Canadian veterans: dealing with ABI and PTSD


Travelling to a foreign country to engage in combat. Witnessing injuries, death and destruction on a regular basis. Forced to endure tough living conditions. Is it any wonder members of the Canadian armed forces who see action return home not only with physical, but with mental and emotional trauma as well?

Broken bones and musculoskeletal injuries can be healed. More challenging however, are the emotional afflictions men and women in the armed services can suffer, and surely among the most devastating is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Soldier in combat
photo credit: C. Maxwell Horn via photopin cc

PTSD has been much in the news over the last few years, which could give the mistaken impression that it is a new condition.

In fact, PTSD has been around for a very long time, but under different names. Among these were “shell shock” or “battle fatigue.” I remember my mother telling me about a great-uncle of a friend of hers, explaining that he had seen action in WWII and was ‘never the same again’. “He was shell-shocked and couldn’t do much after the war was over,” she used to tell me, shaking her head. While the name has become more clinical, the symptoms remain the same., PTSD is defined as:

A debilitating psychological condition triggered by a major traumatic event, such as rape, war, a terrorist act, death of a loved one, a natural disaster, or a catastrophic accident. It is marked by upsetting memories or thoughts of the ordeal,”blunting” of emotions,increased arousal, and sometimes severe personality changes”.

2 army women doing deep breathing exercises
photo credit: MilitaryHealth via photopin cc


Most people have been involved in a frightening situation at some point in their lives, and reactions vary from person to person. Some might feel nervous at times, while others might have a difficult time sleeping as they go over the details of the incident in their minds. Over time, symptoms usually decrease, and sufferers affected eventually return to their normal lives.

However, in the case of PTSD, the effects last a considerably longer time and can seriously disrupt a person’s life.

Doctors refer to three symptoms that define PTSD: intrusion, avoidance and hyperarousal. Intrusion is the inability to keep memories of the event that sparked it from returning. Avoidance refers to the attempt to avoid anything that may trigger those memories, and hyperarousal is the constant feeling that danger or disaster is imminent. These may also be accompanied by an inability to concentrate, extreme irritability or sometimes violent behaviour.

Those affected can experience recurring nightmares, flashbacks or recollections of the event or incident. They can feel “on edge” all the time, have difficulty in concentrating, be irritable and have problems sleeping . A common symptom among veterans is something known as nocturnal myoclonus, a sudden spasm of the whole body while sleeping or drifting off into sleep. It lasts for about a fraction of a second, but may occur several times in a single night. Often people with PTSD will sleep through such a spasm, but it can be extremely disturbing to their partner.

People suffering from PTSD may also feel disconnected from their thoughts and have a hard time expressing emotions. It can lead to depression, substance abuse and create problems in a person’s personal life. Suicide is often seen as the only way out.

Not surprisingly, those in certain occupations, such as policing, firefighting and the military have much higher rates of PTSD than those in other professions. And in some cases, trauma such as warfare can cause symptoms even beyond those commonly associated with PTSD, resulting in a state known as “complex PTSD.”

members of the military doing yoga
photo credit: MilitaryHealth via photopin cc

Brain Injury and PTSD

A study released by the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, in February 2012, reported of a possible correlation between acquired brain injuries and PTSD, suggesting that people who suffer even a mild brain injury are more likely to develop an anxiety disorder.

UCLA professor of psychology Michael Fanselow found that this relationship was particularly prevalent among veterans who had returned from overseas. The reasons for the connection are not yet fully clear. Nevertheless, in an experiment with rats, scientists used procedures to separate physical and emotional trauma, training the rats by using “fear conditioning” techniques two days after they had experienced a concussive brain trauma, thereby demonstrating that the brain injury and the experience of fear had occurred on two separate days. As Dr. Fanselow explained:

We found that the rats with the earlier TBI acquired more fear than control rats (without TBI). Something about the brain injury rendered them more susceptible to acquiring an inappropriately strong fear. It was as if the injury primed the brain for learning to be afraid.

Canadian Armed Forces in front of the Parliament Buildings
photo credit: Jamie In Bytown via photopin cc

Standard Treatments

According to Boston’s Mayo Clinic, the primary treatment of PTSD is psychotherapy but this is also frequently combined with medication. Psychotherapy can include any of the following types:

  • Cognitive therapy. This type helps patients recognize the ways of thinking (cognitive patterns) that are hindering the healing process.
  • Exposure therapy. This type helps patients safely face what is causing them such distress so they are able to cope with it more effectively.
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). EMDR combines exposure therapy with a series of guided eye movements that helps patients react better to traumatic memories.

New Treatment

The Canadian military has come under criticism for its seeming neglect in both the recognition and treatment of PTSD ex-soldiers are still feeling the effects of combat. Last November, three veterans took their own lives over the course of a week, bringing the total to more than 22 since the mission in Afghanistan ended.

Nevertheless, a story from CTV News in March of 2014 reported a new treatment being tested that so far, is producing positive results. Developed by the Institute for Creative Technologies at the University of Southern California, it involves the notion of virtual reality in which a sufferer affixes a device to his or her head which simulates the circumstances that brought about the trauma in the first place. The therapist can then talk the patient through the ordeal, thus helping them to overcome it.

The federal government is now in discussion with ICT in order to develop a Canadian version.  The ultimate goal is not just to treat afflictions such as PTSD but to also train soldiers before going into battle, helping them to experience the sense of combat before they embark on the real thing.

PTSD can be both debilitating and life-threatening, but there is hope. If you know someone you suspect is suffering from PTSD urge them to seek help.

Those afflicted may find it difficult, for stigmas surrounding mental health issues continue to persist. Yet seeking help is the first step to recovery and it is readily available through such organizations as Canadian Mental Health. Suicide is most definitely not the solution. Those who have served in the Canadian armed forces have served their country well, and deserve whatever we can give them to continue leading happy and successful lives.



If you think you or someone you know has PTSD or needs other mental health supports:

Everything you ever wanted to know about service dogs – wagging tails and all


I was accompanying a colleague to a concert a year or so ago, when she happened to spot a friend of her’s in the crowd.

“Oh, there’s Joan,” she said to me, indicating a woman taking her seat not far from us. Indeed, Joan was not difficult to miss, for she too, had a companion with her. But despite joining Joan for the concert, the companion had little interest in it, nor would she have had to dress up for the occasion. Have you guessed who Joan’s companion was? She was Talullah, a gorgeous black Labrador retriever service dog, who goes everywhere with her visually impaired handler.

service dog in subway
photo credit: roboppy via photopin cc

Many of us know that service dogs may be admired but not pet or approached in a way we’d approach most other animals. Their function, after all, is to guide and be the eyes, ears or brain of their owners.

During intermission, my colleague and I went over to greet Joan, who turned out to be a lovely lady with a huge smile. I said to her, “I love your dog, but I know that we aren’t supposed to demonstrate any degree of familiarity with a working animal, so I’ll refrain from petting her.” Joan replied: “Oh, Talullah loves people, she wouldn’t mind a bit.” In an instant, my hand was being covered in doggy kisses!

It’s probably impossible to estimate how many dogs there are in service in Canada, but the Lions Foundation of Canada – one of the foremost training facilities in the country – claims that more than 2000 teams have graduated from their organization. Service dogs differ from working or therapy dogs in that their function is to help and guide a specific handler who might have anything from a visual or hearing impairment to a brain injury, mental illness, seizures or autism. There are no breed requirements for service dogs, the only criteria are that they are of good temperament and psychological make-up, are in good health and, most importantly, can be trained easily. For obvious reasons, larger breeds such as German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers have long been preferred due to their size, strength and endurance.

black lab service dog
photo credit: State Farm via photopin cc

 A Mini History

Dorothy Eustis with service dog
Dorothy Eustis and Morris Frank; photo credit: National Women’s History Museum 

Details are hazy as to the origins of service dogs, but it seems they began in post World War I Germany where German Shepherds were trained to provide assistance to those blinded in the conflict. This particular breed was felt to possess a degree of loyalty towards its owner and with it, a strong protective sense. Around the same time, an American woman by the name of Dorothy Eustis heard about the program. She had been training German Shepherds as working dogs and soon began to train them as guides for the blind. Writing about her endeavours in the Saturday Evening Post, Eustis attracted the attention of Morris Frank, a visually impaired man from Nashville who wrote to her asking her to train a dog for him. She did so, and Mr. Frank became the first person to make use of a guide dog. As part of the arrangement, Frank started to train dogs as well, and his efforts blossomed into a foundation dubbed The Seeing Eye.

Training Service Dogs 

The first service dog organization in Canada was the MIRA Foundation, a community-based institution founded in Quebec by Eric St-Pierre in 1981. Each year, MIRA places roughly 150 service dogs with individuals across Canada and around the world. In 1991, MIRA created a guide dog program for visually impaired children, and to date is the only school in the world to provide guide dogs to those under age the age of 15.

At MIRA, the training process begins when puppies are just seven-weeks-old. Once selected, they are placed with a foster family who help them socialize and prepare for guide and service dog training in many different environments. The training family ensures the dog is involved in all its daily routines so that they grow accustomed to navigating places such as shopping malls, public transit and street traffic.

service dogs in training, sitting on steps
photo credit: Beverly & Pack via photopin cc

Once the year–long training period has ended, dogs return to MIRA to continue training with potential handlers. Dogs are matched according to the personality and lifestyle of the new owner.

Joan, a retired librarian, acquired Tallullah (or Mrs. T) from the Oregon-based Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB). Joan chose GDB because she says its training program uses positive reinforcement and there is ongoing staff support once the handler training is complete. At the outset, Joan spent considerable time with Talullah, so that they could get to know each other. In the end, the lovable Mrs. T seemed a perfect match.

Man walking service dog
photo credit: smerikal via photopin cc

Joan wrote about their life together after her retirement:

Since April 2010, Tallulah and I have had many adventures and travelled to Paris, Vienna, Prague, Leipzig, London, Oxford, and Dublin.  She has a European Passport and logs passport stamps just as I do.  We returned at the end of the summer to Oxford and stayed at the same place we stayed at two years ago.  She remembered and recognized the places we had visited.  With a tilt of her head, she would ask, “Would you like to go here?”

Tallulah has given me a measure of freedom that I did not have before.  She is the closest thing to seeing!  I can walk with freedom, take the subway (she finds me a seat), walk on to a plane with her, attend concerts, and go shopping (she finds my favourite departments and sales staff).  I did all of these things before, but Tallulah makes it easy!

As we’ve all seen, service dogs are sturdy, friendly and fiercely loyal to their human companions. Yes, they may look eager for a pat or a hug, but they’re there to do a job and fulfill a role. And contrary to popular opinion, they aren’t only for the severely impaired or for those at the end of a life-threatening illness.

Many people, including brain injury survivors, find the use of a service dog invaluable, helping to make their lives easier with the aim at achieving the ultimate goal of self -sufficiency. During their 100 year history, service dogs have been the eyes, ears, nose, legs and brains of their handlers, providing invaluable, and in some cases, life-saving assistance. Long may they continue to help those who need it, they’re most definitely more than just a friendly bark or a wagging tail!

Think you’d like a service dog? Stay tuned for our up-coming post on ‘How to get a service dog in Ontario’

Advice from 2 BIST Run champs on how to kick butt on the 5K


Millions of years before long-distance running was taken up for recreation, it’s purpose was strictly utilitarian.


Indeed, anthropological studies have proven that the very earliest hunter-gatherers sought food by simply chasing an animal to the point of exhaustion. Later on, ancient Greece was famous for its messengers who would run miles to deliver the latest news, among the most famous being Philippides who, according to legend, ran from Marathon to Athens – a distance of more than 30K – to announce the Greek victory over the Persians in the Battle of Marathon in 490BC.

Today, running is a recreational sport, and those of us who are less athletically inclined than we’d like to be can look on with admiration at the speed and stamina possessed by those who do it well – Usain Bolt, Catherine Ndereba or Michael Johnson. Yet most who run long-distance do it not for glory or fame,  but simply because they enjoy running – and what better place to do it for a good cause than the fourth annual BIST Run Walk and Roll  5K race coming up on September 20?

Among those taking part – for the fourth year in a row – are Colleen Boyce and Garvin Moses. Colleen – who is the executive director of the Neurologic Rehabilitation Institute of Ontario (NRIO), Founding Chair of BIST and a member of the BIST communications, volunteer and BIAM  planning committees –  has always been athletic, involved in a number of different sports over the years.


Colleen runs all year round, whether it’s plus or minus 30 degrees, averaging around 25K per week during the spring, summer and fall.  Her motivation is “simply for recreation and as a means of a great cardio workout.” The BIST 5K is the only race in which she participates and while she follows no set regime, Colleen maintains a healthy diet and always does some basic stretching before setting out. Asked whether she followed any plan of action during the BIST race, she replied:

“I tend to start off slowly and within the first kilometer, start building up to a consistent rhythm, maintaining that pace until the last kilometre, where I speed up, if I can.”


Garvin has been a serious runner for many years. He’s currently Program Manager for the Mississauga Residence and the Supported Living Apartments (SLA) program at NRIO,  and like Colleen, has been involved with athletics since he was young. He began to run competitively after he started university, and eventually competed in the national championships.  Garvin also runs all year around, but typically does more mileage during the spring and summer than the winter. He explained that last year’s frigid winter was particularly challenging:

“There were times I would reach home and the sweat running down my forehead would be nothing more than an icicle!”

In addition to competitive running, Garvin also participates in duathlons, involving both running and biking, so he currently cycles as often as he runs, and possibly even more so.

Garvin Moses

Asked if he did anything to prepare himself for a race, he explained:

I typically do a very light workout the day before a race. Over the week I try to carbo-load, then the day of, I have my music playlist and visualize the perfect race. I find that this is the most important thing regardless of everything else that may be out of your control. The best thing is to manage to do things you can control, i.e. have a good breakfast, ensure shoes are tied and double knotted and go out there and run the best race you are capable of. I typically open a bit harder until I get into a rhythm then sprint for the line in the last 1K-500M.”

While few of us can claim to be in the same athletic league as either Colleen or Garvin, we can at least cheer them on – and all the others – from the sidelines on September 20.


Alternatively, if you happen to be a runner, walker, or roller yourself, why not come out and participate? With any luck, the weather will be fine (after all, it simply can’t pour rain two years in a row(!)) and it’s a great way to spend a Saturday morning  amidst beautiful surroundings.

So the best of luck to Colleen, Garvin, and the hundreds of others who will be taking part in this year’s Run Walk and Roll. Whether you do it a breakneck speed or a leisurely stroll, you’re ALL winners for helping in the cause of brain injury programs and awareness!

It’s not too late to sign up for the BIST 5K!

(Survivor members can fundraise their registration fee)


New pediatric concussion guidelines – what you need to know


Whoever said, “Youth is wasted on the young,” was probably envious of all their energy and exuberance!

Indeed, these attributes are ones that children and adolescents seem to have in abundance, clearly demonstrated by the myriad of physical activities and contact sports they enjoy both on and off the playground. As healthy as these activities are – and they should most definitely be encouraged – there is always the danger of injuries, including broken bones, sprained ligaments or tendons, and, probably the most serious of all, trauma to the head.

kids playing sports
photo credit: stevendepolo via photopin cc

What we’ve known up to now

Head injuries fall into two categories, external and internal. While an external injury may appear more frightening, it is actually considerably less dangerous than an internal injury. There may be heavy bleeding followed by a ‘goose bump’, which eventually disappears within a few days or a week.

Internal injuries can include a fractured skull, torn blood vessels, or damage to the brain. They are considerably more serious and can lead to a brain injury or a loss of life. Concussions are the most common type of internal head injury. Derived from the Latin concutere (to shake violently), the word concussion is defined as “a traumatic brain injury which may alter the way the brain functions.”

Concussions can be caused by any blow to the head, face, neck or anywhere the body that results in a sudden jarring of the head. A person doesn’t need to be knocked out or lose consciousness to have had a concussion. Immediate symptoms may include headaches, difficulty falling or staying asleep, nausea, dizziness, confusion, issues with concentration, memory and problems with balance and coordination. These symptoms can last anywhere from a few minutes to several weeks after the injury.

children hanging upside from fence
photo credit: Paul L Dineen via photopin cc

According to Dr. Sherilyn Driscoll, a physician with the Mayo Clinic in Boston, concussions in children and adolescents can lead to serious health risks, particularly if the symptoms aren’t noticed immediately after the injury.

The risk magnifies if a person returns to physical activity too soon after the injury before the trauma has had time to heal. Worse, a second incident of head trauma shortly after the first may result in brain swelling, a condition known as Second Impact Syndrome (SIS). Once a child has suffered an initial concussion, he or she has a much higher risk of sustaining another, and the effects of multiple concussions over the years can be cumulative. There can be dire consequences. Rowan Stringer, an Ottawa high school rugby player died as a result of SIS shortly after a game in May of 2013.

Recent Findings

In June, 2014, Dr. Roger Zemek, a scientist at Ottawa’s Children’s Hospital in Eastern Ontario, presented the first guidelines on the effects of concussions on children and adolescents. Zemek teamed up with the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation and chaired a 30-member panel, which reviewed 4000 papers with the latest evidence about concussions in children.

child in hockey helmet
photo credit: cellar8 via photopin cc

Stemming from Zemek’s conclusions were three recommendations for children suffering from concussions:

  • longer rest periods
  • no physical activity for up to 30-days
  • a limited amount of time devoted to cognitive brain activity with limited or no recreational time spent on television or computer games.

The guidelines recommend that if a player demonstrates a concussion-like symptom such as vomiting or a failed memory test, he or she should be removed from the game immediately.  Another discovery: researchers found that in addition to the usual physical symptoms, young people also frequently experienced signs of irritability, sadness and anxiety following a concussion.

Zemek wrote in an email to BIST:

In my opinion, concussion has only been recognized as potentially serious in the recent past since there was so little concussion research even just five-years ago.  When we looked at all of the published literature, there was extremely limited high quality concussion research in children and teenagers more than 5 and 10 years back. Like in so many other illnesses, children are not just little adults.  

10-year-old Sam Barton became one of the 900 children and teens who show up with a concussion at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario emergency room last year after he banged his head on the floor during gym class. Without any signs of brusing or nausea, Sam’s parents took him to the ER after he complained of a headache.

Tests soon confirmed that Sam had a conscussion. The knock had also affected Sam’s ability to concentrate. Sam was lucky. Zemek’s findings show that only one in four medical practitioners are using concussion tools to measure the severity of injuries and to track recovery.

Zemek writes:

For parents, caregivers, teachers and coaches, the guidelines provide a ‘one-stop shop‘ in order to best monitor and manage ongoing symptom management, specifically the stepwise ‘return-to-learn’ and ‘return-to-play’ tools.  

For parents, the guidelines offer suggested alternative activities since their child may be unable to play sports while recovering, and also offer step-wise advice on how to return to school.

For teachers, the guidelines include templates letters that could be used to implement doctor-school communication describing recommended level of activities to facilitate communication with the school.   

For coaches and schools, the guidelines provide resources in order to improve the whole community response to concussion recognition and management, and offer tools to track recovery and to ensure safe removal from play in the event of a suspected concussion. 

The guidelines include a pocket Concussion Recognition Tool for use in schools by coaches and parents. The toolkit outlines various symptoms (such as loss of consciousness, convulsions, problems with balance or headaches) and which steps to take following an injury (such as removing the player from the game, checking his or her memory, or calling an ambulance).










What to do if your child has a head injury

There are a number of steps you should follow should you think your child has suffered a concussion. If he or she has any of the following symptoms, call 911:

  • unconsciousness for more than a few minutes
  • abnormal breathing
  • obvious serious wound
  • bleeding or clear fluid from the nose, ear, or mouth
  • disturbance of speech or vision
  • pupils of unequal size
  • weakness or paralysis
  • neck pain or stiffness
  • seizure

If your child is unconscious:

  • do not try to move your child in case there is a neck or spine injury
  • call for help

If your child is conscious:

  • do your best to keep your child calm and still
  • if there’s bleeding, apply a clean or sterile bandage
  • do not attempt to cleanse the wound, which may aggravate bleeding and/or cause serious complications if the skull is fractured
  • do not apply direct pressure to the wound if you suspect the skull is fractured
  • do not remove any object that’s stuck in the wound

Finally …

Concussions are serious matters, not to be taken lightly. If you suspect a child, colleague, or player has suffered a head injury, insist he or she seek medical attention immediately. Rest – both physical and mental – is crucial. If not treated, concussions can lead to much more serious issues such as SIS or acquired brain injuries.

The brain is a complex and marvellous organ, we human beings can’t exist without it, and young brains are particularly vulnerable. So let’s give it the respect it deserves. Indeed, concussions are more than “just a bump on the head.”

The BIST guide to FREE Toronto fun – the quiet times, fewer crowds edition


Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibit vendor

With traffic jams and massive street festivals taking over our city this season, it’s easy to think that every corner of Toronto is jammed-packed crowded, all the time. But fear not, it is possible to enjoy Toronto and avoid large crowds and too much noise. Here’s how:

Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibit

Are you an art connoisseur, or are you more in the category of, “I don’t know anything about art, but I know what I like?” No matter, there’s bound to be something to appeal to everyone at the annual Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibit. Held every year since 1961, the exhibit features 500 artists in a variety of art forms including painting, sculpture and ceramics. WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE

July 4, 5 and 6, Nathan Phillips Square
100 Queen St. West, 416-408-2754

ROM Walks

Are you one of those people who have lived here for years, but don’t really know much about the Toronto’s history or architecture? Then one of the twice-weekly ROM Walks may be just the thing to get to know the city a little better. Walking tours are held Sunday afternoons and Wednesday evenings between June and October, each one exploring a specific neighbourhood or location, such as the Old Town, Yorkville, the Annex or the Necropolis Cemetery. Walk themes are cyclical, so if you miss one, the same walk will be repeated a few weeks later. CALL FOR ACCESSIBILITY INFORMATION: 416 586-8097.

Sundays, 2-4 p.m. and Wednesdays 6-8 p.m. until October
Various locations, 416-586-8097
ROM Walks Brochure (PDF)

Music in the Garden

If classical or world music is your thing, then be sure and investigate the Music in the Garden series in the Music Garden at Harbourfront until mid-September.This summer’s concerts are so diverse, there’s bound to be something for everyone. WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE

Various times and dates
Toronto Music Garden, 475 Queens Quay West

Art Gallery of Ontario – Free on Wednesday Nights

Speaking of art, there are times when we may just need a bit of solitude – some time for quiet reflection away from the tribulations of everyday life. And what better space to find it than at the Art Gallery of Ontario?  Marvel at the Old Masters or discover something new you’ve never seen before in the beautiful Frank Gehry Redesign building on Dundas St. West near McCaul WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE

Wednesdays, 6 – 8:30 p.m.
Art Gallery of Ontario
317 Dundas Street West (near McCaul)

Outside the Art Gallery of Ontario


Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery

The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery is presenting numerous exhibits over the summer, including Vasco Araujo: Under the Influence of Psyche, Akram Zaatari: The End of Time and Pedro Reyes: SanatoriumWHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE

231 Queens Quay West *Queen Quay is one-way only from Bay St. to Lower Spadina Ave. due to construction – see contruction updates here *

Heritage Toronto

Those particularly interested in Toronto’s history should definitely check out the walking tours offered by Heritage Toronto. Most are held Saturdays and Sundays and are about an hour and a half in length. While the walks are free, a donation at the end is always welcome.

Various times and lcoations, 416-338-1338

People on a Heritage Toronto Walk

Toronto Outdoor Club

Like keeping active? The Toronto Outdoor Club runs hikes throughout the city which are mostly free, guaranteed to help keep you fit, and let you discover new areas of our green city. You need to register for a hike in advance, and they fill up quickly. NOT WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE

Toronto Outdoor Club


Your BIST guide to FREE Toronto summer fun: THE CROWD-LOVING EDITION



It’s summer, and as the song goes, “the livin’ is easy.”

It’s a time for patios, hanging out at the beach and cool drinks. And because winter was particularly harsh this year, we can appreciate the longer days and warm temperatures that the season invariably brings that much more.

But what about things to do during this all-too-brief period? Luckily for us, we happen to live in one of the most diverse and cosmopolitan cities in the world with a plethora of events going on all summer long, and best of all, many of them are free!

Salsa on St. Clair

July 19 – 20, St. Clair Ave. West from Winona Dr. to Christie St.
(416) 744-8200,

If you find it impossible to resist swaying to the evocative rhythms of Latin music, then the tenth annual Salsa on St. Clair is definitely for you! Head over to St. Clair West from Winona Drive to Christie Street to see several blocks transform into a showcase of Latin life. Check out their survival guide here.

Break dancing at salsa on St. Clair


Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival

July 8 – August 3, various locations, (416) 391-5608
Official launch: July 8, 12-2 p.m. and 4-8 p.m., Nathan Phillips Square, 100 Queen St. West (at Bay)
Caribana Parade: Aug. 2, Exhibition Place and Lakeshore Blvd. West

Most Torontonians are familiar with the famous Caribana festival held every August. This year, it has not only expanded, but also has a new name – the Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival – running between July 8 and August 3. It’s an exciting blend of Caribbean music, cuisine, revelry and visual and performing arts, and is the largest festival of its kind in North America. Check out the Caribbean Carnival’s survival guide here.

Pilaros Taste of the Danforth

August 8-1o, Danforth Ave from Broadview to Jones
(416) 469-5634,

The Taste of the Danforth has become an enormously popular event during its 21-year-run, attracting more than 200,000 visitors who come to enjoy Greek food, entertainment and dance.


Waterfront Blues Festival

July 11-13, Woodbine Park (Lakeshore Ave. East and Coxwell Ave.)
(416) 698-2152

Got the summertime blues? Head over to the waterfront to check out a great combination of Canadian and international talent, including established and emerging artists. This year’s line-up year includes Juno Award winner Jack de Keyzer, Sugar Ray Norcia (of the Bluetonnes) Otis Clay and Johnny RawlsIrene Torres and the Sugar Devils and the Brant Parker Blues Band.

Beaches International Jazz Festival

July 18 – 27, Woodbine Park (Lakeshore Ave. East and Coxwell Ave.)
(416) 698-2152

Nothing goes together like jazz music and the summer.  At the Beaches International Jazz Festival, featured artists include soul/funksters Ron Littlejohn and The Funk Embassy, Latin guitar master and world music artist Johannes Linstead and the Swing Shift Big Band.

North York Festival

August 9, Mel Lastman Square (Yonge North of Sheppard)
5100 Yonge St.,  416 500-0007

If you want international all in one place, look no further than the North York Festival in Mel Lastman Square. In addition to live music, dance and singing competitions, a fashion show and magicians, there will be tents set up celebrating Chinese, Korean, Persian and Russian cultures.


 Toronto Buskerfest

August 21-24
Downtown Yonge Neighbourhood (Yonge and Dundas area)

Whatever way you feel about street entertainers, you can enjoy their talents at the Scotiabank Buskerfest – come see jugglers, impersonators, musicians and acrobats from all over the world.



Free Movies!

Yonge-Dundas Square

Every Tuesday until Sept. 2, at dusk

Who doesn’t enjoy a good movie? This summer, the City Cinema tradition continues at Yonge-Dundas Square with free outdoor movies presented every Tuesday evening until September 2. Among the movies scheduled are Trainspotting, Little Miss Sunshine, and Almost Famous. If Dundas Square isn’t your thing, you can check out free screenings at these venues:

St. James Park

Every Thursday in July and August, 9-11 p.m.
120 King St. East (at Jarvis)



David Pecaut Square

Every Wednesday in July and August
224 King St. West (at Simcoe)

The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is presenting a series of films about “The Biz” – show business that is, every Wednesday during July and August. Must sees: Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Searching for Sugar Man

Westjet Stage at Harbourfront Centre

Every Wednesday in July and August
235 Queensquay West
(416) 973-4000,

This season Harbourfront has got it all when it comes to summer flicks, we’re talking Kissing Jessica Stein, Funny Girl and Mean Girls and oh so very much more!

Summer at Harbourfront

235 Queensquay West
(416) 973-4000,

Other than free movies, Harbourfront is the place to go for free events during the summer. You can dance on the pier, try a tai chi or yoga class or check out one of the festivals including South Asia Calling, China Now, Habari Africa Festival, Expressions of Brazil, Taiwan Fest and the Hot and Spicy Food Festival.




Volunteer of the Year Award 2014

by Richard Haskell

April 6-12 2014 was National Volunteer Week in Canada, and in searching online for a few quotations regarding volunteers and volunteering, I quickly discovered there are more than I ever thought possible, all of them written over a long period of time, and by people from all walks of life.  I found it difficult to choose one that I felt summed up the whole essence of volunteer work, but one I particularly like was penned by the American physician and writer Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew.  It states:

“Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.”

Another one, perhaps more thought provoking, but bearing no accreditation goes:

“Don’t ever question the value of volunteers. Noah’s Ark was built by volunteers; the Titanic was built by professionals.”

However we choose to describe those who willingly give both their time and energy for a cause, volunteers are the backbone of any non-profit organization.  And like other non-profits, BIST has been fortunate over the years to have a large number of individuals who consistently go “above and beyond” furthering the cause of brain injury awareness and support in many different ways.

In recognition of these individuals, BIST introduced the Vetter Volunteer of the Year Award in 2012, named in honour of Esther and Alfred Vetter whose son suffered a brain injury many years ago. Together the Vetter’s have been a dominant force in brain injury awareness- Esther is the founding Executive Director of the former Head Injury Association of Toronto.

The first two recipients of the award were Ian Bowles in 2012 and Colleen Boyce in 2013, chosen for their hard work, dedication and commitment to BIST. More information about Ian and Colleen can be found at

This year, four people have been nominated: Ruth Fernandez, Beverlee Melamed, Celia Missios, and Cora Moncada.

Ruth has been singled out as one of the key volunteers on the Mix & Mingle Committee, and during the last four years, has helped both BIST and OBIA raise close to $400K. Beverlee has been a Co-Chair of the Volunteer Committee, and has always maintained a perfect attendance record. When a former ABI survivor and committee member became ill, Beverlee made a point of checking in on her and reported back to the committee.  A newer member of BIST, Celia is currently a Mentor in the Peer Support Mentor Program and has represented the organization as a survivor member on the panel of the Brain Basics Trainings programs. She also took part in the annual run last fall, raising the most money individually.  Cora was one of the founding members of the BIST board and was a key player in developing much of the current infrastructure. She was one of the three people who initiated the annual run and continues to put a great deal of work into the event to make it such a great success.

Personally, I’m glad it’s not up to me to decide a winner among these four women; I’d be hard-pressed to choose. Quite clearly, ALL of them are winners and all deserve our thanks and our heartfelt congratulations though their generosity of time, their dedication and their continued involvement with BIST.

BIST Volunteer Appreciation night is on Monday April 28th at 6:00 pm at 40 Orchard View Blvd in Room 200.