Message of Support

A Message From MP Rathika Sitsabaiesan

Read more about what Member of Parliament, Rathika Sitsabaiesan had to say in her letter of support to MY ROOTS. Click here to download the document.

Libraries

Libraries: Not a Luxury, But a Necessity

By Karissa Young
Community Submission

On the topic of the Toronto Public Library budget cuts, City Councillor Doug Ford has said that he would close a branch in his ward “in a heartbeat”. Some City Councillors see the Toronto Public Libraries as financial burdens, while others see the educational value that they possess. Libraries have their own communities of people and they provide thousands with access to a number of different resources, including books, CDs, videos, computers, and much more.

Famous Canadian author Margaret Atwood has spoken out against these proposed cuts through the use of social media. Recently her tweets have been causing the website for an online petition against the privatization of Toronto Public Libraries (http://ourpubliclibrary.to) (TPL) to stop working due to a high volume of responses. In response to her opinions, City Councillor Doug Ford has stated that she should “pipe down” or “go get democratically elected” if she is so concerned about funding for libraries. That being said, Atwood does indeed have the right to speak out against these cuts, as does every citizen.

The budget cuts could result in the closure of a number of TPL branches and reduce the hours of service. Resources would be limited, with less variety of books. In addition, the number of programs and other activities that encourage reading for all ages may be decreased or even eliminated. It has been predicted that circulation will drop as a result of these changes.

I believe that these cuts are extremely counter-productive in the best interests of the city and members of its society. The libraries are vital public spaces for Torontonians. They provide important access to both educational and cultural information. Without these services, young people are losing their right to informative public information. By restricting access, cutting hours, and closing branches, it only makes it harder for people to attain the wealth of knowledge that only the libraries can provide.

The Toronto Public Libraries are many people’s sole connection to literacy, the internet, and many other technologies that would otherwise be unavailable to a large population of Torontonians. The people who don’t need libraries will not miss them, but for those who do, they are not a luxury, but also a necessity.

After speaking to some youth in the community, their response has been unanimously against the budget cuts for the library. Many said that the after school help and tutoring have helped them very much, some even citing it as the reason they passed their courses. The libraries are essential to many students that need help with homework. One person said that people go to the library for enjoyment, to lose themselves in a novel, to conduct research, or to just learn. It’s no new fact that libraries help people academically, but psychologically as well. Reading helps to improve one’s speaking and writing ability. As well, reading can be good for a person’s mind, by not only expanding their vocabulary but also broadening a person’s imagination.

Where do many people develop their love of reading? At libraries. In this modern age, they still play an important role in socializing our youth and remain an irreplaceable resource for those who love to read but do not have the resources to buy books – electronic or paper. The public libraries represent the best of Toronto’s services. Although cuts and privatization of some things are necessary to lower taxes, I believe that our libraries are not the place for them.

Youth Voting

What Does Malvern Want?

Election Recap: What Does Malvern Want?

By Athena Narsingh
Community Submission

After a strongly contested municipal election there are some Torontonians who are concerned that policies will never change.  Many residents of Malvern feel the same way and are cautious of a new direction at City Hall, along with unchanged leadership within their own Ward 42. What is worrying for some Malvern residents is whether the important issues they care about will actually be resolved…or at least one would think so.

Less than two months ago a City Council candidate debate occurred at the Malvern Community Centre where it was evident that change was the primary issue on the minds of residents. Problems were voiced by residents and the most prominent concerns including: public transportation, programs and services, the image of Malvern throughout the rest of the city, local business expansion, and employment.  Yet when it came time for Malvern to speak at the polls a vast majority seemed content with the present situation, or their concerns were put to rest at the debate.

Throughout the Debate on Oct 15, the seven candidates commenced by introducing themselves and their platforms, outlining the transformations they envisioned for Ward 42.  Current city councillor, Mr. Raymond Cho vouched for community safety, more efficient public transportation and more programs for young people, children and adults.  He stressed continuing to work on the things he has done to help build the community for the last 19 years in public service.  Mr. Cho was definitively re-elected with  almost 53% of the vote.

Candidate Namu Ponnambalam wanted to see the residents of Malvern grow.  He said this involves addressing issues like priority neighbourhoods, lack of employment opportunities, and similar to Mr. Cho, community safety and youth activities.  He received 2% of the vote.

Mr.  Shamoon Poonawala, a self-proclaimed Malvern businessman, wanted to see community safety dealt with by proper mediums to discourage crime.  Mr.  Poonawala also wanted to work with the School Boards to find solutions for children that commute from far away.  He proclaimed that this was his home and wanted to make it better. His home gave him 3% of the vote.

Another candidate, Mr. Leon Saul first applauded the work Mr. Raymond Cho had done in the past, but stated it was time for a change. He wanted to create more opportunities for youth, while dealing with the negative stereotypes of Malvern youth in the media.  Mr. Saul received 1.5% of the vote.

Ms. Ruth Tecle wanted changes to the “Official Plan” in the form of a 3-lens approach: enhancing existing features, creating improved systems, and preserving what works.  She stressed that the physical landscape needs to be changed to address issues of transportation, employment and recreational space.  Her 3-lens approach netted her 2% of the vote.

Mr. George Singh wanted to bridge the gap between the government and the people.  For public transportation, he wanted to see a 24 hour system and routes that provide convenience. He envisioned programs for youth to be more constructive with an increased focus on music, sports and healthy living. The crowd cheered at the debate for this action plan, but ultimately 1.7% of the community voted for him.

Finally the candidate who was labeled by the Toronto Star as a possible dark horse in this riding, Mr. Neethan Shanmugarajah, presented his knowledgeable background in Immigration, child care and youth and seemed to leverage these as ways to relate to Malvern’s diverse community. He wanted to stimulate employment by creating career-based employment opportunities and training programs for youth, and establish Business Investment Areas (BIAs) to support small businesses.  Despite generating the most buzz at the debate and enacting stirring rallies, it would seem that Mr. Shan received a message from the Malvern community that change was not what’s needed with only 34% of the vote.

Almost every resident at the debate was there to ask for, and in some cases demand, change.  Yet it was clear from the election results that the majority of Malvern residents feel that what has been done, and what is presently being done in the community is enough for a sufficient way of life for the next four years.  Some might call this phenomenon a double view, or perhaps the explanation is that the most vocal advocates for change do not represent the general opinion of the community.

Whatever the reasoning is, questions and concerns are still at the front of Malvern’s mind regarding issues like public transportation and an LRT system, more affordable housing, stimulating the local economy and changing the image of Malvern in the eyes of Torontonians.  Only the next four years will tell whether these questions can, or will be answered.

300px-Weird_scholarship

Scholarships 101

Scholarships 101: The Opportunities, Achievements, and Lifetime Successes You Never Knew About

By Erica Lenti
Community Submission

If you are currently a senior high school student, you have probably heard it numerous times already; with a university or college education comes academic demands, a civic responsibility and a hefty tuition bill to pay. Fortunately, scholarships are made widely available to students all across Canada, and offer not only financial aid but the opportunity to change your life positively.

Simply put, undergraduate scholarships are monetary awards, given to students who have accomplished outstanding achievements, to help fund the ever-growing expenses of a post-secondary education. They are awarded to students based mainly on academic success and community involvement. Most large universities – like the University of Toronto, for instance and national banks such as TD Canada Trust, Bank of Montreal and Scotiabank offer scholarships, often in large sums, to eligible students. Other smaller scholarships are offered at smaller universities, often outside of Toronto as well.

While scholarships do benefit students as they first enter university, they also create lifetime opportunities in both future educational and professional career endeavors.

For Scarborough resident Hasina Daya, receiving scholarships completely changed her educational experience. A recipient of five awards, including the TD Canada Trust Scholarship and Isabel Kerr Girl Guides Ontario Scholarship, Hasina is currently studying abroad in England. She hopes to graduate as a double major in Global Development Studies and Political Science. When Hasina was ready to graduate high school, her family did not have the financial means to afford university, so she turned to scholarships for help.

“I learned about the awards and scholarships through lots of research… I just tried to learn as much about what was out there as possible,” she explained.

Hasina believed that she did not have the grades to receive many high-profile awards so she used her community involvement to apply to more leadership-based scholarships. She was a very active member of her school community, acted as an ambassador of her student body, and she headed several clubs and activities. She also kept busy as a volunteer at her local mosque, working part-time, and joining the Girl Guides of Canada.

Since receiving the awards, Hasina has experienced several opportunities that have benefited her future prospects. As a recipient of the TD Canada Trust Scholarship, Hasina had the opportunity to work at a bank this summer to gain employment experience.

“It taught me so much about managing my money,” she says. “It was a fabulous experience.”

Likewise, she was able to meet Queen Elizabeth II at her Celebration of Service for the Girl Guides of Canada Isabel Kerr Scholarship event. She explained that the Girl Guides of Canada helped to encourage her ambition to become a human rights lawyer.

Sivaniya Subramanieapillai, also a 2009/2010 recipient of the TD Canada Scholarship, came to learn about the award through her school community.

“I wanted to apply for this scholarship so that I could become a role model to other students in the community who feel restrained to do anything because of the circumstances that they may have,” she says.

As a founder of the Teen Youth Club and an avid volunteer in her Scarborough community, Sivaniya began her high school years like most students; she only intended on volunteering in her community to complete her mandatory 40 hours. It was when she began getting involved that she realized the impact she made on her community.

Since receiving the scholarship, Sivaniya explains that the most beneficial opportunity she has received from it is the network of friends she now has. She has met nineteen other students who, just like her, want to make a difference in their community.

“I am lucky because I have a network of friends from all over the country!”

While both Hasina and Sivaniya were successful in receiving awards based on their community involvement, it is important to explore other scholarship opportunities that pertain to your own individual skills. These scholarships are not often on as large of a scale as national awards, like the TD Canada Trust Scholarship, but they still make a great start in the financial aid of your education. They also target your interests for access to greater opportunities in your future.

For instance, there are sports scholarships, such as the Front Row Sports Award, for students who want to further explore careers in physical education; and there are music scholarships, like the Keith and Ross MacMillan Scholarship, for those interested in a future of music. In most cases, these are the scholarships that are specific to your future careers, prospects and studies.

Interest-specific scholarships can be found through resources like StudentAwards.com and CanLearn.ca, where opportunities are sent to you based specifically on the elements of your profile, including your grades and programs of interest.

As the road toward college, university, or the next phase in your life becomes shorter, it becomes crucial to begin exploring scholarship opportunities.

Hasina advises current seniors to apply to as many scholarships as possible because you never know just what opportunities they have in store for you.

Sivaniya, on the other hand, reminds students to be passionate about what they do. She advises not to volunteer just to receive scholarships, but to love what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it.

“Passion and a drive to make a change in the community should be the driving force for your actions,” she says.

Whatever your situation, it is important to keep your eyes open and find the awards that are right for you.

With a bit of hard work and perseverance, scholarships can deliver an abundance of opportunities to you, just as they did for Sivaniya and Hasina. Be weary and do not limit yourself – there are plenty of life-altering opportunities in scholarship programs and awards that are just waiting for the perfect student. And who knows? Maybe that perfect student is you.

Erica Lenti is a 17 year old student currently attending Marshall McLuhan Catholic Secondary School. She is a passionate writer with hopes of pursuing journalism in the future.

ballot-vote

Ward 42 Debate

By Talia Leacock
Community Submission

The Ward 42 Scarborough-Rouge River councillor debate took place on October 14th at the Malvern Recreation Center. The seven candidates – Raymond Cho (incumbent), Namu Poonambalam, Shamoon Poonawala, Leon Saul, Neethan Shanmugarajah, George Singh and Ruth Tecle – engaged in an orderly and informative debate, based on questions raised by the citizens of the community. The room was full, and residents were out in force to find out about their candidates so that they could make an informed decision before they voted on October 25th.

Many of the candidates had a unique approach to the concerns raised. Ruth Tecle for example, the youngest candidate at age 22, explained that she felt that many of the issues faced by Ward 42 were caused by faults in urban and budgetary planning on the part of the city. She felt that her education in urban planning and municipal finance made here an excellent candidate because she would be able to advocate effectively on issues like transportation and employment at city hall.

George Singh and Leon Saul have similar ideas on many issues. Both propose to reach youth by giving them access to the things they find interesting. They also share the belief that the programs in the schools must be more engaging to young people in order to lower the drop-out rate. On the matter of affordable housing, these candidates also agree that the issue is not so much quantity as it is quality. In the case of employment, both candidates suggested a centralized system for job postings.

Namu Poonambalam proposed unique solutions to the concerns of the residents. To combat the employment issue, he suggested hiring of Malvern residents by the TTC for expansion work. He proposed to regulate the billing for all the affordable housing programs within the city. He also proposes that the city-run program, Food Share, needs to be reintroduced in order to make healthy food options available to the residents of Ward 42.

Unlike the mayoral debate, most candidates refrained from direct attacks on others; however, any negative comments made were directed towards Raymond Cho who has been councillor of the ward for the past 19 years. Cho who, during his terms has brought job fairs, farmers markets, breakfast clubs, affordable housing and extended TTC service to the ward, promised that he would continue to work for the benefit of his constituents if re-elected.

But he faced criticism from Shamoon Poonawala on his inability to bring together the other elected officials in the area. When Cho said that he would take care of the newly implemented fee for programs at the recreation centre for disadvantaged youth, Neethan Shanmugarajah and George Singh both argued that this would stigmatize those youth that were unable to afford the fee and nearly every other candidate agreed that the fee should be dropped altogether.

Ultimately, all the candidates had similar opinions on the issues that were most pressing. All agreed that unemployment must be reduced, if not eliminated; transportation needs to be improved; public services need to be implemented more effectively; the quality of affordable housing needs to be improved; access to healthy food options is a necessity; and youth must be engaged to be kept in school. The difference, and likely the deciding point for many voters is the plans the candidates are proposing to counter.

Residents of Ward 42 – that is, those living within the area between Steeles Avenue East to the north, Highway 401 and Sheppard Avenue East to the south, Markham Road and McCowan Road to the west and Pickering Town Line to the east – over the age of 18 may vote on October 25th in the polling station specified by the letter received in the mail. Polling stations can also be found online at http://app.toronto.ca/vote2010/findAddressForVotingPlace.do.

***Dr. Raymond Cho won the election with 53% of the vote.

The Live Report Card - Lost Lyrics

From the Streets to the Classroom

By Ashley Abdul
Community Submission

‘L’ is for the love we get. ‘O’ is ‘cause we over stand. ‘S’ is for the streets we rep, and ‘T’ is for the truth we give. It’s more than just an after school program. It’s a life changing experience.

Lost Lyrics is a program that teaches youth about the roots of hip-hop and how hip hop became what it is today. The first year I was apart of this program I thought it was very interesting because nobody had ever taught me about hip-hop.

All I knew was I liked Beyonce and Lil Wayne, but I never really knew what made them who they are. If it were not for the Africans hundreds of years ago just playing a drum made of things they found on the ground, hip-hop wouldn’t be around today. I found Lost Lyrics to be an amazing environment so I decided to keep loyal to the program and many other students felt the same way.

Natasha Daniel and Amanda Parris the creators of Lost Lyrics, watched us grow and eventually they thought it was time for Lost Lyrics to move forward in their teachings. So students started learning how to write rhymes, we talked about more mature things than we were used to like hood politics.

Once we reached our third year, the Lost Lyrics students were no longer just friends with each other, we were a family. Daniel and Parris watched us grow and eventually they saw that we were very comfortable with one another so they decided to take on more topics we could relate to.

We talked about things like relationships, why it is more common for a child coming from a split family to be more likely to be living with his/her mother and one specific topic that really resonated with me, ‘shadism.’

‘Shadism’ is similar to a chart or rule people went by a long time ago that meant the lighter your skin was the more advantages you had. For a couple classes Daniel thought we should take this history and compare it to our reality today. For example, there are still Facebook groups claiming people with light skin are more beautiful than people with dark skin, and the quote “light skin is the right skin” is still used in our community.

I really related to this because before Lost Lyrics brought ‘shadism’ to my attention I did question my skin color, I felt like less of a person and I always felt like I had to be that ideal girl we would see in the media. The type of girl that was very skinny, fair skinned and had light eyes. As we all started digging deeper into this topic we recognized that we are beautiful the way we are. We don’t have to get implants or bleach our skin to be that “it” girl, and at the end of the day, we should love ourselves because we are all smart and gorgeous people that can do anything if we put our heart and soul into it.

Lost Lyrics has put on many performances around Toronto. We have performed at places like the Malvern Public Library, No One is Illegal Protest and 106 and York. Our most important event is The Live Report Card. The Live Report Card is a show where all the staff and students of Lost Lyrics put together the work they have created throughout the year through a showcase. Performances include songs, poetry, monologues, plays, and simple paragraphs trying to portray our point of view.

The Live Report Card was very successful this year because we had sponsors like Grassroots Youth Collaborative and Schools Without Borders supporting us. With the help of these organizations we were able to gain more publicity, which meant we had a larger audience. At the end of the night, we raised over $1000.00 in donations and were on Global News.

Each year students are eager to come back because it is a space where people can be themselves and feel comfortable with who they are. Being able to perform at such a young age has really helped me boost my confidence and has made me feel brave, and it made me believe in myself. Lost Lyrics has kept me motivated throughout the years and it has made me strive to be a more aware, and educated citizen.