Sailing on Lake Ontario on a summer’s day, one could easily overlook the problems of the city on the northern shore. But Dan Cornacchia, a Toronto native and sailing enthusiast, not only recognizes the challenges of his hometown but works actively to make things better. This recently retired partner and former Toronto Managing Partner, with more than 35 years at EY, is dedicating his time and effort to building peaceful solutions for urban communities.
Cornacchia and a friend, David Lockett, led the creation of The Redwood Shelter for abused women and children. The center, which opened in 1993 as an early project of the Parkdale/High Park Rotary Club, provides a safe place for women and children who are victims of family violence. When they realized that the only way to stop violence was to address its cause, Cornacchia and Lockett founded the Canadian Foundation for the Prevention of Family Violence. “It’s important to break the cycle,” Cornacchia says. “Behaviors get passed from one generation to the next.”
The foundation is the parent organization of PACT, which stands for Participation, Acknowledgment, Commitment and Transformation. The PACT Youth Crime Reduction Program encourages troubled youth to reach their full potential in life. PACT has helped nearly 3,500 at-risk youth in partnership with the courts and schools in Greater Toronto.
Starting up such a challenging venture requires a strong entrepreneurial drive, in addition to a commitment to community service. While at EY, Cornacchia had the opportunity to exercise both. For more than 10 years, he was the Ontario leader for the Entrepreneur Of The Year program. In 2008, he introduced the Social Entrepreneur Of The Years ® award in Canada to recognize individuals who drive social innovation and transformation.In 2006, Cornacchia was asked by Lou Pagnutti, the Chairman and CEO of EY Canada, to become the firm’s National Community Engagement Leader. The mission was to establish real connections between EY people and their communities. Cornacchia revamped and enhanced the firm’s community engagement efforts, harnessing people’s energy and enthusiasm for volunteering with the firm’s charitable contributions — with a strong focus on education and mentoring.
Meanwhile, PACT was taking off. During the first 18 months of its initial program, 300 youths charged with both violent and nonviolent crimes were diverted from Scarborough Youth Court in Toronto. Each charged youth then met with the victim — and with the victim’s family and often the arresting officer or other community representative as well — to determine a binding agreement whereby he or she would make restitution and commit to a change in behavior. As a result, the recidivism rate dropped by 90%.
There are three programs within PACT: mediation or peace circle, which brings understanding among youth, victims and the court system; life skills, which includes work projects to enhance the urban environment, training and job skills; and year-long coaching. PACT has been endorsed by the United Nations Secretary General’s Study on Violence Against Children. In addition, the program was the first recipient of Rotary’s Wilf Wilkinson Peace Award, which recognizes the organization’s significant contribution to defending, preserving, nurturing and promoting a culture of peace and nonviolence. Cornacchia says that the Rotary motto, “Service Above Self,” continues to inspire him.