The post-Brexit effect on Canada

With Brexit appearing to be slipping further from their hands, British Members of Parliament are preparing to take control of the situation. According to the latest update, the EU approved an extension, saying that the UK would be able to leave on May 22nd, 2019 if a deal was passed by the UK government by end of the week. However, the uncertainty continues to be present now more than ever since Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposed outcome has already been rejected twice.

While the British MP’s are figuring out the next step forward, it is also important to consider the implications of Brexit on other countries, such as Canada. At present, with the UK part of the EU, it is clear that is an opportune place for Canadian companies to invest. It helps that the countries share common laws, a common language and a direct access to a market of 500 million people.

That all changes when Brexit comes into play. Since the UK might no longer be a part of the Customs Union, it changes the thought process around potential investment.

Mike Palota is a Commercial Sales Manager at a Canadian manufacturing company with over 25 years of experience in transacting global trade. He said that in the first 6 to 10 months, there’s going to be a lot of muddling through in order to alter the existing infrastructure in the UK. Since nobody can know the exact nature of the events about to unfold, there’s going to be a lot of time and effort put into the future steps.

“One of the huge – perhaps the biggest challenge with Brexit – is the extent to which this whole thing is a great, flying leap into the absolute unknown,” Palota said. “At first glance, one would think that a Canadian with a Brit passport would have no trouble in the UK but some trouble with the EU. Same goes with a Canadian with an EU passport: Good in Paris, who knows in Liverpool.”

He pointed out that things are potentially going to get really messed up for Canadians with an EU passport by way of Irish citizenship, especially if the citizenship was acquired by way of a connection to Northern Ireland.

“Ireland is in the EU but the UK – Including Northern Ireland – will not be post-Brexit. So post-Brexit, there can’t be the free movement of goods & people across the border between Ireland & Northern Ireland, but the Good Friday Accord says there has to be,” Palota said.

He added that according to the EU, the Good Friday Accord cannot and will not be broken and nobody in Ireland or the North wants to take any sort of chance with whatever peace there is now.

“This is one the central impasses of Brexit,” he said. “Two entirely incompatible ideas trying to exist at the same time.”

Prime Minister May has tried to solve the Northern Ireland issue with the “backstop”, where Northern Ireland is in the Customs Union until the UK and the EU can figure out a way to interact post-Brexit. However, that too appears to have an uncertain outcome.

“And businesses hate uncertainty. Uncertainty paralyses business,” Palota said. “Risk is fine; risk can be calculated but uncertainty can’t be. I can’t imagine that a Canadian with an Irish/EU passport would be asked to leave Belfast or shut down their business there, but I can imagine that person having a hell of a time crossing borders, reporting income, etc.”

Anna Nadibaidze, a Research and Communications Associate at Open Europe said that for Canadians, a lot will depend on the details of the future post-Brexit immigration system. It will also depend on whether the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) will be rolled over in a UK-Canada free trade agreement.

“CETA has a clause which allows for some mobility arrangements, so if there is continuation of that agreement, we can expect the possibility for Canadians coming to work in the UK on a contract or to provide a service,” she said.

The EU and UK have agreed on a transition period until the end of 2020. Nadibaidze further added that after the transition period post-Brexit, the new immigration system will apply the same rules to EU and non-EU citizens. This means that in the new system, Canadians and EU citizens will essentially be on an equal basis.

In the case of a lack of a withdrawal deal between the UK and EU, they’re expected to go back to following the World Trade Organization’s rules. If that turns out to be a reality, any Canadian company in need of importing goods from the EU into the UK would be forced to pay tariffs.

However, the UK and Canadian governments have stated their intentions to apply similar arrangements to CETA after the UK leaves the EU’s trade policy, but it could be more comprehensive. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced last year that it is possible to go beyond the agreement itself for a better and more impactful deal.


Student suicide at University of Toronto leads to concerns about mental health resources

A recent suicide over the weekend at the University of Toronto has raised concerns among students about the availability of mental health resources on campus. The student was found dead on the first floor of the Bahen Centre of Information and Technology at the university’s downtown campus. It was the third reported suicide on campus during this academic year.

An official statement was released by U of T to inform students that there was nothing suspicious about the suicide. Students blame the university’s lack of comprehensive mental health services for these tragedies, referring to it as a “toxic campus environment.”

Aidan Gomez, a former student at U of T stated that the real problem at the university is a cultural and administrative one.

“The administration makes little to no consideration for mental illness (in particular, depression and anxiety are afforded no academic considerations),” he said. “I personally have had requests based on exceptional circumstances of mental well-being (with medical verification and support) denied without justification or opportunity for appeal.

“I feel so disappointed with the sentiment of malaise and distrust it has caused in its student body,” Gomez said. He found the response from the university not only unsatisfactory but also indicative of its continued disinterest in the well-being of its students.

U of T needs to reform its health system

Current students at U of T also believe that the university has failed them and that there needs to be radical and deep reaching changes. According to Sana Rizvi, an International Studies undergrad, it starts with the adequate organization of health centres by the university, so students know where to go for help.

“Many of my friends have called health and wellness and they’re told to wait 3 weeks, and those who have gotten appointments get follow up calls a month later,” she said. “That is completely unacceptable. A lot can happen in one day let alone a month.”

Sheila Rasouli, a third year Neuroscience student, pointed out that the system is inadequate to deal with its growing student population.

“I’ve had many experiences of calling in to make a drop-in appointment 10 minutes after the office opened and being told they already booked up all their drop-in slots for the day,” Rasouli said. “The number of slots it offers fill up almost immediately, so students with a crisis are forced to wait for their appointment to go through.”

The problem doesn’t end there. Students have complained that making the appointment itself can be a hassle, as students who haven’t made appointments have to show up in person before being allowed to make one. However, many students only reach out when they realize they have a problem. As such, it prevents them from making prior appointments and by delaying the intake, the university puts students at more risk than needed.

Students recommend methods for improvement

The university’s president Meric Gertler told CBC that they’re open to listening to students on how to provide better support for mental health. The university has also offered to meet them following Monday’s protest outside Simcoe Hall. Students like Rasouli have begun to take matters into their own hands.

“I emailed university officials with 21 concrete changes to our current mental health system. Currently, with the help of student feedback, that list has grown to 31 actions the university can do to improve student mental health,” she said.

Some of the student suggestions include the following:

  • The administration needs to speak to students and hear out student concerns
  • The establishment of a body within the office of the ombudsman tasked with critically evaluating the cultural and administrative practices within the university’s colleges and student-facing staff
  • Increasing statistical information on student suicides and suicide attempts (As well as mental health on campus).
  • Include a lecture in the larger first year courses to inform students about mental health and how to support those in need

Rasouli is in the process of organizing an event in coordination with the UC LIT, UTSU, UTSGU and NCSC (all student representative organizations) to go over these ideas with the general public in a facilitated discussion.

Protesters rally at Queen’s Park against funding changes to Ontario’s Autism Program

People gathered at Queen’s Park on Thursday morning to protest the Ontario government’s funding changes to the province’s autism program. According to the recent plan revealed by Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod, many children will be left without access to adequate treatment levels. The changes are set to take effect from April 1st, 2019.

The new plan also aims to tackle the dilemma of long waiting periods, which involves nearly 23,000 children awaiting government-funded treatment. At the present time, there are just 8,400 children who are receiving therapy through the program. While intensive therapy can cost up to $80,000 a year, the families are promised only $20,000 per year for treatment for children under six years with a maximum of $140,000 for a lifetime.

This move has been met with criticism by many families. Some have also made their way to Minister MacLeod’s office in Ottawa to echo the voices of those at the protest. Shannon Glen, whose autistic son Shawn was waitlisted for therapy for three years before getting treatment, stated this is a shameful and shortsighted policy.

“The government is trying to divide and conquer with the new plan and it is a cruel one,” she said. “It is a human rights issue and it enrages me that kids wouldn’t get the chance to get the help they need.”

Shannon’s son was one of the lucky ones to receive full treatment before the changes were announced. She said that Shawn is a poster boy for the fact that therapy works. Her concern goes out to schools as well, as she fears that they are not properly funded or equipped to deal with the impact of the changes.

“Kids might disrupt the classes and be excluded from school,” she said. “Not to mention that the classrooms are already overcrowded.” She is not the only one with such qualms.

Schools to face multiple challenges with policy change  

Jeff Bomben from Autism Ontario said that one of the concerns includes families having to register their children for school without having the time to appropriately transition them into the classroom. Additionally, there are worries about schools not having enough funding to place diagnosed children in appropriate settings prepared to meet their individual needs.

“We know there are approximately 20,000 students with ASD in school right now, that number does not include the children who are enrolled in the current Ontario Autism Program,” he said. “Those numbers could potentially change starting April 1st.”

According to Bomben, schools face another challenge with this program change. Educational supports that were implemented for students with autism years ago are now insufficient in scope and effectiveness.

“Unless increased evidence-based supports and implementation supervision by qualified professionals are available in all Ontario schools, it will be impossible to meet the educational needs of students with ASD,” he said.

“The Ministry of Health is also noticeably absent in providing necessary health supports for people with autism across the lifespan.”

Autism Ontario recommends the following steps to be implemented:

  • Increased Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) supervision in schools,
  • Collaboration across Ministries with the emphasis on the child’s learning and mental health needs over siloed systems
  • Mandatory Pre-service training in Evidence-Based Practice and ABA for all educators.

Devin Scully, a long-time member of the Progressive Conservative Party, campaign staffer and past nomination candidate for the PC party, said that these changes will serve to further erode the public’s trust in the party.

“In my hometown of Barrie, I’ve heard more than a few times from long time party supporters that the party has taken a wrong direction and is setting itself up to be seen as untrustworthy for a long time after this government leaves office,” he said.

As one of the people who had attended the protest earlier today, Scully mentioned that the speakers touched on important points and made it quite clear that this is a relentless group. He was also impressed to see representatives from opposition parties in attendance to support the protestors on the lawn.

“Often times poorly made decisions eventually blow over and the upset individuals learn to live with it. That won’t be the case with the ASD community. Some of the people in attendance today have been protesting for autism for nearly two decades, there’s nothing to suggest they’ll stop any time soon,” he said.


Hamilton city votes to look into previous Red Hill Parkway findings

Hamilton city council voted on February 14th to conduct a review of the 2013 report about the safety of the Red Hill Valley Parkway. According to the report, the level of friction on various parts of the highway was below the required safety standards.

Following a five-hour discussion early Thursday, the councillors approved a motion to get outside counsel regarding options for an external investigation. If it moves ahead, the potential cost could be from $500,000 to $6 million.

Buried report prompted vote

The city admitted last week that a friction test report from Tradewind Scientific was hidden for five years.  The planned investigation would also look into how the report got lost and who might have known about its existence. The report had recommended that the friction should be tested once more but that never happened.

The council has ordered an audit to figure out why the report was not shared. The members acknowledged during their meeting that the delayed exposure to the truth leaves the city open to lawsuits.

Victim’s father appeals for judicial probe

David Smosarski is one of the many members of the public who is urging for a judicial review to be conducted. In his letter to councillors, he wrote that he has lost faith in the municipal government as a result of the hidden tests.

His 19-year-old daughter Olivia, and her friend Jordyn Hastings died in 2015 when they lost control of the vehicle and struck a van.

Smosarski wrote about how he was angry when he learnt about the friction test results. “My family has always felt that there was something inherently wrong with the surface of the parkway,” he told the Hamilton Spectator.

Families of multiple other victims have been calling on the city to put various safety measures in place, such as having barriers on the centre median. While that was not put into effect, the city has voted for other measures after Thursday’s meeting:

  • Reduce the speed limit from 90km/h to 80km/h from Greenhill to the QEW
  • Install new signs next week
  • Ask Hamilton police to increase enforcement
  • Accelerate plans to resurface the highway for approximately $15 million 

Multiple deaths and crashes cause traffic tragedy 

There have been more than 200 collisions on the parkway since the time that the report was kept from the public. According to the latest statistics, there were 93 collisions that took place last year alone. Although the traffic volumes were lesser from 2012 to 2017, the Red Hill had more than twice as many crashes than the connecting Lincoln Alexander Parkway.

It was observed that majority of the crashes occur between King Street East and Greenhill Avenue as well as between Dartnall Road and Mud Street. A singular cause for these accidents and deaths have not been determined.

The city released the January 2019 CIMA+ Roadside Safety Assessment to the public early Thursday. The report stated that two of the possible factors present in these crashes may be incompetent skid resistance and speeding. It also recommended improvements worth $1.3 million to be made such as putting new guide rails into place.

Sheridan College implements smoke-free policy


The execution of an early smoke-free policy at all three Sheridan College campuses on Oct. 17th, 2018, has led students to find off-campus locations. The initial decision of the college was to go smoke-free in 2012, but due to competing issues, it was pushed to May 2019. However, with the legalization of cannabis in Ontario, came the need to implement the policy at an earlier date.

According to the regulation, students are not allowed to smoke or vape anywhere on campus property, be it with cigarettes or cannabis. Students with a medical accommodation for cannabis, must go through the college’s Accessible Learning Department.

The rule is enforced in all three campuses, of which the Hazel McCallion Campus has always been smoke-free as the land is owned by the Mississauga municipal. As for the Trafalgar campus in Oakville, the forest surrounding the college constitutes as Sheridan property. This is also applicable for the lake near the Davis campus in Brampton. Hence, smoking is prohibited in these areas.

Tammy Datar, manager of the Health Centres at all three campuses mentioned notable changes since the policy was implemented.

“We have seen lots of evidence of students going out to the road and actually following the rules,” she said. “We still have some pockets in some areas where students and faculty are smoking. We will be doing some follow up to monitor that, and security will be monitoring as well.”

She explained about the initiatives available to students to counter addiction, including programs like Leave the Pack Behind and Smoking Treatment for Ontario Patients. The STOP program will provide other options for nicotine replacement therapy, which are mostly subsidized for the students.

“They have the capacity to utilize NRT to either stop smoking or to reduce their need for that or to manage their cravings whenever they’re not able to smoke in an environment.

“There is also going to be a potential study on cigarette butts on campus and the litter on where they’re mostly being found and by how much,” Tammy said. “We want to see if we’re noticing any reduction and if there’s anything, what can be done to target those potential areas.”

When asked about the safety issues concerning going off-campus, she responded that students are always responsible for their own safety.

“Just like you were going to the bar or grocery store or anywhere off campus, you are always responsible for your safety and your own well-being.”

A debrief meeting took place on Nov. 15th, 2018 where the effects of the policy were discussed along with what could be improved next time. According to Tammy, the feedback or rather the lack of feedback, revealed that a handful of students were supportive of the initiative, while a few were not. In addition, she said there were less than 25 comments that were released on the website.

Emily Meadus, a Theatre Production student addressed how the policy has affected her directly.

“The way it’s really affected my studies is that I have been irritable and unable to focus in class for having missed my morning smoke,” Emily said. “This is because during some mornings, I’ve not had time to go off-campus.”

While it hasn’t been difficult to find specific off-campus locations, she mentioned the cold weather was becoming an inconvenience.

“The policy’s affected my smoking habit since it’s caused me to take more smoke breaks because I have less actual smoking time and more walking time now in my breaks between class,” she said.

On the other hand, Hari Shanker, a Visual Creative Arts student spoke about how the smoke-free initiative has been having a positive impact.

“I have seen a positive effect among a few people who I know used to be heavy smokers and now have gotten used to smoking less,” Hari said. He agreed as well that off-campus locations aren’t particularly hard to uncover.

“Ever since the legalization of cannabis, I have seen people smoking in the streets without a care in the world,” he added. “However, students now have to go out for a smoke during short class breaks, which might discourage them from continuing with the habit soon.”

In regard to his own smoking habit, he said the policy has reduced his smoking frequency as it prevents him from giving in to the occasional temptation.

For students interested in using NRT to quit smoking, they are requested to go through the Health Centre and book an appointment with the nurse, so that information can be provided accordingly. They are also encouraged to utilize the various health services and reach out for help.

The college is actively targeting advertisements. As such, Tammy suggested to keep an eye out for commercials on Inside Halton for further initiatives. She pointed out that peer mentors have been doing Leave the Pack Behind outreaches over the past month.

A workshop on the STOP program is scheduled to take place on Dec. 6th, 2018 at the Trafalgar campus conference centre. Another event is set to happen on Mar. 20th, 2019 to celebrate smoking cessation and the campus having gone smoke-free.

How a community’s actions for change are effective in combating obesity in the UAE

When it comes to factors that have an impact on an individual’s body weight, their lifestyle choice is a prominent one. Regular consumption of fattening and unhealthy food items, coupled with constant physical inactivity leads to obesity, which is one of the most common diseases prevalent in the UAE.

According to a survey released by Zurich International Life in 2015, 47.5 per cent of UAE residents were overweight, with a BMI of between 25 and 30, while another 13 per cent were obese, with a BMI of over 30.

But this problem has not gone unnoticed by the government. Anti-obesity campaigns and programs have been undertaken, in order to spread awareness and educate citizens about healthy lifestyle choices.

Locals combine forces with the international society

These efforts are not just by the local authorities alone, but also through their partnerships with organizations like the United Nations Children’s Fund. With their initiatives like School Health Education Project and The Fat Truth (2009), they have aimed at promoting a nutritious life for children, adolescents and parents alike.

Dr. Dalia Haroun, a UNICEF representative pointed out that one of the main obstacles faced by them while implementing the campaign was that health education was not previously offered in school.

“But after that campaign, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education decided that we needed to make sure that children in school were well-informed about health,” Dr. Haroun said.

“One of the successes that happened after the Fat Truth campaign was, it became a policy that all students in every public school in the UAE received health education in their school years.”

Nonetheless, a few years later when UNICEF was conducting an evaluation, Dr. Haroun saw that the method of delivery of health education content was a problem.

“So, although students were getting the information about obesity and healthy eating, there was still an increase in obesity or the students were not adopting a healthy lifestyle,” she observed. “We also noticed that the lesson they’re learning is not fun and it’s not interactive.”

In order to alter this, Dr. Haroun added that they have been working over the past year with the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and in Abu Dhabi with the Abu Dhabi Investment Council. Their efforts have been to change the mode of delivery to make it further interesting and appealing for students.

“And even though our program is an obesity prevention program, our target audience is not just obese children,” Dr. Haroun clarified. “We target all children, all parents, because we believe that healthy living is for everyone and not just the obese.”

Restaurants can have an impact on residents’ eating habits as well

Another drive that was launched by the Ministry of Health and Prevention on May 2016 was the Healthy Restaurant Initiative, wherein restaurants are encouraged to have healthy options and choices as part of their menus. Additionally, the breakdown and analysis of various nutrients will be displayed as icons next to the name of the dish on the menu.

Mum Mum, an innovative fast food joint in Sharjah is one such place that has signed up for the Healthy Restaurant Initiative. Lisa Frost, the catering manager for Mum Mum mentioned that they have an entirely separate menu for meals that were healthy and non-fried.

“We’re getting the recipes to fit the standards of what is required and we are one of the ones in the area that like to push it forward,” Frost added.

Snezana Vrtanoska, the in-house nutritionist, noted that restaurants could be effective in helping people with weight control, as they can modify the serving size and caloric value of the dishes served to customers.

“We meet the requirements for all kinds of dishes, not only from the ones we’re choosing for the menu,” Vrtanoska said. “You can also ensure that the ingredients you are using are good for the body, especially because it will be checked by the Ministry. They also make sure that we’re not using margarine or some other fats, which are not suitable for the foods.

“In part, this is very easy because we’re controlling the factors like nutrient level,” she stated. “This is in general because it is the wholesome approach of fast food restaurants, to meet the standards of like, 95 per cent of selected items.”

Since there are healthy alternatives on the menu for both adults and children, she detected a change in people’s eating habits.

There are ways to inculcate physical activities as part of a student’s routine

Apart from having a measured diet, physical training also plays a role when it comes to weight loss. Due to the high summer heat, the idea of working out may not seem appealing to the masses.  However, according to university student and fitness enthusiast Nidhish Madhyastha, it comes down to personal preference as to what the individual enjoys doing.

“Swimming and weightlifting are great options,” Nidhish said. “You’re going to feel very lethargic so make sure whatever you do is something you look forward to doing. For the average Joe, I would say weights and a good diet are his best bet.”

While hectic schedules may be a common hindrance that prevents people, including college students, from exercising, Nidhish pointed out that doing little things over the course of the day would create a difference.

“For one, I think we should keep a mental reminder to check our postures every now and then,” he suggested. “Drink lots of water and eat right. Develop a taste for the healthy while you can.

“Lastly, just set a goal for yourself. You’ll find yourself doing everything automatically as you try to achieve it.”

By Revathy Rajan


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