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Canadian government spends $5.6 million on skating rink

As part of Canada 150, the Canadian government decided to spend $5.6 million on a skating rink on Parliament Hill.

The rink is being built in partnership with the Ottawa Senators and the Ottawa International Hockey Festival. It will be open until February 28th (although it was originally supposed to close on Jan. 1, 2018.).

While the building of any public space is a good thing, the rink comes with a long set of rules. No hockey sticks, food or drink, and no cell phones. You also aren’t allowed on the ice if you don’t have skates — sorry parents! There are also a ton of warnings sprawled out around the rink, such as “may be slippery”, just in case you forget it’s ice you are skating on. Disclaimers renouncing the government’s responsibility for injury are also placed prominently in the area.

People wishing to skate on the new rink must register at least 48 hours beforehand for one of the 40-minute skating sessions available.  You also need to arrive between 40 and 60 minutes before your session time. Tickets are sold on a first come, first serve basis. With all the rules, it will be interesting to see how many people actually use — or are permitted to use — the rink.

Now, I’m all for building new skating rinks, but it seems a bit redundant to put a new, expensive rink a few blocks from the world’s biggest skating rink, the Ottawa Canal. The Canal is a fan-favourite spot to skate, with food vendors (like Beavertails!) and hot chocolate vendors selling their products directly on the ice. It’s an extremely picturesque skate, and instead of going round-and-round in a circle, you actually get to see the city. Given the choice, I would absolutely chose to skate on the Canal rather than a small rink in front of Parliament.

What do you think? Would you use the rink?

Why does everything take 11 years?

This week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a National Housing Strategy. This is something Canadians have been anticipating for a few years now.

The Liberal government promised to spend $11.2 billion over the next 11 years on housing, something they say will reduce chronic homelessness by 50 per cent. The Prime Minister also pledged to use a portion of the national co-investment fund to repair Canada’s social stock. It is unclear how much funding that would equal. Other aspects of the strategy include:

  • $15.9 billion for a national co-investment fund that will build an estimated 60,000 new units and repair 240,000 others. At least 2,400 units will go to people with developmental disabilities, 12,000 units for seniors, and 7,000 for survivors of family violence.
  • $2 billion for a new Canada Housing Benefit for low-income families and individuals.
  • $2.2 billion to expand homelessness partnering strategy.
  • $4.3 billion for a Canada Community Housing Initiative partnered with provinces
  • At least 25 per cent of investments will support projects that target needs of women and girls
  • And, legislation that would require future federal governments to maintain a national housing strategy.

Now, don’t get me wrong — it’s great the government has finally created a national strategy for housing. With the cost of homes ballooning and the incredibly long wait-lists for social housing; and the city of Toronto declaring a state of emergency with the number of shelter beds available in the winter, it’s the perfect time for this housing strategy to be released.

But, why is it that every single promising investment the Canadian government makes comes with an 11-year timeline? It doesn’t matter whether the issue is transit, infrastructure, or housing, it’s always 11 years. There is probably a budgetary reason for this timeline, but for those who aren’t privy to that information, it comes across as a bit slow. Shelter beds and affordable housing is needed now, not 11 years from now. In 11 years, the people who need the housing will either a) have found a way to get themselves and their family into a housing unit, b) have come to terms with homelessness or c) have died from cold exposure after living on the street or illness from a poorly kept or cockroach-infested building. 

A few hundred protestors from big cities across Canada made this exact point this week, saying the national strategy should commit to making some changes in two years time, so that those struggling right now are helped by this strategy. They say housing is needed now to curb the crisis and get people off the street.

Yes, the government should be looking to the future. If they don’t, there will never be any progress. But, when it comes to the livelihood of its citizens — Canada can act a little faster.

Canada’s top 100 most powerful women announced

Every year, the Women’s Executive Network (WXN) puts together a list of Canada’s 100 Most Powerful Women and offers awards for those who advocate for diversity in the workplace and inspire future leaders.

The winners of these awards are from the private, public, and non-profit sectors.

Thirteen women were inducted into the WXN Top 100 Hall of Fame, an honour given to past recipients of awards who have continued to do notable work.

“Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Awards showcases the leaders that are helping to drive positive change and progress and to remind us of the importance of empowering women in our workforce and in the community,” says Sherri Stevens, President & CEO of PhaseNyne (parent company of WXN), in a statement. “We are so proud of the steps taken by women, and the organizations that support them, and are thrilled that we have now surpassed a major milestone, with more than 1,000 women honoured since the awards were launched in 2003.”

Past Award Winners include some of Canada’s most iconic women trailblazers: Margaret Atwood, Best-Selling Author; Dr. Roberta Bondar, astronaut; Christine Magee, President, Sleep Country Canada; Michaëlle Jean, former Governor General of Canada; and Heather Reisman, Founder and CEO, Indigo Books & Music.

The winners for 2017 were chosen by an independent advisory board and were announced on Wednesday morning in Toronto.

For a full list of winners, please visit www.wxnetwork.com/top-100/top-100-winners.

More to come.

Don’t let fear stop you from seeing the Eiffel Tower in Paris

While at a recent dinner party, I was asked an interesting question: what’s your favourite city to visit and why do you have a connection with that place? I thought about it for a while and decided on London, which has always felt like home to me. It’s probably my obsession with British fashion and even the depressing weather. I heard other guests reply with places like Manhattan, New York, Tokyo, Japan, and other destinations. I got to thinking to what my answer might have been a few years ago—Paris, France.

France is one of the most popular European countries, with the City of Paris attracting a lot of attention. However, in 2016, the French Tourism Board reported a dip in tourists in the city, with the industry losing almost £644M. This sharp decline was mainly caused by terrorism fears and concerns. France is a country that relies heavily on tourism, with seven per cent of the country’s GDP  generated from those sales. Even the Eiffel Tower had about 1 million less visitors last year.

 

Paris is known as the city of love and, before terrorism became an active concern, it was seen as a peaceful and romantic destination with odd crimes and pick-pockets. French tourism does not look so positive, as a few weeks ago, in the City of Nice, nine people were arrested after a thwarted terror attack.

However, one of the worst things you can do is let fear restrict you from travelling to the places you dream of. We are living in an unpredictable world, but that shouldn’t prevent someone from experiencing other cultures or relaxing with friends and family. Here are four small tips to travel without fear.

  • Consider your anxiety and don’t let proposed fear outweigh actual concerns. As a tip, maybe stay away from overly populated tourists spots or make sure your valuables are kept safe. Try getting a small lock for your backpack to deter pickpockets.
  • Know where you’re going. Research the neighbourhoods and know roughly how to get to your destination. Don’t wander down dark streets on your own.
  • Don’t let regret plague you from missing out on a good trip. At the end of the day, you don’t want to think “Oh, I wanted to go to the Eiffel Tower, but I was too worried about pickpockets”. You will always regret not going to see this iconic and historic marvel. Just do it!
  • Stop worrying about something that is out of your control. Sometimes, shit happens. Just take every minute as it comes and remember that as long as you are safe, everything else is small potatoes.

Try to venture off the beaten track a bit and explore less popular neighbourhoods in Paris, including Quartier Chinois (Chinatown), Bastille, Canal Saint Martin or Saint-Germain-des-Pres. This way you can soak up all the food, culture, fashion and romance the city has to offer without having to line up for hours with hundreds and thousands of other tourists like you.

Will you be planning you next trip to Paris? Comment below.

Soccer players and distance runners share similar training

Over 28,000 fans attended the Canada vs. USA Women’s soccer game held at BC Place, Vancouver, BC. It was the largest crowd ever at a national women’s match.

After watching the game, I decided to revisit the similarities between soccer players and runners, specifically the need for athletes in both sports to move for long periods of time without rest. It could be argued that soccer requires more stamina than other team sports because 120 minutes of play, including overtime, is common before a shootout decides the winner.  By comparison, a regular season NHL hockey game is 65 minutes, including five minutes of O.T. before the shootout, and NBA basketball games are 48 minutes before unlimited mini-halves of overtime – rare in basketball – decide the outcome.  MLB baseball, with its superb athletes, does not operate on the clock at all, though a typical nine-inning game takes about two hours and 30 minutes to play, with mega-stops and delays added in.  Even the tiring effects of physical contact from football, hockey and basketball don’t balance because of rest time that’s built into the stoppages.  Soccer, which has its own share of contact, rarely stops play.

Runners, like soccer players, are challenged by speed and the need for stamina and endurance. A world class runner can complete a marathon between 125 to 130 minutes — roughly the time it takes to play a soccer match.

Soccer players do a lot of sprinting in addition to their constant running back and forth on the field. Overall, to be competitive and on top of their game, they need both speed and endurance.

Interval training for marathoners and running drills for soccer players helps increases speed and can benefit both athletes. Running downhill is good for developing strong quads.  Running uphill will increase lung capacity and stamina.  When you add strength, focus, and mental toughness to the mix, you get a clear picture of what soccer players and runners share every day.  All athletes need to stretch every muscle group before and after a workout or match.

As for where the similarities end, soccer players explode for bursts of speed, which requires balance, control, and strength. These factors are what separate the soccer platers from runners, who simply have to focus on a singular task. It’s a sport that is up tempo and uses considerable physical and mental reflexes…and lots and lots of running. I was incredibly impressed.

Photo credit:  D. Laird Allan

Canada named T&L destination of the year

Canada has been named Travel & Leisure Magazine’s destination of the year!

The recognition centres around Canada’s tolerance, openness, natural reserves, and the country’s 150th anniversary, which brought forward thousands of community events.

“The country welcomed refugees and immigrants with open arms, and encouraged travellers to experience its one-of- a-kind cultural institutions, emerging neighbourhoods, and top culinary talents,” the publication says. “On the international stage, it’s become a source of stability and hope in a time when the news is mostly dominated by crisis and political rhetoric.”

Past winners of this title were Portugal and Cuba.

So, Americans, if you are looking to come visit Canada over the next year, here are the top six places you should check out:

Toronto

Toronto is full of tourist attractions like the CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquarium, Fort York, the Science Centre, and of course, Canada’s Exhibition Centre. But, it also has a number of quaint neighbourhoods with their own history and culture that are worth exploring. Check out Kensington Market for some unique shopping finds or hit the Waterfront for a lovely walk along a number of beautiful beaches. Sports fans can watch a game at the Air Canada Centre or the Rogers Centre or hit the Hockey Hall of Fame on Front St. At the end of the day, find one of our local breweries and enjoy a pint!

Ottawa

As the country’s capital, Ottawa is very tourist friendly. Hit the Byward market on a Saturday morning for some croissants and fresh fruit, wander the parks behind Parliament Hill, or even rent a bike to cycle along the canal. The city is an art-lovers dream, with multiple small galleries, museums, and theatres. Ottawa may seem like a big city, but it’s also got a small town feel, which makes it an ideal place to get away to if you need a break from the hectic downtown lifestyle.

Montreal

If you want to get a sense of the French Canadian culture, visit Montreal. The city is bursting with art and culture, but it also makes room for modern tourist attractions. Visit Notre Dame Basilica, the Museum of Modern Art, the Montreal Biodome, or the Tower Observatory, but make sure to spend some time wandering the historic university campuses or taking a walking tour of Old Montreal. Eat some real poutine, maple taffy, and enjoy the multiple bars available to you. The best time of year to go to Montreal is during a weekend with a street festival — no one parties quite like Montreal.

Halifax

I don’t think any place is as Canadian as the Maritimes. The beer, the food, the music — it’s something that can’t be found elsewhere. Check out one of the city’s gorgeous public gardens, the pier, the seaport farmer’s market, as well as the many other historic sites that can be found stretched across Halifax. Enjoy the fresh sea air and take photos be the Angus Macdonald Bridge, which is any architect’s dream. The pubs and breweries in Halifax are renowned — don’t forget to try the lobster!

Vancouver

This city has a little bit of everything — access to the water, a bustling downtown core, and a number of day trip excursions. If you enjoy hiking, Vancouver has a number of unique trails that take you along cliffs, waterfalls, and harbourfronts. Whale watching is one of the most popular tourist attractions, but make sure to check out Stanley Park and the botanical gardens. If you want to get out of Vancouver, try stopping in on Victoria. It’s got beautiful bookshops, pubs that look like libraries, and plenty of high tea available for those who enjoy that kind of thing.

The North

While Toronto may have claimed “We The North” for our basketball team, no trip to Canada is complete without a trip to our REAL north – The Northwest Territories or Nunavut. While the weather may be a bit nippy, the view is incomparable to anything else you will see in your lifetime. Watch the northern lights, visit one of the beautifully serene national parks, and check out one of the many art galleries featuring Indigenous masterpieces. You can also travel along the Inuvik Tuktoyaktuk Highway, which officially opened last week!

What’s your favourite place to visit in Canada?

5 benefits of doing yoga in the morning

I’m a big yoga fan. The movement and breathing wakes my body up and forces my mind to start working, without the added stress of work or life’s challenges. Even a short five or 10-minute practice is enough to to wake me up and send positive vibes throughout my day. While many people say doing yoga at night is advantageous, I think doing it in the morning has just as many benefits.

Here are five benefits of doing yoga in the morning:

Peace of mind: People often start their day by thinking about all the tasks they have to complete before 5 p.m. And then we think about what we need to take out for dinner and who is going to be home and who is going to take out the dog. It gets crazy. Instead of starting your day off stressed out, a 10-minute yoga routine can help you slow down and be completely in the present. Whatever you need to do can wait. These 10 minutes are yours alone.

Focus: The peace of mind you get from practicing yoga can help you set an intention for your day. What do you want to accomplish? What do you want to feel? Whether you want to maintain positive thinking, despite a meeting-packed day, or if you want to be confident during a presentation or networking event, an intention will help you create the frame of mind first thing.

Helps digestion: Practicing yoga in the morning can help your body metabolize food throughout the day. By doing gentle stretches, especially twists that massage the internal organs, the body becomes more capable of releasing toxins from the body. It also allows for the body to better absorb nutrients in food.

Better posture: Many yoga poses focus on muscles in your back, forcing you to push your shoulder blades back and breath deep into the stretch. Once you start actively thinking about how your head connects with the rest of your spine, there will be no going back. These type of exercises are ideal for those with a desk job.

Overall fitness: While yoga may not burn as many calories as running a 5k, it can help you strengthen your muscles and tone your body. Through the movement, you are essentially supporting your entire body mass using your own muscles. Whether it’s a simple downward dog or something more challenging like a balancing practice, every movement activates your core. If you are looking for something to supplement your cardio — yoga is the perfect routine.

Do you practice yoga in the morning? Let us know your favourite poses in the comments below!

6 holiday traditions from different parts of the world

What does Christmas mean to you? This holiday is celebrated all over the world. For some, it’s all about the brightly lit streets and crowded stores, with people all looking for presents to share with their loved ones, but for others the holiday can be more about tradition or spiritual guidance. The interesting part is that the commonality is family, gift-giving, and myth.

Here are six Christmas customs from around the world:

Japan

In Japan, Christmas is not a national holiday, but it is still celebrated by many people in the country. There is no Santa Claus. Instead there is Santa Kurohsu. Santa Kurohsu takes after a Buddhist monk in Japanese culture, who would travel to peoples homes to leave gifts and was said to have eyes at the back of his head to observe if children were being naughty. Strangely, the Japanese tend to eat a lot of KFC during the week of Christmas, thanks to clever marketing dating back to the eighties. Their unofficial ‘Christmas cake’ is strawberry shortcake.

Norway

Christmas in Norway is known as Jul and is celebrated on Dec 25. However, the gift-giving is done on Christmas eve. One of the most interesting customs is that all brooms are hidden on Christmas eve. This way, it can’t be stolen for use by evil spirits or witches.

Venezuela

Residents in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, adore Christmas. Venezuela is a predominantly a Catholic country so going to mass on Christmas is necessary, but it’s just the method of getting there that’s odd. Residents in Caracas can be seen roller-blading to church mass in the earl morning hours, and it’s so popular that the roads are often cleared of traffic and a special path is provided. Venezuelan’s celebrate Nochebuena, which is seen as the night before Christmas, where families exchange gifts and eat a full christmas dinner.

Italy

Christmas celebrations start eight days before Christmas in Italy, with many families headed to mass. Families offer special Novenas (prayers) and typically gather on Christmas Eve for a midnight celebration. On Christmas eve, no meat is eaten with the exception of a light seafood dish. More importantly, in Italian tradition, children await Befana, a friendly witch that travels to children’s homes to fill their stocking with gifs. This night is known as Epiphany or feast of the Three Kings, which is celebrated 12 days after Christmas, on Jan. 6.

Czech Republic

One of the most interesting Christmas traditions is reserved for single or unmarried women. An unmarried woman must stand with her back facing an open door and throw a shoe over her shoulder. If the front of the shoe lands facing the door, she is to wed within the next 12 months. It also signifies possible love in the new year. In the Czech Republic and other European countries, they also celebrate St Nicholas Day, on Dec. 5, where children wait for St Nicholas to arrive with angels and with devils. The devil might give you a lump of coal while an angel will give you sweets or fruit once a child sings a song or recites a poem for St Nicholas.

Ukraine

The Christmas trees tend to look a lot different in Ukraine, as they are often decorated with artificial spiders and webbing. Instead of the colourful balls and happy tinsel, the tree might look like a scene out of a Halloween tell. However, the story behind this Ukrainian Christmas tradition is rather fascinating. As the tale goes —an old woman was once unable to afford decorations for her tree, but when she woke on Christmas morning, she instead found a spider, who decorated the tree with it’s shimmering web.

Do you have a Christmas tradition or custom you know about? Comment below

First hijab-wearing Barbie launched in ‘Shero’ line

Barbie is getting an international makeover. During Glamour’s Woman of the Year summit, a hijab-wearing Barbie was revealed as one of the first of a line of dolls based on the image of inspirational women.

This particular Barbie is modelled after United States Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad, who won a bronze medal for fencing in Rio last year. The doll wears the white fencing uniform, complete with training shoes, mask, sabre, and of course, Muhammad’s hijab.

Muhammad told the press that she used to make her own hijab for her Barbies when she was younger, and that she hopes this new doll will encourage and inspire young girls to feel included.

“I’m proud to know that little girls everywhere can now play with a Barbie who chooses to wear hijab! This is a childhood dream come true,” she tweeted.

Barbie has often been criticized for their lack of diversity and the size of their dolls. This inspirational line of “Sheros” is the company’s attempt at breaking that image. The line recognizes women who break boundaries and inspire the next generation of young girls. Last year, Mattel, the company that creates Barbie, revealed a variety of sized-dolls inspired by plus-size model and advocate Ashley Graham.

Other “Sheros” include African-American ballerina Mista Copeland, filmmaker Ava DuVernay, Olympian Gabby Douglas, and actresses Kristin Chenoweth and Zendaya Coleman.

The release of the Muhammad-inspired Barbie comes at a time where muslim women are being persecuted around the world. In Canada, Quebec’s Bill 62 law makes it illegal for women to wear the niqab or burkha, while oversees in Europe muslim women are being targeted for wearing burkinis on the beach. In the U.S., white supremacists are protesting immigration and the removal of confederate statues.

The “Shero” line will go on sale in 2018.

What do you think of this Shero line? Does it make up for Barbie’s previous reputation? Let us know in the comments below!

Woman of the Week: Cheryl Hickman

Cheryl Hickman is the founder and general and artistic director of Opera on the Avalon, a company in Newfoundland that showcases traditional opera and musical theatre. The company is dedicated to promoting work by female artists and empowering them through mentorship programs and gender parity policies.

A singer herself, Hickman was inspired to create Opera on the Avalon after being mentored herself. She has performed with some of the most prominent operatic companies in North America and Europe, including the New York City Opera, Vancouver Opera, Calgary Opera, Pacific Opera Victoria, Manitoba Opera, Canadian Opera Company, Florida Grand Opera, and Opera Français. When she speaks, she does so with passion and poetry. She wants Opera to adapt to the times, employing more women and engaging more youth.

In 2017, Hickman was appointed to the Canada Council for the Arts and is the chair of the Governance Committee. Women’s Post spoke with Hickman over the phone about the future of Opera, how to keep a community engaged in such a traditional art form, and the potential of women in positions of power.

Question: Did you always have a passion for music? When did you first discover opera?

Answer: I discovered it at quite a young age. My mom tells me I sang before I spoke. I was a child of the 70s. I still remember terrible 70s lyrics that should be out of my head, but alas, it’s not. My first memory is singing in a Kindergarden production in Newfoundland.

Were you able to get a job as a singer right after graduation or was there a delay? 

I did an undergrad at the University of Toronto and graduate work at The Juilliard School. Literally one of my mentors called New York City Opera – across the square. I walked out of my masters program to a job. But again, that was a mentor who believed in me and picked up the phone. I didn’t realize how lucky I was at the time. 

Why did you found Opera on the Avalon? 

The reason why I started Opera on the Avalon was because of Diana Leblanc at the Canadian Opera Company.  I was in the ensemble and as a young performer you didn’t really see a lot of women. It’s a very male dominated world. She was the first female director I worked with. I think it made such an impact in terms of how she worked. It was a revelation. It was such a rewarding and creatively and artistically and emotionally satisfying experience. I realized later I was trying to re-create that experience in my whole professional life.

I started also, because in my genre, there is little opportunity for women. There are very few artistic directors, heads of companies, producers, and little opportunity in the higher levels.  If you aren’t going to invite me to the party I’ll start my own. The company has evolved.

Power balance will only change if you act on it. And so, in the East coast or in Canada we are the only company that insists on gender parity. We hire people from diverse backgrounds. We also insist on parity in all hiring.

Why is it so important to insist on gender parity in the arts?

It’s so topical now. As a young singer, [opera] was a school of “if it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger”. There was a lot of sexism and misogyny. It was an unconscious bias people aren’t aware of. It’s only when you are aware of the fact that people of power are all men, you don’t realize how much that impacts you. 

How do you deal with it? You don’t deal with it. You realize what the rules are. The person who gets fired isn’t going to be the abused. You learn very quickly that in the arts talent forgives all. Success is a motivator for people to look beyond someone’s faults and sometimes the faults are quite large and harmful to other artists. You want to work – if you complain you won’t work. You put your game face on.

What is making Opera on the Avalon such a success?

We embrace artistic risk. What interests me is that we are bringing a quality, high callibre to widest audience possible – especially attracting younger generations because that’s the audience we are building. If we are going to attract wider audiences we need to widen the stories we are telling. We can’t allow stories we tell to be only those of dead white men.

I think one of the things we do is you have to reflect the lives of the community you live in back on the stage. We did a new show “Ours” [about] WWI battle that has a tremendous impact on Newfoundland and Labrador. We are doing an opera called ”As One”, focusing on the transgender [identity] and young people finding out who they are and discovering at a young age who you are as a person.

Do you believe in mentorship? What do you do to help young women?

I mentor through a couple of programs, university programs, and through Opera on the Avalon. We mentor young conductors. The number of female conductors in Opera in this country is shameful, so we are working to change that. I often think there is an unconscious bias – men hire men. That happens with mentorship and encouragement. It is really difficult for set designers, conductors, and directors if they don’t see women in power doing those things. You have to have guidance from somebody that has that lived experience and can also speak about the difficulties and challenges, and encourage you every step of the way. I was mentored by some pretty amazing women and we have to lift each other up. 

Any final thoughts?

I guess what’s interesting, or what’s important is that for too long we have been afraid, as women, to speak up because it’s fear of embarrassment or retribution or contempt. And I think now is the time [to speak]. In the last couple of weeks you’ve seen how that is changing. Someone said to me that a young man got hired for something and someone said he was a boy wonder. The female equivalent is bitch and for me, that’s true. As women, we owe it to the next generation to speak up without fear of retribution. It is incumbent on us.

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