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March 2018

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Why you need to visit Lamma Island

Beyond the concrete towers that encapsulate Hong Kong’s skyline lies a hidden gem in the South China Sea. Originally known as Pok Liu Chau, Lamma Island is the tiny 13-square-kilometer destination that everyone should add to their bucket list. Although, sadly, there are no llamas, as the name may imply, this island is a true haven away from the dense commotion of central Hong Kong.

Lamma Island boasts some of Hong Kong’s finest natural landscapes, complete with thick greenery, swimmable beaches and a refreshing dose of ocean air. You can catch a ride to the northern village of Yung Shue Wan, or the eastern Sok Kwu Wan in just 20 minutes from Victoria Harbour, or 40 minutes from Aberdeen.

Whether you’re planning a day trip or a weeks-long getaway, here’s why this island will provide you with the perfect change of pace:

The Beaches

A spacious, tidy beach is a relic that’s hard to come by along the coasts of Hong Kong and mainland China. Lamma Island, however, has plenty of swimmable beaches with white sand and (mostly) clean water. Hung Shing Yeh is the island’s most popular beach in the main town of Yung Shue Wan, and despite being ordered to get out of the water due to a nearby oil spill during my own beach day, it’s definitely worth a trip. If you’re looking for a quieter spot, Lo So Shing beach is a must-visit, or you can explore the island’s coast, which is speckled with a ton of secret sandy shores. There is one beach, however, on the southern tip of the island that’s reserved for our marine animal friends. Although accessible by foot or private boat for some of the year, Sham Wan Bay is closed to the public from June to October, as it is the only remaining nesting site in Hong Kong for endangered sea turtles.

The Food

Hong Kong is internationally renowned for its seafood, and some of its best can be found on Lamma Island. Home to one of the territory’s oldest fishing villages, Sok Kwu Wan was once the liveliest fishing centre in Hong Kong. The village residents have been practicing this art for centuries and continue to use traditional fishing techniques to this day. Both of the island’s main towns are lined with seafood eateries, most of which come equipped with patios that overlook the ocean. And if fish isn’t really your thing, not to worry! Lamma is home to a hefty population of expats, many of whom have opened their own restaurants with an international flare. You can find delicious Spanish tapas, traditional British pubs, aromatic Indian grub, and plenty of cozy vegan and vegetarian cafes.

The Hiking Trails

With no cars or buses, Lamma Island can only really be explored by bicycle or by foot. Luckily, there are numerous trails traversing the island’s landscape.The most popular trail is known as the Lamma Island Family Walk and takes you between the major towns of Yung Shue Wan and Sok Kwu Wan in about one and a half hours. The trail is mostly paved with clear markers and fresh fruit stands along the way, and it’s easily doable for beginners. It will bring you through the rolling green hills of the island to various lookout points where you can catch the sunset and see the glitzy shimmer of Hong Kong’s concrete jungle across the channel.

For the history buffs, Lamma’s trails are also decorated with remnants of the past. Along the way, you’ll find one of many small caves that were built by the Japanese during their occupation of Hong Kong in World War II. The caves were dug to hold speedboats that would be used in suicide attacks on enemy ships. Although they were never fully in use, the caves are untouched to this day, and are now known as the Kamikaze Grottos.

The People

Lamma Island is home to approximately 6,000 residents– not many, compared to the millions of people that populate the rest of Hong Kong. Some locals have lived here for generations, with roots reaching back to the island’s booming fishing days. However, Lamma’s laid-back energy and undeniable charm has attracted expats, artists and wandering nomads from all corners of the globe. It’s also been a recent draw for many workers who’ve opted for a daily ferry commute over the dreaded apartment hunt in mainland Hong Kong. The apparent multiculturalism has infused the island with a free-spirited vibe that makes it one of the best corners of Hong Kong if you’re looking to meet new people.

The Peace & Quiet

Lastly and, in my opinion, most importantly, Lamma Island is a slice of serenity in the foreground of cosmopolitan chaos. There are no cars and no skyscrapers to pollute its natural beauty, in fact, government restrictions forbid any units to be built over three storeys high. This not only curbs the number of residents, but it also opens the view to the skies above- something that’s quite a rarity on the mainland. If you really want to bask in the silence, avoid the island’s busiest time, which is summer weekends when a wave of mainland citizens come rushing in for the prime beach-lounging hours. But, just as quickly as they appear, they vanish at the call of the last scheduled ferry.

If you want to experience Lamma Island and all it has to offer, I suggest planning your trip soon. As the island gains popularity with visitors from near and far, an increasing number of developers are setting their sights on this relaxed hideaway. It may not be the same place in ten, or even five years from now, so hurry up and pack your bags!

Making time for you: The value of ‘me time’ and the sanity saver that is girls’ night out

This past weekend my friends and I had a girls’ night. It wasn’t anything wild, just a fancy dinner out on the town, sans kids. Every time we do this (which is never often enough) we promise to make it a regular occurrence – once a month is the goal. Of course, that never comes to fruition.

After each girls’ night, I always feel rejuvenated; and I’m not the only one to notice my improved mood. My husband, kids, and probably even the pup notice as well. My friends say the same thing, and it’s really no surprise why-hanging out with friends, good conversation, a fancy meal that you don’t have to cook or clean up after, and getting to eat while the food is still hot – it’s a dream scenario when you’re a mom.

So, why don’t we make this a priority?

There are a myriad of reasons to not make or keep plans with friends: one of the kid’s is sick, there’s too much to do around the house, the family wants to go on an outing and you don’t know if you’ll be back in time.

Not to mention that it really is hard to get out. One of us may have to stay late at the office, another has a deadline to meet but can’t get it done until the kids are in bed. Some of our husbands do shift work, so coordinating schedules between the group or even just between two or three of us can seem like an insurmountable task.

Then you need to be “in the mood”. I’m exhausted at the end of the week and usually want nothing more than my pajamas, a movie and a glass of wine as my big Friday and Saturday night plans.

There is also the fact that most of us see each other regularly anyway because our kids happen to be friends, we live close by, and are frequently meeting up outside, going for brunch or having play-dates.

The difference is, that kind of socializing isn’t about us – or at least not just about us. In these scenarios we’re wrangling kids, playing referee or constantly being interrupted. It is not relaxing. No conversation is ever completed. And if you’re the one hosting, you can pretty much expect to be cleaning up and re-organizing all the toys for the rest of the week.

We are better people, mothers, wives, workers and friends when we nurture our own needs. This includes taking care of both our physical and mental well-being. Go for that run, get a pedicure, or indulge in a luxurious bubble bath and truly take time for you. Schedule “me time” into your calendar. By making this a priority, will increase your happiness and decrease your stress and give you a needed boost of energy to take on the challenges and demands of motherhood.

Moms – and women in general – have the tendency to put others before themselves. We will arrange play dates, play taxi driver to and from activities, help with homework, cook multiple meals to meet everyone’s tastes, but we won’t stop to carve out time for ourselves. That is a big problem.

This is why girls’ night is different. It is about us. We can talk, confide, commiserate, joke, and brag all we want. We get dressed up, we feel good, and the effects are long-lasting. If you’re a mom who hasn’t made her own friendships a priority, you surely know what I’m talking about.

Let’s try to do better; foster our own friendships, make socializing a part of our routine. As a mom, you need to have a social life outside of your kids’ activities, and one that doesn’t always involve the whole family. I know it clears my head and leaves me feeling refreshed, confident and ready to take on any challenge that lays ahead.

 

Ireland Inspiration: six places you must visit on a trip to Ireland

If there’s one thing that St.Patrick’s Day is especially good for, it’s the ability it has to bring on a strong case of wanderlust. It’s no wonder Ireland gets a reputation for being a magical, fairytale-like place: with its cobblestone roads, ancient castle ruins and perfect green fields, this island looks made for the pages of a storybook. Each year as St. Patrick’s Day arrives, many are bombarded with images of Ireland that look nearly too perfect to be true. For the avid travellers out there, this annual holiday may make booking a flight all too tempting. If considering a trip to Ireland across the Atlantic, there are several corners of the country well worth a visit. (Trust us, they won’t let your Instagram down.) Sure, Dublin may seem the most obvious spot for a tourist and while the city is as vibrant and lively as one would expect, there are several other areas to make the trip one for the books. Below, a few suggestions.

Limerick

Readers of world renowned author Frank McCourt, who won a Pulitzer Prize for the memoir Angela’s Ashes, need to make a visit to Limerick a top priority. Though the book is quite a sad story, fans of his work will see where he developed his Irish humour and can be sure to stop by iconic locations like the River Shannon during their stay.

Cliffs of Moher

These cliffs are at the top of many a traveller’s bucket list for good reason. Visiting the Cliffs of Moher is one of those experiences that actually does leave a traveller breathless. The west of Ireland has a reputation for being absolutely stunning and this gem is one of the main reasons why. The photo ops at this natural tourist attraction are aplenty. Standing 214 metres at their highest point, the cliffs are too pretty not to plan a tour. While there, keep eyes peeled for the 30,000 birds who call this place home.

Galway

Outgoing women who journey to enjoy a good party best get acquainted with the city of Galway. Situated on the coast, Galway smells of saltwater and is the perfect place to spot quaint fishing boats. The nightlife here is incredible. Take a girl pal out for the night and commit to a pub crawl along the cobblestone roads. Be sure to sample local brews of course. Looking for a day trip outside of the city? Visit the former village of Claddagh just a short drive outside of the city. It’s famous for, you guessed it, Ireland’s iconic ring.

Ulster

Exploring the streets of Ulster in Ireland’s North will satisfy the politically savvy wanderer as much as the visitor interested in art. Painted during the politically unstable period, many of the murals on city walls and houses served as propaganda and contributed to the tense atmosphere of two rivalling sides: the north and the south. Since then, some have been painted over to show more cheerful scenes, however  many originals still remain.

Aran Islands

A trip to the Aran Islands is an absolute must. Found at the mouth of Galway Bay, seeing these picturesque islands is bound to be the highlight of the trip for most tourists. Don’t believe it? Consider that National Geographic named the location one of the world’s top island destinations. These islands will seem like a throwback in time. One area that can’t be missed: world heritage site Don Aonghasa.

Comeragh Mountains

Active travellers get the hiking gear ready. For the athletic wanderer, a visit to the Comeragh Mountains is a great spot to explore Ireland by foot. The mountains have many trails to choose from and taking in the site of Coumshingaun Lake (a glacial lake) is the cherry on top of an epic day trip. The mountains are found in Waterford county which is also famous for its crystal so if visitors are looking for a rather fancy souvenir, that’s well worth the investment.

‘Slow Down Toronto,’ Mayor John Tory announces initiative directed at aggressive drivers in school zones

Stepping out onto the bustling city streets of Toronto and the GTA, whether simply to grab a coffee or find your destination to the office, can often feel like entering a war zone. Due to increasing congestion on city streets, which is often accompanied by frustrated drivers and a bit of road rage from those who are simply fed up, means that accidents of both the vehicle on vehicle and vehicle on pedestrian form are a constant worry.

I know every time I prepare to make my way across a busy intersection, even when the walking- man symbol is visible and it is my right of way, I look left, right, and left again, taking extra precaution out of worry that I may become the latest victim and statistic of aggressive driving. School zones are of particular concern for worried parents and staff members who witness the aggression in these areas, despite signage that indicates speed limits are far lesser.

Mayor John Tory has realized the need to initiate a number of road safety projects particularly in school zones and intends to enforce the message “slow down Toronto,” within these zones. The initiatives are to be launched over the next few weeks and are part of Toronto City’s Vision Zero Road Safety Plans, estimated at a cost of $86 million, which is to partner with the Toronto Police Service school zone safety campaign.

Mayor Tory spoke at Cornell Junior Public School, alongside Deputy Chief Peter Yuen of the Toronto Police Services and Yvonne de Wit, Director of Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention, in addition to Barbara Gray, General Manager of Transportation Services.

“The safety of all pedestrians, but particularly children, must be a priority in this city. One pedestrian death is one too many.  We are working to prevent these deaths and protect our residents across the city,” Mayor Tory stated. “We all have a responsibility to share our streets in a courteous and safe way. I am committed to making sure all those who use our roads – pedestrians, cyclists and drivers – can get where they need to go as safely and efficiently as possible.”

The initiatives involve a two-week “Slow Down Toronto” campaign in school zones which are beginning this week. The campaign is to focus on traffic enforcement and driver education on “speed, distracted driving and aggressive driving,” which are all contributing factors to injuries and deaths in collisions.

Additionally, a one-year pilot project which will provide new and flexible traffic calming signs in 12 school zones across the city, will begin this week. The signs will be placed in the middle of roadways in these zones as a reminder to drivers. Other signs advise pedestrians to only cross at designated crosswalks.

The city is also ramping up the School Safety Zone program and will be retrofitting 80 schools in 2018, up from original plans to retrofit 20 schools annually.

Over 2018, the initiative will see new school zone safety signs with flashing beacons, school zone pavement stencils, “watch your speed” driver feedback signs,  zebra markings at school crosswalks, examination of placing a school crossing guard at major crossings, and traffic calming measures beyond the front of schools.

Other initiatives meant to be launched this year include, implementing an automated speed enforcement pilot, reducing crossing distances via painted curb extensions, introducing a mobile “watch your speed” program, installing more senior safety zones and pedestrian safety corridors, as well as conducting more safety audits, making cyclist safety improvements and more.

 

Woman of the Week: Jennifer Turliuk

Jennifer Turliuk is the CEO and founder of Makerkids, the first and largest facilitator of programs, camps, and parties focused on the idea of creation rather than consumption. Topics like coding, minecraft, and robotics are explored through fun and games, in hopes of encouraging more young people to take interest in STEM-related careers. She began coding at the age of 12 and has dedicated her life to opening up possibilities for young people interested in being creators or makers.

Women’s Post spoke with Turliuk about entrepreneurship, Makerkids, and being a DJ for Redbull:

Question: When did you learn you had a passion for business and entrepreneurship?

Answer: I realized I had this passion early on. I started my first business at age five. It was called Jenn’s Card Company and I made greeting cards

When you finished school, it looks like marketing was your path. What drew you to that part of business?

I love marketing because I believe it can make a huge impact on society. Everything from what products and services we buy, to who we select as leadership, to what we believe – comes down to marketing

Why change and found Koru Labs?

I found myself dissatisfied in the corporate job I took and I wanted to do something meaningful. Marketing has continued to be part of all of my roles though.

As an entrepreneur, have you ever experienced challenges as a woman? If so, how did you push through them?

Yes! I’ve been hit on by men who I thought I was meeting as potential mentors or investors. I’ve been told by organizers, after being selected for a prestigious speaking opportunity or award, “And it’s great that you’re a woman.” I hated that they insinuated that a major reason for selecting me for the opportunity was my gender. Even though it probably wasn’t, them saying “And it’s great that you’re a woman” made me feel as though it was and made the accomplishment feel false or hollow. I pushed through it by realizing that if an award or speaking gig is a great opportunity for my business, I should take it regardless of what the organizers happen to mention about my gender. Why bother to bring up gender? I want to be selected for things because of my accomplishments, not the body type I was born with.

How did Makerkids come about?

When I was 12 years old, I was being bullied and was disengaged at school. Then my teacher said that for my book report project, I should make a website, so I taught myself how to code, and made a website about Harry Potter. A few months later I found out my website had hundreds of thousands of views and was featured in a magazine. This was a very empowering moment for me. Suddenly the bullying didn’t impact me as much, and I became more engaged at school. Later on, I was selected for a program based at NASA called Singularity University, where I learned how to apply technology to education. It was afterwards that I got started with MakerKids, with the goal of helping more kids have transformative experiences like I had as a kid. We’re excited that thousands of kids have gone through the programs and some have started businesses, been featured on TV, and had positive mental health outcomes.

Why is it so important for young kids, young girls especially, to be exposed to the “maker” philosophy?

Studies show that kids decide between ages 7-12 whether or not they’ll consider STEM as a future career option. A positive exposure to STEM experiences is the key.

 How has Makerkids evolved over the last four years? What’s next?

MakerKids has grown from teaching five kids per week in 2013 to 500+ kids per week in 2018. We won the NextGen in Franchising competition at the International Franchise Association as the next top concept in franchising. We learned about the IFA competition and many other opportunities through the Canadian Franchise Association (shout-out to CFA) who have supported us and helped us grow. What’s next? More locations!

 Bria mentioned you DJd for Red Bull? When, why, and how!

Haha, I DJ’d for them for a mini-sticks tournament in Kingston once. I was on top of their Red Bull truck. Very fun! I used to be a DJ in university, DJing up to four times a week.

How have you helped other women?

I mentor other female entrepreneurs, and also many girls go through our programs and benefit from them.

What are you reading right now?

Inventing Joy: Dare to Build a Brave & Creative Life

Start-up success: Tips for making your vision a reality

Starting a business takes time, effort, planning, patience, courage and the right people on your side to make it work. Getting it right from the start will save you the headaches that can come from not having a specific plan, not knowing your target clientele and audience, or by attempting to go it alone. It’s imperative to chat with others and do your best to discover specific resources, gain advice from individuals who have been in your shoes and who have succeeded, as well as to ask the right questions. Here are a few tips to inspire and to set you on the road to your end goal-a successful business that you are proud of.

Do what you love

The key to success and happiness in any line of work, whether you are the owner, CEO or entry-level employee, is to truly enjoy what you do. This same principle should be at the root of your business. When brainstorming a start-up take the time to visualize yourself running a business that involves those from your web of ideas. If you can picture yourself happy in that role and you have a true passion for whatever the service is that is provided, you’re doing well already. In short, if you know a pet grooming business is needed in your neighbourhood but can’t stand working with animals, it’s probably not the best option for you. On the other hand, if you absolutely love interior decorating and have thoroughly enjoyed helping others decorate their home or apartment for re-sale, you’d likely be very successful and happy starting a home-staging business. Discover your true passion and you’re half way there.

Surround yourself with the right people

No one is an island. We must depend on others to give advice, lend a hand and to lend expertise. Let’s face it, there’s always an area of any given project that has the least appeal to its founder. For instance, the financial breakdown and accounting for expenses and budgeting may not come the easiest to some.  Find the right people to take on the facets of the business that are a bit daunting to you. Perhaps these fine folks can instruct you over time and may allow you to learn to love crunching numbers and balancing the books, but until then, there is no shame in relying on someone who enjoys that aspect of the business in the now.  Whether the area you least enjoy is accounting or admin type work, it is important to allow yourself to depend a bit on others. Get a team together that you trust and honestly stands by your side for the benefit of the business.

Do more with less

Limited resources when a business is just getting started may seem like a hurdle and may also cause an entrepreneur to feel like giving up before the project even gets off the ground. Being limited can actually be a great thing! It inspires a small business owner to get creative and to think outside that proverbial box when it comes to gaining access to the vital resources that are going to result in keeping the endeavor afloat. It also can build relationships among other small business owners if you’re willing to reach out to others in the same boat for connections and team-up incentives. A small budget does not have to equal an unsuccessful business, it simply means you have to be more careful and plan carefully, while being creative with the budget and resources that you do have access to.

Be prepared and do your homework

From brainchild to budget, every facet of your intended entrepreneurial goal should have its “I’s” dotted and its “t’s” crossed. Know the market for the service you wish to provide. Interview others within the same field, develop a survey for your prospective audience or clientele to test the waters beforehand. Know the exact amount of money you have available and develop a budget for your business that is accurate and honest. Be prepared for the business to take its time while growing. Not every business is going to explode and become a smash success right away. Be patient and stay the course.  If you love what you’re doing, and you have researched that there is a strong market for what you offer, chances are you’ll find success in the near future.

Don’t be afraid

It is only by taking risks that great things occur. Be bold and take a step. Although it’s not recommended to throw all caution to the wind, believing in your plan and setting the wheel cautiously in motion is the most important step a budding entrepreneur takes. There may be setbacks and failures, yet preparation and careful planning can easily allow an endeavor to get back on course and result in success over time.

St. Patrick’s Day: How personal tradition defines the way we celebrate our holidays

 

By Sinead Mulhern

When St. Patrick’s Day rolled around each year while I was growing up in Alberta, my mom and I would get to work whipping up batches upon batches of clover-shaped cookies. In the middle of March, winter showed no signs of letting up in the Prairies and so it only seemed natural to stay inside, roll out the dough and fill the house with the agonizingly sweet smell of nearly-baked goods. In our prep, we’d throw into the bowl flour as powdery as the snow heaps outside and whirl it together with crystals of white sugar. While they baked, we mixed up the icing – green of course – ready to coat each little clover with a generous layer. Then, I’d proudly bring them to school to share with my classmates. Being  the Irish kid in the class, it was my special treat.

As traditions go, this possibly was simply an idea one year, before carrying on to the next and the next. Eventually, supplying my peers with these shamrock treats became part of my St. Patrick’s Day routine. Once, I even remember when Paddy’s Day eve rolled around and we had both forgotten so we woke up extra early and baked a double batch together in the indigo blue pre-dawn hours.

At school, I’d pass around the green snacks,  press play to an accordion tune and perform one of the jigs which I learned at dance practice in Edmonton’s Irish club. During those years, St. Patrick’s Day was the celebration of the country where both my parents were born and lived in until their mid-twenties. For me, it was green cookies and dancing and, of course, church and Irish brunch.

The latter would be standard for many Irish households living both in the stocking-shaped emerald isle or abroad – like us. The former though, are traditions we created ourselves. When the calendar turns to March 17, many in Canada will celebrate by clinking pints of Guinness or green-dyed beer. Packs of university students in North America will wear obnoxious amounts of green with probably at least one top hat and kiss-me-I’m-Irish sash in every group. In Ireland, some relatives of mine will take in mass and a breakfast of eggs and sausages after. Green sugar cookies will be few and far between, I know.

Though we religiously kept up our tradition for years, it eventually faded. I grew past the age where it would have been appropriate to pass around baked goods in class and we moved across the country,  well away from our Alberta kitchen with the snow piles out the window. While the sugary clover cutouts became a thing of the past, my mother’s and my love for working with food didn’t wane. Out were the cookies, in was the baked soda bread (a classic) or a piping hot pot of Irish stew (even more classic). Together, we busied our hands putting together recipes that were, this time, symbolic of the place where my mom grew up.

When I left home and moved to Toronto, I kept up our tradition of making food on this day even though we no longer lived in the same household. Just as I did when I was seven, I again made a point of sharing it with school friends. For a few years during this chapter in my life, I avoided the tacky party celebrations and instead whipped up a pot of Irish stew and a fresh loaf of bread for my best lady friend. Together, we drank beer well into the evening.

The food that I now make on this day is traditional, yes. But my tradition of working away in the kitchen on (or just before) March 17, and sharing with friends has nothing to do with Paddy’s Day really. That habit stems from the days I spent mixing sugar cookies with my mom. The food has changed over time, the activity has not. This is how I, a daughter of two Irish immigrant parents, choose to spend this day. It’s interesting, how the customs we make for ourselves somehow have the most importance. Our personalized celebrations often trump how holidays are typically celebrated by the masses.

This year, the tradition, for me, has changed yet again. For the first time, I won’t be in Canada for this Irish holiday. I now reside in Colombia – over 6,000 kilometres away from that Alberta home and 4,000 kilometres away from my mom. The traditions I’ve set for myself will continue to evolve as I celebrate this holiday and the ones to come. As we head into Paddy’s Day, my mom and I have already discussed our menus. She’ll make her St. Patrick’s Day stew on the weekend whereas I’ve made mine already. The difference: mine contained a cup not of Guinness, but a local beer: Club Colombia Negra.

5 questions with Christopher Karas, the high schooler fighting his school over homophobia

 

Christopher Karas, a gay Mississauga high school student, is currently at the centre of a battle with his French Catholic school over what he calls homophobia. While he powers on in his fight for gay rights in the courtroom we caught up with him to chat about his views on the history of gay rights in Canada, funding for religious schools, helping young people get involved, and his own future beyond the halls of high school.

What is wrong with Queer and Trans rights in Canada right now?

Queer men (labelled as MSM) aren’t able to give blood in Canada. MSM is a moniker the Canadian government has used to distinguish men who have sex with other men from the general public. As if Queer men are different from our heterosexual counterparts. MSM also applies to women who have sex with men who had sex with other men. In Canada, MSM aren’t able to give blood if they had sex with their partner in the last 5 years. This discriminatory policy has been used to bar Trans people (especially Trans Women).

Trans people aren’t protected under the Canadian Human Rights Act or the Criminal Code. Close friend Susan Gapka is lobbying the Canadian government tirelessly to amend the Act and the Code to extend protections to Trans and Non-binary people across Canada, potentially adding Gender Identity and Gender Expression for the first time.

Intersex people aren’t part of today’s important conversations. Many of today’s conversations have focused on Trans people. While a focus on Trans people is needed and an important one, we must also have conversations that focus on Intersex people while centering #BlackLivesMatter, Brown and Indigenous people as part of these conversations. As we know, LGBTTIQQ2SA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Intersex, Queer, Questioning, Two Spirit, Asexual (Aces as we say!), and all those not yet included or who don’t want to be defined by any label) communities are Intersectional and always will be.

What have we gotten right since the Queer and Trans movement began?

When the Queer and Trans movement first began it wasn’t owned by any one person. This in itself is one of the movement’s greatest strengths. However, some have tried to co-opt our movement (i.e. Pride Toronto sponsorship, etc.)

Should the government be funding religious schools?

I think that it should be up to the people to have a debate in [upcoming elections]. We fundamentally protect the right of freedom of conscience and religion; freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression yet we exclusively fund the Roman-Catholic school system while denying funding to freedom of conscience and religious schools. Although, I might be a bit biased. I sued my school board when my school barred me from putting up posters of my civil rights hero Harvey Milk and a Gender and Sexuality Alliance I tried to build with my peers.

 

Toronto transit receives massive funds infusion totaling nearly $9 billion

By Jessica Ashley Merkley

Let’s be honest, it’s clear that the Toronto transit system is due for an overhaul. I, like many out there, am faced on the daily with the somewhat archaic city transit system that can certainly do with an upgrade.

Perhaps the delays and technical issues that cause frustrations quite regularly to commuters, will be a thing of the past, all thanks to a massive infusion of funds granted to Toronto transit by both the federal and provincial government, this week.

It was announced yesterday that Toronto transit will be receiving a massive boost from the federal government to be put to use over the next decade. The provincial government has also stepped up and nearly matched the amount given by the federal government.

It is now confirmed that the federal government has allotted $5 billion to the city of Toronto’s transit system. Additionally, the provincial government has matched this amount, allotting over $4 billion for various projects that are in the plans for the city’s transit infrastructure.

During a press conference that was held in Mississauga on Wednesday, the infrastructure ministers on both the federal and provincial level, joined forces and announced the signing of a bilateral agreement, which will see nearly $12 billion of federal funds used across Ontario for public transit, various community projects and environmental green infrastructure throughout the next ten years.

Of the near-$12 billion, Toronto is set to receive over half of the funds which have been allocated for Ontario transit- a figure that is roughly $8.5 billion. This infusion of money will allow the city to pay 40 per cent of the cost for slated transit projects.

It’s certainly refreshing to witness two levels of government joining forces to achieve a common goal. Ontario Infrastructure Minister Bob Chiarelli, also holds the same opinion on this as I, stating “I often say that the people of Ontario are best served when all levels of government work together,” while at the press conference on Wednesday.

As to the reasons why Toronto was allocated such a massive sum compared to other regions of the province, Federal Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi explained:

“The city of Toronto is getting a significant amount of money, Toronto’s ridership is larger and we want the resources to go where the resources are needed.”

The specific plans for how the funds allocated to Toronto transit will be used, have yet to be determined fully, however, the financial boost is sure to bring massive improvements to Toronto transit over the years.

Allowing employees to work remotely increases productivity

The modern business model includes more flexibility for the worker. Larger companies are providing a certain number of days in which an employee may work from home if they wish. This allows workers to avoid potentially long commutes every once in a while, starting the day fresh in a comfortable environment.

But, is this more productive?

Productivity is always high in an employers’ priority list, but the old-school thinking that employees should be at work for a certain time and leave at a certain time, sometimes just doesn’t work with the way people are being brought up. In this digital age, post-secondary educators are paving the way for hybrid learning — and working. Students should be in class, but also have an option to listen to seminars and take quizzes online from the comfort of their home. As long as the work is done — the grades reflect it. And yet, when it comes to office work, some

A 2017 FlexJobs study of 5,500 people found that a work-life balance was critical to the productivity and success of a company. Of survey respondents, 62 per cent said they have left or considered leaving a job because of the lack of work flexibility. An even higher response, 66 per cent, said they were more productive working from a home office as there are less interruptions from coworkers, fewer distractions, less commuter stress, and they are removed from office politics.

Technology is also a significant factor. Teleconferencing, email, text, and even the traditional phone call ensure employees are never far from their work. Telus Inc. began allowing employees to work from home part-time, something employees need to earn through high-performance and a history of productivity. According to reports, 92 per cent of staff believe the program has been successful for them and 98 per cent said it improves how they view the company.

A Global Workplace Analysis found that having the ability to work from home is also an economically-sound idea. They say that 78 per cent of employees who call in sick do so because of family issues, personal needs, or stress. Having the ability to work from home reduces time employees will take off for these reasons. It’s also good for an employees mental health, as it allows them more time for themselves before, and after work. They suddenly have the freedom to go to the gym or do some yoga, eat a proper breakfast, and even listen to music at the volume they want. All of these things may seem small, but having time for yourself, even if it is the extra 45 minutes it takes you to commute into the office, makes the world of difference in terms of productivity and focus.

Work flexibility also makes it possible for women to get ahead in their career, especially considering the challenges of both motherhood and the symptoms of our monthly menstruation cycle. Women tend to deal with a lot emotionally, and while this does not interfere with their ability to do their jobs, it can impact the number of days they take off work. For new mothers especially, having the ability to work at home while your child has the flu or if you have a doctor’s appointment in the middle of the afternoon would allow for a more consistent career trajectory.

There are, of course, some challenges in having employees working from home. First of all, the job itself must lend itself to remote telecommuting. It is not for everyone — an employee must be independent and self-directed in order to be productive while without guidance. Trust is also a big factor. A third of employers don’t trust their employees to work while not in the office, and this kind of relationship can lead to micromanaging and acts as a detriment to productivity.

Personally, I think a hybrid model is best, in which an employee is allowed to work from home, but they must be in the office on certain days of the week in order to connect with their bosses and coworkers face to face, attend meetings, and collaborate on projects. Even two days out of five spent working remotely would do wonders for morale, mental health, and productivity.

Perhaps it is the millennial in me, but this business model is the future. City planners are constantly urging businesses to be flexible, as transit overcrowding and congestion on the roadways leads to wasted hours of time during the day. Why not listen to them and make some slight changes for the betterment of your office environment?

What do you think? Do you allow your employees to work from home every once in a while?