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Why is there still a stigma around bare breasts?

As the temperatures continue to rise, women may see more and more guys walking around the streets without their shirts on. It’s a normal thing, right? But, what about when women try to walk down those same streets without their shirts on?

People would probably stare or point. Someone may even ask these women to cover up, saying they are indecent in a public place.

Every year it seems like women get in trouble for baring her breasts in public. Whether it’s two sisters asked to cover up while cycling without a top or an eight-year-old girl told to put her shirt back on in a swimming pool, it’s obvious there is still stigma and misunderstanding over a woman’s right to go topless in public.

Over the last week, the media has reported a woman in Cornwall is making a complaint to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, claiming a pool policy that makes it mandatory for girls over the age of 10 to wear a top is discriminatory. City councillors now have to decide whether to fight the complaint or change the policy — a conversation that is bound to turn heads in both the press and in the chamber.

It’s a bit silly toplessness is still a problem in 2017, especially considering Ontario essentially made the act legal in 1991 when Guelph University student Gwen Jacobs won her court case. Municipalities have followed suit, adjusting policies where needed to adapt to this change, but it still isn’t common place. Women still get harassed and told to put more clothes on. Public beaches and pools still don’t understand that it is perfectly acceptable for women to go topless while outdoors. And men use this as an opportunity to make sexual remarks or comment on a woman’s figure.

While I was in Mexico, I went to a beach every day and saw women of all shapes and sizes walking around without a bathing suit top on. And you know what? It wasn’t a big deal! And in Europe families walk down the street or relax in the park wearing nothing but underwear! So, why is it that in North America it’s so taboo?

Personally, I think the sexualization of a woman’s breasts has become so engrained in social culture that it has seeped its way into every day activities. Anatomically, women have breasts in order to breastfeed. They were never “meant” to be sexual objects, and yet the number of brassieres and pasties makes it impossible to think of them as anything else. Even for women it becomes stigmatized. I know that for myself, being in public without something covering my breasts would make me uncomfortable. That’s a shame, but a reality of the kind of society we live in.

For those women who do feel comfortable — rock on! Remember that breasts are a part of the human body. They are not sexual objects, despite what people have been taught, and are no different than the nipples men showcase every day of the summer when they wander around downtown without a top.

So next time the heat becomes too much to stand, remember that baring your breasts is legal and totally okay — and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Will toplessness ever be considered a norm for both women and men? Let us know what you think in the comments below! 

Should students be deterred from reading To Kill A Mockingbird?

The Durham District School Board has ruled that students don’t have to read To Kill A Mockingbird if they don’t want to. It’s all part of a modern curriculum change that would give students (or most likely parents) more control over the novels studied in class.

To be very clear: the book is not being banned — students are just no longer required to read it. The idea is that those who feel uncomfortable about the language and the themes of To Kill A Mockingbird will be allowed to choose another option to read in class.

Written by Harper Lee and published in 1961, To Kill A Mockingbird follows the story of Atticus Finch, a lawyer who defends a black man who is accused of raping a white woman. It’s a classic novel that explores themes of racism, gender roles, and religion.

Reaction to this decision has been mixed. Some are praising the Durham District School Board for “modernizing” the curriculum while others can’t understand the problems it may cause.

I’m all for diversifying the books students read. In fact, I think new literature should be added to the reading list every year — but there are some novels that should absolutely be read and To Kill A Mockingbird is one of them.

First of all, young people should be exposed to different kinds of literature, especially if it explores themes that make them uncomfortable. This is how they learn about history and aspects of life they may be unfamiliar with. Too often, especially in school, teachers lean towards political correctness. In typical Canadian fashion, no one wants to offend someone else. But, if there is one place students should feel comfortable enough to ask questions that may not be acceptable in current society, it’s at school! If all of the “controversial” books are removed from shelves or are provided as an option rather than a requirement, how will students be exposed to different walks of life?

The argument that this book may be offensive to some people is ridiculous. It’s a historic novel that presents real themes that still impact people today. Sure, the language can be a bit intense (no one likes the n-word), but how else can teachers begin a conversation about why those phrases and words are not acceptable now? A good novel has a way of introducing topics that may be disturbing or controversial, and allows for real discussion. I think all students should be encouraged to read books that explore themes like religion, gender, politics, and racism.

At the same time, I support the idea that new and modern books should be re-introduced into the curriculum. But, why not put these two ideas together? Instead of making students choose between a book written in the 2000s and one written in the 1960s, make them read both! Expose young people to a variety of literature, including those written in Canada. Who says students have to focus on one book a year? I say, the more the merrier.

So, Durham, I hope you have thought this through. Don’t deprive students from the teachings of a classic and important novel just because it may make some of them uncomfortable. It will only hurt them in the long run.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!

Is Ontario investing too much in foreign builders?

Everyone is talking about the foreign buyers tax in Ontario — but no one is talking about the increase in foreign builders.

What do I mean by foreign builders? Large, international companies based in Italy, France, or Japan, with small offices within the GTHA, are being given contracts for large transit projects while smaller Canadian companies are shut out.

If you take a look at the shortlist for the Hurontario LRT, half of the constructors are not from Canada. They may have Canadian offices, but the companies themselves were created and have headquarters in Europe, the United States, and Asia. While each individual “team” that is bidding for the contract does have at least two Canadian companies on board, this is not a guarantee on division of work and/or financial contributions.

And this is a big problem.

By allotting contracts for big developments and transit projects to foreign builders, it severely impacts the Canadian economy. It means less jobs and less money for construction workers, and it means the competition between Canadian companies is steep.

Canada also has a unique climate. There are certain materials that must be used for a development to support extreme cold and hot temperatures. Would a company from Spain or Italy be able to understand how to build something resistant to this temperamental landscape?

An even bigger problem is that these foreign companies are not connected to the community, and therefore do not understand and/or empathize with local concerns over a new development. These companies come in, build, and leave, which means they are not around if any problems arise and they don’t get to see the affect it has on the residents who leave them. There is no real investment to the community they are building.

To be clear, collaborating with international partners is not a bad thing. These types of partnerships can inspire new ideas and provide interesting solutions to municipal problems.

However, when native companies are pushed out of the process in favour of international conglomerates — it’s Canada that loses out.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!

Senate pushes forward Infrastructure Bank

Wednesday, the Senate passed legislation that would allow for the creation of the Infrastructure Bank. According to the bill passed, this corporation’s purpose is to “invest in, and seek to attract private sector and institutional investments to, revenue-generating infrastructure projects.”

Bill C-44 allows government to implement certain provisions to the federal budget, including making room for the much-talked-about Infrastructure Bank. The bank will help structure proposals and negotiate agreements for infrastructure projects across the country. They will receive unsolicited proposals from the private sector or institutional investors, provide advice to all levels of government, and monitor the state of infrastructure in Canada.

As Bruce McCuaig, Executive Advisor of the Privy Council, said Tuesday at a seminar on alternative financing, “If we were to build all infrastructure on public balance sheets, we wouldn’t be able to get there.”

The seminar McCuaig spoke at Tuesday was hosted by the Transit Alliance, a non-political organization for those who work in the transit and infrastructure industry, students, or those interested in transit and transit planning in cities across Southern Ontario. Much of the discussion centered around whether or not the Infrastructure Bank is going to be useful for municipalities.

The biggest challenge is that Bill C-44 only outlines the recommendations and the broad powers the Infrastructure Bank holds. There are still quite a few details to work out, for example how the Infrastructure Bank will balance public and private interests. The general consensus is that the bank will provide opportunities for municipalities, but that it should focus on projects that are having a harder time finding funding.

As the bank starts to develop and grow, more information will become available.

What do you think of the Infrastructure Bank? Let us know in the comments below!

Senate approves transgender rights bill with majority

Thursday afternoon, the Senate approved a piece of legislation that amended the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to include transgender Canadians. This means that gender identity and gender expression is on “list of prohibited grounds of discrimination” and therefore protected against hate propaganda.

 

The bill also amends the sentencing principles section of the Criminal Code, making it possible for a person’s identity or expression to be considered an aggravated circumstance by a judge during sentences.

Most importantly, gender identity and gender expression are now identifiable groups under Canadian law! This is an incredible accomplishment and brings Canada one step closer towards becoming a truly equal, fair, tolerant, and inclusive society.

The only disappointment was that it took this long to get Bill C-16 to pass. This request to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code has been proposed and tabled numerous times over the last decade. Bill C-16 was presented to the House of Commons a little over a year ago and was delayed at the Senate due to debate surrounding free speech.

The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, called the bill a celebration of inclusion and diversity, “bringing us one step closer to strengthening laws against discrimination, hate propaganda, and hate crime based on gender identity and gender expression.”

“Trans and gender diverse persons must be granted equal status in Canadian society, and this Bill makes that status explicit in Canadian law,” she said in a statement.

The bill passed by a vote of 67 to 11 and now needs Royal Assent before it is considered a law.

Last week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the Liberal government plans on introducing legislation that would erase past convictions against Canadians charged with crimes related to their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. He also said the government is planning on apologizing to the LGBT community by the end of this year for past discriminatory legislation and policies.

Look out for the new Canada 150 glow-in-the-dark toonie

The toonie has always been an emblem of Canadian pride, from its odd nickname to the polar bear that is crested on the heavy coin.

To celebrate Canada’s 150 year festivities, the Royal Canadian Mint hosted a competition where Canadians across the country were invited to submit designs for the toonie that would celebrate the historic occasion. The winner shocked all.

A glow-in-the-dark toonie featuring the northern lights. That’s right, glow-in-the-dark. Keep your eyes peeled because the coin is already in circulation. 

Named “Dance of the Spirits”, the design was created by Dr. Timothy Hsia, a family doctor and his brother Stephen Hsia, a lawyer who are both from Richmond B.C. The two business professionals are both artists are the side and have been working on art projects together since they were children. Timothy came up with the northern lights design and Stephen helped translate it to the computer to make it a piece of digital art.

The Royal Canadian Mint will be releasing three million of these special edition coins and is excited to get to use new and never-used-before technology that will create the world’s first glow-in-the-dark coin. The coin uses a pad-printed process and ink that creates a luminescent coin. In the factory, each toonie is painted with glow-in-the-dark purple and blue paint to imitate the Aurora Borealis, one of Canada’s proudest natural wonders.

The two brothers received $2000 prize money, two tickets to Ottawa for the big reveal, and a special edition of the coins. The two artists are dedicating their win to their grandfather who was a coin collector and often gave them special edition coins as they were growing up. It is also giving the brothers further incentive to go see the Northern Lights, one of the majestic wonders of Canadian nature.

Whether you find out you have one of these deluxe coins in a bar when it suddenly glows-in-the-dark, or you seek out a special edition set, definitely hang on to this toonie to give to your own grandchildren one day — it’s bound to inspire a sense of nostalgic tradition and Canadian pride. 

Have you seen the toonie? Let us know in the comments below!

Transit-first King St. pilot moves forward

Next week, Toronto’s executive committee will vote on the proposed King St. Pilot, the first plan to enact a transit-first mentality to city planning.

The King. St. Pilot is a direct response to slow transit service and increased congestion along the downtown corridor. “King Street is not currently working well for transit,” a report prepared by Toronto’s General Manager said. “Streetcar service can be slow, unreliable, and erratic, with unpredictable travel times, especially during rush hours, but also during some late evening and weekend times. People end up having to plan for their slowest trip.”

With more than 65,000 daily TTC riders compared to the 20,000 vehicle users along King St., re-branding this corridor as transit-first makes a lot of sense.The pilot will cover six kilometres of King St., from Jarvis to Bathurst. The corridor would funnel drivers to parallel east-west routes like Queen St., Richmond, Adelaide, Wellington, or Front, while still allowing local drivers to access the street for short periods of time.

Earlier suggestions of creating a car-free roadway were dismissed, as there are a number of driveways and parking garages that must be accessed from King St. However, city staff came up with a solution that would allow drivers to access King St. without bottling traffic.

Local residents may drive on King St., but only in between intersections. At each traffic sign, cars must turn left. It will be up to the drivers to decide how best to reach their destination. This will allow for significantly less cars on the roads and for the King. St. streetcars to have unobstructed access to their own lane.

King St. Pilot
Photo courtesy of City of Toronto.

Other features of the plan include dedicated pick-up and drop off areas and designated delivery areas. There will be no dedicated cycling lanes.

The last reported cost for this project was estimated to be at $1.5 million, but it has since been determined the project is eligible for funding under Phase I of the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund. This means it’s possible to get 50 per cent of funding from the federal government, leaving the city to come up with the remaining 50 per cent.

The Toronto Transit Commission will vote on the pilot program prior to the executive committee vote. If all goes well, it will be discussed in the July city council meeting.

What do you think of the King St. Pilot? Let us know in the comments below!

Lack of pet euthanization laws in Canada put animals in danger

Imagine if you had a neighbour or an acquaintance who had a beautiful healthy dog that was young, vibrant and excited to be alive. Then the next time you hear about the animal, it had been euthanized because the neighbour or acquaintance had moved and didn’t want their pet anymore. The dog was not sick and did not have low quality-of-life. Instead, it became inconvenient for the pet owner to continue caring for the dog and euthanization was the easiest option.

The reality is in Canada, there is very little animal welfare protection. There are no laws that prevent pet owners from euthanizing healthy animals due to silly and irresponsible reasons like not having time for the dog, divorce, moving, or behavioural issues. Many veterinarians try to avoid euthanizing animals when there are little ethical grounds, but it isn’t prohibited and there is no way to stop it if a vet is willing. Other vets could try to adopt out the animals or give them to rescues, but sometimes it isn’t possible and the pets are left in a terrible situation.

“We recently had a beautiful German shepherd surrendered to our shelter. He belonged to a husband and wife who were getting divorced, and neither felt they could care for the dog any longer. The wife asked the husband to euthanize, and he called us in a panic and asked us if we had space,” media director at Dog Tales Rescue and Sanctuary, Clare Forndran, says. “Of course we said yes, and since meeting him, we have fallen in love with him though the wife thinks the dog has been euthanized..It is difficult to understand how anyone could euthanize a vibrant dog who has so much life left to live. Our hearts break for the dogs that don’t get that opportunity.”

Many animals simply don’t get this opportunity and there is no legal protection to keep the pets from getting put down needlessly. According to the 2015 Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, 1890 healthy animals were put down that year. This consisted of 759 cats, 39 dogs, and 1092 other animal species. These statistics are fairly limited because the survey is voluntary and no concrete evidence exists on the total amount of healthy animals were put down in Canada. In Ontario, there are few limitations on convenience killing and the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) doesn’t advocate for ‘no kill’ shelters. “We need robust publically supported shelters and much more federal and provincial investment,” Executive Director of Animal Justice, a Canadian animal rights law charity, Camille Labchuk says. “There is nothing kind about convenience killing and it should be illegal.”

On June 20, 2017, the OSPCA is going to court for a case that involves putting down 21 pitbulls that were involved in a dog fighting ring in Chatam Ont. In 2015, the dogs were seized and subsequently the OSPCA applied to the courts to euthanize the dogs because they deemed them ‘unfit for society’. Three animal advocacy organizations, Dog Tales Rescue and Sanctuary, Animal Justice, and Bullies in Need applied to intervene in the case in February 2016 and were later denied in December 2016. The owners of the dogs, who are not being charged of several accounts of animal Cruelty and other criminal charges, have not granted the OSPCA the right to euthanize them and granted the rescues permission to take the dogs for rehabilitation, yet the date of the 21 pitbulls still lies in the hands of the OSPCA and their court application. “Our team is continuing to work around the clock in hopes of saving the lives of these dogs and providing them with a much-needed second chance,” Ferndran says. “Our hope is that a positive update will come out of the June 20th court date.”

Paris Hilton supporting the #savethe21 campaign. Photo provided by Dog Tales Rescue & Sanctuary.

In the meantime, Dog Tales has launched the #savethe21 campaign, which has ignited support worldwide. Celebrities like Paris Hilton and business magnate Richard Branson have showed support to save the dogs from euthanization. If Dog Tales is successful and the dogs are released, they have developed a rehabilitation plan that includes sending the canines down to Florida to the Dogs Playing for Life National Canine Centre for Advanced Behavioral Support. “The court is well aware of the public interest in the case and it has really a chord with people,” Labchuk says. “People need to remind the justice system that these dogs were rescued from a horrific dog fighting ring. It is not appropriate to kill them without giving them a fair chance at rehabilitation.” People can show support by writing to the CEO of OSPCA, the Ontario government, and posting a photo on twitter with the tag #savethe21 to show support.

It is clear that animals needs stronger legal protection against euthanization. Healthy animals deserve to live fulfilling and happy lives, instead of at the whim of irresponsible pet owners. Euthanizing an animal should only be used in the most dire of circumstances, including illness and low quality-of-life ie. from old age. There should also be more education available to teach potential pet owners of the responsibilities of owning and taking care of an animal to lower the amount of unnecessary euthanization happening in Canada currently. As a country, Canada needs to start promoting better animal welfare protection and become a leader in animal rights advocacy, instead of an international embarrassment when it comes to animal protection.

Simons backing Save the Arctic tee-shirt campaign

Melting arctic ice is an alarming indicator of global warming affecting our planet.

Canada is considered a world leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but the world’s efforts don’t seem to be enough to combat global warming. The world has become increasingly vulnerable to rising sea levels caused by climate change, so once again a Canadian company, Simons, is at the forefront in bringing awareness, while demonstrating innovative ideas that could help our unhealthy planet moving forward.

Simons held a special event at their Park Royal South Store in West Vancouver to celebrate Earth Day. In collaboration with Greenpeace and Eco Fashion week, they officially launched Save the Arctic t-shirt created by fashion designer and activist Vienne Westwood. Westwood is passionate about environmental issues and is bringing awareness to the cause with her Save the Arctic tee-shirt campaign.

The tee-shirt design was created in 2015 as part of Westwood’s photography exhibit, with such Hollywood luminaries as George Clooney being one of several movie stars seen wearing them. The April Simons launch was attended by select media and VIP’s to support the cause. Pamela Anderson, a former Baywatch star, environmentalist and Greenpeace supporter, was one of the speakers, along with Myriam Laroche, founder of Eco Fashion Week, and Vice President of Marketing, Phillipe Normand of Simons, the leading fashion retailer supporting sustainability.

In a phone interview with Normand at his Quebec City office, he talked about Save the Arctic, which is now a national campaign, and other sustainability projects his company is involved with this year. Simons first opened its doors as a dry foods store in 1840, and since 1952, became Quebec’s fashion retailer, known today as La Maison Simons. The head office is in Quebec City, with 12 stores across Canada.

“The Save the Arctic tee-shirt campaign is still running and it spread like wildfire,” Normand said. The garment is made from organic cotton, with all proceeds from sales going to Greenpeace.

With the fashion industry generally known as one of the worst polluters, Simons is making a difference by creating brands that meet sustainability and environmental standards. “We do a sustainability review of (all) our fabric suppliers, not only in Canada,” said Normand. Simons’ other sustainability projects include an August launch of power stations for electric cars to be installed in the parking lot at their Edmonton store. They will also introduce LED lighting in the store, which will greatly reduce their electricity needs. “We encourage people to submit project ideas. We want to be involved as a hands-on community organization,” says Normand.

Westwood created the tee-shirt design exclusively for Simons in North America. As a fashion giant in the industry, Simons is making its mark in sustainability projects, from Save the Arctic tee-shirt campaign, to solar panel projects and much more. How will you step up?

 

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John Tory calls for provincial funding for relief line

Toronto Mayor John Tory did his best not to grimace at Friday’s joint federal-provincial-municipal press conference on the Yonge Relief Line.

For what seemed the millionth time, three levels of government “re-affirmed their commitment” to this important transit project without actually promising dedicating funding. In fact, in what was an awkward turn of events, Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca took his time at the podium to outline the province’s previous transit commitments and gush about the government’s contributions to Toronto.

Afterwards, Tory took the podium and said “investing in transit is not work that can ever be considered complete.” He called on the province and the federal governments to each contribute 40 per cent of the funding needed to build the relief line. With federal and provincial representatives standing at his side, he said this commitment was necessary and Toronto wasn’t going to take no for an answer.

The federal representative, Ahmed Hussen, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenships, who was there on behalf of the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, pledged his support for the relief line. Hussen talked about the $27 million the federal government has already promised to this project and said more is on the way as part of an 11-year, $81 billion infrastructure plan.

“This investment will not have a real and lasting impact for Canadians unless the province is involved,” Tory said in a statement. “While the Province of Ontario has invested $150 million to help plan the Relief Line, and we thank them for that, we need them to commit to partnership on the construction of this transit project and the continued expansion of our network across Toronto.”

“I’m asking for a steadfast commitment from the Province that they will be financial partners in the building of the Relief Line.”

It seems like even after all of this discussion — Toronto is in the same place it was before. The mayor is fighting for funding after being refused the right to raise it on his own with tolls. The province is in denial, saying they have already provided enough money. And the federal government is saying they will help, but won’t give an exact number just yet.

It looks like Toronto’s Mayor has a bit more fighting to do.