Editorial: TEDxDownsviewWomen

On November 29th, our neighbourhood will host its own TEDx entitled, TEDxDownsviewWomen Conference “Showing Up.” It will showcase women who are change makers, creators, performers, and inspirational women from different walks of life right here in Toronto.

           2018 has been informally deemed as the “Year of the Woman.” It is a year where the #MeToo movement has exposed the sexual violence and harassment in industries like Hollywood but also here in Canadian politics. It is a year where the dangerous and toxic “incel” culture (a culture that is deeply misogynistic) has been cited as an inspiration for the attacker in the Toronto Van Attack in North York that killed ten people including eight women. 2018 is also the year where a record number of women, nearly 40%, were elected into Queen’s Park as MPPs.

           Women have been spearheading change and on November 29th they will have the opportunity to present and explore the ways in which they have influenced change in their personal circles, fields, and local communities. Speakers and performers include women from diverse backgrounds like planetary science, gender and equity disciplines, medicine, entertainment, and business.

           This is the first TEDxDownsviewWomen event and the diversity of the participants reflects not only the different women who are enacting change but also reflects the strides that women right here in country and city are making.

To learn more, check out the event at https://tedxdownsviewwomen.com.

Bruise news – potatoes

I think we are all familiar with bruises, especially on our knees and on our kids.  On our bodies, bruises show the rupture of the tiny blood vessels called “capillaries” due to injury.  The bruise fits right into the body’s self-repair project, which includes temporary blood clots and reconstruction.  Usually, there is nothing to worry about and not much to do. An ice pack early in the injury can move the process along.

It is not exactly the same with bruised potatoes (or apples, etc.).  A potato, once bruised, does not heal. Although there is some slow movement of fluids inside a vegetable, there is no blood and no repair mechanism.  A plant can seal off the injured area and just work around the injury. A bruised potato gets a black spot and before we eat the potato, we instinctively cut the bruise off.   

And that’s the smart thing to do.  Although the bruise does not make the potato sick, eating the bruise could make you sick.  The bruised spot on the potato collects toxins and pathogens (germs). They are bacteria feasting on the injured potato tissue, and you don’t want to eat that or them.

Dr. Caius Rommens, Ph. D., is a scientist who was working in genetic engineering (GMO) with a company in Idaho –  Idaho is famous for American potatoes like PEI for Canadian potatoes. He is my hero today. Dr. Rommens blew the whistle and quit his job.  His team created a potato that does not change color when bruised. The bruise stays white—but it still collects the toxins and pathogens. The company, called Simplot, sells these potatoes as “bruise-resistant” or “russet-white.”  However, they are not bruise resistant:  they just conceal the toxins so you are more likely to consume the pathogens.  

In an interview, Dr. Rommens explained how good scientists get involved in bad work and why the government approval process fails to intervene.  You can read it at www.gmwatch.org .  He wrote a book about these issues, Pandora’s Potatoes: The Worst GMO’s.

I am fully convinced that we should avoid GMO foods.  They do not solve any problems. The evidence of their harm is increasing.

Comments or questions? Write to Nicole@IndividualCare.com. Nicole Constant is a registered Doctor of Naturopathy.   Her website is:  www.IndividualCare.CA.

Youthful and full of promise: exploring how Youth in Politics is promoting grade 10 students’ civic engagement

Young people play a vital role in the political and civil life of Canadian society through traditional and non-traditional forms of activism and community engagement.  However, there remains a strong need to promote more civic engagement among young people at an earlier age. There is a necessity for more systematic mapping of youth community and civic engagement.  Facilitating civic engagement at a young age in Canadians as well as systematically charting a picture of youth civic and community engagement will challenge the socio-normative notion of young people as being apathetic to community development and civil life.

#YiP fulfils this need to engage students in civil and political life from an early age and allows them to showcase their civic engagement. Dr. Nombuso Dlamini and Dr. Uzo Anucho co-designed the YiP project to engage grade 10 students in the October school board trustee elections. #YiP also builds students’ capacity to involve their families and communities in local governance issues. Moreover, #YiP facilitates youth action projects that are connected to youth learning about the governance of schools and their communities. #YiP sees youth as having the power to examine their schools and communities, to decide what is good in them and what they want to change.

#YiP does three main activities – 1) designing and leading student civic engagement workshops; 2) designing and learning teacher professional development workshop and 3) funding student mini-projects.

  1. Student Civic Engagement Workshops

We have facilitated a series of youth-led, student-focused 3-day workshops in Ontario to stimulate student interest in community and civic engagement. Our youth presenters engaged students in a conversations and workshops about how they can be change agents in their communities and how to be civically engaged citizens.

  1. Teacher Professional Development Workshop

We also hosted a workshop for teachers and leaders of experiential learning with student representatives. We engaged our participants in conversations about reframing the Civics curriculum to make it more connected to the students’ lived experiences and community knowledge.

  1. Promoting Student-led Community and Civic Engagement

What differentiates #YiP from other civic engagement projects is we propose to provide financial support for students to design mini-projects, which would have facilitated the participation of our student participants’ families and communities in the school board trustee elections. Unfortunately, due to logistical reasons, our funding for the project was reduced, and we could not fulfil this aim. To compensate for this, we have provided a series of online resources such as our “Hosting a School Board Trustees All Candidates Meeting: A Student’s Guide.” These online resources provide students with practical ways in which they can host the trustee meetings and encourage their parents to become more politically aware and active.

We learned some vital lessons from #YiP;

  1. Students are engaged in their communities. The majority of our student participants actively participate or led community/school projects. They were members of their student councils, organisers of community activities such as barbecues and summer camps, and volunteers at their public library. They also advocate for issues in their communities.
  2. Students are concerned about social justice issues. They showed great interest in Canadian and global social justice issues and how it affects their local communities. Our participants are passionate about finding solutions to social justice issues such as human trafficking, gender-based violence, environmental racialization and precarious unemployment. They also commented that due to ageism many young people’s contributions and voices are not taken seriously.

#YiP has taught us numerous lessons from which we can posit the following suggestions. This list is not exhaustive but rather acts to stimulate a more in-depth and thoughtful conversation about youth civic engagement.

Our first recommendation is for more systematic research to ascertain the impact of the work that young people are already doing. Second, we need to find exciting ways to increase students’ political engagement. Politicians and their political machinery need to find intriguing ways of connecting with young people about issues that matter to them. Third, we must listen to youth voices and engaging students should go beyond using them as tokens on committees and boards. Our student participant shared with us that on the one hand, this resulted in their opinions being ignored or meaningfully used to impact policy changes while on the other hand, it made them more reluctant to voice their views.

In sum, any real efforts to increase young people in civic engagement needs to be research-led and multifaceted. These efforts also need to be informed by and for youth to impact policy changes and practices rather than attempts to solely increase the youth vote.