Sweatshop conditions

By. Theresa Skubic


Theresa: It is so easy to swipe, insert, or tap our debit cards which purchasing a shirt of H&M, Joe fresh and Nike. But do you ever stop and think where did the journey of this nine-dollar shirt start, and whose hands created the clothes being featured in catalogues and commercials.

My name is Theresa and in my podcast, I will be discussing how it is possible for the clothes to be made at these low prices, and how the costs are affecting garment worker’s world wide.

Sweatshops are factories where workers work long hours for an average 24 cents an hour, adding up to roughly 38$ a month. They are forced to work in extremely poor conditions and if caught complaining or slacking, they will be abused ether physically or verbally. In other words, most clothing brands such as Victoria Secret, Joe Fresh, and even the Kardashian’s line are not bothered with violating Humans Rights if in the end, they have money in their pockets.

Looking at a recent garment factory incident on June 25 2014, garment works were sewing cries for help onto the tags of a Primark dress. These labels read “Forced to work exhausting hours, and degrading sweatshop conditions.

The last this story was discussed Primark promised to investigate this incident, stating they were sure these labels would turn out to be a hoax, and perhaps someone took a needle in the change room.

“This mountain of rubble is a monument to the 1100 lives lost here last April when this garment factory collapsed in Bangladesh.” (CBC News, 2014) Fifth estates, Mark Kelly, said this after travelling to Dhaka Bangladesh and witnessing the remains of the worlds largest garment factory disaster.

On April 24, 2013 Rana Plaza in Bangladesh went up in flames. Over 1000 people died and no one said a thing, said Sajeet Sennik, an ex designer for Walmart. (CBC News, 2014)

After the fire, said Sajeet, a meeting was held. No one discussed the lives lost, rather they discussed units and margins. Profits were put ahead of people.

(For more information on the incident in 2013)

Made in Bangledesh 

When was it that Humanity began to put wealth and success over lives and equality? Has this always been an issue? And will there ever be a change.

Canadians know about the hardships in the sweat shop industry, but continue to shop were clothes are cheap. I walked around York University and asked students where their favourite stores were?


Interviewees: I’m going to have to say H&M.

I like to shop at Forever 21.

I like to shop at Nike Outlet Store.

I shop at the Hudson Bay.

I shop around a lot, at different places in the mall but I enjoy going to places where I can purchase everything at once, so places like The Gap and Old Navy.

Theresa: Do prices play a role in your selection as to why this is your favourite store?

Interviewees: Yeah, the prices do play a factor in a role as to why this is my favourite store just cause, I’m on a student budget and I have no real income, so it makes more sense for a store like H&M where their clothing is cheap and decent quality instead of American eagle where, yeah it may be better quality but it has a bigger price tag.

Yeah, cost does affect when I like to buy things because I don't really want to buy things that are too expensive, I want something cheap and affordable.

Cost plays a role in buy Nike because I’m a student and funds are tight.

I would say price is a factor, like of course I consider price when I’m going shopping but I mean its less than a factor.

Theresa: The feed back I received was interesting but not shocking. The majority stated the cost comes before equality, and student budget is a huge factor in where people are choosing to shop.

Why is it however that nowadays every owns some sort of smart phone, a laptop, and flat screens, but no one is willing to pay a little more for clothes even though this could help people.

Similar to the Rana plaza incident, in November in 2012, Tanzarine fashion factory, a 9-story building located in Bangladesh went up in flames. This factory reportedly had no fire factory escapes and survivors have said that the majority of the doors were blocked by boxes and the windows were barred shut. Months before this the factories fire safety certificate had been revoked but workers were still forced to work there.

During the fire, workers were kicking the ventilation fan and were jumping out the building from 6 stories up. Most of the 114 victims that dies were burned alive. There was no escaping.

And this brings up the question, how many more lives must be lost until the fashion industry, and society realize enough is enough.

Theresa: Did you know about the fire that had broken out in the Tanzarine fashion factory in 2012 had no fire escapes and the windows were barred shut?

Interviewees: Oh, my gosh, no. I totally didn’t hear about that, that’s actually terrible. I can’t believe they had no fire escape and there was no way for them to get out. How is that even allowed that is kind of scary to think about.

No, I never heard about that. I feel like sometimes we don’t recognize the amount of malpractice that is involved in bring us everyday products for marginally less than if it was a regulated practice it’s a defining ethical issue over time.

Um, yeah, I actually did hear about the nine-story building that fell down in Bangladesh back when I was in year one here at York. We watched a documentary back in ADMS 1000, we were learning about work safety and the conditions of some third world countries and how bad it is and how it compares to our country. It is not even comparable. I remember looking around the class, it was almost as if no one really understood or realized the true realization of how bad their conditions are and how tough their lives are and how you wake up every single day, it could be you go to work and a fire start, you could have bad work conditions and you can’t escape from the fire. It is horrible, and it still remember it. It still impacts me today. Learning about that coming into school first year…Yeah, this is one of the key points and main reasons I switched my major and went into HR here at York seeing how bad someone has their conditions over there, I only thought it would be right to ensure here in Canada our work conditions stay up to date. Maybe, I could influence change in another country. Anything, anything little thing I can do for change, I could do to help.     

Theresa: Did you know Donald Trump was president?

Interviewee: Uhu yeah, I did know that. I listen to the news and I heard that

Uhu yeah, I act read about that a couple weeks ago, in the news paper

Yeah, actually I did hear about that it was all over twitter and every form of social media

Yeah, I actually watched the elections

Theresa: Why is it that news that affects one country makes national headlines, but news that affects a country that is caused by other countries is swept under the rug?

“Tragedy to tragedy, year to year, and no one seems to realize” Sajeet Senik states (CBC News, 2014)

Since 2006 500+ people have died in factory fires.

In India, between 5% – 30% of the 340 million children under the age of 16 are estimated to fall under the definition of child labor. (Gaille, 2015)

Has our society completely turned their backs to issues that they feel don’t affect them, or they can’t do anything about.

Are we too far gone, and is it too late to help people?

Why is it that I can construct so many problems and questions, but can’t seem to think of one answer or solution?

Today there is an estimated 4 million Garment worker’s world wide who are constantly being violated and stripped of their human rights in order to meet fashion industries dead lines.

It is evident that one voice can't change the opinion of many, but it is time for a change.

We cannot continue to sit back and say these problems aren’t our problems because they are, everyone who shops, is apart of this problem.

The only question what can be done?



Other Resources:

Aulakh, Raveena. "I Got Hired at a Bangladesh Sweatshop. Meet My 9-year-old Boss | Toronto Star." Thestar.com. N.p., 31 Mar. 2014. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.

"Global Sweatshops, Solidarity and the Bangladesh Breakthrough." Public Seminar. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2016.

Bain, Marc. "Most of H&M’s “best” Factories in Bangladesh Still Don’t Have Working Fire Exits." Quartz. N.p., 03 Oct. 2015. Web. 27 Nov. 2016.

North, Andrew. "The Dark Underworld of Bangladesh's Clothes Industry." BBC News. N.p., 26 Apr. 2013. Web. 26 Nov. 2016.

"CBS News Goes Undercover in a Bangladesh Clothing Factory." CBSNews. CBS Interactive, n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2016.

Harvey-Jenner, Catriona. "This Woman Believes She Decoded a Cry for Help Note from Sweatshop Workers in Her Primark Underwear." Cosmopolitan. N.p., 21 Sept. 2016. Web. 23 Nov. 2016.

Bajaj, Vikas. "Fatal Fire in Bangladesh Highlights the Dangers Facing Garment Workers." The New York Times. The New York Times, 25 Nov. 2012. Web. 18 Nov. 2016.

"In Bangladesh, the Sham of Shams Factory." Al Jazeera America. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2016.

Cadwell, A. (2016, October 3). 35 fair trade & ethical clothing brands betting against fast fashion. Retrieved December 21, 2016, from http://www.thegoodtrade.com/features/fair-trade-clothing

Cool-Organic-Clothing. (2008). Sweatshop free clothing is the ethical choice of fashion. Retrieved December 22, 2016, from http://www.cool-organic-clothing.com/sweatshop-free.html

Works Cited

CBC News (2014, October 3). Made in Bangladesh - the fifth estate Retrieved from https://youtu.be/onD5UOP5z_c

Gaille, B. (2015, August 11). 36 shocking sweatshop statistics. Retrieved December 01, 2016, from http://brandongaille.com/36-shocking-sweatshop-statistics/

Mailonline, Isabel Hunter For. "Crammed into Squalid Factories to Produce Clothes for the West on Just 20p a Day, the Children Forced to Work in Horrific Unregulated Workshops of Bangladesh ." Daily Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 01 Dec. 2015. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.

"Sweatshops in Bangladesh." War On Want. N.p., 23 June 2015. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.

"Factory Collapse in Bangladesh." Www.globallabourrights.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.

The Secrets of the English Curriculum

Kemesha Reid-Miller

Close your eyes and imagine; I want you to think about a moment in your post-secondary school lives where you’ve sat in an english class and in the middle of the lesson, your professor asks: “Who has been taught this in high school?” And you couldn’t raise your hand because your answer was “I wasn’t”. Embarrassing, right? Actually, no -- because most likely ninety-five percent of that class answered no as well, and I was one of them. Most would think, “this is ridiculous” -- but, what’s even more ridiculous is the fact that it is a cycle that will continue through generations if the high school english curriculum remains the same or if there is nothing available to make a positive change. You are currently listening to “The Secrets of the English Curriculum” and this is Kemesha Reid-Miller.


What’s interesting to me though, is that there are so many programs in motion in the city of Toronto that thrive and go the extra mile just to ensure student success, not just in english, but every other subject that is taught in high school. It has me thinking, well, teachers are there to teach, right? So, why are there so many other programs basically doing their jobs for them, when they should just be assisting?

    Hmm, I don’t know, but there’s something sketchy about all of that to me. I don’t recall after school programs being a part of the TDSB. They don’t have an obligation to teach what a student’s teacher touched on in class -- even though, out of the goodness of their hearts, they do. The high school english curriculum pdf mentions a lot about helping students become successful language learners.

So, it’s clear that they have set goals for high school student’s success. But what the high school students are being taught is reflecting on their school work in post-secondary and it’s not really a positive reflection at that. I know, I know, it may be a problem with all high school courses, but english is where this specific problem presents itself the most. So, where is the effort to ensure students success really coming from?

Personally, I would say the after school programs, although everyone is entitled to their own opinions; but, let me explain why. It seems as though students learn so much more when they’re being taught by a program staff member, one-on-one, because that program staff member or volunteer can give them logical and specific explanations; opposed to being in a classroom with twenty to thirty other students, where their teacher gives them broad to no explanations. I mean, broad to no explanations are useless when learning and knowing English is mandatory to a successful high school life, a successful post-secondary life, a successful work life, a successful -- well, life in general.


I think it’s safe to say, English is a really big deal. It’s too bad that the same people who are supposed to enforce the learning of english, treat it as something so -- small.

    Merfat A. Alsubaie wrote an article about something that was completely foreign to me. She wrote about the “hidden curriculum” (125-128). My first thought was probably what you’re thinking now, which is “what is the curriculum hiding?” But, I completely misunderstood the concept. It was actually explaining when high school english teachers expect their students to know what they’ve never been taught. The worst thing about it all is that these teachers don’t even understand that, yes, some students may know, but others need you to clarify, they need you to teach, they need you to go over things repeatedly, try different methods and explain, or else -- they suffer.

Furthermore, teachers rely on the reading of literature to teach their students. But what they fail to understand is that not all students are going to learn english this way. Why? Because the interest will be missing.

Don’t get me wrong, content is very important to learning english, but what is content really worth if the student can’t connect to it or understand it? Not only that, but focusing too much on content when teaching or learning english is kind of a roadblock for students in post-secondary school. Because the content that is taught in high school is coming from novels that aren’t really of interest to the students and the content in the novels sometimes doesn’t match up to the reading levels of the students. So as a result, they don’t learn or get anything from it.

Therefore, when they start college or university, they sometimes lack critical thinking. Many post-secondary students learn how to think critically in post-secondary school. But for a certain amount of time, it affects the student’s work majorly. If you look at it this way, when a student lacks the ability to think critically, they cannot explain and give examples for their argument; and that’s because they cannot find the right words to say; and that’s because they have a weak vocabulary; vocabulary has almost everything to do with spelling; and what is that in relation to? -- grammar. The problem that majority of post-secondary students face in English. *sigh* I know. And why do we face it? We’re soon to find out.


Let’s consider some facts here. Fact number one regarding admission grades - getting into post-secondary school has everything to with grades. But, grades for admission aren’t very high to be honest; for majority of the programs offered in college and university, a student’s average as to be anywhere between 60% and 80%. It explains why students who lack knowledge on the basics of english, such as grammar get into post-secondary school. Don’t get me wrong, all that I’m saying is that if we were all tested for english skills in post-secondary school, it’s a sad truth but, majority of us would fail. Let’s stick several pins right there because I will get back to that.

    Fact number two regarding statistics - considering dropout rates, it’s interesting to note that high school dropout rates have not decreased by much since the 90’s, and I’m sure we can all guess which course is one of the major reasons for that -- As you probably guessed it, yes, it is english. Michael Bangser says high school english teachers aren’t doing their job (1-24). But, more importantly, because of that, there will always be a number of students dropping out of high school, and with that being the case, their lives become ruined. Their chances of going to college or university basically vanish from that moment because they’ve completely given up.

    It’s hard to figure out what’s worse, giving up or failing. Because if we jump to post-secondary school -- hold on a second -- let’s unstick those pins. The University of Waterloo, which is actually one of the few post-secondary schools in Ontario that give exams to test english skills, their statistics show that majority of the students fail the exam. The failure rate for the english skills exams went up by five percent from 2005 to 2010. That is crazy. Knowing that, we can only imagine how much the failure rate has gone up between 2010 to 2015, which was only last year -- maybe another five percent, although we would hope not.

    Because students lack knowledge on the basics of english, there has been a lot of stagnation in post-secondary schools in Toronto and at large, in Ontario. Statistics show that post-secondary school ratings either go up by one or two percent every year, go down by one or two percent every year or they stay stagnant every year. Either way, the ratings for post-secondary schools have not been excelling the way they should be.

Here’s how that happens: Because the teachers aren’t focused on the basics of english, involving topics like grammar, students go to college or university and put on display what they’ve learned in high school english. What should be present in the work that the students present in post-secondary school isn’t present. So their grades stay stagnant, and even worse, sometimes they fail or drop courses and as a result, the rating for the post-secondary school stays stagnant as well and that holds the school back from excelling.


All of these facts about the english curriculum are so important to think about. Especially the fact that students not excelling in english has been something that has been carried out for over a century and nothing has been done to better the situation -- at least not until after school programs started holding what I like to call tutoring sessions or homework sessions to offer help in enlightening the heavy and confused minds of students that walk into the program on a daily basis.

    And actually, with all of these negative statistics, I had to conduct some of my own to see if grammar and punctuation are really such major issues in english in post secondary school. I surveyed twenty students, which would basically be a class-load of students. I asked both college students and university students what their majors were and their opinions or struggles faced with post-secondary english, high school english and their opinions on after school programs. English and professional writing majors, communications majors, biotechnology majors, along with so many others took part in this survey. And here is what the results were: 17/20 students have taken english courses; 8/20 students have at some point considered dropping the english course. 16/20 students were taught completely new things in the post-secondary english class, while 1/20 students had their memory refreshed from high school. And 19/20 students noted that what they struggle with the most in english is grammar, punctuation and spelling. Wow. An even bigger wow is that all twenty students thought they could have benefited greatly from some kind of tutoring -- it really goes to show. But, at least with after school programs volunteering their time and knowledge to help students out, the negative statistics can become something positive in the near future.


I also got the chance to talk to two students who shared their opinions and experiences with their high school english courses; here’s what they had to say:

Lily: The english curriculum in high school was pretty garbage actually, I don’t really have a great experience. In my grade twelve high school class, I believe, my teacher didn’t really have any proper outlining for the course or anything like that, it was more like, he talked about his children the entire year. Uhm, yeah, it was pretty sad actually. In grade eleven it was pretty bad too, I mean, I had the same teacher again so it wasn’t the greatest. Also, during class, I just wanted to add that they didn’t actually teach anything, it was more like you would just hand an assignment in and they wouldn’t really care about the answers, like they could be completely wrong, but they would mark us on our grammar. Like, that’s it. And the thing is, if you wanted to mark us on our grammar, you might as well teach us the grammar too, you know because they wouldn’t say oh, you didn’t put a period there or like, an apostrophe here or anything like that. It was just, oh this is wrong, this is wrong, that is wrong. Instead of just saying, you know like -- making notes and stuff like that. The sad part is, we did try to complain a couple of times, like me and my classmates, but nothing was really done. I feel like in order for anything to really change, it should be brought up to -- idk, like someone in the Toronto District School Board or something like that, and yeah.

Sindy: So my opinion on the english curriculum is that it doesn’t help you transition to the university english curriculum. This is because in high school, they only enforced to use the five paragraph essay to prove a point. But, in university, you can write pages and pages and pages of body paragraphs for your essay. Also, in university, it is important to use your own voice for the essay, not only facts and so on. Also, in high school, grammar isn’t a big factor, but when you go to university, grammar is very important and they weigh it extremely on your grade. So, I believe that the high school curriculum should not, well, it should improve so that it can help students transition into the required university curriculum. Thank you.


It is clear that our high school teachers seem to believe that all the other aspects of english for example, content, which is the clear and obvious one, are far more important, so they focus on those and completely disregard the other things that are just as important. So, who is there to help teach high school students taking english courses about grammar or how to support an argument? Who is there to voluntarily take on the role of teaching these high school students what their teachers aren’t? Who is there to push and encourage student success?

Tutoring is one option, but to focus on something that is more voluntary? Something that involves tutoring and adds a lot of entertainment as well --  after school programs. The Toronto Public Library in particular has a free afterschool program called Youth Hubs, available to students between the ages of 13 and 19. As we all know, this is the age group of most high school students. This after school program is available at a number of different branches; Cedarbrae, Centennial, Fairview, Sanderson, York Woods and Maria A. Shchuka. I spoke to one of the program coordinators of the Youth Hubs program located at Maria A. Shchuka, her name is Courtney Cardozo and she explained to me a couple of things about the program that I found extremely fascinating.  


I asked: Was there a motive behind the creation of the program?

Her response was: The Library Youth Hubs are modeled after two existing After School Newcomer Youth Hubs which are located at Centennial Library and Sanderson Library. The After School Newcomer Youth Hubs support youth in successfully integrating into the Canadian school system and community. Building on the success and lessons learned from these existing Hubs, the Toronto Public Library expanded the program to new locations with a greater lens - to support youth in areas that are listed as neighbourhood improvement areas by the Poverty Reduction Strategy. As of September 2016, there is a total of six Toronto Public Library Youth Hubs within the city. Maria A. Shchuka opened this September and has been a growing success since it's onset.

Library Youth Hubs provide youth ages 13-19 with quality after-school homework help in math, science, English, French, and other subjects. Youth also have access to enriching complementary programs that help to develop social and leadership skills. Access to safe space, technology, volunteer tutors and curriculum resources contributes to positive outcomes for youth.

Library Youth Hubs contribute to the City's Toronto Strong Neighbourhood Strategy (TSNS) 2020 equity domains of economic development, social development and physical surroundings by providing homework help, technology and nutritional support, mentors and a welcoming space to youth in neighbourhood improvement areas.


I asked: How does the Youth Hubs program help youths in the community? What does it offer?

Her response was: The Hubs further support the City’s Poverty Reduction Strategy in addressing the following needs for youth: access to services, access to technology, access to nutrition.

The Program Goals in particular are:

- To provide a safe, welcoming space for youth during after school hours with access to supportive adults, technology and nutritious snacks

- To mitigate the digital divide that youth face by providing free use of laptops, software, tablets and apps that promote digital literacy and learning

- To provide youth with quality after school homework assistance in English, French, math, science and other subjects

- To help youth develop social and leadership skills through participation in a variety of activities

- To provide a quality volunteer experience for community members interested in working with youth.


I asked: What was your reason for taking on the position that you took on in the Youth Hubs program?

Her response was: I have a keen passion for servicing disenfranchised populations and I love working with youth. Supporting youth and providing them with the tools they need to thrive is something I am very fortunate to be apart of.

By building relationships of trust with the youth, I have been able to encourage them to do their homework, expose them to programs and technology that they may not know of and assist them with strengthening life skills that are needed for them to succeed. It's been so rewarding thus far and I look forward to being within the Youth Hub Coordinator role for a long while.


With the Youth Hubs staff even accepting volunteers who are currently enrolled in post-secondary school, including students who attend York University to help these youths out with homework in a proper learning environment, it’s not hard to tell that they are really serious about the academic achievement of the youths who come to their program. It seems to me that this after school program encourages student success far more than the high schools do judging by the positive reception it has been receiving. I don’t know if it’s just me, but the big issue always seems to lead right back to the teachers; and after speaking to one of the program coordinators of the TDSB english curriculum, ms. Sylvie Webb, who contributed to writing the english curriculum, I’ve come to the realization that the issue really does lie with the english teachers.

We held an interview that became so interesting that it became so much more of a conversation; I even got the chance to share my own personal opinions and experiences with her as well. We spoke about the issues surrounding the english curriculum, starting with the fact that it has not been revised in basically ten years.

Now, for the part that I was most interested in talking about, teaching in the high school english curriculum. Seeing that grammar is a huge issue for post secondary school students taking english, I found this important. I learned during this interview that teachers are supposed to teach grammar through literature; they are supposed to point these things out during the lesson on the piece of literature that the class is reading. But, students need more. The TDSB does have the teaching of grammar in the english curriculum, but we both, ms. Sylvie Webb and I, came to the conclusion that high school english teachers just choose not to touch on the drier subjects involved in english. They choose to teach what they are comfortable with, even if the students may suffer it. And that’s why after school programs are doing so much more of a better job teaching high school students, because they know how important those drier subjects are.

Therefore, we came to the conclusion that a reform is mandatory. It has to happen. Ms. Sylvie Webb expressed her appreciation for me coming in and sharing with her my opinions because with my representation of the entire student body who suffers from not being taught the basics of english, both in high school and post-secondary school, she can push forth the idea of reforming the english curriculum to fully prepare high school students for post-secondary school. That means the continuation of focusing on content, but having students bring their own books for reading that are at their reading level and that they are interested in, that way they actually learn something from it; also to equally focus on grammar, critical thinking and all other aspects of english. She also mentioned borrowing curriculum sections from different countries that have high success in english courses. With all of these changes made to the high school english curriculum and the after school programs continuing to assist in encouraging student success through homework help, the impact will be exceptional.

Who would have known that a conversation with a university student could result in something as life-changing as a reform in the high school english curriculum. How’s that for a big secret?


My name is Kemesha Reid-Miller once again, and this has been The Secrets of the English Curriculum. I hope you all enjoyed listening and most importantly, learned something new, something that you can think about. I want to thank my TA, Dunja Baus for the opportunities she gave me during this whole course and process of composing this podcast; I appreciate everything. I want to thank Courtney Cardozo, program director for the Youth Hubs program at Maria A. Shchuka for her contribution to my podcast and the common good of her community. I also want to thank Lily Tekabo and Sindy Cartegena for taking part in this podcast and expressing their opinions. And last but definitely not least, Ms. Sylvie Webb who I showed my gratitude to for her explanations because it opened my eyes to so much about the english curriculum, and I hope that in sharing the information that I learned, each and every one of you were able to learn something too.

Alsubaie, Merfat A. “Hidden Curriculum as One Current Issue of Curriculum”. Journal of Education and Practice, Vol. 6, No. 33, 2015, pp. 125-128. Web.

Bangser, Michael. “Preparing High School Students for Successful Transitions to Post Secondary Education and Employment”. National High School Center, 2008, pp. 1-24. Web.

Bowlby, Jeoff. “Provincial Drop-Out Rates - Trends and Consequences”. Statistics Canada, 2008. Web.

Elley, W. B., Barham, I. H., Lamb, H., Wyllie, M. “The Role of Grammar in a Secondary School English Curriculum”. Research in the Teaching of English, Vol. 10, No. 1, 1976, pp. 5-21. Web.

Macleans.ca. “University Rankings Canada 2017: Primarily Undergraduate”. Macleans, 2016. Web.

Macleans.ca. “University Students Can’t Spell”. Macleans, 2010. Web.

Ministry of Education. “The Ontario Curriculum Grades 9 and 10: English”. Ontario, 2007, pp. 1-124. Web.

Ministry of Education. “The Ontario Curriculum Grades 11 and 12: English”. Ontario, 2007, pp. 1-121. Web.

Probst, Robert E. “Reader - Response Theory and the English Curriculum”. The English Journal, Vol. 83, No. 3, 1994, pp. 37-44. Web.

Slavin, Alan. “Has Ontario Taught Its High School Students Not To Think?”. University Affairs, 2007. Web.

Toronto District School Board. “Curriculum: English and Literature”. Toronto District School Board, 2014. Web.

Wikipedia Contributors. “University and College Admission”. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 2016. Web.


Gentrification in Toronto.

Between school and work, I hardly have time to prepare meals to eat at home. I resort to fast fast foods for my daily nutrition. I know, an unhealthy lifestyle. I often go to this McDonald’s near my apartment, it is located on Yonge and Grenville. There’sthis old man who always sits in the corner; Black hoodie, long beard, frightening frown. We call him angry Carl. Reportedly, someone asked him why he was so grumpy all the time. He responded by saying “You’d be angry too if your childhood living room is now a McDonalds serving counter.”

My name is Kolapo and I’ll be discussing the harms of Gentrification in Toronto

What is Gentrification?

Oxford dictionary defines it as “The process of renovating and improving a house or district so that it conforms to middle-class taste.” Gentrification simply is when neighbourhoods are reconstructed or renovated which results in increased property values and the displacing of lower-income families and small businesses. This is undoubtedly an issue an issue in big cities globally. Gentrification happens to every city that is successful. It happens as a result of increased interest in particular environments. In a community undergoing gentrification, the average income increases. Poorer pre-gentrification residents who are unable to pay increased rents or property taxes may find it necessary to relocate, some of them even rendered homeless.

Business and corporations are attracted to this process. A small independent coffee shop with vinyls and a record player in the corner is torn down to erect Starbucks. And as of the case of Angry Carl, a family owned diner ran downstairs in their apartment building becomes a two storey mcdonalds. 

What parts of Toronto is affected by gentrification?

When discussing the subject of gentrification in Toronto, the immediate case study you’d think of is regent park. “It is the general symbol of Toronto’s housing crisis,” as Dylan Lubao eloquently puts it. I took a stroll down the neighbourhood to get a first hand experience of the situation. Toto I have a feeling we’re not in Toronto anymore. I huge contrast from the tall jam packed buildings and big city ambience in the downtown core. I awfully regret losing my phone. I had numerous recordings of residents I interviewed on their opinions of the “Revitalization plan.” I recall an old woman’s anger. “I’m tired of outsiders calling regent park a ghetto. Wasn’t this revitalization plan supposed to make it a better neighbourhood?” The Revitalization plan, by the way, seeks to create a mixed-income and mixed-use 

community, which in turn decentralizes poverty, enforces safety, and generates more economic opportunities. However most of the residents I spoke to seem to confirm otherwise

Regent park, isn’t the only neighbourhood suffering from gentrification. Moss park on Queen street west, leslieville, parkdale, bloor street west amongst others are part of the conversation. An article by Shameless magazine confirms that on 21st of September this year. hundred of parkadale residents gathered in the Parkdale Activity Recreational Centre. At this venue they voiced out experiences on illegal eviction and unjust rent increases. 

Kensington market is a more recent player. It is toronto’s most unique and diverse neighbourhood. It is home to most of the cities eccentric shops and cafes. (Its kinda smelly, its kinda dirty but its raw we love it).

What is the main cause of gentrification?

As i sat in a booth eating my big mac and drinking my orange crush, Angry carl sat in the corner trying to salvage what is left of what use to be his childhood home. I’m not going to lie, I felt awful. The burger I was eating didn’t taste as good. I began to think: Does consumerism play a role in gentrification?

The answer, of course is does! it is a capitalist economy. The big corporations have the power. Not to sound like this is fight club, but our urge to buy and want more is a part of the problem. Why have a low income family live in a particular space the it could easily be a starbucks?  Why have angry carl have a family in his run down apartment when you can just order chicken nuggets conveniently?

Don’t worry I’m not implying that you are the main reason for the state in regent park and other gentrified neighbourhoods. It is just something to think about. There are bigger forces in play than you ordering chicken nuggets. Globalization is one of the biggest factors to consider.  A city's importance is determined by its ability to function as a discrete socio-economic entity, given the lesser import of national borders, resulting in de-industrialized global cities and economic restructuring. In simpler words, Toronto is a a major North American city and it has the pressure to look cool. Let us go through the characteristics of a major North American city; Tall and clustered buildings, big companies, upscale stores boutiques, five star restaurants etc. This definitely only tailors to the high class. A city can’t look “cool” if it is littered with run down apartment buildings and middle class retail business. 

How does gentrification hurt Toronto?

(Interview with Laura Tibi)

What is being done about the issue ofgentrification?

Let me introduce you to a anti-poverty group known as OCAP (ONTARIO COALITION AGAINST POVERTY). On their website, the who are we column reads “OCAP is a direct-action anti-poverty organization based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. We mount campaigns against regressive government policies as they affect poor and working people” They were formed in 1989 by activist in the Toronto union of unemployed workers. This backstory should give you an idea on how passionate they are about their cause. in addition, we provide direct-action advocacy for individuals against welfare and ODSP, public housing and others who deny poor people what they are entitled to. The “Militant anti-poverty group is led by a Man who goes by the name John Clarke. They are funded by private donations and labour unions.Unfortunately, I was unable to get an interview with John Clarke or any member of this organization at all. Due to a busy schedule I presume. Nonetheless, their works and fight against gentrification will be expressed on this podcast. First thing you need to know is that this group consist of and is led by activistism. They demand action and have often demanded them through demonstration. IF you go on youtube and type in “OCAP’ you’ll see a examples of this. They have rallied at locations like City hall, Queen’s Park, even mayor John Torry’s condo. Demonstrations aren’t the only way OCAP get their messages across however. When they are not outside with their blow horns and signs, they provide public housing to people who can not afford it.  

So what?

I just spent, how much, 12 minutes of my life spewing gentrification. Most of you are probably listening to this like “Yeah, And?” This is a prompt that everyone is directly affected by gentrification. It is a coin, there are only two sides of it. You either benefiting or suffering from it. You enter Starbucks and purchase a caramel cappuccino. You walk out, ignoring that dirty old man on the sidewalks asking for change. Your enjoying the benefits of gentrification while that dirty old man with 40c in his palms is suffering from it. 

So tell me, what kind of society do you want live in? 

Once again this Kolapo Abejide. Bye for now.

Credits to:

Laura Tibi for her insights on the issue and an honest interview.

Lee Rosevere for the music used on the podcast.


Sidnell-Greene, Sula. “Displacement In Parkdale: Gentrification, Resistance And Change.” Shameless Magazine. October 13, 2015. Shamelessmag.com. November 8, 2016.

This article discusses the effects Gentrification on the Toronto neighborhood, Parkdale. Residents of this neighborhood have experienced been illegal evictions, unjust rent increases, and the encroachment of developers. 

Cain, Patrick. Sturgeon, Jamie. “Low- and middle-income families vanish as urban    neighborhoods gentrify.” The Global News. 28 March 2016. Globalnews.ca. 23    October 2016.

This article discusses the displacement of Toronto families. When an area undergoes gentrification, families are being forced emigrate and find other neighborhoods- some families becoming homeless in the process. This article provides an estimate of displaced families as well as their yearly income.

Wong, Joanne. “Regent Park: Revitalization Or Gentrification?” The Toronto Star. September 12, 2010. Thestar.ca. October 23, 2016.

This article discusses the impacts the “Revitalization project” has had on the neighborhood of Regent Park. While some residents have benefitted from it, many others still live in constant fear of displacement and even homelessness.




By: Rachel Hershkop

Student: I couldn’t speak, I though that they were wrong but I couldn’t say a word. I’m afraid. Afraid to share my opinion.


Rachel: That was a student, who wishes to remain anonymous, on her experience on campus.

My name is Rachel and this is Silenced on From Scratch Media.


Ariella: My name is Ariella Daniels and right now I work as a campus professional. I work with Israel advocates across the country.


Rachel: This is Ariella she is a psychology major at York University and was last year’s President of Hasbara at York.


Ariella: Hasbara at York, is the Israel advocacy club at York University. They strive to educate students at York University about Israel, and bring the pro-Israel community together. Through social events, as well as political discourse, they strive to bring dialogue to campus about issues regarding Israel, not only that but to bring conversations to students where we can have a free space to have dialogue about Israel.


Rachel: what is campus climate concerning your clubs subject matter?


Ariella: I wouldn’t say that all students at York are anti-Israel, but unfortunately the students who make decisions on campus, and who have positions of authority, portray a very specific, a very negative image about Israel”


Rachel: Ariella says that this dominant view creates a problem because


Ariella: When there is a club that has an alternative viewpoint, or perspective, it can be quite a challenging thought.


Rachel: Because when a student is exposed to one type of narrative and a club challenges that narrative:


Ariella: It makes the students uncomfortable, and that goes back to political correctness


Rachel: It sounds like things have been difficult. I’ve seen the reactions you get from clubs and student government. What’s that like?


Ariella: It’s almost like you’re walking on eggshells. You have to tighten up every statement and every action, because God forbid it should offend someone. But, at the end of the day, just because someone may disagree with my viewpoint, doesn’t mean I said something wrong. I think there is a limit. It’s one thing to be offensive or discriminatory and racist, and that is wrong, but I don’t think that saying a statement that others might disagree with should be censored on campus.


Rachel: The PC, or politically correct, culture which is rampant on York’s campus, has affected Hasbara’s ability to advocate for its cause, and this is perpetrated by student officials and student government.


Ariella: Every program, every initiative any campaign that we did we had to answer a lot of questions that administration used to ask us. When we get permits for space we are asked specific questions about our campaigns, which I think is important. But at the same time, where is the line? You shouldn’t prevent a campaign if it brings discomfort to students.


Rachel: The problem is that if a topic makes students uncomfortable it’s shut down, and this prevent dialogue.


Ariella: You know, if it’s crossing a line of course we have to prevent it, but if it prevents dialogue that’s a different story


Rachel: Whenever Hasbara had an event the admin asked them an endless number of questions


Ariella: Is the subject matter controversial, is the subject matter political, will it create a fuss on campus? And I would say, if the topic makes students feel a little uncomfortable, that’s fine, that’s why we are in university, to have these conversations. As long as it’s not going against any regulations or policies from the university or Canada, then I don’t see the problem with having these kinds of campaigns. And why should there be a double standard because I don’t see the same stringency on the other side.


Rachel: So your saying that they are being selective about who they apply political correctness to?


Ariella: The anti-Israel side has brought a lot of hostility to campus and I don’t see enough being done to regulate that.


Rachel: Although the affects of PC culture may seem to concern only students on campus, it should in fact concern anyone who cares about free speech. Because, the on campus politics of today, are often the global politics of tomorrow, as Ariella says:


Ariella: Really, everyone single person is affected by this.


Rachel: Everyone is affected by PC culture, which means that everyone has the potential to be silenced

 This topic matters because the culture on campuses:


Ariella: Dictates the way we function as a society, the way we interact as a society. And if these topics are not discussed then I don’t know what the future will entail.


Rachel: How is PC culture affecting students on campus?


Ariella: unfortunately because of the way people practice PC culture you can't even ask questions, because asking questions and being a critical thinker is seen as racism. Where to me, offending someone or disagreeing with someone’s opinion is not racism. The line between offending someone and being racism, or being discriminatory, really has to be drawn, because if I disagree with someone that does not make me anti-black, it does not make me a homophobe. And PC culture, the way it’s practiced, is preventing us from exploring new ideas and it’s preventing us from getting an education.


Rachel: Ariella continued to explain how students often refuse to have conversations because they don’t want to be controversial.


Ariella: We can talk about Israel advocacy, we can talk about campaigns and statements, but in general we are a club that focuses on dialogue and I came across a lot of students who want to have a dialogue but felt uncomfortable having those conversations on campus. Just in case someone beside would disagree with them or find them offensive. Not only that but, a lot of students don’t even know how to have a conversation that might be controversial, or have a conversation with someone they might disagree with.  In terms of advocacy, we advocate for a pro-dialogue stance, and in general, based on the interaction I have with students, I found that students are not provided with that platform on campus.


Rachel: It should be, that if someone is offended they should take that as an opportunity to start a dialogue. They should start a discussion with the goal of education and promoting tolerance, but the reality on campus is very different.  


Ariella: The idea that something might cause a fuss or cause a ruckus on campus is evidence of the situation on campus.


Rachel: So, my question is, what do you do if someone is offended? What is your response?


Ariella: Always give sympathy, if someone is offended of course I give sympathy. I’m sorry you feel that way, lets discuss this so I can better understand why you feel this way and why you are offended.  That's a way of being educated, to have that conversation. If someone is offended I want to know why, and I want to know their perspective, because otherwise how will I learn? And hopefully they will see that they can learn from me. If I’m having a conversation with someone and I am offended by them, I hope they would show the sympathy and courtesy to ask me why. It’s the only way we can learn from each other and that’s what a university’s all about.


Rachel: The kinds of ideas that are maintained by university students are not necessarily helpful in terms of educating themselves and others.

Ariella: I feel like the general university mentality is that we shouldn’t question things and we shouldn’t have conversations, and we shouldn’t disagree with each other. But in my opinion I think that a university’s sole purpose, to have those conversations and to challenge yourself.


Rachel: We all go to university to get our degrees, that’s what an educational institution is for, but this isn’t its only function:


Ariella: The idea of being in an educational institution is that I’m around other students, likeminded or students with different opinions. I’m around students with different backgrounds and to me it’s an opportunity to learn from them.


Rachel: Universities should be creating at atmosphere where students feel comfortable engaging in dialogue. This atmosphere should be encouraged in the classroom, in student government, in student clubs, all in all this should be included in every platform that is available for student life on campus


Ariella: The purpose is to facilitate a type of dialogue, to facilitate a space where students can learn from each other, because unfortunately the culture on campus right now is that students run away from confrontation.


Rachel: Before we go further in this topic we must ask an important question. What is a university? What’s its purpose? In order to fully understand the affect of PC culture, we have to know whether it supports universities founding principle or not.


Judith: The modern North American, European and, in theory, all universities are founded on principles of academic freedom.


Rachel: Which translates to freedom of speech for students and professors. But, as Ariella commented, this isn’t the reality on York’s campus. Instead:


Judith: Any positive discourse about Israel is being shut down very quickly and any negative discourse is being celebrated.


Rachel: This comment hearkens back to Ariella’s statement that not everyone on campus is receiving equal treatment from the PC culture, as Judith Cohen just mentioned.


 Judith: I am Judith Cohen, my title is Doctor.


Rachel: Judith teaches at York university


Judith: In the music department and one course at Glendon in sociology.


Rachel: I asked Judith if the PC culture on campus has affected her, and although she is still going strong:

Judith: I’ve noticed over the years that I find myself hesitating before I say, never mind Israel, but before I even say Jewish music. And I say it. I haven’t changed the course content. But I notice it and I don’t like to notice myself noticing it.


Rachel: When you talk about political correctness there are a few terms that have to be defined. But, it’s important to realize that the way a term is defined does not necessarily reflect the way students are practicing it on campus.


So the most obvious question is, what is political correctness?

Ariella: Political correctness in its truest form means the culture of how we speak and the appropriateness of how we speak to others.


Rachel: This is a way to prevent hate speech, which includes racism, anti-Semitism, sexism and homophobia. It prevents people from being targeted based on sex, gender, religion or sexual orientation. But the problem with political correctness is that:


Ariella: The line has been moved to a point where political correctness is used to prevent students from expressing their opinions or expressing their ideas that may counter the opinions of others. And that’s a huge problem because it prevents discourse among students. I am against racism, or any or any forms of prejudice or discrimination, but I find that political correctness has come to a point where they are not even allowed to have freedom of speech. Where they are allowed to criticize a situation or question, or defy a popular ideology or even ask questions. And that’s very tough because questions, questioning things, and being a critical thinker, is what university is all about, it’s what being a student is all about, it’s what advocacy is all about. To ask questions and to find answers and to find truth. And that’s what Hasbara at York is all about.


Rachel: Another term that needs to be discussed is “safe space”. Now this term was originally used described an institution that doesn’t tolerate racism, sexism, hate speech etc. and, as such, was a safe space for students who were targeted. But now the term is used to describe a space where students are protected from things that make them feel uncomfortable, and this is a huge problem because the way safe space is being practiced completely prevents free speech.


Judith: I think it's a term that is misused and pushed beyond the bounds. I think people need to feel safe, but it’s used to avoid controversial discussions and at that point it’s not safe. I do recognize that there are ppl who desperately need a safe space, and I hope that they have it, but shutting down discussion is pretty scary.

Rachel: The issue of the PC culture silencing free speech is a very real problem on campus. When I began researching this topic I sent out a survey, aimed at students on campuses across the GTA, including York, Ryerson, U of T and Seneca College. And the responses were astoundingly disturbing. 73% of those who responded said that, at one point or another, they have actually experienced fear when it came to sharing an opinion on campus. Some said that they were afraid of being attacked for their opinions; some even said they were afraid that they would suffer bodily harm.

Judith: I hear more about students who feel intimidated by other students. I’ve heard about students being intimidated by contract faculty. It’s difficult because you think that the university would be there as a kind of beacon of rational and open thought, and it is in theory, but I don’t know how far that has been going in practice. But academic freedom is a very tricky concept.


Rachel: I discussed the idea of academic freedom and free speech with Judith and Ariella. We all shared the same conclusion, that the idea of political correctness may have been onto something.


Judith: When I was very little I was playing with my cousin in the sandbox, and my aunt was there with us, and I threw sand in my cousin’s face and she got very mad and she yelled at me and pulled me out of the sandbox. And I remember saying “it’s a free country” and she gave me a slap and said, “you have to learn the difference between freedom and liberty’. She actually said that! And she said ‘you have to learn that freedom doesn’t mean throwing sand in peoples faces’. I never forgot that.

And that’s the problem with the concept is that people seem to feel free to say insulting, hurtful and even defamatory things and call that academic freedom and freedom of expression and at the same time shut down things they don’t like, and seem to think that isn’t about academic freedom of expression.

They might say it’s about free spaces. But what’s the line between safe spaces and censorship? When does academic freedom encroach into throwing metaphoric sand in someone’s eyes?

We all, students, faculty, everybody, we have to learn how to draw these very tricky borders between free speech and defamation. It’s not easy but we have to keep on working on that.


Rachel: So now the question is what can be done? We need political correctness in order to prevent hate speech. But, as we have discussed. political correctness limits free speech. So what’s the solution, because it seems like we can’t have one without the other. In my survey one student suggested that the only solution is to expel or suspend students. Not only is this solution unrealistic, but it only deals with the symptoms of the issue. Another suggestion, although idealistic, seems to be on the right track.

Student: We can teach kids that we should meet ignorance with compassion and education and not alienation. We can also teach each other to react calmly to differing opinions. So people would be more willing to share opinions without fear of being persecuted.

Rachel: But on the other hand, Ariella takes a different stance. She says that the solution lies in the way students are educated.


Ariella: A lot can be done in order to create a space where students can have respectful dialogue. As well as policy making, maybe there is a way we can make statements where they reaffirm their commitment against racism, against all forms of discrimination and prejudice, but being for a free academic society and being for freedom of speech and academic integrity. We have to find a balance. Where people are being appropriate, but academic freedom is being protected.


Rachel: Ariella affirms that this wont be a quick fix. We must come up with short-term goals in order to ensure the success of long-term goals.


Ariella: And I think it will take years to work on this.


Rachel: But ultimately this is not an impossible feat.


So, all things said and done, where does this leave the idea of political correctness?

Ariella: Can we take back a definition? The original intention of political correctness is very important and it should be taken seriously: to prevent racism, to prevent targeting of specific groups. But, I don’t think we can take back a definition. I think we have to create a whole new term to combat the way that PC culture is being practiced.”

Rachel: Because, as things stand, the modern definition and application of political correctness is unacceptable.

This is an incredibly important issue and everyone needs to be a part of the solution. Because if we don’t protect the voices and rights of students when we are still on campus, who will protect free speech when we are the leaders of the generation?

My name is Rachel and this is Silenced on From Scratch Media.


Special Mentions:

Thank you to bensound.com for providing all of the music for this podcast.

Thank you to Judith Cohen for your time and insights.

Thank you to Ariella Daniels for your honesty and integrity in this interview. And thank you for making time for me in your busy schedule.



Additional Readings:


Friedman, M., & Narveson, J. (1995). Political correctness: For and against.

-This text documents two prominent philosophers opinions as they debate many topics that raise controversy on campuses including: “feminism, campus speech codes, the western canon, and the nature of truth.”

Sarah Dunant (1994) The War of The Words: The Political Correctness Debate

-This book is more reader friendly and has contributions from many different authors who are trying to understand the PC culture of today.




FIRE - Defending individual rights in higher education. This is a website which advocates for on-campus rights, if you would like a quick rundown of the situation on campus and the importance of the topic read this article: “Why is Free Speech Important on Campus”.


How political correctness rules in America’s student 'safe spaces’


Constitution Acts, 1867 to 1982: Government of Canada:  Document that lists the rights of freedom that belong to all citizens, including the rights to: “freedom of conscience and religion; freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication; freedom of peaceful assembly; and freedom of association.” As well as democratic rights, legal rights and equality rights.























Hitting the Books

Mark Grant

Welcome to a place for passion. I’m Mark Grant. When I was a kid, my Mum would take me to the library every Wednesday night. I’d sit down for story time with Muriel, the librarian, along with another twenty toddlers in PJ’s, listening to her read to us. Then, I’d get to go and pick out my own books to read. I remember looking forward to it every week for years, and looking back, my love of reading really started there. Lately, I’ve realized just how lucky I was. I grew up in a town a little ways north of Toronto. It was sleepy and it was quiet, but it always had every service i needed. Here in the city, not every neighbourhood has the same access to the kinds of programs I was able to take for granted. In 2008, Kim Beatty, a lawyer with a successful practice, left her career behind to open up a non-profit dedicated to just that. She founded her place for passion: the Children’s Book Bank. In a yellow-bricked Victorian house just off busy Gerard St, she and her volunteers made an amazing space for kids to discover reading, kids who would have a hard time getting books at home. Kim has since stepped away to let new hands take the till, and steer the Book Bank towards its future.

Mary: My name is Mary Ladky, I’m the executive director of the children’s book bank here in Toronto. The organization has been around for about 10 years but i am new to it, having taken the position in mid July, and I’m delighted to be here.

Mark: Mary and I sat down to talk about the Book Bank and its new direction, which of course meant talking about her.

Mary: My professional career is really as an educator but I was always in some way associated with reading. I was a high school english teacher then i went back and got my doctorate in my 40’s, and taught teachers or people who wanted to become teachers about literacy and reading and its importance and my thesis was also focused on that subject. I was just so impressed with the mission of this organization, i just thought “how can i contribute? How can i help this organization become a stable part of this effort around literacy?” I really wanted to have as direct an impact upon people upon people who may or may not be able to have that immediate experience in their own lives because of challenges.

Mark: She’s not kidding about challenges. The Book Bank sits at the north end of Toronto’s Regent Park neighbourhood. The city’s 2011 census estimated half of Regent Park’s residents are low-income, with a quarter of residents on social assistance. Despite the neighbourhood’s access to healthy food and green space, its mortality and rates of mental health issues and hospitalization are alarming. The Book Bank’s location here is no accident. Regent Park is a vulnerable area, with a high population of children, 20% in 2011. Just under half of households here speak a language other than English or French at home, with a higher proportion of recent immigrants than the rest of the city. Mary and the Book Bank do their best to help newcomers to Canada, the best way they know how.

Mary: Access to books, primarily. Some of my experiences in the past has been working with newcomers. I was the board chair of the New Canadian’s Center in Peterborough when i was working at Trent. And i saw the importance of access to books, home literacy, how that shapes our engagement with the world around us and as citizens. And I just wanted to be part of an organization that was doing that really at the ground level.

Mark: One thing the Book Bank does at ground level is act as an alternative to the library just around the corner, which begs the question: why have a Book Bank when we have libraries? For someone just approaching reading for the first time, the official, administrative library can be intimidating for kids and their parents. The Book Bank offers an alternative to help folks get comfortable picking out books.

Mary: What we really do is provide a different kind of literacy space because parents and children come in here, there’s no signup, they do not have to get a library card, and the books are for free - they don’t have to return them or be concerned about library dues. So that’s really the main difference, and after the age of 12, students stop coming here and we encourage them to begin taking out books on their own in the library. But in the meantime, during those really important early literacy years, we offer another space that is completely barrier-free. The founder really wanted to mimic the experience of going into a bookstore.

Mark: The arrangement of the books was one of the first things that struck me when I first walked in. Between the two handsome mahogany fireplaces from the original home, the shelves stand wider than you’d expect - I guess I had been expecting a library, actually. The Bank volunteers arrange their wares proudly, facing the covers into the room, not the spines. They show off the books at eye level for a young kid, enticing little browsers to pick up a book which, it seems, they are allowed to judge by its cover. The books are arranged by category and subject as opposed to by author, with some exceptions, like Robert Munsch. On the whole, the place feels like an old, upscale book shop for kids.

Mary: I certainly remember when my mother used to take me to Schwartz's Bookstore in Milwaukee Wisconsin, and  I could be so excited because, well any time you have the opportunity to know someone’s going to buy you a special thing, that you’re going to take home and put on the shelf and read when feeling down or even when you’re extremely happy, it’s yours to keep. She really believed, the founder really believed that that was an essential experience for young early readers, that book ownership. And research does bear that out, that children who own books and have the opportunity to have their own personal library, tend to do better in school, tend to be more successful down the road.

Mark: She’s right. In fact, an Israeli study found not only did children who were read to and read at home do much better at school, as early as kindergarten, but that ownership had another big advantage. It turns out kids do well reading the same books over and over again. The study found that the children who owned books were the ones starting reading sessions with their parents. The kids themselves would try and simplify difficult parts, and would interrupt the reading to ask questions. Their confidence came from reading the same book until they could start taking charge. No two week library loan allows for that kind of time. Kids know what they want, and respond to a place that tries to give it to them.

Mary: What i see here over and over again, and I’d say this is particularly true [in my experience with] boys, where we’d come down and we look for a book and they wait patiently ‘cause they’re really keen on this book that they want and then you find it. And you see this over-joy, like “wow, i’ve got the book i want, I’m so excited to read” and if you can actually stoke that kind of passion, and get them excited about reading, and maybe sow the seeds for later in continued engagement as readers in the world. I think that’s pretty darn great. So I’m willing to spend my days making sure that happens as often as possible.

Mark: And we need that to happen as often as possible, because the problem extends past vulnerable kids not having access to books. A 2016 report by OCED, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, put Canada in the lower half of countries studied in teen literacy. For a country that prides ourselves on our education system, we have a long way to go. Where can we improve our educational system? What is the answer? Part of the problem, according to Mary, is that we’re looking for just one answer.

Mary: I think that I’ve always had a personal philosophy of the perspective that there’s no one, fits-all answer. My early teaching experiences were in the private system, and then i went on to Trent and taught teacher candidates to work in in the public system, and i sent my kids to the public system. Does that mean that the private system is bad, and should never have existed? No. Because I just think that, A: there’s no one-size, there’s no one answer to any large question. Everybody can contribute a piece. So i really believe that as a community, as a larger community, we can all contribute in some way to making, improving literacy outcomes, for example. So, sure, we work in partnership with public schools, we work in partnership with private schools because they donate books. Anyone who wants to come and engage in lifting up literacy outcomes for the toronto community, that’s ok with me. I don’t think any one institution [can solve one problem.] So I feel like I’m a partner in a larger project.

Mark: And this is a larger project, and an older one than you’d expect. It seems wherever we try to look at the problem and solve it, we’re missing a piece. As early as 1993, researchers like Kris Gutierrez were drawing attention to the needs of bilingual literacy learners - the newcomers Mary and the Book Bank try and help. Gutierrez hits on the ideas of language being a social and socially learned thing, that we need to pay individual attention to children. He even points out how sensitive the context of where the child learns to read can be - we’ve already seen the difference between a bookshop and a library. But can you see the thing he misses? It’s a big one. He assumes book access won’t be a problem. To be honest, I had never considered that issue, either. It’s not something a middle class kid from Newmarket would consider as Muriel the Librarian helps spark his reading passion. Of course every kid has a Muriel, of course every kid has books, right? So then I think boom - easy. We have the Book Bank to provide that one missing piece. Well, it turns out I was still missing part of the equation.

Mary: The name of the organization, “the Book Bank,” I sort of struggle with, because it has a very narrow  definition, doesn’t it? You sort of conjure up this idea that there are there are just a bunch of  boxes on the floor and you go through them and you find the book that you want. But actually what we do is for greater than that. We have over 40 people volunteering here, so we provide the experience for people to actually use their literacy expertise, to engage younger people, so looking at the other side of that coin, yeah we give away lots of free books, but we're also helping other people in the community who want outlets, positive outlets for the experience they have as readers and literacy experts. We also work in partnership with about 8 health clinics in the community to train nurse practitioners to become more knowledgeable about the importance of literacy and we provide them literacy materials, and we have community partners all over the GTA who run their own literacy activities, maybe out of a space in a mall, or who knows, but they use our books to support those activities. So i really feel like the name the children’s book bank does a little bit of a disservice to the enormous capacity we have, and the reach we have, but that’s who we are, so i’ll have to live with it, for the time being.

Mark: For the first time, I saw the Book Bank the way Mary did, as part of a web of services and help for people, all through the city. And if the success the Book Bank has seen is any indication, it’s working.

Mary: I have my moments, i think i said earlier, when i go into the book bank itself, kids are maybe there’s a class here, and there are 30 kids sitting listening to a story, i started in the summer, and there were many days during the summer we had 350 people here. And I was like “what the heck is going on?” and i was told, and i looked back in the books, and i could see that was pretty standard. And i thought “this is important, people need this place.” and i still feel that way. So it’s just really a matter of ensuring  its sustainability, long-term.

Mark: Imagine that, 350 kids sitting and listening to a story. 350 pairs of bright eyes scanning shelves of books laid out just for them. I actually got to meet a class as they came in to read - they looked just as excited as I had to go into Muriel’s story time every week. But Keeping the Book Bank alive and moving, ensuring its survival and relevance is no easy task. Fortunately for the Book Bank and its kids, Mary leaves no stone unturned in her search for new ways forward, and allies in the fight for literacy.

Mary: I come from an academic background, and my works has always been trying to connect community organizations with school environments. I don’t think we do that very well, i think that we tend to sort of regard schools  as stand-alone operations, and the kinds go in and they come out and go home. But i’ve always viewed school as more of an integral part of the weave of the community. So i think that community organizations such as our and others can do a far better job of having an impact on educational outcomes.

Mark: She’s right about that, and we’ve seen it. In 2007, a research team from the Ministry of Education in Ontario tired to tackle the issue of immigrant families being shut out of the education process. Parents were encouraged to avoid using their mother tongues at home, and to only talk to their kids in English. But the research team was able to help them with the same tool as the Book Bank: books. They helped the parents self-author books for their kids about their identities, their culture. Looking at the school system as the only resource had shut out an entire aspect of not only the kids’ development, but their parents’ involvement in that growth. Its programs like these Mary hopes to work closely with, as well as any allies she can win in the private sector.

Mary: So for instance to night after work i’m going to the cabbagetown business association's meeting. Not because i necessarily want to know what’s happening in the business community as such, but we have to say you know we’re part of something here, and what are you doing, and how can we be supportive, and maybe there are connections with partnerships that i can grow from those initial meetings. So i really like to see people say in ten years, oh yeah, that Children’s Book Bank, that’s an essential part of what we’re doing to tackle the challenges of literacy and literacy development in the city. If people could say that, i’d be pleased.

So we’re a charitable organization. We take no government funding. One of the things i’d really like to see change is how money is given out in cities. Toronto’s not unique, so this problem occurs everywhere. There are many other literacy organizations, and we’re all competing for the same dollars, the same charitable dollars. From banks, form corporations, from the toronto foundation. And yet we’re not really competing in terms of our services. We’re doing something, and someone else is doing something else, and yet we’re asked to compete for the dollars.

Mark: They’ve been asked to compete with groups like The Bookworm Club, which would send packages of books and materials directly to kids in Ontario’s Children’s Aid program. Different service, same pot of money. And that can hurt these groups. The Bookworm Club isn’t around anymore. But Mary plans on a different fate for the Book Bank.

Mary: In 10 years, i would really like for people to say “oh wow, the book bank was the leader in getting all these funders to sit down and just split up the pot of money you have to give to literacy organizations,” and let us get on with the work of solving the problems instead of competing with each other, and writing proposal after proposal for the dollars are already there. The books are there, the will is there, the clients are there. I have statistical proof our services are accessed, and the research to back up why it’s important. So all those pieces are there, and all we have to do is extend and support and grow those services, and make sure they continue to run well, and see what we can do in terms of expanding them. So those are taken care of. So what  i really need to do as an executive director is turn my attention to the program development on figuring out how and where I’m going to get the money to do it.

Mark: I hope she does, because we need places like the Children’s Book Bank. We can’t rely on any one avenue for education - that just isn’t working. In only ten years, the Book Bank has already made a difference to hundreds - hundreds of kids, and in the next ten, they hope to strengthen the culture of assistance and advocacy here in Toronto. This is a place to get passionate about. It took me all of ten seconds to fall in love with the Book Bank after walking in. Just imagine how it makes kids feel. People like to disparage kids, they like to talk about how they never read, how they’d prefer a screen to a page. I like to talk about the place that proves those people wrong. Kids love reading. And the Children’s Book Bank gives everything they have to make sure every kid can find that love. I know how amazing that feels.

Thanks, Muriel.


Bernhard, Judith K.  “Immigrant Parents Taking Part in Their Children's Education: a Practical Experiment.”  Re-Situating Canadian Early Childhood Education, edited by Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw and Larry Prochner, Peter Lang Publishing, 2013, pp. 106-121.

Brown, Louise.  “Syrian refugee kids get lessons in literacy—and fitting in—at special camp for newcomers.” thestar.com, Toronto Star, https://www.thestar.com/yourtoronto/education/2016/07/24/syrian-refugee-kids-get-lessons-in-literacy-and-fitting-in-at-special-camp-for-newcomers.html

Gutierrez, Kris.  “Biliteracy and the Language-Minority Child.”  Language and Literacy in Early Childhood Education, edited by Bernard Spodek and Olivia N. Saracho, Teacher’s College Press, 1993, pp. 82-101.

Field, Kuczera, Windisch.  “Building Skills For All: A Review of England.”  OECD Skills Studies. 2016, pp. 12. Web. http://www.oecd.org/edu/skills-beyond-school/building-skills-for-all-review-of-england.pdf

Feitelson, Dina, and Zahava Goldstein. “Patterns of Book Ownership and Reading to Young Children in Israeli School-Oriented and Nonschool-Oriented Families.” The Reading Teacher, vol. 39, no. 9, 1986, pp. 924–930. www.jstor.org/stable/20199270.

McLane, Joan and McNamee, Gillian.  Early Literacy, Harvard University Press, 1990.

Patel, Arti.  “When it Comes to High Literacy, Numeracy Rates, Canada is Low on the List: Report.”  Huffpost Living, Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2016/09/01/canada-literacy-rates_n_11817262.html

Rootman, Irving, and Barbara Ronson. “Literacy and Health Research in Canada: Where Have We Been and Where Should We Go?” Canadian Journal of Public Health / Revue Canadienne De Sante'e Publique, vol. 96, 2005, pp. S62–S77. www.jstor.org/stable/41994460.

Statistics Canada.  “72. Regent Park”  2011 Neighbourhood Demographic Estimates, StatsCan, https://www1.toronto.ca/City%20Of%20Toronto/Social%20Development,%20Finance%20&%20Administration/Shared%20Content/Demographics/PDFs/NIA_2014_Profiles/72%20Regent%20Park.pdf  

Additional Resources

Brown, Louise.  “Syrian refugee kids get lessons in literacy—and fitting in—at special camp for newcomers.” thestar.com, Toronto Star, https://www.thestar.com/yourtoronto/education/2016/07/24/syrian-refugee-kids-get-lessons-in-literacy-and-fitting-in-at-special-camp-for-newcomers.html

“Child poverty continues to be Canada’s shame.”  DurhamRegion.com, Metroland Media, http://www.durhamregion.com/opinion-story/6917404-child-poverty-continues-to-be-canada-s-shame/

Pinnell, Gay Su.  “Reading Recovery: A Literacy Program for At-Risk Children.”  Language and           Literacy in Early Childhood Education, edited by Bernard Spodek and Olivia N. Saracho, Teacher’s College Press, 1993, pp. 102-119.

Truch, Steve.  “7 Ways to Asses & Help develop Your Child’s Reading Readiness.”  Canadian Family, Canadian Family, http://www.canadianfamily.ca/kids/child/assess-develop-reading-readiness/?platform=hootsuite

In Deep Water

By Johanna Kabychshenko


Many people assume that what we see when we step out of our homes will always be there. The beautiful parks, gardens, lakes, and ponds have always been there and will always be there. But our world is changing all around us.

We see it on the news almost every day. Some natural catastrophe taking place in a foreign country, followed by interviews with experts as to what may be causing this.

But we don’t pay attention to the experts because it isn’t happening to us here in Toronto, or at least that’s what we think.

However, over consumption, coupled with climate change, diminishing water supplies and the rising global demand for water equals a recipe for disaster.

There just isn’t as much water to go around as we think.

In this podcast episode, I will explore the different ways in which we can do our part to conserve water, the benefits of conserving water, and the problems water conservationists face.

Water conservation is crucial because we are systematically depleting a finite natural resource and it matters to me because I worry about the earth that my children will inherit. I worry about all the clues we’re missing in regards to natural disasters triggered by global warming and the damage we’re causing to our planet. If we don’t take care of our planet, there won’t be a society, economy, or future to plan for.

What happens to us when we no longer have a home?

Are we the next species in danger of extinction?

<Intro soundtrack>

Here in Toronto, we're surrounded by the Great Lakes, “four of the largest lakes on the planet” (Maas 6). Yet, we don't have as much water as we think. “The Great Lakes are essentially a relic: a one-time gift of the glacial melt that occurred at the end of the last ice age. They replenish at an average rate of only one percent per year and are a fragile ecosystem in delicate balance” (Maas 6).

These beautiful lakes are a treasure because they hold “one-fifth of all the freshwater on Earth” (“Protecting the Great Lakes”). And we Torontonians benefit significantly from the Great Lakes. Their resources provide us with drinking water, energy, food and are the foundation for Ontario’s strength and success. They also provide the province with numerous economic advantages (“Protecting the Great Lakes”).

“The Great Lakes regional economy is the world’s 4th largest. Almost 75% of Canada’s manufacturing along with 80% of Ontario’s power generation and 95% of Ontario’s agricultural lands depend on the Great lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin" ("Protecting the Great Lakes").

But we’re currently facing a water crisis due to our changing environment. “Climate change is predicted to diminish water supplies in southern Ontario because of higher evaporation rates and less snow and ice coverage in the winter” (Maas 6).

In other words, we are at a critical turning point not only is there not as much water in Toronto “as we think but rising demands for water are on a collision course with declining water sources available” (Maas 6). 

This is why Toronto water conservation advocates like Evergreen, have been working relentlessly to bring awareness to the community. “Evergreen Toronto is a national not-for-profit organization that has been working since 1991 to restore the connection between Canada’s cities and the natural environment” ("Backgrounder: Evergreen").

Luuk: I'm Luuk Postuma, I'm the director of facility management for Evergreen Brick Works. Evergreen Brick Works is a site that sits on about 16 acres of rehabilitated land. It used to be a brick factory and was shut down approximately 1989. Sat dormant for 15 years or so at which point Evergreen came along and looked at rehabilitating the site and adding to the buildings so that it would become, both the head office for Evergreen National Canada and also as a place where we could actively program so that essentially it becomes a hub for innovation, culture, community all focused around nature and improving cities, making cities better. The history here was this was this site was essentially seating dormant with the exception of partiers and ravers who were jumping the fences and going into these old buildings.

Johanna: yes, I noticed the graffiti on, around the buildings.

Luuk: all the graffiti and the partying and the craziness like that. I think it was around 2005, 2006 that the city approached Evergreen and our CEO and sort of toured the site and said, "Hey what do you think?" And the plans started to happen, and Evergreen took it over and put so many cool features on the site, that I really think that we're a real example of how to manage water properly, so we're really excited about that. This has become our crown jewel we call it the gem in the river in the Don Valley.  So, the site today consists of 14 buildings which include our newest building which is a five storey LEED Platinum building which is where we're sitting right now.

The LEED Platinum certification that Luuk is so proud of stands for "Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). This is a rating system that is recognized as the international mark of excellence for green building,” and Platinum is the highest possible level of certification  ("LEED Canada Rating Systems").

So Luuk is right to brag.

Luuk is quick to point out the importance of water conservation

Luuk: water conservation I mean it's important in so many levels I mean, we know that fresh water sources are essentially dwindling and with that knowledge, we won't conserve it. From a climate adaptation perspective, we recognize that water is also very influential in turns of water systems and that we're seeing more severe flooding and weather events. So, the way we look at water the way we manage water is very important. not just from a conservation perspective, but from a remediation perspective, to understand the impact it has specially on a site like this where we do flood and as we evaluate the reasons why we flood is it's very closely tied to the way I would either manage or mismanage water from the construction and design perspective.

Water conservation takes many shapes and forms, but essentially it refers to any valuable decrease of water consumption, loss or waste. It also includes the strategies and undertakings to manage and protect water resources to meet the demand for human consumption ("Water Conversation").

There are many ways we can help conserve water, and there are numerous resources out there. But I want to focus on three strategies that can make the biggest impact in our community. These strategies are; rainwater harvesting, greywater harvesting, and stormwater management.

Rainwater harvesting is essentially the collection of rooftop rainwater overflow into cisterns, barrels or underground storage tanks and re-purposing that water instead of using clean city water (Adamaley 24-25).

Now greywater harvesting is a murky subject but what it really means is the collection and treatment of residual water from; dishwashers, bathroom sinks, tubs, and showers (Adamaley 25; Wong). 

Both, rainwater and greywater can be used indoors and outdoors for non-consumption applications such as; watering gardens and lawns, washing cars, and flushing toilets. Therefore, rainwater and greywater harvesting are systems that recycle water and decrease the reliance on city water.

One of the 14 cisterns catching rainwater at Evergreen Brick Works

Johanna: what are some of the water conservation systems currently in place here at Evergreen Brick Works?

Luuk: probably the most obvious one is the use of cisterns that we have on the site. As you walk around the site, you might see really large black cisterns these are cisterns that are capable of containing 20,000 L of water and we have 14 active systems on site. So basically, what that does, any rain that falls on our roofs that rain goes through the gutter system and then and then just deposit into the cisterns, so we're able to reclaim a lot of water from rainfall which is then used for largely for gardening. So, we don't have to use city water we have that supply from the rain, and we also have 2 cisterns tucked away in the boiler room you don't see them from the outside, but they're collecting water from one of the big roofs on site, and we're using that water to flush our toilets. Rain water isn't potable, we can't put it into our drinking water system, but we can certainly use it to augment the water supply that is used for flushing toilets. So, assuming that those cisterns are full, we would not be using city water for flushing water.

Now, stormwater is urban excess water from heavy rain or snowfall that travels through the storm sewer system, making its way to downstream waterways. But this urban overflow often carries a slurry of contaminants that it has picked up from roads, buildings, private and public properties ("Greenspace: Restoring Urban Watersheds").

In Toronto, all that gunky stormwater eventually flows into our Lake Ontario. The same lake where we get our drinking water from, where we swim, play and fish.

Think about that for a moment.

Under natural conditions, stormwater is gradually absorbed into the ground and filtered before replenishing aquifers and nearby streams. This gradual absorption slows the flow and amount of water reaching the streams ("Greenspace: Restoring Urban Watersheds").

However, the problem we face in urban cities like Toronto is that “impervious surfaces disrupt this natural filtration process and reduce the volume of stormwater infiltrating into the ground” ("Stormwater Management").

So “instead of gradually entering streams, rivers, and lakes, water runs rapidly into storm drains, municipal sewers, and drainage ditches. The sudden force and volume of polluted runoff entering waterways increase flood risk, river bank erosion, aquatic habitat destruction and overall contamination of the water ” ("Stormwater Management").

Luuk explains how Evergreen Brick Works manages stormwater.

Luuk: we have the green roof on our main building we got a few other ones around this site and what that really does again is capturing rainwater it allows it to filter rain water and so it allows it to basically go through a natural evapotranspiration cycle which is the way the earth works. Another thing that we have here on site, our east parking lot is a pervious parking lot so you can go out there with a cup of water and pour onto the parking lot, you watch it get absorbed into the parking lot rather than running across the parking lot. That to me is one of these really impactful kinds of solutions, it's not up a lot more expensive than doing it the traditional way, and it ensures that the water again is going into the ground as opposed to running out into rivers.  We also have greenways, so between the buildings, you can see greenways so it's a gap and it allows any rain water to sort of flow and filter through planted greenways. Again, the water's getting filtered before it gets out to the river so that it ensures that that water stays relatively clean. In our case, our greenways run out to bioswales, and those bioswales run along Bayview Avenue. They feed into our storm water management ponds that we have near the main entrance, and from there it goes into the river. So, there is actually various stages of filtration systems that go on as that happens. In our main parking lot, you'll see that we have gardens garden mounts and again the gardens themselves are porous surfaces and allow the water to be absorbed they attach to trenches than run through the parking lot. So, any excess water again will just go through those trenches, and then feed into the bioswale system and storm water management system. So, again it's about trying to manage that storm water as it happens on site. So, this site is perfectly capable of withstanding a really heavy downpour, we're looking at about 15,500 m³ of water, and that is effectively being collected on site and managed through our water management features before it ends up in the Don River.

Water conservation sounds like it’s a lot of work without the immediate gratification we all want. But that’s not the case, water conservation not only protects the environment but also helps conserve energy and boost a green economy. 

 We know that climate change is real, that we can no longer deny. Not a day goes by that we don’t hear on the News about a weather-related disaster. This is due in part to the environmental damage caused to the hydrologic cycle which is the natural cycle where water falls onto the ground, gets absorbed and filtered through and makes its way into waterways and from there it evaporates into the atmosphere where the cycle begins again ("The Hydrologic Cycle").

 So, Toronto must understand that climate change is impacting the hydrologic cycle, making our ecosystems, communities, and businesses susceptible.

But it’s not too late to take action because by implementing water conservation initiatives Toronto can help our communities to adapt to climate change, mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, and contribute to the global effort to slow down the progression of climate change (Maas 7-8). Not to mention that any water saved represents additional water available to preserve existing fresh water supplies (Maas 8; Schindler 19-21).

Water conservation reduces energy consumption and saves the city money. Did you know that flushing toilets or turning on the tap waste electricity? Well, then you'll be surprised to know that Toronto Water uses more electricity than the TTC and five times the energy consumed by all of the city's streetlights and traffic signals. So conserving water not only saves energy but also reduces CO2 emissions (Maas 8).

Toronto is struggling to maintain the existing crumbling water infrastructure. Fortunately, water conservation recycles new water, extending the life of existing infrastructure resulting in considerable long-term savings not to mention reducing energy costs for water pumping and treatment. Therefore, water conservation is one of the most effective ways Toronto Water can save money (Deveau; Maas 7- 8; Wiebe 5-6).

Believe it or not, water conservation also stimulates the local economy that is because water conservation creates green jobs and stimulates innovative technology. A study conducted by the Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE), shows that 15,000 to 22,000 new jobs can be created for every $1.2 billion invested in projects for water efficiency and conservation  (Maas 7). More importantly, these jobs cannot be outsourced to foreign countries which guarantees that funds invested will remain in the local economy (Wolfe and Hendriks 61-65; Maas 7). That is because green jobs reach different disciplines of workers and the projects are fulfilled onsite. Some of these jobs involve; engineers, plumbers, architects, and electricians.

 Water conservation also stimulates innovative technology. According to a report from New York-based Lux Research, “revenues of the world’s water-related businesses will rise from $552 billion in 2007 to nearly $1 trillion by 2020” (Maas 7). This presents an excellent opportunity for Toronto to develop not only the technology sector but also boost the local economy (Wolfe and Hendriks 64-65; Maas 7).

So, by now you must be thinking if water conservation is such a no-brainer, why hasn't it been implemented in Toronto?

Well, that’s because there are three major problems preventing water conservation from becoming the norm in Toronto.

First, the more water residents conserve, the more money they pay on their water bill, because there is a counterproductive pricing strategy right now that is failing both Toronto and its residents. You see, Toronto Water's single source of revenue comes from water usage rates, and as people use less water, whether it's through conscious living or to save money on their water bill, Toronto has fewer resources to allocate into fixing the crumbling water infrastructure (Adamaley 11-17, 21, 31-32; Deveau; Furlong and Bakker 222-228).

A Toronto Water report published in 2015 illustrates the problem, “In 2006, City Council adopted a 10-year capital plan based on 9 years of 9% rate increase to address the backlog of state of good repair projects and rapidly changing priorities related to wet weather flow management” (Di Gironimo and Rossini 5). Now the same report illustrates that this pricing strategy did not work because as of 2015 Toronto Water faced a “$1 billion shortfall in capital funding”. In other words, our city is not getting any younger and it is struggling to keep up with population growth and an ever-changing climate. Minor annual rate hikes are not going to make a difference in Toronto Water budget deficit because Toronto is currently paying substandard rates compared to other cities in Ontario, Canada, and Europe (Adamaley 11-17, 21, 31-32; Deveau; Furlong and Bakker 222-228).

Here's is where water conservation plays a big part in saving Toronto some much-needed funds. When we implement water conservation strategies like greywater and rainwater harvesting and stormwater management, we rely less on fresh water from the city. This means that Toronto Water uses fewer resources to produce new water and manage stormwater overflow. Resources that are freed to fix the city's water infrastructure without going into the red.

Secondly, the mistaken assumption that we have abundant water sources is one of the problems faced by water conservation advocates.  But in reality, we are facing a water crisis and an ecological point of no return (Adamaley 15-16; Dewar and Soulard 13-15; Maas 5-6; Schindler 19-21). It is hard for us Torontonians to believe that we’re in deep water when it comes to the state of our water sources. Get it!?

Canada is often presented as a water-rich nation, and this notion is easy to understand: we have the Great Lakes, one of the largest renewable water supplies in the world and have access to as much as 20%, of the world’s stock of surface freshwater (Dewar and Soulard 12).

But, precipitation patterns and surface water flows are being altered. “Extreme weather events, including severe droughts and floods are becoming more frequent: glaciers are melting more quickly and sea levels are rising” (Dewar and Soulard 12). All these factors have a great impact on our freshwater sources, not to mention consistent population growth. According to Statistics Canada, the 2015 census found that Toronto holds the largest population concentration in Canada at over 6 million residents ("Population of Census Metropolitan Areas").

And lastly, City of Toronto’s lack of profound and effective marketing to advocate water conservation can be remedy by establishing an aggressive agenda for water conservation education (Adamaley 36; Maas 31). Water conservation is important but the city isn't openly advocating for change that's due in part to the lack of political participation and advocacy. Politicians don't want to take risks in a volatile economic market, and unfortunately this becomes a factor in the decision-making process and prevents the development of initiatives from being conducted in the best interest of the community.  In such cases, authority figures are reluctant to advocate new strategies to safeguard political standing or aspirations (Adamaley 9-11).

But this doesn’t have to be the case. Let’s take a look at our neighbour to the west, Guelph.

Guelph is one of the largest communities in Ontario and one of the first to recognize that we’re potentially facing a water crisis. For Guelph, this crisis is intensified because it depends on groundwater for its fresh water supply. Guelph has been a leader in water conservation in Ontario, and since 1998 they have built their growing city around water conservation strategies and have successfully implemented innovations that Toronto can readily adopt ("2016 Water Efficiency Strategy Update" 2, 11-14).

For instance, some of Guelph’s most outstanding water conservation achievements measured between 2006 and 2014 include:

  •       Decreased the average amount of water used each day to an average of 167L, compared to the 207L used by residents of Ontario
  •      Managed a population growth of 12% and at the same time decreased water production by 12%.
  •      The City of Guelph spent $10.2 millions on water conservation programs but saved $40.6 million on water and wastewater infrastructure because of water conservation strategies ("2016 Water Efficiency Strategy Update" 2-3). 

I would say that Guelph knows how to invest their capital.

So you see, Guelph saw their water limitations and turned it into opportunities to conserve water and boost their economy. Guelph's water efficiency strategy was designed to delay the need for costly new water and wastewater treatment infrastructure; help sustain local groundwater resources, and engage community members in understanding their role in conserving water ("2016 Water Efficiency Strategy Update" 2-3).

Conserving water is crucial to protect our environment and our way of life. We need to be more proactive in protecting our waterways and Toronto’s life line, the Great Lakes. “The Great Lakes moderate the climate in southern Ontario. Clouds, ice and snow, reflect energy from the sun back into the atmosphere, therefore influencing climate ” (Dewar and Soulard 17). And freshwater plays an integral role in ecosystems. Rivers and lakes serve as habitat for fish and other aquatic species. Wetlands filter nutrients and bacteria, improving water quality, and help to temper the effects of flooding (Dewar and Soulard 17).

We all play a crucial role in the preservation of these ecosystems, and it is up to us to fight for change that could significantly improve our environment. We can follow the examples of Evergreen and Guelph and advocate for change. We can't sit idle any more. Climate change is no longer a foreign problem; it is starting to affect us all here in Toronto. As Luuk mentioned before, floods are happening more frequently and there's no sign that things will change. We need to act before it gets worse.

Johanna: just one last thing what would you like the listeners to know?

Luuk: that were' in a critical moment. I think we need to really pay attention. There is always talk on the media about climate change and someone may not believe that its happening but the facts are out there we know that the climate change is happening we need to focus on climate adaptation practices. So exactly what you're doing is studying what is happening looking for alternatives looking for best practices to make sure that we can minimize the impacts of climate change. Again, I focus a lot on weather here but we can see that storms are getting worse, we can see that the impact of flooding is having much larger impact than we've ever had before. So, for the listeners out there let's really pay attention to the changes around us. Let's be open to making changes to make things better and let's not be afraid of actually making some of those changes, whether it's actually in our residences whether it's how we approach life, whether we as a business operate or as a facility operate. We have to be open to investing in change, it's not an "if" scenario anymore for me it's not an "if" we flood it's a when we flood. It's about being as prepared as we possibly can spending our money wisely to minimize the damage and to respect our environment and hopefully to modify our building practices so that we are that much more respectful of the natural processes, and that we focus on living side by side with nature not to dominate nature.

Imagine what Toronto would look like if the community was actively involved in water conservation. If every home and business had water harvesting and stormwater management systems. If instead of expanding the asphalt and concrete jungle, we invested in permeable surfaces and gardens.

Now, wouldn’t you want to live in that Toronto!?


<Outro soundtrack>


Works Cited

"2016 Water Efficiency Strategy Update: Final Summary Report - City of Guelph." City of Guelph. Guelph Water, Sept. 2016. PDF. 27 Oct. 2016.

Adamaley, Mark. “An Inquiry into Residential Water Conservation in Canada.” Masters of Engineering & Public Policy McMaster University Inquiry Paper, W Booth School of Engineering Practice and Technology, Hamilton, CA: 2011. Accessed 26 October 2017.

"Backgrounder: Evergreen." Evergreen. Evergreen, n.d. Web. 20 Sept. 2016.

Deveau, Denise. "High and Dry; Canada's Municipalities Face an $80-Billion Water Infrastructure Deficit." National Post, Jun 20, 2013. ProQuest. Accessed 1 Nov. 2016. 

Dewar, H., and F. Soulard. "Human Activity and the Environment: Freshwater Supply and Demand in Canada-2010." Statistics Canada: Ottawa, ON, Canada (2010). PDF. Accessed on 1 Nov. 2016.

Di Gironimo, Lou, and Robert Rossini. “Staff Report for Action on 2016 Water and Wastewater Consumption Rates and Services Fees.Toronto Water, November 6, 2015. AFS #21972. Accessed 26 October 2017.

"Evergreen Strategic Plan 2013–2017." Evergreen. Evergreen Canada, 28 May 2013. PDF, https://www.evergreen.ca/about/annual-reports/. Accessed on 20 Sept. 2016.

Furlong, Kathryn, and Karen Bakker. “Governance and Sustainability at a Municipal Scale: The Challenge of Water Conservation.Canadian Public Policy / Analyse De Politiques, vol. 37, no. 2, 2011, pp. 219–237. Accessed 27 Oct. 2016.

"Greenspace: Restoring Urban Watersheds." Evergreen. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Sept. 2016. https://www.evergreen.ca/our-impact/greenspace/restoring-urban-watersheds/.

"LEED Canada Rating Systems." Canada Green Building Council. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Dec. 2016.

Maas, Carol. “H2Ontario: A Blueprint for a Comprehensive Water Conservation Strategy: Version 1.0.” Victoria, CA: POLIS Project on Ecological Governance, University of Victoria, 2009. ProQuest ebrary, Accessed 26 October 2017.

"Population of Census Metropolitan Areas." Statistics Canada. Government of Canada, 10 Jan. 2016. Web. 28 Oct. 2016.

"Protecting the Great Lakes." Ontario.ca. Government of Ontario, 18 Feb. 2015. Web. 27 Oct. 2016.

Schindler, David W. "The Cumulative Effects of Climate Warming and Other Human Stresses on Canadian Freshwaters in the New Millennium." Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 58.1 (2001): 18-29. ProQuest. Accessed 1 Nov. 2016.

"Stormwater Management." Evergreen. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2016.

"The Hydrologic Cycle." Environment and Climate Change Canada. Government of Canada, 09 Sept. 2013. Web. 28 Oct. 2016.

"Water Conversation." Alberta Environment and Parks. Government of Alberta, 25 Mar. 2015. Web. 20 Sept. 2016.

Wiebe, John D. "Canada's Infrastructure Deficit: Opportunity of the Decade." Municipal World 122.3 (2012): 5-6. ProQuest. Accessed on 2 Nov. 2016.

Wolfe, S. E., and Elizabeth Hendriks. "Building Towards Water Efficiency: The Influence of Capacity and Capability on Innovation Adoption in the Canadian Home-Building and Resale Industries." Journal of Housing and the Built Environment 26.1 (2011): 47-72. ProQuest. Accessed 1 Nov. 2016.

Wong, Kevin. "Greywater Strategies: A Primer on Greywater Recycling Systems." Ground Water Canada. Annex Publishing and Printing Inc., 13 Sept. 2011. Web. 1 Nov. 2016.


Additional Resources

Gombu, Phinjo. "The High Cost of using Less Water; Municipalities Discover Inconvenient Truth Lower Consumption Means Less Revenue." Toronto Star: A10. Jan 26, 2008. ProQuest. Accessed on 11 Oct. 2016.

Sedlak, David. “4 Ways We Can Avoid a Catastrophic Draught.” TED. Sept. 2015. Lecture.

Tse, Chloe. "Tapping into the Benefits of Rainwater Collection Systems." BizEnergy.ca. Canada’s Business Energy Efficiency Resource, 16 Aug. 2013. Web. Accessed 1 Nov. 2016.

Winter, Molly. “The Taboo Secret to Better Health.” TED. April 2016. Lecture.



I would like to thank Luuk Postuma from Evergreen, for taking time off from his busy schedule to sit with me for this interview.

Also, I’d like to thank freesound.org for providing the music and sound effects for this podcast.

And of course, this episode wouldn’t have been possible without my sound producer, Daniel Dominguez. I don’t know where I’d be without you, little bro.


YouthLink: A Safe Place for Youth

YouthLink: A Safe Place

My name is Karley Lamb and in this episode of A Place for Passion, we will be exploring mental health in Ontario’s youth. 

When you hear “mental illness” what do you think of? What is it? How do you think about people who have a mental illness?
Most of us are pretty aware of mental illness and may even know someone who has struggled with it. But a lot of people don’t know what the term “mental illness” really means and what they think it means could bring stigmas into their understanding.
So let’s start there:
Mental illness, as defined by the Canadian Mental Health Association is, “a recognized, medically diagnosable illness that results in the significant impairment of an individual’s cognitive, affective or relational abilities”. They also say that mental illnesses “result[] from biological, developmental and/or psychosocial factors and that it can be managed using physical disease approaches”. So in the same way you can prevent, diagnose, treat and rehabilitate from a flu, you can also prevent, diagnose, treat and rehabilitate a mental illness, like depression. A mental illness is just as much an illness as a physical illness. They look different and have different affects on people, but they are both diagnosable illnesses that can be treated, and they can both be hard to deal with. Another myth that the Canadian Mental Health Association addresses is the belief that “kids can’t have a mental illness like depression” because “those are adult problems”. Believe it or not, 70% of mental health problems occur in childhood or adolescence. In 2012, suicide accounted for 17% of deaths among Canada’s 10-14 year olds and for 28% of Canada’s 15-19 year olds (Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health
). The mood disorder society of Canada in 2009 published a document with facts on mental illness. They say that 90% of Canadians who commit suicide have a diagnosable mental illness and that the highest rate of depression occurs in the twenty years and under age group. Their research also shows that mental disorders contribute more to the global burden of disease than all cancers combined. Mental illness is a problem for young people in today’s society, but so many of them don’t know how to deal with it or are scared that they wont be understood, and so many of them never speak up to get the help they need. Luckily, organizations like YouthLink exist. 
YouthLink is a mental health centre for youth located in East Toronto. They were founded in 1914 by the Big Sisters’ Association of Metropolitan Toronto and originally they were concerned with the well being of young women, especially in the courts. In 1953, the counselling services started.
Ally (YouthLink client): “They offer free counselling.”
That is a client who used YouthLink’s resources for a few years. Let’s call her Ally. 
Ally (YouthLink client): “It used to be just on Wednesdays.” 
In an article from Counseling Psychology Quarterly, Ada Sinacore and Kayla D. Christiani write that, “affordability and lack of access are still significant problems as even those who have private supplemental health care insurance often face severe limits on coverage” when it comes to counseling. YouthLink offers free counselling services for ages 12-21. Starting just this past September, the counselling became available from Monday to Friday, instead of just on Wednesdays. It is a walk-in program that operates on a first come, first serve basis. Clients go in, sign a waiver the first time, fill out some paper work and then they get a one-on-one counselling service, which usually lasts about an hour. If the client finds a counsellor the really click with and they feel that counselling is the thing for them, they can sign up for on-going counselling. 
Ally (YouthLink client): “You get the opportunity to try out different people and see what personality types match with you and then you can go on the on-going list and try to match with somebody that you actually connect with and I think that’s really really important.”
YouthLink is open to talking about a variety of topics such as school stress, frequent negative feelings, frequent fights with parents, experiencing a loss, drinking or drug use problems, or a personal issue that you just need to talk about. They also have a bunch of other programs other than the walk-in and on-going counselling. They have Art Therapy Groups, Youth Advocating Anti-Homophobia Awareness (YAAHA), which is a program for the LGBT community. They have residential and housing programs, family-oriented programs and programs for parents.
Ally (YouthLink client): “They just try to be really well-rounded in their approach and it shows; they have like washers and dryers in case you can’t find a place to do your laundry, like there’s amenities for you, they have a housing program. There’s a youth council, just a whole bunch of different ways to make it easier for youth to live up to their potential.” 
YouthLink’s mission is “to provid[e] the support, guidance and opportunities [youth] need to make positive life choices”. 
But what YouthLink really focuses on are the connections that their staff members make with the people who come in looking for support. 
Me interviewing Ally: “So what makes YouthLink special? 
Ally (YouthLink client): “The little things, like they give you bus tokens and tickets so that you have a way to get there and get home in case you can’t afford to get yourself to counselling because that’s a luxury for some people. They get that. All the little things, like I can’t go to YouthLink without making myself a cup of hot chocolate every time I go. I’ve met other people there and we’re waiting together and we joke about how awesome the hot chocolate is. It’s just that it makes you feel welcome.”
Me interviewing Ally: “And you’ve described YouthLink as a really positive environment, so what makes it so positive and welcoming and warm?”
Ally (YouthLink client): “… Definitely the people that work there, they are the backbone of that place.” 
Even now that Ally has stopped going to YouthLink’s counselling services, she still has a close relationship with the staff.
Ally (YouthLink client): “Yeah we like to keep tabs so I’ll come in sometimes to say hi or shoot her an email. You get a really good rapport with the people there.”
The staff today consists of “social workers, child and youth workers and youth peer educators”. YouthLink is able to make special links with the people who need that connection to move towards something better. It’s a professional friendship and its something that helps people when they are figuring out how to deal with something like a mental illness. YouthLink’s counselors make the kids and young adults feel special and valued; and they are. The counseling “sessions are guided by your needs and goals” and are tailored to fit what the counselor believes will help each individual in their session. 
Ally (YouthLink client): “I noticed that especially when I was in ongoing, my counselors did their absolute best to personalize my session, so as much as they were working with like basic psychological tools and coping mechanisms, they really tried to make it personal to me.” 
Ally told me about one of her experiences from a counseling session she had.
Ally (YouthLink client): “One of the things that really really helped me, was I’m a big fan of art and so one day she brought in her two year old’s water board, gave me a paintbrush and some water and she was like, ‘I just want you to splash water on this board and just have at it’. I’m working with it and in my head I’m very perfectionist so I’m trying to make it go a certain way and after that she asked how I felt doing it and what was going on in my head as I was doing it and I’m telling her like I needed it to go a certain way and it didn’t really go that way, but it still came out kind of cool and it was nice to just let it out. You flick the paintbrush and that’s it and she basically turned that activity into an analogy about mindfulness. My mind was just blown. She said, ‘You have the power to move the paintbrush where you want to move it, but after you’ve made your move, where the water falls is out of your control and we have to accept that we can’t change everything. We need to focus on what we can change in ourselves.’ That was probably one of the ones that stuck with me so much, like she brought in tools specifically for me. She figured out ways to work around my own issues and it was really really amazing. I was really lucky in both the counselors I had.”
But obviously, not everyone is as lucky as Ally was. Sometimes the clients just don’t click with the counselors or maybe counseling isn’t the thing for them. And even when things do work out really well, problems can always come up. 
Me interviewing Ally: “So you had a second counselor, you had to switch at one point right?”
Ally (YouthLink client): “So a big issue actually for me was I was with “her first counselor who’s named we removed, but “she got another job and it was very sudden. I didn’t get any warning about it. So on her last session she basically just told me ‘I have a new job’. I did go through a depressive state after that and after a while I started going to” her second counselor whose name we also removed “and I was so scared that it wasn’t going to work, but we clicked right away. I think I definitely did get really lucky, it’s not like that for everybody.” But luckily, it was like that for Ally and this positive experience is common at YouthLink and with other counseling services. According to Sinacore and Christiani in their article, counseling psychology is committed “to health, wellness, remediation, prevention, psycho-education and advocacy. It also highlights its orientation to collaborative, developmental and multicultural models, as well as its focus on transitions across the life span.” And those transitions play a big part in mental illness in young people. Transitions mean change and change is usually pretty scary. Between the ages of 12 and 21, there’s a lot to be scared and confused about. And if a teenager has already developed mental health problems, these times of change can be even harder. The Mental Health Commission of Canada says that, “Transition-aged youth who disengage from mental health services are at a significantly higher risk of developing more enduring mental health problems later in life.”
Ally (YouthLink client): “The one thing that she told me that I think has stuck with me my whole life up to date has been that change is constant and it’s the only thing you can rely on.”
And this is why we need programs like YouthLink in today’s society. They give positive experiences and they support people who really just need guidance and a helping hand.
Me interviewing Ally: “What is YouthLink for you?”
Ally (YouthLink client): “For me, YouthLink is the first place that I felt safe. It’s really comforting to be validated by people.”
            But more than that, YouthLink offers opportunities to the youth who use their services. They give them a chance to give back to the community.
Ally (YouthLink client): “They have places to donate. I took it upon myself; it was a really big deal for me, to donate and to feel like I had some control over something, to feel like I was giving back. I had the privilege of watching a little girl take my grade five grad dress and her social worker was there with her and she was like ‘maybe now you’ll have something to wear to parties; if you need to go to things’. In so many ways, I’ve been able to see what I have, what I don’t have, what I can give. It makes me feel like I can reach my potential. It’s really really shaped who I am.”
            Jean M.Twenge, who has a Ph.D. wrote in her post on “Psychology Today” that, “studies conclude that anxiety and depression are markedly higher than they were in earlier eras.” Suicide rates in youth decreased after the early 1990s, but “most other measures of mental health have not improved”. YouthLink is one of many places where people care and where people are passionate about life in the Toronto area. They have such a positive influence on the young people connected to them. Mental illness is an issue that our society is aware of and yet so many people struggle with it, especially youth because they don’t know how to deal with what they’re feeling. YouthLink gives them a safe place where a listening ear is waiting to make a world of difference.

Works Cited

"Children and Youth." Children and Youth | Mental Health Commission of Canada. Web. 2 Nov. 2016. < 

Christiani, Kayla D. and Sinacore, Ada. “Counseling Psychology in Canada”. Counseling Psychology
    Quaterly, Vol. 29, No. 2, Taylor and Francis Online, 22 Mar 2016, pp. 150-162. 

"Home - YouthLink." YouthLink. Web. 31 Oct. 2016. < http://youthlink.ca/>

“Just the facts: Mental illness in Canada”. Quick Facts: Mental illness and addiction in Canada, 3rd
    edition, Mood Disorders Society of Canada, November 2009, pp. 2-7. 

"Mental Illness and Addictions: Facts and Statistics." CAMH: Mental Illness and Addictions: Facts and
    Statistics. Web. 2 Nov. 2016. < http://www.camh.ca/en/hospital/about_camh/newsroom/for_re

“Myths About Mental Illness”. Canadian Mental Health Association. Web. 2 Nov. 2016 < 

Twenge, Jean M. “Are Mental Health Issues on the Rise?”. Our Changing Culture, Psychology Today, 12
    Oct 2015. 

"What Is Mental Health and Mental Illness?" What Is Mental Health and Mental Illness? | Workplace
Mental Health Promotion. 2 Nov. 2016. < http://wmhp.cmhaontario.ca/workplace-mental-health- core-concepts-issues/what-is-mental-health-and-mental-illness> 

By: Karley Lamb

LGBT Youth Line: The Power of Chosen Family

By: Noah Myles Grayson

Tamar: I hate talking on the phone, um (laughs).

Noah: I totally do too.

Tamar: Yeah, it is the worst. Sometimes, so.

Noah: It takes a certain person to dedicate their emotional support to aid those who need it most, to lend a hand to individuals in the direst of times, and to ultimately be willing to connect with a stranger for the sake of another’s wellbeing.

This kind of person is Tamar Brannigan, a femme gender queer individual who works at the LGBT Youth Line. They only recently moved to Toronto, coming from the small town of Welland in the Niagara region. Tamar is an energetic, happy-go-lucky soul whose position as outreach coordinator has granted them many opportunities to touch the lives of others.

Besides their loving tone and friendly demeanour, there are multiple reasons why Tamar is able to work at Youth Line, and one major reason is their individuality and personal knowledge. The unique staff at Youth Line is the reason why it is loved by all queer youth and like no other organization out there.


The Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans Youth line, known as the LGBT Youth line, is an organization that has been functioning since 1994, specializing in peer-support, focusing on those who identify as lesbian, gay, trans, questioning, or queer in any way through three types of support: phone calling, online chat, and text message.

By being so diverse, you receive care like no other at Youth Line. The staff are all queer youth, a reason why Tamar loves their job.

Tamar: So, in terms of me, I, I like, as like a genderqueer person and a black person, like a queer person, um, I like love working with the community um I like having like a support of like people who have similar experiences to me, I like being able to like be myself in my workplace and in like as many aspects as my life as I can be.

Um, and so definitely being in a place where I am able to work with people that are like similar to me in like age and experiences Youth Line is like intentionally like by-POC oriented, like very specifically with black indigenous, people of colour, um who are queer.

We reach out and like really want to prioritize and centre people with disabilities or make people who are newcomers it’s like really great for me and feels really safe for me to be in an organization that does like really rad work um that is so like focused on like having a space that is safe for people with mental illness, and like there are tons of black people where I work right and that is something that is super important to me um and draws me in. Specifically about my job, like I do outreach and I love meeting people and talking to people, and I just get to like make friends all the time, all around Ontario and like build relationships and connections and I like love that about my job.

And I like think it is similar to everyone, like staff, volunteers, board members, um they want to be able to find connections and build community, and be like doing work that is meaningful in a way that is like as anti-oppressive, and equitable, and anti-racist, and all those things, and like do that in a very real and tangible way, so I think Youth Line is a really unique organization that really prioritizes.

Noah: With that, youth Line deals with an array of situations where as a closely knit staff they may confide in each other.

Tamar: How to come out, apprehensive of like what will happen, they are not sure how to do it, if they should tell everyone, if they should tell one person, they need to safety plan, explore their options, um so those are some of the things are volunteers work through.

A lot of the times, it is just like listening to people, right? Um, not so much giving advice which is just like people need to process before they make decisions in their life. We get, uh, relationships, like someone wants to ask someone out, like they just gone through a breakup, or um, like somethings going on in one of their friendships, and they need someone to talk to about it. Um, we have people calling in asking about where they can get binders, or can find doctors that are trans friendly or queer friendly where they can get sexual health information.

Uh, and we definitely pass on resources. As much as we do like active listening and like being like a friend to somebody, we also do resources referral, um we get a lot of questions about identity, um, like, I don’t know if I am trans, I am questioning, I have feelings like this, what does this mean. Am I gay? (laughs) Or, uh, so a lot of conversations about identity and what it means to be like in the queer community.

Um, yeah, we also want to encourage people to reach out to us, not if there is just something going on, if they are having a problem, but it’s hard say, if you are in a rural community, right, cause Toronto, the GTA I feel there is a lot of support queer folks and you know, everyone gravitates towards these like urban, metropolises because um this is where resources are, but if you go anywhere outside of like, the GTA, there is nothing. Even if you are in Mississauga there is not much, right.

Um, there are some really great grassroots and like um community driven supports but long term, there is nothing (laughs). So yeah, especially for people who are in more remote, rural areas just like having someone to be like: “I had a great day.” (laughs) Just to talk to someone friendly and understanding like we want that to be a service we provide too. Right, we are happy just to like what about like: “what did you learn at school today” or “what’s up with your birthday?” (laughs) Like, we are also there to provide.

Noah: Youth line is geared towards a certain community, which is that of the LGBTQ community.

From two-spirited individuals to those who are questioning Youth Line tailors to all queer youth. It should be made clear that they are not a crisis line, but a peer support line. Regardless of the type of organization it is, there are some drawback when dealing with certain situations.

However, when a person dedicates their time, emotional strength, and support to an individual who needs assistance repeatedly, it is hard to imagine that anyone would not feel exhausted afterward. This feeling of tiredness, to say it simply, is called burnout.

“Burnout is defined as a syndrome incorporating three distinct components: emotional exhaustion, reduced personal accomplishment, and depersonalization” (Ogus, 3).

Noah: The volunteers and staff at Youth Line are an eclectic bunch, their knowledge and support being their textbook. Since these volunteers derive their guidance from personal experiences and knowledge, the need for support for themselves is a necessity. The staff at youth line is very special because they rely on each other for support, guidance, and aid. Each one of the staff members, as a collective, work together to strengthen and improve each other’s mental health. It is that family-esque vibe that deems Youth Line very special.

Noah: What types of things have you learned from it (Youth Line) and how have you grown since you have started?

Tamar: Yeah, um, I definitely love my job, I have been working with Youth Line for about a year and a half now? Um, it is like one of the jobs, one of the few jobs I have had where I am like: “I want to stay here” and um, continue doing work with this organization in different capacities. It’s like incredible, I have such wonderful, wonderful relationships with people at work who have taught me so much and have shared so much of their knowledge and wisdom with me.

I have learned a lot about, practically, community organizations within Ontario. Um, if I were to move to Sudbury I would know where to get support, I know which doctors are like cool, and which organizations would be supportive.

I have a lot of useable, practical knowledge. Um, I have also have had really great conversations about race um, I grew up in a very small town with like, no black people (laughs). Um, so like being in a POC organization has given me such a link not to just the queer community, but to the to the black community, and the POC community, um, and I have had so many incredible connections with indigenous people, who have shared teachings with me that are absolutely invaluable. I have learned about different types of support, how to be like a support person who is not crappy (laughs) uh, and really radical stuff like that.

Yeah, what was the last question?

Noah: What have you learned from it, but I feel as if-

Tamar: Yeah, a lot. A lot of good stuff (laughs).

Noah: Well, the last question is your job rewarding, and I know you kind just told me what was so rewarding, your knowledge, but what is so-

Tamar: It is super rewarding, I am so proud to be somebody who is working with Youth Line, you know, I can say specifically that there are things I do that make me feel good, like workshops that I do end up going well, and people give good feedback, stuff like that. Those are the best, best things about working at Youth Line.

Since we’ve been around so long, we are one of the only organizations like us, like we are really unique. So many people have accessed our services over the twenty-three years we have been around and, uh, I’ll walk into any space, and be like: “I work at Youth Line” and someone is like “I used to volunteer for you! I have called you before! Oh my gosh, I donate to Youth Line, I am a monthly donor. I found your outreach information in my counsellor’s office. I love Youth Line!” people love this organization, and just hearing the positive feedback and like real, real, real, life-saving, positive experiences that people have had over two decades, with our organization is like unreal.

Noah: That is insane.

Tamar: To be part of an organization that has such a ripple effect and even like, I get emails and calls outside of the province saying: “I have heard about your organization, like, do you work in Quebec, do you work in Winnipeg? Can we get material from you, like how do you do this thing. People really look at us a as model, it like really, really amazing to be part of like that history and legacy, but to also be part of transforming, like, always, always, always transforming our organization to be better at what we do and to be more connected.

Noah: Aw, that is so- I love hearing this, this is great, I want to know more. Do you have any other things you think can contribute to this podcast? I know you touched upon everything, but is there anything you want to include?

Tamar: Yeah, another thing that is really cool about Youth Line is we try to be super accessible. And uh, it like, access is really important OBVIOUSLY and I, we talked before about how having an organization that is specifically queer friendly, and POC friendly, is really important.

But also, we try to expand out accessibility in other ways. Like, over the summer we had an amazing deaf outreach coordinator, community coordinator, and was trying to do research on how we can make our organization more accessible to people who are deaf, um, so our staff learned ASL, like rudimentary ASL, but like, we, we were like able to communicate and have conversations like my ASL is pretty good now, and we have really done work to uh, make our service more accessible to deaf people so we put out video blogs,  we have ASL Videos on what it is like to be trans, and having 101 videos, so that people who are deaf can still gain information about queer community.

We make sure all bathrooms are genderless, and all food is vegan and gluten free, so everyone can participate as much as possible.

Noah: 7% of youth in general have attempted suicide, while 33 percent of LGB youth have attempted suicide (eGale). LGB youth that are rejected by their families because of their identity are eight times more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual peers (eGale). Also, In LGBT people, there are higher rates of suicidality and self-harm, depression, and anxiety (omtario.cmha).

Noah: From personal experience, I understand why an organization such as Youth Line is needed for queer youth. Being closeted at my house, in an environment I knew would have difficulty understanding, I was isolated.

In between all the hardships of struggling with major depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, self-harm, insomnia, suicide, and other mental health related things, Youth Line was like the comfort I never had during this, and even though it is not a crisis line, it had saved my life countless time. The amount of personal connection I gained with the text on the screen, spoke volumes. It was not some person spewing lines from a textbook, it was someone speaking from their heart.



I want to thank Tamar Brannigan for letting me interview them, and to Youth Line as a whole. I am so very grateful and So happy to be able to learn more about this inspiring organizations.

Also, credit to Bensound, for the music 'Tomorrow' and 'Better Days'.

Other Resources: 

Ahuja, Amir, et al. "Bullying And Suicide: The Mental Health Crisis Of LGBTQ Youth And

How You Can Help." Journal Of Gay & Lesbian Mental Health 19.2 (2015): 125-144. LGBT

Life with Full Text. Web. 10 Nov. 2016.

By the Numbers Same-sex Couples and Sexual Orientation... by the Numbers. "Same-sex

Couples and Sexual Orientation... by the Numbers." Government of Canada, Statistics

Canada. N.p., 05 Nov. 2015. Web. 10 Nov. 2016.



COMMUNITY." IN Magazine. IN Magazine, 05 July 2016. Web. 10 Nov. 2016.



Grzanka, Patrick R, and Emily S Mann. "Queer Youth Suicide And The Psychopolitics Of “It

Gets Better”." Sexualities 17.4 (2014): 369-393. LGBT Life with Full Text. Web.

10 Nov. 2016.

House, Amy S., et al. "Interpersonal trauma and discriminatory events as predictors of suicidal

and nonsuicidal self-injury in gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender

persons." Traumatology 17.2 (2011): 75.

"Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans & Queer Identified People and Mental Health - Canadian Mental

Health Association, Ontario Division." Canadian Mental Health Association Ontario Division.

N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2016.

"Out & About." Publications.gc. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2016.



n.d.): n. pag. Web. 10 Nov. 2016.




Sher, Jonathan. "Suicide Rate Much Higher for Transgender Canadians: Study." Toronto Sun.

Toronto Sun, 28 June 2015. Web. 10 Nov. 2016.



Warden, Myranda. "Know The Signs, Take Steps To Help Those At Risk."

Word (Word Publications - Ted Fleischaker) 24.8 (2016): 35. LGBT Life with Full Text. Web.

10 Nov. 2016.


Works Cited

Tomorrow. www.bensound.com, n.d. Bensound. Web. 9 Dec. 2016.


Better Days. www.bensound.com, n.d. Bensound. Web. 9 Dec. 2016.


"Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans & Queer Identified People and Mental Health - Canadian Mental

Health Association, Ontario Division." Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario

Division. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2016.


Ogus, E. D. (2007). Burnout among professionals: Work stress, coping and gender (Order No.

NR29515). Available from Dissertations & Theses @ York University; ProQuest

Dissertations & Theses Global. (304787407). Retrieved from



Tomorrow. www.bensound.com, n.d. Bensound. Web. 9 Dec. 2016.


"What You Should Know About LGBTQ Youth Suicide in Canada." 

Egale Canada Human Rights Trust. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2016.


@LGBTYouthLine. "Lesbian Gay Bi Trans Youth Line." LGBT Youth Line. N.p., n.d. Web. 09

Dec. 2016.

Sowing Roots for Food

By Sophonn Mao

My family was preparing for a grand dinner of hot pot - basically, you have a variety of meats and vegetables that you choose to put into a pot of beef-flavored broth to cook, you take your cooked bits onto your plate of rice noodles and dig in. Tasty stuff that requires a lot of food to be bought - leafy greens, watercress, beef, shrimp, oyster, and the likes - and a lot of prepping - making the beef-flavored broth of the hot pot, getting gas for the portable stove, and making a chili sauce for the meal - peppers, garlic, fish sauce. The entire thing would cost to around $80 or so, and all of the stuff are generally not found in one place or nearby - often times, the parents would range to Jane and Shepherd or as far as Vaughan - to a market called Nations - to get the food and other sundries - very far in other words. And of course we have this on occasion, we're not rolling in dosh here. And then topping up gas for the family SUV can get costly. If there were more nearby places for fresh food, we wouldn't have to crunch down on finances so much, so that we can actually enjoy life in Toronto and set down real roots here.

Then again, there are people in Toronto who doesn't live within a kilometers' distance to a food market. And convenience stores - with canned soups, frozen meals, instant noodles - just became that much more necessary for some people - sometimes the only place to get food on the cheap to survive.

If you ever had to worry about getting food in Toronto, if it's having enough money for it or where to get fresh food, Toronto might have a problem with good access to fresh food. Hello, my name is Sophonn Mao, and I join many others in A Place for Passion.

                <Intro Sequence>

In today's episode I will explore the lack of access to food in Toronto, see how it came to be and look at what's being done to dealing with it. Of course, Toronto is home to a myriad of different ethnic groups with different unique cuisines, ultimately requiring a steady source to get food.

A problem with food in Toronto? Very likely, there's not much room for a farm and such - with tall skyscrapers and roads and buildings. A report from the Martin Prosperity Institute of the Rotman School of Management in the University of Toronto points out that about 51% of Toronto's population live within 1 kilometer of any supermarket - about half of the city have to get their groceries outside of their neighborhoods. I could point out all kinds of things to no avail, only so much I can do from here. But I found someone who shares similar thoughts, but is in a position to act upon it. Her name is Lisa Kates, and she is co-founder of a Toronto group called Building Roots.

Lisa: I've had an artisan soup business, so I made soups from scratch in a place called Dépanneur and sold them across the city in different cafes...

I apologize for the quality of the recording. I don't have the best of recording gear, and it would sound even more strange had I tried to reduce the noise.

Lisa: Before that, I did a lot of catering and personal cheffing, and I lived in Ottawa for a while and had a food program called Food Matters for Street Youth. It was called Operation Come Home in the market in Ottawa - they since moved - and it was in a house, and we had a garden in front. So there was a lot of vegetables planted, and every day we go to pick what we wanted to cook with. We went into the kitchen where all the kids helped me cook a meal for themselves, and then there was healthy food left over for the drop in for the next day.

Needless to say, she is well-versed and experienced with food. And with her co-founding Building Roots, she intends to set up locations within Toronto's many neighborhoods to bring in fresh food.

Lisa: Our overreaching mandate is to that everybody should have the opportunity to grow, cook, share, and learn about food no matter where they live. That's the overreaching umbrella of Building Roots. So it actually evolved from being just about agriculture to being about a lot of things around food.

I mentioned the Martin Prosperity Institute before, but another item of interest is the map included - I'll include a link to the document in the transcript. A lot of the city map is in shades of purple and pink - those are marked as food deserts, areas quite far from food markets and groceries stores, wherever the grey areas are.

Now let's consider that term, food desert. We know what a desert is, but what it implies is desolate, inhospitable lands with little to sustain life within. It makes a powerful image in the mind - a barren land where fresh food is scarce and far. Sounds bad, doesn't it?

Lisa: A Food desert, which is an overused term and I don't usually find it useful. It's just overused and people don't really understand it. It's one of those things like sustainability, words that people throw around. It's more about food insecurity than a food desert. It's where people don't have access to fresh, affordable food. And I think affordable and fresh are two key components. So if we can make that happen, then that's what we'll do. And everybody benefits - kids benefit, seniors benefit, everybody from it.

Of course, Toronto being an urban center is not alone in the rise of food inaccessibility. In Pittsburgh, for instance, there was an effort made to understand how residents in food deserts interacted with the food area - through purchasing practices, and where they shop. They found that improving access to healthy food is what should be focused on, but the distance to the closest supermarket was not as important - if people have to get food, they will travel the distance.

Of course, there may be convenience stores or restaurants in the area that can provide food as a service at a price. There's nothing wrong about this, I too break out for takeout only when the need arises. I should point out that in my case I often need to find a reason to need to go to a restaurant. Some people in Toronto may not have that choice - in neighborhoods far from supermarkets a convenience store is often the only place around for people, but what's available for them - processed food mostly - are not entirely healthy.

So what this boils down to is location, location, location. Looking at it as food insecurity makes the issue appear much more manageable - people want fresh, affordable food, and they're willing to travel the distance for it and shop the many stores for it.

What Building Roots does is they bring the food to the people. They, in collaboration with the community at hand and city council, work to establish areas suitable for planting a garden or farm and places to sell said food in a neighborhood identified to have little to no access to fresh food.

Lisa: We operate by projects. We are a social enterprise business, so we get funding. For example, we have a trillium grant right now - C-Grant - from Moss Park, which is an area at Queen East that is highly invisible, not much of anything was ever done there. So we had a meeting with the residents of Moss Park last fall, and they identified that fresh food as being an issue for them. The fact that they couldn't access fresh food, because the closest grocery store chain closed and they only had a dollar store nearby and a corner store. So we developed from that was we have the first grocery store in a shipping container.

I actually did visit the market at Moss Park at the day of the interview. Past the road construction off of Queen station and down the way east, there is indeed a little shop in Moss Park. Beside a parking lot with the three red towering apartment buildings in the background among a plaza of green grass sits a couple of shipping containers donned in black with painted murals of different produce with real produce on display inside. With how quiet the area was, it reminded me of those farmer market stalls on the road here and there.

Sophonn: So how did you go about acquiring those shipping containers?

Lisa: It was quite a process. It's never been done before in this city, so we were pioneers with it. And in the end after months and months and months of trying to make this happen, Mitchell from the Daniels Corporation gave us $500, and Storstac who builds the containers, they actually donated them. They insulated them, put heating, hydro and air conditioning in them and the container are open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and there's a vendor there. He sells affordable fruits and vegetables.

Lisa: And our trillium grant was not for the container, so none of the money from the trillium grant went to the container, but went to its programming with the residents of Moss Park. So we had a couple of festivals, we started a homework club, and we started a cooking circle with the women every Tuesday afternoon.

Before Building Roots installed the market, the residents of Moss Park had to go far to get their groceries. Of course, distance, as I learned earlier, was not as big a concern. It is more about the presence of food. Having another place to get food at a comfortable reach helped not only people who would go far for their food, but those who couldn't - seniors, the disabled. In addition to another place to get food, there are other things that brought people to the container, almost like a meeting spot. But, wait, if this can bring fresh food to people in priority neighborhoods - areas without access to food. And Building Roots is actively seeking unused plots that could also be used to farm food as well. The portability of a container with locally-grown food in an urban environment like Toronto, I would say that we may have a realistic solution here to making food more available to people on a wider scale.

Sophonn: So with this project in Moss Park and others, what would be the end-game for you?

Lisa: The end game is to have a successful project where everybody is involved with either growing, cooking, sharing, or learning about food. So we have two other big projects in the city, one is Ashridge Estate, which is off of Queen near Leslieville, it was a family-owned estate - it was actually a farm - and they left it to the city and it's managed by Ontario Heritage. So they leased Building Roots the whole acreage - it's basically a small park in the middle of the city, and we're doing programming there. They have three gardens there this year, one was a Building Roots garden, and we had a Syrian farmer garden, and we had a cafe. We had a garden there and we grew lots of vegetables and it was wonderful. And we hada huge picnic there with Syrian newcomers and families who supported them. It was a huge success. What's happened now is that we actually have farmers there, the land is being farmed by the Black Farmers and Growers Collective of Toronto. So they went in and dug up all the gardens that we had, and they all look phenomenal - you should go see it - because they are actually dug like a farm you find in the country. And they are growing garlic, and they gonna grow hard crops like tigernuts, ground cherries and all sorts of things in the Spring. It is an actual farm, which is also a very unusual thing to have happened in the city.

Cooking, learning, sharing food. You know, after listening to that, I can't help but feel that Toronto is sounding a lot smaller than I thought. With those tall buildings that reach the clouds, the famous CN Tower in the skyline, and Building Roots have a farm set up within a landscape of grey concrete, red bricks, and many other artificial structures. The food harvested from that farm could be brought to and sold in a metal box shop tucked away in a small plot of land just like that. Kind of ruins the hustle and bustle of the urban life style. Though, as familiar with the hustle and bustle, this would be a welcome break. As Lisa says, they are pioneers in this.

When I first heard of food insecurity in Toronto, I thought that this was something we all should be looking at - like a national emergency. Throughout this experience, I felt that I was duped a bit by how the term food desert was thrown around like it is. It blows things out of proportion just from the sound of it. Getting down to the matter at hand, what of an issue that gets to people, and focusing on those particular things - starting small, starting from the details - all help towards solving the bigger issue at hand. One way to address lack of access to food is to grow that food yourself - not too demanding, you can keep a small vegetable garden - and a small container shop can cover everything else at affordable prices, and that shop can replenish from nearby community gardens and farms.

What I've scooped up here are a few layers; there's always more to it. And Toronto being the large place it is, will have people with the passion for food, as well as passion for many other things, all to make living in Toronto better. With that, I'll be signing off now. I'd like to thank Lisa Kates for her time and work and wish her and Building Roots good luck in their future endeavours. I'd also like to thank you for taking the time to listen and I wish you a good day. My name is Sophonn Mao and thank you for listening.


From Scratch Media


Works Cited

Kates, Lisa. Personal Interview. 18 Nov. 2016

Martin Prosperity Insights. (2010, June 15) "Food Deserts and Priority Neighbourhoods in Toronto". Here.

Dubowitz, T., Zenk, S. N., Ghosh-Dastidar, B., Cohen, D. A., Beckman, R., Hunter, G., . . . Collins, R. L. (2015). Healthy food access for urban food desert residents: Examination of the food environment, food purchasing practices, diet and BMI. Public Health Nutrition, 18(12), 2220-2230.


Recommended Sources

Kwan, Amanda. Globe and Mail. (2013, March 22) "Mapping Toronto's food territories". Here.

Toronto Black Farmers and Food Growers Collective, Here.

Manzocco, Natalia. (2016, June 22) "Get a load of Moss Park's new mini-market". Here.


Music Credits

All music used with permission from creator under Creative Commons license.

"Intractable" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

"Fast Talkin" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

Sometimes Quiet is Violent: The Effect of Silencing Abuse Victims

By: Sophia Yan

Do you remember your first crush? Do you remember the butterflies fluttering in your stomach whenever you saw them? The anxiety that would strike you whenever they walked by, or how fast your heart would beat whenever you tried to stammer a hello at them? Do you remember spending time to yourself, picturing yourself dating them, being with them, and possibly even marrying them?

You imagined a picture perfect relationship, with dating, marriage, a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence, a dog, and 2.5 kids.

You’re young and naïve by the time your first relationship happens. Can you believe it? Someone you think the world of, actually wants to date you! The butterflies come back tenfold, and your elation skyrockets as you enter the first stages of your new relationship. You’re so caught up in your newfound love that you begin to miss a few flags. They might be small; missed calls with no explanation or an “unintentional” personal insult in a heated argument. Or they might be big; the argument you have is escalating and suddenly their eyes flash and then snap! They hit you.

You are now a victim of domestic abuse. Your mind is reeling; how can your significant other hurt you like that? Weren’t they the person you’ve always dreamed about? Weren’t supposed to be the person you wanted to spend the rest of your life with? Wasn’t this supposed to be perfect? How did you miss all of those Red Flags?

What are you supposed to do now?

This is the traditional narrative of a domestic abuse story.

This is what We, as a society, think of when someone mentions domestic abuse. The young, hopeful, naïve, love struck teen, usually female, entering their first relationship with their significant other. Their relationship seems Picture Perfect, until An Incident happens between them and suddenly, the abuse is marked and that person becomes a Victim. And, that’s it. This is the general perception of abuse at best. At worst, it’s just a heavy word hanging around uncomfortably. It weighs on the mind of everyone in the room, until someone changes the topic.

That’s what abuse is like for most people; an uncomfortable topic waiting to be changed. But for some, like Mattie, it’s their entire lives.

“The abusive person in my family was my father. The abuse was emotional, never physical. He manipulated and invalidated me, he made me feel worthless, as if my opinions and feelings didn’t matter or didn’t exist in the first place. He “corrected” how I felt and thought. It didn’t matter if I was being honest about my feelings. If he didn’t like my answer he would switch it around so it fit what he thought of me.”

This is my co-producer, Rebecca, reading Mattie’s interview.

“He made me feel like I was stupid and useless, that I couldn’t do anything for myself. It was terrifying to be around him because his moods changed so suddenly. It was like I was constantly walking on eggshells around him. Sometimes even not doing anything would make him start screaming at me. One minute he would be nice and sweet, offering to go on bike rides other family activities and the next he was trapping me in some room and yelling at me. I learned to hide in my room when he was home to avoid his outbursts. I didn’t come out until he was gone, not even for food because I was so scared. That was part of the manipulation.”

“It took me a long time to realize he was emotionally abusive. Growing up like that it felt normal. It was just what happened. Looking back on it there was so many signs that it wasn’t normal behaviour.”

“It wasn’t until grade 12 when I figured out he had been gambling for a while. In the beginning it didn’t feel like it was big deal but it slowly got more serious as my family realized just how much money he lost, he was spending his checks at the casino and relying on my mother to pay the bills. She sprained her foot horribly in December of that year and she still went to work like that because our financial situation was bad. The found out a year later that he had enough money from his checks to let her stay at home to heal her foot but he gambled all of. The gambling the final straw. It was only then that I started to think that out family wasn’t normal.”

Does Mattie’s situation sound similar to the Traditional Abuse Narrative? Remember the main points of the narrative I presented to you earlier: young, naïve teen in a picture perfect relationship until something drastic happens and everything changes. The initial answer to this question is no; these two stories are almost completely different. One, Mattie’s abuser was a family member, while the Traditional Abuse Narrative is between two people in a romantic relationship. Two, Mattie’s father had repeated offences against him; he has several violent episodes, while the Traditional Abuse Narrative only has one. And three, there is no guise of “perfection” in Mattie’s story. Just, normalcy. The traditional abuse narrative has the teen swept up in love; there is no conditioning or manipulation in this story. While the stories are quite different, there is one underlying similarity between them: neither of the victims knew they were in an abusive relationship until it was too late. In the case of Mattie, her father was her abuser.  She had to live through the abuse her entire life. Mattie was 18 by the time she realized that her father was abusive. It’s hard to realize that the things your parents taught you isn’t normal. She was conditioned to believe that his behavior was normal by a young age, and didn’t question it because of that. And while the Traditional Abuse Narrative is hypothetical, the idea of being caught up in love is not uncommon. Or, as John Green says, “If you’ve ever been in love, you might have noticed you have an astonishing ability to miss red flags.” (8:54-8:57) This makes the focus of prevention over actual help useless, because you can’t help someone prevent a situation that’s already happened. It can take months, or even years for the victim to recognize the abuse, and by that time it’s already too late. The majority of domestic/sexual abuse campaigns focus on prevention, as evidenced by the survey I did at York University. 81% of participants selected prevention as the main topic they remember seeing domestic/sexual abuse campaigns. (Yan­) And while prevention is an important topic to cover, as it is good to get people aware of the situation, it doesn’t help people who have already gone through it and need help. These campaigns do link to hotlines and support systems; they are often treated as an afterthought, rather than being the focus. Not to mention, these prevention campaigns can guilt trip a victim: “Why didn’t I notice this before? How did I miss all of those Red Flags?” This will just turn off people like Mattie, who have been conditioned not to reach out to others, preventing them from the help that they need to move on.

The one thing that no one talks about, and what abuse victims need is the answer to this question: Where do you go? What do you do from here?

Because of the stigma that comes with discussing abuse, many women feel like they are alone and without help. (Peakeover) Many women who have situations severe enough to leave, often feel like they can’t because they have nowhere to go. However, that isn’t the case! There are organizations located in the GTA that focus on helping women recover from their abuse. The North York Woman’s Shelter offer both hospitality and provides support to women who are recovering from domestic abuse. Their programs strive to, “ensures that we are relating to all aspects of healing and recovery while empowering survivors to become independent.” (North York Woman’s Shelter). They have a lot of different counselling for their residents, from individual, which is open 24 hours, to group therapy. They also have workshops set up to help women get back onto their feet. Micro skills training in particular aims to help women learn skills for employment opportunities (NYWS). They even have programs catering specifically to mothers with children, like “Moms and Tots”, which aims to help restore the bond between mother and child. They also “provide women and their children with the opportunity to go on field trips and special outings to the movies, parks, and museums so they can experience normalcy of life.” (NYWS). They also have a variety of workshops for children specifically. The Children’s Group, Dance Program, Home Club and Reading Circle all focus on helping a child recover. Interestingly, they have a program called “Here to Help”, which focuses on children who are exposed to “women abuse” (NYWS). It really goes to show how experienced the NYWS is with abuse, as they even specifically tend to the needs of children who have gone through female abuse, which is something that is often look over by the general population.

While the North York Woman’s Shelter focuses on their residents, they also have a number of articles and external links that can be used by anyone. They have a 24-hour crisis line at the very top of their website, which is accessible on every page they have. There’s also an extensive “Get Help” section, which has pages detailing things such as types of abuse, statistics and hotlines to get help. They even have a page on the impact of abuse on children and a “Bill of Rights”, which is most likely used to remind women of the autonomy. Their recourses page is quite extensive, as it covers many different minority groups, such as LGBTQ+, Aboriginal Women, and Elder Abuse. They even have links to different shelters across the GTA, in case you can’t access the North York Woman’s Shelter.

The North York Woman’s Shelter hosts a variety of fundraisers in order to keep the shelter running. The biggest event that they hold is the Annual Gala, which was held on October 13th this year. The revenue from the tickets and the silent auction went directly to the shelter, and featured a sit down dinner, a bar, music and dancing, among other events (NYWS). They also do smaller fundraisers such as the Drop In-Community Sale, which starts and ends mid-June, to help fund the North York’s Woman Shelter. Finally, they do smaller fundraisers outside of the North York Woman’s Shelter. This is how I learned about them: My sister had bought chocolates from a booth they had set up in Vari Hall. The fundraisers not only help aid the shelter financially, but they also bring awareness to its existence and the idea of abuse as a tangible concept, rather than a distant issue that doesn’t actually exist.

The North York Woman’s Shelter is, as great as it is, just that. A Woman’s Shelter. While it is does a great job catering to the needs of women of every race and sexuality, it ultimately caters only to women. And that begs the question: what about the men? Men experience abuse just as women do, and their experiences and trauma are equally valid. And while the popular conception of an abuse victim is female, in reality both men and women are equally likely to be abused (Stats Canada). So, then, where are their hotlines? Their support systems? The reality of the situation is that there isn’t. There aren’t any male specific shelters in the entirety of Ontario, let alone the GTA. And the one I was able to find, which was located in Calgary, shut down after getting denied provincial and federal funds (Stephenson). And while one may argue that there are a variety of homeless shelters across Toronto and the GTA that men who need shelter can go to, they do not target abused men specifically. A shelter is more than just a place to stay; it’s a place for abuse survivors to recuperate from their trauma and to get them back on their feet. A homeless shelter doesn’t provide the same kind of services that a shelter does, nor does it really act as a safe space for men recovering from abuse. And this, of course, relates back to the Traditional Abuse Narrative I outlined in the beginning of the show. The idea of an abuse victim is very distinctly a heterosexual female. Following that single minded mindset, the idea of a man going through abuse seems outlandish, let alone a man needing systems to recover from that abuse. This train of thought is simply not true, and invalidates male abuse victims and their experiences. The man who founded the single male abuse shelter in Calgary, Earl Silverman, was reported to have committed suicide after his shelter shut down (Stephenson). The effects of ignoring and invalidating men who have been abused can be catastrophic; Earl is just one example of what happens when someone is invalidated of their experiences and cannot get help. There are still a variety of crisis services and help lines that are open to every person that can definitely help, but men specific shelters don’t exist in Canada. I’ll put related links in the recommended readings, but there isn’t a really “happy ending” for this specific topic.

Regardless of gender, race, or religion, abuse isn’t something that should be swept under the rug. If you’ve been through any kind of abuse, know that your experiences and feelings are valid. You are valid. If you need help, there is always support systems available to you. Even if you feel like you are trapped under your situation, remember that there are people who care about you and who will listen to you. And if you know someone who has gone through that abuse, be open and empathetic to their feelings. Listen. If you don’t know how to handle the situation, just listen. Sometimes all someone needs is a shoulder to cry on. And know, ultimately it gets better. You might not know when, and you might not know how. And there will be nights where it feels like it will never get better. But it does. You have to believe that, if you ever want to heal and move on from what hurt you. And you have to. You have to move on or else you’re stuck in the same situation, reliving the same moments of your life, over and over again. And you’re worth more than that. You are worth more than that. Thank you for listening to my podcast, love… 

From Scratch Media

Work Cited/References

Stats Canada. "Family Violence in Canada: a statistical profile, 2013" statscan.gc.ca http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-002-x/2014001/article/14114-eng.pdf

North York Women Shelter. "About Us" North York Woman Shelter. http://nyws.ca/about-us/

North York Woman Shelter. “Resources” North York Woman Shelter. http://nyws.ca/abuse/resouces/       

North York Woman Shelter. “Programs” North York Woman Shelter. http://nyws.ca/programs/        

Peckover, Sue. "‘I could have just done with a Little More Help’: An Analysis of Women's Help-Seeking from Health Visitors in the Context of Domestic Violence." Health & Social Care in the Community 11.3 (2003)

 "Reader, it’s Jane Eyre.” Youtube, uploaded by Crash Course, April 10 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8tqY8fX0Ec

Stephenson, Amanda. “Calgarian who founded shelter for male victims of domestic abuse mourned.” Calgary Herald, 28 April 2013 http://www.calgaryherald.com/life/calgarian+founded+shelter+male+victims+domestic+abuse+mourned/8307690/story.html. Accessed 1 December 2016

Yan, Sophia. “1004 survey.” Google Forms. 18 November 2016. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1HZBtjBhMB-ZEWColRtJT0W7Kiu-yEYymYUln6dGEct0/edit#responses

Recommended Readings

"Crisis Support" Canada Mental Health Association. http://ontario.cmha.ca/mental-health/services-and-support/crisis-support/

“About Family Violence” Department of Justice. http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/cj-jp/fv-vf/about-apropos.html

Lepistö, Sari, et al. "Adolescents’ Experiences of Coping with Domestic Violence." Journal of advanced nursing 66.6 (2010): 1232-45. 

Hornor, G. "Domestic Violence and Children." Journal of Pediatric Health Care 19.4 (2005): 206-12.

Bacchus, Loraine, Gill Mezey, and Susan Bewley. "Experiences of Seeking Help from Health Professionals in a Sample of Women Who Experienced Domestic Violence." Health & Social Care in the Community 11.1 (2003): 10-8. 

Make it NORML

By Mustapha Safadieh 

Mustapha Safadieh
Writ 1004
Stephanie Belle
8 December 2016

Podcast Transcript

Taz is twenty-three. He visits the local Cannabis dispensary twice a week and spends over a hundred dollars weekly. He has yet to graduate from high school and says he needs cannabis to deal with his Crohn’s disease.  He’s been smoking since he was sixteen.

Moude is twenty-five. He picks up small amounts from Taz whenever possible. He spends under $20 weekly. He has a high position at Citco Fund Services, where he works five days a week. He was introduced to Marijuana recreationally at the age of twenty-two by his cousin Al.

Al was twenty-at the time. Twenty-Three now, hegets his fix from Moude and spends no money whatsoever on cannabis. He has currently dropped out of his third year of undergraduate studies in social science, and plans to return in a few years.

Taz, Moude and Al are all from the same neighborhood. In fact, they all live in the same Complex. They all went to the same high school—Victoria Park Collegiate. They are all religious, and all believe smoking cannabis is wrong.
                “It’s too late for me,” says Al.
                “There really isn’t anything else to do,” says Moude.
                “I’m sick, I need it medicinally,” says Taz, although he admits to have started smoking since before his diagnosis.
                When asked what they think was the most contributing factor to their use of the substance, they replied “the community.”

The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse name Canadian youth the top users of marijuana in the developed world since 2014.

                “I don’t think smoking weed itself is addictive,” Moude Says. “Being in that state of mind is what’s addictive; more so than a physical need to consume it. It’s a social thing usually. If it’s not weed its alcohol or something worse. I think weed is better than alcohol. You don’t act as stupid, you’re a better, calmer kind of stupid. It’s a fun way to kill time, so why not? That’s all anyone thinks I do anyway.

*Scratch Media Intro*

According to the Cannabis Policy Framework, Marijuana is prohibited under the same federal drug statutes as heroin or cocaine. In Toronto, we see it used much more liberally. It isn’t a strange sight to see someone puffing out of a joint on a street downtown, or for Cannabis clinics to operate as openly as a Shoppers Drugmarts. These days it’s almost acceptable. Every year since 2006, marijuana crimes have decreased across the city, and now, in 2016, the substance is largely considered decriminalized.

Decriminalization varies from model to model, but is generally revolved around possession of smaller amounts of marijuana. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health claims, “A decriminalizing approach can reduce some of the adverse social impacts of criminalization. Removing criminal penalties for cannabis possession should result in a reduction in both the number of people caught up in the criminal justice system and the cost of enforcement, thus reducing the burden to individuals and to the legal system.” They later state however that decriminalization is linked to abuse by younger people and that while decriminalization is a start towards minimizing abuse, it is useless unless it develops into regulation.

This is however, specific to Toronto. According to Statistics Canada, 57,314 people were charged with possession of the substance in 2014 alone.

The same policy framework that says Marijuana is as illegal as harder drugs states that approximately 40 percent of smokers in the country are aged 21 to 29, and that another 25% are high-schoolers.

A large portion of demographics then, are students.

Throughout November in 2016, I conducted a survey among students in York University and Ryerson University, asking if they had tried Marijuana in their lives, if it were a positive experience, and where they lived. Close to 70% of students that ticked they’d tried marijuana before also ticked that it was a positive experience in their lives.

The average anti-drug brochure exaggerates the effects of marijuana. “Marijuana is linked to school failure,” reads Marijuana Facts for Teens. “Scientists do not yet know if Marijuana use causes lasting effects on the brain, but it is likely. In the long-term, Marijuana can cause problems with learning, distorted perception and poor motor coordination.”

However, a recent study conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information in the US argues that effects caused by marijuana in adolescents mostly concerns memory functions, and are no less harmful than moderate consumption of alcohol at a younger age. They conclude that the older a person is, the lower the long lasting effects of the substance, and that “In both the adult and adolescents, abstinence periods and study designs vary widely, and specific traumas to the brain has much to do with family-based genetic variation.” In any case, the effects of marijuana remain concerned with the realms of memory, and do not cause the psychological trauma that most pamphlets will advertise.

So where does the reputation come from? Marijuana is by no means healthy, but neither is alcohol or tobacco. Is it because it doesn’t improve the country economically? When I started off my research, I intended to compare the use of the substance with poorer regions of town. But there’s more to the matter than demographics.


In 1998, Ross Rebagliati (Rebleyati) won a gold Medal in Olympic Snowboarding. He was the first ever to win a medal in snowboarding. A few days after his win, Tetrahydrocannabinol—THC—was found in his blood, and he was immediately disqualified. They took away his medal, and he spent a day in an interrogation room in Nagano, Japan.

The court proceedings that followed spanned another few days, and the Olympics finally overturned the decision, on the basis that Marijuana wasn’t even on the list banned substances. Rebagliati said he lost 30 pounds between leaving BC and coming home. It was a stressful experience even though he won the gold and got to keep it in the end.

Rebagliati is one of many who has smoked the herb but remained successful, and who had suffered more from society’s perception of the drug than by the drug itself. Four years later, Rebagliati had trouble entering the United States. “Rebagliati can go to Salt Lake City to see the winter Olympics next week if he shows up at the border with a note from his doctor that says he is drug free,” reads an article in the Vancouver Sun. Today, more than ten years later, Ross still has trouble entering the United States, despite opening a company based in Vancouver that trades freely with America.


Perhaps the psychological trauma advertised in the pamphlets do have some merit to them. What does it mean if the trauma is caused externally however? If the community condemns its members for smoking marijuana, is it the drug’s fault or the society’s?




I met with Rouk Ghamer; Rouk used to live in the same neighborhood as Taz, Moude and Al. He went to the same high school as them and agreed to have started smoking weed with them as well. While Rouk isn’t a friend of mine, he allowed me an interview. He has moved to A Condo downtown on Bay and College. He works as a stock broker for a near his condo. “I still smoke weed,” he tells me. “Every day almost, as long as I have a choice or a chance. It’s my favorite thing to do after I’ve come home from a day at the office. I do it to unwind; I look forward to it every morning. It helps me gets up from bed.” I asked him what he thinks about weed trapping youth.
                “I think that’s bullshit. That’s what concerned people tell you. ‘You won’t do anything with your life, you’ll try other drugs.’ Those people have never tried weed, so they don’t get a say. You are whatyou are. If you smoke weed and you’ve failed at life, you can’t work or study, that’s because you are weak, not because of weed.”


A Member who wished to remain anonymous agreed to have a few words with me about his work at NORML Canada. They are an organization primary focused on removing restrictions from those who might use or grow marijuana for their medical reasons, but he has high hopes that they will engage in the rising movement to legalize the substance for recreational use as well.

 He says a lot of people in Toronto smoke cannabis, and that it’s not nearly as bad as alcohol. “It would serve us better if it were legalized. It could make money, the same way alcohol has. Legalization would make users less sketchy. It’ll even influence kids against it. A huge concern I have with Marijuana is that society will have you believe you are condemned if you try it. Kids who have tried it, and I’m talking high-schoolers who go to places like Victoria Park or Waterfront, kids who can’t even help but be surrounded by it, kids who have tried it will feel like they have nothing else and will do what they have to get it and miss out on what could be their futures. Kids like that will often settle. If they can get weed then all is good. I was one of those kids, I know.

 Older people react similarly, although most aren’t trapped the way kids are. Most have jobs they can’t literally can’t quit. For them, weed becomes a party drug, like alcohol. You finish up at the office on a Friday night and you head to the bar with your co-workers. You can get drunk off your stool and no one so much as blinks. No one cares, your friends are as drunk, the bar’s making money. All is well. You leave the office and spark a joint while you walk down the street and people stare.”

I asked him what He and NORML have been doing to fix this.

Right now, apart from fighting the courts, they provide what guidelines they can to the government in their quest to legalize. Trudeau has gone on about wanting to reform marijuana laws in this country, and they’re sure they can do it. One thing they advise is pricing: Many worry that legalization will drive prices up the roof. A typical gram of weed on the streets is 10$ flat. Better strains range from 15 to 20 dollars per gram. Our members worry that if weed gets legalized; it will get taxed, and from one year to the next will inflate, just like alcohol. The biggest issue among regular smokers is that marijuana is primarily medicine, and if many partiers hop on the legalization train, the drug will be marketed to them, and will make it more expensive than usual. Apart from that, labeling marijuana as a a party-drug will have its own effects. Weed isn’t MDMA, it isn’t, coke or crack or ecstasy. It’s versatile, you can use as you want. Marketing the drug, playing it off that way will cause people to see it negatively. Worse, it’ll make people want it for the wrong reasons, and makes it all the harder.”

So legalization isn’t the solution? I ask

“There is no solution, but legalizing pot is a start. The layers on the cake will fade gradually. People will get used to it, it won’t be weird, and before you know it people will think differently about it. You know how if you have a few drinks you’re just having fun? We want weed to be like that too eventually. Non medicinal smoking is just fun, we go back to our lives in the morning, like normal human beings.”


Most recently, John Conroy—President of NORML Canada—has gone to court with the MMPR (or the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations) and has emerged victorious in securing the ability of patients to grow and medicate themselves independent of the government for six months past February of 2016. He says the MMPR has been “struck down as unconstitutional,” and “it isn’t difficult to regulate a legal regime” concerning Marijuana. He believes change will come to the country inevitably, and that it will be as organized as any drug regulation board—alcohol included—in the country.

Craig Jones—NORML Canada’s Executive Director—was ecstatic about their recent win, and stated it put a lot of power back into the hands of users, stating that the judge rejected every argument put forth by the conservative government’s lawyers. “The big challenge,” he says, “will be making clear what the governments intentions and what timelines are. A lot of people are operating now in an ambiguous grey-zone between outright prohibition and imminent legalization, and that’s why we have a proliferation of these dispensaries across the countries.” He says the government has promised to legalize but hasn’t set out a template or a timeline and that the market is moving into that vacuum regardless.

NORML Canada continues to struggle with the government, and is now focused on repealing government decisions to put users of marijuana (medical users included) into jail post their victory in court. They intend to reform the decriminalization in cities such as Toronto into a regulated system, making it safer for users of all ages to practice what they want to do.

Their latest event will take place at SFU’s Burnaby campus on January 26th 2016, and will feature a series of lectures run by professors across the world, such as Dr Francesca Fibley—director of cognitive Neuroscience and addictive behaviors at the university of Texas, and Ethan Russo, MD and medical director of PHYTECS Hospital in California.

*Scratch Media Outro*

















Works Cited

Ogilvie, Claire. "Thanks, But No Thanks: Ross Rebagliati Declines New Drug-Free Conditions For
                Travel to Winter Olympics." Vancouver Sun (2002): n. pag. Web.

Marijuana: Taking Another Look. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 1998. Web.

Porath-Waller, Amy J., Jonathan E. Brown, Aarin P. Frigon, and Heather Clark. "What Canadian
                Youth Think About Cannabis." Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (2013)

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Cannabis Policy Framework. 2014. Web.

Barton, Ariana. "Young Canadians See Marijuana as a Harmless Herb. They're Wrong." The Globe
                and Mail. The Globe and Mail, 16 Oct. 2014. Web. 04 Nov. 2016.

"Canadian Community Health Survey: Mental Health, 2012." Government of Canada, Statistics

 Statistics Canada, 18 Sept. 2013. Web. 04 Nov. 2016.

Bethesda, Md. Marijuana: Facts for Teens. July 2013

“Your Kid's Brain on Pot: The Real Effects of Marijuana on Teens." The Globe and Mail. The Globe and
                Mail, 16 Oct. 2014. Web. 04 Nov. 2016.

Jacobus, Joanna, and Susan F. Tapert. "Effects of Cannabis on the Adolescent Brain." National Center for
                Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Jan. 2015. Web. 04 Nov. 2016.

Creation of Hope

By Skyler Noordhuis

As a child growing up in a middle class family, it was easy to take for granted exactly how lucky I was. I would wake up comfortable and warm in my bed each morning, get dressed in my clean clothes, eat a fulfilling breakfast, and head off to school. After a “long” day at school, I would return home, have another meal, watch some cartoons, and go to bed. Rinse, repeat. In my eyes, those six hours I spent at school each day were more of a burden than a blessing. During the winter months, even the tiniest snowfalls brought prayers for snow days, and my tiny mind was constantly preoccupied with the next opportunity to miss school. However, my privileged childhood is far from the standard. For the children living in the mountain village of Kikima, Kenya, education is a privilege that not all of them are able to afford. My name is Skyler Noordhuis, and in this episode of A Place for Passion, I will be investigating the state of education within Kenya, and the key role it can play in breaking the cycle of poverty. I will be focusing on the efforts of the canadian-based non-profit organization “Creation of Hope” and what they are doing to give the children of Kikima (a small community in southern Kenya) access to an education that can help them achieve what they are truly capable of, and break the cycle of poverty.

[Show Intro]

Now before I address the main issue of this podcast, I feel I should probably give a background on the organization in question. Creation of Hope is an organization created by the Canadian author, Eric Walters. You may have heard of him. He’s written a variety of books, including We All Fall Down, Alexandria of Africa, Shaken, as well as a huge variety of other books, including both teen fiction novels, and story books for children. Besides being an author, Eric is also an ex-teacher, social worker, and York University Alumni. Not to brag, but he’s also kind of a friend of mine.  

To say that Eric is a kind and giving individual would be an understatement. Despite humble beginnings, Creation of Hope has become a driving force for change within the community of Kikima. Perhaps the most compelling story, and one that most accurately depicts Eric’s kindness and drive for change, is the story of Mutuku: the Orphan who started it all.

[Sound Clip 1]

Mutuku was the first orphaned child to be sponsored by Creation of Hope, and is now one of almost 400 children within the immediate area being supported by Eric and his organization. As you might have noticed in Eric’s story, Mutuku had to sacrifice his education in order to support his mother, as well as himself. This problem is not limited to Mutuku, and is one of the major obstacles preventing the impoverished and orphaned children of Kikima from getting an education.

In fact, in a study done by Nyambedha, of 41 students who dropped out of a school in a Kenyan community over a two year period, 68.3% of them were orphans, that’s slightly more than 2/3rds. So not only is this an issue for impoverished children in general, but is also an issue extending to the children who are left to support themselves. When it comes down to it, there’s only one major reason for the students to drop out, and that’s money.

When I asked Eric what he recognized to be the major issue preventing children and orphans from getting their education, he immediately honed in on economic issues.

[Sound Clip 2]

That’s right. 12 Dollars for a uniform. Compared to prices here in Canada, that seems like a small drop in the bucket. But that’s the reality for a lot of the children in Kikima. In the summer of 2014 I actually went to Kenya to volunteer with creation of hope. While I was there I working as a photographer for the yearly birthday party that they host for the Orphans, as a lot of them don’t even know their birthdates.

During the trip, I had the privilege of visiting the homestead of one of the children that my family personally sponsors as part of Creation of Hope’s program. When we visited, we began to notice that the children living there did not have shoes. These kids walked back and forth from school everyday, but as far as we could tell they didn’t own a single pair of shoes. So we asked our driver, who had brought us to the homestead, “Where are their shoes?”

His answer? “They eat their shoes.”

Now, this obviously threw us off. What did he mean, they “eat their shoes?” So we asked, and explained simply, “They can either eat, or get shoes.”

And I think that really clearly outlines the kinds of sacrifice these kids are making in order to get an education. A lot of these kids don’t have the money to provide for themselves the basic requirements for life. Given the choice between education and self preservation, the latter always takes priority. And this is where Creation of Hope truly steps in and makes all the difference.

[Sound Clip 3]

And it doesn’t end there. Not only does Creation of Hope provide educational support for the orphans and children, but they also have monthly food distributions for the orphans, and their extended families. On top of that, they also provide necessities such as “mattresses and blankets, tools, livestock, school supplies and clothing.” (creationofhope.com).

With all of these supplies being provided to them, the choice between education and self preservation no longer has to be made. And this has led to a happier, healthier community. And on an individual basis, the benefits are clearly seen.

But the problem of education extends far beyond the needs of the individual students. As Claudia Buchmann states in her article for Africa Today, “Due to severe budget constraints, rising foreign debt, and a limited distributive capacity, African states have not been able to supply enough schools, teachers, and materials to keep pace with educational demand. As a result, continued educational expansion has come at the expense of school quality.”

It should be noted that that was written back in 1999. However, what was written largely remains true. Educational quality is still poor in much of Kenya, especially outside of larger cities such as Nairobi. As it stands, there is still a lot room for improvement within the education system.

Keeping in mind that Eric himself used to be a teacher, I asked for his opinion on what needed to be done to improve the system.

[Sound Clip 4]

As Eric mentions, not only are teachers paid insufficiently, discouraging them from doing their job, but there is also a level of discrimination present against a population of the students.

Anita, Eric’s wife, and co-founder of the organization, also adds

[Sound Clip 5]

Change is possible, and it’s happening. It may be slow, it may not have immediate results, but there is a concrete, tangible change occurring in the Kenyan education system. And it’s not just Creation of Hope bringing about that change.

Nanjala Nyabola, a Kenyan columnist for The Guardian, works with a community within the Kibera district of Nairobi.

Kibera is best known for being one of the largest slums in Kenya, and is a prime example of where change is desperately needed. In 2004, Starrays Hope Academy was founded in order to provide the children in the immediate area with access to free education, as well as counselling services, health services, and a safe haven for at-risk kids.

One of the major issues they found when setting up the school was that there was a significant number of children experiencing sexual violence within their homes. In order to protect them, a dormitory was set up in what was previously the teacher’s lounge.

In total there are now around 60 people living on the school property, including 42 children, as well as a variety of staff members responsible for caring and providing for the children.

Members of the staff include teachers, caretakers, as well as community members who have committed to helping the children in any way they can.

By all counts, this school is not a charity case, but rather a community project formed from the hard work and dedication of local teachers and parents.

It’s cases like these that provide hope for a better future within Kenya. Despite all of the negative conditions working against many of the communities, it’s organizations like Creation of Hope that are able to provide help and encouragement to those who need it most, and bring change to a country that desperately needs it.

In time, I believe that organizations, both local and from all around the world will be able to lend a helping hand in reforming the Kenyan education system, and make it possible for any child to be successful and achieve a happy, healthy life.

As this episode comes to an end, I would like to make some acknowledgements. To begin, I would like to make a big shout out to my mom for being super supportive of me and my tendency towards procrastination, as well as her role in helping me get in contact with Eric. As well, I’d like to thank both Eric and Anita Walters for allowing me to enter their home and interview them on an issue that I know is very dear and personal to them. Lastly, I would like to thank freestockmusic.com for the fantastic royalty free music they provide, and that was featured in this episode. Last but not least, I would like to thank my TA, Keith O’Regan for being supportive, kind, and supplying a nice dose of laughter in each tutorial.

Works Cited

Walters, Eric. “About.” Creation of Hope, 4 Jan. 2014, creationofhope.com/about/

Nyabola, Nanjala. “Much to Learn from This Education Success Story in Kenya | Nanjala Nyabola.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 23 July 2010, www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2010/jul/23/kenya-education-success-kibera.

Buchmann, Claudia. "The State and Schooling in Kenya: Historical Developments and Current Challenges." Africa Today 46.1 (1999): 95-117. Web. 3 Nov. 2016

Nyambedha, Erick Otieno, and Jens Aagaard‐Hansen. "Educational Consequences of Orphanhood and Poverty in Western Kenya." Educational Studies 36.5 (2010): 555-67. Web. 3 Nov. 2016

Busking: The Invisible Passion

By Jared Granger, featuring audio from Jason Lane.

Episode Transcript


Hey, I’m Jared, and you’re listening to “Busking: The Invisible Passion”

How did your commute go this morning? I’m sure it was normal, you had to put up with a million different delays, probably couldn’t find a seat on the subway and had to stand. But how many people did you remember talking to? Strangers? Did you notice the casually sitting busker playing guitar for you, smiling politely as masses of people pass by without a second glance? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one. The vast majority of people don’t realize that even a casual practice like performing in a subway station has its own importance in society. Performing music doesn’t just enrich the commute, it can inspire creation in others and give an artistic flare to the overall Torontonian culture.

But who knew that it’s actually the Toronto Transit Commission who’s trying to bring attention to it? Lately, our very own TTC has been heavily advocating for the arts on transit, and their most noticeable endeavour is the newly advertised TTC Musicians program. For those of you who don’t know, this is the program that lets buskers perform in your local subway stops. Although the program has actually existed for a while now, the TTC is taking extra steps to make it a more public presence, both online and in subway stations.

Jason: “You do get people who walk by who see the sign and they’re like ‘oh, you need a license for this?’ and they then realize the scope of the program, which is great. If anything, I hope they look into it more.”

That’s Jason Lane, or TTC Musician number 34. He’s a vocalist and guitar player who frequents stops like Eglinton, Dundas, and Bloor. When asked about what makes him unique, he said it’s his connection with Canadian music culture.

Jason: “Yeah, like I’m honestly a big fan of anything Canadian and I’m not just saying that purely out of Canadian Pride. There is Canadian pride, but part of the pride is because it is so great.”

If you catch him on your commute, you can often find him playing renditions of Matt Good’s “Load Me Up” or the Weakerthans’ “Plea from a Cat Named Virtute”.

Now Jason really appreciates the TTC Musicians program, and he’s also a fan of all of the TTC’s artistic endeavors, but he’s also made it clear that the busking experience is not all sunshine and rainbows. And the key to improving this overall experience? It’s all up to you, listeners!

Don’t worry, I’ll elaborate later.

Part 1

So, to start, what is a busker? Well, it’s simply a musician, but instead of playing set venues, they play at street corners, sidewalks, or subway stops. But what’s the key difference? According to Ronald J. Kushner, author of academic paper “The One-Man Band by the Quick Lunch Stand: Modeling Audience Response to Street Performance”, the key is that busking “lacks mechanisms to ensure payment by the audience for consumption of product”. That’s fancy talk for “buskers don’t get paid if no one likes their playing”. In this way, being a successful busker requires a considerable amount of both skill and presence.

In their official website, the city of Toronto defines the term as “[playing music] or otherwise [performing] for voluntary donations in the street.”. They also list a bunch of regulations street performers must follow when performing, and let me tell you, they’re pretty extensive. For example, buskers have to leave at least 3 metres of sidewalk space so as to not obstruct pedestrians, and have to stay at least 9 metres back from any intersection. There are also very strict guidelines for levels of volume.

Jason: “TTC is really good about this, actually, cause they set up a meeting to go over sound testing and to make sure of the maximum level you can play at at certain stations.”

Not to mention, everything is limited to public property. But think about it, when was the last time you’ve been blocked off by a street performer? Probably never, right? And no, those religious guys at the Eaton Centre don’t count: they aren’t buskers because buskers are not allowed to “advertise any commercial business or product.”.

But forget these definitions from Toronto or from Academics. What does busking mean to Jason, a busker?

Jason: “It is like a communal thing and we’re trying to connect with people through music. And not just musicians, but there’s TTC, the customers, or myself. It’s all one big web.”

Busking actually has a pretty deep history in Toronto, too. Of course, it’s existed since the 1900’s, but it really started to connect with the subway system in the 70’s. Here’s a quote from Murray Smith’s academic article “Traditions, Stereotypes, and Tactics: A History of Musical Buskers in Toronto”: “Toronto street musician, Billy James, relates that after 1972 or ’73 an increasing number of Toronto musicians began performing (illegally) in the subway. Many were told to leave or fined. However, a handful of buskers remained to challenge what they felt to be an unjust by-law prohibiting them from making music in the subway system.”. After campaigning heavily, the TTC was essentially forced into creating a system to accommodate buskers. By the year ’79, an audition system was in place and a grand total of eight licences were handed out to the best acts so they could perform on the subway system.

“But Jared!” you may be thinking, “I’ve definitely seen more than 8 acts on the subway!” and you’re right, over the years, the program has since expanded. According to Smith’s article, the initial 8 acts doubled to 16 in 1990. That still might seem like a small number, and that’s because it is. In 1991, Ezra Azmon, a Toronto violinist, started a protest demanding for the stations to work on a first come, first serve basis. He didn’t get his wish, but the TTC agreed to expand the number of acts to 42. According to Smith, by 1993, “there were 75 acts and 35 stations; the number has not changed since.”.  Seems about right, right? Well, on the TTC’s official site, it still lists 75 musicians, but there are actually only 25 available stations to play at.

Part 2

So, this now brings me to the audition process. Auditions are held every three years, on three consecutive days. According to the TTC site, the last auditions were held “Friday, August 21, 2015, Saturday, August 22, 2015, Sunday, August 23, 2015”. Now this is a challenge in and of itself. If you miss auditions or don’t make the cut, you’re simply out of luck for three whole years. There’s a lot riding on these auditions. In an no-recorder conversation I had with Jason, he told me that the audition was extremely nerve-wracking: he was shaking all over. I know I would be, too: not only are the 3 days your only chance, the total number of musicians that audition is 175, and Jason even said that at his audition, the number was upwards of 200. That means that they cut the number by more than half. These musicians really have to prove their worth.

And that brings me back to the secretive numbering system. You heard me refer to Jason as Musician Number 34, and that’s because every musician gets a number from 1 to however many of them there are at the time. Its on their lanyard and laminate that they’re supposed to have on display while they’re playing, even though not all of them do. I asked Jason about the numbering system, and if there was any actual order behind it.

Jason: “I think what I heard was that it is based on the score that you got. And especially considering that Billy’s number 1, like, he’s the one who basically created the program, so of course he’s number one. I think there’s a reasoning and method behind, like especially the people who are top ten, I think they are actually tope ten. So in terms of my number, I’m like 34, which is pretty much almost smack in the middle of everything.”

It’s important to note that this is just a theory and there’s nothing backing it up online, but there’s no doubt that Billy James gets the number one for a reason. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because it is: Billy is mentioned in Smith’s history of busking article. And it’s true, he is very much a piece of Toronto busking history. Just a quick google search for his name and you’ll find plenty of articles on him. Among those, a National Post article explains that he tried out for the very first TTC audition ever held in 1978. So remember that group of 8 that was first permitted to play? He was one of them! Because he’s been playing for over 35 years, he is currently the only member of the program that doesn’t need to audition, listed as the ‘honorary member’ on the TTC’s website.

I actually met Billy because he’s a good friend of Jason’s. He’s a great guy who you can definitely tell has an air of experience. Billy’s main station is Dundas, where you can find him playing bouncy folk tunes with an amazing energy. He’s a standout because of his bushy white beard, so he’s easily recognizable. Give him a listen if you pass by!

Part 3

Billy’s experience as a TTC musician is actually really beneficial for him, but unfortunately, it’s not something every busker has. I asked Jason about some bad things that tend to happen while busking.

Jason: “I know you might be surprised to hear that but even just 2 or 3 days ago, I was playing at Dundas and unfortunately, Dundas is a constant place for these occurrences. People, whether they’re heckling me, or threatening me, but this incident 3 days ago, someone just didn’t like my music, so they came up and they kicked my case as hard as they could. My drink spilled over and my money flew out of the case as well as my laminate and everything. Stuff like that happens and it’s just like, uh, not everyone’s gonna like you.”

Sorry for my background exclamations there, but I was absolutely shocked. Buskers need to put up with hecklers, panhandlers, and drunks regularly. A grizzled veteran like Billy tends to deter such behaviour, but younger buskers like Jason can sometimes attract it. Especially at stations like Dundas, where people can be returning from bars or clubs, not thinking quite straight, buskers can sometimes be in danger.

I also asked Jason about pay. He didn’t want to divulge concrete numbers, as it is a private matter, but he did allude to the fact that it can be hard at times.

“It definitely is one of those jobs where are those days when you’ll be kicked when you’re down.’

These seem like pretty serious problems, right? So how do we fix them? Jason believes that the TTC is already working to do just that.

Part 4

Jason: “Going back to the pilot Stages, that’s why I like the pilot Stages cause when that Stage is there, it’s a lot more of a message of ‘yeah, we’re meant to be here and we’re meant to spread positivity and connect people.”

The ‘Stages’ project is something the TTC have been implementing into various subway stops. According to an article by Ben Spurr for the Toronto Star, the Stages are “made out of vinyl adhesive, and will replace the barely noticeable dotted yellow lines that usually demarcate performance areas at stations.”. Jason thinks they are a great addition.

Jason: “I’m a huge fan of the Stages, I was even emailing one of the correspondents with TTC talking about how much I admire them. Because they have that hashtag ‘#TTCMusic’ on them, now, since the release of the pilot Stages, I’ve been adding the hashtag.”

They aren’t just good for the social media aspect, either. They also make the busker visibly ‘pop’. It makes them stand out, and by making the musician a focal point of the station, it highlights their importance and belonging in the system.

Jason: “It definitely looks like a stage, and there’s more of a presence, which I really appreciate because you get that sense of ‘it’s a grander thing than just someone who’s trying to make some money.’ It’s not necessarily about that.”


So, in the end, what can you do to improve the overall busking experience in the TTC system? It’s simple! Just know. Know that people like Jason and Billy are people. They’re people who have been through so much just to get to where you are, and it’s pretty insulting to treat them as if they were just random people who picked up instruments. Just by the simple knowledge of their belonging being spread, it will reduce the number of bad occurrences. If more people know they belong, less people will treat them as if they don’t. All these musicians want is a connection with you, because that’s what music is about.

So why does this matter to you? I’ll let Jason explain.

Jason: “I’ve seen firsthand how pleasant it can be for those people who really connect with the music. But there was one experience I remember very vividly where I happened to be playing this very slow, poetic song. And then, this one dancer and her friend, she started to dance first, like a very slow moving, poetic, ballet-type dancing, and then he joined her. And before I knew it, I was playing the song, they were dancing, in accordance to the song, and it all blended so well.

Creation encourages more creation, that’s why I think it’s so important to be out there and doing what I’m doing. And not just me, but artists who are out there doing their art.”

If all of us accept this art into our community, we are accepting the inspiration for even more art to be created. The TTC is right in spreading the value of art because, after all, it’s guaranteed to reach anyone and everyone through their far-reaching system. And what can you do to benefit from this art? Its easy. Just stop by, close your eyes, and listen.

Jason Lane can be found on Facebook, at @JejsonLane. As for his hours at Downsview station:

“I find that the times I usually play there are on a Saturday or maybe a Friday. Yeah, like those days.”



Works Cited

“Buskers, Performers and Sidewalk (Chalk) Artists.” Toroto.ca. Retrieved from


“Facts.” TTC Subway Musicians. Retrieved from


Kuitenbrouwer, Peter. "Hear the One Man Allowed to Perform on Toronto Subway Platforms

without Auditioning." National Post, 30 Mar 2012. Retrieved from http://news.nationalpost.com/posted-toronto/subway-buskers

Kushner, R. J., & Brooks, A. C. (2000). “The One-Man Band by the Quick Lunch Stand:

Modeling Audience Response to Street Performance.” Journal of Cultural Economics, 24(1), 65. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.l ibrary.yorku.ca/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1308025702?accountid=15182

Smith, M. (1996). “Traditions, Stereotypes, and Tactics: A History of Musical Buskers in

Toronto.” Canadian Journal for Traditional Music, 24, 6. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.library.yorku.ca/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1292146735?accountid=15182

Spurr, Ben. “TTC ‘Stages’ Will Give Subway Buskers a Boost.” Toronto Star, 18 Oct 2016.

Retrieved from https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2016/10/18/ttc-stages-will-give-subway-buskers-a-boost.html

“Subway Musician Profiles” TTC Subway Musicians. Retrieved from


The truth behind the labels

By. Theresa Skubic


Illuminated Transcript

It’s so easy to swipe, insert or tap our debit cards, while purchasing a shirt from H&M, Joe Fresh, and Nike. But do you ever stop and think? Where did the journey of this nine-dollar shirt start, and who’s hands created the clothes being featured in catalogues and commercials. My name is Theresa and in my podcast, I will be discussing how it is possible for clothes to be made at these low prices, and how the cost are affecting garment workers world-wide.

I should start with a bit of background on sweatshops, and explain the life of a worker.

Sweatshops are factories where workers work long hours for an average 24 cents an hour, adding up to roughly 38$ a month. They are forced to work in extremely poor conditions and if caught complaining or slacking, they will be abused ether physically or verbally. In other words, most clothing brands such as Victoria Secret, Joe Fresh, and even the Kardashian’s line are not bothered with violating Humans Rights if in the end they have money in their pockets.

Looking at a recent garment factory incident on June 25 2014, garment works were sewing cries for help onto the tags of a Primark dress. These labels read “Forced to work exhausting hours, and degrading sweatshop conditions.

The last this story was discussed Primark promised to investigate this incident, stating they were sure these labels would turn out to be a hoax, and perhaps someone took a needle in the change room.

“This mountain of rubble is a monument to the 1100 lives lost here last April when this garment factory collapsed in Bangladesh. Fifth estates, Mark Kelly, said this after travelling to Dhaka Bangladesh and witnessing the remains of the worlds largest garment factory disaster.

On April 24, 2013 Rana Plaza in Bangladesh went up in flames. Over 1000 people died and no one said a thing, said Sajeet Sennik, an ex designer for Walmart.




After the fire, said Sajeet, a meeting was held. No one discussed the lives lost, rather they discussed units and margins. Profits were put ahead of people.

When was it that Humanity began to put wealth and success over lives and equality? Has this always been an issue? And will there ever be a change.

Canadians know about the hardships in the sweat shop industry, but still continue to shop were clothes are cheap.

I walked around York University and asked students where their favourite stores were?

Interviewees: I’m going to have to say H&M.

I like to shop at Forever 21.

I like to shop at Nike Outlet Store.

I shop at the Hudson Bay.

I shop around a lot, at different places in the mall but I enjoy going to places where I can purchase everything at once, so places like The Gap and Old Navy.

Do prices play a role in your selection as to why this is your favourite store?

Interviewees: Yeah, the prices do play a factor in a role as to why this is my favourite store just cause, I’m on a student budget and i have no real income, so it makes more sense for a store like H&M where their clothing is cheap and decent quality instead of American eagle where, yeah it may be better quality but it has a bigger price tag.

Yeah, cost does affect when I like to buy things because I don't really want to buy things that are too expensive, I want something cheap and affordable.

Cost plays a role in buy Nike because I’m a student and funds are tight.

I would say price is a factor, like of course I consider price when I’m going shopping but I mean it’s less than a factor than the quality of the clothing, if i enjoy the clothing, I won’t be bothered if it is more expensive.

Cost is only a little bit of a factor because my parents buy my clothes.

If the prices at these stores were more expensive would you still shop, there?

I don't really think i am in the position to make the right choice now because I don't know how much the prices would increase, would it be 3 5 10 dollars, if they only increased a little yeah, I would still shop there just because I am happy with the clothing I have there so far, and if they were to continue to increase the quality of it and increased the price I would continue to shop there. But if were talking the same prices as American Eagle I don't really see the benefit of shopping at H&M, maybe i might look at every store in the mall the same

I definitely would not shop at forever 21 if the prices weren't so low because that's the whole point of the store for me, it is a department store that has hundreds of clothes for cheap.

No I wouldn't continue to shop at Nike because the whole point of an outlet store is to get lower prices.

I probably would continue to shop there, I mean that is of course if they ridiculously increase their prices I probably switch where I am going, that's kind of why I enjoy those places its cause the prices are usually not that big of a deal, but yeah, I would say if it’s not a major increase I wouldn't mind.

Honestly, I already find shopping pretty difficult, just because things are already really expensive so I feel like if the prices were to go up at certain store I would just look for more outlets and other places where the price is smaller just because I am on student budget and just can’t afford expensive clothing right now. 

Yeah, the Hudson Bay is already pretty expensive so if they were to increase the price I would probably go to another place.

The feed-back I received was interesting but not shocking. The majority stated the cost comes before equality, and student budget is a huge factor in where people are choosing to shop.

Why is it however that nowadays every owns some sort of smart phone, a laptop, and flat screens, but no one is willing to pay a little more for clothes even though this could help people.

Similar to the Rana plaza incident, in November in 2012, Tanzarine fashion factory, a 9 story building located in Bangladesh went up in flames. This factory reportedly had no fire factory escapes and survivors have said that the majority of the doors were blocked by boxes and the windows were barred shut. Months before this the factories fire safety certificate had been revoked but workers were still forced to work there.

During the fire, workers were kicking the ventilation fan and were jumping out the building from 6 stories up. Most of the 114 victims that dies were burned alive. There was no escaping.

And this brings up the question, how many more lives have to be lost until the fashion industry, and society realize enough is enough.

Did you know about the fire that had broken out in the Tanzarine fashion factory in 2012 had no fire escapes and the windows were barred shut?


Oh my Gosh no I totally didn't hear about that, that's actually terrible I can’t believe they would have no fire escape and there is no way for them to get out, how is that even allowed it’s kind of scary to think about

No I never heard about that, I feel like sometimes we don't recognize the malpractice that is involved in everyday products that are marginally less than is it was a regulated and practice and honestly is a defining ethical issue over time

yeah actually I do remember learning about the nine-story building that fell down in Bangladesh back when i was in year one here at York. We watch a documentary back in ADMS 1000, we were learning about work safety and the conditions of some 3rd world countries and how bad it is and how it compares to our country, you know it’s not even comparable. I remember looking around the class, it was almost as if no one really understood or realized the true realization of you know how bad their conditions are and tough life is for them. How you wake up every day, and you can go to work and a fire starts and you’re in bad conditions and you can’t escape from a fire its horrible I still remember it still impacts me today because learning about that coming to school first year this was one of the key points and reasons I actually ended up changing my major and going into HR, seeing how bad someone has their conditions over there I only thought it would be right if I could assure here in Canada our conditions stay up to date maybe I can influence change in other 3rd world countries possibly, You know any little change I could do would help.



Did you know Donald Trump was president?

yeah, I actually did know that I listen to the news everyday

Yeah, I actually read about that a couple weeks ago, in the newspaper

I did hear about that it was all over twitter and every social media

I actually watched the elections

Why is it that news that affects one country makes national headlines, but news that affects a country that is caused by other countries is swept under the rug?

“Tragedy to tragedy, year to year, and no one seems to realize” Sajeet Senik states

Since 2006 500+ people have died in factory fires.


Has our society completely turned their backs to issues that they feel don’t affect them, or they can’t do anything about.

Are we too far gone, and is it too late to help people?

Why is it that I can construct so many problems and questions, but can’t seem to think of one answer or solution?


Today there is an estimated 4 million Garment workers worldwide who are constantly being violated and stripped of their human rights in order to meet fashion industries deadlines.

It is evident that one voice can't change the opinion of many, but it is time for a change.

We cannot continue to sit back and say these problems aren’t our problems because they are, everyone who shops, is a part of this problem.

The only question what can be done?



Mailonline, Isabel Hunter For. "Crammed into Squalid Factories to Produce Clothes for the West on Just 20p a Day, the Children Forced to Work in Horrific Unregulated Workshops of Bangladesh ." Daily Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 01 Dec. 2015. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.
"Sweatshops in Bangladesh." War On Want. N.p., 23 June 2015. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.
"Factory Collapse in Bangladesh." Www.globallabourrights.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.
Aulakh, Raveena. "I Got Hired at a Bangladesh Sweatshop. Meet My 9-year-old Boss | Toronto Star." Thestar.com. N.p., 31 Mar. 2014. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.
"Global Sweatshops, Solidarity and the Bangladesh Breakthrough." Public Seminar. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2016.
Bain, Marc. "Most of H&M’s “best” Factories in Bangladesh Still Don’t Have Working Fire Exits." Quartz. N.p., 03 Oct. 2015. Web. 27 Nov. 2016.
North, Andrew. "The Dark Underworld of Bangladesh's Clothes Industry." BBC News. N.p., 26 Apr. 2013. Web. 26 Nov. 2016.
"CBS News Goes Undercover in a Bangladesh Clothing Factory." CBSNews. CBS Interactive, n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2016.
Harvey-Jenner, Catriona. "This Woman Believes She Decoded a Cry for Help Note from Sweatshop Workers in Her Primark Underwear." Cosmopolitan. N.p., 21 Sept. 2016. Web. 23 Nov. 2016.
Bajaj, Vikas. "Fatal Fire in Bangladesh Highlights the Dangers Facing Garment Workers." The New York Times. The New York Times, 25 Nov. 2012. Web. 18 Nov. 2016.
"In Bangladesh, the Sham of Shams Factory." Al Jazeera America. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2016.

 "Passport York Login." Passport York Login. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2016.

"International Labor Rights Forum." American Eagle Joins Bangladesh Safety Accord | International Labor Rights Forum. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2016.

"Made in Bangladesh - the Fifth Estate - YouTube." YouTube. YouTube, 2014. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.

Agent Of Change


The Agent of Change

Imagine yourself in a Palestinian city, surrounded by Mediterranean Sea. In front of you, kids are climbing the pile of stones, right behind you, there are ruins of the city. You can see only two intact condominiums and a huge mosque for miles. All other houses were bombed. Feel free to turn around – look at the bright blue sky above you and at the grey ground under your feet. Somebody is showing you around: the woman is talking about the death of her children during the bombing.

Now you can take off the headset and come back to the downtown in Toronto. You’ve just watched a fragment of virtual reality documentary My Mother’s Wing about challenges of life in Gaza. While we keep thinking about documentary as dry and boring genre, many documentary works are quite impressive. Thy even can be called cinematic pieces of art. The best of them you can check out at Canadian International Documentary Festival, or simply Hot Docs Festival. It takes place every year in Toronto. This time Hot Docs gave us an opportunity to dive into films – just put on the headset, and you become the character of the film, not just an observer.

You may ask, aren’t documentaries supposed to be… serious? How ethical is to make an amusement park from serious social issues?

This is The Agent of Change episode. My name is Alexandra Prochshenko, and today we are going to discuss, how entertaining documentaries will change the world.


Hot Docs is the largest Documentary Festival in North America, marking the record attendance with 200 500 people (Barnard, “U.S. Documentary Unbranded”). Over 200 documentary films are presented at the Festival every year. In 2016 Hot Docs introduced the audience to the new project: DocX, the section which celebrates unusual work within the genre. In DocX section, you can find hybrid documentaries and virtual reality videos – sounds quite exciting, does it not? You can literally try other people’s shoes on and get a unique experience, as we did with the film My Mother’s Wing about Gaza.

But even in the middle of this heartbreaking story about bombings and death it is easy to find yourself wondering, how cool that is – to be in the different part of the world without making any efforts.

So, what is the point of this experience? Do characters of such documentaries get real help after the screening? Or is it just a cyberspace amusement park for the first world audience – you watch it and forget about it immediately?

Laurence Green: Some filmmakers who got excited about 3D technology, might think wait, maybe this is a tool, for a new way of making documentaries. Maybe VR [virtual reality] represents an innovative new approach to how we can make documentaries better or maybe not better but different.

This is Laurence Green, documentary filmmaker and a York University professor. His works were screened at Toronto International Film Festival, Yorkton Short Film & Video Festival, International Leipzig Documentary Film Festival and Hot Docs itself.

Laurence Green: There are filmmakers who present their work at Hot Docs, who want to help individuals or a community, the subject of their films. And they see the screenings as an opportunity to further somebody’s cause, or raise awareness about an injustice that the subjects of their film are suffering. The Hot Docs screenings are a way for those filmmakers to advocate on behalf of their subjects. In another way they hold forums where people can come with documentary ideas and meet with comissioning editors, and distributors, and find financing for their projects. So, in an indirect way, some benefit might come to those characters because those documentaries get made, and maybe those documentaries wouldn’t have been made if it wasn't for the Hot Docs's forum that allows them to find financing for their project.

Matt Kamen, The Wired journalist, claims that films like My Mother’s Wing, “are used to raise awareness and stimulate donations for often-overlooked causes.” So, Hot Docs provides a platform for such films, and invites the audience be active. People should go and investigate the problem by themselves after watching a film.

What is so cool about that? Well, there is an idea of cool and hot medium. Marshal McLuhan, Canadian professor and public intellectual, made a distinction between different types of media. Some of them need us to participate, like telephone or speech. These are the cool medium, because they are cold, they don't respond. Hot medium, like radio, print or film, do all the work for us. Even reading comics makes our brain work better than reading, for example, a newspaper with the solid block of a text. Hot medium gives us a lot of information. (Mann 11). And this makes audience lazy.

From one side, VR films are definitely hot media: there is no space for imagination, you have 360 degree view, you see the world around in a details. But if we think about not just how we watch the film, but also how we react on it, we can get the whole new interactive experience. And this is a cool medium experience. Plus – it is hard to deny it – virtual reality is an interactive tool itself.

This kind of films can seem a little bit unethical, but sometimes it makes us think more and be more involved in the problem than a regular film does (Proserpio and Gioia 71) .


Usually, the goal of any documentary is “spreading awareness”. But does it really work? For example, after the film a regular observer will know how terrible is life of some other people. So what? Isn’t this “spreading awareness” point overestimated?

Laurence Green: There are activist films, that are political documentaries, and the goal of the film is not actually to be successful, win awards and fill theaters, the goal of the film is to raise awareness about an issue and promote change. The documentary is actually, an agent of change in some cases. And there are people, there are cases where people who were wrongfully accused and are in prison get released because the documentary has increased the awareness of their injustice. so there are people who have gotten out of jail because of documentaries.

Alexandra Prochshenko: Cinematic art has a huge influence on people and culture. Let's take Casablanca, it is a famous drama, but it is also a propaganda film, which let the U.S. audience embrace the idea of joining WWII. This film heated people up, let them wanna fight. The same thing documentary genre does. It shouldn’t necessarily be a direct propaganda to make people embrace changes, but it still affects people’s mind, even in a gentle way.

Again, it leads us back to the questioning an entertainment element in documentary form. If you want to affect people, you make them remember you. The easiest way to achieve it is to entertain them. DocX section, the part of Hot Docs festival, achieve its goal: it makes people remember their unusual experience.

Laurence Green: A lot of people complain that documentaries are very boring. And they have a very old-fashioned or conventional or limited interpretation of what documentary is going to offer. So lots of documentary filmmakers are trying to fight against that prejudice, and make documentaries that are not boring, and that are not limited and push back the boundaries, and do something which does engage and interest viewers. So, entertaining is one way. And I don't have a problem with that strategy as long as it is a strategy towards another end, it's a means to an end. If it's an ending itself, you just wanna make something entertaining, and you don't have any other goal, then, probably, I am less interested.

DocX section, the part of Hot Docs festival, achieve its goal: it makes people remember their unusual experience.


Alexandra Prochshenko: Before we go to hybrid documentaries, let’s make clear, what documentary film is. Oxford dictionaries define it as “a film or television or radio programme that provides a factual report on a particular subject”. This definition is pretty broad, because people usually describe it simply as “film that capturing the truth”. There are two most debatable issues about this genre: what is the truth and who provides it, is telling the truth possible at all? (Hayward 111).

So, watching documentary is supposed to be a struggle. Your critical thinking switch always has to be turned on. You are watching the movie and permanently asking yourself: who made this movie? Why is it so touching? What is director’s interest?

But there are a couple of hybrid-documentary genres, that way further from even subjective “truth”, and Hot Docs invites us to celebrate them. Let’s look at the Hot Docs Canadian premiere in 2016 – a film Operation Avalanche, made by Torontonian Matt Johnson and his crew. This movie represents the alternative version of the Apollo 11 story.

In other words, it is about the fake moon landing in 1969. A classic conspiracy theory.

Operation Avalanche was partly shot at York University, partly at NASA, but looks exactly like a documentary from 60s. It got tons of flattering reviews from NY Times, The Guardian, the Globe and Mail and lots of other media. This film was screened in terms of DocX section of festival, which, as we said, celebrates unusual works within the genre.

Laurence Green: What I think is interesting about Matt Johnson is although the genre of his film might be called mockumentary, because it is a film which uses documentary language and documentary techniques -

Alexandra Prochshenko: …wait a minute, what is mockumentary? Basically, it is a fake documentary, which doesn’t try to hide that it is fake. It usually looks just like documentary, with interviews, forgotten tripod in a frame, or shaky cameras (Green). But there is always a hint for the audience, like a famous actor pretending to be someone else. For example, nobody will ever think that Borat, the character of popular mockumentary, is actually a person from Kazakhstan, because Sacha Baron Cohen is maybe not the most popular celebrity, but he is still pretty famous. Laurence Green describes it is as “a wink” to the audience: it is supposed to be hard to make a mistake and take mockumentary for the real documentary film. In Operation Avalanche Matt Johnson, the director, is acting himself with his friends – so, we know that this is a mockumentary, because Matt Johnson wasn’t even alive in 1969.

Laurence Green: …the last thing that Johnson wants to do is mock documentary. He LOVES the documentary of the late 1950-s and 1960-s, the whole Cinéma Vérité movement, and in many ways his film is a kind of tribute to the pioneers of that era who were trying to change the way documentaries are made and change the language of documentary.

Alexandra Prochshenko: This year Hot Docs took the risk and showed mockumentary Operation Avalanche as a Canadian Premiere at the festival filled with usual documentary films. It is not the first time when such festivals shows hybrid-documentaries, but there are never a lot of them.

Not every hybrid-documentary is welcome at Hot Docs. Let’s think, what else can be a hybrid-documentary? Any Hollywood movie, based on true story, like biopics or social drama, can be called “docudrama” and it is a hybrid-documentary too. It tells us the real story, but it usually dramatized and shot with actors, in a big studio, with a budget. For example, Catch Me if You Can with Leonardo DiCaprio, or Ed Wood with Johnny Depp. But Hot Docs doesn’t support such films, even if they are hybrids. Is it because documentary is more about the form than the content?

Laurence Green, a documentary filmmaker and a professor at York University, suggests that Hot Docs shows films that everybody would agree are documentaries.

Laurence Green: And if there is actors playing a role – then they are less comfortable with that. Definitely, Matt Johnson, and Owen, and Josh Boles, the guys that acted in Operation Avalanche, are playing roles, but because they are completely unknown actors, you can watch it without knowing that it’s fake. You know, you think maybe that is a real guy, maybe that was shot in 1968.

Alexandra Prochshenko: Doesn’t it mislead the audience?

Laurence Green: I think it’s deliberately misleading the audience, yeah. I think fake documentaries are lying to the audience. But they are lying in order to tell the truth, they are lying in order to explore the truth. But I guess all film making at some level – all art making – at some level is questionable in terms of the goals and the honesty of the filmmakers and the true ambitions. In general, films with known actors, based on scripts - those are not going to show on Hot Docs. This a kind of an odd exception, and I guess, all mockumentaries are an odd exception.

But how mockumentary deserves this status of exception of Festival? What is so great about mockumentary genre?

Laurence Green: Mockumentaries are often made to comment on real world situation. Just because the scenario was came out of the imagination of the writer’s head and actors are delivering lines, it doesn’t mean there is nothing TRUE in that film, or applicable to real life. So I think people often adopt that form of mockumentary because they want a stronger voice, commenting on real life. So, by making a fake documentary you are trying to lure in viewers to think about themes more seriously.

Operation Avalanche is fascinating not because it represents a popular conspiracy theory, but because it asks: if there is a theory, how would NASA do this? Who were the guys who made it, why did that happen?

Laurence Green: So, those are questions that people are normally asking, and it’s very fun. And it’s very entertaining. But it’s not just about that, I think this is a serious film, I think they are interested in serious issues. Just like they were when the same filmmakers, Matt Johnson and his collaborators made The Dirties, the previous documentary they made, or mockumentary they made really, which was about high school shootings. So, I think these guys are thinking carefully about these questions and these issues and they are exploring them in their films in a serious way. But they’re also love comedy, and so there is an absurdist quality to both of those films.

Matthew Miller: We were really excited to get screened at Hot Docs this year, and how our Canadian Premiere be, you know, the preeminent documentary festival here.

Alexandra Prochshenko: Meet Matthew Miller, the producer of mockumentary “Operation Avalanche”-

Matthew Miller: Like I said, we really love the documentary form. A lot of our favorite films are documentaries. And… you know, we really strives to stay true to that form.

Alexandra Prochshenko: DocX section, Hot Doc’s passionate project, gives the opportunity for other people’s passionate projects to be shown.

Matthew Miller: Our cinematographers, Andy Appelle, Jared Raab, like really killed themselves to shoot this in exactly the way these documentaries from the era would have been filmed, and we worked really hard, like not to expose too much, information that wouldn’t belong in a documentary, we obviously took certain liberties, just because we’re still trying to tell a story.

Mockumentary addresses a “knowing” audience, so if we want to be a part of the show, we are supposed to be thoughtful (Rhodes & Springer). Mockumentary is easy to recognize, but this product of filmmaking is challenging, it often crushes dominant ideology’s frames. It makes you think critically – and therefore it deserves its place among documentary films.

DocX section pushes the boundaries of documentary genre, and challenges the Hot Docs audience. It makes us leave our comfort zone and ask questions, looking for the truth. And it – again – promotes changes. The only one difference is that while VR social docs promote change in the world around us, mockumentaries makes us change own thoughts. So, it looks like both VR documentaries and mockumentaries are perfectly ethical, if they make the audience think critically, develop and become better.


Works Cited

Arora, Gabo, and Ari Palitz. "My Mother's Wing: A Virtual Reality (VR) Film | With.in (360 Video)." Within. Vrse.works, n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2016.

Kamen, Matt. Life and Death in Gaza Captured in 'watershed' VR Film. WIRED UK. N.p., 02 Mar. 2016. Web. 01 Nov. 2016.

Mann, Doug. Understanding Society: A Survey of Modern Social Theory. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 2011. Print.

Havick, John. The Impact of the Internet on a Television-based Society. Technology in Society 22.2 (2000): 273-87. Science Direct. Web. 01 Nov. 2016.

Hayward, Susan. Cinema Studies: The Key Concepts. Florence: Taylor and Francis, 2013. Ebook Library. Web. 09 Dec. 2016.

"Oxford Dictionaries - Dictionary, Thesaurus, & Grammar." Oxford Dictionaries | English. Oxford Dictionaries, n.d. Web. 06 Dec. 2016.

Proserpio, Luigi, and Dennis A. Gioia. “Teaching the Virtual Generation.” Academy of Management Learning &Amp; Education, vol. 6, no. 1, 2007, pp. 69–80. www.jstor.org/stable/40214517.

Rhodes, Gary Don, and John Parris Springer. Docufictions: Essays On the Intersection of Documentary and Fictional Filmmaking. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 2006.


Minimum Wage Rage

Fight For $15: Minimum Wage Rage

December 8, 2016 


LIA: They say money can not buy happiness, but being deprived of it can sure buy misery. I want you to imagine someone who works a part time job and does not get any hours. They want to work more but can not because their schedule is so busy. Their school is taking over their life temporarily so their earnings can not fulfill their needs or wants. Who was that person you imagined? Was it yourself or perhaps someone you know? Well whoever it was, the point is you are aware of people who struggle financially. Just really sit down and put in some deep thought into all or at least most of the problems in your life. After you listed the conflicts, ask yourself “How many of these problems have to do with money?” Majority right? Now think about how many times a day you pull out your wallet to pay cash, or how many times you swipe your card. At least once a day right? The only time this does not occur is if you are not out in public and at home. You work at least 2 shifts a week because all your time is dedicated to school, either your in your class, or in the library studying, or at home working on your assignments. Hard eh? Usually people blame a day for not having enough hours but if you look at it from another perspective, these problems occur from the low wage earnings from the limited shifts one has to work. I mean think of it this way, we all come to earth the same way, leave the same way, so why not live the same way as well? 


Look around at families and students who struggle financially for years or even a lifetime due to how low their income is. Life should not be about making enough money to survive, every aspect of life should be balanced in the 24 hours that a person lives in a day. This is so everyone has a social life, work life, and time for family. Students who attend post-secondary schools have so much on their plate from all the responsibility held within that stage. There are so many purchases to make when going to school in order to stay focused and on top, such as books, supplies, electronics, etc. Students starting from the age of 17 have to stress about work, and school finances but the worst part is, how can one make enough for the cost of thousands with just $11.40? Same goes to those who have families except just worse because of what needs to be provided for the whole family, and not just one person. 


I’m Lia Sediqi and on today’s podcast episode, the issue of minimum wage being to low will be recognized. 



Minimum wage is quite a conflict in Canada, and unfortunately does not increase enough to resolve the issue. Many people are aware of the struggle low paid earnings cause but no voices are raised when it comes to this because students and adults do not think that their opinion will make a difference. But believe it or not, there are organizations who show awareness to this conflict so that eventually the supporters increase and issue no longer exists. 


One day I was walking down the halls of York University and was stopped by a student with a clipboard in her hand. 


She claims “Hey how would you feel if minimum wage increased to $15?” 


I said “$15?? Wow that would be great and my life would be so much easier” 


She says “Well if you’re interested in supporting our Fight for $15 campaign, you could make a difference”


That made me smile so hard so I signed the clipboard and wished them the best of luck. It was crazy, I always complained about being paid too low but never raised my voice thinking it wouldn’t be heard but now a stranger tells me it really can? I was not aware that organizations such as this one even exist. But York University’s “Fight For $15” campaign helped me realize that this would be able to help those who earn minimum wage and who struggle daily due to the constant worry of not having enough money. This campaign encourages students or any other individuals to participate in supporting the increase of minimum wage. Think of how much of a benefit this would be to the families and students who struggle every single day. The goal is to make minimum wage $15, so that poverty in Canada decreases and simply life would be easier. I wanted to know if I was the only one who felt this passionate about making a difference for this issue so I asked a student who attends York University. 


The first person I asked was a student named Yelda Hashimi. Yelda is a regular first year student, who strongly agrees with how much of a struggle it is to be financially unstable as a university student..


Interview 1:


LIA: Hi Yelda how are you?


YELDA: I’m good and you? 


 LIA: Great thanks for asking.


LIA: So Yelda you are aware of why I asked you to come here today? 


YELDA: Yes, you were concerned about minimum wage and wanted to know my opinion as well. 


LIA: That’s right now may I ask you, What are your thoughts about minimum wage? 


YELDA: Well I have a lot to say actually, first off can someone explain to me why the increase over the past years has not gone up by a lot? I mean come on, just a few months ago minimum wage was $11.25 and now it is $11.40? Let’s be realistic, will those 15 cents help by a lot? I know it will not make a difference for me. I’m only 18 years old and I already have debts to pay. There is OSAP, visa, and master card that have to be paid back. I work two times a week, the most three and I am at school 5 times a week. My schedule is always busy and it is also consistent. I wake up go to school, go to class, eat, washroom, then go to the library to study. after studying for a few hours I usually have a later class so I go to the next, and by the time I’m home I get exhausted. University has taken over more than half of my life and because of this my hours in one week are about 10. I get paid bi weekly so thats around $200 in one paycheque. So if I am receiving $200 every two weeks I also have to consider the fact that there will be days when I have to eat out when I don’t have any homemade food with me. Then there is also clothes when I go shopping or shoes or even accessories. I know most people tell me, don’t buy so much of things you don’t need but I don’t see what the problem is in buying something I like. What’s worse is that everything is so expensive nowadays, but I work in a high fashion store, called BCBG MaxAzria. At their workplace, I only have to wear BCBG clothes, which is very expensive. I have to buy their clothes, and a majority of my paycheque goes to that.  I know I do not work enough to be making a whole amount of money but if minimum wage increased more, It would help me a lot.


LIA: Now i’m going to stop you there and ask you, how you believe it will benefit you if it increases 


YELDA: I honestly think that it’ll just be a heavy weight lifted off my shoulders because everywhere I go, money is involved. I leave the house almost everyday and very rarely am I at home the whole day. If I bus, I need change, if I take the car I’m paying for gas and parking, When I get hungry I buy fast food not groceries. I constantly check my bank account to see if I have enough when I want to purchase something. You know, I have goals so in order to achieve them I have to save up for something I really want. If minimum wage increases I think it’ll be easier to pay off debts, this way it will not build up. I know I don’t work a lot because the most shifts I get in a week are about three but if minimum wage increases, I will be able to cancel a shift and focus more on school work. 


LIA: So what are some challenges that you face from this wage? 


YELDA: One of the challenges are that I can’t pay off my OSAP money as fast. With the minimum wage increasing, it would be one less thing I have to stress about. My mom does not work so I am basically on my own with paying off my own fees. Another challenge is what I said before, I can’t focus on my school work because I’m already working 3 days a week. If the wage increases, my stress level will become lower. 


LIA: Well thank you answering my questions Yelda, it was nice hearing your opinion and telling me your situation. 


After this interview I felt like many people could relate to this issue. I mean there are thousands of students in a university that struggle financially. Thousands of others who go through so much whereas others are privileged and do not have to face this. Before I listened to Yelda’s situation I completely forgot that people have different situations and some have it harder than others. Some may have one parent and younger siblings to take care of so they work more than two shifts. Some people have more than one job, or work more than 10 hours. Just imagine how big of a change this would be if minimum wage increased to $15. 


I did a little bit of research on York University’s Fight for $15 organization and discovered that they were demanding on many things. They want people who receive minimum wage to have 


“decent working conditions, equal pay for workers regardless of their status as students, fair scheduling and adequate hours, paid sick days, and recognizing mid-term and final examinations as a category under “personal leaves”.” (York University Fight for 15)


This was very interesting to me because If jobs actually allowed the requests of Fight for $15, life would be so much easier and less stress would occur. This would help many but the problem with some of those requests is that you have to think realistically. I personally do not believe that paid sick days are necessary because you need to look at it from a different perspective as well. A lot of people call in sick when they do not even feel sick so a lot of people would take advantage of this aspect. That would not be fair now would it. As for the rest of those requests, I completely agree because as an 18 year old employee who gets paid $11.40, that drastic change would make a big difference for me.


I did some research on minimum wage increasing in general and it was shown on a survey that 


“majority of Canadians support an increase in minimum wage. The Forum Research poll conducted last week showed that 63 per cent of Canadian voters approve increasing the national wage to $15 an hour. Thirty-one per cent disapproved; six per cent didn’t know.” (Alam, thestar)



I was so surprised because many people are fed up with this issue and want to make a change. It seems as if the poverty line has not decreased by much because more than half of Canadian citizens struggle because of this issue. I think it is time for more people to support these organizations because it seems as if a lot of citizens have a problem with how much they receive. I think it is time for students and families to speak their mind and stop living life full of stress. More people need to get involved so that eventually the poverty line decreases by a lot and no one will be left to complain. If the number of supporters go up and if we do not give up on trying to accomplish this goal, we will end up satisfied and live a stress free life. 


Now I want you to think back to what I said in the beginning of this podcast. That person who works a part time job and does not get enough hours, their life is focused mostly on school. When you first thought of this person there could have been a feeling of sadness and relation to your personal situation. But what if I were to tell you to imagine a student who barely works but stays financially stable? Someone who studies, works, has time for family and friends, and has no problem with their job and wage. What if I were to tell you that, that person will be you in a few years? That if you just sign up with organizations that support this issue, you will no longer have to stress. Think about all the clothes you can buy, accessories, shoes, any other wants or needs that you prefer. Think about how balanced your life would be if your earnings increased by just $4. Feels good doesn't it? So take 5 mins of your life and sign up and encourage more people so that we can change the lives of citizens and help one another. Like I said before we’re all the same so we should treat each other the same. 


This concludes our episode for today, I’m Lia Sediqi and you’ve just listened to Minimum wage rage. 





Work Cited


Alam, Hina. "Broad Support in Poll for $15 Federal Minimum Wage | Toronto Star." Thestar.com. N.p., 19 Oct. 2016. Web. 08 Dec. 2016.


"$15 and Fairness." York University Graduate Students' Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2016.


A New Curriculum

By Carissa Dickinson

Everyone knows the feeling of getting ready to go out with someone.  It feels like there’s millions of thoughts going through your head, but one always stands out the most.  “I hope they like me”.  See at the end of the day that’s really what we all want, to be accepted, to belong. Personally, I can relate to this more than I honestly want to.  I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t feel completely overwhelmed with anxiety.  Constantly worried about what people will think about me and the judgements they’re going to pass. The sad reality of our society, one that people may want to ignore or deny, is that people face this judgement every day. On a way, bigger scale than what I have to deal with.  People need to fear for their lives because of the judgements other pass on them all for practicing something that they have a right to believe in.  This is called religious discrimination.  Over 1 million people within Canada identify as Muslim with a population upwards of 400,000 in Toronto alone ("Immigration and Ethnocultural Diversity in Canada." 2016).  Almost 5% of Canadas population is being forced to make a choice between their beliefs and their safety ("Immigration and Ethnocultural Diversity in Canada." 2016). Whether or not we want to believe it, the fact of the matter is, it’s our fault. 

 I’m Carissa Dickinson.  Sorry I’m bad at introducing myself.  But I thought explaining my situation to you would make it easier to relate to the rest of the show.  See, People try to give me advice all the time when it comes to my anxiety.  The problem is, they don’t really understand what anxiety is or what I go through.  Where the relation comes in is that the same can be said for this discrimination.  People are so ready to act out on opinions that they honestly have no real understanding of.  This is where the problem stems from.

It’s hard to believe that something as awful as religion discrimination could occur within a county like Canada.  Probably because when people think about Canada one of the first phrases that comes to mind is freedom.  It is embedded in our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms for people to be able to live how they choose.  But maybe this ideology of freedom for all, is just a front.  Section 2 of our charter, lays out our fundamental freedoms (“Constitution Acts, 1867 to 1982.” 2016).  Everyone’s heard of freedom of speech and expression, but it doesn’t end there.  Canadians are protected under (a) freedom of conscience and religion, (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, (c) freedom of peaceful assembly and (d) freedom of association (“Constitution Acts, 1867 to 1982.” 2016).  All of these freedoms have been broken in acts of discrimination against Muslim Canadians.  I read in a CBC News article about a Muslim woman who was picking her child up from school.  She was waiting for her son when two men started to beat her and call her a terrorist (News, CBC 2015).    She was just a mother waiting for her child.  These men honestly believed that because of her religion, she must be a part of a terrorist organization, right? These negative images are held by so many people and where the real problem lies is that they are acted on. 



        These terrible acts aren’t committed by people because all Canadians have a hatred towards Muslims.  What it really boils down to is education or in this case a lack there of.  An article written by Meena Sharify- Funk explains this perfectly.  The article explains how the media plays a role in the creation and the solution of conflicts within Canada’s Muslim Community (Sharify-Funk 2009).  Today’s media has the power to manipulate information (Sharify-Funk 2009).  We see it all the time in magazines.  Big head lines saying “Kim Kardashian Pregnant again!”.  And when you really think about it, how many of those front-page stories were actually true?  The media works in one way, they give the people what they want (Sharify-Funk 2009).   Now don’t get me wrong the media isn’t totally bad but it definitely has negative impacts on our views, especially in this era where people are constantly turning to some form of social media (Sharify-Funk 2009).  I mean the media can do great things too.  It’s a way to teach people and spread information (Sharify-Funk 2009).  Where the problem occurs is how they choose to share their information (Sharify-Funk 2009).  A great example is what happened after 9/11.  For those of you who don’t know the September 11 attacks were carried out by several members of alcada.  These members flew planes into buildings all over the county but the most remembered is the planes that destroyed the Twin Towers, leaving an unspeakable amount of people dead.  After 9/11 the medias representation of Muslims changed (Sharify-Funk 2009).  The media began scrutinizing every action taken by Muslims (Sharify-Funk 2009).  They started feeding into images of majority culture disapproval (Sharify-Funk 2009).  In plain terms, they started showing people negative images in order to match the growing negativity towards Muslims.  This information that they were teaching, just simply wasn’t true. The media has the ability to spread and teach stereotypical thought (Sharify-Funk 2009).  This is where many people get the information that they use to create their opinions of Muslims (Sharify-Funk 2009).  If people were properly educated on this religion, they wouldn’t have the opinions, or act on them the way they do now. 


   One of the most common stereotypes spread by the media, one that I’m sure you guys have all heard, is about the practice of veiling.  Now for those of you who don’t know, veiling is something practiced by Muslim Women; if they choose to take part in it, a more common term for veil is the hijab (Atazoy 2003).  Now there are actually several different kinds of hijabs, which is something most people probably don’t know (Atazoy 2003).  Wearing a hijab is a personal choice, however a lot of people don’t recognize it as that (Atazoy 2003).  In the Muslim religion, wearing the hijab is meant to represent a women’s devotion to God (Atazoy 2003).  They choose to wear it as symbol of their belief and love.  Unfortunately, since many people are unaware of the background on it, it has started to mean something entirely different.  People think that the Muslim religion itself is oppressing towards women and so when they choose to physically represent this religion they are seen as being oppressed themselves (Atazoy 2003).  It’s as if any form of religion is seen as bad in the eyes of people who don’t practice it.  But never fear, the MSA is here to answer all questions about veiling and much more. 

         You may be asking who the MSA is.  Well, The Muslim Students Association or the MSA is an organization implemented into schools that creates a safe place for Muslim Students (Home- York MSA 2016).  MSA’s all have goals of creating a community as well as providing programs easily accessible for students.  York University, which is actually where I go to school, has an MSA of their own.  Here at York the MSA provides many programs, the most popular of which being their prayer services but it doesn’t stop there (Home- York MSA 2016).  I actually got the chance to talk to the president and vice president of York’s MSA.  They’re both super cool fourth year students who wanted to be involved.  Noor Tabassum and Ashfaq Abdullah have both been involved with the MSA since they were in first year (Abdullah 2016).  Their most popular program is Friday Prayer (Abdullah 2016).  While talking with them they told me that there’s around 350 people that participate (Abdullah 2016).  The MSA is able to create a safe environment where friendships are forged (Abdullah 2016).  “Till 10 o’clock youll see someone here”, that’s what Ashfaq told me during our interview (Abdullah 2016).  People love the sense of community so much, that they don’t want to leave.  This caring and loving nature is the side of Muslims that the media doesn’t want to show.  The MSA is trying to help with that.  While there are many goals that the MSA are trying to reach, their main goal is something that we as Canadians desperately need.  Their goal is to spread awareness (Home- York MSA 2016).  They hold many advocacy events that are open to everyone (Home- York MSA 2016).  Some people might think that The Muslim Students Association would be open to only Muslims, but that’s not the case here.  The MSA wants to ensure that everyone is included.  The point of their advocacy events is to well advocate.  They want to share information about their religion as well as answer questions (Abdullah 2016).  Making sure that the truth about their religion is told and that people are able to clarify any questions they have is their main goal (Abdullah 2016).  Going to these events are actually what got the now president and vice president involved (Abdullah 2016).  Seeing the community that was created by this organization was too hard to resist.  Why would anyone want to resist this sense of friendship anyway?

York University is full of openminded and caring people that make things like the MSA possible.  Unfortunately, not everyone has the same opportunity.  A study conducted by Jasmine Zine follows seven Muslim students and three parents within Toronto schools (2011).  It looks at how these students deal with maintaining their religious beliefs while at the same time trying to create an identity for themselves.  One of the participants spoke about the treatment she faced within her school.  She says that while she was treated fairly she was also patronized constantly (Zine 2011).  It’s her belief that the treatment she faced came from a lack of education about what being Muslim means (Zine 2011).  If only the people within her school had taken the time to learn, the way she was treated would have been so different.  She would have been treated the way she deserved, like everyone else.  During my interview with the MSA here at York, Noor told me that during advocacy events people will come with questions and concerns (Abdullah 2016).  The students involved will then do their best to answer them and clear up anything that’s been misinterpreted (Abdullah 2016).  Could you imagine the difference that would have made for the student in the study?

I know I’m making it seem like everything about the way Canada treats others is bad, but it’s not all bad.  In 2013 the creation of a Canadian Office of Religious Freedom was announced (Wallace & Wiseman 2013).  This office was going to monitor and promote religious freedom (Wallace & Wiseman 2013). Finally, people no longer have to worry about how they’ll be treated for practicing their religion.  So how perfect, an office within one of the most multicultural countries in the world, meant to protect these multiple cultures – right?  The citizens of Canada didn’t think so.  People felt that money shouldn’t be devoted to things such as promoting religion (Wallace & Wiseman 2013).  People thought very strongly that Canada is a secularist country and it should stay that way (Wallace & Wiseman 2013).  This may seem negative to a lot of people.  But in my eyes, it was a positive.  Because despite the fact that there was so much controversy around it, it was still thought of.  People recognized the amount of discrimination within this country enough to make a change or at least push for it.  We are making progress, in more ways than just one. 

I know I might sound like a broken record by now but I want to make it clear just how much this discrimination is being recognized.  Other organizations are even doing their part to stop the spread of hate.  One example is the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.  This organization is working to implement different educational policies that will fight hatred and prejudice (“Countering Discrimination against Muslims.”2016).  Another way, that I think is amazing, is by training organizations on how to deal with hate crimes(“Countering Discrimination against Muslims.”2016).  I know these ideas aren’t exactly like MSA’s.  But, regardless of how they choose to get there they still want the same things.  To make people feel safe, and to stop hate.  

Noor told me during our interview that she sees the impact the MSA is making on people.  Through the friendships people make but in so many more ways.  She told me that she thinks the MSA is a place that teaches people.  Which is perfect considering what the topic of this podcast is about. She believes that people learn what it really means to be Muslim.  And that’s to be kind and caring of others.  When she told me that I was honestly really happy.  The fact that this small organization can actually make a difference is really amazing.  But, she also told me that it wasn’t having the impact she first thought it would.  She wishes that more people would take part and participate.  I agree with her.  I think being involved with this organization will make such a big difference when it comes to how we not only view but treat others.

I know there was a lot of information thrown at you in this podcast so let’s see if we can summarize the main points here.  So obviously, we know that religious discrimination is bad and its extremely common within Canada.  We also know that the lack of education about it is what leads to this discrimination.  And that’s because the media chooses to present stereotypical images and thoughts.  But, organizations like the MSA are working to stop it.  Advocacy is the key to peace. I think that was a pretty good summarization.  As hard as it may be, we can’t lose hope.  The images of discrimination make it easy to give up and say that the problem will never be solved but I see a chance.   I see hope that one day this discrimination will end.  One day people will no longer have to worry about practicing what they choose.  I know it seems like a long shot.  But look at the facts, its already starting.    







Works Cited

Abdullah & Tabassum.  Personal Interview.  October 2016.


AND WOMEN'S VEILING.” Sociological Focus, vol. 36, no. 2, 2003, pp. 143–158.


“Constitution Acts, 1867 to 1982.” Legislative Services Branch, The Government of Canada

, 20 Oct. 2016, http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/const/page-15.html.

“Countering Discrimination against Muslims.” Organization for Security and Co-Operation

in Europe, OSCE, 2016, www.osce.org/odihr/90060.

“Home - York MSA.” York MSA, Muslim Students Association , 2016, http://yorkmsa.ca/

"Immigration and Ethnocultural Diversity in Canada." Immigration and Ethnocultural

Diversity in Canada. Statistics Canada, 2016. Web. 07 Oct. 2016.

CBC. “'Frightening' Attacks Leave Ontario Muslims Shaken.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio

Canada, 17 Nov. 2015, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/frightening-attacks-leave-ontario-muslims-shaken-1.3323107.

Sharify-Funk, Meena. (2009). Representing Canadian Muslims: Media, Muslim advocacy

organizations, and gender in the Ontario Shari’ah debate. Global Media Journal -Canadian Edition, 2(2), 73-89.




Wallace, James, and Wiseman, Rachelle. “The Promise of Canada's Office of Religious

Freedom .” The Review of Faith and International Affairs , vol. 11, no. 3, 16 Sept.  2013, pp. 5260.http://www.tandfonline.com.ezproxy.library.yorku.ca/doi/citedby/10.1080/15570274.2013.829994?scroll=top&needaccess=true.

Zine, Jasmin. “Muslim Youth in Canadian Schools: Education and the Politics of Religious

Identity.” Anthropology &Amp; Education Quarterly, vol. 32, no. 4, 1 Dec. 2001, pp. 399–423.


Right Around the Corner

By Emily Harrison

Right Around the Corner 

By: Emily Harrison 


Emily Harrison: 


Just the word, gives us this image, of a hard working farmer picking his freshly grown potato out of the ground and washing it, with as much care as he took when he planted that, tiny seed. The potato , all natural, goes from farm to table and provides our families with all the nutrients needed, right? I'm sure when I say the word organic most of you don't image packaged items being shipped from other provinces and perhaps other countries, do you? 

Well, lets talk about that-because in saying all organic food is the same, we would be wrong.  


Welcome to a place for passion a podcast where York universities professional writing students explore the contributions their cities residents have made by making there passion projects comes true.  

Emily Harrison:  

Hi my name is Emily Harrison and in todays episode of A Place for Passion titled right around the corner we will be discussing the large umbrella that is the organic food industry.  

So when I say the word organic, what comes to mind? 

Anonymous Survey Answers:  

  1. Local.  

  1. That it doesn’t have GMOs in it. 

  1. Free Range Chickens. 

  1. Healthy. 

Emily Harrison: 

The very term organic is meant to make us think that it is healthier. Organic food can be defined as food produced without the use of chemicals such as pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Most organic vendors can gain a certification to prove the integrity of their product, but how valuable is this label? 

Corry Oulette 

Our farmers are bringing things that they grew and they grew using organic practices, whether or not they're certified.  

Emily Harrison: 

That was Cory Oulette, Cory is the general manager for the Soauren Farmers Market in Toronto Ontario. The Soauren farmers market is managed by West End Food Co-op , A non profit organization which started back in 2008. 

Corry Oulette: 

I was a volunteer during our first year and we are heading into our tenth. 

Emily Harrison:  

 The Co-op founded figures such as Ayal Dinner, Sally Miller as well as John Richmond- together along with many others, developed an idea to have a space to address different food justice issues by providing a community area to help support local organic and sustainable farmers (Westendfood.coop). 

Sustainable farmers are farmers that aim to keep the farm land viable for future generations. That means suspending the use of pesticides, cutting down the mass production of crops and giving humane living conditions for livestock. Sustainable farmers in avoiding the use of hazardous pesticides are able to not only make our food more organic, but are able to create safer working conditions for farmers. 

Corry Oulette: 

A lot of public education necessary to understand, why you wouldn’t want to use these things or why that they do.  

Emily Harrison: 

The very word Pesticide- means pest killer- cide coming from the Latin word cidium which means to kill. These chemicals are just that, chemicals-historically they have included arsenic and were mainly used for warfare around the 20th century (Arya, pg.89). 



Children are especially susceptible to pesticide infections through physical contact or through the accumulation in our food; In 2012 1,960 pesticide incidents were reported the Pest Management Regulatory Agency or PMRA (Health Canada).  

Pesticides can also find their way into our residential areas and drinking water. Almost all pesticides contain some level of toxicity within them. These toxins whether in natural pesticides or hazardous pesticides usually live in, water – and therefore can be found in our water systems (npic.orst.edu). 


Back in 2014 the global news did a journalistic piece on pesticide usage and the pesticides found in our water system. They quoted "According to Health Canada, “in areas where atrazine is used extensively, it (or its dealkylated metabolites) is one of the most frequently detected pesticides in surface and well water. Atrazine contamination has been reported in British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Ontario and Saskatchewan.”" (Vuchnich and Shochat). Atrazine is a herbicide and one of the most commonly used ones in North America. In 2004 the European Union banned it when they found ground water levels with exceeding limits of contamination. (Vuchnich and Shochat).  

Helpful bugs such as ladybugs and honey bees can also be killed off by pesticides. In fact that’s exactly what happened. In 2013 Canada experienced the effect of a pesticide chemically similar to nicotine called "Neonicotinoid" that killed off millions of honey bees. (Sarich, 2014) 


Then the answer seems simple right? Buy organic ! Well the process for organic food isn't so simple-  

Lets put this into a scene so that we can better understand the outcome. Mary wants to start and organic farm in her local area, first things first she needs to find a small stretch of land in the area that wont be affected by neighboring farms using pesticidal spray. Mary then needs to decide what she's farming, if its livestock she then needs to buy feed from another certified organic farm, if its vegetation she needs to find a way to fend off bugs without the use of chemicals. One bug could potentially wipe out her entire crop. Mary then needs to pay a fee of at least $400 and wait 15 months to transition her farm to meet the organic certification requirements. Without the use of pesticides, due to the several seasonal changes, most of her crop will be lost in cooler months and so she much wait for her prime seasons (mainly summer) to make the money to pay for her large farming needs-be that a renewal of her certification or expensive potentially distant feed for livestock. 

  You see all organic food, if it is to be sold as such, must have a provincial label that falls under the Canadian food inspection Agency (CFIA) and their regulations on organic productions. Under the branch there are 10 different vendors of these certificates, with different costs and contracts. Mary has chosen to be certified under to OCO or organic council of Ontario, costing her a minimum of $400 (Pro-Cert Organic) and 15 months without selling certified food (Organiccouncil.ca)- Most local farms usually do not have the money or time to spend on a temporary certificate that will need to be renewed-but others do.  

You see it turns out you don't need to farm in Ontario or even be a citizen to hold an Ontario certification- these certifications also apply to Europe and the USA-as long as you met the requirements (Pro-Cert Organic). 

So what's the problem with this? Well for one thing In other countries our government also has little to no say on wages.  

Most local organic farms strive to pay their workers living wages where as in other countries or even on other farms- this is not the case. 

Corry Oulette: 

So someone might say 'well I want to pay my staff the cost of living wage', which is not typical on a farm, but many sustainable farmers do-they are looking for ways to be paying properly. 

Emily Harrison: 

 A census from just October of this year in 2016 showed that on average farm workers made just $22.77 an hour- which is actually a 1.4% decrease from wages in the previous year (Statistics Canada). In Europe the wages range from one euro to 14 Euros (Argi-info.eu) which translates to about $1.43-$20.01 CAD, even though the cost of living in certain European countries is greater.  


So yes, both farms have to meet the requirements- but farms in places like Europe and The USA not only have obvious seasonal advantages, in which their crops could grow for longer periods of time during the year- but also possibly cost effective advantages, given that both the US dollar and the Euro are worth more than that of the Canadian dollar, while still wages are less. This puts our local economy in a stressful position and makes it harder for farmers like Mary to stay afloat, given the outsource of low wage jobs.  

 This kind of shatters the wholesome idea of farm to table doesn’t it? In a 2009 study in Manitoba Canada it was noted that "Unless food has been grown or produced locally it is usually transported, stored and/or processed before it reaches the consumer." (Trojack, 2) Traveling an average of 1500 to 2000 miles.(Kirschenmann, 2006) 

The ideal that your food is already decaying by the time it gets to you, also comes into play.   

The 2009 study also noted that in particular vitamin C is especially effected (Jones 2001), with some foods loosing 10% in just 24 hours of storage at 10 degrees Celsius 

Corry Oulette: 

The more we do support the smaller, sustainably producing farms then the healthier our planet is and the healthier that we are.  

Emily Harrison: 

Lets say a pepper was shipped to Canada from California in the USA it would take a few days- in those few days that pepper , although not bad, has already lost some nutritional value. The nutrients in food start to break down after being picked from their vines and roots, then lets say you keep that pepper on your table for another week, more nutrients is lost-Nutrients that are vital to your daily metabolic functions! (Trojack, 2009 & Jones, 2001) 

The best solution we have for this- local organic food markets.  

Local organic food markets not only contribute to the ideal of farm to table but decrease nutrient loss.  

Corry Oulette: 

You’re getting something that was generally harvested that morning or the day before-at our market hasn’t traveled longer than, two hours. 

Emily Harrison: 

Less time in transit means a better result for you! Farmers markets, like Soauren, open up a space for you to learn and have a conversation about your food. -If you have a question about pesticides or pesticidal use or farming methods- maybe even about the soil it was grown in-you can ask. At your local farmers market you can have a new kind of connection with your food- you don't have to wonder about the farm it came from or how long its probably been sitting on that shelf- anything you need to know, you can ask! What's in your food, on your food, grown around your food- Opportunities like this will give you the tools to make that conscience decision and that conscience purchase you know is good for your family.  

Corry Oulette: 

Its not just something that has been made in a factory and shipped somewhere, you're talking to the people that planted that seed, that grew that carrot,  that pulled that carrot, that bundled it, that brought it there... 


Emily Harrison: 

Local farmers markets create a strong sense of community and help to benefit our local economy. You know exactly who and what your money is going towards. 

Corry Oulette 

Its about forming these relationships over healthy food that’s really exciting. 

Emily Harrison: 

It all starts local, it all starts with you.- it starts by us making the choice to buy locally organic food. It supports our country and our local economy, its benefitting the environment and giving our bodies more accessibility to the nutrients needed. We are not saying you have to buy this all the time, but every little bit you can or do buy helps people you know, in big ways.  It helps the farmer, helps the city water supply stay pesticide free, helps the soil for neighboring farms or residential areas and helps your health.  

If you are still not convinced and want to see these farms for yourself, guess what? You can ask!-because its right around the corner. 

Corry Oulette 

As far as the whole food system becoming sustainable-its like a dream, that I have. It means that when we're supporting a local farmer who's growing, sustainably we're supporting our health system.  

Emily Harrison: 

Now the only question being, does this have to be a dream? 



From Scratch Media Production Outro plays. 




Agri-info.eu. “Wages and Labour Costs.” Agri-Info.eu, EFFAT / PECO-Institut E.V. , 2007, http://www.agri-info.eu/english/t_wages.php 


Arya, Neil. “Pesticides and Human Health: Why Public Health Officials Should Support a Ban on Non-Essential Residential Use.” Canadian Journal of Public Health / Revue Canadienne De Sante'e Publique, vol. 96, no. 2, 2005, pp. 89–92. www.jstor.org/stable/41994510. 


“Certification Bodies Accredited by the CFIA – in Canada.” Canadian Food Inspection Agency,Food Labelling and Claims Directorate, Government of Canada, 31 Mar. 2016, www.inspection.gc.ca/food/organic-products/certification-and-verification/certification-bodies/in-canada/eng/1327861534754/1327861629954. 


“Fee Schedules.” Pro-Cert Organic , Pro-Cert Organic Systems Ltd., 2013, pro-cert.org/en/certification/fee-schedule. (used all schedules as reference 


“Goals, Vision, Values.” West End Food Coop, West End Food Co-Op, 2016, westendfood.coop/goals-vision-values. 


Health Canada. “2012 Report on Pesticide Incidents.” Health Canada, Government of Canada, 2012, http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/cps-spc/pubs/pest/_corp-plan/incident_report-2014-rapport_incident/index-eng.php 


 Jones, A. (2001). Eating Oil: Food Supply in a Changing Climate. Sustain & Elm FarmResearch Centre. Retrieved October 3, 2008 from http://www.sustainweb.org/pdf/ eatoil_sumary.PDF.  


Kirschenmann, F.  (2006). Farming Food and Health. Gleanings: A Publication of Glynwood  Centre, Summer 2006, 1-5 (in conjunction with Leopold Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa State University).  


“Organic - Definition of Organic in English | Oxford Dictionaries.” Oxford Dictionaries, Oxford University Press, 2016, en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/organic.  


Oulette, Corry, and Emily Harrison. “Right Around the Corner.” 27 Oct. 2016. 


Sarich, Christina. "37 Million Bees Found Dead in Canada After Large GMO Crop Planting." Natural Society. Natural Society, 09 Nov. 2014. Web. 03 Nov. 2016. http://naturalsociety.com/37-million-bees-found-dead-canada-large-gmo-crop-planting/ 


Statistics Canada. “Average Hourly Wages of Employees by Selected Characteristics and Occupation, Unadjusted Data, by Province (Monthly) (Canada).” Statistics Canada, Government of Canada, 2 Dec. 2016, statcan.gc.ca/tables-tableaux/sum-som/l01/cst01/labr69a-eng.htm.  


Trojack, Jayne. “Health Impacts of Eating Locally: Nutrition and the 100 Mile Diet.” Food Matters Manitoba , Manitoba Food Charter INC, 2009, www.foodmattersmanitoba.ca/sites/default/files/Nutrition and the 100 Mile Diet Report (2).pdf . 


Vuchnich , Allison, and Gil Shochat. “Is There Atrazine in Your Drinking Water?” Global News, Shaw Media, 6 Apr. 2014, http://globalnews.ca/news/1248219/is-there-atrazine-in-your-drinking-water/ 


Recommended Readings 


Anonymous. “Atrazine.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 13 Nov. 2016, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atrazine.  


“What Is a Neonicotinoid? - Insects in the City.” Insects in the City, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, citybugs.tamu.edu/factsheets/ipm/what-is-a-neonicotinoid/.

The Canadian Dream

By Joshua Tibaldi

Imagine. Moving to a foreign country, having to immerse yourself and adapt to a completely new way of life. Having to forget your everyday routines and implement new ones. Trying to make it in a new country you have never been to for a better life. Not being familiar with the language and struggling to communicate. What I have just described to you is the act of immigration.

Every year, 260,000 immigrants move to Canada from all around the globe. Immigration is not as simple as packing up and getting on a plane, this process can take a very long time to complete. Waiting is the easy part, the real work begins when they step foot into the country of their new home. Immigration itself is not simple either, it is much more complex than it appears to be. There are many organizations set in place to to help these newcomers make a smooth transition to Canadian society that are not common knowledge.

Costi Immigration Services is a community based non-profit government-funded organization stationed in Vaughan ran by passion-driven individuals who aim to make a difference in the lives they touch. Founded in 1952 and operating from 17 locations across York region, peel and the greater Toronto area, Costi offers a wide variety of programs, including educational, social and employment services, to help all immigrants from every part of the world; specializing in language and skills training taught by qualified and encouraging teachers.

In this episode titled The Canadian Dream, I will be exploring the unheard of reality of immigration, the factors that cause people to immigrate, why to Canada, and how Costi helps with this difficult transition.

I was able to interview Ms. Josie Di Zio of Costi’s Vaughan branch. Ms. Di Zio is Costi’s senior director of planning and program development. She has been employed in settlement services for over 30 years at various organizations.

With permission, Vera Suppa will be reading a transcription of the interview.

“My personal experience compels me to help others”

Ms. Di Zio was an immigrant herself.

“I am a second generation Italian, I was born about 6 months after my parents arrived in Canada- me, my older sister, and my parents. They were peasant immigrants from Barroul, Central Italy and so they arrived extremely disadvantaged which we can now look back and comment on. They had little to no formal education of their own, of course didn't speak english. They had a farming background. We arrived in the 50's when the sentiment towards different immigrant groups in Canada was not as accepting as it has evolved to be at this point. I  personally felt the day I started school that I was different from others. Through my entire life I absorbed that feeling of being an outsider and found my own ways of compensating and coping with that. I noticed my parents issue was their absolute inability to handle what most parents handle in terms of managing their lives, primarily due to the language barrier. So like many immigrant children I became the manager of the family and went to banks with them and went to the doctors with them and did all of the things one has to do day to do and so I have a very personal connection to the typical immigrant experience from that time.”

After having gone through the difficult process of immigration herself, Ms. Di Zio has made it her mission to help people go through what she went through. Costi is filled with passionate individuals who have, just like herself, immigrated to Canada from their previous homes.

“Personal experience is a motivator. A lot of people have a similar experience I’m sure.”

As previously mentioned, Costi offers a variety of programs from both new and long standing immigrants to Toronto.

“We have everything from family and mental health support, english language training, specialized professional specific language training, one on one settlement services, helping people adapt and deal with day to day living, women's programs, entitlements, paying rent, opening a bank account, and all that kind of stuff. We basically have everything in house the person needs available to them”.

Every year, Costi provides services to over 40 000 immigrants.

“Were a big team we're over 400 staff now and we represent about 65 different languages and the proportion of people that speak more than one of these languages is very high. We are a very diverse and linguistically encompassing team and we look for that”

People choose to immigrate for millions of different reasons and combining factors.

“There are two basic answers. One is wanting to be with their family, siblings and parents might want to all live in the same place. Family reunification or unification is one driver. I think the bigger driver is economic possibilities in canada and also freedoms in canada. I do think they leave their country for a better life, a better life and a different life.”

Ajay Sharma is a global immigration and visa services consultant. In his article “The Top Reasons Why People Immigrate”, (available here) he explains other major reasons in addition to family reunification and a better life. People usually immigrate for a “financially secured future, higher standards of living, education, political reasons, and in the hopes to start a family movement” (2009).

So why do people choose Canada over all other countries in the world?

“What we hear a lot is that they choose canada as opposed to other places because we are absolutely seen and are the most welcoming to diversity that people are familiar with, and so that does attract them to come to our country opposed to other countries.”

We are not just welcoming to diversity, our government offers many different means to help out immigrants while they get settled down and various rights and freedoms they could not have had in their previous areas.

Suma Rao Professional Corporation is a Canadian Immigration Law Firm based in Toronto. There is a page on their website entitled “Why Immigrate to Canada?” (available here). They explain this is because Canada offers “successful migration with full family, free education and medical services, career opportunities in various sectors, eligible citizenship after three years, dual citizenships, government welfare benefits, various types of insurance” (2010), and more.

The United Nations has voted Canada as one of the best places in the world to live in terms of living standards.

Just because Canada is the most welcoming to diversity and there are benefits for immigrants, doesn’t mean that the process does not have problems. From a governmental perspective, Canada ensures immigrant success from all angles, but from a social aspect, it is a completely different story.

Immigrants face a majority of difficulties upon initial arrival to Canada.

“It depends on many different factors. Immigration today depending on which streams of entry into Canada, the demographics are quite different from each other and from historical situations.”

There are various streams of entry into Canada. According to the Government of Canada’s 2017 Immigration level plans (available here), there are four major immigrant classifications, each with various streams. The classes are “the economic class, which includes skilled workers and immigrants on express entry and more, the family class, the refugee and protected persons class and the humanitarian or other class” (2016). How an immigrant is classified plays a large role in their integration and the benefits they get from the government. The government is also planning for an extra 60 000 immigrants to arrive in Canada in 2017.

After being classified and moving to Canada, economic integration is one of the greatest difficulties for immigrants to overcome and in a timely manner.

Derek Hum and colleagues comments on the major issues surround successful economic integration in their academic journal article “Economic Integration to Canada” (available here). “What sets apart the experience of immigrants are additional factors such as lack of proficiency in at least one of Canada’s official languages, unfamiliarity with cultural practices in the Canadian workplace, thin employment networks, or lack of recognition of foreign credentials and professional experience by employers and unions. The potential for discrimination [in the workplace] is also always present. The list of factors goes on. The adjustment difficulties of immigrants may be temporary, erode slowly, or last a lifetime" (2014).

Canada takes in tens of thousands of skilled immigrants every year. Almost all of them are unable to be employed in the field they went to school for and previously based a career in.

“Things like how do you become economically integrated into the labour market in Canada is huge. Despite having very high credentials and very high experience in a certain field, how you attain that kind of employment in India or China is very different from how you attain that kind of employment in Canada.”

Regardless of going to school for a degree, almost all of the degrees immigrants obtained in their home country are discredited. They have an option to take an equivalency exam that tests their proficiency in their subject of study.

According to the Government of Canada (available here), “there are two types of occupations in Canada: regulated and non-regulated" (2016). Regulated careers involves an immigrant getting their credential assessment and recognition, which can take a very long time. Non-regulated involves stating education solely on a resume and does not require credential assessment or recognition.

According to a Statistics Canada journal titled “Recognition of Newcomers’ Foreign Credentials and Work Experience" (available here), “the higher the level of education, the greater the probability of credential recognition in Canada” (2016).

“How do I get a job in my profession is another big one. There are structural barriers in that because of our regulatory new systems in Canada. The famous one is probably the foreign trained engineer or the foreign trained physician who can't get a license in Canada for 25 years because of structural barriers.”

There are many structural barriers that stop immigrants from becoming qualified in their field of expertise, even if their degrees are accredited.

At a 2011 annual conference regarding the social economy, Noor Din presented her essay “Immigrants’ Sustainable Economic Integration in Canada through Social Enterprises” (available here). “There are structural constraints in Canadian economic planning which influence the professional choices of landed immigrants by impelling them into underpaid jobs and have not systematically encouraged their self-employment. The combination of these factors lead to economic isolation of immigrants, impedes their social integration and Canadian economy also suffered from immigrants’ underutilization” (2010).

Immigrants are essentially unable to find steady work in their previous areas of study and employment, thus they are forced into working for less than minimum wage just to get by.

“The barrier of employers and their attitudes or perspectives towards how certain immigrant populations might "fit", and i use fit with air quotes, into the canadian workplace.”

Costi aims to help immigrants surpass these barriers and help immigrants flourish in Toronto. They offer multiple language services, including free english language courses to help immigrants learn the language to secure a job as soon as possible. They also offer a variety of employment services to help immigrants get career opportunities. This includes career planning and assessment services, a service centre, a mentoring partnership, and more. Costi even provides many skills training services, mostly in the fields of learning the basics of Microsoft office and accounting to familiarize immigrants with the usual softwares used in businesses.

With organizations like Costi in place, some of the issues surrounding economic integration and finding work can be rectified. However, there are various issues surrounding social integration into Canadian society that cannot be completely fixed despite all efforts.

Social integration into any society as an outsider can be extremely tedious and difficult. The reality of the immigrant experience is that they can be exposed to many issues that go unheard of or never mentioned.

Immigrant and journalist Pat Spracklin explains other prominent issues immigrants face transitioning in her article “The Top Ten Problems Faced by Immigrants” (available here). In addition to the language barrier and economic integration, “housing, access to services, transportation issues, cultural differences, immigrating with children, isolation, and prejudice and racism” (2015) are also issues.

Housing is a big issue for immigrants coming into Canada who are not familiar with understanding English or French. It is difficult to attain knowledge about the housing market or to inquire about apartments or a house without being able to communicate in the dominant language.

Costi offers Housing Help Services for newcomers to Ontario. Their Housing Help Centre works one on one with individuals and families to assist them in securing affordable and safe housing. This is offered in efforts to help immigrants become independent and remove them from the shelter systems and providing them with day to day guaranteed housing.

Every country has different services offered to citizens and visitors. The services offered in Canada can vary significantly to that of a newcomers native country. Immigrants can have difficulty attaining health care, legal advice, access to transportation, social services, and more. Immigration services can also vary from country to country. In Canada, there are places for immigrants to turn but they are not well known. Immigrants come into the country unaware of organizations such as Costi and how they can help.

This results in newcomers not knowing where to turn. It leaves them in a heartbreaking situation. According to the Statistics Canada (available here), 54% of all immigrants live in poverty in 2006, and since the number has only been climbing (2007). The majority of immigrants in poverty are women and children.

There are many cultural differences in every corner of a city, yet alone a country. Many immigrants struggle with maintaining their cultures and traditions in a foreign area where everything is different.

“There is one story about a seventeen year old south Asian girl who was experiencing a lot of difficulty reconciling her traditional family values to the Canadian context. She was becoming increasingly distraught because she wasn't finding an easy way out and had become depressed and was not performing well in school or elsewhere. We employ people from every culture possible in Canada and through discussions with them she was able to cope with her situation. She was a very bright and capable young woman and came as a volunteer to one of our centres. Through her experiences and interaction with the people that work at Costi as well as clients and seeing our counsellor she was able to overcome her setbacks.”

This is just one example of the hundreds of thousand individuals Costi has helped in Toronto. Costi helps youth just like this teen everyday. They offer various children and youth programs including art therapy, job connections, mentorship and settlement services to help all immigrant children equally despite any physical barriers.

Costi emphasized these youth programs and their women's programs.

“We've got specialized women's programs to help women adjust to the cultural and economic environment they are moving into, for it is quite different. We have youth programs that attract youth through youth friendly activities, such as sports recreation, to avoid isolation. Youth are especially vulnerable and aren't always easily integrated, sometimes they are, sometimes they are not, and there is a risk factor involved with that.”

Immigration has the largest impact on youth.

Zheng Wu and colleagues propose that “children of immigrants struggle more with discrimination than their parents do” and that “immigrants and their children face the challenge of fitting together different identities (available here) (2010).

It is very easy for immigrant youth to become isolated in a society that deems the unfamiliar and outsider. Immigrant youth are also extremely susceptible to losing their cultural values because they are young and can be easily assimilated by Canadian society.

Prejudice and racism are extremely important issues regarding immigration that continuously occurs every day. The Canadian government has put forth much effort to stop these events by implementing various laws and charges that grant jail time and a record to offenders. Traditional minded individuals who cannot get past their self-convinced culture's superiority exist everywhere. There will always be people who look at someone of a different race in a certain way and talks to them as if they are not accepted because of their skin colour.

“I finally entered university as a mature student at the age of 22 when I decided and realized I was smart enough to go to university. That can be  a part of the whole immigrant experience as well.”

Ms. Di Zio encountered issues like this when she first came to Canada and still does occasionally today. She felt that the society of her peers had deemed her inferior because of her origins and struggled internally to realize that she is just as worthy and intelligent as her Canadian born peers. The world is a cruel place and it is difficult enough for immigrants to successfully integrate into society, why try to make it harder?

These occurrences lead to very serious issues.

Frank Trovato’s academic journal article “Migration and Survival: The Mortality Experience of Immigrants in Canada”, he explains why and how there can be high immigrant suicide rates (available here). “There are high rates of Immigrant suicide because of the stresses associated with settlement in a new land. If immigration is a stressful experience, immigrant groups will have a higher suicide rates" (2003).

According to statistics Canada, every year about 3500 Canadians commit suicide, roughly 550 of which are immigrants (available here) (2003).

There will always be negative stigma towards immigrants. Some people wholeheartedly welcome immigrants and want them to succeed whereas other people can easily be racism or make rude remarks.

Newcomers are helped every day at Costi with issues just like these that vary in severity.

“We also do public policy input where we get various opportunities to provide information and advice to the government and policy makers.”

Costi regularly makes suggestions to the government as to how immigrant issues can be rectified. Despite their best efforts, there still are and will always be negative social stigma surrounding immigrants. There is only so much an organization can do. The rest is up to us.

There will always be people who are racist and prejudice towards others who are not the same race, whether they are immigrants or Canadian-born citizens.



Houle R. and Yssaad L. Recognition of Newcomers' Foreign Credentialsand Work Experiance. (September 2010). Statistics Canada. Retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/75-001-x/2010109/article/11342-eng.htm#a2

Hum, D. and Simpson, W. Economic Integration of Immigrants to Canada: A Short Survey. (July 2014). Canadian Journal of Urban Research. Retrieved from https://books.google.ca/books?id=ggAyL97SL6EC&pg=PA46&lpg=PA46&dq=hum+and+simpson+canadian+journal+of+urban+research+a+short+survey&source=bl&ots=Ejp8Z2o_BG&sig=5yBsIHS1CRLsv5Vs5-D4rtLgmGU&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjLmdylhePQAhUYzGMKHb-uDawQ6AEIHjAA#v=onepage&q=hum%20and%20simpson%20canadian%20journal%20of%20urban%20research%20a%20short%20survey&f=false

Malenfent, E. Suicide in Canada's Immigrant Populations. (March 2004). Statistics Canada. Retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-003-x/2003002/article/6807-eng.pdf

Noor Din. Immigrants' Sustainable Economic Integration in Canada through Social Enterprises. (June 2010). http://www.humanendeavour.org/knowledge/A5_Din_ANSER_paper_06012011_v1.2.pdf?lbisphpreq=1

Rao, S. Why Immigrate to Canada? (October 2010). Immigration Point. Retrieved from http://www.immigrationpoint.ca/why_canada.htm

Sharma, A. The Top Reasons Why People Immigrate. (July 2009). Immigration.net. Retrieved from http://www.immigration.net.in/2009/07/09/top-seven-reasons-why-people-immigrate/.

Spracklin, P. The Top Ten Problems Faced by Immigrants. (July 2015). Retrieved from http://www.immigroup.com/news/top-10-problems-immigrants

Trovato, F. Migration and Survival: The Mortality Experiance of Immigrants in Canada. (August 2003). Retrieved from https://sites.ualberta.ca/~pcerii/Virtual%20Library/FinalReports/Migration%20and%20Survival%20-%20Part%201.pdf

Unspecified. How do I get my Skills Recognized? (October 2016). Government of Canada Job Bank. Retrieved from https://www.jobbank.gc.ca/content_pieces-eng.do?cid=223

Unspecified. Key Highlights 2017 Immigration Levels Plan. (October 2016). Government of Canada. Retrieved from http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?nid=1145319

Unspecified. Snapshot of Racialized Poverty in Canada. (August 2013). Government of Canada. Retrieved from http://www.esdc.gc.ca/eng/communities/reports/poverty_profile/snapshot.shtml

Wu, Z. Schimmele C. and Hou, F. Social Integration of Immigrants and their Children. (September 2010). Canada's Urban Neighbourhoods. Retrieved from http://mbc.metropolis.net/assets/uploads/files/wp/2010/WP10-10.pdf



I would like to thank Ms. Josie Di Zio for her support throughout this process and the entire Costi team. What you guys do greatly impacts Toronto and Canada as a whole. Thank you for dedicating your lives to positively impact others and the community. 

I would also like to thank Dunja Baos for her endless support and encouragement over the past several months, Dr. Stephanie Bell for introducing me to the realm of podcasting and Vera Suppa.

Their Body Their Choice

By: Menahil Nauman

The government recently passed a law prohibiting the distribution of sex work. This backfired though, as the ones opposed to it, are the workers themselves


Passion Projects Intro

Person 1: So if you’ve got any form of social media these days, whether it be Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Tumblr, you’ll see this sort of trend that’s become popular in recent years


Person 2: It’s this, basically, emergence of feminism that’s, in my opinion, this new wave on the rise, of young women really trying to empower themselves


Person 1: It’s really quite heartwarming, you know, to me as a girl, to see all these other girls trying to make themselves feel powerful and better about themselves


Person 2: Yeah, it’s become popular over the past two to three years, girls claiming their sexualities, letting themselves wear whatever they want, posting whatever photos they want without worrying about what other people are going to say, becoming more confident in everything they do. You know, recently, celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Kendall Jenner, Rihanna, and Miley Cyrus have actively part of the “free-the-nipple” campaign, where they’ll go out or post photos of them baring all, in order to protest the censorship laws against women’s bodies.


Person 1: Yeah it’s been pretty controversial in terms of social norms.  A lot of people are against it, saying it’s inappropriate, while others are totally for it, 100% down for women claiming their own bodies.


Person 2: Girls have really been trying hard to accept themselves in every shape and form, trying to be inclusive towards other women from all backgrounds. There’s been this great rise of acceptance, not just in what’s been coined as “white feminism” but feminism pertaining to women of colour, equal rights for disables females, and lgbtq people, including trans women.


Person 1: This is huge, this surge of empowerment that’s taking place, creating safe spaces for women to advocate for themselves


Person 2: Unfortunately, though, there still seems to be a divide between women, over what’s considered “acceptable” to fight for, like there’s some form of a moral standard that a certain cause has to meet, and if it fails to do so, well then it’s not worth fighting for. Like I’ve heard a lot of so-called “feminists” criticize women for their clothing, in the name of feminism. They’ll call out a woman for dressing a certain way, saying the woman’s oppressing herself, oppressing females everywhere, calling it “un-feminist” for her to dress in that way or another, and saying the exact same thing on the other end of the spectrum.


Person 1: That mindset, that way of dictating what other women dress like, in order to make yourself feel better, in a way that makes you feel all high and mighty about your own choices, insinuates that there’s a very narrow, very specific way of acting, for it to be acceptable as “feminism”

Person 2: You know; this sounds a lot like the very thing you’re trying to fight. These people sound just as misogynistic as the men you’re trying to fight. You know people like president elect, Donald Trump, who claim to respect women, have a very narrow definition of what women they feel the need to empower. Their definition only really includes those in upper class families with so-called “respectable” jobs.


Person 1: It’s sad really, that despite this surge of empowerment coming through, people still want to control what women do with their bodies.


Person 2: Yeah a good example of this is like, a couple years ago, the federal government passed a law, Bill C-36, that prohibits the distribution of sex work. This was an attempt to control the profession and keep those workers involved safe, prevent health risks, and all that you know? It was done with good intentions. The objectives of the bill were to protect those who sell their own sexual services, protect communities from the harms of prostitution, and reduce the demand for it as a whole. They thought they were helping the workers out, in order to prevent them from falling into harm’s way while on the job.


Person 1: Yeah, unfortunately, the government didn’t discuss this with the women who actually do this for a living, so suddenly having the government take away your right to choose what to do with your body, caused quite an uproar.


Person 2: The plan totally backfired though, because instead of stopping sex work as whole, it just drove the profession underground, making the job that much more of a safety hazard. Now there’s less regulations, and although that sounds like less of a problem, it actually causes the work to be less hygienic, jeopardizing the worker’s lives.


Person 1: Yeah, but there’s this organization, called Maggie’s Toronto, a social activist group for sex workers, that’s been working towards being the voice for sex workers.


Person 2: yeah, they’ve been working fighting for their own rights, wanting to reclaim their right to choose. They’re not victims of anything, they just want their freedom back. In a quick conversation with a representative from a Maggie’s employee, “they don’t condone sex work, they validate it.” It is a real job and deserves recognition. According to their website, their mission is to assist sex workers in their efforts to live and work with safety and dignity. They are based on the belief that in order to improve their circumstances, they must control own lives and dignities. They want to provide education, advocacy, and support to assist workers in Toronto. They want the right to be working independently, collectively, or for a third party; they, as humans, deserve the right to occupational health and safety.


Person 1: Yeah, there’s quite a few workers who enjoy being in the profession, who do what they do willingly. They want to do what they do.


Person 2: Maggie’s has been working for years in order to give sex workers the same rights that any other woman in any other profession. They’re humans just like the rest of us, shouldn’t that be enough? They work hard to ensure the safety of sex workers due to the stigmatization of sex work and the criminalization of the profession. The workers go through all kind of clients, but not all of them are as creepy and disgusting as the media portrays them to be. It’s really quite normal, nothing downright shocking. It’s important not to let past judgements come into play when discussing this.  Sex work isn’t the same human trafficiking. Sex work is consensual, whereas trafficking is forced human labour. Additonally, by empowering sex workers, activists can prevent the amount of human trafficking taking place, even in developed cities such as Toronto. All these anti-trafficking laws and policies lead to further criminalization, harassment, and violence. Maggie’s is trying hard to reverse this abuse and support effective methods of solutions to the problems at hand. Sex workers are a solution.


Person 1: yeah, in all honesty, this criminalization of the profession is what’s led to all this controversy. Any prejudice against the profession has led to prohibition of it, which has only caused the work to go under the radar.


Person 2: We conducted a survey, asking the general public what they thought about the whole ordeal. You know, despite the controversy around the whole topic, majority of the voters, who’ll remain anonymous for the sake of privacy, voted that sex workers should, in fact, be in charge of their own jobs.  We’ve asked them about who THEY thought should be in charge of the legalization of sex work, and majority of the voters once again said that sex workers are the ones who should be considered when discussing the legality of their profession.


Person 1: A lot of the voters stated the bill should be reconsidered as a whole, changed so it doesn’t backfire on the population. In all honesty, the sex workers are the ones who should be in charge of their own jobs, their own bodies, their own lives. And that will only start with the decriminalization of their jobs.


Person 2: yeah the first step is to stop the stigma. It’s a real profession and should be considered as such. Maggie’s has been working hard for years in order to follow through with this, trying to repeal the bill.


Person 2: Maggie’s wants your help, Toronto. A big portion of the population relies on this job as their only source of income. For young women, trans women, and people with low-income families, this is the best option they have. Maggie’s wants to work towards a better standard for the work they do.Get involved with them, start spreading awareness of this problem. These workers don’t need sympathy, they need activism. And by activism, I mean women getting involved with this cause, going out and protesting. Ladies, it’s a part of our constitution is our freedom to peaceful assembly and expression. The only way ANYONE will get anything done is by being united.


Person 1: Yeah, and this should start with the feminists themselves. If you consider yourself a feminist, you should be fighting for the rights of ALL women, not just the ones that you believe fit the standard. Your feminism should be intersectional and include all women. If feminism is based on the idea of pro-choice, then you should allow these women to choose for themselves. In my eyes, if your idea of feminism doesn’t include “sluts,” sex workers, anyone who works in the porn industry, any woman who dresses provocatively and even anyone who chooses to cover themselves up. The underdog in this situation are surprisingly those women who are being considered oppressed because they wear a hijab or cover up, when you think about it they are just like the sex workers: Stigmatized and being judged just like sex workers just because YOU think you’re better than them or what you believe is better FOR them doesn't mean you are necessarily right, then news-flash; you’re just as sexist as the men who think women belong in the kitchen. Or the ones who think women are just good for spreading their legs

Works Cited:


  1. Bill-C36
  2. Maggie's
  3. Flare Magazine