Toronto: fertile ground for everything amazing.

I’ve lived in Toronto for a little over 15 years – my family relocated here in 1999, leaving behind a Montreal that was (once) tougher on the anglophones and unnecessary for a trilingual 12-year-old who didn’t have to feed four children.

Toronto’s home to me in more ways than one. All of my firsts have been here – all of them.

I finished middle school, high school and university here, I had dozens of jobs, hundreds of friends and thousands of acquaintances. I’ve networked over and over and always benefited from it in one way or another. I know I’ve lived here for a long time because almost everyone I meet is affiliated with someone I knew or met a decade ago – with almost no exceptions.

I may be a little Toronto biased, but I love this city. I honestly believe there’s something here for everyone. We’ve all been a little discouraged by this city before: we’ve lived through the aches of not hearing back from our dream jobs and our dates, or getting laid off (or just laid really) and reaching some form of dead end and I get that it’s difficult, but I don’t think Toronto is a terrible place to live. I know sooner or later that I am going to have to leave here, but I don’t plan on leaving for good.

Those who truly know this city know that being a Torontonian is not about being downtown-savvy – I’m sorry, it’s far from that. Those who have immigrant parents know  that the GTA is the vessel that connects the sharpest, wittiest and most diverse crowds to the downtown core, there would be no without them. Having been here for over a decade means I pretty much grew up with this city and moved around quite a bit too. I (un)/fortunately know its transit system all too well – from one end to the other, I’ve been up and down all of its main highways at the peak of rush hour and on the verge of a panic attack. I remember some malls before they were malls and when they were limited to a one-lane with an ALDO, a Taco Bell and a Famous Players. I’ve lived through its toughest winters, pre and post vortex, and I know that this place is incredible regardless. If I leave it will be to come back better. This city has its glory and its character, it doesn’t deserve all the hatred it’s getting. I know there’s something here for everyone.

In the next few months, starting 2015, I will be interviewing and profiling a number of people whom I believe have contributed to the greatness of this city, people with talent, passion and a lot of stories to tell. Artists in the making, community builders, architects, musicians …  people who know this city’s worth. The reason I am doing this is because I recently discovered that people in Toronto don’t know where to go to exhaust its resources, and so I decided to tell them (and re-learn in the process). This year alone, I got a rush of information that forced me to discover that we’re truly being spoiled and are dangerously unaware of it. In the past year, I started working at an agency while juggling a freelance job, I started graduate school, traveled to 6 countries, 10 cities, networked endlessly and realized that there’s enough creativity right in my residential radius alone to help me kick start the project(s) I’ve been brainstorming for years. It’s a matter of knowing who to go to and where to go.

If you know Toronto like I do, you know that “cool” doesn’t have to start at Parliament and end at Jameson (stop the suburb hatred people). I didn’t always live downtown, and neither did you. A true Torontonian would have ridden the subway from Kipling to STC and from Downsview to Finch multiple times. He or she would be very well aware of the fact that beef patties are at their finest only at Warden station and Islington, that real Shawarma is only edible on Lawrence avenue, that Hakka food and Red snappers are only good in Scarborough and eastward. That no human being in the right mind shops at the Eaton center for good deals, especially during boxing week. You know that the best Persian restaurants are in the north end of the city, that Queen West has overpriced groceries, and that the hipsters in Trinity Bellwoods were once Burlington kids too. That Starbucks is an embarrassingly bad option when local goods and real coffee exist. Ethiopian food is on the Danforth, Gerrard East is for real grocery stores, and ice cream in Leslieville is fabulous. You’d know that Cherry beach is majestic at sunrise and that Food Basics is an amazingly diverse place to mingle and grocery shop. You’d know that Flemingdon Park, PO, Regent, Jane/Finch, Rexdale, Jungle, Malvern are all REAL neighborhoods too (and there will always be a regent) and unless you have neighbors who hail from every corner of this planet, you haven’t seen Toronto at all.


The Global Dialogue, episode 2. International development week

Episode 2 of 5 of The Global Dialogue podcast.

Hosted by my colleague Trinh Theresa Do and myself.

The Global Dialogue – The New Delhi gang rape trial

The Global Dialogue is a weekly podcast that is hosted/directed by my collegue Trinh Theresa Do and myself.  This week’s topic can’t be discussed enough, it’s worth every thought, every debate and every milisecond of anger.

La grève étudiante du Québec : les étudiants doivent se plaindre.

Malgré l’intensité du débat qui se déroule autour de cette grève étudiante, les nouvelles sur les manifestations, le bagarres en plein milieu de la journée et la réaction de peur absolue du gouvernement m’inspirent …  et me rendent un peu l’espoir.

C’est rare qu’un étudiant s’exprime aussi « aggressivement ».
Pour les gouvernements et les autorité, la parole honnête est une menace, et ces manifestations ont si fructueusement effrayé le personnel universitaire et surtout ceux prenant (et soutenant) cette décision.

C’est vraiment le principe d’une hausse injustifiée qui est frustrant (aussi frustrant que que le montant de la hausse, d’ailleurs) et surtout le « motif » de cet augmentation comme dans le but d’offrir du soutien financier. C’est un petit peu comique, n’est-ce pas? Faire payer ceux qui n’ont pas pour aider ceux n’en ont pas non plus pour enfin rapporter de l’intérêt à soi-meme … et s’assurer que tout les étudiants finissent par prendre une dette énorme dans le cul!

En faite, ça vraiment le modèle des hommes d’affaires –  C’est tout simplement  le maquillage d’une arnaque avec une « résolution » invraisemblable pour génere du revenu.

Je suis une Torontoise, ça veut dire que mes expériences (pénibles) avec les frais de scolarité existent déjà depuis plusieurs années. Je paie presque 6000 $ par année pour un diplôme qui pourrait très facilement  m’amener nulle part si on est frappé encore une fois par une crise économique. Et ce diplôme peut, et je dis peut me servir, pour premièrement tout rembourser avec mon premier vrai salaire, et me permettre peut-être un jour de vivre comme du monde. Et  non…ça ne suffit pas de me comparer aux étudiants du Québec et arriver à la conclusion imbécile qu’ils sont chanceux de payer moins que moi. On ne peut pas comparer deux provinces avec des économies très différentes de cette façon.

Ils ont la chance de faire des changements que je souhaite inspireront des changements du côté  Ontarien aussi.

Je connais super bien le mot « endetté » et la douleur de se faire harceler sans-cesse par le bureau du recouvrement universitaire. Et je connais surtout l’expérience pénicle du surmenage et la pression d’équilibrer les études et plus de 25 heures de travail. Si un frais de 2500 $ devient 2800 $, c’est du vol, et ça se ressent !  Les frais de scolarité sont incroyablement difficiles à payer et à surtout rembourser. Il va déjà falloir se casser la tête dès le lendemain de la remise des diplômes pour trouvez un travail assez payant. Cette hausse n’empirerait pas mal la vie.

Les étudiants ont le droit (et plusieurs raisons) de s’énerver. Les universités et les collèges sont faites pour quoi, sinon?  Si ce n’est pas pour récupérer et garder ce qui nous appartient?

Why students should be complainers…The Québec protest and why it’s justified.

We’ve heard all the arguments and criticism  that we can possibly hear about the tuition strike in Québec (or the recently dubbed Maple Spring), but I’m not tired of hearing about it, and I never will be.

This movement is without a doubt revolutionary, and a statement to all levels of government that tuition shouldn’t take a toll on people’s financial (and emotional) stability.

I’m not a Québec student, so I don’t know what it’s like to be paying $2,000 a year for tuition, but I do know what it’s like to wear yourself out trying to pay for an education that may not or may not guarantee you a career.

I know what it’s like to be harassed by the university’s collections office weekly and to have your grades be put on hold because you (only) have $500 left  to pay out of the $5,000 total.

And I definitely know what’s like to barely be able to afford an education that means a lot to you.

(I won’t delve into the debate about the recent job cuts and the recession that’s dawning upon us that we’re all pretending doesn’t exist. Not today, anyway.)

This is not about “how much”  as much as it is about the selfish idea of cranking up costs with complete disregard to the person paying, it’s as frustrating as your phone company calling and telling you that your bill is increasing – just because – and it doesn’t matter whether you can afford it or not, because it’s happening anyway. You’ll have something to say about it, and you’ll want to make a point.

Students have every right to complain, tuition is not easy to pay – it’s sometimes impossible. And it’s even harder to accept the fact that you’ll be spending the rest of your life trying to pay it back.

Yes, we love overpriced lattés.

Yes, we love drinks on weekends.

We love going out every time we get the chance. What’s a student supposed to do when he’s bombarded with schoolwork for years and when he knows that he’ll graduate only to face more responsibility? And how can a student not complain when he’s going to wake up after graduation to the realization that thousands of dollars worth of debt have to be paid off?

And what else should a student be doing when a big part of his or her post secondary education is about needing, fighting for and making changes?

*A French version be will be blogged this week/Une versions française sera bloguée cette semaine.*

Interview with Abdul Snobar

I’ve recently had the chance to interview Abdul Snobar, manager of undergraduate student relations at Ryerson University. He, along with the members of RIEL commerce, went to Kenya in order to put together a one of a kind project that would help financially benefit the communities in the village of Dago. This interview also helped clarify the misconceptions I personally had about the impacts of commerce on socioeconomic issues.

*Much thanks to the team that helped put this together –Wesley Murray, Ché Pereira and Brian Hastings.

And I will stress that you check out Wesley Murray’s blog, he’s a very gifted writer, producer and editor. I  was privileged to meet him on my first week of Journalism school and a person whom I  had the pleasure to work with for a whole semester. He’s got some major charm as well, and I must admit that his professionalism and maturity are things I look up to, not too many people can can be quiet and hilarious (and awesome) at the same time.

Geraldo Rivera: ‘at Large’ a Goof

If anyone had doubts that the Trayvon Martin shootings were race-related, Geraldo Rivera has definitely removed themIn fact, he’s made it clear that being of a specific race is not to ever be mixed with hoodies:

“I am urging the parents of black and Latino youngsters particularly not to let their children go out wearing hoodies. I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin‘s death as much as George Zimmerman was,” 

I think his being an idiot is more provocative than any hoodie on any human being anywhere, and I hope it’ll be responsible for his getting fired.

Geraldo:  if you suffer from a shortage of intelligent questions (which I now know is the case), then don’t speak. You’re doing journalism a lot of harm.

I can’t tell you what the cause of the incident is, but I feel like the important questions are being put aside.

Why was George Zimmerman, a man with a hefty background of offences, allowed to enrol in a law-enforcement course? Why is this man patrolling a neighbourhood (as a volunteer) armed? Why is a man with a record of attacks on his ex-fiancée allowed to buy a gun at all? The law has set standards for the eligibility of  the person purchasing the weapon, so he shouldn’t have been allowed to buy a gun (if it was legally purchased).

Let’s shift away from the mediocre blame-the-victim practices, and consider asking the right questions. Questioning the role of race is justified, questioning the combination of race and a clothing item is incompetent.

The embarrassing and incredibly simplistic ‘Rivera approach’ to solving problems seems to overlook everything that motivated the act, and solely focus on the likelihood of the victim inviting his own murder. Rivera would rather conclude that someone earned their death than realize that a shooting of an unarmed teenager by an armed man is an inarguable case of murder – and I mean one killer and one victim, and nothing else.

Does the man carrying a gun and disobeying the orders of the 911 dispatcher not contribute to this crime in any way?

A hoodie, Geraldo?

Right…the next time someone’s picking their fall outfits during a ‘back to school’ sale, it’s important that they assess their race first. Hoodies are only acceptable on the non-black, non-Latino front…makes sense.

Geraldo Rivera’s moronic statement will do the hoodie business a huge favour. I think all parents, especially those of black and Latino youngsters, should go out and buy their kids hoodies with a bolded and underlined “Gerlado Rivera is a clown” on them, maybe this can provoke termination of his employment.

I  also urge all news stations to question their conscience before letting uneducated, backward idiots ever speak on their stations again, particularly 68-year-old ones with the  first name Geraldo.