Paris Attacks, Mandate Letters, Naomi Klein and Drizzie – Your Week in Review

November 13, 2015

Syrian War Stakes Out a New “Theatre”

peaceAt least 128 people died and many more were critically injured tonight, as IS (Islamic State) claimed responsibility for coordinated attacks in Paris. The events have resulted in Facebook becoming the largest funeral parlour in the world where well-worn expressions of grief rub shoulders with personal anguish, and where profile pictures of poppies have been quickly been exchanged for gauzy French flags.

French President Francois Hollande declared the attacks an “act of war,” as though it constituted something entirely different from France’s current relationship with Syria as the only European country to join the U.S. the bombing of that country.

France is part of a complex coalition (United States, U.K, Turkey, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Oman) supporting anti-government forces in Syria, who are themselves made up largely of Islamic Jihadists, but who have the redeeming quality of opposing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the General Secretary of the Ba’ath Party and President of Syria since 2000. On the other side, Russia and Iran support al-Assad and the pro-government forces.

IS says a pox a both of these infidel houses and has injected itself into the war with the most grotesque and attention-grabbing jihadism imaginable and an agenda that panders to the worst of the misogynistic and theocratic elements in that region and, if we are honest with ourselves, the world. It is a cake baked with tens of thousands of chronically and systemically unemployed young men whipped into frenzy by megalomaniacal leaders, whose aims, beyond turning the world into a prison and woman into sex slaves, is unclear. Gywnne Dyer can give you more background on this. Click here.

The casualties in Paris add 128 more souls to the 200,000 people who have already perished in the Syrian conflict in the past four years. And there has been no dying with dignity in Syria. According to the Center for Documentation of Violations in Syria (VDC) deaths have been caused by shootings and mass killings; mortar, artillery and rocket attacks; Syrian government air attacks; kidnappings/torture; and exposure to chemical or toxic substances. Many of the victims are children and the deaths have been the result of action from all sides. Four million people have fled the country. Click here to read more on Syrian casualties.

Sometimes courage is measured in what you don’t do. Click here for news on peace talks.

November 10, 2015

Prime Minister Trudeau Releases “Mandate Letters” to all his Ministers

MANDATE-LETTERSFor a population accustomed to the punitive politics of a secretive former government, this week’s release of ministerial “mandate letters” have prompted exclaims of “what a breath of fresh air!” and “OMG, that’s a national housing strategy!”

Apparently, although I’ve never been familiar with the practice, an incoming government issues letters of instruction to new ministers. These mandate letters give ministers their marching orders, as it were. Prime Minister Trudeau, in his effort to make government more transparent, has made the mandate letters public. The letters begin with Trudeau saying he’s “honoured” the minister accepted the appointment to serve, rattle through an overview of what sounds like campaign talking points and finish up with Trudeau telling his ministers that he expects them to respect the press, the opinions of the civil service and the opposition. In the middle, it gets to the meat of what campaign promises were made in the incoming ministers department.

The first of the 17 points outlined for Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, for example, is, “in partnership with provinces and territories, develop a plan to combat climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, consistent with our international obligations and our commitment to sustainable economic growth.”

Click here to review the full letter to the Minster of Environment and Climate Change.

Click here to review all mandate letters.

November 9, 2015

Is Naomi Klein Right About Everything?

naomi-klein-vogue-september-2014Mandate letter or no mandate letter, at the Canada is Ready for the Leap Rally attended by about 1,000 people, Naomi Klein, climate-change celebrity and bestselling author of This Changes Everything, called on the Trudeau Government to adopt the principles outlined in The Leap Manifesto. The manifesto, written by Klein and 60 self-described Canadian progressives, was launched during the Toronto International Film Festival in September where Klein’s husband, Avi Lewis, was premiering a film about her book.

According to information on the group’s website,, its “Initial Signatories” are mainly entertainers and writers from Pamela Anderson (former star of Baywatch) to Yann Martel (author of Life of Pi). The “Initiating Organizations” adopting the manifesto range from LUSH Handmade Cosmetics to Oxfam Canada.

Notable for their absence—and with apologies to David Suzuki—are scientists. Interestingly, in August 2015, in an interview with the Guardian newspaper, Ms. Klein dismissed scientists, saying they are part of the problem.

“There is a triple layer of jargon when writing about climate change,” she said. “You have the scientists, who are very cautious now because of the amount of climate denial. Then you have the UN jargon – I had to carry around a glossary of terms. It was like an alphabet soup.”

Whether Ms. Klein chose to ignore an entire level of community work or the Klein franchise juggernaut is just careening down the track, taking up all the oxygen as it rolls by, the work of many scientists to bring the local impacts of climate change home to people, and researching ways in which communities can organize to mitigate that impact, deserves some attention.

Their hopeful research is based on what people can do to mitigate climate change in their own back yard and have the information they need to join the often technical public discourse. It is a story of community organizing and an embrace of the science that makes us more powerful in our communities and the public forum.

So, once you’ve put down This Changes Everything, or before you pick it up, here is a recommended reading list:

  • The Resilience Dividend: Being Strong in a World Where Things Go Wrong by Judith Rodin. Rodin is currently president of the Rockefeller Foundation. Following Hurricane Sandy in 2012, she was appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo to co-chair a commission charged with finding ways to improve the resilience and strength of the state’s infrastructure in the face of natural disasters and other emergencies. The book pays particular attention to the influence that ordinary people can have in a crisis, especially in the early stages.
  • Civic Ecology: Adaptation and Transformation from the Ground Up, by Marianne Krasny. Krasny is a professor in the Department of Natural Resources and Director of the Civic Ecology Lab at Cornell University. She specializes in community environmental stewardship and environmental education in urban and other settings in the US and internationally. This book talks about communities across the U.S. and around the world, people are coming together to rebuild and restore local environments that have been affected by crisis or disaster.
  • The Security and Sustainability Forum is a public interest, membership organization that hosts free educational webinars.  Sessions feature panels of global experts addressing human health and welfare impacts caused by climate change, other environmental disruptions, and institutional shortfalls. In 90-minute forums, experts explain the issues and discuss emerging research, and innovative technology and policy solutions.  Through theory and case studies, the webinars outline how sustainable approaches are working to mitigate and adapt to a changing climate in a rapidly urbanizing world.

Any one of these would be a great place to start and offer a good deal more in the specificity department than the rather unfortunately named Leap Manifesto. 

November 10, 2015

Drake Achieves Meme Status

drake-hotline-bling-video-billboard-650Drake is a superstar rapper from Toronto and released a new video, Hotline Bling a few weeks ago on YouTube. Click here to watch. This week several memes have hit YouTube.  Have you danced to it yet? It’s fun. Thomas Mulcair has danced to it and he sure looks like he’s having fun. Click here to watch.  But the internet is burning up with questions. Like these:

  1. Which city is Drake talking about when he sings, ever since I left the city/you got a reputation for yourself now?
  2. Is the song about phone sex?
  3. Where can I get a shirt with an owl on it or a sweater like Drake is wearing?
  4. Is Drake a great dancer or a crummy dancer?

Your Working Girl has the answers for you!

  1. Toronto (of course). Drake is always in Toronto, even if he isn’t.
  2. You decide. Click here for a definition.
  3. To dress like Drake, click here.
  4. Drake is a great dancer.

Bye, bye for now and I will see you next week, if not before,


P.S. If you want Your Working Girl delivered directly to your inbox, scroll to the top right hand corner to sign up. I don’t think you’ll want to miss a thing.  


Author Photo 01 Sandy Tam PhotographyGail Picco is a strategist who has worked in the nonprofit sector for 25 years. She is the author of What the Enemy Thinks, a recent novel set in the nonprofit sector, and is Chair of the Board of the Regent Park Film Festival. She also writes about baseball and F1 racing.


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: