HOPE, PRIDE, POWER: A Profile of Deb Parent

One of the best ways to begin understanding something too complex to define is by distinguishing what it is not. So who isn’t Deb Parent? She isn’t indifferent – not crass, nor ordinary. So who is she.

Co-organizing the Toronto Women’s March in objection to the election of Donald Trump in January 2017 was not Deb Parent’s first rodeo, so to speak. It wasn’t her second… Or even third. If you ask, activism became a part of Deb’s life as a 12 year-old coming out to her Catholic school guidance counsellor in 1969.

“It was my first act of speaking out and speaking my truth,” Deb says through her hands free, driving home for the weekend on a late Friday morning in October.

Deb Parent (front row, centre) on the anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada. // Toronto Star, 1978

Whether it was her vibrant voice or the fact that it was the day after National Coming Out Day, it was clear that she was proud to share her story with me – and as a lifelong activist she had every reason to be.

“No one who came out was unchanged,” Deb tells me, looking back on Toronto Women’s March. It made activists out of a lot of people. Even as one of the organizers Deb was impacted by not only the number of people, but who the people were – even children. Children just like she once was, speaking their truths.

After coming out at such a young age, Deb soon became active within the LGBT community, taking part in a protest against CBC’s anti-LGBT ad policies at the age of 19.

As an Ottawa native protesting on Parliament Hill, speaking out for the rights of her community, Deb began her active career as a political agitator and advocate. “Softening around the edges does not change people’s lives,” she says, and her resume shows it: 20 years of work with Toronto Rape Crisis Centre, Dyke and Trans self-defense instructor, 2007 City of Toronto Pride Award, 2016 Inspire Lifetime Award, LGBT advocate, NDP Campaign Organizer, Toronto Women’s March organizer and, of course, a hobby DJ.

Yes, Deb is a kind and enthusiastic person, but that doesn’t stop her from being a voice above the rest in terms of political change.

“I hope this is the patriarchy’s last stand,” says Deb, referring to a need for more opportunities to put women in positions of power where their voices can be heard. She knows that people feel ripped off by social change and that putting the status quo on its head is scary, but in Deb’s words, “no matter who we are, we are all getting screwed and the earth is getting screwed,” but if we want change, the power rests in our hands.

In Ontario we have seen Provincial Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford come into power and immediately put limits on sex education, slash Toronto City Hall in half and march in step with current American politics. Looking back on a time when Torontonians questioned the relevance of a Women’s March considering the borders between Canadian and American politics, Deb knows that it is important to make it clear why a Women’s March is still needed. “We are still trying to make our voices heard.”

Rather than allow opposition to dampen the conversation, Deb used the opportunity to talk about all of the good that has grown since the march. There has been a dramatic change towards understanding policies and electoral procedures and diversity in politics is growing. The social changes marked by the Women’s March have encouraged people to enter politics and activism – people, Deb points out, who would not have been there before or wouldn’t have been on the radar. Women, queer people and people of colour are all validated by coming together. People marched with their values, she explains, and it seems that has carried on much further than the 2017 demonstration.

There is room for all of us. “The act of democracy is to be able to take to the streets and vote and believe that it matters,” Deb says.

To the seasoned activist, speaking out is the point of her work and is about differences as much as it is about similarities. There is room for everyone to have their voices heard.

But if Deb Parent is an activist, who does she speak out for?

She does it for herself.

In her back pocket beside her passion and hope for the future, she describes her fundamental belief in a capacity to change ourselves and the world. Rather than isolate ourselves, Deb has created a sense of community with her actions. She explains the importance of being role models for future generations, laying the groundwork for what is to come like so many have before.

So, who is Deb Parent?

Deb Parent: The little girl coming out in an uncertain time, speaking her truth? The young woman who railed against her government for taking away representation of her identity in public broadcasting? The advocate? The teacher? The activist? The badass woman who’s both soft and tough? The role model of future generations?

Speaking to her feelings as an activist in a marginalized community, Deb sums up the question best herself:

“Hope, pride, power.”


10 Things to Know Before Taking an at Home DNA Test

At home DNA kits are a popular gift that have taken us a step above personality quizzes and newspaper horoscopes. Through at home DNA kits such as 23andMe or Ancestry, people are hoping to learn about themselves. These fun spit tests are not as simple as finding your Hogwarts house though – with your health, heritage and relatives all variables in the final results, you can’t hit the redo button for a different outcome.

So how can you prepare for what your DNA test might reveal? Whether you are interested in the genes you carry, where your ancestors came from or maybe even looking for family, here are 10 things you should know before spending $200 and spitting in a tube that is probably going to change what you thought about yourself and your family yesterday.

  1. Be sensitive
    So your great-grandpa used to tell fantastical stories about his one-eighth Cherokee heritage and you want to know if any of it was true. Sure, the stories might have been laced with a little stereotyping, maybe even some plain racism, but you are still curious if any of his cool stories hold up. Remember to be sensitive.The results that you may or may not be expecting will always represent another group of people and their identity. It is important to respect that. Claiming a heritage based on a family rumour is not cool, but neither is telling people that you are Cherokee after finding 0.03% Native American on your final results.It is also important to keep context in mind – if great-grandpa really was one-eighth Cherokee, why would that be? What would your ancestors have been doing at the time for this to happen? We are all related to bad people somewhere along the line, and chances are great-grandpa’s racist comments are far more tame in comparison to what was likely going on, especially if you have colonial heritage. Does that make you a bad person? No, because you can chose to be sensitive about what you might find and learn from mistakes of the past. 
  2. Do research
    Closely related to being sensitive, doing research is important to prepare you for what is to come. As mentioned before, if you suspect a heritage or maybe even a relative be sure to prepare yourself with as much information as possible. You want to be ready to understand your findings, but also to share those findings and give context to your relatives that may be interested in what pieces they share with you.Take the initiative to understand why you have the genetic makeup you do and learn about yourself. Your heritage is not a trendy title or status update, it is the basis of what makes you you so give yourself and your ancestors the respect deserved.With research it is not only easier to be sensitive to others, but to yourself as well. Learn the historical contexts and struggles faced by your possible ancestors, and even find information for heritage groups who might be able to help you navigate your DNA results when you get them. Research can help you prevent misrepresenting yourself and your relatives or even just avoid feeling lost or confused. 
  3. You might not be surprised
    After reading the first two suggestions you may be thinking ‘wow, I had better get to researching the viking heritage I always knew I had!’ Not so fast Ragnar Lothbrok, you might be a little disappointed.Every one of us wants to feel that they belong to something bigger, and what better way to do that than through family stories and Google searching your surname? Well it turns out, DNA testing is way better… but maybe not as exciting.Although many people have a mix of ancestors with different heritages and identities, some people may have more of a straight line in terms of heritage. For people with short ingredients lists, don’t be discouraged, your research just got cut in half and chances are you are already familiar with most of it.On the contrary, if all of the wild and fantastic family stories end up being true, be prepared to find exactly what you have been told your whole life. DNA tests are not a game of who is more or less genetically diverse, it is about better understanding yourself and your family heritage.


  4. Prepare for the worst (or the best)
    So let’s say you are going into this process with no information about your heritage or preconceptions, or maybe you have a detailed family tree on your wall dating back to 1603 – either way be prepared. Many DNA tests go past just heritage and will share medical information such as genetic conditions and may even connect you with genetic relatives.What might have been a fun birthday gift may give you scary news or even shake up the family you know or don’t know about by finding new relatives. None of these things will be easy and they may not even make sense at first, but avoid as much shock as possible by understanding what might come up, and consider the potential for things that you may have thought were impossible for you or your family.Keep in mind that your results might change your life. Whether it is a possible disease that makes you worried or even confirms a fear, or maybe finding a long lost relative or the family that you didn’t know you had, prepare yourself as much as you can and make sure you have support through it (maybe even open your results with someone you trust.) Take your time and don’t feel like you have to go through the process alone, even online forums for DNA kits can be helpful. 
  5. Don’t be scared
    As you prepare yourself with research and support before getting your results, remind yourself not to be scared. With all of the possibilities and new things to learn, don’t forget that this test isn’t changing anything about you. You will be the same person after the test that you were before and you will have all of the same genetics, the only difference is that you will be aware of them.If you are privileged enough to take a DNA test to connect yourself with these things, remember that the worst part will be opening your results, and if you find something that shocks you, you have endless resources available to help you understand and get through anything that might throw a wrench in what you knew before.Your DNA results won’t ruin your life, they might not even change your life. These tests are meant to be fun, and it will be! Remember: people take these tests every day, and how many of those people are making headlines for their shocking results? Not many. 
  6. Don’t let your results change you
    Like mentioned before, taking a DNA test does not change who you are or who you are related to, it just makes it more clear. You do not have to identify with any of the results and you do not have to change yourself by any means. Like with most things, all you have to be is kind and as long as you respect the history and impact that your heritage has on you as a person, there is nothing else that you are expected to do.Even with relative results, the kindness rule applies. Don’t be worried about who your family is or isn’t. You have the choice to reach out or not and if someone reaches out to you just be kind and honest if you are confused or surprised. Remember that they are likely in the same boat and just want to get to know you, so have some fun! 
  7. Have an open mind
    If you have gotten this far, you might be a little worried and honestly that might not be a bad thing. Understanding the impact of these DNA tests is important, but what is more important is to keep an open mind.The possibilities are endless with your results ranging from earth shattering to uneventful at best. Just remember that chances are if you are taking this test, you probably have some idea of what to expect, but you might learn something that challenges how you identify or even your relationship with your family. These variables are something that everyone has to consider, even if not taking a DNA test, but this will put it out in the open for you. You might not like what you find at first, but if you keep an open mind you will understand that it isn’t about liking your results, it’s about learning.

  8. It doesn’t stop at your initial results
    So you have taken the test, you sat down with a friend or a loved one and dug into what you look like on paper. Maybe you were surprised, maybe you weren’t, but don’t close the tab and forget about it! Many of these DNA services are updating with new research and new people who have taken the test. Your results can change and become more precise as time goes by, especially if relatives are taking the test and showing up on your account. Be sure to check in every so often to keep up to date with your results and avoid missing out on any new or helpful information that might come along with your profile being developed. Also look into any new relative matches that you might have as they will update as new people take the test.
  9. Ask questions
    As your results are updated, your research continues and you talk to relatives about what you find, you might have more questions. Make sure to look into the resources provided by your DNA kit company and contact the company directly if you have any questions about your results or the process.Also don’t forget to ask the people around you. So you found a cousin or a great-somebody in your results that you didn’t know you had, use the people around you to help answer the questions you might have because the answers may already be there.This entire process is about being curious, so don’t let shyness or even laziness stop you from getting your questions answered because chances are someone will have the answers that you need. Be safe, be kind and be sensitive like you have already learned.
  10. This isn’t all about you (by a long shot)
    Your DNA results are specific to you, this is true, but don’t forget why you have the results that you do. Each highlighted map section or percentage in a chart lines up with a person, their family, their culture and their life. Also, your relative results are even more clearly not all about you. Each one of those people related to you has their own experiences and had their own reasons to take the test so be sure not to forget that.Even outside the results, your DNA test is also about the family you already know. These results might impact the people around you more than you think so make sure to be gentle with any important information and share what you can with those who may be impacted by it. Who knows, they might have wanted to take a test too and you might be their first step in research.We are all someone’s family, either present day or hundreds of years in the past and each of us has our own story and makeup that relies on one another, so don’t make this all about you.

    These 10 steps are only pieces of the adventure that you will embark on when you spit in that fancy little plastic tube, so be prepared. Make new (maybe more accurate/respectful) family stories, learn your historical heritage and take a deep breath because this is all for the fun of learning!

Is “Queer” a Bad Word?: A Conversation on the Queer Identity

*some source names have been changed to protect identity

Witch, nerd, redneck, bitch, slut: what do these words have in common? Did these words make your cringe or question the integrity of what you are about to read? Maybe; or maybe not. For many people, these past derogatory words are more than descriptors, they outline an identity. Reclaiming oppressive language has made an impact on how we describe ourselves, especially those in marginalized groups… But what about ‘queer’? Is queer a bad word?

Queer is making a comeback. Not for derogatory purposes, but to be reclaimed as a word to be used by members of the LGBTQA+ community as a definition for sexual or gender identity. Other reclaimed words have made their way into acceptable language, while others like queer still remain a taboo in the opinions of some.
Q. K. M., 30, is a scientist who identifies as bisexual and genderfluid, but lives as a cis-woman. When asked if queer is negative or positive word, Q. K. M. gave some context as to why she thinks it is usually positive.

“I like the idea of taking back a word that used to be used in a derogatory way, and it’s an easy way for me to explain that I’m part of the LGBTQA+ community without getting into specifics, which can get messy when it’s not something straightforward,” Q. K. M. said.

This reference to the unsavoury use of the word queer is easy to find through a quick search.

For other members of the LGBTQA+ community, queer is just not the word for them.

Midnight, 26, is a member of the LGBTQA+ community who identifies as female and a person that is not of binary gender identity or sexual attraction. Midnight sees the word queer as having duality, being derogatory and positive depending on context, but chooses not to use the word to describe herself.

“A lot of my friends use it to describe their sexuality and/or gender identity at different times. I don’t personally use it,” Midnight said. “It can be positive or negative depending on intent. It can be used as a homophobic and transphobic slur against people, or it can be used by queer individuals to classify their gender identity or sexuality.”

As Midnight mentions, queer can be an empowering word for some.

Morgan Ström, 23, is a student and self identified queer person who is pansexual and feminine non-binary. They choose to use the word queer to define their experience as an LGBTQA+ person, and embraces the idea that it is an umbrella term to avoid uncomfortable questions.

When asked, Ström made it clear that they embrace the use of queer as an identifier.

“Its a positive word! Now, anyway. Not long ago it wasn’t. But I use it all the time and know a lot of people who do. It’s simple and can sometimes be jarring for people to hear which is fun,” Ström said. “As long as it’s not in a demeaning or discriminating way, I don’t care who uses it.”

Many people have different interpretations of the word as either a reclaimed identifier or a derogatory term. As Ström explains, identifiers are not one size fits all in most cases.

“This is my personal opinion and not everyone is going to see it in a similar way, but for me, this is what works! It might not for others,” Ström said.

From a word used against marginalized people, to a word used as a self identifier, the word queer has changed over time and continues to change in social context… So, is queer a bad word? It depends who you ask.

The Buzz About Bees: What Canadians Need to Know About ‘Saving the Bees’

April 11, 2017

By Breanne Coulter and Tierney Angus

The buzz around the bee crisis is getting louder, but there is some confusion surrounding which bees are struggling and what people can do to help.

Canadians are concerned about the health of bee populations, especially due to highly-publicized honeybee colony collapses in the past decade. These issues are becoming less of a problem through better hive management practices.

Populations of wild pollinator bees face different threats than their managed cousins, but campaigns to ‘save the bees’ by environmentalist groups and cereal companies do not differentiate between species. Small-scale and hobbyist apiarists are joining the beekeeping community in large numbers, but in doing so Canada’s native and wild bee populations might be forgotten. ‘Saving the bees’ first requires a deeper understanding of the types of bees present in Canada and the issues that pose the greatest threats.

Honeybee apiarists across Canada saw an increased hive loss over the winter months in the early 2000s. Many different factors, including Varroa mites, disease and weather conditions contributed to this decline.

click on graph to open interactive view in new tab

Margaret and Robert Smith, 74 and 75, are beekeepers and owners of Marg’s Bees Inc. in St. Andrews, Manitoba. They have been managing hives for 40 years and mentor “newbees” to the industry. The couple started their business to provide a source of income for Margaret Smith when she left her teaching job to go back to University.

“I like to say it’s a hobby that flew away with us,” Margaret Smith said.

The years of the honeybee population decline were difficult for the veteran apiarists, especially during the early 2000s. Robert Smith recalls the losses that their beekeeping operation faced.

“We lost close to 80% of our bees in 2002. It’s a brutal thing to lose some of your bees during the winter. In the summer, worker bees only live for around six weeks,” Robert Smith said. “In the wintertime, they can live for several months. But there is a natural cleansing of the hives that happens when the bees die.”

click on the bees for information about colony size and click on the strawberries to see pollinator farm information

Cold winters have a major impact on the health of bee populations as a whole. Rhéal Lafrenière, Manitoba’s Provincial Apiarist, emphasized the toll the harsh Canadian climate can have on honeybees.

“Weather conditions play a big part in our ability to maintain our populations from one fall to the next spring. There’s always going to be some mortality that happens through that time, it’s just when mortality exceeds the point where the sustainability of the overall population of bees has been crossed,” Lafrenière said. “We had a year in Manitoba where we lost 36% of our colonies, it would have been the winter of 2012, and weather was probably the biggest factor in that one.”

Lafrenière explains that the unpredictable weather in Canada has a large impact on the number of winter losses and the strength of the hives in the spring. This issue can also increase problems with parasites and disease because beekeepers have to work around the weather to provide treatment.

“The honeybee is not indigenous to our area so it had to be brought in and realistically, it needs to be managed in order to survive in our environment,” Lafrenière said. “We don’t have a wild honeybee population.”

The challenges honeybees face are also experienced by Canada’s wild pollinator species yet degrees vary. According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, there are over 970 different bee species native to Canada alone.

Dr. Pierre Giovenazzo, Assistant Professor at Université Laval in Quebec and Vice President of the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists (CAPA) explains honeybees and wild pollinators in terms of agriculture.

“You have to be very clear when you say ‘the bees’,”  Dr. Giovenazzo said. “When we talk about wild pollinators we are talking about the environment. When we are talking about honeybees we are talking about a domesticated pollinator – not the same thing.”

Dr. Giovenazzo notes that honeybees must be managed by beekeepers, whereas the native bees are a wild species that survive without human intervention.

“Beekeepers take care of their bees,” he said.

A lack of awareness about the separate bee species leads many people to believe that the honeybees are the ones in danger. According to veteran beekeepers and professional apiarists alike, the honeybee population is at its highest in several years and winter losses have decreased substantially since the honeybee decline of the early 2000s. The last five years have shown the largest number of honeybee colonies since the early 1990s. The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs reported 97,342 bee colonies in Ontario in 2016 – an increase of 20,642 colonies from ten years ago. Habitat loss, lack of diversity in food sources and pesticide use have all had a larger negative impact on the wild bees than on the honeybees.

click on graph to open interactive view in new tab

Robert Smith explains the issue of lack of food and food diversity through monoculture farming and the problems these practices create for wild pollinators.

“The bees depend upon feeding their larvae pollen as a source of protein and if there is a thousand acres of one crop, there is no diversity of the protein,” Robert Smith said. “For the pollinators that is not good, and particularly if they [farmers] mow their road allowances and any alternate source that the bees might have, all the ditch linings and road allowances and anything like that. People either spray it or mow it.”

Margaret and Robert Smith do not feel that pesticides are the overarching reason for bee loss in Canada and that there are a number of contributing factors. The Smiths insist that more research is needed beyond a laboratory setting to understand how chemicals are affecting wild and honeybee populations within and outside the hive. Margaret Smith suggests learning from bees in their natural habitat.

“You have to take a holistic approach to the whole problem from a scientific point of view,” she said.

Outside the beekeeping community, environmental groups such as the David Suzuki Foundation are petitioning to ban neonics, a pesticide used heavily in monoculture farming operations. General Mills is advertising a Cheerios wildflower seed campaign aimed at replenishing and diversifying food sources for bees by sending free seed packages to customers which may introduce non-native plant species into sensitive environments.

Dr. Shelley Hoover is an Apiculture Researcher for Alberta Agriculture and Forestry and Secretary of CAPA. When asked about the General Mills campaign, Hoover said that the campaign’s cereal boxes use CAPA data for their statements about bee population decline.

Specifically, they cite the winter loss report from 2015,” Dr. Hoover said.

Dr. Hoover mentions that the CAPA report cited does not say anything about the wild bee populations that are truly struggling and instead focuses on the decrease in winter loss of 34.4% from the previous season.

The report that General Mills is citing contradicts the message they are trying to send by  attempting to provide a solution to a problem that no longer exists – and to the wrong species of bee. Dr. Hoover offers a clarification.

“I think it is laudable to bring attention to bee health, but is an oversimplification of a complex situation,” she said. “Having said that, more flowers is a good thing for native and wild bees.”

Dr. Hoover cautions that some seed mixes can contain noxious weed species and seeds that will not grow in the area they are planted. She says that regional seed mixes are preferable.

Managing honeybees and supporting wild pollinators can be a tough job, and beekeepers are dedicated to taking care of their colonies. People who love the fuzzy creatures work hard to move past obstacles and keep their bees healthy. Experienced beekeepers have shown that they’re up to the challenge. Margaret and Robert Smith like having the bees close by, buzzing around their porch and in their gardens. They were heading outside on an early spring evening to move some of their 644 hives from winter storage to a warm place in the sun.

After 40 years of beekeeping a few stings don’t bother them, but Margaret Smith has a slight advantage over her husband.

“Rob is technically, by blood sample, allergic to bees,” she laughed.

Cosplay: The Costume Community

Halloween is one of the most anticipated times of the year in the eyes of a child. Nothing is so exciting as carving pumpkins, collecting candy and above all, dressing up. Many people may think back to a favourite costume of theirs; maybe one that their mother bought them or something that they made especially for the day. Though some may miss the thrill of becoming their favourite superhero or princess for a night, others refuse let the magic of their memories end.

Rather than dress as a princess or superhero to collect treats, cosplay goes beyond simple costuming and invites people to become their favourite characters and readopt the excitement of stepping into a new persona. For cosplayers, costumes are so much more than a holiday or hobby – they offer a safe place for expression and community, especially to people like Meagan Kelly.

Kelly, 23, is half of a cosplaying duo from Montreal known as “ME Cosplay”. Kelly began cosplaying about two years ago and works full time as an Emergency Room nurse. She cosplays as a hobby alongside her friend Emily Racette. Kelly remembers convincing Racette to join the community with her after meeting two cosplayers at her work.

“We’re both two astronomical geeks and have an artistic side to us, but we had never really found a common project we both really cared about like this. It sort of emerged that this was our thing now. It just made sense.” Kelly said. “We mostly do it because it gives us a way to impersonate characters we love, gives us an outlet for the pent-up artistic creativity and also it gives us a common project and a very good excuse to hang out together.”

Kelly and Racette see cosplay as an opportunity to exercise their artistic side by making their own costumes. Kelley responded with passion when asked what she enjoys about cosplay.

“Two major things: the feedback we get from hours spent crafting, and the community. In a way they’re one and the same. We literally spend hours on end making one piece of the cosplay so it’s great to see the final result of the work you put in and that people love it. And the community is just so great you feel on a small cloud when at a con.”

In contrast when asked about struggles found in cosplay, Kelly explained that with increased media attention on cosplay there is more room for judgement. She also outlined the stigma surrounding cosplay.

“Try explaining to your coworkers you can’t have a drink with them after work because you have to cut and mould foam mats and make wings all evening long.” Kelly joked.

Hannah-Marie Waters, 24, is another invested member of the cosplay community who offers costume commissions out of Colorado under the name “Kitchen Cosplay, Commissions & Couture”. Waters started making costumes for her American Girl Dolls at age 11 and was introduced to making her own cosplay costumes based off of characters from the webcomic “Homestuck”. Waters recalls when she first began cosplaying at 16.

“When I started cosplaying my parents said I would grow out of it but now that I’m married, older and creating a business out of it, they understand that it’s a lucrative and life changing job.” Waters said. “I took my 73 year old father to PAX Prime a few years ago and it blew his mind. He had no idea other people cosplayed! He told me he thought it was just me.”

Waters earns money by making costumes for other cosplayers on top of her full time job as a social worker for people with developmental disabilities. She currently uses the extra money she gains from commissions to support herself and her husband who recently lost his job just before Christmas and is currently in college. She responded with pride when asked about how the cosplay community has made a positive impact on her life.

“I’ve made a majority of my friends through the community. I met my husband through it, too.” Waters said. “I’ve always struggled with finding people who get me, since I’m an extrovert and outwardly eccentric and loud without meaning to be. The cosplay community has always been there; judgement free.”

Robin S. Rosenberg is an American author and clinical psychologist who is the co-author of “Expressions of Fandom: Findings from a Psychological Survey of Cosplay and Costume Wear”. Rosenberg explains that cosplay weaves together a variety of elements that can be gratifying to the cosplayer including creativity and community.

“This includes the design and fabrication of a the costume and acting the role.” Rosenberg said. “The online and in real life cosplay community who offer advice about design and fabrication, as well as the sense of belonging to a community leading up to the cosplay event and the day of the event.”

Rosenberg also explains that based on their survey, most cosplayers choose to coordinate their costumes in some way with others, adding to the sense of community.

People like Kelly and Waters who are creating and adding their own passion to the cosplay community, are the reason that it has proved to be a gratifying place for people to turn. The rewards found in cosplay may not be comparable to the candy received on Halloween, although the enthusiasm and love goes into every aspect of the costumed community is something much sweeter than any princess or superhero with a pillowcase could ever unwrap.

*Photos courtesy of ME Cosplay.

Love Trumps Hate: Toronto’s Rally Against Trump

Toronto protesters gathered to join in a peaceful Rally Against American President-Elect Donald Trump in Nathan Phillips Square on Saturday, Nov. 19.

The Rally Against Trump began as a Facebook event which invited the people of Toronto to a peaceful protest. 7,300 people were listed as interested in the event, and 3,100 were listed at going on the Rally Against Trump Facebook page.

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The rally began at Nathan Phillips Square at 1 p.m., and marched protesters to the Trump International Hotel and Tower on Bay St., ending at 4 p.m. 

About 1,000 people attended the rally to voice dissatisfaction with the American election results on the rainy Saturday afternoon.

The Rally Against Trump Facebook page promoted a peaceful assembly. The goal of the event was to show “love and support” to contrast any friction created by Trump and the election results.

Protesters met under walkways in Nathan Phillips Square to stay out of the rain before speeches began.

Charlie, Chastity, Erica, Izzy, and Kaspian, a group of students, stood together with signs waiting for the speeches to begin. When asked about why this rally was important, their answers were different, but all voiced worry.

(From left to right) Charlie, Chastity, Izzy, Erica, and Kaspian.

Erica attended the rally for a friend from the United States who she says, is not in a safe position to protest for themselves where they are.

When asked if they felt safe since the election on Nov. 8, Chastity explained that she is of Native descent and that she shares a neighbourhood with many Trump supporters.

“I want to say that I feel safe, but I am prepared for the worst.” said Chastity

Safety brought up the topic of Vice President-Elect Mike Pence and his approval of transgender conversion therapy. Charlie responded to this passionately from the perspective of a trans person.

“If you are endangering the lives of other people, you are not exercising freedom of speech.” Charlie said.

When asked what this election means to the millennial generation, Erica responded quickly.

“We need to take politics more seriously.” Erica said. “We have to grow up fast.”

The Canadian Socialist group, Fightback maintained a large presence throughout the rally. 

Fightback Magazine offered at Toronto Rally Against Trump.

Nasha Mavalvala, a member of Fightback and a teacher, was at the rally with magazines offered in exchange for $2 donations. When asked about the purpose of the rally and the concerns that come along with the election of Donald Trump.

The extreme right was “definitely emboldened” by these results, said Mavalvala. “It’s not Trump that creates it, Trump gives a voice to it… He speaks to that anger, but he’s not going to do anything to address it.”

Mavalvala spoke about the relevance that this has to Canada,.

“We are not immune to the economic processes.” Mavalvala said.

Activist speakers took their turn speaking to the protesters from a milk crate. 

Rally participants making their way to the speeches.

Kim Fry, elementary teacher and activist, stood up on the milk crates for her speech with her 2 and a half month old son in her arms, not compromising any passion. Fry referenced the poem by Pastor Martin Niemöller titled “First They Came…” written about Hitler’s regime during WWII in Germany.

“Not this time!” Fry said, referencing the poem in context to the fear that many have for the future Trump government.

” First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me. ”
-Pastor Martin Niemöller (1946)

Kim Fry (centre) with 2 and a half month old son.

Sid Ryan, former president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, spoke to the crowd about his granddaughter.

“I’ve got a 5 year old racialized granddaughter, and she said to me just the other day ‘granddad? Is Donald Trump a bad man?’ and I thought ‘my god, how can it be that a five year old would even know about Donald Trump?’” said Ryan.

The rally walked to the Trump Tower escorted by security after the speeches concluded. At Trump Tower, barricades separated protesters from the building and heavy security from the Tower stood in a row across the entrance.

Security outside Trump International Hotel and Tower.

Rally Against Trump was just one platform for Canadians to voice their dissatisfaction with the change in North America’s political climate. To these activists, societal issues do not have borders.