Around Town: John Baird honoured for his support of Israel

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From left, Marianne Baird Anderson and Joan Sun McGarry at the Jewish National Fund of Ottawa's Negev Dinner, held Tuesday, November 20, 2012, at the National Gallery of Canada. Photo by Caroline Phillips.

OTTAWA — John Baird made his mothers proud Tuesday night. Both his real mom, Marianne Baird Anderson, and his self-appointed “Jewish mother,” Barbara Farber, were at the Jewish National Fund of Ottawa’s Negev Dinner, where their boy the foreign affairs minister was the honouree.

The MP for Ottawa West-Nepean was observed at the VIP reception posing for official photos with CEOs, business owners, politicians and lawyers alongside the dinner’s keynote speaker, National Post columnist Rex Murphy (looking so serious but, he assured me, smiling deep within).

Baird was honoured for his “true and unparalleled” support of and friendship to Israel. “He, in the face of adversity and when it’s not a popular thing to do, has stood by moral and ethical convictions,” said Farber, who chaired the sold-out dinner of nearly 500 attendees at the National Gallery.

Farber and Baird’s own friendship goes back 17 years to when the prominent Nepean businesswoman invited the feisty young politician to lunch after he won his provincial seat. He moved up to federal politics in 2006. The pair has continued to meet, with Farber always providing constructive feedback. “I call him my good friend and he calls me his Jewish mother,” she joked.

Funds raised from the dinner are being directed to agricultural research and development stations in the Negev desert in Israel, which remains a world leader in the innovation of agriculture technologies.

“It’s a fantastic cause and one that I’m passionate about,” said Baird, who’s been to Israel five times and rattled off for Around Town a bunch of Hebrew words he’s learned.

Laureen Harper was seen mingling with JNF Canada CEO Josh Cooper and national president Frank A. Wilson. Also sighted were JNF Ottawa president Oliver Javanpour, Israeli Ambassador Miriam Ziv and her predecessor, Alan Baker, MC Rabbi Reuven Bulka, Conservative senators Marjory LeBreton and Linda Frum, and Chris Alexander, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence.

From left, Ontario Court Justice Heather Perkins-McVey, Sylvia Cuhaci and Ruth Maxwell at a fundraiser for Project Upstream held Thursday, November 22, 2012, at Ashbury College. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Manley shares story to benefit mental health program

Canadian hero Elizabeth Manley spent years wanting to share her personal mental health story with the public, only to discover it didn’t want to listen.

On Thursday, she got her chance as keynote speaker at a gala for Project Upstream, a charitable organization that offers adults, youth and their families community-based supports and services to rebuild lives affected by persistent mental illness.

“It’s so nice to be in a room and to be able to say the word mental health and not have everybody run out,” Manley told Around Town. “I spent so many years trying to tell my story because I wanted to help people, and nobody wanted to hear it.”

Manley has been visiting schools to speak with kids about mental health. As a teen, some five years before she won her 1988 Olympic silver medal in figure skating, she became clinically depressed and temporarily quit skating. She was able to rebound with help from Ottawa sports psychologist Terry Orlick.

Manley was at the dinner with some of her famous family, including her cousin, former deputy PM John Manley, now head of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, and her bro, Tom Manley, a veteran executive of the high-tech industry.

The 144 attendees also included such supporters as Justice Heather Perkins-McVey, fundraising co-chairs Sylvia Cuhaci and Ruth Maxwell, and MC Catherine Clark.

The gala was held at Ashbury College in Rockcliffe. Its headmaster, Tam Matthews, will be leaving his position in June to become the head of a Vancouver private school (the same one Justin Trudeau once taught at). The move will bring Matthews, a former Olympic sailor, closer to family and the ocean.

Community Foundation key to making city a better place

Mayor Jim Watson bestowed the City of Ottawa’s highest civic honour, the key to the city, to the Community Foundation of Ottawa during its Silver Anniversary celebration Monday.

Foundation president and CEO Barbara McInnes and board chairman Brian Toller took to the stage at the Ottawa Convention Centre to accept the key. It was nicely mounted with a signed letter of recognition from the mayor. “The award is bigger than Barbara,” joked Watson as all three held onto the framed key during the presentation.

The foundation’s 25-year celebration featured a keynote address by Gov. Gen. David Johnston, who has committed to bringing all Canadians together to create a smarter, more caring nation.

While smart and caring may hold different meanings, they are tightly interwoven and mutually reinforcing characteristics, he told the 400-person crowd.

“This close interweaving of smart and caring is the very mission and achievement of the Community Foundation of Ottawa,” said Johnston. “For 25 years, your organization has served as an intelligently compassionate resource for people and organizations to improve the quality of life of our city and its citizens in ways that are rigorously structured, deeply thoughtful and highly effective.”

Johnston handed out a Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award to the foundation’s former board chair, Scott Wilson, along with Peter Cleveland, Sylvia Cuhaci, Roxanne Desmarais, Dovat Batotele Mutimbutimbu and David Wallace.

Gala celebrates women’s role

Around Town had an “I am woman” moment listening to entrepreneur Manjit Basi address a mostly female audience at the Roses and Candles Gala held Thursday for Immigrant Women Services Ottawa.

Basi, chair of the IWSO board, spoke about women and their roles as nurturers, givers of life and bearers of hope. “We are the glue that holds communities together,” she told the sold-out crowd of 285 at the Hellenic banquet hall.

The IWSO provides crisis counselling, job-skills training, language interpretation and housing support services to immigrant and visible minority women. “We’re trying to give women the tools, skills and resources to lead lives where they can be strong and fulfil their dreams,” said Basi.

Present was honorary chair Nazanin Afshin-Jam, a human rights advocate, author and, as of later that night, Diamond Jubilee Medal recipient. She’s also the expectant wife of Defence Minister Peter MacKay.

The evening, backed by sponsor Gary Zed of Ernst & Young, presented community champion awards to Barbara MacKinnon, executive director of the Children’s Aid Society, Helping with Furniture, Social Housing Registry of Ottawa, businesswoman Renren Bai and Ottawa youth Aliai Lual.

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