Soup and Substance: Ryerson’s Campus Climate

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On February 23rd, I had the pleasure of sitting on a panel for the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion’s Soup and Substance.  The event discussed campus climate in relation to events both on and off campus, centering the voices and experiences of students.

The panel consisted of 6 students with diverse identities but with the common experience of a hostile and unsafe campus climate at times.  Student groups represented on the panel included: The Trans Collective, Muslim Students’ Association, Indigenous Students’ Association, Feminist Collective and Students Supporting Israel.  There was also a student present who spoke about the experience of having a disability on campus.  Before I go any further, I would like to point out that this selection of student groups did not contribute to a safe space for all students to attend and to participate in the panel.

In my representation of the Feminist Collective, I spoke broadly about the structures of misogyny and sexism, and how those have played out for our members this year.  The events I chose to focus on were the threats against women, feminists and specific departments at the University of Toronto in the fall and the visible emergence of a Men’s Issues group at Ryerson.  I spoke about how these events impacted our collective in general terms with a few specific examples of the harassment we experienced.  While I did not use “I” statements, I’m really glad that fellow panellists did as it demonstrated the ways individual interactions contribute to an unsafe campus climate for students.

In discussions about social justice, both on and off campus, we often discuss the structural nature of individual experiences.  We discuss how addressing racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, Islamaphobia, anti-Semitism, etc. at structural and institutional levels will impact individual experiences.  Many solutions to social injustice are based in eradicating these systems of oppression at systemic levels, as they should be, but this panel reminded me that all of these systems live in individuals.  With that being said, one of the ways we can create a safer campus climate is addressing the individual actions of students and faculty.

While the eradication of oppression needs to happen at a systemic level, there are very simple things individuals can do to change students’ experiences of campus climate.  Eradicating systems of oppression are long and hard-fought battles that will continue beyond our time at Ryerson; I commend all student activists who are fighting to address the heart of the matter which is systems of oppressions entwined in institutions.  Ryerson does not have a shortage of these activists, but if we want to see an improvement of student experience, individuals need to do some reflection and change their behaviours.  During the panel, I heard students share heartbreaking stories of their experiences on campus that ultimately reflect the individual choices of students and faculty in how they will interact with students.

Students with service dogs are being told to leave because their dog is scaring people; students without disabilities are taking the accessible seating in lecture halls and when asked to move, claim they got there first; trans students are being harassed for the clothing they wear and are concerned for their safety when they wear what they want; professors are using incorrect pronouns despite being told of the pronouns individual trans students use; students are being spit on and harassed while holding an event on campus; students with disabilities are being told to use the stairs to access the Student Learning Centre; students with disabilities that impact their vision are being told their eyes are scary; women who wear the hijab are being harassed on their way to class.  This is just a few examples.

All of these experiences which impact campus climate and a sense of safety at Ryerson are the result of individual actions.  While micro and macro manifestations of oppression are inherently related, one can change their individual actions.  Everything I described above manifests from the actions of individual people in the Ryerson community and they can change their actions at any time.

While the eradication of systems of oppression at institutional levels and the liberation of peoples affected by those systems is crucial, we can’t wait for widespread change.  Current students are unsafe now and they are impacted daily by the violence I described above.  A partial solution to a safer school climate lives within the individuals who hold privilege and attend/ work at Ryerson.  Those that hold privilege based on race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, religion, ability, etc., are making this school unsafe through individual actions.  This is violent, unacceptable and we need to do better as a community at Ryerson.

My Way of Seeing

One of my favourite places on campus is the Image Centre (RIC). Without fail there is always a new exhibit I want to see and since it’s right on campus and free I have no reason not to. There are currently five exhibitions at the RIC all of different sizes and all providing a unique story and experience. Among them is the current rotation of From the Collection which is a rotating display highlighting works from the RIC’s permanent collection. The current display is photographs by Elaine Ling from her latest book Talking Stones: A Photographic Sojourn. Ling is a Toronto-based photographer who on her many far and wide travels has documented ancient stone formations, fragmented statuary figures, giant historic trees, abandoned architectural structures, and indigenous families and groups.

Half Man Stone #56 by Elaine Ling

Ling aims to capture the persistent dialogue between the past and present through her camera lens. Traveling through the deserts of Asia and Africa Ling encounters the remnants of forgotten cultures and the flourishing new beginnings of others. This display was of extreme interest to me as it shows the lives that came before us. My love of history takes over sometimes and distracts me from my studies for hours. Ling’s photographs show what ancient cultures built out of their environment; how they marked their existence and preserved their history which to us is a mystery. We can study ancient cultures and read what they left behind but we will never really understand or know them. I think that is what I find so fascinating about history. When do people change, how do we “forget” where we came from? History is like a giant puzzle that keeps getting new pieces added to it and one that we will never finish putting together. Ling’s photographs give us a look into the lives of ancient people, a couple of puzzle pieces we can admire and wonder about and allow ourselves to be mesmerized by. I believe that history talks to us, it unravels its yarn for those who give it a pull. The subjects of Ling’s photographs are telling us a story, their story, if only we could hear it. That’s the fun part of history, wondering what all those stories are, sweeping the sand away from a buried life to reveal its mystery.

Angkor Stones #8 by Elaine Ling

Another mystery that is perhaps even less tangible than history but just as distracting to humans is the sky. What lurks in the dark corners of our universe and beyond? The New Media Wall at the RIC explores our skies with a newly commissioned video by Canadian filmmaker Izabella Pruska-Oldenhof. The Relics of Lumen is a collection of images taken of our night skies by NASA and from Ryerson’s Black Star Collection weaved together with images of people in transit. Pruska-Oldenhof creates an immersive environment of mosaics and composite collages that explore the displacement of people to celestial passages through space. It is interesting to think about how something that surrounds us, that provides us with life, and controls everything in our environment is so far away and enigmatic. I wonder how our lives would be different if we had a total understanding of what’s beyond the clouds. Would it change us as humans to understand one of the biggest mysteries in our world?

Untitled by Unknown photographer, NASA Agency

Continuing with this exploration into the unknown is Canadian artist Spring Hurlbut’s Airborne. This is a video that examines mortality and the physical presence of death. This silent film captures the slow motion release of cremated remains entrusted to Hurlbut by the relatives of six deceased individuals, including Hurlbut’s father. This was an experience I have never had before and one that touched me in such a way that I had to return to the exhibit on a different day to watch it again. Sitting in a dark room watching the remains of different people who I have never met swirl and snake around the black backdrop as they disperse and diffuse into the air, returning to the dust we all come from, was very powerful. The hypnotic dance that each case of ashes presents allows you to reflect on what is left of us after death, what our existence consists of when our physical presence is just a pile of ashes. This piece explores the ideas of mourning, loss, the essence of being, and the relationship between the animate and inanimate. Airborne also offers a space for us to contemplate ourselves, the soft smoky loops and coils of the ashes mimic the twists and turns we take throughout life. We do not know where our dust will fall as we float through the air, immersing and dispersing into others and ourselves, being carried off by the wind. Each unique path the remains take as they drift into the atmosphere mirrors the inimitable paths our own lives take. We do not know where our paths will lead us or where we go once our physical existence is merely ashes in the wind but that’s the best part of life, the unknown.

Marie Baratte by Wendy Snyder Macneil

Moving to the largest exhibit currently at the RIC, The Light Inside, showcases the work of Wendy Snyder Macneil whose archive from as early as the 1970s is housed at the RIC. Macneil’s photographs and films spanning throughout her career from her beginnings with the Boston Haymarket to her transition from photography to film is the subject of this exhibit. Of particular interest is Macneil’s Hands series. Macneil captures the hands of individuals as portraits. Shifting away from conventional portraiture Macneil uses hands to reveal the lives, identities, and “face” of her subjects. Our hands are very intriguing, they reveal a lot about us and even show familial similarities. We can trace our life on our hands and watch growth and deterioration. Take a look at your hands, what do you see?

Andrew Ruvido and Robyn Wessner by Wendy Snyder Macneil

The final exhibit currently at the RIC is Ways of Seeing: Building the RIC Collection which chronicles the evolution of the RIC from its beginnings as a slide library to an internationally respected exhibition and research facility. Curated by second year masters students in the Film and Photography Preservation and Collections Management Program at Ryerson this exhibit showcases objects in their acquisition order to exemplify how the RIC photography collection has grown and by extension how photography has evolved over the last 50 years. This exhibit digs into the past of photography and the vast array of subjects and styles that are exploited by one form of art. Though this is a small exhibit it can take quite long to walk through as there several striking images that grab you and don’t want to let go. This exhibit also provides a bit of a treat as the RIC’s collection of slides are available for taking. The massive slide collection has become obsolete so the RIC is giving them away, I scooped up a Cézanne and Monet and now I just need to find a slide projector.

Untitled by Stephen Livick

Leopard, Usti, Czechoslovakia by Volker Seding

Ways of Seeing: Building the RIC Collection

Untitled by Frantisek Drtikol

After spending two afternoons exploring the RIC and contemplating all the different art and life I was being exposed to I came to a conclusion I don’t think I have ever really considered before. It’s terrifying to be in the dark, not understanding or knowing your surroundings and having to guess your every move with a bit of fear in your step. However, if you give your eyes time to adjust your vision will return and you can make your way. Life really depends on our way of seeing. How we see ourselves, others, or the world. Our way of seeing influences what we see. How do you see?

2nd Annual Nursing Networking Night: From Graduation to Occupation

On Monday. February 22, 2016 – 6pm – 9pm – I had the opportunity to attend the second annual Nursing Network Night at Ryerson University – “From Graduation to Occupation”, hosted by the Nursing Course Union and Canadian Nursing Students Association (NCU-CNSA). This event began last year as a way to engage nursing students at Ryerson to be more involved, engaged, and take initiative in their career and professional development. It turned out to be highly successful in 2015 and garnered a lot of positive feedback from attendees. So this year, they announced their second event in order to continue encouraging nursing students at Ryerson to facilitate a smooth transition from graduation to occupation.

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The evening began with a few words of welcome from representatives from both NCU and CNSA. Then we jumped straight into a few words from a representative at Ryerson’s Career Centre, who shed some light on the basics of Networking. She was able to teach us the ins and outs of the process of networking – the do’s and don’ts, and the how to’s. She was also there to advocate and speak for the resource available on campus that is Ryerson’s Career Centre. The Career Centre is a highly valuable resource for Ryerson Students when in the pursuit if a job or to help facilitate an easier transition post-graduation to work and career life. They help students with things like making the ideal cover letter and resume, building your LinkedIn profile, interview tips and practice, etc. If you’re ever in need for great ways to build and improve your professional self, you can find Ryerson’s Career Centre at POD60 (located just below The Hub).

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After the presentation from Ryerson’s Career Centre, a couple of speakers who were Ryerson Nursing Alumni, spoke about their own personal stories and their journeys. They shed some light and inspiration as they talked about the different ways in which they were able to reach their goals of becoming an registered nurse (RN). This portion of the evening was especially helpful for the nursing student attendees as we were able to truly relate to these alumni, knowing that not too long ago, they, too, were in the same situation that we currently are in. Their stories of their journeys were captivating, motivating, and inspiring. It truly highlighted how personal the process is of becoming an RN and how nursing students can better prepare themselves for not just a job, but a long-lasting and fulfilling career.

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After the presentation from the alumni speakers, the evening moved forward to the dinner, graciously supplied by Chipotle.

After dinner was the highlight of the night: the Q&A panel. NCU-CNSA was able to get nursing managers from the major hospitals in the downtown to represent each hospital organization, and answer any questions we may have. The nursing managers and representatives came from Michael Garron Hospital (formerly known as TEGH – Toronto East General Hospital), UHN (University Health Network – comprised of Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, Toronto General Hospital, Toronto Western Hospital, and Princess Margaret Cancer Centre), and The Hospital for Sick Children. The line up of panellists truly excited the nursing students in the room – the majority of whom eager to work for such established and world-renowned organizations. The Q&A panel was the opportunity of the night to ask any and every question running through every nursing student’s mind.

“What is the ideal candidate for you?”

“What kinds of people do you prefer to hire – internal or external applicants?”

“What are the different kinds of interviews you conduct?”

“Do you hire applicants prior to completion of graduation and/or NCLEX examination?”

“How do you build a strong mentor relationship?”

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Needless to say, the Q&A of highly experienced registered nurses in executive positions within the most renowned hospitals in the country, did nothing short of answering each questions with clarity and efficiency. Not only did they answer questions well to the highest degree, they also offered valuable insight and advice as to how to begin your career as an RN. They were more than generous with their time and their thoughts on how to transition from a nursing student, graduate nursing student, to RN. The panellists were gracious and true role models for each nursing student attendee in the room.

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The night was a great success, as anticipated! Everything went smoothly, all in attendance enjoyed themselves, and nursing students were able to connect with their peers and their prospective employers. We learned how to market ourselves in the health care industry, how to appeal to employers and organizations, and how to prepare ourselves for the near future.

Reading Week Aftermath

As the last bit of your reading week comes to a close, you begin to wonder what you actually accomplished this break. So before you let the guilt and dread sink in, let me reassure you that you will be okay. Yea you could tell yourself that you could have done better and that you should have known better. But really, you knew better and chose to ignore that little voice in your head that told you to work. So I am here to give you a quick list of sure fire ways to get you on the right track. Now, I’m no guru – yet – but I have been practicing what I preach and so far, it’s going pretty well.

1. Make Your Bed.
Yes your mom has been telling you this for years but there is real logic to this! I cannot state it better than the U.S Navy Adm. William H. McRaven who said in his speech to the University of Texas,

“If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another. And by the end of the day that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed”.

Also BuzzFeed never lies.

2. Dress for Success
Success means something different for everyone. If it means sweatpants, a 3 piece suite or a onesie than go for it. But generally, dressing like an “adult” makes you act like an adult. For me, it’s a pair of jeans that an “adult” gave to me and a plaid shirt which means business. Research has been done to prove this overused phrase so you can train you body to believe it too.

This also includes not dressing at all. When you want to succeed in getting a good night’s sleep, research suggests sleeping naked is the way to go. Now semi-nude is my preference but it’s important to find yours so you can get the most out of your beauty sleep.

3. Don’t Forget Your Squad
After a week of socializing you might want to cut everyone off. And while I am extremely guilty of this, it does more harm than good. By cutting people off, we are at a higher risk of burning ourselves out. Our mind and body can only handle so much sitting, writing, typing and re-writing. So depending on how behind you are, try to maintain a balance. Learn to separate your friends from those you can get work done with, from those you cannot. Group studying/work sessions are a tried and true method and although they don’t work for everyone, they make you realize that everyone is on the same boat. So if it isn’t studying with friends, it’s grabbing a bite to eat with them or playing games – tag used to be all the rage back in the day.

4. Get Your Heart Pumping
Sleep schedule a hot mess? Can’t stop thinking once you get to bed? In the height of guilt and dread from not getting our work done, we spend more time worrying than doing. So if you find yourself unable to focus and relaying the same thing again and again in your head, then go for a walk. A walk to the fridge is one of my all time favourite activities. In it I get exercise, adventure, nutrition and appreciation.

5. Realize You’re Human

“I am a human being, and thus nothing human is alien to me”- Terentius Lucanus

This is one my favorite quotes and it was introduced to me by Dr.Maya Angelou in her recording of I Am Human. I highly suggest listening to her yourself. In it she explains the quote very eloquently and makes you realize you can achieve greatness. Think of someone you idealize, or want to be like. Now, realize you have in you the same components as they do. If you know your biology and human history, it isn’t a far fetched idea. Genetically, we aren’t very different. Rather, it is our genetic codes that are turned on or off or non-existent or in a different place that make use unique. These codes can be turned on or off due to many factors so technically, yes, I have in me the same components as Drake and I too can go from being an underdog to the 6 God in my field. So can you.

So my point is simple. You are at a time in your life where the little things count. The little things, truly depending on your program, can make or break you. So don’t let them break you. Strive for greatness because it is achievable. It has been done countless times before you, and will continue to happen around you and after you.

“If you can’t do the little things right, you’ll never be able to do the big things right. And if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made — that you made. And a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better” – U.S Navy Adm. William H. McRaven

If nothing else works, remember Jeb Bush. Just a simple twitter search of his name will show you how he epically failed in the U.S elections. After 2 generations of his family being Presidents of the United States, his story would have made it a trilogy. Luckily, the trilogy ended humorously

Black History Month Spotlight: Maryann Elizabeth Francis

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As we continue to celebrate Black History Month, this week, we focus the spotlight on another strong Black Canadian female figure. Mayann Elizabeth Francis was born in Sydney, Nova Scotia and came from parents who hailed from Cuba (her father) and Antigua (her mother). She had strong roots in the church, being brought up and raised surrounded by strong religious influences, especially due to the fact that her father was the archpriest of the African Orthodox Church.

Mayann Elizabeth grew up in a diverse neighbourhood of Nova Scotia, yet, despite the apparent diversity of her community, there were still quite prominent issues of racial discrimination and inequality occurring in various communities surrounding her. Mayann was made aware at quite a young age of the segregation and racial disparities that were occurring in her community, and in communities across the country. She knew that she wanted to be a part of the social justice movements that would work to abolish racial segregation and discrimination on Canada, and was compelled to do her part to affect change in some way. So Maryann pursued higher education at St. Mary’s University, graduating in 1972 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. Following her undergraduate education, she took a job for the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.

Shortly after her experience with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, she moved to the United States, where she lived for 16 years. In those 16 years, Maryann was able to earn her Master of Arts degree, in 1984, with a specialization in Public Administration from New York University. She used her Masters degree to build a career with a focus on personnel and labour relations issues, issues that influence the quality of people’s lives, and issues that seek to be rectified through public bodies. This was in strong part due to her upbringing in an unstable racial climate in Nova Scotia, where racial segregation and discrimination were very real realities with which she experienced.

After 16 years in the United States, returned back to Canada and settled in the province of Ontario. There, she worked as an assistant deputy minister with the Ontario Women’s Directorate. Shortly after, she became the Director of the same organization. After her experience with the Ontario Women’s Directorate, she decided to return to her roots and pursue her career with the Nova Scotia human Right Commission. There, she became to Chief Executive Officer.

Mayann’s work to bring about social justice and equality within society was widely recognized both nationally and internationally. She received the Harry Jerome Award from the Black Business and Professional Association, the Multicultural Education Council of Nova Scotia Award, and the Golden Jubilee Medla. Furthermore, she is the first woman ombudsman, black or white, of Nova Scotia. She moved on to become the lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia in 2006. She is also the first Black Nova Scotian, man or woman, and the second Black Canadian to hold this position.

Her extensive experience in various senior public service positions is in large part due to her experience with racism and segregation. As a Black woman during a time where segregation was the everyday reality for all people in the United States and in Canada, Mayann Elizabeth knew first-hand what it was like to be discriminated and judged for reasons beyond control. She understood what social injustice and inequality felt like from a victim’s point of view. These horrible experiences inspired Maryann to live a life of public advocacy; live a life and build a career built on the principles of social justice and equality. To this day, she remains a largely influential and historical figure of Canadian history through her work in affecting change with regards to racial discrimination, segregation, and racial inequality.

Resources:

http://www.blackhistorycanada.ca/profiles.php?themeid=20&id=17

http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/en/article/mayann-elizabeth-francis/

http://www.cbc.ca/informationmorningcb/2009/10/mayann-francis.html

Pack the Court: No Silence on Sexual Violence

Supporters, including Mandi, outside Old City Hall during the Ghomeshi trial.

On February 1st, young feminists descended on Old City Hall in various shades of pink clothing and lipstick to attend a sexual assault trial.  We weren’t there for the Ghomeshi trial; we were there for the Ururyar trial.  We were there to support our friend and fellow activist, Mandi Gray, as she testified against Mustafa Ururyar.

The first three days of the trial were filled with rape myth-based motions, blatant victim blaming and parallels being drawn between what was happening one floor below in the Ghomeshi trial and what we saw in the courtroom we sat in.  Following three days, half of which Mandi was on the stand under cross-examination, the trial as put off until April to review new evidence.  After watching Mandi testify, she is no doubt the toughest person I know; the defense lawyer in this case has attacked her character and self esteem throughout the entire cross-examination.

Catherine Porter of the Toronto Star was present and covered what has happened in the trial thus far:
http://www.thestar.com/news/insight/2016/02/07/the-sex-assault-trial-one-floor-above-ghomeshi-porter.html

Porter wrote, “there was a line up outside this courtroom too- not of journalists though.  Most of the crowd in the small domestic violence court were young feminists, here to support their friend, Mandi Gray”.  I want to talk about who that group was, including Mandi, and why we were there.

The line up outside of the courtroom where Mandi was testifying was made up of people from across Toronto; there were students from York, University of Toronto and Ryerson.  On all three days, there were between 30 and 40 people in the court room.  We were there to support Mandi and wore pink to show our solidarity.  I’ve had a number of people ask me why we were there and do we really think it makes a difference?  My answer is yes and no.

Why yes?  Apparently supporting a sexual assault survivor is a radical thing to do, both in our criminal justice system and generally.  With the Ghomeshi trial, the amount of victim-blaming and slut-shaming in the media, online and at dinner tables has increased substantially.  The media filed a motion in court to publish a photo of a sexual assault survivor in a bikini, need I say more?  The rape myths present in the criminal justice system continue to be blatant, especially during cross-examinations.  To come out and support a survivor who is testifying sends a clear message that we believe them.

In a world where over 50 women can accuse one man of sexual assault and we don’t believe them, believing women becomes viewed as radical.  In a world where survivors are not believed and face a criminal justice system that re-victimizes them, wouldn’t it be nice to have 40 people or even just one person in your corner?  The Crown and Judge aren’t in survivors’ corners; they aren’t there to make sure the survivor isn’t re-victimized on the stand.  We were there to be in Mandi’s corner.

Why no?  Our presence isn’t going to sway a ruling.  We were there because we all know that the system is broken and has always been broken.  We are all well-versed in the issue of sexual violence and know the criminal justice system does not protect survivors or convict perpetrators.  While we hold some hope that Ghomeshi and Ururyar will be found guilty, we know this is a long shot.  There’s been a lot of media focus on Ghomeshi’s lawyer and how the survivors were not prepared to testify, but these issues are much bigger than one individual case; this is an entire system that is ineffective in addressing sexual violence as a crime.

Our presence won’t sway a ruling and these rulings won’t sway us.  We know that a “not guilty” verdict does not mean violence didn’t occur.  These verdicts have no bearing on whether or not violence occurred; they have bearing on the criminal justice system’s ability to properly apply criminal law to sexual assault.  In court rooms filled with rape myths, victim-blaming, slut-shaming and a focus on literally everything but the violence in question, the answer is no, the criminal justice system is not in a position to determine if violence has occurred.

No matter what the judges in these cases rule, the response to these verdicts is going to be loud.  We won’t be going home and accepting that the criminal justice system has done its job.  The people who have been standing outside with signs aren’t going away.  Those of us sitting in Old City Hall are all advocates in a variety of ways; we are documentary film makers, members of Silence is Violence-York, placement students at VAW organizations, members of Silence is Violence- U of T and the Ryerson Feminist Collective, and individuals who want to see a world without violence.

We made a Facebook event to support Mandi.  We have sat in the court room laughing, sighing and making side comments throughout the trial, knowing the judge could kick us out (he didn’t).  Mandi has kept her head up despite the amount of attacks on her self-esteem and character, and will return to testify in April.  She is also bringing forward a Human Rights Complaint in how York University handles sexual assault.  We are unapologetic in believing survivors and we will be back at Old City Hall in April.

“Guilty” or “Not Guilty”, we aren’t going to be silent about sexual violence.

Black History Month Spotlight: Viola Desmond

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As we continue to celebrate Black History Month, this week, we shed light on a historic Black Canadian figure. Viola Desmond was born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She initially trained to become a teacher but decided to change career paths. She was a successful businesswoman who owned a barbershop and hairdressing salon business in partnership with her husband, Jack Desmond. In the midst of her business’ expansion, Viola left for New Glasgow, Nova Scotia in 1946 to pursue a brighter future for her business.

It is in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia where Viola Desmond makes a name for herself as one of the most influential and remarkable people – especially as a woman – during times of segregation between Blacks and Whites. Viola Desmond innocently went to the movie theatres one night in New Glasgow and decided to take a seat in the main floor of the theatre. Unbeknownst to her, this specific theatre had specific tickets for African Canadians – who should be seated in the balcony area – and White Canadians – who may be seated in the main floor of the theatre, where the movie can be better seen. Upon being asked to leave her seat and relocate to the segregated seat she was intended to sit in, she refused. The police were called and Viola Desmond was charged without being advised of her right, ending in her spending the night in jail.

The following morning, she paid the fine of $20 for the alleged crime and was charged with defrauding the Government of Nova Scotia with the difference in tax between a ground floor ticket at the movie theatres and a balcony seat ticket. The difference amounted to approximately one cent.

Desmond courageously decided to fight the charges against her, understanding that the issue was not surrounding around the idea that it was tax evasion, but rather, inherently racist. Viola Desmond took the case to court, where she was able to gain public opinion on the matter both locally in her own community, nationally, and internationally. This issue raised significant awareness on segregation within Canada.

Viola Desmond’s arrest quickly caught the attention of the Black Canadian community. The Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NSAACP) raised money to per her fine and help her to fight against her charges. Carrie best – the founder of Nova Scotia’s first Black owned and operated newspaper, publicized her story in order to truly amplify her message and spread awareness.

As a result of the garnered attention generated by Demond’s case, the government of Nova Scotia had no choice but to eliminate segregation laws. In 1954, the government completed repealed them.

This was quite a significant turning point in the history of segregation within Canada as it revealed and exposed the fact that segregation was still real and alive within Canadian borders. At that time, there was a notion that Canada was the safest place for Black people who are being racially discriminated and segregated internationally to go to. Canada was put on a pedestal for being “free of segregation and racial discrimination,” when in reality, such practices were still very much alive and not eradicated. This event urged the Canadian community – who was expected to be an ally in the Black Civil Rights Movement – to take corrective action and implement more inclusive and culturally-aware laws and policies into legislation. It significantly sparked the wave of Canadian Black Civil Rights movement, urging Canadians to explore, expose, and correct issues surrounding racism and racial discrimination within our own borders.

This event truly catapulted Canada’s policies and legislations towards a more progressive and inclusive direction. The Canadian government began consciously implementing more diverse, multicultural, and inclusive laws in the years to follow that incorporates Black Canadians into Canadian culture as valued members of society. As a result of the corrective action that followed after this event, Canadian people adopted a more culturally aware, inclusive, and diverse ideology about race. The issue of racism was brought to the forefront of social justice issues and light was being shed on racial discrimination as being very much so present in Canadian society, contrary to popular opinion.

This event ignited a very important movement in Canadian society. It sparked the discussion and the need for action towards a society that is built on a foundation of diversity and multiculturalism. Viola Desmond remains an influential historical figure in Canadian history who, despite how little her action back then may have seemed, took an action that is not only significant but extremely powerful.

Resources:

http://www.blackhistorycanada.ca/profiles.php?themeid=20&id=13

http://www.digitaljournal.com/print/article/249537

http://canada.metropolis.net/EVENTS/ethnocultural/publications/historical.pdf

The Terrorist Among Us

It seems Canadians have something to fear- terror. More specifically we need to fear the terrorists who live among us. This is what the previous Conservative Federal Government believed and acted to change. This is why Bill C-51 was created and acted into law as the Anti-Terrorism Act 2015. However, as skeptical and intelligent Canadians we need to ask why and read carefully into what this Act really means for our “protection”. This is exactly what I did at the most recent discussion hosted by Ryerson’s Centre for Free Expression. James Turk, the director of the centre, invited John Ralston Saul and Monia Mazigh to discuss what Bill C-51 means for our freedom of expression and civilities. John Ralston Saul is an award winning essayist and novelist and the President Emeritus of PEN International, which is a non-political organization that promotes literature and freedom of expression. Monia Mazigh is a novelist and activist who campaigned for her husband’s, Maher Arar, release from unlawful captivity and torture in Syria. Mazigh is the National Coordinator of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG), which is a national coalition of Canadian civil society organizations that was established in the aftermath of the September, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. ICLMG works to defend the civil liberties and human rights set out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, federal and provincial laws, and international human rights instruments.

Bill C-51 is a complex and long bill to digest. It is a worrisome Act and based on the discussion I heard will affect how we act within Canadian society. There have been many problems cited about this Act, mostly the lack of clarity in its definitions of what terrorism is and its vague wording in general. This may lead to wrongful interpretations of the law and dangerous and unlawful measures. Beyond that there are specific problems that have been brought up about the Act and its implications on Canadians’ freedoms.

John Ralston Saul spoke on the idea that this Act will affect our freedom of expression. The Act states that promoting or encouraging others to carry out terrorist acts is a criminal offense. Even if the terrorist act never happens the person who is thought to be promoting it will be arrested and charged as a terrorist. The definition of what a terrorist act is is not given, it is simply stated as “terrorism offences in general” which is far from clear and will lead to differing and wrongful interpretations of the law. This affects our freedom of speech because the way we share our opinion is now regulated. I can no longer go on my Facebook account and say that “I think the Indigenous people of Canada should set up a highway blockade to stop logging companies from destroying their land” because what if that is a terrorist act, am I encouraging violence? Ralston Saul felt that one of the main purposes of this part of the Act was to get Canadians to self-censor. To make us reconsider what we say and how we say it because we do not know what an act of terrorism is and considering the punishment is 5 years in jail it probably isn’t worth pushing the envelope.

Continuing with the idea of censorship, the Act now allows for the destruction of terrorist propaganda and the arrest of the producer. Again the definition of terrorist propaganda is vague and unclear, “the writing, sign, visible representation or audio recording that advocates or promotes the commission of terrorism offences in general”. This is censorship and an attack on freedom of speech for the same reason given above. We do not really know what qualifies as a terrorist act and therefore terrorist propaganda.

Mazigh spoke about the three major problems she has found within the Act. Firstly, like Ralston Saul, Mazigh believes that this Act is altering our freedom of expression and that the wording is unclear and broad on purpose. Mazigh thinks that the Act is going after more than just terrorism because we already have laws that make terrorism illegal, so why do we need a new act? Mazigh feels that this Act will stop people from becoming activists and advocates because everything is very fuzzy, we could be branded a terrorist so we shouldn’t speak out against social and political issues.

Secondly, under this new Act the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) is granted new powers. CSIS was created to collect information and monitor the population for suspected criminal activity. CSIS is not a police force, they are not allowed to arrest or lay charges, they merely investigate and collect information. Now CSIS is allowed to disrupt terrorist activity, which means they can interfere with travel plans, bank transactions, and go into your home among other things on the suspicion of terrorism. They are also allowed to take measures that breach your rights and freedoms if given permission by a judge. These powers could easily be abused given the lack of sufficient oversight of CSIS. CSIS is being allowed to step into the boots of the police force when their original intention was never such. CSIS also has the ability to disrupt websites and social media accounts that they suspect to be promoting terrorism, again touching on our freedom of expression.

Lastly, Mazigh commented on the changes to the no-fly list in Canada. The Act reinforces and strengthens the Passenger Protection Program by updating the no-fly list. This is a list of people who are not allowed to board planes within Canada. Being on the list means that not only can you not fly but also you are arrested at the airport, you are not informed as to why or when you are put on the list and you are never removed from it nor can you fight it. A reason for the no-fly list has yet to be stated by the government and the new Act makes it easier for people to be put on to it. This idea was originally taken from the United States, however in the United States you can be removed from the no-fly list. The level of secrecy regarding this list is worrisome, why are we not allowed to know the reason we were put on the list and why are we not allowed to defend ourselves and be removed? What happened to innocent until proven guilty?

The Anti-Terrorism Act 2015 also has some other little bits of terror built into it that were not discussed fully. One being that now our information will be shared among government departments if we are deemed to be a threat to national security. This means that Health Canada will share our personal health information with Canada Revenue and Border Services if we are deemed a threat, why is this necessary? There are 17 government departments that will now share our personal information among each other, not to mention CSIS and the police. These agencies do not all have watchdogs to make sure their powers are not being abused and on top of that the examples that are given for “threat to national security” are vague. This means that this law can target a broad selection of people, not just the terrorists who walk among us.

Another part of the Act is that police have the power to preventatively arrest more people without a warrant. Police are now allowed to arrest people without a warrant on the suspicion that they may commit a terrorist act, before the wording of the criminal code was that the person will commit an act of terrorism. Additionally, the police can arrest someone without a warrant if it is likely to prevent a terrorist act instead of necessary to prevent a terrorist act. These simple word changes make a big difference regarding police power and the interpretation of the law.

Terrorism is a scary thing. I think that we are all afraid of the idea of terrorists here in our own city, in the place we call home. However, we cannot brand everyone a terrorist. The Anti-Terrorism Act 2015 is written as though we are all criminals that need to be controlled, instead of everyone is generally a law-abiding citizen and about 5% of them are criminals. This Act is about fear and control. Do we all really need this level of control and suspicion? Additionally, this Act may hurt Canada’s activists and advocates in its pursuit of terror. There are issues that still need to be protested and advocated for, are all those people terrorists now? Am I a terrorist because I do not agree with everything that is written in this Act and I suggest people go to the street to protest it? Maybe I am.

#OscarsSoWhite – Black History Month

OscarstooWhite

In honour of February being Black History Month – a time where we celebrate Black culture, shed light on and stand in solidarity with the Black community on Black issues, and recognize the strength and resilience of the Black community and its history – I thought it would be prudent to talk about a recent issue on hand that is affecting the Black community.

#OscarsSoWhite

For those of you out of the loop with Hollywood-related issues, or simply for those of you who don’t know, there has been significant controversy surrounding the annual Academy Awards Ceremony. The Academy Awards (“Oscars”) has been a night of celebration and recognition of actors, actresses, directors, producers, and motion pictures. It has been an opportunity to acknowledge the success of such people and such projects and has been a way to encourage the film industry to continue producing quality creative content for its viewers.

I would like to say that this issue is recent but if we’re being quite honest, this has been an issue for several years. That issue being: There is a significant lack of diversity in Hollywood, especially, the Academy Awards. #OscarsSoWhite is a campaign initiated to urge the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to be more inclusive in their acknowledgements and recognitions. It is a movement for diversification and equity – it is a movement to urge a very influential platform to facilitate an industry that accurately represents its target audience. This year – quite similar to last year – all 20 actors who have been nominated for lead and supporting acting categories are white. Significantly “Black” films are only recognized for a white actor within that film.

For example: Creed, whereby Michael B. Jordan (a black actor) was the lead role throughout the whole movie as he played Apollo Creed’s son, is only being recognized for Sylvestor Stallone (a white actor) and its screenwriters who also happen to be white, Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff. It seems quite ludicrous that a movie where a black actor is the clear lead throughout the entire movie is not being acknowledged, but his white co-star is being recognized, as well as the movie’s white screenwriters.

To give you even more context, in the last 88 years that the Academy Awards have been an established industry, only 14 black actors have actually won an Oscar, one of them being Lupita Nyong’o for her role in 12 Years a Slave. Only 5 Latina actors have one in the last 88 years as well and quite disappointingly, only one Indigenous acting winner (Ben Johnson for his role in The Last Picture Show in 1972). Furthermore, the Academu Awards Industry is made up of 94% white voters and 77% males.

It has always been clear that movies have misrepresented minorities for so many years. You have white actors playing black/Asian/Latino/Indigenous people. You have a predominantly white industry who is seemingly in charge of whether or not you get recognized for the hard work that you do, and will no doubt have a bias for their own kind. You have a completely un-diverse industry who is only willing to shed light on “white excellence” while Black excellence takes a back seat. It’s backwards, it’s completely un-progressive, and it’s disheartening to be misrepresented and unrecognized on such a public and popular platform.

Change has to start. This is such an influential platform and the more we emphasize visibility and diversification, the more society will mimic such ways and adopt such ideologies. We have to challenge white dominance and privilege, which seems such a strange thing to say in 2016, but don’t think for a second that we’ve overcome racism just because it’s not as apparent and “in your face” as it was in the 50s. We have come a long way but there is so much more work to do. I encourage you to look into the #OscarsSoWhite issue; get educated and be aware. Stand in solidarity with one another and fight for what’s right. This is so much more than movies at this point; this is about equity and unification as a global society.

Will you be boycotting the Oscars this year? #OscarsSoWhite

Resource: http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/movies/2016/02/02/oscars-academy-award-nominations-diversity/79645542/

What Does it Take to be a Public Health Inspector?

It’s quite an honor to become a public health inspector. After all, it’s like being a superhero – the public doesn’t care for you until something goes wrong.
There are downfalls as well. You’ll never go back to eating week old takeout without thinking about the risk, going to swimming pools that smell so strongly of chlorine and lastly, but certainly not least, watch submissively as a stranger coughs openly into the air. Along with these and a few other downfalls, there are so many more rewarding aspects of being a PHI. So this blog is here to help you become one.
I have taken it upon myself to ask other PHI’s what they would like to tell students and what they wish they knew when they were students themselves. I took what they had to say and comprised a shortlist, to help you get your foot in the door.

1. Stay positive. This is especially true when applying for summer positions that you think will make or break your career. It’s all about timing really and if you are ready for that practicum. For those of you in the fast-track program, time is not on your side but, your faith should be. Faith in your abilities is key as your unique background gives you a significant advantage. Even if it has nothing to do with public health, your maturity and experience in the game we call life is what sets you apart.

2. Don’t be desperate. This was repeated so many times that you might as well engrave it into your minds. PHI’s can smell desperation a mile away and unfortunately students often can’t help exuding the odor. Be confident in your ability and know your worth.

3. Communicate, communicate and while you’re at it, communicate some more. Do you know how to communicate? If you don’t, then learn. Communication is 90% of what PHI’s must do. Written, verbal, non-verbal, formal, informal, it all counts. It isn’t as hard as it sounds either. It just takes practice. Trust me, this process is sweaty, takes a lot of handshaking and courage. It will take a lot of practice but it won’t only help you in your professional career, it will help you in your personal life. As a professor of mine once said, it’s harder talking to your family about public health. So take chance, go out there, meet new people and soon you’ll be able to communicate with the best of them.

4. “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Now this saying is repeated all the time. And it is true, to some degree. “Putting a face to the name” is very important to PHI’s as it’s a small community. And as one mentioned “they are all getting old so you have a better chance!” Now, knowing the community of PHI’s won’t help you on your board exam but it will when you’re looking for those beautiful summer practicums. So go to networking events – and this word is ecstasy business but frightening for science students – , go to conferences

5. Take advantage of your opportunities. You’re attending such a diverse school that wants you to be more involved, why not take advantage of it? Yes you have school, jobs and families but just going to your class isn’t enough. From going to seminars, workshops, volunteering, you have so many opportunities to add the words “interpersonal, “interdisciplinary”, and of course, “communication” skills to your resume – and really mean it.

So I really hope this helps and I will leave you with some more last minute tips:

Learn about the health unit you are applying for. I was asked specific questions like what cities are in the region and why I want to work for this region in particular.

Think about your goals. There is so much you can do with the knowledge you’ve acquired. If you want to work in the private sector, some companies don’t require you to be certified so do your research!

Forget the competition and apply for the job. As one inspector said, even if someone is really qualified, we look at how they will fit into our team. Not everyone will have the maturity, the determination, or the communication skills that you possess!