Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Mature Students: Better Late than Never

New Federal Grant Provides more Funding and Continued Employment Insurance for Mature Students*

Deciding to return to school at an older age is usually not simple. 
Having the feeling of not fitting into a changing economic environment seems overwhelming. However, the important thing is to believe in your own personal project, and consider if you have what it takes: time, determination and money.
Determination is something that Wilfredo Polanco, 44, a father of two hoping to get his license as a dentist in Canada, has in volume. 
“You have to make sure you want it, because if you want it, every obstacle (you face), you’re walking through to your goal,” he said. “Many people put attention on the obstacle or problem, I know it’s real, but if you want, you have to find some way to do that.”
Polanco is in level seven of English for academic purposes at George Brown College (GBC). He has worked as a dentist in his home country of El Salvador. He plans to work part-time and hopes to keep receiving OSAP and the federal government’s new skills boost grant to pursue his dream. 
Beginning this fall, mature students who have been out of high school for at least 10 years, could receive a grant of $1,600 over an eight-month school year or $2,400 for 12 month school year. 
“What this is doing right now, is taking a significant step in making sure that, students who were returning to school, later on, are provided (with) additional support,” said Michael McDonald, executive director of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, a student advocacy organization.
The pilot program will also allow unemployed learners to continue to get Employment Insurance (EI) when they return to school or get training. Currently, continuing to get EI while going to school requires a referral from designated authorities such as Employment and Social Development Canada staff.  
Getting financial assistance can be challenging for mature students who had income the previous year. Many mature students can’t qualify for government tuition assistance if their family income is too high.
“The second important thing that they did is they also took steps to make sure to get access to employment insurance. They (mature students) now are going to be able to go to post-secondary education without putting the employment benefits in jeopardy,” said McDonald.
The grant is available for students registered in a full-time program pursuing an undergraduate degree, certificate or diploma.
Going back to school for mature students is often a conscious decision to assume bigger challenges compared with those who are leaving home for the first time. With the current economy, in addition to classes, mature students often deal with several jobs, parenting duties and other life challenges.
“Each individual may have a different journey, but obviously, for someone who has been out of the school system for many years, sometimes when they decide to come back to college for their post-secondary education, the thought itself is quite overwhelming,” said Joseph Chon, entry advisor co-ordinator at George Brown College (GBC)
Chon said that at GBC, about 60 to 70 per cent of the mature students coming back to school are immigrants who want to develop new skills and pursue new career goals.
“I am 100 per cent sure that education is the key if you want to be, or if you want to get a better life for the future, for you and for your family,” Polanco said.
To Polanco, the idea of coming back to school is not just about your own goals. 
“When you are a parent, you have to give a good example to your children,” he said, “What’s the excuse? I don’t have excuses.”
Statistics Canada reported that in the 2015-2016 academic year, were 2,034,957 enrollments in Canadian public post-secondary institutions. According to the institutional research and planning and department of human resources at GBC, in the 2016-2017 fiscal year, 28,924 students enrolled in full-time programs, 3,193 in part-time, and 66,410 in continuing education. 
GBC also offers an academic upgrading program that helps mature students to prepare for post-secondary education programs. According to Chon, the words of encouragement he always wants to say to mature students are to be brave.
 “Take action, and you will make it happen, when there is a will, there’s a way,” he said.
* This article originally appeared in The Dialog newspaper.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Taming wild rental leases

Starting April 30, a Standardized Lease will aim to Clarify the Obligations of Landlords and Tenants*

Like many in Toronto, Augusto Camilotti, an international business student at George Brown College (GBC), has been dealing with the trials and tribulations of the city’s wild rental market.
As newcomers with few connections, international students can face additional obstacles in the process of finding a place. A year ago, when Camilotti came to Toronto from Brazil, to secure the apartment he wanted he paid three months rent in advance on top of first and last month. 
In Ontario, it’s illegal for a landlord to ask for deposits in addition to first and last month’s rent. 
 “That’s a big problem that we have, especially if we are talking about a country or a city that represents some cultures and it’s open to immigrants, right? You should make the process especially easier and clear for everyone,” said Camilotti.
Currently, there is no standardized lease in Ontario, which allows landlords to include clauses that could be illegal. But beginning April 30, Ontario is introducing a new mandatory standard lease for private residential rentals.
In an interview with The Dialog, Peter Milczyn, Ontario’s minister of housing, said the standard lease ensures that every tenant in Ontario will understand in plain language what they’re signing, as well as fix the lack of a standardized contract.
“It starts out very clearly what the obligations and responsibilities are,” he said. “It also starts out the basics of what constitutes a legal lease in the province of Ontario.”
Common illegal clauses on leases include restrictions on pets and visitors, as well as late payment fees for rent. 
Camilotti, who came with his wife and his two kids of six and three years old, was concerned when his lease stated the building he was slated to move in to didn’t accept babies. 
“One of the clauses says that they do accept the kids, but they cannot be babies, and babies were between quotes,” said Camilotti.
Matt Danison, CEO of rentals.ca, said the new mandatory lease will clarify the relationship between renters and landlords.
“The biggest thing is, it’s a lot easier to understand, and it will bring a lot of transparency for both sides of the party.”
The new lease is a 14-page fillable form with information such as names and addresses, total rent amount, due date, and any rules or terms about the rental unit or building. It also summaries the rights and responsibilities of both tenants and landlords, and explains what can and cannot be included.
The lease will also be available in 23 languages, which Milczyn hopes will help “newcomers in understanding what they are signing, and what they should or should not sign, what their obligations are, and what the landlord’s obligations are to them as well.”
Section 15 of the standard lease outlines that renters and landlords can agree on additional terms. While the section also states that the terms cannot violate Ontario laws, Danison said that tenants should be cautious of what landlords might try to add in that section.
Andria Lewis-Alexander, co-ordinator of student life and housing services at GBC, said she likes the clarity of the new lease. For students, Lewis-Alexander said it’s important to take time to check out different properties and visit neighborhoods at night, so you have a good sense of what your options are.  
“And whatever you do make sure you get something in writing,” she said.
“We will help (students) go through it step-by-step and try to explain (the lease) as best as we can, so that they are clear on what you’re getting, what their rights are, or what they’re signing,” Lewis-Alexander said.
According to the Ontario government, there are approximately 1.25 million private rental tenancies in Ontario and an estimated turnover of 19,000 units a month.
* This article originally appeared in The Dialog newspaper.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Fight like a girl

A timeline of women fighting to live, love, vote, and work*

International Women’s Day is a good time to reflect on women’s achievements. Looking back it’s undeniable that women have been able to accomplish many things that were unthinkable 200 years ago. It’s been a long path, but as gender inequality is a still a worrying reality, the fight for more changes continues to influence the 21st-century women’s fight.
1853Mary Ann Shadd Cary became the first Black women publisher in North America and the first women publisher in Canada when she founded The Provincial Freeman.
1869Under the Indian Act, Indigenous women would lose their band status when marrying men outside their band or non-Indigenous men. The law was on the books until 1985.
1879Dr. Emily Stowe, the second woman licensed in Canada to practice medicine after Jennie Trout, was charged and acquitted of performing an abortion.
1882First major strike of women workers in Canada when around 250 shoemakers in Toronto went on strike against five factories demanding union recognition, a uniform bill of wages, and a wage advance. The strike lasted three weeks.
1884In Ontario married women get the same legal rights as men, allowing them to buy property and enter legal agreements. Manitoba followed in 1900, but not all women in Canada had these rights until 1964.
1911First International Women’s Day
 The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City caught fire killing 146, mostly young immigrant women workers.
 1916Women get the right to vote and stand for office in provincial elections in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. In 1917, British Columbia and Ontario follow suit. 
1918Federal Women’s Franchise Act gives all women who are British subjects aged 21 and over the right to vote in federal elections.
1920Dominion Elections Act excludes British Columbia residents of Chinese, Japanese, and South Asian backgrounds of the right to vote federally.
1921Agnes Macphail is the first woman elected to parliament.
1940Quebec is the last province where women get the vote and can stand for provincial office.
1946Viola Desmond, a Black woman from Nova Scotia is arrested for sitting in the whites-only section of a theatre in New Glasgow. This year, she will be honored on a new $10 bill.
1948Japanese Canadians are extended the right to vote federally, removing the last statutory limitation on voting for Asian Canadians.
1950Inuit women and men get the right to vote, but ballot boxes were not brought to communities in the Arctic until 1962.
1960Inspired by activist Margaret Sanger, endocrinologist Gregory Goodwin Pincus starts working on the birth control pill in 1951. The pill is approved in 1960.
 Indigenous women and men win the right to vote federally without losing their status.
1972Rosemary Brown is the first Black woman in Canada to win a seat in the provincial legislature. She ran for the NDP in British Columbia.
1985Bill C-31 amended the Indian Act, to fall in line with gender equality under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
1988After decades of protest, the Supreme Court of Canada rules anti-abortion laws as unconstitutional, and abortion becomes legal.
1993Kim Campbell becomes the first, and only, female Prime Minister of Canada.
2000Millennium Development Goals include a goal to promote gender equality.
2005Same-sex marriage is legalized in Canada with the passing of the Civil Marriage Act.
2008UN Security Council recognizes that sexual violence can be categorized as a war crime.
 Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered an apology to all former students of residential schools.
 The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada is created.
200913 per cent of all Indigenous women aged 15 and older living in the provinces reported that they had been violently victimized.
2013RCMP report finds that from 1980 to 2012, a total of 1,017 Aboriginal women had been murdered, making up 16 per cent of the total for all women homicides in Canada.
2015Stats Canada report shows that visible minority women are more educated, yet had a higher unemployment rate and earn less than non-visible minority women.
 Doctors allowed to prescribe abortion pill, mifegymiso but it remains hard to obtain.
 After decades of pressure, the federal government announces an independent national inquiry to address missing and murdered Indigenous women, and girls, including two-spirited, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and queer folk.
2017#MeToo and the Time’s Up movements help embolden women to come forward about sexual assault and harassment

JAN. 2018Soulpepper artistic director Albert Schultz accused of harassment of a sexual nature.
 MPP Patrick Brown, MP Kent Hehr, and former Nova Scotia PC leader Jamie Baillie are accused of inappropriate behavior and sexual misconduct.
Jan. 20, 2018
Millions take the streets around the world for the annual Women’s March.

* This article originally appeared in 
The Dialog newspaper.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Are my sexual behaviours, ‘normal’?

If you ever ask yourself this question, you need to read this*

Don’t be ashamed, believe it or not, everybody has asked the same question at some point. Despite the current openness about sex, discussing sexual behaviors is still considered a private matter for many.
Often lost is what is considered “normal” and what makes a healthy sexual relationship.
Martin Dragan, a trained clinical sexologist with a Ph.D. in human sexuality, said: “there’s no such a thing as normal when it comes to sex.”
The reason is simple, everyone has their preferences regarding sex.
“Our idea of what is normal is so subjective, what’s normal for us is not necessarily normal for someone else depending on culture, or micro-social influences,” said Dragan.
Putting it simply, “the kind of thing that makes you feel good, that’s probably normal,” said Dragan.
Flavia Dos Santos, a psychologist, and specialist on addictive behaviors and clinical sexology agrees.
“We do not have a standard or manual for sexuality,” she said. “We don’t have it because it’s something so open that you cannot define it.”
Dos Santos and Dragan both agree that consent comes first.
“In sexuality, as long as you have two people with the same level of power, who both consent and are having pleasure, they can write their own manual,” said Dos Santos.
But if there’s no such thing as “normal” sex, how do I know I’m in a healthy sexual relationship?
Again the answer is simple, “if it’s weird to you why do you have to do it?” asked Dragan.
The rule, not the exception, must always be to negotiate the type of sex you want and consent to.
“To have a healthy sexuality is to do only things that you really want to do. Things that you really feel are adding something to you, that they are going to be part of you and you have pleasure doing it,” said Dos Santos. “But doing things just to please the other person, or just to comply, or just to hold a boyfriend or a girlfriend is not healthy at all.”
Dos Santos said that you might like doing something, but you have to negotiate with your partners and you can’t force them to do what you like.
“I might be a sadomasochist, and I might find someone that shares the same pleasure that I do, but I have to negotiate the rules with the person,” she said. “But if I fall in love or want to have sex with someone who is not on the same page, I have to negotiate.”
*This article originally appeared at The Dialog newspaper.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Students share study tips

Everyone has their own strategies for studying from study-groups to make sure you are eating and sleeping properly*

Studying can be stressful for any student, and everyone has their own specific learning styles and techniques that help to achieve your goals.
Some George Brown College (GBC) students shared pieces of advice with The Dialog to students in studying crunch time.
Studying a lot does not mean you are doing it well.
“Organize, figure it out all you need to prepare, go step by step and in between, take a lot of breaks, eat a lot and sleep if you can,” says Ankita Dhiman, a fashion business industry student.
“Something you shouldn’t do is pulling all-nighters two or three days before the exam,” said Mayooran Athithan, an architectural technology student. “Rest is important because it helps with the learning process,”
Being part of a study group is an excellent technique that everybody can get, but it only helps if you choose the right people to do it with.
“When studying in groups, make sure you are with other people that are focused and have the same goals in mind, so everybody in the group studies well together and are on the same page,” said Michael Roberts, an electrical techniques student.
Eating and drinking a lot of water, while you are studying, contributes to keeping your body fed and hydrated.
“Always eat because it affects your gastrointestinal system, and drink a lot of water,” said Victor Osawaru, mechanical engineering technology design student.
Look for support and ideas from your friends, classmates, professors, and Peerconnect, the assistance service for GBC students; it will help you to get several learning and study strategies that you can apply on your daily study routines.
Some of Peerconnect’s tips include reading your course outlines, do your required readings, and attending class so you can ask the professor if you don’t understand something.
* This article originally appeared in The Dialog newspaper.