Both native to Montreal, Cassandra & Andrew have been together for over 15 years and came into their relationship with a shared passion for food, wine and great culinary experiences. Andrew came to Los Angeles as an actor in 2001 and has been successfully acting and producing ever since. Cassandra thrived in the high-end fashion industry for over five years, building a booming territory on the West Coast. Both with professional sports backgrounds, the Walkers have always integrated the balance of conscious eating, with an emphasis on health and wellness in their lives, never willing to compromise great taste. What started as a love for healthy food and an interest in hospitality, brought them to create Clover Juice, which recently rebranded to Little West.
Cassandra’s love for sharing nutrient-rich great tasting food with everyone around her was the inspiration for Little West. When the opportunity presented itself, she took a leap of faith, left her successful career in sales, and dedicated her life to the Little West concept, where the goal is to make a healthy lifestyle approachable and accessible to everyone.
Since becoming parents to their son West, and realizing the importance of teaching kids about real food, Little West donates 1% of all sales to Big Green Learning Gardens. A Nationwide organization that helps kids grow up with a hands-on education that empowers them to shape their communities, their health, and their future.
What brought you to L.A.?
Originally Andrew's acting brought us to L.A., while I was conveniently working for a Canadian apparel company (Joseph Ribkoff) with California as my territory. While Andrew continues to act and produce, we had no idea that we would ultimately start a juice business together in the U.S., and after that, start our family!
As athletes how did that lead you to starting a juice company?
For us, it is similar to being an entrepreneur. You need to be adaptable and able to handle the unexpected with grace. As ex-athletes we believe in pushing ourselves to the limit and being the best we can be. We fell into making juice & smoothies over a decade ago because we felt better when we were doing it. When the opportunity presented itself, we took our passion for health & wellness and turned it into a business.
Does being married and business partners make it easier or harder to run a business?
Yes to both! Some days it’s easier, and some days it’s harder. We've learned to communicate really well and continually remind each other to 'stay in our own lane'. The lines sometimes get blurred, but mostly we're able to make it work and have fun doing it.
What are your growth plans for the company?
This past year was all about approaching and surviving our rebrand from Clover Juice to Little West. Thankfully it all went great! Our current growth plans for the company are to continue to grow our presence as California’s premium juice company, and to expand into corporate campuses all over the U.S. We’re planning to be available nationwide by 2020.
Does being a Canadian entrepreneur in the U.S. give you any advantages or unforeseen challenges?
We feel like being Canadians in the U.S. gives us an advantage in that we don’t see failing as an option. We have worked very hard to build our life here in the U.S., and wouldn’t trade it for the world. Knowing that a wrong turn can send us home at any given moment certainly lights a fire under our asses.
What advice can you give other Canadians wanting to start a company in L.A.?
Find something you’re truly passionate about, and just do it! Surround yourself with people who share and support your vision, and don’t look back. Understand that your path will be imperfect and unpredictable, but that it’s your path and you’re meant to be on it.
Where can people buy your juices?
Our juices are available at cafes, hotels, and boutique grocery shops all over California. A few local food spots include Bristol Farms, Gelson's, Philz Coffee, Groundworks Coffee, and Tocaya Organica.
What is your favorite juice for:
1: A hike up Runyon?
2: Post yoga?
3: Stuck in traffic?
-Go Big, cause it keeps you awake.
4: Day at the beach?
-Gingersnap & Gold n Greens (we also suggest adding a little splash of tequila…cause we do!)
Canadian Fashion Designer Dalia MacPhee has rocketed to the upper echelon of sought-after designers in Hollywood. She’s been called the “IT” girl of the red carpet and Entertainment Tonight has referred to her brand as “Couture with a Conscience.” The Consul General of Canada listed her as an emerging phenomenon in Canada with significant designing talent, and Google Inc. has touted her as “making waves in fashion and technology.” Dalia’s designs have graced the figures of celebrities such as Hilary Duff, Heidi Klum, Gina Rodriguez, Brooke Burke-Charvet, Olivia Munn, Amber Riley, Anna Silk, Nina Dobrev, Niecy Nash, Alyssa Milano, Serena Williams, Scarlett Johansson, Khloe Kardashian, the stars of The Vampire Diaries, Big Bang Theory, Pretty Little Liars, True Blood, and Glee to name a few.
A TEDx speaker, Dalia has been published in Forbes, Success, Inc., Entrepreneur and The Huffington Post and featured on CBS, CTV, ABC, CNN, and Fox News. Recent fashion projects include an underwater celebrity fashion campaign to bring awareness to violence against women and a global fashion show to promote world peace. Dalia is the inventor of the world’s first light up jeans and “brilliant” purse, and most recently the EQUISAFE Blanket.
Media credits Include: Entertainment Tonight, E!, The Insider, and countless magazines including Vogue, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Allure, and People.
Why L.A. over New York?A few reasons. I still spend a lot of time in Vancouver so L.A. makes sense being closer and also in the same time zone. As well, I manufacture some of my collection out of L.A. and I dress a lot of celebs for the red carpet, so it's more convenient. New York will always be my greatest love, but I’m a west coast girl at heart.
Where do you get inspiration for your designs?
My customers. The designer has one job and one job only: to illuminate the soul of the wearer. I’m constantly inspired by my customers, and always working to get better at creating garments that help them shine.
Who have you been most excited to dress?
My mom. I’ve been blessed to dress some of the biggest names in Hollywood, but dressing my mom was one of my most exciting moments. She was in the apparel business for years (she had a chain of stores across Canada) and was and still is one of my main mentors. It was meaningful and symbolic to be able to dress her for a red carpet.
If you could dress anyone dead or alive, who would it be?
I’m going to pick alive, only because Instagraming outfits on a dead person can be challenging. 😊
My equestrian collection: the Queen of England, and not just because I’m a loyal subject of the Crown! Someone once asked the Queen, an avid equestrian, why she hadn’t updated the equipment in the palace kitchen. Her response? Why waste money on perfectly good equipment when they could be spending it on the horses. Good answer.
My fashion collection: Oprah, one of the strongest, most powerful, gracious women. It would be an honor to have her represent my brand, and to create something for her.
How do you usually dress knowing you’ll be stuck in L.A. traffic or going to the airport?
Signature look for me would be black tights or skinny jeans with fashionable flats and high heels in my bag.
You’re an avid equestrian rider, how long have you been riding horses?
Since I was 7 years old. I learned on two Shetland ponies, Thistlebush and Briar Patch. Thistlebush was one of the most loving, darling, patient equines I’ve ever encountered. Briar Patch was the spawn of satan. Both taught me to ride.
You came up with an incredible life saving blanket for horses caught in wildfires?
Yes, the EQUISAFE Blanket is the first fully fire retardant horse blanket with built-in GPS. I did a lot of research into the garments fire fighters, fighter pilots and even astronauts wear, and decided to create a fabric in-house. Often in wildfires, especially in California, there is not enough time to evacuate horses and/or commercial trailers are not able to access the main roads, thus leaving owners no choice but to set their horses loose. There’s also the issue where horses are being evacuated, becoming prey to falling embers and massive heat from nearby fires. This blanket gives them a fighting chance and also offers owners peace of mind with the tracking capability. I have about 15 other innovative products in development now for the equestrian industry.
Dalia MacPhee in 5 years?
Happy. Also hugely successful, constantly innovating, changing the world, and creating. And happy.
Kelly Graham-Scherer is from Norland, Ontario (cottage country, north of Toronto) and works as the Vice President of Business Development, Production US, for Sim International. She moved to Los Angeles in December of 2009 after successfully bidding on a contract with the Ontario government to consult in the screen-based industries (film, TV, VFX, animation and gaming). Prior to her LA move Kelly was the communications director for the Ontario District Council of the Directors Guild of Canada and worked as a senior manager at the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Local 873. A graduate of the Carleton University School of Journalism, Kelly wrote and produced the short film Mya’s Normal Night, has published articles in the Ottawa Citizen, the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star and received widespread acclaim for her award-winning personal blog Don Mills Diva. Kelly is also a licensed private pilot and mother of two.
How did you get involved with Canadians Abroad?
After moving to LA nine years ago, I started going to a lot of Canadian-themed events and eventually started to feel guilty that someone else was organizing and publicizing them all while I did nothing to help. So I volunteered to sit on the board. As a Canadian, I still feel like I’m not pitching in enough, but I’m slightly less guilty now.
How long have you been in the film and TV industry and what brought you to L.A.?
My first real job was at IATSE 873 in Toronto, where my I placed hundreds of behind-the-camera technicians on TV series and movies with needs that changed daily, even hourly. With the dollar at .63 cents and film and TV productions flooding into the city we worked around the clock, but also with a long-term goal of solidifying Toronto’s reputation as a jurisdiction that could handle the volume.
I applied, on a lark, for the Ontario government contract that brought me to LA. I was shocked to get it and moved to LA with my husband and four-year-old son just six weeks later. Bless my husband for being up for the adventure!
During the nine years I represented Ontario in LA I met fascinating people and just dove into an industry that was on the cusp of so much change. Netflix was still best known for mailing out DVDs when I moved here. There were about 200 scripted series in production in 2009 as opposed to about 500 today.
What exactly do you do now?
In September I joined Sim International as the Vice President, Business Development, Production US, where I work with producers and physical production execs regarding studios, cameras and lighting and grip equipment. Sim already has major operations in Toronto, Vancouver, New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta, but on my very first day I learned it is on track to be acquired by Panavision, which will in turn be acquired by Saban Capital, which means that in 2019 I’ll be part of a newly-formed entity with operations in more than 50 cities on six continents!
After spending years watching and advising stakeholders on the implications of companies like Amazon and Netflix massively scaling up their content creation, it’s tremendously exciting to be at a growing and dynamic company that will have the capacity to service that scale on the vendor side. I feel very lucky.
How do you recommend Canadians gain access to film and TV contacts and/or network in L.A.?
Start going to Canadians Abroad events! Many of the biggest industry players in LA are actually Canadian (members of what I like to call the Maple Syrup Mafia) and, as you might imagine, a lot of them are really nice. Hollywood is a very small town and there is a very convivial spirit among industry ex-pats when it comes to connecting people and helping out with introductions, etc. Also, when Ontario names my replacement this winter, latch onto that person and pump them for information on a regular basis – if you’re in the industry, they’re working for you.
You're also a mom of two. How do you balance it all? Any advice and tips for new moms heading back to work?
I’m not sure I’m the best person to give advice because most of the time I’m running around like a maniac. A few years ago a teacher at my sons’ school told me there are always organized moms who drop kids off on time at school with homemade lunches and neat clothes and there are always hot-mess moms, who peel up at the last minute with wrinkled school uniforms and Lunchables. After 30 years of observing these two types of moms, she determined that none of it made any difference: kids of both turned out just fine. As a mostly hot-mess mom, her words are an enduring comfort.
You're a big music buff. Have you had any star struck moments in L.A.?
There have been a few. Number one was meeting Leonard Cohen at the Canadian Consulate. Another fun memory is when, during an introduction of Blue Rodeo to a group of film and television music supervisors, I said they played one of the first concerts I ever attended at the Haliburton arena during a hockey tournament. After, Jim Cuddy told me he always remembered that concert because of all the people he saw wiping out on the ice when they tried to dance. I also totally fan-girled when I met Michael Mando, who plays Nacho on Better Call Saul. Did you know he’s from Quebec City?
What do you miss most about Canada?
My mom, my brother and his family and all of my aunts and uncles and cousins. I grew up in a village of 200 people and my mom still lives on a quintessentially beautiful Ontario lake. My dad was a bush pilot, who taught me to fly float planes and I miss heading up to the lake on weekends and tooling around in his Cessna with him. One of my greatest moments in L.A. – or maybe in my life – was when he visited me here and I rented a plane to surprise him. He said: “I never thought I’d see the day when my fat, little daughter would be flying me over the Hollywood sign”.
You have 1 second to respond to the following, go!
Palm trees or evergreens?
Palm trees – they are magic to me, always will be.
Poutine or kale salads?
Poutine, always poutine – Keto diet be damned!
Would you rather be stuck in 405 traffic or the US customs line at YYZ?
The 405 – customs agents are terrifying to me, always will be.
Mike Myers or Jerry Seinfeld?
Mike Myers. I live within walking distance of an Austin Powers-themed bar and I feel it’s my patriotic duty to go often.
Snowstorm in Canada or heatwave in the Valley?
Heatwave, hands down. Sorry fellow Canucks, I do not miss snowstorms.
November’s Canadian of the Month is extra special to us as we commemorate another non-profit that we hold near and dear to our hearts. We are proud of the relationship we have built with Douglas Lock and the Royal Canadian Legion (“RCL”) over the past several years. For those of you that are unaware, the RCL was founded in 1925 in Canada and cares for all those who have served our nation by supporting and advocating for Veterans, remembering their sacrifices, and continuing the tradition of service in helping communities. Through Remembrance Day ceremonies, the Poppy Campaign, commemorate activities, youth education programs and more, the Legion helps Canadians to honour and remember. The RCL has a presence throughout the US and we are very proud to be partners for the past several years in supporting the RCL here in the L.A. area.
This year marks the 100 year anniversary of the end of WWI – an incredible time to honor those that have fallen. Please join us in participating in this event on November 11th (details below). You may also contact Douglas directly by visiting: https://rclwesternzoneusa.org/ and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CanadianLegionUSA/
On behalf of our team and members of Canadians Abroad of Southern Abroad, thank you Douglas and all of our veterans for all that you do. Douglas, you are a shining example of what it is to be a proud Canadian with your thoughtfulness, tireless dedication and service to our country. We salute you!
Douglas Lock – President of Manhattan Beach 156, Western Zone, The Royal Canadian Legion
My father worked in the oil industry in Western Canada so we moved all over Alberta staying in some towns for just a few months before moving on to the next big oil development. At one time or another, we lived in Turner Valley, Innisfail, Okotoks, Falher, Eaglesham, Girouxville, Pincher Creek, Stetter and Estevan, Saskatchewan where I finished high school in 1958. It was during my high school years that I was with the Canadian Reserve Army in the South Saskatchewan Regiment. I went to the University of Alberta in Edmonton and graduated in 1962 with a BSc in Electrical Engineering. I worked for four years in Eastern Canada then moved to California in 1966 where I was employed by Hughes Aircraft for 30 years involved with airborne radar development until my retirement in 1996. During my early years with Hughes, I was fortunate to take advantage of their fellowship programs, attend USC and obtain an MSEE and an MBA. My wife and I have two children and four grandchildren who are all adults and independently either pursuing their vocations or educations. My wife and I now spend our time travelling with our trailer to Canada in the summer, Mexico and the California desert in the winter and a trip or two a year to someplace overseas. In between those trips I volunteer with the RCL, play pickleball, ride my bicycle on the beach bike-path and maintain our home and yard in Manhattan Beach.
Q. How long have you been with the RCL and what do you do?
A. I have been a member of the Royal Canadian Legion for 13 years. The RCL is organized by regions. Each province is a region and here in the US we have two regions or zones. My Branch is in the Western Zone, which is all of the US west of the Mississippi plus Mexico. Each Zone consists of several Branches. The Western Zone has Branches with addresses in San Francisco, Covina, Manhattan Beach, San Diego and Lake Chapala in Mexico. None of the US Branches own buildings like they do in most Canadian towns so we usually meet at member’s homes or at an American Legion Post. I am the President of Manhattan Beach Branch 156 and I am also the secretary of the Western Zone serving our Zone Commander Mr. Robert Edmonds, MBE. In these capacities I have been leading an annual Branch membership drive at the Costa Mesa fairgrounds Scottish Festival on Memorial day weekends, I participate in the annual Pre-Memorial Day Service at the Inglewood Park Ceremony, the annual Armistice Day service, attend several zone meetings each year to help guide our charitable donations and veteran aid programs, and hold or participate in local graveside services for Canadian and British veterans when requested by their families. I also maintain a Zone webpage: https://rclwesternzoneusa.org/ and our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/CanadianLegionUSA/
Q. What does the RCL do?
A. The mission of the RCL is to serve Veterans, including serving military and RCMP members and their families, to promote Remembrance, and to serve our communities and our country. In that capacity one of the most important responsibility we have locally is to manage a large section within the Inglewood Park Cemetery where many British and Canadian veterans have been interred dating back to the early part of the 1900’s. Mr. Robert Edmonds, MBE leads this effort. Several years ago we found out that many of these veterans graves were unmarked. By providing the Canadian Government Department of Veterans Affairs with this information I am very pleased to tell you that 124 previously unmarked Canadian veterans now have bright new markers at their resting places. This project was recently written up in an issue of The Legion Magazine and can be read in more detail on our website. Unfortunately the British government does not have a similar program so we are in the process of creating the correct words to have engraved on a monument to honor the 65 British veterans that still are unmarked. You might be interested to know that I recently wrote a letter to Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex asking him for the appropriate wording.
Another very important activity is the charitable donations we give. We have donated thousands of dollars to many different organizations that are in need, some of which include The Wounded Warriors project at Camp Pendleton, Casa Colina rehabilitation facility for veterans, Habitat for Humanity in Orange County for a veteran’s home, Paws Fur Thought a Canadian animal/veteran organization to address veterans with PTSD, Children’s Hospital of LA, Harbor General Hospital – children’s wards, several High School scholarship awards in the South Bay, YWCA Wings Domestic Violence Program in Covina – to mention just a few.
We also organize and hold a service the weekend before Memorial Day and also one on Armistice Day to provide an opportunity for our members and the public to honor those that have given their life and service for their country.
Q. Do we have an RCL chapter in L.A. that people can visit?
A. None of the Branches in the US have a traditional Legion Hall. We meet in different member’s homes or in an American Legion Post. Once a year we have a two day, Zone-wide meeting that has been held at the Pala Casino in North San Diego County. Anyone who is interested in attending any of these functions are most welcome, and the exact details for upcoming meetings can be found on either our website or Facebook page.
Q. How do you support veterans?
A. Many of our members are veterans and know that if they need any help they can call on one of the other members for anything. We will also provide help to any veteran or their family member who we find is in need.
Q. How can people join the RCL or help out?
A. Any person can be a member of the RCL. An “ordinary” member is someone who has some Canadian military service. An “affiliate” member includes non-Canadian citizens from an Allied nation who supports our aims and objectives. I would be delighted to have every Canadians Abroad member contact me and ask to join. It is quite inexpensive at $30 a year which includes the award winning The Legion Magazine with articles on current and historical Canadian military activities. We have members that reside across the U.S. just to show their support for what we do for veterans.
Q. How can people get a poppy?
A. Poppies are given out at every function we hold, The Scottish Festival in Costa Mesa, the Services we hold on Pre-Memorial Day, the Armistice Day service, graveside services and at each of our meetings. From time to time I receive requests to provide poppies to people and will do my best to fulfill each request. Having said that I don’t think I can mail a poppy to each of the 3000 Canadians Abroad members – unless they join the RCL.
Mukta Cholette, Patricia Mckenzie and Sergine Dumais
Mukta Cholette, Patricia Mckenzie and Sergine Dumais are three L.A. based actresses from Montreal, who together produce a successful comedy web-series called “2 femmes à Hollywood”. The series is about two Québécoises in Hollywood (Sergine and Mukta) who, with the help of their producer (Patricia), try really, really hard to live the “Hollywood Dream”. You can see their latest episode here.
Mukta Cholette is a Montreal native who’s been living in L.A. for over 10 years. She started working in the voiceover industry as soon as she arrived and has over 150 projects under her belt. She lends her voice to several reputable companies such as Pampers, iTunes, Amazon Prime, Shark, Whiskas, Ardène, FootLocker, etc. In addition to her VO career, Mukta runs a marketing firm called Creative Marketing Ninja where she combines her artistic talent, her black belt focus, and her marketing knowledge to create unique digital marketing strategies.
Sergine Dumais is known for her work in Quebec musical theatre as well as for her work as a voice actress and director in L.A. She has directed the French language dubs of over twenty feature films, including The Rewrite (with Hugh Grant), Mr. Holmes (with Ian McKellen), and Terrence Malick's Song to Song (with Ryan Gosling). She was also the French voice of actresses Cate Blanchett, Minnie Driver, Salma Hayek and Diane Keaton, among several others. She recently launched a skincare side business, partnering with the creators of Proactiv, Drs. Rodan and Fields, and empowering artists with entrepreneurship. Her team of “actorpreneurs” consists of 90 percent Canadian artists in L.A.!
Patricia Mckenzie is an award-winning actress/film producer, known for The Lion King, Gangland Undercover, Cosmopolis (Robert Pattinson’s love interest/bodyguard), The Phantom, Soul Food, Chicago... Producer of feature films Anathema ( Angie Everhart), Showtime’s Bigfoot and the Burtons, Claddagh (James McGowan). She is on the board of the US non-profit NCPCV, which uses one of her short films: Bully Fighters (starring Land of The Dead’s Eugene Clark) to bring Solutions to Violence to communities across the U.S. Patricia has also produced live Cancer benefit shows using the cast and crew of The Lion King to raise money for a cure. Patricia’s newest films are: Eat Wheaties and The Kindness of Strangers by director Lone Sherflig (Italian for Beginners).
Q. What brought each of you to L.A.?
A.We wanted to live the dream! Also, we were cold.
Q. How did you all meet?
A. Sergine and Mukta met through a mutual friend back in Montreal around 2007. When Sergine moved to L.A. a few years later, she reached out to Mukta who was already living here and a BFF friendship was born. Patricia and Sergine met while playing lesbian lovers in an acting class in Montreal, 2009. When Patricia moved to L.A in 2014, the perfect threesome was born!;) We quickly became fast friends and bonded as business partners.
Q. How have your careers changed or grown since moving to L.A.?
A. We have each grown as artists and as business women, creating our own show, which we all star in and produce together, and managing full-time careers in the entertainment industry. Patricia still goes back and forth, working as both an actress and producer in the U.S. and in Canada. Mukta and Sergine’s careers shifted from theatre to voice-over, and they have also now become successful “actorpreneurs”. Mukta now has a thriving voice-over career, being the voice of several well known brands, and her Creative Marketing Ninja business took off a few years ago. Sergine is well known as the top French dubbing director in L.A. and has launched a skin care business with Rodan + Fields. L.A. is the epicenter of the entertainment industry and can offer enormous opportunities as well as great challenges to artists, so we made sure to create a network of friends and entertainment professionals around us to keep us sane and successful.
Q. How do you maintain or celebrate your distinct French culture living in America?
A. We get together for poutine! We have created a strong family of francophones living in L.A. which we playfully call the Québec Mafia. We organize events such as La Cabane à Sucre, La Fête Nationale, movie screenings and other networking and artistic events. Creating our show, 2 Femmes à Hollywood, was mainly an excuse to celebrate our culture. We promote the hell out of every good poutine place in L.A. on our social media. And we share our culture with everyone we meet. Our American friends know better than saying the name of Celine Dion in vain;)
Q. Americans already have many stereotypes of Canadians, what are some you face as Francophones living in the U.S.?
A. You think Americans make fun of your Canadian accent? Try going through life in L.A. with a Quebec accent!
Q. What do you miss about Quebec and/or Canada?
A. Besides healthcare, affordable rent and efficient public transportation? We would have to say the values and the overall friendly attitude of Canadians. A fun fact is that we probably identify a lot more as Canadian, or French-Canadian (as well as Québecoises) now that we have been through the cultural shock of living in Hollywood.
Q. What do you love about living in L.A.?
A. We love that’s it’s not -30 degrees, that’s number one! And the business opportunities! The three of us are entrepreneurs, and perhaps even more business oriented now that we have been immersed in the American culture.
Question for Mukta: Do you have marketing tips for Canadians in L.A.?
A. In many industries, being Canadian can be a selling point. Don’t be afraid to use it in your marketing strategy! Reaching out to other Canadian business owners and/or potential clients living in L.A. is also important. There are many of us here in L.A. and we all benefit from supporting each other.
Question for Sergine: What are your skincare tips for Canadians in L.A.?
A. Haha! Well, my advice for everyone is to find a simple and fun skin regimen you can stick to and do everyday. You’ll get better results and have healthier skin by taking care of your skin for 5 minutes everyday, rather than going to expensive spa treatments for two hours every couple of months. Think of it like exercising. It’s what you do everyday. Some Canadians who just moved here, may experience a change in their skin. Most will need a lot more hydration and will also need to get in the habit of wearing sunscreen ALL THE TIME!
Question for Patricia: How do you maintain a career in two countries?
A. Great question! My advice for any actor, especially if you travel a lot, is to maintain a strong relationship with your agents and managers. My reps and I are a team, and they also communicate seamlessly between each other. Self tapes are how actors audition if they can’t show up in person, so I have my favorite studios across North America to tape in at the top of my contacts list, because auditions can come in very last minute. It also helps to own a simple setup of lights, camera (phone) and stand because I often have to do auditions while on vacation from my hotel room. When I’m not acting, I’m always producing or developing something, which I can mostly do from any city, with just my laptop and my cellphone...and a dream.
Zulekha Nathoo has interviewed dozens of A-listers as a CBC entertainment journalist, from Denzel Washington to Priyanka Chopra. She’s currently based in Los Angeles, where she’s covered major events such as the Emmy Awards, Grammys, Oscars and the #MeToo movement in Hollywood. Before entering the arts world, Zulekha worked for 10 years as a news reporter in Toronto, Calgary, Fredericton, Bathurst and Montreal.
Zulekha has traveled worldwide and spent a year reporting in Nairobi, Kenya. She also traveled to the Middle East as part of a fellowship with the United Nations. She started her career at the London Free Press in London, Ontario. She holds an M.A. in Journalism from Western University and a B.A. in History from the University of Ottawa.
As a multi-media reporter in L.A., Zulekha shoots, edits, writes and presents her stories for TV, radio and online. When she’s not balancing work life with her husband and son, she’s balancing on a yoga mat.
Q. What led you to a career in entertainment reporting?
A. I started as an intern working in entertainment after grad school. I’ve always loved pop culture, arts and film and it’s the kind of beat you really have to love because you spend so much time in that world. But I never liked the frivolity of what entertainment news was becoming. So I spent 10 years doing hard news across Canada — I covered everything from gruesome murders in Alberta to chairlift speed dating in Quebec. When I moved to Toronto, covering news day to day took its toll. The more distressful stories you cover, the more you tend to bring it home with you without realizing it. So I jumped at the opportunity to start doing arts and entertainment again, where I could inject a bit more personality and analysis. A few years later, I was lucky enough that the CBC shifted the job to L.A.
Q. What has been the biggest adjustment moving to L.A.?
A. It still surprises me that drivers can run a red light, merge dangerously and make illegal turns and people will not honk at them. Angelenos are not honkers. That was a big adjustment for me, coming from Toronto, the road rage capital. Also sadly, there are always poo landmines to dodge all over the city, because while L.A. loves its dogs, no one seems to pick up after theirs. Amiright?
Q. Do you feel proud representing the CBC in the U.S.?
A. I do! I think having foreign bureaus outside Canada helps people get a first-hand understanding of what’s going on south of the border. Because it’s not always easy to comprehend. And that’s one of our responsibilities as a public broadcaster. You’d be surprised how many Americans who say they’re disillusioned with U.S. news outlets are watching our stories too, via social media. But oddly, when I’m reporting in short sleeves with palm trees gently swaying in the background a few days after a Canadian snowstorm, I tend to get very little appreciation for my hard work.
Q. Has moving to Los Angeles changed how you view and report on the industry, compared to doing it from Toronto?
A. It totally has. I’ve learned so much about the industry since moving here and a lot of it has actually come from the amazing Canadians I’ve met. Insight from the actors, composers and writers has helped shape how I tell stories from here, having a bit of insider knowledge on how the business works that you just can’t get from any other location. And the access to people is just incredible compared to working in Toronto. Basically, you just have to hang out at LAX and you’ll eventually find who you’re looking for. I also think people from outside are quick to dismiss L.A. as soul-less and superficial. And you only realize after spending time here that it’s one of the few cities in the world where people are truly pursuing their dreams with a huge risk of failure and there’s really nothing more authentic than that. There’s an energy and enthusiasm despite all the disappointment and rejection people go through that makes it such an entertaining, joyful and often hilarious place to live and work.
Q. Do you always look for a Canadian angle?
A. The cool thing about Hollywood these days is that we actually don't have to LOOK for the Canadian angle -- Canadians are just doing amazing things and there are so many at the top of their field! We try to highlight those connections for sure, but I also think a good story is a good story. And whether it's a Canadian or anyone else at the heart of it, you feel successful as a journalist when you can just help people understand each other better and make the world feel a little bit smaller, regardless of where your subject comes from.
Q. Your hubby is a CBC news reporter in L.A., what are conversations at the dinner table like?
A. Well, our three-year-old son has no idea who Elsa or Lightning McQueen is but the little guy can identify Donald Trump in the morning paper and had an entire conversation with his pre-school teacher about Meghan Markle, so you tell me. Actually, I don’t want to hear it — child services already wants to speak with us.
Q. You have interviewed so many celebs over the years, who were you most excited to meet?
A. I don’t even have an original answer. I was most excited to meet Ryan Gosling. But NOT because he’s that dreamy guy! I mean, that factored in only slightly. I love talking to stars who are notorious for staying out of the spotlight because a) they’re people you don’t get to hear from often and b) most of the time, they are the most genuine and their answers are quite thoughtful. He was no exception. And we bonded over our Canadian roots, natch — I feel like we both said “sorry” several times during that interview for no reason at all.
Q. What has been your craziest red carpet moment?
A. There have been many but I think this is a good one: Angelina Jolie was attending a premiere we were covering for one of her films and we were specifically told she wouldn’t be taking any questions. Translation: Don’t even think about asking her. But the movie was about female empowerment and we wanted to get her take given everything unfolding in Hollywood right now. So when she walked by, I (politely) asked her if she’d answer a question for Canadian Broadcasting. Her handler immediately jumped in to cut me off and I thought I was going to get kicked off the carpet. But Angelina (I am NOT on a first name basis with her) stopped and said: “I’d be happy to.” We were the only outlet she ended up chatting with. Proof that people just love Canada (raise the roof emoji)!
Q. Are Canadian celebs surprised when they meet a CBC reporter doing press junkets in Hollywood?
A. They always think I’ve flown in just for the day and say to me, all upbeat: “So how do you like L.A.?” Then when I tell them I live here, they ask the same question again in a totally different way, with a more somber tone and a pitying head-tilt. I told Seth Rogen I was from Calgary during an interview and he told me that if I was speaking to an American, I’d most likely have to explain myself further by saying: “I’m from Calgary … Alberta … that’s in Canada… you know, in the Rockies.” Also, see how seamlessly I name-dropped there? That's the newfound L.A. in me!
Q.Top three Canadian misconceptions you have come across living in the States?
When an American says “Oh! Hey, I’ve been to Canada before,” and I’m just expected to know which part of the MASSIVE country they mean.
I’m still amazed at how difficult it is for people to believe I’m from Canada. Lyft drivers, for example, will say to me: “No, but where are you REALLY from?” I once had a sales clerk say to me very slowly and deliberately so I could understand her, after I mentioned I wasn’t from the U.S.: “YOU SPEAK VERY GOOD ENGLISH FOR NOT BEING FROM THIS COUNTRY.”
That the way we say “about” and “house” is super different from the way Americans say it. However, I now realize, there’s truth to that! Here, they say “HOWse” and “ABOWt” so when Canadians say the same words in the U.S., they think we must be from Minnesota. I can’t tell you how many American friends have stopped me mid-sentence to point it out. Our son now says “AWH-runge” instead of “orange” because he’s grown up around U.S. pronunciations and I can’t tell you how much it pains me.
David Ivkovic - Realtor & Chairman of Canadians Abroad
David Ivkovic is originally from Ottawa, he did a short stint in Whistler and then 10 years in Toronto before moving to Los Angeles in 2010 with his wife, Renée Percy, and their dog Wesley. After graduating from Ryerson Theatre School in 2001, David pursued his dream of acting, only to realize it was really effing hard. While working behind the scenes on a popular HGTV home design show, David fell into the world of Toronto real estate. The flexible hours meant he could still pursue his acting career while making a decent living selling real estate in the hot Toronto condo market. David had finally found a work/passion balance that was enjoyable on both fronts. His wife’s career soon led them to Los Angeles, where he decided to repeat the formula and obtained his California real estate license. With his real estate experience in both countries, David was able to carve out a successful niche as a relocation specialist for Canadians moving to L.A. He soon discovered there was a vast community of Canadians already living in Los Angeles. As a proud Canadian, he wanted to get more involved with the community and soon became a board member of Canadians Abroad. After a few years on the board he became President and is presently Chairman, having organized some incredible events such as the Terry Fox Run Los Angeles, Canadian University Alumni Event, and the annual Canada Day Party in L.A. with continued support from the Consulate General of Canada to Los Angeles. After almost a decade in L.A., David could not be more proud to still be involved in such a thriving community of Canadians living in Southern California.
Q. What do you do for Canadians Abroad?
A. Since we are all volunteers, it varies with how busy we all get in our regular lives. My main focus now as Chairman is to lend support to Erin Buckley Burnett and Zoe Kevork, who share the role of President. Our big event each year is the Canada Day party, it has a lot of moving parts and takes several months of work leading up to the event. But day to day I do website and social media updates, and create our email newsletter which announces various Canadian events happening around the city.
Q. Why are you part of Canadians Abroad?
A. When we first moved here, we had all the same questions everyone always has: How do I build credit? Why do I need to do my drivers test over again?! What the hell is PPO vs. HMO? I discovered there were so many other transplants just like me going through the same thing, or who had already been through it. Since I missed home, it was great to become friends with other Canadians having a similar experience, plus I wanted to share what I had learned with others coming down after me. From a networking stand point, it was such a great resource to meet new clients and find service providers who were Canadian that I could refer business to, such as contractors, mortgage brokers, etc. We look like Americans, but we have a different sensibility that is very comforting when doing business.
Q. What advice do you have for new Canadians moving to California?
A. Give yourself a few years, if not seven, to finally settle in. When we all move here we try to fit in and make our mark so quickly it is easy to burn out. There is a certain energy people have when they first move here that is so amazing. And there is a certain calm for those who have been here a while. I think if you can find a balance between those two things you’ll always appreciate what California has to offer, and you won’t spread yourself too thin trying to keep up.
Q. What advice do you have for Canadians buying a new home in California right now?
A. When I first moved here the Canadian dollar was stronger than the US dollar. It was crazy, the US was going through a major recession and Canada was pretty stable. Canadians were the number one foreign investor of US real estate because prices were so cheap down here. From there I became a specialist in people relocating to Los Angeles. I was exploring so many neighbourhoods with my buyers and learning more about L.A. than people who have been here all their lives. It was a such a great crash course in learning about the city and all the different areas, from Venice to Valley, and everything in between. Boy how things have changed, the CAD is so low right now and the market here has rebounded higher than pre-recession prices. I still help a lot of Canadians, but not at the same pace. Since I don’t have a time machine or a magic ball, I say the best time to buy is when you can afford it, and be ready to compromise. If you have to have a 10 bedroom mansion with an ocean view in Santa Monica, please call me, I’d be happy to help! As for the rest of us, there are alternatives in up and coming areas for a lot less money such as the Valley, or the areas east of the 5 Freeway or south of the 10 Freeway.
Q. Are there any differences between the housing market in Canada and California right now?
A. If you are from a major city in Canada like Vancouver or Toronto, the prices here are pretty comparable. Rents are high in both countries right now and real estate is up. I think the major factor is how strong the USD is right now, which makes getting into the US market in general that much more expensive.
Q. Any tips on buying in L.A. with so many different neighbourhoods to choose from?
A. L.A. is a city of neighbourhoods, or often referred to as a city without a centre. I always recommend buying close to your work if possible, or based on what type of lifestyle you want to have, such as beach, city, hills, etc. I deal with a lot of entertainment industry people who's jobs change location so often, so I often recommend trying to buy where your friends are. L.A. is so big and spread out, we are in our cars so much, it's nice to be close to friends.
Q. You are a Realtor, actor and funny man. What are you most passionate about?
A. I still take improv classes regularly, which is nice to be up on my feet performing from time to time. I was also hired to MC/host a show for a sold out crowd at the Dolby Theatre. That was incredible to be joking around in front of over 4000 people! I always try to go back to having that work/passion balance. That being said, L.A. real estate is so interesting and fun, I love touring homes with clients and seeing all the incredible properties around the city. We are in the land of pop culture, and so often I get to go behind closed doors and see where the people live who created it all. I still feel like that hyper-active kid from Ottawa and this is all just a tv show I’m watching.
Q. You have visitors in town - what do you do with them on a Saturday afternoon?
A. My favourite experience in L.A. is Cinespia. If you haven’t been, it is a film screening series at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery every Saturday night in the summer. I know watching old movies in a cemetery seems creepy, but it is so much fun. I have become an expert on scoring a great spot and putting together an amazing picnic basket with wine, cheese and prosciutto. My other go to’s are The Getty Center & LACMA, but my favorite museum in the city is the Peterson Automotive Museum. I love old cars, and they have a vault tour where you get to see all the old cars not on display, it is so cool to hear the history of so many famous cars.
Q. What do you miss most about Canada?
A. Canadian Tire and Tim Bits. Of course I really miss my family in Ottawa and friends in Toronto and Whistler, but my god I miss Canadian Tire and Tim Bits. I would always get a ten pack of Tim Bits, four chocolate, four sour cream and two old fashioned glazed with a small iced cappuccino. I know that’s specific, but I know what I like and I know what I miss. As for Canadian Tire, there just isn’t a store like that in L.A. If I wanted to buy hockey gear, a blender and a new tool box, I'd have to go to three different stores to get that stuff, back home I could pick all that up in one shot at Canadian Tire:)
Visit David’s real estate website here: www.DavidIvkovic.com
And check out his talents here: https://vimeo.com/244471000
You may be curious why we chose Knott's Berry Farm to play host of this year's Canada Day. You may also be wondering how we're able to source rare delicacies like peameal bacon sandwiches, perfectly curated poutine, caesars, Blue Light, Molson Canadian and Moosehead. Our secret? John Chiu who is Director of Food and Beverage at Knott's Berry Farm. John attended his first Canadians Abroad event this year and introduced himself to our Board. And just like that, Canada Day 151 was hatched. It's a great story that demonstrates the power of our network, why it's definitely worthwhile to attend our events and how Canadians can work together to accomplish great things. This year's Canada Day has been made possible in part by John and for that reason, we welcome John as our Canadian of the Month for July!
John Chiu hails from Windsor, Ontario and is currently the Director of Food and Beverage/Hospitality at Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, California. John has been in his present role for the past five and a half years. He was offered a transfer to Knott’s Berry Farm in December of 2012 from Canada’s Wonderland in Toronto, Ontario where he was the Manager of Food & Beverage Operations. Over the past few years at Knott’s Berry Farm, John has been a part of developing and spearheading many of new and successful initiatives including the hugely popular Boysenberry Festival and the Peanuts Character Celebration.
In conjunction with making the move to Southern California, John also managed to complete his MBA specializing in Hospitality and Tourism Management from the University of Guelph. Prior to this, John attended York University in Toronto studying Kinesiology and Health Science, Honors Program.
John is closely involved with the CHOC Children’s Foundation in Orange County sitting on their Stewardship Committee and an active member of the CHOC Champions Club that brings together young professionals in the OC to raise awareness and donations for the hospital.
John is also involved with dozens of SoCal highschools and post-secondary schools in developing their career and technical education programs where he shares industry knowledge to support pathways for students to obtain skilled jobs after graduation. John is currently an Adjunct Professor at The Arts Institute of California – Santa Ana where he teaches several of their hospitality college programs.
Q. What is a day in the life of John like?
A. Every day is unique working in the theme park industry and especially in food and beverage. There are never two days that are the same in ANY way and that is what keeps it exciting and energetic knowing that you always have to be ready to take on any operational challenge that gets thrown your way.
Q. Where are you from and what do you miss most about home?
A. I was born in Windsor, Ontario, where I spent the first few years of my life then my family moved to Toronto where I lived in all parts of the city and Greater Toronto Area. Being an expat going on five and a half years, I miss the childhood friendships that come from relocating across the continent. However, I must say that friends and family have been wonderful about making the trips out to California as I host between 12-15 guests a year. I do NOT miss the seasonal weather.
Q. What was your first job and how did it shape what you do today?
A. My first paid job was working on a family farm located north of Toronto where I was a farm hand responsible for many daily farm tasks. I would collect eggs from the chicken coop, pick vegetables from the fields, and feed all the dozens of livestock just to name a few of the jobs. Here I am now ironically working again on a (berry) farm in Southern California and even though my role has changed, I still find myself involved with any and every aspect of the business and am constantly prioritizing the day’s work to get as much accomplished before the day is done.
Q. Given that you are a foodie by profession, what do you love most about Californian cuisine?
A. California being one of the tourist meccas of the US has been remarkably daring with all of their food programs not just in theme parks, but in small businesses as well. Whether you’re in SoCal or Los Angeles, you can find an assortment of ethnic foods to keep your palate engaged all 365 days. Theme parks up and down the coast have made food a paramount pillar of their business and have adapted seasonal food festivals of all kinds of offerings to the experience. What’s most impressive is that these guests that partake in these food festivals are mostly locals and self-proclaimed foodies who are up for the challenge of trying something new.
Q. What can you tell us about the menu you chose for our Canada Day 151 at Knott's Berry Farm and what can we expect from the event?
A. We made sure we brought some Canadian food and beverage classics to the table for this July 1st celebration. Our park chefs will be preparing peameal bacon sandwiches with a maple syrup reduction sauce, the famous Quebec classic poutine, assorted Canadian beer and caesars. The event will be the a first for Canadians Abroad hosting the event in The Spurs Chop House at Knott’s Berry Farm where Canadian’s from all over SoCal will come together in celebrating Canada’s 151st anniversary.
Q. You have visitors in town, where do you take them to eat?
A. When sightseeing around Los Angeles, I like taking my guests to the Grand Central Market where they can choose from over 30 different food stalls each one different from the last. A great Los Angeles rooftop dining experience is the Perch that features small French plates and hand crafted cocktails overlooking the city. When in San Diego, Casa Guadalajara in Old Town has an enchanting outdoor dining experience. I could go on but some of the most flavorful experiences I have had with guests have been in small family-run Hispanic establishments that just do good food right.
Q. You are stuck in traffic. What songs are you singing along to in your car?
A. I have recently shifted to listening to podcasts and books on tape when stuck in Cali traffic, however when I need my music fix I have to say that I tend to shift from genre to genre depending on my mood. I can go from Top 40 to Metal to Reggaeton to EDM. Anything with an upbeat melody is my drive.
Pete Kasprzak, Graphic Designer & Artist
Pete Kasprzak is a graphic designer and artist originally from Toronto, working for Inc. 500 recognized advertising and marketing agency GTMA, located in downtown Los Angeles. Having studied Advertising and Communications at Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ontario, Pete went on to become a graphic designer in Toronto. Working on campaigns for major Canadian retailers, as well as designing graphics for Gwen Stefani’s L.A.M.B clothing brand.
Always up for an adventure, Pete applied and was awarded a TN VISA from his graphic design experience through NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), and landed a job in Los Angeles.
Currently at GTMA he creates online and social media advertising for major brands, as well as photo editing for The Grammy Museum. As an artist, Pete’s artwork has been displayed in Toronto, Hamilton, San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles. And with Hollywood as a backdrop, Pete’s artwork has naturally made it to the screen having been used in TV shows such as My Crazy Ex-girlfriend and Condor.
He was recently involved in a collaboration of music photography featuring Motley Crue, Rob Zombie, Mix Master Mike and Tommy Lee as subjects. His artwork is currently on display and for sale at Artspace Warehouse in LA. https://www.artspacewarehouse.com/en/artist-pete-kasprzak
Q. What does a weekend in L.A. look like for Pete?
A. It's all about balance. I always like to mix fun with my “hobby” and tend to always carry my camera around to get that special photo. Whether I’m leaving work or out in Hollywood, I will always make an effort to capture that L.A. vibe, and relate it to my graphic design, and artwork whenever I can. Everything is so fast paced, I could be editing photos one minute, and then heading off to a block party the next, I love it! There are times I enjoy taking my canvases outside and painting in the outdoors which is something I always dreamed of. I love exploring southern California and visiting new neighborhoods which is what I think makes L.A. so great. It's a city amongst cities.
Q. How has living in L.A. shaped or changed your art?
A. L.A.’s natural beauty and great weather uplifts and motivates me to be outside and always doing something positive, it’s a happy feeling being here. I don’t think there’s been a day in the last few years where I was not inspired by the energy of L.A., and I always try to capture that. Seeing the great L.A. sunsets has inspired me to paint them often, along with the many mountains surrounding the city. I like to capture the streets, and the hustle/bustle of L.A. by sometimes even setting up in the middle of Sunset Blvd hoping not to get hit by a car while snapping photos.
Q. Tell us about some of the projects you are currently designing?
A. At GTMA (GoToMyApartment) it’s always something new and exciting. I could be editing images for The Grammy Museum one day, a national campaign for Asset Campus Housing the next, pushing the envelope to create unique social banners, to designing Snapchat, Facebook, or PPC ad’s, as well as creating videos for clients. It's a great balance and I always enjoy working on graphics and trying to bring something new to the table. I even hand-draw some graphics, which I vectorize and use in my graphic design work. Graphic meets art! With my art, I am working on a few oil aerial paintings which are being showcased in West Hollywood, several mixed media pieces for a business in Toronto, and quite a few new smaller pieces for a show in Studio City called IndyFest on June 8th. I’m showcasing several P.O.P print series' for Clean Aesthetic in Playa del Rey, as well as very large format Hollywood pieces for Artspace Warehouse where I am a resident artist. The vibe of L.A. keeps me going!
Q. What are your goals and where do you see your art being in the next five years?
A. I would love to have my art managed and be a part of galleries around the world. Having representation would definitely allow me to simply create my art. Having my art branched out to bigger markets like: New York, France, and Italy would definitely be a goal of mine. A crazy idea I had was to eventually have a small shop in certain cities where people (tourists) can buy official original art pieces that capture the essence of that city. I would love to create more of my “Starving Artist” line of silver jewelry. I have many more artistic ideas to explore, and would like to pursue those as well. With all the technology out there today, Physical Art seems to be a dying genre, so I always try to add that personal element to design and my life as much as possible.
Q. Is there a special place in L.A. that inspires you?
A. Funny enough, driving south on the 101 in the evening through the Hollywood Hills/Cahuenga Pass into Hollywood. Seeing downtown from a distance as you pass the Cahuenga exit feels like you just entered the hustle of L.A. Driving through all the areas of the city and capturing moments in West Hollywood, Koreatown, DTLA, Watts, Sun Valley, Burbank, Van Nuys, and Venice inspire me very much. I love the city life, but being by the beach is the greatest. I love unwinding at the many beaches of L.A. and O.C. during the day, and enjoying what the nightlife has too offer. The vibe at the beach is completely different than anywhere else. I love the relaxed nature and approach the beach cities offer when the craziness of the city is only 15 minutes away.
Q. What is the coolest thing you’ve done in L.A.?
A. I have a big fear of heights, so I would have to say taking a private helicopter tour over L.A. to photograph some of my favorite neighborhoods was an amazing experience. Scary at first, as we removed the doors, but it was such a rush photographing the city from above, to which I converted into art pieces. The other is being able to create private works for other artists, such as having pieces hung in Erick Morillo’s home studio, and lobby pieces for S.K.A.M Studios. I really take pride in having these great artists want to put up my art on their walls.
Q. What do you miss about Canada?
A. I miss being close to my family and my closest childhood friends. I can’t just meet them for dinner or a drink like I used to. So it’s always nice to have visitors come down. Not only that, I miss my double double at Tim Horton’s and a French Cruller.
Q. What is your favorite thing to show your Canadian friends who come to visit?
A. I love showing friends the local hot spots near my place and in other areas like, The Hideaway, Moonshadows, Mousso & Frank, The Dresden, Santa Monica Pier, Sunset Strip, Venice Beach, San Pedro Fish Market, Mulholland Dr, and the nice drive along the PCH. And my favorite spot, the Roosevelt Hotel back pool.
Q. Any upcoming art or gallery shows you want to share?
A. I actually have an opening reception on Friday June 15th in West Hollywood at V Wine Room, and I’m being featured at Indyfest in Studio City on June 8th.
Pete's website seewhatinspires.me is currently being re-vamped, so feel free to check out his art at: https://www.artspacewarehouse.com/en/artist-pete-kasprzak"
Kay Buck, CEO of CAST LA
Kay Buck has over 20 years experience in the human rights field. Joining the Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking (CAST) as Executive Director in 2003, Ms. Buck leads the first organization in the US exclusively designed to work on the issue of human trafficking. Under Ms. Buck’s leadership, CAST is known for a one-of-a-kind leadership development program for survivors of trafficking who are now using their voices to impact federal and state policy.
Prior to joining CAST, Ms. Buck was Director of the Rape Prevention Resource Center of the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA). She has been instrumental on several policy initiatives related to slavery and violence against women, including the DC- based Alliance To End Slavery and Trafficking and the Freedom Network. Ms. Buck spent over five years in Asia working with a network of NGOs on anti-trafficking issues and labor rights projects, and participated in the planning of several international conferences, including the World Conference on Women.
Ms. Buck is a member of the California Attorney General’s transition team on victim rights. In 2005, she was given the “Change Maker Dream Maker” recognition alongside Senator Hilary Rodham Clinton by the Women’s Foundation of California. As a leader in the human rights movement, Ms. Buck has a personal and professional commitment to developing NGOs and positioning them as key stakeholders for advancing social change.
Ms. Buck holds a BA in Women’s Studies, and resides in Los Angeles with her husband and their daughter Synneva.
Q. Where in Canada are you from and what brought you to the US?
A. I was lucky to grow up near Lake Diefenbaker, Saskatchewan, where my family and I still spend our summers boating and drinking the occasional Rye Press under the stars, and then later on in Calgary. I moved to Asia for 5 years doing international development work that started my career, and came to Los Angeles to work on violence against women initiatives during the Clinton administration in the mid 90's. I guess you could say I was drawn here to continue my passion for justice in a global city that is a reflection of my life’s work.
Q. What is your typical day like?
A. Anti-human trafficking work is as rewarding as it is demanding. Given that Los Angeles has the most cases of trafficking per year in the US, I spend most of my days leading a team of very committed experts (and amazing human beings) in developing innovative models to protect victims and hold traffickers accountable. I get to work with a very diverse group of people in the community ranging from LA’s business and political leaders to the FBI to philanthropists to survivors of trafficking who are using their voices for social change. You can learn a lot from survivors if you listen. I absolutely love it; there is NEVER a dull moment and it feels great knowing that I’m doing my part to improve the human condition for future generations.
Q. What are you most proud about in relation to what you do?
A. I am proud and inspired by CAST’s Survivor Network, the first program I developed at CAST, and a community of women and men who have overcome challenges to become powerful leaders creating sustainable change. The resilience and grace that survivors of human trafficking model for us all is breathtakingly beautiful and yet full of grit. It compels me to believe that a brighter future is always possible.
Q. Why is it good to be a Canadian in LA?
A. I have lots of company! Los Angeles has one of the highest populations of Canadians in the US…plus I must be doing something right if my fellow Canadians Ryan Gosling, Nia Vardalos, and Drake are here as well! Nia is introducing me at our upcoming 20th anniversary gala on May 10, 2018 and that is really meaningful for me.
"For more information on CAST LA and to purchase tickets for their 20th year celebration on May 10th, 2018, please visit: https://aesbid.co/ELP/CLA18"
Q. What do you miss most about Canada?
A. As much as I love LA, Canada has unmatched natural beauty- and space. When work gets particularly intense I think about all the expansive places in Canada where I could go to unplug…it’s the best place in the world to clear your head and connect with your thoughts before you dive back into the fast-pace of LA. That said, I’ve found LA to be a series of towns with similar values to the one where I grew up in Canada- Angelenos are some of the best people this world has to offer.
Q. What is the biggest misconception Americans have about Canada?
A. That Canada is this quiet little country relaxing just North of the US…in fact Canada is the 10th largest economy in the world! C’mon America.
Q. What keeps you up at night?
A. A culture that is turning away from empathy. I love the United States, but the success of our work at CAST proves that compassion is the solution. We all must cultivate a culture of respect for communities regardless of their circumstance and especially for those communities of people who are marginalized and often invisible to the public like trafficking victims. We become a kinder, happier, and more productive nation when we care for the most vulnerable. My fellow Canadians (and their American friends and colleagues) can help our cause by donating their time or resources to CAST or other like-minded organizations. Check us out at castla.org and follow us on social media.
Q. You are stuck on the 405 in traffic. What song are you singing along to and what are you thinking about?
A. I love Latin music and sing along to my favorite salsa songs. I also dance a bit to pass the time in that 405 traffic. I usually spend my morning commute going over the day in my head and calling a few people over Bluetooth…never text and drive!
Q. Any advice for our Canadian members who want to work in the non-profit sector?
A. First, you are doing the right thing. The world needs you right now more than ever. Take an inventory of your skills and think about how you could best apply your strengths to help a cause. Find something that you are deeply passionate about—non-profit work is demanding and it requires perseverance and an entrepreneurial spirit so you should spend time up front ensuring that you are fully committed to a mission. There are so many fantastic organizations here—join our CAST! #itendswithus #survivorstrong
James Villeneuve, Consul General of Canada in Los Angeles
James Villeneuve was appointed Consul General of Canada, Los Angeles in February 2014. He is Canada's senior representative in Southern California, Arizona and Nevada.
Prior to his appointment, Mr. Villeneuve worked for Anheuser Busch InBev, the world’s largest brewing company and the parent company of Labatt Breweries, for more than 27 years. He started with Labatt in Toronto in sales and marketing and was later transferred to Vancouver, where he was regional director of government affairs for Western Canada.
In 1995, Mr. Villeneuve returned to Toronto to manage Labatt’s rebranding initiative and to run the company’s corporate and sports properties. He later became director of corporate affairs and then vice-president of corporate affairs for Canada. From 2007 to 2009, Mr. Villeneuve worked in Brussels to lead InBev’s global corporate affairs practice. After InBev purchased Anheuser Busch in 2009, Mr. Villeneuve moved to St. Louis to lead the company’s North American corporate affairs department.
Mr. Villeneuve has served on many boards during his career, including the Toronto Economic Development Commission, the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, the 2008 Toronto Olympic Bid, the Granville Island Trust, the Association of Canadian Advertisers, Carleton University, the Canadian Club, Teach for America, the United Way and the Regional Chamber and Growth Association in St. Louis. He received a Bachelor’s degree from Carleton University in 1985.
Mr. Villeneuve is married to Kim Walker-Villeneuve and they have two children, Grace and Andrew.
Here is our interview with the Consul General:
Q. What’s the day in the life of the Consul General like?
A. It’s a lot of outside events – meetings with businesses or political leaders. And lots of evening work. We’ve hosted about 300 events at the Official Residence in 4 years, plus I’m out at others. That’s a good sign about the strength of our network here. On top of that, Canadians are constantly reaching out for help with passports, Americans and others are seeking visas, and so I stay on top of what our busy staff is up to, to make sure we can continue giving the Canadian taxpayers the best service.
Q. What has been your greatest accomplishment of being Consul General?
A. We’ve had great success on the trade and investment files. The customer satisfaction of companies working with our Trade Commissioner Service officers is the highest [of the 12 consulates] in the US. We’ve moved jobs, up to 400 at a time, up to Vancouver. The ability to attract that kind of investment to Canada is great for us as an office and a country.
Q. How has your view of LA changed over the years since you first began your post?
A. I was pleasantly surprised by what an international and global city LA is. Until you live here, you don’t appreciate the mosaic – people from all over the world.
Q. Why is it good to be a Canadian in LA?
A. There are lots of us here. So the ability to connect with other Canadians is great. Canada is a country of openness, tolerance and civility – and LA is like that, maybe the closest to Canadian values of anywhere in the US. Mayor Garcetti told me that people come to LA to live their dreams, which means everyone is welcome – and that Canadians should feel welcome, too.
Q. Any advice for new Canadian transplants in California?
A. Join Canadians Abroad! Go to events. See if your university alumni are meeting in LA, which many of them do. And register with the Consulate.
Q. You are stuck in traffic on the 405. What song are you usually signing along to and what are you thinking about?
A. Anything from Rush. Or The Tragically Hip.
Q. What keeps you up at night?
A. The safety of our citizens. I think about the Las Vegas shooting, where 16 of our citizens were shot. Something like that doesn’t come up daily, but it stays with you. I went out to visit some of the Canadians in the hospital, and it was pretty horrific. For most Canadians, I think, the US doesn’t really feel like a foreign country, but that was one of those instances where people felt in need of help from their government and where it’s most crucial that we can respond well – which I think we really did.
Q. Have you ever been star struck while in your position?
A. To a certain degree. It’s hard not to be star-struck when you meet people like Leonard Cohen at the Canadian Residence. What an icon.
Q. What do you find most challenging about being the Consul General?
A. Connecting Canada’s largest diaspora in the world. The city is so spread out, there’s a challenge in getting around and bringing people together. And also staying on top of all the Canadians who are here and coming all the time and doing interesting, valuable work.
Q. Your friends or family are in town. What would you typically do with them on a Saturday afternoon and evening here in LA?
A. Hiking, for sure. And baseball at Dodger Stadium.
Q. You have a week vacation with an unlimited budget. Where in Canada would you go and why?
A. Newfoundland. I’ve been there a bunch of times, and the people are great. Or maybe the Northwest Territories. Amazing natural beauty. The northern lights are beyond description.
Read more about the Consul General by clicking here.