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Kaeleigh Phillips

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West Toronto Railpath is on its way to being built

Biking through Parkdale and Liberty Village is similar to completing a difficult Olympic marathon challenge, complete with zooming cars, road-crossing pedestrians, and no bike path to be seen.

Luckily, cyclist enthusiasts and the City of Toronto are working on solving the problem — and the West Toronto Railpath is the solution. The goal of the pathway is to keep pedestrians and cyclists off the road, but there remains key challenges to achieving this goal. For example, the objective of the RailPath is to avoid roads. For this to happen, overpasses would have to be built over current rail bridges so that pedestrians could navigate through the limited land availability in a highly congested area. However, the City of Toronto is determined to persevere despite these challenges.

The West Toronto Railpath has been a long-time in the making. The first phase of the project began at Cariboo Ave., just north of Dupont St. to the Dundas St. W overpass and was completed in 2008. It has been a considerable success, and even won the 2011 City of Toronto Urban Design Award. The second portion of the cycling path begins at Dundas St. W. and Sterling Ave. and proceeds along the Kitchener GO rail corridor to Strachan Ave. The third and final phase would connect the bike path to the planned Fort York Pedestrian and Cycling Bridge.

Phase two of the project is moving forward despite challenges and the province of Ontario has recently approved a cycling path along with the expansion of the Dufferin St. Bridge. Metrolinx is expanding the bridge to increase access to GO service and the UP Express, and construction for the West Toronto Railpath will also be included.

So what does this mean for the West Toronto Railpath?

The Dufferin St. Bridge announcement means construction of the RailPath has finally begun! The project has now moved into its next phase: detailed design and implementation. This part of the construction process decides which of the recommended pathways should be chosen. After that, construction commences. The cycling and pedestrian bridge that will be built on the Dufferin St. Bridge is a good start for the next phase of the project. Creating a safe bike path at the intersection of Dufferin and Queen is a difficult task and placing it on top of the bridge solves this problem.

The RailPath currently stands in phase two of its construction, with an Environmental Assessment (EA) successfully completed last year. The study report from the EA was released for public review between Jan. 14 and Feb. 15, 2016. The project will move forward, and recommended alignment options are in place.

It remains to be seen how the rest of the path will be built connecting the Dufferin St. Bridge to Dundas St. W overpass in the Junction, and then through Sudbury St. to Strachan Ave. That being said, the Dufferin St. Bridge is a key area that is needed for the success of the West Toronto Railpath. Though the rest of the cycling path is still in the planning stages, the announcement for the bridge makes this cycling path a reality — and that is exciting indeed.

Canadian and African Grandmothers unite against HIV/aids

In the midst of international terrorist attacks and great global unrest, seeing people continue to work across international borders and battle against forces greater than human conflict is truly inspiring, especially when it comes to the HIV/aids epidemic.

The Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign connects Canadian and African grandmothers and gives them a platform in Sub-Saharan Africa to provide support for their grandchildren, whose parents have been decimated by the HIV/aids epidemic. There are over 14 million orphans in Africa after their parents contracted and died of HIV/aids and many grandmothers are raising their grandchildren alone.

The organization was founded in 2006 in Toronto. “The Stephen Lewis Foundation invited 100 grandmothers from sub-Saharan Africa to come to Toronto for a gathering and 100 Canadian grandmothers came as well. The Canadian grandmothers listened to the African grandmothers and what they have had to do to deal with the Aids pandemic,” Grannies for Good founder, a chapter of the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign, Joanne Gormely says. “It really created a connection between 250 groups of grandmothers in Canada in solidarity with grandmothers in Africa.”

The campaign is not a charity run by people who aren’t African, but instead is a movement created and controlled by African grandmothers and local field workers who have first-hand knowledge about what these communities need.

Gormley is one of the Canadian grandmothers who began a chapter in Montreal to support the campaign. She, along with other grandmothers, run events ranging from art sales to long-distance cycling fundraising for the grandmothers in Africa. Gormley has her own painful memories associated with HIV/aids. “I lost my own brother to Aids. I was still in grief of losing my own younger brother when I joined the group,” she says. “It touched me because I understood something they were living through.”

 Joanne Gormley (centre) with two of the other Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign members who attended the South Africa Grandmothers Gathering in Durban: Elizabeth McNair (L) and Carol Little (R). By Alexis Macdonald.
Joanne Gormley (centre) with two of the other Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign members who attended the South Africa Grandmothers Gathering in Durban: Elizabeth McNair (L) and Carol Little (R). By Alexis Macdonald.

Gormley, along with nine other grandmothers, also traveled to Africa to join a meeting of over 300 grandmothers in Durban, South Africa ahead of the 2016 World Aids Conference that ran from July 18-22. The group participated in protest of the lack of funding available to support the raising of these children, and joined over 2000 other grandmothers to Durban’s convention centre where the conference was being held.

The group of 10 traveled to South Africa and Zambia to see firsthand where their funds are going. The Grandmother to Grandmother campaign has raised $25 million over the last 10 years, with the proceeds going to various projects run by African field workers and grandmothers that live in the community.

The campaign has also provided jobs to women in the various communities that run the Grandmother to Grandmother projects. While on her trip to Africa, Gormley traveled with an African woman named Ida who originally grew up in abject poverty, and her husband had also passed away from HIV/aids. She now works for the foundation and her daughter is studying to become a lawyer.

These inspiring activists lobby governments across sub-Saharan Africa to take further measures to stop the spread of HIV/aids. The region has seen a 43 per cent decline in new HIV infections among children since 2009 due to UNAIDS global plan to eliminate HIV infections in the region. Public decimation of the antiretroviral treatment and educating has helped to lower the rate of HIV/aids. That being said, 24.7 million people are still living with HIV in sub-Sahran Africa due to lack of access to the medicine, with only 39 per cent of adults on the antiretroviral treatment.

Not only is this campaign helping reduce HIV in Africa, but this women-led group is also helping promote solidarity among women across the world. “The campaign promotes a sense of camaraderie and belonging by making a difference and being a voice for Africans in a global world. It helps in overcoming a sense of hopelessness,” Gormley says. “There is anger in those African women and they have a right to be angry. They deserve to be heard.”

The grandmother to grandmother campaign is a great initiative supporting women that are working together to solve issues from different cultures. We should all take these lessons from our elders and join the movement to help promote an agenda to eradicate aids from sub-Saharan Africa once and for all.

Habitat for Humanity GTA to build 50 affordable homes

Toronto is looking to build more affordable housing, with a 50 unit townhouse development approved last week in East Toronto.

Habitat for Humanity GTA, along with Mayor John Tory and the Toronto Foundation, have approved the affordable housing development at 140 Pinery Trail. This is the first project to use a dense build form of back-to-back-stacked townhouses, featuring three, four, and five bedroom units. The housing project is set to house 50 families by 2019.

Habitat for Humanity has an affordable housing model that allows families to become homeowners while paying a no-interest mortgage. The mortgage is capped at 30 per cent of their annual housing income, and instead of contributing a down payment, the family must volunteer 500 hours towards the construction of their home and other habitat properties.

The Toronto Foundation is providing funding for 15 homes through a social impact investment. This type of investment looks to help push forward positive social supports such as affordable housing, but it is a loan. This loan will be paid back using mortgage payments once the first 15 families move in. Private donors will also contribute to the loans.  The Toronto Foundation was created in 1981 and helps provide resources for individuals and families.

Other donors for the project include the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB), Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD), Right at Home Realty, Great-West Life Realty Advisors, Enbridge Gas Distribution and the Clark Family Foundation.

Habitat for Humanity GTA  is a non-profit housing organization that works with families to help them obtain affordable housing. The organization has built over 300 homes in Brampton, Caledon, Toronto and the York Region since 1998, and is affiliated with Habitat for Humanity worldwide.

This affordable housing project is the first recipient of the Toronto Foundation social impact investment. The Open Door affordable housing initiative is pushing for non-profits to work together to create housing, and this project is a big win for the city. It is important to note though that it is somewhat disappointing that Toronto must lean on non-profits such as Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit that is already stretched from providing resources to dilapidated regions around the world. Toronto is clearly in dire need for affordable housing and is looking for help. On the other hand, it is a progressive step forward to see large private donors contribute to the funding. Hopefully this is a trend that continues and ultimately solves the housing crisis in the largest Canadian city.

Canadian women are taking home all the Olympic medals

Women are dominating at the Olympics in Rio, having won eight medals so far. The Canadian men have yet to take home a medal at all (although Canada is rooting for you!). Five medals were achieved in swimming, one medal in synchronized diving, one medal in lightweight double skulls, and the women’s rugby team took home a bronze. Clearly, Canadian female athletes are a force to be reckoned with and the best part is that the Games aren’t over with. There are still a number of key opportunities for even more Canadian women to bring home medals.

Here is the rundown.

Winners:

Canadian women came out strong in swimming, but there is one woman that is proving to be one of the next great Canadian athletes. Penny Oleksiak,16, won Canada’s first gold medal this year and is bringing a total of four medals home so far from these Olympics. She tied with U.S swimmer, Simone Manuel for gold in the women’s 100m freestyle swim, making her the first Canadian female swimmer to win gold since 1984 in Los Angeles. Oleksiak also obtained silver in the women’s 100m Butterfly and led the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay team to a bronze.  Oleksiak is from Toronto, and was joined on the podium by teammates Katherine Savard of Montreal, Brittany MacLean of Mississauga, and Taylor Ruck of Kelowna. Kylie Masse, 20, from LaSalle also won a bronze medal in women’s 100m backstroke.

Diving in a not-so-green pool on Tuesday, two Canadian divers took home a bronze medal. Hailing from Laval, Meaghan Benfeito, 27, and Roseline Filon, 29, won bronze at women’s synchronized 10m platform. The pair also won bronze at the 2012 London Olympics. They have been diving together for 11 years, and cited their friendship as a part of the reason for their success. Both women demonstrated Canadian pride upon winning their medal, and their humble appreciation for each other reflected the respect and vitality of the Canadian athletic spirit.

Women’s rugby wowed Canadian Olympic fans.. The sevens team took home bronze, beating Great Britain in the final match 33-10 and following New Zealand for Silver and Australia for gold. Canada’s women’s rugby team has dominated the summer Olympics, taking home a medal in every sevens event since its inception. Captain Jen Kish, 27, of Ottawa led her team to victory, along with other strong players Karen Paquin, 29, from Quebec City, Ghislaine Landry, 28, from Toornto, Bianca Farella, 24, of Montreal and Kelly Russell,29, from Bolton who all scored in the final game.

Women also came out on top in rowing, with two Canadian women taking home silver in women’s lightweight double sculls. Both hailing from Victoria, Lindsay Jennerich, 34, from Victoria and Patricia Obee, 24, showed off their impressive abilities to finish quickly. Coming into the 1000 metre mark, it looked as if they weren’t in for a metal, but entering the final 500m they pushed forward into second place.

More to come:

Trampoline Gold-medalist Rosie MacLennan.
Trampoline Gold-medalist Rosie MacLennan.
  1. Rosie MacLennan, Trampoline

The women domination of the Rio Olympics is not expected to slow down either, with more female athletes potentially winning medals over the next 10 days. Trampoline gold-medalist Rosie MacLennan, 27, hailing from Toronto was the only Canadian to obtain a gold in London, and there is a high expectation that another medal is in her future. MacLennan also dominated at the Pan American games in 2011 and 2015, and has won at the world championships. She was the flag-bearer for Canada at the Rio Olympics and big things are expected of her in today’s women’s trampoline event.

Women's soccer team captain, Christine Sinclair.
Women’s soccer team captain, Christine Sinclair.
  1. Christine Sinclair, Soccer

The women’s soccer team recently beat Australia in the tournament and has garnered a change to play for a medal.  Quarter-finals against France is on Friday, August 12 at 6 p.m. Soccer star and captain of the national team Christine Sinclair, 33, from Burnaby is hopefully leading the women’s team to another medal. Sinclair is an Olympic bronze medalist and has competed in three Olympics. Sinclair has scored in both of Canada’s victories so far in Rio and fans are avidly watching which moves she pulls next in the quarter-finals.

Golfer, Brooke Henderson.
Golfer, Brooke Henderson.
  1. Brooke Henderson, Golf

The Canadian professional golfer on the LPGA tour, Brooke Henderson, 18, from Smiths Falls has been dubbed the one to watch at the Olympics this year. Henderson is one of the best female golfers in the world and has been a professional since she was 14. She won the 2016 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, which made her the first Canadian woman to win a golf major since 1968. The sport was removed from the Olympic roster in 1904, and this is the first time golfers have had a chance to compete on this international stage since. Henderson will compete on August 17, and will hopefully bring home another gold medal for Canadian golf in the Olympics.

Basketball guard, Kia Nurse.
Basketball guard, Kia Nurse.
  1. Kia Nurse, Basketball

The women’s basketball team will compete on August 12 against the United States, followed by Spain on August 14. They have won every game they have played so far against China, Serbia, and Senegal. Kia Nurse, 20, from Hamilton is the player to watch and is the top pick for the talent pool of the basketball team this year.  Nurse has previously helped her team win the 2015 Pan American Games and was also the MVP for the 2015 FIBA Americas Women’s Championship. Nurse comes from a strongly athletic family, with father Richard Nurse previously playing in the CFL, and mother Cathy Nurse played basketball at McMaster. Nurse’s brother Darnell Nurse currently plays for the Edmonton Oilers and her older sister, Tamika plays Basketball for Oregon.

The Fab IV. Taken from the Fab_IV twitter.
The Fab IV. Taken from the Fab_IV twitter.
  1. The Fab Four, Divers

Four divers in Montreal spend hours together in the pool and have become Canadian athletic icons. Benfeito, and Roseline Filion have already won bronze in the synchronized 10m dive. The other two contenders of the “Fab IV” on the Canadian diving team are Jennifer Abel, 24, from Montreal and Pamela Ware, 23, of Longueil. Abel and Ware missed a medal by one point at the Aug. 7 in competition, but still have another shot at winning in individuals coming up. The women’s 3m individual synchro final on Aug. 14.

Women are leading the way for Canada and it is exciting to see them continue to win more medals in Rio. By tuning in and showing support for these hard-working athletes, it demonstrates solidarity and passion towards Canadian women dreaming of being on that podium. I wonder, who will win next?

5 must-read books set in Toronto

Toronto is a beautiful city and sets the perfect stage for a novel. From the downtown cityscape to the heritage buildings that seem to emit stories from their very foundations, it is easy to imagine a tale of romance taking place or the plot of a horror story being set in a dark subway tunnel. Many famous authors have used Toronto as the setting of their novels. Here are a few of my favourites.

In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje

In the Skin of a Lion is by the renowned Canadian-Sri Lankan Michael Ondaatje and is one of the most famous novels set in Toronto. The storyline takes readers back in time to Toronto in the 1930’s and focuses on key themes of that era. The separation of immigrants in Cabbagetown was considered normal at the time, and Ondaatje uses the novel as a way of showing how immigrants are mostly left out of Toronto’s history.

A fictional story develops around R.C Harris, Toronto’s commissioner of Public Works. Harris built several of the city’s most important landmarks, most noticeably the water treatment plant and the Bloor Street Viaduct. In the Skin of a Lion is a story that converges two storylines, between immigrants who built the structures and Harris who commissioned them, leading to a shocking conclusion. Upon moving to Toronto, I read this book and it helped me to understand the true history of this city. Furthermore, Ondaatje captures a sentiment that permeates through Toronto to this day, and it lends a new perspective to living and surviving in the Big Smoke.

Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood

Cat’s Eye is set in Toronto and follows the life of fictional artist Elaine Risley through her childhood in Toronto to her eventual return to her hometown. The novel begins with Risley riding on a streetcar, or the “the iron lung” as Atwood describes it, with two friends. Risley ends up getting bullied by her friends, and almost freezes to death in a ravine mid-way through the book. The setting of the ravine is a common theme in novels set in Toronto because of the recognizable topography in the city. When the artist returns to the city of her birth, she realizes integral things about her past. Atwood really sets the scene of the non-linear relationship all of us have with life. Cat’s Eye discusses a child’s perspective of growing up in Toronto and paints a special picture of the large metropolitan area.

Headhunter by Timothy Findley

Timothy Finley’s Headhunter is a dystopian novel set in Toronto at a time when a disease called sturusemia has swept through the city. The disease is carried by birds and, as a result, the city decides to kill them off.  The storyline is focused around a schizophrenic librarian named Lilah Kemp and two psychiatrists named Kurtz and Marlow, drawing a parallel with Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Mental illness is rampant and Kurtz uses his wealthy patients to his own ends,

The novel is set around Rosedale and the Parkin Psychiatric Institute based on the Clark Institute of Psychiatry located at University of Toronto’s College St. location. Findley’s perspective of Toronto paints a frightening and fascinating picture of downtown Toronto and its surrounding neighbourhoods.

Fifth Business by Robertson Davies

Fifth Business by Robertson Davies begins in a small town near Toronto known as Deptford, Ont. The central character is Dunstan Ramsay and the novel follows his life from small-town Ontario to big-city Toronto. Ramsay stays in contact with friends from his childhood and always plays a supporting role in their lives instead of taking charge of his own — known as the “fifth business”, a term coined by Davies.

After a series of tragedies occurring in WWI and WWII, Ramsay finds his destiny and his own sense of self. This novel discusses wealth and how dangerous it is in the hands of people who don’t deserve it. Davies draws an interesting connection between academia and capitalism, which is relevant to Toronto’s culture even today. Davies is one of the great Toronto writers in the last century and most of his novels bring in Canadian themes. This book is a great read and every Canadian should be familiar with Davies’ works.

Girls Fall Down by Maggie Helwig

Girls Fall Down by Maggie Helwig is a relatively new novel, released in 2008. It is a dystopian novel set in the underground subway tunnels as a disease spreads throughout the city. The setting scene describes Toronto as a cold place, with subway tunnels and ravines that “slice around and under the streets, where the rivers, the Don and the Humber and their tributaries, carve into the heart of the city.” The storyline focuses around a group of girls that contract this disease, and the subsequent result of everyone beginning to die. One of the characters also becomes obsessed with capturing the devastation on film, which is quite fitting considering Toronto is the center of Canadian film. This is a great novel to read on the subway and was even nominated as a must-read by the TTC Toronto book club.

Books about Toronto shed light into various themes and imaginings that plague this city. It is a metropolis that creates endless opportunities for settings in novels that embrace the history of the city and its future. Reading all of these novels often makes me think what I would write? Which setting would I use for my Toronto story? In Canada’s largest city, the options seem endless.

What is your favourite novel about Toronto? Let Women’s Post know in our comments below.

Media seems to be one-sided towards TTC and Metrolinx

It often seems that the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) and Metrolinx are getting roasted by everyone — the local media, twitter, and even people sitting at the dinner table.

Transit services provided in Toronto have a tough time catching a break and their achievements are often buried under the criticisms constantly being launched their way. It is no easy feat providing public transportation for a city of six million people. If you think of the massive population that TTC and Metrolinx serve on a daily basis, it’s a miracle these services get off the ground, let alone get each and every one of us home!

As a member of the media, I am going to temporarily ditch the table of media sharks and take a moment to appreciate the successes of TTC and Metrolinx. I may be burnt at the proverbial stake for professing my love of local transit, but I will bravely stand up and say this: thank you TTC for getting my tired buttocks home after a long day at work!

First off, kudos to the tireless efforts of City of Toronto politicians, the province of Ontario, and both the TTC and Metrolinx boards for the massive transit plans that are being actively adjusted and carried out every day. Toronto may not have the transit it needs right now, but the relief line is on the table and many other transit projects are being pushed forward with diligence. As someone who attended the public consultations on the relief line assessment, the TTC planners of the project were repeatedly roasted by the public and I commend their professionalism and perseverance through this process.

Another joint success of the TTC and Metrolinx is their ability to work together and launch the PRESTO fare integration. Being able to use one form of payment across the Metrolinx and TTC systems has made my commute much easier. It has been difficult to integrate the system in some circumstances, and the TTC drivers have been patient towards customers using PRESTO from the beginning as well.

Another major success was Mayor John Tory’s move to make the TTC free for kids under 12. As a single mom, this has made an incredible difference in my life. I never have to worry about taking my daughter with me on transit and it is such a financial relief. Seeing the City of Toronto support its children first-hand makes me feel as if I am a part of a community.

Lastly, I would like to demonstrate my appreciation for TTC drivers. The amount of flack these employees receive is inconceivable, and I’ve witnessed many acts of kindness from drivers that help people onto the streetcar or take the time to direct an old man to his destination. These are the true heroes of these transit systems. Overall, there are always new subway routes to be built or new trains to be provided, but without the TTC and Metrolinx, I wouldn’t be able to get home. Next time you are reading another hate-piece on transit in Toronto, think on that and maybe TTC and Metrolinx won’t seem so bad after all.

The hidden Canadian landscapes to explore

When tourists visit Canada, there is a typical route that they follow. From east to west, people visit Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Banff and Vancouver. These are the main cities and they are amazing in their own right. But what about the hidden treasures of our beautiful and vast country? Those are the places that fascinate me and, as a Canadian, I’ve made it my life’s mission to search out as many of these less-popular places as possible.

Take a ride with me on my adventures across Canada:

Beginning in beautiful British Columbia, imagine yourself lying on a secret nude beach resting on the crest of the mountains, surrounded by a midnight black lake. I decided to ditch the tent that night and slept directly on the beach, watched by the rare and beautiful gypsy travellers that populate B.C. I’m looking at the stars, and they are so clear it feels as if I can reach out and touch them.

I’m just outside Nelson, B.C, the unofficial hippie capital of the west. It is a place built entirely on a steep hill, which is absolute hell to climb with a backpack, but is nonetheless worth it once you see the view from the top. Several incense and weed shops line the streets and the town is dedicated to promoting local goods and community, with almost no corporate businesses in the vicinity. The town is nestled deep in the Kootenay mountain pass and is surrounded by large round mountains buried with trees. They look much different from the neighbouring Rockies. Nelson is as close to heaven as you can get. It is an escape from reality, and seems to only exist in a dream where nature and people finally seem to respect one another.

Another one of my favourite spots is in the Okanagan. The hills have grown much smaller, but I’m still awestruck by the contrast between the orange and red rolling desert mountains and the crystal blue lake that snakes through the valley. As you drive on the Coquihalla, the highway through the Okanagan that leads you to Vancouver, you will hit Penticton. It is a town surrounded by hot desert hills and is the home to the deepest lake in Canada.

I have fond memories of driving to Penticton with my boyfriend at the time and our friends to music gigs at rustic bars on the main strip that has since closed. We would climb on the roof while the boys played, and roofhop because the businesses were all connected ( though I don’t condone this behaviour. I had a friend fall of a roof years later). There is nothing better than watching a harvest moon, surrounded by desert hills and listening to B.C folk music, laden with banjos and violins. It is a sound that seems to emit from the very roots of the Okanagan’s heart and I highly recommend seeing one of the local Okanagan bands if you are in the region (Wild Son is a good example).

My next destination takes you on the Trans-Canada highway through the Rogers Pass into Alberta, my home province, the place where my heart rests no matter where I live in this crazy world. A tour of the Rockies will take you to some breathtaking sites and locations, but my absolute favourite town in Alberta is Jasper. Home of black bears, it is the best place for a sighting from a safe distance. Another favourite is Kananaskis, a tiny resort tucked away between Calgary and Banff. Kananaskis is in the entrance to the mountains, also known as the foothills. The vast prairies that rise into rolling hills and then morph into the majestic Rockies is a worthy site to see. Kananaskis has top level climbing, hiking trails and mountain sites.

Both Jasper and Kananaskis remind me of my mother. You haven’t met her, but she is amazing. My mom taught me the worth of driving to the places you love. She taught me to hike,and to respect and appreciate nature. I’ve seen every wild animal in the mountains because of her, from mountain goats to a grizzly bear. As she gets older, I often think of our drives through the Rockies, listening to Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains, and I realize no matter what happens these places will always remind me of her.

As I got older, I began to crave a different kind of Canadian adventure. I wanted to see the cities — the brick and the old stone edifices in the origins of this wonderful country. It was time to venture east. I packed the car, waved goodbye to my family and friends and took off across the prairies, listening to Janis Joplin. I saw the immense and endless splendour of the corn fields, or the yellow ocean as my daughter says. I landed in Brandon, Manitoba to see a friend of mine and it was there that I found this next hidden gem.

Brandon is a small city with a very tight-knit and loving community. I stayed with a friend who lived in the old city hall. The grand building had been converted to a house for people who studied the arts. It had several floors and rooms, and was run by two professors from Brandon University. Walking in the city, I saw my first glances of the historic buildings that helped build this country.

Ontario was next. The first thing I noticed was that the Great Lakes seemed to go on forever. The immensity of these bodies of water nourishes the land, creating a green and vivacious landscape. Kenora, Ont. is on the border between Manitoba and Ontario, and is my secret gem of the north. Surrounded by Lake of the Woods, this body of water winds around the town, which is a series of bushy islands. The Canadian Shield dominates the north as well and massive boulders of rock that jut from the ground create a complex and visceral topography, which is great for hiking and bouldering.

Speaking of history, Quebec City is the oldest city in Canada. I call it the city of all glories, because it has a beautiful waterfront dotted by old shipping boats (who doesn’t love a good boat?), it is built on a hill with narrow and old-fashioned streets, and is the home of the Chateau Frontenac. It is most definitely one of the most beautiful cities in Canada and has a distinctly European flair. Visiting Quebec City, it was exciting to hold my daughter’s hand and explain first-hand how Canada came to be. Plus, ordering a croissant and an Americano in French is always a treat.

Finally, there is the Maritimes. My mother is a born maritimer, and while I may be biased, I stand by this following opinion — people born and raised in the Maritimes are often the sweetest and friendliest people. I often visit Dalhousie, a city that borders Quebec with the Restigouche River between the two provinces. The Restigouche leads into the ocean, and migrating whales stop in the bay annually. My Grandmother has a cottage right on the water that she dubbed “the Hollow”, and I remember hiking with her to pick beach glass and find fossils. Visiting a couple years ago, it is unforgettable to stand at the pier of the lighthouse and listen to Acadians sing French folk songs as sail boats line the bay. You can almost see the ghosts of the first ships to arrive along the Restigouche River hundreds of years ago on ethereal nights such as these.

There are always more stories and more places to share. Canada is a vast and unforgettable country and you never know where the twists and turns will take you. My best advice when traveling Canada is to take the backroads. That is where you will see a proud old man in his electric wheelchair scooting down the street with a Canadian flag on the back, or a wolf standing watch by the roadside. My next stop is the Yukon. I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes.

Stay tuned for my photo project of my travels across Canada entitled Shades of Blue: my journey across Canada.

How to host an eco-friendly BBQ

There is nothing better than a delicious BBQ. The smell of the smoke, eating barefoot in the grass, drinking wine out of plastic cups — plus, everything tastes better when cooked with fire! But, as a vegan and strict environmentalist, my planning typically includes a lot of eco-friendly adaptations.

You may be asking: what do you mean by an eco-friendly barbecue? Is that even possible? Well my fellow readers, I am here to tell you that it is. To help you out, here are a few tips:

Fresh organic farmers market fruit and vegetable on display
Fresh organic farmers market fruit and vegetable on display
  1. Use in-season vegetables and fruits

Hit up your local farmer’s market and grab organic cucumbers, zucchini, watermelon and any other refreshing options to include as inexpensive and healthy side dishes at your BBQ. I always fry zucchini drizzled in chilli powder and olive oil. It is quite the with party guests.

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  1. Keep it simple

Planning and attempting complex recipes hours before guests arrive is a fast-track way to give yourself a heart attack. No need for unnecessary stress! Keep things simple with fresh foods that can be easily chopped or thrown on the BBQ. Provide kettle-cooked chips or sweet potato fries as an easy appetizer. Keeping it simple can also be said of decorations. Grab a vase or a floating dish with flowers from the garden and use homemade candles at night instead of outdoor lightings.

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  1. Use your own dishes

Paper plates and plastic utensils are my mortal enemy. They are wasteful and often difficult to recycle. Instead use your own dishes and convince your lovely party guests to help with dishes once the drinks are flowing and their bellies are full. I always enjoyed doing dishes after a great meal with my cousins while sipping a beer.

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  1. Potluck style

Another option instead of hosting a BBQ solo is to challenge guests to bring a healthy side dish along with them. Something small such as a light dessert or wine also helps. This creates and fosters a sense of shared community and makes meals versatile and fun for trying new foods.

By Michael Salazar
By Michael Salazar
  1. Make your own BBQ sauce

BBQ sauce is often full of sugar and preservatives. Instead, making a personalized sauce adds individualized taste to the meal. Try this: add one can of chopped tomatoes, 75 ml unsweetened apple juice, 2 tbps brown sugar, 1 tbps apple cider vinegar and ¼ tsp tabasco sauce to a pan and heat until boiling. This also makes your BBQ vegan for your animal-loving friends!

Remember to enjoy yourself. Planning a BBQ shouldn’t be a stressful affair. ALSO, don’t forget to have a vegetarian hot dog in the fridge just in case you get a surprise vegan guest! Bon Appetit!

Policymaking often lacks environmental accountability

We live in a world today that is experiencing an international environmental crisis, ranging from rising temperatures, melting ice caps and animal extinction, to name a few. It is paramount that policymakers take an interest in creating legislation that effectively responds to these threats. Sadly, as I sift through various environmental reports released by supposed policymakers, there remains a noticeable issue: accountability.

What exactly do the terms “conserve”, “maintain”, “protect” and “sustain” really mean? Environmental policies are replete with terminology that could be considered essentially meaningless. Reading a 100-page report that uses terms that have little scientific relevance and purpose does not inspire confidence. Without appropriate terminology, research, and data, policies carry little potential to effect real change.

If you doubt me, I will offer you a perfect example. The 20 Aichi Targets are a series of global goals put forward by the Biodiversity Indicators Partnership, a host of international organizations working towards promoting positive environmental change. The targets frequently employ language such as “safe ecological limits”, and “degradation”, but fail to reveal a quantifiable definition of the terms. What exactly constitutes degradation and at what level does that occur? What are safe ecological limits as determined by research and data, and how will these limits then be implemented to effect change? The lack of adequate terminology is a common occurrence in many policymaking reports about global change and environmental conservation and is astoundingly inappropriate considering the level of import of these policies.

The solution lies in creating stronger intercommunication between scientists and policymakers. The terminology used to understand many environmental issues needs to be simplified for people making policies, but still needs to be meaningful. In turn, policymakers need to create more accessible platforms for scientists to take part in the creation of reports containing important empirical data. By providing more concise definitions and understanding on how scientists determine how to save the planet, it can be properly translated into policies and will then be effectively accountable.

The bottom line is every person on earth has a responsibility in trying to save the planet. It is neither the scientist nor the policymaker that has the responsibility to create effective legislation to help climate change initiatives or avoid environmental degradation. Both parties play an essential role and it is about time that everyone starts working together and opening the lines of communication.

If we don’t, we are looking at our own extinction and I would personally like to leave my children with a world to live in rather than rubble and ash. Don’t you agree?

 

Cooling down this summer with homemade popsicles

A hot summer day with kids is excruciating, especially when everyone is hot and crabby. But there is a solution for moms and dads everywhere — homemade popsicles!

I ventured to the store with my daughter and grabbed a popsicle mould. We made it back home despite the intense heat wave and started making our delicious cool treat. Mix all the ingredients together with a blender by adding an avocado, a can of coconut milk, half a cup of coconut flakes, and 3-6 tbsp sugar depending on your preference for sweetness. Once the ingredients are smooth, pour them into the popsicle mould and freeze until solid. Affordable popsicle moulds can be purchased at the dollar store. These popsicles are full of fibre, protein and iron, and are delicious!

[Other options for homemade popsicles include] AWK TRANSITION. REMEMBER ARTICLES AREN’T LISTS.

If you are looking for something a little less traditional, try this gourmet twist on a strawberry popsicle by adding basil, or oranges for a citrus treat. If you are craving a pina colada on the beach, pineapple chunks blended with coconut milk and flakes makes a delicious popsicle. Most fruits and vegetables will taste delectable if blended with coconut milk and sugar once blended, though it is generally recommended to stay away from peaches because they don’t freeze well.

Acai berry coconut popsicle by Santopop. Photo provided by Nathalie Hernandez.
Acai berry coconut popsicle by Santopop. Photo provided by Nathalie Hernandez.

Nathalie Hernandez, owner of an artisan vegan ice pop company called Santopop, has a few tips. “Use fresh ingredients, the best raw materials means best pops. Also, get local fruits and respect the seasonality, it always tastes better,” Hernandez says. She also supports local farmers, and also handpick the ripest fruits, which helps you to use less sugar when blending the ingredients together.

Mango yangmei berry popsicle by Santopop. Photo provided by Nathalie Hernandez.
Mango yangmei berry popsicle by Santopop. Photo provided by Nathalie Hernandez.

I plan on making homemade popsicles weekly throughout the summer will be trying different handpicked fruits and vegetables from the farmers market. This will help my daughter get excited about picking out healthy foods, and she can help me blend all the ingredients together. By having healthy popsicles in the freezer, my daughter can avoid sugary ice pops and get a nutrition kick from a refreshing treat instead.

Give it a try and let Women’s Post know in the comments below know which fruits and vegetables are your favourite for homemade popsicles!