NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022 hamiltoncitymagazine.ca NO. 2 - THE HOLIDAY ISSUE
$7.95 From gift guides and community pride to giving back and Comeback Snacks, EMILY O’BRIEN is helping us celebrate the season – Hamilton style!
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For the Love of
Welcome to the November-December edition of HAMILTON CITY Magazine, or as we like to call it, the Holiday issue! Sure, there’s all manner of mirth and merriment — from food and drink to gifts and goodies, but there’s also a healthy and heartwarming dose of inspiration. From Emily O’Brien’s tale of redemption to Lena Bassford’s story of comfort; from community building to community singing. We hope you enjoy reading the issue as much as we enjoyed putting it together.
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On that note, we’ll leave you to turn the page and start enjoying the best of the holidays – Hamilton style! n Happy Holidays to you and your families. Jeff, Meredith, Marc, Will, Cathy & Gord
2 HCM NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022
and the beat goes on: L to r: our pub L isher jeff Martin, editor Marc s ku L nick, associate pub L isher M eredith M acLeod and c reative d irector wi LL v ipond tait. photo: jon evans for hcm
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2022 NO. 1 - THE ARTS ISSUE Harrison Kennedy A local legend, a national treasure NEW FACES INDIGENOUSOFLEADERSHIP JAIMIE LICKERS, SANTEE SMITH AND SAVAGE BEAR ARE FORGING NEW PATHS IN HAMILTON – and at 80, he’s showing no signs of slowing down THERE’S NO STOPPING THE DAWNING OF A NEW AGE THEATRE AQUARIUSCELEBRATES 50 YEARS – WE LOOK BACK AT HOW IT ALL BEGAN IT HAPPENED HERE FIRST 10 EVENTSONLY-IN-HAMILTON THAT PUT THE CITY ON THE MAP FOR ALL THE RIGHT REASONS!
B u i l d i n g a p l a c e f o r S e n i o r s t o t h r i v e DONATE TODAY! Learn more at stmatthewshouse.ca/412-Barton This space has been sponsored by HAMILTON CITY Magazine in support of local not for profit organizations that engage and support our communities. You can support other community organizations by sponsoring an ad. Contact us at email@example.com
ON THE COVER: EMILY O’BRIEN
20/ CREATURE COMFORTS
Lena Bassford is looking to get her calming Comfort Bears into the arms of even more kids in Hamilton and beyond.
22/ COMMUNITY AIRWAVES
For 52 years Cable 14 has provided a platform for Hamiltonians to tell their own stories on TV.
GIVE THE GIFT OF HAMILTON
Support the city’s creative visionaries and score a bunch of gift-giving cred at the same time by taking home some of these made-in-Hamilton treasures.
32/ THE COMEBACK KID
With a dash of determination, a pinch of perseverance and a whole lot of hustle, Emily O’Brien has concocted quite the recipe for success.
42/ HERE THEY GROW
Three Hamilton food hotspots are cooking up an expansion… with a side of nostalgia.
52/ A HAMILTON HOMECOMING
For Roger and Kareem-Anthony Ferreira, their new exhibition is truly a family affair.
58/ GUIDED BY FATE
Bill Dillon, who has played guitar with some of the biggest names around, knows first hand that music can save your life.
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Photographed by Marta Hewson for HAMILTON CITY Magazine | Hair + Makeup: Katelyn O’Neil | Concept/Creative Direction: Will Vipond Tait
Hamilton-Went W ort H District s c H ool Boar D D irector of e D ucation sH eryl r o B inson Petrazzini s H ares H er journey to c ana D a an D Her early im P ressions of Hamilton.
photo: jeff tessier for hcm
The City of Hamilton is situated upon the traditional territories of the Erie, Neutral, Huron-Wendat, Haudenosaunee and Mississaugas. This land is covered by the Dish With One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, which was an agreement between the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabek to share and care for the resources around the Great Lakes. We further acknowledge that this land is covered by the Between the Lakes Purchase, 1792, between the Crown and the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.
Today, the City of Hamilton is home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island (North America) and we recognize that we must do more to learn about the rich history of this land so that we can better understand our roles as residents, neighbours, partners and caretakers.
Both the National Day for Truth and Recon ciliation and Orange Shirt Day take place on Sept. 30 and recognize that at least 150,000 Indigenous children from across the country were forcibly separated from their families and their communities.
MAIN ATTRACTIONS 6/ CITY LIFE 17/ MADE IN HAMILTON 41/ FOOD + DRINK 49/ ARTS + CULTURE REGULAR STOPS 7/ LIFE IN THE CITY 10/ FOR THE LOVE OF HAMILTON 57/ HAMILTON READS 60/ IN THE MIX 62/ CITY VIEW The h amilTon Communi T y FoundaT ion began wi T h a $200 donaT ion in 1954 and now manages $250 million in asse Ts T haT i T uses To address C ri T i C al issues in T he C i T y. pg36 BUILDING A FOUNDATION:
jon evans for hcm
O Christmas Tea!
Fans of clever wordplay, physical comedy and the magical power of imagination will be in for a treat when O Christmas Tea hits Hamilton, Burlington and the surrounding region for a limited engagement. With over 100,000 tickets sold since its inception in 2013, the show makes its way to Ontario for the first time this year – and our cups runneth over with good fortune. Reminiscent of British pantomime, with a humour that harkens back to Monty Python, Mr. Bean and Dr. Seuss, O Christmas Tea promises to be an enter taining romp fit for all and a perfect way to create some lasting memories by sharing an experience en famille ahead of the holiday-season whirlwind.
Created by U.K. comedy duo James & Jamesy –23-time winner of Best of the Fest on the International Comedy Circuit –O Christmas Tea is an innovative and de lightful production that promises no shortage of laughs – or tea. While ripe with humour, at the show’s heart lies the underlying debate about the importance of imagination in an adult world. Spoiler alert: it’s important.
“The Christmas season is a magical time of year that brings people of all ages together; a time when we are encouraged to dream big, embrace imagination, and celebrate a childlike excitement for merriment,” explains Alastair Knowles (Jamesy), the ec centric half of the award-winning duo.
After an innocent wish for enough tea to serve the entire world goes torrentially awry, the protagonists look for solutions to the soggy slip-up, and the audience is called upon to be more than mere spectators.
In true James & Jamesy fashion, the production is inclusive and interactive, and encourages the audience’s imaginative involvement (told ya so). What results is a fantastical, entertaining romp where the actors – and audience – help the characters stay afloat so they can find their way back home. For show dates and tickets, visit jamesandjamesy.com n
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Combining humour with an unabashed love for the unexpe C ted, o Christmas tea is an outrageously funny show reminis C ent of C lassi C b ritish pantomimes.
ICONIC COMEDY DUO BRINGS PANTO-INSPIRED ROMP TO THE GTHA FOR SOME FESTIVE FUN – GRAB YOUR TEACUPS AND GET READY TO LAUGH. CITY LIFE IS SPONSORED BY CABLE 14
photo: thaddeus hink
LIFE IN THE CITY
From festivals and films to galas, galleries and gigs, Hamiltonians love to have a good time and these photos are definitely worth a thousand words. HAMILTON CITY Magazine was there – were you?
8. Hamilton power trio Chris Caddell, Jesse O’Brien & Steve Marriner, with Andrea Cassis at Stonewalls, Oct. 18.
9. Celebrating Hamilton’s Teenage Head at the Canadian premiere of Picture My Face documentary, Oct. 21: Steve Mahon (original member), Douglas Arrowsmith (director), Dave Rave (Teenage Head), Gene Champagne (Teenage Head).
10. Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne, Steve Strongman, Colin Lapsley & Dave King, at the Ancaster Memorial Arts Centre, Oct. 4.
By B rent perniac + Donna Waxman
1. Dave Foley (Kids in the Hall), and 2. Mitch Markowitz (Hilarious House of Frightenstein) at the Hamilton Comic Con Sept. 25.
3. Harry Styles at TIFF, Sept. 11.
4. CHCH-TV’s Bob Cowan flanked by Jee-Yun Lee (CP24) & Andria Case (CTV News) at Cowan’s TIFF retirement party, Sept. 29.
5. Conrad Zurini, Steve Paikin & Jeff Paikin at the RBC Distinguished Entrepreneur Awards, Oct. 20.
6. The Trews (Jack Syperek & John-Angus MacDonald) at the Dave Rave & The Second Responders release party at Stonewalls, Oct. 6.
7. Hamilton country singer Heather Valley at the Coal Miner’s Daughter musical tribute and screening, celebrating the life of Loretta Lynn, Oct. 20.
To check ou T more phoTos, scan T he qr code
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022 HCM 7
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It’s the ho-ho-holidays and there’s no shortage of festive fun on offer throughout the city. We’ve compiled a few of our favourites that are guaranteed to put a smile on your face and get you out and about our fine city over the holidays.
THE CRAWL CONTINUES
Not just a warm-weather outing, the grassroots James Street Art Crawl continues through the winter, held on the second Friday of every month. Don your mittens, pop on a toque, and enjoy the crawl, exploring the many galleries and shops along the historic stretch. Feeling peckish? Luckily, there are plenty of cozy restaurants and cafés along the route to provide you some sustenance and a seat while you defrost and recharge. James Street North, next is Dec. 9, 5 p.m. onjamesnorth.com
ANCASTER CHRISTMAS CRAFT SHOW
Shove your shopping list in your pocket, brush the snow from your windshield, and hit the road to head to the Ancaster Christmas Craft Show. With a juried selection of over 100 artisans from around Ontario, visitors are encouraged to spend the day perusing their unique, top-quality work. Don’t forget to bring a pen, as you will surely make your way through that list before the afternoon is through. Ancaster Fairgrounds, Dec. 10, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
When tackling your holiday shopping, be sure to hit the Craftadian Craft Show for the items that you just won’t find in the mall. Featuring a selection of handmade products created by jury-selected local exhibitors, shoppers will peruse original artwork, candles, clothing, paper goods and more. With such a treasure trove of choices, you’ll be sure to find that perfect something for everyone on your list, including yourself. McMaster Innovation Park, Dec. 10-11 Craftadian.ca
BOUGHS AT BATTLEFIELD
Take a winter’s drive to Stoney Creek and head back in time on a family-friendly tour of the historic Battlefield House. The National Historic site, with its neighbouring acres of parkland, offers a wel come reprieve to the modern-day holiday hustle. Tour the historic home and enjoy harkening back to a simpler time, with the del icate scent of its decorative evergreen boughs hung throughout perfuming the air. Nov. 22-Dec. 30. hamilton.ca/attractions
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This winter break, the 150-year-old Hamilton Museum of Steam and Technology invites the younger set to its drop-in event and activity centre to learn all about Victorian toy making. After participants get over the shock that there are no charging cables involved, they will have the opportunity to try out some classic Victorian-style toys and make their own keepsake crafts to take home. 900 Woodward Ave. Dec. 27-Jan. 8.
Meet your neighbours, get some fresh air and work on your step count during Westdale Village’s an nual Winter Wander. Held during the last weekend of November, the event will offer family-friendly activities, live music, late-night shopping, and a final respite to take in the shops and restaurants of the charming neighbourhood at your own pace before the holiday hustle hits fullforce. Nov. 26-27 westdalevillage.ca
The Garden Club of Canada brings its herbaceous fineries to Dundurn Castle this winter, decorating the estate as the Victorians once did. Visitors of all ages can enjoy hour-long guided tours, stepping back to a simpler time as they explore the rooms and corridors decorated with cedar boughs, ribbons, dried flowers and nary an LED light to be seen. Nov. 26 to Jan. 8, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022 HCM 9
FOR THE LOVE OF HAMILTON
THIS REGULAR FEATURE WILL HIGHLIGHT PEOPLE, FROM ALL WALKS OF LIFE, WHO HAVE EMBRACED HAMILTON AS THEIR NEW HOME.
who he is: Husband, dad, producer, guest host on CBC Radio’s The Block
interviewed by: Marc Skulnick
photo by: Vivian Tabar online: cbcmusic.ca/theblock
scan the qr code to read the full q+a online.
10 HCM NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022
JJ LABORDE is a radio industry veteran, having graced the airwaves of The Edge 102.1, Energy 108, KISS 92.5, Flow 93.5 and now, CBC Music’s The Block. LaBorde moved to Hamilton from Toronto last year and in between prepping for his popular radio show, LaBorde sat down with Marc Skulnick to talk about his new life in Hamilton: from the pleasant surprise of friendly neighbours in his Stipley neighbourhood to the uniquely Hamilton Art Crawl to bragging about the city’s potential.
THE NEW KID ON THE BLOCK
You moved to Hamilton from Toronto more than a year ago. What made you decide to move here?
We were renting a house in east Toronto for the last decade and the owner decided to sell. Over the years he had always said when the time came, he’d offer it to us first and he was true to his word, but it was still an astronomical price. I grew up in Burlington and in the ’90s one of my first radio gigs was at Energy 108 and during that time I lived in east Hamilton on Huxley and downtown at Main and Queen. I always really liked the city-meets-nature, or what I call the Sesame Street vibe of Hamilton, so it was where we focused our search.
What was the reaction of your friends and family when you told them you were moving to Hamilton?
Most of my friends and family reacted favourably, with comments like ‘that’s the new hot spot’ and ‘everyone is moving there.’ In fact, a few of my friends had recently moved back and a few co-workers had relocated around the same time.
What neighbourhood do you live in, and why did you choose that one?
Our realtor showed us properties all around the city, but we found a beautiful old, brick house in Stipley. The neighbours seemed to take pride in their properties and we liked that it was a short walk to Gage Park and the Ottawa Street North shopping district. We know that an LRT is planned for the city, so that factored in as well.
What were your first impressions of the city?
My first impression was that Hamilton is clearly in a transitional place. All the demolition along King and Main, the construction down town and at Pier 8 is very hopeful. However, the addiction and poverty in Hamilton cannot be denied and I believe hopefulness needs to be for everyone.
What was your biggest surprise upon moving to Hamilton?
I was very pleasantly surprised by the friendli ness of our neighbours. On our first morning, our neighbour across the street came over with cof fee because, as she said, ‘I can’t imagine you’ve unpacked your machine yet.’ Another neighbour welcomed us with a bottle of wine and some tea towels, another with herbs from their garden and yet another with a list of grocery stores, restaurants and points of interest. This was not my experience anywhere else I’ve ever lived.
Hamilton needs more …?
Hamilton needs more recreational spots for families, well-lit, safe playgrounds, basketball courts and outdoor pools.
Hamilton needs less …?
Hamilton needs less potholes … I’m looking at you Barton Street. n
READ WHAT ELSE JJ HAS TO SAY about Hamilton and more, exclusively online by scanning the QR code.
IF YOU’D LIKE TO BE FEATURED IN FOR THE LOVE OF HAMILTON, PLEASE CONTACT firstname.lastname@example.org
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022 HCM 11
The historic city council vote to not expand Hamilton’s urban boundary didn’t come easy. It took months and months of debate that included intense lobby ing from the development industry as well as an impressive grassroots campaign against sprawl. At the height of discussion, a survey of residents showed that a whopping 90 per cent of the more than 16,000 respondents from across the city wanted to maintain the current urban boundary. Despite this, there is a chance that the Ontario government may overturn the local decision. Why? At the core of the issue, is the question of how we can ac commodate growth within our current urban limits, given that provincial estimates suggest that Hamilton will grow by about 236,000 people by the year 2051.
Where will the new housing go? What will new development look like? Will neigh bourhoods be unrecognizable from what they are now? These are all valid questions that are a concern for some, so it’s worth
exploring the answers.
Before describing what the future could look like, it is useful to look to the past for inspiration. In this context, let’s take a look at a photograph of downtown Hamilton from 1913. It’s taken at the corner of King and James, in the heart of the city. Crowds of people are walking the streets, in what looks like a very prosperous, vibrant and interesting city. We can tell a number of things from this image, starting with the sheer level of activity that is present. The streets were designed to provide space for a diversity of activity from pedes trians, to streetcars and private vehicles, to storefront businesses. Compare this level of activity with what you would see in the exact same location today, and what we learn is that our streets and adjacent city spaces were built to accommodate many more people than use them today. You could call them underused ur ban spaces. And this isn’t isolated to downtown.
If you take a drive through Hamilton today, you will notice a lot of parking lots and emp
ty parcels of land dotting the landscape. Over the last 50 years, large swaths of our city have actually lost population (approximately 66,000 people according to the census) due to a mixture of demolitions, urban renewal and migration trends within the city. While the overall population of Hamilton remained about the same for years, the internal move ments of people changed the population of various neighbourhoods.
So when it comes to growing the city in the coming years, it’s important to understand that Hamilton is not bursting at the seams from a lack of space. Further, the idea of building more density within existing areas, or intensification, is not new. In many ways, the future of Hamilton is already here if you look in the right places.
There are many neighbourhoods in Ham ilton that have experienced different forms of intensification already. Think of base ment apartments, duplexes, triplexes and quadplexes and even lower-rise apartment buildings. These are all examples of what is known as the “missing middle,” housing forms on the spectrum that are between sin gle-family detached houses on one end, and high-rise apartment and condos on the other.
If you look around many streets across the city, you will find examples of smaller scale apartments, with six to 12 units, some dating back more than 100 years. Many are so well designed you barely notice them. Height is typically in line with neighbouring singledetached housing and overall scale doesn’t make them an imposing part of street life. Architecturally, many make a very positive contribution to neighbourhoods.
In fact, many older neighbourhoods have a remarkable diversity of existing housing op tions. Take for example the local streets in the
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HAMILTON CAN GROW WITHOUT URBAN SPRAWL. HERE’S HOW WE CAN DO IT, SAYS URBAN PLANNER PAUL SHAKER
This panoramic pho To of down Town h amilTon Taken in 1913 aT T he corner of k ing and James shows a very prosperous, vibran T and
southwest of Hamilton around Queen Street and Locke Street. This is a vibrant, walkable neighbourhood and in a two-block span, there are roughly 60 residential buildings. Aside from obvious low-rise apartments, all other buildings appear to be single-detached housing. However, looking closer, about 15 to 20 per cent have multiple units ranging from basement apartments, to two, three, and four units and a look along the many alleyways reveals some more secondary units.
What has been the impact of this housing diversity on these streets? Has the neighbour hood become derelict, with slumping housing values, and the neighbourhood commercial strip full of vacancies? Quite the opposite. The neighbourhood is vibrant, with a full range of household types including singletons, young families, and empty nesters. There are multiple schools within walking distance as well as a local library branch, recreation centre and seasonal farmers’ market. The nearby commercial strip is vibrant, providing a range of services to residents on adjacent streets. All of these uses wouldn’t be possible without the density and diversity of people who live in the neighbourhood. Further, housing diversity provides some more affordable housing op tions as the real estate boom has made buying a home that much harder.
In our past, urban diversity, including housing, is what provided the foundation for a vibrant city. It also made us more econom ically sustainable. How? When new neigh bourhoods are built, infrastructure, including recreation centres, schools, roads and sewers, are required to support the population. The problem is, if there are not enough peo ple living in a neighbourhood, the cost for maintaining that infrastructure is more than what is available through existing property
taxes. Further, if areas lose population, all that infrastructure that was built in the past becomes underutilized and underfunded as well. This is the hole we have dug for our selves and it shows up every time you see a property tax increase.
Moving forward, it would make sense to in crease housing diversity and density in order to make Hamilton more vibrant and economically sustainable. How can we do that? Here are five ways to achieve smarter growth for Hamilton:
PROMOTE MODERN HOUSING DENSITY
The amount of land used for detached houses has changed over the last 50 years. Compared to the 1960s, we use progressively less land per house. However, when planning, we typically use outdated assumptions of density that are from 20 years ago. Instead, we should plan for modern housing design that takes up less space.
FOCUS ON THE MISSING MIDDLE
The plan for new housing over the next 30 years is overwhelmingly focused on single-family detached housing. We should plan for a modern housing mix that includes a greater variety of types from the “missing middle” — think semi-detached homes, town houses and low-rise apartments.
SECONDARY DWELLING UNITS
Secondary dwelling units (SDU) are an other way to accommodate new growth and they come in many forms. SDUs could be a newly constructed detached unit such as an alley house, a conversion of an existing acces sory building such as a garage, or a new unit within an existing home such as a basement apartment. If we decided to make secondary dwelling units a more important part of our
growth plan, that would mean thousands of new units.
Hamilton has many underdeveloped park ing lots all over the city, but especially along major streets and corridors. These lots could be transformed to accommodate a variety of housing types and mixed-use develop ment over the next 30 years. If we accelerate redevelopment of more major corridors across the city, we can accommodate a significant amount of our anticipated growth while mak ing better use of these underutilized spaces.
Light-rail transit is a game-changer in how we will be able to accommodate our anticipated growth over the coming decades. LRT has always been more than just a transit project. It is about shaping the future of Ham ilton. Just the hint of LRT is already having an impact. Between 2016 and 2021, the city handled 16 applications from developers hop ing to build high rises of at least 20 storeys and most are on, or within close proximity to, the planned LRT line. This follows the pattern found in every other city that has decided to invest in this type of transit infrastructure.
These are just a few ideas on how we can accommodate growth without urban sprawl. The bigger picture is one of tremendous op portunity. Maintaining our urban boundary is a means to an end. That end is to reshape Hamilton to be a more vibrant and sustain able city. Part of this is about rediscovering what made us successful in the past while looking to build a prosperous future. n
Paul Shaker is a Hamilton-based urban planner and principal with Civicplan.
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022 HCM 13
interesting city. photo: submitted
Andrea Horwath will be the first wom an to serve as mayor of the city of Hamilton. The former Ward 2 council lor, Hamilton MPP and Ontario NDP leader ran on a vision of safe streets, clean industry, af fordable housing and transparent government.
Given Horwath’s huge name recognition, the election was hers to lose. But a late entry, lacklustre campaign with few policy details, and cringe-worthy messaging gaffes left the final tally much closer than I expected. Horwath received 41.7 per cent of the vote, just edging challenger Keanin Loomis, who received 40.5 per cent.
Loomis started far behind in name recog nition but rolled out a detailed platform and campaigned extensively, sticking mainly to
positive messaging. Yet his political inex perience proved costly, as when he mused about getting the City out of public housing before backtracking the next day when it blew up on him.
After a mid-October poll suggested his supporters skewed older, wealthier and suburban, Loomis reversed his promise to phase out area rating for transit, the amalga mation-era policy that locks in lower transit service levels and tax rates in the former suburbs. That undermined his other pledge to boost city-wide transit. It’s unclear whether this helped or hurt the Loomis campaign, but he ended up falling just short of victory.
Former mayor Bob Bratina finished a dis tant third with just 12 per cent. Despite name
recognition and political history, Bratina was essentially a non-serious candidate with a napkin-sketch platform and a communica tions program pushing absurd right-wing dog whistles.
But though the mayoral contest undoubt edly commands the most attention, the mayor is just one vote (for now – Hamilton might end up with a new “strong mayor” system, though nothing concrete has been announced by the Ford government at press time) and there was real excitement in the ward councillor races.
Let me be clear: the sense that this was a change election was not just your imagination.
Incumbency confers an enormous struc tural advantage to the candidate seeking re-election, and this vote saw an unprece dented three upset defeats.
In Ward 2 (downtown Hamilton), threeterm incumbent Jason Farr finished a distant second to upstart challenger Cameron Kroetsch, a community organizer and LGBTQ activist who ran an extraordinary campaign centred around restoring public trust, responsive government, affordable housing and environmental stewardship.
In Ward 10 (Stoney Creek), five-term incumbent Maria Pearson was a devastat ing third-place loser, finishing behind both winner Jeff Beattie, a local business owner
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THE MUNICIPAL ELECTION SAW THE WELCOME WINDS OF CHANGE SWIRL THROUGH A FRACTIOUS CITY HALL, BUT AS RYAN McGREAL POINTS OUT, THE NEW FACES AT THE COUNCIL TABLE WILL HAVE THEIR WORK CUT OUT FOR THEM.
photo: mike kukucska
and community advocate, and second-place finisher Louie Milojevic. Pearson’s margins of victory had been shrinking steadily the past few election cycles, so it wasn’t a huge surprise to see her finally lose.
In Ward 13 (Dundas), two-term incum bent Arlene VanderBeek – herself the anointed successor to previous incumbent Russ Powers – lost to Alex Wilson, a climate justice activist who was previously legislative assistant to MPP Sandy Shaw. Wilson received an impressive 58 per cent of the vote in the two-candidate race.
Of course, several other long-term incum bents decided to retire themselves rather than risk getting turfed by the voters.
In Ward 4 (east Hamilton), left open by Sam Merulla, business development pro fessional Tammy Hwang succeeded in a crowded field of 11 candidates, beating ATU Local 107 president Eric Tuck – who came in second place – and former school board trustee Alex Johnstone in third. Hwang ran on a progressive platform of safe, inclusive streets, small-business development, green industry and affordable housing.
Ward 5 (east of Red Hill) opened when incumbent Chad Collins made the jump to federal politics. His chosen successor, Matt Francis, took his place with 44 per cent of the vote, beating second-place finisher Lynda Lukasik, executive director of Environment Hamilton. A former city employee, Fran cis co-ordinated Collins’ federal election campaign and his platform continues Collins’ emphasis on low taxes, anti-LRT fearmonger ing and opposition to “over-development.”
In Ward 11 (Glanbrook), vacated by incum bent Brenda Johnson, Mark Tadeson eked out a narrow victory over second-place finisher Nick Lauwers with a platform emphasizing congeniality and supporting a firm urban boundary to protect farmland, but opposing the ending of area rating for transit. Tadeson has indicated he could live with a compro mise in which rural residents continue to pay no transit levy.
Ward 12 (Ancaster) incumbent Lloyd Ferguson took the seat over from his brother Murray in 2006, and when he decided to retire, he endorsed the like-minded Chuck Alkerton, a retired city facilities operation manager, to replace him. Thankfully, Ancaster voters had a different idea and decisively elected Craig Cassar, who campaigned on an environmental platform emphasizing ex
panded transit, traffic calming and improved cycling facilities.
In Ward 14 (west Mountain), vacated by the belligerent Terry Whitehead, former PC candidate Mike Spadafora barely edged past community antiracism activist Kojo Damptey, winning by just 79 votes. Spadafora’s priori ties are low taxes, infrastructure repair and road safety.
With Judi Partridge stepping down in Ward 15 (Flamborough), former Waterdown mayor and Liberal minister Ted McMeekin won handily against second-place finisher Zobia Jawed. Calling himself a “progressive pragmatist,” McMeekin ran on a platform emphasizing climate resilience, agri-business development, evidence-based policy and personal decency.
This was a change election, but not every seat turned over. In wards 1 (west Hamilton), 3 (Hamilton centre) and 8 (west/central Mountain), first-term incumbents Maureen Wilson, Nrinder Nann and John-Paul Danko decisively retained their seats. The closest race was Ward 3, where Nann defended her position against challenger Walter Furlan, who ran on a contentious platform decry ing the concentration of social services and encampments.
Yet, far from being members of the “old guard,” these three councillors represent the tip of the spear of change and renewal. They must be cheering the addition of several new, progressive faces around the council table after a frustrating first term in which the incumbents routinely closed ranks against their efforts to change how municipal politics is done.
In Ward 7 (central Mountain), conservative first-term councillor Esther Pauls barely held her seat against former Ward 7 councillor Scott Duvall, who also did a stint as NDP MP for Hamilton Mountain. Pauls won by just 217 votes in the two-candidate race.
In her first term, Pauls often struggled to imagine the circumstances of people with different lived experiences than her. One par ticularly cringeworthy example was when she opposed the provision of menstrual prod ucts because “a woman is always prepared.”
In Ward 6 (east Mountain), forever coun cillor Tom Jackson was re-elected handily to his 11th term, having served since 1988, a time when councillors were still called “aldermen.” Jackson has built a career out of top-notch retail politics, combined with assiduously
avoiding taking a firm stand on anything controversial. This is the representative who regularly demanded an “off-ramp” for the city’s LRT project, a mixed metaphor that says a lot in itself.
In all, while the tide of change was not categorical, it radically transformed the dy namics that will drive council decisions over the next four years. It is hard to overstate the impact that the departure of Farr, Merulla, Collins, Ferguson, Whitehead and Partridge will have on both policy and decorum.
Meanwhile, the addition of Kroetsch, Hwang, Beattie, Tadeson, Cassar, Alex Wil son and McMeekin is sure to shift the centre of gravity in ways that will ripple outward for years.
This council will have to tackle some seri ous issues: addressing the city’s severe lack of affordable housing, shepherding intensifi cation within the urban boundary, managing the impacts of LRT construction, plus the Red Hill Valley Parkway inquiry and ongoing fallout from the sewage leak into Chedoke Creek – to name but a few.
And there may be very little time for a hon eymoon. On Oct. 20, Danko boldly announced on Twitter that if re-elected, he would immediately seek to eliminate area rating for transit in the 2023 budget, instead of phasing the change in over several years.
Area rating was supposed to be a tempo rary stopgap, but successive councils have put off dealing with it since amalgamation in 2001 and it has crippled the city’s capac ity to plan citywide transit in a coherent way. As a result, there has been almost no progress in phasing it out and almost no ex pansion of transit in underserved area-rated communities.
Danko’s attempt to tear off the Band-Aid will be an early stress test of how this new council works together. In replying to Danko, McMeekin cautioned that he “will have one hell of a fight on (his) hands” with this “arrogant bully approach” and suggested that a phased approach that delivers transit improvements in tandem with rate changes makes more sense.
This approach is consistent with May or-elect Horwath, who argued that any change to transit rates needs to happen “in tandem” with service improvements. This will be the first serious test of her ability to unify council around a workable solution to a longstanding challenge. n
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022 HCM 15
16 HCM NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022 ShopLocal 123 King St W, Hamilton Hours: Thurs 11-8, Fri 11-6, Sat & Sun 11-4 @agh_shop DISCOVER UNIQUE GIFTS Curated selection of holiday cards, decor, giftware, Hamilton Makers, books, jewellery and more! shop.artgalleryofhamilton.com |
Empowering the Community
A MASSIVE $1.9 MILLION INVESTMENT WILL HELP EMPOWERMENT SQUARED SUPPORT BLACK ENTREPRENEURS IN HAMILTON.
Empowerment Squared is a Hamilton-based charitable organization that works to ensure that newcomer, racialized, and marginalized individuals and families are given the tools, resources and opportunities to succeed, regardless of their past experiences and economic status.
Led by executive director Leo Nupolu Johnson – who also founded the organization back in 2007 – Empowerment Squared offers a wide range of programs for youth and adults, including educational programming, pathways to post-secondary education, professional skills development and entrepreneurship, and sports and recreation. Johnson and his team recently received a $1.9-million investment from the federal government’s Black Entrepreneurship Program (BEP) Ecosystem Fund. This money will enable Empowerment Squared to create the Southwestern Ontario Black Entrepreneurship Network, a consortium of partners that will provide Black entrepreneurs in the
Hamilton and Windsor areas with advisory services, mentorship, entrepreneurial training and networking opportunities to help them succeed – and support the creation of 80 new jobs and 275 Black entrepreneurs. “As the Black community continues to deal with the historical deficits caused by marginalization, we are pleased to have a partner in FedDev Ontario that is willing and intentional about providing the resources and investment required to empower Black entrepreneurs,” said Johnson following the announcement by Helena Jaczek, Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario. Empowerment Squared will be collaborating with partners in the development of the Network and further details will be announced in the coming months. For more information on Empowerment Squared and the South western Ontario Black Entrepreneurship Network, visit empowermentsquared.org. n
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EarliEr this yEar, hElEna JaczEk, MinistEr rEsponsiblE for thE fEdEral EconoMic dEvElopMEnt agEncy for southErn ontario, (sEcond row, fifth froM lEft), announcEd an invEstMEnt of MorE than $1.9 Million for EMpowErMEnt squarEd, an organization foundEd by lEo Johnson (sEcond row, fifth froM right). photo: submitted
MADE IN HAMILTON IS SPONSORED BY CITY OF HAMILTON ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT INVEST IN HAMILTON
Back in the mid-’60s, siblings Jim and Elaine Stewart arrived at their first-ever Dofasco Christmas party and were greeted with a handshake from Frank Sherman. Jim recalls the company president as a tall man wearing a suit and bowtie. But Elaine was awestruck by something much taller. “That huge Christmas tree as you walked in, it was just indescribable,” she says. “As a child, it was quite magical.”
Jim’s favourite part was choosing a gift
like a board game or model airplane. He says every family also received “Christmas packs” that were exciting to open at home to discov er candy, tinned fruit, and more.
During that era, Dofasco was known for hosting the biggest indoor employee Christ mas party in the Commonwealth. Attendance numbers were estimated at 25,000 but the peak was over 38,000 during the 1970s when the company had 12,000 employees.
The grand event has been wowing chil
dren since it started in 1937 just as the Great Depression was coming to an end. It was an occasion for management to show their gratitude for the employees’ hard work and over many decades, it became a legendary tradition.
The first party and many more were held in the plant, sometimes in a brand new and still-empty area that was transformed into a holiday wonderland. But parts of the active production line could be used, too. One year,
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MAKING CHRISTMAS MAGIC THE ANNUAL CHRISTMAS PARTY AT DOFASCO – ONCE THE BIGGEST INDOOR EMPLOYEE HOLIDAY EVENT IN THE COMMONWEALTH – IS A HAMILTON TRADITION 85 YEARS IN THE MAKING.
The Dofasco employee chrisTmas parTy has been wowing hamilTon chilDren
since iT began in 1937 photo: submitted
the massive coil unit was chosen as the venue. Teams of people worked like super-efficient elves to remove the many coils of steel, scrub the area clean, decorate, and set up the party, all in record time. And the day after the party, the unit was back in normal production mode.
For a few years, the celebration was moved from the plant over to Copps Coliseum in downtown Hamilton. Eventually the venue became, and still is, the company’s F.H. Sher man Recreation and Learning Centre, built on the Stoney Creek Mountain in 1978.
Now known as ArcelorMittal Dofasco, the number of employees is down to about 5,000 but with families plus retirees, this is still a huge party. The centre’s two arenas, large gymnasium, and the lobby are needed to fit everyone in. Starting in the springtime, it takes a lot of planning to get everything right. Marie Verdun, director of communications and sustainable development, says that both new employees and those with long service generously volunteer their time every year.
While the parties of earlier eras gave a walk-through experience, an amazing variety of activities were added over time. A visit with Santa has always been popular and other features, like dancing elephants, acrobats, magicians, face painting, musicians, and storytellers, have also been much en joyed. A box of goodies still goes home with
every employee and, for the last 25 years, a custom-designed nutcracker tree ornament has been included.
The pandemic caused the cancellation of the party in 2020 and 2021 but the Dofasco elves worked hard and got presents deliv ered anyway. There is plenty of excitement about the party’s return in 2022 – the 86th edition of what is known as the largest and longest-running corporate party in the re gion. On the Sunday before Christmas, 9,000 guests are expected and 3,000 are children who will receive a gift if they’re up to age 13.
And the big numbers don’t stop there –imagine 55,000 candies, 8,000 nutcracker ornaments, and 85 performers. While all the activity is great, Verdun says it is being together that is most special. “It’s a chance for people to gather and be together as the big Dofasco family that we are,” she says. “We can say a big thank you to everyone for a job well done and count our blessings, too.” n
Movers and Makers
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022 HCM 19
TTA l DofA sco pA rT y is now hel D AT T he co M pA ny’s f h s her MA n r ecre AT ion A n D l e A rning c en T re,
fAM ilies A re T re AT e D To A visi T wi T h sA n TA , fAce pA in T ing, en T erTA
A n D A
M nu Tcr Acker. photo: submitted
( Aaron Jones, Christina Leslie, Dainesha Nugent-Palache and Bidemi Oloyede On now until December 23 Curated by Betty Julian )
McMaster Museum of Art @macmuseum museum.mcmaster.ca
Aaron Jones, In The Stilted Doorway, 2021
photos, scan the qr code
RECOGNIZING THE CALMING EFFECT THAT A SINGLE PLUSH TEDDY BEAR CAN HAVE ON A TRAUMATIZED CHILD, LENA BASSFORD IS LOOKING TO GET COMFORT BEARS INTO THE ARMS OF EVEN MORE KIDS IN HAMILTON AND BEYOND.
BY JODY ABERDEEN
There is one story that Comfort Bears founder Lena Bassford often thinks about. “Victim Services had been out on a call,” says Bassford. “A mother had experienced domestic violence with her young daughter present, and when the responders arrived, mother and child were sitting next to each other. A volunteer arrived on the scene with a teddy bear, which she gave to the young girl. The child took it right away and hugged it very tight, and in a very quiet voice, almost a whisper, she said to the bear ‘I’ll never hurt you.’”
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Lena Bassford’s Comfort Bears provides C udd Ly stuffed anima L s for C hi L dren with serious or termina L i LL ness or those experien C ing trauma. photos: jon evans for hcm
Bassford pauses. “All the money in the world would not buy that kind of comfort for that child, sitting in the midst of chaos, confusion, and all these strangers suddenly in her home. A child who had just witnessed something horrible, something that most of us never have to. It’s just a teddy bear, but what that bear means to a child in that situa tion is much greater than we realize.”
This is one example of the effect that a sin gle plush teddy bear can have on the healing of a child who has recently gone through trauma, and it’s the inspiration behind the creation of Comfort Bears.
Comfort Bears emerged as an idea around September 2021, following a conversation Bassford had with a first responder. “He had to cut our conversation short because he was going out on a call. There were two children in the home, but he only had one teddy bear, so he was running out to the store so he could buy another one for the kids. I thought, ‘I can do something like that.’”
Having recently retired from Food4Kids, a charity she founded, Bassford created Com fort Bears in October 2021 with the intent to provide the bears to children who were se riously or terminally ill, and to children who were experiencing severe trauma. “We part nered with 21 incredible organizations from hospices to children’s aid societies to victim services with the local police to hospitals and children’s centres and more.”
Together, these organizations identify children who would benefit from having the comfort of a Comfort Bear.
Bassford and her partners quickly found that the psychological impacts on the child are incredible. “In cases of sudden traumatic events or accidents, the look on that child’s face when they see a responder or volunteer approaching them with a bear is something to see. For terminally ill children who are in hospital or hospice, the bears give them great comfort in those hard days, and are often buried with them when the child passes on.”
Despite the numerous economic and supply chain challenges wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic across the world, Bass ford says Comfort Bears has been very fortu nate during this time, having been received with open arms by individuals and organi zations alike. “A wholesale supplier gives us the bears at a 50 per cent discount. While we know many organizations have been dealing
with a lot during this time, we’ve been lucky, and we have the generosity of our communi ty partners to thank for it.”
One of those partners is the Hamilton Fire Department. Speaking on behalf of Hamilton Professional Firefighters Association Local 288, Steve Falconi shared the following state ment about Comfort Bears:
“As first responders in our community we could not pass up the opportunity to support the Comfort Bears’ goal of ‘bringing sunshine to kids on their cloudiest days.’ With over 530 firefighters responding to approximately 40,000 calls a year, we have seen the many ways in which children can be exposed to traumatic moments. A child navigating life-changing moments such as losing their home and possessions during a fire, wit nessing the loss of a loved one, or being in a serious vehicle collision can cause painful memories that last a lifetime.
“We believe Comfort Bears is a way to make a difference for a child in crisis. These cuddly bears can provide a sense of calm and security to children who are not always able to express exactly how they are feeling during challenging times. Our members are proud to have the opportunity to work with a community partner like Comfort Bears. We look forward to making a difference in the lives of children within our community.”
Looking ahead to 2023, Bassford acknowl edges the generosity of the Hamiton, Halton, and Niagara regions in particular. “People seem to rally around this issue. We’re lucky to live in these communities, and their support has been incredible. We’ve been fortunate to have Nicole Martin with CHCH-TV as our am bassador, and she has been wonderful, going out and speaking and generating awareness of the program.”
Bassford’s goal is for even more children’s organizations to sign on with Comfort Bears. “Imagine if it costs $20 to provide one of our bears. If we had to go out and buy them, they would be $40. We have no office or paid staff. This is 100 per cent community driven. We hope that we can give another 2,000 bears in the coming year, and we can’t do it alone.”
Reflecting on these troubled times, Bassford is grateful for many things. “If you have health, a roof overhead, food on the table, and are not going through ongoing crisis, you’ve been lucky. You’ve been dealt a good hand. When we have good fortune, we want to be grateful for it, but the life lesson is what can we do with it? What difference did I make in this world, looking back at the end of life? That’s what motivates me to do what I do. And what a won derful legacy that our individual donors have left for us, knowing they have brought smiles and warm hearts to so many children.” n
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022 HCM 21
From le F t: Steve Falconi, m ark agre S ta and d an Feir, along with their F ellow F ire F ighter S at the h amilton Fire d epartment have been big S upporter S o F c om F ort b ear S
By meredith m ac leod
It’s a couple of hours before the Cable 14 mayoral candidates debate is due to start and Jonathan Freedman is on his hands and knees using duct tape to secure cables running along the aisle at the Westdale Theatre.
There is a young volunteer at his side and Freedman is showing him the technique for ripping the pesky tape off the roll.
This small moment defines the approach of community TV at Cable 14. Why?
Because Jonathan Freedman is the general manager of the station. His cable-laying days should be long behind him but this is an allhands-on-deck kind of place where teaching is in the DNA.
The station produces hundreds of hours of original content each year, from studio-pro duced civic affairs and lifestyle programs (and more on-demand) to live coverage of Bulldogs hockey games, city council meetings and local events like Santa Claus parades.
There are programs you won’t see anywhere else covering things like metal
22 HCM NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022
Hamilton’s Cable 14 C ommunity station relies on a small staff, a roster of volunteers and t H e publi C to C over t H e C ity.
FROM BULLDOGS GAMES TO DEBATES AND TV BINGO TO LOCAL EATING, FOR 52 YEARS CABLE 14 HAS PROVIDED A PLATFORM FOR HAMILTONIANS TO TELL THEIR OWN STORIES ON TV.
detecting, bridge, nerd culture, video games and poetry. The focus is hyper-local. It’s all Hamilton all the time.
With a staff of just 12, it just wouldn’t be possible without the 30 or so active volun teers who show up to operate cameras and control boards, write scripts or produce or host community-based shows. Many of the volunteers are high school students or study ing broadcasting at Mohawk College. The experience at Cable 14 has launched many careers.
Others work in the industry or are retired and pitch in at Cable 14 because they love community TV. Still others have had no connection to the media industry but are fascinated by it.
There is a rush to TV, especially live broadcasts.
“You can’t fix live. Live is live and that’s exciting because it’s on the edge,” says Freedman, who served as floor manager and executive producer of the mayor’s candidates debate broadcast.
He joined Cable 14 in April 2020. That was supposed to be a celebratory year, marking the station’s 50 years in operation. But like so many others, that milestone was upended by the pandemic. Plans for public celebrations were shelved.
Freedman has a long resumé in the busi ness but Cable 14 is unique, he says.
“It’s like nothing I’ve ever been a part of. Six months in I realized how powerful this place is in the community and outside of it.”
DID YOU KNOW?
n Cable 14 is jointly owned and operated by Cogeco Communications Holdings Inc. and Rogers Communications Canada Inc.
n Cable 14 is available to about 130,000 subscribers served by Rogers and Cogeco in Hamilton and Haldimand
n Anyone can watch Cable 14’s livestream
n Kiwanis TV Bingo is Cable 14’s longest-running show at more than 50 years
n The program has raised millions for Kiwanis causes, including more than $1 million during the pandemic
n It takes a crew of 15 to 20, seven cameras and a mobile production unit to pull off broadcasting 30 home Bulldogs game a year
n It takes four to six hours in set up for the game and just about as long to tear down
n It takes about six to eight hours in planning, shooting, editing and post-production to put a half-hour show together
n Cable 14 takes community program proposals all year long and makes choices in the spring and fall for the following seasons
n New volunteers are welcomed three times a year in January, July, and October. No experience is necessary
n Independent TV and short film and documen tary producers are welcome to contact Cable 14 any time to explore opportunities to showcase their work
The local specialty channel takes to the airways as Cable 8, with studios located on Hester Street on the Hamilton Mountain. Cable 8 produced program ming on behalf of six cable companies.
The station receives its first licence as an independent community programming network, approved and licensed by the CRTC. This remains the first and only licence of its kind in the country.
Cable 8 celebrates its fifth anniversary with a shift from black and white to colour.
Cable 8 changes to Cable 4 and relocates to its current location at 150 Dundurn St. S.
At the request of the CRTC, Cable 4 transitions to Cable 14.
Cable 14 begins transmitting in high-definition to Cogeco, Rogers, and Source Cable subscribers in its viewing area in October.
Cable 14 launches a new service that lets subscribers watch live and on-demand video content.
1970: 1971: 1975: 1982: 1986: 2013: 2015: 2020:
Cable 14 celebrates its 50th broadcast season.
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022 HCM 23
/ContInued on page 24
Matt Ingra M of CHCH- t V, left, I nterVI ews Cable 14’s M ayoral debate M oderator M I ke f ortune at t H e w estdale tH eatre. photo: meredith m acleod for hcm
Control r oom at the h ester s treet s tudios. photo: submitted
from page 27
Freedman’s mandate is to grow the num ber of eyeballs on Cable 14 content, increase its social media presence and continually enhance the quality and creativity of the channel’s programming.
Priorities include significantly growing the number of volunteers – COVID took a toll there – and to increase the communi ty-generated content.
As the ranks of cable subscribers shrink, the challenge is to get Cable 14’s content out to viewers who want anytime access at their fingertips on any device.
“This is the world every broadcaster everywhere is facing,” says Freedman.
Senior manager Bill Custers has spent much of his career at Cable 14.
“I love interacting with politicians, ath letes, and public service leaders. You have to be a part of the community. It just gets in your blood,” he says.
“We are a specialty TV channel just like The Food Network or The History Channel. Our specialty is Hamilton. If it’s relevant and interesting to our community, we want to be involved in it.”
But unlike traditional local TV stations, community TV allows the public to pitch, develop and create its content. In fact, about 70 per cent of Cable 14’s programming is generated by the community.
“We provide the facility, the equipment and the mentors for the community to come in, learn about TV and tell their own stories. We are almost like a public library but we help people produce TV,” Custers says.
“When people first start out, it requires a lot of handholding and teaching.”
Anna and Olivia Fasullo appreciate that approach. The mother and daughter, who own Bella Mia bridal shop on James Street North, just completed the first season of Beyond the Veil. The show features inter views with wedding industry professionals in the region, covering such topics as ven ues, catering, décor, favours and flowers.
“This wouldn’t be possible at all without the team at Cable 14. The producer is your guide and teacher but they gave us the space to create our own vision,” says Olivia, who has produced her own independent films.
“Cable 14 gives the spotlight and voice to the community. That’s incredibly important.”
Custers sees a place for the contribution
of Cable 14 in a city seeing a resurgence in pride on all fronts, the kind of pride folks literally wear on their sleeves.
Mike Fortune is all about that city pride. He first appeared on Cable 14 20 years ago, hosting the long-running Kiwanis Bingo. He has done just about everything since – call ing hockey and basketball games, hosting talk shows, moderating debates – and he’s become a Hamilton fixture in the process.
When he looks back at tape from those early days, he wonders why they ever kept him on air.
“I didn’t even listen as an interviewer, I was so worried about my next question.”
Over the years, he’s studied others, asked countless questions and developed his own style.
“The people at Cable 14 were so under standing and so willing to work with me. I was a sponge and was so grateful for the opportunity,” he says.
“It’s helped that I’m curious. Because it’s about Hamilton, it’s easy for me to care about it.” n
scan the qr code to read the expanded story, view more historical photos and watch a video.
DENNINGERS.COM HAMILTON BURLINGTON OAKVILLE LOCATIONS VISIT US ONLINE
t he original c able 14 sign. photo: submitted
Hamilton GIVE THE GIFT OF
Hamiltonians have really lucked out in the shop local movement. The city is buzzing with countless artists whose top-notch work sits virtually at our doorsteps, ready to be discovered. Throw your support behind the city’s creative visionaries and score a bunch of gift-giving cred at the same time by taking home some of these made-in-Hamilton treasures.
by Carlye Morrow-ja C kson
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022 HCM 25
A CUT ABOVE
Whether it’s for embroidery, fabric or kitchen work, there is an ideal scissor for every job, so it’s time to retire that curiously sticky pair of all-purpose snips banging around your kitchen junk drawer. Ciselier Company offers a selection of the world’s finest scissors, destined to last a lifetime, and sourced from workshops around the world. Each style in the small-batch collection is a work of art, meticulously crafted for its intended job and guaranteed to elevate your cutting game to a new, more efficient and way more elegant level. Good news for the scissor-stumped lefties too: Ciselier offers a selection just for southpaws. Ciselier.com
DOODLE ME THIS
Know someone with a bare wall and a penchant for a bit of whimsy?
Artist Jenna Gregory offers a wide range of cute and clever art prints in a wide range of subject matter that would be at home on the wall of any home. Drawing on her skills as an illustrator and graphic designer, Gregory’s creations – also available on her extensive selection of greeting cards – seem simple at first glance but are to convey emotion upon further examination. For a more personal touch, Gregory also offers custom work, producing one-of-akind pieces that are a monumental way to celebrate a new home, furry friend, or someone’s favourite thing. Jennasdoodles.com
A SOUND GIFT
Winter Built Guitars is a one-man band of sorts, as owner Chadd Kam single-handedly creates handmade, vintage-inspired acoustic guitars in his Cotton Factory shop. Drawing on his woodworking background, the decorative details of Kam’s made-to-order guitars are well-considered and beauti fully executed. Not just nice to look at, the warm, rich sound his pieces produce is appreciated by the everyday players as well as local professionals, evidenced by the appearance of a Winter Built guitar at the 2021 Grey Cup, played by Arkells frontman Max Kerman.
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MAX MAKES ART
Despite a mere 11 years under his belt, considering his associations with Hamil ton’s art collectives Studio Beulah and Mighty Brave, local artist Max has already had an illustrious career. His current series, portraits of the people he finds most interesting (Cher, Jane Jacobs, MLK et al), are a riot of colour, drawing the viewer’s eyes to the details he has chosen to highlight. His talents come as no surprise, as both of his parents are accomplished artists in their own rights: dad in photography, mum in fine art and beadwork. With the three of them heading up Studio Beulah, one trip to the website – a true family affair – could easily take care of the bulk of your gift-giving needs while you support the future of local art at the same time. studiobeulah.com
IT TAKES ALL TYPES
Just as there are meetings that could be emails, there are emails that should be handwritten notes, ones that might be stored in a shoebox rather than a trash folder. Sara Froese of All Sorts Press has the perfect vehicle for an epistolary renaissance in her line of luxury printed matter, which she creates using early mid-century printing presses in the oh-so-historic confines of The Cotton Factory. It’s a labour-intensive exer cise, but her selection of note cards and greeting cards (as well as her line of gorgeous invitations, prints and custom work) are all created in a traditional and methodical hands-on approach, and harken back to a simpler time when faster didn’t mean better. allsortspress.com
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The beautifully curated booth of Lainey & Co. at the Hamilton Antique Mall (233 Ottawa St. N.) is like stepping into an impossibly cool Pinterest board in real life. Featuring carefully selected items – more conversation piece than fussy antique – the selection is whimsical enough to suit any decor. Scattered throughout there are also some pleasantly patinaed new handmade gems that will be difficult to resist. Pop in to select that one-of-a-kind treasure for that one-of-a-kind someone on your list. You may not have known it existed, but as soon as you see it, you’ll know it was just what you were looking for.
Eau Claire Resin is the artistic nom de plume of Hamilton-based artist Lee Meszaros, who makes gorgeous and quite functional art objects – think ash trays, paper weights, candle holders, cups and plates. She uses hand-sourced dried flowers that are then encased in resin, capturing their fleeting beauty for all eternity (or for as long as you keep the piece, which, considering how beautiful they are, should be forever.) Not only is Meszaros an artist, but she is also a gardener, maker and florist and her one-of-a-kind works of art are the perfect gift for the greenthumbed recipient on your gift-giving list. eauclaireresin.com
ONBOARD YOUR SNACKS
Charcuterie is having a moment, and while the perfect ratio of meats to cheeses is open for debate, we can all agree that without a showstopping board beneath, it’s just a pile of snacks. Rustic Designs by Rich is a family-run business that creates stunning live-edge black walnut charcuterie boards in its Cotton Factory workshop. Available in a variety of sizes and styles, the gorgeous, handcrafted boards are guar anteed to provide the ideal foundation upon which to place whatever savoury or smoked snack its owner deems worthy. Rusticdesignsbyrich.com
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A CUP OF JOY
With their colourful hues, happy vibes and Lilliputian size, holding an original piece by Nightshift ceramics is like holding a bit of happiness in the palm of your hand. Spread happiness this holiday season by gifting a Nightshift piece, and choose from its collection of wee planters, delicate incense burners, adorable mugs (the holiday standby, but far cuter) and more. While Nighshift’s pieces are available at retailers across Canada and the U.S., the local business’s wares can often be spotted at craft shows across the city and are always available to purchase from its website. Nightshiftceramics.com
A new addition to the Locke Street strip, Forrest & Harbour is the city’s go-to place for handmade soy candles, in scents so yummy, your decision-making skills will be put to the test. Owner Dakota Tenbrinke has perfected her candle-making recipe, and the results – with scents like apple pie, fresh baked bread and Champagne birthday cake – couldn't be more delicious. The store also is a staunch supporter of other small businesses, and features a rotating selection of their handmade wares. You’re going to need a bigger shopping basket. Forrestandharbour.ca
If someone has ever lived in, visited, or even just made a memory in Hamilton, chances are high that Jelly Bros. has a map for that. Since Matt Jelly created his first illustrated neighbourhood map in 2011, he and his brother Dan have united their artistic talents and now have over 500 illustrated neighbourhood maps celebrating all areas of Hamilton (and well beyond) in their roster. If you’re looking for something a little less cartographic, they also produce illustrated prints created in their unique graphic style – a colourful way to pay homage to a pretty colourful city. jellybrothers.com
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Helping Hand A
The holiday giving season is upon us.
With so many organizations doing im portant work in Hamilton, choosing which to support can feel overwhelming. You might also feel like your contribution is too small to make a real impact. However, local charities will tell you every dollar matters.
While monetary donations are always welcome, that’s not the only way to sup port the causes that are important to you. Many local organizations seek volunteers or essential items year-round.
It’s expected to be a tough yuletide season for charitable giving.
According to a poll released earlier this year by Ipsos done on behalf of Canada
GIVING BACK TO A LOCAL ORGANIZATION THAT IS HELPING OTHERS IS AN IMPORTANT PART OF THE HOLIDAY SEASON. HERE ARE NINE WORTHY RECIPIENTS OF YOUR ASSISTANCE.
By Jessica Rose
Helps.org, as many as 17 per cent of Ca nadians expect to give less to charities in 2022 because of the impact of inflation on their own finances. That means those who can give are needed more than ever.
Now is the perfect time to bring together family, friends, or coworkers to support an organization that is helping people have a brighter holiday season. Better yet, consider making it a holi day tradition! With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list, by no means definitive, of local organizations that are doing amaz ing work here in Hamilton and deserve a financial helping hand. After all, ‘tis better to give than to receive, right?
WHERE: 52 Catharine St. N., Hamilton
WHY: Wesley offers support to people expe riencing poverty, homelessness, and barriers in the community. The long-term impacts of Wesley’s programs include improved education, successful employment, sustained housing and supportive independence.
HOW YOU CAN HELP: You can support Wesley by making a donation, committing to a legacy or planned gift, or supporting seasonal dona tion drives, including holiday hampers or the winter coat drive. Volunteers are encouraged to organize donation drives within their neigh bourhood, family or group for items needed by Wesley clients and programs.
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WHAT: LIVING ROCK MINISTRIES
WHERE: 30 Wilson St., Hamilton
WHY: Living Rock offers youth-at-risk a place of belonging, safety and a bridge to the com munity, while supporting youth to develop a personal vision for their lives. Programs and services include youth crisis and food supports, an innovative employment readiness program, recreational programs, parenting programs, housing support, and employment training.
HOW: Volunteers support a number of programs, including the youth-focused food bank. The organization also collects items that benefit youth, including food bank items, gently used youth-friendly clothing, and crisis response items like gift cards, bus tickets, and pre-paid phone cards. Visit Living Rock’s web site for a list of current needs, including items on its holiday wish list.
WHAT: CANCER ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
WHERE: 555 Concession St., Hamilton
WHY: Cancer — and the feelings of isolation that often come with it — doesn’t stop just because the holidays are here. The Cancer Assistance Program (CAP) offers free services for individuals and families affected by cancer, including transportation to and from medical appointments, loans of home health equipment, and parking passes. Wigs, breast prostheses and mastectomy bras are also available.
HOW: CAP’s volunteers are the frontlines of the organization, providing rides to cancer-re lated medical appointments and greeting and engaging clients and registering them for services. You can also support CAP by hosting a third-party fundraising event (like a holiday party!), donate gift cards to be used as prizes at future events, or make a one-time, monthly, or in-memoriam donation.
WHAT: GOOD SHEPHERD
WHERE: 400 King St. W., Hamilton
WHY: Good Shepherd services include emer gency food and clothing, daily hot meals, emergency shelters, transitional housing and education for homeless and street-involved youth, hospice palliative care, and community mental health programs.
HOW: Volunteers support many programs, including volunteering with seniors, in emer gency shelters, or serving hot meals. Every holiday season, the organization’s Sponsor Our Families program asks community members to sponsor a family or an individual access ing Good Shepherd services, either through a monetary donation or by purchasing items on a wish list.
WHAT: NATIVE WOMEN’S CENTRE
WHERE: 1900 King St. E., Hamilton
WHY: The Native Women’s Centre provides safe, emergency shelter for women who are experiencing crisis due to family violence, homelessness, or conflict with the law.
HOW: You can host a fundraising event to support Native Women’s Centre, including a donation drive, dress-down day at the office, or a tournament. The Native Women’s Centre also seeks volunteers in a number of areas, including general housekeeping, ground maintenance, and stocking and organizing the donation room. Visit the website to see which items are currently on its wish list, including toiletries and personal care items.
WHAT: ST. MATTHEW’S HOUSE
WHERE: 414 Barton St. E., Hamilton
WHY: St. Matthew’s House supports those in the Hamilton community through childcare services, seniors support, and mental health and street outreach. It works to build trusting relationships that assist individuals who are experiencing homelessness to connect or re connect with community services and supports. HOW: The Adopt a Family/Senior Holiday Pro gram matches low-income families and seniors within the Hamilton area with individuals, fami lies, or groups. When adopting a family or senior, you help provide food for their holiday. You will also get a wish list for each child. You can also consider donating in support of 412 Barton, a property that will be converted into 15 affordable housing units, intended for seniors facing home lessness, with a special focus on Indigenous and Black older adults who are 55-plus.
WHAT: CITYKIDZ HAMILTON
WHERE: 601 Burlington St. E., Unit A, Hamilton
WHY: CityKidz exists to increase resiliency and inspire BIG dreams for Canadian children living in low-income communities by providing inspi rational experiences and nurturing personal relationships, one child at a time.
HOW: Financial gifts to CityKidz support vul nerable children with life-changing programs that empower them to break the cycle of poverty and reach their full potential. There are many volunteer roles in support of CityKidz, including home visit team members who con nect with and mentor amazing kids.You can also make wishes come true during the holiday season by supporting the organization’s Gift of Christmas campaign.
WHAT: UNITED WAY HALTON & HAMILTON (UWHH)
WHERE: 101-4210 South Service Rd., Burlington and 512-225 King William St., Hamilton
WHY: United Way Halton & Hamilton has a pro found impact on the community by ensuring an essential network of programs and services work together to achieve lasting, positive change. Outside of government, United Way is the largest funder of social service programs and initiatives in Canada.
HOW: United Way’s annual Holiday Helping Hand program supports hundreds of peo ple through local agencies. Participants can choose to adopt a family, help with a volunteer project, or contribute to a gift and food drive. To see how your monetary donation can bene fit those in your community, visit United Way’s impact calculator on its website.
WHAT: ESSENTIAL AID
WHERE: 100 Main St. E., Suite 201, Hamilton
WHY: Essential Aid’s mission is to prevent hunger in children and to lower health risks by providing free infant and children’s essentials to families in need. In 2020, the organization responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by dis tributing over 98,000 diapers to local children in need.
HOW: Every dollar donated helps keep Essen tial Aid programs running, ensuring that no child is turned away. You can support Essential Aid by making a one-time gift or monthly do nation. You can also donate items or coupons in support of the infant food bank. Consider hosting a food drive with family members or colleagues. Much-needed items include infant formula, diapers, children’s hygiene products and non-perishable toddler snacks.
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Scanning the evening crowd at Relay Coffee on King William Street in downtown Hamilton, you’ve got your usual suspects: a realtor trying to impress out-of-towners, university students staring at their laptops, various business types chatting. Sipping a bottle of kombucha and sitting by herself, Emily O’Brien may blend in – but she definitely stands out.
There’s no denying that the Westdale native exudes a certain energy. Not so much nerves as the drive of someone always on the lookout for that next step or goal. It’s hypnotically entrepreneurial. It stands to reason, then, that O’Brien is the founder of Comeback Snacks, a gourmet popcorn com pany with an impressive number of retail locations across Canada, and in home-base Hamilton in particular. Her company comes with a mission: to end the stigma associated with having a prior conviction and help the formerly incarcerated move on from their criminal pasts with confidence.
It’s the kind of comeback story O’Brien knows from experience.
GROWING UP IN HAMILTON
For a future failed drug mule, O’Brien’s childhood was about as “normal” as it gets.
She was the middle child of three growing up in a brick west-end house – with a narrow driveway sporting a 1988 Ford Tempo. O’Brien describes herself as quiet, content to while away countless hours at the Westdale branch of the Hamilton Public Library. She spent summers at a cottage playing with her cousins, swimming and fishing.
O’Brien’s father worked for the Catholic Church, Her mother was a homemaker and a fixture in the community, taking part in a babysitter’s club, volunteering at the school and other various organizations. Their community work inspired O’Brien’s own, pushing her to volunteer with youth groups, tree-planting programs and Living Rock, an organization that helps at-risk youth. A key lesson her parents instilled in a young O’Brien was to always make the best of a bad situation.
“There was a tree that fell on our lawn and
EMILY O’BRIEN DIDN’T LET A PRISON SENTENCE FOR DRUG SMUGGLING DEFINE HER LIFE. WITH A DASH OF DETERMINATION, A PINCH OF PERSEVERANCE AND A WHOLE LOT OF HUSTLE, SHE’S CONCOCTED QUITE THE RECIPE FOR SUCCESS.
By Nicholas Mizera
anyone, but I would grab the ball and throw my elbows,” she says. “I had to learn how to recompose myself.”
High school was a turning point for O’Brien. She attended illegal bush parties at Sassafras Point, often experimenting with drugs, including ecstasy and cocaine, all washed down with copious amounts of booze. Her relationship with her parents grew fraught as she rebelled.
“I came from tough love during my teenage years,” she says of her parents. O’Brien pauses. To a teen, she says, “tough love … doesn’t feel like love at all. It kind of makes you hate who ever is giving it to you. (It’s) only as I got older that I realized how I hurt them, and how they still love me so much.”
After graduating university and partak ing in plenty of travelling, O’Brien moved to Toronto’s Liberty Village in 2014. As she had done for most of her life, she continued to eschew a traditional nine-to-five approach to building a career and followed her innate desire to be creative. She would alter nate between partying hard and building her social media company.
crushed our jungle gym,” she recalls. “(But) any kind of disaster that happened, my par ents turned it into an adventure for us. They were like, ‘Oh, it’s totally cool. Check it out!’”
O’Brien admits she wasn’t the easiest child. “I used to run away from elementary school. I’d pretend that I was sick so I could go to the nurse’s room, where they had an emergency exit,” she recounts. “I was 10 years old. I would run out the door and I would run all the way … home.”
As she grew older, O’Brien channeled her excess energy into sports: soccer, baseball and rep basketball. “I was very feisty. Lots of energy. Oddly athletic without training,” she says with a grin. She remembers drawing countless fouls on the court, and sometimes sitting out the game. “I never punched
One day, O’Brien was messaged through her company’s business account by a person looking to set up a meeting. They met up and hit it off. Eventually, the two developed a close relationship. But, according to O’Brien, there always seemed to be something “off” about him. She gave him a large sum of money for a car, which he never delivered. There was always an excuse, a reason, a promise.
Eventually, he asked her to travel with him to the Caribbean and bring back drugs. O’Brien didn’t want to do anything illegal, but she wanted that car. She agreed to travel on the condition that she didn’t have to take part in smuggling.
Once in St. Lucia, O’Brien tried to convince herself it was just a vacation. She went with the flow, soaking up the sun, dulling her doubts with alcohol and late nights. The illu sion of normalcy evaporated when she was driven, along with her partner, to a house
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hair + makeup: katelyn o’neil | concept/creative direction: will vipond tait
where she was fitted with a dress specially made to conceal drugs. O’Brien began to worry about what would happen if she refused and reluctantly went along with the plan.
When she arrived at Pearson International Airport, the 26-year-old was separated from her companion for examination by border agents. They peppered a nervous O’Brien with the usual questions, then they asked whether she had anything concealed on her person. In a moment of clarity, O’Brien admitted that she was carrying drugs. Secu rity recovered more than two kilograms of narcotics hidden under her bulky sun dress. The jig was up and O’Brien was in a whole lot of trouble.
THE RECIPE FOR A COMEBACK
The events that followed unfolded quickly, until they didn’t. O’Brien felt like she was on autopilot, numb to what was happening around her. She was sent to a Milton jail, the Vanier Centre for Women. Her parents posted $50,000 bail. She was placed under house arrest at her mother’s Westdale home for two and a half years. Not surprisingly, her arrest put an incredible strain on her family.
While at her mother’s, O’Brien recalls that the seriousness of her crime hadn’t quite caught up to her. She knew she was in trouble but had no idea just how much. She spent her first few weeks alone in her room, drinking and worrying about vengeful drug dealers finding her. Adding to her legal woes was the fact that O’Brien was sent to the Barton Street jail for breaching her bail conditions. At her sentencing in 2017, she entered a plea of guilty but still her case dragged on, until finally, in 2018, she started what was to be a four-year prison sentence at Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener. Ironically, O’Brien’s incarceration began on her mother’s birthday.
Now with a full understanding of the severity of her crime, O’Brien was determined to stay productive and turn things around. She made a choice to stay sober – there were options, even in prison – reasoning that drinking and drugs had played a large role in her incarceration and were best avoided. She took a job in maintenance, and later in the prison library. She helped fellow inmates work on their resumés, and started a blog. One of the toughest hurdles O’Brien faced
was learning to define herself not as a bad person, but as a good person who had made a catastrophic mistake.
The journey she found herself on would become the Comeback Blueprint – what she calls her roadmap for making the best of a bad situation. But it would have to go beyond willing a battered jungle gym into a childhood playscape: “Positivity can take you anywhere, as long as you realize that you have to put work into it and you have to have a really solid reality check,” O’Brien says.
What kind of work does it take to turn your life around? O’Brien points to a graphic she had done for her Instagram account: Commit, ownership, moral, educate, believe, accountability, courage, kindness, sincerity. More than a clever acrostic, it’s a recipe for a comeback.
Taken together, O’Brien’s method ultimately places the responsibility for coming back bet ter on the individual – developing dedication and driving change, rather than waiting for others to do it for you. “Like an entrepreneur – when you have that desire, that grind to do things differently,” she says. “If you want to build things that matter, you have to put your head down and work.”
It almost seems natural that O’Brien’s method led her once again down the path of creating a business. O’Brien noticed fellow inmates seasoning their popcorn with spices. Inspired, she harnessed her marketing back ground – and a dearth of major distractions – to pen a business plan for an early version of Comeback Snacks, the aptly named Cons & Kernels. She applied for and received consent from prison officials to start the company from jail. And, at a Take Back the Night event in Hamilton in 2018, which she got special permission from the prison warden to attend, O’Brien made it official, and her fledgling popcorn business was born.
By fall of 2020, Cons & Kernels had been renamed to the more consumer-friendly Comeback Snacks. “The original name was too limiting, and we were actually alienating ourselves and the people we were trying to help,” O’Brien explains. “A comeback is uni versal and we realized we wanted to create a level playing field for everyone involved, many of whom were former inmates … to get them off the bench, so to speak and back in the game.”
THE SWEET (AND SAVOURY) TASTE OF REDEMPTION
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Comeback Snacks’ line-up includes five sweet flavours, two savoury styles and three seasonal varieties (candy cane caramel, anyone?). Here are a few flavours you shouldn’t miss:
BEST-SELLER: SALTED CHOCOLATE CARAMEL
This crowd favourite is the undisputed champ at Comeback Snacks, says O’Brien, followed by Double-Coated Caramel.
FOUNDER’S FAVE: PEANUT BUTTER, CHOCOLATE AND CARAMEL
This flavour reminds O’Brien of sim pler times – and her favourite candy: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
THE OG: LEMON PEPPER DILL
This savoury style was inspired by fellow inmates who seasoned their popcorn with spice mixes purchased from the prison commissary.
CULT CLASSIC: PEANUT BUTTER & JELLY
This funky combo came to O’Brien in prison, she says. While it’s not a top seller, it has a growing number of fanatical devotees.
NEW IN STORES: TRIPLE CHEESE
Comeback Snacks introduced savoury flavours this year, including this one based on O’Brien’s carceral habit of putting mac ‘n’ cheese seasoning all over her popcorn.
TURNING THINGS AROUND
After 10 months in prison, O’Brien was released early for good behaviour, continu ing her rehabilitation at a local halfway house. Ham ilton is a different city than when she left it but still feels reassuringly familiar. “I think that’s why I came back – because I knew I felt safe,” she says.
O’Brien sees the revival of restaurants, investment in the down town core and embracing the grittier side of its history as signs that her hometown is mounting a comeback of its own. And O’Brien wants to be a part of it. “I realized how much living here and growing up in this community meant to me,” she says.
Expanding her business into the budding snack-food empire it is today was no easy task in an intense market with plenty of competition. “I knew that (gourmet popcorn) wasn’t anything new,” O’Brien says, but she saw no reason to back down. “It’s kind of if you look at kernels of corn, they all look the same, right? But they all pop differently. Like snowflakes.”
Her unparalleled knack for making her story relatable – even if it’s the narrative of an ex-con who started a popcorn company –helped set her product apart. That authenticity earned O’Brien the help of Hamiltonians who came to believe in her, despite – or perhaps because of – her past. “There was an unex pected onslaught of support from people I never knew. People sharing their stories, people contributing their resources, like free labels, and this and that,” she says.
Now, O’Brien’s gourmet popcorn can be found at hundreds of retailers across Canada, with Indigo in Connecticut marking the company’s first foray into the United States. As a lifelong sports fan, O’Brien is particularly proud to see her kernels on sale at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
“I guess I grew (the business) because I be lieved in it and I believed in myself,” she says.
A key tenet of her work with Comeback Snacks is advocating for former convicts like herself. O’Brien challenges business leaders across Canada to hire individuals with criminal backgrounds, and notes that a number of major companies, such as J.P. Morgan and Canadian Tire, have such policies in place. Her work also centres on championing prison reform and supporting rehabilitation and reintegration programs that help connect former inmates with job training and opportunities, which greatly decrease the risk of a person reoffending and ending up back behind bars.
As a motivational speaker, O’Brien shares her comeback message with anyone who might need to hear it – from prisons and substance-abuse groups, to commercial businesses like auto dealerships, to govern ment organizations. A key lesson? “We can all come back from whatever the shitstorm is we’re in, in our life. And it’s gonna suck. It’s really gonna suck,” she says. “And that’s OK because that’s how you have to feel to actually change and grow.”
Her work is not going unnoticed. O’Brien recently met with federal Members of Parlia ment to discuss her vision for changing the Canadian justice system. She was awarded the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Community Service Award earlier this year, a distinc tion that recognizes Canadians who make a difference in their community. O’Brien was also named Entrepreneur of the Year at the 2022 Women Empowerment Awards, held in Toronto earlier this fall. “It meant that what I knew all along and believed was finally getting realized,” she says. “People were finally starting to admit, and relate to the fact, that you can go down a certain path in life (and not have to take it back). You have to have the strength and willingness to learn and move forward, be true to who you are.”
Going into the company’s fourth year, O’Brien is modelling her message by hiring the formerly imprisoned. After all, everyone deserves a comeback. n
scan the qr code for more photos and a behind-thescenes video of the cover shoot.
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photo: marta hewson for hcm
By Vanessa Green photos B y jon e V ans
36 HCM NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022
THE HAMILTON COMMUNITY FOUNDATION BEGAN WITH A $200 DONATION IN 1954 AND NOW MANAGES $250 MILLION IN ASSETS THAT IT USES TO ADDRESS CRITICAL ISSUES IN THE CITY.
“Hamilton is a place with immense potential … that frequently breaks your heart.”
For Terry Cooke, the president and CEO of the Hamilton Community Foundation (HCF), our city is a constant work in progress.
But there’s lots of work being done by the HCF, the oldest community foundation in Ontario and the second oldest in Canada, behind only Winnipeg. That includes work
within its own ranks, as the organization works to build trust, launches innovative new initiatives and new blood sets it up for a more inclusive future.
Community foundations like the HCF are charitable organizations that work to improve communities in specific geographic areas. They do this by pooling charitable gifts from donors to create endowment funds and use the investment income to make grants.
HCF gives out 3.5 per cent of its assets as grants for critical programs and initiatives to support the local community, including social programs, education, housing initiatives, arts projects, and more.
Starting in 1954 with an anonymous $200 donation from a widow in north Hamilton, the HCF has since grown into a national philanthropic powerhouse, amassing $250 million in assets as of 2022.
Tackling the city’s challenges is at the heart of the HCF mission. Though there’s a laundry list of areas that require investment and community leadership in Hamilton, there are currently two urgent areas of focus for the foundation: education and affordable housing.
“Foundations should be doing stuff that governments don’t have the risk appetite to do or that have a longer gestation period,” says Cooke. “We are here forever. So we should be playing the long game.”
Seven years ago, HCF launched ABACUS, a joint venture with The Fairmount Founda tion that remains one of the most significant educational initiatives of any community foundation in the country. The 10-year pro gram, which to date has distributed more than $8 million in grants, provides support to middle-school students, focusing on lower-in come neighbourhoods and Indigenous and racialized children. The goal is to create bet ter educational outcomes that ultimately help raise post-secondary participation rates.
The need for affordable housing is also felt acutely in Hamilton as it continues to gentrify at a rapid price while rents sky rocket and housing prices become increas ingly unaffordable.
As one of the largest non-government financiers of affordable housing, the HCF has committed to investing an additional $50 mil lion in affordable housing units in Hamilton over the next 10 years.
“I think we have to acknowledge the magnitude of the challenges that are creat ed when you have huge income disparities in communities,” says Cooke. “We have a rich industrial history. But we also have the downside, which has been that lower-in come, racialized and Indigenous people tend to live in certain postal codes in this community. And the challenges they face are enormous.”
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rudi wallace, terry cooke and yulena wan are three faces of leadership of the hamilton community foundation.
Hamilton continues to need brave leader s H ip. W H en i t H ink of organizations t H at are doing t H is W ork, day in and day out, and t H e community advocates WH o are talking about affordable H ousing, t H at are c H ampion ing equity W it H in institutions, ( i see) an amazing solidarity net W ork in Hamilton t H at is pus H ing t H e boundaries of WH at is possible.”
r udi Wallace
Taking on these challenges requires a radical and progressive change to the way foundations invest their money. This idea has been central to the ethos of HCF, and the initiative that’s cemented its status as a trailblazing community foundation has been its commitment to impact investments.
The goal of impact investing is to create a positive effect beyond financial returns. It works to drive real change and challenge the premise that a foundation’s assets are only a means to create income to fund granting and operational costs.
These impact investments make up more than 14 per cent of HCF’s long-term assets, with $52 million worth of impact investments currently placed, outstanding or committed.
A key proponent of impact investing is Bill Young, founder and chairman of Social Capi tal Partners. Young is a well-known philan thropist and social entrepreneur, as well as a donor advisor of the Young Fund at the Ham ilton Community Foundation. In 2000, Bill’s parents made a $40-million donation to the HCF, one of the largest donations the founda tion had ever received (it was trumped this year by the Paletta family, who made a $50 million donation to the HCF, the most sizeable in the organization’s history).
“At my first board retreat 13 years ago, Bill came in and challenged us,” said Cooke. “He said, ‘It’s great, what you’re doing with 3.5 per cent of your assets, but what are you doing with the other 96.5 per cent?’ And we had the good fortune to have a board that understood that unlocking that 96.5 per cent would be critical in terms of leveraging our assets to do more good.”
Part of the reason the HCF can make these types of investments is due to its high propor tion of unrestricted capital: donations made to the organization to invest as it sees fit rather than to specific causes. This freedom allows HCF to align its assets and grantmaking with the highest area of community need, as op posed to simply responding to donor direction.
Though the HCF considers itself a “quiet community collaborator,” many of these impact investing projects are well-known in the city. These initiatives include the resto ration of the Westdale Theatre, redeveloping the Hamilton Artists Inc. HQ and gallery space on James Street North and affordable housing initiatives with Indwell, Hamilton East Kiwan is and Sacajawea.
The foundation’s impact investing efforts
also reach outside Hamilton, into other parts of the province and throughout the country, where it combines forces with other impact investing foundations on large-scale projects.
The most recent was the syndication of lenders to fund the new Canoe Museum in Peterborough. The museum, a joint effort be tween five community foundations, displays a permanent collection of more than 650 paddled watercraft, with the aim of increas ing awareness of Canadian culture, art, and heritage, as well as forging pathways to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
While the HCF continues its progressive approach to community building, like many institutions across the country, it’s also expe riencing a period of rapid change within its operations.
“There is a general distrust and cynicism about institutions,” says Cooke. “Trust is at an all-time low. It’s not just a challenge for us. It’s a challenge for everybody in leadership and everybody that is part of an institution that is struggling to build trust in a time of disenchantment. How do we go about engaging folks, even when they may disagree with us and how do we have uncomfortable conversations, including what we need to do differently or better?”
Older members of HCF’s leadership team – including Cooke himself – are nearing the end of their run, and fresh faces are joining the ranks: young leaders from diverse back grounds bringing new ideas, challenging per spectives and taking different approaches to running a modern philanthropic foundation.
One of those new faces is Rudi Wallace, 38. After working at the Victoria Community Foundation in B.C. for five years, in 2020, he made the move east to Hamilton with his wife to take on the role of vice-president of grants and community initiatives at the HCF.
“HCF has been such a leader in the impact investing space, taking a bold, controversial and more progressive stance on granting and community leadership. (This role) was some thing I couldn’t pass up,” says Wallace.
“I said a lot of crazy stuff in my interview around trying to decolonize philanthropy and talking about white supremacy and trying to push the boundaries of what philanthropy is and acknowledging its history, its ongoing practices that are problematic, and how we can change that.”
Wallace is focused on re-examining the entire endowment model for organizations
38 HCM NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022
like HCF and what that looks like for a more equitable future.
“We need to change how our board tables run, leadership tables run and making engagement processes participatory and inclusive,” says Wallace. “My hope is we can navigate and shift philanthropy to a more community-centred approach that cham pions justice and equity, and diversity and inclusion. That will inevitably (involve) grow ing pains and cause a lot of consternation. As soon as you upset the status quo, that’s going to happen. But again, how do you shift the model to deploy these resources in the com munity, which is your mandate and mission?”
Since moving to Hamilton in the middle of the pandemic, Wallace has developed a deep respect for the city. “Hamilton is a commu
nity-focused, gritty, self-aware town that punches above its weight but also has some significant challenges,” says Wallace.
“Hamilton continues to need brave leader ship. When I think of organizations that are doing this work, day in and day out, and the community advocates who are talking about affordable housing, that are championing equity within institutions, (I see) an amazing solidarity network in Hamilton that is push ing the boundaries of what is possible.”
Another new HCF team member looking to disrupt the foundation’s status quo is the director of finance and operations, Yulena Wan. After working in public accounting and private industry for many years, she joined HCF’s senior leadership team in 2017.
“One of my biggest goals is to change (peo
ple’s) understanding of how our foundation works. Endowments, typically, have been a very settler colonial construct, and wealth accumulation has come at a cost to people in our community. What (the HCF is) trying to do is not only just donate money, but also to invest with a purpose.”
Part of Wan’s role is to lead the HCF’s responsible investing strategy. This means ensuring investments are aligned with the organization’s mission. For example, HCF has exclusions in its portfolio for categories it won’t invest in, including tobacco, illegal weapons and predatory lending.
As a lifelong Hamiltonian, Wan, 37, is proud to be part of a team leading the way for phil anthropic change in Canada.
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t erry c ooke, has led the h amilton c ommunity Foundation F or 13 years, bringing his deep roots in the city to the role.
BURLINGTON COMMUNITY FOUNDATION
Hamilton played a pivotal role in the creation of its sister foundation, the Burlington Com munity Foundation (BCF). Motivated by what the HCF had accomplished in its 45 years of operation, Burlington launched its own community foundation in 1999. By its 20th birthday in 2019, BCF had given out more than $5 million in grants, and was managing more than $13 million in assets. The founda tion is focused on similar social causes to the HCF, including safe and affordable housing, poverty and food security, the well-being of youth and young adults, and mental health wellness. Their community partners include Food4Kids, Shifra Homes and Carpenter Hospice. Earlier this year, the BCF along with the HCF, and all seven other commu nity foundations in the Golden Horseshoe region, came together to help fund Truth and Reconciliation Week 2022. The program, produced by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR), featured an in-person gathering in Mississauga for 5,000 high school students from across the region. The goal of the session was to advance reconcil iation and strengthen relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada. Today, as neighbours across the harbour, HCF and BCF continue to partner to gether on initiatives and projects like these to help advance their respective communities.
“When we started impact investing, no one was doing it. Even today, not a lot of (orga nizations) are doing it. (But) we have a great ability to communicate our values and align ment,” says Wan. “When people hear that the Hamilton Community Foundation is involved in something, they pay attention, they listen. It has this kind of follow-on effect.”
Cooke has been at the helm of the organiza tion for 13 years and brings a wealth of private, public and not-for-profit experience to the role.
His familial Hamiltonian roots run deep. His paternal grandmother was chair of the public school board, and his paternal grandfather, Frank Cooke, was the general manager of Hamilton public transit in the late 1940s (they renamed MacNab Transit Terminal in his honour earlier this year).
Frank Cooke was also a skilled backroom organizer for Canadian political figures like Ellen Fairclough, the first woman ever to serve in the Canadian cabinet and the first African-Canadian in the House of Commons.
“I have a deep history of public service, volunteerism and community involvement from my grandparents and they were by far the most instructive (people) in my life. Their mantra was, ‘Did you leave the place better than you found it?’ That was the test of citizenship and it’s informed each generation of our family ever since.”
For Cooke, leaving behind a better Ham ilton means being an active and engaged citizen and pounding the pavement to help keep his finger on the pulse of the city.
“I don’t think you can do this job if you’re not immersed in the community. If you don’t walk the streets. If you don’t cycle the roads. If you don’t get engaged in what happens around you. (Otherwise) it’s hard to under stand a place, what makes it tick, and what its challenges are.”
One of the ways the HCF keeps its finger on the pulse of key issues facing Hamiltonians is through its Vital Signs series. The research, curated by a panel of community experts, is broken down into 10 key areas that provide analysis on trends and issues affecting the local community.
The third installment in the series was released in 2021 and revealed how the pandemic exacerbated gaps in quality of life among Hamiltonians, including income disparity, employment conditions and educa tional outcomes.
Vital Signs has also spawned a month ly TV series hosted by Cooke on Cable 14, now a popular show on the community TV channel. The Vital Signs series has also laid the foundation for Vital Signs Chats, in-per son conversations hosted by the HCF, which take place at local coffee houses throughout the city. These events, primarily attended by millennials, are almost always sold out.
Earlier this year, the HCF announced it would be restoring the 165-year-old Coppley building in partnership with Toronto develop ment company, TAS. The revitalized space on York Boulevard will serve as a community hub for charities and non-profits as well as private sector partners, with HCF as anchor tenants.
“(This restoration of) the most important commercial building left in the community from 1860 will (help) put it back into active and constructive use,” says Cooke. “It’s an ex traordinary piece of architecture, especially the courtyard, where we’ll have lots of public events and open the big doors on Park Street. It’s going to be an incredible contributor to the continued renewal of downtown.”
Although there is no no end to the work to be done in Hamilton, the wheels of progress at HCF continue to turn.
“Our goal is to get up every day and be relevant, be a collaborative voice at the table, and address Hamilton’s biggest opportunities and toughest challenges. And do that with a sense of humility about what we don’t know, and to make sure that we’re listening to all the voices in the community when we make decisions.” n
40 HCM NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022
Scan the QR code to lea R n mo R e about h amilton’ S cha R itable foundation S . hamiltoncitymagazine.ca
When W e started impact investing, no one W as doing it. e ven today, not a lot of (organizations) are doing it.” y ulena Wan
Brushing Up on a Good Time
What’s not to love about a new Hamilton business that combines meat, mimosas and make-up – and yes, all at the same time. The aptly named Brushes & Bubbly is the entrepre neurial brainchild of Shonna Forrest and Alyson Harper and the local duo are offering attendees the chance to enjoy unlimited mimosas, delicious charcuterie and hands-on make-up lessons all in the comfort of the super funky Studio Space at 215 Locke St. S. (the pair will also bring the B&B ex perience to your home.) Forrest and Harper know of what they teach and have close to two decades of make-up artist experience in the industry. The sessions come complete with light-up mirrors, cute décor, bottles of bubby and all manner of meats and cheeses (applying make-up on an empty stomach while downing unlimited glasses of Champagne is probably not the best idea, lest you end up looking like Tammy Faye Baker, but we digress.) All you need to bring is your make-up kit and loads of enthusiasm – Forrest and Harper will take care of the rest. Did we mention that each attendee receives a complimentary pair of lashes, lash glue and a makeup sponge to use during the lesson? It goes without saying that Brushes & Bubbly is perfect for a girls night out celebration, birthday dos, bachelor ette parties or just a fun afternoon with friends. With the holiday season around the corner, B&B is also ideal for that hard-to-buy-for person on your gift-giving list. Hit up @BrushesandBubbly on Instagram for more details. n
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022 HCM 41
A NEW HAMILTON BUSINESS IS MIXING MAKE-UP WITH MIMOSAS AND THE RESULTS ARE CREATING QUITE THE SPLASH.
Shonna Forre S t, le F t, and a ly S on h arper bring clo S e to two decade S o F make-up arti S t experience to b ru S he S & b ubbly.
Breakfasts Big Beautiful Brunch
DURING THE CHILLIER MONTHS, WHAT COULD BE MORE COMFORTING THAN A BIG, HEARTY BREAKFAST? NOTHING FILLS THE STOMACH QUITE LIKE IT. FROM THE TRADITIONAL TO THE MODERN, YOU WILL FIND A WIDE RANGE OF TANTALIZING BREAKFAST JOINTS IN THE HAMILTON-BURLINGTON AREA THAT WILL BE A PERFECT START TO YOUR DAY.
By Heat H er Peter
1480 Hwy 6, Hamilton facebook.com/breezycorners
Out in the country off Hwy 6 is a diner-style restaurant known for homecooked, large portions. Breakfast is served all day at this mom-and-pop style eatery with dishes like steak & eggs, Benedicts, skillets, omelettes, breakfast sandwiches and the traditional bacon & egg dishes. And yes, they do have a whole lunch and dinner menu as well. Try the homemade soups.
OLD BAGEL HOUSE
101 Osler Dr., #120, Dundas oldbagelhouse.com
Made in the traditional style of the famous Montreal bagel houses, Old Bagel House has added something very
special to the city’s culinary scene: real homemade bagels. Before being baked in a wood oven, the bagels are hand-rolled and boiled in honey water for a crunchy sweet exterior. Try the classics like sesa me or poppy seed, or pick up a caraway, pumpernickel or everything bagel. Top it with many choices of flavoured cream cheeses or enjoy it as a sandwich (Hot tip: Try the breakfast bagel.)
2 Cameron Dr., Ancaster sammysancaster.com
Formerly known as Sammy Jo’s restau rant, Sammy’s Ancaster Family Restau rant has been a mainstay of the Ancaster community since 1988. This is a spot that offers a diner/Greek-style mix of menu items, with a focus on large portions and a specialty of breakfast. Recently, they
have announced a move from the current location to a larger spot in Ancaster. Stay tuned to their socials for all the details.
WEST END DINER
1811 Main St. W., Hamilton
It’s impossible to go wrong with just about any item on the menu at West End Diner. Its extensive menu – with some retro diner-in spired fare, some Greek-inspired fare, and a few things in between – covers everything from the classic bacon & egg breakfasts to Benedicts, omelettes, pancakes, waffles, French toast, and sandwiches. And that’s just the breakfast menu. It’s offered all day alongside other menu items, so you can enjoy breakfast at anytime of day. This is also one place that you won’t be leaving hungry. The portions are huge.
42 HCM NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022
continued on page 44
THE VILLAGE RESTAURANT
35 King St. E., Stoney Creek villagerestaurant.ca
A community hub in oh-so-historic downtown Stoney Creek, The Village Restaurant has a motto of “make sure the guests don’t leave hungry” and definitely stands by that. Portions are massive for all of the breakfast, lunch and dinner options. The breakfast menu includes items like sausage & eggs, western omelettes, NY strip steak & eggs and the millennial main stay: avocado toast. There are lots of sugary breakfast items for those with a sweet tooth.
359 Barton St. E., Hamilton motelrestaurant.com
One of the more modern breakfast offerings in the city, you wouldn’t call MOTEL traditional. It made a splash in the city offering gold flaketopped Champagne pancakes, served alongside vintage Miami-style décor. From there, MOTEL has continued to solidify its place as one of Hamilton’s best breakfast joints with fare like challah French toast, sugar-cured bacon and loaded breakfast fries. There are also vegan and gluten-free options.
20 Plains Rd. E., Burlington russellwilliamsrestaurant.com
The Russell Williams Family Restaurant has been a local favourite establishment since 1932. The restaurant still rings of years past – in the best possible way – through the service, the décor, and the food. These days, it offers the same homemade food that made it popular decades ago. Russell Williams has all-day breakfast with all of the classics, including a build-your-own omelette option and buttermilk pancakes.
1249 Stone Church Rd. E., Hamilton donut-diner.ca
Whether you are dining in or enjoying a deli cious hearty meal from the popular takeout window, Donut Diner has your cravings covered. Located on the east Mountain, this restaurant serves up tasty breakfast dishes from a ret ro-style establishment complete with check erboard floors. From the hungry man platter to eggs Florentine and build-your-own omelettes, there are all the dishes you’re looking for in a classic diner. Be sure to follow its social media for specials. P.S. Donut Diner is also known for golden, crispy fish & chips.
41 King St. W., Dundas 175 John St. S., Hamilton detourcoffee.com/pages/our-cafe-detour detourcoffee.com/pages/detour-cafe-john-st
Originally becoming popular for its Detour roasted coffee (which is spectacular), the Detour team has expanded its offerings and now has a Dundas café location, a takeout spot on John Street in downtown Hamilton, and a spot in the Paris, Ont. Wincey Mills. Though it’s worth a visit to each, if it’s hearty breakfasts you are after – try out the Dundas Detour Café. The bright and airy space makes for a beauti ful spot to spend a weekend morning, with an espresso-based drink and a fresh-made baked good or hot breakfast dish.
1550 Upper James St. #20, Hamilton facebook.com/broadwaydinerhamilton
Broadway Diner is another breakfast joint where you won’t go hungry – the portions are large. The all-day breakfast menu is full of items that are perfect for cozying up to on a cold day: ba con & egg plates, scramblers, skillets, waffles, Benedicts, breakfast sandwiches and more. The location off of Upper James (at Rymal), is always full of customers filling their bellies with the delicious home-style cooking.
226 Ottawa St. N., Hamilton cafelimoncello.com
A culinary crowd favourite on Ottawa Street North, Café Limoncello offers a brunch menu on Saturdays and Sundays that will impress any breakfast connoisseur. With unique menu items like eggs purgatory, breakfast pizza with a Hollandaise base, an espresso waffle tower and crab cakes Benedict, traditional breakfast favourites get a modern/Italian spin at this popular neighbourhood go-to spot.
COPPER KETTLE CAFÉ
312 Dundas St. E. #4, Waterdown copperkettlecafe.ca
Though it’s more known for warm, sweet fritters, Copper Kettle Café in the heart of the Waterdown Village has quite a good breakfast menu, complete with an eggs & bacon offering, avocado toast, granola yogurt parfait and more. If you’re a sweet fan, try the Belvedere stuffed French toast. Also, who says you can’t have fritters for breakfast?
OTHER NOTABLE BREAKFAST
ACE FAMILY RESTAURANT & LOUNGE 1120 Fennell Ave. E., Hamilton facebook.com/AceRestaurantSportsBar
BEDROCK BISTRO 260 Queenston Rd., Hamilton thebedrockbistro.com
BIG TOP FAMILY RESTAURANT 754 Main St. E., Hamilton
THE CANNON 179 Ottawa St. N., Hamilton thecannon.coffee
DOSA PLACE 352 Main St. W., Hamilton dosaplacehamilton.com
541 EATERY & EXCHANGE 541 Barton St. E., Hamilton fivefortyone.ca
GAGE PARK DINER 975 Main St. E., Hamilton gageparkdiner.com
JAX SWEET SHOPPE 33 King St. W., Dundas jaxsweetshoppe.com
JOHN STREET DINER 29 John St. N., Hamilton facebook.com/JohnStreetDiner
MOUNT ROYAL FAMILY RESTAURANT 2029 Mt. Forest Dr., Burlington mountroyalfamilyrestaurant.ca
PÜR & SIMPLE 737 Golf Links Rd., Ancaster pursimple.com/ancaster
STEVE’S OPEN KITCHEN 149 James St. S., Hamilton facebook.com/sok1975
WINDMILL RESTAURANT 2238 Mountainside Dr., Burlington
THE EGG & I RESTAURANT 1760 Upper James St., Hamilton 1242 Garner Rd. W., Ancaster eggandi.ca
MAPLE LEAF PANCAKE HOUSE 1520 Main St. W., Hamilton mapleleafpancakehouse.business.site
TWO COUGARS & A CAFÉ 601 Burlington St. E., Hamilton facebook.com/TwoCougarsAndACafe
SAINT JAMES CAFÉ 170 James St. N., Hamilton saint-james.ca
GOLDEN GRIDDLE FAMILY RESTAURANT 1119 Fennell Ave. E., Hamilton goldengriddlehamilton.com
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HERE THEY GROW
THREE HAMILTON FOOD HOTSPOTS ARE COOKING UP AN EXPANSION… WITH A SIDE OF NOSTALGIA.
By Elain E Mitropoulos
Scientific studies have shown the aroma and taste of certain foods have the power to trigger memories and, in some cases, to recollect the best moments of your life. Fortunately, Hamilton is home to a number of mini culinary empires that are known for transporting patrons back in time. From drool-worthy doughnuts that sell out in mere minutes, to a kitschy-cool ’80s-inspired diner specializing in comfort-food classics, to a pizza-bread hybrid with a near-cult following, the three Hamilton hotspots profiled here serve good eats alongside a generous helping of nostalgia. And with plans to expand their operations to better serve customers, they’re also cooking up something new to continue taking us to our happy places, while satiating the city’s growing appetite for good food. /continued on next page
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022 HCM 45
t he ‘80s-inspired e lectric d iner has turned the lights on at a second location on James s treet n orth. photo: submitted
96 George St. & 28 James St. N. electricdinerhamilton.com
If you grew up watching Saved by The Bell or Beverly Hills, 90210, then Electric Diner may just be your go-to for good food cou pled with fond adolescent memories. After outgrowing its original location on George Street in Hess Village, the ’80s-themed diner recently opened a second restaurant in the iconic Lister Block building on James Street North. The new space is just as sparkly and fluoro-pink as the original restaurant, rem iniscent of a simpler time when, aside from Zack Morris’ Motorola brick phone, technol ogy wasn’t key for connecting with others. Teens hung out in person, and often at the TV diners you wish existed in real life, like The Max and The Peach Pit.
That’s where Electric Diner shines. True to its theme, the restaurant offers guests classic dishes with a modern twist. A fluffy stack of Moondancer Pancakes is a nod to the My Little Pony franchise, complete with rainbow sprinkles. A smashed avocado and spiced chickpea sandwich called the Boy George sings alongside a steaming bowl of San Marzano tomato soup. A selection of “blue-plate specials,” like fish and chips and mac’ and cheese, also feature widely on the menu. For the young at heart, Electric Diner’s cocktail list is also a nostalgic ode. A Cream
sicle-inspired float is a rum-infused take on the orange-vanilla popsicle, while a gin drink garnished with Cherry Blaster gummies is delightfully sour, and will save you a ride to the corner store on your banana-seat bike.
The new location has all the retro-quirki ness of George Street, but is home to slightly elevated brunch, lunch and dinner fare to cater to those in the city’s art district. It’s also bigger and, with an oversized disco ball, brighter to accommodate even more guests and events, including ’80s prom nights, New Year’s Eve parties, and even weddings.
ROMA BAKERY & DELI 233 Barton St. romabakery.ca
A hometown staple since the early ’50s, Roma Bakery & Deli recently announced it will be expanding its Stoney Creek pro duction space and retail shop to mark its platinum anniversary of doing business in the heart of Hamilton. Over the last 70 years, the bakery that’s been operated by three generations of the Di Filippo family has risen from humble roots to iconic status owing to its saucy slant on slab-style pizza that can be served hot-out-the-oven, but is traditionally eaten at room temperature.
A mainstay of childhood birthday parties, picnics, and other family gatherings for many who grew up in Hamilton, the beauty of a Roma slice is its uncomplicated simplicity. Unlike traditional ‘za, a Roma crust is light, airy, and focaccia-like. Toppings are minimal but big on flavour. Slabs are cheese-less, and formed on a vegan crust that’s smothered with a rich and tangy red sauce. If you’re feeling “extra,” pepperoni and mushroom, oil-and-garlic, and hot-and-spicy slabs are options.
Plus, in addition to being crowd-pleasing, food from Roma Bakery & Deli is pocket book-friendly. It’s also something you can feel good about feeding your loved ones. A pizza slab, for example, is hand-made on-site at the Barton Street bakery using wholesome, all-natural ingredients and zero trans fats. The slabs are also available for purchase in grocery stores across Hamilton and the surrounding area.
Slated for completion in late 2023, Roma’s renovation will double the footprint of the beloved bakery from 4,000 to 8,000 square feet to pump out more of the baked goods, cakes and pastries, deli items, and hot pre pared foods that locals have come to love. For the city, and Roma’s cult-like following, this means even more of the infamous and addictive pizza-bread that, for decades, has been as true-blue Hamilton as it gets.
46 HCM NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022
El E ctric Din E r’s n E w location is bigg E r, bright E r an D f E atur E s E l E vat ED far E
574 James St. N. grandads.ca
Make some freezer space! Grandad’s Donuts, one of the city’s most popular spots for dunk able delicacies, will be closing temporarily in January for a much-anticipated renovation. As a public service announcement, die-hard doughnut fans are being advised to stock up on their favourite Grandad’s flavours, as they may want to freeze them to enjoy over the duration of construction – which is expected to take up to two months to complete.
The good news is, upon reopening, the revitalized James Street North shop will be equipped to produce even more of its vin tage-style, scratch-made doughnuts that are baked fresh daily, and typically sell out as ear ly as noon. The icing on the doughnut? With plans to double the size of the shop’s kitchen and display case, and to install an express win dow for take-out orders, customers can soon expect shorter lineups and greater selection of the high-in-demand doughnuts – whether glazed, dipped, jam – or cream-filled.
For nearly 20 years, Grandad’s Donuts
has been a family-owned fixture in the city for quality-focused sweet treats that bring back bygone times with just one bite. Since then, the delectable doughnuts that are just like grandad used to make have been a key ingredient for sharing new memories among friends and families in Hamilton, and well beyond the city’s borders.
Devout doughnut lovers from across
Ontario have flocked to Grandad’s for the shop’s cake-like and yeasted doughnuts made using traditional techniques and recipes long forgotten by larger chains. Best of all, when you dine in at Grandad’s or take a dozen to go, you’re always treated to warm hospitality and the best of classic doughnut flavours, including Boston cream, honey dip, sugar twist, and more. n
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022 HCM 47
Grandad’s d onuts will close for a couple of months in the new year for renovations to allow increased production of its vintaG e-style, scratch-made dou G hnuts. photos: submitted
CALL OR VISIT THE BOX OFFICE: 905-522-7529 190 KING WILLIAM STREET, HAMILTON FOR DETAILED SHOW INFORMATION, VISIT TheatreAquarius.org GIFT PACK! HOLIDAY GIVING JUST GOT EASIER WITH THE 3 OUTSTANDING LIVE THEATRE PERFORMANCES TO CHOOSE FROM: 2 WORLD PREMIERES FOR *SILVER-LEVEL SEATING $99!
A Not-So-Silent Night
AFTER A LENGTHY ABSENCE DUE TO THE PANDEMIC, JR DIGS’ POPULAR FUNDRAISING CHRISTMAS CONCERT IS BACK AND BETTER THAN EVER.
It’s not hyperbole to suggest that one of the holiday season’s most anticipated local shows is JR Digs’ Acoustic Christmas. Throw in a lengthy, multi-year absence due to the pandemic and the anticipation is palpable. This year’s shindig happens on Dec. 23 and makes a welcome return to The Music Hall (24 Main St. W. in downtown Hamilton). In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade or so, Acoustic Christmas is a big ol’ party thrown by the aforementioned JR Digs, who invites a whole bunch of his famous friends – musi cians and otherwise – and all the proceeds from ticket sales are donated to a number of amazing local charities. Confirmed per formers and guests for this year’s musical extravaganza already include Golden Feath er, Stephen Brunt, Tim Hicks, Doug Gilmour, Tyler Kyte (Dwayne Gretzky), Luke Bentham (The Dirty Nil), Dave Hodge and The Trews, with even more artists set to be added in the coming weeks. If past performers such as Max Kerman (Arkells), Randy Bachman, Jim Cuddy (Blue Rodeo), Tom Wilson, Allan Doyle, Terra Lightfoot and Gord Sinclair are anything to go by, the lineup will get even more impressive. In the meantime, get your tickets as soon as possible as this event always sells out. Go to @jrdigstagram on Instagram for concert updates or visit jrdigs.com for details on how you can support a local charity and score a VIP table for this year’s fundraiser. (And if you aren’t lucky enough to nab tickets to the main event, the afterparty has become a thing of local legend and this year’s après concert soiree takes place at Westinghouse HQ, so at the very least, you can still contribute to a great cause and rub shoulders with a who’s who of Canadian music and sports. n
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022 HCM 49
Po P ular comedian and former talk show host J r d igs has grown his annual acoustic christmas fundraiser into one of the city’s most antici Pated holiday events. photo: submitted
Don’t let the snowy days and chilly nights stop you from exploring all that the city has to offer. With that in mind, here are six arts-related events that will get you out and about this holiday season.
GET CRACKING, EH?
Ballet Jorgen stops in Hamilton for one night only on its Ontario-wide tour presenting The Nutcracker – A Canadian Tradition. Set to Tchaikovsky’s iconic score, Jorgen’s creation has a uniquely Canadian flavour, thanks to its collaboration with Kleinberg’s McMichael Canadian Art Collection. Audiences will be awed by the dancers’ talents as well as the soaring 30-foot backdrops featur ing 20th-century Canadian landscapes by some of the country’s greatest artists. Dec. 3, FirstOntario Concert Hall. coreentertainment.ca
When you feel the endless loops of holiday playlists in the stores are starting to sap your holiday spirit, head to Theatre Aquarius for a fix of joy that only a live performance can provide. Following the success of last year’s Home for the Holidays, this year’s production: A Hamilton Holiday features a cast of the city’s talented performers sharing their own memories and traditions in an unforgettable evening of togetherness fit for the whole family. Dec. 7-24. theatreaquarius.org
A NEW HOLIDAY EVENING
Gemma New – the Hamilton Philhar monic Orchestra’s internationally ac claimed music director – invites you to get festive with your fellow Ham iltonians in an evening of together ness through music. Holidays With Gemma New features classic carols and holiday favourites performed by a triple-threat collaboration of the HPO, Hamilton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra and the Hamilton Chil dren’s Choir. The talent-rich event spent among a group of Hamilton’s impressively accomplished youth promises to turn the scroogiest Scrooge into a full-patch Whovillian. Dec. 17, FirstOntario Concert Hall. coreentertainment.ca
50 HCM NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022
photo: banko media
Hamilton for the win as Canadian indie-folk-rock trio The Rural Alberta Advantage makes a stop at the Bridgeworks on their most recent tour. The historic industrial venue is perfectly suited to the band’s recognizable impassioned sound, and a memorable spot for them to showcase their recently released EP, The Rise. The band’s emotionrich lyrics and heartfelt vocals will be sure to give you all the feels in the best possible way. Dec. 3, bridgeworks.ca
DUNDURN AFTER DARK
The beauty of Dundurn Castle deco rated for the holidays takes an extra magical turn after dark, and this December you are invited to witness the transformation first-hand on Christmas evening tours. On select dates throughout the month, visitors enjoy an extended after-hours tour of Sir Allan MacNab’s iconic home bathed in a warm lamplight that will be good for your soul – less so for your eyes. Don’t miss a stop in the bustling historic kitchen downstairs to sample an assortment of tasty traditional holiday foods before stepping back outside into a present-day cold Hamilton night. Check out the website for dates and more information. $35 per person. hamilton.ca/museumevents
HALLELUJAH, IT’S THE HOLIDAYS!
Experiencing Handel’s Messiah in person – from the melodic beginning to the powerful “Hallelujah Chorus” – produces a sense of wonder and joy that is almost inde scribable. Fortunately, this year, Hamiltonians will have two chances to see what the fuss is all about. With the stunning architecture of the Central Presbyterian Church providing a dramatic backdrop, the HPO partners with Hamilton’s renowned Bach Elgar Choir to spread a sense of jubilation that will stay with audience members throughout the holi days. Dec. 16 and Dec. 18, 165 Charlton Ave. W., hpo.org
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022 HCM 51
photo: leroy schulz
ROGER AND KAREEM-ANTHONY FERREIRA, THEIR EXHIBITION
IS TRULY A FAMILY AFFAIR.
A Hamilton HOMECOMING
Imet with Roger and Kareem-Anthony Ferreira as family and friends were arriving for a celebration of Gatherings, their father-son exhibition at the Art Gallery of Hamilton. Our conversations were tucked between the many greetings of well-wishers who soon overwhelmed the gallery with chatter and cheer. Gatherings, on until Jan. 8, is a homecoming that has grown from this same expansive circle of love on display during our conversations: an interview punctuated by hugs, hellos and iPhone photos of adorable grandchildren.
Gatherings is a fitting tribute to the fatherly love that has been a driving force in Roger Ferreira’s practice. He is an artist and teacher with a provider’s mindset – he chose his subjects and commissions to support his fam ily, and organized art camps and classes to earn a living while keeping his own children occupied. Childcare also meant engaging Kareem as a collaborator on murals that once decorated walls throughout Hamilton.
Roger Ferreira’s works have framed familiar civic sights and local landscapes with beauty and pride while contributing to the visibility of Black culture in Hamilton, most notably in his designs for …and still I rise, a 2003 exhibition of African Canadian workers’ histories organized by the Workers Arts and Heritage Centre. A project rooted in an emergent period of Black activism in Hamilton, this work survives only as compel
ling sketches of triumphant figures forming a pyramid that shatters the ceiling of the past. Many of his murals, this one included, have long been painted over in Hamilton and elsewhere, making Gatherings an especially necessary project, alongside Building Cultur al Legacies in the AGH’s neighbouring rooms, toward recognizing the elder Ferreira among his peers as forebear to a new generation of Hamilton artists.
With an exceptional measure of trust, Roger often enlisted a young Kareem to paint elements of his murals, sometimes with the promise of burgers in exchange. A childhood spent assisting his father in his work has given Kareem a rare instinct for working at large scale while creating works that retain a delicate intimacy. His expansive canvases capture the spontaneity of love among family and friends through the close framing and
diverted attentions of their origins in family snapshots.
Kareem followed his father’s footsteps into the Studio Art program at McMaster, where he created towering, exaggerated portraits as a student of Judy Major-Girardin – the same painting professor who had instructed his father. Their shared educational foundations echo across the works in Gatherings, with a striking similarity seen between Roger’s brushstrokes and use of collaged textures in Haiti, an early student work, and Kareem’s current practice.
Even so, Kareem sought a path that differed from his father’s. Struggling to find a compelling subject to paint or a place among the graduate-level art programs in Canada, Kareem sought a new focus during a residency at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. There, he was advised to look to his family for inspiration – a subject that fuels his present-day success.
Both Roger and Kareem have lived be tween two worlds – making a life in Canada while returning to Trinidad for regular visits with their large extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins. Kareem’s first works fea turing his family secured his admission to the Master of Fine Art program at the University
52 HCM NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022
By Stephanie Vegh
of Arizona, where he was able to delve deep er into a personal archive of photographs capturing his Trinidadian-Canadian family “as a vehicle to express my journey of being from these two places.”
Besides their monumental scale, these images transcend their photographic sources in their collaged textures, which lend a secondary layer of meaning to these paint ings. Not wanting to work from a flat white surface, Kareem collects and creates textured foundations that evoke cultural memory as well as the habit of reusing materials he sees in his Caribbean family: a resourcefulness that is both a positive counterpoint to waste ful North American habits and a symptom of deeper social inequities.
Kareem sustains a light touch with these material underpinnings, which enable him to explore the viewpoints that these distinct cultures have of each other. Textiles printed with palm trees and hibiscus flowers signify
the Canadian perception of Caribbean cul tures as the playgrounds of tourists, while the Trinidadian view of Canada is preoccupied by snow. Inspired by the paper-and-scissors motif common in kindergarten, Kareem now uses laser cutting to create snowflakes and other textured motifs for these paintings.
A lifelong apprenticeship gave Kareem the skill and motivation to celebrate his family’s stories through an art that has resonated with a new generation of affluent Black collectors who want to see their cultures represented on their walls – including LeBron James, who famously displays a large Ferreira canvas in his dining room. This success has inspired Roger in turn to pursue
his own passions. Gatherings includes new floral works painted by Roger Ferreira in the last two years on large canvases left behind by Kareem as a challenge as much as hap penstance. Roger was inspired by Kareem’s own symbolic use of flowers to create these colourful images, which deftly conceal figu rative nods to Biblical stories among the fluid movements of petals and stamens.
These hidden figures bring to mind a story Roger tells of challenging Kareem to find 10 faces at a time among the cracks in pave ments throughout their travels as father and son. These spontaneous lessons in finding the patterns, the stories and the art in everyday life have served them both well. n
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022 HCM 53
GatherinGs exhibits the love and learnin G between father and son r o G er and Kareem- a nthony f erreira. photos: submitted
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THE HAMILTON CHILDREN’S CHOIR HAS A LONG HISTORY, AN INTERNATIONAL REPUTATION AND IS NOW EMBARKING ON A NEW FUTURE OF SONG.
By ANNIE ROSENBERG
54 HCM NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022
It’s rehearsal night and the first chorister arrives early, clad in running shoes, her black hair clipped back. “I’m Ella,” she announces. She walks over to a stack of red chairs. “They have to be in rows of 13,” she explains, laying out the chairs in carefully spaced rows.
The relative quiet inside the band room of Hillfield Strathallan College is interrupted by the clatter of arriving Hamilton Children’s Choir (HCC) singers. New artistic director Melanie Tellez strides to the centre of the room, one hand poised above her head. “Can we have your first pitches, please?”
The choristers begin, the harmonies unfurling, filling the room. “Beautiful sound!” Tellez cries.
And so begins the first rehearsal of Ilumini, HCC’s primary performing ensemble and the only choral program out of six that requires an audition. With two rehearsals a week and a commitment to practising at home between rehearsals, the life of an HCC chorister is equal parts demanding and rewarding.
For nearly 20 years, the HCC drew international acclaim under the leadership of Zimfira Poloz, whose passion and skill transformed the artistic and educational approach of the choir. Earlier this year, after an international search, Tellez stepped in to usher in a new chapter of the HCC.
“Measure 40, please.” She scans the faces. “What are the first sopranos singing?”
“The fifth!” one chorister calls out enthusi astically.
Tellez’s evolution to artistic director was years in the making. A member of HCC’s ar tistic team since 2010, she served as assistant director since 2015 until taking the reins from Poloz and becoming the primary architect of the choir’s renowned pedagogical and per formance model.
“I started with younger singers and worked my way through the choirs devel oping theory and sight singing for the music education side. I’ve also dabbled in the artistic creation,” says Tellez, “doing some original choral narration performances, where I’ve taken a script for a story or myth and created a concert program weaving together pieces that are completely unrelated otherwise.”
In the front row, a young girl raises her hand. “Could I just hear the pick-up into the bar?” she asks. Tellez nods to the pianist, Brent Fifield, and leads them through the
WHO: Executive director Trish LeClair and artistic director
WHAT: A community-based children’s choral music education program that welcomes any young person with a love of singing. Now in its 48th year, the Hamilton Children’s Choir offers six progressive choral education and performance programs currently enjoyed by almost 200 young singers between the ages of four and 24.
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phrase again. “Make sure the F sharp is in tune,” she says.
For Tellez and executive director Trish LeClair, the choir’s success lies in providing a nurturing environment – with plenty of positive energy.
“Sometimes our young people don’t feel accepted or supported in other parts of their lives. Here, they’re able to be themselves, so they relax and blossom,” LeClair says. “The friendships happen during the singing and in between the singing, too.”
During the break, choristers offer their thoughts on being part of HCC:
“We all go at each other’s pace,” says Tom my Humeniuk. “It’s a community.”
“I love the environment of choir and hearing everyone’s ideas. It’s a safe space and that’s a really cool thing,” offers Alexandra Lima.
“OK, everybody,” Tellez signals for them to return. “Anyone want to try the solo line? Someone feeling brave?” She flashes a smile, but there are no takers. She tries again. “How
about the group leaders?”
The singers begin, bodies moving in tan dem, heads bobbing, hands tapping thighs. Apart from stellar vocal skills and a good ear, the choristers must be able to learn compli cated choreography.
“There’s a belief that choral tradition that comes from England is ‘Stand in the road and sing,’” Tellez explains. “But it’s so much more. Choreography is an evolving practice; you’ve got to be aware of what types of movement serve the music. And the singers’ connection to their bodies is alive and mov ing in the way they sing through a phrase. It’s a tactile response.
“We’ve learned so many things from differ ent choreographers and dance instructors. It’s the type of alchemy you want in collaboration.”
One of her goals is to create partnerships within the city.
“There’s a bravery here in Hamilton, a will ingness to be bold and try new things,” Tellez continues. “We want the city to be more fully represented in our choir, and that means some rethinking – what does the word ‘choir’ mean to people? It can be such a distant con cept. But any child who wants to do this can – there’s no magic to it, no secret gift.”
Their plans include building on an already stellar reputation.
“Our reputation came about because of Zimfira and her profile and relationships internationally,” says Tellez. “It allowed our singers to experience a remarkable cultural exchange that many of them haven’t expe rienced. We want to keep touring, to build bridges that are meaningful.” That includes continuing a collaboration with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra.
“You know, it’s not just a job,” she continues. “It’s a transformative experience for us all. And some days, music is that place. You need it and you crave it. And then there are those days when you didn’t know you needed it at all.”
She cues the choristers, and the lush strains of “Esto Les Digo” rise and swell, filling the room. n
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022 HCM 55
photo: eric bosch
photo: jen squires
THE HAMILTON MUSIC COMMUNITY, AND THE CITY ITSELF, LOST THREE ICONS WITH THE TRAGIC PASSING OF BORIS BROTT, GORD LEWIS AND STEVE PARTON JOIN US AS WE LOOK BACK ON THREE LIVES, WELL LIVED.
By Kerry Doole
Gone but not Forgotten
Over the last 18 months, the Hamil ton music community has sadly lost three of its brightest lights: Boris Brott, Gord Lewis, and Steve Parton. These individuals, proud Hamiltonians all, had a huge impact on the cultural life of our city, and their passing is being deeply mourned.
On April 5, 2022, the international music community was robbed of a crucially significant figure when Boris Brott was tragically struck down and killed in a vehicular hit-and-run in his Hamilton hometown, at age 78.
On a local level, Hamilton lost a man who was undoubtedly one of our most important cit izens of the past six decades. Brott remained full of creative enthusiasm at the time of his death, and clearly had much more to contribute to the cultural life of this city and country.
The outpouring of both grief and affection and major media coverage that quickly fol lowed the news of his passing reinforced the esteem in which Brott was rightfully held, at home and abroad.
It seemed genetically predestined that the Montreal-born Boris Jeremiah Brott would make music his career. His mother, Lotte, was a cellist, and his father, Alexander Brott, a noted violinist and composer. Boris made his performance debut at age five, playing violin with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra at a young people’s matinee. continued online
The Hamilton music community is still reeling from the tragic loss of one of its true luminaries, Gordon Steven Lewis, known to all as Gord or Gordie Lewis. The guitarist and songwriter in legendary rock ‘n’ roll band Teenage Head died in early August, at age 65. His body was discovered by police in a Hamilton apartment on Aug. 7, and his son, Jonathan Lewis, has been charged with second-degree murder.
In a statement on social media at the time, Teenage Head posted: “We are heartbroken and still trying to process the loss of our friend, bandmate and brother Gord Lewis. Our hearts are with his family and all that knew and loved him. Gord was a force and an inspiration to many. You were taken from us far too soon.” continued online
Steve Parton was a genuine renaissance man of the creative arts. With unbridled enthu siasm, he took on the roles of musician, singer, recording engineer, music school founder, artist manager, journalist, author, and filmmaker.
His work had a major impact on the music community in Hamilton and adjacent cities but was sadly cut short last year. After a valiant fight with kidney cancer, first diagnosed in 2013, Parton died on March 11, 2021, age 49. He documented his ex periences in two books (Cancer Trip: Curing Cancer with Humour and Pot, and Chemo, and Cancer Trip 2: Alive and Kicking).
To many, Parton was best known as the founder of Avalon Music Academy, a music school that began in Dundas, then opened outlets in Hamilton, Brant ford, Ancaster, and Paris, prior to his selling the business when he became ill.
Avalon has employed dozens of musicians as instructors who gave lessons to hundreds of students. Prominent teachers there have included Mike Trebilcock (The Killjoys), Tom Kiss, Matt Soliveri, Fredric DeVries, and Rob Brown, now leader of Hamilton rock band The Ruddy Ruckus. continued online
pictured - back: Gord Lewis; Left: boris brott; front: s teve parton.
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56 HCM NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022
HAMILTON READS FOR THE HOLIDAYS
is a 130-page time capsule, commemorating a time in recent history that most of us are anxious to leave behind.
HOW TO TEACH YOUR CAT A TRICK IN FIVE EASY STEPS NICOLA WINSTANLEY
Have a young reader on your list? Don’t look any further than How to Teach Your Cat a Trick in Five Easy Steps by Nicola Winstanley. The hilarious follow-up to 2019’s How to Give Your Cat a Bath is the perfect read for anyone who knows the frustration of telling a cat what to do. A spoof on a traditional how-to-guide, it’s one of those bedtime stories kids will want to hear over and over again.
WE ARE MANY DAVE CAMERON
FINDING EDWARD SHEILA MURRAY
Being nominated for a prestigious Governor Gen eral’s Literary Award is a stunning achievement for any writer. However, it’s especially exciting when the nomination is bestowed on a first-time novelist. In October, it was announced that Sheila Murray’s debut work of fiction, Finding Edward, is in the running for the 2022 fiction prize.
Finding Edward is the story of Cyril Rowntree, who migrates to Toronto from Jamaica in 2012. However, it’s not only his story of navigating being racialized in Canada. A chance encounter with a suitcase full of photographs and letters introduces Cyril to Edward, a mixed-race baby born in the 1920s. Cyril’s quest to learn more about what happened to Edward results in a magnificent book that spans nearly 100 years, revealing important pieces of Canada’s Black history along the way.
WINTER OF OUR PANDEMIC DAVID COLLIER
Cartoonist David Collier’s most recent book, Winter of Our Pandemic, is a collection of his observations from the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Capturing the changes to his day-to-day life, his lived experience will be familiar to any reader. Winter of Our Pandemic
Another local book for young readers is We Are Many by award-winning journalist Dave Camer on. Told through a kid’s-eye view, it’s a quirky, fun look at the way people gather and behave in groups. At first glance, it’s a funny tale of a kid’s ball game gone awry; however, upon deeper examination, it introduces young readers to much bigger ideas, including equality, fairness, and group dynamics.
RIVER, DIVERTED JAMIE TENNANT
Readers of this magazine will be familiar with Jamie Tennant’s journalism – but did you know he’s a novelist, too? His most recent book, River, Diverted, is a dark fairy tale centred on protag onist River Black. A disillusioned screenwriter, River finds herself on a return visit to Japan after a mysterious book appears in her mailbox. She’s forced to revisit her past, while solving a mystery along the way.
ARBOREALITY REBECCA CAMPBELL
Hamilton publisher Stelliform Press is small but mighty, publishing novellas, novels, short-story collections, and non-fiction that addresses big issues, including climate change, ecological destruction, and the effect of these issues on our world. One of its most recent releases, Arboreality
by Canadian writer Rebecca Campbell, is no exception. The novella explores how a west coast community survives the ravages of climate change through small, impactful actions.
BRENT VAN STAALDUINEN
One of the city’s most prolific writers, Brent Van Staalduinen is back with Cut Road, a collection of intimate and memorable short stories. With a knack for crafting fully realized, perfectly flawed characters, Van Staalduinen brings us inside families and friendships, exploring the loss and scars that conflict leaves behind.
THE MOST CHARMING CREATURES GARY BARWIN
Gary Barwin might be carving out a spot as one of Canada’s favourite novelists, however, his longtime readers will know him best for his po etry. His most recent book of poems, The Most Charming Creatures, examines the possibilities of a poem, playing with form and the com plexities of language. Bursting with Barwin’s characteristic energy and wit, it’s the perfect pick for poetry lovers on your list.
MOVE THE BODY, HEAL THE MIND: OVERCOME ANXIETY, DEPRESSION, AND DEMENTIA AND IMPROVE FOCUS, CREATIVITY, AND SLEEP JENNIFER J. HEISZ
Who couldn’t use a little bit of extra sleep and some renewed creative energy? In her recent book, Move the Body, Heal the Mind, neurosci entist Jennifer Heisz shares her groundbreaking research into how fitness and exercise can combat mental health conditions while also encouraging better day-to-day life. An assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster, her research examines the interplay between brain and body fitness in the promo tion of health.
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022 HCM 57
GOT A BOOK LOVER ON YOUR HOLIDAY SHOPPING LIST? GIVE THE GIFT OF A LOCAL AUTHOR! By Jessica Rose
By Jamie Tennan T
You probably don’t know the name Bill Dillon but you know the sound of his guitar.
You’ve heard “Showdown at Big Sky” by Robbie Robertson? Dillon. “Possession” by Sarah McLachlan? Dillon. Us by Peter Gabriel? American Caesar by Iggy Pop? For The Beauty of Winona by Daniel Lanois? Dillon.
He played on all of them and worked with dozens more. No wonder photographer and filmmaker Dave Conlon approached Dillon to be the subject of a new documentary.
Yet Dillon, 70, agreed to the idea reluctant ly. “I didn’t want to do the documentary,” he admits. “I’m still alive. I’m the one that did that stuff. To me it’s just part of ‘what did I wear yesterday.’ Just getting on with my days, year after year. Once you finish building a house, it’s just time to live in it.”
For Dillon, it’s about more than the famous names with whom he has rubbed shoulders. It’s more about how the universe led him to those people – the very same people whom, he says, helped save his life. A difficult child hood led him deep into music, philosophy, meditation and self-exploration.
“I underestimated the value of these expe riences, you know?” Dillon says. “At the time, it seemed it was what people did in the ’60s. ‘Let’s do drugs and get spiritual and read heavy books.’ But for me, it wasn’t like that.
58 HCM NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022
BILL DILLON, WHO HAS PLAYED GUITAR WITH SOME OF THE BIGGEST NAMES AROUND, KNOWS FIRST HAND THAT MUSIC CAN SAVE YOUR LIFE.
It was a natural, desperate time to get out of the scenario (I was in). I was 16, 17, 18 years old at the time. I was ready to take myself out. It was a real brutal lifetime up until then.”
Born in Toronto, Dillon’s family relocated to Grimsby, but the budding young musician would make his way all the way back to Toronto’s Yorkville to busk. Closer to home, he met musicians like Ian Thomas and Steve Hogg, played in local bar bands, and eventually crossed paths with a young Daniel Lanois. Lanois, who had just finished building Grant Avenue Studios, hired Dillon to play on several projects – including, eventually, the self-titled solo debut by one of his childhood heroes in The Band, Robbie Robertson. Dillon would play alongside Robertson for the next 15 years.
“The very first meeting, it’s Robbie, and Dan with me,” he recalls. “I sat down and grabbed an acoustic guitar and said, ‘Well I got this one song idea here …’ He wasn’t playing, Dan wasn’t playing, it was just me sitting on a chair staring at him with an acoustic guitar.”
Dillon has many such stories. The once self-described “emotionally autistic kid” was led from one superstar to another as if guided by fate. He recorded with Joni Mitchell because he unknowingly wound up playing a session with Mitchell’s then-husband.
His most remarkable story about syn chronicity, however, does not involve famous names. Well, the set-up does: in the 1990s, Dillon joined The Boomers with old friend Ian Thomas. The Boomers, quite unexpect edly, had a hit single in Germany, so the band packed up for an extensive tour of the country. At one show, Dillon befriended a younger couple, and took them up on an offer to come visit in a nearby town. The visit soon turned heavy, as the young man stood up and proclaimed Dillon his favourite musician.
“He started pulling out CDs,” Dillion ex plains. “He said, ‘What you did on this song, and that song, it helped me not kill myself one night.’”
While amazed that he, himself, could mean so much to someone, he recognized how much it mirrored his own life – a young man who made it to the next day thanks to music.
“I got to meet and talk with and hang out with and share cigarettes and coffee and espresso and music and songs with these people much later in my life,” says Dillon. “It’s sort of pushing it by saying it was all pre ordained, it’s not really technically like that.
It’s more that you know this is the path, that you sort of feel woken up, and it never goes away. It doesn’t matter what I do or what a bonehead I’m being, win or lose or fail, there’s been a synchronicity. Day after day, year after year.” n
A TALE OF SYNCHRONICITY
The Beatles were crucial to Dillon’s develop ment as a musician, and none of them more so than George Harrison. Dillon refers to All Things Must Pass as a “game changer” in his life. Moreover, Dillon was also deeply interested in eastern spiritual practices. The Beatles learned from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, while for Dillon, it was the teachings of the Self-Realization Fellowship and its founder Paramahansa Yogananda (who, along with other SRF figures, can be found in the crowd on the cover of Sgt. Pepper).
NEED TO KNOW
NAME: Bill Dillon AGE: 70
SELECTED DISCOGRAPHY: Robbie Robertson, Storyville, Music for the Native Americans, Contact From The Underworld of Redboy, How To Become Clairvoyant
ROBBIE ROBERTSON: JONI MITCHELL: PETER GABRIEL: SARAH MCLACHLAN:
Misses, Dreamland, The Beginning of Survival, Love Has Many Faces Peter Gabriel, Us Solace, Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, Afterglow, Wintersong, Laws of Illusion
ALSO WORKED WITH: Dave Rave, The Shakers, Lee Harvey Osmond, Florida Razors, Daniel Lanois, Cowboy Junkies, Barenaked Ladies, Indio, Neville Brothers, Iggy Pop, Gowan, 10,000 Maniacs, Kate & Anna McGarrigle, Crash Vegas, Edie Brickell, Gordon Lightfoot, and many more
ON THE FORTHCOMING DOCUMENTARY, BILL DILLON: A LIFE OF SYNCHRONICITY: “I started looking backwards and connecting the dots, and it really woke me up. If we do this doc umentary about synchronicity in my life, the choices I made and how the heart can actually guide you, we might help some person out there. We could use these big names and my quote-unquote career as the attraction, but I want people to glean out of this the value of the synchronistic events in our lives.”
In 1988, Robbie Robertson invited Dillon to perform with him at the Festival di Sanre mo in Italy. Robertson casually reported, en route, that Harrison and McCartney would be there. “I almost jumped off the plane,” Dillon says.
Dillon had a short conversation with Harrison when they crossed paths in thehotel lobby, and then again after the show at a club.
Then the manager handed Dillon a “Tim Hortons’ coffee-sized roll of lira” and asked him to find them something to smoke. Mission accomplished, Dillon returned to Robertson’s suite, where eventually he found himself alone with the former Beatle.
“I was sitting literally hip-to-hip with George, putting chunks of hash on a safety pin,” he recalls. “The first thing I said to him was about Yogananda. Eyeball to eyeball, noses almost touching, he grinned and his eyes dilated into these two big black holes and I started to tumble down them as we were talking and I had to snap myself back.”
There was also loose talk about a tour, but the business details never came through. “The synchronicity of that story is it’s not about Bill the musician. It was about my childhood with Yogananda bringing me to this person. The universe said ‘OK, George was one of the most important people in your spiritual development back then, here we go.’”
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NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022 HCM 59
Bill Dillon shares a laugh with Daniel l anois. photos: freaktography.com
60 HCM NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022
It’s been a long t I me com I ng, but Ham I lton mus I c scene veteran m el I ssa m arc H ese I s f I nally releas I ng H er debut solo album, mad love photo:
in the MIX
PICKS HIS BUZZWORTHY BEATS, TOP TUNES AND AWESOME ALBUMS – HAMILTON STYLE!
I’ve had the latest single from Onglish (aka Brett Klassen) on repeat for days now and for good reason: “Thyme” is an absolute banger. Not a banger in the hands-in-the-air sense, but more because it’s so damn catchy and innovative. To the uninitiated, Onglish is a local producer who’s been putting out all manner of bangers for a number of years now, from hip-hop and house to pop, ambient and whatever else he pulls out of his musical bag of tricks. “Thyme” is merely his latest creation and sees the Hamilton resident move from behind the mixing console to take over the vocal reins. As the title suggests, “Thyme” is a musical ode to special herbs – a recipe for romance, if you will. Over a kitschy cool electro beat, complete with woozy snyth lines and auto-tuned vocal effects, Onglish sings about cooking for his partner, encouraging her to rest, unwind and relax as he prepares a meal. Who needs Barry White when you have Onglish’s rosemary and “Thyme”? Onglish.ca
SCOTT ORR OH MAN (ACOUSTIC)
Scott Orr is something of a renaissance man when it comes to his musical career and output. Not only does he own and operate the Hamilton-based Other Songs record label (home to the indie-folk likes of Gareth Inkster, Fanny Price, and Timid, The Brave among others) but he also puts out music of his own under various guises including Best Wishes and Low Chord. However, it is his solo work that I find most compelling, and his latest release is no exception. Oh Man (Acoustic) is, as the title would suggest, acoustic versions of his stellar 2021 Oh Man album and features 10 songs, recorded live off the studio floor, stripped down to the bare musical bones: achingly beautiful strings, sparse guitars and haunting piano – with Orr’s ethereal vocals the highlight, as they always are on his records. Top track: “Softly” – an absolute stunner of a song that features Gareth Inkster on piano, Kelly Bennett on violin and additional vocals from Allison Geleynse. Coupled with Orr’s delicate vocals, the results are hauntingly melancholic and beyond beautiful. Perfect for the chilly nights to come, especially if you’re curled up in front of a roaring fire, under a blanket with a glass of wine. Scott-orr.com
GOLDEN FEATHER NOW & THEN
Hamilton vinyl junkies will likely recognize Golden Feather’s lead vocalist Brad Germain as the owner of local record shop Into The Abyss. Of course, Germain’s impressive musical pedigree stretches far beyond being a purveyor of pop music; he’s been a member of a number of well-known Hamilton bands over the years, including The Dinner Belles and The Marble Index. With Golden Feather, Germain is joined by Steve Kiely, Ronson Armstrong, Chris Wheeler and Gareth Inkster. The popular five-piece has just dropped Now & Then, a self-produced EP that boasts two tracks – “Mountain Men” and “You’ve Been On My Mind” – that are soaked in a delightful ’70s vibe that recalls the likes of the Allman Brothers and the Grateful Dead. Both songs were recorded live off the floor, clock in at almost seven minutes each and feature meandering, soulful vocals, bluesy guitar riffs and melodic piano. Out on Sonic Unyon, the EP is available on “golden nugget yellow” vinyl, which is a must for any self-respecting record collector. And hey, you can buy it from Into The Abyss, so it’s a win-win all ’round. goldenfeather.bandcamp.com
MELISSA MARCHESE MAD LOVE
I’ve been a fan of Melissa Marchese for years and it blows my mind that Mad Love is her debut solo album. Still, if you’re going to make local music fans wait this long, you might as well make the wait worth it, and with Mad Love, the immensely talented Marchese has delivered the goods, and then some. The seven songs on the record run the gamut from the country torch & twang of “Cigarette Song” and the anthemic bluesy-rock of “Sunshine” to the horn-soaked Motown-inspired romp of “Sirens” and the straight-ahead rock of “Little Wish,” with nary a musical misstep along the way. Lead single, “Other Woman” is a gorgeously down-tempo, piano-heavy lament to lost love, highlighted by Marchese’s trademark soaring vocals. Guests on the album, which was recorded at Oshweken’s legendary Jukasa Studios, include Tomi Swick (who sings with Marchese on the LP’s final track, the upbeat “We Can Be Together”), Laura Cole, CJ Hinds, Maïa Davies and Jesse O’Brien. If there’s any justice in the musical universe, Mad Love will be the massive hit it deserves to be – so do your part and buy it at your local record store or download it from Spotify or Apple Music. melissamarchese.com
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BLAZING A TRAIL
SHERYL ROBINSON PETRAZZINI is the first woman and the first person of colour to lead the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board. The 30-year veteran educator became director of education in mid-August. She shared her journey to Canada, her authentic leadership approach and her early impressions of Hamilton with MEREDITH MacLEOD.
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You were born in Jamaica and came to Canada at eight years old. What brought your family to Canada and what were your early impressions of your new home in Winnipeg?
It was the wintertime, December. I always say to my mom that was kind of mean. So when I arrived, my early impressions were that it was obviously very cold and life was very different. I grew up in Mandeville, in Manchester, and so very much country living and living off the land. Like a lot of families at that time, my mother left to go to Canada to get more opportunities for her children, especially around education. My mother had essen tially elementary school education, but she really understood what it could do and what it could mean for her five children, so she instilled that in all of us. So we knew that was why we were suffering through these winters and living in this place that was so different than how we grew up.
I would say, too, that the early impressions in terms of going through school is that it wasn’t easy in the beginning. I was the only Black child in all of my classes until second year university. And so that made a real impression on me because it taught me a lot, obviously, about what I wanted to do as an educator, because I decided really early on that I wanted to be a teacher.
How does your lived experience inform your leadership and your priorities as an educational leader?
I never saw myself reflected in the curriculum unless it was to talk about negative things, ways in which Black people had been oppressed. I grew up in a time when Roots, the series, was on television, and the repercussions of being the only Black child around when that was happening were really difficult. And I did suffer teasing for my hair and my lips and my skin colour.
And the impact of being absent as I was as a Black person, but as Indigenous people were as well, that stayed with me.
I just think that having had a lived experience of being an immigrant, being a racialized minority in a setting, it really stays with you. It informs how you lead and who you are. I think it makes me mindful of the importance of service. It makes me mindful to think about whose voices are missing from conversa tions. I think in our system, we are learning the impact of racism and oppression. And I think it’s both holding people to account and supporting their learning and supporting their capacity as antiracist educators and leaders.
And I think the other thing is the importance of understanding intersectionality. Because people see me, I’m a Black person, but they don’t know the other pieces of my identity. I’m married to a white person from Argentina. I have children who identify with two cultures, and we speak three languages in my home. And I’ve been very fortunate because I’ve had this opportunity to be edu cated. So my lived identity is very different than how I grew up.
You are the first female education director at the HWDSB. What does that mean to you?
I’m grateful to the HWDSB Board of Trustees for the honour of being appointed as the first female director. It’s very important for me to acknowledge and share that throughout my career, I have had strong and supportive role models, most of them female. It’s important for others to see female leaders in these
highly visible roles. I take that responsibility to heart, especially as I have daughters of my own. As I’ve benefited from strong role models, I seek to be a role model to others through my relation ships and actions.
Representation is very important, especially for our students, for whom it’s important to see what is possible. I know I mean different things to different people. I think about how being Black matters, and how being a woman matters. So there is my pride in having this honour, but I also sort of need to let it live for others because it means different things to different people.
What personality or characteristics will you draw on most in your role?
I would say listening. I’m entering a new system. I recognize there’s lots of amazing things that are happening at HWDSB. It’s for me to learn about them and to learn and understand how things are done and why. I think the other thing is I have talked to our system leaders about showing up as your authentic self. So I really seek to model that. It means that I use humour. It means that I like to connect with people one on one. I listen to people. I like to hear what their stories are. I take time for people. And I think those are the things that are just so important in order to connect and understand.
I think it’s also connected to that question about being the first female. I don’t need to be a certain type of director. I’m going to be Sheryl. I’m going to be authentically Sheryl and bring my lived experience and my skills and my knowledge to the role.
You have frequently visited Hamilton to see your daughter who attends McMaster. What have been your favourite activities in the city?
We have visited waterfalls. I read there’s between 75 and 100 waterfalls in Hamilton. I think we’ve been to five, so many more to go. We’ve hiked around Cootes Paradise. We’ve spent a lot of time at Bayfront Park. One of our favourite things to do is to go down to the tropical house at Gage Park, the greenhouse. I’ve spent a lot of time there watching my daughter do her homework. We’ve been out to some really good restaurants, like Valentino’s and Shy’s Place.
As part of my entry plan, I’ve been meeting with trustees in their wards. These one-on-one conversations have taken me to local restaurants like Caro, Vintage Coffee Roasters, Bedrock Bistro, and Ace Family Restaurant. It’s been wonderful to meet with trustees in the diverse communities of Hamilton they serve.
What is your impression of Hamilton so far?
The city is beautiful. It is more beautiful than I knew. Driving in from the east, it’s so gorgeous. Going up the Mountain, it’s beautiful. Hamilton is all these beautiful surprises. n
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64 HCM NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022
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