News Toronto

News from Canada

As an expat living in the UK, I’ve become reliant on things like the BBC to find out what’s been going on back home. And recently, I do feel like I’m missing a lot of excitement, like:

1.  A maple syrup factory being robbed.

2. A cheese smuggling ring being broken up.

3. A monkey in a sheepskin jacket chilling out in IKEA

Canada is a very special place. I miss home.


Jack Layton, you were a good man.

Today was a sad day. Jack Layton, New Democratic Party leader of Canada passed away. He will be sorely missed.

Regardless of political affiliation, you have to admire Jack for his optimism and genuine desire to make Canada, and the world a better place. Even in death his work and vision will live on and continually inspire people.

The very first time I voted, once I turned 18, I voted NDP and it was because of Jack. He made me believe in change and in the good in people. I was fortunate to meet him a few times while I was in university and he was sincere, encouraging and listened intently.

Below is a copy of his last letter, as published in the Globe and Mail.


August 20, 2011 Toronto, Ontario

Dear Friends,

Tens of thousands of Canadians have written to me in recent weeks to wish me well. I want to thank each and every one of you for your thoughtful, inspiring and often beautiful notes, cards and gifts. Your spirit and love have lit up my home, my spirit, and my determination.
Unfortunately my treatment has not worked out as I hoped. So I am giving this letter to my partner Olivia to share with you in the circumstance in which I cannot continue.

I recommend that Hull-Aylmer MP Nycole Turmel continue her work as our interim leader until a permanent successor is elected.
I recommend the party hold a leadership vote as early as possible in the New Year, on approximately the same timelines as in 2003, so that our new leader has ample time to reconsolidate our team, renew our party and our program, and move forward towards the next election.

A few additional thoughts:

To other Canadians who are on journeys to defeat cancer and to live their lives, I say this: please don’t be discouraged that my own journey hasn’t gone as well as I had hoped. You must not lose your own hope. Treatments and therapies have never been better in the face of this disease. You have every reason to be optimistic, determined, and focused on the future. My only other advice is to cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey, as I have done this summer.

To the members of my party:

We’ve done remarkable things together in the past eight years. It has been a privilege to lead the New Democratic Party and I am most grateful for your confidence, your support, and the endless hours of volunteer commitment you have devoted to our cause. There will be those who will try to persuade you to give up our cause. But that cause is much bigger than any one leader. Answer them by recommitting with energy and determination to our work. Remember our proud history of social justice, universal health care, public pensions and making sure no one is left behind. Let’s continue to move forward. Let’s demonstrate in everything we do in the four years before us that we are ready to serve our beloved Canada as its next government.

To the members of our parliamentary caucus:

I have been privileged to work with each and every one of you. Our caucus meetings were always the highlight of my week. It has been my role to ask a great deal from you. And now I am going to do so again. Canadians will be closely watching you in the months to come. Colleagues, I know you will make the tens of thousands of members of our party proud of you by demonstrating the same seamless teamwork and solidarity that has earned us the confidence of millions of Canadians in the recent election.

To my fellow Quebecers:

On May 2nd, you made an historic decision. You decided that the way to replace Canada’s Conservative federal government with something better was by working together in partnership with progressive-minded Canadians across the country. You made the right decision then; it is still the right decision today; and it will be the right decision right through to the next election, when we will succeed, together. You have elected a superb team of New Democrats to Parliament. They are going to be doing remarkable things in the years to come to make this country better for us all.

To young Canadians:

All my life I have worked to make things better. Hope and optimism have defined my political career, and I continue to be hopeful and optimistic about Canada. Young people have been a great source of inspiration for me. I have met and talked with so many of you about your dreams, your frustrations, and your ideas for change. More and more, you are engaging in politics because you want to change things for the better. Many of you have placed your trust in our party. As my time in political life draws to a close I want to share with you my belief in your power to change this country and this world. There are great challenges before you, from the overwhelming nature of climate change to the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our collective wealth, and the changes necessary to build a more inclusive and generous Canada. I believe in you. Your energy, your vision, your passion for justice are exactly what this country needs today. You need to be at the heart of our economy, our political life, and our plans for the present and the future.

And finally, to all Canadians:

Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world’s environment. We can restore our good name in the world. We can do all of these things because we finally have a party system at the national level where there are real choices; where your vote matters; where working for change can actually bring about change. In the months and years to come, New Democrats will put a compelling new alternative to you. My colleagues in our party are an impressive, committed team. Give them a careful hearing; consider the alternatives; and consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

All my very best,

Jack Layton



Endless Sirens

(@Tymonk took this picture at Hackney Central at 5pm today)

I woke up this morning to a bbm message from a teammate from my football team warning me that Stokey was next. Then I received a broadcast that Hackney would be next.

What did this mean? It means that on day 3 of the London riots, first Tottenham, then Enfield and Brixton, now Hackney and other areas, my neighbourhood was next. She knows this because people she knows have been sending out broadcasts and rallying people to cause chaos across London. And she was right. As I headed home from work today around 5pm all of the shops on my high road were closed and there were police lingering around.

I don’t know why people are surprised by the riots. Don’t get me wrong – they are scary and violent and mostly unexpected. The Tottenham riot was shocking and happened following a peaceful protest. However, the ones that followed in Enfield and Brixton – and the now copy-cat crimes taking place all over London – this shouldn’t have come as a surprise at all.

While many people on the streets are youth, it’s not just youth (and in some cases it actually little kids!). It’s not just certain races or ethnicities and it’s not just specific areas. And there isn’t just one root cause. In fact most of it is for no reason at all. Boredom. Curiousity. Peer pressure. A cheap thrill.

Many media outlets and individuals across social media platforms condemn the rioting and try to prescribe the rioters’ motivation and in many instances unknowingly reveal one of the root causes of the unrest. This is the divisions within communities.  (Sidenote: some of the things people have said on Twitter have been appauling – racist and inciting violence in many cases).

The violence and damage which is now widespread is horrible, pointless and going to cost the communities loads. While containing the situations and arresting as many people as possible may make the streets temporarily a bit safer, the same underlying socio-economic divisions will remain.

There are very strong ‘us and them’ sentiments going around. And while there is a difference between rioters and non-rioters, like certain values and a moral compass, the people who are destroying our communities, our neighbourhoods, our high streets are also part of our community. We share bus routes and sidewalks, we share GP surgeries and MPs.

While throwing petrol bombs and looting shops has never achieved anything, neither has ignoring a problem. It always find a way of resurfacing.

As this chaos will undoubtedly continue over the next little while, please all take care x

News Social Media

Stop the Meter. Please.

As a person who a) plans to return to Canada in the not so distant future and b) has spent the past 4 years working in the internet realm this whole “Metered Internet Use” legislation being thrown around in Canada is pretty scary.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has passed a ruling that allows large incumbent Internet service providers (ISPs) to force usage-based billing onto their independent competitors and the Canadian public. Basically, it’s allowing three companies (Bell, Rogers and Shaw) to control the market, making it very difficult for independent ISP to survive, and thus controlling how Canadians can use the internet.

By imposing a pay-for-use basis on smaller ISPs, this is not using internet technology as an enabler, but rather an oppressor and excluder. Those which can’t afford regular access, or rely on connectedness to places beyond their own physical community and many others quality of life will not improve should this legislation see the light of day.

This is not to mention the hindrance this would have for any web-based start-ups. It would absolutely crush innovation and I never thought I’d say such a thing, but Canada should take a cue from the States. Look at the wealth, opportunity and entrepreneurship that has flourished in the States from Silicon Valley. Similarly, here in London, East London Tech City is being developed as the British version of Silicon Valley, where high concentrations of tech start-ups congregate and will reap the benefits of ultra fast broadbrand connectivity by a variety of ISPs as initiated by the UK government.

More and more people are using the internet for creating social value and for sharing information in different and new ways. Some schools around the world have started using the internet to teach students when weather and other events prevent them from attending school. Skype, an internet based phone service has connected people with friends and family around the globe. Why on earth would Canada let a distorted telecommunication market control its citizens ability to use the internet by making it unaffordable?

By letting larger companies control and set exceptionally high rates for internet usage (Canada has the highest monthly charge for access to an unbundled local loop of any OECD country*), we are smothering potential economic growth, innovation, social change and community building.

Let’s not let this be the only way. Sign the petition. Make a fuss online – while you still can.

*Harvard Report, 2010.