Back to the...One River? Springbank Dam Environmental Assessment  Learn More

It's time for you to get to know this exceptional group

Meet the Jury

November 16, 2015

The Back to the River jury certainly had their work cut out for them with five strong proposals from the finalists. Luckily, this group was composed of some of the most talented people in the industry. Choosing the winner of the Back to the River design competition was no easy feat and we thank them for their tireless efforts! Now it’s time for you to get to know this exceptional group.

Joni Baechler, Chair

Former London Mayor

Joni Baechler served as Mayor of London from June to November of 2014. Prior to that, she served as a city councillor for 14 years. She is recognized as a leader in championing sustainable growth, environmental protection, sound fiscal policy, progressive transportation systems and urban design. Joni believes that great communities are defined by their unique sense of place, their high-quality urban design, their walkability, and their ability to engage and respond to its citizens.  In addition to serving London on Council, over the past three years, Joni has been appointed by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to serve on the following FCM committees: Municipal Infrastructure and Transportation Policy, Social Economic Development, Intergovernmental and Municipal infrastructure, Environment and Sustainable Development, International Relations and Increasing Women’s Participation in Municipal Government.

Paul Bedford

Urban Mentor, Adjunct Professor of City and Regional Planning and former Toronto Chief Planner

Paul Bedford is a Member and Fellow of the Canadian Institute of Planners with 45 years of experience in urban planning. As Toronto’s Chief City Planner for eight years, he championed numerous innovative planning strategies with Jane Jacobs for the King-Spadina and King- Parliament districts, a new city-wide Official Plan and a principles plan for the Central Waterfront called “Making Waves”. He served eight Mayors over his 31 year career at the City of Toronto. Since his retirement he was appointed Adjunct Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Toronto and Ryerson University. He also serves on the National Capital Commission’s Planning Advisory Committee, the Waterfront Toronto Design Review Panel, the University of Toronto Design Review Panel, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health Property Committee and is a Senior Associate of the Canadian Urban Institute. He is also a member of the Advisory Board of 8-80 Cities and the Ryerson City Building Institute.

Dave Harvey

Founder and Director, Parks People

Dave Harvey is the founder and has been Director of Parks People. In recognition of his contributions to the community, he was awarded a Toronto Community Foundation Vital People grant in 2011. Dave has many decades of experience managing environmental and municipal issues in government and in politics. He was awarded a Metcalf Foundation Innovation Fellowship in 2010 and released a report for the Foundation in September: Fertile Ground for New Thinking – Improving Toronto’s Parks. Prior to his Fellowship, Dave served as Senior Advisor to the Premier of Ontario, working to develop, implement and communicate the Ontario Government’s agenda in the areas of environment, natural resources, and municipal affairs. He played a key leadership role in many aspects of the Ontario Government’s progressive agenda, including the 1.8-million-acre Greenbelt, the GTA Growth Plan, the City of Toronto Act and the Go Green Climate Action Plan.

George Kapelos

Associate Professor, Department of Architectural Science, Ryerson University

George Thomas Kapelos FRAIC is an architect and planner, and teaches architecture and planning at Ryerson University. A native of London Ontario, he received a Bachelor of Arts from Princeton University (magna cum laude), a Master of City Planning from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and a Master of Architecture from Yale, where he was a CMHC scholar. His research focuses on the interrelationship between humans and their environments, through critical investigations of architecture, landscape, and urbanism in the modern and post-modern period. Themes of phenomenology, health and environment, architectural education and Canadian modernity are explored. He was Chair of the Ryerson University Department of Architectural Science from 2002 – 2007, during which time he oversaw revisions to the undergraduate curriculum and introduced two new graduate programs. He is past president of the Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada and became a fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada in 2007. He curated the exhibition “Course Studies – Tracking Ontario’s Thames” mounted at Museum London in 2002 that explored the interrelationship of the river and people in southwestern Ontario. He is currently working on a project to explore the impact of the 1958 Toronto City Hall international competition on architecture and public space in Canada.

Alissa North

Director of Landscape Architecture Program University of Toronto, Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design

Alissa North is the Director of the Master of Landscape Architecture Program in the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design at the University of Toronto, where she is an Associate Professor. Alissa is the author of Operative Landscapes: Building Communities Through Public Space (Birkhäuser: 2013), for which she was awarded the OALA 2014 Research and Innovation award, and of “Processing Downsview Park: transforming a theoretical diagram to master plan and construction reality” in the Journal of Landscape Architecture. She is also a Founding Partner of North Design Office, a Toronto based landscape architecture practice. The office is committed to the idea that well-designed urban environments and open spaces create vibrant communities and ecologies. North Design Office has been awarded and published internationally through their competition proposals and public space installations. The Toronto based office was established in 2005 in partnership with Pete North, and draws from the partners’ expertise in research and theory to solve challenging urban issues, and develop inventive approaches to designing the built environment.

Don Pearson

General Manager Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority

Don Pearson joined the Lower Thames ValleyConservation Authority on January 1, 2013 following nearly 8 years as General Manager of Conservation Ontario, the umbrella organization of Ontario’s 36 Conservation Authorities. Prior to joining Conservation Ontario, Don spent two years as Chief Administrative Officer of the County of Perth. Don was the General Manager of the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority for 22 years, where under his leadership the Authority earned a reputation for excellence and innovation in environmental management and community engagement. He is a member of the Boards of Ontario Heritage Trust and the Canadian Water Network; and has been a member of the Ontario Biodiversity Council and Trees Ontario since 2005. He holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Western Ontario and an Honours Science Degree from the University of Waterloo.

Carolyn Woodland

Senior Director, Planning, Greenspace and Communications, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority

Since 2002, Carolyn has overseen the Planning and Development division of TRCA collaborating in environmental planning, development review, policy and environmental assessment functions for the conservation authority within 18 municipalities of the Toronto region. Previously, Carolyn was President of Hough Woodland Naylor Dance Leinster, an award winning environmental planning and design firm practising across Canada and internationally. Carolyn is a planner and landscape architect, and has maintained a broadly based practice in development feasibility, urban design, parks and open space planning, heritage planning and environmental planning/site design. She was a longstanding Chair of the Design and Planning Committee of the National Capital Commission in Ottawa – selected from a distinguished national base of experts to oversee urban assignments of national interest throughout the Capital Region.

Barbara Wilks

Principal and Founder of W Architecture and Landscape Architecture, New York

As an architect and a landscape architect, Barbara uses her leadership skills to realign nature and the city. Barbara is an expert on waterfronts, having worked on many projects around the world, creating engaging and sustainable landscapes. Projects include work on Resiliency for HUD Rebuild by Design and NY Rising; Tide Point, a 13 acre campus on the Inner Harbor in Baltimore MD; and the St Patrick’s Island, a 30 acre island restoration and park in Calgary Alberta, which is being built as a catalyst to draw residents to this area of the downtown. Her designs range from urban public spaces, to infrastructure, to architecture, and her goal is to use design to create access and a means of participation—a route to discovery and engagement.


Vanessa Dolishny
Vanessa is the manager of communications at London Community Foundation where she oversees the Foundation's communications and media strategy. A community enthusiast with a passion for creating change, Vanessa loves using her creativity to have a positive impact on the community. When it comes to ideas, the bolder the better!