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June 2016

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Minister steps down to help Ontario make gender parity pledge

A cabinet shuffle is on its way, and a certain Ontario MPP is standing aside to make room for a more gender-diverse leadership.

Ted McMeekin, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, announced Monday that he will be stepping down from his position to make room for more women in the cabinet.

“I have three daughters, all confident and accomplished young women. With my wonderful wife, they are the joy of my life. Thinking of them, I’ve often dreamed of a day when the question of gender parity wouldn’t even arise, because it would just be taken for granted,” McMeekin wrote on his Facebook.

“But sometimes the best way for a man to advance the equality of women may be to step back and make room at the table. For me, this is such a time.”

While this may seem like a noble gesture, it’s likely that Minister McMeekin already knew there were a number of incredibly talented and well-credentialed women ready to take his place in the upcoming cabinet shuffle. It has long been rumoured that a cabinet shuffle will be announced after the legislature breaks for the summer (which is said to occur on Thursday), and it’s entirely plausible that MPPs were already given their notice. I doubt the Premier would have allowed him to say it if she didn’t know for certain the new Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing was going to be a woman.

Despite his good intentions, McMeekin has put himself in a strange position. It’s true that more positions of power should be opened up to women, but it’s a bit condescending for a man to say he stepped down to allow it. By phrasing it this way, it becomes less of an accomplishment for women, and more of a logistical issue to be rectified.

The provincial government has been under pressure to even out their cabinet after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau insisted on a federal cabinet consisting of equal parts women and men. “Because it’s 2016,” he said in a mic-dropping speech after the announcement. This will be a greater challenge for the Ontario cabinet, which currently consists of eight women (including the Premier) and 19 men.

McMeekin’s announcement came the day before the Ontario government announced a target to help reduce the gender gap that exists within government agencies. By 2019, Ontario wants women to make up at least 40 per cent of all appointments to every provincial board and agency. A lofty, but not impossible, goal.

“Ontario is also encouraging businesses to, by the end of 2017, set a target of appointing 30 per cent women to their boards of directors. Once businesses set the target, they should aim to achieve it within three to five years,” a press release stated.

Wynne made the announcement in the presence of representatives from Catalyst Canada and UN Women, the United Nations organization dedicated to gender equality, at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management Tuesday morning.

Is a gender-inclusive national anthem on the way?

Do you think the Canadian national anthem is a bit patriarchal and sexist? Well, so does Liberal MP Mauril Belanger, who back in January introduced a private members bill to change a few of the words to make it gender neutral.

The bill (Bill C-270) has been discussed in the House of Commons over the last few months and is inciting much more controversy than originally expected. If passed, this legislation would change one line in the Canadian anthem from “true patriot love in all thy sons command” to “true patriot love in all of us command.”

The official opposition is arguing that the national anthem is part of Canada’s heritage and shouldn’t be altered. At the same time, the Liberals are arguing that not only will this change more accurately represent the inclusive country Canada has become, but it will also be closer to the original wording of the anthem. The phrase “in all they sons command” was inserted into the anthem in 1913. The original English wording was “thou dost in us command.”

“Many believe the change was related to events leading up to the First World War. It was perhaps assumed that in any major conflict it would only be young men who would carry our national banner and pride into battle, but in fact, both men and women from Canada proudly took part in the First World War. Canadian women served overseas, not as soldiers but in other functions, especially as nurses, and many died doing so. We have commemorated them in Parliament’s Hall of Honour but we have not commemorated them in our anthem,” Belanger said in the House.

This is probably the last bill MP Belanger will be presenting to the House of Commons — he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as ALS). Belanger tried to pass a similar bill during the last Parliament session, but it was defeated. It will now head into its second reading.

As a former history major, I have no problem changing this one particular section of our national anthem. It doesn’t alter the meaning of the phrase. It just removes a religious and patriarchal reference that was commonplace in that time period and is no longer relevant. If the Liberal government suddenly decided to change more symbolic words like “our home and native land”, then that would be a different story. As it is, it’s just a simple attempt at updating our national anthem for this century.

At the same time, I don’t think women are incredibly concerned with the words to the national anthem. I also think there are better ways of making women feel more “included”, like closing the wage gap and lowering the cost of birth control. But, I guess changing the words to the national anthem is a lot easier than the latter.

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What’s the true cost of birth control in Ontario?

Women are forced to pay for birth control, feminine hygiene products and take responsibility for their fertility in a way that men are not. As a country that purports democracy and equality, steps need to be taken to ensure women aren’t forced to pay for much-needed products.

Birth control in Canada is expensive and cuts deep into the pockets of young women already trying to make ends meet. Without insurance, birth control has an added cost and women are expected to fork out the cash. One third of women in North America have reported struggling to pay for birth control at one point in their lives.By providing it for a cost in Canada, it questions whether protecting yourself is actually a right of women or is it instead a cash cow for greedy pharmaceutical companies who are actively taking advantage of women.

Birth control is universally covered in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and China, among other countries. Canada does not offer birth control for free or subsidized without insurance coverage, and this limits accessibility for women looking for different options.

 

After comparing prices at three different pharmacies in Toronto, the average prices for the five main types of birth control are astronomical. Mirena, a hormonal IUD offered by Bayer who is one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in Canada, has an average cost of $416. Though it lasts for five years, finding this type of money as a young woman is unrealistic and often prevents women from accessing this option.  The Nuva ring is the second most expensive option because it must be bought monthly. It is approximately $31 per month and this cost adds up quickly throughout the year to $328. Though oral birth control appears affordable month to month at $20, it adds up to $240 per year making it the third most costly option.

Women who are low-income have alternative options to seek cost-free birth control, but the availability is certainly limited. There are 14 sexual health clinics in Toronto, most with extremely limited drop-in hours. These clinics will help provide low-to-no cost birth control to women who need it, but these clinics have long waitlists and are drop-in only. Oftentimes, these clinics are so busy that there will be over 20 people waiting at the door prior to its opening.

Other options include Family Planning, which offers certain birth control options free and charges a discounted price for others. The IUD is discounted, but still has a price tag on it. If you are looking for an IUD as well, you must phone at the beginning of the month to schedule an appointment that will be at least three weeks later. The other option is the Bay Street Centre for Birth Control, but book quickly. The waitlist to book an appointment at the centre was three months long.

It is clear that Canada has is an issue when it comes to birth control. The act of charging women to protect themselves from getting pregnant is arguably discrimination.  Canada needs to join the other countries that have moved to universally cover the costs of birth control, and grant access for women of all incomes to different types of protection. Only then will I say that Canada is a country that truly supports the rights of women.

 

Moving in the summer: how to do it right

Moving in the summer can be very hot and sweaty, but sadly it is the most popular time to change homes because the weather is nice — no one wants to move in the snow, right!? With proper planning, patience and a good attitude, moving can go from being a gruelling experience to a fun adventure to your new house. And Women’s Post is here to help you out with these easy tips.

The first thing you need to do is to plan how you are going to move your belongings from one residence to another. If you are moving cities, renting a truck and finding a driver is ideal. Don’t forget to compare rates of rentals ahead of times to save on costs. If you have fewer belongings and are moving a short distance, try asking a friend to borrow a car or a truck for the day instead. Don’t forget to be nice and pay for gas!

Once you have figured out how to get your furniture and knick-knacks from one home to another, the next step is to transfer services to your new residence. Call Canada Post and organize a mail forward date to your new home. Also, call your utility provider — Internet, cable, and hydro — to notify them of your move so that you aren’t paying bills for your house’s next tenants. If you are moving out of the city, ensure your Internet provider is offered in your new destination. Being without Internet in a new home is a pain and is easier when taken care of before moving day.

The next step is to make the ultimate packing kit of the century, which must include packing boxes and buckets, packing tape, markers, coloured labels, and scissors (or an x-acto knife). To make your move slightly more green, invest in recyclable containers that can be re-used after the move at your new home. Use dresser drawers as packing space instead of emptying them. It is a space saver in the moving truck and helps reduce the amount of boxes or buckets needed.

When you begin packing, remember to have towels and linens on hand to protect fragile items. Don’t forget to label each box of else you will have to go through every box to find your favourite mug (label: kitchenware). Organize boxes into different areas so that the movers (or your friends) will have an easier time loading belongings into the truck. Using colour-coded labels is an easy way to make sure each box goes to the right area in the house.

On moving day, leave out tools and allen keys to deconstruct furniture. Also have tape and ziplock bags on hand to attach the relevant tools and screws to the piece of furniture — no one wants an Ikea moment (I’m sure it’s fine with only four screws…). Load heavy pieces first while the moving crew has more stamina and then load the lighter boxes when everyone is beginning to grow tired and there is less room in the truck. Finally, purge any unwanted items. Moving is a great way to get rid of any extra crap in your home.

Most importantly — and DO NOT forget this — provide cold refreshments and a thank-you pizza and beer for your friends and movers. It is hot and heavy work, and no one will help you again if you aren’t courteous about their efforts. Other than that, enjoy your new digs and happy unpacking!

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Toronto is redefining local free trade through Bunz

Free trade is taking on a whole new meaning in Toronto, with new community groups popping up like the ever-popular Bunz and the Toronto Tool Library. Trading and lending items without an exchange of dollars is growing in popularity in a city where everything costs money. Why are these groups coming out of the proverbial woodwork of online social forums such as Facebook and new trading apps? Why now?

Frankly, the millennial generation is pissed off. They are entering the job market after spending thousands on university degrees with no prospect of employment in sight. If you want to forward yourself in a career, you need to live in proximity to the few jobs there are. These locations typically have inflated rents and low availability. Either that, or you are living with your parents far past the ripe age of 18 and making an excruciatingly long commute downtown because there is no other option.

Enter Bunz. This trading group was originally launched by millennial Emily Bitze in 2013 when she couldn’t afford ingredients for pasta and appealed to her Facebook community, sparking the idea for the online forum. It began as a secret society of like-minded folk who would trade items without using money, commonly using TTC tokens and tall cans of beer as collateral. Quickly though, Bunz grew into a massive online community of people living in Toronto looking to save money by participating in trades. Bunz now has an online Facebook presence of 46,000 people and a private app was launched just last year.

Bunz is much more than a business. It is a cultural symbol of change. The online trading forum of people in search of (ISO) needed items in exchange for others represents the need to stop buying and start sharing. The consumerist approach to wealth is shrivelling up as people move away from the post-World-War-Two desire to own items. Instead, it is time to begin understanding the true source of power and wealth in any given city; shared community.

In a way, having no money brings the truest sense of wealth in the Bunz community. When you participate in a trade, you will often come out with a new item you needed and a friendship resulting from sharing goods. People often use the Bunz page to post about having a bad day, or if they have lost their keys. The result is the group banning together to help those people in need — and keys are found almost every time. That feeling of being cared for by complete strangers simply because you had the guts to reach out in a healthy way is worth more than 10 unaffordable coach bags.

Toronto is a bustling city centre and people are constantly moving into “the Big Smoke” with little more on them other than their bags and big city dreams. It can be quite lonely and expensive to move into Toronto when you don’t know anyone. Bunz provides a forum to make friends and obtain much needed-items for settling in. It gives new arrivals a sense of community and immediately rejects the notion that Toronto is “a big cold city”.

Lending libraries have popped up too, including the Toronto Tool Library and the Toronto Seed Library. You can borrow tools without having to purchase them and you can also participate in workshops. The Toronto Seed Library allows people to borrow seeds and return them after the season ends, which promotes local growing on a budget. Lending libraries are truly sustainable entities, helping balance the bank account and save the planet in one go.

So, what if we could take this movement and make Toronto the trade capital in North America? There have been whispers of the possibility of a mall completely dedicated to lending libraries and trade zones. It is a magnificent notion — to go to the mall and not drop hundreds on pointless items. Instead, you can walk out with exactly what you need in that moment.

Bunz and lending libraries are the beginning of a great movement into a hopeful future of consumerism. As a millennial, I’m proud to be a part of it. Are you?

Alberta gender identity and expression guidelines debated

Transgender rights has been a popular topic in the media, as federal and provincial governments move to include gender identity and transgendered rights in legislation. Newly-NDP Alberta, led by Rachel Notley, joined the progressive movement by providing guidelines for schools about respecting and protecting transgendered students.

But, it’s been a challenge to get everyone on board. Protests erupted mid-May in Edmonton between transgender supporters and groups such as Parents for Choice in Education, trying to contravene transgendered rights in schools and the subsequent bill —Bill 10 —that allowed students to form gay-straight alliances in schools. This bill led the way for guidelines that were provided by the NDP government in January, which will be used as a benchmark for school boards to adopt and enforce in their respective schools.

Guidelines for Best Practices: Creating Equality for Gender Identities includes criteria to help schools navigate respectful treatment of transgendered students. Guidelines include respecting an individual’s right to self-identification, minimizing gender-segregated activities, providing safe access to washroom and change-room facilities, and responding appropriately to bullying behaviour.

Backlash of the new guidelines has mostly been centered on the issue of non-gendered washrooms in schools. Parents are concerned they are not being given the democratic choice to do what is best for their kids and there is anxiety around children with different sexual anatomy being in the same washroom. There has been backlash from the Catholic School Board, with Roman Catholic Bishop, Fred Henry denouncing the guidelines as anti-Catholic and the government as “totalitarian” for trying to impose them.

Trans Equality Society of Alberta (TESA), a non-profit advocacy group on behalf of transgender rights, is spearheaded by long-time activist, Jan Buterman. Buterman said he was not surprised by the backlash, but the protests and the intense comments are a new development. “We have been doing this type of advocacy for a long time and this type of pushback is new,” said Buterman. “This is parallel to the type of protests you see in Ontario with the changes in curriculum.”

This is not the first time that Buterman has seen transphobia in the school system. In 2008, he was fired by the Catholic school board for transitioning, and is still in a legal battle fighting the decision. Buterman’s mistreatment in the system led to forming the advocacy group Trans Equality Society of Alberta. Because of his drawn-out court battle and refusal to back down, Buterman has become one of the public figures of trans-advocacy and was even asked to look over the Albertan guidelines prior to their public release to schools.

Buterman said the guidelines were a move in the right direction, but there were key issues surrounding name documentation that were not dealt with. “The guidelines indicate [the students] would still use the name given on the birth certificate.” he said. “It is actually inappropriate that kids are being held to a standard that adults are not. The guidelines were a good idea in principal, but there were gaps and that gap specifically was staggering.” Children can choose to be called a different name under the new guidelines, but the name given on their birth certificate will remain as their official documentation in the school system.

Both supporters and dissidents have expressed issues with the guidelines, highlighting how difficult change can be to implement when it comes to gender identity. Recently, the federal government has joined the movement to include trans rights in legislation, which protect the legal and human rights of transgendered people in Canada.

It is clear that Canada is moving in the direction of protecting trans people and their rights, but some provinces are having more difficulties than others. It is about time that appropriate protection for this prevalent and vibrant community in the country is recognized and respected — and it’s unfortunate that so many people have a problem with it. Overall, trans-inclusivity in schools is a step in the right direction because it teaches a new generation that transitioning is normal and acceptable. Gender identity and expression are choices and provinces like Ontario and Alberta have led the way to promoting a more inclusive and accepting Canadian society.

Hon. Minister Glen Murray deserves the spotlight

It seems like every week a new headline relating to climate change is gracing the front pages of the news.  Whether it’s the unruly weather or the destruction of a natural habitat, it seems like climate change is on everyone’s mind.

The Ontario government has made a number of promises to invest in green retrofits, electric vehicles, and renewable energy, and for that, Women’s Post salutes them. It’s impossible not to see the negative effects climate change is having on this planet, and it’s time for Canada, especially Ontario, to take action.

But all of these changes would not be possible without the leadership of one man — the Honourable Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Glen Murray.

Minister Murray is enthusiastic, driven, and level-headed — something all politicians can’t claim. His extensive political career began in Winnipeg, where he acted as city councillor before becoming Mayor in 1998. It’s worth mentioning that he was the first openly-gay mayor of a large city in North America, which was a big deal at the time.

After moving to Toronto in 2010, he was elected into the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Since then, he has held the position of Minister of Research and Innovation, Minister of Training, Colleges, and Universities, Minister of Transportation, Minister of Infrastructure, and finally Minister of the Environment and Climate Change.

Minister Murray has thrived in each of these positions and has incorporated the sustainable practices he has learnt throughout his political career to push through impressive legislation. The minister was instrumental in the creation and adoption of the cap-and-trade regulations that passed through the legislature in mid-May. The policy will place a cap on carbon emissions and allow companies to sell or trade unused credits for profit. This will ultimately reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emitted from high-polluting industries. The government will be auctioning off a number of credits to companies that may have a hard time adjusting to the cap. In 2017, emission allowances are 142,332,000 tones, which will decrease over four years to 124,668,000 in 2020.

The program will take effect on July 1.

“Climate change is one of the biggest threats facing humanity today,” Murray said after the cap-and-trade policy was revealed. “Ontario is doing its part to reduce harmful greenhouse gas pollution by putting in place a cap and trade program to limit emissions and invest in the kind of innovative solutions that will give our kids and grandkids the sustainable and prosperous legacy they deserve.”

Through the cap-and-trade regulations, Minister Murray has ensured $1.9 billion in additional revenue for the provincial government. This funding will be used to support future green initiatives.

In the next few weeks Murray will unveil the provincial government’s ultimate climate change plan, which promises to help Ontario households and businesses adopt low- and no-carbon energy in homes and the workplace. It also puts an emphasis on incentives for electric vehicles and charging stations. The climate change strategy is said to cost an average household about $13 a month, but is meant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020.

And these are only a few of Minister Glen Murray’s accomplishments, just from the past year!

Later this month, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is expected to do a major cabinet shuffle — and all Women’s Post can do is hope that Minister Murray is given the opportunity to expand on his vision. He has spearheaded a number of environmentally friendly and revenue building policies over the last year. What is needed now is the strength, determination, and tenacity to implement them — and Minister Murray has that in spades.

If Ontario wants to prove that it is serious about fighting climate change and reducing greenhouse emissions, Minister Murray has proven his ability to steer this through. The political arena doesn’t support a rising star and we can only hope his cabinet supports him to carry out his role as Minister of the Environment and Climate Change. His consistent hard work, determination, and refusal to back down under pressure from private industries makes him the ideal candidate for the position.

Top 5 Pride events in the next two weeks

Pride has arrived and it is time to celebrate Toronto’s 1st annual pride month, beginning on June 1 and continuing until July 3. Events will be happening all across the city to celebrate the beginning of a amazing tradition! The problem? There are so many events it’s difficult to decide which ones to attend! Don’t worry though, Women’s Post has you covered.  Here are the best of the best for the first two weeks of Pride.

Pride Flag Raising Ceremony

The Pride Flag Raising Ceremony marks the official start of Pride Month. It will take place on Wednesday, June 1 from 9 to 11 a.m at Queen’s Park. Premier, Kathleen Wynne and Mayor John Tory will be present with other honourable guests to help hoist the pride flag. The event is free and not one to miss!

Pride Month Launch Party: At the AGO

The AGO is hosting a launch party for Pride on June 2 from 7 to 11:30 p.m to celebrate the beginning of Pride. Toronto artist Bruce LaBruce, known for his acting, and film-making of underground gay pornography, has invited four of his favourite queer performers that includes performance artist Ron Athey, artist Narcissister, musician No Bra and queer musician and artist Gio Black Peter. The party also includes art-making activities, pop-up exhibitions, and thematic food from Night Market. Advance tickets are $13 and jump to $16 at the door. Get your tickets quickly, they are set to sell out before the event.

1st Annual Family Pride Day at Centreville

Centreville Theme Park is hosting its 1st annual Family Pride Day at Toronto’s Centre Island on June 5 from 10:30 a.m to 8 p.m. The venue is a popular destination for families and is set to be a fun-filled day for families looking to celebrate Pride. The amusement park and farm admission will be free, but ride tickets are an extra cost. Buy ahead of time using the promo code “Pride2016” and receive a discount on ride tickets as well.  This all ages event is a way to celebrate pride in a family friendly way and teaches kids how fun Pride month is.

Human Rights Panel: Bathhouse Raids

Join Margaret Atwood and other panelists on June 7 at 519 (519 Church St. ) from 7 to 9 p.m to discuss the Bathhouse Raids that occurred on Feb. 5 1981 in Toronto. Atwood was very vocal against the raids at the time and will speak about the community impact surrounding the event. Other panelists include Metropolitan Community Church Pastor, Brent Hawkes who went on a hunger strike in order to obtain an official enquiry into the raids and Susan Cole, a journalist and member of BroadsideFeminist Collective.  

Second City Show Tunes Karaoke

Second City has paired up with Acting Up Stage Company and Theatre 20 to provide Show Tunes Karaoke for Pride Month in Toronto on June 15 from 10:30 p.m until midnight at The Second City Mainstage (51 Mercer Street). The event includes drinks, singing your favourite show tunes ranging from broadway tunes to classical songs.

Party your heart out and learn about the history and triumphs of the LGTBQ at the same time at these events in the city. Stay tuned for part two in Pride Month, there is more spectacular celebrations to attend in the second half of June too!

 Which pride event are you looking forward to? Share in the comments below!