Legacy and Renewal: A Look Back and a Look Forward

By Brenda Silbergleit, 30th Anniversary Coordinator

For 30 years, CAPE has brought together people from diverse backgrounds, experiences, and ages to channel their passion and energy into a shared mission. In February, I embarked on a project to gather and share your stories of being part of this community. I had the honour of starting this journey with enlightening conversations with three members of CAPE’s Ontario regional committee: first with Dr. David Rosen and then with Sara Ghandour and Jacqueline Fleisig.

Dr. Rosen, a retired family physician and one of CAPE’s earliest supporters, reminisced fondly about the organization’s beginnings and expressed genuine excitement for its future. Conversely, Sara and Jacqueline, medical students at the University of Toronto, embody the youthful energy and enthusiasm of CAPE’s newest supporters.

Reflecting on his motivations for joining CAPE, Dr. Rosen explained how after the signing of the Anti-Nuclear Proliferation Treaty, he wondered about the next greatest threat to his children’s future, leading him to ask, “What about the environment?” His journey led him to Edmonton, Alberta, where he braved the December weather to attend CAPE’s first-ever meeting in 1993, along with about 50 other physicians. Dr. Rosen’s pivotal role in establishing CAPE’s charitable arm, the CHEER Foundation, underscores his unwavering commitment to our mission, evidenced by his return to the fold a few years ago.

In contrast, Sara and Jacqueline grew up in an era where environmental awareness was ingrained from an early age. Despite this, they explained that political involvement seemed out of reach, either because of a lack of role models or active discouragement. Sara, disillusioned by a lacklustre education on climate in medical school, and Jacqueline, with a long-standing passion for social issues and health systems, found a supportive community and learning opportunities at CAPE.

Since joining CAPE, Sara and Jacqueline have actively engaged with policymakers, participated in lobbying efforts, and are dedicated to recruiting more students. CAPE offers them mentorship and representation of people moving beyond the conventional wisdom that a physician’s role as an advocate stops at the office door, making the kind of political impact they had aspired to. For Dr. Rosen, CAPE serves as a platform for connecting with advocates from all over the environmental movement and collaborating with fellow physicians to amplify the impact of their voices. Today, he is involved in CAPE’s Agri-Food Working Group, and lauds the organization’s evolving diversity, from its origins as a group primarily comprised of older men, to today’s inclusive leadership featuring women, youth, individuals from racialized communities, and physicians from a range of specialties.

Jacqueline, Sara, and Dr. Rosen’s stories show how, for three decades, CAPE has been more than an organization; it has been a catalyst for change, a platform for connection, and a beacon of hope for a healthier planet. As we continue to celebrate our past and look to the future, stay tuned to our website for more stories from our CAPE heroes.