Making Canada the Fittest Nation on Earth

  • By John Weston
  • 14 Sep, 2016
As printed in The Pique Magazine September 1, 2016 The Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology stated this week that the Federal Government is not acting quickly enough to combat the growing problem of obesity (Joanna Smith, Canadian Press, “Senate committee says Ottawa too vague on timeline to act on obesity report”, Aug 19, 2016).   The Committee, which includes BC Senator and 1968 Olympic Gold Medallist Nancy Greene Raine, expressed their concerns in a news release, calling
The Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology stated this week that the Federal Government is not acting quickly enough to combat the growing problem of obesity (Joanna Smith, Canadian Press, “Senate committee says Ottawa too vague on timeline to act on obesity report”, Aug 19, 2016).   The Committee, which includes BC Senator and 1968 Olympic Gold Medallist Nancy Greene Raine, expressed their concerns in a news release, calling on the Government to be more proactive in dealing with Canada’s epidemic of overweightness and obesity.  The same Committee concluded in its March 2016 Obesity Report that this epidemic claims the lives of between 48,000 and 66,000 Canadians each year (Obesity in Canada: A Whole-of-Society Approach for a Healthier Canada[1]). 
That Report makes 21 recommendations, including a more effective use of National Health & Fitness Day (“NHFD”).   Each of the 21 recommendations has merit.  Each identifies an important role for government.  But the NHFD recommendation is distinct in pointing to the individual person as having the clearest responsibility for personal health and fitness.
First celebrated at Whistler, NHFD is a movement now proclaimed by 268 Canadian cities.  On the first Saturday of June each year, local governments highlight their recreational facilities, especially encouraging Canadians to get more active.  We know from ParticipACTION that less than 7% of children receive even the basic minimum of 6 hours of physical exercise weekly – astounding.  So NHFD attempts to rally Canadians on one day, hoping the enthusiasm generated will encourage young Canadians, their parents, and others into broader involvement. 
While NHFD became enshrined in law through Bill S-211, the movement does not commit Federal taxpayers’ money – it merely formalizes the day and invites local governments and citizens to “put their stickers in the window” for physical fitness.  The mission of the National Health & Fitness Foundation is to continue the movement, with the lofty goal of making Canada the “Fittest Nation on Earth”.
I have learned from personal experience the benefits of taking personal responsibility for my own health and fitness.  In 2010, I was the Member of Parliament for an area that hosted the majority of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.  I had never been a distance cyclist, though often promoted the virtues of cycling in public pronouncements.  That’s when two individuals challenged me. Tom Thomson, then a Whistler Municipal Councillor, asked if I cycled.  And my assistant Josh Peters informed me of a new cycling event,the Gran Fondo, a 122km road ride from Vancouver to Whistler, which would showcase the beautiful area I represented and promote cycling, health, the economy, tourism, andthe environment. 
With its distance and ascents, the race intimidated me.  But I signed up; found people with whom to ride; and increased my commitment to an overall healthier lifestyle, even while coping with unhealthy aspects of work that challenge many Canadians: long hours; frequent travel; sleep deprivation; constantly changing schedule; erratic eating routines.  The lessons learned about preserving fit levels in a busy lifestyle included stating goals to myself and others; scheduling physical activity into the calendar; and having training partners.
Today I’m preparing for my sixth Gran Fondo, September 10th.  Whether it was the Fondo or other activities, a key to my remaining fit was to commit to others that I would be at a certain place at a certain time to bike, swim, run, or ski with them.  This emphasis on healthy pastimes surrounded me with upbeat people who live healthy lifestyles.  The emphasis on health and fitness affected my thinking, my work, and the other things I do.
Thanks to Senator Raine; Neil McKinnon and other Fondo organizers; part-time Whistlerite Marilyn McIvor, who helps coordinate NHFD activities and others who promote national health and fitness.  Most of all, as we springboard with Olympic enthusiasm, thanks to all Canadians who encourage people to take responsibility for our own health and fitness.  It takes a village (or a city or a town) to raise a healthy Canadian.
John Weston, part-time Whistlerite, is a lawyer, professional speaker, and President of the National Health & Fitness Foundation. 
This article is adapted from his upcoming book, Seeking Excellence in Leadership.

John Weston Blog

By John Weston 12 Dec, 2017
The story of John Chang hit the news last week, one of many recent cases involving Canadians imprisoned in China, at a time when the Justin Trudeau Government is trying hard to court Beijing for an improved trading relationship. 

CTV reported that Mr. Chang and his wife, owners of a Lulu Island Winery in Richmond, B.C. were arrested in Shanghai in March 2016 while visiting suppliers and agents, accused of under-reporting the value of wine they export to China. Their daughter Amy has done a masterful job of involving senior Canadian officials and the media to focus attention on her parents’ plight.

The incident reminded me of one of my most popular (and useful) articles, a piece called Getting Out of Foreign Jails. I wrote it to address the recurring pattern that arises when situations like Mr. Chen’s occur. Inevitably, the family has never faced such an array of problems before. Its natural tendency is to rely on our own government for help. This reliance typically generates positive short-term results but, to achieve a positive outcome, the family and friends have go go beyond reliance on the home government. The article Careful Strategies are Needed when Helping Canadians Incarcerated Abroad,   ran last year in The Vancouver Sun. Here it is again:
By John Weston 06 Dec, 2017
What did you think about when you got up this morning? I was putting the finishing touches on a new website. You were doing something else. It’s safe to say that neither of us was thinking about abandoned vessels.

But the saga of this problem, its snarling of government processes, the waste it caused, and the environmental damage - called out for change. Here’s what some of us did - and why persistence and good strategy can pay off to change government policy and make things right.

As Member of Parliament, I saw the blight caused by irresponsible people who dumped their boats like parkland litter. They left a trail of pollution, eyesores, harmful waste, and legal liability. Directionless governments floundered to assert or evade responsibility. In one case, a single person acquired and casually abandoned four separate vessels off the coast of Squamish, B.C.

I introduced Private Member’s Bill C-695 in the House of Commons in 2015, reflecting input from a wide variety of people who cared about the health of our seas, tourism, navigational safety, and saving taxpayers’ funds. The issue seemed intractable, cutting across various departments within the Federal and provincial governments, as well as local government jurisdiction. Governments were loath to take responsibility. Abandoned vessels can be costly to remove and give rise to various types of liability. My Bill proposed for the first time that anyone who intentionally abandoned a vessel be subject to a fine or jail term. It attracted support from mariners, local governments, the Transport Minister, the Conservative Party of Canada, and even my Liberal opponent in the last election.

The Bill didn’t pass - it died with the last Federal Government, in June 2015. But the story has a positive outcome. The current Liberal Government contributed formal funding to deal with the problem. It created a program to educate boat owners how responsibly to manage and recycle their vessels, rather than merely abandon them. And in October of this year, it introduced legislation to do exactly what my bill proposed - make persons accountable for their actions. The new Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act will for the first time make it explicitly illegal to abandon boats, while empowering the government to go after the owners of the 600 derelict vessels already polluting the country’s waterways.
If the bill becomes law, Individuals who abandon a boat can face fines up to $300,000 and a six-month jail term, while corporations can be fined as much as $6 million.

People and companies who share my concerns about government and public affairs should take heart. With perseverance, good strategy, and the collaboration of like-minded allies, you can change even the most complicated of government policies.

I hope readers enjoy a 2018 filled with health and happiness and, before that, a wonderful Christmas. Us? Our family will gather in both Ottawa and West Vancouver to celebrate this special season.
By John Weston 04 Dec, 2017
It’s out of fashion to refer to locker room conversations, after Donald Trump equated them with ballads of sexual assault. In spite of Trump’s demeaning, the locker room is still a place where tough questions get posed. And so it was last week when someone asked in the West Vancouver Swimming Pool changing room what counsel I’d give to be a Member of Parliament.

The question was timely as I join other Canadians on the lookout for people who demonstrate good leadership , both in their current experience and in their potential. I’m particularly keen to see good candidates run to succeed me as the Conservative Candidate for the riding I represented from 2008 through 2015, West Vancouver - Sunshine Coast - Sea to Sky Country. But more generally I’m committed to encourage good leadership beyond that specific role, whether in politics, business, faith communities, or families.

And in an era when common discourse delights in the disparagement of leaders, why wouldn’t we all join in a commitment to encourage key values that mould good leaders and support good leaders themselves?

What kind of person would I be looking for who aspires to leadership, as M.P. or in any other role? For me, the short answer is that a person going into leadership should know his or her objectives, identify her or his most important values, and take specific steps to fortify those values in anticipation of upcoming storms.

What storms should you anticipate? As a leader in any realm, but particularly in my experience as a West Coast M.P., expect pressure on your marriage and on your role as a parent. Those pressures should be obvious. Your anticipated responsibilities separate you from the ones you love, in space, time, and energy. The problems of juggling these things against a 5000 kilometer commute are clear but those problems may arise in any demanding leadership role.

As Shakespeare wrote, “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.” In addition to the pressures on one’s close personal relationships come two other more subtle nemeses. Firstly, persons in leadership encounter challenges to character that come with the territory. Greed, anger, lust, pride, envy, gluttony, and sloth - Augustine’s famous “Seven Sins” can each creep into a leader’s life. Anyone seeking leadership would do well to ensure a level of accountability to reliable role models who can confidentially but firmly keep the leader on a high plane. In my own case, I was fortunate to have three tough-minded men of faith act as my “Three Wise Men” to help ensure that integrity prevailed over politics whenever the two conflicted.

The fourth challenge, most subtle of all, is to ensure the aspiring leader accomplishes more for the people he or she serves by carrying out the position than by doing something else. There’s no point in climbing a ladder if it’s placed against the wrong wall. This question is never easy but may be particularly complicated when non-politicians consider seeking public office.

There are no perfect formulas for answering these questions. In searching for a successor to run for the Conservative Party where I live, I’ll be looking for someone who believes in the Party and the Leader. But I’ll also be looking for someone with values that set apart people who aspire to leadership in any walk of life: values such as those canvassed in my book - On! Achieving Excellence in Public Life: Integrity, Responsibility, Courage, Compassion, Freedom, Equality, Fitness, and Resolve. You may have a different list. But I’m willing to bet you’d agree that we Canadians would all benefit if we took steps to cultivate those values in ourselves and in others. And, don’t forget, though you may not recognize it, you are a leader yourself, as you lead your own life and influence your family, community, and country.

John Weston serves on a committee that is actively seeking people with leadership qualities to run for Member of Parliament in 2019. The photo, by the author, is of the statue to world class sprinter, the later Harry Jerome, in Vancouver’s Stanley Park.

By John Weston 01 Nov, 2017
I am delighted that Powell River and the Tla’amin Nation have received public recognition of their healthy relationship (“BC Treaty Commission praises Tla’amin Nation relations”, Chris Bolster, Sept 27, 2017; . The story rightly reflects the hard work and goodwill of specific individuals, such as Chief Clint Williams, Mayor Dave Formosa, and former Mayor Stewart Alsgard. As former MP for Powell River, I observed firsthand the healthy relationship between Chief, Mayor, and Regional District and worked closely with them. Among other things, we together precipitated unprecedented amounts of Federal government cooperation and investment in Powell River.

However, it’s a pity that in Indigenous Affairs, things tend to be painted in black-and-white tones. Nuances and middle ground become the victim of polarized thinking. Leaders and media find themselves speaking half-truths that undermine good, long-term results.

So it was in Chief Williams’ stating that, as former MP, I “was blocking the First Nation’s attempts at communicating with the Federal Government”. That is just wrong. In fact, Chief Williams initially brought me into the discussion when a fisheries issue was impeding progress on the Treaty negotiation. As a member of the Fisheries Committee and a consistent supporter of treaty-making in general, I sought and got a resolution to that issue that allowed progress on the Tla’amin Treaty.

In its March 31, 2014 issue, the Powell River Peak covered the townhall discussion in Powell River, when residents and I discussed my concern, that the Treaty states Tla’amin Law will in some situations prevail over Canadian law (“Weston speaks against the treaty,” Dean Unger, . Throughout my career as a lawyer in Indigenous Affairs and as a politician, I have consistently stood up for equality and human rights. We should never allow the law of any community, religious group, or Aboriginal group to prevail over Canadian law. The unity of our country, its peace, order, and good government, and the equal rights of Canadians depend on our being governed by one law, equal for all, regardless of race, colour, or creed. While our Constitution, the Indian Act, and court decisions have led us in other directions, we as Canadians need vigorously to pursue equality whenever we get the chance.

As MP and as Member of the Minister’s Caucus Advisory Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, I supported the Treaty, but not the “inequality” provision. I did express these views to the Prime Minister and the Minister. As elaborated in my recent book (On! Achieving Excellence in Leadership; Equality is at the centre of real, long-term reconciliation between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous people. For the long-term peace, order, and good government of our country, and for the benefit of Indigenous and Non-Indigenous people, we Canadians ought at every turn to promote Equality in treaties, words, and deeds.

The piece ran as a letter to the editor in the Powell River Peak's Oct 4, 2017 edition.
By John Weston 01 Jun, 2017
Thank you for coming.  I’m honored to be your Master of Ceremonies for Bike Day on Parliament Hill today.Ottawa’s renowned hotel, the Chateau Laurier, was built in 1908.  The architects from the Montreal Firm Ross & McFarlane designed it to reflect the grandeur of our Parliament Buildings.  Their work continues to inspire our nation, just as it inspired the design of many other buildings in the city.In this 150th anniversary of Canada’s founding, we’re reminded that we’re building a nation. 
By John Weston 15 Feb, 2017
When an impatient bus driver dumped my daughter in Guelph, he refused to let her get her bag.  She was 16, in a town she didn’t know.  She was supposed to attend a weekend track camp.  She needed her luggage for her short stay but the driver had loaded it in the wrong compartment.  It wasn’t convenient for him to let her retrieve it.  Besides, she was just a little girl and, working for a big company, he thought he could get away with it.  When I complained to the company, no one listened or
By 11 Dec, 2016
Whistler this Christmas - why I call the area I live "The Most Beautiful Place on Earth"!Great Christmas carol selection - for those hosting a party this season - or those just wanting to expand your shower time repertoire:
By 06 Dec, 2016
                                                   Thanks to Robert-Falcon Ouellette, MP for the photo.A Win-Win Tax BillBill S-4, Canada-Taiwan Avoidance of Double Taxation Arrangement (“ADTA”)Remarks for House of Commons Finance CommitteeJohn Weston, Dec 5, 2016IntroductionMr. Chair - It’s a great honor to be here.  I wear three hats in speaking today. Between 2008 and 2015, I served as the MP for West Vancouver - Sunshine Coast - Sea to Sky Country.  Secondly, I was based in Taiwan for 10
By 15 Nov, 2016
I was not happy about the decision of the Law Society Credentials Committee.The Committee had assessed my application to move from Non-Practice to Practice Status.   Having been elected as  Member of Parliament for West Vancouver - Sunshine Coast - Sea-to-Sky Country, I’d transferred from Practice Status, to save money - around $3500 annually, for membership fees and basic insurance.   With no time to practise law, I was earning no income from the practice.  Why pay several thousand dollars
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