Ontario’s Approach to Mental Health, Homelessness and Addictions Care:

THIS IS NOT WORKING AND WE NEED IT TO CHANGE” – a grassroots movement from the people of Ontario

Another step forward! Many steps to go! MPP JEFF YUREK presenting the petition to the Ontario Legislature on October 7th. Link to the video on Facebook of the reading is below…


I just can’t take it anymore.  The line in the playground mulch has been crossed.  I say that as used needles were recently found near the bottom of a public playground slide in my home community of St. Thomas, Ontario.  So this is my attempt to try to actually do something about this huge, widespread problem… but I need your collective voices to be heard.

            I’m quite sure I’m not telling you anything new when I say that Ontario’s current methods of dealing with issues of homelessness, mental health and addictions are not working as well as they should or could. 

            I am not an “expert” in this field.  But I don’t need to be.  And neither do you.  All we need are eyes and ears and some common sense to see and understand that the current system is badly broken.  All we need is to drive or walk down the main streets and downtowns of many of Ontario’s towns and cities.  The “experts” had their turn.  They presented their findings and studies and opinions and turned them into our current system of community based care.  They were wrong.  It doesn’t work.  People make mistakes.  Good people – good governments – can simply admit it, and do what is necessary to correct them.

            We can’t simply turn our heads and continue with our poor, unfortunate, and our mental health compromised and drug addicted citizens not getting the care and results they need.  Residents of our cities and towns should not have to live in the constant fear resulting from having their yards, garages, vehicles, sheds and homes viewed as targets and opportunities to score something of value for an individual in need.  Our local retail and business establishments should not be fighting a continuing battle against the many problems associated with the gathering of the homeless, destitute and addicts in retail cores.  We need a system and strategy that provides for the success of EVERYONE.  As well, our zoning laws and philosophies should reflect how they may contribute best to the potential success of businesses, and to the well-being of all residents.  This must include giving municipalities and cities the ability to preclude services and agencies from areas which may cause conflict with and difficulties to other approved area businesses.  This would not be “people zoning” in a socially unjust way, but zoning for the best potential success of all citizens.

Ontario’s current system is causing a great strain on police resources as they are forced to deal with mental health issues and large numbers of people, virtually and literally living on the street.  The St. Thomas Police Service (STPS) and downtown retailers recently spoke with the media about their situation. (Brent Lale/CTV 2021) Patti Mugford talking about their family shoe store said, “Around the corner they sleep on the street, spit on our windows and empty our garbage.  They’re loud and scare our customers.”  STPS Communications Coordinator, Tanya Calvert, hopes that, “Somehow we can make a plan that people are being diverted after the first arrest.  It would be a great situation if we had some kind of support system where that person is then diverted for whatever social disorder they may be suffering from… but reroute that person through a better support system.”  

            In 2010, Ontario’s Standing Committee on Mental Health and Addictions released their “Journey to Wellness” report.  The AMHO (Addictions and Mental Health Ontario) was created to oversee the hundreds of agencies in Ontario providing care in a very piecemeal fashion after larger institutions were closed by the government.  The AMHO has now released their own campaign called “Everything Is Not OK”, and is calling for changes to the current system.  An on-line petition is associated with the campaign, however on-line petitions are not recognized or accepted as official petitions by the Government of Ontario.  In the end, it’s possible that adding the AMHO to the top of the mix simply added yet another agency, another layer of bureaucracy, and a number of highly paid positions without garnering the success and results that were hoped for.  (You will see below where and how you can sign a tangible, paper petition that will be presented to the Ontario Government asking for immediate and sweeping changes.)  I also think it’s important that this comes from “the people of Ontario” – as in voters.

            We need to take a huge step forward by reverting back, in a positive way, to a public institution centered system.  One that has learned from its past mistakes – not simply abandoned the project and goals because of them.  One that is proper, pertinent and compassion fueled.  (I believe the Homewood Health Centre in Guelph provides a good example of what a public care institution(s) could be.) The plan needs to be comprehensive in nature, and include phases of supportive low-cost housing.

            We must commit to breaking the cycle.  We need to stop the enabling and encouraging of a lifestyle that should not be considered acceptable.  To simply provide free needles, (with a goal of preventing the spread of HIV and hepatitis), and then leaving it up to the individual to find and support an illegal drug dealer, and hope the substance is not toxic to the point of being lethal, is unintelligible.  And then to rely on the kindness of charities and volunteers to provide free meals and beds just so they can do it all over again the next day – if they’re alive – is incomprehensible.  Our methods need to be directed toward goals of rehabilitation and curing – complete with proper care, opportunities and accountability.

            Dear Ontario… it’s time to get this done.  Please print out and fill in and sign the OFFICIAL PETITION  and return to the address below.  Once the petition is presented to the Legislative Assembly, the government must file a response within 24 sitting days of the presentation.  Feel free to share with your friends and neighbours, or have the petition posted and available in your place of business.  Organize an information booth and petition signing at your local market or event.  Let’s let our provincial leaders know, loudly and clearly, that we expect and demand more… we need to be better than this.  Much better.

Dennis Kalichuk

SAVE AND PRINT THE BLANK PETITION BELOW OR EMAIL dkalichuk@rogers.com and request a blank template be return emailed to you. (just 1 or any # of signatures on multiple pages is acceptable – please return by Sept 28 THANK YOU!)

(Petition must be on paper with original signatures only – no copies or faxes)

Return to:  PETITION,  86 Gladstone Ave., St. Thomas ON, N5R 2M1 Questions: dkalichuk@rogers.com




Climate Change QUICK START Guide

Just 3 Minutes Away From Understanding Climate Change

If you’re like me, you don’t like spending a lot of time reading about things that aren’t fun.  Or maybe you don’t have a lot of free time, period.  You’ve heard about climate change.  You’ve heard from the climate change doubters.  You believe it’s probably an important topic, but it can be confusing sorting through all the information and misinformation, especially in the internet age.

Well, I managed to find the time to do some research and some reading, and sort through the mess.  Here is what I discovered, wrapped up in a concise bundle that can hopefully be absorbed by many because it IS important!  It is one of the most important things in our world… in our lives.  There are no opinions here – just facts from reputable sources.

Port Stan crop 2

What We Need To Know

The earth’s climate has changed throughout history.  Remember that whole ice-age thing?  Most of these have been because of small and normal variations in the earth’s orbit that change the amount of solar energy we receive.

This current warming trend, however, is very real and is unprecedented in the last 1000 years and there is a 95% probability it’s caused by human activity.  For example, this current warming trend is roughly 10 times faster than the average ice-age recovery has been.  It has been proven that increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions in the atmosphere cause the earth to warm in response.

More Evidence

The earth’s surface and ocean temperatures have risen substantially over the last few decades.  Our ice sheets and glaciers have retreated.  Sea levels are rising at an unprecedented rate.  Since 1950 the number of high-temperature events has increased while the number of low-temperature events has decreased.  The acidity of the oceans has increased by 30% since the industrial revolution.


If we continue on our current path, average temperatures will continue to rise;  there will be more heavy precipitation events;  more droughts;  more and stronger hurricanes;  more flooding due to rising sea levels.  On the positive side, the growing season in some areas will be longer.

Human Causes

Our energy use is behind most of the human contribution to the climate change crisis.  This includes everything that uses any form of energy, but cars, trucks, buses, boats and planes account for almost half of air pollution, more than a third of greenhouse gas emissions, one quarter of air contamination and almost one-fifth of water toxicity.  Cars are the worst offenders – and pollute our water and air through exhaust and road runoff.  Electricity production and use; industry; residential and agriculture also facture in.

     Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.
           – Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
clear water


What You Can Do

Everyone one of us is just a drop – but an ocean is made up of drops, so every little thing we do collectively can make a difference.  Below is a concise, succinct list… you can easily search for and find detailed examples for each:

  1.  Look for any and all ways to reduce your transportation emissions.  e.g. Drive an energy-efficient vehicle.  Drive less.  Cycle, walk, rideshare.
  2. Use energy and water (especially hot) wisely and efficiently.  Use less.  Hey Canada… we’re the largest per-capita user of energy in the world!!  We need to get better – much better.
  3. Pay attention to what and how you eat.  Eat less meat.  Meatless Mondays?!  Choose local.  Don’t waste food.  Choose sustainable seafood.
  4. Renew.  Reuse.  Recycle.  Compost.
  5. Take action.  Let our elected officials know what you expect.  Join or support youth-led movements. Start a conversation – around the table or on the web… share this!!

“We use too much, too much of it is toxic and we don’t share it very well. But that’s not the way things have to be. Together, we can build a society based on better, not more, sharing not selfishness, community not division.” — The Story of Stuff


You may enjoy this contemporary classical music piece that I wrote and paired with VIDEO of our beautiful planet! 🙂  LIBRATION by Dennis Kalichuk


climate/nasa/gov                                                                                                                                  NASA Global Climate Change                                                                                                            davidsuzuki.org                                                                                                                            David Suzuki Foundation                                                                                                                    epa Gov.  U.S.A.                                                                                                                                      The Story Of Stuff                     


Traverse City Michigan! – Shhhh… Don’t Tell Anyone

Traverse City Michigan isn’t for everyone.  You won’t enjoy your time there unless you enjoy cycling.  Or kayaking, canoeing or boating and fishing.  Or beaches, and miles of pathways and incredible sunsets.  Or craft beer, wineries and fantastic restaurants.  Or art and shopping in a perfectly groomed, but compact and quaint downtown core.  Yes, there is plenty to do in and around Traverse City, Michigan!

Photo by Becky Mathews

The author enjoying the crystal blue waters in the West Bay of Traverse City Michigan.

I stumbled upon this tourist city of only 14,000 in June of 2014 when I had a few days available to play somewhere.  My Canadian home is an easy 5 hour drive away.  I brought a guitar, mountain bike and an appreciation for hoppy IPA.  Accommodation at the time of the year was cheap and plentiful.  Beaches were largely empty as the waters were still cold.  As an avid cyclist I was blown away by the TART (Traverse Area Recreational Trails – http://www.TraverseTrails.org) paved bikeways and by the mountain bike trails of the Vasa Pathway on State Forest land.

photo by Dennis Kalichuk

Dennis Kalichuk on the VASA Pathway.

I returned to TC in July of 2015, this time with my partner and kayaks along with bikes.  No sophomore jinx here.  Was just as, or more impressed than the first visit.  Although one should note that in the prime tourism months of July and August, accommodation will be much more scarce and pricier than at other times of the year.  We split our week up among 3 different bed and breakfast homes (all fantastic), partly out of necessity and in part to vary our experience and location.


Strolling the waterfront by the Duncan L. Clinch marina.

The water was warm and blue and clear in the West and East Traverse Bays where we wasted no time getting the kayaks into.  We cycled the long paved recreation trail all the way to Sutton’s Bay where we enjoyed lunch and local craft brews on a sunny patio before heading back to TC.  We worked up a sweat and appetite on the sandy hills in the VASA Pathway mountain bike area.


Coincidentally we were in Traverse during their annual film festival (www.TraverseCityFilmFest.org).  Hot tip – pick the right film event and you’ll be hanging with the likes of Michael Moore, (a local).  We managed to squeeze in part of a perfect summer evening watching a free outdoor movie on an incredible large screen with the beautiful bay as a backdrop.


Take a drive on the 22 mile long Old Mission Peninsula that splits the East and West Traverse City Bays and discover a good selection of wineries and restaurants and impressive vistas.  One of the largest area events is the annual Cherry Festival.  You’ll find cherries incorporated into a lot of local dishes and beverages.  We enjoyed a memorable cherry wine on a large balcony of an Old Mission winery overlooking their vineyard.

Becky Mathews photo

Traverse City and area is also receiving a lot of attention riding the wave of popularity of craft beer.  Without counting, you’ll find a dozen or so local craft brew establishments that incorporate great eats and enough unique styles and flavours of beer to require several lengthy stays to sample them all!

Becky Mathews photo

And if you feel like exploring a bit – emphasis on a bit – further, you’ll find enchanting places like Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and Torch Lake (keep an eye out for Michael Moore, Kid Rock, Bruce Willis, Madonna and Tim Allen).

Author Dennis Kalichuk paddling Torch River.

Author Dennis Kalichuk paddling Torch River.

Just one of the views you'll find at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Just one of the views you’ll find at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Ready for adventure in Traverse City, Michigan.

Ready for adventure in Traverse City, Michigan.

Traverse City – yep, not for everyone.  So don’t go there.  And don’t tell anyone.  Shhhhhhh.

A Journey Through Open Heart Surgery

By Dennis Kalichuk 

It was the first day of spring.  The air was crisp and clean and felt like hope and renewal.  The street I was delivering mail on was in a beautiful old district of the city.  The dingy gardens looked forward to their approaching rebirth.

ColourBurst 150

Dennis Kalichuk ART

But the real road I suspected I was now travelling on wasn’t as pretty, and was fraught with dangerous twists and unknowns.  I already had fought tears of frustration during the weekend’s bicycle ride to the beach and back with my girlfriend Becky.  The episodes of tightness in my chest during the hard sections were not something I was accustomed to during my many years of being an endurance athlete.  Given my family history of heart disease I was quite sure I knew what they meant.  I was able to get in to see my family Doctor right away and was now waiting on an appointment date for a stress test.  I wouldn’t make it that long.

I sat down on the top step of the porch I just delivered to.  There was no sense of panic.  I tried to breathe deep and slow to calm everything down, and enjoyed the cloud filtered sun on my face as I waited to feel better, and for the aching in my chest and neck to subside.  After a couple of text messages I was told an ambulance was on the way.  Obviously still in a bit of denial, or possibly trying to ignore the issue away, I got up and delivered mail until transport arrived.  The ambulance crew called me while they were en route and I told them not to use their siren!

The paramedics were pleasant and efficient while we talked and joked and they attached chest leads for an EKG before we left for the hospital.  Emergency attendants at the hospital were equally competent and a blood enzyme test revealed that although there was likely no real damage to my heart, there was definitely cause for concern, and I needed to be admitted.  I thought about how arriving at emerg with chest issues is certainly a way to bypass any wait times!

“You’re a lucky man.”  Those were the first words spoken to me by the confident looking and sounding man who turned out to be my surgeon.  I had now been transferred to the big city hospital that specialized in heart surgery.  He had dropped into my room to discuss my angiogram findings.  The main artery to my heart was almost completely blocked and another partially.  He could fix me and my heart with double bypass surgery.  Of course there are always the odds and percentages and the list of things that could go wrong you need to hear about before giving the okay.  Later a caring and thorough Nurse Practitioner calculated my operation survival odds, given my otherwise healthy and fit condition, to be 99%.  I wondered to myself if the surgeon had coincidentally just completed 99 successful bypasses in a row.

I joked with the hard working young woman that was drawing blood from my arm, that I thought one needed to be older than fifteen to be a nurse.  She was of course, a twenty something, but I was surprised that so many of the talented personnel looked so incredibly young to me!  I’m quite sure this has as much to do with my age and perception as it did their age.  And almost without exception, all I encountered were proficient, and compassionate and gentle in their dealings with patients with serious and delicate health situations.  I did say “almost” however, as there was the one I’m sure, well meaning nurse, who pointed at me in the angiogram recovery ward and shouted, “surgery for you”!  At that point I hadn’t yet been informed of the results by the doctors, and I saw her being pulled aside and being “talked to”.  Coincidently she’s the same one who was unable to successfully insert an IV into me and after a few awkward and painful attempts called for the IV expert.  I actually found both those events to be a lot more funny than annoying – nobody’s perfect.

I had read about some of the possible emotions that patients going through this type of procedure could encounter.  I was thankful that at no point yet did I become depressed, or angry, or wonder sorrowfully “why me?”  It did bother me quite a bit however, that my situation was causing so much grief to the people close to me.  And I did not like being what I saw as a bother and inconvenience to everyone’s daily life.  I appreciated, and even needed, the visits from the people close to me but felt guilty about it.  I also worried about my fourteen year old boy who suddenly found it difficult to sleep.

The big day – open heart surgery day – had arrived.  I was nervous.  I was frightened.  I did my best to remain calm and focused, polite and patient.  I wanted anything I did or said to contribute in a positive way.  I worried about Becky and family and friends that were worried about me.  Saying goodbyes before heading down the cold hall into the operating arena, was a tough moment.  Try as I might I couldn’t dispel the nagging little thought that wondered if that was a last goodbye.

I lay on the operating table and listened to some final questions and instructions from an assistant surgeon and the anaesthesiologist.  An instant passed.  “Dennis”, whispered a kind voice, “you’re in the recovery room, you’re all done”.  Much of that night is foggy but soon I was aware of Becky and friend Brian beside me.  I worked on trying to breathe steady on my own so I could have that darn tube in my throat removed.  Apparently I have a slight phobia about that type of thing.  A couple of hours later I developed what the nurse was describing as pericarditis.  Unfortunately it’s painful and mimics what feels like a heart attack.  Lily took a shot at using a different pain med that had been known to be effective against it.  It worked, and deservedly so, she seemed quite pleased.  I nicknamed her “Lily Angel” as she was in all whites, and she laughed at that and told me her husband’s nickname for her is “Ancient Evil”.  Humour is always a good thing.

It was a sleepless night in recovery but the morning found me sitting in a chair having breakfast.  A brief walk would follow.  My surgeon and entourage floated into the room.  He was dressed all dapper and looked the opposite of how I felt.  I gave a chipper “good morning”!  He came close while the folks with notepads stayed a step behind and told me everything was a success and I had done everything he hoped I would.  “Me?” I exclaimed!  “I’m pretty sure I didn’t do anything at all but thank you so much for what you did.  Thank you.”

I should note that I’ve always been a bit of a baby when it comes to even little things in the medical world like getting a needle.  I would get anxious when going for simple blood work.  A touch of trypanophobia.  Not proud of that at all.  It amazes me what the human mind and body is capable of when push comes to shove.  I’ve also noted that many of what would be the most traumatic parts of this whole experience, were somewhat difficult to recall for this retelling.  It’s somewhat like viewing them through a translucent veil.  I wondered aloud to one of the night nurses if it’s our mind’s way of protecting oneself.

It’s now day ten.  I’ve been walking, excercising, feeling great and trying to live as normally as possible without overdoing it as the days pass.  I know there are again, fun, active days ahead.  Days filled with love and laughs, bikes and kayaks, music and dancing, and walks and beaches.

Today the Toronto Blue Jays take flight for the season opener.  It feels like the real first day of spring.  It feels like rebirth.

5 weeks post op.  Working hard within the guidelines...  not ready for the mountain bike or kayak, but close!

5 weeks post op. Working hard within the guidelines… not ready for the mountain bike or kayak, but close!



So far so good!!   Happy to report I virtually feel like I did 20 years ago!  I’ve radically changed and improved my diet and have been able to stick to it no problem.  My stress tests; blood pressure; heart rate; blood work stats all fall in the optimum range. I’m able to excercise, cycle, kayak, hike etc. with no restrictions or limitations. 🙂 I’ve spent a number of vacations on a touring bicycle, have won outright a kayak race and made the podium in a duathlon.  Life is grand!



bpmr podium 2017