The book Fatima’s Journey details my journey as a two-time liver transplant recipient.
In the book I talk about how I came to spread awareness about organ donation; share my story through social media, media, and public speaking; and how I came to be a part of a community of transplant patients, donor families, and those with chronic illness who united together in diversity through struggles. You can find out more information about the book at http://www.fatimabaig.com . The book is available through amazon, barnes and nobles, chapters and indigo,
The conflict in Syria has been going on since March 2011 and has affected 5.6 million Syrians. The conflict began when protestors demanded that president Bashar al-Assad end his authoritarian practices such as censorship and violence against anybody who opposed his regime. In March 2011 a group of children were arrested and tortured for writing anti-regime graffiti. Locals took to the street to protest against political and economic reforms. Security forces conducted arrests and fired at protestors. As protests went on the Syrian government used more and more extreme forces such as tanks, artillery attacks and helicopters. At one point it was suspected that chemical weapons were used and as a result, after discussions, an agreement was reached between Russia, the United States and Syria that chemical weapons would be taken under international control. In 2013 five Islamic militants started an uprising. These militants called their new organization ISIS. A large number of Syrians fled to Turkey because of this civil war.
Menal Abdulkdir and her three children Yezen, Noor and Rama arrived in Canada on Feb. 3, 2016. They are one of many families that arrived in the country through the Syrian refugee program put in place by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal government. The program entailed that the Liberal government would resettle both refugees in Canada through private and government-funded sponsorship. The Abdulkdirs were privately sponsored by a faith-based organization called ICNA Relief. The family previously lived in Turkey as refugees.
ICNA follows the Blended Visa Office-Referred (BVOR) program. The project manager at ICNA Relief Adu Nauman Tarek explains how the model works by combining the efforts of government and local sponsors to help refugees. “This specific model we follow is there are different stakeholders. So, we do have the government, then ICNA Relief Canada and then we do have local sponsors. So, usually for a specific program known as BVOR which is blended visa officer recommended refugee government send us the profile, we select them and when we select we send the profile to our local sponsors in different communities and if local sponsor likes or choose one of the families and then we complete the legal process application part,” Tarek says.
ICNA Relief receives profiles of families and individuals and selects them based on needs, destinations and the request of local sponsors. “So, we take into many factors so, family size and who is more deserving because profile has got enough details to understand their need, and then they also say their city of destination. For example, if a family is saying the city of destination should be Mississauga and I do not have a local sponsor in Mississauga, at that time available, so, I cannot sponsor them, right. It’s also based on the wish of the local sponsor group. So, if local sponsor group who prefers to have a family then we don’t give them individuals,” he says.
ICNA Relief is funded through donations and fundraisers. The funds are then given to the refugees. Figure #1 shows how funding is divided when it comes to government-sponsored refugees. This data was provided by the Communication Director for MP Iqra Khalid, Samuel Forrest. According to the data 58 percent of the funding goes towards shelter, 34 percent is given for basic needs, five percent for public transit and two percent for communication.
(Figure #1 )
“Is that the end of the day program is funded by our donors. It’s fully our donors. Some programs are partially funded by the government. Most of the sponsorship program (is) run by us and funded by our donors is $5, $10, $20, or $5000. Whatever amount that is a contribution of many people, meaning good hearts,” Tarek says. He says he believes when you reach out to people with the cause that the money will end up coming. “One sponsorship means lots of money. It’s all a challenging right but this is our job. What I believe is that if you believe in a cause, take this cause to the people, make the people understand and love that cause the money will come there anyway. So, this is what we do regularly. I say I don’t have any relationship with any refugee families. No blood relationship, no ethnical relationship but I’m attached to this, my heart is attached to this because I believe in this cause. and I take this cause and as a team ICNA Relief Canada and our volunteers, we take this cause to the people,” he says.
Tarek says when refugees arrive they don’t realize that ICNA is not funded by the government and expect more funding. The refugees think that ICNA is funded by the government and complain to the volunteers who donate money and time so they still expect more. The government is not donating anything. They are making money out of this program and when refugees complain it is very demotivating for many volunteers, he says. Refugees often go to government when they feel there isn’t enough funding available through the private sponsors. Executive Director of ICNA Relief Canada Shaukat Hussain says this is the result of not understanding how the system works, so some refugees file complaints to the government. Hussain says “Sometimes they complain to the government. The government has set principles and guidelines, and they know what our role is what our responsibilities and they acknowledge we are doing more than what our responsibility was.”
(Abu Noman Tarek Interview)
The Syrian Refugee Sponsorship appreciation dinner at Sagan Banquet Hall on April 13 2019. (Photograph courtesy of ICNA Relief)
Executive Director of ICNA Relief Shaukat Hussain on the left and Project Manager Abu Noman Tarek on the right. (Photograph by Fatima Baig)
The Abdulkdir family consists of Menal Abdulkdir who has three children her son Yezen Abdulkdir and daughters Rama and Noor. The Abdulkdir family members tell their story of moving from house to house in Syria and hardly having access to electricity. “In Syria, it was difficult for us because sometimes we had to move out a lot because of the war, but we’re lucky to survive. When we moved to other places usually they were abandoned or they don’t have lights and we had to light candles just to see where we were going,” says Yezen. They didn’t have enough rooms in the house for everybody and their grandparents had to sleep in the living room. “All I know is it had two rooms but it wasn’t enough to fit us all usually my grandparents had to sleep in the living room but it was okay for them,” Yezen says. Saadia Jamal is the social service volunteer at ICNA Sisters which is a part of ICNA. Jamal says the Abdulkdir family didn’t have enough to eat in Syria. “The family with two sisters, their husbands were killed in the war. One sister was living in Turkey and the other one was like living in a camp. In the camp they were eating leaves and sometimes they don’t have anything to eat,” she says. Jamal says she appealed to donors and was able to receive 20 to 30 donors for the family “Money wasn’t a big challenge and I had 20-30 donors every month we had to give the money to the refugees. I appealed to my friends and my community,” she says. Jamal says she raised around $15000 to $18,000 “I was raising around $15000-$18,000. I always had the money for them because we had to give them rent and give them a lot of money every month,” she says.
(Saadia Jamel interview)
The executive director of ICNA Relief Shaukat Hussain says he has witnessed what life is like first-hand in refugee camps when he went and visited them. “Sometimes they do not have any shelter, sometimes they do not have anything to eat. Then the biggest challenges they go to the camps, and camps are temporary setups. Most of the time, what I found children and especially women, they are vulnerable. They get abused as well. So, they lack everything. hygiene and food and shelter, and health, everything they compromise,” he says. Hussain says the state of the refugee camps depends on the country. Smaller countries have a hard time supporting refugees. “It depends from country to country, from the government. Some countries they cannot afford to support refugees but refugees the influx is there they are coming the pressure is, but they are not able to handle like Lebanon, Jordan, they are smaller countries. But Turkey, though their language is different Turkish language and Arabic Syrians there was speaking Arabic but still, Turkey had the best refugee camps I have ever visited. Afghani camps, I was at the Kashmiri camps I have visited Rohingya camps and I found that Turkey they were very open to accommodate and their slogan was, they are our brothers and our sisters,” he says. There is also a lack of healthcare and education in the refugee camps, a situation Tarek says is worse than a prison. The refugee camp is an open place but is a very limited area. It is like living in a prison. At least in the Canadian prison system. there is an education system but the refugee camps are worse than a prison system. The camps are an open prison because there is no school and that means no future for the children. Then no healthcare, No job. So as a child in a refugee camp, you have no hope. No right to dream anything big and no future, he says.
Syrian Refugee Sponsorship appreciation dinner at Sagan Banquet Hall on April 13, 2019. (Photograph courtesy of ICNA Relief)
Syrian refugees face several challenges when they arrive in Canada. Most Syrian refugees don’t speak, write or understand English or French. Many also face employment struggles. This is because of the language barrier and because qualifications from Syria or other countries don’t transfer over to Canada. Needal Ghadi, Christine Massing, and Crystal Giesbrecht are the authors of an article Language and Identity Development Among Syrian Adult Refugees in Canada. Needal Ghadi is an instructor at the University of Regina. Christine Massing is an associate professor in early childhood education at the University of Regina. According to Ghadi, Massing and Giesbrecht, refugees who have previously worked and were the primary breadwinners before they arrived in Canada feel like they won’t be able to secure employment through English classes, However, at the same time, it’s hard for them to find employment without knowing the primary language that is spoken in Canada. Many students face challenges in the Canadian education system since they don’t speak the language. Students also have a difficult time making friends in school because of the language barrier. Many children only speak Arabic, and this can result in isolation and difficulties in making social connections and expressing themselves.Anna Kirova wrote a report examining the experiences Syrian refugees had with the education system in Canada. According to Kirova, it has been found that English training classes have not been efficient enough to “feel good and make connections with Canadian born students.”
Many Syrian refugee families also struggle with mental health issues. Since they have come from a war-torn country, they often live in trauma and experience things such as anxiety, depression and PTSD – post-traumatic stress disorder. Dr. Nadim Almoshmosh wrote about the role of war trauma survivors in managing their mental conditions. According to Almoshmosh “a cross-sectional study on Syrian refugees in a tent city in Turkey showed 33.5% prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”
Syrian Refugee Sponsorship appreciation dinner at Sagan Banquet Hall on April 13, 2019. (Photograph courtesy of ICNA Relief)
Syrian refugees take part in a publicly funded English class. The Abdulkdir family didn’t know any English when they first arrived. They only spoke Arabic. “It was hard to communicate with other people because I didn’t speak any English. that’s the most difficult thing,” Noor says. She says it took her a year to get comfortable with the language. She is currently 14 years old and was 11 when she first arrived in Canada. “It took me the entire Grade 5 because when I came here I was Grade 5,” she says. Noor’s school provided her separate classes so that she could work on her English. “When I go to school, they take me to a period, just so we could learn more English and so they can help me more and so I can get comfortable with the community in the classroom,” she says. Because of the language barrier, Noor says she and her siblings Yezen and Rama interacted with others who spoke Arabic. This helped build confidence. “It helped me not to get shy when I talk to people because I am pretty shy when I talk to people so they helped me not be shy,” Noor says. The Abdulkdir family faced the same issue when they were in Turkey and because of that they were provided with a translator. Menal says the language issues have hampered her and her children’s abilities to socialize. “We don’t speak or write Turkish very well. Over there they speak and write in Turkish,” Menal says this limited their ability to socialize and connect with people in Turkey. Her son Yezen says “I don’t speak to Turkish people because they won’t understand what I’m saying.” Yezen says. Canada’s other official language is French and for Syrian refugees, learning French be very challenging. Yezen says he started taking French when he was in Grade 5. “When I came to Canada, we didn’t take French lessons and I didn’t even know about French. I was in Grade 5, I went to another class to take French but it was a struggle,” he says. Because of how Yezen struggled, Menal says she thinks French homework shouldn’t be given. “They shouldn’t give any student French homework at all because nobody learns French that quickly,” she says. His teacher agreed that Yezen would get extra help with French during the school’s lunchtime. Language is also a struggle for many sponsors who don’t speak Arabic. Jamal of ICNA Sisters says she found it hard to communicate with the Abdulkdir family. “The only problem is we don’t know Arabic so we can’t communicate,” she says. As a result, ICNA Sister connected them with a member who spoke Arabic to help. Menal says she wants her children to speak Arabic at home and as Yezen, Noor and Rana understand more and more English there is a communication gap between Menal and her children. “To be honest sometimes when kids speak English I can’t understand,” she says. Menal says she tries to get Yezen to speak Arabic. “I told him I can’t give you anything if you don’t speak Arabic,” she says.
Syrian refugee students also face academic challenges along with social challenges, according to Anne Kirova who wrote a report examining the experiences Syrian refugees had with the education system in Canada. Syrian refugee students aged 14 to 18 often have had their education interrupted in Syria and as a result, are often behind in academics. Some also opt-out of school in Canada and only take the minimal amount of English training. The Abdulkdir family were enrolled in school and English class a couple of weeks after they arrived in Canada. “After a week we took the women to school, we took them to the Learning Center on Elm Street and they admitted and they give us an orange slip. Then we had to take the kids to school. Then we arranged to pick and drop them to school. The bigger kids are going to T.L Kennedy. Then the mothers got admission to Rainbow Peel to learn English,” Jamal says.The Canadian school system uses age to place students in grades instead of their educational background. “I didn’t study a lot in Turkey because I was in Grade 3 in Turkey. It was hard because there is a lot of stuff you have to focus on. But here they focus on your English more than like anything because you’re a newcomer so they have to focus on your English more than anything else,” Noor says. Noor and Rana say they supported and helped each other with school work. “We had homework, they gave us two books to read when we come back from school. We helped each other with reading and translating. She helped me a lot with that,” Noor says about her sister Rama. To make Yezen feel more comfortable he was taken on a tour of the school. “When I first came they took me around the school they told me what everything is and how to use it. Then after that, I started learning English,” he says. However, he says he still struggled with approaching teachers and asking questions. His teacher would say “you should know this by now, but I wouldn’t know it and she wouldn’t help me,” he says. Menal says she approached the school to discuss her concerns about her son.She said ‘I have 20 students in the same class’,” she says.
The Abdulkdir family has faced several challenges when it comes to family separation such as homesickness and missing family. “Sometimes my mom calls to say ‘she wants to see us’,” Menal says.Menal says she is often reminded of her parents who are back in Syria. “I went to the market and saw old man and women and remembered my dad and mom,” she says. Menal says finds it difficult to speak to her parents because of the lack of internet connection in Syria. “I spoke with my mom, my dad, and my brother but there is no internet when I want to call him it doesn’t connect,” she says. Menal and her sister Raja arrived in Canada together. In her application, Menal stated that she wanted her sister to come with her. “When I was in Turkey and applied to the UN my sister and I wrote on the paperwork I can’t leave my sister,” she says. Menal says feels like she and her sister were accepted because Canada was looking for bigger families. “I think it’s because at that time they needed more people and my sister and I have a big family,” she says.
Menal has four sisters and a brother and two parents. Currently Menal and one of her sisters Raja are in Canada with their children. One of her sisters is a Syrian immigrant in Germany and another is a Syrian immigrant in Turkey. Menal’s parents and brother are currently still in Syria. Many Syrians when applying as refugees don’t get information on their file. The same thing happened to Menal’s parents. “They were applying before, but I don’t know what happened,” Menal says.
ICNA’s Tarek has seen homesickness among Syrian refugees. “Homesickness is real now thinking of the well-being of their family members with the left behind inside Syria or in the camps is a real concern many of them they always live with, and they request to sponsor their family members but it’s not easy always to sponsor immediate family members,” he says. Menal says she finds it difficult to be separated from her parents because they are elderly. “I wish they are happy but it is difficult. My dad is seventy-five years old. I feel like I should help him here and we should eat together,” she says.“my mom is diabetic and has high blood pressure. Every time I talk to her she is sad. She asks ‘Is everything is okay back home? Is everything okay? Is your daughter okay?’ ” Menal and her sister applied for refugee status for their parents but don’t know what happened to the file and decided not to pursue it because their parents didn’t want to leave Syria. However, according to Member of Parliament for the Mississauga- Erin Mills riding Iqra Khalid where the Abdulkdir family lives, when families are separated it’s the applicant’s responsibility to disclose family members “Normally how it works is that we try to make sure that families stay together. When a family that applies under the government assistance program or even under the private program we try to make sure that there’s a full family and that the mother, the father and the children can travel together and come together. That’s the onus is on the applicants themselves to disclose their family members before they apply,” Khalid says. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) plays a central role in family unification. “The UNHCR agency is the central agency for people that are registered refugees or protected persons. So UNHCR plays a very central role in that, it’s really through the UNHCR as to how we verify and we ensure that those refugees,” Khalid says.
(MP Iqra Khalid interview)
Along with family separation, there is a sense of culture shock and socialization. “Then cultural shock is huge challenges, because it is from Syria to camp to Canadian culture is huge, a huge shift within few months, while few years so the cultural shock is one of the biggest challenges, languages, Tarek says. Menal says she feels the need to protect her children from peer pressure that comes from the social scene at school. “You have to be careful because of the system here because of the drinking and smoking,’ she says. Menal says she always taught Noor to stay away from that atmosphere. Noor says “she taught us not to do bad things because we are Muslim.” Menal says she feels that if children from Canada went and lived in Syria they would be in shock because of the lack of access that is available there. Noor agrees.“The kids here have phones and Wi-Fi and electricity. It’s going to be different if they go there and live,” Noor says. The Abdulkadir family also had a hard time adjusting to behaviour that might be socially accepted in Turkey or Syria but not in Canada.“The first time my child and my sister’s child went to the park. My daughter saw a little child and she wanted to hug and kiss him but with the system here you have to talk to his mom,” Menal says. Menal says she has a hard time going out to socialize and make friends because she feels like there isn’t enough time. “Because I have to study, do the house cleaning, take care of my children and go to work,” she says. To help with culture shock, ICNA Relief tries to pair refugees with sponsor groups from their background. “We try to help them but is it will take time, because one thing we tried to be in sponsor groups, we tried to bring in the people from their background, from their country from their language. So, we try to communicate with them through their community. we tried to bring in the people from their background, from their country from their language. So, we try to communicate with them through their community,” Tarek says. Sponsors support the refugee or family for a total of one year. From welcoming them from the airport to providing supports for daily living. “One-year financial commitment means at least $40,000 and then one-year settlements service means lots of responsibility from welcoming them from the airport to preparing their home to provide them their start-up time at with all financial and emotional moral support,” Tarek says.
Lastly, many refugee families face mental health issues before and after arriving in Canada. ICNA’s Hussain finds that many families and individuals live in trauma as a result of being in a war-torn country. “When they leave the situation, they might have left their own family behind dead in front of their eyes, their fathers, their uncles, their brothers and sisters. So, they live in trauma. That is the biggest loss especially for young kids.” Hussain said ICNA Relief isn’t able to counsel families since they don’t have access to the refugee camps. However, when they arrive in Canada they can access counsellors and mental health support, Since they don’t have access to the camps other than doing some relief activities, providing them food shelter are some medical support through local partners they can’t do that much. However, when refugees come here they can access the services that are provided by the government such as therapy and counselling. However, because of the traumatized conditions of the camps, it takes time for them to adjust mentally.
When the Abdulkdir family arrived in Canada, the family experienced multiple challenges of losing loved ones and leaving behind others but also challenges of adjusting to a new culture ,language barriers, settling their children to the new education system and economic uncertainty. The programs put together by the Canadian government and private organization have helped them through this. Menal still has a hard time being separated from parents and isn’t able to contact them very often due to the internet connection. Now they seem to have adjusted pretty well and Menal is now working full time , her children are well settled in school. She wants to become a Canadian citizen and be able to have access to more opportunities for herself and her family through citizenship. Each of the Abdulkdir children has their hopes and dreams. Noor wants to become a police officer or a doctor. Rama wants to be a nurse so she can communicate and understand people as well as help them. Yezen also wants to be a police officer because he wants to serve the community. Menal is happy to raise her children in a place of peace with opportunities and hopes they have a bright future.
On April 11th the Ford government announced cuts to legal aid in the new budget. Under the budget Legal Aid, Ontario will be facing 30 percent cuts.
Legal Aid Ontario takes on cases such as Criminal, family, refugee and immigration, civil and mental health, income security and appeals. They provide services in court, through clinics, through a voucher system by using private lawyers and through their own staff offices. Kathleen Murphy the director of communication and stakeholder relation of legal aid Ontario said low-income Ontarians with specific legal needs use legal aid.
Legal Aid Ontario has created a new budget to allocate the cuts that have been made by the Ford government. Murphy said, “we’ve taken in best how best to use our new allocations, we’ve looked really closely across the organization to determine the best way to find savings without limiting the impact on legal aid clients.”
According to an email sent by Legal Aid Ontario CEO David Field, Legal Aid Ontario will allocate an anticipated saving of $13 million towards the 73-community legal clinic throughout the province. They will allocate the $78 million to areas with the client-facing the highest needs. Legal Aid Ontario will use the total amount of unspent funds from the last year as well as they will discontinue the use of one-time projects towards the clinics. They originally had an anticipated saving of $15 million towards refuges under the $13-16 million funding from the federal government. However, that has changed since Aug. after the Ford government said they will be funding the amount cut.
Legal Aid Ontario has created a reduction of 10% towards their administration and staffing. Murphy said “we took a chunk out of own administration, we also looked at clinics, or duty counsel offices, our staff offices and the private bar. So, what we tried to do was to cuts something that wouldn’t impact legal aid clients.”
Since the cuts, Legal Aid Ontario is now financially testing clients who used the duty council. Murphy said “one of the things we used to do in the duty council world we used to not financially test and we now actually financially test and so the impact there would be on those who are above ae financial threshold.” Clients who do not meet the financial requirements will be forced to pay for a lawyer, find an organization that can help or be self-represent. According to legal Aid, Ontario’s website a family of 5 or more people can qualify for legal aid if they earn $48,157 or less a year. According to Murphy, there should not be an impact on the quality of help that people are receiving.
Legal aid Ontario has been measuring the impact of the cuts and will adjust accordingly if needed Murphy said“one of the things we decided at the time when making the decision was to continually measure the impact and adjust if we need to and we’re at that stage now.”
On March 15 2019 the New Zealand massacre occurred. The lasting effect hasn’t only been limited to New Zealand.
Chairperson of the Canadian Council of Imams Dr. Iqbal Massod Al-Nadvi said he was surprised and shocked when he heard the news.
“It was surprising for me because I know that New Zealand is a very remote and peaceful country,“ Al-Nadvi told Skedline.com.
He said he was pleased with the Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern’s response to the tragedy and commended Ardern’s condemnation of the attack as a terrorist act.
“How the prime minister responded was very positive, especially since she used the word terrorist because most people avoid it,” he said.
Al-Nadvi said he believes Canada has become part of the issues because of the Quebec mosque shooting in 2017.
“The attacker quoted the Quebec mosque issue, in that sense Canada has become a part of it,” he said.
The Quebec mosque shooting occurred on Jan 29, 2017 after Alexandre Bissonnette.entered the Québec City Islamic cultural center and shot dead six people. He had been charged with first-degree murder and another five counts of attempted murder.
According to the National Observer, Bissonnette “was obsessed with Donald Trump and searched for the U.S. president online more than 800 times between Jan. 1 and Jan. 29, 2017, the day of the harrowing shooting. He also browsed regularly for Muslims, mass murderer Dylann Roof, mass shootings, feminists, and a plethora of far-right conspiracists and pundits.”
In Christchurch, New Zealand 50 people were killed in two different Mosques. Brenton Harrison Tarrant has been arrested and charged with murder.
Al-Nadvi thinks that one of the main problems in shootings like this is the language that is used.
He said, “establish a standard for both, if a Muslim person attacks they call it terrorism but if somebody else attacks they call it different words”
Terrorism is defined in the Government of Canada website as “any other act or omission intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to a civilian or to any other person not taking an active part in the hostilities in a situation of armed conflict, if the purpose of that act or omission, by its nature or context, is to intimidate the public, or to compel a government or an international organization to do or refrain from doing any act.”
Al-Nadvi said he believes education and awareness is a big factor when it comes to these attacks. He also believes that awareness should be brought through interfaith events.
“At the same time we need to educate and bring awareness to the problem because many times ignorance is a big thing when it comes to incidents like this,” he said.
Cameras have been placed in mosques. Nadvi said, “one of the securities is that we can ask the police to be there, make some kind of CCTV system, some kind of a monitoring system. Police have offered support to the community” RCMP, Police and experts provided support too.
“RCMP, police and one expert offered us information and tips of security,” said Al-Nadvi.
Memona Hussain, a volunteer from the Muslim Association of Canada, said she believes people in the community think incidents like this can happen anywhere and are looking for hope and to heal.
“I think that given that we are in a global village we see everything that is happening and I think everybody feels it could be anywhere, I think people are impacted in terms of grief, in terms of fear and they had the memory of what happened a couple of years ago in Quebec, they are looking for hope they are looking for ways to heal and move forward,” Hussain said.
Hussain said she believes grieving is an important process when it comes to dealing with attacks like the one in New Zealand.
“Part of it is as a society and a community we need to allow space for grieving and that can happen in different ways. Many families were concerned about their safety,” Hussain said. ”People with children were worried about attending Friday prayers, people were genuinely concerned about going there so we had to ramp up security and have communication with members just to voice that.”
The Muslim Association of Canada encourages others in the community to stay united but make their own decisions about whether they want to attend the Mosque.
“I don’t think you can make a decision for anybody, people have to make a choice for themselves whether they want to attend or don’t want to attend but all we can tell them is these are the steps we are taking,” Hussain said.
Tehmina Mirza from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Student Association (AMSA) said she believes peoples reactions are changing and they are being more accepting realizing that Muslims are not necessarily the ‘others.’
Humber College students have the opportunity to make their voices heard by voting this week in the Ignite elections.
“It’s always important to vote regardless of which election is,” Saffiya Luit, a member of the Board of Directors of Humber’s student government Ignite said in an emailed response to a Skedline request for an interview. “It’s always important to vote regardless of which election it is!”
This election will determine who will serve as Ignite’s executive next year. “For this election, it will determine how next year will go for the students so based on their priorities they should vote for the candidate whose priorities align with their own,” Lulat said.
Lulat said in an email one issue she thinks is an important issue for students is financial aid.
“If there is a lack of financial stability then everything else becomes difficult and it will reflect negatively on both the students and the University of Guelph-Humber/ Humber College,” Luit said in the email. Premier Doug Ford announced last month that students will be able to opt out of student union fees like those for Ignite. Lulat disagrees with the move but thinks Humber students understand the benefits of Ignite.
She said in an email, “As a student and current [Board member] I see the benefits of Ignite and I know the students are intelligent enough to see it too. Therefore, I’m not worried about students choosing to opt out because they’re smart enough not to.”
Ignite’s special projects coordinator Vanessa Silaphetsaid via email said candidates are reaching out to student voters using “various methods and in whatever means the candidate wishes to interact and engage with the student body – social media, in person, handouts, posters.”
Silaphet said about 8,500 students voted in last year’s election — a 25.7 % turnout rate.
Another member of Ignite’s Board of Directors, Nisha Haroon, said candidates are using different ways to reach out to students during the campaign.
“Candidates are expected to be accessible as much as possible,” Haroon said in an email.
One of the responsibilities each candidate has is to abide by the IGNITE elections appeal policy which can be found on the IGNITE website. The appeals policy state that there is a three-strike protocol for members that break the rules or regulations. However, they have the choice of filing for an appeal.
Silaphet said in an email that each candidate has the responsibility to be open and authentic as possible as it is important to be real and transparent. “Candidates is responsible for ensuring they abide by the IGNITE Elections and Appeals policy.”
Students had the opportunity to meet their candidate face to face at a Mix and Mingle event that IGNITE held on Feb 12-14. Lutat said in her email that “IGNITE held an open Mix & Mingle event so students can meet candidates in a comfortable atmosphere. In addition, candidates can be met while canvassing/campaigning, through social media, and through email.” Skedline reporter Justin Field covered the Mix and Mingle.
Candidates for president are Margarita Bader and Monica Khosla.
Bader studies digital communications and her platform includes financial security, helping to develop skills that students don’t learn in the classroom, and improving students academic experience.
Khosla platform includes making student lives on campus more comfortable & enjoyable, improving students’ health & wellness and improving students’ academic experience.
Candidates for vice president at Humber Lakeshore are Ostap Pavliuk and Ryan Stafford.
Pavliuk is in the Business Administration program and advocates for making student lives on campus more comfortable and enjoyable, helping to develop skills students don’t learn in the classroom and improving students’ health and wellness.
Stafford is also a Business Administration student and advocates for delivering experiences that can enrich students’ lives, improving students’ health and wellness and help improving student financial security.
Board of Director candidates includes Asiya Awan, a paralegal student, Camila Ruiz Tacha and Stephanie Fallico.
Candidates are currently campaigning and the winners will be announced March 1stat 5 p.m. Voting is going on all week from Monday, Feb. 25 to Friday, – March 1, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the L or AB building on Humber Lakeshore campus.
A new mood walk program is helping promote mental health at Humber College.
Mood walks are walks which are held in the arboretum at Humber College North Campus or indoors on campus depending on the weather. They are designed to boost physical activity and help reduce stress, bringing a sense of calm to people by taking them for a stroll in nature. Students usually walk for 30-40 minutes.
Mood walks were first introduced at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). CAMH brought mood walks into different universities and colleges. They were introduced at Humber College by Leanne Henwood Adam, fitness coordinator at Humber College, and Agnes Coutinho, assistant program head of kinesiology at the University of Guelph-Humber.
“Exercise in general because you are getting your blood pumping around your body and get those feel good endorphins going through your body when you exercise so that helps people to boost their mood,” says Adam. “There has been a lot of research that shows how just being in nature can calm people down.”
During the walks students receive a tour of the areas they haven’t seen before. Students also get the opportunity to disconnect from screens.
“It’s a nice break for students sitting in front of a screen and being able to disconnect for a second and come out and see there is more going on than just their assignments,” Reid Williamson, a senior nature interpreter at the Humber arboretum, says.
The walks are both staff- and peer-led. “We had the Kinesiology Society at the University of Guelph-Humber hold a walk and had over 30 students attended that walk,” says Adam.
Bad weather can result in seasonal affective disorder, which is a form of depression that is related to the season changing. Physical activity like mood walks can help manage it.
“Exercise can help but even on a cold day if you are dressed properly you can go out,” Adam said. The walks are held during all weather conditions even in the winter. “we won’t go outside on a day like this but we will still do hall walking,” says Adam.
The walks feature themes such as chickadee and snowshoe walks
“There is a big barrier in going outside whether it’s lack of motivation or they are just feeling intimated so having these themes to draw people in and knowing that they are guided by someone it is more motivating,” says Williamson.
The walks are accessible for people with mobility devices and other accessible needs, Williamson said “we have lots of places to be explored for people with mobility devices but beyond that if it’s a matter of not being able to walk far we do have many beautiful areas around the building.”
The mood walks occur every Monday at 1:10 pm, Wednesdays at 12:10 pm and Fridays at 11 am.
2016, United States elections caused a lot of people in the United States and across the world to be shocked by the results. After the results, many protests were held across the world in resistance.
Kavita Dogra was one of the many who were shocked by the results. Dogra was born in Fredericton, New Brunswick. She spent time in India where she was exposed to human rights issues. However, that wasn’t the only way she was exposed to human rights issues. Dogra’s mother was a local member of a Non-Governmental agency (NGO) though that she learned to help people in any way she could. She said, “My sense of empathy and passion to do something meaningful in life certainly comes from her.”
She was inspired by the Women’s March in Washington on Jan. 21, 2018. At that time a march in Toronto was not being held. Dogra said, “I knew I wanted to be a part of the resistance. It was not possible for me to go down to Washington so I met up with a friend to discuss the possibility of organizing something in Toronto.” She was able to contact the organizers of the event through social media as a result Dogra became an organizer. “They were happy to have me on board because I had some experience organizing events.” She met with her friends and they discussed organizing something in Toronto. Dogra said, “It was an opportunity to stand in solidarity with women in the United States but also to highlight local issues impacting the city.”
The hope for Dogra and the rest of the organizers of the women’s march was not to feel alone and defeated by the results. Dogra said, “We wanted them to be surrounded by others who felt their anger and disappointment and most of all we wanted to use our platform to raise awareness about local issues.” The guest speakers at the march were people who fought for justice and rights. Dogra said “We put on the podium people who fight for rights and justice in our own city and our goal was to get people excited about getting involved and making a difference in Toronto”
. She is also the founder of We Talk Women, which is an organization that hopes to start a conversation as well as break the silence that most often surrounds women’s rights injustices and sexual, physical, and emotional abuse. Dogra founded the organization after watching a documentary on women who experienced sexual assaults in The Democratic Republic of the Congo. She started noticing that not many people within her network were talking about advancing equality or women’s rights in general. She said, “It felt like people had become complacent and accepted things as they were.” Dogra said, “We Talk Women predates the mainstream popularity of feminism and the Me Too movement.” She is proud of what We Talk Women has been able to accomplish. Dogra said, “I’m proud that through We Talk Women I’ve managed to inform and inspire a few people over the years.”For Degra, in the start, it was tough to get people out to events and engage online about issues. However, as long as she informed and inspired somebody, she was content. She said. “my goals were always humble, if in the end I had informed and inspired just a handful of people to take action, I was content.”
During her time as an activist, one of the challenges Dogra faced was getting the spotlight for a short period of time and then having people move on from the issues. Dogra said she overcame that by “Keeping people’s interest and attention on a variety of issues and making people understand how different issues intersect is a challenge.” Dogra advice to people who have a desire to learn is to nurture your desire to learn. Do some research, find people whose work you respect and learn from them. It’s okay to make mistakes as long as you accept them as an opportunity to grow and reflect.”
Dogra believes in order to get involved in human rights it’s important to have a support system and practise self-care. She said, “Getting involved in human rights issues can be very heavy and a strain on your mental health so establish a support network and learn how to practice self-care.” The next women’s march here in Toronto will be held on Saturday, Jan. 20
Rabia Khedr is the first visually impaired, Muslim woman to be appointed to the Human Rights Commission.
Rabia Khedr was appointed part time to the Human Rights Commission among five other individuals.She said ”I feel honored, excited, energized because I’m getting to put my passion into action into a different level” She is an advocate and volunteers for accessibility, Women and the Muslim community.Khedr is also a founder of Canadian Association of Muslim with Disabilities (CAM-D). She is also a member of the Mississauga Accessibility Advisory Committee, which Khedr chaired for eight years.
As a child growing up in Canada Khedr was not able to participate in recreational activates or religious learning due to her visual impairment and as a result had to advocate for herself. One of the many barriers that she faced was being excluded from courses in school due to her vision loss and the fact that she had a hard time receiving accommodation in school. Khedr starting volunteering in the community level after she became a mother. She hopes to take what she learned from barriers that Khedr and her family had to face and help enforces change. She stated, “ I believe in a exclusive society.I really believe genially and whole heartily in human right” As a mother I got into volunteering in the community level to create opportunities for my kids especially my girls, the things I couldn’t access growing up” said Kheder. “Being blind I’m not distracted by unnecessary information, so I spend more time doing” By being appointment to the human right commission Khder hopes to bring perceptive of racialized women, racialized women individuals with disabilities, Muslim women. She also hopes to add to conversation about human rights,
Khedr is now the executive director of CAM-D, the CEO of Deen Support services and now also run The Muslim Council of Peel. The Muslim Council of Peel ‘coordinates efforts with mosques around public relations and awareness rising “. The Mississauga Accessibility Advisory Committee helps to implanted, access for disabilities, through facilities in the city. “It’s been about ensuring the accessibility standers that are legislated under the AODA and under the old ODA are infect implemented effectively”. Deen Support Service is an organization that she created. Deen Support Services is a program for adults and teens with disabilities. One of the programs that Deen Support Services offers is The Day Program. This program offers recreational programs on weekends for individuals with disabilities.
It also offers skills building. Aliyah yusuf the program stated “ What happened over the years that these individuals who did not know each other, who just came to the program, they started building friendships and that very important because some of them did not have friends”
Humber College hosted the screening of the documentary Shadeism by editor Nyani Thlyagarajah. Students had an opportunity to watch the film and have a question and answer session with Thlyagarajah. The documentary Shadeism features stories of discrimination between light-skinned and dark-skinned people in African American, South Asian, Aboriginal, etc. communities.
Thlyagarajah thinks anti-black racism is the root of shadeism. “Anti-black racism is really at the root of it,” Thlyagarajah said. She believes multiple colonizers such as the British, French and Portuguese throughout history have a part in shadeism. “It’s definitely multiple colonizers,” said Thlyagarajah. Early sign of colonialism and shadeism were in South Africa. “Some of the early bleaching crèmes ads were in south Africa, we see a lot of them are still available and we know the context and history of south Africa,” said Thlyagarajah.
She thinks shadeism still occurs in Canada as well. “This is something that we carry with us from other places, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it also exists here with indigenous communities,” said Thlyagarajah. She believes media is important to others’ understanding of shadeism. “Our media and what we are ingesting is crucial,” said Thlyagarajah. When it comes to children and younger people Thlyagarajah believes, along with being mindful of the media that they are exposed to, the conversation of shadeism has to be a team effort from the adults. “It has to be conscious, collective effort,” said Thlyagarajah.
Thlyagarajah, while having the conversation on shadeism, took her niece to movies such as The Princess and The Frog. She also believes suggesting different movies and books that encourage children to have an internal dialogue can also help. “I think that is a conversation that allows her to have an internal dialogue without forcing the conversation on her.” Thlyagarajah didn’t feel like she experienced shadism, but while creating the film she came to the conclusion that she experienced shadism while getting her face waxed. “I remember the feeling that I used to have when I would get my face waxed and there would a noticeable difference in shade even as somebody who was lighter skinned and that hit me,” said Thlyagarajah. The film gave Thlyagarajah the opportunity to reflect on herself and her body. “This particular film had me constantly reflecting on my relationship to myself and my body,” said Thlyagarajah. Thlyagarajah thinks the government, the media and other system structures have made it difficult to change in society. “I think the problem is that all of our systems and structures including the government, the media other structures are engulfed and devoted to divisive and oppressive politics” said Thlyagarajah.
The event was a collaboration between the Base (formally known as the Bridge), the Aboriginal Resource Centre and the Humber Gallery. The Base is an organization the supports students who identify as African American or Caribbean by offering services such as tutoring. Offering workshops that helps students learn life and career skills. The base also offers self-care events. “It is a collaboration with the Aboriginal resource centre, the Base as well as the Humber Gallery,” said Efe Chehore, the student advisor for the Base. “It depicts the experience of colourism and different communities,” said Chehore. Jessica Reign, Base student support advisor, would like to create more events like the screening to expose others to the arts and different perspectives. “We want to do more events like this to expose the arts and different perspectives,” said Reign.
The film Shadism will come out online. Thlyagarajah is working on a film called Displace. “It’s a drama set in Toronto and it’s a queer love story about a Tamil woman and half-Mohawk, half-Iranian woman,” said Thlyagarajah. The film explores their recreation with their fathers and touches on the conversation of racialized immigrants. Thlyagarajah is also working on a television show calledVisible Majority. “It’s about first-generation millennials of colours,” said Thlyagarajah. That television show will also be filmed in Toronto.
Zonaira Ishaq opens up about her experience as a Niqab wearing Muslim Women here in Canada and her fight to appeal a policy preventing Muslim Women from wearing the Niqab during their citizenship oath-taking ceremony.
Ishaq is a wife and mother to five children, she came to Canada in 2008. Ishaq started wearing the Niqab back when she was in Pakistan. Ishaaq said, “it was a personal decision.” Her inspiration was her English teacher and her sister.
Ishaq didn’t struggle with wearing her Niqab here in Canada until 2011. When the former minister of immigration Jason Kenny created a policy that Muslim Women couldn’t wear the Niqab during their citizenship oath-taking ceremony. Audrey Macklin Professor of Law at the University of Toronto believes the policy had two contradictory ideas that women wearing the Niqab were victims of gender oppression. Macklin said, “if that was the case denying them citizenship would make them more vulnerable because non-citizens experience abuse, exploitations of varying sorts compared to citizens.” Another contradiction Macklin believes is that women are forced to wear the Niqab. She said, “it was a kind of oppression compulsion, so the idea that they should be rescued from oppression by denying them citizenship.” When the policy was enforced Ishaaq was not a Canadian Citizen and was trying to find out how she could get her Citizenship. Ishaq said, “I found out about the policy in 2011 and was trying to find out how I would face Citizenship.” Ishaq felt that she could receive accommodations since she has been accommodated in places like the airport. Ishaq said “people have accommodated me and said if you want to show your face privately we can do that. She was given the option that instead of fighting the policy she could have elected certain accommodations such as sitting in the back-row but would still need to remove her niqab. Ishaq wasn’t comfortable with accommodations that were provided so she consulted a lawyer at Waldman and Associates. Nassem Mithoowani an Associate Lawyer at Waldman and Associates felt the policy was unfair and targeted a particular group. She said, “in this case, they were targeting a particular population unfairly that’s when we felt we needed to step in.” Ishaq went to Federal court to appeal the ban. Going into the Case Ishaq was concerned about media involvement. She said, “I didn’t want to be in the spotlight.” Ishaq ‘s lawyers on the other hand were concerned about the impact that case would have on the Muslim community. Mithoowani said, “When you are representing a misunderstood or vulnerable community, there are always concerns that it could have negative impacts on that community.” Ishaq’s lawyers argued that the policy violated The Charter of Rights on the bases of freedom of religion, that the Minister didn’t go through the legislature to make the policy a law and tried to bypass that by making the Niqab ban a mandatory policy and finally that it was dissimilatory towards Muslim Women.
The courts ruled against the Niqab Ban on Sept 16, 2015, on the bases that, the Minister didn’t go through the legislature to make the policy a law and took her Citizenship oath on Oct 10, 2015. At that time Ishaq felt that she made her right decision to appeal the policy. She said, “I felt that I was right going to court because the policy was not on the right path.” Today Ishaq enjoys the benefits of being a Canadian Citizen.
Iman Saeed is eight years old with a smile larger than life itself.
In a recent photo shoot to promote a charity gala event for children with disabilities, she chose to wear a sparkly black shirt and a blue cape with blue cuffs. It was the perfect ensemble for a Superhero background. It also perfectly reflected her remarkable achievements as a child born with Down syndrome.
Her mother, Abeer Zuberi, says she was scared and worried about her daughter’s future when she first learned of the diagnosis before Iman was born. Down syndrome is a congenital condition caused by an extra chromosome and is often characterized by developmental delays, some impairment in cognitive functioning, short stature, upward slanting eyes, a flattened nasal bridge, broad hands with short fingers and decreased muscle tone. “Initially it was shock, grief and fear,” she says. “I didn’t know what was happening – but then she was my daughter and I loved everything about her.”
Iman attends public school with the support of a teacher’s assistant for half of the day. “She is integrated into the regular classroom,” says Zuberi, who has always advocated for her daughter to learn alongside other children, as opposed to being placed in a class exclusively for those with special needs.
She smiles as she recalls Iman taking the school bus on the first day of school and enjoying it immensely. “I was literally in the car behind the school bus. She didn’t cry – but I was crying.”
Today, Iman says her favourite subject is gym. “I like to play with my friends,” she tells me.
The Zuberi’s live in Mississauga with Iman’s maternal grandparents. Her grandmother Farhana provides much of the childcare for Iman and her two younger siblings while Zuberi is at work or school. She currently studies behaviourial sciences at Humber College in Toronto and works at the Erinoakkids Treatment Centre as an instructor therapist for children living with autism.
Farhana, meanwhile, says it is a joy being able to witness her granddaughter’s day-to-day progression. “I enjoy taking care of Iman,” she says. “She is getting more and more independent every day.”
Zuberi also attributes her daughter’s success and confidence to her active participation in SMILE, a charity aimed at supporting children and youth with special needs in Muslim communities across Canada. The superhero photo shoot Iman posed for last month was hugely exciting for her, she says, especially because the shoot was used to promote a gala dinner where she was asked to present on stage with her sister Asiya.
“Today I look at Iman as a blessing,” she says. “I always say I have a daughter who is gifted with Down syndrome. And whenever I ask her: “Iman are you beautiful?” she confidently replies, “Yes!”