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Brexit vote causes loonie and pound to plummet

The Brexit vote has caused the loonie to plummet and has left many Canadian stockholders running. Britain’s decision to leave the European Union has upset the global market greatly due to the unprecedented nature of this event.

The Canadian dollar dropped to $76.28 cents US, after initially dropping $1.37 US on Friday and dropping another $0.65 cent US on Monday. This is a substantial currency loss and has put the TSX stock market into a frenzy. The Canadian dollar is expected to continue dropping to approximately $ 0.74 cent US over the next three months due to turmoil in the market over the uncertainty surrounding the Brexit vote. At the same time, many financial experts are expecting the market to re-stabilize because market overreaction is a typical response when a great global shift occurs.

Britain’s vote has left Canada in a precarious economic position as well, as our country has strong trade relations with Britain. Though many financial consultants are stressing that the market will stabilize, others are concerned for the future of the North American market. Canadian and U.S markets rely on Britain as a primary communicator to the EU for trade relations.Without this point of contact, trade relations may become more difficult as the British middle man pulls out of the EU. The free trade agreement between Canada and the EU called CETA has already seen resistance from other European countries since Brexit.  London is also the base for Canadian banking operations and this decision may put them at risk.

Another concern is what will happen to British stock portfolios when the country separates from the EU. The EU passport that accompanies several stock portfolios in the country create higher value when considering trade options. Without unlimited access to the other countries in the EU, people are looking to sell their stocks. When the market falls out of balance with panicked stockholders looking to jump ship, it becomes threatened and could cause further instability to the market.

Before the vote occurred on June 23, the British pound was trading at $1.50 US. The pound now stands at $132.40, a 31-year low for the country. The severe drop of the pound is causing reverberations throughout England and it is unclear whether recovery will be possible once they leave the EU.  There are rumours circulating that the Bank of England will soon cut interest rates to try and help stabilize the market. Cutting interest rates would help lower costs to investors while their stocks plummet, but will not be enough to restore the pound to its pre-Brexit value. The Royal Bank of Scotland had their shares halted after declining 15 per cent, and the Euro dropped six per cent as well.

Other “glass-half-full” investors urge Canadian to buy the cheap stocks while they are hot, as panicked stockholders will sell cheaply when the economy temporarily drops. The TSX market was down a whopping 210 points to 13,681 in the afternoon on Monday, reflecting that Canadian stockholders were panicking. Bank stocks swung the market heavily because they dominate the TSX stock market, and are easily affected by global impacts.

Another potential plus is the impact on the US economy. Wall Street experienced its worst day on the market in the last 10 months and this might push the US Federal Reserve to delay increasing interest rates as previously planned. This would be helpful to the Canadian economy as it would make stock options cheaper in the US, but could potentially continue to drive housing prices upwards due to low interest rates in both countries so it is difficult to foresee if this is positive or not for Canadians. The Brexit vote also creates a more nationalistic tone in global trade relations and could hurt the potential for the Trans-pacific Partnership, an important trade deal for Canada.

One of the reasons that British citizens opted to leave the EU was to help their economy. It was argued by Brexit supporters that the taxes demanded by the EU were too high, and maintaining a private economy would be more profitable for the country. The plummeting pound and unstable British market has clearly proven otherwise. Leaving the EU will weaken the British economy tenfold and leave it without valuable EU trade partners in the global market.

This EU exit is unprecedented in history and its impacts to the future are unknown — but clearly it will be dark days ahead for the British economy.

Sunny ways may be clouded after Trudeau elbows female MP

Sunny ways and sunny days may be over for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after he accidentally elbowed a female MP in the House of Commons Wednesday.

That’s right. He elbowed an MP in the chest and now can’t show his face in the House because politicians and the media made it into such a frenzy that the chances of real work happening on the floor is next to zero.

Here’s what happened:

The House of Commons was about to vote on limiting debate relating to the controversial assisted suicide bill when a group of MPs decided to get up and stand on the floor, blocking Conservative Whip Gord Brown from getting to his seat to start the vote. An impatient Trudeau got up from his seat, crossed the floor, grabbed Brown’s arm, and guided him through the crowd. In doing so, he elbowed NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau in the chest.

According to media reports, Brosseau proceeded to leave the House during the vote because she felt violated and uncomfortable.

It’s pretty obvious that the elbowing of MP Brosseau was an accident, and the opposition parties are definitely milking this opportunity to shame the Liberal government. A yelling match between Mulcair and Trudeau occurred after the incident, in which Trudeau shocked the rest of the House when he dropped an F-bomb — apparently they forgot he wasn’t a schoolboy in disguise.

The opposition and NDP even went so far as to question Trudeau’s feminism. My favourite part of the whole interaction was when when NDP leader Thomas Mulcair screams, “what kind of person elbows a woman? It’s pathetic!”

I’m sorry Mulcair, but that’s a pretty ridiculous question. I can answer it for you: almost every single man (and woman) trying to take public transportation to work. It happened to me this morning. A man was trying to get to the door and he bumped into me with force, physically knocking me over into the lap of another man. He turned around and said, “I’m so sorry” and walked away. I decided not to feel personally offended.

Now, this man wasn’t Prime Minister, but the idea is the same.

The bigger issue, in my opinion, is that Trudeau walked across the floor to guide the whip to his seat in the first place. According to media reports, Brown was not receptive of the Prime Minister’s attempt to get the vote rolling. He told Trudeau to let go of him after he grabbed his arm. I can’t say anything about the amount of force used to “guide” him to his seat, but if he said “let go of me”, then it was wrong of Trudeau to maintain his hold. Actually, it shouldn’t have happened in the first place.

It’s also notable that throughout this whole process the speaker did nothing about the crowd of MPs standing on the House floor and blocking the whip’s path. This may have been the reason why Trudeau felt like he had to personally do something.

Since the incident Trudeau has publicly apologized at least three times, saying that he was not paying attention to his surroundings and that he did not mean to offend or impact anyone.

“I noticed that the whip opposite was being impeded in his progress,” he said. “I took it upon myself to go and assist him forward, which I can now see was unadvisable as a course of actions that resulted in physical contact in this House that we can all accept was unacceptable.”

This incident will take over the news — and the politics — in the House of Commons for the next few days. Trudeau may even get reprimanded for actions. Yes, these actions were obviously unacceptable, but let’s not let it cloud our judgement and our ability to work on the real issues at hand. And let’s not turn it into something it’s not — a jab against liberal feminism.

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Here’s my story on mental health, what’s yours?

Those who know me can confirm that tears rolling down my face is a strong indication that I was laughing too hard – usually at my own jokes – or someone I care deeply about has fallen flat on their face and I caught the whole thing on my iPhone to blackmail them for the rest of their life. Once I start laughing, it’s hard to stop.

Given these small, well-known facts about me, it’s difficult to imagine that back in January, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. And with Mental Health Awareness Week wrapping up, I want to let it be known that everyone should be aware of their mental health. Here’s my story.

Being only 21 — and South Asian — my mental health struggle is something I’ve had to keep under wraps for the past few months. I identify as a perfectionist. I’m always under pressure to be above average, whether that be with my GPA, the way I showcase myself to family, friends, and even strangers on the subway, to my attempt at balancing my Western and South Asian values in midst of a being born and brought up in North America with strong cultural ties to Bangladesh. I was put on a pedestal since the day I was born and I’ve never forgotten the major mistakes I’ve made in my short two decades.
I started 2016 with a list of usual New Year’s Resolutions. However, a series of unfortunate events began to occur, exposing the fact that I wasn’t as perfect as I let everyone perceive me to be. The emotions I’m so used to bottling up began to surface. I started losing valuable things, failing to maintain and be present in relationships, and traded my smile for frequent, frustrated sighs.

I began losing my drive; something that has kept me going from the moment I had my first goals and aspirations. Waking up became an even greater challenge, the sound of my family and friends’ voices made me agitated, and the thought of being a functioning member of society made me want to shut down and move to Alaska. I fell behind on work and school and began to spend a lot of time in the confines of my bedroom. Breathing alone seemed to have taken more effort.

A week later, I couldn’t take it anymore. One question kept arising: “What’s wrong with me?”

Not having anyone to talk to about it without making me feel like a fragile arts student on the verge of a breakdown, I went to a walk-in clinic one morning. My family doctor has known me for years and I wasn’t prepare to watch her eyebrows shoot up while I told her about how I was feeling. Up until the walk-in doctor walked in and sat down, I kept rehearsing the same sentence. ”I was wondering if you can provide me with a referral to a therapist.”

I repeated that to myself for the 10 minutes I was alone in her office, memorizing what I was going to say, word for word.

“I’m just looking for some information on how to deal with, um, mental health… issues.” I replied when a young woman sat down and asked what she can do for me.

Dammit.

I saw a flash of concern on her face appear and then quickly disappear as she pulled up a website and started asking me a list of questions about my feelings and what’s going on in my life to cause these feelings. I answered them one by one, quickly confirming the doubts I had about possibly having depression and anxiety. After 15-20 minutes of talking, she concluded that I was right.

“Great, so I was wondering if you can provide me with a referral to a therapist.”

The pretty doctor and I shared a couple of nervous laughs and awkward stories about things she would probably tell her family about at dinner that night. She told me about the three month wait to see a therapist and how it may not be possible for me to cope with my emotions until my appointment. To help me cope, she prescribed me with 30 days of anti depressants — without a referral to see a therapist. She didn’t tell me about the side effects, but emphasized that she wanted to see me back in two weeks for a progress report.

I smiled and nodded, sort of relieved there was something that can make me feel better and feel a little more like myself. I went home with my bottle of happy pills that night and told my best friend, a health science and psychology student, what happened. I learned about the side effects and the misdiagnosis that occurred in that office. You aren’t supposed to give someone not struggling with clinical depression anti-depressant pills. She encouraged me not to take them and I promised her I wouldn’t.

Being stubborn — and partially curious — I took the pills for a maximum of three days. They took away the difficulty to breathe, but brought on drowsiness, stomach aches, dizziness, and nausea. I decided it would be easier just to come to term with the occurrences that went on in the past four months and learn to find closure. I never went back to follow up with the doctor after two weeks and she never followed up with me. In addition to occasionally popping pills I could’ve easily sold on the black market to my fellow university students on days where I felt really bad, I adopted a ‘screw that’ attitude and brushed everything off.

While others saw me coming back to my old, confident, slightly arrogant self, I will always see myself as selfish; a thought I’m trying to change. Because I find sometimes the best way to take care of your mental health is to, in fact, be selfish. My uncontrollable need to please people has somewhat improved, but the idea of putting myself first still seems unnecessary and undeserving.

Unfortunately, it’s evident that there are a lot of problems in our health care system. While Mental Health Awareness week is a great initiative, it’s important to provide help when the public becomes aware that their mental health may need some TLC. While I am able to manage my anxiety most days by shaking things off – a tactic I would definitely not recommend — not being able to provide mental health patients with therapists and psychiatrists will most likely lead to a larger amount of problems.

As we speak, there are a sea of lost and helpless men and women who probably don’t even know they are struggling with their mental health. They think they’re stuck in a rut; struggling to wake up in the morning, making their way through their 9-5 jobs while somehow coming home by 5:30-6:00 only to go back to bed again.

We shouldn’t have to ‘deal with it’. We shouldn’t have to hide it. I have come to terms with the fact that anyone and everyone can struggle with mental health illnesses. Even people that laugh at their own jokes.

I’m no longer afraid to admit that I’m having anxiety while I’m typing this very sentence, as I conclude my post and wait as my friends and family click on the link and find out that my ‘bad days’ are far worse than that. And while you will all be aware of this fact when you read this, you should also be aware that there is much more we need to do than just “be aware”. Here is my story. What’s yours?

If you or a loved one may be suffering with mental health illnesses, please visit mentalhealthweek.cmha.ca/ for more information on next steps.

Review: “The Heaviness of Things that Float”

Aboriginal culture is a large part of Canadian heritage and has been a heavily discussed issue in current politics. Canadian aboriginals are often misunderstood, and the true ties to their culture can feel remote and forgotten.

The Heaviness of Things that Float by Jennifer Manuel is a narrative set in coastal B.C that discusses each of these issues in a delicate manner through the eyes of main character, Bernadette Perkal. Bernadette is a nurse stationed for 40 years at a fictional remote native reserve, Tawakin. The novel begins with the disappearance of Chase Charlie, an aboriginal man that Bernadette helped raise when he was a young boy. The community creates a search party and the reader is introduced to the small community of 100 people that live at the reserve.

Heaviness of things that float

As the story progresses, we learn of Bernadette’s love affair with local resident, Frank, and its tragic ending. The reader quickly discovers that Bernadette is retiring and leaving the reserve to live out her remaining days in Duncan, B.C. It also becomes clear that Bernadette feels like she is an outsider and worries that her 40 year commitment to the clan does not matter.

When the new nurse, Wren Weatherstone arrives for training, the separation between the people of reserve and the nurses becomes more pronounced. Bernadette begins to understand the meaning of her privileged upbringing and the historical ties leading up to the distinct separation between different Canadian cultures. Wren also introduces more politicized themes into the novel, mentioning her attendance at a protest in Vancouver for the Idle No More movement.

The Heaviness of Things that Float carefully discusses the assumptions that many Canadians attach to aboriginal culture. Manuel displays a compassionate account of the need to detach aboriginal culture from others to protect it, and emphasizes that coastal aboriginals are not looking for a saviour, but respect. The importance and power of stories is intricately woven into the story and the coastal landscape plays a powerful role in the climax of the novel.

Jennifer Manuel has spent many years invested in coastal Aboriginal culture and gives a very truthful account of her own experiences. She was a treaty archivist and then a teacher for the Ktunaxa, Tahltan and Nuuchah-nulth peoples. Manuel talks about her own novel in the introduction, emphasizing the themes of privilege, and “the nature of belonging, the limits of knowing one another and the stories of arrival that tangle with the stories of contact.”

Though Tawakin is a fictional place, Manuel creates a very realistic story for readers and does not give in to a traditional happy ending. The novel becomes heavier as the plot progresses, but the story retains a spiritual acceptance of fate and its consequences. This novel is a great read for any lover of the ocean and coastal aboriginal culture, and it will transport you to a peaceful place where hidden realities lie waiting.

 

#UnfairandLovely Campaign embraces dark-skinned women

Being Bengali, I grew up seeing a large spectrum of skin colours and features across the country my parents grew up in, including that of my family. Whether it’s frizzy hair, a round nose, or having no curves (or too much curves), there is always something to criticize when it comes to women and their genetics. I was always told how lucky I was to have fair skin. It was ‘a sign of beauty which not everyone is blessed with.’

However, living in Canada quickly showed me how untrue that was. Dark-skinned girls are beautiful! I stare in awe whenever my darker friends post on Instagram — many of whom are featured below — taking in their sharp features, not to mention they can contour their face without looking dirty. They can rock the colour orange, pop in yellow, and look amazing in teal. So, when the Unfair and Lovely campaign took off, it was of no surprise to me. Of course unfair girls are lovely. It’s just surprising society tells them they’re not.

The movement was first started a few weeks ago by Pax Jones and a couple of friends.

“My own lived experiences as a black woman inspired me to develop this photo series. Mirusha, who modelled alongside her sister Yanusha, later came up with the title Unfair & Lovely for the series. The series was purely a creative project that I developed to combat under-representation of dark skinned people of colour in media.” stated Jones, in an interview with Women’s Post.

Since then, the movement has blown up. Despite tanning salons and sun bathing being so popular for women in North America, others are putting lightening creams on their face and scrolling through Pinterest, looking for ways to become fair-skinned. From a young age, girls are told to stay out of the sun, taught how to use face masks with lightening properties, and instructed to avoid drinking tea because “it makes your skin darker.” Therefore, when a group women come forward to tell you you’re ‘unfair and lovely’, it’s actually a rare compliment.

The campaign is a grassroots movement that has been fuelled by the leadership and activism of young women all over social media, and it is definitely important that their voices be centered in this conversation.

kavi“I am an Indian woman, I am dark skinned and I am proud. The #UnfairAndLovely campaign to me is a well overdue step forward in certain communities that are mentally 10 decades behind than the people of today’s generation. I have been blessed to have grown up in a family of amazing beings that have taught me to love what’s underneath the skin and to ‘never judge a book by its cover’. It has allowed me to feel comfortable in my own skin and to support this movement whole heartedly in hope for a change that urge both men and women to put down fairness creams and take up the debate for a responsible media that doesn’t attribute success and beauty to skin colour,” said Kavi Anand, currently attending the University of Waterloo.

This isn’t the first campaign to embrace and empower women of colour. Reclaim the Bindi, which is collaborating with Unfair and Lovely, looks to combat cultural appropriation surrounding the bindi, the dot worn on the centre of the forehead of many South Asian women. Young women who grew up being ridiculed for their cultural practices are now being empowered to embrace them, posting powerful selfies of themselves wearing a bindi, which has both cultural and religious significance for South Asian women.

Jones shared her thoughts on working hand in hand with a more diverse range of Women of Colour (WoC) to elevate the platform of the initiative in which she mentioned:

”I’m happy it’s blown up and that many are using it to heal from abuse they’ve faced due to their skin colour. I think the invitation to collaborate with #reclaimthebindi for Reclaim The Bindi Week definitely helped. It’s also devastating how quickly the hashtag picked up steam, because it highlights how desperately our communities needed a space that represents dark-skinned people of colour.”

With thousands of online followers, Reclaim the Bindi has allowed young women to celebrate their skin colour, and the culture that comes with being said skin colour. Women’s Post spoke to founder of Reclaim the Bindi on the phone. While wishing to stay anonymous to avoid taking the spotlight away from the movement, she expressed her appreciation of being able to initiate this movement online, as it allows people to really educate themselves on the subject.

heera”It’s a great initiative.” says Heera Sri, a supporter of Reclaim the Bindi and a student at York University with a large Instagram following herself. ”It’s making a lot of women feel more comfortable and come into their own skin. It’s all about loving yourself. Personally, I went through my own journey of embracing my dark skin and love that there’s women looking to provide a back bone for those who don’t have one yet. We live in a progressive country and there’s so much diversity, so I don’t see why being dark skinned should restrict you from anything. ”

South Asian women often indulge in Bollywood movies, hoping to find their very own prince charming at the GO Station one day. However, even in an industry that can easily embrace darker-skinned women, there is a surge in lightening cream endorsements and ‘dusky’ girls who gradually become less dusky as they excel in their acting careers. The Tamil movie industry, Heera mentions, borrows actresses from Northern Sri Lanka and India to play Tamil characters. In a time when we crave colour on TV screens and movie theatres, most recently with #OscarsSoWhite, how come we’re not asking for the same back at home?

12834876_10153579087697637_1199498983_nOn the topic of cultural norms and harmful beauty standards, Ramisa Tasfia, a student at the University of Toronto Scarborough, says, “Treatments like skin bleaching or products like Fair & Lovely definitely perpetuate shadeism by promoting the idea that lighter is better. I feel that colorism is a result of systemic racism within our own cultures; partly believing that whiter people hold more power and beauty. I’ve never known dark skin to be ugly, or unappealing than light skin—but as I grew older I became more exposed to the obvious signs that lighter skin is favoured over darker skin.”

Jones created the #UnfairandLovely hashtag to encourage all women, with an emphasis on South Asian women, to embrace their natural colour and revel in their own beauty. But,  Jones wants people to know the campaign is for everyone: “Some outlets have falsely reported that #unfairandlovely is only for dark-skinned South Asian women, but this is false. It’s for dark-skinned people of colour who are women, genderqueer, non-binary, etc.”

Amina Mohammed, former editor in chief of The Muslim Voice, shared her take 10734038_10152905141136458_2294525185944902355_non the movement through her perspective as a Somali-Canadian, Muslim woman. ”I’ve watched many of my South Asian friends struggle to come to terms with the dangers of colourism. I’ve seen them turn to whitening cream, lemon and potato peel facial masks, and extra sunscreen; all in an effort to appear fair (and lovely). I’ve also found the majority of anti-blackness from the South Asian community stems from this initial, internal adherence to a colourist social stratification. The Unfair and Lovely movement encourages probing dialogue, self-love, positivity and a re-definition of loveliness. I am all for this campaign, I think it’s great,” she added.

The movement comes in lieu of Reclaim the Bindi Week, which took place from March 8-14. As media got in on the story, we saw the impact that young women have of creating a voice for those who don’t. While movements like Unfair and Lovely are definitely steps towards ending discrimination, there will need to be a complete overhaul of the collective mindset of society to bring about an end to the prejudice that is shown against dark skinned people — not to mention the the superiority factor that is associated with fairness.

How has the Unfair and Lovely campaign affected you? Let us know in the comments below!

Blaze up! Six business looks for the winter

Are you going to a job interview? An important meeting with a client? Maybe even a work party? In this uncertain weather, it’s hard to commit to heels and a pencil skirt. Instead, try a blazer with a patterned or brightly coloured shirt.

But, blazers are a bit boring and dull, aren’t they? Wrong! The blazer is the perfect accessory — it can be incredibly professional, powerful, sexy, and it can have as much personality as the person who wears it. Here are some options for those of you who think the only way you can wear a blazer is with a pencil skirt or a well-tailored power suit.

The free falling blazer: This type of blazer has a classic notch collar and boyfriend styling, making it the perfect accessory for both a business meeting and a night out. It is perfect for women that are petite or who have curves, because there is no need to button it up. Let your blazer hang loosely, and professionally.

Le Chateau, $89.95
Le Chateau, $89.95

The academic: Nerdy is in! Try your hand at some tweed, corduroy, or a blazer with some coloured elbow patches. This look is clean, professional, and adds just a bit of cheek into your wardrobe. Your colleagues will see you as smart, clean, with a little bit of edge.

Zara, $89.90
Zara, $89.90

The vest: Some may say the vest is “out of fashion”, but I say otherwise! Pair it with a blouse or a funky longer shirt. Wear it open for a more relaxed, artsy look, or button it up with a skinny tie for a chic business look. For women with a bit of shape, a blazer can be daunting — the sleeves are either too small, and then if they fit your arms, the shoulders look like they swallowed you whole. The vest is the perfect compromise.

Convey, $258.00
Convey, $258.00

The crop: Not all blazers have to look…well, like blazers. This cropped and zippered jacket works in a business setting or an afternoon with friends. It will make you look chic, elegant, and put together. The best part about these neutral coloured blazers is that you can pair it with a high patterned legging or pant and heels for a more polished look.

Additionelle , $120
Additionelle , $120

The pattern: Luckily, there are a lot of options for those who may not like the traditional blue, black, or brown suit jacket. This type of blazer is a lot more feminine, and features a strong collar and a zipper instead of the typical round buttons. This type of blazer would look amazing with a pair of dark jeans and converse shoes, or a pair of fitted black dress pants and heels.

Judith and Charles, $237,50
Judith and Charles, $237,50

The wild: Need a little more colour in your life? Try one of these multi-coloured blazers. I don’t suggest wearing them with a patterned shirt, but they are the perfect compromise for those with a bit of a wild and fun side. It looks professional, but doesn’t scream “I live in a cubical.”

Aritzia, $90
Aritzia, $90

Do you have a favourite blazer in your closet? Describe it or send in a picture using the comments below!

Lest we Forget: remembering and thinking about the future

Cosmo DeClerq, my grandfather, Canada-Belgian SAS
Cosmo DeClerq, my grandfather, Canada-Belgian SAS

My grandfather was a paratrooper during the Second World War. He never spoke to us about his experiences—and, frankly, we never asked. I was too young to understand what he had gone through. I never really knew he was in the military until he passed away and I met some of his colleagues at the funeral.

That’s why it was refreshing to see so many young faces at this year’s Remembrance Day ceremony.

Queen’s Park was crowded with young students and families with their children. Most were wearing black overcoats and the bright red of their poppy pins could be seen despite the drizzling rain. There were no whispers among this crowd; no snickers or horseplay. It was the most silent and respectful crowd I’ve seen in a while. The exception was the young girl behind me, who was quietly explaining what was happening for three international University of Toronto students who decided to attend the ceremony. Why? They wanted to learn more about Canadian culture and heritage.

These ceremonies are meant to give us time to remember the past—the men and women who served our country both at home and abroad, who died to protect our freedom and our way of life. But, maybe it can do more. Maybe, it can help us look into the future.

I spent a few minutes after the ceremony speaking with groups of students, most of whom weren’t native to this country. They were all fascinated by the ceremony, and all could relate to this idea of “remembrance.” Some came from war-torn countries, others from Europe, South America, or Asia. One young man was from Japan, and he spoke of the atomic bomb. He felt compelled to come to Queen’s Park and listen to the words spoken by our politicians and military leaders.

And really, what better place to learn about what it means to be Canadian? Our military forces—at least our current military forces—are so diverse. There were men, women, and people of various ethnic and religious values, all marching together as one unit. That’s Canada.

When I decided to write a piece about Remembrance Day for Women’s Post, I automatically thought of the women in service. I think Brigadier-General Lowell Thomson, Commander 4th Canadian Division, said it best when he gave homage to his military upbringing. He said his father was a long-time soldier, but then went on to say that he was the son of a woman who had served “during a time when her service wasn’t recognized.” That’s when I noticed there were very few women in uniform sitting in the crowds. About 600 WWII veterans die a day around the world, so this isn’t surprising. Perhaps most of them ventured to Ottawa to partake in their larger ceremony by the War Memorial. I have to admit, I was a little disappointed. As Managing Editor of Women’s Post, I was hoping to speak with them and share their stories.

2015-11-10 16.55.35Instead, looking around the crowds, I noticed the number of young women taking part in the ceremony, specifically a young girl who was leading the cadets through the parade. She was independent, kind, commanding and strong. “If you feel cold, wiggle your toes and fingers. If you feel sick, let me know,” she said slowly while her fellow cadets looked at her nervously. Throughout the ceremony, she addressed her group, told them to stand tall, proud, and smiled when appropriate. She was the prime example of the type of woman younger girls could look up to.

I didn’t understand what Remembrance Day meant until I was a teenager. And even then, I feel like it was my circumstance—the death of a loved one—that suddenly gave me the desire to remember all of those who gave their lives in service. These young people, the cadets, students (international or Canadian native), and children who attended today’s ceremony, are all ahead of the game. I can only hope they truly take away the meaning of remembrance.  Just because the WWII veterans are fading, doesn’t mean their memories should be lost. There will always be war or conflict—it’s the nature of human beings and the sad reality of living in a world where people don’t always agree. But, if we forget where it all began, if we ignore our own history and heritage, there is no way to understand how OUR Canada was shaped. And that understanding is crucial to the future of not only this country, but the world.

And that’s worth a minute of silence, don’t you think?

2015-11-10 18.22.10

 

The Code Mobile: teaching girls across Canada to be computer wizards

Technology is the future—and women should be a part of it.

That was the message driven into my brain by Melissa Sariffodeen, 27, the co-executive director of Ladies Learning Code, when we spoke on the phone one Wednesday morning. She had just returned from a 20-hour road trip with the soon-to-be-famous code mobile, a truck whose purpose will eventually be to travel across Canada teaching young kids how to use HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and much more.

Ladies Learning Code is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to provide women and youth with the resources they need to learn programming and technological skills. Their ultimate goal is to teach 200,000 Canadian women and youth to code by 2020. They do this through a series of workshops tailored to women, young girls, and kids between the ages of eight and 13. The organization itself was founded by in 2011 by four women who wanted to teach themselves to code. Sariffodeen was one of these four women.

“The organization was started largely in self-interest in this problem that we had and this idea that we wanted to learn to code,” she said. “I never thought it would catch on so much, but I think that’s so telling of the need. When we started out, we wanted to do it. We just didn’t realize there were thousands of other people who wanted to as well.”

Now, four years later, the organization operates in 23 cities across Canada. Their latest campaign includes a truck, or a mobile computer lab, that will be driven across the country. We asked Sariffodeen about this newest initiative and why it’s so important to teach young kids, in particular young girls, how to code.

 

Q: Why a truck?

I went on a road trip a couple of years ago and I drove to Montana from Toronto and back. I thought ‘Wow, wouldn’t it be so cool if ladies learning code did this?’ I think I tweeted about that idea and started speaking with partners and sponsors and spent two years trying to make this happen. Finally, the stars aligned.

One of the big barriers to a lot of the things we do for youth is that not everyone has access to technology, there aren’t readily available computer labs or a laptop that’s easy to access. So, how can we make it easier for them? By having a truck—it’s a travelling computer lab. It would be easy for us to bring our technology and our program to communities across the country.

The Code Mobile. Photo provided by Ladies Learning Code.
The Code Mobile. Photo provided by Ladies Learning Code.

How would it work?

We are running this crowd-funding campaign right now and as part of that you can make donations to guarantee that we come visit you, and then the trip will be planned in a couple ways. So, one of them will just be the surrounding areas of the community we are in. We will go to Montreal and we will visit communities within a 200 km radius. We will pick the major cities we are in as base camps and then visit the surrounding areas. Then, we will combine that with requests for visits. So people have been requesting visits already, whether its through our Indiegogo campaign, or if its just through the form in general, we will bring that information together and that’s how we will plan our route.

Have you gotten many requests?

I would say we have 40 to 50 requests so far. It’s going to be challenging to pick where we can do, because we can only do so many stops during the summer. But, that’s the idea. Request the truck to come to your community, and maybe we won’t come specifically to your summer camp but maybe we will pop up in your local parking lot and you can come and visit us that way.

What’s inside the truck?

The idea is that inside the truck there may be room for a couple of people to learn to code, but it will mostly be storage of our pop-up lab. We want to make sure we can teach a lot of kids, or at least a reasonable amount of kids, at a time. The truck actually pops out with a massive tent with tables, chairs, and laptops. We have the capacity to teach about 40 kids at a time out of the truck.

You have 12 days left in the campaign at the time of this interview. Do you think you will reach your funding goal?

I hope so! I think we have a few big pushes left, and I think as we start to get closer the community will rally to support us. They have been so generous so far, and I think we can pick up some momentum even in the last couple of days. Fingers crossed.

Why is it important to get out there and teach young people—young girls in particular—to do stuff like code and use HTML?

Technology isn’t going anywhere, and we think it’s really important that we equip kids with the skills they need to thrive in the future. It’s the same way we teach math or social sciences. It’s not so we have a bunch of mathematicians or social scientists. It’s because we want kids to have a basic understanding of how the world works. And since technology is such a critical part of the world, it just makes sense that they know a little bit about how this stuff works.

And the reason why we want more girls specifically, is that right now the technology we use is largely built by men. If we can start to have more women create it, the idea is that you have this more diverse perspective in technology. A lot of problems that are more unique to women could be solved by women. Technology could speak more to the population using it if it’s built by a population that is representative.

What has been the response from the young girls you have taught so far?

We have lots of stories about people who have gone on to take computer science in high school. We had one girl specifically who scored the highest score in her advanced placement on her computer science exam and is now going to university. We have another story about a young girl who started a company at 11 after being inspired at one of our programs. The response so far has been very positive in the demographic we are teaching—8-13 year old girls—but they are still young and they are just starting to enter high school or graduate high school so, that’s an exciting thing. We will start to see over the next couple of years the impact that our programming is having and that shift that will hopefully happen—I’m optimistic—in technology.

IMG_9712
Photo provided by Ladies Learning Code.

What are some of the things you are teaching these young girls?

We teach so much stuff, from basic HTML and CSS, web languages which are our most popular languages because, I think, they are the most accessible. They are written in pretty standard English. But for youth and adults we also teach other languages like Ruby and Python and Javascript. We have app creating programs for youth coming up. And then we also do technical skills. So, how do you edit photos? How do you create digital art? (The basics of) 3d printing and robotics.

Once the crowd-funding campaign is done, what’s next for Ladies Learning Code?

Figuring out this trip I guess! The code mobile was a really big initiative for next year, but we also want to layer in a set of resources we can leave in these communities. So, taking the programs we’ve run over the last few years and packaging them in a nice and compelling way. That way, when we go to this nice rural community in BC, we can make sure we leave them with enough that they can keep learning this stuff on their own, at their schools, or in their community centres.

To request a visit by the code mobile, click here.

To contribute to their campaign, visit their Indiegogo site.

*This interview has been condensed for publication.

Summer Must Have: Jumpsuits

Sometimes it can take hours trying to find the perfect shirt to go with your pants. But don’t worry, the fashion world is here to save you. The jumpsuit, which became popular a few years ago, has come back for another season. Immerse yourself in style and comfort and embrace the onesie-like feel. Because it’s trendy and we like it!

Now you just need a pair of shoes to match.

Lace sleeveless jumper

Romper with Lace Detail / Combishort avec Dentelle

It’s got lace detail, so it’s girly, but it’s polyester, so it’s comfy. Perfect for lazy days when you still want to look pretty.

Available at Jacob.

 

Jumpsuit

This interesting printed number will look great with a pair of bright strappy sandals or wedges. Grab a wide brimmed hat and step out for some fun in the sun- boho style.

Available at H&M.

Zigzag print long jumpsuit

Zigzag print long jumpsuit | MANGO

This is a great summer work outfit. Classy yet cool. Pair with a blazer for a more polished look.

Available at Mango.

 

Crochet playsuit

Okay, the name sounds like a mix of an old lady and a toddler, but the outfit is kicking fun. It would look great at a summer party.

Available at Topshop.

LOVE & SEX: This guy made a documentary to find out if size really does matter

One thing is clear, Patrick Moote doesn’t have a lot of embarrassment left. After proposing to his girlfriend on a jumbotron at a sporting event and being turned down, being the subject of a documentary about small penises wouldn’t seem all that mortifying. The trailer for the film, Unhung Hero, follows protagonist Moote as he speaks to women, experts, and medical professionals about penis size.

His girlfriend turned him down apparently because he was lacking in the pants. While this is an awful reason to break up with someone, it has gotten under his skin to the point where he and film maker Brian Spitz traveled the world to find out the answer to the age old question: does size really matter?

 

 

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