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Cannabis to be legalised nationally in Canada

Canada is poised to become the largest country to legalise cannabis in the world and the second after Uruguay to have a legal national marijuana market place.

After years of planning and research, Uruguay launched their legal sales last year, however for Canada; October 17 becomes a very historic day for marijuana producers within the country.

This social shift promised by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is one that Hannah Hetzer, who tracks international marijuana policy for the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance called ‘extremely significant’, especially as there are at least 25 other countries who have already legalized the medical use of marijuana or have decriminalized possession of small amounts of the drug, while a few others, including Mexico have expressed interest in regulating recreational use.

dried kush cannabis on a table

“It’s going to change the global debate on drug policy,” she said. “There’s no other country immediately considering legalizing the non-medical use of cannabis, but I think Canada will provide almost the permission for other countries to move forward.”

Last year, Trudeau’s government introduced legalization to allow recreational use of marijuana after a poll by Forum Research Inc., found that 53% of Canadians agreed that they would like the plant to be legalized.

There is of course a long list of federal, provincial and municipal regulations that dictate to stores selling now legal marijuana. These include the requirement of frosted windows and product vaults; sales staffs are not allowed to promote products as having medical benefits or inducing certain feelings. Small jars of cannabis will be permitted for customers to sniff, but then the contents must be properly disposed of, to discourage anyone willing to dig the samples out of the trash and smoke them.

For many who are afraid that legalization will mean easier access to the plant by their youths, Canada has placed strict regulations on packaging to avoid appealing to the youth and there is a ban on various marijuana advertising, especially any that could be viewed by the youth or includes depictions of celebrities. Also some of the licensed producers are in fact huge companies and the Canadian federal government will be regulating the producers which so far have 120 licensed growers.

Canadian law sets a 30 gram limit on how much a person can buy at once or possess in public, however, there is no limit on how much Canadians can possess in the privacy of their own homes. Additionally, the law allows for residents to grow up to four plants at home, however, Quebec and Manitoba are the only two provinces that have opted to forbid home-growing.

This cautious yet bold move in their approach to legalization may ultimately set the course for the rest of the world, who will be observing how this process changes the landscape of the Canadian economy.

“Canada is leading the world on this paradigmatic change, taking this plant away from the bad hombres and putting it in the hands of the good men, the authorities, the regulators.” says former Mexican President Vicente Fox, who sits on the board of Vancouver-based cannabis company Khiron Life Sciences Corp.

 

Award-winning producer Kat Baulu shares her passion and new project

Meet Kat Baulu, a producer with Quebec/Atlantic Studio at the National Film Board (NFB) of Canada, a public producer, and distributor. In an email interview, Baulu talked about her career and the call for proposals for short films on Reimagining My Quebec.

Reimagining My Quebec is a new initiative for anglophone, allophone, and Indigenous filmmakers from Quebec and Nunavik that will give emerging and established directors a chance to create artful short documentaries with the NFB.

When it comes to what Baulu enjoys most about her work, she said she enjoys those with a clear purpose to their work. “I admire people who lead their lives with mission and purpose. One person who inspires me is legendary Abenaki filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin,” she said. “With an astonishing career spanning over five decades at National Film Board of Canada, she’s made over 50 films that focus on issues facing Indigenous people in Canada. Alanis embodies what it means to make art for social impact. It’s humbling to witness one person who truly makes a difference every day.”

Baulu’s work as a producer raises social impact, even from her previous documentary work on Gun Runners. Baulu’s role is responsible for supporting creators to tell relevant and meaningful stories about Canada to Canadians and people around the world.

“The best part of my job is accompanying filmmakers in their creative process: from idea to finished film through to impact with audiences,” she said. “I love creating conditions for filmmakers to thrive artistically and express their point of view. I root for their success.”

“Collaborating with artists in the public space is such a privilege. At the NFB, our values are driven by relevance. Every day we ask ourselves, are we raising under-represented voices? Is what we are creating valuable and meaningful?” she added. “I am thrilled to work with filmmakers on their creative interpretation of reimagining their Quebec because I believe we have a chance to surface issues of identity, class, and status for further discussion and raise consciousness about the positive change we dream about for our society, and our world.”

Baulu is excited about the current project – Reimagining My Quebec, which is an opportunity to make a short English documentary in Quebec with the NFB.

“Reimagining My Quebec is the brainchild of my executive producer Annette Clarke. She is a true champion for filmmakers and storytellers of all stripes. She is a Newfoundlander and believes that great stories often emanate from a deep sense of place,” Baulu said. “We hope this call will draw out unique and intimate stories from across Quebec, which surprise and transform us.”

The type of story she’s looking for revolves around something Scottish documentary filmmaker Scott Grierson calls, “creative interpretations of actuality,” which focusses on the human condition through point-of-view documentary storytelling. “If you have a story that you are uniquely positioned to tell, that you have a personal connection with, that you have unique access, this call for proposals is for you. We are excited about powerful, emotional and important social issue-driven stories,” Baulu said. “For us, the process is as important as the outcome. What is your relationship to your participants? How will you treat them at the beginning and the end of the process of making your film? We are enthusiastic when filmmakers are considering their ethics as well as the art and impact.”

The deadline for submissions is August 8.

5 of the best places to ski in Canada

After watching two straight weeks of the Olympics, does anyone else have the winter sport bug? I just want to get out on the ice or hit the slopes — preferably a smaller version of the Olympic venues to match my skill level. While it may be easy to strap on a pair of rented skates and drive to your local community skating rink, it is a lot more complicated to plan a skiing trip.

First of all, most resorts are a fair distance from larger cities, which means you will have to drive. Some ski resorts offer shuttles, but they can be costly and most require you to get to a bus station or loading zone. Second of all, you want to look at the quality of snow and the level of the hill. Lastly, you need to consider ski rentals and possible instruction for beginners.

There are dozens of amazing ski resorts across the country — so many choices, so little winter left! If you need a little guidance, here are five of the best places to ski in Canada:

Whistler, British Columbia: This is one of the most popular skiing destinations. With over 200 runs, 16 alpine bowls, and three glaciers, there is something for everyone, regardless of skill level. It was also the location for all skiing and snowboarding events during the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, so it will really make you feel like a true athlete. There are a number of resorts to choose from, so no matter your budget or the purpose of your trip, you are bound to find a deal that suits you.

Banff, Alberta: There are three resorts in the area with interchangeable lift tickets!  With one of the longest ski seasons in the country, The area is known internationally as a prime tourist destination with a number of non-skiing activities available for those who may not be as athletically inclined. The only problem is that the resorts aren’t in central Banff, so having a car is necessary.

Mont Tremblant, Quebec: This is the perfect ski resort for beginners or day trippers. There are nearly 100 downhill trails in addition to a pedestrian village with shops and restaurants. It’s a great location for snowboarders, with 18 acres of ramps, rails, jumps, and an Olympic-caliber superpipe.

Kamloops, BC: Sun Peaks is the third-largest ski resort in Canada, with over 124 trails for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and tubing. With 124 trails, there is something for athletes of all skill level. The resort ambassador is also Olympic gold medalist Nancy Greene — so if feeling like an Olympian is your goal, this is the destination for you.

Fernie, British Columbia: This ski resort is right in the middle of the Canadian Rockies, which makes it less of a tourist destination and more of a place where real enthusiasts gather. There are 142 runs, five alpine bowls, and tree skiing with a vertical drop of 1,082 meters. The snow at this resort is all natural, with an average annual snowfall of 875 centimetres. The resort is open year-round.

Where is your favourite place to ski? Let us know in the comments below!

5 yurts that offer idyllic winter escapes

Winter’s harsh elements may drive plenty of North Americans inside the house and under the covers. This is the season where homebodies take refuge and more travel-savvy folks might head south of the equator. But, in the snow-covered territory of the great white north lies quiet, wintery lands to be explored — and there’s perhaps no better way to go about it than by booking a yurt-style retreat. From toasty lodges in northern Ontario, to rustic cottages in the Alaskan woods, to remote cabins in a most idyllic pocket of Vermont, AirBnB’s grand selection of winter yurts is bound to appeal to travellers of all sorts. These Instagram-worthy lodgings beckon both the woman in need of a cozy weekend escape as well as the seasoned outdoor adventurer looking for a new experience in nature.

Here are five winter-yurts that will have travellers saying yes to a winter getaway:

Stowe, Vermont

Skiers and beer connoisseurs alike have reason to escape to this Stowe, Vermont dwelling. The area is famous for its multitude of powder-covered mountains and The Alchemist brewery is one of the most sought after in the United States. (don’t leave the state without sipping its infamous Heady Topper double IPA!). As for the yurt itself, it’s a rustic one with no electricity where visitors can enjoy the views of the Nebraska Valley while sipping hot chocolate by the wood stove. This is certainly the ideal spot for those in need of a tech-break.

The Buffalo Farm: Mattawa, Ontario.

This yurt looks like a scene taken straight out of Pinterest and it happens to have all the makings of a perfect wintery escape: hiking trails nearby, the sparkle of the Amable du Fond River, an animal sanctuary with horses and buffalo and a wood-burning stove for snug winter nights. Going with a large group? This two-storey accommodation in Ontario’s coveted Algonquin region can sleep 12. With the owners having more than one property, there’s no reason not to book a stay in this beautiful part of Ontario.

Bolton, Quebec

A weekend in Quebec will feel like being plopped down somewhere in the middle of Europe and yet this yurt is just an hour outside of Montreal. After a good snowfall, this lodging looks like a scene straight out of a fairytale. One thing that makes this adorable abode stand out: it’s near to Quebec’s wine route. So make sure to stock up on local wines, jams, and cheese during the stay.

Talkeetna, Alaska

This yurt is so picturesque it barely seems real. Situated in the midst of a forest in rural Alaska, this cottagey yurt is intended for the traveller with a strong set of outdoor skills who doesn’t shy away from vacationing in rustic settings. Those who stay here can expect to be wowed by views of the northern lights through the skydome. In the morning, the local coffee shop is within walking distance. Talkeetna attracts other outdoor adventurer types and visitors are most likely to bump into like-minded folks at the Talkeetna Roadhouse – a one-stop shop for a shower, satisfying breakfast, and warm, homemade pies. When staying here, strap on a pair of cross-country skis and check out the local trails to get the full experience.

Maple City, Michigan  

Experience farm life while staying on this Maple City property that’s home to pigs, ducks and goats. If contemplating a winter escape, consider that this quaint lodging is so idyllic it even has its own sugar shack for homemade maple syrup. The owners also make their own cheese (yum!). The yurt itself has everything a visitor needs – if roughing it in a yurt without running water or electricity is a no-go, this one with its modern bathroom and private bedroom will make visitors feel a little more pampered.  

Where are you heading this winter? Let us know in the comments below!

Why is no one #PrayingForEgypt?

Over 300 people were killed Friday during a militant attack on a mosque in northern Sinai. At least 27 were children. The last number of wounded was recorded at 128.

During the imam’s sermon, the attackers opened fire. They were positioned at the doors and windows, which meant no one could escape. Explosions erupted. Officials say at least two dozen people carrying a black Daesh banner were shooting into the crowd of innocent worshippers.

It is being called one of the deadliest assault by Islamic extremists in modern history.

And yet — no one is praying for Egypt on social media.

In November 2016, 128 people died in a suicide bombing and shooting in Paris. Six worshipers were killed and 19 injured when a lone gunman fired into a Quebec mosque in January. In June, a bomb went off at an Ariana Grande’s concert in Manchester. Twenty two people died. The Las Vegas shooting left 58 people dead and 546 injured.

In each of these occasions, people #prayed. They filtered their social media pictures and marked themselves “safe” on Facebook. You couldn’t open Twitter without seeing a heart emoji or a trending hashtag. Families sat in their living rooms watching CNN or CBC, glued to the television screen in horrified silence.

And yet, an attack that left over 300 people dead received little public attention. There was no Facebook check-in that I’m aware of. No image filter. There was a trending hashtag – #PrayForEgypt – but most of the people using it were from the region or had a connection to the region.

On my own social media feed, there was practically nothing. I pride myself on following a diverse set of people, but still my westernized twitter lists had very little information on the tragedy, and even less personal messages. The same people who prayed for Manchester were not praying for Egypt.

Why the discrepancy? Is it because Egypt is a predominately Muslim country or that the atrocity took place in a mosque? Is it because the country is not a typical Western ally? Is it because people just don’t care about things that don’t happen in their home or neighbouring countries?

The news has reported the incident, but it has been largely overshadowed by the political shakeup in Zimbabwe or the engagement of Prince Harry. That’s not an excuse, but a reality of the news cycle. It’s up to everyone to individually pay attention to what is happening around the world and not pass judgement on who to care about.

Three hundred people are dead. Twenty-seven children are dead. Their only sin is that they were praying in a mosque frequented by Sufis, one of the muslim sects in Egypt.

Whether it’s a shooting at a popular tourist attraction, a bombing in a war-torn country like Iraq, or a shooting in a place of worship in Egypt, a human life is a human life. If you are going to pray for one, you should pray for all.

#PrayFor Egypt.

Featured image provided by Andini Prian . 

Hundreds march in protest of Quebec’s Bill 62

Hundreds of people took to the streets in Montreal to protest the provincial government’s decision to enact Bill 62, also known as the religious neutrality bill.

This bill makes it illegal for public service workers, as well as people seeking government services, from wearing this any face-covering garb such as the niqab or the burka. The ban also includes the use of public transportation.

While the bill itself doesn’t mention these pieces of clothing, it implies a religious and ethnic target — muslim women. Very few other people wear face-covering materials. The protestors are calling this bill racist and hateful, something that is inviting Islamophobia in Quebec.

The protested marched down Berri St. between Ste-Catherine St. and De Maisonneuve Blv. One hundred and sixty groups from diverse backgrounds were represented in the crowds. They also signed an online petition asking for an end to Islamophobia and hate.

Bill 62 is being challenged at Quebec’s Superior Court. The plaintiffs claim “The Act gravely infringes the religious and equality rights of certain Muslim women in Quebec.”

“While purporting to promote the goals of advancing the religious neutrality of the state and facilitating communication between public employees and private citizens, the Act does the opposite,” the court challenge reads. “It imposes a significant burden on the exercise of religious freedom, and it does so in a discriminatory manner that will isolate some Quebec residents, making it much more difficult for them to participate in Quebec society.”

A judge is expected to review the case on Wednesday. If the judge agrees, the law will be suspended temporarily.

What do you think will happen on Nov. 15th when the judge looks at the court challenge? Let us know in the comments below!

Vanessa ‘Van’ Piunno shares her passion for music and healthy lifestyle

Eighteen-year-old Montreal pop singer Vanessa Piunno is an up and coming Canadian artist who was recently named iHeart Radio Future Star for 2017.Known simply as ‘Van’ while growing up in Quebec’s largest city, she talks about how her passion for music began at age five and reveals tips on how to stay healthy on the road.

Q: Tell us about the music scene while growing up in Quebec?

A: The music scene has always been so vibrant here with a mix of French and English culture. So many bands and shows every weekend in the summer months. Great memories of me and my dad going to the local parks near my house and catching as many shows as we possibly could, which was always so cool. [It] really gave me a sense of the festive culture around us and it was the seed for me falling in love with music at such a young age. My dad was a musician and this was something we loved doing together, [it was] our thing.

Do have a favourite Quebec dish?

I absolutely love poutine. I think I crave it almost every day, is that bad?

Does being fluently bilingual give you an edge in the music world?

I hope so. Growing up I’d do a lot of shows in both English and French and in doing so, it definitely made me more comfortable on stage.

Tell us about your fans and how do you enjoy being on tour?

I have to say that I would rather use the word “supporters” than fans. I don’t know why, but that word fan always makes me feel a little weird! It’s so heartwarming to know that people love the material I put out, and seeing that people listen to my music or post about it and take the time to message me just gets to me every time. I always personally answer every message I get from my supporters. It’s the least I can do. As for being on tour, it’s been a dream of mine ever since I was a little girl. It still feels like I’m in a dream, weirdly enough. I’m doing things that I always hoped I’d be doing, seeing places that I never thought I’d be seeing and it’s incredible. I’m thankful every single day.

How do you follow a healthy lifestyle while travelling?

Most hotels we stay at have private gyms and so I usually work out for a few hours if I’m not doing any interviews. It’s a great stress reliever. As for food, when we are driving from place to place it can be hard to choose healthy options when we stop for a quick bite, so my tip is to grab nuts or a protein bar. It’s better for you and keeps you energized. I never eat anything sugary when I’m traveling because sugar is bad for your vocals.

What do you like most about performing?

I can just forget about everything. It’s like when I start singing, every worry or problem or just anything going on in my life just disappears. It feels so good to know that I always have this opportunity to be on stage and that’s how I know that singing is my true passion.

What is next for you?

I’m getting ready to hit the road with my band. We have a great band and it’s all so exciting and new for me. I’m still touring in Canada and visiting a bunch of new cities and places, which is always so exciting for me.

Do you write your own music?

Tino Izzo, who has written and produced for Céline Dion and many other amazing Canadian artists, is the main writer and producer for my upcoming album. For each of my songs we always make sure to work together to find the right elements that suit my style and something I can relate to. It’s always a blast when we’re in studio – we take the time to work on some cool new material. His two sons Max and Alex join me for acoustic live performances while doing radio tours across Canada and also co-produced a few of my songs. I can’t wait to release my first album in 2018.

www.runwithit.ca
Twitter: @christineruns
Instagram – runwithit_christineblanchette
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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.

Uber says “au revoir” to Quebec’s new regulations

There is a reason #Uber is trending. The popular ride-hailing company has made the news twice this week, with both issues spreading negative light on the company’s corporate operations. In a bold move, Uber announced they would cease operations in Quebec due to stricter regulations being imposed by the transportation department in that city. One such condition was the request that Uber drivers undergo 35 hours of training to match the requirements of regular taxi drivers.

Uber was operating in Quebec under a pilot project agreement that allowed the service to operate legally in the province for one year. This permit was initially set to be renewed under the new conditions. The Transportation Minister of Quebec, Laurent Lessard, agreed with these new rules and also requested that Uber carry out criminal checks on their drivers and have their cars inspected every 12 months.

In response, Uber executives felt the decision was brash and unnecessary. The director general for Uber Quebec, Jean-Nicolas Guillemette, said the company will cease operations if these changes and rules are imposed. Guillemette said Uber was not consulted about these changes. Guillemette further want on to say he wants the government to renew the operational permit and then resume negotiations on these new rules after.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said Uber’s response was “bullish” and “condescending,” and that Uber was probably concerned these restrictions will create a precedent for other cities.

“Bye-bye, I don’t care,” were the words spoken by Coderre, who said the extra training should not be a burden for a company of that size company.

The Ministry of Transport remains firm on their decision and noted they are not in negotiation mode. With that being said, Uber decided to officially leave Quebec on Oct 14.

Uber executives have also been busy this week after government officials in London, UK, decided not to renew their operational license in that city, saying they will not be providing private-hire operational licenses. Prior to this decision, Uber was only issued a four-month temporary license.

In some ways this was a test pilot for the City of London and in the end they were not pleased with Uber’s performance. The explanation by London Transport was that Uber held a “lack of corporate responsibility” and would fail to report minor to serious offences. Uber has since issued a public apology to the City of London. Uber’s CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi apologized to the world for all the company’s mistakes, saying “it’s worth examining how we got here, and the truth is that there is a high cost to a bad reputation.”

Last year in Austin, Texas, Uber suspended operations after city council passed regulations to have drivers submit to background checks and fingerprinting. Earlier this year they returned to Austin after the governor in Texas signed a law to overpower the city’s rules

Uber has already been banned in a few countries and cities, including Italy, Denmark, Taiwan, cities in Auatralia, India and now London.

Back in the spring of 2016, Uber threatened to suspend operations in Toronto if city council passed rules to impose high-fees on drivers. The rule was not passed and Uber still continues to operate in Toronto.

Running helps Canadian singer Melissa Bel stay on a high note

Why do you run? Some people choose to run to loose weight or keep fit — all you need is a pair of shoes and an open road. But, there are many more benefits to running than simply overall health, just ask Canadian singer and songwriter Melissa Bel. In a phone interview, the Toronto native now living in Devon England talks about her music career and how running helps her both mentally and physically.

“It has been over a year now living in a rural village called Devon. It is a slower pace of life where everything closes at 5pm,” Bell says with a laugh. Despite missing the busy city life in Toronto, this Canadian pop soul artist finds running on country roads relaxing. “The city drives you to be busy. Having that balance is good,” she adds.

And she wouldn’t have it any other way.

When she isn’t doing media interviews or promoting her music, Bel is running. The movement helps inspire creativity and clears her mind. “I considered myself a casual runner and Devon is a beautiful place to run. It is a constant battle to run but it is the progress you can make it. I run one mile. Next day I will run two. It is therapeutic and is a good way to blow off steam,” she says.

“I originally started running to lose weight, tone up my legs, and improve my fitness. I’ve been an on-and-off runner for about six years, but recently have started to be more consistent with it. Possibly because the more mild UK climate makes it easier to run outside all year long. I’m actually thinking of doing my first-ever race in October, the 10 mile Great South Run (I have to stick to it now that I’ve said it on record!). I still run for the same reasons as when I started, but also to blow off steam, clear my mind, and challenge myself. It’s a bit meditative for me as well because it’s one of the rare times where I’m fully in the moment and not getting distracted by thoughts and worries. I’m fully focused on my breath and my strides.”

Bel is not working on any new music at the moment, but is rather promoting her recent album In the Light, which includes seven songs on the Extended Play. The album was released on Nov. 4 of last year.

This will be Bel’s fourth album and her music before was jazz and blues attracting fans in the 40’s and 60’s age groups and a huge following in Quebec. “My earlier albums were definitely more jazz and blues, with bits of pop, folk, soul and even rock,” she says. “I wanted to be more consistent as far as the genre of “In the Light”, and to be perfectly honest wanted a better shot at getting played on the radio. My goal with this album was to do something fresh and contemporary while incorporating my soul and blues influences. Hoping to gain some new fans while giving my existing ones something a bit different that they’ll still enjoy!”

On April 26th, Bel will be coming back to Canada. She will be in Toronto performing at the Cameron House.

 

www.runwithit.ca

Twitter: @ christineruns

Youtube – runwithitcb1