Oh, what a night! A sold out crowd of 250 environment industry colleagues came together at the Delta Marriott in the heart of downtown Toronto for the 24th Annual Brownie Awards on Friday, November 24th, 2023.
The Brownie Awards are presented in partnership by the Canadian Brownfields Network (CBN) and Actual Media Inc., Environment Journal’s parent company. This year a historic number of nominations were received, including a remarkable variety of projects and programs, from smaller-scale community initiatives to once-in-a-generation infrastructure developments. There were many familiar friends as well as several new guests in attendance, a combination of brownfield champions, visionaries, practitioners, and professionals working to cleanup and revitalize communities across Canada.
Corinne Lynds, VP of Content & Partnerships at Actual Media with Todd Latham, president of Actual Media Inc. and Master of Ceremonies for the Brownie Awards.
“Welcome to the 24th annual Brownie Awards, celebrating the best and brightest in the brownfield industry,” said Todd Latham, president of Actual Media Inc. and perennial MC of the Brownie Awards. He kicked off with some of his signature brownfield humour. “Why do brownfielders get invited to parties? Because they know how to consume reagents, break down barriers and remediate awkward situations!”
Latham also acknowledged the important participation of the esteemed Brownie Awards judging panel. composed of a range of senior-level industry stakeholders.
This was the most well attended and memorable Brownie Awards gala to date, featuring special moments and surprises throughout the course of the evening.
Keynote presentation on Indigenous partnerships
Eric Pringle, the CEO and managing partner at Milestone Environmental Contracting Inc., provided a compelling presentation on “Toughest jobs done right with Indigenous partners.”
With a career spanning fours decades in the environmental industry, Pringle is a highly regarded professional engineer and a seasoned leader with a focus on fostering a culture of environmental stewardship, mentorship, and career development. His outstanding contributions to the industry have been acknowledged with accolades such as a Brownie Award, where he was honored as the Canadian Brownfielder of the Year in 2014, a prestigious award that recognizes individuals who have made exceptional strides in the field. Pringle is also a former president of the CBN and currently holds an advisory role with the CBN Board of Directors.
“The Brownies are such a great event that bring together so many tremendous people and companies to celebrate the projects and work that we do that, in my opinion, makes the world a better place,” said Pringle, who added that the Land Acknowledgment is an important part of the evening.
“Truth and Reconciliation is complex and can mean different things to different people. In general terms for our purposes tonight, I’m going to say that Truth and Reconciliation encompasses two essential elements: The truth involved in building awareness and understanding past tragedies and generational impacts that persist to this day. Reconciliation is a process of establishing, building, and strengthening respectful relationships that involves training, capacity building, and economic empowerment.
Pringle explained that for the Milestone team collaborating with Indigenous partners is a cornerstone of our Truth and Reconciliation journey. “The path may be complex, and it may be daunting, but as individuals and organizations we can play a significant role in making a difference that is beneficial to all. Projects can be enriched by incorporating cultural elements, traditional knowledge, historical context, while actively engaging the broader community.”
He emphasized the conscious and deliberate steps that lead to project success and outlined four guiding principles for navigating Indigenous relations: respect and recognition, community investments, lasting relationships, and building opportunities through partnership.
Pringle pointed to examples of some tough and challenging projects, large and small, from across the country, that have benefitted from Indigenous partnerships over the years. In British Columbia, the remediation of the Coquitlam watershed and a former gun range, hospital redevelopment, TransCanada pipeline sites, and a Harbour Marine site remediation in Esquimalt. In Alberta, the remediation of a Department of National Defence site in Medicine Hat. In Quebec, the demolition and restoration of the Corbeau hydroelectric station as well as a significant habitat and shoreline cleanup. In Yellowknife, the Giant Mine remediation in Yellowknife and in Nunavut, a multi-year project to cleanup abandoned an abandoned DEW (Distant Early Warning) Line site. In Ontario, the massive and complex Randle Reef cleanup in Hamilton Harbour, as well as a large soil remediation and construction project at the Zibi site in Ottawa. Some of these are Brownie Award winning projects.
“These partnerships and the projects we engage in are reconciliatory by nature. Environmental reconciliation by bettering the environment and are characterized by economic reconciliation through training, capacity building, and revenue sharing that contributes to the socio-economic wellbeing of these communities,” explained Pringle. “Given the sum of these tough jobs, there’s a meaningful opportunity for truth and reconciliation in the brownfields space.”
(For further information on these Milestone projects and more, click here.)
This chart illustrates the success and growth of Milestone’s Indigenous partnerships over the years:
Pringle welcomed partners Wanda Thusky and Andrew (Andy) Decontie of Decontie Construction to the stage to share their perspectives on their shared projects. Thusky and Decontie are past winners of the Brownfielder of the Year award, in 2019.
“Decontie Construction is one of the many Indigenous construction companies in Canada. When executing projects, we encourage you all to seek out the Indigenous communities that the projects are on,” said Thusky. “Their workforces – go see them, get to know them, and understand their stories, history, traditions, and the economic realities in their territories. As contractors contribute Include them by way of meaningful partnerships, create friendships, leave your hats at the door and be genuine.
Wanda Thusky, who is an Algonquin (the Indigenous Peoples of southern Quebec and eastern Ontario), explained that these actions help make meaningful impacts toward a changing narrative.
“As I stand here following Eric’s beautiful words about Indigenous engagement and partnership, I am also honoured to recognize our partners, Milestone Environmental Contracting. We are coming close to almost 10 years as partners in a unique and unprecedented way it has been an incredible journey of growth, understanding and mutual respect. Miigwech for that.”
The most moving moment of the evening was Wanda Thusky and Andy Decontie’s presentation of a surprise gift to Eric Pringle for their decade-long partnership.
“As an Indigenous company we are grateful for walking together and understanding our cultural similarities and differences. Andrew and I believe that our experiences have resulted in the creation of a pathway of strength, resilience that we can share with the industry moving forward,” said Thusky. “We are proud to be your partners. You have blazed a road, one that is feared far too often, but you are always there to demonstrate through action ways to change the status quo.”
(Note: Environment Journal will publish a complete overview of this informative and inspiring keynote presentation soon.)
Brownie Awards winners for 2023
Please join us in congratulating the winners of the 2023 Brownie Awards:
CATEGORY 1 – REPROGRAM: Legislation, Policy and Program Initiatives
Kingston Municipal Excess Soil Management Program – Kingston, Ontario
The program and infrastructure that Kingston has implemented provides contractors and engineers with an example of how to manage soils from their projects so that brownfield remediation costs can be reduced and so that projects don’t create additional soil quality issues elsewhere.
Project Team: Environment Department, Public Works Department, Engineering Department, Utilities Kingston, Real Estate and Employment Land Sales.
CATEGORY 2 – REMEDIATE: Sustainable Remediation and Technological Innovation
(It was a tie!)
Design and Implementation of PFAS Source Control Remediation Project– Lazo (Comox), British Columbia
SLR Consulting (Canada) developed an innovative remediation program on behalf of Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) and the Department of National Defence (DND) to address risks from per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination related to the use of aqueous film forming foam at the firefighting training area at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Comox. The project is the largest full-scale implementation of PFAS amendment in Canada and applied novel PFAS soil remediation methods.
Project Team: SLR Consulting (Canada) Ltd; Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC); Department of National Defence (DND); QM Environmental; and, SNC Lavalin.
Bronte Creek Valley Remediation – Oakville, Ontario
This project shifted the paradigm of conventional thinking surrounding environmental clean-up. Rather than swiftly adopting a costly solution that could harm the local ecosystem and require decades for recovery, the project team embraced a multifaceted, innovative, and cost-effective remediation strategy. This included: conducting surgical excavations to minimize excavation impact; deploying sustainable technologies like phytoremediation, enhanced bioremediation, and monitored natural attenuation; and, completing a Community Based Risk Assessment which considered the ecological, residential, and recreational users.
Project Team: Stantec Consulting Ltd; Trans-Northern Pipelines Inc.; and, Stamnik Industrial Inc.
CATEGORY 3 – REINVEST: Financing, Risk Management and Partnerships
Grimsby Wetlands – Grimsby, Ontario
The former Biggar Sewage Lagoons were constructed in the early 1960s and operated by Niagara Region until the year 2000. The 29-acre property had four small aeriation ponds, one of which belong to the Department of National Defence (DND), and the other 20 acres belong to the Region. A series of negotiations and proposals transformed the site, which is available for public use. Today the property is known as the Grimsby Wetlands, a project of the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club (HNC).
Project Team: Hamilton Naturalists’ Club; Niagara Region; Town of Grimsby; Friends of the Grimsby Wetlands; and, Grimsby & District Lions Club.
CATEGORY 4 – REFOCUS: Vision of Alternative Benefits to Brownfields Remediation
RenuWell Project – Taber, Alberta
The RenuWell Project represents a successful collaboration between a municipality, irrigation co-operative and the private and non-profit sectors to transform orphan oil & gas brownfield liabilities into community solar generation assets, supporting grid decarbonization, conserving high value land and generating cost savings through re-use of infrastructure.
Project Team: Municipal District of Taber; Irrigation Canal Power Co-operative Ltd. (IRRICAN); Elemental Energy (Alberta 2003) Inc./RenuWell Energy Solutions Inc.; SkyFire Energy Inc.; and, Iron & Earth.
CATEGORY 5 – REBUILD: Redevelopment at the Local, Site Scale
152 Shanley Street Redevelopment – Kitchener, Ontario
The project team strategically accessed policy initiatives, including Waterloo Development Charge exemption for brownfield sites, Kitchener brownfield council approved tax increment grant, and MECP tools for separating liabilities associated with on- and off-site impacts. They collaborated with the City on the concept developed for the site via community engagement, and further engaging in public consultation, as well as secured options to facilitate sustainable beneficial reuse options and promote education associated with contaminated site redevelopment.
Project Team: Shannondale Developments; City of Kitchener; Region of Waterloo; Stantec Consulting Ltd.; and, QM Environmental.
CATEGORY 6 – RENEW: Redevelopment at the Community Scale
Thorold Multimodal Hub – Thorold, Ontario
The project brings together a range of stakeholders behind an objective of making better use of Niagara’s valuable multimodal-industrial assets: HOPA Ports, private sector owners BMI Group, and civic economic development stakeholders who have championed the project. The shared vision has enabled the Hub to grow in phases over time, allowing new lands and industrial capabilities to be added to the ‘industrial ecosystem’ over time. The project has been highly successful, exceeding goals for new tenancies in the three years since launch.
Project Team: HOPA Ports; BMI Group (formerly Bioveld); City of Thorold; and, GIO Rail.
CATEGORY 7 – REACH OUT: Communication, Marketing and Public Engagement
Port Lands Flood Protection – Toronto, Ontario
This project involves excavating and treating approximately 1.4 million cubic metres of contaminated soil and treating and reusing much of it on site. Waterfront Toronto’s communications department executes a comprehensive outreach strategy to build support for the Port Lands Flood Protection project and keep the public informed by:
- Creating a fun and engaging video campaign to explain the scope and impact of the project
- Holding unique and innovative live events that promote understanding of the science and engineering behind the brownfield redevelopment underway
- Sharing progress updates using innovative channels to keep project advocates engaged
- Commissioning photographers to document and interpret the site’s transformation, including public engagements like CONTACT Photography Festival installations and artist talks.
Project Team: Waterfront Toronto; Bespoke Collective; Toronto and Region Conservation Authority; and, Agency Partners (Ports Toronto and CreateTO).
CATEGORY 8 – BROWNFIELDER OF THE YEAR
As Chief Project Officer for Waterfront Toronto, David Kusturin is responsible for providing strategic leadership and direction in the delivery of project management, environmental remediation, project controls and procurement functions for the organization. The $25 billion revitalization of Toronto’s waterfront is one of the largest urban renewal initiatives in the world. He brings 35 years of real estate development and global project management experience to this role, having previously held senior management positions at international consulting and real estate firms. He has been at the forefront of brownfield redevelopment, skillfully galvanizing teams to collaborate and innovate, and the projects he has led have been instrumental in transforming Toronto’s Waterfront and setting a high standard for urban renewal.
BEST LARGE PROJECT: Gordie Howe International Bridge – Windsor, Ontario
The Gordie Howe International Bridge project is a once-in-a-generation $5.7 billion public- private partnership (P3) which embodies the very essence of brownfield redevelopment by transforming multiple Canadian brownfield sites into a symbol of progress, sustainability, and cross-border cooperation. The project is an engineering marvel that will be the longest cable stay bridge in North America, at 853 metres in length, with a tower height of 220 metres. The project leveraged a P3 model, bringing together strengths and resources of both public and private sectors.
Project Team: Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority (WDBA) and consultants (Parsons, WSP, GHD and Jacobs); Clayton Sereres (WDBA Senior Director, Environmental); Bridging North America (BNA); and, Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and consultant (Mannik & Smith Group).
BEST SMALL PROJECT: Ta’an Kwäch’än Council (TKC) Settlement Land – Whitehorse, Yukon
This project aimed to restore an area of Ta’an Kwäch’än Council (TKC) Settlement Land impacted by historic mining so that environmental impact was minimized, and the site could be used, as it was historically, by First Nation Citizens. Several expired placer claims were located on TKC Settlement Land, around 35 km north of Whitehorse. The land around the site had traditionally been used for harvesting food and medicinal plants for generations; however, in the 1980s, five placer mine claims were staked.
Project Team: SLR Consulting; Ta’an Kwäch’än Council (TKC); Government of Yukon; and, Federal Government (CIRNAC).
BEST OVERALL PROJECT: Birchley Park – Toronto, Ontario
Birchley Park is a vibrant mixed-use community with new public streets, over 5.8 acres of public park, a range of housing options, retail space, and a potential elementary school. The site will deliver over 1,050 residential units in multiple development blocks with a variety of housing types and tenures, including a block of land to be conveyed to an affordable housing provider. The first phase will implement a geoexchange system (resulting in reduced carbon emissions) and is planned to achieve LEED certification.
Project Team: DiamondKilmer; EQ Building Performance; Enwave, CreateTO; Habitat for Humanity; and, Evergreen.
(For detailed descriptions of all the winning projects and project champions, click here.)
Closing remarks and rap
Finally, to wrap up the night, MC Todd Latham surprised attendees with an amusing musical interpretation of the trials and tribulations of brownfield redevelopment, the “BToddy Brownfield Rap” written with the help of artificial intelligence and delivered with Latham’s signature enthusiasm.
“Yo, gather ’round, let me tell you a tale,
‘Bout brownfield sites, where hope seemed to fail.
Once greenfield lands, now tainted and bruised —
But we’re here to heal, ain’t no time to lose.
History of pollution and neglect — nature was denied.
Now we’re breaking those chains, watchin’ the earth revive.
Innovative solutions and engineering grace —
We’re planting trees and flowers in this once barren place!
Brownfield no more, it’s a canvas reborn —
Nature’s masterpiece, we watch the colors adorn.
It’s a fresh shot of redemption, of hope and of grace.
Brownfields First — We’re bringing a smile to Earth’s face!”
Brownie Award attendees enjoyed catching up with colleagues throughout the evening.
For further information about the Brownie Awards, click here.
For a complete collection of gala photos, click here.