Show Summary: NB Study Group’s presentation to the Governor General as part of the 2012 Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference. It summarizes an outstanding and intense two-week experience listening to world-class speakers and visiting incredible people throughout New Brunswick.
- Episode focus: NB Study Group’s presentation to the Governor General as part of the 2012 Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference. It summarizes an outstanding and intense two-week experience listening to world-class speakers and visiting incredible people throughout New Brunswick – more on that later.
- Have been doing VOCL for over a year now! It’s been a while since the last episode, so there are a few things to let you know about.
- Slight change to the intro – as much as I liked the previous musical intro, I wanted to tighten it up so we get to the content that much faster.
- Making modifications to the website – getting rid of features that aren’t getting used to improve page loading speed.
- Now featuring a newsletter – you can subscribe near the top on the left-hand side of the website – it’s a big red box! I’m only looking for your first name and an email address. You’ll get all the great content on a weekly basis, plus you can opt out at any time.
- A backlog of articles plus some book reviews. Available on the website, but I can’t fit them into this episode – this one will likely be the longest that I’ve produced since the presentation itself is about 21 minutes.
VOCL Main Feature
Summary of GGCLC so far:
- Our group came from labour, business, non-profit, government and First Peoples. The first three days listening to a broad range of speakers from academia, labour, business, and non-profit (VOCL episodes 002-004).
- Completed touring NB, speaking with non-profit, labour, businesses and political figures (including the Premier and Lt Gov.) (VOCL episodes 005-014)
- Now in Ottawa and starting to create our presentation for the Governor General and the rest of the conference attendees. (VOCL episode 016)
We will now look at the main topic of the show – the New Brunswick Study Group’s final days in Ottawa as part of the 2012 GGCLC.
Enough with the admin, let’s go back in time!
NB – 14 June 2012 – Presentation Day (1) in Ottawa
Well, creating the presentation wasn’t difficult, but determining how to present it sure was. The rumour on the street is that we are doing “New Brunswick – The Musical”, and are incorporating interpretive dance. Stay tuned…
NB – Pictures from Our Tour
Pictures of our Acadian Peninsula trip (as taken by Patrick Gauvin) can be found at http://www.flickr.com/photos/boscomedias
Pictures taken by various members of our group, as well as by the Conference as a whole, can be found at http://www.flickr.com/photos/ggclc2012/sets/72157629764055882/
Abbreviated post since there was not much to talk about without giving anything away. Why the blog post about the musical? Why did we try to throw people off? There were many creative people that were going to be making presentations – we wanted to make sure that our presentation format (very quiet yet intense and personal) would be a complete surprise.
First eight groups gave their presentations, 4 in AM, 4 in PM. Format different based on group dynamics. For example, NWT had a video (10 minutes) then speech (20 minutes), the Yukon group had a video (30 sec), 10 second sound bites, 10 takeaway “nuggets”. Settings varied from telling a story around a campfire to simulated newscasts – one even had a pretty good Don Cherry impersonator. It was fascinating to hear about their journeys in their part of Canada, made even more personal because we knew how intense that experience would have been for them.
That evening was the Rideau Hall Reception – I had been there earlier that year to receive the Meritorious Service Medal, so I was familiar with the surroundings. I really enjoyed seeing the reactions of those who had never been before – it was an impressive place! On a personal note, His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnson and Annette Verschuren (Conference Chair) accepted the Team Fiddlehead pins made by Margaret Haché (my wife), Charlotte Haché (my daughter) and Mary Brill (my mother-in-law).
Okay – on to the last day.
Note: In the podcast episode, you will hear the actual presentation as recorded by Robert Moreau, the New Brunswick Provincial Chair. There is a slight break due to having to change recording devices due to a battery dying, but I think you will still get the underlying message that we were trying to convey. If you are reading the blog, you will see the advanced draft that has been translated into English. During the presentation, the wording may have changed, areas may have been improvised, the r grammar modified to suit an individual’s particular style. As such, the text below should be considered as a “broad intent” of the presentation.
Podcast note: Probably the hardest part in creating this particular podcast was determining the flow and the fusion of what was written on the blog with my recollection of the events, and doing so in a way that provides the reader or listener with the most accurate representation. The first half of the Day 16 blog covers how we set up the actual presentation, so from a narrative perspective, I should include this first in this podcast/blog. After some long internal debate, I have decided to present the story in the order that it was provided on the blog.
NB – 15 June 2012 – Presentation
We give Thanks to you and to all for your time to have you understand our intentions.
The talking stick is a tool in what is called a ‘Talking Circle’ which is a derivative of the Medicine wheel. This natural tool was given to us from the waters and the trees of New Brunswick. The object of the talking stick is to give each person validation so that they feel heard and it gives the others in the circle the responsibility to listen to whoever is speaking. It is a tool of consensus many of the First Nations throughout North America have historically used.
When we talk about the medicine wheel it is a circle divided into the 4 elements of the holistic geographic world. This is our version as told to me from a Kanienkeha:ka (Mohawk) Elder:
- Yellow is the colour of the South and with it comes the summer and gives us the power to grow our food – sustainability as humans. Yellow is also the colour of the Asian Peoples and of the Mental element for us as humans to be able to think/speak etc. to deal with our economic issues.
- Red is the colour of the West and it is the Spiritual element of the talking stick. It is the spiritual and cultural element combined. It represents the First Peoples (the Red Peoples) of the Americas.
- Black is the colour of the African People and is the Social element for us as humans. It is the colour of the East.
- White is for the North – it brings us cold and snow and makes life very challenging for us as humans, in that it makes us deal with our environment. It is the Physical element.
Keeping these four elements in mind…is where the concept came to us as a way to keep discipline in the group so that all are heard and each has the responsibility to LISTEN to each other. Hence we have integrated the talking circle as our way of presenting New Brunswick. The talking circle and this stick have kept us equal persons amongst each other through the last two weeks. It brought this diverse group to a humble and respectful unity.
And now we will be going around the circle in the order of Mental, Physical, Emotional and Spiritual, and discuss how each of these components elements were presented in our trip.
As a team, we initially struggled with understanding each other’s perspective, listening and hearing from all. Through the talking stick, we have learned to actively listen and respect one another, our views and our differences. Our bus rides dramatically benefitted from the openness to new ideas from everywhere, including our new willingness to seek best practices and continually learn. We will go forward as leaders with the voices of First Peoples, labour, business, social sectors, military, people of different cultures and languages, as we continue our individual leadership journeys.
Communities in New Brunswick are resilient and collaborative in nature. We met many people who strive to bring success to the province. They work together and try to be inclusive of as many people as possible in their communities. New Brunswick continues to work with the challenges as the only province with official bilingualism. Anglophones and Francophones need to work together towards multiculturalism. Although there is a stated desire, there may not be readiness. Examples of this were seen in several cultural and business panels. We experienced first-hand how some leaders appeared unprepared to follow-through on their stated commitment to diversity. Members of our diverse team were not always treated equally by the panels. As Monique Leroux counselled us two weeks ago – “you must walk the talk.”
Premier Alward highlighted for us that the future of New Brunswick is about “Brains and Ideas.” We observed a lot of focus on technology and knowledge-based business, as well as innovative ways to bring more traditional businesses into the province. A great example of this is the windmill farm in Lameque. The community developed a co-op, met with all stakeholders (including 168 landowners) build support for an opportunity, and put out requests for developers. The created a partnership with a Spanish Developer successfully deployed a sustainable energy source long-term revenue for local communities all supported by the surrounding area, with future potential for growth.
Collaboratives such as this will be beneficial as NB looks to develop other natural resources and build new industries. The industrial park co-op model has brought together storage tank manufacturing, ice sculpting and a high-tech engineering firm, all under one roof with one common kitchen area in Caraquet; informal discussions leading to additional knowledge sharing. There is an approach by the government to build best practices for resource development by collaborating with and incorporating key lessons from other North American jurisdictions. We observed a wide range of views from NB citizens with respect to innovations within the knowledge and resource-based economies. There exists a fragmented population base of rural and urban, north and south, English and French, literate and illiterate, all factors which are creating complex hurdles for innovation to thrive.
Traveling New Brunswick by unreliable bus allowed us to appreciate its beauty, variety, coastlines, mines and forests. Our spirit and mental strength were challenged by gruelling, long days, and fighting physical and emotional fatigue defined our tour. We were able to continue on our journey through the spirit and generosity of the local host communities. We overcame physical obstacles, be they mechanical or bodily, thanks to our MLO, the local chairs, our team members and our self-determination.
We would like to thank the Canadian Armed Forces for sharing with us the leadership necessary to carry out this Conference. For the New Brunswick group the leadership provided by infantry captain Matt Rolls was essential in the logistical, disciplined and good-natured approach it took to carry out our mission. Similarly, we are indebted to the commitment shown by our local chair Robert Moreau, and his desire to see us have a complete and engaging visit to his home province.
New Brunswick has been built on a strong physical foundation. The people, the natural resources, the earth, the landscape – all of these have combined to create the province and shape its strengths and challenges. With a population of 750,000, a third of which is French-speaking, including an Acadian population in the North, the province has an infrastructure designed for several million more. The ageing population and the exodus of their youth threaten the true sustainability of their communities and services, while their First Peoples languish with a 95% unemployment rate and little connection to surrounding communities.
Natural Resources have defined its successes of the past, but the province is at a crossroads to decide how best to use them now, under the shadow of a $10 Billion dollar provincial debt. Large family-owned companies have benefited and grown wealthy from the province’s huge natural resource reserves and have participated in retaining talent and providing employment. New Brunswickers are encouraged to nurture leadership and consider innovative and same sector collaboration in light of dwindling natural resources, all with the responsibility of having to think at least seven generations ahead.
The tech industry is the manifestation of the strength that is derived by New Brunswick’s challenges. With complete broadband access across the province, the small pockets of population are interconnected through innovation and technology, despite a physical and often a cultural distance.
The example’s we found throughout New Brunswick of the emotional power that is derived from culture culminated for our group in an Acadian Kitchen party. The emotional influence the fiddle had on us fiddleheads enabled us to walk– or in this case, dance– in their shoes, sharing the laughter, passion and pride that helps sustain the communities of New Brunswick. There is also an economic value in that culture driven by the entrepreneurship we have experienced. There are creative people in New Brunswick that have managed to derive a way to party for a living, contributing to their local tourism sector.
In New Brunswick, we saw passion and pride in all of the communities we visited. Every city, town, organization, every person had a passion for a cause. In Sussex, we met the Brown family on their farm. They were proud of their work, their children were proud of their community and they felt like contributors to their economy. In Fredericton, we met seniors who are actively working to highlight the cultural heritage of their public buildings. We met entrepreneurs who are proud of their work, their people and are actively growing that spirit in practical ways. We met soldiers in Gagetown who safeguard our civil liberties in many different situations and give us the space to reflect the pride we feel in our nation. We travelled to the Acadian peninsula where the sense of community is so strong. They want to be a part of the change that is occurring, not content to let change happen to them. In Moncton, we experienced many examples of passion for community issues like homelessness, people and wellness. We met people who are proud of whom they are and people who love their communities and their province.
At the dairy farm in Sussex, the owners’ sixteen-year-old son had just created a YouTube video parody “I’m from Sussex and I know it”. It’s gone viral, and now has almost 400,000 views from all over the world. It captures the heart of youth and the emotional pride of a region. By accepting “what is”, they actually showed New Brunswick that change is OK. The youth are valued in New Brunswick, as a scarce resource. Facing very different realities than their parents, they go elsewhere for school, work and adventure. But many are choosing to come back. They are the secret to a sustainable future. We felt the power and love when they followed their heart. We have learned that what may not make sense to us as outsiders can create a chance to learn. We cannot make decisions for other people until we have walked in their shoes.
While travelling through the province we heard from many people. We heard stories about the great deportation of the Acadian people and the effect it had on future generations. Even though people were spread throughout the world, the Acadian spirit remained strong. The Acadian spirit would not be as strong as it is today if it weren’t for the protection of the aboriginal people. In the North, we experienced this spirit through a multi-generational kitchen party, where we were welcomed as family. In Shippagan, Mrs Robichaud opened her door, while Mr Robichaud cooked a lobster supper. After dinner, their daughter and her friends sang a variety of contemporary and traditional songs while our group danced and sang along.
Through our visits to the 3 campuses of the Université de Moncton, it was clear to us that the University empowered the French in the South. It put into bricks and mortar their spirit and pride. Université de Moncton made it concrete that Francophone New Brunswickers have a right to learn and work and live in French. On a personal note having slept on the dorm mattresses for 2 nights, it was clear what the university’s spending priority is: education over sleep deprivation. These campuses are anchors in their communities, and key to their economic development as they connect people and ideas together for a sustainable future. Another cornerstone of reconnection between communities was laid down with the opening of the Community Peace Centre. It took 7 years and countless volunteer hours, including 2 petite women who hauled countless wheel-barrels of dirt to prepare an indoor garden in time for the grand opening. It is a centre that represents the diversity at work in this community– the United Way, Immigrants, a Language school, Social services, a daycare, and faith.
9 days of Study tour cannot compare to 200 years of this province’s history, however, we as well had our own challenges to face. As our microcosm on wheels toured, our exposure to New Brunswick’s history, its people and challenges made us confront our own. This talking circle, introduced by Lieutenant Governor Graydon Nicholas, kept our spirit sane and our ideas challenged, something all of us cannot forget and we hope to bring back to our own communities. Our differences made us stronger and the talking stick made it easier for everyone to be listened to. Now, what we make out of it is up to us. If we stay present and respectful in a sustainable way, where all people are treated equally, we will then create a smarter, more caring Canadian nation.
NB – 16 June 2012 – Parting Thoughts
It was interesting to see how different teams approached their presentations. Some did amazing videos, showed many interesting pictures, or got really creative using campfire scenes or simulating a broadcast. Although we didn’t get a chance to see all of the presentations, we believe that we provided a different perspective.
No, we didn’t do “New Brunswick: The Musical” – we provided a little bit of “misinformation” so that people wouldn’t know what to expect. Our creative team did an amazing job. They set up the scene so that it would look as close as possible to our talking circle while working around stage constraints. We had a chance to paint our “talking stick” in the four traditional colours – Matt (our MLO) did an amazing job. For costumes, we wore just the regular clothes that we would have worn on the bus. The sole addition was that of our unifying symbol, the fiddlehead pins that had been created by Margaret Haché, the spouse of one of our members.
The setup was sparse by design. We had a 1.5-minute powerpoint slide show but did not have any accompanying music. It appeared that there was some confused murmuring from the crowd – what’s going on? It’s interesting to see how long 90 seconds can be – even some members of our team just wanted to get up to the stage!
Matt set the scene for the talking circle, stating that we only had 20 minutes to debrief before our next commitment, then launching immediately into the “Rolls’ call” that we have come to know so well. All members answered, then proceeded to their pre-assigned seat in the circle. By previous arrangement, we also invited the Governor General into the circle using the roll call – there were some surprised comments by audience members that we would even think to bring him in.
The main points of our presentation have been captured in another post; it should be remembered that these were not the exact words since folks continued to tweak to make it more personal. We made it through the Mental and Physical sections well, but there were more than a few people close to tears when we talked about the Emotional side – so many memories. The emotions made it that much harder for the final speakers in the Spiritual section, especially when we presented him with our talking stick at the end. This piece of driftwood, obtained in Bathurst, is a powerful symbol of our journey together. The Governor General indicated that he would be taking the stick back to Rideau Hall, where it would serve as another precious artefact in a special First Peoples room.
The only slides used during the presentation were just simple slides indicating where we were in the circle – just the colour and the word – and then cutting back to the live feed. By creating such a simple presentation, our intent was that the message would be the prime focus. There have been very few other occasions that we can recall a crowd being this silent – we believe that we achieved our aim. We presented the good and the bad, the highs and the lows – we wanted our report to do justice to New Brunswick, a province that we have come to love over the past nine days. What made us most nervous was that Robert Moreau, our Provincial Chair, was in the audience. We really wanted to make him proud by showing how much we have learned on the trip that he and his colleagues had spent much time preparing. Thank you for everything, Robert.
We were the last presentation, so after a touching slideshow summarizing the entire Conference, it was time to head back to the hotel to change for the closing gala. Gathering in the main lobby, there were many stunning ladies and handsome gentlemen. After a short bus ride, we found ourselves back at Rideau Hall for the official conference photograph. It was rather hot and we were looking into the sun, so the photograph may look rather interesting.
Another short bus ride (our last one!) and we found ourselves at the National Gallery of Canada. We had a few cocktails, and then it was time for supper. We had the opportunity to listen, for the last time of the conference, to the Governor General and Annette Verschuren. They provided an excellent summation of the conference, including much sage advice. We were called to take this “drop” of knowledge and spread it throughout our country. We were informed that leaders are risk-takers and that we must gather and act upon our “20 seconds of courage” if we wish to make a difference.
Many folks were surprised when the band came out for the dance – it was Clam Chowder! The opportunity to have the same amazing band that performed at John Risley’s (it seems so long ago now) was perfect – it felt as if we had come full circle. There was much merriment, and few wanted the night to end. There were few dry eyes as we said farewell to people that had been strangers two weeks ago, but whom we now consider close friends. It was truly an experience that will last with us for a long, long time.
So – how do we conclude this experience? It has been a powerful and intense 15 days, but we would not have liked it any other way. For those following the blog, we hope that we have, in some small way, brought you along with us on our voyage of discovery. We are so thankful to everyone concerned for arranging this trip, giving us access to amazing people, giving us their precious time, and for taking us into their workplaces and homes. We believe that the time you have spent on or with us has made us better leaders, and we anticipate “paying it forward” in the future. Our Leadership Conference may have ended, but our journey of promulgating leadership in sustainable communities has just begun…
Our group closed the presentations – then the video slideshow of the entire conference began. The sudden realization that our journey was about to end made me very sad, yet simultaneously proud of having been selected for such an amazing event.
Closing Gala – National Gallery of Canada
Got so caught up in the moment I forgot to write notes. Two key messages that I have taken forth to VOCL:
GG – story of a drop of food dye in water – spread the leadership message.
Annette Verschuren – 20 seconds of courage.
Through VOCL episodes 002 – 014, 016 and this one, I hope that I have taken you on my journey, and have given you some insights on what it is to be a Canadian leader – the people, the challenges, and the opportunities. If you believe that you are up for this incredible yet intense opportunity to improve yourself and your community, consider applying for the next GGCLC scheduled for 22 May to 5 June 2015. http://www.leadershipcanada.ca/2015-conference/
VOCL Resources and Articles
Okay – I was going to try to fit one or two here but the podcast is long enough right now. All the articles are available on the website, so go to vocl.ca if you need to read about some right now. Audio versions (via podcast) will be coming out in the coming weeks. If you have any suggestions for the resources and articles section, please let me know.
VOCL Closing Thoughts
Working on creating a podcast that gives you what YOU need. What are your pain points? I will work at helping you resolve the issue at hand.
Takeaways and introspection
- Think about the food dye analogy. What are you doing to increase the quality and quantity of leadership in Canada?