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February 2017

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Thanks Trump! You just created a new age of activism.

The election of U.S. President Donald Trump has sparked anger, resentment, and hate — and people aren’t standing for it. In fact, they are doing even more. They are marching.

While 2017 is proving to be even worse than 2016, at least one good thing has sprung from it all. The continuous bigotry fuelled by American politics is bringing about a new age of activism.

As a millennial, I’ve never truly experienced the power of global activism. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve witnessed some powerful demonstrations over the last two decades. There was the Arab Spring, the lesser but effective Maple Spring and, of course, the Occupy movement. But, I’ve never seen so many people, from all walks of life — ethnicities, religious affiliations, and economic statuses — come together to condemn such a wide array of issues on a global scale.

On Feb. 4, over 5,000 people gathered in front of the United States Consulate in Toronto to protest the American immigration ban and Islamophobia. At the same time, thousands of people got together across Canada and overseas, all marching and chanting in unison: “No Muslim ban on stolen land.”

 

There were families with their children, students and seniors standing hand in hand, sharing samosas and taking photos of each other’s carefully crafted signs. When organizers asked the crowd to part so that the Muslim participants could be closer to the stage for a prayer, everyone did it. People smiled and opened their arms, leading their allies and fellow Canadians (or Canadian hopefuls) to the front, remaining silent while they prayed for those fallen in the Quebec mosque shootings a few weeks ago.

Above everything else, people were polite, inclusive, and tolerant — but also strong, powerful, and loud. It was truly something to witness.

Photo by Katherine DeClerq
Photo by Katherine DeClerq

In January, more than 60,000 people marched in Toronto  — along with millions in the United States and throughout Europe — for women’s rights and to protest the inauguration of Trump, a man who has repeatedly used sexist remarks in speeches and disregarded the rights of women on the political stage. The march may have been the biggest demonstration in U.S. history.

I know what you are thinking. These are people who are just marching because “it’s cool”, right? They won’t actually work to enact change.

Photo courtesy of Madeleine Laforest

But this new age of activism is not limited to marching. Within hours of an executive order signed by President Trump, there are over a dozen Facebook events created for smaller, more pointed demonstrations indicating their displeasure over his political actions. American citizens are calling their representatives at every level of government, telling them what they think of the cabinet confirmations or a political document that was released. When the telephone voice mailboxes are full, people start using the fax machines to reach their political offices. A few people even tried to send their representatives pizzas with notes attached to them.

For example, so many people called their Senators regarding the confirmation of Betsy DeVos, the candidate for Secretary of Education, that she almost wasn’t confirmed. Two Republications changed their votes and the Vice President had to be the tiebreaker, a first in American history.

People are fired up. Normal citizens who never would have considered becoming politically active are making signs and marching to Capitol Hill. They are listening and they are informed. For the first time in my lifetime, people actually care. And not just specific groups of people — all people.

The west has forgotten the true meaning and functionality of democracy. Politicians are supposed to fight for their constituents, not for their own self-interest. If their constituents say they want them to vote against their party, technically, they should do it. That is how representative democracy works. A politician must represent the views of their constituents.

This concept has been lost, fuelled by the complacency and ignorance of a population willing to let other people run their country. But, with the rise of this new age of activism, that can change.

The Republicans (under the leadership of Trump) are forcing citizens to reconsider their own beliefs and be more aware of what they want of their country. Without meaning too, they are inspiring real democracy, a system in which the people decide what they want their politicians to do.

All I can say is this: stay strong my fellow democratic participants! Change will not happen over night. It will be a long process, and it will take a lot of screaming, chanting, marching, and phone calls to make our politicians remember that we, the people they serve, have a voice too.

But trust me, the end game will be worth it.

Women in History: Viola Desmond

In honour of Black History Month, Women’s Post wanted to take a moment to honour a woman who was not afraid to take a stand by taking a seat in the ‘white’s only’ section of a local Nova Scotia theatre; Viola Desmond.

Desmond was a successful businesswoman in Halifax and the first black woman to set up a hair salon in Nova Scotia in 1937. On Nov. 8, 1946, she was traveling to Sydney to sell her popular line of hair products and her car broke down in New Glasgow. Desmond decided to see a movie at the Roseland Theatre and, after requesting to sit in the lower level of the theatre, was subsequently given a ticket on the balcony. She thought it was a mistake and returned to the booth to exchange her ticket, only to be told by the cashier: “I’m not permitted to sell downstairs tickets to you people.” Desmond decided to sit in the lower level seats anyway, and was subsequently arrested for doing so.

She spent the night in jail and was charged for tax evasion. The argument? Balcony tickets charged an extra penny in taxes.  Desmond was convicted and forced to pay a fine for $26, which was quite a lot of money at that time. She later sought support from the Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NSAACP) and made two unsuccessful appeals to the Nova Scotia Supreme Court. Desmond was posthumously pardoned on April 15, 2010 and has been nominated and chosen to be on the $10 Canadian bill, which will come into effect as of 2018.

Desmond was born on July 6, 1914 into a large family that was active in the community. Her parents were James Albert and Gwendolin Irene Davis, with her father black and her mother white, unusual for the time. Desmond was raised to believe she could achieve her dreams and set out to open a beauty salon once she reached adulthood. Due to her heritage, she wasn’t allowed to train in Halifax to become a beautician and attended school in Montreal, Atlanta City and New York. She then returned to Halifax and opened a hair salon there.

Desmond went on to set up the Desmond School of Beauty Culture, which trained black women who weren’t allowed to attend other schools. She provided women with skills to open their own businesses and further provided jobs for black women in their own communities. Desmond also began Vi’s Beauty Products, a line of hair products for black women. Eventually, she opened a combined barbershop and hairdressing salon with her husband, Jack Desmond on Gottingen Street.

After the failed attempts to appeal her case against Roseland Theatre, Desmond closed her business and enrolled in business school in Montreal. She died in 1965 in New York at 50 years old and never received a pardon while she was living from the Canadian government.

Desmond beat out thousands of contenders who were also nominated to be on the $10 bill, and her name being honoured with such high esteem is well deserved. She stood up for what was right when the stakes were high, and proceeded to pursue justice even when she could not achieve her goal. Desmond is truly a heroine because of her utter refusal to simply accept a blatant act of racism and her willingness to use an unjust legal system to make real change.

That is a woman worth celebrating.

Share with friends: vegan spinach dip with homemade beet chips

Winter blues got you down? What better way to cheer yourself up then have a few friends over for a delicious vegan snack? Everyone loves a good shareable!

One of my all-time favourite dips happens to be full of iron and antioxidants; the classic spinach dip. Vegan-izing this smooth vegetable dip is easy, and it will make it even healthier. If you go even further to pair it with beet chips — suddenly it is a vegetable party! No need to worry about over-indulgence!

Spinach Dip:

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
4 cups baby spinach leaves, tightly packed
2–3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup roasted and unsalted cashews
1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup nondairy mayonnaise (try Vegenaise)
1 (12-oz.) container organic silken or soft tofu
1/2 tsp. sea salt, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp. finely ground black pepper
2 tsp. dried minced onion
1 can whole water chestnuts, diced

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 450°F.
  • Heat a sauté pan over medium-low heat and add olive oil. Add the spinach and garlic and sauté until wilted, about 3 to 4 minutes. Tilt the pan and drain off the additional liquid.
  • In a high-powered blender or food processor, place the cashews, almond milk, and lemon juice and blend until smooth and creamy. Add the non-dairy mayonnaise, silken tofu, sea salt, pepper, and onion. Pulse about 7 to 10 times. Add the cooked spinach and blend until slightly green but not fully incorporated.
  • Fold in the water chestnuts. Transfer the entire mixture to a heat-proof baking dish. Bake about 15 to 20 minutes, or until warmed through.
  • Serve in a bowl

Beet Chips:

Simply cut the beets into thin slices, drizzle lightly in olive or coconut oil and sea salt, and bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes until crispy. Enjoy with the spinach dip!

 

CEO Sarah Thomson reveals purpose of Green Cities

In addition to being the publisher of Women’s Post, Sarah Thomson is also the volunteer CEO of the Transit Alliance. The Transit Alliance is a non-profit that is dedicated towards making the golden horseshoe area as green and pedestrian/transit-friendly as possible. In January, she hosted Green Cities 2017, a breakfast attended by over 300 business, community, and political leaders.

Attendees got to listen to two panels of experts discussing sustainable options for transit and building.

See what Thomson said at the end of Green Cities:

Valentine’s Day should be about celebrating women

Valentine’s Day is often about separating into couples or honouring your own self-love and independence, but this year I challenge every woman to try something a little different. Instead of giving power to the things that separate women from one another, whether it be by being with our partners or on our own, let’s use the holiday of love to begin building a community of women helping women. Let’s build a community of love, if you will.

January has been a painful month with a megalomaniac fool running the show down south (do I even need to mention his name?) and a relatively silent leader up north, who isn’t saying much to the big bully downstairs. It is a tough time to be a woman, a minority, a member of the media, or anything else other than an old white man. To add salt to the wound, the sun is rarely out and everyone is sick with the cold or the flu. Honestly, what is a girl to do?

In times of great trial, it is necessary to resist spiralling into a great depression by being positive. In an effort to be optimistic, women should use Valentine’s Day as an act of solidarity! Whether it be hanging out with a few friends, or getting your grandmother, mother, and sister to all go out for dinner with you, celebrate the collective community of femininity.

This is not the year for Valentine’s Day to be a comparison between those who have a boyfriend and those who don’t. Doesn’t that seem like such a blasé past-tense way to celebrate a holiday created precisely to celebrate love? By separating women into those two camps, it limits our potential to collectively unite and feel empowered and loved with each other. Let’s continue the momentum from the Women’s Marches around the world and foster a true sense of community and love. There are simply too many women who are not finding valuable connections with other women and are instead desperately lonely and wanting of men on holidays such as Valentine’s Day, which traditionally focus on monogamy.  Instead, use Valentine’s Day as yet another reason to enjoy the beautiful women in your life. Our women communities matter too and deserve as much time and space when it comes to celebrating love.

I will be celebrating Valentine’s Day this year by looking at my beautiful daughter and revering in her exquisite and effeminate existence. I will be celebrating my mother’s strength and sage wisdom, and thanking her for teaching me how a woman with integrity acts. I will be surrounded by various women influences who have stood by over years of tears and doubts, celebrations and all the mess in between.

Celebrate women on Valentine’s Day. I mean after all, who will be beside you laughing and reminiscing when you are old and bony in the nursing home?

Outlook for 2017 Toronto housing market is red hot

The Toronto housing market is one of the most unaffordable housing markets in the country, and it appears as if prices will continue to rise in 2017. This housing bubble in Canada is putting substantial pressure on people who are desperate to find housing — and little is being done to change it.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) keeps track of all the Canadian housing markets and releases alerts when the cost of housing in a given city is increasing at a faster rate than the rate of average income. In October 2016, CHMC put the entire country on its first ever red alert, mostly due to the spill-over effects of Toronto and Vancouver’s housing markets. Vancouver has taken steps to cool their market by implementing a foreign buyer tax, but Toronto has yet to implement any great changes. Frankly, Toronto is in hot water and without government intervention soon, housing will rise an extra 10 to 16 per cent this year.

In December 2016, an average house in Toronto was $730,432 and if the averages were to rise to the anticipated 2017 levels, a home could become a whopping $825,000. This prices most people out of the market, and leaves many without an option of a permanent residence. The Royal Bank of Canada completed a Canadian Housing Health Check for 2017, and highly recommended the government step in to cool off Toronto’s housing market. Nothing has been done as of yet.

Recently, the City of Toronto road toll proposal was abolished by the Ontario Liberals, under the leadership of Premier Kathleen Wynne, which leaves the municipal housing market as one of the only ways for Toronto to make money for city needs. This puts the already-pressured housing market in a frightening position, as higher taxes in the form of a proposed harmonized land transfer tax or increased property taxes would raise costs even further within the Toronto boundary. Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) released research on Tuesday emphasizing that any added tax pressure to the city’s market would push up prices in the GHTA further because the tax wouldn’t be in these boundaries. It could also impact the rental market negatively.

In order to afford a house, co-buying is growing in popularity, as people come together to buy a home. Though mortgage companies are stricter when it comes to co-buying with non-family members, putting funds into one large pot is a creative solution to being able to purchase a home. It also fosters a shared sense of community and lowers the burden of financing a home with an over-inflated price.

The housing bubble will eventually pop and it will have devastating consequences on homeowners if interest rates sky-rocket. There is a lot of danger in having high home prices and low interest rates, including selling to people who can’t realistically afford what they are purchasing. Instead of continuing the upward housing cost trend, the government needs to intervene and cool the market. People deserve a home and places like Toronto and Vancouver should be accessible to all, not just the select few. The city may benefit off housing in the short-term, but an inflated market will have nasty side-effects and affordable housing needs to become a central priority on a municipal, provincial and federal level.

How to survive planning a child’s birthday party

Planning a child’s birthday party should be fun and easy, right? It is, after all the, time to celebrate another year of a kid’s life with 10 to 20 screaming mini friends while trying to balance allergies and make sure your child’s dreams come true. Alright, perhaps not so easy, but with a plan in place, and with the help of this survival birthday how-to guide, children’s birthday party planning will be a breeze.

Though birthday planning can be overwhelming, it will become easier once you simplify it and start at step one: location, location, location. Where are you having your ultimate kid’s party? There are many options ranging from the movie theatre to a gymnastics centre or a more classic home party at your house. It can be more difficult to plan a winter party because the outdoors obviously won’t work, but here are a few indoor birthday party ideas for winter babies:

  • Indoor Trampoline party
  • Beading studio for jewelry party
  • Art studio for pottery making
  • Indoor playground
  • Gymnastics centre
  • Rock Climbing
  • Baking yummy treats party
  • Homemade Pizza Party
  • Craft and Arts party

If you are on a budget and can’t afford the $250 plus fees at these expensive venues, opt for a party at home or a room in the local community centre to save on costs. Through the City of Toronto for example, there is an option to rent a room for an arts or baking party, or to rent out the gym for a more sports-themed extravaganza.  For my daughter, we decided to do an arts-themed party at the community centre because we are short on space for a group of children at the house.

After the location and time are booked, it is time to decide how many kids to invite. This is a difficult decision because it is hard to think about disappointing kids that aren’t invited. On the other hand though, if too many kids are invited the costs will go through the roof and planning it will become very time-consuming. Most parties would include about 10-15 kids, because not all the invitees will be able to attend due to other weekend recreational activities. Make sure to include a note in the invitations about letting the host parents know about allergies when people RSVP.

Budgeting for various party expenses is imperative to ensure that overspending doesn’t occur. Use an excel sheet or google doc to keep track of expenses and to organize what is left to be done prior to the party. Try to get friends and family to help out instead of paying venue staff. People love kids’ birthday parties because, frankly, children are hilarious and cute when they are excited. By getting family and friends to help on the big day, it will make things go smoothly and then the parents have some adult companions to enjoy the festivities with.

Last but not least, have fun! There will be points of stress and it is nerve-racking thinking about how your child’s birthday party adds up compared to their classmates’ parties, but at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is that your child is smiling and happy.

What are your survival tips for planning a child’s birthday party? Let Women’s Post know in the comments below.

What is the legality of President Trump’s immigration ban?

The past eleven days in the United States has been nothing short of shocking, with several executive orders reeking of racism, xenophobia and megalomania passed by newly-inaugurated President Donald Trump that have turned many people’s lives upside down.

Trump’s executive order to ban immigration has suspended all refugee admissions for 120 days, barred Syrian refugees from entering the United States indefinitely, and blocked entry of people from seven countries; Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, for 90 days. The decision has rocked the globe and has resulted in complete chaos on the U.S borders since the order was signed on Jan. 27.

The legality of the decision to ban citizens from Muslim-majority countries has been widely questioned by legal officials in the United States, and it appears that the order contravenes at least two constitutional amendments and may also be violating international human rights laws. On Saturday night, federal judge Ann Donnelly from Brooklyn blocked the order from sending people back to their home countries in the airport by claiming that it infringed upon Due Process and Equal Protection under the United States Constitution.

Protection for Refugees under the constitution

Due Process is covered under the fifth and fourteenth amendment and prevents against denying people entry who have valid visas. Equal protection should protect refugees from being sent back to unsafe conditions that threaten their safety and livelihood. Similar rulings were issued in Massachusetts, Virginia, and Washington. The Department of Homeland Security agreed to comply with rulings, but didn’t release detainees or comply with the ruling right away.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in New York is leading one of the biggest lawsuits on the issue and is claiming that the Establishment Clause in the constitution indicates that one religious denomination cannot be preferred over another. Though Trump’s order does not officially target Muslims, it does establish that it would help citizens of ‘minority religions’ in the seven listed countries, all of which have a Muslim majority. This indicates that the order attacks the Muslim majority, and thus violates the Establishment Clause.

After the executive order was granted, US Attorney General Sally Yates questioned the legality of the immigration ban and refused to direct staff in the justice department to execute the order. She was subsequently fired on Monday.

International Human Rights Laws

The ban may even contravene international human rights law as pointed out by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The Geneva refugee convention requires the international community take in war refugees on humanitarian grounds. The refugee convention, which is a United Nations treaty signed by the U.S., also prohibits discrimination against refugees on the basis of religion. Though the President of the United States is able to suspend entry to ‘any class of aliens’, a 1965 revision of law also indicates that people cannot be discriminated against based on their race, sex, nationality, place of birth or residence.

The best chance of success to repeal the immigration ban is for the Supreme Court to define the executive order as unconstitutional. This stands a good chance of being granted due to several counts of unconstitutionality that have been brought up by legal agencies across the country. The decision really comes down to the power of the law as distinctly separate from politics and if judicial branch is capable of being a supposedly impartial legal system. This is arguably the only chance the United States has to protect itself from megalomaniacs like President Trump.

The fate of many lives is at stake and one can only hope that the law is, indeed, just.

Woman of the Week: Jennifer Febel

“You are not broken.”

That is Jennifer Febel’s personal, and professional, mantra. When she was 19, Febel was diagnosed with a multitude of mental disorders, including anorexia, bulimia, depression, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, suicidal ideation and self-harm. “In other words: broken,” she says. In fact, one of the many doctors Febel saw on her road to recovery actually used that term to describe her condition.

Those words had a deep impact. For years, Febel thought she had to live with “being broken”. She was given medications and coping options — but nothing helped. Eventually, her anxiety grew until she couldn’t leave the house.

That’s when she took a chance on a wellness coach, who was able to convince her to look past her scepticism and try some alternative mind-body tools. “The most powerful moment from me was when my coach told me “You are not broken”. To have someone say that was profound.”

“After 13 years of struggling and medication and therapy, I was able to come off meds and I never looked back. I was able to feel how I wanted to feel.”

Febel has an incredibly bubbly personality and a genuine smile. Invite her to your party and she may bring her hula hoop and perform an impressive dance routine. Her fast wit and positive outlook on life is contagious — and if she didn’t open up about her past, no one would know how much she struggled.

Her decision to see a wellness coach shaped the rest of her life and inspired her to go into the field herself. Febel is now a certified wellness coach and master hypnotherapist operating out of Bradford, Ont., with clients across Simcoe, York, and the GTHA. Her business, whose name Live Life Unbroken is inspired by her own personal experiences, helps those with phobias, anxiety, depression, trauma, stress, and general wellness goals. She emphasizes that she is not a medical doctor and cannot treat these disorders, but she can help relieve the symptoms.

“Basically, my job is to help people figure out what they actually want and then chart a path to get to it,” she said. “We often know what we don’t want –  I don’t want to be anxious or stressed all the time – my role is to help them find out what they actually want and how to go about getting that.”

How does she do that? Febel likes to think of the mind like a computer, and her job is cognitive tech support.

“Nothing needs to be fixed. Sometimes, over the course of your life, you download a virus. You call in the geek squad — that’s me! Someone who can manoeuvre the system.”

The current medical model sees mental health as a hardware program, Febel says. Instead, she thinks of things like anxiety and depression as software programs that need to be uninstalled. To do that, she uses advanced mind-body tools that are practiced in 38 countries around the world to find out what’s happening at the subconscious level.

“The problem is you don’t know what you don’t know. The problems are at the unconscious level,” she says. While most cognitive behavioural therapy focuses on the “why”, Febel focuses more on the “how” in order to relieve the symptoms of the “virus”. “In my mind, who cares about the why. It just satisfies curiosity. We focus on how the problem is created– then we can change it.”

Febel respects and encourages the skepticism associated with hypnosis and personal coaching. “That was me,” she said. “When I saw my coach I thought it was a hoax.”

“If you want to freak people out at a party, tell them you are a hypnotherapist. You get two reactions –‘ cool, can you hypnotize’ me or ‘I can’t be hypnotized. ‘I see it as my job to educate. Skepticism is the doorway to the wonder of change – just avoid letting it get in your way.”

In addition to one-on-one coaching, Febel runs a number of workshops through Live Life Unbroken, the most popular being a one-day workshop called “Reboot Your Inner Spark.” This course allows participants to tap into their own intuition and learn how to start healing naturally.

Last year, Febel began a new program called “Leadership Alchemy,” which touches upon communication and connections in personal and professional situations, or how Febel describes it, “how to be a true leader in your life.” She is also co-running a women’s wellness weekend where she will be leading some classes on revitalizing your chakras. During that weekend, women will be taught to find balance and centering in their daily lives, as well as participate in other wellness activities like yoga and magnified healing.

In addition to her workshops, Febel is also a regular presenter at a number of conferences and events. She is currently working on a presentation that will encourage women to stop being so nice. “When I’m “nice”, I have no boundaries. I’m doing what everyone else wants,” she says. “It creates “angry nice girls” who on the surface doing well, but on the inside they are angry and sad. Banish [the word nice] from your vocabulary. Be compassionate. Be kind. Nice doesn’t help anyone.”

When Febel isn’t working, she sings with York Harmony Chorus, an award-winning acappella group of over 40 women that sing in four-part harmony. The chorus competes regionally once a year and Febel helps with choreography and PR, as well as performs. “Every week I get to spend a few hours with these wonderful women and that nourishes my life in so many ways.”

Febel is someone who constantly loves to learn and try new things. She works with her own coaches and uses her own mind-body tools on a regular basis, starting each day with a grounding or energy-balancing exercise like tai chi. She loves to curl and is constantly reading or ordering books online. The one book she returns to on a regular basis is Quantum Healing: Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine by Deepak Chopra.

 

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