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Kaeleigh Phillips

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Eco-friendly solutions for the workplace

Have you ever seen lights on at night in a building downtown? It’s easy to forget to turn the switch when you leave work at night — you may be tired, nearly blind from staring at a computer all day, and it simply slips your mind. It’s a small thing, but these type of acts can waste a lot of energy.

Offices are wasting a lot of energy by not implementing sustainable practices, and there is no reason for it. It’s relatively easy to save energy within the workplace. The first step is to use electricity more responsibly. Changing the way office buildings uses this type of energy could have a substantial effect on climate change.

A report released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration in 2012 says that electricity has doubled in use over the last 30 years, from 2,200 trillion Btu of electricity in 1979 to 4,421 Btu in 2012 in commercial buildings in North America. Commercial buildings that use the most electricity include office spaces, education buildings, warehouse and storage and mercantile buildings. Space heating is cited as the primary user of electricity in the buildings.

Using eco-equipment that automatically shuts off overnight, on weekends, and on holidays is an can reduce usage dramatically. Or try motion sensor lighting in areas that aren’t occupied most of the time. There are several eco-friendly companies popping up that offer automatic shut-off plug-ins and lighting systems. By making these small changes it can also save companies money on their wasted electricity bills, not to mention it will reduce the number of carbon credits in the upcoming cap and trade arrangement.

Employing green standards in the construction of the building can help eliminate the need to make changes later.  LEED Green buildings and other certification systems are expensive initially, but have substantial savings over time in energy savings and water savings. Solar and geothermal energy usage are common forms of renewable energy that eradicate the need for electricity, helping the planet and your pockets.

Sustainable practices in the office itself include recycling. Make sure to have recycling boxes in all areas of the office, and if you work in an office that doesn’t recycle, take initiative! Go paperless in the workplace if possible as well. Use electronic receipts and invest in online cloud storage to keep files safe instead of printing documents. Cloud storage is a secure online data system that stores files through safe internet programs. Additionally, upcycling old computers by donating them is a good way to contribute positively to society and be eco-friendly.

In the office kitchen, use a compost and create a local rooftop garden with the left-over goodies if you are feeling creative. It is also a fun way to give employees access to fresh and local food and a place to relax during lunch breaks. Green walls are becoming popular in LEED buildings and can help air quality in the office. Eradicate plastic from the kitchen and put reusable cups and forks in the area. Passing out re-usable bags to co-workers helps create an incentive to stay eco-positive and send a green message in the workplace.

If every office space, education facility, warehouse and mercantile area went green, it could change the world. Starting small and leading a recycling campaign or doing something larger like funding geothermal heating could start a green workplace revolution. Go to work and give it a try! Isn’t it worth trying to save the planet one step at a time?

How to rock a music festival with a five-year old

Bringing my daughter to her first music festival seemed like a daunting experience. I stressed over what snacks to bring and what type of sunscreen would be appropriate. Once we were out the door though, our excitement grew as we headed to hear some great music.

Upon entering Field Trip, a music festival that was held at Fort York (250 Fort York Blvd) on June 4-5, we were flooded with the sounds, smells and sights of festival culture. People were milling about everywhere, and there were food trucks bordering the sides of the venue leading to the main stage. We decided the best way to begin our adventure into the festival was to take care of the necessities first; a bathroom break and water.

We headed to the outdoor washrooms and it took a great deal of convincing to get my daughter to go in. I had to tell her it was a spaceship and promise to hold her hand because she was afraid she would fall in. Water was surprisingly difficult to track down at the event, and more H20 areas would be a smart addition to the festival. Once we had our bottles filled, we headed into the circus.

Fieldtrip with my daughter and I.
Fieldtrip with my daughter and I.

One of the most noticeable and comforting things I noticed right away was the fact that there were several kids wandering about with 30-something hip parents holding ciders. The event created a symbiotic relationship between snotty-nosed three-foot nature lovers and rock n’roll parents who weren’t quite ready to give up their love for music. I naturally felt right at home with my little tyke.

We settled in to watch Boy & Bear, a great indie band that played a stellar live show. My daughter was swaying to the music and we pulled out our refreshments to combat against the sun. Disclaimer: Bring fresh fruit. It is refreshing, cool, easy to pack and will provide a good snack. I also brought vegan muffins, but found the baked goods didn’t hit the spot in quite the same way as cooling grapes. Bringing a blanket to sit on and a hat for my daughter was also a lifesaver in the heat.

After a couple shows, we hit the kid’s zone known as the TD Day Camp. It had a bouncy castle that my daughter loved and ping pong tables. It was a nice break for her from the sun, but I do feel more events could’ve been offered for the kids. My daughter spent more time rolling down hills than enjoying the activities offered.

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We returned to dance to Santigold, chasing bubbles along the way. Santigold is fronted by lead singer, Santi White, who has a reggae-infused electronic rock feel and a great on-stage presence. She uses props and colourful backgrounds that attracted my daughter’s attention wholeheartedly. After Santigold, we had worked up quite an appetite and went on an adventure to find food.

Food is always a dilemma because I am vegan and my daughter is vegetarian — and she also happens to be extremely picky. I’m saying PB & J sandwiches every single day of her life. I was pleasantly surprised with the vegan options at the festival. We managed to find a delicious quinoa salad (of which my daughter refused to try), a Portobello vegan burger (of which my daughter again refused to try) and a grilled cheese for the little lady. Before we had successfully found the grilled cheese, a colossal tantrum ensued over the possibility of having to eat quinoa salad and this resulted in a time-out on the back of a food truck. She had her arms crossed, lip pouting, and people were sufficiently amused.

After eating, my daughter made some friends by playing in what I assume was supposed to be an art piece, but quickly became a jungle gym for the kids. I allowed her to play for a bit (desperately needing a break for a moment) and then we went on our merry way. We received free drinks from David’s Tea out of sheer luck because they were closing and we were passing by, and after dousing it with sugar, my daughter was happy to have her herbal tea “juice”. Unfortunately, when we were waiting for The National to come on, the drink was crushed by a passerby, resulting in a few quick crocodile tears.

Once The National came on, everyone was happy again. My daughter was getting quite tired so I wrapped her in the blanket, and swayed her in my arms while belting out the lyrics to one of my favourite bands. She actually fell asleep about 10 metres from the stage, which amazed me considering it was a live concert. I knew it was time to pack it in and we headed home, happy and exhausted from our field trip.

Overall, I learned a lot about how to take my daughter to a music festival. Bring headphones to cover their ears. It is imperative for their sensitive hearing and it looks adorable. I also will bring activities for our next venture. Waiting for bands to come on can be tedious and dull for kids and some colouring or a Frisbee can help pass the time. Always bring fresh snacks and a map in case they don’t have printed guides available. It also helped that I made a schedule in advance to make the day as smooth as possible.

I loved Field Trip, and its family-friendly vibes. It is a lot of fun to share my love of music with my kid in a safe and fun environment. We will definitely be going next year, and to many more festivals ahead in Summer 2016!

One woman’s journey in documentary, “As She Is”

“As She Is” is a documentary about one woman’s journey to discover what is missing in her life, and to recover her feminine identity in our westernized and often patriarchal society.

Director Megan McFeely embarked on a life-changing journey after experiencing the death of her boyfriend and two other family members in the span of three weeks. “My life fell apart 17 years ago and I began really trying to figure out another way. I never felt fully myself in the world and was being pre-constructed to live a certain way,” said McFeely.  “I started working with organizations that were trying to shift consciousness. I had to go to India and make the film.”

Director, Megan McFeely
Director, Megan McFeely

“As She Is” explores how the feminine is absent from many faucets of westernized society and needs to be embraced by both women and men. McFeely says she needed to draw away from the dominant and power hungry ethos of being a business woman, and instead wanted to live differently. “I started looking around for what it meant to live a life. What am I doing here? The question was so fundamental, that I started finding things that helped me understand,” McFeely said. “The question about the feminine came at a later state. It guided my life.”

Previously, McFeely had been working in public relations in San Francisco and had been a successful business woman in the software industry. After her life fell apart, she felt that her career focused on her more dominant traits and she desired to connect with her emotive side more deeply.

“I have been living from the masculine. My father was a federal prosecutor. I was really assertive and direct and I had a really good linear thinking mind. I was completely disconnected from the feminine,” McFeely said. “We were born into a patriarchy, and we have been trained. Our mind is more trained than our heart. The mind is a thing that separates us, breaking things down from the biggest to the smallest. The heart brings us together.”

McFeely quit her job and embarked on her journey to India to discover her feminine side. She decided to make a film, interviewing a variety of spiritual teachers and authors on the subject of the feminine and its import in modern society. Interviewees include Sufi teacher, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, who is the founder of the Golden Sufi Centre in Northern California, and explores spiritual consciousness and the significance of the feminine within.  Co-founder of the Center of Entrepreneurship and Technology at University of California at Berkley, Stacey Lawson, is also a spiritual guide and talks about the strengths of embracing the feminine in the business world in “As She Is”.

“Interestingly, McFeely is interviewed in the film, which is rare in a documentary. She described the experience of being the subject of the film and the director as vulnerable and humbling. “I was very judgmental of myself and I had to trust other people. Imagine watching yourself for eight months, it is really humbling,” McFeely says. “You have to accept yourself in a certain way. It was an amazing learning process for me to be in the film.”

Since the release of “As She Is”, McFeely has met women all over the world that feel similarly. Recently her documentary was screened in the Library of Alexandria in Egypt and was recently presented at the 14th Annual Female Eye Festival in Toronto. The festival showcases female documentaries and includes panels discussing women and the film industry.

10-year cycling plan “mostly” satisfies two-wheelers

The 10-year cycling plan was adopted last week by a landslide vote of 38-2 at Toronto’s City Council. A few amendments were made to the bike network, but many of the desired changes were kept in the 525 km plan to make Toronto the one of the best cycling cities in North America.

Corridor studies will be removed from the cycling plan until council members see the outcome of the Bloor St. pilot project. The Bloor St. pilot is a cycling path from Shaw St. to Avenue Rd. on Bloor St. that will allow cyclists to travel safely. A report on the much anticipated Bloor St. bike lanes is due to be released next summer and this could lead the way for cyclists gaining access to other major arterials. In the meantime though, no further studies or cycling paths will be built on major roads in Toronto. The corridor studies that were removed from the plan include Yonge St., Danforth Ave., Jane St., Kingston Rd., Kipling Ave., Midland Ave., and Lake Shore Blvd. W.

Though City Council killed plans for major roads in the cycling plan, a separate proposal for bike lanes on Danforth Ave. is set to be revived and reviewed after the Bloor St. pilot project comes to life. The Danforth study is set for the third quarter of 2017.

The plan that is passed will see City council commit $16 million per year, which was more than the minimum baseline funding of $12 million that was originally pitched to council. This amounts to $153.5 million over 10 years. The 10-year plan will be reviewed in 2018 to see how it is progressing, giving an opportunity to review the need for major arterial studies if the Bloor St. pilot project is a success.

An unexpected addition was approved by council when deputy mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong requested that seasonal cycling tracks be removed in the winter. This was approved by 25-15 council members. The cycling community was not impressed with this new regulation as biking in the winter is only possible with cycling tracks.

The 10-year cycling plan includes positive developments for the cycling community as well, including extending the Richmond and Adelaide cycling path across the Don Valley to bike lane at Eastern Ave. A tunneled cycling route will also be added below Highway 401 at Wilmington Ave. and Faywood Blvd. Cycling routes will connect to 12 subway stations, which helps transit commuters that want to bike part of their route. New routes were also approved on Palmerston Ave., Sumach St., Portland St., and Dovercourt Rd.

Overall, the 10-year bike plan is a considerable success because it doubles the amount of funding currently being put into cycling infrastructure and also addresses needed routes across the city. Dropping the major arterial studies is a disappointment since a few of the corridor assessments were reportedly already underway, but fingers crossed the Bloor St. project reviews this part of the plan.

Next up, get ready to bike on Bloor due to be ready this year, and let us know how it goes.

Part 2: Top 5 Pride events not to miss

June is Toronto Pride month, and it seems to be off to a great start! Haven’t been to any of the events yet? Don’t worry, because there are still a lot of great events to attend over the next two weeks! In light of recent events surrounding the Orlando Shooting, it is more important than ever to get out and show our pride.

Here are a few upcoming events that you shouldn’t miss:

Libido: Presented by Dyke March & Manifesto

Libido is a music event being held at the Gladstone Hotel ( 1214 Queen St. W.) on June 16 starting at 9 p.m. The DJ line-up, which includes LGBTQ artists, will be released soon and all proceeds will go towards dyke, queer, and youth initiatives hosted by Manifesto and the Dyke March. Manifesto is a youth organization that helps emerging hip hop artists in Toronto. Tickets will be pay-what-you-can between $10-$20 upon arrival.

Club Babylon

The popular drama TV show, Queer as Folk, has a famous and popular fictional nightclub that will come to life on June 17 at 10:30 p.m to celebrate the iconic TV show. The legendary event will occur at Fly 2.0 (6 Gloucester St.), a gay club in Toronto, and the venue for the fictional club on the show. There will be go-go boys wearing the original Queer as Folk costumes, and Randy Harrison, who played Justin on the show, will be hosting the celebration.

TIFF Family Pride Screening

If you are looking for an event to attend with the kids, a family Pride movie is a great way to eat popcorn and teach an important message at the same time. The TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King St. W.) is putting on a compilation of live-action short films that advocate for LGBTQ inclusive themes on June 19 at 1 p.m. The films are recommended for ages seven and up. Films include Looks, Wini & George, Exclamation Mark, and the Boy with Chocolate Finger among many others.

Two-spirit Rainbow Pow Wow

The Two-Spirit Indigenous community is proud to feature art, culture and music around the two-spirit identity at the TD Village Stage (77 Wellesley St. E.) on July 1 at 7 p.m. Two-spirit dancers will be showcased, alongside DJ Sub who will be spinning First Nations’ electronic dance beats. Juno award winning group, Digging Roots, and famous two-spirit artist, Shawnee will also perform. The pow wow will include drums and traditional first nations dancing.

Pride Parade

Toronto’s Pride Parade is the main event of Pride month and it is a busy and fantastic experience. The pride parade is coming into its 35th year. The parade begins at 2p.m on July 3 at the corner of Church and Bloor St. and will march southwards. The parade features over 100 different organizations that support LGBTQ rights and celebrates this community in a healthy and fun way. Definitely worth attending!

The second half of Pride month is full of stellar event choices that vary from family flicks to club nights with go-go boys. There is something for everyone to enjoy, and it all concludes with the ever-amazing Pride Parade.

What event are you looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below.

Orlando shooting a devastating LGBTQ tragedy

The celebratory spirit of pride month has been severely affected by the Orlando Shooting, devastating the LGBTQ community and inciting fear for the upcoming pride parade on July 3.

Forty-nine people were shot and killed in Orlando at 2 a.m early Sunday morning at the Pulse, with 43 others still in the hospital with injuries. Pulse, a gay club in the city, was celebrating a Latin themed night when the shooter opened fire on partygoers. This tragedy is the worst mass shooting against the LGBTQ community in history.

The shooter, Omar Mateen, emphasized his allegiance to the Daesh extremist group and ISIS in a 911 call that took place in the club’s bathroom, where he held 30 hostages until the police shot him at approximately 5 a.m.  Mateen had previously been investigated by the FBI for a relation to a suicide bomber in Syria, but there wasn’t enough evidence to file charges.

On Sunday, another man, armed with three assault rifles and explosive chemicals, was arrested in Southern California. He was reportedly headed to the West Hollywood gay pride parade. Today, University of Toronto has also been placed on lock-down due to a young man carrying a gun being reported in the area. It is unclear if this is related to recent events in Orlando.

Targeted attacks on the LGBTQ community are so devastating — there is simply no amount of words to describe the level of sadness and anger that people are experiencing right now. There are no words for the level of pain this has caused a community that has already experienced marginalization for centuries. There are no words for the families and friends of these beloved and innocent individuals.

It is clear that the shooting is a blatant example of the need for more extreme gun laws in the United States. People are not safe and marginalized communities are being needlessly attacked. An attack on Muslim culture (as Donald Trump proceeded to do as quickly as possible) is not appropriate either. Inciting further hatred against a religious group that desires no affiliation with ISIS and its extremist tactics does not respectfully honour the victims of this tragedy.

Toronto Pride month executive director Mathieu Chantelois announced Monday morning that the Pride Parade will be dedicated to the victims of the Orlando shooting. Extra security measures are also set to be implemented at the parade, as well as other pride events throughout the month. The fear that will accompany the remaining events of Pride and at the parade itself is disheartening. People are afraid, and this could affect participation in the important annual celebration of LGBTQ pride.

Though people are fearful, the Orlando shooting gives Toronto the opportunity to ban together as a strong and supportive community for the LGBTQ. It is essential to show homophobic extremists that we will not be broken by misguided hatred. Support the LGBTQ, attend Pride, and let’s show our love for the brothers and sisters that have fallen in Orlando.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Moving in the summer: how to do it right

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Toronto is redefining local free trade through Bunz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alberta gender identity and expression guidelines debated

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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