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Ontario animal welfare officials are giving jobs to stray cats

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Here’s a help wanted ad for you: Hard-working, career-oriented cats being sought by the Ontario SPCA for a new program that aims to match unsocialized strays with farms, warehouses and breweries where they can work as mousers.

“We’re looking for a cat who doesn’t like the in-house, on-the-lap lifestyle, who’s a little more adventurous,” said Dave Wilson, senior director of shelter health and wellness with the Ontario SPCA.

“This would be the ideal situation for them to apply for this job.”

The idea is to find suitable living situations for cats that aren’t used to living around humans, but who still need someone to check up on them, Wilson said.

And what stray cats lack in cuddles, they more than make up for in natural vermin-hunting ability.

Two of Irene LaPointe’s cats in her barn at her 40-hectare farm in Puslinch, where she uses working cats to hunt down rodents. (Submitted)

“Essentially, for regular maintenance, veterinary costs, food, water and shelter you can have a very humane rodent control solution,” said Wilson.

Barn cats in Guelph

The program is piloted out of the Ontario SPCA’s location in Stouffville, but Wilson said similar initiatives exist in other parts of the province and across Canada.

The Guelph Humane Society in Ontario launched its own working cat adoption program in 2015 and has since placed about 50 cats a year, according to associate director Lisa Veit.

Irene LaPointe, who lives on a 40-hectare farm in Puslinch, became one of the program’s early adopters after walking into her chicken coop one day to find “about 10 rats” staring back at her.

“That’s how I knew I had a problem.”

LaPointe, who had been volunteering at the Guelph Humane Society, heard about the program and adopted her first two working cats, Garfield and George. They were soon followed by Garth, Billy Bob, Ringo and Jenny.

LaPointe says her working cats are relatively low maintenance. (Submitted)

LaPointe said the cats are relatively low maintenance. She takes them to the vet once a year, applies flea control regularly and replenishes their food dishes every morning.

Since taking on her small but fluffy workforce, LaPointe, said the impact for her farm has been “unbelievable.”

“I have not seen a mouse or a rat for the longest time,” she said. “A very well-fed cat is the best hunter going.”

Cutting down on cat overpopulation

As part of both the OSPCA and Guelph Humane Society’s programs, cats are vaccinated, microchipped and — most importantly — spayed or neutered. 

Cat overpopulation is an ongoing problem, according to Humane Canada, which said in a 2017 report that around twice as many cats are admitted to shelters as are dogs.

Humane Canada says cat overpopulation has declined somewhat in recent years, but remains an ongoing problem. (Feral Alley Cats)

Since the program launched in October, the Ontario SPCA has had a steady supply of cat candidates. On average, the provincial centre tends to get around one stray a week and has so far placed 12 cats through the working cat program, Wilson said.

During the winter weather, it becomes an increasing challenge for these cats trying to find suitable shelter.– Dave Wilson, Ontario SPCA

Now, the association is quickly running through its pool of available “employers” and is looking for prospective cat owners to come forward, Wilson said.

“One of the things we actually do need is a greater list or increased list of those breweries and barns we can use to actually send some of these cats to,” he said.

He expects the demand will only grow throughout the winter months, when people are more apt to bring cats spotted out on their own to shelters.

“During the winter weather, it becomes an increasing challenge for these cats trying to find suitable shelter and also access to food and water,” said Wilson. “That’s a big problem that the working cat program helps to solve for us.”

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Canadian tech diversity and inclusion in the spotlight

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Diversity and inclusion are hot-button issues, but for all the attention they get, there’s still work to be done in the tech sector, according to a recent Gartner blog.

Citing a range of challenges that include pay inequity, lack of diversity in corporate management, and difficulty recruiting diverse talent, the blog suggests three possible remedies for organizations trying to become more diverse and inclusive: having a long-term plan but focusing on one aspect that will make the most benefit, setting targets and making leadership accountable, and committing resources.

The call for such strategies finds support in a report from the Brookfield Institute revealing that Canada’s technology sector has a disappointing track record when it comes to inclusion and equity, with women “four times less likely to be employed in the sector than men, and earning on average $7,300 less than men in technology jobs.”

The findings are just as grim in a January 2020 report funded by Canada’s Future Skills Centre. According to this document, despite corporate commitments to diversity, “decades of initiatives designed to advance women in technology have scarcely had an effect: The proportion of women in engineering and computer science in Canada has changed little in 25 years.”

And women are not the only disadvantaged group, says the report. “The under-employment of skilled immigrants and under-representation of women and other groups in the ICT industry suggests that recruitment and retention policies and practices of the very firms complaining about this [skills] gap may be contributing to the problem.”

Until we do a better job of addressing inclusion and diversity, career opportunities will continue to be limited for women, internationally educated professionals, racialized minorities, First Nations, Inuit and Métis people. In addition to being a very human issue, this is also one that perpetuates the ICT skills gap by failing to tap into a supply of well-qualified labour.

On the bright side, there are technology companies and organizations across Canada that are truly determined to create opportunities for those who are under-represented in the digital talent pool. There is also an opportunity to recognize their efforts during Channel Innovation 2021: Adapting to the New Customer Experience, a 2.5-hour, virtual event on April 28, 2021.

A showcase for independent software vendors (ISVs) and Canadian channel innovators, the Channel Innovation 2021 celebration will take place on CIA-TV, a unique ITWC platform that allows the audience to take in the show, download related content and videos, and network in live breakout rooms. There are six award categories, including the C4 Award for Diversity and Inclusion. Nominating is simple. Whether a self- or third-party nomination, there are only two main questions to answer and an opportunity to include a supporting document or image.

Winning entries will be announced during the celebration and profiled in the Channel Daily News Magazine and in Direction Informatique, ITWC’s French-language publication devoted to the Quebec marketplace. They will also receive a digital badge for use on their websites and on social media to help gain industry-wide recognition and end-user exposure.

The media attention and recognition are reason enough to vie for this honour, and we always need things to celebrate during a global pandemic, but the real value in awards for diversity and inclusion is in setting an example for others to follow. The news is full of the ways we are falling down when it comes to equity in the IT sector. Let’s take some time to highlight the success stories and encourage other tech innovators to step up.

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Leading Canadian tech entrepreneur Saadia Muzaffar to give virtual keynote in Peterborough on March 9

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In celebration of International Women’s Day, one of Canada’s leading female tech entrepreneurs will be giving a virtual keynote for residents of Peterborough and the Kawarthas on Tuesday, March 9th at 7 p.m.

The Innovation Cluster is hosting Saadia Muzaffar as part of its ‘Electric City Talks’ series.

Muzaffar is a tech entrepreneur, author, and passionate advocate of responsible innovation, decent work for everyone, and prosperity of immigrant talent in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). She is the founder of TechGirls Canada, a hub for Canadian women in STEM, and co-founder of Tech Reset Canada, a group of business people, technologists, and other residents advocating for innovation that is focused on the public good.

In 2017, Muzaffar was featured in Canada 150 Women, a book about 150 of the most influential and groundbreaking women in Canada. Her work has been featured in CNNMoney, BBC World, Fortune Magazine, The Globe and Mail, VICE, CBC, TVO, and Chatelaine.

Muzaffar’s March 9th talk, entitled ‘Redefining Term Sheets: Success, Solidarity, & The Future We Want’, will inspire women to achieve success in all areas of life, including in business by providing strategies for obtaining funding.

“It is impossible to explain how women only get 2.2 per cent of funding for their ventures while we constitute a majority of the population, without acknowledging long-standing structural and systemic bias,” Muzaffar says, describing her talk. “Women know these odds in our bones because we feel them in too many boardrooms, banks, media advertisements, and venture competitions — yet women are the fastest-growing demographic in new businesses.”

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ARK’s Cathie Wood joins board of Canadian tech firm mimik

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ARK Invest’s Cathie Wood is joining the board of Canadian technology company mimik.

Vancouver-based mimik is an edge computing company that effectively turns devices like phones into private cloud servers. It has already teamed up with Amazon Web Services and IBM on edge computing – two of the bigger players in the space.

The AWS partnership gives software developers access to mimik’s cloud platform. Together, edge devices including smart phones, tablets, and Internet of Things (IoT) products can act as extensions of the AWS cloud. With the IBM partnership, mimik’s technology will be included in automation and digital transformation across manufacturing, retail, IoT and healthcare.

All of mimik’s business lines fit in with Wood’s broad ‘next generation internet’ thesis, one of her big five investment themes. The company itself is private and Wood is not an investor. 

However, as Citywire noted in January, Wood has hinted in interviews that ARK is exploring the launch of a private markets strategy. 

Wood joins a relatively high profile board at mimik. Other members include  Allen Salmasi, a pioneer in mobile technology who was previously with Qualcomm, and Ori Sasson, managing director of Primera Capital, who was an investor in VMWare and other technology companies.

‘I’ve always believed in backing founders who are at the forefront of innovation,’ Wood said in a statement on her decision to join mimik. ‘At mimik, [they] have built a foundation for the next generation of cloud computing.’ 

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