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CFB Borden engineer sees many reasons for more women to enlist

Never once in Maj. Kayda Mercurio’s 18-year career in the Canadian Forces has she ever felt limited simply because she’s a woman.

Between the time the B.C. native joined the reserves on a part-time basis at 17 to become a vehicle technician, to years later, when she achieved officer status after joining the military full-time so she could pursue a bachelor’s degree in electrical mechanical engineering, gender has never prevented her from advancing.

“Some people have a misunderstanding that when you join the military, you have to be able to haul 150 pounds and do all this crazy stuff,” she said. “In reality, you just have to be a person with drive, determination and motivation. If you’re a motivated individual, you can do anything here.”

Mercurio, 35, who is currently assigned to CFB Borden where she is serving with J3 Training and J5 Production in a coordination and training support role for some of the schools on base, agrees with the military’s long-term goal to bring more women into the organization.

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Last month, chief of defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance handed down a directive to have women make up for 25 per cent of the military’s personnel over the next 10 years. This will be achieved by increasing the number of female recruits by one per cent year over year.

Lt.-Gen. Christine Whitecross, who heads up Military Personnel Command, said the goal is “tangible” but admits it will be “difficult” given people’s perception of the military being better suited for men.

“(It’s) a fairly large effort for the next 10 years, but frankly it’s the right thing to do . . . we are not where we need to be,” she said.

To achieve the enlistment target, Whitecross said the military has to increase its women recruits up to 1,700 of the 4,200 people who join annually.

Based on Mecurio’s experience, she said it’s hard to see why more women don’t enlist.

She suspects it may have something to do with the kind of opportunities girls are exposed to.

Growing up, Mercurio was allowed to do everything with her family, from fishing, to working on the house and her parents’ cars.

“I guess it comes down to the fact that you don’t know what you don’t know,” she said.

“I never had any limits but I guess if you grew up in a family where you weren’t exposed to those opportunities, you wouldn’t even think to go there.”

Mercurio has had many career highs, from obtaining a university degree at no cost, to serving at bases around the country and spending 18 months in the UK with the British Special Forces on an ammunition course.

While she is enjoying her current assignment, she is always thinking of where her career will take her next.

“At some point I’d like to do a masters degree,” she said, adding she could also pursue a new trade if she chooses to do so.

Though there have been times when she was the only female serving in a particular situation, she never experienced any kind of discrimination because of this.

All that mattered was how well she performed, she said.

“I’ve worked along men and women and never really noticed a difference,” she said. “I treat everybody exactly them same and I get treated the same.”

– with files from Torstar

Barrie piano teacher instructs in Suzuki method

Just as babies learn language from their parents, so too can kids learn a musical instrument through listening, Nena LaMarre says.

LaMarre is a local piano instructor who just became certified as a piano teacher-trainer with the Suzuki Association of the Americas — one of  just five in Canada.

Tickling the ivories wasn’t her first foray into music.

“I was eight or nine when I started playing the accordion, which was a big, heavy instrument for someone little,” LaMarre said while sitting in her Barrie studio.

After success with the accordion, LaMarre’s parents thought a piano would be easier for her to play.

By the time she was 13, LaMarre had received her Grade 10 diploma from the Royal Conservatory of Music and neighbours asked if she could teach their kids how to play.

She’s been teaching piano ever since.

LaMarre learned about the Suzuki method when her eldest daughter, Janice, wanted to learn violin.

“She had heard it on a record, Big Bird Discovers the Orchestra,” LaMarre said.

They found a teacher who happened to teach the Suzuki method.

Shinichi Suzuki was a violinist who said if children hear music from birth and learn to play, they develop sensitivity, discipline and endurance.

His philosophy included immersing children in sound.

It starts by inviting the children to sit in on someone else’s music lesson.

“From the very first lesson, it was an atmosphere of calm and joy,” LaMarre said. “(Janice) was four and sat on my lap listening to beautiful music.”

Next, the Suzuki method has parents play a repertoire on CD daily at home before the child starts lessons of their own.

“As a traditional player my whole life, I learned the incredible power of daily listening for that child,” LaMarre said. “It was part of the background of our home life and they were trained to play it.”

Janice’s instructor not only told her about playing the notes on the violin, but about creating a beautiful tone.

“For me, that was a huge revelation as a teacher,” LaMarre said. “Now I teach children how to get a beautiful tone.”

Two of her students are sisters Laurel and Hayley Scott.

Their mom, Marianne Scott, stumbled into it after a Kindermusic teacher passed along information about the Suzuki method.

“It was really compelling. I had thought about piano lessons, but I hadn’t learned to play myself and didn’t really know what it was about,” she said.

They still incorporate music into their busy lives in the mornings, usually after breakfast.

“My eldest daughter now will go to the piano after she wakes up. It’s good, because we’re all morning people.”

Scott has noticed the program has helped improve her daughters’ confidence levels.

“My eldest daughter is very comfortable being on stage and performing in front of other people. She’s also very excited to play for her classmates,” Scott said. “She doesn’t have nervousness standing in front of people and speaking, which is fabulous.”

LaMarre said becoming a Suzuki-certified piano teacher-trainer has opened doors.

• For more information about LaMarre’s program, visit

Fire at Georgian College residence in Barrie

BARRIE – Some Georgian College students got a harsh wake up Thursday morning after they were evacuated when a fire broke out in a residence room.

No one was injured and no one was in the room when the fire started around 9:45 a.m., said Barrie police Sgt. John Brooks.

The seventh and eighth floors at 101 Georgian Drive were evacuated, and the cause of the fire is still under investigation, he said.

“The (floors) were engulfed in black smoke. Most of the students were already off to school,” he said. “It was thick, heavy smoke, so there’s definitely going to be smoke-related damage. The reality is, (the cause) could be anything from human error, to electrical.”

At 10:30 a.m. Barrie Fire reported that the fire was out and crews were checking for hot spots.

Georgian student Andrew Russ, who lives on the eighth floor, was in his room at the time of the fire.

“There was black smoke everywhere (and) people running. The guy said, ‘Get outside, it’s real,’” he said, shivering while standing outside the building in blue shorts.

Added friend Tyler Hale: “We got out as soon as possible.”

A Georgian maintenance worker who declined to give his name was trembling outside the building after he said he was right outside the room where the fire began where he inhaled black smoke.

He said the fire grew quickly, and he was thankful for the fire safety training he got as a kid.

Georgian student Fiona Smith said she was sleeping in her room on the eighth floor when the fire started.

“I just thought it was a fire drill,” she said.

Fellow student Megan Gibson said she did not see the fire but could smell the smoke.

“I was on my way to college, but I didn’t have time to grab my stuff. I could sort of smell it… like burnt.”


Council defers inking beachfront beer garden lease with Wasaga Beach Brewing Company

Wasaga Beach councillors have put off signing a lease with a nascent brewing company for a beachfront beer garden.

At council’s March 22 meeting, a motion to sign a lease for the beer garden with the was deferred until the town knows the construction costs for the building.


The beer garden would be part of the proposed Main Street Market, and is estimated to cost about $30,000. The company has offered up $30,000 toward the capital cost.An engineering consulting firm is currently reviewing the draft drawings for the beer garden. Once the consultants finish their review, the town will then be in a position to advertise for a construction contractor.Deputy Mayor Nina Bifolchi said she wasn’t comfortable approving the lease when the terms and parameters of the beer garden appeared to have changed several times. Coun. Sylvia Bray was concerned that a precedent was being set in constructing a purpose-built building for a single business.”This needs to be fair to the town, to taxpayers, and to the business community,” she said. “We’re responding to 20,000 people, we we should have a clear understanding to the process. Coun. Ron Anderson pointed out it didn’t make sense the town would be leasing a building when it didn’t know the capital costs.

“I think we should put this off until we have more information on the building and costs, and go ahead at the same time to sign a lease that night,” he said.

The town’s economic development and tourism director Andrew McNeill said he didn’t expect construction to exceed $30,000; he added the construction cost is a line item in the municipal budget, but with the offer from the brewing company, “we would be able to absorb any cost overruns.”

McNeill told committee of the whole the previous week the Simcoe County District Health Unit had agreed the beer garden wouldn’t require permanent washroom facilities, and that it would be acceptable to use port-a-potties.

“They want to use this market as an example of how to do these kinds of temporary activations,” he told local reporters. “They’re looking to work with us and make sure everything is done properly, but they want to use us as the gold standard of how to do temporary markets, so they can say to everyone else ‘look at what Wasaga Beach did on their beachfront if you want to do something (similar) in your community.’ I think that’s fantastic.”

Coun. Bill Stockwell expressed frustration that decisions about the beer garden seemed to be left to the last minute, when the market is expected to open on Canada Day.

“If you want something messed up, let government do it … we’ve been talking for months about the beer garden,” he said. “This is late in the game to start horsing around with this project.”

One of the principals behind the Wasaga Beach Brewing Company, David Cubitt, declined to comment. The company anticipates having beer on LCBO shelves and in local bars before the long weekend in May.

OPP investigating graffiti tagging in The Blue Mountains

Collingwood and The Blue Mountains OPP is asking for the public’s assistance to solve several incidents of graffiti.


In the last few weeks, officers have received information about graffiti in various areas in The Blue Mountains. The graffiti is mainly on traffic light control boxes, Canada Post mailboxes and various private property structures and is in the form a ‘stick man’ figure and the words ‘NATUR’ and ‘Protect what is left’.

Investigation is ongoing and if you have any information in regards to these crimes, please contact the Collingwood/The Blue Mountains O.P.P. at (705) 445-4321 or Call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (1-800-222-8477) or submit your information online at or