London ON


I am writing this post after volunteering with two different organizations:

  1. London and Region Food Bank
  2. Second Harvest’s Toronto Taste Event

Both of these organizations help fight against hunger, except in two different ways. One does it through non-perishable foods and the other does it through perishable foods. When I was volunteering with the London and Region Food Bank, I learned a few things:

  • People donate non-perishable goods that are sometimes “questionable” by the Food Bank’s standards
  • People try to donate fresh food (like turkeys during Thanksgiving)
  • Because of the lag between the time the food is donated and the time the donated food is actually sorted, some foods potentially expire (especially turkeys)
  • Most people volunteering at the Food Bank are either laid-off, retired, unemployed, actually use the Food Bank’s services/goods

These few things I learned in as little as short of two days, I began to question why people would donate food that they wouldn’t eat themselves. I say this because there was some food with an expiry date of 2005. Really, ask yourself, if you are not going to eat, why would you think that someone else would or that a social service agency would it give at to the people that use their services? I mean yes, you can donate food that is expired, because they will find some place to put it (like give it to pig farmers).

But really, if you are planning to move or clean out your cupboards, the quicker you can move your own food out of your own and into the use of someone else’s, do it and don’t wait 6+ years!

Before volunteering with London and Region Food Bank, I have had the opportunity to volunteer with Second Harvest in Toronto to help raise funds for their cause (and not just one time, but since 2009 I have been volunteering with them when I can–and I don’t even live in Toronto!).

This organization takes a different approach to fighting hunger, albeit at a much higher expense, detailed operations, etc. As taken directly from their site, they help pick up and deliver excess fresh food that would otherwise go to waste and deliver it to 250 social service programs in the Toronto region. This is completely different from what London and Region Food Bank is doing and I wondered if there was a program like this in London and Region and even if one would work.

Sure there might be meals-on-wheels, but this is mostly available for the elderly, disabled, or only those individuals that qualify. But what about those families or individuals who neither fit or meet any of the criteria for these programs? Or there is the farmers’ markets that are close by. But those are only available during growing seasons and during certain seasons, days, and hours, and what if you don’t live within walking distance or on public transportation route…hmmm

It made me wonder, as a new community member to the London region, what type of fresh food options are available for individuals/agencies that can use the help. Maybe I don’t know about these services because I have never heard of them, had to use them, or even saw a volunteer posting for them. With these being two different communities, with two very different organizations, with two very different ways of doing things, it also made me wonder if an idea, if not already in place, would exist like Second Harvest. Or would it hurt local farmers or other food-supplying agencies.

Because really, I thought it was an insult not to someone who needs to use the London and Region Food Bank but to the entire human race, that one would think their 6+ year expired foods would be eaten by someone else who didn’t have the means or funds to afford it on their own. (Seriously, what makes someone think “heck this is old, I can’t eat it… I will give it to someone who can’t afford to turn it away?”)

If there is one thing that I can take from both of these experiences is that, if you want to know more about your community and its community members (and not just the ones that will give you a job or get you to the top of where you want to be, but everyone) then it should be on everyone’s to do list: Donate, and if you can’t donate money…at least donate some of your time.

Note: At time of writing this post, I was not aware of any organization in the London and Region that delivers fresh food to social service agencies.

Ignite London: Naomi Sayers

Naomi Sayers’ Ignite London. June 5, 2011.


Special Thanks goes out to my friends Shawn Johnston, Lynzii Taibossigai, and Brigette Bossineau (sp?). Shawn for recording it. Lynzii and Brigette for letting me borrow their pictures 🙂

Check out Shawn Johnston’s Ignite London Talk!

Check out Amanda Aikens’ Ignite London Talk!

Video Credit to Shawn Johnston.

Drugs, Violence and Under-agers

I am writing this post neither for nor against strip clubs, but perhaps coming from a different perspective. Someone other than a by-law officer or perhaps a city councillor.

So the issue in this post: Strip clubs in London Ontario.

These bars are sometimes a women’s only source of income. Some of the women that work in them, do actually go to school and are really studying to become lawyers or doctors. Some of these women are also parents, who were left stranded by their baby-daddy and with the lovely social assistance that is available… They are left to turn to only the “sex-trade.” That’s the partial, harsh truth.

I don’t think that people should look to strip clubs as necessary bad for a city or region. **Enter Sarcasm** I mean the only patrons who do go in there are adults? Right? Oh wait, except for that one under-aged dancer… but don’t under-agers sneak into most bars anyways. I can walk downtown Richmond Street in London ON and witness girls dancing on stages at Jacks or at The Tap House or the classic JBRs. These stages also have poles. The girls wearing short skirts, almost next to nothing, and some even wearing close to no bottoms. The only difference, those girls are not getting paid. They just get drunk, get their picture taken, and oh look… their photo is on Facebook the next morning. Sucks to be you, JBR-bar-star-FB-Queen.

The strip clubs in this region are already highly targeted by the local police force. Why? Well, I am sure they must be looking for something or someone. Perhaps crime? Well, if you go looking for something you will find it. Anywhere.

With what has been said so far, you might be wondering now, I must be for keeping strip clubs around. Hmmm, I said earlier that I was neither for or against them.

I say that I am not for them because I do realize the exploitation that does happen within these bars. Pimping. Prostitution. Bad things do happen in these bars, but you know what bad things happen everywhere. By getting rid of strip clubs, you are not going to get rid of people wanting to do sexual things or “deviant behaviour.” People will always find ways to fulfill their desires. That is the reality. And banning such establishments may lead to “underground” sex trade which can be even more dangerous for women involved. Perhaps council should look at a more safer regulation of these places. Perhaps one suggestion I read in the UWO Gazette on January 25, 2011: Licensing for dancers. Read that article HERE. But this only includes regulation of the dancers. What about the rest of the players in the game?

Let me just close this post with this: This is a tricky subject. I will admit that much. The argument is always “Not in my backyard.” Well, whether it is visibly in your backyard or not, the sex trade is going to still exist. It has existed for years before and I doubt it is going to stop just because you send a few by-law officers and plain clothed detectives out to do some extra, heavy patrolling. Just remember, drugs, violence and under-agers (employees or not) may exist at any bar, strip club or not, and also remember that if you go looking for something–crime–you will find it.

To read the LFpress article, click HERE.

Early Poetry….

So tonight I was going through some old poems I had written when I was younger… like 16-18 years. I started to actually write my poems and saving them when I had moved away from my home town (However, I do know there are stacks of books and papers from much earlier poems that I had written when I was kid, in my house I grew up in back on my First Nation).

This is one of the poems I had written almost right after my car accident. I was 15 years old. I can’t find the paper version of it, but when I first moved to London I spent a great deal of time converting the poems that I could find that I had written on paper and trying to find a computer so that I could save them. I always used the library’s computer or the few people I managed to meet–their computers. I did this because when I first moved to London, I wanted to save my writings. (I didn’t want people who I hung around with to read them or find them–I think I would have been embarrassed if anyone read them then… Maybe because I lacked confidence/self-esteem). I moved here knowing nobody, no friends, no family. I couldn’t call home until a month after I arrived–when I started to meet people. You’re probably asking yourself, why didn’t I used a pay phone? When I moved away from home, I felt lost. I felt ashamed. I felt embarrassed. I didn’t even know where I was going to live, which city even… I was literally lost, physically & spiritually….

I spent 9 months without a mailing address or a way for my family to call me to check up on me. I had to call them, make sure to let them know that I was still alive. So, school pretty much saved me. If it weren’t for school, I don’t know where I would be right now–I guess that’s why it really bothers me when people say “Aboriginals get everything for free…” or that “Aboriginals have it best…” or that “Aboriginals shouldn’t get money for education…” Like I said earlier, if it weren’t for school or education, I don’t know where I would be.

As I said before, this is one the earlier poems. I can’t remember why I wrote it, or what I was feeling. Some of my poems from my teen years is pretty dark… it freaks me out even that I could even think to write some of the things I had written. Fortunately for me, I now use writing as an outlet. I realize that I love to write, and that writing has given me the confidence to convey my thoughts (especially after my car accident and my acquired brain injury).

This poem… I left it untitled, and I am not sure why. I would have liked to call it “This poem is me…”, but this poem is not who I am anymore. Maybe it was me then, but it is not me anymore…

This poem is me,
As crazy as it may seem.
Come close,
Come see;
The little girl,
Running around,
So care free.
The little girl,
So neat and clean.
Come see;
As crazy as it may seem
The little girl,
Who cries herself to sleep.

Look at the whole picture: It’s not all about you & it’s not all about me.

So this evening/AM, I am unable to sleep.

I have been thinking about a lot of stuff lately, especially my Letter to the Editor. I know that I would receive some personal emails and viewpoints that I would not agree with. It’s kind of stressful, but I am dealing with it. I am just glad that nobody blatantly said something racist or racial (because that stuff really does hurt).

I did receive one letter in which the writer explicitly stated: I don’t want to pay for anything that happened in the past.

Today, I was fortunate enough to meet with someone today at school from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. During this meeting, it was brought up that foreigners/outsiders to Canada see this country with three characteristics. These three characteristics are:

  1. Nature
  2. French
  3. Aboriginals

In response to this letter, I said to this writer:

It has nothing to do with me and you, it has to do with Canada and how the rest of the world views Canada. I just had a meeting today with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade: I was informed of three characteristics in which foreigners view Canada:

  1. Nature
  2. French
  3. Aboriginal

So these social supports in place, are there to make Canada look more attractive to outsiders. Outsiders see Aboriginals in Canada. If they see them being mistreated by years of injustice, (injustices that have been committed before you were ever born and that continued until I was born and still today), then they wont be likely to come Canada. When you begin to look at the picture as a whole, and not just me and you, you will realize it has nothing to do with you or me.

Yup, I should have just said Thank you for your letter, but I couldn’t. It bothers me that people can’t look at the whole picture. It’s not all about you and it’s not all about me.

Comments to Letter to Editor

Well today I was able to view my comments today from my letter to the editor at LFpress today. The link provided brings you to the letter with comments directly.

In one of the comments, one person asked questions or proposed that I think about why don’t Aboriginals have it best?

Well, that is a very simple question with a very complicated answer. I know that any answer I give him will be further questioned with even more simple questions with even more complicated answers.

Submitting my letter to the editor I know that not everyone will agree with what I have to say. I don’t want everyone to agree with what I have to say. I believe that if everyone agrees with what everyone is saying, you will never change, or improve.

Anyways, I replied to this person. I don’t know if my reply will get posted. I did however refer the individual to the R. v. Gladue appeal decision. Found here.

I hope that the person who asked me why not, knows that I have asked myself that over and over again. Why? The answer is too complicated to discuss in one post and too complicated to even present in a simple way.

I hope the one individual is able to find the answers in the link I provided so that he may believe what the BC Appeal Court Judges have written because even not even my post or answer to the question will ever satisfy the typical Canadian. People need people with formal knowledge, and not real life experience to answer difficult questions.

London Free Press and First Nations Youth

This post is in response to an article titled Siblings Jailed After Fatal Stabbing..

When I first read this article, I was thinking to myself, “Why would a news source announce that these youth were First Nations?” Then I read the readers’ comments, and it made more sense to me now.

A bit of background information (This information is available through the LF press news articles): This occurred last year in August. Both offenders are First Nations. One is a 22 year old mother of three, the other is 18 years old. Both pretty young. One received 2 years (the mother) and the other sentenced to 17 months.

In the Criminal Code of Canada, Section 718.2(e) states the following:

718.2 A court that imposes a sentence shall also take into consideration the following principles:

(e) all available sanctions other than imprisonment that are reasonable in the circumstances should be considered for all offenders, with particular attention to the circumstances of aboriginal offenders.

The interpretation of this section was conducted during an Appeal to the decision made in R. v. Gladue. That decision can be read HERE.

It must be highlighted that this section of the Criminal Code of Canada does not give special consideration to Aboriginal peoples but in reality acknowledges the fact that many of them occupy prison systems. Harper’s Truth in Sentencing Act was seen as a step back because it failed to acknowledge this state of Aboriginal peoples in Canada. This Act removed the 2-4-1 sentencing, where time already served would not be acknowledged in final sentencing. Further exacerbating the rate at which Aboriginals populate prison systems.

Now, I won’t comment on the sentencing and the length that they received but it must be highlighted some of the factors that court’s consider when sentencing.

Some of these include:

  • First Time Offender?
  • Present Situation: education, family, employment
  • Social background: family life, childhood, etc.

In the case of these two individuals, they were both young, one was obviously drinking underage, and one already had three children before reaching the age of 25. This is what life is like in Canada for most Aboriginals. There is alcohol abuse, young parenthood, violent environments (Wasn’t one already carrying a knife…who carries a knife around if they are in a “safe” environment).

I am not promoting bad behaviour or violent behaviour among Aboriginal youth in any way. I am just attempting to address the comments some of the readers had in the article which can be read HERE.

They ask why was the term First Nations used? Why did that have to be mentioned? And one even states that using this term contributes to stereotypes in society. I thought the same thing.

But then I read a comment that said:

Look at the bright side, if you’re a white male, you’ll get at least 15 years for the same crime.

Hmmm, but race is not the case here. What is the case is that Aboriginals are over-represented in the Criminal Court system, including prisons. You say that still is dealing with race. No, it is dealing with the social situation that Aboriginals presently face. The decision in the appeal in R. v. Gladue highlights this.

Within this decision, it states:

  1. This section does not mean that judges should pay more attention to Aboriginal offenders, but attention to their unique characteristics.
  2. That Aboriginals are over-represented in prison systems.
  3. “The unbalanced ratio of imprisonment for aboriginal offenders flows from a number of sources, including poverty, substance abuse, lack of education, and the lack of employment opportunities for Aboriginal people. quoted @ para. 65.
  4. “It arises also from bias against Aboriginal people and from an unfortunate institutional approach that is more inclined to refuse bail and to impose more and longer prison terms for Aboriginal offenders.” quoted @ para. 65.
  5. Aboriginal people who suffer from systemic and direct discrimination are then both offenders to society and fall victim to society.

With the above, I tried my best to grasp the most important points, although this case is significantly important in every which way as it pertains to Aboriginals who enter the criminal court system. I guess by mentioning that the two offenders were First Nations, the news source may have been acknowledging the fact that Aboriginal people still face great disparities when it comes to society.

Relating to this LFpress article, this situation is nothing new to Aboriginal people in Canadian Society–violence amongst its young or its young going to jail, leaving behind futures and children. The thing that I am most annoyed with in this article is the fact that the comments just focus on “First Nations” and fails to acknowledge that some Aboriginal people face huge disparities in comparison to other groups within Canada. Not one comment, showed concern for the 3 children left behind or showed concern for young person who chose to throw their life away.

In the end, some people might respond to this post and say, “Well, who cares? That is their fault.” No, this isn’t their fault. Some Aboriginal people lag behind in education, employment, and some even live in poverty… despite having social supports. These are the inter-generational effects of colonialism, displacement of culture, loss of identity, and most importantly the effects of the Residential School system.

I hope more people begin to understand that Aboriginal people do not have it the best in Canada, and that we don’t get everything “for free.”

Read my post titled I get everything for free! and also my post titled Tax Exemption.

I hope this post changes one individual after reading it. Not everyone. I am content with one 🙂

Mental Health: Message from Andrew Forgione

Message from Andrew Forgione, new USC Prez at UWO!

Mental health is just as important as physical health!

Mental Health Awareness week is going to be on at UWO March 21-24/2011 in the UCC! Same time as the Income Tax Clinic…Can’t forget about your taxes!

Check it out the youtube channel Mental Health UWO.

Check out this cool site as well called Mind your mind!

Here is also the website for London Distress Center!

Don’t forget you are never alone (no matter how much you feel that way)! The help is there…Read my post on reaching out for help titled Not your fault!