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Dear Santa: the women of Toronto, Canada, deserve more

Dear Mr. Kringle,

The head office of Women’s Post is situated in Toronto; therefore much of our news coverage occurs in this city. Toronto is our home — and we can see it needs a little extra help. The staff at Women’s Post is hoping that you, Nick, may be able to help us all out.

This is what is on our Christmas list:

More women on boards: This was a topic of great debate throughout 2017 (yay!), but it doesn’t seem to have made much of a difference. The European Union announced a proposal to make it mandatory to have 40 per cent of non-executive members on company boards to be women. This, unfortunately, does not include managerial or executive roles on boards.

Meanwhile, in Canada, very few boards are gender equal (and even less female dominated). Women hold approximately 14 per cent of all board seats and only 26 per cent of open board positions are filled by female applicants. A McKinsey & Company study in 2016 showed that only six per cent of Canadian CEOs are women. A new organization was formed this year to help tackle this issue.

Nick, can you please help us! Instead of dreaming of sugar plums this year, can you help private and public leaders, CEOs, and board executives dream of a company that represents everyone? Let’s have people of all genders, sexualities, and races represented on boards — and not just in non-executive roles!

More funding for things that matter: Infrastructure, transit, education — three things that will help our country, and the people who live in it, grow. All levels of government have pledged a certain amount of money to help municipalities develop new routes and lines for public transportation, but it’s not nearly enough. People are desperate for housing, whose prices have skyrocketed throughout the year in big cities like Vancouver and Toronto with no hint of dropping back down.

Sure, the federal government has announced funding for a National Housing Strategy, and $4.8 billion in transit funding has been earmarked for Toronto, but all of these promises come with a) a timestamp and b) a political commitment. Politics always gets in the way. For example, the Ontario government refused to allow Toronto to collect money from tolls because it could affect votes in the 905 area.

Canada is a prosperous country, and Toronto is better off than other cities. But, there is still work to be done and our politicians may need a little bit of help. How about it Nick?

More women in politics: Canada may have a gender-equal cabinet within the federal government and the Ontario government, but there more to gender parity than representation within a single entity. For beginners, women are still underrepresented as elected representatives to begin with, sitting at only 26 per cent nationally.

More women need to be encouraged to run for all aspects of public government. Politics are unforgiving for women. There seems to be some strange double standard in which women are questioned about their capabilities (and wardrobe) much more than men. This scrutiny makes it very difficult for women to commit to a public service campaign. What if you change that Nick? Can you remove the gendered lens through which people view politicians? That would go a long way to encouraging more women in politics.

End sexual assault and harassment: Forget the celebrity aspect of the #MeToo campaign for a second and lets visit the statistics. Earlier this year, Statistics Canada released the rate of self-reported sexual assault in 2014, and it was about the same as it was in 2004. In 2014, there were 22 incidents of sexual assault for every 1,000 Canadians over the age of 15. This equates to 636,000 self-reported incidents.

This figure only gets more disheartening when you remember that only one in five cases report assaults to the police.

Now, I know you cant do much about this Nick, but is there a way you could spread your holiday spirit around a bit so that people are more kind and compassionate towards others? Maybe if people were more compassionate, they wouldn’t look at women as objects and treat them with such violence?

Nick, I know our wish list is long and complicated. I know it may be impossible to full fill these requests. But, it would mean the world if you could try. We believe in you!

Best,

The staff at Women’s Post

P.S. We promise we have been good this year!

Hey Toronto – Loblaws is giving you $25 bucks!

Loblaw Companies Ltd. is offering customers a $25 gift card as a goodwill gesture after learning that their customers were overcharged for the cost of some packaged bread products.  The company participated in an industry-wide bread price-fixing arrangement. They were given immunity by the competition bureau because they came forward and admitted to doing it.

“This conduct should never have happened,” said Galen G. Weston, CEO, during a conference call with analysts Tuesday.

“The gift card is a direct acknowledgment of that to our customers. We hope that they’ll see it as a meaningful amount that demonstrates our commitment to keeping their trust and confidence,” he said in response to how the company arrived at the card’s $25 value.

Here’s how to redeem the offer:

Customers can visit LoblawCard.ca  and enter their email address to be notified once registration opens.

The company expects registration to begin on Jan. 8. 2018

Top 10 charities to donate to this holiday season

The holiday season can bring out the best in all of us — but there is always more people can do. Sure, you can give your friend another pair of socks or a book they probably won’t read. But, this year why not make a real difference in someone else’s life?

Women’s Post spoke with Greg Thomson, director of research for Charity Intelligence, an organization that analyzes charitable investments and provides donors with information about their return. This essentially means they do the work for you — they review each charity and find out which one makes the most positive change for their clients. “There are over 86,000 registered charities in Canada. Some of them are doing an excellent job at helping people, helping society, and changing lives.  However, some charities are not,” Thomson says. “Some charities provide programs that are costly and accomplish very little in terms of making change occur in the lives of the people they work with. If donors do not want to have their donations wasted, they should do a little research to understand just how the charities they are working with are changing lives.”

Thomson also wanted to remind holiday shoppers that gift giving is a very personal experience. If you donate in someone else’s name, make sure it is a charity or social organization that does work they care about.

“It can certainly be a good thing to give a small gift in the name of a child and provide some background information to the child to get them to think about charity. But if you’re giving to an adult, I would recommend a CanadaHelps gift card so that the person can choose their own charity and make it more personal,” he said.

If you are looking for some options, here are the top 10 charities in Canada, according to Charity Intelligence, to give to this holiday season.

Aunt Leah’s Place: This BC-based organizations helps children in foster care and mother’s at risk of losing custody. Over 700 young people in British Columbia “age out” of the foster care system when they turn 19. These people don’t get any social or financial support from the government and often are forced to live on the street. Aunt Leah’s offers support housing as well as programs for mothers and people who have been left behind by the foster care system.

Calgary Urban Project Society: This charity helps people overcome poverty through a variety of education, health, and housing services. The educational services are especially important for children, who enter the program about 1.5 grade levels behind their peers.

Doctors without Borders: This charity is probably the most well known disaster response organization specializing in medical care It is a “first in” and “first out” response team that provides medical assistance to those injured in war or natural disasters.

Eva’s Initiative: Eva’s provides shelter and programs for at-risk youth. They have three shelters that can each host 123 young people a night. They also host training and education programs that help youth complete high school credits and gain access to post-secondary institutions. They also offer mental health services.

Food for Life: This organization, based out of Burlington, is distributing fresh and nutritional foods to to local agencies. Staff collect extra perishable goods from grocery stores and food agencies to donate to those in need. Food for Life helps over 4,000 people in Toronto, most of whom live on $4 a day.

Fresh Start Recovery Program: This agency helps treat men with alcohol and drug addictions. Fresh Start offers temporary housing during the 12-week abstinence-based program as well as counselling and financial support.

Indspire: Indspire helps Indigenous students across Canada complete their post-secondary education by providing financial support and education mentorship programs. Only 10 per cent of Indigenous students complete university degrees. Indspire is hoping to change that.

Jump Math: This organization runs math programs for children and elementary school students (up until grade 8) with the goal of encouraging more young people to love science and math. It also provides coaching and professional development programs for teachers and educators.

Moisson Montreal: Moisson Montreal is the largest food bank in Canada. It collects food donations and distributes it to local charities throughout the city. It also runs a food recovery program in which excess food supplies is collected from supermarkets.

At the end of the day, remember that giving is not restricted to the holiday season. Often charities experience a lull in donations in the New Year, making it difficult to maintain service quality year-round. If you are able, instead of making a one-time donation, make a smaller, but monthly donation.

Recipe: holiday-themed maple creme brûlée

As Christmas is slowly sneaking up, it’s time to start thinking about your holiday menu. Or maybe you need some ideas for when you will be entertaining guests? Maple creme brûlée is a perfect example of a French-Canadian inspired dessert for the holiday season. It’s simple, creamy, delicious — and a little more impressive than the typical sugar cookie.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups heavy cream ( or whipping cream )
  • 1/2 cup Canadian Pure Maple Syrup
  • 1 tsp maple sugar or granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tsp Demerara sugar ( for topping )

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. In a medium saucepan, scald the cream until small bubbles start to form. Then remove from heat.
  3. In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, vanilla extract, maple sugar and maple syrup. Blend well.
  4. Slowly pour the egg mixture into the hot cream and stir until smooth and of a uniform colour.
  5. Fill your baking dish or individual ramekins with the custard mixture, but only halfway.
  6. Bake for 40 minutes.
  7. Once done, leave the custards to cool for about 40 minutes or refrigerate for 2 hours.

To Brûlée:

  • Preheat the broiler, or prepare your brûlée torch.
  • Place the custard dish on a baking sheet and evenly sprinkle the Demerara sugar on top of the custard.
  • Once sugar is even this means caramelization will be equal and ensure a crunchy top layer all around.
  • Broil /torch until light brown.

Hope you will enjoy cracking into this delicious treat. Let us know in the comments.

What’s in the title “First Lady”?

The title of First Lady is widely recognized around the world as the descriptor of the wife of the President of the United States. But, what do you call the partner of the Prime Minister of Canada? This question actually popped into my head when editing a piece for Women’s Post. When addressing Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau do you use a title or do you just call her by her name?

In Canada, the spouse of the Prime Minister has no title. While some have mistakingly referred toSophie Grégoire-Trudeau as the “First Lady of Canada”, the fact of the matter is that the partner of the leader of this country has no official responsibilities in parliament. They can be as active as they want to be.

I have to wonder if the title of First Lady creates an image that American’s can’t shake — that the role of a woman is to be sitting at the side of her man. That there is a President, and there is a First Lady. The First Lady has a very specific role within the White House, to be involved in political campaigns, to manage the White House, to champion social causes, and to represent the president at official events and ceremonies. This is an important job to be sure, but it also creates a dangerous association between women and the role of managing a household and representing your spouse’s interests.

Whenever a woman gets close to running for president, there is always discussion about what her husband would be called. Is it First Gentleman, First Man, First Husband? It boggles everyones mind. People become consumed with this idea – of what that man’s title would be and what his role would be, as if it would be different than that of a woman.

In Canada, this association is non-existent. There is the Prime Minister, and then there is his or her spouse. This person does not receive special standing simply because of who he or she married. Most choose to take up social causes and to attend events, but it is not mandatory. And there is no gender-association with the role.

I guess to answer my first question — it’s simply Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau, no title, no fuss.

Justin Trudeau issues apology to the LGBTQ community

In a bold, historic and heartwarming moment, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivered an apology to the LGBTQ community after decades of discrimination. Trudeau made the apology in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Tuesday, Nov 28.

The chambers held a lot of emotion, as even Trudeau wiped away tears at the end of his speech. Trudeau was able to express the regret, shame, and sorrow the Canadian government has taken responsibility for in the discriminatory treatment of LGBTQ Canadians. The rejection and treatment of the LGBTQ community was a state-sponsored and witch-hunting event to purposely exclude people from society based on their sexual orientation.

“You are professionals. You are patriots, and above all, you are innocent. And for all your suffering, you deserve justice and you deserve peace. He said  ” It is our collective shame that you were so mistreated. And it is our collective shame that this apology took so long— many who suffered are no longer alive to hear these words. And for that we are truly sorry.”

Many LGBTQ Canadians faced such discrimination and harsh treatment from others that were not willing to understand nor accept people with non-conforming sexual orientation and desire. Between the 1950’s to the 1990’s thousands of federal workers were fired based on their sexual orientation. This was part of  a “national security’ purge. In the 1960’s alone, there was a database collected by the RCMP of over 9000 suspected gay and lesbian federal workers and suggestions of demotion and denial of promotion.

In June of 2016, members of the advocacy group Egale Canada released a report on the systematic discrimination members of the LGBT community has faced over the years. This prompted them to issue ways in which the treatment and viewpoint of the LGBTQ community can be changed in Canada. One of the recommendations was a formal apology issued by Ottawa. In May of 2017, Prime Minister Trudeau announced that he will issue a formal apology on Nov 28, and as he promised this was delivered to a packed house.

However, there are still some people who thought the apology was not enough to make up for years of hurt and damage caused in many communities. The fact is, this ‘purge’ was a systematic event that lasted longer than necessary and changed many lives.

In 1969 the House of Commons voted to pass a bill that decriminalized homosexuality and in 1967 the bill was first introduced by the acting Justice Minister at that time, and future Prime Minister, the late Pierre Trudeau, who said, “The view we take here is that there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.”

Now 50 years later, his son has taken the opportunity to offer an apology for government actions that were truly vile, invasive, discriminatory and un-Canadian.

This is yet another historic moment in the LGBTQ community in Canada. Comment below.

Send the gift of chocolate this holiday season

 

What says “thank you” or “thinking of you” better than a beautifully arranged and decorated chocolate platter, especially around the holidays?

Nothing — or at least that’s what Jennifer Snider, founder of Sugar Mommy Inc., believes. “It goes with it,” she said in an interview with Women’s Post. “You think of holidays you think of chocolate.”

SugarMommy is a chocolate and treats company that specializes in packaged gifts and decorative arrangements. Their clients are mostly corporate; however they also cater to special functions and seasonal occasions.

The chocolate sold by SugarMommy is different than something you may purchase at a drugstore or a specialty-shop. First of all, the chocolate is delectably smooth. Made from quality ingredients, Snider’s treats are all hand made and sold at reasonable prices. Everything is customizable, so you only get the chocolates you want.

“I use products that are gourmet, but not so gourmet that people can’t afford it,” she said. Snider made it clear she is not out to gauge anyone’s pocketbooks this holiday season — she wants people to enjoy her chocolate, even if they only have $30 to spend.

The other difference is the presentation, something Snider says gets her a lot of compliments. Her platters, pails, and baskets are all meticulously prepared, with special emphasis on colour balance and variety. Whatever you choose make sure it includes the chocolate bark. The mint white chocolate and the toasted coconut bark are absolutely divine. Other top selling items include fudge toffee, white chocolate popcorn, Oreo bark, and sponge toffee.

Every single item is put together with care to create a work of art.

“It’s really important to me,” she said. “It’s handmade stuff and if you put passion into what you do, it comes across in your work.”

Most of Snider’s clientele come from corporate offices or medical offices looking for referral gifts for their own clients. She has also expanded to provide treats for parties and events. Her pails and baskets contain individually-wrapped treats and her martini glasses can be customized to fit specific colour schemes. She describes her work more as a centrepiece than a dessert.

One of the newest additions to SugarMommy is the candy table, beautifully decorated with martini glasses and an array of colours. Snider says it’s great for kids, but also for the parents as the presentation can appear quite elegant. “People take bags and fill them up, and they go crazy. It’s unique. It’s quite different and it looks beautiful and people love it.”

Snider started making chocolate when she was a teenager. “My mom taught me how to make it and I made it as gifts,” she said. “I think it was the creativeness [I liked]. I was never a great baker. It was the creative aspect that I loved – putting things together, making things pretty.”

She went to school for early childhood education and worked in the field until 2007. With five children of her own, Snider was spending most of her time at appointments. She continued to send out her chocolaty gifts until a few friends told her she should sell her creations. She decided to teach part-time and focus on building a business that he could run from her home.

“A lot of people pushed me and said you have a great product and you need to get out there. We put some money and investment into it,” she said. “Now we have a lot of return customers. They appreciate the hand-made touch to it. It is not the mass produce look. Clients take the time to send letters and emails appreciating the gift. It is much more personal then a gift card or a lunch.”

Snider is always on the lookout for new flavours and creations! Her inspiration come from her travels, as well as the trends in the market.

Interested in sending out the gift of chocolate this year? Holiday packages are available now! Go to sugarmommy.ca to check out all of the options. 

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle set to marry next May

As news broke early yesterday morning of Prince Harry’s royal engagement to American actress, Meghan Markle, hearts of girls around the world broke as they realized they had minuscule hope of becoming the next princess. Personally, I was rooting for Prince Harry and Meghan since the media started speculating about their relationship in 2015.

The two have been dating for a year and a half and it was announced Tuesday morning they are set to marry next May at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. The two are reportedly planning the ceremony themselves. Prince Harry has always been the more ‘bad-boy royal’ so to say, especially compared to his older brother, Prince William. Harry was known for his bachelor’s lifestyle, dating a string of beautiful women when he was younger and often getting in trouble with the press.

Eventually, Prince Harry matured and paid keen attention to his charitable work, including the support of 22 different charities and over 25 different causes worldwide. Before settling down with Meghan Markle, the prince’s long time on and off girlfriend of seven years was Chelsy Davy. Davy reportedly ended their relationship after she allegedly struggled with the pressure of dating a royal. Davy was last seen publically with Harry as she attended Prince William’s wedding to Kate Middleton back in 2011.

It has been reported by Harry and Meghan that the pair met through a female friend that set them up on a blind date. In fact, Harry claims to have never seen Markle on her most known television role in the show, Suits, before meeting. The two sat down for an intimate interview with a BBC reporter shortly after announcing to the public their official engagement. They giggled behind the scenes and acted very much like a couple that’s down to earth and in love. As Prince Harry remarked in the interview, Meghan Markle was ‘the one” from the very first time they met.

It sounds like the story of fairy-tales. Markle remarked that she excitedly replied yes to Harry’s proposal before he could even put the ring on her finger, as they spent a cozy evening at home roasting chicken. I am beyond thrilled for this next royal couple and considering these two have a lot in common, including their love for charity, it is hopeful they can live a relatively normal life, at least as normal as it can get for for such a well-known member of the Royal Family.

The British family has changed quite a lot over the years, but Prince Harry and Meghan Markle ignored any negative feedback from the public. As Harry is fifth in line to the crown, it doesn’t seem there is any rush for him to conform to the pressure of being a ‘King’, while living in such a modern society. Markle, who is a divorced, American actress, will now allegedly become HRH Duchess of Sussex, or as she will be in our hearts: Princess Meghan, the one that stole Harry’s heart.

Congratulations to this happy and beautiful couple.

Why is no one #PrayingForEgypt?

Over 300 people were killed Friday during a militant attack on a mosque in northern Sinai. At least 27 were children. The last number of wounded was recorded at 128.

During the imam’s sermon, the attackers opened fire. They were positioned at the doors and windows, which meant no one could escape. Explosions erupted. Officials say at least two dozen people carrying a black Daesh banner were shooting into the crowd of innocent worshippers.

It is being called one of the deadliest assault by Islamic extremists in modern history.

And yet — no one is praying for Egypt on social media.

In November 2016, 128 people died in a suicide bombing and shooting in Paris. Six worshipers were killed and 19 injured when a lone gunman fired into a Quebec mosque in January. In June, a bomb went off at an Ariana Grande’s concert in Manchester. Twenty two people died. The Las Vegas shooting left 58 people dead and 546 injured.

In each of these occasions, people #prayed. They filtered their social media pictures and marked themselves “safe” on Facebook. You couldn’t open Twitter without seeing a heart emoji or a trending hashtag. Families sat in their living rooms watching CNN or CBC, glued to the television screen in horrified silence.

And yet, an attack that left over 300 people dead received little public attention. There was no Facebook check-in that I’m aware of. No image filter. There was a trending hashtag – #PrayForEgypt – but most of the people using it were from the region or had a connection to the region.

On my own social media feed, there was practically nothing. I pride myself on following a diverse set of people, but still my westernized twitter lists had very little information on the tragedy, and even less personal messages. The same people who prayed for Manchester were not praying for Egypt.

Why the discrepancy? Is it because Egypt is a predominately Muslim country or that the atrocity took place in a mosque? Is it because the country is not a typical Western ally? Is it because people just don’t care about things that don’t happen in their home or neighbouring countries?

The news has reported the incident, but it has been largely overshadowed by the political shakeup in Zimbabwe or the engagement of Prince Harry. That’s not an excuse, but a reality of the news cycle. It’s up to everyone to individually pay attention to what is happening around the world and not pass judgement on who to care about.

Three hundred people are dead. Twenty-seven children are dead. Their only sin is that they were praying in a mosque frequented by Sufis, one of the muslim sects in Egypt.

Whether it’s a shooting at a popular tourist attraction, a bombing in a war-torn country like Iraq, or a shooting in a place of worship in Egypt, a human life is a human life. If you are going to pray for one, you should pray for all.

#PrayFor Egypt.

Featured image provided by Andini Prian . 

Sorry ladies, Prince Harry is officially off the market

Late Sunday or early Monday (depending on your time zone) it was announced that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are engaged. The wedding is being planned for Spring 2018.

Rumours have been circulating the last few months over when the Prince would pop the question. The two have been dating for about a year and a half, and have stolen much of North America’s hearts in the process. Markle, an American actress known for her role in the television show Suits, met the Prince through friends in London. They dated quietly for a few months before the press caught wind of their romantic affairs.

The couple was first spotted together in London last Christmas when they were shopping for Christmas Trees. On numerous occasions, the Prince has made detours on his travels to visit Markle in Toronto, where she now lives. There relationship was officially announced on Nov. 8, 2016, when Kensington Palace made a statement pleading for the press to leave his girlfriend alone. The statement condemned a “eave of abuse and harassment” against Markle, going even further to say that ““Prince Harry is worried about Ms. Markle’s safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her. It is not right that a few months into a relationship with him that Ms. Markle should be subjected to such a storm.”

In September of this year, the couple was spotted holding hands at the Invictus Games, an international sporting event for wounded, injured, or sick armed service personnel and veterans created by the Prince. While this doesn’t seem like a big deal, usually members of the Royal Family does not engage in public acts of affection prior to their marriage.

It was the first indication this relationship was getting serious.

The couple have a lot in common, including their philanthropic ventures. Markle is a global ambassador for World Vision Canada and campaigns for gender equality as a woman advocate for the United Nations. The Prince is known for his charitable work. he has founded a number of events and charitable organizations such as the Invictus Games and Sentebale, a charity to help orphans in Lesotho, southern Africa.

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh both said they were “delighted” for the couple, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge said they were “very excited for Harry and Meghan. It has been wonderful getting to know Meghan and to see how happy she and Harry are together.” Prince Charles says he is “thrilled” and “very happy indeed”. 

While it is rare for a member of the Royal Family to marry an American and a divorcee — it is not unheard of! The last time it happened was in 1936, when Edward VIII abdicated the throne to marry Wallis Simpson. As the times have changed, there is no indication Prince Harry’s marriage to Markle will influence his standing within the Royal Family. In fact, the rest of the Royals seem to have welcomed Markle into the family.

Who doesn’t love a good fairy-tale ending?