Sunday, 20 September 2015

Feed, not Fight!

About a month ago in the final few days at my summer workplace, I googled something on a Mac. (Back at home on my Windows laptop, I'm prone to alt-c-ing and alt-v-ing now. Thank you, command button.) Now that my contract for the summer is over, I contacted ads for second-hand textbooks (Who's up for some thermodynamics?), I plugged my ears to loud frosh chants which weren't made for the neurodiverse, I cheered that I can use last year's Calculus textbook for this year. Now why I was googling at work is protected by a non-disclosure policy. (I'm not ready to face a lawsuit and forget the salary I just earned. I do agree, just as Tony Turner, that work and personal life need their distance.)

I'm allowed to tell you what Google resembled, though, as long as I don't include the specific curves of which letters the search box met. So here I go trying to create a blog post entirely based of what I saw on Google.

The Google sign was draped in red-smeared cartoons. Quickly moving my mouse over a drenching red logo confirmed that rather my first thoughts of something much inappropriate for a Google doodle, the company was celebrating La Tomatina, a large food fight in Spain.

My mistake - rather than my first thoughts of something much inappropriate for a Google Doodle was something much inappropriate for a Google Doodle.

Up to one third of food is lost annually according to the FAO at the United Nations. I have a friend who is struggling to pay for food. Campus food banks are increasing in number, and I know that my campus has a food bank. (Federal politicians, if you are reading this, please add reduced tuition fees to your platform and glue yourself to your promise.) Edible food is deliberately tossed before getting to your shopping cart if it doesn't look perfect (round apple, untwisted cucumber, straight-protruding carrot) despite being edible. (Look at @UglyFruitandVeg on Twitter, I used to think all naturally-grown watermelons were round.) Yet there is an entire festival dedicated to litter the streets in tomatoes to be later cleaned, squashing the red onto one's shirt only to dispense it with some Tide, Arm and Hammer or your favourite laundry detergent and plunging a tomato at someone's face for the tomato remains to be washed down the bathrooom drain with amphipathic (water-and-oil attracting) soap molecules clinging to to the debris. There is an entire festival to keep food from the plate. La Tomatina does nothing to end food insecurity.

What could we have done with the tomatoes instead? We could have cooked meals for those that cannot afford them. Welcomed refugees with extra food. Handed them out to hungry, tuition-drowning students. Handed them to the friend of mine struggling to feed herself. Fueled yourself for a human rights demonstration. Fueled yourself to speak up for the food justice movement. Anything but wasting tomatoes.

By wasting food, we downplay its value. We ignore those struggling against food insecurity or those seeking to make a living by farming. We ignore the impact of food waste on the deprecating climate, or the fossil fuels and water used to plant them. (What could we have done with the water used to grow them?) We ignore the work put into maintaining agricultural conditions to produce them when not all crops make it and when climate change is rendering farming harder. If at least one person is hungry in the world, there is no excuse for a food fight.

We need to take action to end food waste. We need to prevent it. We need to stand up to those that promote it. As for a Google Doodle? There is a library of ideas besides a food fight. If you want a food-related Doodle, create one for cantaloupe season and tempt me to head to No Frills. If you want a fight, consider the annual pillow fight at Nathan Phillips Square. (No, I did not attend.) The food system need not be exploited for leisure.

- FA

Thursday, 3 September 2015

The Refugee Crisis

It shouldn't have to take a picture of a would've-been-in-Canada boy, or the remnant of him, being carried by a Turkish officer on a beach.

It shouldn't have to take a story circulating of an overcrowded boat of refugees and the many that didn't survive.

It should've been the moment we heard of refugees not being admitted into countries. It should've been the moment we heard of their existence on the TV, or when journalists discovered the situation, or when someone was informed to let the journalists know. It should've been the moment someone noticed the stark contrast between their luxuries - the rights - to have a roof on their heads and to not need to worry as much that tomorrow it will be their children kidnapped and daughters sold as sex slaves.

Wait a second - it should've been at the first refugee that fled.

There is no excuse for the delay and inadequate action.

We must stop ignoring the refugee crisis as another news story. We must take action and accept refugees into our own countries, our communities. It is not far-fetched to give them security and it is time our governments stopped suggesting otherwise. It is time we stop stereotyping them as potential troublemakers in our own communities or burdens to our economies and stand to the burden of ignorance. To the governments with with higher - and safer - standards of living and to their citizens, it is time we showed humanity.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Truth and Reconcilliation: When Identity Falls Below the Flag

About eighteen and a half years ago plus two days (Yes, you can officially round my age to nineteen!), I was born in a hospital in a newly amalgamated city with a tall, steel tower which you would notice from a distance on the Highway 401. I grew up with my grandparents bringing spicy samosas back home and I learned to avoid the middle with its soft potato pieces, olive green peas and spices to render the back of my tongue in panic. I heard stories of colonialism in India and what Gandhi did to end it. At Ramadan I'd snack on the dates at 5 PM (back when the sun set at 5 PM) because I was too young to try what used to be about twelve hours without food, though I eagerly listened in a small beige hijab on the second floor of a mosque when I used to attend Islamic School about how it's one of the five pillars of Islam.

Come today and I know a relative who still wears white powder before heading to gatherings. Yet storebought samosas still go handy with glasses of milk and halal stores stand across the city. I'm a proud halal foodie and celebrated the middle of exams (Yes, the middle and not the end. Try it someday.) with another friend at a halal dessert cafe. I once saw a mosque being built in the city and tried it out later on. I'm at a university which held a vigil against Islamophobia at which a speaker told us we needed to end all hatred. Back at my high school, teachers knew it was pointless giving a significant lesson on Eid while a friend and I were able took a Biology quiz the day before Eid, also the quiz day itself. At that school I had an excellent education by teachers who embraced diversity, which I felt put me at an advantage above my peers when I arrived on campus.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission released a report about the legacy of residential schools. Prime Minister Stephen Harper did not comment on it, nor did he show any sign that he would follow its ninety-four recommendations. The report highlighted a system where children were taken from their families, abused and sometimes ended in a graveyard in Canada's bloodstain of - maybe not only cultural, but - genocide. Just for being Aboriginal.

Today the rate of children in care from Aboriginal families is high. Education on reserves is given 30% of the funds given to education off reserves. At Attawapiskat, where its chief and Idle No More's accomplished hunger striker Theresa Spence lives, a Tropicana carton is about 11 dollars. Over 800 Aboriginal women have been murdered or gone missing in Canada. When an Aboriginal elder visited my high school in the twelfth grade, it was uncomfortable leaving the auditorium knowing that she was worrying that her family was next. An article in the National Post recently covered a group of female Aboriginal high school students in Winnipeg, recently declared Canada's most racist city. Each student worried she'd be the next target.

I'm disappointed with not only the history but the remaining reality of the treatment of Aboriginals in Canada since settlers arrived from Europe. I'm disappointed that someone would put the very first cultures in the country below any others and deny them their diginity, freedom and a sense of home on their own land simply for being Aboriginal. I'm disappointed that all these years, they have not received as much funding as my own school (even though I'm wondering if my high school was one of the schools which wasn't funded largely) simply for being on reserves. I'm disappointed that orange juice from a grocery store on a reserve costs more than one in Toronto. No culture or religion should be put below another in any cubic centimetre in this world. Why does hatred and discrimination still continue?

At the same time, the mistreatment of another culture or religion unfortunately continues in Canada and looks to be expanding. Stephen Harper gave Islamophobic remarks that all radicalization begins in the mosque and proposed a bill that no one can become a citizen with a face cover while I haven't heard anything about Mustafa Mattan's death other than reading how little attention he received for being Black. I'm worried that all my hijab- and abaaya-wearing friends will experience Islamophobia, especially in the wake of the government trying to force an anti-niqab bill and claiming that Islam is a culture where women are oppressed. (I'm sure "The Opressor" never made the list of God's ninety-nine names. Meanwhile, what sounds opressed in a person who took an executive position in her high school's EcoSchools team, an engineer working at a large goods company and a person who texts you about working at a clinic until 10:30 in the night? Three women I know in hijabs.) While I don't wear a hijab, I've still got a chance of being a target. In the face of those who put excuses to hatred against another for their race or religion or anything which makes them themselves, we must be strong. If we are to be the True North Strong and Free, we must continue pouring the concrete into the cracks, the cracks of injustice which still glare under the red-and-white flag.

- FA

P. S: Though an earlier version of this post, titled "The Immigrants' Descendant on Aboriginal Land" and posted on Sunday June 14th, highlighted the struggle for Aboriginal Rights, I felt it downplayed Islamophobia as I contrasted it to racism against Aboriginals. Yet all struggles are equal and who am I to judge which one is worse than another? Yes, my high school was funded more than a school on a reserve, but that doesn't nullify any struggle in this city, in this country or in this world. I therefore apologize for what I wrote earlier and hope that my updated version rather does justice.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Even more affirming LGBTQ Rights News? Bill 77.

Yes, even more good LGBTQ Rights news!

Thursday I typed into Firefox's InPrivate search bar (Yes, I'm not fond of cookies.) to read that Ontario's Legislature voted to ban gender conversion therapy.

Bill 77 was drafted by Cheri DiNovo from the Ontario NDP (New Democratic Party). The bill was voted for unanimously on Thursday.

The bill bans gender and sexual orientation conversion therapy for those under 18 and ends the ability to bill it for OHIP.

Conversion therapy could truly be billed under OHIP in the first place? Not eye care, not dental care but conversion therapy? The glasses, you need. The cavity-free teeth, you need. The conversion therapy, though?

No person should be forced into conversion therapy. No person or place or medium has the right to promote that it's acceptable to subject a person to ice baths and shocks for being a different gender than they look or were born. 50% of transgender individuals attempt suicide. This is 50% too high. Every person has the right to be themselves in dignity regardless of their gender or their sexual orientation. (Let's not forget their religion, their race and their disability. Here's a shoutout to the diversity of the LGBTQ population.) There's nothing wrong with being a different gender than a person is born. There's nothing wrong with feeling male, female, neither or both, or different genders at a time. There's nothing wrong with being transgender. Transgender individuals have a large potential to contribute to the world and it cannot be achieved by showing that there is something wrong with changing their gender. Nothing can be achieved through discrimination and hatred.

So I applaud the vote to put their rights, along with LGBQ rights, into law. It's another step to showing the province's transgender population that they belong. Because they do. It's another step to showing that they are worth it and building the long-overdue community of transgender appreciation.

Meanwhile to all transgender individuals, without a doubt, you're worth it. I'll make sure we create a flood of your rights.

- FA

Taken from:

Sunday, 31 May 2015

YES to Marriage Equality

If I can say one thing -

Congratulations Ireland!

If I can add another one -

Congratulations Canada on ten years!

(If I can add a third thing to say? Congratulations Ontario on the vote for Bill 45! I wonder what McDonalds will resemble with menu calorie postings. Plus cheers to banning flavoured tobacco!)

Celebrating YES in Ireland. Photo taken from

Photos loaded ethernet wires and Wi-Fi signals of couples kissing and smiling in Ireland. I imagine wedding halls are filling with reservations. Pictures of the red, yellow, blue and purple stripes joining the green, white and orange have flashed on my screen this week. I'm pleased that the majority of those that voted in Ireland chose marriage equality. I'm proud of the 1,201,607 individuals that voted on a yes, whether they were LGBTQ themselves or allies. 1,201,607 million supporters of the right to have an official document with a man's name and a man's name or a woman's name and a woman's name or the name or two of an intersex or questioning person! 1,201,607 million believing in a type of bond which needs no gender to fulfill.

Meanwhile as Ireland celebrates its nascent success, Canada celebrates its first decade. Ten years from the 26th, Canada's court ruled same-sex marriages legal.

My only concern is that Canada's legislation was chosen by the law while Ireland's legislation was put to a vote. Though Ireland used democracy at its basic to bring the law, putting itself ahead many countries without democracy, a vote was used to legalize a human right? The right to choose to marry shouldn't be upheld on the sole idea that the majority want it. Take a look at aboriginal rights and disability rights. Progress on them didn't occur because the majority stood for it and progress may not have happened if we chose to simply uphold the views of the majority. LGBTQ individuals deserve to have the same rights as another person regardless of the number of votes for or against themselves.

Meanwhile, we're not where we need to be with LGBTQ rights yet. The law in Ireland will allow religious congregations to refuse holding a same-sex wedding. Outside Ireland are countries where homophobia is still a crime. In Canada, a Torontonian MP was caught this year criticizing lesbian couples parenting in 1999. Yet we've come this far from decriminalizing homosexuality and now allowing same-sex marriages in both countries. We need to celebrate the couples that married and will marry in love regardless of their genders. We need to celebrate the successes made in this world in Canada, Ireland and many other countries. At the same time, we need to reach out to LGBTQ individuals and continue to show our support for them. We need to stand up where we see wrong. We need to advocate for global human rights. We need to end discrimination worldwide, whether it remains under the floor of the CN Tower or blazes in Russia.

Meanwhile, we have a reason to celebrate for one more country has joined the ranks of those which legalized same-sex marriage. So as we wait for menu labeling to come into effect, go celebrate. Hopefully there'll be fewer cigarette butts outside the restaurant door and perhaps replaced by a pride flag in the air.

Pride Toronto, 2014. Taken from

- FA

P.S: On the topic of marriage equality, what happened with the training guide by Citizenship and Immigration Canada to detect marriage fraud? Racist and classist. It targets ethnic groups and immigrants in terms such as "University-educated Chinese nationals marrying non-Chinese" and "Photos of activities taken in the Niagara Falls area, Niagara-on-the-Lake and Toronto." (I've heard of and know successful couples in both situations.) It discriminates against low-income individuals with "Sponsor is uneducated, with a low-paying job or on welfare" and "Couples who do not have a honeymoon, not even a couple of days away, usually because of university and/or no money" as conditions. (Only in a country without child marriage and child labour laws would I worry about a person's education level when getting married.) What happened to the Canadian Charter of Human Rights? Is this called standing on guard for thee or protegera nos foyer et nos droits? (The final line in the French anthem translates to Protect our home and rights.) The right to marriage stays true regardless of income, education, ethnic background, partner's ethnic background, personal choice or how much a marriage differs from the traditional white-dress-suit-and-bowtie-lavish-rental wedding.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Autism Positivity: Inclusion Made for the Autistic

Autism Positivity 2015 Logo
Autism Positivity started in 2012 in response to a person typing into the Google search bar, "I wish I didn't have Aspergers." What started was a collaborative space of bloggers uniting in support of the anonymous person with blog posts titled "To I wish I didn't have Aspergers . . ." followed normally by sentences of "I know how you feel" or my favourite, "When I see the words “I wish I didn’t have Asperger’s/Autism”, I would love to be able to say “I can only imagine what you’re feeling”… but the truth is, I probably know exactly how you’re feeling. (*gasp* an Autistic person with empathy?!)" Since then the bloggers have returned annually to spread the positivity.

At five months and a day (Happy fifth month, Arriving at. Awetsome! Yes, I'm big on counting ages and birthdays.) as an Autistic, official social justice blogger, it's time to join in Autism Positivity 2015. This year's theme is called "Love, Acceptance and Self-Care." So what in the name of binary digits and hexadecimal codes (Yes, there is such thing as Base 16. Numbers 10-15 are letters A-F. Hey, why don't I just call myself 25, then?) do I have to offer?

The subject of inclusion.

I'm not sure that academia has a word for it. Programs exist which state they will help Autistics. They include therapies, counselling programs, summer camps and specialized classes. They are made with the intention to teach Autistics skills, help Autistics communicate or overcome Autism. "Overcome," "help communicate" and "teach skills" sound positive. They sound inclusive in bringing Autistics closer to being a part of the normal population.

In reality they exclude Autistics in showing that they aren't at the same level of treatment as their peers and their community as long as they remain Autistic. Research showed by the British Columbia Association of Community Living demonstrated that "students with disabilities who are part of an inclusive learning environment attain higher academic outcomes" and that "children and teens with disabilities who have been part of the regular school community have increased peer connections, friendships, and greater social skills as a result of their inclusive experience."

We aren't at the zenith yet in progress for Autism inclusion. I heard about summer camps with programs just for Autistics. I came back from the summer after Grade Nine knowing that my high school was introducing a semi-segregated class just for Autistic students. Another teacher assured my concerns that it wasn't for students like me and so I had a regular timetable. To this day I still don't understand why the students in its classroom are there; I believe they have the right to have a normal timetable just as I didn't have a special class for English, Math and Chemistry or a support worker collecting information from my teachers about my progress. From what I heard, the program's Autistics have been bullied at the school which I was never bullied at. I shudder at what might not have come to play if I had been segregated; segregation was one of my fears when I was younger. What about beyond the elementary and secondary school level? Stories circulate of Autistics being unable to earn stable employment or employment in their field because they were discriminated or an employer believed they were inept. In reality, organizations such as Autism Speaks still call Autism a burden and exclude Autistics from having the say on Autism itself. We need to make inclusion more common than an overcrowded train heading downtown at 8:45 in the morning at a time without a relief line and many businesses downtown.

What helps?

We need to end segregated school and camp environments. Let Autistics be in an inclusive education program where they can have a timetable and classrooms just as any ordinary student. Include them in extracurricular activities and in daily student life. I once approached a professor while he was playing a video in a lecture, asking if he could keep it down. He respectfully reduced the volume and apologized later. When the radio played in the mornings at my high school (I being the early bird every morning), teachers unlocked classrooms for me to get some studying or extracurricular work finished. My own co-workers at my summer position turn the volume down when I ask. This is inclusion.

Employers, don't let your hiring and work practices discriminate against Autistics. See the positive in the workers arriving at the job interview typing their answers to you, not looking you in the eye or closing their ears. Give a chance. There are abilities in the person and screening them won't improve the Autistic workforce gap - or the disability workforce gap - or any workforce gap for any discriminated group!

We must end stereotypes. We must challenge the current ideas of Autistics being burdens and lacking empathy. (Explain where Autism Positivity came from if Autistics lacked compassion.)

Egale Rainbow Lanyard
If you are not Autistic, carefully consider how you can fully include someone who is - why only Autistic? Autism Acceptance will never be enough and I disagree it will ever fully manifest alone. Some of us in the Autistic community also experience homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, queerphobia, racism and sexism. Women are often misdiagnosed due to what many attribute the stereotype of more males on the spectrum than females. We need to include the LGBTQ community. We need to promote women's rights. We need to end racism. We need to stand for disability rights. Every person has the right to live in a safe dwelling in a safe community with a stable income. Every person has the right to an inclusive learning environment in an inclusive community regardless what gender they have, what religion they have, what race they have, what sexual orientation they have and what disability they have.

Then let's bring things simpler and ask ourselves: how can we be more inclusive?

- FA

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Sunday, 17 May 2015

IDAHOT 2015: Ending LGBTQ Discrimination

Egale Lanyard

It's the International Day for the Elimination of Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.

I was astounded a few years ago when I first heard of a person being discriminated on the job for being gay. I couldn't understand why the gender an employee was attracted to was an employer's concern. I was also shocked to hear that homosexuality was criminalized in Canada until 1969. ("There's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation," stated Pierre Trudeau.) There are countries where it is still illegal. I cannot understand the law's concerns with the gender a person likes.

Fast forward to now. The results of a study spanning one year and a half released by Egale Canada in 2011 showed that "more than one in five (21%) LGBTQ students reported being physically harassed or assaulted due to their sexual orientation." "74% of trans students, 55% of sexual minority students, and 26% of non-LGBTQ students reported having been verbally harassed about their gender expression." "Almost 10% of LGBTQ students reported having heard homophobic comments from teachers daily or weekly." A poll released in 2011 showed that about one in ten of LGBTQ employees are discriminated on the job. In Canada, 30% of all suicides are taken by LGBTQ individuals. These are only a few statistics.

Why do we still have not only students bullying LGBTQ students but teachers too? Why is the share of suicides by LGBTQ individuals high and why are they committing suicide? Why are the statistics I mentioned above still true, that Canada has not progressed to fully uphold the human right to be any gender and any sexual orientation? No person should be fearful of abuse, harassment or death to be any gender or switch genders. No person be in fear feeling and living any sexual orientation whether it be liking the opposite gender, their own gender, both or still being unsure. No person should fear backlash for being queer. Unfortunately the LGBTQQI2SA community still has reason to fear.

We must work to end the hurt and hatred. We must not only keep advocating for fair treatment of all genders and sexual orientations, but be the fair treatment. We need to create a society of self-advocates and allies. We need to include LGBTTIQQSSA individuals in society. We need to feature LGBTQSSA individuals outside their stereotype. For example, about two years ago I tried reading a teen book which featured a gay character calling another male he just met 'honey.' Most I know would ask a person near their age out before calling them 'honey.' Instead of stereotypes of the person who 'acts girlish' as gay or the tomboy being lesbian, why don't we show individuals acting more as an Ellen Degeneres or a Jeremy Dias? Sitting on a talk show and asking others how their social lives are going. Running an organization. Or Bertrand Delanoe, the previous mayor of Paris in power for 12 years? The times that I've met LGBTQ individuals, they weren't stereotypes but persons.

We need to educate those young and old that it is acceptable to be LGBTQ. We need to educate that it is
wrong to be discriminative and act quickly and with strength on any discrimination we see. We need to point it out when we see it instead of dismissing it. Legislators, create policies which give LGBTQ individuals the same rights as your legislature's best-treated citizen and taxpayer. Employers, practice fair hiring practices. Teachers, stand to bullying the moment you see it and be an ally. Meanwhile your timetable may have a lunch break and a spare between your classes, yet it has no space to schedule discrimination. Bullies, end hurtful actions for you have no right to put down another person for their gender or sexual orientation. You have no right to put them down for anything, in fact - race, religion or disability!

Pride Flag at Toronto's City Hall
Let's not forget to include tackling the other pillars of discrimination while we're at it. Stand up, for the LGBTQ population comes from multiple races. Stand up because disability-diagnosed LGBTQ individuals experience additional discrimination and the combination of ableism with homophobia, transphobia or biphobia. Stand up because LGBTQ individuals have a range of religions and we live in a world still with religious discrimination in every country and border. Stand up because gender discrimination intertwines with homophobia, meaning that being lesbian and gay are treated differently. Stand up because discrimination isn't equal.

Now I address the LGBTTIQQ2SA community. If you are Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Transgendered, Transsexual, Intersex, Queer, Questioning or Two-Spirited, remember that there is nothing wrong with you. You have every right to have a crush on any gender you feel or be any gender you feel, just as I have the right to be a woman and like guys, just as Barack Obama has the right to be a male and kiss Michelle Obama on the lips. You deserve the same rights as us, whether it be marriage, fair employee treatment, healthcare access, education, freedom and life.

So let's wave our Pride flags. Let's build inclusive polices. Let's be role models of inclusion ourselves. Support those in the same population as Bertrand Delanoe and Ellen Degeneres. If an inclusive society for LGBTQQI2SA individuals is a high-rise condominum, we've come far in the storeys we've built. Let's get out our blueprints and minds and become safety engineers, inspection engineers, construction engineers, architects, construction workers, maintenance workers and building code legislators.

- FA

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