulfilled, and of hope and optimism unabashed. But I am troubled in that moment by thoughts of the world, ravaged by greed, by appetite, by the insatiable self, that my generation is handing them. If COVID-19 has shown us anything, it is that policy can change (almost instantly) for the betterment of peoples’ lives, carbon emissions can go down and that it is possible to stop the endless devouring of the world. Of course, it shouldn’t have taken a global pandemic to see what is possible. My hope is that we can hang onto the good that has come out of this time. We owe it to the generations yet to come. As for my generation, we must ask ourselves what legacy will our young people inherit? What legacy will they have to work so hard to change? We can do better now. We can be better now. We must. Another lesson from the pandemic is the profound solace to be found in nature. My friend, the late poet Patrick Lane put it so beautifully, addressing graduating students in 2013: ‘Remember in the time ahead of you to hold out your hands so that beauty may fall safely into them and find a place—however briefly—to rest.’” —Shelagh Rogers, CBC Radio host (The Next Chapter)
“Enjoy getting to know you—what brings you joy, what doesn’t. The better we know and embrace ourselves, the better we can appreciate the life around us. When I’m in doubt, gratitude is key to raising the vibe.” —Savvy Simon, motivational speaker (Savvy UnLtd), #SpeakMikmaq founder (@SavvyUnLtd on Instagram)
“In times of uncertainty, learning more about managing emotional trauma is very healthy for people—and is also good for your business bottom line. You CAN break through adversity to reach your goal.” —Doug Smith, author, motivational speaker (Doug Smith Performance), former NHL player
“One of the things that happened this year was that I released a new album. I decided to put away all the guitars and buy some synthesizers and drum machines. Not unlike a painter with new art supplies, I was excited to have new colours to work with. I went under the pseudonym White Elephant Orchestra because it was such a different sound for me. The new record is called Debut for the same reason. I have also been producing two different artists, both Canadian; the new music will be released in 2021. I never stop writing songs, but these two new diversions in my life have been very positive during this dark time. I was lucky enough to stay healthy and safe, and can only hope and wish that for everybody out there.” —Andy Stochansky, singer‑songwriter (Lola Lennox’s Pale – U.K. Best Songs of 2020)
“Working to help people in my community has made me really appreciate how much helping someone actually does make a difference. I’ve been amazed by the number of people who have contributed to Boom! Savings! and said to me, “You are helping the people who are in the same position now that I was when I was growing up.” It IS possible for struggling people to become self-sufficient, with the right help. I’ve also been really touched by the number of people who are willing to donate, and the amounts they contribute. Canada is filled with good people.” —Gavin Thompson, Boom! Savings! Charity Shopping Club founder
“Congratulations on your 10th anniversary, Kickass Canadians! The people you profile are exceptional and inspiring humans. I am honoured to be part of your collective. During this great pause, we have all been given the time to reflect, re-envision and perhaps evaluate our lives. Once as we were, we will be forever changed going forward. I have missed my adventures this year terribly but I can reflect on the amazing experiences I have had and will have again. I have a love affair with bears, so a highlight for me last year was having my bear images on Canada Post stamps. I look forward to what is next for us all. COVID-19 can’t take us down. We can use this time in our lives to move upward and onward. Kindness and love prevail. I know I will never take a hug for granted. Wishing everyone a healthy, prosperous and joyful 2021.” —Michelle Valberg, photographer, Nikon Canada ambassador
“So much has changed in the last 10 years. A decade ago, Canada had a climate-obstructing Prime Minister who treated environmentalists like public enemies, and broad support for environmental action was waning in the wake of the global recession. A decade later, the youth-driven climate justice movement exploded around the world, and today more than 100 countries (including Canada) and over 200 of the world’s largest corporations have committed to transitioning to a net-zero economy. It’s pretty telling that an electric car maker, Tesla, is now worth more than oil giant Exxon, which was once the largest corporation in the world. We’ve also been grappling with a whole new set of challenges. The pandemic has been devastating for many of us, personally and collectively. My family lost our beloved aunt/cousin Babs to COVID last spring. Environmental grief and anxiety has now become widespread. But the pandemic has also shown us how quickly the world can pivot to take on massive challenges and completely transform our way of doing things when we set our mind to it and act together. We still have a lot further to go climate-wise over the next decade, but if Canadians keep kicking ass and reminding our elected officials and corporations that we support a just green economic recovery—which is the main focus of my work these days—and that now is the time for the federal government to make major changes to fix long-standing societal problems like inequality and the climate crisis, I really believe amazing things can happen.” —Adria Vasil, author (Ecoholic series), environmental journalist (Corporate Knights)
“The path of recovery begins with the lessons of the teacher, where we learn we need healing. Our healing makes us the healer, who helps our visionary to see clearly the road less travelled, and we become the leader/warrior we are meant to be on the road of life. The teacher rings the bell to bring us to the lessons that make us the teacher. The healer walks the red road and beats the drum, the heartbeat of life. The visionary can see clearly the journey at hand, the life we left and the road ahead. The leader/warrior walks the road less travelled, as a teacher, healer and visionary. The teachings of the four directions help us to be the leaders that the world needs today. Spring, summer, fall and winter; children, women, men and elders; fire, earth, water and air; yellow, red, black and white; east, south, west and north—all are part of the four directions.” —Roy Henry Vickers, Eagle Aerie Gallery artist
“With so much strife in our world today, change occurring at an ever more rapid pace, and divisive beliefs and values throughout the globe, the one true constant is our ability to be resilient, motivated by one another’s actions, and inspired by those who continue to push the boundaries for good. This group of Kickass Canadians is emblematic of our great country and the diverse people at its core. I am honoured to be a member of this esteemed group, and hope that my continuous pursuit of progression, positivity and impact, in my professional and personal life, provides insight and inspiration for others—and, specifically, that it helps pave the path for the continued advancement and empowerment of women in the workplace.” —Alyson Walker, Senior Vice-President – Business, OverActive Media Group
“As I think back over the past decade, there is much to reflect on, learn from and be inspired by, when it comes to being a Canadian who aims to contribute to positive change in my community and beyond. My own journey in the past 10 years has brought with it many significant professional opportunities—like moving to Cameroon to support the establishment of a small non-profit that aims to support local environmental and human rights organizations in Central Africa, and eventually moving on to set up my own consulting business two years ago—and many life-changing personal experiences, including the birth of my two amazing children, who bring a new perspective to every day. My engagement in community activism has shifted in recent years, as I have had to juggle a more diverse set of priorities, but my commitment to social justice at home and abroad remains strong and steadfast. One of the initiatives that I continue to be involved with—and which keeps me connected to creativity, feminism and community, three things that are so important to me—is the Bourses Tontine Awards, which aim to support womxn’s creativity in Ottawa-Gatineau.” —Emily Wilson, philanthropist, social justice advocate
“Over the last 15 years—and 30+ expeditions with impossible2Possible—I’ve learned to love the space that exists between ‘This is too hard; I can’t do this anymore!’ and ‘This isn’t so bad; I can do this forever!’ In that space lies the journey that takes us from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs, and teaches us that we can do pretty much anything if we are determined enough. It also sets us up to be better prepared for future epic implosions, which will surely arise! We need the lows to provide a point of reflection so we can appreciate the highs. That’s one of the things I love so much about adventure and expeditions: no matter how much experience I have or how many miles I’ve covered in the past, my next project will undoubtedly bring some seriously horrendous situations that I’ve never encountered before, and each of those will be offset by amazing, incredible moments that I can’t even imagine until I live them.” —Ray Zahab, impossible2Possible founder