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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Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Colour, Health and Reason: Above the Rule

Recently a flyer came to a friend's home when I was visiting her, alongside a couple of flyers for local stores' discounts and a City Councillor promoting himself to his community. It advertised what it claimed to be a fitness location. Pictures of treadmills. A mention that it had a spa and a tanning bed.

What was that? You misread me? The treadmill, then the tan.

In late 2013, after the Canadian Cancer Society advocated from 2005, the Ontario Government passed a bill banning anyone to let a person below eighteen use a tanning bed for anyone under the age of 18 or to advertise to them. Samely, tanning salons must pose warnings. Anyone looking under twenty-five must be asked for ID before tanning. Anyone tanning must wear protective eyewear. "Artificial tanning lights can emit rays five times stronger than the midday sun" and "20 minutes in a tanning bed is 10 to 12 times more damaging than being exposed to the midday summer sun." I applaud the legislation. Tanning uses artificial UV light (natural UV light coming from the sun) to increase melanin (skin pigment) concentrations in a person. Ultra-violet light can alter one's DNA and potentially build the code to cancer and so UV light increases a person's cancer risk. There is no need for a person below the age of eighteen to expose themselves unnecessarily to light which alters your DNA, potentially creating the code to cancer. When I volunteered at the Canadian Cancer Society in the summer, 10 AM glasses of water accompanied reading the bulletin board in their kitchenette from successful Relays for Life to reading about a melanoma survivor who tanned until she was diagnosed.

At the same time, I worry for what happens to those at or above the age of eighteen. What stops them from using a tanning bed, just as what is there to stop a person above the age of 18 with a piece of ID from buying a bottle of wine? Common sense. Yet you pass billboards of tanned models in Guess clothing, both male and female, the very-light not as frequent and the dark a rarity. Though tanning ads might not be targeted towards youth, they still suggest that tanning is attractive. So-called fitness areas are incorporating them, promoting both the run and the radiation as healthy. Meanwhile in high school, my best school-based education on the risk between UV light and cancer came in Chapter Six in my eleventh-grade Biology textbook accompanied by a picture of a tumour, Grade Eleven Biology being optional to take in the first place.

Why do we still live in a world where we allow others to promote that one skin colour reigns over another? Tanning salons, Cosmopolitan using black models to show trends they called outdated but none to show their accepted trends and Freddie Gray targeted for making eye contact with police? Why is there still the ability in society to promote that your colour is your rank, that one's melanin concentration could have a mathematical relationship with worth? Colour should be beyond calculus.

Furthermore, why should a salon ever promote that a person should gamble their life to change their skin colour?

What do we do about it? Amongst the more-suppressive-more-secretive argument, I feel we must close tanning beds and end their ability to advertise. We must educate those eighteen and above with solid statistics about how tanning can increase the incidence of cancer, that in harm it is more of a cigarette than a candy. We must educate those younger than eighteen to understand the dangers regardless of taking a Science class. (Though with a Science passion I still recommend eleventh-grade Biology.) We must stop promoting modelling agencies and advertisers to make skin colour their marketing strategy. It is time we increase our stance on indoor tanning.

- FA

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Tuesday, 5 May 2015


C-51. The Anti-Terrorism Act.

In PDF format it is 74 pages. According to Janyce McGregor and Kady O'Malley at the CBC, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper stated that terrorists target Canadians "for no other reason than that we are Canadians. They want to harm us because they hate our society and the values it represents."

The bill gives the Canadian Security Intelligence Services additional powers. They can apply for a court order to "remove terrorist propaganda from the Internet." It means they can "counter-message" or "disrupt radical websites and Twitter accounts." They can also suspect Canadians of joining extremist groups and cancel their flights or travelling plans, "block any financial transactions linked to suspected terrorist activity," seize shipments which one could employ in an attack or even "switch, or make suspect equipment being shipped unusable as part of an on-going investigation." Meanwhile I recommend you to also read or at the Walrus for some more information.

Let me quote a paragraph from one of the sources I just reccomended. According to Craig Forcese and Kent Roach at the Walrus, "CSIS was designed with a broad mandate but limited powers. Until now, it has been an intelligence service—which is to say that it collects and analyses information, and supplies threat assessments to the government. When it was created in 1984, parliament approved CSIS’s mandate as one that excluded 'kinetic' powers—including the power to arrest or otherwise do things to people in the physical world (except when necessary, for example, to install a wiretap or listening device)." The bill was made to

The problem with Bill C-51 is its restraints to the freedom of speech. The bill targets "'activity that undermines the sovereignty, security or territorial integrity of Canada” that includes 'terrorism,' 'interference with critical infrastructure' and 'interference with the capability of the Government in relation to ... the economic or financial stability of Canada.'" In this broad scope can come those whom Harper has not supported, including Aborignals, environmental advocates and Muslims. What if it also included those against the Conservative Government yet not against the right to life? Two prestigious lawyers fear it will target journalists and academics. Businesses including Mozilla and public unions including the Canadian Union of Postal Workers oppose the bill. In fact, According to experts in British Columbia, 56% of Canadians oppose the bill.

Several things concern me. The first is that it does not fit our charter. Clause one states, "Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: (a) freedom of conscience and religion; (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication; (c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and (d) freedom of association." Clause fifteen states that "Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability." I disagree that C-51 can work with the charter. Second, it concerns me that despite many large demonstrations which filled public spaces, a large plea by citizens, businesses and unions end it and an alost 60% disapproval, the government passed it. Is this democracy, a system where the government is the employee to its people? I disagree.

Spreading fear over knowledge and disabling the freedom of speech, culture and religion do not belong in Canada. If we are to combat the threat to peace, we must rise above and not wobble near similar levels of injustice. Rise above those that threaten the freedom of speech, those who make us reflect upon the hours we could spend in school without bomb threats, those that design fear and propaganda to gain followers. Choose truth and open discussion over fear-inciting. Use the power of education to build a society of informed, active individuals and let us hold the power of the freedom of speech.

- FA

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Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Citizen Carding: Toronto's Amended Carding Policy

Parents keep their eyes on the baby learning to open the the front door or climb over the baby-proof gate. Teachers watch those marking-software graphs, eyes out for a sloping curve. If we are suspicious of something to happen, we may step in and solve it in advance. There should be nothing wrong with this idea, right?

Do you know where I'm going? Maybe you do. A study performed by two researchers, one at the University of California and another at the University of Texas showed that in video games of "action/shooter variety of urban/street gaming, blacks and Latinos are portrayed as brutally violent, casually criminal and sexually promiscuous." Surely a civilized society is not done with racial bias?

If you live in Toronto then you must know where I'm going by now. If you don't live in Toronto then still sit back and I'll fill you in about Toronto's Carding Policy.

This month, amendments to Toronto's c0arding policy were approved by Toronto's Police Board. In the revised policy, police officers do not need to give receipts to those they have stopped. Instead they hand out a business card. They do not need to explain citizens of their right to walk away. They can investigate any citizen without a specified reason to do so. The policy's amendments come against the Ontario Human Rights Commission's reccomendations which include informing carded citizens of their right to leave and be silent, collecting and analysing race-based data to detect racial biases in the first place, hand out receipts, limiting an officer's power to stop a person and ridding any carding-related data which "lacks a non-discriminatory explanation."

Even though Toronto is only 8 percent black, in July 2014 the Toronto Star revealed that 27.4 percent of those carded are black. My calculator gives 3.4 times likely to be carded.

A police officer cannot be a community member when using racial bias on the job while serving a community. It may not be a crime, yet when we over-target specific communities, we continue to show that blacks are untrustworthy. We continue to propagate the idea which sat on the North American Plate since the first European settlers arrived, that a person with darker skin is more uncivilized than a person of lighter skin. We continue to put those of dark colour in fear of their next encounter and frustration of why it might be the twenty-sixth time or fiftieth time a police car has stopped them while doing nothing wrong in the first place. Last summer I read Malala Yousafzai's I am Malala (currently one of my favourite books) in which she describes her childhood in Pakistan, a place where one must bribe their way to a fair trial. I heard stories from India of authorities that will not give you a fair say for whom you are. When we allow those in authority to use discrimination on the job, we only stumble a few steps back - or let me be more inclusive and say wheel a few metres back - rather than moving forward to build the progressive multicultural society we want to boast of, some already doing. Race-based policing has no place and neither does a policy which embraces it.

Mark Saunders. Taken from:
The Toronto Police Board chose Mark Saunders as our new chief on April 17th. Unlike Blair, his skin is dark enough to call him black. Can we expect changes to the carding policy? I cannot say I know so. I'm not sure whether Saunders will uphold the policies rooted or shovel around the tree until it tips it over. Meanwhile I urge Saunders to amend the policy. I urge Toronto's police board to stand up to the amended carding policy. I want to walk Toronto's streets believing we live in a society of fair trial where you are not discriminated by a person in authority for whom you are. No person in authority should put down a person for their colour or stereotype.

- FA

P. S: I'm sorry to hear about the earthquake in Nepal. My prayers are with them and this week I'll be donating to relief efforts.

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Monday, 20 April 2015

Equal Pay Day: From a Female Future Engineer

April 20th. It's Equal Pay Day today.

The United Nations recently released a statement that at its current rate, we will not close the gender gap for seventy years. Currently worldwide, a woman earns seventy-seven cents for every dollar a man earns. In the UK, a woman without children earn 25% higher than one with two children. (I myself am one of two.)

Yes, I'm entering a STEM field. High expectations for one wrongly pressed button on the calculator can cost one hundred and fifty lives. About one in every four of my classmates is female. "Why did you go into engineering?" "I guess I like Chemistry, and it has good pay." "Why did you go into engineering?" "To make fossil fuels history." In the United States, for a dollar a male computer hardware engineer makes, a woman makes eighty-four cents. For a dollar a male computer software engineer makes, a woman earns eighty-eight cents. In the United Kingdom, by the age of 40 a female chemical engineer receives 75 percent of what a male chemical engineer receives in pay.

75 percent? By the grading systems I've lived with, a B. 84 cents of one hundred? An A-. 88 cents of 100? A. The only problem with such gradings is that the peers and I are not ranked by the same test.

Do I want to live my entire career - or life, considering that the average life expectancy for women in Ontario was 84 as of 2009 and I could be 88 by the time we are likely to advance against the gender gap - earning less than a male counterpart? No way. Do I want my salary to suggest I was taught fewer concepts than male classmates sitting in the seat next to me in every lecture hall I attended? No way. I put the word 'dread' to the gender gap.

It's not just I and the friends I've made in my courses these past eight months or my industrial engineering aunt almost completing a year of work at her new company, having been laid off at her previous company after returning from her second maternity leave. I went out to lunch this week with a very close friend studying Health Sciences. I've been cheering on a twelfth-grade friend via email as she aims for a spot at the University of Toronto's Rotman. Executives in an organization I'm also an executive for studying subjects such as History. Do I want to see their futures lagging behind those of male job applicants or male coworkers for their gender? Not a single bit.

There is nothing impatient about not wanting to wait until my five-month-old cousin - my very first female Canadian cousin with an electrical engineer for a dad - turns seventy. The change is well-overdue by decades. Three years and I'll be ready for my first full-time job. After its acceptance will come the other milestones of adulthood: first paycheque of my new job, thirteenth paycheque of the job, first apartment alone, first money deposited for retirement and if the highway's commuters shift to a future relief line and growth increases exponentially in the renewable, maybe buy my first and solar-panel-run car. (Taking the subway is actually cheaper, so I may stick to it.) Financially it should not be harder for me than a male person sitting in my lecture halls unless they were born with engineering knowledge. Financially it should not be harder for any woman on this planet and a male counterpart.

What do I do for now? The answer is easy for now. I enter my exam tomorrow (Yes, I'm blogging the night before an exam.) where I'm sure I will not be asked easier questions than a male friend. Fast forward a few years and I've slipped on my iron ring, however . . . the words of a former teacher echoing in my head about women's participation in the Sciences at a time when I had first considered entering the Sciences and only a few months before I suddenly pieced together my vision of my future engineering career, my determination that I would stay unstoppable . . . "Science needs you . . ."

- FA

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Tuesday, 14 April 2015

The Right to Free Healthcare: Funding At-Home Cancer Drugs

Daffodil Pins for Daffodil Days
It might've been on your commute or as you were walking into a multi-storey office building downtown or in a grocery store you attend. A person in a yellow apron carrying a box filled with plastic pins and a money slot. Daffodil Days. I myself raised some funds downtown. Meanwhile at the end of March I heard about the Daffodil Days campaign starting back at my high school and felt pride to my former teacher supervisor for continuing my initiative. As it is Daffodil Month, today's blog post shifts towards healthcare rights in, as you most likely guessed in the last second, cancer.

First as a backgrounder, cancer is caused by cells in the body dividing uncontrollably due to a negative mutation, or change in its DNA information. Different methods of treatment currently include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, biological therapy, hormonal therapy, stem cell therapy and surgery. Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancerous cells, radiation therapy uses high-energy light (radiation) to repeatedly destroy cancerous cells, hormonal therapy changes specific body hormonal levels to prevent cancerous cells from growing, biological therapy changes cancer cell behaviour by using substances mimicking regular substances which cancer cells use, stem cell transplants introduce stem cells to the bone marrow if it has been damaged by other types of therapy while surgery removes the cancer-infected portion of a patient's body. In 2009, it was predicted that "45% of men and 41% of women" will develop cancer in their lives while 2006-2008 estimates predicted that the five-year-survival rate is 63% of those diagnosed, ranging between 17% for lung cancer and 96% for prostrate cancer.

Three types of the treatment I mentioned above require specific cancer drugs to be treated. Alongside treatment-specific drugs, cancer patients are prescribed medications to reduce negative side effects of treatments.

Approximately one-third of cancer medications are taken at home rather than the hospital, though this number is expected to reach sixty percent. If taken at the hospital, cancer patients do not have to pay for their drugs. If taken at home, they pay additional costs. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, "about three-quarters of newer cancer drugs taken at home cost over $20,000. The average cost of a single course of treatment with newer cancer drugs is $65,000." Even though Ontario has its Drug Benefit Plan which covers cancer medication costs for those on social assistance or seniors, co-payments result in paying $6,000 annually. The plan also sets an annual deductible of around $100. Furthermore differences in cost coverage between provinces have that a patient's location decides what amount they pay. Canada's western provinces (British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba) and Quebec cover costs for home-administered drugs while the same coverage lacks in other provinces. Three years ago Manitoba introduced its initiative to "fund oral cancer drugs through the new Manitoba Home Cancer Drug Program (HCD) which is a program for Manitobans diagnosed with cancer that funds eligible outpatient oral cancer and specific supportive drugs, as listed in the HCD Program Formulary, at no cost to the patient." For almost a year in New Brunswick, the program has been in effect. Yet some believe that the insurance rates of the plan are costly for rates which "range from $800 per year for an individual earning less than $26,360 or a single person with children or a couple with or without children earning $49,389 or less. The highest fee is $2,000 per year for an individual earning more than $75,000 or a single person with children or a couple with or without children earning more than $100,000." At the same time, it requires a 30% co-payment for each drug, limited to thirty dollars per prescription.

What impact arises from paying large amounts of money to receive cancer medications? According to the Canadian Cancer Society, nine of ten cancer patients experience financial difficulties in paying for cancer treatment. 16.5% of Ontarians in a study found out-of-pocket treatment costs "significant" and 3.9% found them "unmanageable." Rural patients have travel costs for treatment, an estimated of $1000 in Newfoundland and Laborador. The younger a patient is, the larger the financial impact the patient pays for treatment. Additional costs arise in those that take time off work to be treated or to care for a family member with cancer. Some have sold property or assets to pay for costs. Recently the Ottawa Citizen covered a woman who sold her business to pay for her cancer treatment, leaving it with only one other employee. Some cancer patients are skipping doses or treatment altogether to avoid the financial impact. A study performed by the University of North Carolina showed that those with higher drug co-payments were seventy percent likelier to end their treatment and forty-two percent likelier to skip doses.

Why should a living person on the planet need to spend large amounts of money to fight for their life? There is no right to give a person the opportunity to choose survival chance at the price of financial hardship or saved money by guaranteeing death. There is no right for cancer treatments to be as costly as an expensive Ontario university education. (Whose costs also need to decrease) Is cancer not enough of a stressful challenge without worrying about the inability to pay for treatment? Life-and-death situations should not become debt-or-death situations. A person at meetings at the Canadian Cancer Society battled cancer at a young age. I know those that know those fighting cancer. Last year when I did a Daffodil Days campaign at my high school and travelled across the school to collect signatures to an "I'm donating for" wall, many had personal connections to cancer. Is this what I want them and those they know with cancer to face? Not at all. 45% of males and 41% of females. (As I am religious, I will use the following term -) God-forbid my dread that those close to me or those close to those close to me join the statistics, how will they pay? The second-last situation I want to see them in is to consider selling their assets or anticipating social insurance simply for the right to fight for their life or not having enough in the first place to fight for it. (What is the last situation, you wonder? Death itself.) It is almost a situation where one is convicted of a crime and must bribe large amounts of money to receive a trial. Is this what we call free healthcare? The right to healthcare? The right to treatment? I disagree.

In the dread of being another person watching a person we know enter hardship in the face of survival, another doctor addressing patients' financial concerns with empty solutions, or a cancer patient ourselves wishing we relocated to another province earlier enough, what do we do? I believe there is hope. A coalition of thirty non-profit organizations, CanCertainty, are calling to provincial governments to cover take-at-home medications. The Canadian Cancer Society's Ontario Division posted a petition to Ontario MPPs (provincial politicians) on its Ontario Division Take Action webpage. Media coverage is spreading on the issue. We have the power to address our politicians. We have the power to not give up in turning around Debt-or-Death to fulfilling of one of CanCertainty's slogans: "Cancer isn't fair, but access to treatment should be." 
CanCertainty image
One of CanCertainty's slogans: "Cancer isn't fair, but access to treatment should be."
Taken from

- FA

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Wednesday, 8 April 2015

International Day of Pink: Stepping Beyond the Door of Dismissal

Happy International Day of Pink!

(For those of you that saw my last blog post, don't worry as this time I got the colour right.)

TDSB Pink Logo. Taken from

Schools encouraging their students to wear pink. The TDSB (Toronto District School Board) logo going pink on its website today. At the same time it is upsetting that the need to bring everyone together in a pink shirt still remains. In other words, bullying continues. It's not only the kid that pushes another on the playground. It's not only the kid being laughed at for their height, whether it be tall or short or somewhere in between. It's not only stories like Jeremy Dias's and the stream of insults and push against ignorance he received for being gay. It's in some workplaces. It's in some societies with parental pressure and relatives' ideologies.

Why isn't it stopping? Before I answer it, I want to turn your attention to two myths on bullying.

Myth one: Bullies grow out of it.
Fact: Those predicting that age is inversely proportional to one's kindness level calculated with the wrong formula. According to a 2007 survey, 37% were bullied in the workplace. In fact, "workplace bullying causes $3 billion in lost productivity and a staggering $19 billion loss in employment every year." A few months ago I was at a scholarship reception and person serving us told me of a person she knew who had to switch her job because she was bullied. Meanwhile a second study showed that childhood bullies were likely to become criminals. I myself have been bullied of those across multiple age groups - from those whose also born in 1996 to ex-aunts, ex-uncles and a former history teacher. To them, was bullying simply a phase of childhood? I think not.

Myth two: Bullying strengthens its victims.
Also proven false. Those having been bullied are likelier to have health difficulties. Those bullied in the workplace have "stress-related-problems." We also cannot discount those that have committed suicide from bullying, those that never had a chance to 'get over it.' I myself still have shudders from my tenth-grade History teacher forcing me to endure violent movies, the right to promote Autistic dignity unlearned.

I have noticed that one of the biggest factors in bullying is ignorance. Yes, we've heard "Don't be a bystander. Speak up." When bullied in elementary school, I told teachers and yet the situation worsened until I begun high school in another area. (A similar situation happened for a friend who left earlier to Oshawa.) Just turn to Google News and you'll find recounts of parents that told authorities who claimed they could not stop the situation. What about the 62% of employers that are told about workplace bullying but do not act on it?

Yes. It is easy to live without doing the difficult. It is easy to live attempting to believe that structures are working well, that the person reporting workplace harassment is overacting or that kids will grow out of what they are doing. Yet we cannot end bullying without acknowledging it. We cannot end bullying without confronting it, without taking the extra few stories up a CN Tower-analagous staircase, without exerting our courage against a fear of put-downs, of 'getting involved,' a fear analagous to the pull of gravity. Yet take a look at the world. We've come several stories up the staircase with anti-bullying initiatives and bullying sometimes in the spotlight on Google News. I already suspect my twitter feed will overcrowd from #DayofPink. I see many leaders and ordinary persons alike with the ability to implement and improve bullying prevention training in workplaces or stand up to the next person uttering a slur. Sticking to my CN Tower analogy, we all have the potential to reach the tip of the tower in communicating for a discrimination- and harrassment-free tomorrow. The stop starts with us.

- FA
Holding a CCGSD Day of Pink button in my pen-ink-stained hand.

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