Wednesday, November 19, 2014

We Need to Take a Stand Against Julien Blanc


Julien Blanc is repulsive--that much should be obvious. Unfortunately, there are people who are still defending Blanc's right to freedom of expression, even if that includes encouraging men to grab women and put their heads to men's genitals (as seen in the video above). Blanc's defenders are so fixated on freedom of expression that they are failing to consider what is more important: the protection of women's safety versus Blanc's twisted views on how to treat women. Giving Blanc the right to say what he wants about women would validate his hate speech against women, and through his words, would influence other men to abuse women. Clearly, protecting women from harm should be considered a lot more important than giving a platform to someone who encourages sexually assaulting women. Blanc's freedom of expression is not just about words either--it is about actions as well.

Allowing Blanc to travel anywhere he pleases would present a real risk to the women of the country where he visits. He has already committed sexual assault by taking the heads of Japanese women and placing them on his genitals (again, as seen in the video above). If Blanc is openly condoning such behaviour, his words will ultimately influence the thoughts of his audience, which in turn, will affect their actions. Make no mistake about it--hate speech cannot be divorced from hateful actions. The chances of a man coming from Blanc's seminars wanting to respect women is highly unlikely. Blanc's influence on other men will only increase their hostility towards women, making it even more difficult for women to be respected.

It is not just women that are being hurt by Blanc's words and actions either--men are being hurt as well. Men are receiving the message that they must be sex-crazed and take advantage of women in order to be seen as attractive, and any man who does not meet this expectation is a "loser" or a "wimp". Women are also being hurt, as they are told to accept such irresponsible behaviour from men as normal. Blanc is making it that much harder for men and women to have healthy relationships with each other. Of course, Blanc is not the only person to blame for sexism in the world, but the hate that he preaches against women can only inflame tensions between males and females.

Ever since the controversy started making Blanc feel uneasy, he has claimed to take responsibility for his actions (as seen in the second video above). However, his apology is a sham, and he does little more than deflect criticism by claiming that things have been "taken out of context" by people who are rightfully angered by his outrageous behaviour. Nobody should fall for his antics, and everything possible should be done to stop the promotion of Blanc's "Real Social Dynamics" (RSD). Many concerned citizens are trying to prevent Blanc from entering their countries. Maria del Mar is trying to stop Blanc from coming to Canada--please sign and share her petition: Blanc's sexism is not wanted in Canada--or anywhere for that matter.

What do you think about Julien Blanc and RSD? Please share your thoughts below.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Lending a hand for suicide prevention: An interview with Marc Kajouji

Nadia Kajouji, left, is embraced by her father,
Mohamed Kajouji, sitting right. (Credit: Marc
In 2008, tragedy struck Marc Kajouji and his family: his sister, Nadia Kajouji, died by suicide while she was away at Carleton University. Nadia was grappling with a number of personal issues: a devastating break up with her long-time boyfriend, then another failed romantic relationship. She was also struggling to deal with an unplanned pregnancy and a miscarriage, causing  her to fall into a downward spiral of insomnia, severe depression, and postpartum mood disorder. To make matters even worse, she was manipulated into ending her own life by an online predator, William Melchert-Dinkel, who pretended to be a suicidal female nurse sympathizing with people who were severely depressed. Now, Marc works for Your Life Counts (YLC), an online suicide prevention organization. He wants to ensure that nobody else has to go through what Nadia experienced.
1. When did you become an Ambassador for YLC, and what makes YLC unique in their approach, aside from the fact that it is an online suicide prevention service?

Marc Kajouji (MK): Around the summer of 2009. YLC is an online service. Rory Butler [the founder and CEO of YLC] also helped out with the investigation for Nadia, working with Sergeant Jaswal, who was investigating. Rory contacted me directly through the police as opposed to on Facebook, which I think really speaks to his professionalism.

2. What do your duties as a YLC Ambassador include?

MK: There are no specific duties--I do anything I can to help, whether it's fundraising, raising awareness, or just understanding someone who is having a rough time.

3. You also serve on YLC's Board of Directors. When did you take on this role, and what do your duties include?

MK: I took on this role about six months ago. Right now, we are trying to raise money for the Gift of Life campaign. Our goal is to raise $3 million to help continue providing services, as YLC receives no government funding.

4. How does YLC ensure that people who are struggling with depression/suicide get help right away?

MK: It's an ongoing challenge, because we don't have a national strategy. Bill C-300 needs to be passed. It goes beyond mental health--the main focus is better government funding and strategy.

5. What's your response to people who don't take the issues of depression and suicide seriously?

MK: You can't force people to understand depression/suicide. I try to focus on the people who can help, not the negative.

6. How do you think post-secondary institutions could better support mental health?

MK: It all goes back to Bill C-300, which would provide a clear mental health strategy. Bill C-300 would also assist schools in dealing with mental health. 
I would like to thank Marc Kajouji for taking the time to discuss his work with YLC, and for working towards suicide prevention.
YLC has qualified health care professionals who have a strong background in social work volunteering their time to help people who are at risk of dying by suicide. YLC is always in need of donations to continue their work. To learn more information on how you can donate, please visit their website: 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Advocating for immigrant rights in Canada: An interview with Leila Heidari

Photo of Leila Heidari's mother, Khadijeh, a day after she had
taken a bad fall on June 4, 2013. (Credits: Leila Heidari/Make
it Right for Khadijeh Facebook page.)
For over 20 years, Leila Heidari has had to deal with Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) denying permanent Canadian status to her 92-year-old mother, Khadijeh, who is also known as "Essie." After years of having her concerns ignored by CIC and local Members of Parliament (MPs), Leila Heidari launched a petition telling CIC to grant permanent Canadian status to Khadijeh. Here, Leila Heidari provides an update regarding Khadijeh's circumstances. At the time of this writing, Khadijeh still hasn't been granted permanent Canadian status.
1. What kind of a treatment facility was Khadijeh taken into in November 2013?

Leila Heidari (LH): Khadijeh is in a multi-care facility for the elderly. It has a nursing home, various hospitals and clinics, and a research centre. Khadijeh is being cared for at the research facility. She is being treated for a massive head injury that she developed after taking a bad fall in June 2013. She is also being treated for an ear infection that she developed in November 2013. Both the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) and I cover the housing costs--the ODSP pays $1,000 a month, and I pay $250 a month. The treatment is covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP).

2. What condition (related to Khadijeh's head injury) have they diagnosed her with?

LH: I think Khadijeh has dementia, but they don't know what she has. The treatment is ongoing. When they find out what's wrong with her, she will be sent to a nursing home.

3. How did the treatment facility finally allow your mother to get help?

LH: The ODSP suggested that I contact the facility to get help for Khadijeh. My mother was accepted in early October 2013. For the past 10 years, I have been in touch with ODSP. In spring 2012, ODSP cut health benefits. Before that, Khadijeh received partial health coverage from Interim Health in 1995 when she came to Ontario. The only time Khadijeh received full health coverage was from 1993--1995, when she first resided in Quebec, and she was covered through their provincial health care system.

4. What did you have to go through before finding the facility?

LH: We have been ignored by CIC and local MPs. A week after I had launched my petition, a woman from CIC contacted me, saying that she would like to meet me. A week later, she never shows up for our meeting. We were also turned away by various clinics before finding the facility that is currently providing care for her. I tried calling a clinic in Scarborough, but they were only open from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. My mother had a gash in her head which was bleeding, but I could not take her to emergency because she doesn't have permanent Canadian status.

In addition, Khadijeh only received temporary residency on June 21, 2013, and didn't start receiving OHIP until September 21, 2013. While I'm grateful that she is now receiving help, I'm upset that it's taken so long. It's not just about my family either--I'm worried about the people who are in a similar situation. What if someone doesn't have Canadian citizenship, and that person is alone with no access to social media and he or she develops a chronic disease? What is that person supposed to do?

5. How has this situation taken a toll on your family?
LH: We are struggling financially, emotionally, and every other way that you can think of. I'm worried about my mother, and I'm struggling to take care of my 19-year-old daughter who has severe autism. My daughter is in diapers and cannot speak, and she had to be hospitalized last year because of her autism--she was screaming all the time and banging her head against the wall. I could not see my daughter because I was trying to take care of my mother, so my husband had to look after our daughter. I could not work, because I was trying to look after my mother, which was very hard.

I would like to thank Leila Heidari for sharing her story, and for advocating for better treatment of immigrants in Canada.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Woman with liver cirrhosis is being denied access to life-saving treatment!

Brenda Peever, a 59-year-old woman from Ontario, Canada, has liver cirrhosis and the medications that she needs, Simeprevir and Sofosvubir, cost $84,000, and are not yet covered by the government because they are new. These new drugs most likely will not be covered until 2015--Brenda Peever needs these new medications NOW! It's bad enough that she was given blood tainted with Hepatitis C which has now led to her liver cirrhosis--denying her vital treatment only adds insult to injury!
Canada is a vast country with many resources--how is it that we have people right here in this country who can't access essential medicines because they are priced as out of reach for most families?! Many countries around the world look to Canada as a country that holds high standards when it comes to health care--the government needs to be doing WAY MORE to ensure that all life-saving medications are made available to patients in need! If taxpayer money can be used to fund the lavish salaries of politicians and government workers, I'm sure that same taxpayer money can be used to cover the costs of life-saving drugs!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Child with cystic fibrosis deserves access to life-saving medication!

Carys Nurse, a 7-year-old from British Columbia, is struggling with a fatal disease called cystic fibrosis. This condition causes the lungs to fill up with mucous, causing the patient to constantly struggle with breathing. Kalydeco, a drug that has greatly improved the health of cystic fibrosis patients, is currently priced as out of reach for most families. 
When is the Canadian government going to step up and give patients and their families equal access to Kalydeco?! If there is a medication that can save someone's life, why are people in need being held back?! If this situation affected a politician's friend or family member, EVRYTHING POSSIBLE would be done to fast-track access to this life-saving drug! Stop the hold-up, and help Carys Nurse and her family! If Carys dies, it will be blood on the government's hands--this scenario should be avoided at all costs!

Friday, March 14, 2014

York University STILL hasn't reversed its decision defending gender inequality!

York University's continued defence of the male student who initially refused to work with women because it was supposedly "against his religion" is absolutely ridiculous! The administration at York University is so caught up with being "culturally sensitive" that it is ignoring the fact that many cultural traditions are manipulated to keep women in their place! This type of thinking is making us move backward as a society instead of forward, and the administration at York University deserves to be punished for promoting this ignorance!
York University already has a notorious reputation for taking advantage of its students after going on strike so many times, and the campus in the Jane and Finch area has all kinds of safety issues! York University is choosing its own continued downward spiral by valuing a questionable cultural practice over gender equality! Let's continue to put pressure on York University to change its decision by signing and sharing this petition: 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Missing and murdered Aboriginal females need justice!

The death of Loretta Saunders, an Aboriginal woman, shows yet again that the Harper government needs to launch an inquiry for missing and murdered Aboriginal females! Over 800 Aboriginal females have gone missing or have been murdered in Canada, and their families are STILL waiting for justice! We cannot claim to be a country based on respecting human rights when we are failing Aboriginals so miserably right here in Canada! How many Aboriginal females need to go missing or be killed before the Harper government acts on this issue?!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Bahraini men who were wrongfully imprisoned must be released immediately!

The wrongful imprisonment of Bahraini citizens Mohammed Al-Sheikh and Mohammed Al-Oraibi are the latest cases of the Bahraini government's crackdown on human rights! The fact that these prisoners' families were denied information about their conditions and the reasons for their arrests for several days show that the Bahraini government has something to hide when it is confronted with questions about its human rights crisis! Al-Sheikh and Al-Oraibi were both denied access to lawyers as well, which is further proof that Bahrain's legal system is not based on any real justice! The clear evidence of torture and sexual assault that has been committed against these two men show yet again just how sadistic and power-hungry the Bahraini government is! To make matters even worse, the prisoners' houses have been broken into by unidentified criminals!
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) also notes that the Bahraini government has cancelled an arranged visit from the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, originally scheduled for May 2013! All of the evidence shows that the Bahraini government is promoting human rights violations within its country, and cannot be trusted to handle its own human rights crisis! The international community must FORCE the Bahraini government to face justice for its actions, and prosecute anyone found guilty of a crime!
What is your response to this story?

Friday, February 21, 2014

York University is wrong for ignoring gender equality!

York University's administration must reverse its decision valuing "religious accommodation" over gender equality! The student involved in the case had an unreasonable request, claiming that meeting with women in public was against his religion! No religion forbids men from working with women in public--this is just an excuse being used by a male student to avoid working with women! The male student involved should have thought about the requirements of the course before signing up for it and asking for such a ridiculous "accommodation"! Sociology Professor Paul Grayson, the professor involved in this case, was right for denying this student's request! 
Professor Grayson should be commended for defending gender equality, not have his career be put at risk by possibly being punished by the York University administration! The people working for York University's administration should be ashamed of themselves--as an institution that supposedly represents "higher thinking", it is sickening that an irrational personal belief would be considered more important than protecting gender equality! This issue should not be up for debate--gender rights are non-negotiable!
To put pressure on York University's administration to reverse its decision valuing "religious accommodation" over gender equality, please sign the following petition: 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Despite promises of change, Iran remains the same

The house arrests of Zahra Rahnavard, Mir Hossein Mousavi, and Mehdi Karroubi without a proper trial to even prove that they are guilty of anything shows yet again that Iran has no respect for human rights! Rahnavard, Mousavi, and Karroubi should not be forced to "repent" for supporting regional uprisings--they should have all charges against them dropped immediately! It is clear that they are simply trying to fight for freedom in a highly repressive society--they should not be punished for this! Meanwhile, the Iranian government has cracked down on citizens' rights many times, and it is clear that things will not change unless the Iranian government is forced to change!
How do you feel about the political repression in Iran? Please leave a comment below.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Bangladeshi garment workers continue to face harassment over forming trade unions

The latest revelations of Bangladeshi garment workers being harassed by their managers over forming trade unions show yet again that Bangladeshi garment workers continue to have their rights ignored! Reports of workers receiving death threats and getting beaten up show that factory owners will do anything, including engaging in criminal behaviour, to keep workers powerless! Workers who have tried to form trade unions have also had to deal with being forced to resign or losing their jobs! Female workers have also had to deal with sexual harassment!

Laws allowing Bangladeshi garment workers to form trade unions will not mean anything until employers face harsh punishments for threatening their workers! It is clear that Western retailers and  factory owners will not change working conditions unless they are forced to do so! To force Western retailers and factory owners to improve working conditions for Bangladeshi garment workers, please sign Arif Ullah's petition: 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Bell's "Let's Talk" mental health campaign is good, but more action needs to be taken

I commend the people working for Bell's "Let's Talk" mental health campaign who are bringing attention to the issue of mental health in a dignified way. It takes a lot of courage to share a story about mental illness, especially when there continues to be so much stigma attached to mental health issues in Canada. Overcoming the stigma by talking openly about mental illness and raising awareness are important steps in dealing with the issue of mental health--we cannot provide resources for mental health issues and treat them properly if we don't acknowledge the importance of mental health in the first place.

However, Bell's "Let's Talk" mental health campaign does not go far enough. It is not enough just to talk about mental health for one day--mental health awareness and activism should be encouraged every day of the year. If Bell really wants to be a leader in promoting better mental health, they should be supporting mental health initiatives all year round, not just one day. Bell is a large company with many resources--they have the power to change the way mental health issues are dealt with in Canada.

Another problem with Bell's "Let's Talk" mental health campaign is the fact that no real changes are happening at the political level to ensure that people who need to access mental health care actually get help. Kelly Bradley, a woman from British Columbia, is still struggling to get better mental health care in her province. Her adopted daughter with bipolar disorder was turned away from the hospital three times, despite being in a crisis. Kelly Bradley has set up a petition to advocate for better mental health care in British Columbia:

Kelly Bradley isn't alone. Despite Bell's "Let's Talk" mental health campaign that has been running for the past few years, people suffering from mental illness are still falling through the cracks. On March 9, 2013, Toronto resident Christopher "Kit" Skelly killed himself, because he could no longer bear to live with schizophrenia. If appropriate mental health resources were already in place, Skelly's needless death could have been prevented. How many more tragedies similar to that of Christopher "Kit" Skelly need to happen before real change in Canada's mental health care system takes place?

As a society, we need to stand together and demand better from our mental health care system. Sign petitions that advocate for better mental health care. When politicians say there is not enough money to fund mental health care, force them to find the funding. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and should be treated as such. We would not tell someone with cancer or any other physical chronic disease to wait for treatment, yet why do we have a completely different attitude when it comes to mental health? If the mental health care system does not change, more people will continue to fall through the cracks.

Doctors and other professionals working in the mental health field also need to take the lead in this matter--when a patient is concerned about their mental health, take their concerns seriously. Listen to what your patient has to say, and treat the cause of the problem, not the symptoms. Psychiatrists who do nothing but over-medicate their patients without treating the cause of the problem also need to be held responsible for their unethical practices.
Above all, attitudes towards mental health must change. The next time you see someone who is upset in any way, whether he or she is suicidal or even just having a case of "the blues", listen to that person. Don't dismiss their concerns by saying "it's all in your head" or anything else along that line. Someone could look like he or she has it all on the outside, but on the inside, that person is facing real mental health issues. Reach out and help that person--we cannot afford to have more tragedies like that of Christopher "Kit" Skelly.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Ongoing Syrian crisis leaves Syrian female refugees at risk for forced marriages, abuse

The failure of politicians to deal with the Syrian conflict effectively has now left Syrian female refugees vulnerable to forced marriages! By continuing to ignore what's happening in Syria, politicians in the West are also complicit in the Syrian crisis, by allowing Syrian female refugees to be exploited through their inaction! Syrian female youth are also at risk for forced marriages--this issue must be dealt with immediately! Authority figures and imams in Jordan also have a responsibility to protect Syrian females, and intervene immediately if they suspect any kind of exploitation! The government of Bashar al-Assad and other human rights abusers must be punished for their actions--an intervention that respects the rights of Syrians is long overdue! The longer Syrians are ignored, the stronger the distrust between Syrians and the West will become!
To help protect Syrian female refugees, please sign the following petition:

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Hosting the 2024 Summer Olympic Games is a major waste of money for Toronto!

Toronto should not host the 2024 Summer Olympic Games--there are far more important things that the city of Toronto should be spending its money on. One of the many issues facing Toronto is the aftermath of the ice storm that hit in December 2013--let's focus on cleanup and recovery efforts instead. Another issue facing Toronto is public transit--Toronto is a large city that needs an efficient public transit system. Homelessness is another major problem in Toronto--more resources should be put into dealing with this crisis.
If Toronto gets to host the 2024 Summer Olympic Games, it will be a disaster in the long run. The few short-term benefits provided by getting international media attention for a few days will be vastly offset by the long-term consequences of the large financial costs. The city of Toronto will also pay more over time if it funds the 2024 Olympic Games, but fails to find solutions to the various issues that affect it, such as homelessness. The bid for the 2024 Olympic Games is too risky--let's not take that chance!
What is your reaction to this story?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Despite new guidelines, Bangladeshi garment workers continue to be exploited

The latest revelations showing that Bangladeshi garment workers continue to be abused despite new guidelines prove yet again that factory managers have no respect for workers' lives! Bangladeshi garment workers continue to be overworked and underpaid, and it is clear that more pressure needs to be put on the managers to treat their workers fairly! Another clash between garment workers and management has left one female worker dead and several other workers injured--how many more tragedies need to happen before the rights of Bangladeshi garment workers are taken seriously?!
I would like to send my condolences to the family and friends of 20 year old Parvin Akhter (no relation), the female worker who died of a severe head injury during the clash. She was a young woman who died much too soon, and her death could have been prevented, had the factory managers given their workers proper wages. I am also concerned about the other workers who were injured in the clash. Nobody should have to struggle THIS MUCH just to get a living wage!
To put more pressure on Bangladeshi factory managers to treat their workers fairly, please sign the following petition: 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Police officer who threatened to tie homeless man to pole is cruel and callous!

The police officer who threatened to tie a homeless man to a pole in the freezing cold should be fired from his job! This is no way to treat one of the most vulnerable members of our society! Other ways of dealing with this homeless man were possible--the police officer could have arranged for a social worker to take the homeless man to a shelter without being in a police car, or offered some other kind of help in a non-threatening way! Instead, the police officer chose to abuse his power, and has aggravated tensions between homeless people and the police through his actions!
What is your reaction to this story?