• Society

    Finding home elsewhere: Toronto’s emerging Asian communities

    Behind every delicately detailed piece in the Blueprint for a Collective Home exhibit was an Asian artist’s story of finding their place in Canada.  But it is not only the individual artists that made the exhibit feel like a home away from home. Beside every piece was another art installation that spoke the same language. They connected with the next like an extended hand. Together, the artworks united into a web of dialogue that explores the Asian diaspora in Canada.  Emerald Repard-Denniston is one of the co-founders of Shoes Off Collective (SOC), the organization behind the exhibit. For the artist, her story looked like video documentation of her and her…

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    Hope and healing for Indigenous Peoples by Indigenous Peoples

    Cody Erasmus remembers feeling neglected by a healthcare practitioner when he opened up about concerns over his mental health. As an Indigenous man raised with notions of toxic masculinity and ego over feelings, opening up was already difficult.  He had been dealing with seven months of chronic insomnia. He was struggling with healing from substance abuse while balancing life as a single father. Having a practitioner judge his needs and define his situation within a short business-like interaction denied him the care he needed.  “I felt misjudged and misunderstood,” says Erasmus. Erasmus’ experience is echoed by many people in Canada who were failed by the healthcare system. One of the…

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    The history and controversy behind the Canadian flag

    On Feb. 15, 1965, the current Canadian flag designed by George Stanley was officially raised for the world to see.       To this day, the flag sports a large red maple leaf centred on a white background with two red vertical ‘seas’ on either side. These ‘seas’ resemble the motto “Canada, from sea to sea,” to mark the country’s east and west coastlines.  According to the government of Canada website, the use of red and white symbolizes the bridging of English and French history. As for the famous maple leaf, it has historically been a cultural icon and one of Canada’s largest natural resources.  But this design didn’t come without…

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    How do we think?

    Exploring the ways people think is certainly not a new question, but it has fascinated and baffled psychologists for decades.  Until the 1980s, psychologists and linguists believed that language was the primary mode of thought. Linguists Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf developed the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis in 1959, proposing that language doesn’t just help people express their thoughts but it also influences their worldviews and biases.  However, recent studies have shown that’s not necessarily the case—humans rely on both visual and verbal modes of thought.  A 2017 study says that these two modes of thought may be independent of each other. Individuals seem to have better control over their inner…

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    Thanks, I manifested it 

    In 2020, Sarah O’Neill found herself scrolling through TikTok one night and came across multiple videos of people “manifesting.” Users on TikTok were sharing tips on how people can fall into alignment—create a meaningful life based on their unique purpose, attract personal desires and live abundantly. Creators were claiming that people could manifest pretty much anything they could dream of—a relationship, good grades, financial and career success.  Curious and intrigued, O’Neill decided to do some of her own research on manifesting and began to incorporate some of the practices that were being promoted on social media into her daily life. She bought a journal and started to write down all…

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    Short-lived filtered confidence 

    As a seasoned millennial, Katie Conohan remembers a time when social media filters didn’t exist.  She thinks back to when people would post unedited photos of themselves throwing up peace signs with their friends. Or poorly angled selfies that showcased their unblended frosted eyeshadow and glittery shiny lip gloss. A time when people unabashedly shared their unfiltered selves on social media and made no attempt to hide any of their imperfections.  Now, Conohan finds that she is unable to take a photo without using a filter. She admits that she has grown reliant on the digital manipulations offered on social media platforms like Snapchat and Instagram that provides users with…

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    The metaverse: a realm of digital possibilities 

    The technological advancements of the internet, social media, virtual reality and cryptocurrencies have spurred an onslaught of theories and predictions surrounding the metaverse, which has become a topical subject in recent years.  Blockbuster films such as 2016’s Ready Player One and 2021’s Free Guy have tackled ideas surrounding the concept. In October 2021, the iconically-named and well known company Facebook was renamed Meta to better reflect the corporation’s ambition to further develop the metaverse. Even with the broad and ever-growing nature of the metaverse, many are still quite unfamiliar with what it is and what it could mean for the future of technology. Into the metaverse The term “metaverse” itself…

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    The dark side of the self-help industry

    The self-help industry has a large follower base because of its ability to captivate and motivate  those searching for the best version of themselves. The self-help market was valued at US$ 38.28 billion globally in 2019 and continues to grow each year, according to a report from Grand View Research. The economic and emotional distress the pandemic has placed on many has only made people want to be more financially secure, less stressed and more self-aware. There has also been an increase in pressure to develop skills in order to satisfy company goals at home, outside of the office.   The concept of improving oneself is normalized in society. On New…

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    Blurred lines

    Whenever long-time North York resident Cindy Luong passes by one of the many decorated graffiti pockets that can be found within Toronto-based neighbourhoods, she feels a sense of warmth.  “I see graffiti as a form of personal expression,” she says. “It brings me lots of happiness to see how someone can take a blank canvas, such as the side of a building, and create something that speaks to them and to others as well.” Luong’s opinions represent one half of the continuous debate surrounding graffiti and whether it should be classified as art or as vandalism. While some like Luong can appreciate the artistic merit within graffiti, others paint it…

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    Making up for lost time

    The day before the first COVID-19 lockdown, I remember being blissfully unaware at a small concert in Toronto by R&B artist Gallant. I was singing my heart out while trying to keep that nagging voice in the back of my head from bothering me about my exams the next day. By the following morning, the first lockdown was announced. It was thought to last only two weeks, but since then it has proven to be much longer. At first, I struggled coping with a sense of loss for my daily life as a young person in their early 20s. Often, this is a very pressuring stage of life. I felt…

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    Breaking down barriers with social media

    Behind every single one of Zeynab Mohamed’s carefully curated Instagram posts, there is an intense process and an intended purpose. “There’s so many behind the scenes stuff that people don’t realize,” the Toronto-based social media content creator says. “It’s not just taking photos.”  This process involves selecting shooting sites with eye-catching backdrops, incorporating trending colours with personal touches, coordinating and batching multiple outfits to capture as many looks as possible within one shoot and even changing in her car when public washrooms were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown restrictions.  Her growing devotion also encouraged her to become more self-reliant while conducting her shoots, as she couldn’t rely on…

  • Society

    More than just a pretty painting

    “People don’t value mental health the same way they value roads and bridges,” says Nick Sweetman, whose towering murals grace the streets of Toronto.  In a conversation about the utility of art and how his work has affected communities, Sweetman acknowledges the simple importance of connecting with people—some of whom may be in dire need of connection—in ways that can’t otherwise be expressed. “I got into art to have conversations with people,” he says. A city like Toronto is no stranger to street art, from the unburdened explosivity of graffiti to grander masterpieces that people slow down for and everything in between. Like many others, Sweetman’s work does more than…

  • Society

    Celebrating heritage through art

    In August 2021, Sabrina Fontaine,  a 25-year-old artist from London, Ont., opened her online store Miskomin Manidoomin. Fontaine, who is currently residing on the COM: Chippewa of the Thames, Oneida Nation of the Thames and Munsee-Delaware Nation, says that her store name roughly translates to Raspberry Spirit Beads.  While art has always been a part of her life, she has not been very public with it until recently. “I’ve always been kind of shy and private about it,” says Fontaine. “This year with COVID-19 I kind of just decided, you know what, I’ve been doing art my whole life, so let’s put it out there.”  Fontaine says that when she…

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    Taboos around tattoos

    Sharon Ng was 18 when she got her first tattoo: a small rose on her inner ankle. She has since added two more pieces to her collection—a butterfly on her outer ankle and a Chinese dragon on her back. Unlike her first tattoo, these ones hold close personal significance to her. “The butterfly represents my childhood memories and swimming. Butterfly was my favourite stroke,” she says. “I was born in the year of the dragon and I’m Chinese, so that’s what the dragon stands for.” Ng recognizes the cultural barrier between her Chinese upbringing and getting permanently inked, so she strategically had her tattoos placed where they would be less…

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    The evolution of diversity in teen movies

    There is a timeless appeal to films and television shows that are geared towards teenage audiences. Perhaps the most notable factor about teen movies is how much they can grow with modern audiences. Much has changed since the John Hughes era of the 1980s and despite what some movie buffs would say, it has probably been for the better. Early coming-of-age films tackled subjects often explored during adolescence: relationships, sex, drugs and alcohol. They dealt with issues such as understanding one’s self-identity or dealing with bullying and peer pressure.  Films like The Breakfast Club (1985) and Sixteen Candles (1984) have been hailed by audiences for the accurate portrayal of the…

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    Connect, compare and compete

    Natalie Evans, a media and communications professor at the University of Guelph-Humber, still remembers using a typewriter to complete her assignments when she started university in the mid-90s.  Connecting with peers and professors used to be an in-person ordeal during Evans’ undergraduate degree, but it changed quickly. “Even within that three to four years, I went from having a typewriter to having internet and computer at home,” she says.  Today, the internet is a large part of society and has shifted the way that people communicate with one another. An academic study found that the iGeneration—those born between 1995 and 2012—spend less time interacting in-person and more time on digital…

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    Balls 4 Eyeballs is looking for your help

    In the summer of 2021, Toronto-based brothers Ethan and Cooper Waisberg started their own non-profit corporation, Balls 4 Eyeballs. Balls 4 Eyeballs is a youth-led movement with the goal of protecting the environment while also generating funding for eye research. The Waisberg brothers are both life-long tennis players that are helping spread awareness about eye care, a pursuit that was inspired by a close family member. Ethan Waisberg is involved in eye research in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. and is a student at the University College Dublin School of Medicine. Cooper Waisberg is in his second year at York University working towards becoming a lawyer who advocates for…

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    The psychology behind nostalgia

    Nostalgia is a universal experience that happens to everyone throughout various points in their lives. Generally, nostalgia is a sentimental reflection of the past or a yearning for a previous time in someone’s life that holds meaningful memories. In a medical newsletter, Dr. Cahut writes that memory is inaccurate. Our memory can only hold generalized reconstructions of the past that we have fixated on. With nostalgia, we tend to keep only the good parts that often colour the past with a rosy hue despite negative experiences.   Brooke Lydbrooke is a retired teacher, writer and activist. When reflecting on her youth, Lydbrooke fondly remembers a time of great change and experimentation.…

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    A blanket for the soul

    Music is present in every known culture on earth and has ancient roots that extend as far back as 40,000 to 80,000 years ago.  It is integral to the culture and development of societies, and the individual people that live in them. Music is so important that it comes as no surprise that many people have an especially strong connection to the songs they heard during important developmental periods of their life. Research shows that music has several psychological functions and can help people cope with their emotions. Because there is such a strong tie between music and emotions, particular songs can “transport” people back to the past and bring…

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    Pulling inspiration from the past

    Baggy jeans. Claw hair clips. Clunky sneakers. Floral print. These are only a few of the famous fashion trends from past decades that have seen a sudden resurgence in popularity today. It is not unusual for previous fashion trends to become popular again after years of being deemed outdated. In fact, there is a phenomenon in fashion known as the “20-year rule.” This acknowledges that there is a cyclical nature to fashion and that trends become popular again every 20 to 30 years, usually due to the influence of designers and the curiosity of newer generations. “Fashion trends are repetitive because a lot of designers take inspiration from what was…

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    Communities versus condo land

    Sun, freezies and the park.  That’s the way Toronto exists in Subeda Sheekhnur’s memories of growing up in her childhood neighbourhood in the city’s west end. A place of endless sunshine, flavourful freezies and staying out until the street lights turned on.  “I remember it to be a happier place,” she says. “I’ve latched onto this idea that it was always sunny.”  Now when Sheekhnur pictures Toronto, she sees identical glass buildings that have infiltrated pockets of the city. She envisions the Rexall that replaced the iconic Brunswick house—affectionately referred to as the “Brunny”—a pub that served generations of Torontonians for 140 years. She pictures the gaping hole that used…

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    Growing up online: exploring identity and creativity in the 2000s

    Tina Giang reminisces about 2009, when she was still a child in her pyjamas exploring her imagination through Microsoft Paint, Neopets and updating her latest YouTube profile design. There was no pressure to conform to a number of likes or the fleeting eyes of a short attention span.  Giang, now an OCAD University student in illustration, said her experiences were positive on these art platforms. “Everything felt simpler, so there was less of a feeling that I had to make posts or look or act a certain way.” Mary Tran, a digital artist, was a teenager when she was active on Tumblr and was exposed to all forms of art…

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    Not the Gilmore Girls

    Until the age of six, my mother was my best friend. I wanted to spend all my time with her. I would cry when she went to work, trying to hide her apron and tip pouch so she wouldn’t be able to leave. Even as a baby I was always trying to find my way back to my mother, using my father and grandmother as human leap pads to land myself back into her arms. I remember us spending hours playing with my toys, crafting mythical worlds full of Barbies and Beanie Babies with storylines that could rival soap operas. She would let me run the show, taking the role…

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    Does loving Mean Girls make you a mean viewer?

    Like so many millennials, Jing Wang still remembers the first time she watched the movie Mean Girls.  She was in the seventh grade and hanging out with her god-sister. She ended up loving it so much that her god-sister lent Wang her copy—which she still has to this day.  “Watching it just brings me back to a previous period in my life,” she says. “I find comfort in the familiarity and nostalgia.”  Wang isn’t the only one. A study published by the Journal of Consumer Research found that re-consuming movies, TV shows and books can provide comfort and a boost of happiness. It’s the reason why movies like Mean Girls…

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    Data handling in the digital era

    Whether it be through accepting cookies on a website or agreeing to an app’s terms and services without reading any of the fine print, peoples’ personal data is being collected and stored online.  Tansin Rahman, a second-year student at the University of Toronto, is concerned about her data being tracked through third-party cookies. “I find it very unnerving because anytime I go on a website, there are these cookies that are tracking you and it doesn’t seem like a big deal,” she says. “I’m not really concerned about reading the terms and conditions of whatever cookies I’ve accepted. I think a lot of people don’t read that, so you don’t…

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    What it takes to form a generation

    Millennials and Generation Z (better known as Gen Z) are distinguished by the social, political and economic factors of their formative years, but defining these generations—or any generation, for that matter—is more difficult than just looking at those three factors.  Sali Tagliamonte, chair of the linguistics department at University of Toronto, outlines how the factors needed to define a generation vary because it depends on how quickly their culture is changing. While millennials were raised during the rise of the internet, Gen Z children born after 1997 had all of these technologies right from the start.  “What marks [this] generation depends on what’s going to mark the millennials,” says Tagliamonte.…

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    Should cancel culture be #cancelled?

    In the past decade, the media has not been easy on popular influencers and celebrities. Old mistakes or tweets that would have gone unnoticed 10 years ago are now resurfacing as evidence to ‘cancel’ people from social media or their careers. Critics of cancel culture denote these call outs to mob mentality, evoked by the “overly sensitive” Generation Z and millennials. In terms of politics, some critics address cancel culture as a censorship tactic to silence political enemies rather than an approach for healthy debate. As part of the older Generation Z population, Ciarra Ramsaywack does not think current youth are to blame for being overly sensitive. She says that…

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    The return to “normal”

    Lockdown restrictions are easing, more Canadians are becoming fully vaccinated, non-essential services are reopening and gradually, people are meeting each other in person after being isolated since March 2020. For the first time in a while, lockdown measures are not being extended by another two weeks. There is finally a sense of hope.  Recent University of Toronto graduate Nievana Judisthir is excited to start her life again and is already making plans to transition into post-pandemic life. Her main goals are to attend Centennial College’s human resources program and to travel to the United States. “I’m excited to get my life back on track. I want to meet new people…

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    Faith in the time of COVID-19

    “It is a time where everybody started questioning the validity of everything,” says Sahar Roy* about the outbreak of COVID-19. Roy is a fourth-year visual arts student at York University who grew up in Southern India, where she currently resides.  Roy is Muslim, but has a mixed race background as her father is British Indian. “My faith gives me a sense of direction, especially in a time of such unpredictability.”  In order to contain the virus last year, churches, temples, mosques and other places of worship were forced to close and transition to online platforms. Some virtual faith groups have had massive success amidst the pandemic. Alpha, a Christianity course…

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    Society

    Keeping the land: Sharing Indigenous stories of place

    Land and culture are interconnected and inseparable to Indigenous communities across Canada. These communities have worked to preserve Canada’s biodiversity along with ancient cultural sites and Indigenous history.  More and more, Canada is seeing this influence in its tourism industry, with some groups recognizing the sector’s potential for promoting Indigenous voices. Pimachiowin Aki (pronounced pim-MATCH-o-win a-KEH), is an area that covers 29,040 square kilometres in eastern Manitoba and northwestern Ontario. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2018 and is the first in Canada to be inscribed for both natural and cultural values. In Pimachiowin Aki, culture and the natural world are inextricably linked for the Anishinaabeg. The…