Providence University College considers how schools could better exemplify sustainability

What is the nature of the society we as Canadians – and Manitobans, more specifically – want for ourselves and for those who come after us? Narrowing that question: what are our values?
The things we teach children in their formative years provide a good indication, particularly when we look at the province’s high school social studies curriculum.
Between Grades 9 and 12, students are taught what we hold to be the vital tenets of our values-based society. And we must think so, or we wouldn’t be teaching it to them.
We explain the history of our democracy; we communicate the importance of diversity and pluralism; and we reinforce a person’s right to an identity in the world they’ll be entering upon graduation.
We also provide instruction in environmental matters through the Grade 12 Global Issues: Citizenship and Sustainability track.
Sustainability, then, must be one of those vital tenets as well.
But living sustainably and merely talking about doing so, even in a formal setting, are two different things.
What are we doing about the former? Is classroom instruction enough to prepare students for work in existing green industries, or those we hope they themselves go on to create? And what about the places where they learn? Could we be doing more to develop those spaces in a sustainable manner? Does a scenario exist where doing exactly that would also make a meaningful indent in Manitoba’s energy consumption?
These were the sorts of questions posed, and the line of thinking discussed, at the third annual Sustainable Energy Conference held May 27 at Providence University College and Theological Seminary in Otterburne.
As presenter Bruce Duggan, director of the Providence-based Buller Centre for Business pointed out, there are more than 29 million square-metres of space presently purposed for commercial and institutional means, including schools, in Manitoba.
And, he explained, we’ve not done much to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in those buildings over the past 15 years.
“If there’s any issue we need to figure out as a society, it’s rising greenhouse gas emissions,” he said. Setting an example within schools would surely be a useful undertaking, both practically and inspirationally.
“Think of all the educational buildings in Manitoba – everything from the high school in St-Pierre Jolys to the University of Manitoba,” said Duggan. “How about we set targets for improvement – for heating and cooling – for the next 10 years?”
Adjusting demand, which can be done on a low scale by simply switching off lights and reducing the heating and cooling burden in unoccupied rooms, is a good start, however modest. But there are grander methods of achieving a better ratio of renewable to non-renewable energies as well.
Solar walls are one, especially when schools plan projects such as new classrooms or gymnasiums. Better windows and high-efficiency furnaces are others. Then there are the heating options that can augment, or even replace, fossil fuels, such as the biomass burner installed at Providence in 2011.
“At Providence, we’re somewhere around the 70 per cent renewables number,” said Duggan. “Ten years ago, we were somewhere around zero per cent.”
Meaningful, sustainable change can be made when paradigms are flipped on their heads – when sustainable options become normalized and are the de facto building strategies rather than the exception.
And, at a more personal level for many students, when paths are clear between high school training, aspiration, and the job market.
These are the challenges Gerald Farthing, deputy minister of Manitoba Education and Advanced Learning, believes will define our society going forward.
“If our job is preparing students for their future, then equipping them to deal with the future they’re going to live in is fundamental,” he said.
It’s a future, he added, that hinges on the natural environment’s ability to sustain the societies we create – societies with values, those vital tenets, that hopefully align with ecological realities.
“It’s our values that guide our decision-making,” said Farthing. “The school system has an obligation to engage in this conversation.”
Jerrad Peters is creative content specialist at Providence University College & Theological Seminary.

Where the young people are

When word got out that Talia Syrie was opening the sequel to The Tallest Poppy in the Sherbrook Inn, all she heard was how happy people were going to be to have it just down the street from them.
“I feel like everyone I know lives in West Broadway,” she said. “I love it. It’s just so easy.
“I can’t really imagine us anywhere else.”
Coming from the woman whose heart is in the North End, this is top honours.
Her co-conspirators from Synonym Art Consultation, who host The Tallest Poppy Residency Program in her space, have also been outspoken about their love for the area – and they’ve added their sophisticated touch of contemporary art to some of its walls through various events and programming.
“This is the best neighbourhood in Winnipeg, in my opinion,” says Andrew Eastman of Synonym. “It feels like you’d come up off a subway and see it.”
For decades, the bohemian paradise for young people was Osborne Village – it’s close to everything (a short commute anywhere), and there are tons of shops and restaurants from which to rack up a credit card bill.
But now it’s got competition.
Whether it’s a question of availability or a change in perceptions, young people are now congregating in droves in West Broadway.
“You’re on the fringe of Wolseley and the downtown,” explains Leah McCormick, executive director of the West Broadway BIZ. “There’s great walking, great cycling, and great connection to the buses.
“(Young people) want to do everything fun and simple and easy, and West Broadway has that.”
                                                          A fresh face
A huge part of the attraction is the changing façade of the neighbourhood – new business is being welcomed rapidly, much of it destination-worthy. “It’s exploding now, which is great,” says Leah. “And I think what’s going to happen next is we’re going to see Maryland (Street) developing.”
Some of that is already in motion. Ranjjan Developments tore down a decrepit house to build a mixed-use condo project with rooftop terrace and expansive windows. Sales have started and construction is set to begin soon at its 54 Maryland St. location.
An ambitious plan for 40 rental units in a four-storey development is slated for the corner of Westminster Avenue and Maryland, with two floors designated for commercial use. Most modern urban planning trends are adhered to in the area – and it’s obvious that young people gravitate to them.
In a 2011 neighbourhood profile of the area, 26 per cent of West Broadway’s residents consisted of the 20- to 29-year-old age group, though this group represents roughly 14 per cent of Winnipeg’s total population. A striking 85 per cent of area residents live in apartment buildings, while the city-wide average is around 30 per cent. This creates more density in the neighbourhood, with 7,896 people per square kilometre, far outnumbering the city’s average of 1,365.
New eateries like The Tallest Poppy and Sherbrook Street Delicatessen have added to the neighbourhood’s established collection of revered restaurants like Stella’s Café & Bakery, Boon Burger Café, Charisma of India and Wasabi on Broadway.
“It’s almost like you don’t have to leave West Broadway now,” says Leah, of the local businesses. “I think this neighbourhood is so conducive to how people want to live these days.”
Hip coffee shop? Check. (Thom Bargen Coffee & Tea.) Cheap watering hole? Check. (Cousin’s Deli & Lounge.) Late-night gathering spot? Check. (The Handsome Daughter.)
Pair this with the hair salons, convenience stores, and local boutiques and businesses, and you’ve got a pretty complete and livable neighbourhood.
The City of Winnipeg has also taken notice of the neighbourhood’s plethora of active commuters, and greenlit a defined bike path in the area as a testing ground for the concept.
Wanting to draw attention to its trailblazing feature, there are talks of incorporating the raised concrete platforms into West Broadway’s streetscaping plans.
                                                 Letting their freak flag fly
West Broadway loves to play up its distinctions; last year, it added grapevine sphere lights to its many prevalent trees. The BIZ is hoping to incorporate more eye-catching public art, much of it initiated by Synonym Art Consultation’s second annual Wall-to-Wall Mural Exhibition & Festival in the area.
Coming up, West Broadway will play host to a WildWoodRose Vintage Market (July 18), and the annual Sherbrook Street Festival is in September. “I think stuff like that (the festival) has had a huge impact on changing perceptions of the area,” says Leah. “When I first opened my store (Brave New World 14 years ago), people were like, ‘What are you doing here?’
“Now there’s all kinds of people looking for retail and commercial space for everything… But we want to have a say in what types of businesses come here.
“We want to embrace our inner freak still.”

Adrenaline Adventures leaves excitement in its wake

It’s a concept you can’t find anywhere else in the world. “There’s nothing like this is North America,” says Jason Rohs, of Adrenaline Adventures’ acres of outdoor entertainment. “Just to come and experience everything we have in one day at one location… I don’t think you can do that anywhere in the world, quite frankly.”
What used to be 50 acres of farmland in Headingley is now awash with activities throughout the hot and cold months – its wide-ranging activities bundled into one neat little package.
In the summertime, Adrenaline Adventures’ premiere cable wakeboarding park comes alive – along with a rope course, ziplines and paintball quarters – not to mention a hub of 20 beach volleyball courts in near-constant use, and touch football and ultimate Frisbee being played on three Canadian Football League regulation-sized fields.
“Just sitting here and people-watching is amazing,” says Jason. Hundreds of people congregate at the adventure park seven days a week all summer due to ongoing programming.
Along with the new sports (football and ultimate) came improvements to the site: a walk-up bar was added next to the volleyball courts, in addition to the wrap-around patio one floor up at the clubhouse, which serves up beverages and a stunning view of the whole park.
                                                  How it sprouted
Jason and his wife, Michelle, had originally planned for a water park akin to Fun Mountain on the acreage, which they felt was missing west of the city. Finding they only needed about 15 acres for a water park, they cast their net a little further.
In his research, Jason stumbled on the concept of cable wakeboarding, which had some modest success in North America and was thriving in Germany.
“I saw about five different places in the States and saw there were already 65 in Germany alone,” remembers Jason.
He loved how it opened up the lake sport to anyone who didn’t have a cottage outside the city or boat access. “It’s so simple; you can just show up,” says Rohs. “Not everyone has a boat… It’s allowed those people who’ve always wanted to wakeboard to go wakeboarding.”
The concept is catching on in Winnipeg: Adrenaline Adventures has seen its wakeboarding memberships shoot up about 40 per cent year after year.
Once the cable wakeboarding infrastructure came to be, another novel idea was born out of the necessity of digging lakes. They took the ground they removed and piled it back up on another portion of their site, forging a ski hill.
In the winter, skiers and snowboarders can hop on a towrope or pitch up the hill to ride down, and many youngsters spend the day snowtubing, making the most of inclement weather.
                                          The perfect staycation
While there’s always action stemming from the park, Adrenaline Adventures has also made a name for itself as a host for travelling concerts and festivals.
Its wakeboarding facility has welcomed the Wake Park World Series and the Canadian National Wake Park Championships, hosting some of the best riders in the world.
In July, the Fullflex Express Tour will come to the grounds – featuring Skrillex, Diplo, and six other artists – bringing a thumping expose of electronic dance music to the park.
Plus, Adrenaline Adventures’ next renovation will see it incorporate a Las Vegas-reminiscent pool area, creating the ultimate staycation spot.
It seems the more Adrenaline Adventures adds to its offerings, the more people the owners see coming through, fulfilling the rare business prophecy of “if we build it, they will come.”
“There’re so many different and diverse groups coming here now,” says Rohs. “We always say, ‘Come feel it.’ Once people get here, it’s pretty addictive.”
Adrenaline Adventures is located at 600 Caron Rd. in Headingley, Manitoba. Visit for hours of operation and pricing.

WorkJam Improving the Lives of Hourly Workers

Founded by Steven Kramer, Joshua Ostrega, and Mark Sadegursky, WorkJam is the first employee relationship management platform to solve critical problems in the hourly work economy, and create huge economic benefit for businesses. It also helps advance the well-being and prosperity of hourly workers.
The Canadian technology industry veterans have a successful track record in building enterprise software companies, including e-commerce vendor Hybris Software which sold to SAP in 2013.
With WorkJam, line and store managers can holistically manage the employee-employer relationship life cycle – including sourcing, qualifying, hiring, onboarding, scheduling, engaging and evaluating employees.
WorkJam also provides the only commercial platform that enables employers to build and optimize staffing schedules, based not only on demand signals from multiple channels, but also based on employee availability, skills, and compliance with regulatory requirements.
“Industries that rely on hourly workers currently lack the ability to manage each phase of the employee relationship life cycle through one integrated platform,” says Steven Kramer, CEO of WorkJam. “From recruiting through scheduling, training, and engagement, the process is broken – resulting in massive value leakage that suppresses profitability across industries, especially the more than 2 million service companies in the United States where labour accounts for 20 to 70 percent of overall costs.
“Hourly workers also lack the ability to manage and market their skills – and match their availability to the needs of employers, often forcing them to make compromises that impact the quality of their lives. This is both a business issue and a social issue, and will also increasingly be a legal issue as local governments pass new legislation to protect hourly workers from unpredictable scheduling.”
With WorkJam, employers also have access to a market of people from which they can recruit and qualify candidates based on skills and availability. Conversely, employees seeking hourly positions that are part of this network can efficiently find positions, market their employability, and manage their availability.
With WorkJam’s cloud-based platform, employers can accomplish what the fragmented landscape of workforce management, human capital management, and employee engagement technology has failed to achieve – to unlock the economic benefits and prosperity created by aligning their business needs with the interests of their employees.
“The most exciting aspect of WorkJam is that it creates a win-win for both businesses and hourly workers. Businesses benefit by lowering recruitment costs, improving attrition rates, optimizing labour in relation to demand signals, and improving the customer experience with happier, more engaged employees,” says Joshua Ostrega, COO of WorkJam.
“Hourly workers can control their work-life balance, maximize their earnings, develop skills and advance their economic well-being. By solving the disconnect in the employee-employer relationship, we can make the economy work for everyone – something we can all get on board with.”
WorkJam is a cloud-based, mobile and web-accessible employee relationship management platform. For the employee, WorkJam allows hourly employees to find and apply for jobs based on their availability. Once hired, they can manage their schedules, pick up shifts, or trade shifts directly from their computer or mobile device. WorkJam puts employees in control of their time, allowing them to create a more consistent and predictable work schedule and income. For more about WorkJam, visit

Artist promotes discourse on mental illness with Lossy

“It’s not very often that a conversation will centre around mental health,” observes multidisciplinary artist Benj Funk. “The goal (with Lossy) was just to stimulate discussion.”

His most personal project to date, Lossy involves audiovisual expression as well as a personal blog invoking what his reality has been dealing with schizophrenia.

“I am trying to give insight into what it was for me,” he says. “I think it’s been the project where I’ve been most honest.”

Never shying away from sharing his struggles, Funk’s first solo exhibit at Artbeat Studio drew on his battle with drug addiction and psychosis, but with his evolution in stability, he now feels ready to address his mental illness head-on as a subject matter.

“It just takes time to not judge yourself, I guess,” explains Funk. “The whole thing with stigma is it’s two-sided. You internalize that and you project that on yourself too.”

Funk feels the dialogue has become less judgmental regarding mental health in the media and elsewhere – but the most welcoming community he’s found has been on Tumblr, the host of his blog.

“I’m making connections with people and people are reaching out,” says Funk. “The amount of support – it’s not surprising, but it is eye-opening.”

When his exhibit opens Sept. 10 at La Maison des artistes visuels francophones, the immersive exhibit will feature (barring no interruptions) about eight to 12 paintings and his album of roughly the same number of electronic songs – plus, Funk plans to have a panel discussion engaging the public about mental health.

For his part, Funk is holding nothing back, blogging stories related to the shame and embarrassment he felt during his addiction (which prompted aggression), and giving vivid accounts of some of his hallucinations.

He shows talent for wielding the smaller stroke of a pen, and courage unveiling personal narratives. “There’s only so much you can say with a painting,” reasons Funk.

The exercise in treating his illness as a subject has also allowed him to delve deeper into neuroscience research, sharing some of the more momentous medical breakthroughs through his blog and helping educate followers along with him.

Benj Funk
Benj Funk

Funk hopes his project will establish solidarity with others fighting a mental illness – a recent Ipsos Reid poll revealed 53 per cent of young people are dealing with depression and other mental wellbeing concerns – and it’s powerful to gain insight from someone articulating their own journey.
The artist expects to continue in the vein of socially-conscious work like Lossy with upcoming projects. “I’ve kind of reignited a passion for advocacy,” he says.

While he has learned to manage his illness, his medication is not without its side effects – and it’s not foolproof. “The meds for me take care of 99 per cent of the symptoms,” he shares. “You’ll (still) hear a voice that you know isn’t in the space… I’ve learned how to take on those little battles.”

Perhaps the most poignant representation of his progress dealing with mental illness is his painting of a moon with six eyes hovering over a depiction of himself as he appeared just before he was hospitalized. “It physically separates where I was then and where I am now,” says Funk. “It’s almost like looking at your kid and thinking, ‘Things will get better.’”

Funded by the Canada Council for the Arts, the Manitoba Arts Council and 100 Nons, Lossy will culminate in a solo art exhibit at the artist-run La Maison des artistes visuels francophones beginning Sept. 10. Visit to follow Funk’s blog entries and the project’s progress.