“A Career for Life” - Gordon Johnston’s Story

Twenty-eight years ago I was driver-dispatcher for Second Harvest. It was the type of job where I got to listen to CBC Radio a lot. My favourite program was hosted by Peter Gzouski. One morning, Peter Gzouski interviewed Kerry Wadman using an Intervenor. The following week, he interviewed the Intervenor. This interview piqued my interest in pursuing a career as an Intervenor. 

I phoned up the CBC who directed me to the CNIB. The CNIB suggested I contact GBC, as it was planning on starting the Intervenor program in the fall. There was a full time and part time program and I opted for the part time so I could continue with my day job. The class was held 9 am to 5pm on Saturdays. All the students were mature, working and very earnest.

However, after just nine Saturdays the part time program was cancelled. The students were very upset and protested this decision. GBC relented by allowing the first semester to finish but unless we wanted to study full time, that was it. Thinking that this was the end of my goal of becoming an Intervenor, I was pleasantly surprised a few months later, to get a call from Joyce Thompson, or “JT”. JT told me about RCA and how its new building was nearing completion. Intervenors were needed by the end of the month. She hired me over the phone that night. 

JT had organized evening training classes for one week. At the time, this was all the training that was needed for an Intervenor. The classes were very basic and included 2 hand manual, some O&M and ASL. True terror was wearing a blindfold and being guided down the fire escape first by JT and later by one of my fellow students Peter.

Following my week of training, I started at RCA a few days after the first tenant arrived. On my first day, I met the consumer, and 15 minutes later we were out in the community trying to figure things out. 'Trying to figure things out', is a good way of describing my early days as an Intervenor. Ours was an evolving profession. 

I learned over time to be mindful of the fact that the consumers have had rich and varied life experiences. For example, I remember telling one consumer about a movie being filmed based on the Christie Pit Riots in Toronto during the 1930's. As I described the movie, he stopped me saying, "I was there and got my arm broken in three places by a man hitting me with a baseball bat".

Years later, in my role as the CHKC gardening instructor, Kerry and I had a good laugh about his role in bringing me into the "field".