Your Neighbour’s Secret Past

Just west of the Black Creek, where Grandravine meets Arleta is a community housing complex where a remarkable man and his family once lived.

His name was Mahfuzul Bari and he came to Canada as a refugee in 1982. He settled into a tiny apartment in the Parkdale neighbourhood, had few friends and worked long hours in precarious jobs, much of it outdoors during the long unforgiving Canadian winters.  For years, his contact with his wife and children in Bangladesh were limited to short telephone conversations lasting no more than sixty to eighty seconds on a monthly basis due to long distance costs.

Finally, after four years, Mr. Bari welcomed his family to Canada and shortly thereafter, moved to a townhouse complex in our community.  Mr. Bari’s three sons, all of them C.W. Jefferys graduates with honours, fondly remember the joy of moving into our neighbourhood.  Eban, the youngest, recalls that “moving our large family out of a tiny one-bedroom apartment and into a large townhome was a dream come true for us.”

Eban and his siblings spent their late childhood and teenage years in our community.  One by one, Mr. Bari’s children left their home, starting their own careers and families. By 1999, Mr. Bari turned in his keys to Toronto Community Housing, and moved into a home of his own.

The tough life and poverty Mr. Bari faced upon his arrival here, the lonely wait to be reunited with his family, and the eventual success his family achieved through years of perseverance and hard-work is worthy of praise.  This story though is not uncommon for many who live here.

What separates Mr. Bari from others, was the man he was back in Bangladesh.

Mr. Bari was born in 1941 in East Bengal, a province within what was then the undivided Indian subcontinent. Following the end of British rule in 1947, the Indian subcontinent was divided into India and Pakistan (comprised of East and West Pakistan).  Mr. Bari  was a studious and hard-working youth from a large family.  By his thirties, he was a military pilot and an engineer who was a leader within a growing movement to separate Bangladesh (then known as East Pakistan) from West Pakistan.  He was ultimately charged and jailed for sedition and treason in 1968 with 35 others during the highly publicized Agartala Conspiracy Case.  This political imprisonment led to a massive public uprising, and the prisoners were released a year later to become the leaders of a war of independence in 1971.

After having gained independence, new challenges awaited the young nation.  Recognized as a founding father of the new nation, Mr. Bari  was appointed as the Vice Chairman of the Bangladesh Volunteer Corps, leading a network of trained volunteers tasked with  rebuilding the war ravaged nation, and also the Head of the Department of Homeless Services, which provided assistance to the millions of displaced citizens.  However, in 1975, when the Prime Minister was assassinated, Mr. Bari ultimately fled Bangladesh and ended up in Canada in 1982 as a refugee.

Mr. Bari died while visiting Bangladesh earlier this year.  His passing drew condolences from the current Prime Minister (daughter of the aforementioned Prime Minister) and other major public officials and a moment of silence was observed during the sitting of Parliament. He was given the ultimate recognition by the Bangladesh Government when his body Lay In State at a National Monument and given a guard of honour.

When Mr. Bari’s eldest son returned to Bangladesh to retrieve his body for burial in Canada, he was pleasantly surprised to meet many members of the extended family  who praised his father for years of financial contributions he had made towards their basic needs and for the educational needs of their children.

Imagine, Mr. Bari here in the early 80’s; a celebrated war hero and founding father of a country several times more populated than ours, shoveling snow and cleaning people’s cars for a few dollars.  The next time you meet a new immigrant, working at minimum wage and struggling with the English language, consider that their past might just be an incredible one.


Rita’s Generosity Lives on: Downsview Family Hosts Thanksgiving Turkey Giveaway

In fall 2008, former Downsview resident Rita Qaqish was diagnosed with breast cancer, an illness that will affect 1 in 9 women in Ontario, and the most common cancer facing women.  With the loving support of her husband Muneer and her son Matthew, Rita bravely fought this illness for 7 years until it took her life in the fall of 2015.

On October 5, 2017 the family of the late Rita Qaqish held a free Thanksgiving Turkey Giveaway in her honour at Yorkgate Mall to help spread awareness about breast cancer and to urge women to get regular breast screenings through mammograms.  Participants lined up well in advance of the event to receive a free frozen turkey and vegetables, a Grocery Gift Pack Voucher (redeemable after completing a mammogram at an Ontario Breast Screening Program site), and the opportunity to speak to experts about breast cancer screening.

“My wife always put the needs of others before her own.  Our family is making this donation so that Rita’s goodwill lives on and may even help save a life.” said Muneer Qaqish.

The Qaqish family partnered up with Toronto Public Health, Durante’s No Frills, Black Creek Community Health Centre, the Humber River Hospital, Yorkgate Mall, Councillor Anthony Perruzza, and DUKE Heights BIA in the creation of the event.

“The best chance to beat breast cancer is early detection”, said Judy Murray, Manager of the Chronic Disease Program at the Black Creek Community Health Centre located in Yorkgate Mall.  Judy is also a breast cancer survivor; after her regular breast screening in 2011, an abnormality was found and she underwent fast and appropriate treatment.  She has been cancer free since.

You can book a mammogram through your family doctor, but if you are 50+ years of age, you can simply book a mammogram directly by contacting the Ontario Breast Screening Program line at 1-800-668-9304 to find the closest screening site.

The Humber River Hospital (HRH) Breast Health Centre located at 1235 Wilson Avenue (416-242-1000 ext. 63600) is one such location to book your mammogram.  “The mammogram is the gold standard for breast cancer detection”,  said Jia Inacio, Breast Health Supervisor at HRH. “Our HRH Breast Health Centre has physicians, technologists, nurses, and navigators working together to help you. Through our Direct Referral program, your imaging and diagnostic tests can all be done in one day.”

Lisa Swimmer, Manager of Chronic Disease Prevention and Injury Prevention at Toronto Public Health, recommends healthy lifestyle choices in addition to regular breast cancer screening through mammograms.  Her list of healthy choices below can reduce the chance of cancer and also improves overall health and well-being:

  • Eating a variety of vegetables and fruit, whole grain products, choosing lower-fat foods, and having meat alternatives such as beans, peas and lentils
  • Being physically active every day
  • Maintaining a healthy body weight
  • Not smoking and avoiding second-hand smoke
  • Avoiding or limiting alcohol use

While it is recommended for women aged 50-74 to be screened every two years, Lisa mentioned women who are in a higher risk category between the ages 30-69 should have yearly mammograms.  Women are in the higher risk category if they have had breast cancer before, have family members who have had breast cancer, are a confirmed carrier of a specific genetic mutation, or have a personal history of radiation to the chest before the age of 30.

Local area Councillor Anthony Perruzza was honoured to have the event in the Downsview community, “I want to thank the Qaqish family for their tremendous act of generosity.  The strength and love of this family is a great example for all of us.”

This month, make the time to get screened for breast cancer or urge someone you care about to be screened, it may save a life.

Government fails to bring auto insurance prices down

Insurance rates in Downsview are the highest in all of Ontario. The government has allowed insurance companies to charge more depending on the location of the driver which has hurt communities like ours. In general Ontario has the highest insurance rates within Canada, giving our area one of the highest in all of Canada.
The Ontario Liberals promised to keep insurance rates under control, time and time again, but have failed this promise. They have significantly missed their goal of cutting rates by 15 per cent by August 2015 and continue to get further and further away from that goal. After Premier Kathleen Wynne was unable to meet her promise she referred to the 15 per cent goal as a “stretch goal”, we cannot trust this government to follow through with their promises.
In April a report by Ontario’s auto insurance advisor said that Ontario had the most expensive auto insurance premiums in Canada even though we have one of the lowest rates of accidents and fatalities. The average insurance premium in Ontario is $1,458 which is over 50 per cent higher than the average of all other Canadian jurisdictions.
We need a fairer system that charges people the same amount for the same type of vehicle wherever you live in Ontario. It is not fair that one of the least fortunate areas pays the most for car insurance, while also driving less expensive cars. The car insurance companies have been making significant profits because they benefit from an unfair system that the government has set up, in 2015 there were profits of almost $2 billion dollars in Canada.
How does an auto insurance company determine your individual rate?
Auto insurance companies employ specialized statisticians called actuaries who assess the level of risk of each new prospective client. Risk means the likelihood that a client will file a claim and the presumed amount of a claim. The higher the expected risk, the higher the premium. The best client is the individual that pays and pays but never files a claim.
What factors are used to determine your rate?
Actuaries use a number of factors to determine your level of risk including:
· the age and type of car you drive
· the level of coverage and amount of your deductible
· your driving record (including prior claims and traffic offences)
· the number of kilometres you drive
· demographic information such as your age, gender and marital status
· where you live
Who regulates auto insurance companies?
The activities of auto insurance companies are regulated by the Financial Services Commission of Ontario or FSCO, an arm’s length agency of Ontario’s Ministry of Finance. Auto insurance companies are expected to abide by the rules of the Auto Insurance Act 1990. When calculating and raising rates, insurers provide detailed information to FSCO for approval.
The Ontario Liberals have allowed a system that benefits their rich friends in the insurance companies and from much wealthier areas of the province. I want to put a stop to this practice and create a better system that will make insurance rates cheaper