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Quebec passes bill prohibiting the niqab while using public services

Wednesday, Quebec’s National Assembly passed a law that will prohibit women from wearing the niqab while using public services.

Bill 62, ironically called the religious neutrality bill, bans public service workers, as well as people seeking government services, from wearing this any face-covering garb such as the niqab or the burka. This ban also extends to using public transportation.

It should also be noted that those who voted against the bill did so because they didn’t think it went far enough. They wanted to extend the ban to include people of authority, like judges and police officers.

To be incredibly clear: if a woman choses to wear the niqab for religious reasons, she will no longer be allowed to work as a teacher, doctor, or government agent. She will also not be able to use any of the services provided by these people and will not be able to take the bus to get there if she finds someone sympathetic to her beliefs.

The bill carefully avoids using the terms niqab or burka, and specifically says people must have their “face uncovered”, and claims this includes people who wear masks to protest. However, there are very few instances where a face would be covered and it is easy to deduce what population is being targeted by this law.

People can apply for an “exemption” to the rule; however the bill also specifies the religious accommodation “is consistent with the right for equality between women and men”, which would most likely rule out the niqab. The bill also says that “the accommodation must be reasonable in that it must not impose undue hardship with regard to, among other considerations, the rights of others, public health and safety, the effects on the proper operation of the body, and the costs involved.” This makes exemptions extremely subjective and difficult to receive.

The best part of the bill is the little disclosure at the end that says: “The measures introduced in this Act must not be interpreted as affecting the emblematic and toponymic elements of Québec’s cultural heritage, in particular its religious cultural heritage, that testify to its history.”

Honestly, if I was a politician in Quebec, I wouldn’t want this bill affecting the history or culture of my province either. It paints an absolutely despicable picture similar to other fascist countries.

I’m not a big fan of the niqab. Most women aren’t. But, I would never force a woman who chooses to wear one to remove it. I would also never prevent a woman from taking the bus or from picking up her child at school because of what she is wearing. This is not a security issue or a communications issue. This is racism in its simplest form. This is a group of people afraid of someone who dresses a bit differently. The law does not encourage “religious neutrality” as the government claims. It doesn’t prevent people from wearing a cross or a yarmulke on the bus or at the doctor’s office. It directly attacks one religion over others.

Personally, I’m hoping someone brings this bill to the Supreme Court. Quebec politicians should be ashamed at the blatant discrimination they just enacted in to law.

This is not my Canada. Is it yours?

The law is affective immediately.

Tens of thousands of women share #MeToo stories of sexual harassment

I don’t really have a #MeToo, but I stand with those who do.

I’m extremely fortunate (so far) and I know that. I have my own experiences with sexism — I’ve been treated differently by employers, mocked during interviews, and called a bitch by random strangers on public transit — but my stories are tame compared to those being shared on Twitter right now. And for them, as well as my friends and colleagues who have experienced sexual harassment and assault, my heart breaks.

Following the allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, women started to share their own experiences of sexual harassment and assault. The latest forum is Twitter, using the hashtag #MeToo.

This particular movement started with American actress Alyssa Milano, who asked her followers to reply with the words “me too” to show how widespread sexual harassment really is.

Tens of thousands of people replied to the battle cry, and that number is increasing with every minute. Some people simply used the hashtag, while others provide context describing their situations. The responses have been from people of all genders, sexual orientation, professions, and economic demographics.

On Oct. 13, women boycotted Twitter in support of actress Rose McGowan, who was blocked by the social media agency for her criticism of Weinstein and those who are supporting him. Now, it seems like women have reclaimed this platform, using it to voice their opinions and show exactly how prominent sexual harassment is in the twenty first century.

The number of people using this hashtag should shock us, but it doesn’t. One in four women in North America will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime, and of every 100 assaults, only six are reported to the police. These statistics are even more grave when you consider that most people don’t share their #MeToo stories.

The are many reasons for not doing, and no one should be chastised for choosing to remain silent. It could be the victim was told to be ashamed of their experiences. It could also be that they were made to believe the attack was their own fault, or that alcohol or their wardrobe was to blame. It could also be that they are not yet ready to talk about their traumatic experience, which is okay. As many people on Twitter pointed out, just because you don’t talk publicly about your experience or use the hashtag, doesn’t make your story any less real.

I am a bit worried that this campaign will fall on deaf ears. These are real women who were brave enough to share their stories with the world in hopes of inspiring change. But, who will listen? In the United States, the White House is in the midst of making abortion illegal and removing birth control from insurance packages. While Canadian government officials pride themselves on providing free abortion pills, the debate surrounding safe spaces has become much too political. Every day a new challenge presents itself. Women who do accuse their attacker are often shamed in courtrooms or treated as liars. What happens when the Weinstein story dies down? Will these women be ignored once again?

Every few minutes someone experiences a #MeToo. It could be a family member, a friend, or a coworker. It could even be you. It’s incredibly important to stand with the courageous women and men speaking up today and realize the struggle to end sexual violence is an uphill battle. It will take decades.

What will you do tomorrow to help?

Do you care about the sex appeal of your Prime Minister?

It’s started already. The “who’s hotter than who” rhetoric surrounding Canada’s political leaders. Apparently, if your Prime Minister isn’t old and balding (or orange with a toupee), this is what the press focuses on. It doesn’t matter what his or her policy is, whether or not they kept their promises, or what their plans are for the future. It’s all about their hair and winning smile.

Don’t get me wrong! I’m a woman who can appreciate a person’s good looks — but when it comes to the people who represent my interests on a national and international level, I tend to think values matter more. But, that’s just me.

It all started with the election of Justin Trudeau as Prime Minister. The world exploded with jealousy, talking about how sexy he was and how gorgeous his hair is. Newspapers, magazines, and tabloids all posted pictures of him boxing or taking his shirt off for a charity event. They even made some cringe-worthy jokes involving maple syrup. To this day, the media go into a frenzy whenever our Prime Minister steps on foreign soil. There is no escaping those selfies.

Canadians could deal with one good-looking politician. Sure, the press may love to take his picture, but after the first month of his term, most Canadians were over Trudeau’s charm. But now, Canada is in trouble. There are now two — yes, I said two — good-looking political leaders vying for the position of Prime Minister in the next election.

Newly-elected New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh has been praised for his ability to connect with young people. He is charismatic, and fashion-forward. Take a look at any of his photos and you can see a man who knows how to work a camera.

Earlier this week, Singh made a comment about his own luscious locks hidden beneath his turban, saying “I have more hair, and it’s longer, and it’s nicer.” Now, people are going crazy again. Articles have popped up calling those “fighting words”, making the correlation between hair and a vow to defeat Trudeau in the next election. Poor Conservative Party Leader Andrew Sheer has to read articles that compare his sex appeal to that of his colleagues. Yes, apparently sex appeal is the newest factor for a political leader. May I suggest a catwalk for the next televised debate?

While this whole debocle is pretty funny, it’s also a big problem.

First of all, as editor of Women’s Post, I must question whether or not this kind of talk would be the same if a woman were elected as party leader. Would sex appeal be as big of a factor? Would the mere inclusion of that kind of discussion be labelled inappropriate? Would reporters get in trouble for talking about a woman’s hair and makeup instead of her policy platform? No one is talking about Elizabeth May’s appearance, so why are we talking about Singh’s? If anyone was confused about the double standard between male and female politicians, they don’t have to look much further.

While a fight over luscious locks seems entertaining, and may be a good PR tactic to gain the attention of potential voters, it also distracts from the bigger issues facing our country. Unemployment, health care, education, and Indigenous reconciliation are just a few of the important issues our political leaders need to be knowledgeable of. Those are the issues that our leaders should be discussing. Instead, voters are treated to a pageant contest, where the contestants have to dress up, smile, and describe their ideal date.

This is not my kind of democracy, and I think a lot of Canadians feel the same way.

To be fair, a lot of this is the media’s doing. Politicians know that catering to the press is how they get coverage and reach voters — and journalists love to write about sex and controversy. But, the worst mistake a politician can make is to assume voters are stupid and easily distracted. Talking about your hair is not going to make Canadians forget to ask about your policies.

Being charismatic is a good thing. Being able to genuinely connect to Canadians is even better. But at what point do we stop talking about it and focus on the real issues?

Hopefully, it’s before the election.

Canada missing data for inclusion in ONE analysis on girls education

For the last five years, Oct. 11 has marked International Day of the Girl, where people are encouraged to reflect on the importance of education and human rights, especially when it comes to the empowerment of young girls. This mission, led by the United Nations, aims to bring global attention and action to girls that are in crisis around the world, including access to safety, education, and a healthy life. This year, the theme will be to help girls before, during, and after a crisis.

In honour of International Day of the Girl, ONE campaign released their second annual report on the ‘toughest places in the world for a girl to get an education.’ ONE is an organization that spans worldwide and is focused on issues like justice and equality, especially in African Nations. The report is based on a data taken from the 193 countries in the United Nations. Education is one of the most important factor affecting the prosperous growth of women. Eleven factors were taken into consideration.

However, out of 193 member countries, only 122 countries had enough data to be included in the report.  The top 10 worst countries for girls to get an education are mostly located in sub-saharan Africa and the order is as follows: South Sudan, Central African Republic, Niger, Afghanistan, Chad, Mali, Guinea, Burkino Faso, Liberia and Ethiopia.

Canada, France, and Germany were included in the list of 71 countries that did not meet the mark for proper data analysis. Canada only met four data points:

  • Girls’ upper-secondary out-of-school rate
  • Girls’ lower-secondary out-of-school rate
  • Girls’ upper-secondary completion rate
  • Girls’ government expenditure on education (as a per cent of total government expenditure)

All the data was collected from the UNESCO database. Some of the factors Canada was missing include girls’ youth literacy rate, mean years of school, primary teachers trained to teach, lower-secondary out-of-school rate and primary out-of-school rate. Canada is positioned as a country that supports girls education and development. However, there is lots of data missing to gather a full understanding of where girls stand in these developed countries. Canada is all about promoting feminism, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau leading the way as a self–proclaimed feminist. Canada also featured two cities, Toronto and Vancouver, on the top ten cities for female entrepreneurs, but the data collected by ONE shows a lot of information missing about our own educational system.

ONE’s report hopes to highlight key issues that need improvement in order for girls to thrive. Their report indicated that the toughest places for girls to get access to proper education are amongst the poorest in the world, and are often marked as fragile states. Girls can face social, economic, and cultural barriers all when trying to access and stay in school. However, the report can conclude that just because a country is poor doesn’t mean that girls cannot get access to proper education . For instance, Burundi has the worlds lowest income, but ranks better than 18 other wealthier countries in terms of girls education. While all the countries on the ‘tough list’ deal with different issues, ranging from childhood marriage to poor literacy, the key issues are transparency and funding.

President and CEO of the ONE campaign, Gayle Smith said that “over 130 million girls are still out of school— that is over 130 million potential engineers, entrepreneurs, teachers, and politicians whose leadership the world is missing out on. It’s a global crisis that perpetuates poverty.”

In February 2018, Smith hopes there will be a Global Partnership for Education that supports education in developing countries. Various world leaders will be invited to fund this development and make a commitment to this cause.

Prime Minister Trudeau is, however, expected to make a few appearance in Washington D.C on Oct. 10 where he will attend the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit and Gala as well as participate in the Women One Roundtable discussion on Oct 11. It is hopeful that in the near future, more developed countries can make all issues of girls’ education more transparent because empowered girls make for powerful women.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Women’s History Month: How will you claim your place?

October is Women’s History Month in Canada and the theme this year is Claim Your Place — a bold call to action for women across Canada to keep pushing for inclusion and gender equality. It is a time to remember the achievements of other women in history and to support those around us. Women’s History Month is celebrated in March in the United States, Australia and some other countries and often coincides with International Women’s Day on March 8. However, in Canada, the month of October is reserved in recognition of the achievements of Women, coinciding with Person’s Day, which is celebrated on October 18.

Person’s Day is in recognition of the Person’s case of 1927, when five prominent Canadian women took on the Supreme Court of Canada and asked the following question: Does the word “person” in section 24 of the B.N.A Act include women? After five weeks, the Supreme Court said they were not. This answer was not satisfactory to the women who would later be known as the Famous Five. They took their case to the Privy Council of Great Britain, which at the time was the highest court in Canada. On Oct.18 1929, the Lord Chancellor of Great Britain answered the appeal by saying the word person should, in fact, include women.

This ultimately changed the status of women in Canada, giving them the right to be appointed to the Senate of Canada and increased participation in political and public life, including voting rights. The Famous Five were women that actively looked for reform movements in a quest for changing equality. Their names were Emily Murphy, Louise McKinney, Irene Parlby, Nellie McClung, and Henrietta Muir Edwards — they were journalists, magistrates and politicians. As Canada celebrates 150 years, this Person’s Day will also carry the #claimyourplace theme and will recognize women who have helped to shape Canadian democracy. There will be the annual Governor General’s Awards in Commemoration of the Person’s Case that will honour Canadians who advance gender equality.

The awards have been given out since 1979 and include a long list of past recipients from various places across Canada. This year, there are five recipients, including someone from the youth category (age range of 15- 30). These women have made an outstanding impact to the lives of women and girls in meeting the goals of gender equality in Canada.

Over the past 150 years, countless woman have made their mark in history and found their voice. They have fought against inequality, helped reduce the pay wage gap, argued for better health services and for reproductive rights. Throughout all of these struggles, women have lifted each other up, helping one another reach their full potential. One can only hope this continues over the next decade.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a self-proclaimed feminist responsible for the country’s first gender-equal cabinet, issued a statement for Women’s History Month in which he remarked, “Our government is working hard to advance gender equality and ensure that all people, no matter their gender, have the opportunity to realize their full potential. We are working to strengthen women’s leadership in business and government and to provide young women with the opportunities they need to advance their careers.”

Throughout the month of October, honour those women and girls who inspire you by using the hashtag #ClaimYourPlace . Post inspirational photos, videos or stories on social media and share them with Women’s Post!

Let us know how you will #ClaimYourPlace in the comments below

Metrolinx Transportation Symposium: tolls, single-payment, and connectivity

Metrolinx hosted a Transportation Symposium Monday with the goal of hearing insight from transit leaders, residents, and influencers from across the region. With their 2041 Regional Transportation Plan still in the draft stage, Metrolinx is looking for reactions and input.

The day began with opening remarks from Metrolinx’s new CEO Phil Verster, who was only 30 minutes into the job. He talked about how the consultation process the transit agency is going through isn’t boring or redundant, but rather an important part of city building. “Great plans succeed because everyone is invested in it,” he said.

Leslie Woo, Chief Planning Officer for Metrolinx, provided an overview of the Draft 2041 plan. She said that over 10 million people will live across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Region by 2041. For that reason, the region must look past the Big Move and continue to work together and increase public transportation. Woo also warned about building based on technological advancements, saying the GTHA allowed a love affair with the car to influence how cities were designed. She doesn’t want Metrolinx to make the same mistake. At the same time, she admitted that no one can deny the importance of incorporating shared-services and autonomous vehicles into future plans.

Participants spent the rest of the day listening to panels on connectivity, customer service, and funding models. Many of the panellists touched upon the vulnerability of transit funding. While Canada is experiencing a boom of infrastructure funding on all three levels, it is not enough to make up for a 30-year gap. What’s required is dedicated funding for transit, perhaps through the direct use of road pricing and tolls, something that was called “inevitable” by one of the panelists.

Another common theme was the idea of a single-payment system. While fare integration is a necessity for Metrolinx’s 2041 plan, as well as any future Toronto Transit Commission plans, the idea of paying not only for public transportation, but also for car-sharing and bixi bikes, is a relatively new one. This would require one card or mobile app that customers could use across the board.

Above all else, the consensus was that transit needed to be comfortable, reliable, frequent, and be able to get customers to their destination without too many transfers.

For the love of pumpkin: the weirdest pumpkin spice products you can find

Fall marks the return of oversized sweaters, cozy weather, and everything pumpkin. It’s hard to ignore the fact that as soon as September arrives — pumpkin is in. This fashionable orange gourd has many by-products, including the popular pumpkin spice. The traditional pumpkin spice mix, often added to the Thanksgiving favourite, pumpkin pie, is similar to a mixed spice blend using common flavours in the fall.

This blend includes nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, all spice, and cloves. Yes, you read that right, pumpkin spice doesn’t actually contain pumpkin, which is the most ironic part. Popular brands like Starbucks are celebrating over 10 years of the famous Pumpkin Spice Latte (or PSL) and it was only in 2015 that it was announced the drinks would actually contain real pumpkin puree instead of a mixture of artificial ingredients and colours.

There is no denying the pumpkin spice obsession. Almost every café has caught on to the fall trend of pumpkin scented or flavoured products. But, where do you draw the line? Here are some of the weirdest, unusual, and not so usual pumpkin/ pumpkin spice products you can find.

Pumpkin Spice Pizza

A New Jersey pizza joint, Villa Italian Kitchen, added something new this fall, with the pumpkin spice pizza. The pizza is your usual dough with savoury cheese— but forget the pepperoni; this one is topped with spoonfuls of pumpkin pie filling. Once out of the oven, even more filling is added. This one is a pumpkin pie overload.

Pumpkin Spice Deodorant

I really wish I was joking with this one, but Native, an American company that manufactures all-natural deodorants for men and women, recently released their latest inspiration. This deodorant is a limited–edition pumpkin-spice-latte-scented product. The product description reads, “Inspired by the PSL, this deodorant makes the perfect holiday gift. Subtle notes of pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove.”

I really can’t think of a better way to describe your love for PSL—by smelling like it.

Pumpkin Spice Soap/ Lotion/ Scrub

If the deodorant is not enough for you, there is a very real trend of people making homemade pumpkin spice soaps. There are lists of various recipes people have used to make this pumpkin spice scented product. The Farmers’ Market Soaps even offers this product made using organic avocado, blueberry butter, shea butter and added hints of pumpkin spice preserves. This one is less of a shock considering brands like Bath and Body Works, which literally offers every fall scent from marshmallow-roasted, spiced, and pumpkin-apple products.

 

Pumpkin Spice Rum

You can now get intoxicated on pumpkin spice! Once again, I am not making this one up. Captain Morgan Rums has added pumpkin spice to their traditional alcoholic beverage to “add some fall spice to your favourite cocktails.” Pumpkin spice alcohol is definitely a growing trend, as this rum joined the already existing pumpkin pie vodka from Pinnacale and the list of craft pumpkin beers available at the LCBO. This pumpkin spices rum is called Captain Morgan— Jack-O’Blast and is sold in an obvious pumpkin shaped bottle. Because pumpkin!

 

Pumpkin Spice Pet Treats
Your pets can enjoy pumpkin spice just as much as you do. Greenies’ dental treats is just one small example of chewable dog treats in pumpkin spice flavour. There is also a long list online where people can find the recipes for these treats for their canine pet.

I think I’ve said the word pumpkin enough times for today. Let us know in the comments below some crazy pumpkin spice themed products you’ve come across.

Canada ranks number one for civil service gender equality

By Leanne Benn

The Global Government Forum, an organization that measures standards for gender- equality worldwide, ranks Canada as number one out of any G20 country. This ranking places Canada at the top of the civil service sector for having women in leadership positions.

According to the Women Leaders Index, released in September 2017, 46.4 per cent of senior civil servants in Canada are women. There is a 3.3 percentage point difference between Canada and Australia and the gap has been slowly closing over the past few years.

The data was gathered over three years from 2013 to 2016 and measured gender equality in leadership roles in G20 and EU countries. The goal of this forum is to highlight the countries that are leading the way for gender equal roles in federal or national governments, therefore encouraging other countries to do the same.

This is the first year the data has included research from countries outside the G20 with the inclusion of European Union countries. The data collected from the EU shows that these countries are more advanced in terms of gender equality than those included in the G20. Among 28 EU nations the average is 40 per cent high-ranking women.

This data analysis covers a broader base and as a result new fields of analysis were included this year. In addition to civil service leadership and women elected into political office, the forum examined women on private sector boards. It should be noted that in these sub-sector datas collections, Canada ranked low for women in private sector boards.

The discussion of gender inequality for high ranking positions has been long analyzed and female talent should be promoted within government structures. Canada’s most senior civil servant as of January 2016 was Janice Charette. Charette, in response to the index, said public service should represent the population in order to show they are doing the best job possible. The polices and the practices of high ranking countries can have an internal impact on HR management, staff development, recruitment, and the promotion of women.

“If you look at all the research on this, the value proposition for gender equality and diversity in leadership positions, whether in the public sector or the private sector, is very clear,” she said in the report. “And I would say that in the public sector it’s even more important, because if we are to have credible public service structures and institutions that are able to give good, thoughtful, strategic advice to governments, they have to understand and represent the population they are there to serve. That’s absolutely critical.”

However, there must be a political appetite in order to change the public leadership roles for women. For instance, both Canada and France have a cabinet that includes 50 per cent women. A strong political role is required for gender diversity and this is the only way conditions may improve.

How do you feel about Canada’s ranking and what are your thought on gender equality on a global level?

Celebrating Women: Naira Velumyan

Life doesn’t always goes as planned. Imagine being a young mother to two children and losing your husband. As painful as that reality is, Dr. Naira Velumyan lived this ordeal. Living in her homeland of Russia at the time, Dr. Velumyan had to turn her life around, focusing on creating a brand for herself and investing in opportunities for the survival of herself and her children.

After obtaining her master’s and doctorate in psychology, Velumyan decided to pursue something that has always fascinated her; Jungian analysis and symbolism in art. Coming from a background in law and psychology, this was not an easy jump, but Velumyan embraced the connection between an artist and his audience through the collection of images. Jungian analysis deals with the psychology of the unconscious and a persons’s attitudes of the ego. Using this relation to artwork connects our unconscious mind to an artist’s intensions through his work.

While trying to put her life together, a close friend introduced her to a Russian artist named Alexey Klokov. Klokov was able to give Velumyan an inside perspective on the life of an artist growing up in Russia. She became inspired and  Velumyan used her understanding of art to become a gallerist and Mr Klokov’s agent. She was now part of an exclusive artistic world — little did she know she would be thanking her future husband at the time.

Velumyan spent her time in Russia building up a solid business network and becoming a certified art dealer, exclusive to Klolov’s work. To grow in business you always have to think outside of the box and this is why Velumyan had thoughts of integrating her Russian art brand into the North American market. Prior to this, she had little exposure to the North American art scene and all her connections were in Russia. She managed to maintain a private psychological practice and balanced her time.

“After we built an established dealer network in Russia, I recognized the importance of growing beyond European boundaries. North America always attracted me with its art market, and my father who has lived in Toronto for 25 years was always inviting me to come. As a skilled worker, immigration to Canada was not insurmountable; however, my adult children and Alexey did not share this vision.”

‘Girl on Two Balls’- 2012- Alexey Klokov- Oil on Canvas

Despite this, Velumyan pushed through and left Russia for Canada in the pursuit of building an even bigger and noticeable brand for her husband’s artwork. She was now classed as an immigrant in unfamiliar territory and with it came all the challenges. She was unestablished in a country full of competing artists striving to make a name for themselves.

“In Canada I had to start from scratch. Different country, different mentality and different culture … In a new country amidst established Canadians. Everyday is a learning experience with unique challenges and opportunities.”

During her first year in Canada, she had to learn English while having her Phd credentials approved. Velumyan attended the Bridge Training Program for Internationally Trained Mental Health Professionals, interned at a local clinic, and subsequently received her license in psychotherapy. Velumyan was used to helping people, so in addition to her art work, she became a founding member of an organization called IWB.

IWB stands for Immigrant Women in Business and is an organization dedicated to Helping Immigrant Women in Business to Succeed. It is run by CEO Svetlana Ratnikova, a fellow Russian immigrant in Toronto.

“When I met Svetlana Ratnikova, she invited me to become one of the founding members, and I was eager to help. As a woman in business, I know what unique challenges we face in the workplace and in our personal lives not withstanding the challenge of being immigrants.”

‘Potentility’ -2016- Alexey Klokov- Enamel on Linen- Suggested Abstract

As a founding member of IWB, Velumyan publicly shares her struggles as an immigrant and how she excelled in life. For International Women’s Day in March, Velumyan spoke at an IWB event and featured the painting shown above, ‘Potentiality’ which she says Klokov created to show the path of an immigrant ( the green mark) rising to success (yellow). Her talks offer a form of mentorship for immigrant women thinking about venturing into business.

As Alexey Klokov’s exclusive agent, Naira represents the sole interests of his work. She is developing a Canadian brand, organizing exhibitions, providing all printed products, and conducting negotiations with dealers and buyers. Currently, she hosts private art exhibits in Toronto, Ottawa, New York and Miami and is looking to establish a gallery network in these cities. Success in the art world was not linear for Velumyan and she knows the struggles women face in life.

“Sometimes women lose faith in themselves,” she said. “I would like them to know that there are always alternatives. In life everything is temporary and tomorrow is always another day. With the right effort any situation can be changed and these are life changing secrets I would like to share with women.”

Living in Canada has helped Velumyan explore a world outside of her comfort zone. One day soon, she hopes to establish her successful dealer’s network then she will focus on private psychotherapeutic practice. She would like to eventually volunteer for families that don’t have access to a therapist. “I look at the family as a system where the problem of one affects the others. Therefore when we cure one person, we get a healthier micro system.”

For a chance to listen to one of Dr. Velumyan’s talks, check out the next IWB event, scheduled for September 5 at Metro Hall, downtown Toronto. The event will run from 6-9pm and will offer various inspirational speeches and networking opportunities from other successful founding members. For more information and to register check out their Evenbrite page.

Charlottesville: can it happen here? Yes, it can.

It’s seven in the morning and I’m listening to the radio. The host comes on to talk about the news of the day, describing the violence in Charlottesville once again. I’m groggy, but even I can predict the next question that will be asked — can it happen in Canada? Every day this week I’ve heard the same question. Whether it is on the radio, the television, in the newspaper, or even within my circle of family and friends, people want to talk about how what happened in the United States may, or may not, happen in their communities.

On the evening of Aug 11, a group of white nationalists — a.k.a. Nazis — marched the streets of Charlottesville in a rally that supposedly was meant to “take America” back. These people started chanting things like “white lives matter” and “blood and soil”, among many offensive and discriminatory things.

Oh, and they were holding torches and some of them held flags with the swastika.

The march was meant to be a response to the removal of a confederate statue, but considering the symbols scrawled on the signs and the slogans being screamed in the streets, there is no doubt this was a meeting of white supremacists who didn’t care about a statue. They just wanted to express their views and show their numbers.

These Nazis* were met with a counter protest — and because these marchers were not there to peacefully showcase their displeasure about a historical figure being immortalized in stone, they lashed out violently. People were pushed and beaten. And then someone drove a van right into the crowd, killing one of the protesters.

* I was recently asked whether it was fair to call these “nationalists” Nazis, and my answer is unreservedly yes. Calling them “nationalists” waters down the message of their ideology. If you are chanting discriminatory things about transgendered people, people of colour, and those of the Jewish faith while holding torches and the swastika — you are a Nazi. Everyone who marches with you, by association, is a Nazi. It’s that simple.

So, can it happen here? That’s the big question, isn’t it? My answer is, sadly, yes — and that’s what’s so frightening.

Fear and violence inspires more fear and more violence. It can create a chain reaction of events on an international scale. When one group of people use violence as a way to deal with what they see as a threatening situation, another group will respond in kind, creating a cycle that is never ending.

And Canada is not immune. Sure, we have small victories. A forum for “nationalists” being held at Ryerson University was cancelled after public outcry, and the University of Toronto has publicly said they will not allow a group of white supremacists to protest on their property. But is it enough to combat the many instances of racism, sexism, and blatant hate this country has seen over the last few years?

During the last federal election, the signs of Muslim candidates were defaced with graffiti, with phrases like “Go Home” scrawled across their property. In January, people were shot while leaving a mosque in Quebec City. There have been numerous instances of neighbours sending letters threatening parents of children with disabilities because they were disturbed and felt these kids shouldn’t be alive. And there is, I’m ashamed to say, many alt-right people who were starting to listen to Kellie Leitch’s rant about RCMP tip lines for those worried about their immigrant neighbours, not to mention the disgusting concept of using “Canadian values” to determine who enters the country.

Hate breeds more hate — and unfortunately, there is still a lot of hate left in Canada. Can that hate turn to violence? Yes, quite easily. But, will it? Not if those of us who are tolerant and compassionate human beings rally together and say enough is enough. People can end the cycle, but only if they do not resort to the same methods as those who initiate the violence and hate.

As grossly cliché as it is, people have to fight hate with love. Already, two rallies are being organized in Toronto as a response to the violence in Charlottestown. If this is how the world responds, in similar fashion to the Women’s Marches in January and February, I have high hopes we will not see the rise of white supremacy or Nazism spread in this country.

God, I hope I’m right.