Stopping the Stigma: #BellLetsTalk

January 25, 2017

535324_10150798966353437_660913436_9592816_663798851_nI’m writing this post as I leave my yoga class with a sense of joy and tranquility – a feeling uncommon to me as of late.

Last week my anxiety caught up to me, which resulted in a very traumatic panic attack at work in front of a majority of my coworkers. Though a number of stressors contributed to my increased feeling of anxiousness, there was one incident in particular that triggered my attack: the belittlement of my anxiety when I reached out to ask for help.

Mental health issues are too often swept under the rug, due to the shameful stigma surrounding them. Not only is it challenging to reach a point where one is able to come forward and say “I need help”. But as my incident last week demonstrates, even when people do ask for help, the seriousness is overwhelmingly overlooked. This causes many to continue suffering in silence, and this is part of the reason we lose far too many lives each year because of mental health issues.

Throughout my life I have witnessed many people and close friends fall victim to a variety of mental health disorders. The most difficult and upsetting memories to recall are the ones involving eating disorders. At a very young age, bulimia was the first mental health issue I became exposed to. Shamefully, I have watched too many beautiful young women become completely consumed by their eating disorders, and the worst part was that I could never do anything to stop it.

Though I had watched many people fight very serious and life-threatening mental health battles, I never realized I too was fighting a battle of a different kind. For nearly my entire life, I tried to suppress my anxiety and write it off as my tendency to be a perfectionist and an “over thinker”. Even when things got extremely unmanageable and I had my first panic attack, I still didn’t want to accept the fact that anxiety was affecting me. I felt embarrassed talking about it, and I feared that it might lead to being medicated.

Ironically, it wasn’t until I encouraged someone very close to me to seek help after experiencing a string of traumatic panic attacks, that it finally registered that I too need help.

Receiving the help and resources I needed has since helped me learn how to better manage my anxiety. Although it tries to creep up on me at times, I no longer feel ashamed and embarrassed to talk about what’s going on and how I feel. It took a long time to reach this point. But now that I’m here, I feel that it’s extremely important to help others arrive at this same destination.

I used to be under the impression that in order to inspire people you need to be perfect. You need to the best. You need to have no flaws. But there is nothing further from the truth. Coming to terms with your imperfections and the way in which you embrace your imperfections, can prove to be just as inspiring (if not more). Sharing your stories, experiences and battles make it that much easier for someone else to find the courage to share theirs. No one deserves to suffer silently, and ending your battle begins with sharing your story.

And that is what today, Bell Let’s Talk Day, is all about: starting a conversation about mental health issues and reducing the stigma surrounding them. Today is a reminder that you can never tell what someone’s going through just by looking at them, reinforcing the fact we should be kind and compassionate to everyone we encounter. For me, today is reminding those around me that they are loved and always supported. That I am someone they can reach to when they are struggling and feel alone.

Take today as a reminder to be kind and gentle to yourself – you’re doing the best you can:)


#WhatIReallyReallyWant: GIRL POWER!


July 16, 2016

Whenever I hear the phrase “Girl Power”, the first thing that comes to mind is the Spice Girls posing together, flashing peace signs. Although the phrase was coined prior to Spice Girl mania, there is no question about the fact that the Spice Girls were the ones responsible for popularizing the widespread use of the term, during the mid-1990’s. The phrase grew to become so popular that it actually landed itself a home in the dictionary, where it’s defined as “the idea that women and girls should be confident, make decisions, and achieve things independently of men.”

Girl power rests upon the fundamental notion of female empowerment. And for that reason, I find it absolutely brilliant that The United Nations Global Goals For Sustainable Development managed to work the Spice Girls into their latest campaign to promote awareness for Goal 5, which seeks to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

As part of the Global Goals campaign for girls and women, Project Everyone, Getty Images, and the global cinema advertising association SAWA partnered together to produce an amazing music video titled “#WhatIReallyReallyWant”. The video uses the famous Spice Girls hit song “Wannabe”, and features female artists from around the world. Throughout the background of the video, there are images calling for some of the things girls and women “really, really want”, which include ending child marriage and violence against girls, quality education for all girls, and equal pay for equal work. These are some, but not all, of the targets outlined by the United Nations in Goal 5.

The video is very well done. So well done that former Spice Girl members and other celebrities began endorsing and sharing the video, declaring their support for gender equality initiatives, and reiterating the important messages the video aims to deliver.

Along with the video, this campaign seeks to encourage girls and women to share a photo of themselves (or a piece of paper) stating what they really, really want for girls and women, using the hashtag #WhatIReallyReally. All images featuring that hashtag will be shown to the world leaders meeting at the UN in September 2016.

Goal 5, Gender Equality, became part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in September of last year, when leaders from around the world gathered in New York at the United Nations Headquarters. The leaders in attendance reached an agreement on 17 specific goals and targets to achieve by year 2030, which are referred to as the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (also known as SDG’s or Global Goals). These goals tackle a wide range of issues, and highlight the need for transformative and universal change on behalf of not only the national leaders, but everyone around the world.


Thanks to live streaming capabilities, I was able to virtually attend both the Women Deliver Conference and The United State of Women Summit a couple months ago, where  the importance of investing in women and girls was a topic that was repeatedly brought to the table. A conversation I never get sick of hearing.

During the Women Deliver Conference, Dr. David Nabarro, Special Advisor on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development touched directly on the topic of investing in girls and women, and how this is one of the most important investments. Dr. Nabarro described the 2030 Agenda as “a plan that is like a tapestry, that goes right across the totality of human experience, and right at the centre, is girls and women”. Nabarro argued that unless girls and women are given the best possible support and investment, they will be unable to contribute to the future of our world in the way they need to:

“It’s investing in girls and women that’s the key. In order to do that, what’s the most important thing? It’s for girls and women to be able to enjoy good health, to be able to make reproductive choices, to exercise their rights, and if that is done than the economic gains are huge – at least ten times greater return on investment. And at the same time, the countries themselves, if they’ve got healthy women who are able to enjoy well-being and to exercise their reproductive rights, they will be able to undergo the kind of development that is necessary for the future of our world.”

To me, it’s an absolute no-brainer to invest in girls and women, because the unfortunate reality is that millions and millions of girls and women around the world are unable to fully contribute to progressive development, as a result of denied access to education, forced harmful practices from a young age, and feelings of disempowerment as a result of their circumstances and cultural traditions. Due to such, we are missing a very large portion of the population which could be participating and contributing to advancing the Sustainable Development Goals, and this is extremely problematic. Imagine what we could do if we had an extra 60,000,000 girls and women helping us work towards these global goals? The possibilities are truly endless. Plus, we all know there is no force more powerful than a strong, educated, and empowered woman!

Please join me to help make some noise in order to raise awareness for the Gender Equality Sustainable Development Goal. Get your friends and family involved too! Use the hashtag #WhatIReallyReallyWant, and tell the world what issues matter to YOU! The more noise we make, the more pressure placed on national leaders to adopt and enforce concrete legislation promoting gender equality at all levels, and in all countries. When women do better, everyone does better…so what are you waiting for?!  Let’s get to it!


Pornography: Promoting the Plight of Women Today


July 6, 2016

Something you will soon learn from subscribing to the Sabatage is that I am never afraid to discuss touchy topics, but I never want to offend anyone or make anyone feel uncomfortable by writing about certain things. Rather, my aim is to address serious and pressing issues that some people have difficulty bringing up in conversation. Pornography is definitely one of those issues.

Nancy Jo Sales, author of “American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers”, was the one who opened my eyes to the reality of what’s really happening in the lives of teenagers today, in terms of porn. In both her book and a discussion I attended to hear her speak on the topic of sexuality of teens and social media, Sales highlighted the fact that while porn is not new, what’s new is the fact that the porn itself has changed. Both the accessibility and the constancy of porn have changed dramatically in recent years, and the porn teens (and even kids) are watching today is very, very different in nature, when compared to the porn of the past.

If we rewind to the dinosaur times of having no Internet, accessibility was much more limited, and it was very difficult to access any type of hardcore pornography if you were underage. But with the Internet, came the elimination of many barriers, leaving access to all types of pornography at the fingertips of any child with a computer or mobile phone. Now being observed, is the heightened popularity of a type of hardcore porn called “extreme porn”, which can best be defined as exceedingly violent, degrading, and fetishtic pornography. I did some research on my own to learn more about what this porn really encompasses, and my findings were both shocking and deeply disturbing. To paint a clearer picture, some of the tags used on these videos include: “violent”, “brutal”, “extreme hardcore gangbang”, “extreme teen abuse”, “crying”, “puke”, “forced” and “painful”. There are even a number of sites, which cater specifically to the category of “rape porn” (which actually makes me feel nauseous even typing).

My research also led me to confirm that Google Trends analysis supports the reality that many desire watching this type of porn, and searches for “extreme porn” and “teen porn” continue to rise at rapid rates. Obviously this is troublesome for several reasons, but I would like to identify four reasons in particular.

1) Boys now believe that sexual violence, force, and rape is acceptable.

This quote from the introduction of the American Girls book summarizes the severity of this issue perfectly in two lines:

In a study of Canadian teenagers with an average age of 14, there was a correlation between boys’ frequent consumption of pornography and their agreement with the idea that it is acceptable to hold a girl down and force her to have sex…Among U.S. boys and girls aged 11 to 16, greater exposure to R- and X-rated films was related to stronger acceptance of sexual harassment.”

Where do I even begin? The fact that these behaviours are becoming commonplace, and regarded as “acceptable” is so appalling I can’t even find the right words to describe how this makes me feel. This is very, very disturbing evidence. It is so easy to see the connection between extreme porn and the promotion of rape culture, that I am so shocked I never identified this link prior to reading Sales’ work. The quote above reminds me of everything that was wrong with Brock Turner’s verdict, and his father’s statement defending and downplaying non-consensual, forced rape. It is a chilling reminder that this is what reality looks like now, and we can no longer continue to ignore these grim issues, or brush them under the rug.

2) Boys are being taught it is okay to disrespect women.                                                       

This is a no-brainer, and a direct consequence of #1. Constant consumption of this type of pornography, lends a hand to desensitizing boys to violence and disrespect against women, and also encourages the notion that it is okay and acceptable to disrespect women. How horrible is this? Porn works to encourage and instil patriarchal values and attitudes from a young age, rather than encouraging values of respect, and gender equality. Additionally, becoming desensitized to disrespecting  women from a young age, helps foster the likelihood of imitating and mimicking the disrespectful actions they observe pornstars engaging in. This also increases the chances of males behaving in such a way in future intimate relationships. 

3) Pornography dehumanizes women by portraying women as objects.

Extreme pornography aids in dehumanizing women, by sending a message that women are inferior objects designed for being used and abused by males. The dehumanizing nature of porn also ends up turning the act of sex into something that is self-serving for males. “When we encourage males to include dehumanizing acts in sex and teach women to accept various forms of violence against them as a “natural” part of sexual activity, we are condoning violence against women.”

4) Extreme porn is a dangerous form of sexual education.

Extreme porn does an excellent job of providing misinformation to all those watching it. While adults are better able to differentiate between scenarios that are unrealistic and inappropriate, young, impressionable teens are unable to do so in the same way. It is a known fact that pornography is typically how adolescents are introduced to sex, and where many turn, in order to learn more about sex. Consuming extreme porn from a young age not only provides misinformation of what sex really means and represents, but more concerning, it helps to create an appetite for deviant, violent, sexual relationships and unrealistic expectations of males. Extreme porn programs the brain from a very young age to be attracted to unrealistic sexual deviance and sexual violence, rather than be attracted to healthy, safe, respectful sexual relationships.

Many parents feel uncomfortable talking to their kids about pornography, or neglect to acknowledge the fact that their child may be consuming pornography. This is an issue that requires immediate correction. Just as parents talk to their children about safe sex and the dangers of unprotected sex, it is now necessary for parents to begin engaging in conversations with their children about porn from a younger age than most feel comfortable doing. Parents need to be having these conversations with their kids; educating them on the fact that pornography is not anywhere close to a real representation of sex, and that violence against women inside and outside the bedroom is 110% UNACCEPTABLE…no matter how it is portrayed. While this post primarily focused on how pornography is affecting boys, please stay tuned for a follow up post discussing how pornography affects girls. Has anyone noticed this trend firsthand, by experiencing a male saying or acting in a way that showed he believed it was okay to disrespect a female? Please comment below!


In Conversation: Nancy Jo Sales


Heather Reisman and Nancy Jo Sales

July 1, 2016

To be completely honest, I am a terrible reader and I definitely have the track record to prove it. Although I have quite an extensive book collection (covered in cobwebs), I couldn’t tell you the ending of any of them. I have mastered the art of beginning books and never finishing them.

Given my rocky relationship and commitment problems with books, I had never once thought of attending a book talk with an author before. Actually, what’s worse is that I was completely unaware these talks happen all the time, and that some bookstores actually have event calendars! I was exposed to a whole new world when one of my classmates shared an Indigo ‘In Conversation’ event with me and suggested I check it out. After doing a bit of research on the book, I made the decision to attend the event and begin a new chapter (pun intended) of my life…one where I actually finish books. I thought listening to a discussion held in a bookstore, would help breathe some new life into me and give me some inspiration to get cracking on kicking this nasty habit.

The discussion was held on the bottom level of the Bay Bloor Indigo bookstore, and the Chief Booklover of Indigo, Heather Reisman, was the one moderating the conversation with award-winning Vanity Fair writer Nancy Jo Sales. The discussion was on Sales’ newest book American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers, which details the disturbing truths about the dark side of social media, and how social media platforms are essentially destroying the innocence of children and teens growing up today.

My whole inspiration for starting this blog was based on my personal observations of destructive trends happening on social media. A couple of years ago, I began to notice an alarming increase of hyper-sexualized posts coming from females (especially very young females) on all social media platforms, but I had yet to discover all the external factors that were simultaneously contributing to this trend. This discussion provided me with the answers to all my questions I didn’t know I had.

Did you know that kids are now watching porn as young as the age of six, even though it’s illegal? Did you ever give any thought to the connection between the ‘bro culture’ of Silicon Valley maintaining sexism in the tech industry, and how this works to support the toxic trends currently being observed? Did you know kids are spending an average of 9-11 hours per day on their mobile devices? Are you familiar with the term ‘slut page’, and how these pages are essentially self-generated pornography by children, being shared non-consensually?

I didn’t know any of this.

I was absolutely BLOWN AWAY  listening to Sales discuss certain aspects of her book and her corresponding research. What really mortified me was that I had no idea I was that out of touch with reality. I mean, I’m not that old. I’m a millennial, turning 25 later on this year, and I am someone who uses social media everyday, frequently. I was completely and utterly stunned to find out that I was so oblivious and unaware as to how serious and deeply rooted these issues really are for teens growing up in this day and age. A recurring theme, and what I found particularly fascinating, was how many times the role of porn was mentioned throughout the talk, and how this is one of the huge contributing factors to the disastrous state we are currently experiencing. The discussion also touched on the pressure social media places on girls to produce hyper-sexual content, and how this sexualization of girls has been linked to misery and a wide range of mental health problems in young females.

Going into the discussion, I had no intention of purchasing the book. But after listening to Sales talk about her findings and some of the topics covered in her book, I was so mind blown and I realized there was no way I could leave without purchasing a copy of American Girls ($40 CAD).

imageThe discussion left my head spinning, and left me feeling all types of ways. Primarily, I began to feel so sad for all the young teenage girls growing up now, who have to deal with all sorts of added pressure (as if growing up in general isn’t hard enough on its own). The discussion also inspired me to get to work, and try and figure out how on earth we can work towards correcting these trends.

I’m only two chapters into the book so far, and I’m already in love. I don’t want to give too much away, plus, technically I can’t really do that because I’m not finished the book yet. I am confident that this book is definitely what I need to kick my habit of not finishing books, because this book has become my new favourite accessory. I carry it around with me everywhere, and I kind of feel like one of those annoyingly proud parents who never misses a chance to bring up their kid or show you their kids most recent pictures. I never miss a chance to bring up this book or show people I’m reading it, because I truly feel like EVERYONE needs to read this.

imageSeeing as this book is so closely tied to everything my blog stands for, there are going to be tons of future posts where I delve deeper into the research and important topics this book explores. To learn more about Nancy Jo Sales you can head over to her website. I also suggest checking out this great interview on American Girls that she did with Teen VogueDon’t forget to subscribe if you haven’t already, to be sure you don’t miss upcoming posts related to these topics!







June 21, 2016
“Girl Crush” is a term, which refers to one woman’s (typically non-sexual) intense admiration for another woman. Although this term usually denotes to ones appearance, beauty, or physical attractiveness, the term is not limited to such. 

When I think of the term girl crush, it needs to encompass much more than the shallow judging of a woman’s exterior. It needs to be a woman or young girl who shatters statistics, and helps break down barriers for other women and individuals around the world. It needs to be a strong female who displays admirable traits of drive and ambition, and isn’t scared of disagreeing with social norms or speaking what’s on her mind. Someone who values the importance of education, and strives to educate and empower others.


Each week, I will be dedicating a post specifically to my personal girl crushes. I will explain a bit about their story, and the work and/or awards they have been honoured with, in hopes of inspiring and motivating others. I have learned a lot from these women, and when I am struggling with something in my personal life, I think about their stories and use them as a sense of strength to get me through whatever it is I am faced with.

While all the women I will be featuring are undoubtedly beautiful from the exterior, they are even more beautiful inside. I look up to these types of women, as they are so much more than an inspiration to me. They are also exceptional role models and constantly remind me of the type of women I would like to grow to one day become. With this being said, I think it only seems right that I kick off my Girl Crush Series, with none other than my #1 girl crush of all time! 

                                                         Malala Yousafzai


Malala Yousafzai is most certainly a heroine in every sense of the world. She is admired around the world for her courage, outstanding achievements, and noble qualities. Malala courageously stood up and spoke out against the Taliban, when they tried to deny the females in her town the right to attend school (even though she knew this would put her and her family at high risk). She has made significant strides in advancing the conversation and notion of educational equality around the world, and continues to fight for all children to have the right to attend school. On top of this, at age 16 Malala also co-founded the Malala Fund, an organization focused on securing and ensuring 12 years of free, safe, education for young girls through funding leaders and projects on the ground in developing countries.


In the documentary He Named Me Malala, Malala recalls her childhood growing up in Pakistan as a very happy and beautiful time living in Swat Valley. But issues began to arise and intensify in her region, when the Taliban a powerful terrorist organization in Pakistan, began travelling from city to city burning and destroying all books, computers, and other educational related supplies. The Taliban began a campaign, which advocated the notion that the education of girls is against Islam and therefore, girls shouldn’t go to school. The Taliban viewed education as a threat to their organization because education helps give children (girls in particular) the power to question and challenge things. The Taliban began imposing strict Islamic law, and started gaining more and more power. With this came the frequent destruction and bombing of schools in Malala’s town. Worse than the bombings and destruction, was the Taliban’s demand that no girl attend school, and their related threat of what they implied they would do if they were to find out girls were attending school.

imageIn 2008, at the young age of 11, Malala used her voice to speak out. Malala’s father Ziauddin, an active advocate for education himself, took Malala to a press club so she could openly protest against the issues taking place in her region. At the press club, Malala gave her first speech titled “How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?”. Early into the following year, Malala began blogging for the BBC Urdu under the pseudonym ‘Gul Makai’. In the blog, Malala chronicled her struggles as well as the devastating details of rights abuses in her day-to-day life under Taliban rule.

Malala continued to secretly attend school after the Taliban had threatened everyone against it. During this time, Taliban tensions continued to rise due to the increasing awareness and criticism surrounding their actions, and by Malala and her father’s continuous speaking out on camera and news stations, demonstrating their refusal to be silenced by the Taliban. Malala began receiving death threats from the Taliban, but her and her parents never thought the Taliban would go as far as attempting to kill a child. Unfortunately, they were wrong.

imageTravelling home from school on October 9th, 2012, a Taliban gunman came onto her school bus and shot Malala in the forehead. The bullet entered the left side of her forehead, travelling under her skin along the entire left side of her head, and into her shoulder. Two of her friends sitting close to her also suffered gun shot wounds. No one at the hospital thought Malala would survive. Her brain was damaged, her skull was shattered, and the bullet ended up destroying her left eardrum and the small bones in her left ear, unfortunately leaving her deaf in that ear.


Since recovering from the nearly fatal incident that occurred in 2012, Malala has gone on to achieve INCREDIBLE milestones. Even before the incident, Malala was making significant humanitarian strides from the age of 11. From 2011 until now, Malala has received some of the most prestigious national and international awards and honours. These include the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize (the youngest EVER to receive this might I add), International Children’s Peace Prize, The Peter Gomes Humanitarian Award from Harvard University, Anne Frank Award for Moral Courage, and the list goes on and on and on. Malala even won a Grammy last year for ‘Best Children’s Album’ for her audiobook I Am Malala, narrated by Neela Vaswani.


Stand Up. Stand up for yourself, and stand up for what you believe in. Speak out especially when you know others are too scared to. Use your voice on behalf of all of those who are scared. Most importantly, stand up when you know something isn’t right.

Always Question and Challenge Things. Just because someone has more power than you, or they are scary, doesn’t mean that what they are telling you is true, correct, or fair. Malala questioned the Taliban’s restriction of female education, because she felt what they were doing was unfair. Malala has taught me to never be afraid to question or challenge things that I disagree with, and this is an important lesson for all of us to remember.

Forgiveness. In the documentary, Malala was asked if she was mad at the Taliban for what they did to her. Her response? She said never once has there been the tiniest bit of hate, not even an atom of hate in her body towards the Taliban, because her religion (Islam) taught her humanity, equality, and forgiveness. Malala is true inspiration to all, I admire her outlook on life. She is a symbol of bravery, and despite her horrible tragedies, she still continues to practice and teach forgiveness.

Don’t Sink to Their Level. During an interview with John Stuart, Malala discusses how she used to think about what she would do if the Taliban came into her house:

If he comes, what would you do Malala? I would reply myself: “Malala just take a shoe and hit him”. But then I said “if you hit a Talib with your shoe, there will be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others that much with cruelty and that much harshly, you must fight others through peace and through dialogue and education”. Then I said, “I’ll tell him how important education is, and that I even want education for your children as well”.

Jon Stuart, like myself, were both left to pick up our jaws in amazement. These are such powerful words for a 16 year old to speak, and this further demonstrates how astonishing Malala really is as a human being.



You can join Malala on her journey to making education a fundamental right for all, by following her on Twitter at @MalalaFund (she does not use a personal Twitter account as of right now). To stay informed, learn more about her projects, or donate to her efforts, you can check out Her book is titled I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban and I highly reccomend watching her documentary as well, called He Named Me Malala.


It is so hard to get things done in this world. You try, and too often it doesn’t work. But you have to continue and never give up.”

There’s a moment where you have to choose whether to be silent, or stand up.”

We realize the importance of light when we see darkness. We realize the importance of our voice when we are silenced.”

Taliban shot me on the left side of my forehead. They shot my friends too. They thought that the bullet would silence us, but nothing changed except this; weakness, fear, and hopelessness died. Strength, power, and courage was born.”

Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are our most powerful weapons.”

Make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss any upcoming blog posts or girl crush features! Please feel free to comment if you would like to see someone included in the coming weeks, of if YOU have an interesting story about yourself or someone you know that you would like to have featured on the site! Below I have also included a wonderful video, of Malala’s father discussing the importance of gender equality and his role in raising such a strong young girl. It is definitely worth a watch so please check it out!



Proud About Pride


June 13, 2016

On June 1st, I was joyfully tweeting about how excited I was that June had been officially named Pride Month – something that has never happened before in this country. Even more exciting was that on this same day, another first in our country’s history took place. June 1st 2016 also marked the first time a Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, took to Parliament Hill to raise a Pride flag, and announce he was looking forward to attending Pride parades across the country this summer. This was a truly beautiful moment. I can only imagine how amazing this moment must have been for everyone who has fought so hard to have their voice heard, and LGBTQ rights acknowledged.

When you think back to the 1981 bathhouse raids that happened in this city, we have certainly come a long way. Even thinking back to two years ago when former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford snubbed the World Pride festival, and was the only person to vote against a proposal to help gay homeless youth, our new Mayor John Tory is definitely making a much more progressive statement now. The legislative accomplishments over the past year are also worth noting. I am really proud to have witnessed more and more legislative change in favour and support of the LGBTQ community, and The Torontoist wrote a great article detailing all of these legislative accomplishments that have occurred since June of 2015 in the City of Toronto. Despite these accomplishments, I know it is quite obvious we still have a lot of work to do. Although our country still has quite a ways to go in certain respects, we must not discount the progress that has been made. This progress shows that change is in fact occurring, and I think this sends a positive message of hope to those fighting for the recognition they so rightfully deserve.

At the end of last month, I attended the Liberal Biennial Convention in Winnipeg as a youth delegate, where I was glad to observe a similar theme. In one panel discussion held by the Young Liberals, they expressed support for defending transgender rights. They also urged the necessity of passing legislation prohibiting gender identity as a basis for discrimination, which would be included and protected under the Canadian Human Rights Act. The discussion included a moving speech by a gentleman from Lebanon, who recalled the difficulty of growing up gay in a country where homosexuality is unfortunately widely unaccepted and discriminated against. Listening to the Young Liberals discuss their plans to organize in order to achieve full equality for the LGBTQ community, was very empowering and inspiring. Seeing young people becoming so passionately and actively involved in politics and doing their part to advance change from a young age, is absolutely amazing, and we definitely need more of this not only in Canada, but also around the world.

I think one of the main problems associated with homophobia and discrimination of the LGBTQ community, is that these people who discriminate don’t fully understand this community, and therefore, disagree with the choices this community makes. I personally don’t understand how people can have so much hate towards a person or community who are doing absolutely nothing wrong. Everything about this is problematic. Not all couples look a certain way, and it is unfair to discriminate against those who choose to love a different gender or sexual orientation than you do. While some couples may look unfamiliar to you, it most certainly does NOT make them any less human, or any less of a couple, and they are DEFINITELY not inferior to you in any sense. It is okay to hold your own personal view of what you think a couple should look like, but it is NOT okay to discriminate against those who don’t fit your mould. All people should be treated equal no matter who they love, and it is a sad reality that this is not yet the case…even in the year 2016. It is 110% unacceptable that because of someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity, they are unfairly discriminated against. This makes no sense whatsoever. At the end of the day, we are all human. Each and every one of us deserves the freedom of being authentically true to ourselves, and the freedom to love and be with whomever we want!!!


While exciting things are happening in my country and city this month to celebrate and honour Pride Month, unfortunately the LGBTQ community in other areas of the world are not being welcomed with the same reception. Yesterday morning I woke up to the horribly devastating news of Orlando’s hate crime, which has been named the deadliest mass shooting to ever take place in the United States. In this senseless act of violence, a 29 year-old man named Omar Mateen, opened fire at a gay nightclub called Pulse, leaving 50 killed and an estimated 53 injured, many of which are quite severe. While some people were quick to deflect attention from this tragedy and turn this into something about gun violence and Islam, we must not stray from the fact that this is an attack specifically targeted towards harming the LGBTQ community. This breaks my heart. As President Obama wrote in his statement regarding this shooting: “The place where they were attacked is more than a nightclub – it is a place of solidarity and empowerment where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights.” Many have taken to Twitter to describe how important having a place like Pulse is to them, expressing their fears of holding hands or showing affection towards their partners in public. I can’t comprehend how some people remain so close-minded in terms of accepting others who are different than them, and how one could go so far as to hurt innocent people who are happily enjoying themselves, causing no harm to anyone. My ultimate dream is to live in a world where we all openly celebrate and respect each other’s differences, rather than judge, discriminate and hate people because of them.

We cannot continue to lose the lives of innocent people to these horrible instances of hate. We cannot continue to judge one another because we have different preferences. We cannot afford to lose any more lives to something so ridiculous, and we most certainly cannot have the LGBTQ community living in fear of these sorts of things happening to them. The bottom line is this community exists and it will continue to exist and flourish, and neither bigotry nor hatred can change or stop this. Love is love, and we must stand united and speak out on the importance of defending the safety and rights of the LGBTQ community. Our voice must be louder than ever before. I am going to use my voice to stand up for the LGBTQ community, and express the fact that attacks like this are not okay, they are not humane, and they shall not continue. I would like to send my condolences to all of the families and individuals who have been affected by this horrible tragedy. To these families, and to everyone who is part of the LGBTQ community, I am mourning with you and I wish you all the strength and courage during this difficult time. Do not let this terrible attack on your community silence you or cause you to live in fear…that is the exact intention of the perpetrator and you must not play into this. Stand tall, stand proud, and continue to be unapologetically YOU!

Although I can’t do much to stop people like Omar Mateen, what I can do is work towards removing this sexual stigma, and helping to prevent history from repeating itself. What I can do is show the LGBTQ community that as a straight woman, I fully support them and I stand united in this fight to achieve equality and fight to have their rights as humans recognized. What I can do is devote some of my time to attending events in the community, and learning more about specific issues that are pressing to the LGBTQ community, and find out ways I can help use my own voice to make a difference. What I can do is spend some time educating myself on issues that I don’t know much about, so I can help educate others. This is what this month is all about for me. I am looking forward to meeting some of the heroes in the LGBTQ community and listening to them tell their inspiring stories. I’m looking forward to joining forces with the LGBTQ community and getting involved in this fight for justice.

There are tons of amazing events taking place throughout the city of Toronto during Pride Month (June 1st-July 3rd), and I am really looking forward to attending some of these. Unfortunately I am unable to attend all of the cool events I would like to due to my schedule, but I am eager to attend two human rights panels in particular: BeyondQueer Politics – 35 Years of Women’s Activism at the Intersections (June 21st), and Blackness and Queer Politics (June 29th), and I am looking forward to attending my first ever Pride Parade!!!!!!

For all things Pride, head over to PrideToronto to find out more about all the events, marches, and parades taking place this month, as well as ways to get involved volunteering. You should also check out some of the great merchandise Bobo Academy has created for this year’s festivities (I really need to pick up the pink “You Can Sit With Us” shirt). I would like to wish you all a very happy Monday, and a wonderful week ahead. Let’s stay strong and remain positive, and remember to always stand up for what you believe, and speak out when things aren’t right!



The Best Attitude is Gratitude


June 9, 2016

Growing up, my mother always instilled the importance of counting your blessings, and doing so especially when nothing seems to be going right in your life. When I was a teenager, none of this made sense to me. I would complain and whine about everything and anything, and my favourite thing to do was throw around the phrase “I hate my life” like it was nobody’s business. Every time I would complain about how horrible my life was or how unfair something was, my mother would pay me no time of day. Her response was always: “you are healthy, you have a roof over your head, there is food on the table, you have all your limbs, you have a family who loves you, and you have the privilege of attending school. There’s a lot to be thankful for Saba”. This line always made me cringe, and instantaneously triggered a dramatic eye roll on my behalf, and the most theatrical exit you could imagine (loud stomping included). But as I grew older, and a wee bit smarter, this idea became ingrained in my DNA, and I am so thankful I have since shifted my mindset to think like my mother.

imageIt is way too easy to get caught up in counting all the things we hate about our lives and all the things we don’t have. This is an extremely toxic practice. Whether it’s money, the latest fashion must-have item, clearer skin, a boyfriend, or your idea of the perfect body, there will never be a shortage of things we don’t have. All of us, myself included, could easily make lists that go on for days of everything we don’t have, and maybe some of you are thinking about these things right now. DON’T!!! The problem with focusing on everything we don’t have is that in this process, we forget about all the things we do have, and all the things we should constantly be thankful for. We might beat ourselves up about our arms not being toned enough, but consider this. Consider a woman who lost one of her arms in a tragic accident, and with each and every day that passes, all she thinks about is what she would give to have her arm back. If you put yourself in her shoes, then those arms of yours that may be a little less toned than you would like, seem pretty darn good don’t they?!

imageGrowing up in such an amazing country like Canada has definitely spoiled me, and sometimes I take my privileges of being a Canadian citizen for granted, without even noticing. I am reminded of this every time I hear about my friends experiences growing up in different parts of the world, where the basic rights and luxuries I take for granted everyday, simply do not exist there. I think we are all guilty of taking certain things for granted, but if we take a step back from our hectic lives and reflect on what we have, we learn how lucky we actually are.

imageNo matter how bad our lives may seem at certain times, we all have so much to be thankful for. The point I’m trying to get across here, is that it is extremely important to remember to be thankful for what you have, because despite what you may think, somewhere around the world there is someone who would die to be in your shoes. From time to time our brains are bound to wander to this negative ungrateful space, and this is natural. When this happens, be mindful of not dwelling in this space, and correct it. Refocus your thoughts on at least one positive thing you have going for you, and start to think about some of the things you are lucky to have. Whether it’s your health, access to food and clean water, supportive friends, a stable job, a talent or skill, or a home, whatever it may be there is certainly something to be grateful for. When you learn to be grateful and appreciative of the things you have, rather than upset over the things you don’t have, you start to live a much happier life.

Try to keep this post in mind, or better yet, keep this page bookmarked for the next time you are feeling down, and revisit it to help inspire some positive thinking! Although I myself am not Muslim, I am aware that the month of Ramadan began four days ago on June 5th, and I think this can be nicely tied into this post. A large part of Ramadan involves fasting, and this month-long practice is to instil and cultivate gratitude for what you have, and to realize what life is like for those less fortunate. Thinking about the lives of those less fortunate than you, or actually experiencing how those less fortunate live, can really help to open your eyes and also teach you to appreciate what you have. To the over 2 billion Muslims celebrating this month around the world, I would like to wish you all Ramadan Mubarak (which translates to a ‘Blessed Ramadan’). Regardless of practicing a religion or not, please stay positive, thankful, and remember to always be appreciative. Gratitude is the best attitude!


A Nightmare Better Known As The Brock Turner Verdict

June 7, 2016

Incase you haven’t heard anything about the Brock Turner case over the past couple days; I will fill you in on the disgusting and deeply disturbing series of events. Brock Turner is a former Stanford University student, and star swimmer. More than a year ago, two witnesses found him assaulting an intoxicated, unconscious (I repeat, unconscious) female outside of a frat party on campus. Ever since last Thursday, when the judge sentenced Brock to an extremely lenient 6-month sentence and three-year probation period (when he was set to face 14 years), there has been an outrage across all social media channels and news outlets for good reason.


In a bone chilling 12-page victim impact statement, the victim (who has withheld her name for privacy reasons), provides a detailed description of what this experience and trial has done to her life. What I took away from her statement is that every waking moment of her life since the night of the attack, has been absolute torturous hell (which is me putting it nicely). It was extremely tough to get through all 12 pages, as I felt both my heart aching in agony, and every inch of my body slowly fill with rage.

What I find to be so confusing is that the concept of this whole thing is really quite simple. So I’m sort of stumped as to why many people (including Brock, his father, his best friend, and Judge Aaron Persky) are having difficulty grasping this idea. If you murder someone, you are a murderer. If you steal something, you are a thief. If you rape someone, you are a rapist. Period. Rape is a criminal offence, and Brock doesn’t deserve to get away with a slap on the wrist because of his athletic ‘potential’. He should serve the time he rightfully deserves for committing such a despicable act. For me, it is extremely hard to swallow the fact that people are strongly defending someone who is so indefensible. As the victim impact statement pointed out:

You are guilty. Twelve jurors convicted you guilty of three felony counts beyond reasonable doubt, that’s twelve votes per count, thirty-six yeses confirming guilt, that’s one hundred percent, unanimous guilt.

Aside from what happened on the night of the assault, there are a number of other deeply disturbing instances, which have resulted from this case. One, neither Stanford University nor Brock Turner issued an apology to the victim. Two, Brock Turner’s father, Dan Turner, wrote the most cringe-worthy and jaw dropping letter, which epitomizes and encourages rape culture. The letter details how the verdicts have shattered and broken his son. Hmm. His letter paints a picture of his son being the victim, with no consideration whatsoever of how the real victim’s life has been affected. He also mentions how Brock will never be the same…maybe your parenting should have included that lesson about how it is  explicitly unacceptable to rape an unconscious woman? Most disturbing of all, is this excerpt from the letter: “That [the verdict] is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life”. 20 minutes of action? It is absolutely heinous and downright insulting to classify something as serious as rape as “20 minutes of action”.

CkWtHTFVAAADVmo                                        Photo Courtesy of @ThisDrunkPhoto

What is extremely infuriating to myself, and the many others expressing outrage over this case, is the fact that if you are a star athlete at a prestigious U.S. university then everyone is quick to hop to your defence and work extremely hard to cover up the case, and get you off the hook. Do we not see that something is wrong here? Brock Turner’s extremely lenient punishment was based on the fact that he has “potential” as an athletic swimmer, rather than the crime he was found guilty of committing.

We saw the exact same thing happen with another high-profile university athlete rape case featuring Jameis Winston. Winston was a star football player and Heisman Trophy winner at Florida State University, when he was accused of violently raping a female in the name of Erica Kinsman. Despite DNA evidence, and Erica filing separate reports with police and the university, the investigation was suspended for no reason. Erica’s case, unfortunately, is the sad reality of what actually goes on when victims try and report sexual assault to their educational institutions. There is a documentary titled The Hunting Ground, which reveals the lengths universities go to, to cover up and lie about rape cases in order to uphold the image of their school, and not deter prospective students.

These two cases, along with hundreds of thousands of others tell an extremely important story. These are not one-off events that happen once in a blue moon. There is an obvious pattern of campus rape, and the severity of this problem cannot continue to be overlooked. We cannot continue to let rape become a cultural norm – this is morally intolerable. Although sexualized violence against women is one of the world’s most common human rights offences, this isn’t an issue about just women. This is a basic human rights issue for males, females and transgenders alike. For all of the people who quickly hopped to the defence of Brock Turner, I personally guarantee your sentiments and statements would tell a much different story if this had happened to your own sister, daughter, or wife. The scary thing is, Brock Turner actually has a sister, Caroline Turner, and she also released a statement in his defence, which speaks volumes to the parenting job Dan Turner and his wife have done. It couldn’t be more crystal clear that the verdict of this case is utterly unacceptable for numerous reasons. The verdict explicitly violates the integrity the U.S. Judicial System is required to uphold, demonstrating privilege and extreme bias in favour of someone who has been proven 100% guilty.


The grim results of this trial as well as the Jian Ghomeshi trial add more fuel to the rape culture fire. These verdicts aid in discouraging those who want to speak out, for fear of experiencing similar repercussions. This is extremely problematic because this can lead to many victims being more reluctant to report rape. This is not okay, and silencing survivors doesn’t make this issue go away.

Growing up as a female, both my school and my parents taught me how to avoid being raped, and what I should do when a male is attacking me or trying to sexually assault me. What’s ironic is that males are never explicitly taught or educated on why it is wrong to rape women, and this may be the root of the problem. It is something that goes unspoken. Parents talk to their sons about the danger of having unprotected sex, but not about the importance of consent. This is something that needs to change NOW. Because of what I have been taught about rape growing up, I have lived my teenage years and early adulthood somewhat paranoid about ever being in that type of situation, and always thinking about how to avoid it. If young teenage boys are taught that rape is a crime and are educated on the repercussions they would face if they were to rape a girl, perhaps they too would have carried around the same paranoia I did. Perhaps this paranoia would deter them from engaging in rape, or better yet, significantly reduce the number of rapes that occur.

I could honestly go on writing about this forever, and how white privilege plays a huge role in this, and that I find it no coincidence Judge Aaron Persky used to be a Stanford athlete himself. But instead, I would like to end this post on a more positive note. As I mentioned above, this post isn’t just about females. I am here to stand up for all the survivors of sexual assault: transgender, male and female. I want everyone to know that I am on your side, and I stand united in this battle to seek justice and put an end to rape culture and the judicial system’s encouragement of it. Know that I am actively fighting for you, and I will continue to do so everyday. No matter what you are told, or made to believe by your perpetrator(s) or an institution, you and your story ARE important. NEVER let anyone try to silence you, tell you your story is petty, or try and trick you into thinking that what happened is your fault – because it most certainly isn’t. Although you may feel weak at times, you are in fact not weak at all. You are strong, and courageous, because you are a survivor. You are no different than cancer survivors, or those who have survived war…you are just a survivor of a different type of battle, and for that I commend and honour you. Filed under my Sabatage Approved page, you will find some resources I have gathered regarding sexual assault, and reporting sexual assault. I intend to grow the list of links, and will continue to work on developing these resources. If you agree with the unfair verdict, there is a petition against Judge Aaron Persky you can find here, which has been drawing wide support. Please share this post, and feel free to leave a comment regarding other resources you may be aware of!



Recipe: Curried Cauliflower, Potatoes, and Chickpeas


June 6, 2016

After learning that 2016 was officially declared International Year of Pulses a couple months ago, I was eager to devote some time to getting creative with including pulses in my diet, and testing out some new recipes. I found this recipe in the Old Farmers Almanac Garden Guide 2016 Special Edition Magazine. The magazine did not mention credit to the cook, so I’m not sure exactly who made this recipe, but I found it in that magazine under the “Cooking Fresh: Fresh is Best” section. This recipe is the first one I experimented with, and I’m ashamed to admit that this is as far as I got. I fell head over heels in love with this recipe, and because it makes around 4 to 6 servings (depending on your portion sizes), I ended up eating this for dinner for nearly a week straight. The funny thing is, I’ve cooked it a couple times since and I’m still not sick of it! This is a MUST try. It is super simple, preparation isn’t too tedious, and it stores well. I would recommend making this dish in advance, and separating and storing your portions in microwave safe containers, as this provides a great lunch or dinner option for those of you who are crunched for time.

One thing I would like to mention about this recipe is that although you can use a skillet, I found it much easier to cook this dish in a large pot. When I tried using a skillet, I found there were too many ingredients, and it made it very difficult to stir because it nearly started to overflow. If you end up testing this recipe out, let me know what you think in the comment section below!


  • 4 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 Onions, finely chopped
  • 1 Head cauliflower, cored and cut into small pieces
  • 3 Potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 Tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 Teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 Teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon ground tumeric
  • 1/2 Teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 Can (15 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed, or 2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 1/2 Teaspoon garam masala


  1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat and cook onions until soft and golden. Add cauliflower and potatoes and stir. Add tomatoes, cumin, salt, tumeric, and chili powder. Stir and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 15 minutes, or until potatoes and cauliflower are almost tender, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking. Add chickpeas, cover, and cook for 5 to 7 minutes.

2.       Sprinkle with garam masala and stir well. Serve warm, & enjoy! 🙂


Checking For A Pulse


June 6, 2016

It’s official. The 68th UN General Assembly just recently named 2016 the International Year of Pulses (IYP)! Last year, the same General Assembly declared 2015 as both the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies and the International Year of Soils, so it makes me happy to see that with the declaration of the IYP, we will continue to build directly on the 2015 efforts surrounding soil. I think it’s such a beautiful thing to see this year starting off on such a positive environmental note, first with the Paris Agreement calling for heightened environmental awareness, consciousness, and responsibility, and now with more attention being called towards pulses and the sustainable production of such.

The first time I heard about this declaration, I assumed this was referencing a need to draw more attention to heart health, and encourage individuals to monitor their heart health (via checking their pulses) more frequently. Embarrassing, I know. But for all you smart cookies out there, you probably already know that the term pulses, refers to dried legumes. While a legume can be simply defined as a type of plant with seeds that grow in long cases called pods, a pulse on the other hand, specifically refers to the dried seed found inside the pod. The most common pulses you’re probably familiar with would be beans, lentils, chickpeas, and peas, though many others fall under these four categories.

So what’s the big deal about these things anyways, and why is 2016 being declared the year of pulses? Let me give you the run down.

#1: Sustainable Food Production

One of the things that make pulses so attractive to environmentalists is their nitrogen-fixing capability, and I will attempt to explain this in the least scientific way possible, so I don’t lose you. Nitrogen is undoubtedly the most important ingredient or factor when it comes to producing crops, and this poses huge problems for the environment because fossil fuels are essential to creating nitrogen fertilizer. More simply put, the crop production process is heavily contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, and furthering environmental destruction through its use of nitrogen. What makes pulses so special is that through their biological process, they are actually able to extract the majority of the nitrogen necessary for their growth, from the air. Through this same process, pulses are then able to add nitrogen to the soil, significantly slashing the amount of nitrogen fertilizer needed! As a result of this process, Pulse Canada notes that pulses use half the non-renewable energy inputs of other crops!

In regards to soil management, their biological process also aids in enhancing soil fertilization for surrounding crops in the same rotation. Statistics Canada also notes that growing pulses in rotation with other grains and oilseeds can disrupt disease and insect cycles as well. But the buck doesn’t stop here! Pulses are extremely easy and inexpensive to produce, plus their production doesn’t require large plots of lands, which helps farmers produce a lot more, on less land. Therefore, it is easy to see why it makes so much sense for the UN General Assembly to dedicate increased efforts towards drawing attention to pulses, because of the environmental sustainability aspect.

 #2: Food Security

This is directly tied to my above mention of the General Assembly’s 2015 efforts to increase awareness surrounding soil, when it named 2015 the Year of Soils. In a paper published by the International Food Policy Research Institute, author Sara J. Scherr (1999) notes:

Pulses, because of their role in improving sustainability, notably through soil management, also impact food security. Soil degradation is a major threat to food security in many areas. Africa is particularly impacted by soil degradation, yet pulses are part of traditional diets and often grown by small farmers. By improving the crop patterns using pulses, farmers can improve their yields and limit the long-term threat to food security that soil degradation represents.


Scherr’s findings also led her to put forth the notion that pulses aid not only the nutrition of humans, but also of animals. Scherr noted that by including pulses in the diet of animals, this also contributes to producing healthier livestock, which also works to further enhance food security. This also leads directly to my next point – nutrition!

#3: Nutrition

Similar to my post about Matcha, the more you learn about pulses; the more you start to think “it’s almost as though pulses sound too good to be true”. Pulses have been proven to aid in illness prevention of serious diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer because of their ability to lower blood cholesterol and attenuate blood glucose. Further, these guys provide an excellent source of protein, they are low in fat, and packed with iron, zinc, phosphorous and fibre (which many of our diets fall short of providing). Beans also act as excellent source of B vitamins. Vitamin B is a crucial staple needed in all diets, seeing as vitamin B deficiency can lead to all sorts of nasty things like anemia, depression, anxiety, poor memory and concentration, poor skin, irregular heartbeat, which we obviously want to steer clear of!

Moreover, because pulses provide an excellent source of protein, they also act as the perfect alternative to red meat. I briefly noted this in my tips for Earth Day, but I will also mention it in this post because it is something that is extremely important. Reducing the amount of meat in your diet (even if it’s only once a week) can REALLY help the environment a lot more than you think. The meat industry requires so much energy, and to put this into perspective, 1 pound of beef actually requires the use of 1,799 gallons of water. Yes. GALLONS. If you were to swap out meat at least once a week, and substitute pulses instead, you would not only be helping the environment and contributing to environmental sustainability. Your body would also be reaping a number of nutritional benefits as well. Bringing awareness to the nutritional value, and encouraging everyone to make a conscious effort to include more of them in their diet, is one of the core aims of the General Assembly.

Below I’ve compiled a couple of links you can check out if you’re interested in learning more about pulses. Before I sign off, I also want to share one of my favourite pulse recipe with all of you! Be sure to check it out because it is amazing. I hope after reading this post, you too, are encouraged to include pulses in your diet more frequently. Happy Monday to you all, and I wish you a happy and healthy week ahead!


Pulse Recipes:

Additional Information on Pulses: