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Cannabis to be legalised nationally in Canada

Canada is poised to become the largest country to legalise cannabis in the world and the second after Uruguay to have a legal national marijuana market place.

After years of planning and research, Uruguay launched their legal sales last year, however for Canada; October 17 becomes a very historic day for marijuana producers within the country.

This social shift promised by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is one that Hannah Hetzer, who tracks international marijuana policy for the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance called ‘extremely significant’, especially as there are at least 25 other countries who have already legalized the medical use of marijuana or have decriminalized possession of small amounts of the drug, while a few others, including Mexico have expressed interest in regulating recreational use.

dried kush cannabis on a table

“It’s going to change the global debate on drug policy,” she said. “There’s no other country immediately considering legalizing the non-medical use of cannabis, but I think Canada will provide almost the permission for other countries to move forward.”

Last year, Trudeau’s government introduced legalization to allow recreational use of marijuana after a poll by Forum Research Inc., found that 53% of Canadians agreed that they would like the plant to be legalized.

There is of course a long list of federal, provincial and municipal regulations that dictate to stores selling now legal marijuana. These include the requirement of frosted windows and product vaults; sales staffs are not allowed to promote products as having medical benefits or inducing certain feelings. Small jars of cannabis will be permitted for customers to sniff, but then the contents must be properly disposed of, to discourage anyone willing to dig the samples out of the trash and smoke them.

For many who are afraid that legalization will mean easier access to the plant by their youths, Canada has placed strict regulations on packaging to avoid appealing to the youth and there is a ban on various marijuana advertising, especially any that could be viewed by the youth or includes depictions of celebrities. Also some of the licensed producers are in fact huge companies and the Canadian federal government will be regulating the producers which so far have 120 licensed growers.

Canadian law sets a 30 gram limit on how much a person can buy at once or possess in public, however, there is no limit on how much Canadians can possess in the privacy of their own homes. Additionally, the law allows for residents to grow up to four plants at home, however, Quebec and Manitoba are the only two provinces that have opted to forbid home-growing.

This cautious yet bold move in their approach to legalization may ultimately set the course for the rest of the world, who will be observing how this process changes the landscape of the Canadian economy.

“Canada is leading the world on this paradigmatic change, taking this plant away from the bad hombres and putting it in the hands of the good men, the authorities, the regulators.” says former Mexican President Vicente Fox, who sits on the board of Vancouver-based cannabis company Khiron Life Sciences Corp.

 

Honorary citizenship revoked for the first time by Canada

History was made on Tuesday, when Aung San Suu Kyi became the first person to be stripped of honorary Canadian citizenship, following an investigation by the United Nations.

On Tuesday the Canadian Senate unanimously passed a measure revoking the Myanmar’s civilian leader citizenship and declaring the treatment of the Rohingya by Myanmar’s government to be nothing short of genocide. Last week, the upper house also followed a similar unanimous vote in the House of Commons.

These votes were prompted in large part by a United Nations fact finding investigation, which reported in August that the Myanmar military had systematically killed thousands of Rohingya civilians, burned hundreds of their villages, engaged in ethnic cleansing and mass gang rape. It also called for six top generals in Myanmar to be investigated and prosecuted on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.

Sen.Ratna Omidvar, who introduced the motion to revoke Suu Kyi’s citizenship on Tuesday explained that Canada needed to recognize the ‘atrocity for what it is’, which was genocide and to call it as such.

Suu Kyi who had the symbolic honour bestowed on her in 2007 for her pro-democracy work, was stripped for complicity in the atrocities committed against the Myanmar’s Rohingya people.

The reports coming from the United Nations were nothing short of ghastly, and claimed that more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims had fled across the border to Bangladesh since August 2017, when Myanmar’s Buddhist-majority security forces began a violent campaign in Rakhine State, killing around 10,000 people among other heinous crimes.

Suu Kyi who is a Nobel Peace Prize winner and now leads the Myanmar government was accused by the UN of failing to use her ‘moral authority’ to protect civilians.

She has steadfastly denied reports of ethnic cleansing in Myanmar calling such reports ‘fake news’, has restricted access to international investigators and journalists, defended the military and denied humanitarian aid for Rohingya.

In fact it was her response to the Rohingya crisis that has dramatically transformed her global reputation as a democracy icon, with many on Twitter calling for her to be stripped of her honorary citizenship and her Nobel Peace prize.

Senator Ratna Omidvar, said that while the military wields considerable power in Myanmar, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi is not without power herself, in fact hers is a post that is comparable to Prime Minister.

“Stripping her of her honorary citizenship may not make a tangible difference to her, but it sends an important symbolic message,” Ms. Omidvar said.

She continued, saying that Suu Kyi was “complicit in stripping the citizenship and the security of thousands of Rohingya, which has led to their flight, their murder, their rapes and their current deplorable situation.”

“We need to send a strong signal here in Canada and around the world that if you’re an accomplice of genocide, you are not welcome here. Certainly not as an honorary Canadian citizen.” stated Omidvar.

While Suu Kyi was stripped of her citizenship, she will retain her Nobel Peace prize award, which she won in 1991, ironically for campaigning for democracy.

Lars Heikensten, the head of the Nobel Foundation, explained that it made no sense to withdraw awards in reaction to things that had occurred after they were given ‘as judges would constantly have to discuss laureates’ merit’.

Canada to discuss rift with Saudi Arabia

Ministers from Canada and Saudi Arabia are hoping to meet this week to discuss the rift between the two countries.

This headline making announcement came from Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, who on Tuesday announced her plans to meet and discuss the diplomatic dispute with her Saudi counterpart, Adel al-Jubeir on the sidelines of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in New York.

The goal of this meeting is to begin mending fences between the two powerhouse countries following Canadian criticism of the kingdom’s arrests of human activists, which lead to an explosive dispute over the summer.

The global headline making rift between the two countries began when Ottawa called for the release of activists who were detained for urging more rights for women in the kingdom, including women’s rights campaigner Samar Badawi on August 2nd.

Samar Badawi is the sister of well known detainee Raif Badawi who is serving a 10 year prison sentence. His wife and children however are Canadian, thus making Samar the sister-in-law of a Canadian citizen.

“We feel a particular obligation to women who are fighting for their rights around the world, women’s rights are human rights,” said Freeland.

“And we feel a particular obligation to people who have a personal connection to Canada. A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.”

To this Saudi Arabia responded by freezing new trade with Canada; blocked grain imports; ordered thousands of Saudi students on government scholarships to leave Canadian universities and relocate to other countries or return home; placed a ban on Saudi flights to Canada, along with orders to brokers and bankers to suspend transactions with Canadian entities and finally, expelled Canada’s ambassador from the kingdom.

At the height of the dispute, it was al-Jubeir who appeared to lecture Canada on its responsibility to defuse tensions, saying at a news conference, “Canada knows what it needs to do. Canada started this, and it’s up to Canada to find a way out of it.”

However, Canada has not back down and Freeland has made it clear, prior to the hoped for meeting that the country would not be changing its fundamental position of standing up for human rights.

The Saudi side has relented to some extent, and has quietly dropped at least one of their more extreme measures, where the medical students and interns who were ordered to leave Canada by August 31st, were allowed to continue at their posts for the time being.

However, at least 7,000 non medical Saudi students were forced to interrupt their studies and some have chosen to file asylum claims in Canada instead of returning home.

Leading up to the hoped for meeting, Freeland disclosed that she was in regular touch with al Jubeir who she disclosed was working very hard to also soothe the rift between the countries.

“He is very engaged on the issue … we are hoping to meet in New York this week and I think that’s a good thing,” she told an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

Both Canada and Saudi Arabia have chosen to allow their foreign ministers, rather than heads of state or heads of government, to deliver their country’s addresses to the General Assembly.

That means under UN protocol they must wait until later in the week to speak as Freeland will speak on Saturday morning, and  Jubeir will be the final speaker to give his presentation on Saturday afternoon.

Award-winning producer Kat Baulu shares her passion and new project

Meet Kat Baulu, a producer with Quebec/Atlantic Studio at the National Film Board (NFB) of Canada, a public producer, and distributor. In an email interview, Baulu talked about her career and the call for proposals for short films on Reimagining My Quebec.

Reimagining My Quebec is a new initiative for anglophone, allophone, and Indigenous filmmakers from Quebec and Nunavik that will give emerging and established directors a chance to create artful short documentaries with the NFB.

When it comes to what Baulu enjoys most about her work, she said she enjoys those with a clear purpose to their work. “I admire people who lead their lives with mission and purpose. One person who inspires me is legendary Abenaki filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin,” she said. “With an astonishing career spanning over five decades at National Film Board of Canada, she’s made over 50 films that focus on issues facing Indigenous people in Canada. Alanis embodies what it means to make art for social impact. It’s humbling to witness one person who truly makes a difference every day.”

Baulu’s work as a producer raises social impact, even from her previous documentary work on Gun Runners. Baulu’s role is responsible for supporting creators to tell relevant and meaningful stories about Canada to Canadians and people around the world.

“The best part of my job is accompanying filmmakers in their creative process: from idea to finished film through to impact with audiences,” she said. “I love creating conditions for filmmakers to thrive artistically and express their point of view. I root for their success.”

“Collaborating with artists in the public space is such a privilege. At the NFB, our values are driven by relevance. Every day we ask ourselves, are we raising under-represented voices? Is what we are creating valuable and meaningful?” she added. “I am thrilled to work with filmmakers on their creative interpretation of reimagining their Quebec because I believe we have a chance to surface issues of identity, class, and status for further discussion and raise consciousness about the positive change we dream about for our society, and our world.”

Baulu is excited about the current project – Reimagining My Quebec, which is an opportunity to make a short English documentary in Quebec with the NFB.

“Reimagining My Quebec is the brainchild of my executive producer Annette Clarke. She is a true champion for filmmakers and storytellers of all stripes. She is a Newfoundlander and believes that great stories often emanate from a deep sense of place,” Baulu said. “We hope this call will draw out unique and intimate stories from across Quebec, which surprise and transform us.”

The type of story she’s looking for revolves around something Scottish documentary filmmaker Scott Grierson calls, “creative interpretations of actuality,” which focusses on the human condition through point-of-view documentary storytelling. “If you have a story that you are uniquely positioned to tell, that you have a personal connection with, that you have unique access, this call for proposals is for you. We are excited about powerful, emotional and important social issue-driven stories,” Baulu said. “For us, the process is as important as the outcome. What is your relationship to your participants? How will you treat them at the beginning and the end of the process of making your film? We are enthusiastic when filmmakers are considering their ethics as well as the art and impact.”

The deadline for submissions is August 8.

Tim Hortons welcoming all-day breakfast across Canada

Tim Hortons has announced they are officially introducing all-day breakfast across participating locations in Canada.

The Canadian staple announced that they will be welcoming all-day breakfast to participating locations due to a high demand from the people. Tim Hortons already introduced the concept to approximately a dozen locations across Canada earlier this summer and due to high demand, the conglomerate will be expanding the breakfast menu to be an all-day affair.

In May, Tim Hortons’ president Alex Macedo told The Canadian Press that their all-day breakfast plan was going really well and was met with further demand. “The demand is loud and clear. Any time we bring up the idea of breakfast at any time, the response is very favourable and very strong.”

Tim Hortons is behind other companies who have already introduced all-day breakfast for well over a year. For example, A&W and McDonald’s introduced all-day breakfast in February 2017, which skyrocketed their sales.

The coffee shop also needs to clean up the mess from past discrepancies on their end. Tim Hortons fell to fourth place on the list of Canada’s favourite coffees, falling behind McDonald’s, Second Cup, and Starbucks. A study released in April of this year marked further downfall for the company as they slipped to 50th place. At the time, Rick Murray, managing partner and chief digital strategist, at National Public Relations wrote “Tim Hortons, a perennial top five brand that we’ve previously believed impervious to issue, has fallen mightily in the court of public opinion. The Company dropped 25 points from last year, and fell from #4 to #50 in the rankings – largely through issues of the Company’s own making.”

Tim Hortons was also at the receiving end of boycotts and protests after store owners cut paid breaks from workers and benefits in order to cut costs amid Canada’s minimum wage hike.

Though, I wonder how this will go. I work in the heart of downtown Toronto and I was standing in line in Tim Hortons last week when someone in front of me asked the workers if all-day breakfast was coming. As I reached the front I asked the same question. The workers laughed and told me that it just wasn’t feasible since, according to them, the eggs only have a lifespan of three hours on them. One of the workers told me that “unless the company redoes how they’re going to do breakfast, I don’t think it’s possible.”

So, we’ll see how it goes.

Sooke, BC will fuel your adventurous spirit

Just 38 kilometers north of British Columbia’s capital city, Victoria, the district municipality of Sooke rests quietly in splendor. Offering the perfect blend of a relaxing getaway, an ocean adventure, and rugged vistas, Sooke presents a distinct personality from her larger, more famous neighbor.

Once you’ve gone to Sooke, leaving her is not that simple anymore, and you’re certainly never going to forget her. As former Torontonian Bob Iles (captain and wildlife tour guide) explains, he travelled to Sooke for a fishing vacation and never left. Once he arrived, he knew he was home.

From Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay on BC Ferries, to the pristine vistas on the drive, to the gem that is Sooke, this became a labour of love.

BC Ferries

John and I arrived 30 minutes early for the reservation and were onboard the Coastal Celebration at precisely 11:00 a.m. Whether you’re a local or tourist, the BC Ferries experience is a must. The Pacific Buffet lunch wouldn’t look out of place in a high-end restaurant, offering seafood, beef and vegetarian main courses, along with a dessert bar too tempting to pass up. It’s also not uncommon to spot killer whale pods and other wildlife while eating your meal.

Fun Fact: Did you know that BC Ferries is one of the largest ferry operators in the world, providing year-round vehicle and passenger service on 25 routes to 47 terminals, with a fleet of 35?

Sooke Harbour Resort and Marina

Once arriving at the Sooke Harbour Resort and Marina, John and I were able to see the beautiful suite. The room was a penthouse overlooking the 114-slip marina. Featuring two decks, a propane barbecue, a dream kitchen and his and hers bathrooms, the suite was well-appointed. From the living room, a panoramic view showed off the scenery. Just steps away at the marina were crabs, a large starfish, and a seal. (What a perfect oceanside getaway for fishing, whale watching or outdoor adventuring!)

John and I were also treated to a complimentary basket with gourmet cheeses, bread and a good bottle of red wine. It was hard not to feel right at home on the patio overlooking the boat launch, beaches, and the beautiful sunset.

Serious Coffee

John and I had a morning coffee fix at Serious Coffee in the village before kayaking.  Also offering tea and an assortment of food, the friendly staff was welcoming and offered two Americanos, which tasted great and helped kicked start the day.

Kayaking

There is a first time for everything and on Monday, for me, it was kayaking. Considering someone wasn’t exactly an Olympic swimmer there was a sliver (or maybe a thick wedge) of doubt that maybe someone wouldn’t agree to participate in this endeavor. I won’t give away names here but her first name is Christine.

Before venturing out, Allen, the owner and instructor from West Coast Outdoor Adventure, reassured me by telling stories of people who have never kayaked before, then tried it for the first time and enjoyed it.

He then provided John and I with a rental, foot-powered Hobie kayak for two. It was easy to use, allowing John to take photos. Of the photos taken was an eagle perched on a pole, holding still long enough for a photo. Shortly after leaving the marina a seal popped its head out and kept doing so at different stages of the self-guided tour of the coastline. John and I also stopped for geese swimming across the path. The water was calm and in some areas with low tide, the kayak was stuck in long grass once or twice but using the paddle easily freed it.

Kayaking for the first time was enjoyable and I look forward to trying it again.

Wildlife Boat Tour

As mentioned, Bob was the tour guide, bringing at least 18 years of fishing experience and knowledge of Sooke waters, which is crucial for year-round fishing. The harbour tour was 90 minutes on Bob’s craft, and it sported new twin Suzuki engines. Even at a good speed, the engines were quiet enough to imagine sneaking up on the fish with a net in hand.

Next up was a tour of the harbour. From getting up close to the T’Sou-ke Nation oyster farm for some great snapshots, to some beautiful homes that were carved out of the mountainside, there were a lot of interesting things to see.

John and I learned how oysters are farmed, spotted sea lions basking in the sun, and learned about salmon and the ecosystem. Bob also mentioned how a seal recently gave birth right on the marina.

Sooke Brewing Company

After the boat tour, John and I checked out the local brewery, sampling some of their brews. With plenty of room to enjoy a social evening, Sooke Brewing Company owners have lived in Sooke for generations.

Stickleback Eatery

Stickleback Eatery is located on picturesque Cooper’s Cove. With floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking an extensive patio built on the water, owner Scott Taylor knew it wasn’t enough. So, he and his wife, Leah, hired Justin, the best chef he could find. They wanted a chef that could think outside the box and create meals on demand and that’s exactly the kind of chef they have now.

John and I ordered cauliflower bites and seafood appetizers, which were delicious. For the main course, I had fish and chips and John had the salmon.

Scott explained that Stickleback was named after a fish to honour the T’Sou-ke First Nation Territories. In their native tongue, Sooke means Stickleback. His passion for food was evident.

The atmosphere was memorable, offering a cozy environment and excellent menu at affordable prices.

Sooke Potholes Regional Park

As John and I began the one-hour hike in Sooke Potholes Provincial Park, the trail led high above the rushing waters of the Sooke River. The vista was pristine, and waterfalls and enticing pools lulled the senses into a time warp, rendering everything else irrelevant. The view from the top was breathtaking.

Hiking and running are popular and accessible to the Galloping Goose trail, popular with visitors and loved by the locals year-round. The potholes are unique geological formations – deep pools in the river rock that offer some of the best freshwater swimming in the region.

The Sooke River is the second largest on southern Vancouver Island and is home to a salmon run every fall.

Sooke is a welcoming ocean getaway from your daily grind. Spend it fishing, hiking or boating and you’ll find yourself hooked like John and me.

With notes from John Moe

 

EllisDon unveils Ontario’s first net zero structure

Infrastructure companies are seeking new and innovative ways to develop while keeping the environment in mind. EllisDon is one internationally-known construction company that is set on reducing its carbon footprint.

 Most recently, the company took on the impressive project to build the Mohawk College Net Zero Energy Joyce Centre for Partnership & Innovation. It is Ontario’s first institutional building of its kind while also the first project under EllisDon’s Carbon Impact Initiative.

McCullum Sather and B + H Architects joined forces with EllisDon to complete the project  The “ Net Zero” facility essentially  produces as much renewable energy as it consumes, which is fascinating seeing as infrastructure, and development usually result in energy consumption.

 Linda Franklin, President and CEO of Colleges Ontario, spoke about the completion of the structure and its importance for future generations:

“EllisDon’s expertise is helping colleges implement significant measures to contribute to a green energy future for Ontario – everything from net zero buildings to improving energy efficiency in existing buildings to training the next generation of green energy workers. This will make a real and measurable difference in reducing carbon emission throughout Ontario.”

The design of the college is remarkable. The exterior looks like sleek and futuristic artwork, and the building utilizes many green energy elements. These include geothermal wells, a storm water harvesting system and  an LED lighting system throughout. The structure also has a green and high-efficiency plumbing system,  is 5 storeys high and can accommodate 4,500 students. Outfitted with a mechanical system installed to enhance ventilation, heating and cooling it also has an electrical system that optimizes lighting.

Terri Wills, CEO of the World Green Building Council, also shared in the excitement about this pilot project:

“We’re excited to witness one of the first pilot projects using CaGBC’s newly developed Zero Carbon Building Standard. Mohawk College incorporates energy harvesting and conservation technologies and is a giant leap in future proofing new buildings that are fit for purpose, offer climate resilience as well as an enhanced user experience. As the Paris Agreement has set the international challenge to reduce global emissions, green buildings, such as the Mohawk College, demonstrate that innovation and energy efficiency can work together without compromising design.”

EllisDon’s Carbon Impact Initiative not only targets net zero energy emissions, but also vows to track carbon emitted over the course of various projects and aims to introduce new clean technologies that can still result in effective structures for clientele

 They are a leader in green building design and innovative ideas. Women’s Post salutes their initiative!

Indigenous women not forgotten, the fight continues

I watched a devastating movie recently called Wind River. Set in the United States, the series of events painfully drew attention to the lack of effort put in by authorities when indigenous women are murdered or go missing.

The story describes the experiences of those who mourn the loss of missing or murdered loved ones. The movie also depicts how abuse is often overlooked by authorities in Indigenous communities.

This past week a longtime advocate for missing and murdered indigenous women,  Bernie Williams, gave final words to wrap up the national inquiry. Williams, now in her 60s has led the fight for women on the East side of Vancouver for 30 years. She shared her own story of abuse which started at the age of 3:

“As many of you know, I don’t wear shorts very often, because I have cigarette burns all through my legs right up to my back. … This is what we endured. We were just kids. At the age of 11 to 12 years old, six of us girls were sold into the sex trade work.”

Her three sisters and mother were all murdered and Williams questioned why it has taken 4,000 missing and murdered girls and women to bring about an inquiry.

Williams insists that it’s time that the wave of violence is stopped.

The inquiry will continue to carry on privately, and was initiated by the federal government in 2015. It was intended to investigate the high number of missing and murdered indigenous women across Canada and to give family members of the girls and women a chance to be heard.

Chief Commissioner Marion Butler has shared that the inquiry needs to continue on. Butler spoke with the Canadian Press  and  indicated that so far, the inquiry has produced enough material to draw up a report, but that the findings only scratch the surface of the stories that remain untold.

The Commissioner has asked the federal government for a two-year extension on the inquiry.  There needs to be an emphasis put on cases involving Indigenous women and girls that are not yet solved. All murdered, missing and abused people deserve the same respect and attention to be paid, regardless of race or nationality. It is also necessary for authorities to determine what is at the core and root of the violence so that women are not the target anymore.

 

 

 

 

5 of the best places to ski in Canada

After watching two straight weeks of the Olympics, does anyone else have the winter sport bug? I just want to get out on the ice or hit the slopes — preferably a smaller version of the Olympic venues to match my skill level. While it may be easy to strap on a pair of rented skates and drive to your local community skating rink, it is a lot more complicated to plan a skiing trip.

First of all, most resorts are a fair distance from larger cities, which means you will have to drive. Some ski resorts offer shuttles, but they can be costly and most require you to get to a bus station or loading zone. Second of all, you want to look at the quality of snow and the level of the hill. Lastly, you need to consider ski rentals and possible instruction for beginners.

There are dozens of amazing ski resorts across the country — so many choices, so little winter left! If you need a little guidance, here are five of the best places to ski in Canada:

Whistler, British Columbia: This is one of the most popular skiing destinations. With over 200 runs, 16 alpine bowls, and three glaciers, there is something for everyone, regardless of skill level. It was also the location for all skiing and snowboarding events during the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, so it will really make you feel like a true athlete. There are a number of resorts to choose from, so no matter your budget or the purpose of your trip, you are bound to find a deal that suits you.

Banff, Alberta: There are three resorts in the area with interchangeable lift tickets!  With one of the longest ski seasons in the country, The area is known internationally as a prime tourist destination with a number of non-skiing activities available for those who may not be as athletically inclined. The only problem is that the resorts aren’t in central Banff, so having a car is necessary.

Mont Tremblant, Quebec: This is the perfect ski resort for beginners or day trippers. There are nearly 100 downhill trails in addition to a pedestrian village with shops and restaurants. It’s a great location for snowboarders, with 18 acres of ramps, rails, jumps, and an Olympic-caliber superpipe.

Kamloops, BC: Sun Peaks is the third-largest ski resort in Canada, with over 124 trails for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and tubing. With 124 trails, there is something for athletes of all skill level. The resort ambassador is also Olympic gold medalist Nancy Greene — so if feeling like an Olympian is your goal, this is the destination for you.

Fernie, British Columbia: This ski resort is right in the middle of the Canadian Rockies, which makes it less of a tourist destination and more of a place where real enthusiasts gather. There are 142 runs, five alpine bowls, and tree skiing with a vertical drop of 1,082 meters. The snow at this resort is all natural, with an average annual snowfall of 875 centimetres. The resort is open year-round.

Where is your favourite place to ski? Let us know in the comments below!

Woman of the Week: Sharon Vinderine

Sharon Vinderine wakes up at 5 a.m. every day, makes herself a cup of coffee, and reads a minimum two chapters of a business book.

“It’s a struggle to constantly try to build up your information base,” she said. “But, if there is some tiny tidbit you can learn, you’ve gained a whole lot.”

Vinderine is the founder and CEO of Parent Tested Parent Approved (PTPA), a seal-of-approval award for products that were reviewed by real families. She has worked with a number of iconic brands like Johnson’s Baby, Gerber, and Harlem Globetrotters among others, to help promote and market their merchandise based on the experiences of parents who actually tried their products.

The idea behind peer-endorsed products was the result of Vinderine’s experience with her first child. She spent a ton of money on products she saw on television or in magazines she thought would work the best. Turns out, the products were less than perfect. “I then called friends and asked what products you can’t live without,” she said. “They were the best products!”

With that idea in mind, Vinderine started working on the PTPA Seal of Approval. An entrepreneur herself — she invented the Kangaroo Towel, a bath towel that acts as a pouch to hold your wet baby, as well as helped found MIPPS, one of the first wireless Internet providers in the 90s —she understood the challenges of promoting a product. She actually submitted the Kangaroo Towel to a U.S. company for review and certification; yet, the only feedback she received was “it was a pretty colour and very soft.” The certification did not include marketing or inclusion in press releases.

“I remember sitting at my kids Gymboree classes and starting a plan of action: I was going to develop a program that was going to actually accomplish all of the things that a new entrepreneur needs — a better way to market, differentiate your product, a better way to get your product on magazines or TV. I wanted to change the way moms were shopping, which was not based on what advertisers say.”

According to the PTPA website, 54 per cent of consumers say the Seal of Approval has a positive impact on their purchasing decision. Over 80 per cent say the seal made them feel more confident about both their purchase and the brands associated with it.

How does it work? Parents are given products for free in exchange for detailed feedback that is shared with manufacturers. PTPA will also provide help in magazine and television advertisements, as well as other forms of creative marketing techniques that are affordable and effective. Vinderine and her PTPA seal-approved products, was featured in over 150 shows, including The Rachel Ray Show, Extra!, The Steve Harvey Show, as well as ABC and Fox.

“From a business perspective, I feel like we are really impacting the way consumers are shopping,” Vinderine said. “When a mom sees our seal of approval on a package, it is almost the equivalent of her calling 20 of her best friends and asking what they think. That seal of approval says it all.”

PTPA now has a database of about 85,000 parents to pull from. Vinderine said that helping families, especially those with a low income, is one of the biggest benefits of the business. Based on one of her favourite quotes from her dad — “I don’t care what you do in life, but whatever you do, make sure it has an impact on the lives of others” — she would try to find low-income families to test cribs and dressers. All products are delivered and assembled, and families can keep them for free after the review.

Vinderine said that launching her own business was a challenging experience. How do you convince people this new seal is important? How do you convince television shows to feature your products? Vinderine encourages entrepreneurship through mentoring, but urges young businessmen and businesswomen to consider the reason behind their idea.

“If you are doing it to launch a second source of revenue, that is not a good enough reason. If you are passionate about what you are launching, it will get you through the rollercoaster of launching a business.”

Vinderine was recognized as one of RBCs Canadian Women Entrepreneurs and one of Canada’s Rising Stars according to Profit Magazine. The PTPA Seal of Approval is one of the three most recognized awards in the U.S., leading to seven new certifications such as “Santa Tested.”

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