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Jagmeet Singh makes history in Canadian politics

In the short moments before the final results of the NDP leadership race were announced, many spectators in the crowd were already cheering for the clear frontrunner — Jagmeet Singh. The results were announced in alphabetical order and with 35,266 votes, Singh shot past by as much as 50 per cent to win the first ballot support with majority.

Singh’s campaign consisted of a vast network of volunteers and lots of social media influence across the county that helped make it so successful. The newly elected NDP leader made history in more than one way — he is the first person of colour to lead a major political party in Canada. Singh is a Sikh and son of Indian immigrants. His deep cultural and religious connections have given him the ability to speak on behalf of the minority or those marginalized in Canadian politics.

Singh proudly highlighted the fact that he is a visible minority in Canada and often speaks about the struggle of what it means to be racially profiled. As Singh once remarked in an magazine interview, “systematic racism is an undeniable reality. It impacts young people. I want every young person to recognize their own self-worth.” This touch of diversity in Canadian politics hopefully represents a political shift that will encourage other politicians of colour to make their presence known.

Singh follows in the footsteps of those like the late NDP leader Jack Layton, who was known for being very charismatic. He plans to address issues such as affordable housing, income inequality, relations with Indigenous tribes, and climate change among others.

During his acceptance speech after being elected on Sunday, Singh addressed his different look and said,  “It makes you feel like you don’t belong, like there is something wrong with you for just being you, And that is why as Prime Minister, I will make sure no one is stopped by the police because of the way they look, or the colour of their skin.”

 

 

Newsgirls boxing club is a knockout as trauma based therapy

Violence often leaves women feeling numb. That is how it felt for me. Slowly but surely, some people learn to feel normal. Others feel constantly hurt and then one day, they may not feel at all. Though emotions can be cumbersome, not having them is hauntingly worse. The moment arrives when you have finally found a safer place in your life, escaped the violence you once lived in, and you want to feel emotions. It becomes essential to feel again, but how can you?

Toronto Newsgirls Boxing Club gives women a safe way to take control of their body and begin the process of feeling again. Located in one of the industrial buildings on Carlaw, just north of Dundas, the boxing gym features images of strong-looking women boxing in a modest studio, with a a ring and several gym bags surrounding it. Immediately upon entering the gym, the coaches and participants are welcoming and warm. I felt at home right away.

Three women began Toronto Newsgirls Boxing Club 10 years ago to help those who had experienced violence using trauma-based boxing. Owner and coach Savoy Howe, along with Associate Professor of Kinesiology at Brock University Cathy Van Ingen, and Opportunity for Advancement Executive Director, Joanne Green, founded the Shape your Life program (SYL) within the club.  This program is designed to help women who have experienced trauma find a connection to their bodies once again through exercise and empowerment.

“The big thing is it is a safe space. It is a space to ensure everybody is welcome and everyone is safe,” Van Ingen said. “That is the biggest thing and we know that women need to feel that their bodies are in control.”

On Nov. 25, also known as International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, Newsgirls announced that the SYL program would be receiving $420,000 from the Public Health Agency of Canada.  The Prime Minister himself sent the boxing studio a video of congratulations and support.

@newsgirlsboxing I’m sorry I couldn’t be there today. I’m in your corner & hope to train with you soon! À bientôt. pic.twitter.com/AiZtkAUsDS

One of the rare and amazing things at Newsgirls is the community and support network that Howe has managed to create with the other coaches and women who participate. The gym is not only a place to box, but it is also a safe haven where these women can really be themselves. Women participating in the SYL program will learn boxing techniques, which can help reconnect them with their bodies in an empowered way. Being able to embrace anger in a controlled manner using your own body is a helpful tool in the healing process from domestic violence. The program also provides TTC tokens, free food, and endless amounts of support from the coaches and women who attend.

Program Coordinator, Tania Jivraj began SYL 10 years ago as a participant in the first pilot program and now helps to run the program today. Jivraj is one of many examples of women that are forever changed from taking part in the trauma-based boxing program. “It turns out I like hitting stuff. It turns out I’m good at hitting stuff. It turns out I am angry, I’m a fighter, I am vulnerable, and I am strong,” Jivraj said. “Ten years later, I was hired as the program coordinator and I get to work every day with strong, vulnerable women.”

Owner and Coach Savoy Howes speaking on November 25 at $420,000 funding annoucement. Photo by Kaeleigh Phillips.
Owner/Coach Savoy Howes speaks on Nov. 25 at $420,000 funding announcement. Photo by Kaeleigh Phillips.

Newsgirls will use the federal funding to collect data from the next six groups of SYL and then create a trauma-based boxing manual to be implemented in other gyms across the country. “Our goal for Shape your Life is to implement in other regions of Canada as well as around the world,” Howe said. By researching and collecting the stories of women who participate in the program, it will allow the women at Newsgirls to make an effective and life-changing program to combat the damaging impacts of violence against women.

On a personal level, the program’s new funding allows me to continue attending and growing as a recovering woman who has a desire to reconnect with her emotions and body. I have a long way to go to deal with my own inner battles and boxing is the first step. It takes courage to put on boxing gloves, and it is truly empowering to see other women show their anger in such a constructive and open manner. I look forward to continuing my journey in learning to fight for what’s really important in life.

The women in cabinet: qualified and capable

The promise was kept: 15 of the 31 Members of Parliament (MP) chosen to serve on Justin Trudeau’s cabinet.

The swearing-in ceremony occurred Wednesday late morning, and was attended by over 3,500 members of the public. It was a historic affair, and not only because it was open to “regular” Canadians. It is the first time the Cabinet has been made up of an equal number of men and women.

During the election campaign, the newly sworn-in Prime Minister promised that half his cabinet will be formed of women. Since women make up over 50 per cent of the Canadian population, Trudeau argued they should be represented as such in government.

In 2015, it’s sad that a statement like this one had to be made into an election promise.

Over the last three days, there have been a number of columns written in the media arguing that the cabinet should be chosen as a meritocracy, and not by gender. It was enough to make me snort in my coffee. First of all, there are 50 female MPs to choose from in the Liberal Party, and all are qualified in some way seeming as they were elected by the people of Canada. Second of all, Cabinet appointments have always been political, and it’s naive to think of it any other way. The columns were, by the most part, written by male political pundits. The irony was not lost on me.

As of Wednesday, I firmly believe that these Cabinet positions were chosen based on merit, experience, and trust.

To prove it, here are the women chosen to represent the Liberal Government in the Cabinet and their qualifications:

Carolyn Bennett,
Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs

Carolyn_Bennett_at_podium-CropBennett was first elected to the House of Commons in the 1997 general election and  has been re-elected since. During the SARS outbreak, Bennett served as the first ever Minister of Public Health, where she set up the Public Health Agency of Canada. During the last four years, she has served as Critic for Aboriginal Affairs and Chair of the National Liberal Women’s Caucus.

 

Jody Wilson-Raybould,
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.

Jody_Wilson-RaybouldAs a former crown prosecutor, treaty commissioner and Regional Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Wilson-Raybould is more than qualified to hold this position. She has 10 years experience as an elected official, representing Indigenous people in British Columbia. Wilson-Raybould is the first Aboriginal person to hold this position.

 

Judy Foote,
Minister of Public Services & Procurement

downloadFoote has served as MP since 2008 and previously held the position of Liberal Whip and Deputy House Leader of the Opposition. She also spent 11 years in public service with the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly, acting as Minister of Development and Rural Renewal, Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology, and Minister of Education.

 

Chrystia Freeland,
Minister of International Trade

200px-Chrystia_Freeland_-_India_Economic_Summit_2011Freeland is a former journalist who held editorial positions within the Financial Times, the Washington Post, The Economist, The Globe and Mail, and Thomson Reuters. She reported on business and global affairs from the United Kingdom, Eastern Europe, and Russia. Over the past year Freeland held the position of Liberal Critic for International Trade.

 

 

Jane Philpott,
Minister of Health

download (1)Before being elected into the House of Commons, Philpott served as Chief of the Department of Family Medicine at Markham Stouffville Hospital from 2008 to 2014. Before that she was a family physician. She was also an associate professor in the University of Toronto’s Department of Family and Community Medicine. Philpott is the founder of Give a Day to World Aids, which has raised over $4 million to help those affected by the disease in Africa.

 

Marie-Claude Bibeau,
Minister of International Development and La Francophonie

20151021KFI293_460A federal rookie, Bibeau has a lot of experience in community business and local politics. Before running for office, she worked at the Canadian International Development Agency in Ottawa, Montréal, Morocco and Benin, and in Africa. She is also a business owner of 15 years, has served on numerous museum boards, and held a position on the Compton revitalization committee.

 

Melanie Joly,
Minister of Canadian Heritage

10604730_10152619476411713_208595624510881686_oBefore getting into politics, Joly worked with two separate law firms in Montreal. She later moved to communications and founded of the party Le Vrai Changement pour Montréal. Joly is on a number of art and museum boards, including the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, the Governnor General’s Performing Arts Award and Business for the Arts.

 

 

Diane LeBouthillier,
Minister of National Revenue

4bQfs8VwLeBouthillier spent more then 23 years working with as a social worker at the Rocher Percé Health and Social Services Centre. She serves on the Board of Governors of Cégep de la Gaspésie et des Îles, and chairs the boards of directors of Réseau collectif Gaspésie Les Îles and Transport adapté et collectif des Anses.

 

 

Catherine McKenna,
Minister of Environment & Climate Change

027ce2bMcKenna is another rookie to the federal arena. She co-founded the executive director of Canadian Lawyers Abroad, a charitable organization based at the University of Ottawa, and was the executive director the Banff Forum, an organization that brings together young Canadians to discuss key public policy challenges. McKenna has also worked as a legal adviser for the UN in East Timor and in Indonesia.

 

MaryAnn Mihychuck,
Minister of Employment, Workforce Development & Labour.
CSa2-PfWcAECQWNMihychuck is a former member of the Manitoba Legislator and is the founder of both Women in Mining Canada and Women in Mining Manitoba. She was elected provincially in 1995, and has served for nine years, holding the positions of Minister of Industry, Trade, and Mines and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. 

 

Maryam Monsef,
Minister for Democratic Institutions

-dCgAcvNMonsef has a truly colourful resume—she has worked for Trent University, Fleming College, Peterborough Economic Development, the Community Foundation of Greater Peterborough and the New Canadian Centre. She has represented Peterborough at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York City, and is a co-recipient of the YMCA’s Peace Medallion. Monsef is also the first Afghanistan-born MP appointed to the Cabinet.

 

Carla Qualtrough,
Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities
carla-qualtroughQualtrough is not only a successful lawyer, but a four-time world champion Paralympian. She chairs the BC Minister’s Council on Employment and Accessibility, and is an adjudicator with the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Tribunal. Qualtrough has also been President of the Canadian Paralympic Committee and Chair of the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada. She is on the Board of the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, and Vice-Chair of the Delta Gymnastics Society.

 

Kirsty Duncan,
Minister of Science

DuncanKirsty_LibDuncan is a Canadian medical geographer. Until 2000, she taught meteorology, climatology, and climate change at the University of Windsor. She started studying influenza strains, an interest which led her to perform a ground survey in Longyearbyen, Norway. Duncan was also an adjunct professor teaching both medical geography at the University of Toronto and global environmental processes at Royal Roads University. She also served on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

 

Patty Hajdu,
Minister of Status of Women

Patty-Hajdu1-540x540New to politics, Hajdu was the executive director for Shelter House, Thunder Bay’s largest homeless shelter. For nine years, she worked with the Thunder Bay District Health Unit where she chaired the Drug Awareness Committee of Thunder Bay and authored the city’s Drug Strategy. In her free time, she volunteers as a board member with Alphacourt Mental Health Services and the Ontario Literacy Coalition.

 

Bardish Chagger,
Minister of Small Business & Tourism

BardishChagger-2-250x200Chagger has worked at the Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Centre, an organization that assists new Canadians as they transition into the community. In this role, she planned and coordinated events for the community, including the annual Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Festival. She was executive assistant to Hon. Andrew Telegdi, former MP. She was also a board member with the Workforce Planning Board of Waterloo, Wellington, Dufferin, and MT Space.

 

To all the naysayers and meritocracy-obsessed column writers, I see your point. How could any of these women be qualified for the positions they now hold?

All I have to say after today is this: Thank goodness our new Prime Minister rose above the commentary to create a cabinet that is actually representative of the population it works for. Thank goodness he saw the value and experience of the women who were elected into the House of Commons. And thank goodness he didn’t assume that men are more qualified than women to run this country.

And shame on those who thought anything different.