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Remembering the Montreal massacre

Dec 6 marks the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. This event is commemorated each year to mark the deadly Montreal massacre at the Ecole Polytechnique in 1989. A gunman went on a shooting spree, killing 14 women, most of whom were engineering students.

This somber day raises awareness of gender-based crimes. The shooter, who later turned the gun on himself, proclaimed his hatred for feminists and was actively targeting women enrolled in the engineering program, since in his mind he believed it should be a field of study for men. This senseless massacre left Montreal wounded, but all people in Canada, especially women, feel the loss as well. It is unfortunate that we still endure crimes based on gender and sexuality.

The good news is that the shooting did not deter women from enrolling in STEM ( science, technology, engineering and mathematics). In Toronto, a community gathering will be taking place hosted by the Department of Engineering. This is just one example of many small and private remembrance ceremonies that will be held around Canada.

Professor Deepa Kundur was a first year engineering student at UofT when the massacre took place in 1989. Today, she is the chair of Engineering Science and a professor at the Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. In the official press release, she noted the importance of her not being deterred by the shootings to leave an area of study.

“The university, the educational system is a very special and important place and it’s important to value education in fields like STEM where it provides opportunities for people where diverse backgrounds and opinions are needed very much.”

In Montreal, citizens are invited to attend the ceremony this evening at 5pm at the chalet on Mount Royal, which will feature 14 beams of light illuminating the night sky in memory of the 14 women who lost their lives. This is the 28th anniversary of what is still the worst mass shooting in Canadian history. Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante and Sophie Gregoire Trudeau will be present to mark the ceremony and interact with other survivors of violence. The symbol in the campaign to end violence against women is a white ribbon.

The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women is part of the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, which started on Nov 25. This year’s theme is #MyActionsMatter and calls on people to speak up against gender based violence. The final event for the 16 days of activism is International Human Rights Day on Dec 10.

Share positive thoughts in the movement towards ending violence against women. Comment below

The power of connecting with your vagina

One Word: Vagina.

Do I have your attention yet? Or better yet, how are you reacting to the word? Are you cringing, panicking, or is it arousing?

Discussing the vagina can cause various reactions. Rarely is it a topic of open discussion at the dinner table. In fact, thinking about this vital tool of female sexuality as a powerful source of healing, creativity, and happiness most often causes nervous giggles or averted gazes rather than furious clapping or high-fives. How is it that we regularly listen to men drone on about their penis sizes (and even use it in pick-up lines with expectations of rousing applause), yet any mention of female genitalia must be avoided at all costs? Society is abysmal.

In an effort to reinvent the wheel my fellow women, prepare yourself and get deeply excited about the secrets I am going to divulge in this article. If you want to giggle or roll your god damn eyes, get out of here! Otherwise buckle up and come for a ride.

The first thing you need to understand is that women deserve to have a relationship with their vaginas. I don’t mean the type of partnership that comes from a 20-year marriage where you sleep on opposite sides of the bed. Instead, each and every woman should strive for a thriving and vibrant connection with her vagina because it holds the secrets of our “yoni”, a Sanskrit word meaning source of origin. Ask yourself, how do you feel about your vagina? When you feel aroused by someone or something (or you don’t), do you listen to that intuition? If we pay attention to the signs our bodies are trying to give us, we can learn a lot from our vaginas. Pay attention, listen, feel, and, you will be surprised.

Holistic sex and relationship coach, Kim Anami, has several free videos and immersive courses that explain the importance of how to vitally connect with your vagina. With meditative work and focus, it is possible to harness your creative sexual energy and use it to heal your body and promote creativity and new ideas. Whether through masturbation or sex, allow yourself to come to a point of almost orgasming and, instead of achieving climax, breathe slowly and focus the energy inward. This practice is known as manifesting the microcosmic orbit, and can be a healing practice for the body. When channeling the energy inward, simply visualize a ball of energy moving up the spine to the crown of your head and back down through the front of your body back to your pelvic area. The energy will help promote healing in areas of your body or chakras that need energy or attention, and you will feel an increase in creativity and inspiration from the practice.

Want more? A daily yoga-like practice that will help further create a connection with your vagina and inner-creative power is a 5000-year-old traditional Tibetan practice known as the five Tibetan rights. These five exercises should be done daily while meditating on the power of your pelvic core. Begin by spinning in a ‘dervish whirl’ until you are slightly dizzy and then lie down on the floor. The second exercise includes lying down on the ground and bringing your legs up together to a 90 degree angle as many times as comfortable. The third rite is to kneel with your toes curled up, and place your hands on your outer thighs as you stretch your chest towards the sky, stretching your back. The fourth repetition involves lying on your back and raising your body to a table-top position. Lastly, complete the cycle by doing downward and upward facing dog repeatedly. These practices promote clarity and open up the chakras to receive the sexual energy from the microcosmic orbit.

If you are having trouble focusing or manifesting creative energy, invoking the powers of the vagina will help regain the inner power to create and inspire. Instead of struggling for several hours to focus on a project, simply enact the five Tibetan rights or practice the microcosmic orbit, and you will be surprised how much energy comes out of the experience. Sexuality is empowering and enlightening, if used in a healthy way, and manifesting a personal relationship with the vagina is an inspiring path towards self-love.

Love your vagina, love the power of creation it has, and most of all, don’t be afraid to shout the word from the rooftops. It is about time we open the floor to a conversation about the power of female sexuality and all of its potential.

Ontario Municipal Board may be shutting its doors

The Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) may be shutting its doors to make way for the new Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, which would replace one of the oldest tribunals in the country.

On Tuesday, Municipal Affairs Minister Bill Mauro announced legislation that would replace the OMB with the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal. The OMB has been under fire for years as its practices are lengthy and costly. One of the main criticisms of the tribunal are the ‘de novo’ hearings, appeals that are considered ‘new’ issues and that are treated as though no previous decision had been made, despite a possible rejection by the municipality. This is incredibly frustrating to urban planners who are trying to implement intensification targets and specific planning in certain neighbourhoods, only to be thwarted by developers who appeal to the OMB.

The OMP is an independent adjudicative tribunal that conducts hearings and makes planning decisions on zoning bylaws, development proposals, subdivision plans, and ward boundaries. It has been around since 1906, and was originally known as the Ontario Railway and Municipal Board. In 2015 to 2016, 1460 matters were brought before the OMB across the province. The OMB process also makes it difficult for residents and resident groups to represent themselves against wealthy developers with large legal teams.

The Local Planning Appeal Tribunal would instead give greater weight to local communities to be in charge of their planning and development plans. The Tribunal would only decide whether or not the municipalities are following their official land use plans and would return the concern to the municipality if developers failed to follow the land use plan. If the municipality failed twice to adequately follow their land use plan, then the Tribunal would hold a hearing and make the final decision instead. This process would place far less power in the hands of a powerful housing board such as the OMB. The province would also create a public interest centre that would help residents and resident groups for free to give them a better chance at success against developers.

There are concerns that removing the OMB has a third party officiate between developers and the municipality will give unprecedented power to political players in local communities. Without a separate tribunal to make planning decisions, the urban landscape will be in the hands of city officials and this will create an entirely new set of issues. On the other hand, the OMB is allowing developers to obtain approval through an appeal and build up in areas that are bereft of adequate resources, such as transit and grocery stores to support quick growth in popular areas such as Yonge and Eglinton.

It is a bold move for the province to replace one of the oldest institutions in Ontario with a newer and more updated Local Planning Appeal system. The OMB has been criticized for several years and bringing new legislation to the table to be discussed is a progressive move for development and urban planning in local communities. If the new Tribunal passes, it will be interesting to see if the new system is more efficient and responds to public interests in a new and fresh way, or if it simply a newer and shinier version of the OMB.