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Human Footprint: Impacts and Solutions

 On April 6th, IDI GTA held its 3rd annual Creative Minds Youth Contest for Peel Region at the Mississauga Convention Centre. The contest had previously gone by the name of Art and Essay Contest, but has since changed it to the Creative Minds contest and added a video category. The theme for this year’s contest was Human Footprint: Impacts and Solutions.

The highly entertaining master of ceremony for the evening was Jake Dheer, the Senior Operations Manager of Rogers TV for Peel Region, who is known as a community leader and activist. He read out personal messages from Premier Kathleen Wynne, who commended IDI on giving youth this opportunity; and Glen Murray, Ontario’s Minister for the Environment and Climate Change, who recognized this topic as timely and important. Mayor of Mississauga, Bonnie Crombie’s personal message was also read, saying that she was happy to once again be on the hosting and selection committee of the contest. The live band for the evening was Trac 4.

Premier Kathleen Wynne’s personal message
Minister Glen Murray’s personal message
Mayor Bonnie Crombie’s personal message

In his welcome remarks, Azim Shamshiev, IDI’s Executive Vice President for GTA West, joked about the weather. In addition to the added video category and name change, the awards dinner had been moved from February to April in an attempt to avoid snow storms—only to have it snow in April. He remarked on the appropriateness of the topic given the numerous examples of extreme weather the Toronto region has experienced in recent years. Our human footprint helps us understand our impact on the Earth, he said.

Janet McDougald, Chair of the Peel District School Board, described the Creative Minds contest as a great partnership between Peel Region and IDI. “At Peel District School Board, we do welcome the world,” she said, “and diversity and equity are our significant goals.”

Marianne Mazorrato, Director of Education for the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board, spoke on behalf of the board of trustees. She applauded the contest for sending a message to respect and nurture the imagination, that it piqued her interests in, “Imagination, youth, global thinking, expression, stewardship and sustainability of the environment, and engagement.” She commended the students for their ability to take something unrelated, to recognize the patterns, and turn it into something with emotional beauty.


The keynote address was given by Dr. Faisal Moola, the Director General of Ontario and Northern Canada for the David Suzuki Foundation. Dr. Moola has been involved in numerous initiatives to protect Canada’s nature—including permanently protecting British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest and the establishment of Canada’s first urban national park on the edge of Toronto.

Dr. Moola told the audience a story about David Suzuki, who had turned 80 the week before this event. David Suzuki had remarked that if he were to reestablish the Foundation, he would have focused on youth involvement. They play an important role in a sustainable future, he explained.

Dr. Moola brought up the well-known Scotiabank advertisement with the tagline, “You’re richer than you think.” He said in response, “We are richer than we think. We are loaded. True wealth is found in the fields, farms, and forests.” They are the planet’s life support systems and in Ontario we are, “Sitting on a Fort Knox of ecological wealth.” All these areas provide important services, from oxygen created by trees to wetlands acting as sponges. We should also not overlook the enormous value of pollinators.

He brought the room back to a few years ago, when the city of Toronto essentially flooded and it was the wettest day in history. It was a poignant reminder that we are sitting on a watershed, Dr. Moola explained. The disregard for these natural services make urban areas vulnerable to extreme weather. In fact, most home insurance claims were due to flooding from climate change in recent months and in some places (the Beaches for example) homeowners can no longer get insurance for flood damage from extreme weather.

This type of extreme weather and its fallout is pushing people to improve communities and seek proactive prevention, rather than emergency response. FEMA in the United States has allocated billions into natural flood areas. Philadelphia has replaced concrete with absorptive land, such as parks and grassy areas. Here in Toronto, Dr. Moola highlighted Corktown Common, a park—or a naturalized area—in the south eastern portion of the West Don Lands, which keeps the Don Valley Parkway from flooding.

When we add all this up, Dr. Moola concluded, “If we’re going to build, build green.”

Peel Regional Police Chief Jennifer Evans closed the evening with remarks that she was once again honoured to be involved in the selection committee. She explained that she spent so much time looking at crime and sadder topics, that she was thankful the contestants had given her something more inspiring to look at.

Finalist and Awardees

Art Category
(click on students’ names to see their posters)

Place Student Name School Grade Teacher School Board
1st  Eduardo Urian  Father Michael Geotz SS  11  Catherine McDonald  DPCDSB
2nd Julia Iarusci  St. Marcellinus SS  11  Joanne Hickey  DPCDSB
3rd  Rachel Leong  Brampton Centennial SS  11 Tara Konings  PDSB
3rd Kyle Catalig St. Marcellinus SS 11 Joanne Hickey DPCDSB
Finalist Jillian Norrie  Brampton Centennial SS 12  Tara Konings   PDSB
Finalist  Dhaniela Gonzalez  Our Lady of Mount Carmel SS  10  Ivana Dragicevic  DPCDSB
Finalist Adriana Colasanti  St. Marcellinus SS 11  Joanne Hickey  DPCDSB
Finalist  Megan Poon   St. Marcellinus SS  11   Joanne Hickey  DPCDSB
Finalist  Mikka Nativdad  Cardinal Leger SS  11  Anna-Maria Catena  DPCDSB
Finalist  Arun Cheriakara   Our Lady of Mount Carmel SS   Ivana Dragicevic   DPCDSB

Essay Category
Click here
to read all essays

Place Student Name School Grade Teacher School Board
1st Swetha Prakash Meadowvale SS  9  Rebecca Orr  PDSB
2nd Janina Malapitan   Brampton Centennial SS  12  PDSB
3rd  Rebekah Ragbir  Brampton Centennial SS  12  PDSB
Finalist Harmiksha Patel  Turner Fenton SS 11  PDSB
Finalist  Asad Bhatti  Gordon Graydon Memorial SS 9  PDSB
Finalist  Rachel Cleland Gordon Graydon Memorial SS  9  PDSB

Winning Video

Title: “Our Print”
Student names:
Alana Duval, Vanessa Bodruzic, Oliver Montgomery
Grade: 12
Teachers: Mario Antognetti, Peter Fujiwara
: St. Roch SS
School Board:  DPCDSB


Awards Ceremony Videos