Sunday, June 4, 2017

Protecting the Vulnerable: Lab Animals and ITR Laboratories

I'm not a vegetarian nor do I think I could ever be one (I love the taste of meat). However, I definitely see why some people would be swayed to take that route. ITR Laboratories Canada in Baie D'Urfe, Quebec has been conducting medical and cosmetic animal testing on animals such as dogs, mini pigs, monkeys, and smaller animals like mice, rats, and rabbits for years. Unethical testing that is. An undercover video shot by Stephanie* (not her real name), a former ITR Laboratories technician over a four-month period documented the horrific abuse of the lab animals and under high high levels of distress. She had been doing so for Last Chance for Animals - an animal rights group based in LA that believed Canadian labs were overdue for scrutiny. Stephanie said that derma testing on pigs was especially difficult for her because they are very sensitive creatures and respond quickly. "You learned very quickly to avoid eye contact because that's what got me," she told Kevin Newman of W5 during the "In the Name of Science" special (http://www.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=1075783). Part of Stephanie's footage showed a technician striking beagles 16 times because they weren't looking forward to ingesting chemicals. He also pulled their ears 10 times. "Dogs (were) howling, crying all day long," she said. "Up and down the halls you'd go, and that's all you would hear is the dogs crying and howling." (http://www.ctvnews.ca/w5/undercover-investigation-reveals-what-goes-on-inside-montreal-animal-research-lab-1.3320123). Truck driver Leszek is one concerned Montrealer who has attended many of the ongoing protests each Friday outside ITR. "Test it on murderers or pedophiles. You'll have the right results," the proud vegetarian told me on Friday in an off-the-cuff interview. "IF you test it on animals, 90 per cent of the tests fail. Even if 10 per cent works on animals, it is not good on humans because we are different. That is why people get cancer..." He said that ITR has been conducting cosmetic testing for one Japanese company for years. A 2013 survey by the Canadian Council of Animal Care, however, found that 60 per cent of Canadians felt it was "somewhat acceptable for animals to potentially suffer for safety testing of medicine" (http://www.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=1075783). While a diverse group of people who were shown Stephanie's footage before the general public were sickened by it, one woman said that she thought the only thing testing should be done on is something like finding a cancer cure "if the animals are treated well." Many others in the group voiced their agreement saying that cosmetic and household product testing was uncalled for. The initial reaction of one woman who loved dogs said she wanted "to kill" the technicians. Her male counterpart said, "They deserve to go through the same or worse." Michael Brunt, a research animal technician at the Central Animal Facility and a professor at the University of Guelph, told W5 that he strongly advocates for lab animals to be treated with compassion but said, "The ethical use of animals in medical testing is morally justified" (http://www.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=1075783). "I’m passionate about a lot! I am passionate about animals that I have the privilege to care for with compassion and respect. I am passionate about the science that continually makes strides towards new therapeutic advancements. I am passionate about alleviating the suffering of our fellow animals and people who agonize with debilitating and painful diseases. I (chose) this profession in research because it is my passion" (https://speakingofresearch.com/2015/05/27/a-conversation-about-beagle-testing/). The majority of work done at the facility "is basic or fundamental science in a wide variety of areas including oncology, neuroscience, animal behaviour and welfare, molecular biology, physiology, immunology, among others," he said (https://speakingofresearch.com/2015/05/27/a-conversation-about-beagle-testing/). He added: "Various non-animal research methods are used together with animal studies to reduce the number of animals needed. These methods include antibodies, stem cells, tissue cultures (all in-directly use animals) and computer models. Non-animal methods account for the majority of biomedical research. Nevertheless, there are important research questions that still require animals. For example, in drug development, a large initial group of chemical candidates may be screened using non-animal methods, and only the most promising ones are taken through animal testing and human clinical trials. Before animal studies can go forward, investigators must detail how they have considered non-animal methods, and why they are not appropriate for answering their research question" (https://speakingofresearch.com/2015/05/27/a-conversation-about-beagle-testing/). Unfortunately, laboratories like ITR operate differently as video documentation shows. Its claim that “ITR operates in compliance with industry standards and federal, and provincial guidelines for animal care in a laboratory testing environment,” the company wrote in a statement to W5. “We take our responsibility to treat the animals in our care with the utmost respect very seriously" (http://www.ctvnews.ca/w5/undercover-investigation-reveals-what-goes-on-inside-montreal-animal-research-lab-1.3320123) is utter BS! According to Kwiathowski: "The more people who know (about this), the more we can make moral progress in Canada."

Monday, May 29, 2017

Protecting Women's Privacy and Dignity Via Safe Zones Around Abortion Clinics

Thank you, Yasir Naqvi (and the Liberal government!) for giving a damn about Ontario women and their right to privacy and dignity when going to abortion clinics. In particular in Ottawa. The Ontario Attorney General and Ottawa Centre MPP plans to propose a bill this fall and cites reports of harassment by a small group of anti-abortion protesters outside a clinic in his riding (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/ottawa-province-protect-abortion-clincs-1.4135673). "These zones around abortion clinics will ensure that women across Ontario have access to healthcare services, and that their privacy and dignity are protected when doing so," Naqvi said (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/ottawa-province-protect-abortion-clincs-1.4135673). This summer he will consult on the issue, looking at similar laws already in place in Quebec, British Columbia, and Labrador and Newfoundland. B.C., for instance, passed the Access to Abortion Services Act in 1995, which prohibits protesting, intimidation, and physical interference within “access zones” around clinics, hospitals, and doctors’ offices that offer abortion services (http://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/city-has-grounds-to-regulate-protesters-outside-ottawas-abortion-clinic-legal-experts). Quebec is the leader in Canada by being home to 46 of Canada's 94 abortion facilities, with at least half in rural areas. Its health policy (it has directed funds specifically to providing abortion in underserved areas since the 1970s) has dictated that every health region have at least one abortion facility (http://news.nationalpost.com/health/quebec-home-to-46-of-canadas-94-abortion-facilities-while-p-e-i-doesnt-have-a-single-clinic-study-finds). Parti Québécois deputy Carole Poirier started working on a similar law for Quebec following the deadly mass shooting at a Colorado Planned Parenthood Clinic in 2015 (https://news.vice.com/article/quebec-wants-to-ban-pro-lifers-from-protesting-outside-abortion-clinics). The important thing, however, is to not only protect women's rights to safe abortions and to protect their dignity and privacy but to also not infringe on freedom of speech and the right to peaceful protest. However, it is hard to respect someone's right to protest when he or she is being anything but peaceful and respectful. Women seeking medical attention and procedures should not be harassed or spit on. That is simply disgusting plain and simple! Ottawa mayor Jim Watson said, "We've seen harassment over the years on Bank Street at the (Morgentaler) clinic but it was starting in many ways to get worse." (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/ottawa-province-protect-abortion-clincs-1.4135673). Naqvi's proposal makes Catherine McNab, the executive director of Planned Parenthood Ottawa, a partner of the downtown clinic excited. "In a perfect world it would happen tomorrow but realistically, the idea something so significant, something that's been happening for decades could be resolved or addressed within a matter of months, we certainly can celebrate that today," said Catherine Macnab. "That doesn't change the fact there are people that are going to need protection today, tomorrow and every day between now and then." (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/ottawa-province-protect-abortion-clincs-1.4135673). I'm so grateful to live in Canada where women's rights are respected unlike backwards countries in the Middle East or the United States of Trump where defunding to Planned Parenthood was one of the first things on the Donald's conservative agenda. I think safe zones should be created throughout Canada because all women have the right to choose and to have access to a safe abortion. Anything less is unacceptable!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Saying Good-bye... for Now, Sweet Ottawa

After having lived in the Nation's Capital for almost 13 years, I'm going back to Montreal for work. Ottawa will always be home and have a special place in my heart. I grew into a young woman here and experienced many things both good (wrote for The Ottawa Sun, made great friends, found a great church, got the opportunity to travel a bit, etc.) and bad (marriage/divorce, financial struggles, etc.). It is with a heavy heart that I leave, but I believe I will return to Ottawa one day. I love the people and the city. I love all it has to offer. I was fortunate (and privileged!) to meet one of my very best friends here and cried as we went to our last Trivia night together on Tuesday. I love her more than words can say. Friends forever, Sigrid. A friend of mine in Montreal gave me a card once that I still have hanging on my bulletin board. It says, "Life is a journey - and the end of one part is always the the beginning of another." Again, I may being bidding you adieu for now sweet Ottawa, but I don't think it's for forever. As the Bible says, there is a time for everything and a season for every activity (Ecclesiastes 3). For now, I am returning to moja kochana mamusia (my beloved mother), my dad, Dan (my baby brother... who is 6 feet tall!), Uncle Johnny (the world's best uncle), and my best friend Christina (love you, Chris!).

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Ignorance Leads to Apathy and Victim Blaming and Shaming

I work part time at a call centre and was recently offended by and put off when the man who I was interviewing said something along the lines that sexual assault is a problem when the woman wears "certain apparel." I know this man was 86 or so, but the fact that this belief still exists is disturbing and puts blame on the victim of the violent crime rather than the perpetrator. This attitude in fact exonerates the offender! No one deserves to be raped because they wore a short skirt! Just like no one deserves to be beaten up or discriminated against because they are transgendered or have their mosque blown up because they are Muslim. They weren't asking for it! Crime is crime and is NEVER a victim's fault! Attitudes like this dissuade victims from coming forward. Ignorant and incompotent Judge Robin Campbell comes to mind when he asked a victim in a rape case why she couldn't "just keep her knees together" (http://www.cnn.com/2016/09/12/world/robin-camp-rape-comments-trnd/).The fact that assholes like this work in the court system is beyond me! Mind you, there are jerks (some women included!) who still think like this in every walk of life. Continued education is important to teach people about the importance of consent, that victims are never to blame, and to encourage victims to report crime and not to fear judgement, shame, or condemnation. Being raped is one of the worst things that could ever happen to a woman! Why should she be made to feel worse than she already does?! More must be done to fight against and hopefully dissipate the rape culture that is still so prevalent in our society. It's time we worked together as a society rather than against each other to make a better place for ourselves and our children!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Why I Don't Use Social Media

I'm a writer and an extrovert and love people; however, I'm not on social media and have no desire to be. Don't get me wrong. I don't care if other people are on social media. It just doesn't interest me. About six or seven years ago, I used to be on Facebook. But then I realized how much time I was wasting by being on it. Looking at photos of people who I used to go to school with and hadn't even been friends with. Checking to see if someone had written me. I was in fact obsessed. So with the encouragement of a friend who was anti-Facebook (I'm not anti-Facebook) and my own realizations, I deleted my Facebook account. My Mom was shocked but got over it. She doesn't have an account herself but knew how obsessed I'd been with Facebook. I know who my real friends were and decided that texting, e-mailing, calling, and getting together whenever it was possible was more important than being (in my case) an obsessive Facebook user. I could choose who saw photos of my birthdays and knew when I was going on vacation. My ex-mother-in-law had all the time in the world for Facebook but forget about e-mailing or calling me. It's sad when some people let social media interfere with more important priorities. According to a New York Times article entitled "Facebook Has 50 Minutes of Your Time Each Day. It Wants More" published on May 5, 2016, there were a record monthly 1.65 billion active Facebook users and that people spent 50 minutes on Facebook, Instagram, and other Messenger platforms. The 18 to 34 demographic, millennials in particular, are the most active (https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/06/business/facebook-bends-the-rules-of-audience-engagement-to-its-advantage.html?_r=1). Do I miss Facebook? There were slight moments when I did; however, there weren't enough of those moments to make me want to create another account. Yes, I'm a writer but choose to let my thoughts be heard on my blog. LinkedIn is the only professional networking (social media-esque) site that I belong to and it's more work-related than anything. Do I feel like I'm missing out by not Facebooking or tweeting? Spending hours looking at photos of people who I'm not close to or posting my own photos on Instagram? Not at all. I'd rather be reading, writing, watching Netflix, or hanging out with my real friends or family. To tweet or not to tweet? I'll leave that to the birds.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Art of Being Grateful

I had tea with a friend this morning who reminded me that even though life is a struggle, it is important to be grateful for the little things. While I'm not one to journal, she suggested that I write a list of things that I'm grateful for each day. By doing so, I would be reminded that things weren't so bad. It would also help me feel and think a bit more positively. I guess if I had to make a list for today it would include: 1. My family and friends 2. My awesome downtown apartment 3. Food 4. Work 5. My health 6. Living in Canada where there are women's rights, tolerance, and freedom unlike the Trump show in the US or the Middle East. I guess I could throw in the fact that it's Saturday night, and I can relax at home in my pjs with pizza and Netflix and can sleep in tomorrow because I'm off! That's ALWAYS a good thing!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Sisters Unite in Washington and Around the World to March for Their Rights

Today an estimated 500,000 (including many men) women marched in Washington as did millions of women in 600 "sister marches" worldwide to protest Donald Trump's presidency and to remind him that women have rights (http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/womens-march-on-washington-crowd-streets-1.3946818). They marched for liberty, reproductive rights, wage inequality, and human rights in general. Many wore pink "pussyhats" to mock the president (they were a response to Trump's 2005 Access Hollywood remarks boasting about grabbing women's genitalia) and carried signs that read: "Our Bodies. Our Minds. Our Power," "Don't Grab My P***y," "Make Empathy Great Again," "Reproductive Rights are Human Rights," and "Stop Pretending Your Racism is Patriotism" (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/10-striking-signs-from-the-women-s-march-in-toronto-1.3946745). I have a friend who was in Washington today, and man, do I wish I could have been there with her. I support my sisters in the South against a sexist and racist bully who will do anything but make America great again over the next four years. He will divide rather than unite. He will build walls rather than bridges. It's sad that women still have to fight for reproductive and other rights in the 21st century as they did hundreds of years ago. It also makes my blood boil. As if any person let alone a man has the right to tell a woman what she and cannot do with her body. Last time, I checked slavery had been abolished a long time again. It's incredible how abortion is "wrong," yet bearing arms is alright. Sure, keep increasing military spending and going into countries that don't want you there. Like that won't bite you in the ass one day. Not. According to a Statistics Canada 2015 survey, women still only earn 82 cents for every dollar earned by men (Statistics Canada, "Table 282-0072: Labour Force Survey Estimates (LFS), Wages of Employees by Type of Work, North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), Sex and Age Group," CANSIM (2016). A sexist like Trump won't be concerned about this. Although neither is our "feminist" prime minister Justin Trudeau. One of my good friends who is black said that she doesn't want to talk about American politics for the next four years. She is sickened. Simply sickened. So am I. Make America Great Again? Oh Donald, Donald, Donald. Go back to Celebrity Apprentice, the world you know best.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Trudeau's French Only Stance in Sherbrooke is Ignorant and Disrespectful

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's decision to answer English questions in French in Sherbrooke shows major disrespect to the English minority in Sherbrooke (and the whole of Quebec for that matter) as well as major sucking up to the French in Quebec. A province that didn't vote for him to get into power. A province that cares only about its interests and one that is obsessed with and paranoid about the French language. I know as I'm from there. It is very unbefitting for a prime minister to behave like this. I understand bilingualism is important and speak French myself; however, Trudeau blatantly disregarded the English minority in Sherbrooke when he answered all questions in English, including one from Judy Ross who asked about anglophone access to mental health services. Ross said his response was "very insulting. I really felt disrespected" (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/justin-trudeau-sherbrooke-french-quebec-town-hall-1.3940629). Gerald Cutting, president of the Townshippers' Association, which represents the local English-language community, said he was shocked and appalled by Trudeau's actions. "It was as if someone had just walked up to me and hit me in the stomach. I lost my breath," said Cutting who was at the town hall meeting. "During the whole time that the prime minister was in the meeting, he did not say one word of English, not even in his opening remarks." (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/justin-trudeau-sherbrooke-french-quebec-town-hall-1.3940629). Cutting added that French-speakers around him also were puzzled by the prime minister's actions. "People afterwards said, 'Would he have ever thought of going into Manitoba and answering a French Manitoban who asked a question in French, and say, well, we're in Manitoba and therefore we should speak in English?''' Trudeau, who was "surprised" by all the English questions in Sherbrooke, now says that in retrospect maybe he should have answered the English questions in English (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/justin-trudeau-sherbrooke-french-quebec-town-hall-1.3940629). Didn't have the brains to think of that earlier, eh, Justin? Ah, it must be nice to have gotten elected because of your daddy's legacy and name. Three people have filed complaints with the Commissioner of Offical Languages. I think more should do so. Robert Libman, the former leader of the old Equality Party (a defunct English rights group in Quebec), said Pierre Trudeau must be rolling over in his grave because of his son's behaviour. He added that Trudeau’s refusal “is a transparent attempt to curry favour with Quebec nationalists and score cheap political points in the province” (http://montrealgazette.com/news/quebec/justin-trudeau-raked-over-the-coals-for-french-answers-to-english-questions). I agree! Trudeau is sucking up big time and not being discreet about it at all. Libman said it’s the second time in the past month that Trudeau “denigrated” the historical presence of Quebec’s English-speaking population. The same thing happened during the Ottawa-Gatineau bilingualism debate where he said, “Quebec has to be French in order for Canada to be bilingual” (http://montrealgazette.com/news/quebec/justin-trudeau-raked-over-the-coals-for-french-answers-to-english-questions). These are words that a separatist would use not someone who supposedly loves the country that voted him into office for the next four years. Trudeau's comment from the bilingualism debate is a load of BS. Parts of Northern Ontario like Timmins and Kapuskasing are made up of primarily French speakers. New Brunswick prides itself on being the only officially bilingual province in Canada. Ottawa has become extremely bilingual since I moved to Ontario over 12 years ago in August 2004. French is not dying anytime soon. In fact, it's getting harder in Ottawa to find work if you don't speak French. Good luck getting into the government. It's becoming kind of discriminatory towards English speakers who are qualified for jobs other than not being fluent in French. The University of Ottawa is quite militant in its use of French. It is something I was "used" to in Quebec. Jason Kenney, one of Stephen Harper's former cabinet ministers, tweeted that Trudeau's behaviour was an example of the "sort of arrogance that undermines support for bilingualism," (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/justin-trudeau-sherbrooke-french-quebec-town-hall-1.3940629). Furthermore, if Trudeau is so concerned about bilingualism in Canada would it not be wise to ensure people in Quebec learn English, so they too can expand their minds, horizons, and prospects as well? What a radical thought! That is what a truly bilingual Canada would be: everyone knowing both languages not just one! Mais oui!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

A New Year - What Does It Really Mean?

It's 2017. A new year. Time to lose weight. Make more "me" time. Volunteer somewhere. Whatever your resolution may be. One of my friends is trying to be more positive and stay away from negativity. Personally, I don't make resolutions. What's the point? I'll break them anyway and then will be mad at myself. Be disappointed in myself. I have enough disappointment as it is. Online dating is a crappy way to meet people but seems to be the way to meet people these days. Good luck. I've been single for about six months now. I'm taking a break from online dating though. I can't handle all the sex fiends or guys who hold money and feel energy from it or who think GMOs will kill us all and that people are dying because other people only care about money. You wonder why some people are still single. Paranoid rants are just so unattractive. Try to find a job? Good luck if you're a millennial. For all the jobs out there, a high percentage of them are part time. There is no stability. There are no benefits or retirement plans. Debt adds up. Good luck saving through an RRSP. Two jobs are becoming the norm. A university degree is a piece of paper with no guarantee. Owning a house? That's a sweet sweet fantasy, isn't it, Mariah? The CBC recently did a segement about millennials and how they face three tough challenges in 2017's economy: precarious work, high home prices, and questions of whether retirement will ever be a reality (http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/under-35-you-face-at-least-3-tough-challenges-in-the-2017-economy-1.3921393). Young people like Samantha Louise Emery who lives in Calgary works a full time and part time job to make ends meet. "I'm just working all the time," she said (http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/under-35-you-face-at-least-3-tough-challenges-in-the-2017-economy-1.3921393). I feel her pain. I'm working two jobs: office contracts through an agency and part time at a call centre. I work with a woman who works three jobs and lives alone with her dog. She still doesn't make a lot especially since most of her jobs are around the minimum wage dollar mark. Home ownership? Good luck with that. If you want it of course. Personally, I'm a minimalist and have never aspired to own a house. What would I put in it? Stuff that that I don't need? For many millennials, one of the most daunting expenses is the down payment. A BMO survey found that "65 per cent said that they would have to rely on parents or other family members for help with as much as 10 per cent of the purchase price"(http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/under-35-you-face-at-least-3-tough-challenges-in-the-2017-economy-1.3921393). Retirement is another major concern. TD Bank found that more than half of millennials surveyed "would like to retire by the time they turn 60, but only a quarter think that's a realistic possibility. Most expect to have to work in their 60s or their 70" (http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/under-35-you-face-at-least-3-tough-challenges-in-the-2017-economy-1.3921393). I definitely see myself working into my 70s. If I don't end up homeless, I consider myself ahead of the game. Of course, the age of retirement is questionable and depends on if millennials can even afford to put money into an RRSP. Emery said, "I was paying into RRSPs before, automatically off my paycheques, but I decided to stop that because I needed the extra money for my bills and everything"(http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/under-35-you-face-at-least-3-tough-challenges-in-the-2017-economy-1.3921393). My Dad helps me out with this area, which I am grateful for. I also had some money saved from a previous job's RRSP, which went into my personal one. Other than that, I'm just struggling to pay my rent, bills, and afford groceries. Some months are better than others. Thank God for the Food Bank and loving friends and family. What do I hope for in 2017? Finding a full time office job and maybe getting back into publishing articles is paramount. Working two jobs is difficult, and I sometimes fear burn out. Meeting a good guy who is not commitment phobic and is emotionally available for a relationship would be awesome as would having strong and healthy relationships with my family and friends. I will try to stay away from negative people who criticize and bring me down. Hopefully I will lose some weight. More importantly, hopefully I will learn to love and forgive myself too. That would be a good thing. P.S. While at a friend's for dinner one day, I noticed an anonymous quote scribbled on her bulletin board that has stuck with me to this day: "Nothing will ruin your 30s more than thinking you should have your life together already." Let's try to remember that, my fellow millennials!