Giving Ontario’s Children and Youth a Voice: OLIP Meets Irwin Elman and Laura Arndt


We were humbled to meet Irwin Elman, the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, and Laura Arndt, the Director of Strategic Development. When we arrived, all of the interns commented on the openness of the office space. We learned that employees consulted with youth, who determined that an open and transparent office space was important. In other words, youth linked openness to the ability to speak freely, without prejudices and/or bias. The interview structure was relaxed, whereby Mr. Elman provided a brief overview of the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth’s mandate (which is relatively new, and derived from the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth Act, 2007). Some of the major responsibilities included: providing an independent voice for children; encouraging communication between children and families; and educating youth of their rights. Child, within the Act, is defined as: students of the provincial and demonstration schools, youth in court holding cells, children and youth with special needs, and First Nations youth. Nevertheless, the Provincial Advocate specified that he interprets the Act to include all Ontarian children.

Given that Mr. Elman established the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth from the ground up (i.e. without precedent or other provincial authorities), he thoroughly understands his mandate. We are not surprised that the Office has been successful, given that he received the Outstanding Achievement Recognition Award (2007) from the Ministry of Children and Youth Services; named a Canadian Hero by MacLean’s Magazine (2006) and received the Outstanding Youth Service Award (2003) from the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies. Nevertheless, Mr. Elman is extremely humble, and emphasized that government should aim to provide assistance to all Ontarian children who need it.

Mr. Elman ended our meeting by explaining the “Orange Shirt Day” campaign and why everyone working in his office was taking part in the important cause. The campaign is a day to remember the trauma Aboriginal people, including Aboriginal youth, faced and continue to face and to commit to the ongoing process of reconciliation.

Thank you Mr. Elman for the insightful conversation! We look forward to following the work of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth as you continue to be the voice for the children within Ontario.


Safeguarding the Democratic Process with Sergeant Jackie Gordon

SAG - Edited

Sergeant Jackie Gordon, the Ontario Legislature’s Sergeant-at-Arms, has climbed six-foot high walls and shattered glass ceilings. She is a trailblazer, a role model, and force to be reckoned with. It was a delight to meet with her; she told us about her career trajectory, explained her current role as the Sergeant-at-Arms, and gave us sage advice about how to grow as leaders and professionals.

Sergeant Gordon served with the Halton Regional Police Service for 34 years before being appointed Ontario’s first female Sergeant-at-Arms. Yet it is her competency, not her gender, that sets her apart. “Respect comes from being competent,” she told us. “When you beat a path, you create opportunities for women to succeed.” As a young officer, Sergeant Gordon – who stands 5’5’’ – dedicated herself to learning athletic techniques so she could meet the same physical strength requirements as her male colleagues. Instead of being deterred by the challenges associated with being a woman in a male-dominated profession – including interacting with colleagues and citizens who had never met a female officer – she focused on developing and demonstrating her competency. She is living proof that hard work and determination are key to changing cultures that limit opportunities because of one’s gender.

Today, as the Ontario Legislature’s Sergeant-at-Arms, Sergeant Gordon is responsible for guarding the democratic process. She protects the safety of MPPs by overseeing security services as well as the maintenance of prescient properties. She also helps ensure proper decorum in the Chamber; that is, she will escort rowdy MPPs from the room if asked to do so by the Speaker. Working in the Chamber requires wearing the traditional garb of the Sergeant-at-Arms, which includes a hand-stitched swallowtail jacket containing 25,000 stitches and a hand-made bicorn hat. Another symbol associated with the Sergeant-at-Arms is the golden mace. A symbol of both parliamentary privilege and the authority of the Crown, the mace must be present in the room for the Chamber to sit. Only the Sergeant-at-Arms is authorized to touch the mace. Originally bestowed by the Crown, the mace was chosen as the weapon available in the Chamber because it was not bloodletting and could be easily defended against. As democratic institutions became more robust and respected the Sergeant-at-Arms was granted the right to wear a sword, which is still part of her uniform today.

In addition to letting us examine her hat and sword, Sergeant Gordon shared some of her professional wisdom with us. In her opinion, “The best part of being in the police force is continually learning,” and she encouraged us to find ways to continually expand our knowledge through reading and taking courses. While working with the Ministry of Education she went back to school to become a fire inspector, and she is currently taking university courses in her free time. She advised us to seek out a range of different perspectives and to work tirelessly in pursuit of our goals.

We left our meeting with Sergeant Gordon feeling motivated to go the extra mile and make the most of our internship. Thank you Sergeant Gordon for taking the time to meet with us! You are a trailblazer and an inspiration.