Archive | Interviews

What Liberal losses in Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick mean for Justin Trudeau in 2019

Posted on 10 October 2018 by admin

Three provincial elections, three disastrous results for the Liberals.

Quebec became the latest province to oust a Liberal government as voters rejected Philippe Couillard’s government earlier this week at the ballot box, joining Ontarioand New Brunswick, which have recently seen major Liberal losses in provincial elections.

A third vote recount has been ordered in New Brunswick where Brian Gallant’s government is on life support following an incredibly tight election race that saw the Tories, led by Blaine Higgs, finish with one more seat than the Liberals.

The recent results follow the 2017 B.C. election, which saw Christy Clark’s Liberals toppled by an NDP-Green coalition, and leaving Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with few allies among first ministers.

With a looming federal election set for the fall of 2019, what do the dwindling number of Grits at the provincial level mean for Trudeau? Is it just a blip on the election radar or are mounting Liberal losses heading toward what some on social media are predicting will be a #LiberalFlush?

“The Liberals have to be more attuned that it’s not going to be a cake walk,” said Tim Powers, a conservative strategist and vice-chairman of Summa Strategies. “If an election were called, they would still be the prohibitive favourites, but there are some messages in those different victories they need to be conscious of.”

Powers said all three elections showed a “rejection of the status quo” as voters cast their ballots against the ruling governments.

There is a bit of anti-elitism at play in Canada,” he said. “If you’re Trudeau, how do you come at that and what impact might that have on you? Or could that be beneficial if the Conservatives and the NDP are wilted down a little by fractions in those parties.”

In both the Quebec and New Brunswick elections, voters bucked the traditional parties in opting instead for something different.

In New Brunswick, two small parties emerged as kingmakers. The People’s Alliance — a conservative populist party — and the Greens each won three seats, enough to give them a lot of sway in a legislature.

On Monday, François Legault’s centre-right Coalition Avenir Québec won a majority government with 37.4 per cent of the vote, marking the first time since 1966 that a party other than the Liberals or the Parti Québécois won an election in the province. Québec Solidaire, a left-wing sovereignist party, also made a breakthrough as Solidaire captured 16.1 per cent of the vote and elected 10 MNAs, pushing the PQ to fourth-party status.

The results could be a sign of things to come in 2019 and continue a pattern of anti-establishment voting. A September poll from Ipsos highlighted that a majority of Canadians, 52 per cent, said they are ready for a leader who would “break the rules” or a type of anti-establishment leader.

Daniel Bernier, a principal with Earnscliffe Strategy Group, called this a “major change” and a devastating loss for Trudeau, who saw Kathleen Wynne and Philippe Couillard — two of his closest allies — soundly defeated. Couillard announced this week he was leaving politics

“You had multiple parties that started to emerge,” Bernier said. “In the New Brunswick case, they had the balance of power and represent a good proportion of the population. In Quebec you saw the same thing. They are far from being marginal.”

If the NDP under leader Jagmeet Singh are hoping for a breakthrough, they face a monumental challenge with the election just a year away. The party has struggled to fund raise and has also seen Singh face question about his leadership. Earlier this week Singh’s chief of staff resigned citing personal reasons.

And in the election in Alberta due by the end of May 2019, the NDP’s Rachel Notley will have a street fight on her hands against the United Conservative Party (UCP) led by former federal Conservative cabinet minister Jason Kenney.

A UCP win in Alberta, along with PC governments in Ontario, Manitoba, New Brunswick and the CAQ in Quebec, could tilt the federal election in favour of Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives.

“If all of those entities are working together and are able to marshal their forces provincially for Andrew Scheer, then the game becomes more competitive,” Powers said.

Meanwhile, Trudeau’s approval numbers have continued to slide in provinces across the country.

Shortly after the Liberals swept to a majority victory in 2015, Trudeau was polling anywhere from 50 per cent in Alberta and Saskatchewan to as high as 84 per cent in Newfoundland, according to the Angus Reid Institute. As of March 2018, those numbers have fallen to 25 per cent in Saskatchewan and 59 per cent in Newfoundland.

The Trudeau government will have a few wins heading into next year’s campaign, including a renegotiated NAFTA deal — the USMCA — and the Canada Child Benefit. But the uncertainty over the future of the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion, coupled with perceived inaction on climate change, and broken promises on electoral reform and First Nations, could push voters away from the Grits.

“The Liberals are very good at finding what are the issues that Canadians are looking for,” Bernier said. “But if you promise everything to everyone, at some point it catches up to you.”


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Tens of thousands mark Khalsa Day Sikh celebration in Toronto

Posted on 03 May 2017 by admin

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Premier Kathleen Wynne and Mayor John Tory joined thousands in Toronto in celebrating the 39th annual Khalsa Day Parade.

Held in commemoration of the Sikh new year, the Khalsa order of Sikhism and the end of Sikh heritage month, this year’s event also celebrated the 350th anniversary of the birth of Sikh Guru Gobind Singh.

In memory of the four sons of the guru, the event also chosen to raise funds for Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) for the first time.

This year’s parade started at Exhibition Place and concluded at City Hall’s Nathan Phillips Square where more than tens of thousands are estimated to have taken part in the celebration.

The poor weather didn’t dampen the turn out.

“We were not expecting the turnout,” Dr. Parminder Singh, a director on the council that organized the event told CBC Toronto. “Essentially all of the Sikhs in Ontario are gathering here today.”

In addition to appearing at the event, the prime minister also spoke to the revellers and celebrated diversity in Canada

“This is just a wonderful time to celebrate the fact that Canada is a country that is strong not in spite of our differences but because of our differences,” Prime Minister Trudeau said.

The mayor also built on the theme of diversity when he spoke to the crowd.

“The city embraces and celebrates what is good in every faith and every culture,” Tory said. “Diversity has helped build a society that is as harmonious as it is diverse.”

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New Peel Police Prisoner Escort Officer the First to Wear Hijab on Duty

Posted on 27 April 2017 by admin

When people think of women in general—let alone observant Muslim women—they don’t often think of challenging and traditionally male-oriented jobs like policing.

Now, a young woman who recently joined Peel Regional Police as a special constable, prisoner escort officer (PEO) is working—simply by being present—to change that.

Yusra Syed, a former University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) student who became fascinated with policing during her post-secondary years, beat out a wealth of competitors to become a PEO with one of the country’s largest police forces (the Brampton courthouse she works in is one of the largest based on the sheer number of prisoners it moves). Although Syed has only been in her current position for about three months, she’s worked in security positions at the Toronto Immigration Holding Centre and Garda Security that have helped prepare her for the world of the law enforcement.

As for what else sets her apart, she’s the first officer in her position to wear a hijab on duty and her presence is, she hopes, inspiring other women to expand their horizons and pursue dreams they might not be expected to have.

So, what do you do with Peel police?

I’m a prisoner escort officer. I work at Davis Court in Brampton and I escort prisoners to and from prison to the courthouse and from holding facility to the courtroom.”

When did you decide you wanted to be a police officer?

I knew by the end of first year university that I wanted a career in law enforcement, so about 2012. I went to UTM and did a double-major in psychology and criminology. I wanted to get involved then.”

Why did you decide to become a PEO?

The opportunity presented itself to be a PEO, it was a great place to start and learn more about the field.

How was the job been so far?

It’s been really good. We’re training right now and I’m paired with experienced training officers. It’s a great team environment. I’m enjoying the process and learning and doing the job.”

Is it challenging?

In any job, first starting training can be challenging overall. Learning new skills, being in a new environment can be challenging. The challenge isn’t felt that much, because I’m with experienced people.

Do you think your presence is having a positive impact on the community?

I would hope I would have a positive impact. I think it’s a good thing to have the Peel community represented. If you see someone who looks similar to you, it might encourage you to follow your dreams. Around the time that I decided that this is route I wanted to take, I saw an article about a woman who wore a headscarf in another police force and it motivated me.

Have you gotten a lot of support?

I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback, I get stopped in the hall. Everyone is very encouraging and supportive.

Have you ever felt intimidated?

I wasn’t too intimidated at first, I knew what to expect taking a job like this. Of course a new job can be a challenge, but no, I’m not intimidated.

How did your family and friends react when you told them you wanted to be a police officer?

Family and friends were excited and my parents are my biggest supporters. Any parents of course would be a little concerned that their daughter wanted to go in this field, but they were always supportive from the start. They always encouraged me to do what made me happy. They were very proud when I gave them the good news [that I was hired].

How did your work in security prepare you for your current position?

I’d say the environment is different, but I’m fortunate I worked in that field because it gave me good skills that I can carry into this job. My last job was with alarm response and we had to respond and be aware of how quick to respond. [I learned about] working with the public, working with the police. Now I’m able to bring those skills here.

How do you feel about the other officers you work with?

It’s an important job that has to be done. I have to help other officers and we have to work together to make sure that we can get everything done smoothly and transition from morning to evening. I can be part of this team and do my part. We all understand each other, we come from similar backgrounds. We understand this job and community, and it’s nice to learn the job and the community.

How do you enjoy working in Peel?

It’s very busy in Peel, but Peel has a great community. It’s nice to be working in this region.

What plans do you have for the future?

Right now, I’m excited about the position I’m in. I’m going to focus on doing this job well.
I’m very happy to be working here and spend my time here. I think, if anyone else wants to join this field, they should. They shouldn’t let anything hold them back.

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The rise of LillyTube

Posted on 13 April 2017 by admin

With two billion views on YouTube, a new book and brands knocking down her door, Scarborough-born Lilly Singh offers a lesson for Canadians looking to ride the wave of cultural disruption.

Here’s the thing about success. You can be an online phenom with more than 11 million YouTube subscribers; have a gaggle of William Morris agents working their Beverly Hills phones to score you parts in TV shows and movies; get ready to launch your very first book, an advice guide called How to Be a Bawse which features dozens of photos of you looking very boss – er, bawse-like; and be BFFs with your childhood hero, Dwayne (the Rock) Johnson.

But when your extended family is flying in from Toronto to spend a week in the shiny new L.A. house you bought a few months ago, and you’re a certain kind of daughter and sister and aunt, it’s just a fact that you’re going to be up until 6 a.m. unpacking boxes, assembling furniture, child-proofing drawers and mopping like the control freak you are. (Mind you, a video editor who works for a company that manages some of your YouTube business affairs will help you mop until you both pass out from exhaustion; but still.)

And so Lilly Singh, a Scarborough-born 28-year-old known to her online fans as Superwoman, looks anything but super on this blue-sky L.A. morning as she pads down the stairs in a sweatshirt and jeans, nestles her small frame into a living room chair, and takes a bite of an egg-and-spinach breakfast wrap Postmated here moments ago.

“You’re meeting Sleepy Morning Lilly,” she murmurs sheepishly, adding later, “You’re also seeing me without my eyebrows filled in.” (She’s even missing her trademark nose ring.)

The family visit is just one of many pressing commitments Singh is juggling.

At the end of the month, she’ll embark on a 12-country, 34-date promotional tour forHow to Be a Bawse (subtitle: A Guide to Conquering Life), bringing a one-hour show of “stand-up mixed with inspirational, motivational stuff” she’s calling “a comedic TED Talk” to her sometimes-screaming fans.

For almost five years now, those fans been eating up Singh’s twice-weekly videos: energetic jump-cut observational monologues delivered straight to camera (Types of Kids at School, Types of People on Instagram, Annoying People in Public Washrooms), send-ups of pop culture and gender stereotypes (What Clubbing Is Actually Like, If Boys Got Their Period) and skits trafficking in gentle racial humour (The Difference Between Brown and White Girls) featuring Singhplaying a bevy of characters loosely drawn from her life as a child of Punjabi immigrants growing up on the outskirts of Toronto. (She also makes less polished behind-the-scenes daily diary videos, where everybody can see her without her eyebrows filled in.)

Some of Singh’s most popular videos include fictional versions of her parents – wannabe-player dad Manjeet and prim, tea-drinking mom Paramjeet – reacting with slowly growing horror as they watch, say, a sex-spackled Ariana Grande music video.

All told, Singh has racked up more than two billion views on YouTube, prodding some to wonder if her success might hold lessons for Canada’s cultural industries on how to ride the current wave of technological disruption rather than be swamped by it.

At the breakfast bar, just past the Ping-Pong table which dominates this main room, her bright-eyed personal assistant Kyle, and Misako, a social-media brand manager who recently joined the team, are quietly riding matching MacBooks. About half an hour earlier, they had posted a handful of videos from Singh and other celebrities (Charlize Theron, Lele Pons, Winnie Harlow) kicking off something called the Bra Toss Challenge, a mash-up of slacktivist feminism and the Ice Bucket Challenge in which high-profile women throw a bra at the camera in support of someone they admire and then call on another to do the same.

It’s the latest undertaking for Singh’s #GirlLove project, which aims to end what she calls “girl-on-girl hate.”

“It’s always such an interesting topic, because it’s so controversial. And I don’t think it needs to be,” she says. “Women are scared to use the word ‘feminism’ and identify as feminists.”

Singh’s positivity is conscious and hard-won: She began making YouTube videos as a way out of a deep depression. In 2011, after following in the academic footsteps of her older sister to earn a psychology degree from Toronto’s York University, she was in the midst of applying for a master’s program in counselling when she decided she just couldn’t go through with it. She’d already made a handful of videos, and though they were rough around the edges, the process had lifted her spirits. So she informed her parents that, rather than go to graduate school, she wanted to make funny videos for the Internet.

This was not in their wheelhouse. “They were both immigrants. My dad came here first, sent for my mom, had to work the three jobs. I have pictures of my dad, like, posing with his first refrigerator, being like: ‘Electricity! Refrigerator!'” she says, laughing. (They currently manage a territory of gas stations in the north end of Toronto.)

They gave her one year to make it happen. “I lived at my parents’ house, didn’t have to pay any rent, didn’t have to pay for any bills,” she says, adding: “Indian parents don’t make their kids pay for things.”

Singh soon found her voice, drawing on her upbringing to produce videos such asSh*t Punjabi Mothers SayHow to Be the Perfect Brown Person and – in a hint of the gender politics that would become a mainstay of her humour and advocacy work – a slap-down of underminers calledGirls Are Haters!

“YouTube for me is more than a platform, it is literally that thing that helped me when I was sad,” she says. “It doesn’t make sense, because it’s just a bunch of [programming] script, but I have an emotional connection to that.”

Singh’s climb has been impressive, jumping from one million subscribers in August, 2013, to five million in January, 2015; eight million last spring; and, this week, more than 11.25 million. By some measures, that puts her in the top 75 YouTube channels – a few notches below Selena Gomez, Beyoncé and BuzzFeed, but a good distance above Demi Lovato and The Late Late Show with James Corden.

Back-of-the-envelope math suggests Singh is likely making about $2-million annually from the ads on her videos.

Like many YouTube creators, she is also in the business of being a “digital influencer,” signing promotional deals with marketers such as Coca-Cola Canada and the cosmetics label Smashbox, which last spring released a deep-red liquid lipstick dubbed “Bawse.” (Her deal with Skittles Canada includes a lifetime supply of the chewy candy; she pulls open a kitchen drawer to reveal about 30 oversized packages, in an array of four flavours.)

Success begets success, and Singh has lately attracted increasingly big names to co-star in her videos, including Seth Rogen and James Franco, Selena Gomez, Kunal Nayyar and The Rock. She interviewed Michelle Obama and Malala Yousafzai about the importance of girls’ education, and last month talked with Bill Gates about development issues.

So why, if she could become a global superstar while working out of a Toronto suburb, did Singh need to move to Los Angeles in the fall of 2015?

Singh offers an answer which is both promising and disheartening. “My content specifically is what it is, and my brand is what it is because I am from Canada,” she notes.

“A lot of my success comes from this large idea of being multicultural: the very cultured parents that are on my channel, a lot of the cultural jokes I make – the fact that I can relate to such a vast array of people by making different language jokes and different dialect jokes – that’s a huge reason for my success, and that solely comes from Toronto and Canada. And so if I didn’t start in Canada, would I be as big as I am now? I don’t think so.”

And yet.

“Having said that, if I stayed in Canada, would I be as big as I am now?” She smiles benevolently, as if trying to let down a boyfriend gently, but firmly. “I don’t think so.”

She continues: “It really did pain me to move to L.A., and I wish I could have stayed in Toronto, but it was getting to a point where, two or three times a month, I’d have to fly to L.A. to do something, or I’d be missing some opportunities to do something, because they’re like, ‘Oh! You need a visa. We’ll just find someone else.'”

In How to Be a Bawse, she notes that, two days after the splashy premiere of her Unicorn Island doc at the iconic TCL (née Grauman’s) Chinese Theatre last year, she turned up for an audition where the casting director didn’t seem to have heard of her.

But one of the overriding themes of Bawse– a motivational handbook stuffed with business, social and relationship advice imparted with the snappy humour and giddy whimsy that animates Singh’s videos – is that you need to check your ego at the door. “My secret to success is exactly what most people don’t want to hear: It’s a ton of hard work,” she writes.

It must be hard, though, for fans to resist feeling a kind of protective affection when they encounter Singh in person: After all, she has shared some very dark moments. In Bawse, she writes of the lacerating self-doubt of her early 20s, of being “depressed and wanting to end my life.” When, during her Unicorn Island show, she declared in what amounted to a war cry, “Happiness is the only thing worth fighting for in your life!” there was a whiff of the reformed smoker working feverishly to keep the cravings at bay.

So: Now what? How does someone recalibrate when they surpass their own dreams?

“When I first started YouTube it was about – ‘Oh, I got 70 views!’ ‘Now I got 100!'” she notes. “‘Now [this], now [that], now – let’s go on a tour!’ There’s always been a natural progression. So it doesn’t feel unusual. But it definitely does feel confusing sometimes.” She quotes a lyric: “‘Success is the most addictive drug.'”

“Sometimes I do fear that, if I’m being honest. I feel like, will there ever be a point in my life where I’m like, ‘That’s great. I have accomplished what I want to accomplish, I’m gonna hang up now’? I don’t know if that’s a thing.

“I think once you get successful and you love what you do so much and get opportunities – I think that’s why movie stars continue to make so many movies. It’s because success is the most addictive drug, you get addicted to this idea that: ‘No, I want more. I want more experiences. I want more of this.’ Because your time is limited on this planet. So that is a real fear for me. And I haven’t figured that one out yet.”

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Uzma Jalaluddin loves her Instant Pot but is no longer buying ‘things’

Posted on 06 April 2017 by admin

Every once in a while I get caught in a wave of optimistic shopping. I start to think my life really will be better, if only I had an ice cream maker/slow cooker/Le Creuset dish set.

It isn’t until credit card digits are surrendered that I remember I don’t like to cook, or learn how to use new gadgets. It took me weeks to set up my cellphone and I’m still not entirely sure where my photos are stored.

But as a cheerful pessimist, I believe in the power (if not the probability) of change.

My most recent purchase is the Instant Pot, a word of mouth Canadian-designed multi-purpose wunderkind. It’s a pressure cooker! A slow cooker! A rice cooker/steamer! It sautés! And makes yogurt! I had to have it. It’s downright patriotic to support a Canadian invention. Plus, all my friends were doing it.

I take the plunge and order the Instant Pot off Amazon. The box is heavy, the appliance large in my small kitchen. There are tons of recipes and Facebook groups devoted to the Instant Pot, all of which require a lot of reading and scrolling. Instead, I kick it old school and call my friend, an Instant Pot enthusiast. She coaches me through dinner: potatoes and chicken and gravy. It is delicious and my kids barely grumble. Definitely a keeper, but it starts me thinking about my shopping habits.

Maybe it’s the Pokemon cards I keep finding under the couch, or because I watched Minimalism on Netflix, but I’ve started to rethink the relationship my family has with the act of buying.

It’s hard not to get caught up in materialistic wants when surrounded by brands and slick marketing. Kids in particular have a hard time avoiding the temptation of the shiny new thing. Getting new stuff provides a satisfying hit of dopamine, the chemical dubbed “the happiness drug” released in our brains when we buy something on impulse.

Ibrahim lobbied hard for his Nintendo 3DS and Mustafa is hankering for an Apple-anything. I know if they get it, they will be happy for a while, but it will eventually lose its charm. This happens because of a human super power — our ability to adapt to surroundings and circumstance. It’s the same super power that makes people stop noticing a beautiful picture hanging on the wall, or the “new car smell” of a new ride. Or Lego on every single shelf.

But if I want to curb my kids’ thirst for acquisition, I have to start with myself. Which is hard, because I have a weakness for new books, new hijabs, fast fashion and kitchen toys.

Last year, I put myself on a shopping diet — I lasted three months, until new fall fashion lured me back to the mall. I’m not a big shopper, but the casual way I “” on a semiregular basis is worrying. It bothers me even more when my kids start doing it. Ibrahim is an equal opportunity coveter of toys, games and clothes; Mustafa asked for a pair of Timberland boots the other day, though I recently bought him another nonbranded boot.

Instead, I have decided to refocus their interest from things to experiences.

I was inspired by a 2016 article in Forbes, “Why you should spend your money on experiences, not things” that reinforces the power of experiences that “become part of our identity.”

On a recent trip to the U.S., it was easy to distract my kids by visiting parks and beaches, eating delicious food and taking in national monuments. The low Canadian dollar made the decision to avoid U.S. malls even easier. We came home after two weeks of travel with only a few small souvenirs, but enough memories to last a lifetime.

I still think my Instant Pot is pretty awesome, but it will be the last new kitchen gadget I buy for a long time. I just hope my kids follow suit and stop asking for more Pokemon booster packs.

Uzma Jalaluddin is a high school teacher in the York Region. She writes about parenting and other life adventures.

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Financial literacy should be part of an equitable education system Prakash Amarasooriya

Posted on 01 April 2017 by admin

Ontario launches plan to teach high school kids financial skills

Ontario is rolling out pilot projects at 28 high schools aimed at revamping the Grade 10 careers course and laying the groundwork for financial literacy to become part of the curriculum.

About 700 students will be involved in the pilots, running until June, and their feedback along with teacher input, will be instrumental in redesigning the new course, expected to be in place for the fall of 2018.

While financial skills are a centrepiece, students will also learn entrepreneurship and digital literacy in addition to career and life planning.

The pilots represent “the first step in modernizing our careers curriculum,” and will make it more relevant by linking students’ goals for post-secondary school and the workplace with money skills like budgeting, planning and saving that will help them get there, Hunter told the Star.

They will cost the ministry $142,000.

“We want to make financial literacy relatable to students, and to their experience,” says Minister of Education Hunter, noting she’s heard from many youth who wished they’d learned more practical information in the mandatory careers course, which is accompanied by a half-course in civics.

“This is a good first step,” says Prakash Amarasooriya, who led the Toronto Youth Cabinet initiative and petition pushing for financial literacy in high school.

But he notes there’s still a lot of work to be done to ensure teens leave school with the basic money knowledge they need.

Amarasooriya, 24, says his own lack of money sense added a lot of stress to his teen years after both parents lost their jobs and, fearing for the future, he took on five part-time jobs.

Amarasooriya’s commitment to helping youth learn about money comes from experience. He was in Grade 10 at Weston Collegiate Institute when both parents suddenly lost their jobs in the auto industry.

“It was one of the biggest shocks I ever received in my life, that money wasn’t permanent,” he says.

Panicked about how he, his parents and 11-year-old brother would manage, he juggled five different part-time jobs throughout high school, including as a grocery store cashier, in data entry and teaching taekwondo, even though he was enrolled in a demanding international baccalaureate program and involved in extra-curriculars.

His marks started to fall and by the beginning of Grade 12 it was “the loneliness point in my life” as he tried to keep his marks up, manage his jobs and sock away money for the future.

He didn’t know how to budget or plan, and even after his parents found work again, kept earning as much as he could, at great cost to his mental health and his marks.

“I saved a lot instead of saving smart,” says Amarasooriya, who graduated from York University in 2015 with a degree in kinesiology.

Working in the bank, he soon realized his own lack of basic money knowledge is widespread. He sees young customers daily who don’t know the difference between chequing and savings accounts, and people of all ages living off overdraft or credit cards with no understanding of the interest rates they get charged.

Some financial experts argue budgeting should be taught and modeled by parents, rather than in a classroom. But Amarasooriya says parents like his, who are working class immigrants without any financial expertise, aren’t able to do that.

School is where all kids should have equal access, and Grade 10 is the ideal time, he says. Students have part-time jobs, start saving for post-secondary education and are a couple of years away from having a credit card and a student loan.

Teaching kids to manage their finances goes hand-in-hand with learning about careers and “if you don’t know how to survive in the world, that (career) doesn’t matter.”

 He currently works in a bank and meets young clients who don’t know the difference between a chequing account and a savings account.

Financial literacy should be part of an equitable education system, he says, because not all families have the wherewithal to teach it adequately to their children.

Both money skills and digital literacy are critical tools for high school kids and subjects they’re eager to learn about, says Kimia Kamarhie, who teaches careers at Thornhill Secondary School and is part of the pilots.

“Those two modules being tested right now by us are a great advantage because these are life skills students will carry forward even after high school,” says Kamarhie, who took two days of teacher training last month and has started to develop the lesson plans she will begin using in April.

Teachers working on the pilots, which include eight GTA schools, will get an additional two days training in May and are already comparing notes and sharing strategies through a virtual learning network.

The opportunity to provide real-life, relevant learning and boost financial literacy “can only produce good results,” says Thornhill Secondary principal David McAdam, adding that’s why the school applied to be part of the pilot.

He applauds the process for giving students input into designing the course and a voice in what material should be included and effective ways to learn it.

Toronto financial literacy expert Tricia Barry welcomed the move, saying it’s long overdue.

But she argues that mandated financial literacy lessons need to be introduced much earlier, by Grade 6, including incorporating the concepts into math class.

“Elementary students should not be left behind,” says Barry, executive director of Money School Canada, which runs workshops for children, youth and parents.

In 2011, the province announced that financial literacy would be embedded in subjects taught in grades 4 through 12 such as math, social studies and world studies.

But a study Barry co-authored and released last fall concluded the result has been “haphazard, inconsistent” learning for elementary kids, and a lack of content dealing with core money management concepts or vocabulary.

The gaps “are enormous” between what expert task forces have called for over the years, and what the ministry has put in place, says Barry.

Amarasooriya agrees that earlier is better but says getting financial literacy into Grade 10 careers was a logical fit and seemed to be “the path of least resistance” for making long-overdue changes quickly.

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Artist Gives Disney Characters A South Asian Flair

Posted on 23 March 2017 by admin

Thusyanthe Srisachiananthadasan, an artist based in Germany is known for taking well known Disney characters like Aladdin and Princess Jasmine and giving them a traditional South Asian look.

Art has been a passion for her since a young age:

“Since the age of 16 I have always loved painting and knew it was my passion. Hence why I enrolled into Croydon college and studied art and design to further improve my skills and knowledge. It also let me learn more about myself and what I desired in life, which is when I decided that my path in life was to become an artist.”

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Tamil Canadian Makes Strides In the Pageant World

Posted on 16 March 2017 by admin

I hope to be a source of pride to a nation that celebrates it’s 150th year of being at the forefront of all that is progressive.


Anne Kasthuri Saverimuthu, reigning Miss York Region and a Top Ten Finalist for Miss Canada Globe, is flying to Florida this May to represent Canada at an international pageant. Here is her story:

Born and raised in Markham, I grew up in a home consumed by second-generation ideologies and an immense pressure to succeed in every aspect of my life. Pageants, however, were not on my parents’ checklist of milestones and achievements.

The pageant world, for the most part, is known to be a Caucasian dominated playground. In my experience, most individuals are quick to label pageants as superficial contests of physical appearances and false smiles. However, I have discovered that it takes an overwhelming amount of hard work and dedication to compete in these competitions.

I was quite hesitant at first, since I am clearly a minority and have no prior experience in pageantry. Despite this, I set aside my insecurities and applied to become a contestant. I passed the regional assessments and then moved on to the national pageant competition. The pageant itself lasted a full ten days, with practice starting from as early as 6am and ending at 2am the next day.

 Right from the beginning of my first pageant it was evident that I definitely stood out, not only in appearance but also in terms of how I chose to approach the pageant. Choosing to embrace my differences instead of hiding them, I incorporated my Tamil background in all aspects of the competition. For my costume component (which was designed to express Canadian heritage in an attire format) I handmade a design that showcased my roots, as seen in the picture below.

 For the ten days that I was competing, I strived to recognize both of my cultures. I also created a platform based on Covenant House – a charitable organization advocating to diminish the present issue of homeless youth in Toronto. This is a cause I am quite passionate about. What may have seemed like a superficial endeavour to others, quickly transformed into a pursuit of purpose. I came out within the Top Ten of my category from an original pool of a 1000 applicants.

 Competing in the Miss Canada Globe competition allowed for several things to happen in my life. Firstly, I am able to proudly represent Canada, a nation filled to the brim with diversity and culture. Secondly, it has given me the opportunity to represent and bring awareness to a cause I feel strongly about on a large pageantry platform. Lastly, I have been given the chance to break down barriers of the preconceived pageant world.

 I hope to continue to break barriers as I head to Florida this May. I will be representing Canada in an international pageant, not only as a Canadian but as an individual of Tamil heritage. I will do my best to represent all that I value; my character, nation, culture, and pursuit of social change. I hope to be a source of pride to a nation that celebrates it’s 150th year of being at the forefront of all that is progressive.


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Artists need to turn global turmoil into art that activates people to progress: Alysha Brilla

Posted on 09 March 2017 by admin

Alysha Brillinger  better known by her stage name Alysha Brilla is an Indo-Tanzanian-Canadian musician. Born in Mississauga, Ontario and raised in Kitchener, Ontario, Brilla started singing in her early teens in local bands and at various festivals, including the Coalflats and Kitchener Blues Festival, where she was the 2008 winner of the Grande River Youth Legacy contest.

 Brilla briefly attended Humber College’s Jazz program in Toronto while playing local gigs and building a fanbase.

In 2010, she was signed to Lava Records/Universal Republic.

Brilla was a featured performer at the 2010 Kitchener Blues Festival and Gala.[4] Alysha is now independent and runs her own music label, Sunny Jam Records Inc. and has released three self-produced studio albums on that label. The first two were Juno Award nominated.

Here is our interview with Alysha Brilla:

Please tell us a bit about your academic/family background?

I come from a mixed family. My mom is a white, Canadian born woman and my father was born in Tanzania, but is diasporically Gujarati. I grew up in a mixed Christian/Muslim household and it fostered a lot of discourse around race, religion and politics.

As far as academia goes, I have always been critical of academia and the institutionalization of knowledge. I just directed a short documentary called “Indigenizing Post-Secondary Education”. Though I was put into advanced classes after being tested intellectually ‘gifted’ as a youth, academia didn’t feel relevant to me and I never formally studied music.

•   Why be in the arts?

The arts have always been a medium I could turn to in order to process this very beautiful, but flawed world. Music saved me when I was growing up and it continues to allow me to communicate when I feel the need to convey something.

•  What is it for you? American music or Indian music?

Both. I am both Canadian born/raised and Indian at heart. I like fusion music and I think that’s a result of being a fusion of cultures, myself.

•   Why do you think many modern songs & music videos are not like evergreen songs & music videos of the past?

I think there is beautiful music being created right now. Artists create because they need to express something. It can be political or be a simple love song, but it always reflects the times. What is needed right now are artists who can take this world’s turmoil and alchemize it into art that activates people to think, feel and act towards progress. We are an evolving species; physically and intellectually, and it is important we remember that change is necessary and when energy becomes stuck, it becomes sick. We have to let life flow and embrace the diversity of humans.

•   Do you believe art is for entertainment or for social awareness? One can argue that with so much disturbance in life, people would like to enjoy art for relaxation purpose only.

I believe art is for both. A political song can relax someone just as a simple love song can engage social awareness, depending on who is singing and listening to it. At the end of the day, music is meant to make you feel something. Make you dance, make you sing, make you angry, make you happy, make you fall asleep…it is to illicit and move your being to another state.

•   What’s your family’s reaction to your profession choice?

My mom has always been a huge support and I certainly wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing had it not been for her encouragement in my teenage years. My father (being brown/Immigrant), had a lot of trouble with me wanting to pursue music and of course wanted me to be a doctor/lawyer/engineer. Now he appreciates it and of course, he is a musician at heart, too.

•   Is it a profession where you can make money?

It is for me at this point in my career, and I am grateful I can make a living from my art. It is a blessing.

•   Do good looks matter? Do they get you into the door?

“Good looks” are pretty culturally subjective. There are certainly standards of beauty that (especially) young women are held to when trying to enter any sort of performance-based industry. If a person who has an opportunity personally finds you attractive then yes, good looks can get you into a door.

•  How do you keep yourself fit?

Yoga, my bicycle, salsa dancing. :). I have autoimmune health considerations, so I have to treat my body with a lot of love and care especially since I travel so much.

•  How much time do you spend on social media?

Definitely a few hours a day.

•   What kind of pressures do you feel as a professional?

I’d say the biggest pressure I feel is to make sure my fans feel connected and that when we meet, they feel like it is a positive and memorable moment for them.

•   Is the industry different for men vs. women?

Definitely. That’s another book I will write, though.

•   How much pressure do you feel to maintain a certain figure and looks?

Firstly I will say that I am privileged to not have to deal with the constant media bombardment many women have to lose weight. I have always been really thin and as a teenager, I would actually feed myself until I was sick trying to gain weight. After dealing with autoimmune health issues, my priority now is just to be healthy. I don’t care if someone thinks I’m too skinny or don’t have the curves they want me to- this is my body and it is the mechanism with which I hold my guitar, the muscles which expand and contract to create my singing voice and the eyes and ears through which I see the world. Of course I have dealt with a lot of insecurity, especially when I first entered the industry, but at this point I honestly don’t care. I’m not here for the male gaze and I hope all people can love their bodies. They are gifts.

•   What and who do you turn to when depressed?

I turn to music and I turn to water. Water has always healed me. It can be taking a bath, looking at the river, lake or ocean…it brings me back to the earth and reminds me that I am part of something bigger than myself.

•   Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Touring the world, living in B.C., learning and learning and learning. Writing and producing a lot of music.

•   What would you like to change in the world. Do you associate yourself with any charities?

I would like the world to have balanced knowledge. This means listening to Indigenous peoples and groups of people who have throughout history and presently had their voices minimized within the context of education, leadership and spirituality. We need to listen to women, non-binary folks, BIPOC people, queer folks…all the people who for one reason or another, haven’t had a place at the table. Now is the time.

I just released my song “Changing The World” on a compilation album by the United Nations called “Music To Inspire”. All the proceeds from the album go to United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Human Trafficking. So many women and girls are affected. They need healing. This world needs healing.

•   Your favourite male artist

Bob Marley

•     Your favourite female artist

Amy Winehouse

•   What are you currently working on, and what’s coming up in the future?

I am currently finishing writing for an album I want to release next year. I’m really excited about the songs that are coming out right now…they are about the hope, the change, the unity and the awareness. Messages I hope to see more, everywhere.

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M-103: Liberal Government Will Support Iqra Khalid’s Motion Condemning Islamophobia

Posted on 25 February 2017 by admin

Federal Liberals will support a backbencher’s motion calling on the government to condemn Islamophobia and study the best ways to quell an “increasing public climate of hate and fear.”

Motion 103, tabled by Liberal MP Iqra Khalid has sparked divisions among Conservatives and raised the ire of those who argue its adoption could have a chilling effect on free speech.

The non-binding motion has also been the subject of rumours and innuendo from some right-wing blogs in Canada and the United States suggesting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seeking to somehow criminalize criticism of Islam.

Khalid addressed some of those concerns at a press conference with Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly. The pair was surrounded by Liberal MPs in what Joly called a “demonstration of solidarity.”

Joly said that the government was voicing “strong and clear” support for Khalid’s motion. She later said that while all Liberal MPs will be free to vote based on their own beliefs, there will be “very strong support” from caucus.

“M-103 is about ensuring that, in Canada, we stand for free and respectful exchanges of ideas and opinions,” Joly said. “And there is no place for hatred and no tolerance of abuse.”

Khalid noted that the motion came on the heels of an e-petition tabled in the House in Commons, signed by nearly 70,000 Canadians, condemning Islamophobia.

If M-103 passes, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage will be asked to develop a “whole of government approach” to combat systemic racism and “contextualize hate crime reports so Canadians can understand what is happening on the ground,” Khalid said.

The Mississauga MP said that while the motion makes specific mention of Islamophobia, it is “broad in scope to include all marginalized communities.”

Khalid also noted that she and other colleagues have received hateful comments over the motion in recent weeks that only highlight the work that needs to be done.

“This strengthens my resolve to continue to combat this issue,” she said.

‘This is not legislation’

Khalid denied the motion could in any way restrict the rights of Canadians to express their views on things such as sharia law or face-covering niqab veils.

“This is a motion, this is not legislation,” Khalid said. “And I would be the first person to oppose anything that infringes on our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This motion is about having a study on how we can tackle important issues like systemic racism and religious discrimination.”

But several Tory leadership hopefuls have already made it clear that they will not support M-103. Kellie Leitch tweeted last month that the motion does not treat “all religions equally” and suggested it grants “special privileges” to Islam.

In recent days, other rivals have joined Leitch in criticizing Khalid’s effort and announcing they too will not support the motion.

Andrew Scheer released a statement saying M-103 is not inclusive.

“It singles out just one faith,” Scheer said in a release. “I believe that all religions deserve the same level of respect and protection.”

Maxime Bernier suggested that while M-103 is not a bill and lacks teeth, it could be a “first step” in restricting the fundamental right of Canadians to express their opinions on a specific religion.

“We should reaffirm everyone’s right to believe in and criticize whatever belief they want, whether it is Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, atheism, or any other,” Bernier said in his release.

Tory leadership contenders seek specifics

Tory leadership Kevin O’Leary also told The National Post he won’t support the motion. “It is ill-conceived and it is a slap in the face to other religions and to other races,” O’Leary told The Post.

Both Scheer and Bernier took specific umbrage with the fact that the motion does not define Islamophobia. At the press conference Wednesday, Joly said Islamophobia is the “discrimination of Muslim people and people who are of Muslim faith.”

A reporter noted that Tory MPs have said they approached Khalid with ideas for amendments and were shut down. Khalid said the wording of the motion, as it stands, has broad support from MPs, organizations, and Canadians at large.

“Watering down the words of this motion is not in the best interest of all these people,” she said.

Ambrose accuses Liberals of playing games

Interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose has also said she won’t vote for the motion. Ambrose took to Facebook to explain that while M-103 won’t bar free speech, she is concerned the term “Islamophobia” could be used to shut down legitimate debate and “to intimidate rather than to inform.”

“I do worry that some of my work trying to empower women and girls in Muslim communities could be branded as ‘Islamophobic’ if I criticize practices that I believe are oppressive,” she wrote.

Ambrose said two Tory critics tried to work with Khalid to change the language to reflect the need to fight discrimination against all religious communities, but were denied.

“This motion is simply being used by the Liberal Party and the Prime Minister to play partisan politics,” Ambrose said.

 But at least one Tory leadership hopeful is prepared to support Khalid.

Michael Chong released a lengthy statement saying he will vote in favour of M-103. Chong’s statement said that, in light of the recent deadly attack on a Quebec City mosque, it is “appropriate and important that Canadian Parliamentarians” tackle the issue of anti-Islamic prejudice.

Chong said it was untrue that the motion grants special treatment to Canadian Muslims, noting how the House has passed motions in recent years dealing with Jewish people, Yazidis, and Egyptian Coptic Christians.

 “Motion 103 does not set us down the path of sharia law in any way, shape, or form,” Chong said.

MP says she was told to ‘go home’

Khalid, who was born in Pakistan and immigrated to Canada from England, recounted the bigotry she faced as a “young, brown Muslim Canadian woman” when she tabled the motion in December. Khalid said she was told to “go home,” even though Canada was her country.

“I am a proud Canadian among hundreds and thousands of others who will not tolerate hate based on religion or skin colour,” she said at the time. “I rise today with my fellow Canadians to reject and condemn Islamophobia.”

Police-reported hate crimes against Muslim Canadians have more than doubled in the past three years, according to recent numbers from Statistics Canada.

The full text of Khalid’s motion is below:

Systemic racism and religious discrimination

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should: (a) recognize the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear; (b) condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination and take note of House of Commons’ petition e-411 and the issues raised by it; and (c) request that the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage undertake a study on how the government could (i) develop a whole-of-government approach to reducing or eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia, in Canada, while ensuring a community-centered focus with a holistic response through evidence-based policy-making, (ii) collect data to contextualize hate crime reports and to conduct needs assessments for impacted communities, and that the Committee should present its findings and recommendations to the House no later than 240 calendar days from the adoption of this motion, provided that in its report, the Committee should make recommendations that the government may use to better reflect the enshrined rights and freedoms in the Constitution Acts, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

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