The 26th Commemoration of the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

Nearly 28 years ago, 14 women lost their lives in a mass shooting at Montreal’s École Polytechnique, a tragedy widely known as the Montreal Massacre. In just 20 minutes there were 28 casualties. The massacre marks the deadliest shooting in Canada’s history to date. The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women is observed on December 6th.

When Marc Lepine committed this murder-suicide, he claimed to be “fighting feminism,” more specifically, women’s ambitions in the field of engineering.  This hate-crime has been a pivotal point behind organizing many women’s groups and the feminist movement in Canada as a whole.

There are those who insinuate that feminists have appropriated the Montreal Massacre as an excuse to promote a leftist agenda. Upon examining the facts, one can comprehend that Lepine’s motives were specifically to harm women. His inability to tolerate and respect women directly led to his hatred and violent resolve. Feminism, a movement for gender equality, was his target.

Anti-feminism is continuing to manifest and show its face in public spaces. The massive social media backlash refuting women taking a stand to share their experiences as victims has brought to light that the fight for gender equality is not nearly over. Women face multiple barriers in their education and employment because of their gender. The point is for people to work together to remove these obstacles so that everyone can flourish according to their skills and talents. Advocacy for women’s rights is truly advocacy for human rights.

December 6th is not only a time to remember the deaths of innocent people but also a time to reflect on our current progress in the struggles of gender issues.

Earl Bales Park Welcomes Community Centre Expansion

The Earl Bales Community Centre is in the process of a 4.5-million-dollar expansion. The City of Toronto is redeveloping the property in order to upgrade how the building functions and benefits the community. Construction began this past June, and is expected to wrap-up by summer 2018.

Earl Bales is the fourth largest park in Toronto, known for being a fully accessible alternative to other parks in the core of the city. Supporting over 50 local groups and clubs of all age groups, Earl Bales Community Centre is a hub for leisure, education and growth.

The new gymnasium has been the subject of immense anticipation. With a full basketball court, two half-courts, and three badminton courts, the 50×80-foot space will provide sufficient recreational opportunities for countless residents. In addition to the exercise zones, the expansion will include two universal washrooms, a family change room and a lounge area.

The design of the gymnasium allows natural light to illuminate the room by incorporating enormous windows, featuring views of the park and playground. Visitors to the new site will enjoy an upbeat and comfortable atmosphere.

Councillor James Pasternak has expressed his excitement, saying that this project is a major part of “ongoing attempts to make Earl Bales one of the premier parks in the city.”

In addition to the gymnasium, the building will receive upgrades to the kitchen, barrier-free doors, and a movable partition in the multi-purpose room to accommodate simultaneous events. The flooring will be upgraded, providing a seamless transition from the main hall to the multi-purpose room.

Environmentally friendly features like a sustainable “cool roof” as well as energy efficient lighting will be added to the building as a part of the City’s ongoing green adjustment initiatives.

The 127 acre park has always been known for its picnic pads, trails, and ski centre. This new expansion offers numerous upgrades that will make the park an outdoor hotspot for years to come within and beyond Ward 10.

Change the Electoral System and More People Will Vote

The dust has settled after a feisty spring election where a minority of Ontarians (39 per cent) elected a majority provincial government to represent them at Queen’s Park. Although 61 per cent of Ontario voters desired political change during the election, Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals now hold 54 per cent of the seats in provincial parliament.

 

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Canadians witnessed a similar occurrence in the 2011 federal election where Stephen Harper’s Conservatives won a majority government with little under 40 per cent of the popular vote. Like Harper in Ottawa, Wynne has much liberty when it comes to routing the course of Ontario over the next four years.

The will of many voters is effectively omitted because of our current electoral system, called “first-past-the-post”. If one’s candidate of choice did not win in their community, then their vote is considered to be lost. It is no wonder that voters feel so disenfranchised about elections and will commonly say “What’s the point in voting? My vote doesn’t matter anyway.” This was certainly the case in our community where our MPP won with only 11,867 votes while 33,561 chose not to vote at all.

This system encourages what is called “strategic voting” which entails voting for a candidate, not one’s first choice but the one more likely to win and block the least preferred candidate. In Ontario, many who were unhappy with the provincial government plugged their nose and voted for Wynne in order to stop the Hudak agenda.

Strategic voting is commonly abused by politicians who encourage it in places where it makes little sense. Here in York West and in downtown Toronto, the Conservatives generally rank a distant third with 10 per cent of the vote, yet many people are still encouraged to block Conservatives with their vote.

How can a system that ignores Ontario’s voters still be deemed democratic?

In 2005, the Election Amendment Act was passed and Elections Ontario convened the Citizen’s Assembly on Electoral Reform to report back on whether electoral reform was in fact needed. The Assembly recommended a system of “proportional representation” where all votes count and the seats in provincial parliament would reflect the overall election results. This system was proposed to Ontarians as a referendum question during the 2007 provincial election where voters were presented with a second ballot which asked:

“Which electoral system should Ontario use to elect members to the provincial legislature?

• The existing electoral system (First-Past-the-Post)

• The alternative electoral system proposed by the Citizens’ Assembly (Mixed Member Proportional)”

Leading up to the 2007 election/referendum, a poll taken by Strategic Counsel showed 88% of respondents either knew “nothing” or only “a little” about the new system. Ontarians should have been provided with an expanded version of the ballot question with corresponding definitions and examples in order for there to have been a definite distinction between the two systems. Needless to say, the referendum failed, although 1.6 million Ontarians (37 per cent) were in support of changing the electoral system. Ironically, Wynne required 1.9 million votes to win a majority government.

Every Ontarian’s voice is valid, therefore every vote should count in an election. These past provincial and federal elections highlight the need for a vital change in our electoral system so that people can vote with a clear conscience and choose the person and party that they truly want the most – whether it is Liberal, NDP, Conservative, Green or other.

In a time where fewer and fewer people vote, every necessary step needs to be taken in order to empower voters. Perhaps, if Ontarians felt that their vote could count, they would take the time to vote.

 

By Jessica Pointon