Category "Canada"


What it’s like living with the BRCA gene mutation: ‘It’s just so hard’ – National

by BBG Hub

Jackie O’Grady was 54 years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in one breast. But she had a plan to fight it: a double mastectomy and radiation, to lessen the chances of it coming back.

Then, in the midst of her treatment, she received more bad news: she had tested positive for the BRCA2 gene mutation.

“I was way, way more upset than I was about having the cancer diagnosis.”

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“Because I have children. I have a granddaughter, and I can pass it on.”

Jackie O’Grady has had numerous health concerns after multiple surgeries because of her BRCA2 gene mutation.

Jackie O’Grady has had numerous health concerns after multiple surgeries because of her BRCA2 gene mutation.

Photo by Ima Ortega, art by Laura Whelan

The BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations are a change in chromosomes that make your chances of getting cancer higher. Canadians can have their blood tested at the recommendation of a genetic counselor or family doctor if they have a history of breast or ovarian cancer in the family.

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They are passed from parent to child — from both the mother or the father to a child of either gender. The chances a child has the gene mutation one of their parents has is 50 per cent.

Identifying the signs of breast cancer

Identifying the signs of breast cancer

It means people carrying the gene are more likely to get breast and ovarian cancer — and other related cancers — than the average person. For women with a gene mutation, it can mean she has up to 80 per cent chance of getting breast cancer in her lifetime. The average woman has a one in eight (12.5 per cent) chance of getting breast cancer in her lifetime.

Men with the BRCA2 gene mutation are eight times more likely to get breast cancer before they are 80 years old, and men with the BRCA1 mutation have an increased chance of getting prostate cancer.

Melanoma and pancreatic cancer are also associated with the gene.

O’Grady — who also has had treatments for melanoma — is taking precautions as much as she can to mitigate her risks: she says she’s eating healthier and exercising more, as well as wearing sunscreen and using a topical CBD oil to mitigate the melanoma risks.

But there’s always a worry in the back of her mind about her health.

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“You don’t know if it’s ever gonna be gone for good, or where it’s going to turn up next,” she told Global News.

Doctors recommend more intense screening for those with the gene mutation: in Ontario, women over 30 with the gene are able to get mammograms once a year, as well as a breast MRI and ultrasounds, which isn’t part of the screening for the average woman. Each province has it’s own set of regulations, but they are similar.

The emotional toll of breast cancer

The emotional toll of breast cancer

For men, more regular prostate exams are recommended.

Since ovarian cancer is harder to diagnose, and many are late-stage diagnosis, doctors recommend women who have already had children to get an oophorectomy — where they remove the ovaries and Fallopian tubes, but not the uterus.

That comes with its own set of side-effects, including induced menopause, and along with it symptoms like hot flashes, a decreased sex drive, vaginal dryness and mood swings. While there are hormone replacement medications, the symptoms can persist.

‘I’m not just one gene’

That was a concern for Lauralyn Johnston of Toronto — who found out she had an aggressive version of the BRCA1 gene in 2017. While she didn’t have cancer, she got tested because a family member tested positive for the gene mutation.

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But since her family has a history of dementia after menopause, inducing that was something she didn’t want to start early.

“I’m not just one gene,” she said. “Explaining to my medical professional that I’m not just my (gene mutation) was kind of a recurring theme.”

She did her own research and decided to get a salpingectomy, removing the Fallopian tubes and leaving the ovaries.

Lauralyn Johnston, who has the BRCA1 gene mutation, and her daugher Eria Byrne.

Lauralyn Johnston, who has the BRCA1 gene mutation, and her daugher Eria Byrne.

Handout. Artwork by Laura Whelan

At the moment, this is not a standard,” said Dr. Christine Elser, a medical oncologist at Toronto’s Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.

“We don’t know if it is as effective as removing the ovaries as well. But that is a procedure that once we learn more about, may have a role in a better quality of life.”

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Johnston said she wanted to balance her quality of life with her life expectancy — and has come to terms with the fact that her lifespan may not be as long as 84 years old, the average age of a Canadian woman according to Statistics Canada.

So while there may still be a risk of ovarian cancer because she still has her ovaries, she believes her life will be better because of it.

For Maja Adolfo-Piwek of Toronto, who was diagnosed with breast cancer at 39, the side effects of her two mastectomies and oophorectomy are constant.

“You can go back to your life, but you can never really go back to your life,” Adolfo-Piwek said.

Her side effects include hair loss, hot flashes, and vaginal dryness, which she says is “quite painful.”

“They told me about the hot flashes, but they never told me about all the other stuff.”

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I think is there is a gap in the system, in the medical system where the oncologists, all they want you to do is just remove (your ovaries and breast) because they want to save your life. But they do not prepare you for what’s to come after that.

“And it’s just so hard.

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Maja Adolfo-Piwek was found out she had the BRCA2 gene at age 39.

Maja Adolfo-Piwek was found out she had the BRCA2 gene at age 39.

But in the end, Adolfo-Piwek called it a blessing in disguise, because now she’s forewarned.

“I can remove my ovaries and remove my other breast and lower my chance of having cancer. I mean, obviously, nothing is ever 100 per cent, but it will help me,” she said.

Moving forward

What’s most concerning for the women Global News spoke to is the risk to their children.

Adolfo-Piwek has a son with autism. O’Grady has two sons and a granddaughter. Johnston has a 17-year-old daughter. They all say they worry about what it means for them.

What it’s like to get cancer as a parent: ‘I began planning out my next 5 years’

But we’ve known about the BRCA gene mutations for decades now, and the science is only getting clearer as we learn more about the gene mutation.

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Johnston’s daughter Erya Byrne is in her first-year university, studying biochemistry. She said she was affected by watching her mom go through the surgeries she did.

In the end, she’s hopeful for the future.

“In the next 10 years, there’s so much happening in gene therapy and so much happening in cancer treatment,” Byrne said.

READ MORE: Cancer can severely damage your mental health. Why don’t we talk about it?

While she was always interested in biochemistry, Byrne said the experience has pushed her to look into studying oncology.

What does prevention look like? 

Dr. Elser, along with geneticist Dr. Raymond Kim of the Princess Margaret Cancer centre, said there are trials into how to prevent breast cancer going currently going on — including testing of PARP inhibitors. (Read more about what a PARP inhibitor is at the U.S. National Cancer Institute here.) 

Adolfo-Piwek is currently on one of those trials, saying she just wants to help people in the future.

Dr. Kim says the increased awareness and testing for the gene means they can proactively tackle it.

“A lot of young women who are concerned about their next generation too,” he said

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“What’s been available for decades is that we can engineer embryos to not carry the genetic mutation and put those back into the women so their daughters or son don’t carry that genetic change. So what we hope, if genetic testing was very pervasive in a family then the subsequent generations wouldn’t need to worry about that.”

Author chronicles family’s legacy of hereditary cancer

Author chronicles family’s legacy of hereditary cancer

As for the women themselves? They say they won’t let the gene stop them from living their lives.

I can’t let things ruin my life like that. I need to like my life,” O’Grady said. “I had a little bit of a pity party and then moved forward to smile again and have fun again and be strong.”

For Aldofo-Piwek, she calls every day with her son a blessing.

And for Johnston, the positive mutation diagnosis offered her a chance to do some things on her to-do list: “After a long engagement, I actually got married this summer. I ran for council.” (Unfortunately, the changes to the Toronto city districts meant her campaign for council didn’t go through to a vote.)

I just wanted to do something to make [the world] better. If every single person on earth just kind of goes with ‘I’ll leave things in better shape than I started with, we’ll do a lot better in the world.”

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Canada’s best new restaurants of 2019

by BBG Hub

Canada’s newly named best new restaurant is in a former skate shop.

On Wednesday, Air Canada’s enRoute magazine named Arvi Canada’s best new restaurant of 2019. Located in Quebec City, the 30-seat restaurant has an open kitchen allowing guests to watch three chefs prepare their meals — a “dinner-theatre experience.”

Co-owned by French chef Julien Masia and chef François Blais, Arvi specializes in using fresh, seasonal ingredients to create plates like Gaspesian lobster and veal rib-eye.

READ MORE: These are Canada’s best new restaurants of 2018

The annual list of the country’s top 10 new restaurants is boiled down from a larger list of 35. Each year, one food critic using a fake name visits each new restaurant, recommended by a national panel of chefs, industry experts, food critics and food writers as well as previous best restaurant title holders.

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To be considered, restaurants have to have opened between late spring 2018 and June 2019.

This year’s top 30 list includes a range of restaurants from coast to coast. But once again, like the last two years, no East Coast restaurant was featured in the top 10 list.

Ready to dine? Check out this year’s top 10 list below: 

10) Ten

City: Toronto

This small restaurant offers up a 10-course tasting menu for 10 people — fitting. Run by two Toronto-based chefs, Ten offers everything from Ontario white beans to seared fiddleheads to a range of seafood.

The restaurant also has a mission to give back: it works with city organizations to find solutions for their food waste. 

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9) Dispatch

City: St. Catharines, Ont.

Run by Australian-born chef Adam Hynam-Smith and artist Tamara Jensen, this Ontario restaurant, close to Niagara’s wine country, offers guests a range of global cuisine.

Dispatch made the top 10 for its funky cocktails, fermented ingredients and a focus on North African and Middle Eastern dishes.

8) Pastel

City: Montreal

With a changing menu depending on seasonal goods, Pastel offers a 10-course gourmet experience at $140 (along with à la carte options).

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The restaurant was praised for its homemade bread, colourful dessert and even its pastel interior.

7) Wayfarer Oyster House

City: Whitehorse, Yukon 

This northern oyster house offers fresh oysters and seafood from the Yukon, British Columbia and Alaska.

And if you’re looking for something more, the restaurant’s casual dining room has everything from locally sourced meats to homemade pasta to roasted cauliflower.

6) Dreyfus 

City: Toronto

Dreyfus was the vision of two Joe Beef expats who wanted to bring new French cuisine from Montreal to Toronto.

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The restaurant has everything from garlic-infused escargot to a selected list of small-produced wine to dishes inspired by the chef’s Jewish background.

5) Nowhere * A Restaurant 

City: Victoria, B.C.

Nowhere * A Restaurant is a discreet 30-seat eatery tucked inside the courtyard of a small mall. The Victoria restaurant focuses on sustainable seafood and “plant-forward” dishes, like eggplant “meatballs” and pine mushroom pasta.

They also feature a wine list with local drops and tasting menus.

4) Pluvio Restaurant + Rooms

City: Ucluelet, B.C. 

This small restaurant creates dishes from local products of Ucluelet and elsewhere on Vancouver Island, like grilled steelhead salmon and slow-roasted duck breast.

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Attached to its intimate boutique hotel, Pluvio‘s open kitchen offers guests a personal dining experience.

3) Donna’s

City: Toronto

Donna’s is a laid-back eatery that evokes a “granny chic” vibe with colourful houseplants and vintage posters. The new Toronto restaurant serves up meat mains, like roast pork topped with shaved endive and tarragon and sprat-oil aioli, and smaller dishes like sweet corn with dried shrimp butter.

Their whole oven-baked sole bathed in a harissa and chili butter sauce is a fan favourite.

2) Como Taperia 

City: Vancouver

This restaurant is the spot for tapas and soccer lovers: soccer decor is featured throughout the place and Spanish influence is abundant.

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Como Taperia serves classic made-to-order dishes, like tortilla española, alongside kitchen-prepared dishes, like steak with padrón peppers and chorizo. Tin seafood is a menu staple, as is Spanish beer and cocktails on tap.

1) Arvi 

City: Quebec City 

This year’s winner, Arvi offers an intimate dining experience paired with quality food. Guests watch their meals get cooked, plated and served by the small staff, and can take part in seafood or meat dishes, or opt for a five-course vegetarian tasting menu.

Their celebrated bottomless plate of sourdough with truffle butter is a popular way to start, as is a selection from their wine list and local craft beers.

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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Here’s when to change your clock for Daylight Saving Time — and why we ‘fall back’ – National

by BBG Hub

Most Canadians will likely welcome an extra hour of sleep in early November as clocks “fall back” with the end of Daylight Saving Time.

The time change will happen at 2 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 3, at which point clocks will change to 1 a.m. That means the day will last 25 hours.

The shift means it will be darker for longer in the morning, but the sun will be out “later” in the evening.

Nine things you didn’t know about Daylight Saving Time around the world

Daylight Saving Time has been used in Canada for over a century despite complaints that it’s inconvenient. There are also contradictory claims about whether or not it helps save energy.

The controversial practice was widely adopted in Europe and North America during the First World War as a supposed fuel-saving measure. Modern critics argue that it doesn’t accomplish that goal anymore, because most power grids have become more efficient since the 1910s.

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It’s also just a pain to adapt to a time shift in the middle of a chilly autumn.

Various Canadian provinces and U.S. states have flirted with the notion of getting rid of Daylight Saving Time altogether, but it currently remains a part of most Canadians’ lives.

Huge majority of British Columbians want Daylight Saving Time permanent

Huge majority of British Columbians want Daylight Saving Time permanent

Some communities across the country have opted not to participate in the time-shifting practice, including most of Saskatchewan and several towns in B.C., Ontario and Quebec.

New legislation coming to keep B.C.’s clocks fixed, but seasonal time changes not yet over

The European Union has also voted to scrap Daylight Saving Time by 2021.

The extra hour of sleep doesn’t come free, though: You’ll have to “give back” that time when Daylight Saving Time returns on Sunday, March 8, 2020.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Election hangover: How to cope with not getting the leader you wanted – National

by BBG Hub

The Liberals won the most seats in Monday’s election and Justin Trudeau was re-elected as Canada’s prime minister.

The Liberals will form a minority government — winning 157 seats — and will need to negotiate support from at least one other party in order to pass any legislation while they are in office.

The Conservatives took 121 seats, the Bloc Quebecois 32 seats and the NDP 24 seats. The Green Party won three seats and Jody Wilson-Raybould was the only independent candidate to capture a seat.

READ MORE: Live Canada election results 2019

For some, the results are welcomed. But those not happy with the outcome may be waking up with post-election stress and disappointment.

“I’ve heard people have extreme anxiety to the point of having severe panic attacks the day after the election when they realize who is going to be their new president or prime minister,” says Dr. Ingrid Söchting, a clinical psychologist and director of the University of British Columbia Psychology Clinic.

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According to Rana Khan, a Toronto-based registered psychotherapist, it is common for people to feel personally impacted by the results of an election.

“This is particularly true if the elected party has major implications for you as an individual, or it has major implications for a specific group that you belong to or interact with,” Khan says.

“Generally, people have feelings of uncertainty or a general sense of loss, defeat or hopelessness.”

Söchting says she’s seen such reactions in her clinical experience, too, and points to these types of responses south of the border following the 2016 U.S. federal election.

After Donald Trump became president, politics-induced anxiety was given the unofficial name of post-election stress disorder. Several mental health professionals also wrote a book called The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, which examines the “mental health consequences” of Trump’s presidency.

Federal Election 2019: Trudeau greets supporters at Metro station following election win

Federal Election 2019: Trudeau greets supporters at Metro station following election win

While these cases may be more extreme, Söchting says people may experience more general symptoms of depression, or feel demoralized and discouraged by election results.

So how can you cope with not getting the political outcome you desired? The first step is accepting your emotions.

Process and accept

“Absolutely pay attention to your feelings and give yourself permission to feel them,” Söchting says.

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Feelings are not permanent, Söchting says, and for people who do not have a pre-existing anxiety or mood disorder, these emotions are typically short-lasting.

READ MORE: Separatist talk renews in Alberta following Justin Trudeau Liberal victory

Still, it’s important people sit with their post-election feelings so they can process them. Ignoring them is not a helpful response.

“They may be kind of ugly feelings of anger or even despair, but don’t feel you have to rush into some kind of action mode or new belief about what people are like or our country is like,” Söchting says.

Avoid thinking traps

While dealing with disappointment or anxiety, it’s common to fall into “thinking traps,” Söchting says. These can include “black and white” thinking, catastrophizing or “fortune-telling,” which is when you think you can predict the future.

READ MORE: Trudeau won the most seats, but not a majority. What now?

“Human beings are prone to cognitive biases,” Söchting explains.

“We humans tend to catastrophize when we are feeling something intensely. So for elections, when the party we voted for doesn’t win, we may catastrophize and believe that our country will be ‘ruined’ or ‘pushed back into the dark ages’ or led ‘by immature people.’”

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It’s important for citizens to recognize these thinking traps and challenge them. These exaggerated ways of thinking are not helpful and usually not true, Söchting says.

Federal Election 2019: Justin Trudeau FULL victory speech

Federal Election 2019: Justin Trudeau FULL victory speech

“We need to de-catastrophize and remind ourselves we live in a strong democracy and we can influence, hold our politicians accountable and follow fair and responsible media outlets over the next four years before the next election,” she says.

Take a break from screens

Leading up to elections, TV and social media are flooded with political news. Once election results are revealed, it’s perfectly OK to take a break from your screens.

“When you are feeling raw and vulnerable, it’s never good to be too obsessed with media and social media,” Söchting says.

READ MORE: Full results of the 2019 federal election

“The election outcome has happened; there’s nothing you can do at this point. … The analysis and what people are saying, you don’t need to know all that on day one or two. It can wait.”

Practise self-care

It’s important to look after your well-being at all times, but especially when your mental health is suffering.

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To help cope with anxiety, sadness and feelings of disappointment, do things that make you feel good. This may be exercising, seeing friends or spending time doing something you enjoy, like baking.

Federal Election 2019: Jagmeet Singh full concession speech

Federal Election 2019: Jagmeet Singh full concession speech

“Get into your routine. Keep moving. Don’t neglect eating well [and] if you are prone to unhelpful ways of coping, maybe this is not a day to drink more,” Söchting says.

“Be really kind to your body and your mind.”

Söchting says it’s also important to spend time with people you trust, like family and friends. These people don’t need to vote the same way as you, but they should be folks whom you feel safe sharing your feelings with.

Khan echoes this, and says a sense of community can “go a long way in being able to deal with uncertainty, loss, defeat and hopelessness.”

Get involved

Once you’ve allowed yourself to process your emotions, you may want to take action.

Federal Election 2019: Andrew Scheer full concession speech

Federal Election 2019: Andrew Scheer full concession speech

If you’re unhappy with the election outcome, you can get involved in local political groups or grassroots organizations to spark change.

“What can you do on an individual or day-to-day level to contribute to the change that you want to see at the macro-level?” Khan says.

Picking a cause you care about can help ease feelings of powerlessness, Söchting adds.

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“It’s always healthy to confront and to engage,” Söchting says.

“The worst is probably just to become detached and increasingly hopeless and isolated.”

— With a file from Amanda Connolly 

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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Parents feel squeezed by child-care costs. Here’s where they want help – National

by BBG Hub

Steve, 32, knows all about the struggle to find affordable, high-quality child care.

The new father lives in Ottawa with his wife and 11-month-old son. Until recently, both of them worked full time, Steve in marketing and his wife in child care. (Global News has agreed to withhold the family’s last name to protect anonymity.)

Things drastically changed when Steve’s wife had to leave her job because they couldn’t afford daycare, and the irony of the situation isn’t lost on the young parents.

READ MORE: Paid leave, tax credits, more benefits — What the parties are promising parents

“Child care in Ontario is so expensive … with how little she makes teaching 10 other kids, it made more sense for her to stay home with our son than to go back to work,” Steve told Global News.

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It would have cost the young couple more to pay for daycare while earning dual incomes than it did for Steve’s wife to remain on maternity leave.

Cameras in daycares: pros and cons

Cameras in daycares: pros and cons

Steve works a typical Monday-to-Friday workweek, but his wife had shifts that changed all the time. For this reason, he says their “ideal” child-care program would prioritize flexible hours.

“Our ideal program would have hours that reflect a typical workday [and] costs that would allow the daycare workers to earn a decent wage.”

Unfortunately, Steve’s experience isn’t the exception — for most Canadian parents, it’s the rule.

Lindsay Williams and her partner live in Toronto with their two kids, aged five and 10 months. She’s currently on maternity leave but she worries what will happen when she needs to go back to work soon.

READ MORE: 66% of pregnant women not getting major recommended vaccines — CDC

She’s started the daycare search, but it’s tough to find somewhere that checks all of her boxes.

“We both work full time [so] we need an extended day spot for my five-year-old and an infant spot for my 10-month-old. We need care Monday to Friday,” she told Global News.

“Preferably, we’re looking for care close to our home or close to my work … [and] we’re looking for a clean, safe environment with a registered early childhood educator. We’re [also] looking for centre-based care with play-based learning.”

Do kids need preschool? Early childhood education professor weighs in

Do kids need preschool? Early childhood education professor weighs in

Williams placed her first child on daycare wait lists when she was pregnant, but she still had to wait 17 months before securing a spot.

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“I had to harass daycare [centres] by calling them non-stop,” she said. When she finally found a spot, she was forced to end her maternity leave two months early in order to qualify for the centre.

Williams took the spot because it was the only one she could find, but the service has been less than ideal.

READ MORE: How to talk to kids about climate change without scaring them

“The timing of daycare for my son has always been a struggle with my work hours … I’ve had to pay people to take him to daycare or pick him up on top of paying the daycare fees,” she said.

The “ridiculously high” cost of care has also been a struggle for Williams and her husband.

“To send both our sons to daycare — if we find a spot — we calculated that we would be paying $2,600 a month. At that point, is it even worth me going back to work?” Williams said.

HIV prenatal care home aims to keep mothers and babies together

HIV prenatal care home aims to keep mothers and babies together

“We would struggle financially on my partner’s earnings as he’s a contractor … his work is up and down and his hours vary. I would lose my career — something I worked so hard for — my paycheque, my adult interaction.”

Williams is looking for affordability and accessibility, but it’s also important that her children are well taken care of.

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“We’re leaving our sons with strangers for the majority of the day,” she said.

About 60 per cent of Canadian children under the age of six received some form of child care from January to March 2019, a recent Statistics Canada survey found. That’s nearly 1.4 million children in just three months.

According to child-care experts, the care services available aren’t good enough to handle this many children across the country. There’s a lack of options, and when care is available, it’s typically a massive monthly expense.

To improve child care for Canadian families, experts say there needs to be more of a focus on three main principles: making child care affordable, accessible and high quality.

Affordability is most important

Unfortunately, the high cost of care is a major issue for parents, and the price tag varies widely across the country.

According to Statistics Canada, the average monthly cost of full-time care in 2011 ranged from $152 in Quebec to $677 in Ontario, and that’s not even 10 years ago.

(Editor’s note: When Global News asked Twitter users if they had this problem, the response was overwhelming. Read some of their stories below.)

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Sharon Gregson, a spokesperson for the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC, joined the fight for more affordable child care when she became a single mom of four children in the early 1990s.

“I needed affordable child care to go back to university [and] to work,” she said.

She quickly realized good quality, affordable and accessible child-care centres were few and far between.

“There are a few basic tenets that are true of all quality child-care systems: they are affordable — or even free — for families, educators have good levels of education and are well-paid, and they’re publicly funded.”

High child-care costs can impact all aspects of how a family lives, Gregson said — from how they eat to the kinds of extracurricular activities they can access and everything in between.

READ MORE: Unemployment is low. The economy is growing. Why do Canadians feel like they can’t get ahead?

For Diana Sarosi, Ottawa manager of policy and advocacy for OXFAM Canada, affordable child care is actually a women’s rights issue.

“Care responsibilities are a huge barrier to women’s economic equality,” she said. “[Women] often have to make tough choices when it comes to working or caring for children … this still disproportionately falls to women.

“Women do double the amount of unpaid care work that men do.”

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For Sarosi, it’s critical to provide better child-care options so that women don’t have to make these difficult sacrifices.

Accessibility is critical

Right now, finding daycare with flexible hours close to your home or work is an extremely difficult task.

Sarosi believes making child care in Canada more universal would be one way to make this process easier.

New report looks at value of real-life friendships

New report looks at value of real-life friendships

“This doesn’t mean that in every municipality, the exact same program needs to be in place … It means that everyone who wants child care has access to child care,” she said.

“In municipalities, there are different needs. [Child care] has to be tailored to those specific needs.”

For Morna Ballantyne, executive director of Child Care Now, making child care affordable and accessible can be made possible by creating a publicly owned and operated system.

READ MORE: ‘Stretched thinner and thinner’ — Timberlea mother says no federal candidate has earned her vote

“The current situation is that child care is really left to … what we call ‘the market,’” she said. “The child care that’s available is available because individuals or organizations — it could be for-profit or not-for-profit, like a church — decide to set up a child-care service.”

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There are some government stipulations regarding how these businesses are allowed to run — like limits to how many children they’re allowed to care for at once — but the service isn’t publicly delivered or publicly funded, and that concerns Ballantyne.

“People set up shop in a variety of ways, and then parents have to go and find those services and pay money,” she said. “Some parents will get some assistance from the government, depending on where they live, but the service itself isn’t 100 per cent funded by the government.”

Voter trust low among party leaders

Voter trust low among party leaders

Ballantyne believes this can lead to widely varied costs across the country and unregulated, inconsistent services.

“We have a situation now where there are lots of communities that are being under-serviced. When there’s limited supply, it tends to be those with the highest income levels who are serviced,” she said. “With a publicly managed system, we can manage the supply and demand.”

High-quality care must be a priority

While affordability and accessibility are certainly necessary, Don Giesbrecht, CEO of the Canadian Child Care Federation, believes high-quality child care is equally as important.

“This isn’t just about throwing money at [the problem].”

High-quality child care can be “really beneficial for young children in terms of their development,” he said. “The first five years of [life] are the most important years in human development.”

Research bears this out. According to a 2010 study, good-quality child care can have a positive impact on peer socialization, and it can help prepare young kids for school.

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READ MORE: Climate change emerges as one of the top ballot-box issues among voters — Ipsos poll

Geisbrecht said high-quality childhood educators are needed to create strong curriculum and pedagogy for young children, but “recruiting and retaining” continues to be one of the long-standing issues in this sector.

This is due, in part, to low wages.

“It’s not just about compensation, but that is a primary motivator,” Giesbrecht said.

Ballantyne agrees.

“You want to make sure the caregivers are qualified … that they’ve actually had training in early childhood education,” she said. “You also want to make sure that there’s not high staff turnover because we know that really impacts the quality of care.

“For all of that, you need to pay sufficiently high wages to attract people into the sector and to keep them there.”

Will childcare costs in the GTA ever come down?

Will childcare costs in the GTA ever come down?

Ultimately, it all comes back to funding.

“We want public funding, public management and planning … so that these three things can happen simultaneously: the number of spaces can be expanded, the quality can be assured to be good and … the fees are actually affordable,” said Ballantyne.

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“You can’t do one without the other.”

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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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What women care most about in this election, and how the parties stack up – National

by BBG Hub

While “women’s issues” should be everybody’s issues, experts say, there are certain matters that disproportionately affect women.

From a lack of affordable child care to higher rates of gender-based violence, the upcoming federal election highlights some of these problems — and the demand for policy-based solutions.

“Being a woman is not a universal experience,” says Amanda Kingsley Malo, the founder of PoliticsNOW, an organization that works to get women elected in Ontario municipal elections.

“But a lot of the things that concern women when they’re voting don’t always come up on the campaign trail.”

Here are some issues political experts say women may be thinking about when heading to the polls on Oct. 21.


Women often experience a different quality of healthcare than men do, research shows, with one study even finding they are less likely to receive CPR in public.

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In clinical medical trials, women have historically been largely absent, too.

Velma Morgan, the chair of Operation Black Vote Canada, points to research that shows black patients’ pain is often taken less seriously than white patients.

For black women, this can be compounded as women’s pain in general is more often dismissed than men’s.

READ MORE: Canada election — What federal leaders have pledged on health care

Women-centred treatment should be used to help close the gender gap in healthcare, the Canadian Women’s Health Network says.

During the first leaders’ debate, health care was not among the five topics raised. Abortion, on the other hand, was mentioned.

Where do the parties stand?

The Liberal’s health-care platform pledges to improve access to abortion and reproductive health care, mental health services and primary care providers, and to create a national institute for women’s health research.

If re-elected, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau also says his government would come to the rescue of an abortion clinic in Fredericton that could be forced to close its doors without the support of the province.

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Why voting is so important for Canada’s generation Z

Why voting is so important for Canada’s generation Z

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh‘s campaign platform is promising a range of policies, including a national pharmacare plan. The NDP has also pledged to declare a public health emergency on the opioid crisis and provide coverage for gender-confirming surgeries and health care for transgender people.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer promises to spend $1.5 billion to buy new medical imaging equipment for facilities across the country. He also vows to maintain and increase health transfer payments to provinces and territories.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May says her party will enact pharmacare by 2020, expand access to abortion services, implement improved health care systems for Indigenous people, declare the opioid crisis a national health emergency and establish a national mental health strategy.

Affordable child care

A lack of affordable child care affects everyone, but it disproportionately targets women. The Canadian Women’s Foundation points out that becoming a mother can hurt a woman’s earnings and career — especially if she has to take extended time off work due to child-care costs.

READ MORE: Paid leave, tax credits, more benefits — What the parties are promising parents

Even when mothers do go back to work, they’re often the ones caring for kids once they get home, according to Melanee Thomas, a professor of political science at the University of Calgary.

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Thomas says research shows that women spend more time doing unpaid labour, which includes child care and caring for aging parents.

Kingsley Malo says that affordable and accessible child care would “change the lives of women all over this country.”

“Affordable child care is imperative to our success because, unfortunately, so many of us are still more on the hook for familial matters,” she adds.

Federal Election 2019: Majority of Canadians surveyed say mostly heard negative news about PM candidates

Federal Election 2019: Majority of Canadians surveyed say mostly heard negative news about PM candidates

The issue of affordable child care is not new, but federal party leaders are pledging change.

Winning the Canadian female vote – Part 2: Child care

Winning the Canadian female vote – Part 2: Child care

Winning the Canadian female vote – Part 2: Child care

Where do the parties stand?

Singh says if elected, he would spend $10 billion over the next four years to create 500,000 new child-care spaces in Canada, with the goal of offering free services for some parents.

Trudeau promises that a re-elected Liberal government would invest $535 million yearly to create up to 250,000 more spaces for before- and after-school child-care programs.

READ MORE: Toronto parents want more child care commitments from federal parties

Sheer has pledged to help young parents by bringing in a 15 per cent tax credit for maternity and parental Employment Insurance (EI) benefits.

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May’s Green Party says it will invest $1 billion annually “to ramp up federal child care funding” to achieve the international benchmark of at least 1 per cent of GDP.

Diversity and representation

More women need to run as elected officials, experts say, in order to ensure their perspectives are heard. A lack of female representation affects the issues that get covered, and the policies put in place.

Thomas says research shows that women in elected positions talk about different topics than men do, and are more likely to talk about gender, poverty and LGBTQ2 issues.

Quebec is a key election battleground

Quebec is a key election battleground

Kingsley Malo says that women, just by virtue of being women, bring forward a viewpoint that is often missing when only men are in power.

“When issues of health care come up or specific legislation that needs to be passed, we can be sure that women’s perspective are being considered,” Kingsley Malo says.

It’s also incredibly important that women of colour and Indigenous women hold political roles, too. For example, Morgan says that anti-black racism can be better addressed by having more black candidates in all levels of government.

READ MORE: Conservative platform gets a failing grade, Liberal’s barely passes on poverty and health, report

“They have the lens of a black person who has lived experience and can help shape policy,” she says.

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The lack of representation is reflected in the issues that receive mainstream political coverage — especially during debates.

“I think for a lot of the parties, issues that affect racialized women are not things they think impacts their base, or the base they’re interested in, not realizing that we are part of their base,” Morgan explains.

“We do vote and the fact that our issues aren’t seen as important enough to discuss in an election is very sad and why we need more representation.”

Where do the parties stand?

The Liberals say they will continue to have a balanced cabinet, and use a “Gender-based Analysis Plus” lens when developing policies and programs.

Voter trust low among party leaders

Voter trust low among party leaders

The NDP platform pledges to “tackle obstacles to women’s political participation by reforming the electoral system and introducing legislation to encourage political parties to run more women candidates.”

The Green Party pledges to make advancing gender equality one of its key issues.

It is unclear what the Conservatives will do to combat a lack of representation in cabinet.

Winning the Canadian female vote – Part 3: Environment

Winning the Canadian female vote – Part 3: Environment

Winning the Canadian female vote – Part 3: Environment

Violence against women

Research shows that women are disproportionately affected by domestic violence — and things aren’t getting any better.

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A recent study by the Canadian Domestic Homicide Prevention Initiative revealed there’s been no change to domestic homicide rates in the last nine years. Women made up three-quarters of domestic homicides during that time period, with 52 per cent of women belonging to at least one vulnerable group the researchers identified — those with an Indigenous background, new immigrants or refugees, northern or rural residents and children.

READ MORE: Why isn’t violence against women an election issue?

report from Women’s Shelters Canada also showed that the places offering refuge and support for women at risk are increasingly underfunded.

The Canadian Women’s Foundation says violence against women “costs taxpayers and the government billions of dollars every year,” as Canadians spend $7.4 billion to deal with the aftermath of spousal violence.

Indigenous women are at even greater risk of experiencing gender-based violence than non-Indigenous women, the foundation says.

This is a serious social problem, and Kingsley Malo says parties need to do a better job at addressing violence against women.

Significance of advance polls in elections

Significance of advance polls in elections

“The fact that it’s rarely come up on the campaign trail is atrocious, considering the results from the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls report,” she says.

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“We need to be talking about that a lot more, and women know that because we’re the ones who are disproportionately affected by that gender-based violence. We keep saying we want this brought up, and it keeps getting pushed to the wayside.”

Where do the parties stand?

The Liberal platform includes a promise to put forward $30 million to a Gender-Based Violence Strategy.

The Green Party platform promises to develop an action plan to end violence against women and implement the recommendations of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls report. The party also pledged to invest $40 million over four years in order to provide more than 2,100 new or renovated shelter spaces for women.

READ MORE: NDP would ‘encourage’ provinces to improve delivery of health care, Singh says

The NDP also says it would work with Indigenous groups and implement the MMIWG inquiry’s calls to action and also develop a national action plan to end gender-based violence.

The Conservative Party says it will develop a national action plan to address the ongoing tragedy of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

— With files from Jane Gerster and Global News

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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Don’t like any political party leaders? Here’s why you should still vote – National

by BBG Hub

The 2019 federal election is just around the corner, but some Canadians may feel uninspired to head to the polls.

Maybe you dislike all of the political party leaders, or you’re frustrated with debates turning into personal attacks.

So what do you if you don’t like any of the political party leaders and don’t want to vote? Here are some things to consider.

You vote for an MP, not a leader

Alex Marland, a professor of political science at Memorial University of Newfoundland, says it’s important Canadians remember that they don’t directly elect a prime minister, they elect Members of Parliament (MPs).

READ MORE: Here’s what you need to know to vote 

While media attention is usually focused solely on party leaders, Marland says, it’s actually quite useful for Canadians to think about individual candidates.

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“Reality is, research suggests that it’s anywhere from four to 10 per cent of Canadians who do actually consider their local candidate when they’re voting,” Marland says.

“I think it comes down to recognizing that the leader is powerful, yes, but the power that an individual MP can have comes from the ability of that MP to be willing to stand up, and willing to challenge authority.”

Federal Election 2019: Majority of Canadians surveyed say mostly heard negative news about PM candidates

Federal Election 2019: Majority of Canadians surveyed say mostly heard negative news about PM candidates

With this in mind, Marland says voters should choose a preferred local candidate who is likely to represent their interests irrespective of party affiliation.

Don’t destroy your ballot

Destroying your ballot because you don’t like candidates isn’t the best option, according to Laura Stephenson, a professor of political science at Western University.

“It doesn’t have any bearing on the outcome of the election because it’s still going to be decided by everyone else who did cast a ballot,” she explains.

READ MORE: Promises Trudeau, Scheer, Singh, May and Blanchet have made

Elections Canada does not consider spoiled or destroyed ballots, therefore making them essentially useless.

Marland echoes Stephenson’s stance, and says destroying a ballot is an “ineffective act of signalling dissatisfaction.”

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Instead, they both suggest voting for the candidate you dislike the least.

Vote for the person you dislike the least

“Recognize that elections are about trade-offs and making imperfect choices,” Marland says.

Marland says research shows that when people say they dislike all their options, chances are they haven’t fully read all parties’ platforms.

He says that people often don’t like someone because of how they physically look — not because they truly dislike all their policies.

Why voting is so important for Canada’s generation Z

Why voting is so important for Canada’s generation Z

“If you were to take a look at any political party leader or party’s policies, inevitably, there are policies that we are going to disagree with and you just choose the best of the available options,” Marland says.

“To me, that’s the best possible way to express frustration, because you say, well, I don’t like these alternatives, therefore this is the alternative I’ll support.”

It’s almost impossible to unseat a PM. Here’s why it’s worth it to try

(If you’re frustrated with your options, Marland says citizens can volunteer to help a local candidate on their campaign or connect with other members of the community.)


Stephenson argues that voting is often a better option than sitting out the electoral process. The point of a democracy is to voice your opinion, not withhold it.

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READ MORE: Diversity of federal candidates up from 2015 but advocates say more work to be done

“There’s lots of different forms of political expression out there when it comes to the ballot box,” she says.

“But the best form of political expression is actually just saying who you like better.”

For more information on when, where and how to vote, Global News has created this voter’s guide.

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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Generation Z: What Canada’s youngest voters are worried about – National

by BBG Hub

Ahmed Dirie spent years thinking voting didn’t matter.

The 23-year-old of Toronto says his mindset changed when he started realizing how much an election could impact his day-to-day. “As people got elected, [their] policies are directly affecting my life … and my little brother’s and mom’s life,” he tells Global News.

Dirie is part of generation Z: a group of first-time voters who are amped about issues like tuition fees and climate change. People in this generation can range from ages 14 to 24, but experts haven’t pinpointed an exact start and end time.

READ MORE: Canada election — What federal leaders have pledged on the economy

Dirie says he sees the impact an election can have on his little brother, who is just entering university. Things have shifted since the Progressive Conservatives won the last Ontario election and made changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP), which will make it harder for his brother to pay for school. “He doesn’t have as much OSAP money as my sister did … we have to work harder to get him through school.”

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“I found out [we’re one of] the biggest generations to vote,” he said.

“We have the most power, but we think we don’t.”

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The largest voting bloc of 2019

When it comes to this year’s federal election, generation Z, along with millennials, will make up the largest voting bloc of 2019. More millennials are eligible to vote than baby boomers, Ottawa-based research and strategy firm Abacus Data reported in September,

But this year’s young voters don’t show the same motivation as last election’s young voters, according to Abacus Data.

Credit: Brent Rose, art by Laura Whelan

I don’t know that we can say definitively one way or another whether millennials will come or won’t come out to vote in droves [in 2019],” Ihor Korbabicz, researcher and executive director at Abacus, previously told Global News.

For the first time, millennial voters will make up the biggest voting bloc in a federal election

For the first time, millennial voters will make up the biggest voting bloc in a federal election

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Sean Simpson, vice-president of Ipsos, previously told Global News if millennials, for example, don’t vote on Oct. 21, the Conservatives can easily form a government.

An Ipsos poll, conducted exclusively for Global News from Sept. 20 to 23 found young voters, between the ages of 18 and 34, were more likely to vote Liberal, NDP or Green.

Bryn de Chastelain, vice president of academic and advocacy with the Saint Mary’s University Student’s Association in Halifax, previously told Global News he has more hope.

“The Canadian Alliance of Students Associations — which we’re a part of — put out a poll in March that shows 93 per cent of post-secondary students are planning on voting in this year’s election.”

Why these Gen Z-ers are voting this year

But this generation seems hopeful as well.

Dirie says he will encourage his own friends to vote on Oct. 21 — whether this means letting them know how to register to vote or even simply showing them how “easy” it is.

Darren James Aning, 19, works with Generation Chosen, a Toronto based non-profit organization focused on young adults from marginalized communities. Aning says through the organization, more young people are learning about federal leaders, policies and the importance of voting in general.

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He is excited to vote on Oct. 21, adding he truly feels like his vote matters.

“I feel like when we don’t vote … it’s not helpful to anyone.”

Credit: Brent Rose, art by Laura Whelan

Sarah Kinchlea, 18, says it almost feels like there is pressure for her generation to vote in this upcoming election.

“For young people … it’s almost like it’s their hands to turn the world around, that’s what everybody keeps saying,” she said. “It feels like it’s our responsibility to change the world. And that is a big responsibility.”

For university student Eunice Yong, 18, voting is not only a democratic right, but something she says we should all encourage others around us to do — especially people who typically don’t vote.

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Yong herself is committed to making sure her own friends vote, even if they don’t know who to vote for. And even if data suggests young people won’t come out and vote this year, she sees it differently.

“Yes, we’re young and we might not have all the degrees or expertise [in the election], but we have that passion and that leads us to somewhere big and great in the future.”

Engaged and under 18

It’s not just Gen Z-ers who are the legal age to vote who feel a need for change. Several students in this generation under 18 tell Global News they feel much more engaged with politics in general. Whether this means mock elections at school or classes that focus on news headlines, many under 18 have this upcoming election on their radar.

Sam Kaplun, 16, of Toronto says whether you can vote or not, the impact of the election will still affect young people.

It affects everyone above and under the voting age,” he said. “Tuition costs, for example, [is] the easiest example that comes to mind.”

Credit: Brent Rose, art by Laura Whelan

Hanna Ekrami says sometimes her generation doesn’t get enough credit for how much they actually understand about what’s going on in the world. The 13-year-old is eager to vote when she turns 18.

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“We are even more concerned than other [older] people, because we’re growing up and we have to see this all happen.”

READ MORE: It’s almost impossible to unseat a PM. Here’s why it’s worth it to try

Julian Bauer-Kong, also, 13, adds his generation and age group generally are more in tune with what’s going on because of social media. “We see a lot of news … this is how we learn about the world and how people our age share what they care about.”

Lauren Nathens, 16, says while some people in her generation don’t care about the world around them, it is becoming harder and harder to avoid these conversions, especially in school. Her school in Toronto, for example, has everything from a women’s empowerment club to a Black Student Union to several other activism groups and clubs that target youth.

“I wouldn’t even call it activism at this point… it is such a specific term,” she said. “You don’t need to be active, you just need to understand what’s happening.”

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What worries Gen Z? The climate

But the one issue that stood out for all students is climate change.

From discussing the Amazon fires to drastic weather changes to banning plastic, generation Z can be very outwardly passionate about the climate. In September, hundreds of people across Canada took part in a climate strike, bringing awareness to climate change.

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Kaplun says he is learning a lot more about science and the climate in his classrooms. He can see why people in his generation are overly concerned.

“We’re going to live longer and we’re more likely to see the serious impacts that climate change is going to have.”

Kinchlea agrees, adding social media — and really the constant reminder of climate change — is one of the strongest driving forces to make people care. She is personally inspired by young climate change activist Greta Thunberg.

“It’s a huge thing because people are seeing themselves in her,” she said. “The fact that she was so young and able to get to such a high position … that’s motivating young people.”

READ MORE: Millennials can have a very strong voice in deciding Canada’s future — if they choose to vote

Generation apathetic?

There are often links between young people, general apathy and low voter turn out, but some Gen Z-ers think it’s changing.

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Aliya Varma, 21, of Montreal says as a political science student, she feels like she is constantly surrounded by news.

“The notion that youth do not care about politics is completely false. If anything, we are a group of people who worry about our futures not only in terms of employment, but the state of the environment and its future,” she said. “Everything nowadays is political.”

READ MORE: Generation Z: What will be the legacy they leave behind?

Kieran Morgan, 19, of Ottawa agrees. “I’ve seen more passionate discussion about politics among people my age than any other demographic.”

But Perushka Gopalkista, 22, says federal leaders could be doing a better job appealing to young people.

Credit: Brent Rose, art by Laura Whelan

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“It’s not that [generation Z] doesn’t care, I think there’s no interest,” she said. “Because every party has different policies and beliefs, and it’s not so much directed towards students … I can see why there would be no interest in the election from young people.”

— With files from Taz Dhaliwal, Jesse Thomas 

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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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When political differences create family drama — and how to handle it at Thanksgiving – National

by BBG Hub

With the federal election just around the corner, Thanksgiving dinner will likely come with a side of political debate.

“There’s often that one relative who always has to be right … or a relative who is insufferable, won’t listen and wants to pontificate,” says Melanee Thomas, an associate professor of political science at the University of Calgary.

While some families have more civil discussions than others, Thomas says, research shows Canadian society may be becoming more polarized.

A recent political study found evidence of “affective polarization” among the Canadian public, which is described as a “dislike of parties or their supporters on the other end of the political spectrum simply because they belong to an opposing group.”

READ MORE: Got questions about voting in Canada? Here are some answers

This trend is troubling, researchers say, because it suggests “polarization does not just influence people’s opinions about the parties, but also how they view ordinary Canadians.”

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Thomas says this is happening in the U.S., too, and points to research that shows political polarization has caused people to adopt an “us-versus-them” mentality.

So how can you talk out political differences without turning Thanksgiving dinner into the first leaders’ debate? The first step is setting pure intentions.

Come from a place of curiosity

You may think your cousin is a tool for his views on tax reform, and that’s OK. But don’t jump into a heated argument with someone just because they have different views than you, says Ottawa-based etiquette expert Julie Blais Comeau.

Instead, approach the conversation from a place of genuine curiosity. If you want to understand why someone believes what they do, ask.

Which federal leader has post-debate momentum?

Which federal leader has post-debate momentum?

Blais Comeau suggests using prompts like, “Tell me more,” “That’s really interesting, I never thought about it that way” and “Can you give me an example?”

By using neutral language, you are not coming across as combative. This helps promote healthy discourse, Blais Comeau says.

Use evidence, not emotion

If you’re going to talk politics at the table, educate yourself on issues and be prepared to back up your points. Insults and below-the-belt remarks do not move conversations in a productive manner.

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READ MORE: Why isn’t violence against women an election issue?

“Present evidence and try to have a dispassionate conversation,” Thomas suggests.

“Ask people to explain why they feel a certain way to get them into a position where they consider they might not actually be correct.”

This tactic does not always work, Thomas says, especially if someone holds polarized views. When it’s clear you and another person are not getting anywhere, take a step back and regain your cool.

Leaders’ Debate: Scheer mocks Trudeau for being ‘oddly obsessed’ with provincial politics

Leaders’ Debate: Scheer mocks Trudeau for being ‘oddly obsessed’ with provincial politics

Don’t take things personally

It’s easy to say and harder to do, but try not to take someone’s political views personally, says Blais Comeau.

“People take [politics] very personally because what they feel is being ‘attacked’ are their own beliefs and values,” Blais Comeau explains.

“So if we’re going to talk about politics at the table, we should approach it from a fact-based point of view and we should definitely keep context in mind.”

READ MORE: There are stark disparities in access to mental health services across Canada

Thomas also suggests pivoting the conversation when it’s heading in a direction you find offensive.

“Try to find some common ground or pivot so that people can talk about a general issue without it necessarily being partisan versus partisan,” she says.

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Know when to walk away

If you know a certain family member is prone to taking a constructive conversation to a nasty place, you might want to speak to them beforehand. Blais Comeau says ringing up a relative and politely telling them that you want to keep Thanksgiving dinner civil can help prevent fights.

“Set the expectations that you don’t intend things to go into a negative direction,” Blais Comeau says. “Make it clear from the outset that the purpose of this gathering is to be grateful, to enjoy each other’s company and not to start a fight.”

How to vote in the 2019 federal election

How to vote in the 2019 federal election

If things do get heated at gatherings, it’s perfectly OK to put an end to the conversation. If your Uncle Jeff does not listen to opposing stances — no matter how well argued they are — you may have to accept that his mind isn’t going to change anytime soon.

In these cases, take the diplomatic “agree-to-disagree” stance.

“Say, ‘I recognize that we’re both passionate, and we can go back and forth on this for a long time, so why don’t we agree to disagree?’” says Blais Comeau.

“Or just put an end to it by saying: ‘You know, that’s interesting. I’m going to have to let that simmer for a few days.’”

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READ MORE: Paid leave, tax credits, more benefits — What the parties are promising parents

— With a file from the Canadian Press

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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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‘One size doesn’t fit all’: Canadian campuses desperately need better mental health services – National

by BBG Hub

This is the fourth story in a four-part series about the transition between high school and “the real world” — whether that’s college, university, the workforce or something completely different. Failure To Launch examines the gaps in Canada’s education system. Read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 here.

When Ellie needed help from a university campus counsellor, she got up extra early so she could get to the office when it opened at 8:30 a.m.

The 24-year-old, whose name has been changed for privacy reasons, is a pharmacy student at the University of British Columbia (UBC).

Ellie struggles with depression and anxiety, and her conditions were getting worse. Her university’s counselling office has limited appointments available for students, and they are on a first come, first served basis.

READ MORE: ‘Failure to Launch kids’ — Canadian students aren’t prepared for adulthood

Because of demand, these drop-in sessions book up quickly — often an hour or two after the office opens. Going in for an appointment meant she would have to skip her morning class.

Missing class made her even more anxious.

Since it was Ellie’s first time at the centre, she needed a triage appointment to determine the urgency of her needs.

“I waited and waited in the office for a couple hours until I finally got to see someone,” Ellie said.

“And then I was told that I had to wait eight weeks for an appointment with a counsellor. This was incredibly devastating.”

Ellie’s depression had worsened, and it took a lot of effort to ask for help. Being told she’d have to wait two months by a triage adviser before a counselling session was incredibly discouraging.

“I had just spent my whole morning telling someone how awful I had been feeling, and all they could tell me was that I had to wait even longer for help,” she said.

“[The triage adviser] gave me brochures for on-campus yoga, a crisis line that was open 24-7, and I was on my way.”

Why it’s so common for mental health issues to develop at school

Post-secondary students across Canada often face the same problem: they need mental health services, but schools don’t have enough resources to meet the demand.

Services are failing to catch up, and in the meantime, students are left in the lurch.

The number of students on college and university campuses with identified mental health conditions “has more than doubled over the past five years,” according to the council group Ontario’s Universities.

More students are anxious and depressed, too, the council found: 65 per cent of those surveyed reported “overwhelming anxiety” in 2016, up from 58 per cent in 2013. When it came to depression, 46 per cent said they were “too depressed to fully function” — a six per cent increase from three years prior.

The majority of people experience their first mental health issue between the ages of 15 and 25, said Tania DaSilva, a child, youth and family therapist at Toronto-based Behaviour Matters. That’s the same age range during which people usually enter or are in post-secondary institutions.

If a student enters post-secondary with an existing mental health condition, support is vital to their academic success, DaSilva said.

“There’s so many things that go into mental health, and for every child or teen, it’s different,” she said.

“They’re transitioning from childhood into adult life, and that’s something that kids struggle with a lot.”

The onset of 75 per cent of mental health disorders happens before 25, according to Ontario’s Universities. These mental health issues include anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and suicidal ideation.

READ MORE: Canadian school counsellors are spread thin — and it’s our students that suffer

Then there’s the pressure of post-secondary school itself: multiple looming deadlines, social issues and homesickness, DaSilva said. All of this can affect mental well-being — especially if a student doesn’t have strong coping skills.

For women in particular, sexual assault on campus is another concern. One in five women experiences sexual assault while attending a post-secondary institution, according to a 2015 report by the Canadian Federation of Students.

Sexual violence can have psychological, emotional and physical effects on a survivor, according to the anti-sexual violence organization Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. This can include depression, flashbacks, post-traumatic stress disorder and self-harm. Proper support is needed to help deal with these effects, the organization says.

Not enough campus resources

In September, a student at the University of Toronto (U of T) died by apparent suicide in the school’s main computer science building, the Bahen Centre for Information Technology. (The university did not use the term “suicide” in reference to the student’s death, but the union representing academic workers at U of T has.)

Sadly, the student was not the first to die at Bahen.

At least two other students died by suicide in the same computer science building: one student died in March, while another died in June 2018.

Their suicides prompted a student-led protest in March decrying what they called a mental health crisis. Students cited long waiting lists and limited options for campus mental health services, a situation the university acknowledged needs to be addressed.

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Mental health “services and supports are provided in a number of ways through a number of offices,” a spokesperson for U of T said in a statement to Global News in response to the issue of student suicides.

“We have been consistently putting more resources into this over the past several years and have worked with community partners to provide additional services,” Sandy Welsh, vice-provost of students at U of T, said in the statement.

The university spent an addition $1.3 million on wellness counsellors during the 2017-18 school year, Welsh said. In the 2018-19 academic year, $1.5 million was put towards having accessibility advisers within programs “in response to the growth in students seeking mental health accommodations.”

Why students have a hard time even getting in the door

Ellie’s experience with UBC’s counselling services was frustrating. She says the school’s model does not help students in a timely manner and can even make them feel like they’re being turned away.

“It honestly has a really big effect [on students],” DaSilva said.

“In most school settings you get to see a counsellor, but you’re not seeing them weekly or regularly because there’s just such a high population of people that also need the services.”

“Schools don’t have the capacity to support in the way most of the kids need.”

UBC’s counselling model includes 45-minute drop-in sessions and 15- to 20-minute “wellness advising” appointments.

READ MORE: University isn’t ‘better’ than college. Why does it get all the glory?

The school has other resources on top of counselling appointments, says Cheryl Washburn, director of counselling services at UBC, including workshops, online and telephone support services and peer support groups.

The goal of UBC’s “integrated” care system, Washburn says, is to provide students with services in a timely and effective manner — not discourage them from getting help.

“One of the things that we’ve come to be aware of over time… is that one size doesn’t fit all,” Washburn said.

“Students really do need different types of resources depending on the level of concern, the nature of the concern and also depending upon their specific goals and other circumstances that might impact access to one service or another, as well as their readiness to engage and at what level.”

Last year, UBC provided 28,000 mental health appointments to its Vancouver students, said a spokesperson for the school, including visits with physicians, counsellors, mental health nurses and psychiatrists.

An additional 4,669 appointments were provided through Empower Me, an online and telephone service that connects students with off-campus professionals.

UBC’s Vancouver campus had nearly 55,000 enrolled students in its 2018-19 academic year.

When it comes to stories of students waiting months to see a counsellor, Washburn acknowledges there is still work to do. But she maintains that eight weeks — the time Ellie said she was given — is not typical. Up to three to four weeks is more likely during busy periods, she said.

If a student is told there’s a wait to see a university counsellor, Washburn says they are reminded they have access outside therapists, too. Students have benefits that include a limited amount of money for professional services, she said, which can be used for counselling.

“We have developed a database of practitioners in the community that offer sliding-scale or lower-cost [services],” she said. “Students have the option if they want [that], and sometimes, they prefer that if they can get to see somebody closer to their home.”

But long wait times are only one of the barriers students face.

Part of the reason Sonya Sevadjian, 20, says she left the University of Waterloo was its hard-to-navigate support services. When Sevadjian was a student at the school from 2016 to 2017, she was struggling with the demands of university and needed help.

“My workload and relationships affected my well-being, but what impacted my mental [health] was the school atmosphere,” Sevadjian said.

Illustration: Laura Whelan

“It felt isolating and stressful, even when [it] didn’t need to be. Enrolled in a top university, there is constant pressure to live up to the expectation of what you need to be, what marks you have to reach, and with this constant comparison and competition, it takes a toll.”

Sevadjian said it was challenging to find out what student services Waterloo offered and how to access them. She felt like she was left on her own to figure out the system.

In a statement sent to Global News, a spokesperson for the university said the school has recently revised its services.

“Following an extensive review of student mental health services on campus in 2017-18, we learned that there was more we could do to ensure students were aware of mental health services available to them on campus and how to access them,” said Matthew Grant, the director of media relations at the University of Waterloo.

“The review, which resulted in 36 recommendations overall, resulted in increased services, more training for faculty and staff, and increased communications efforts to students to advise them of the services available and how to access them. Currently, the University of Waterloo has more than 70 professionals — including counsellors, psychiatrists, mental health nurses and intake workers — who can assist students with mental health concerns.”

Sevadjian eventually decided to transfer to Ryerson University in downtown Toronto. She hasn’t used any of Ryerson’s mental health services yet but said the school’s student services are more clearly advertised. This alone makes her feel better about the pressures of being in school.

There were approximately 36,000 students enrolled at Ryerson last year, and the school’s Centre for Student Development and Counselling (CSDC) supported 2,253 of them with on-campus mental health and counselling services, a spokesperson for Ryerson told Global News.

The CSDC currently has 18 counsellors on staff, up from 15 in 2017.

“The wait for ongoing therapy depends on student needs and can be from a few weeks to a few months,” the spokesperson said.

Numbers can also look similar at Canadian colleges. In the last academic year, Humber College — one of the largest community colleges in Ontario — had a total of 4,250 counsellor visits on campus, along with 1,500 mental health nurse visits, according to a spokesperson.

This year, the college is also offering psychiatry services for students.

For Interpreet Gill, a positive experience with campus mental health services benefited her well-being.

Gill went to Queen’s University from 2010 to 2016, and in her third year of her studies, she accessed counselling services. Gill knew Queen’s counselling office sometimes had wait times — which are roughly anywhere from two to six weeks — but was also aware there were emergency mental health services for high-need students.

The psychology student was able to book an appointment with a counsellor fairly quickly.

“The sessions are meant to help students [manage in the short-term], but I felt really comfortable with the counsellor that I had that I didn’t want to go elsewhere,” Gill said.

Nearly 3,000 students accessed counselling services during the last academic year, a spokesperson for the school told Global News — that’s roughly eight per cent of the total full-time student population.

There’s one counsellor or psychologist for every 1,225 students, and one mental health provider, such as a psychiatrist, for every 950 students.

Queen’s acknowledged that wait times for mental health appointments have been a “chronic issue” despite annual increases in resources.

“This is a sector-wide issue,” a spokesperson for the university said.

Still, Gill managed to see her Queen’s campus counsellor once every few months to check in. It was up to Gill, to schedule those appointments, but the sessions did help.

“I couldn’t see her every week just because of the regulations and the policies that they had,” Gill explained, “but I could see her every now and then, which was nice.”

What helps students?

Having a strong support system is vital for students, DaSilva said — especially if they have a recognized mental health condition.

If a student has a therapist they’ve been seeing before going off to college or university, continuing sessions via Skype or FaceTime is a way to help ensure any issues are being addressed, DaSilva said.

There are also ways students can put protective measures in place should they need help. Talking to academic advisers early on about accommodations can be useful, as can orienting yourself with a school’s mental health services off the bat, she said.

It’s also important for students to be aware of what mental health issues look like so they can get help as soon as they start struggling. This means recognizing the warning signs of conditions, including anxiety and depression, and knowing the importance of talking to someone right away.

Lastly, if campus wait times are simply too long, DaSilva suggests seeing if parents’ insurance plans cover therapy. Some plans, she says, cover kids until they are 25, meaning a student can use those benefits to see an off-campus therapist.

Ultimately, Ellie says, university mental health services just need to improve — UBC’s in particular. Students need to be able to access help when they need it. Posing barriers to access can leave students in dangerous situations, she said.

Ellie’s ability to function at school was hindered by her mental health issues. As her anxiety went untreated, her problems worsened.

She says she struggled to keep up with school because her mood was so low and she eventually started skipping classes. Sitting in a large lecture hall surrounded by hundreds of students was incredibly hard.

“I think anybody who has the courage to go out and ask for help should get help,” she said.

“I don’t think we know enough about mental health to have a risk assessment and try to decide if people should get help or not. We need to start treating it like any other disease.”

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.

The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, Depression Hurts and Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868 all offer ways of getting help if you, or someone you know, may be suffering from mental health issues.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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