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Woman of the Week: Meg Davis

Meg Davis loves to witness change in a neighbourhood. It’s her passion — to watch a vibrant community evolve over the years. As Chief Developent Officer of Waterfront Toronto, Davis gets to see this kind of transformation on a daily basis.

Davis has worked for Waterfront Toronto for the last 10 years, and says the change within the neighbourhood is heartwarming.

“When I arrived here we had a couple small parks and wave decks, which were stunning and beautiful and got a lot of attention, but we hadn’t built a building yet,” she said. “In the last 10 years we’ve built an 18-acre park in the West Don lands, Pan Am athletes village, condos in the West Don lands, [and] East Bayfront. People are starting to build down here and one of the things we have started is programming. Cultural events, the sugar shack program, partnering with Luminato — we are really animating the waterfront.”

The waterfront, a 46-kilometre stretch of Harbourfront property along Lake Ontario between Etobicoke and Rouge River, is constantly transforming. Waterfront Toronto is a public advocate and steward of this revitalization process. It was created by all three levels of the Canadian government with the purpose of overseeing and implementing strategies to transform the area.

One of the things Waterfront Toronto stresses is the difference between redevelopment and revitalization. Redevelopment, Davis explains, refers to the selling of land to the highest bidder, regardless of what they plan on doing in the area.

“Revitalization means achieving public policy objectives such as reducing urban sprawl, providing transit, reducing carbon emissions, contributing to economic vibrancy, addressing affordability and providing excellent public realm and architecture by leveraging public land,” she said.

It’s this kind of urban development that Davis is passionate about. Her love of urban planning was encouraged by a geography teacher in high school, whose lesson plans focused on urban affairs. “It really grabbed me. I took as many courses like that as I could,” she said.

Her education is mixed. She has an Honours Bachelor degree from Western University in urban development, a Master’s in business Administration from the University of Toronto, and recently completed an Executive Leadership Program. She started her career as a junior planner with Bramalea Limited, focusing mostly on real estate. From 2005 to 2007, Davis acted as Director of KPMG Canada, focusing on public-private partnership projects, including $1 billion long-term care facilities and the sale of Highway 407.

“I love the physical aspect of it,” she said. “I love to see things come up from the ground and take shape. For me, the use of P3s were a unique opportunity to see how the government and the private sector could come together.”

This is especially true of Toronto’s waterfront, which Davis describes as essentially “one big P3.” Waterfront Toronto is putting a large emphasis on affordable housing within its neighbourhoods, and using that as a foundation for planning.

“You can have affordable housing and expensive condos, [but] if you don’t provide the public spaces, it’s not a place anybody wants to live,” she said. “You can’t squander the opportunities – being by the water is unique in Toronto and you have to make it a complete community.”

As Chief Development Officer, Davis is responsible for leading the development of all lands controlled by Waterfront Toronto. She is particularly proud of the Pan Parapan Am Games Athlete’s Village in the West Don Lands, which was transformed after the games into affordable rental housing, vibrant retail properties, student housing, market condominiums, and public art. Davis says it advanced revitalization of the neighbourhood by over five years.

“We are really animating the waterfront. I think the transformation is huge,” she says.

Davis helps co-chair the Women’s Leadership Initiative ULI Toronto. They are working on a speaking series that will help promote the voices of women in real estate, which she says is still a heavily male-dominated industry.

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26 African girls were found floating in the Mediterranean

The bodies of 26 teenage African girls were found floating in the Mediterranean sea on Nov. 7. It’s been more than a month since and very few details have been released about their deaths. Who were these girls? How did they get there? And why isn’t this story in the headlines? It is believed the victims were part of a sex trafficking trade from African to Europe and that the girls met their untimely death along the perilous refugee sea path to Italy that has already claimed many lives. The victims were between 14 and 18 years old.

Over the years, we have seen many headlines that flash briefly about the bodies of refugees found at sea, mostly those from Yemen and Syria, as they try to make their way to Europe. So far only two men in Italy have been arrested and charged in the deaths of the girls. Many of the girls as young of 14 suffered visible abuse. It is alleged the girls were picked up in southern Nigeria, held in Libya and then sent to Italy.

These girls were only a few of the many that may have been trafficked over the years — girls who have been tortured and raped. And we know very little about them.

These girls are nameless. They are forgotten victims. Their bodies, which were fished from the sea and placed in body bags, have not been identified or claimed. Since the early 1990s, girls have been taken from Nigeria and sent to Italy where they are forced into prostitution. According to the United Nations, there has been an increase in the amount of potential victims arriving in Italy by sea.  The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says that in 2016, nearly 11,000 girls made the trip.

The IOM conducted a study that found since 2014. over 22,000 migrants disappeared globally while attempting to cross the Mediterranean. These are, of course, simply statistics. There is barely any background information on most of the refugees or those being forced into prostitution. Libya is serving as a modern day port for slavery and sex trafficking.  It’s a topic that is being ignored by mainstream media, as many sub-Saharan migrants face bigotry in Libya. The darker your skin, the fiercer the abuse. Men are being forced into construction jobs with almost no pay and migrants are even auctioned off.

For the girls that do survive migration trips, they are greeted with intense racism and degradation of the body once forced into prostitution.

Situations like this are heartbreaking and are spinning out of control.  That 26 African girls can disappear and nobody will notice is a debilitating thought. I can only imagine what their family and friends are feeling back home. These girls deserved much more — they deserve the headlines, to be remembered instead of being left floating in the sea.

What’s in the title “First Lady”?

The title of First Lady is widely recognized around the world as the descriptor of the wife of the President of the United States. But, what do you call the partner of the Prime Minister of Canada? This question actually popped into my head when editing a piece for Women’s Post. When addressing Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau do you use a title or do you just call her by her name?

In Canada, the spouse of the Prime Minister has no title. While some have mistakingly referred toSophie Grégoire-Trudeau as the “First Lady of Canada”, the fact of the matter is that the partner of the leader of this country has no official responsibilities in parliament. They can be as active as they want to be.

I have to wonder if the title of First Lady creates an image that American’s can’t shake — that the role of a woman is to be sitting at the side of her man. That there is a President, and there is a First Lady. The First Lady has a very specific role within the White House, to be involved in political campaigns, to manage the White House, to champion social causes, and to represent the president at official events and ceremonies. This is an important job to be sure, but it also creates a dangerous association between women and the role of managing a household and representing your spouse’s interests.

Whenever a woman gets close to running for president, there is always discussion about what her husband would be called. Is it First Gentleman, First Man, First Husband? It boggles everyones mind. People become consumed with this idea – of what that man’s title would be and what his role would be, as if it would be different than that of a woman.

In Canada, this association is non-existent. There is the Prime Minister, and then there is his or her spouse. This person does not receive special standing simply because of who he or she married. Most choose to take up social causes and to attend events, but it is not mandatory. And there is no gender-association with the role.

I guess to answer my first question — it’s simply Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau, no title, no fuss.

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 way we view powerful men is about to change

One by one, they all fall down — men of power, men of money, but clearly not men of finesse. Simply put, men that are lacking any form of respect for their female peers, co-workers, or acquaintances. The movement that started with the allegations against Harvey Weinstein, has grown into a festering and disturbing monster over the past few months, with almost daily cases of high-profile men who are now being exposed for their alleged sexual misconduct. What do these stories prove to us? How has society allowed these powerful men to dominate and get away with locker-room talk and disgusting predatory behaviour?

For me personally, it started with watching the fall of British actor Ed Westwick. I was a fan of his work and I grew up watching soapy drama’s like Gossip Girl. Sure, his character on the show lacked morals, and the way he played with women’s emotions was atrocious, and that time he attempted to ‘rape’ a fellow character on the show…that was all teenage drama. After all, he was playing a role. He was being ‘Chuck Bass’ . But, when this transferred into real life, and woman after woman described similar scenarios where he pinned them down and forced himself upon them, I knew he had no right. I feel terrible for the women in these situations. While no charges have been filed against Westwick, his reputation is certainly paying the price, as his shows have either been cancelled or halted.

Matt Lauer is a face I grew up watching. I thought of him as a respectable and well-known journalist on NBC. Waking up and watching the today show with Matt Lauer and Katie Couric was a tradition that many people can recall over the 20 years he has been working at the American network. And it was all ruined in a few minutes after hearing he was terminated for sexual misconduct. Lauer allegedly sexted interns and gave co-workers sex toys with notes about how they should use them. There is also the tape that TMZ found of Lauer telling once co-host Meredith Vieira, to ‘keep bending over like that’, when he thought the cameras were off air.  My view has certainly changed. How was this behaviour tolerated? Obviously the fact that he was the highest paid reporter and attracted over four million viewers with his charm each morning have him a lot of sway.

I’m now prepared to be disappointed by the familiar faces I see in the media and whose work I once admired as brilliant. Just this morning, entertainment mogul Russel Simmons stepped down as CEO from his string of companies after he was accused of “sexual misconduct”, where a woman alleged he forced her to have sex with him

Nothing gives these men the privilege to put women through years of mental and physical abuse? Probably just that — they are…. so-called men.

Let us continue to speak out against any form of abuse to women and may the fall from grace for these powerful men mark a turning point in history for women around the world .

 

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 . 

Let’s end violence against women and girls

Thanks to the #MeToo movement, more and more women are coming forward with allegations of sexual harassment and abuse. Women and young girls are finding that powerful voice within them to speak out against sexual violence and crimes against women in general.

On Nov. 25, the United Nations will lead the annual worldwide campaign marking the start of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.  This will be a 16-day campaign with hundreds of events worldwide.

One in three women are affected by violence. According to the UN, 19 per cent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 have said they experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner within the last year. In 2012, almost half of all women who were murdered, were killed by an intimate partner or family member. The same can be said of only 6 per cent of male victims.

The theme for the campaign is Leave No one Behind, emphasizing the urgency of addressing these issues and not allowing them to be normalized. The campaign will educate the public on the types of violence women face and mobilize change.

During these 16 days, iconic buildings worldwide will be lit up in orange, the colour officially associated with the day. Orange symbolizes a brighter future without violence. Local events that could spring up in your city include marches, flash-mobs, concerts, football and rugby games, as well as other unique and creative public events to bring awareness to the issue. The hope is that this movement will mobilize governments and the public to take part in the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’s umbrella campaign to end violence against women by 2030.

“Violence against women is fundamentally about power,” Guterres said in a statement. “It will only end when gender equality and the full empowerment of women will be a reality.”

The rise of the #MeToo campaign on social media has awoken a global protest against sexual harassment and assault. Through this hashtag, women are sharing their stories of violence afflicted towards them from even politicians and celebrities. These women are acting as examples for others, finally bringing some of their attackers to justice. UN Women is now working towards implementation new laws and policies that will offer women and young girls further protection.

The specific theme this year is also directed at refugees and migrants who are at a higher risk of being targeted for abuse. This recognition covers all women and girls despite their age, race, religion, income or citizenship. Women and girls need to be protected and offenders should be prosecuted to ensure that there is a societal message of  a zero-tolerance policy  towards violence of any kind.

For over 20 years, UN Women has been supporting various organizations around the world that have proactively taken steps in reducing community violence directed towards women. Earlier this year there was a collaborative effort with the European Union on a special spotlight initiative focusing on domestic, family , sexual, violence, human trafficking and labor exploitation. This included an initial investment of $500 million (EUR) by the EU.

To show your support during the 16 day campaign, use the hashtag, #orangetheworld and #16days. You can also change your profile picture by adding an orange filter.

Canada’s top 100 most powerful women announced

Every year, the Women’s Executive Network (WXN) puts together a list of Canada’s 100 Most Powerful Women and offers awards for those who advocate for diversity in the workplace and inspire future leaders.

The winners of these awards are from the private, public, and non-profit sectors.

Thirteen women were inducted into the WXN Top 100 Hall of Fame, an honour given to past recipients of awards who have continued to do notable work.

“Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Awards showcases the leaders that are helping to drive positive change and progress and to remind us of the importance of empowering women in our workforce and in the community,” says Sherri Stevens, President & CEO of PhaseNyne (parent company of WXN), in a statement. “We are so proud of the steps taken by women, and the organizations that support them, and are thrilled that we have now surpassed a major milestone, with more than 1,000 women honoured since the awards were launched in 2003.”

Past Award Winners include some of Canada’s most iconic women trailblazers: Margaret Atwood, Best-Selling Author; Dr. Roberta Bondar, astronaut; Christine Magee, President, Sleep Country Canada; Michaëlle Jean, former Governor General of Canada; and Heather Reisman, Founder and CEO, Indigo Books & Music.

The winners for 2017 were chosen by an independent advisory board and were announced on Wednesday morning in Toronto.

For a full list of winners, please visit www.wxnetwork.com/top-100/top-100-winners.

More to come.

SmartTrack could be operational by 2024

Toronto’s Executive Committee will discuss and debate the concepts for the SmartTrack stations next week.

SmartTrack will use existing rail to shuttle residents from the further neighbourhoods and areas of the Greater Toronto Area into the downtown core for the cost of a TTC fare. There will be 14 stations built and trains will run every six to 10 minutes. The plan also includes an extension of the Eglinton Crosstown from Mount Dennis to Pearson Airport with an approximate additional 10 stations.

“The people of Toronto want choice and convenience when it comes to their commute. SmartTrack takes the concept of local rail travel to a whole new level,” said Toronto Mayor John Tory in a statement. “SmartTrack is an important part of the city’s transit network plan that also includes the relief line, the Eglinton East LRT and waterfront transit.”

The executive committee will review the concepts for stations at St. Clair-Old Weston, King-Liberty, East Harbour, Gerrard-Carlaw, Lawrence-Kennedy, and Finch-Kennedy. Each station has been designed to serve the specific neighbourhood, with King-Liberty station including strong connections for pedestrians and cyclists, East Harbour station integrating with a high-employment area, and Gerrard-Carlaw optimizing connections with the planned Relief Line station.

City staff are also requesting that Metrolinx, a provincial transportation agency, consider pedestrian and cycling pathways when connecting GO corridors to Bloor St. and that they work in partnership with the city to push forward the Spadina-Front GO Regional Express Rail station and the Rail Deck Park proposal. The Rail Deck Park will also be discussed next Tuesday, with city staff recommending council move forward and that all rail projects should keep the park in mind during design.

“Rail Deck Park will be the largest downtown park outside of the Don Valley,” the report reads. “The proposed decking structure will support a fully functional park that, at full build-out, will comprise a total area of approximately 8.3 hectares or 20 acres, excluding the Metrolinx property at the corner of Front Street and Spadina Avenue.”

The cost estimation is $1.665 billion.

If these reports are approved, they will be sent to city council in December. Metrolinx estimates that service along SmartTrack will be available in 2024.

EU proposes 40 % quota for “non executive” women

The European Commission has proposed that companies whose non-executive directors comprise of more than 60 per cent men to prioritize the hiring of women when choosing between candidates of equal merit.

The proposal aims to have a minimum of 40 per cent of non-executive members on company boards to be women. The goal is to have this achieved by 2018 in public-sector companies and 2020 in the private sector. Annual reports on the composition of these boards will be required and sanctions could be imposed if the evaluation is negative. Those companies would then have to explain the measurements they intent to use to achieve the quota.

The quota will apply to companies listed on the stock exchange as of November 2012.

“Company boards in the EU are characterized by persistent gender imbalances, as evidenced by the fact that only 13.7% of corporate seats in the largest listed companies are currently held by women (15% among non-executive directors),” the proposal reads.  “progress in increasing the presence of women on company boards has been very slow, with an average annual increase in the past years of just 0.6 percentage points.”

This proposal has been on the table for years, with previous attempts to pass it blocked by certain European countries. According to the file, it is the issue of state independence is intertwined.

“Although there is a broad consensus across the EU in favour of taking measures to improve the gender balance on company boards, some Member States consider that binding measures at the EU level are not the best way to pursue the objective and would prefer either national measures or non-binding measures at EU level. They take the view that the proposal does not comply with the principle of subsidiarity,” the file reads.

The interesting part of this proposal is that it only applies to “non-executive” roles rather than direct managerial positions. In fact, the proposal actually goes on to say that the reason for this is to minimize interference with “day-to-day management of a company.” While I understand that most companies prefer to hire on a merit system, especially for positions of power and management; the proposal already indicates  the priority of hiring a female candidate should be taken when two candidates have the same qualifications. This focus on “non-executive roles” may actually encourage companies to hire more women, but it also reinforces the idea that top positions are reserved for men.

Why not say boards must be comprised of at least 40 per cent of both sexes. That way, it encompasses all roles and positions within the board? This proposal will be discussed over the next few days; which means there is a possibility for amendments and further specifications.

If the EU is really concerned about gender parity on boards or in positions of powers within big companies, it would step up with a stronger proposal that calls for real equality rather than a piece of paper that placates to the feminist cause without actually creating change.

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