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

Something to Prove: Samuel Boakye’s Story – Part 2

Continued from last month’s edition of the Downsview Advocate, we conclude the story of Samuel Boakye’s transition from a disinterested, tough-guy student into a caring and ambitious adult.

When half a year of boarding school in Ghana saw no strong improvement in Samuel’s attitude or grades, he was sent to live at the large house shared by his two uncles and their families.  His father did not enroll him in school, so Samuel spent his time helping out with household chores, socializing with his family, and exploring Ghana.

During his long walks through the city and countryside, Samuel began to really think about his future, and what sort of man he would become.  It was at this time, that Samuel overheard a conversation between his father and his uncles.  His father had brought Samuel’s report card from boarding school and the three were discussing the next steps of Samuel’s education.  Samuel’s father was exasperated with his son, but what was most painful to hear was that his father had simply accepted that his son would not amount to anything.  Even worse, he seemed to find humour in it.

Throughout his youth, Samuel always found it important to be popular and respected by his peers.  Why didn’t the opinion of his family matter?  But that day it finally did, and it hit him like a sledge hammer.

He did not confront them, but rather he made a silent promise to himself that when he was sent once again to school, that he would prove them all wrong and succeed.  In his own words, he was finally going to “try”.

While that conversation between his father and uncles helped awaken a desire to show the world that he could succeed in school, it was another event altogether that made him appreciate the opportunities of his own life.

One evening, Samuel decided to take a bottle of Irish Cream from his uncle’s liquor cabinet without asking for permission, and shared it with a friend.  The next day, Samuel overheard his uncle looking for the bottle to serve to guests that had visited the home, but Samuel remained silent on the matter.

The very next morning, Samuel was awoken by his uncle who in turn accused him of stealing the bottle and threatened to tell the whole family.  Not wanting that embarrassment, Samuel confessed.

As punishment, Samuel was taken to the lumber yards of his uncle’s business and put to work for the next two weeks without pay or special treatment.  So there he worked, day after day in the sweltering summer heat, while sleeping away the nights in a small hotel room full of insects.

“Working there, I realized the blessings of my own life.  Of course, I knew what I had before but it never really dawned on me.” Samuel reflected. “The guys there worked hard labour for $50 a month and actually appreciated the opportunity to work to feed their families.”

Samuel eventually returned to Canada as a new person.  He fulfilled his promise and is now completing his studies at the University of Toronto.  He continues to work in the field of youth mentorship, turning the lessons he learned in his youth into a great strength to push young people to succeed.

Samuel’s story proves that it is easy for us, as adults, to forget the pressures youth face.  It can even be easier to look at a younger person in the midst of their struggles and confusion, and to simply write them off as future fallen adults.

“I know what it means to be in the dark and to be naive and to not know what are you doing until the point of near self-destruction.” says Samuel, “It is so sad to see a young person die because they had no chance to change.”