Do I Have to Wake Up?

I have always felt that the worst part of a holiday is when it ends. The beginning is so relaxing, you don’t know what to do with all your time and you feel like everything is so much better; everything tastes better, feels better, and looks better or maybe you’re still dreaming. But slowly time passes and then it passes quickly and before you know it you’re back. At the end of a holiday I never know what I have accomplished, generally because I don’t accomplish much on vacation. Growing up as a child the only part of back-to-school that I enjoyed was the back-to-school shopping. I would run around Staples picking out pens, pencil crayons, sticky notes, erases, calculators, binders, and whatever I felt I needed for school, even though I had a lot leftover from the previous years. Suffice it to say I didn’t enjoy going back to school as a child and my parents knew it. They would tease me at the end of summer or in the New Year counting down the days to when I would return to school and in effect lose my imaginary freedom. It is interesting to note however, that I no longer have that attitude and my parents don’t tease me about it anymore either. This past winter holiday from Ryerson was my longest at five weeks, but also my potential last.

I accomplished a great deal over the past five weeks and I know exactly what it was for a change. It doesn’t feel as though I have had much of a holiday since I was doing school related work most of the time, but it was more relaxing than my last semester so I might have to take that back. However, I am ready to go back to school; at least I think so anyway. Schooling provides many things to many people. School gives me not only something to do but too it gives me a purpose. I feel that everyone needs a purpose, regardless of what it is so that we feel useful and as though we are accomplishing something. Grownup me loves holidays for their laziness but I think if I was on an extended holiday I might get antsy and uncomfortable.  I don’t like to feel useless and as though I am not contributing to something. It is nice for a short period of time to do nothing but then it starts to get boring. You can only binge-watch so much Netflix or click so many links on Wikipedia before you end up in that weird area of “I Googled Sailor Moon and now I’m looking at Ted Bundy”. I need to say that I did not get to that point on this vacation, I didn’t have the time. Perhaps that is why I am ready to go back to those old Ryerson hallways, I never really left them. Or perhaps because I know I am leaving them soon enough.

The idea of graduation brings with it excitement and fear; you don’t always know what will become of you once school is over, you don’t even know if you’ll leave. I know a few people in a few different positions in life and looking at them I try to predict what will happen to me; of course it doesn’t work but my imagination is stronger than I. Will I come back for another semester, will I leave and find a job, will I go on to grad school, or will I simply run away to sunny Mexico? I don’t know yet and that is why it is both exciting and scary to know that in 3 or so months I will have a different life, potentially anyway (don’t want to say anything concrete till I have that piece of paper or plane ticket). I hope that I will graduate this spring and I think having that hope has made the end of this holiday not so terrible. I want to go back to Ryerson so that I can finish my degree and move into the next stage of my life and this coming semester is the only thing standing in my way. I can’t really say I am excited for exams and coursework, but I am excited for learning. I said that school gives me a purpose and that purpose right now is to learn as much as possible and I plan to.

Everyone has their reasons for why they hate or love school, but it is an important thing to consider. By reading this you can see that I do it all the time, along with planning run away trips to Central America. I ask myself these silly questions all the time, imagining my future world, and I think it does some good. We should all look at our lives and analyze whether or not they bring us joy or any other emotions, you never know what you’ll find when you open your heart and mind. By thinking about my past, present, and future it allows me to see how I am really feeling and it tells me when I have had enough. Right now I have had enough with rambling and with that I say welcome home Ryerson students. If this is your last semester, enjoy it, time passes so quickly before you know it you’ll have forgotten what school feels like and hopefully be realizing what a sunny beach feels like, or am I still dreaming?

Sushi & Beer

Every week I ride the Bloor Street Subway out to Scarborough and back into the city. If you have been on the subway before you know what it’s like; people talking, sitting, reading, and minding their own business as the train rumbles beneath the city streets. The subway is a kind of strange place because it’s full of people who we do not know and who we do not always notice or even pay any attention to, we are generally concerned with who is in our immediate surrounding and when our stop is coming. While on my most recent trip home from Scarborough I noticed a man getting on the train at Coxwell Avenue. I was sitting on one of those old stained red and silver seats nearest to the sliding doors with my head leaned up against the glass. I was half asleep, as I often am on the subway, the rocking and warmth having lulled me into a semi-conscious state where the Queen could walk on by and I would still be trying to hold my eye lids open (this is also why I often miss my stop). As I sat there with my head half-tucked into the top of my wool winter coat, my collar popped up around my neck, and my toque low on my face I saw the man enter the train and sit down on the floor. I thought that in my sleepy stupor I was seeing things; why would someone sit on the floor when the train was half empty? This man caught my attention and pulled me back into consciousness as I continued to observe him.

He sat on the floor with his back leaned up against the red doors opposite me, these doors wouldn’t open again till Yonge Street So he had time to make himself comfortable. As the train pulled us farther into town I saw more and more of this man; his grey hair sticking out from under his tattered blue and white Maple Leafs toque and the dark creases and dry pale skin that enveloped his hands and face. His acid wash baggy blue jeans were torn up at the bottom showing off his beat down formerly white sneakers and he wore an old Maple Leafs jersey which matched his hat. The man was carrying a reusable shopping bag with him that looked like it only had one tug left in it before it feel completely apart. I found out later that in this bag he was carrying his dinner, a small take-out box with a few maki rolls in it and a pitcher of light beer wearing its own toque to minimize spillage. After the man removed the contents of his bag with extreme care so as to protect them from the unstable and unpredictable movements of the train he did something that in the moment surprised me. He put his hands together in prayer, closed his eyes, and began whispering something I was too far to hear. He then took a single maki roll and a sip of beer and cautiously returned his meal to his dilapidated sack. As I watched him eat I thought about how I never thank anyone for my food other than the waiter who brings it to me. This man was thanking his Lord for the pitiable amount of food he had and yet I take a full cupboard and fridge for granted.

Our journey continued across the Bloor Street Viaduct and I noted the darkened sky lit up with the luminous glow of downtown business towers and condos reflecting off the clouds. Our train stopped on the bridge and I could feel the wind brushing against the sides of the train, the doors rattling in and out, and the screech of the wheels as we slowed to a halt. Looking out the train window I felt the whole city get cold even though this is an unusually warm December. I wondered to myself where this man would go, what would he do when he reached his stop and was faced with a still harsh December? In the time that I was distracted by the city skyline and my thoughts I hadn’t noticed that my traveling companion had slipped into his own state of half-consciousness. He stretched his legs out along the doorway and his head and back were upheld by the glass separating the seats from the doors. His left hand and arm were hugging his shopping bag and in his right hand he had a lighter. It was at this point that I saw the cigarette sticking out from under his toque amongst his scraggly hair. He was playing with the lighter, rubbing it with his fingers and tapping it on the train floor. At one point he threw his arms up into the air and as they crashed back down to the floor I could see his face drop into sadness, as though he were giving up and submitting to the thoughts that were running around in his mind. Maybe he was expressing frustration, depression, despair, desolation, or hopelessness, I don’t know what he was thinking but he did not seem happy, he looked tired; exhausted in a way that I hope I will never have to feel.

Our train picked up and we started into the tunnel, eventually reaching Sherbourne Street where the man rose to his feet and switched over to the opposite doors now lying directly beside me. As the doors slid open at Yonge Street I watched the changing faces of the new passengers. Men and women went from smiling and laughing to disturbed and disgusted. People scoffed and turned up their lips in a grimace, passing judgment over someone they didn’t know and had no contact with. Some people didn’t even notice him as he lay at their feet. Every person with the exception of one man parted at the doorway moving further into the train and filling it. The man who remained bent down and pinched the arm of my now sleeping traveling companion waking him up. The new man dressed in a dark woolen coat and boots asked the laying man to get up as he was in the way, even though he was not bothering anyone. It’s not as though people were stepping over him to get to closed doors that would not open again until Spadina Avenue which I later learned was this man’s stop. A heated conversation ensued with yelling and swearing resulting in a now irate and fatigued man being forced up and out of his resting position and off the train. This entire exchange was pointless and unnecessary and only resulted in anger and the perpetuation of stereotypes. After the altercation the atmosphere on the train changed, for a moment there was a noticeable dip in the collective mood. The woman across from me said “what can you do?” and shrugged off the whole event, the man next to me said to his friend “they’re all the same” and continued their conversation as though nothing had occurred.

Why was this happening? Why did this whole show come about? Why did this man feel it was his right to upset and force someone off the train who was doing nothing wrong? Was he assuming that because of the way this man looked or was acting he shouldn’t be on the train with us? Or perhaps he went into the situation with good intentions, but we all know where that road leads. I don’t know why this happened but all I can say is that my traveling companion deserved the same peace and respect that I receive. I am often asleep on the train and while I may not be lying on the floor no one bothers to wake me. Being in a seat puts me in no one’s way but this man was in no one’s way either. He knew the door schedule and would have gotten up the same way he did the last time. This man never even said anything to anyone, he was minding his own business the same as everyone else and yet society decided it was their right to intervene and not to help but to make things worse. It’s been my experience that assumptions do not lead to good solutions and going into a situation with stereotypes in the back of your mind will not help but hinder. People experiencing homelessness aren’t stupid or worth less than anyone else. This man simply wanted a warm place to eat his sushi and beer and to take a nap, he was not impeding the travel of or bothering anyone else and yet he was interrupted and attacked. Why?

RU Sustainable?

If you’re anything like me and you spend most of your time looking out windows and wandering around then perhaps you’ve seen the boards up along Church Street just south of the interior design building. Those boards are sealing off the old parking lot that once occupied that land to allow for the new inhabitant to materialize. Who is this new dweller? It is the newest addition to Ryerson’s building family, the Daphne Cockwell Health Sciences building, which is set to break ground this month. Towering 27 storeys above Church Street, this will be the new home and learning commons for some of Ryerson’s existing health science related programs, such as public health, midwifery, nursing, and nutrition (just my luck). The new building will also mean new housing for students, more parking, and new administration offices. Also, keeping with Ryerson’s thirst for innovation the building will be full of sustainability features and be the first building with comprehensive sustainability goals.


Given that this new health sciences building was an  opportunity for Ryerson to further promote their sustainability efforts they didn’t hold back. The new building is targeting a minimum LEED silver certification, will have a green roof, and the parking won’t just be for traditional cars, there will also be electric car charging stations and over 180 bicycle parking spots. Additionally, a roundtable with Capital Projects & Real Estate (the developers) and the Ryerson community was held in 2013 to share ideas on what long term sustainability goals this building should have. A range of topics, such as waste, lighting, design, energy, and food were discussed and in time we will see what Ryerson has in store for its future students. Don’t get too excited yet though, the opening is not set until Fall 2018. So again if you’re anything like me this building won’t be ready for learning until you’ve graduated (just my luck all over again).

The Campus Facilities and Sustainability department oversees the environmental stewardship efforts that the university employs to ensure that future generations are not hindered by our decisions but aided. Their vision  is that Ryerson will intelligently and continuously pursue opportunities to improve the sustainability on campus, leveraging the contributions of the entire community and serving as a catalyst for broader transformation. The sustainability program that Ryerson promotes was developed by Sustainability Matters which is part of the Campus Facilities and Sustainability department. Sustainability Matters works with the Ryerson community to make it a more environmentally friendly place to work and study. They offer resources, hold events, collaborate, and spread awareness throughout Ryerson to accomplish their goal of helping faculty, administration, and students become more sustainable. Sustainability matters even offers a certificate to campus organizations that want to change their operations. The RU Sustainable Certificate Program provides a framework for planning a group’s sustainability efforts and offers access to the Sustainability Matters support team to aid with goal development and implementation. Overall, Sustainability Matters wants to provide the Ryerson community with resources that help make simple and big sustainability problems resolvable.

With all the work that is being put into this building and all the future thought, has anyone wondered who Daphne Cockwell is? I do. Not only is her name going to be forever installed on a landmark building but her name also graces the School of Nursing. She even has a gallery named after her at the Royal Ontario Museum. Who is Daphne Cockwell? You might think that she was the principle donator to Ryerson for this building, she wasn’t. You may think she was a former student who went on to promote Ryerson, she wasn’t. As it turns out she is a 93 year old woman living in South Africa. Daphne Cockwell worked as a nurse and devoted her life to helping others. She also happens to be the mother of a very powerful Canadian businessman named Jack Cockwell. With 28 million dollars in donations to Ryerson, we certainly have a lot to thank the Cockwell family for, not just a new building. Especially considering the fact that the Cockwell’s never even attended Ryerson, they simply enjoy and agree with how the university is run and what it stands for.

With all the environmental work that is being done by Ryerson and the attention they garner from powerful benefactors, it sometimes makes me wonder how thoughtful I am of the environment. Mother nature is someone who is consistently forgotten in some circles and as a result we are having to fix and restore what was destroyed by our predecessors. I am thankful that Ryerson is taking the initiative to advance the protection of our environment, even if the changes are small and few, they are doing something. We all play a role in the protection of mother nature and we should all want to, after all doesn’t sustainability matter?

Tie a Red Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree

In 1988 the world was so captivated by the sudden emergence and destruction brought on by an itty-bitty virus that they gave it its own international day, World AIDS Day. Every December 1 the world recognizes what has come and hopes for what will be for those living with and affected by Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). The World Health Organization (WHO) states that approximately 34 million people have died from HIV/AIDS and that almost 37 million people are currently living with HIV. Additionally, WHO states that there are 2 million new HIV infections each year.

To give some context, HIV is a lentivirus that attacks the immune system and reduces it to the point where an individual cannot defend themselves from other pathogens. Once an individual has reached the last stage of HIV infection, as determined by an extremely low level of white blood cells that leads to the occurrence of more than one opportunistic infection (tuberculosis, pneumonia, etc.) they are diagnosed with Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). HIV is obtained through sexual intercourse and blood-to-blood contact with an infected individual, such as sharing infected needles, blood transfusions, and during pregnancy. HIV cannot be contracted through common day-to-day activities such as hugging, kissing, and sharing objects such as food and water. This may seem silly to point out but less than 20 years ago it was still common to be confused about the transmission of HIV. It may still be confusing in certain parts of the world where people are not educated about HIV. All of the confusion that surrounded HIV/AIDS is what led to the paranoia and stigmatization of people living with HIV and in particular homosexuals, sex workers, and intravenous drug users as they were the majority populations the virus was found in early on. Thankfully, due to education and awareness initiatives the confusion and by extension the stigmatization has been decreased, at least in the minority world. In the majority world it can still be dangerous to reveal your HIV status as there is still heavy stigmatization. Fear, stigmatization, and a lack of education are the primary barriers to the treatment and prevention of HIV infection.

While the treatment of HIV has been a long and bumpy journey, the prevention methods have not changed very much. There are few prevention methods for HIV infection but they are very simple. Harm reduction techniques for intravenous drug users, such as sterilizing and not sharing needles, and proper sterilization and disposal of medical equipment will prevent HIV infection. Additionally, for sexually active individuals the best protection is the proper use of male and female condoms. However, there have been recent developments in HIV prevention. This is the use of antiretroviral medication for individuals who are not infected but may be exposed to the virus. A pre-exposure prophylactic, or PrEP, is a once-a-day pill that impedes HIV infection in those exposed to the virus. If taken properly and consistently PrEP has been found to be an effective prevention technique. PrEP works by supplying the body in advance with HIV medications that lower viral levels in the blood, in an individual who is not infected the medication will stop HIV from spreading if they are exposed to it. However, PrEP is not a replacement for condoms or other prevention techniques, it is to be used in conjunction with them as it is not 100% effective. There is only one prevention technique that can claim to be 100% effective and that is abstinence, at least in cases of sexual or drug transmission. Along with prevention techniques there is a psychological side to HIV infection and prevention and Ryerson has been playing around with it for some time.

The psychology department at Ryerson operates the HIV Prevention labs. Dr. Trevor Hart and his associates conduct research on how to prevent HIV transmission among high-risk groups and how to promote quality of life among people living with HIV. Their current research is dealing with how HIV negative men who have sex with men protect themselves from HIV and those men who use alcohol and substance abuse to calm sexual anxiety. Additionally, their research revolves around the psychological aspects of sexual interaction, such as the courage and strength it takes to say no to someone who doesn’t want to use a condom when you do. Sex can be intimidating and sometimes we go along with what the other person wants even though we feel differently. If you don’t know the HIV status of your partner you should use a condom, be selfish and use a condom.

It is not surprising that Ryerson puts so much thought into HIV prevention, it has been educating its students on prevention methods for some time. In the 1980’s and 90’s Lynn Morrison, a professor of anthropology, headed education seminars and workshops to educate students on HIV and safe sex. This included practical information and experiences such as how to properly use a condom. At one time Ryerson had an AIDS awareness week and even a mascot, Condom Man, a giant penis with a condom on walked our halls handing out contraceptives. There was also the AIDS Education Project, which was a peer service out of Pittman Hall that provided students with AIDS information and support for those living with HIV. This is something that has survived time and can still be found as part of Ryerson Health Promotion (JOR03 and JOR04). However, there is something that has not survived time here at Ryerson, at least not to my knowledge, and that is the outright promotion of safe sex. It may seem outdated and common knowledge but how many students really use condoms or think that they will contract HIV if they don’t? HIV doesn’t seem like a threat until it’s right in your face. Moreover, we wouldn’t need an HIV prevention lab if HIV were not a problem. HIV is still very much alive in Toronto and Canada; 21% of the HIV positive people don’t know they have it and everyday 7 Canadians are infected with HIV. We need to think about the implications of our sexual habits and we need to have safe sex.

I use the Ryerson Archives for my Ryerson related research and as I was sifting through the AIDS related newspaper clippings I came across an article about a man named Steven Bailey. In 1992 Bailey spoke as part of the Nursing Students Association AIDS Education Conference. Bailey related the feelings that he had when he was diagnosed with HIV and the pain that it caused him to be labeled as positive. At this time in Canada HIV was heavily stigmatized and considered a death sentence as there was no viable treatment available. In the beginning Bailey told people that he had cancer because he found that he got more respect that way, people treated him better thinking he was dying of cancer rather than AIDS. Bailey believed he would beat AIDS, at a time when there was no hope that was all he had. Everyone living with HIV or AIDS needs hope and they need support. Someone infected with HIV is not the child of a lesser God, they deserve love and they deserve life. Bailey was 31 when the article was written and all he wanted was to live to his 35 birthday. I cannot say what happened to Steven Bailey but I can say that I hope he and anyone living with HIV is able to live their life to the extent they wish. HIV is no longer a death sentence and should not be treated as such; we should not continue to stigmatize those who live with HIV.

People living with HIV or AIDS do not need pity they need support. I call on Ryerson and its health committees to be vocal on campus. We should be informing students and helping them to be confident and safe in their sexual practices. We should also be supportive of those living with HIV, why make it harder for someone to find support? Lastly, I want to know what happened to Condom Man.



I Have Nothing to Wear

In my closet there are easily over 30 sweaters, 15 collared shirts, 20 pairs of pants, 40 t-shirts, 10 jackets, countless socks, every accessory I never needed, and we can’t forget about shoes (I have too many of those too). That’s just what I can remember; only the armoire knows what I forgot (hats!). Suffice it to say, I have too much clothing; something I never thought possible because I wear all my clothes and the holes in my shoes are the evidence to prove it. What can I say? I’m a consumer and I consume and collect clothing just like everyone else. Also, just like everyone else I don’t always think about what goes into my clothing, specifically who is making them and how they are made. I know who designed them and had them made, but where did they really come from?


Fashion is a notorious industry. It has come under fire for promoting unattainable beauty standards causing mental and physical health concerns in youth, allowing and profiting from animal cruelty, and for enslaving and endangering the lives of millions of labourers around the world; those countless socks are made from more than just cotton. Untangling the web of malice in the fashion industry is well beyond the scope of this blog but it is necessary to note that it still exists, there are still people dying to make our clothing. Companies still employ the use of sweatshops, or harsh and unsafe working conditions that provide no support to workers for little pay.


The idea of sweatshops, or “sweated labour”, came about in the 1800s when urbanization and the Industrial Revolution were taking shape in the Western world. New products and variety for things such as clothing were increasing in demand and so companies created factories to supply consumers with what they wanted. This drew people from the countryside to cities where they could get a job in a factory and earn a wage. However, this was also at a time when labour laws were almost nonexistent and so there was no protection for factory workers. Employers took advantage of the lack of regulations and created working conditions that lead to the death of many labourers. In addition, these labourers were paid by the piece, i.e. piecework, this means that the more items they produced in a day the more they earned that day and vice versa regardless of time spent. This was thought to promote employees to work harder, longer, and faster for little money and allow corporations to make a higher profit. As sweatshops evolved and labour laws stood stagnant the tension between labourers and employers began to spark.

One of the most horrendous revelations about sweatshops came to the surface in 1911 when a fire broke out in one of the Triangle Shirtwaist garment factories in New York City. The factory was located on the 8th, 9th, and 10th floor of the now Brown Building in Greenwich Village. When the fire began employees tried to flee the building but were stopped by a locked door, the only exit had been locked and was kept locked. This was a common practice in garment factories at the time to reduce unauthorized breaks and employee theft. 146 people, mostly young women, either burned to death behind a locked door or jumped out of the windows falling 8 stories until they met the stone road that lay beneath them. The Triangle Shirtwaist fire is cited as one of the worst industrial disasters in the United States and it ultimately lead to the villanization and progress to eliminating sweatshops in the West.

After the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, labour unions and work safety regulations began to take prominence. However, while labour laws came about to provide safety for workers and a fair wage, companies began looking elsewhere for cheap labour ultimately moving to Asia and South America. This globalization of the garment industry lead to a black market within the industry in the West with illegal sweatshops employing new immigrants and continuing the deplorable traditions of the past. This came about because contractors who hired garment workers would threaten to export their business unless they worked for less than the minimum wage and by the piece. In the end, the garment companies moved to Asia for cheap labour and the garment-production labour force in the West was depleted.

While sweatshops are thought to have died off in the West during the 1990s, they are still very much alive in countries such as India, China, Vietnam, and Bangladesh. These countries and their people are enslaved by the garment industry to provide the cheap labour to make our cute shoes and little black dresses. Garment factory workers in Asia face the same if not worse working conditions than the sweatshop workers of the past. This is evidenced by the string of fires and building collapses that plague garment factories, such as the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse near Dhaka, Bangladesh which killed over 1000 people. These people are being forced to work in appalling conditions for very little pay and for what? So that we can have another sweater to toss on the floor and a large corporation can add another 0 to the end of their balance sheet. Why is this happening? How did it ever get this far? The simple answer – because it was allowed to.

Fashion is a very tricky business. Consumers want clothing at an affordable price, companies want to make a profit, and garment workers want to earn a living. Unfortunately, all these variables don’t add up to a positive, someone will lose. To keep the price of clothing low for consumers companies hire foreign contractors to produce their clothing. These contractors pay their employees as little as possible so that the cost of the product stays low and profits stay high. Additionally, to keep production costs low contractors only go as far as meeting minimum standards, if that, for building standards and employee safety and training. Obviously these building and safety standards are too low if the factories are falling down. So why not just raise the minimum standards? If a contractor has to pay more to construct a building they will take the cost out of employee wages. Labourers in the majority world cannot afford to live at their current wages if they were reduced they would be even worse off. Additionally, there will always be another country that won’t require a factory to meet safety standards or they will be so low that it’s economical for the garment contractors to move their businesses as they did 40 years ago in the West. In addition, corruption within the garment industry and the governments who police them allow for contractors to get away with not meeting minimum standards. Garment workers are trapped because factories provide the highest wages for them and if the factories leave the workers’ livelihoods are at stake, not to mention the economic situation of the country. Countries like Bangladesh rely on the garment-production industry to keep their economy moving. So what can be done to save the lives of garment workers without sacrificing profits and consumer demand? I don’t have the answer and I doubt that there is a simple one. As I said fashion is a very tricky business. It’s too late to go backwards and it’s very difficult to start over, but something needs to change.


I must say that at the onset of this I did not intend to write about sweatshops. In fact I was going to promote the fashion program here at Ryerson, specifically the men’s show Fixate that ran on Friday November 27. However, I found myself in a strange position because I began to wonder about who makes our clothing. I am familiar with sweatshop work but only in theory. I have never had to sew a piece of clothing in a cramped room, with no natural light, no air-conditioning, no air, and behind a locked door so that I can feed my family. I truly hope I never have to and I truly hope that sweatshops one day become only a theory and not a reality.

If You’re Stressed Out and You Know it Clap Your Hands!

Stress can be difficult to define. Metabolically it causes our body to release hormones which affect our mood and cause inflammation which is damaging to our overall physical and mental health. Even that wasn’t much of a definition. Stress seems to have varying definitions as it affects individuals differently, some thrive on stress while others buckle from the pressure. Defining stress is as difficult as describing how it feels; exhausting, hungering, painful, tight, irritating, angering, and depressing give a bit of a range. I might not be able to give a good definition of stress, but it is certain that stress is not good for your body or mental wellbeing. Chronic stress is associated with most major diseases, such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer, and with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Research has found that depression and anxiety rates are high among university students and it is no surprise as exams and coursework can be very stressful. What is important for any student is to find a way to manage their stress and to cope with it. There are a plethora of stress management techniques but one that has been the most beneficial in my life is yoga.

Yoga has been found to be an effective stress and anxiety reliever. Studies comparing stress levels of yoga practitioners and non-yoga practitioners have found that stress and inflammation go down with yoga practice. There have even been studies where yoga is compared to other therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) which is a popular form of psychotherapy that works to change the way you think and act. These studies found that while the other therapies were effective, yoga seemed to bring about more and different positive effects. This is not to say that therapies should be stopped or replaced by yoga, but perhaps yoga should be included as part of the therapy. Looking at studies that are somewhat more relevant that involved undergraduate students, found that yoga helped with perceived stress and was found to raise mood and decrease anxiety; a tool that may be very helpful in the coming weeks.

Yoga is a time when your mind can fall away from work and studying and move internally to focus on your body. It’s funny how such a big part of our lives can be forgotten so quickly when we are forced to focus on something else; exams and assignments float away and the release of built up tension in your muscles smacks you in the face. In yoga you feel every shift in every muscle in your body, it is a very active form of movement even though it seems very passive from the outside. Yoga requires strength and endurance as you work to properly and energetically contort your body. The postures allow your muscles to stretch which is where the idea of the “release of tension” comes from. Not only is yoga or even just being active good for your body due to the physical release of stress, it also good for your mind.

Mental health studies have found that being active, including yoga practice, will raise mood. In the case of yoga this could be because it allows for meditation or personal reflection. Being able to reflect is paramount for personal growth; it is a major source of learning. When one can reflect on their actions and thoughts they can find out new things about their life and how they really feel. This may seem terrifying but it is extremely useful. When you have an unfiltered opinion of yourself it allows you to see who you are and what you think of yourself; it helps you to answer big questions like: am I happy? You don’t really need yoga to partake in personal reflection, but it does provide you with the time to do so and combing reflection with physical activity may help to clear your mind and allow for deeper thought.

Reflection is something we need in life and finding a way and the time can be difficult but it will be beneficial in the end. Figuring out who we are is a hard task and it takes a lifetime; it’s not something we decide in a day. Reflecting on our life choices as we make them will help us through the process of finding ourselves and will keep us grounded in reality. There is a lot of pressure on young people today to make big life choices in a small amount of time; it’s no wonder we’re all stressed out. Having to decide what you’re going to do with the rest of your life in four years is difficult. However, one thing to remember is that there is no law that stipulates you must decide your life trajectory right away or that you only have one shot in life; having more than one career is becoming normalized in Canadian society. Looking at myself and my friends, we certainly did not stick to plan A, some of us are on plan E already; it takes time to find what you want. Don’t be afraid to make the wrong the choice and try to avoid letting it stress you out, there’s always a plan B. Go after what you want in life and don’t be afraid to let that change, you don’t know where it might take you.

Ryerson has a Centre for Student Development and Counselling located in JOR-07c, where any student can go to receive counselling and learn more about mental health. If you have feelings of depression or need help managing your stress it would be advantageous to contact the centre. Additionally, if you are interested in trying yoga, Ryerson Moves is putting on free yoga classes (mats available) every day in SLC for the rest of November to combat end-of-term stress. For 40 minutes at varying times of day you can journey up the fifth floor of the SLC (room 508) and hopefully destress a little. If this is your first time trying yoga be sure to inform your instructor and tell them about any injuries you may have had. Yoga can be dangerous if not done properly, so if it doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t.

A Touch of Sugar

sugar-heartOn the 14th day of every November of every year the threat of diabetes is acknowledged by the world. In 1991, the International Diabetes Federation and the World Health Organization (WHO) designated November 14 as World Diabetes Day in response to rising counts of diabetes around the world. Diabetes has been mingling with the human population since as early as 1550BCE when Egyptian physicians made note of patients having excessive urine, which we now know to be a diagnostic factor in diabetes. Throughout history physicians came into contact with a disease that was described as being “the melting of flesh and limbs into urine”, showing another diagnostic factor – rapid weight loss. Some of these doctors even took to boiling the urine until it evaporated and found that what was left was a sweet granulated material that seemed to be sugar. It was discoveries like these that created the disease profile for diabetes as a condition that results in excess sugar in the blood because the body cannot absorb it. The physicians of humanities past had no idea what diabetes was but they knew it was deadly and they worked to discover more about it, as we continue to do today. From the 16th century onwards, various discoveries were made and treatments developed, but it was not until the 20th century that a very small but ingenious idea was conceived and a very important discovery made. This discovery was insulin and the fantastic work it does within the body. Along with this, diabetes was differentiated into two types, 1 and 2, type 1 being when insulin cannot be produced by the body and type 2 being when the red blood cells do not respond to the insulin being produced.


There is a very important Canadian connection to this story and that is Fredrick Banting. In the 20th century the idea that the pancreas was related to diabetes came about along with the idea that some kind of hormone was involved in the uptake of sugar in the blood. This discovery unfortunately came to our knowledge by way of the removal of pancreases from dogs; scientists found that these dogs developed diabetes. After insulin was found in the pancreases of these dogs, Fredrick Banting experimented with insulin he purified and tested it in humans at the University of Toronto. Banting’s experiment worked and thousands of people were able to live a much easier and longer life. Work continued on insulin and eventually synthetic human insulin was created and today millions of people can live with diabetes. However, this is part of the diabetes problem we face today, we know how the disease works and have an effective way to treat it but millions of people are living with this chronic condition that still greatly affects their quality of life. This is why every year we have World Diabetes Day, which just happens to be the same day as Fredrick Banting’s birthday, go figure.

intin7_diabetes-infographic_for-post_oct-17-2013Diabetes is one of the leading causes of death around the world today, the International Diabetes Foundation claims that every 7 seconds someone dies from diabetes. Additionally, WHO estimates that in 2012 1.5 million deaths were directly caused by diabetes and that in 2030 it will be the 7th leading cause of death worldwide. These statistics and projections are startling and what is even more worrisome is that the rates of type 2 diabetes are increasing in every country. Type 2 diabetes is a strange beast, even though we found an effective treatment for it and we know how to prevent it, it still hunts us. Why does type 2 diabetes continue to be a problem for humans? There is no simple answer to that question. Increasing world food prices resulting in the lack of accessibility to fresh and nutritious foods and the removal of physical activity from day-to-day living are just two of the hot-topic answers. Also, these are two of the hardest solutions to achieve on a global scale, let alone making insulin available to all individuals living with diabetes. Living in North America, we are already at somewhat of an advantage to preventing type 2 diabetes, even though North America has some of the highest diagnosis rates. However, North America is also where the most money is spent on healthcare for diabetes. This means that more people are being treated but it also means that more is being done to raise awareness and to prevent diabetes. Additionally, North America has the money and resources to develop policies that allow for healthy lifestyle changes in effect preventing or slowing the onset of diabetes, the problem is getting governments to accomplish this task. That is why grassroots organizations are so important.


Organizations such as Toronto’s own FoodShare, which I have written about previously, and their Mobile Good Food Market. This initiative brings fresh and affordable food to areas of Toronto that face economic hardship and lack accessibility to fresh food. More organizations and initiatives such as this one are needed to cage diabetes and ultimately many other diseases that come about in conjunction with it. Here at Ryerson we have the Good Food Centre as well as research accomplished by professors within in our Food and Nutrition program. It is a very large task to tackle diabetes across the world, but individuals can make a difference here in their own city and in their own lives. Adding physical activity back into your daily routine can be as simple as taking the stairs or finding a part of your day that makes you use your body. Why not eat an apple if you can, they don’t bite back. I am not saying solving or preventing diabetes is as simple as biting into an apple or walking up the stairs, but we need a place to start. I also understand and acknowledge the fact that there are people that cannot afford to buy an apple and in doing so I say to everyone make the best choices you can make, an accomplishment is still an accomplishment, big or small.


The Ryerson chapter of the Canadian Diabetes Association, the Planetary Health Commission, and Health Out Loud Ryerson are acknowledging World Diabetes Day this Friday and from 11am to 3pm on the SLC’s main floor there will be food, games, and contests where you can learn more about diabetes.

Murder on Campus

W1siZiIsIjIwODc4MSJdLFsicCIsImNvbnZlcnQiLCItcmVzaXplIDE0NDB4MTQ0MFx1MDAzRSJdXQA word of warning, if you don’t enjoy viewing photographs of gruesome murders then I suggest that you don’t poke your head into the new Weegee exhibition at the Image Centre. However, if you can stomach it I sincerely recommended a visit before December 13. Weegee, or Usher Felig (1899-1968) was the self-proclaimed photographer of murder in New York City between 1935 and 1946 and given what’s on exhibition he certainly paints a foreboding portrait of New York at night. Weegee made a living photographing murders for tabloids and giving New Yorkers the untainted eye of murder that went on every night in their city. With a click and a flash Weegee illuminated the blood and flesh that stained the streets of New York and he is recognized for changing the landscape of photojournalism and capturing emotion that still comes through his photos today.

W1siZiIsIjE3NjAiXSxbInAiLCJjb252ZXJ0IiwiLXJlc2l6ZSAxNDQweDE0NDBcdTAwM0UiXV0 W1siZiIsIjIxMTg5NCJdLFsicCIsImNvbnZlcnQiLCItcmVzaXplIDUxMng1MTJcdTAwM0UiXV0Weegee immigrated to American from Austria in 1909 and was the son of a peddler. He, like many immigrants at that time, took strides to fashion himself into “someone” and to do so taught himself to be a photographer. Weegee had many jobs around photography, but in 1936 he became a freelance photographer and gained quick recognition for his crime scene photography. Weegee was profiled in many magazines and upon success began to expand his work outside of crime. Weegee photographed urban life and desired to show the chaos of cities. Beyond that, Weegee shot celebrities and became a celebrity in his own right, as it seems he had been yearning to be. Even Weegee’s signature presented this lust for fame, literally – Weegee the Famous was on the back of every photograph he took.

W1siZiIsIjIxMDI2OCJdLFsicCIsImNvbnZlcnQiLCItcmVzaXplIDE0NDB4MTQ0MFx1MDAzRSJdXQWeegee’s work developed from what was considered the lowest form of journalism, tabloids, into art. While not considered high art, Weegee’s work does deserve the title of art. Weegee used photos for their mass communication purposes but he also made them into serious art pieces. Weegee’s work was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in the 1940’s, he published two books containing his photos, one of which, Naked City (1945), was a critical and financial success and is viewable at the Image Centre as part of the current exhibition. Weegee took the city at nighttime and captured it on film in such a way as to expose the raw subjects for who they were and what was really going on in the city. Weegee also worked during the day; there is a series of photos depicting Coney Island in summer in which he contrasts the harsh realities of Depression era New York and the utopia that is the beach in summer. In addition, Weegee experimented with photography by using trick lenses to distort and manipulate the images as well as infrared and flash. He used these tools in his celebrity photography to expose or exaggerate the imperfections of the subjects that were always presented as perfect.

138298_2501646Weegee’s photographs can make you cringe and they can make you cry. Seeing pain even through a photograph from over 70 years ago hurts. However, I believe we need to see these things; they give perspective and disillusionment, which is important in life. Life isn’t an ongoing bake sale, not for everyone anyway, and being able to understand that helps people grow. Beyond that, generating those feelings is what I feel transforms Weegee’s work into art. Photos on a basic level can communicate something to the viewer. Photos tell the story of whatever the subject is; our eyes consume the story and our brain fills in the blanks. A photo of a dead body can tell you the story of the victim but it can also illicit feelings of pain and grief that may not come depending on the photographer’s eye. Weegee used his eye to tell the story of New York City, whether it was murder, sex work, parties, poverty, fame, and everything that goes bump in the night. He also brought these themes to life, they weren’t just photographs, they were emotion and they were life. Weegee achieved his fame and in doing so exposed us all to a city at night, full of secretes and desires that are forever captured through the click of his shutter and exposed in the harsh artificial light of his flash.

A Halloween Wish

DSCN1398“How was it?”


Over a thousand years ago when the Celtic people roamed throughout what we call Europe, a tradition we know as Halloween was born. The Celts broke up their year into four pieces as we do to this day with the seasons. The first day of winter for the Celts lines up with November 1 on our calendar and on this day they celebrated the end of the harvest with the festival of Samhain. On Samhain the ghosts of the dead were able to wander with the living. The Celts would leave offerings of food and drink for the dead, and celebrate the festival with bonfires, games, and the carving of vegetables; sound familiar? As time rolled on, other religions began to take form and dominate the culture of Europe. Christian missionaries began to venture out into Europe trying to convert the “Barbarians” including the Celts.  The Christians made it a habit of theirs to take the festivals of the people they were converting and change the meanings to ones of more Christian values. With that the Christians took Samhain and made it All Saints Day which is still celebrated on November 1. However, as we know today the Celtic festival of Samhain was too important and ingrained into the people that it could not be entirely destroyed by the Christians. Even though the festival of Samhain has changed and become our Halloween, the idea of celebrating death and the dead is still here with us thanks to the Celts.


The original festival of Samhain did not have a focus of evil and the macabre, that was created by the Christians because they believed the gods and spirits of the Celts to be demons and devils. The focus of Halloween is now evil and most importantly getting scared, which I do quite easily, but I remid myself that it’s just a bunch of hocus pocus and then I check under my bed of course. On October 29 I was absolutely terrified thanks to the Ryerson chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, known as Students for Wishes, at their annual haunted house. After running and screaming blindly in the dark, damp, and dingy basement of a dilapidated house on St. George street, with monsters and ghosts creepily stalking and increasing my heart rate, I learned about the foundation. The Make-A-Wish  Foundation has been granting the wishes of terminally ill children for over 30 years beginning in Phoenix, Arizona with the granting of Christopher James Greicius’s wish to become a police officer. In 1983 the Make-A-Wish  Foundation came to Canada thanks to Nigel Brown and Robb Lucy from British Columbia who personally made the wish of a girl named Debbie come true. Since then, chapters of the Make-A-Wish  Foundation have been established all over Canada including student run chapters at Ryerson and the University of Toronto.


Students for Wishes is a fundraising arm for the Make-A-Wish  Foundation at  post-secondary schools. The Ryerson chapter has been in operation for the past three years and every October they put together a terrifically terrifying haunted house in partnership with the University of Toronto chapter. Students for Wishes has the same goal as the Make-A-Wish  Foundation in that they operate to fundraise money so that the wishes of more children can be granted. At Ryerson specifically, Students for Wishes wants to raise $10,000 by the end of the upcoming winter semester. The haunted house was just one of their major events, the next is their Hairaser which is another opportunity to contribute to their cause and get a haircut. On February 4 from 1:30pm to 4:30pm in Cara Commons which is on the 7th floor of the Ted Rogers building, Students for Wishes will be hosting Hairaser where for just $10 (for guys) or $15 (for girls) you can get your hair cut or for $5 have it styled or dyed blue to show your support for the association and all the good work they do. The hair will also be collected and donated to Continental Hair Toronto in support of their wigs for kids program. For all of the events Students for Wishes hosts they donate 100% of the money they collect to the Make-A-Wish  Foundation of Canada. If you are interested in volunteering or becoming a member of Students for Wishes you can contact them through their website, Students for Wishes Ryerson University.


I was not aware of the Student for Wishes association at Ryerson and I am very happy to know that they do exist and are working to make children’s wishes come true. It is devastating to think of children who may not have the opportunities that we have all had and knowing that they have the chance for one of their wishes to come true is warming. Halloween is my favorite time of year and Students for Wishes has made it even better, a day that is full of evil has become a little less terrifying and even more full of magic with the knowledge that life does not have to be like Halloween. Evil doesn’t run rampant in our streets, there is goodness in our streets too, you simply have to look for it sometimes.

In Conversation with Stephen Lewis

Human immunodeficiency virus, or more commonly HIV, is a deadly and destructive infection that has plagued our world from, potentially, the late 1800s onward. Researchers believe that HIV can be traced to a type of chimpanzee in West Africa and that contact with their blood through hunting is what allowed the virus to enter the human population. HIV and AIDS came to North America in the mid 1970s and in 1981 appeared on the global medical radar when the level of infection was out of control and the pandemic and pandemonium began. As fear of this unknown killer virus spread through the Western world people began to look for answers, solutions, and wrongly, someone to blame. The scapegoat for HIV and AIDS in the 1980s and into today has been homosexual men as this was a major population the virus infected, while this was entirely false the discrimination still exists and is still stigmatizing. In reality, there are several risky behaviours that put someone at risk for infection with HIV. Also, transmission occurs because the individuals partaking in these behaviours are unaware that they are infected with the virus or that the people they are engaging with are. Unfortunately, the spread of HIV is only one of the problems in this discussion, the treatment of HIV and AIDS and the funding required are an entirely separate demon. This is merely an introduction to one of the most controversial and unsettling discussions our world has had and will continue to have as the fight against HIV and AIDS goes on.   


This past Wednesday evening I had the pleasure of attending one of the Stephen Lewis conversations, which is an ongoing series of discussions put on by the Faculty of Community Services and Ryerson University in collaboration with the Planetary Health Commission. The discussion, co-hosted by Dr. Alan Whiteside, was on the AIDS pandemic and where we are now in its development. Stephen Lewis is currently a professor of distinction at Ryerson and at one time was the leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF, Commissioner on the Global Commission on HIV, Board Member of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, and the co-founder of the Stephen Lewis Foundation which works with community-based organizations in Africa that are trying to end HIV and AIDS. Dr. Alan Whiteside is an internationally recognized academic and AIDS researcher, he is the co-author of numerous articles and books regarding AIDS, and he established and is the executive director of the Health Economics and HIV/AIDS Research Division at the University of Natal in South Africa. These are two very short biographies of two very remarkable men who exposed some of the truths of this horrible disease to the world and continue to do so. Both Stephen Lewis and Dr. Alan Whiteside focus their HIV and AIDS work in Southern Africa where the virus is still rampant and where their discussion on Wednesday was localized. I will try to relate what was discussed so as to provide a better understanding for those who could not attend.  


It is important to note that the vocabulary in health has changed; we say that people are living with HIV and yes that’s true in Canada, there are people living with HIV because they have access to medicine and can remain on that medicine. However, this vocabulary is not necessarily applicable to Southern Africa where people are dying from HIV, where it is still a threat as it once was in Canada. It is believed that HIV has killed over 30 million people since 1981, and that 2 million people are infected annually. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) 1.2 million people died from AIDS-related causes in 2014. HIV is a virus that we know how to prevent and control, and yet there are at least 6 million people infected with HIV in Southern Africa and 400,000 new infections every year. What is going wrong? Why is it that we have the answers but still haven’t solved the problem?


Looking at prevention, there are some very easy ways to slow the spread of HIV. As mentioned above there are certain risky behaviours that put us at an increased risk for HIV infection, these are most commonly having unprotected sex and sharing infected needles. The reason men who have sex with men (MSM) are more readily infected is that HIV is taken up by the body more easily during anal intercourse rather than vaginal. With the added dangers of not using a condom it is more than likely that an untreated individual with HIV will spread the virus to their partner. Unfortunately, the homophobia that is endemic to Africa does not help. Homosexuality is illegal in some African countries. Homosexuals are driven underground and fear death if they are outed, which makes access to medication even more difficult. Another risky behaviour is sharing needles with infected drug users. When intravenous drug users (IDU) shoot up, their blood enters the needle and is then passed on to the next user thus spreading HIV. IDUs have the highest risk of infection as they have direct blood to blood contact with HIV, this makes transmission extremely easy and the virus can spread throughout the community and beyond fairly quickly. One solution to this problem is safe injection sites, such as the Insite in Vancouver, which provides a clean space as well as equipment and medical staff to ensure that IDUs are safe while they are injecting themselves. It may seem odd to help someone inject themselves with illegal drugs that harm them, but these people are suffering from an addiction and still have the right to health. After all, they are still human and if they are going to use drugs we can at least make sure they are doing so safely and negating the spread of disease and avoiding potentially deadly overdoses.


Other at risk groups are sex workers, if they are having unprotected sex, and most notably women. In Southern Africa women are the population with the highest infection rates of HIV. The reason women have such high infection rates is because they face sexual violence. Women are often raped and abused sexually and this is the gateway for their infection. These women then have children and pass the infection onto their offspring, who will not live a long or enjoyable life if not given medication. Within the infected female population in Southern Africa, teenage girls have the highest rates of infection; they have 8 times the level of infection compared to boys in the same age group (15-18), again due to sexual violence. This is an at risk population that does not have an easy solution. How do you stop girls from being raped? Unfortunately, I don’t know the answer but I do know that if these girls are given medication and resources they can stop the spread of HIV to their children and other sexual partners and live a much better and longer life. If medication is the answer to this problem and we have the medication, then why is the disease still spreading. The answer is simply that these people are not getting the medication. They belong to stigmatized and oppressed groups that no one cares to think about and often are left to die. HIV infection is in itself a stigmatizing factor in Africa; add in the fact that you are a homosexual, a drug user, a sex worker, or a woman and people stop caring whether you live or die. Aside from the oppression that keeps people from their medication, there are rumblings that global AIDS funding given to African governments keeps disappearing after it is given out.


Corruption within African governments is not a new phenomena and it doesn’t seem to be going away. Both Stephen Lewis and Alan Whiteside commented on the way Southern African countries are run by their kings and while the King of Swaziland has a jet his people can’t seem to find their HIV medication. There are billions of dollars raised and donated to AIDS funds every year and for some reason the grassroots organizations in Southern Africa aren’t seeing this money. Where is it going? The United Nations (UN) stipulates that global AIDS funding needs to be distributed through HIV and AIDS committees which give the money to governments and presumably health departments to be used for medication, education, and the spread of resources so that infected individuals can live. However, people are still dying and being infected and kings are buying jets. Of course, some people in Africa are getting medication but money is still evaporating. The only way to determine where this money is going and to make sure it is going to the right places is through auditing. Neither Mr. Lewis or Dr. Whiteside knew why these governments are not being audited. What makes this reality even more terrifying is that AIDS funding is beginning to flatline globally. While the global funding is not going down very much it is not getting any higher and there is a risk of it beginning to diminish. Countries are slowly stagnating with their funding, such as the Netherlands which cut its AIDS funding by 1 billion Euros. Additionally, at the UN the funding for communicable diseases is starting to be targeted by non-communicable diseases as they begin to take a stronger chokehold on global populations. The funding pie is now being sliced for more diseases and more causes and this means that eventually HIV and AIDS will begin to lose funding. This leads into a much larger ethical discussion that is beyond my scope, but I will leave you with a question: how do you decide which diseases need more funding, how do you decide the cost of human life?


Dr. Whiteside did have one suggestion for the issue of AIDS funding and it was to be smarter about the way researchers and organizations go about asking for money and how it is spent. Dr. Whiteside was explicit in that governments should be responsible for the health of their constituents and that non-government organizations (NGO) should be there to pick up the pieces and to remind governments of the diseases that are being forgotten. Unfortunately, this is not the case in Africa at the moment. The grassroots organizations are the ones providing health to the people of Africa and the money is going to the government. So one solution is to get the money to the organizations on the ground and skip the corrupt kings and health ministers. How this will be done still needs to be determined.    


In our society we don’t always think about the threat of AIDS. However, prevention is shockingly simple and that’s probably the more devastating side of this story. A simple condom or having access to safe and clean injection sites- in essence having harm reduction policies in place will protect us. HIV and AIDS have been devastating our world for over 30 years and they are not going away unless everyone takes the responsibility to be safe. Behaviour change is difficult and it takes time but isn’t it worth it? Isn’t your life worth wearing a condom?


HIV and AIDS are two topics that require lengthy conversation and attention and that is why I will be writing about them again in another post on December 1, World AIDS Day. In the meantime, to learn more about HIV/AIDS visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, UNAIDS, the Stephen Lewis Foundation, and the World Health Organization. One last side note, free condoms and lube are available at the Student Centre, as well as at Ryerson’s Medical Clinic (KHW 181). Outside of Ryerson but still close to campus there is the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation at Sherbourne and Gerrard and the Hassle Free Clinic at Church and Gerrard (above Starbucks) where free medical testing is also available.