Category Archives: Living in Ontario

Dedicated to Charitable Causes

By Erum Zehra

Charitable causes

Those who (in charity) spend of their goods by night and by day, in secret and in public, have their reward with their Lord: on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.

[2: Al-Baqara-274]

Allah undoubtedly rewards those who generously give to the needy and help with cash and kind. There are innumerable organizations performing commendable deeds in Canada and all over the world that need our assistance. We have compiled a list of some charitable organizations based in Canada as “Charity begins at home”. All of the following are working for worthy causes that can benefit greatly from your patronage.

Nisa Homes

Nisa Homes, a project of National Zakat Foundation, is the first group of transitional homes for Muslim women and children in Canada. They offer shelter, food, medical help, spiritual aid, therapists, counselors, and financial aid to women from all backgrounds and different walks of life. Many of their residents are survivors of domestic violence. They have two homes, one in Mississauga, Ontario and one in Vancouver, British Columbia. They need donations to provide food and other facilities to their residents on a regular basis. Please visit the following for more information.

315 NISA

Muslim Women’s Helpline is the first and largest Muslim women’s helpline in North America. They answer over 2,400 calls every year and due to their limited resources, they still end up missing calls. Their counselors are available twelve hours a day and can help with virtually any issue that women might be facing.  Please donate to help them serve even more women. Please visit the following for more information:

Maryam Home

Maryam Home, a project of ICNA Relief Canada, is a temporary shelter home for women experiencing abuse.  Maryam Home will be open to all women but mainly seeks to help single, Muslim women who find themselves in abusive domestic situations in and around the GTA. The home will provide women with shelter, halal food and counseling to help them return to living normal lives and regain their confidence. ICNA Relief has already purchased a suitable property in Mississauga and requires 1 million dollars to renovate, furnish, staff the facility and begin operations soon. Please click here to donate:

Plan Canada

Plan Canada gives you the opportunity to sponsor a girl and transform her life for only $39 per month. You can choose the region where you want to sponsor the child. As part of your sponsorship you can exchange letters and photos and visit your sponsored child. When you sponsor a child, your donations are pooled to support a wide range of programs in your sponsored child’s community. This means you are helping to improve the life of your sponsored child and the lives of all those in the community.

Children of Hope

Children of Hope is a volunteer organization that works to help orphans and destitute children around the world. They raise funds to meet the basic needs of these children to ease their suffering irrespective of race, religion or creed. They also help to educate these children so that they can lead respectable lives and have a bright future. Please visit for more information.


Help Orphans and Promote Education (H.O.P.E) Foundation has been helping orphaned children, youth and their families for more than three years. They’re proud of their heritage of cultivating community building, supporting academic readiness, and embracing diversity. Beyond caste, color, creed, religion or nationality. H.O.P.E is here to bring attention to the orphans of the world, the less fortunate among us, who seek such refuge, shelter and care. Please visit for more information.

The Noble Call Of Teaching

By Aruj Sipra

The noble call of teaching

Teaching is one of the oldest and noblest services to the society in any culture. It’s also a process to prepare the next generation of skilled professionals and workers like engineers, doctors, educators, legislators and good citizens.

Being a teacher myself, I can say that teaching enlightens both parties, student as well as the teacher. Not only the students learn but the teacher also learns the lessons of life from students.

I started my teaching career right after graduating, as a way to start earning and the thought of getting my paycheque kept me going though I would say, it was not an easy ride. I was and still am fond of little children but at a distance so having a class of 20 children under the ages of three years old was pretty hard especially when you are young and naive yourself. There were many cries, grunting and kicking and to make matters worse, at times, I was the only teacher in the classroom. I survived against all odds because I had in me, one of the most important powerful teaching tool, patience.  A teacher’s patience is the heart of students’ long-term learning and skills.

Teaching isn’t for everyone, but if you love being around children, then it’s one of the noblest professions. You should have patience and to make it easier, have a pretty good sense of humour. Many times I have noticed children say the funniest things and I laugh with them. I feel much better because my students see me as a happy person.

Pre-school is also one of the most rewarding and fun grades to teach. Everything is new and exciting to these students. They love to sing and play games and really can learn to work together and treat each other with a great deal of kindness.

A positive feedback, simple words like“good job” or  “excellent” may not mean much to us but they mean the whole world to students. Publicly praise positive behaviour and show your students that you are celebrating their achievements as well.

The hardest part of being in this position is when parents don’t back you. If you have kids throwing punches, you simply can’t have it. And the parents will sometimes come in and make a hundred excuses; it’s not their child, it’s not their fault. When you don’t get support to correct problems, it’s disappointing.

I am often asked by the parents, “What are the best ways parents can help teachers and that teachers can help parents?” My answer, The Child-Parent-Teacher Triangle method which was developed by Dr Maria Montessori.

The three best ways parents can help teachers:

  1. Be involved in your child’s education – show them that you care and create a positive ‘triangle’ relationship between yourself, your child and your child’s teacher.
  2. Educate yourself on the current trends in education – how is your child’s teacher educating your child. Times change and so does the way we teach. As a parent it is your job to come to grips with the new ways of learning, to best support and guide your child through their learning journey.
  3. Send them to school happy – give your child a hug before they walk out the door and you head off to work. Look them in the eye and tell them how much you love them, how proud of them you are and boost their confidence every day. They will be more secure and ready to start a positive day of learning.

The three best ways teachers can help parents:

  1. Communicate – it is the key to success and keeping parents involved in their child’s education is critical. Don’t wait until parent conferences to let them know that their child is falling behind. Email them, call them or talk to them at the gate – keep them involved!
  2. Educate them – bring them in for professional development – teach them how you teach Math or English – support their learning as it is just as important as their child’s. They have to support learning at home.
  3. Be positive – send a note home or an email to let them know the amazing things their child is doing. Make no exceptions, do this for EVERY child. The smallest thing, can make the biggest difference!

There is always a leg-up personality in every successful person’s life. In most of the cases you will find, it is either one of their teacher or one of the grandparent that helped them how to ride and control reins of life. Aristotle said, “Those who educate the children are more to be honoured than they who produce them; for these only gave them life, those the art of living well.”

About the author:

Aruj Sipra is the community manager at, a teacher who absolutely loves her job and derives true joy from interacting with little ones.


Nisa Homes – Dedicated To Helping Women

By Erum Zehra

Nisa Homes talks to Zena Chaudhry about Nisa Homes and how the organization, with its transitional homes for women and their children, has been instrumental in helping these victims of abuse get their lives back on track. 

Can you please share with us stories of some women who are housed in Nisa Homes so that we can get an idea of their plight?

Due to confidentiality and safety issues, we cannot share entire stories, however there is one story which always sticks out for me. We got a call from an older woman one night whose abusive husband had Islamically divorced her. That same night, we picked her up from the closest GO station and brought her to Nisa Homes. From there, we learned that she had been trying to complete her Master’s degree but was having great difficulty due to the domestic abuse. Nisa Homes became a safe space for her where she could focus on herself and we were there for her to help her get her life back on track. Three months later, she graduated with her Master’s degree, got an apartment, and a job. She embodies what we hope and wish for all of our residents. Our goal is to support them in realizing their potential and truly believing just how strong and courageous they are.

It’s also interesting to note the statistics of the major reason why women and children come to Nisa Homes. 38.6% of the residents come due to domestic abuse, 36.5% come due to poverty, 13.6% come because they are refugees or immigrants without support, and 11.3% come for various other reasons. All of these women and children need our support, so our house operators and volunteers are trained to understand and work with women from all different walks of life.

Who are the people behind Nisa Homes. What is its history and when was it created?

The idea behind Nisa Homes was brought up in 2014 within National Zakat Foundation. They set out to determine whether there was a need for transitional homes or shelters for Muslim women and children in Canada. Their preliminary report indicated that there was indeed a demand and they set out to open the first transitional home for Muslim women and children soon after. In 2015, the homes began filling up and we began to see a clear need across Canada for these homes. At the moment, there are two homes – one in Mississauga, ON and one in Surrey, BC. Nisa Homes is run by two individuals – me and Yasmine Youssef. However, we do have the support and backing of National Zakat Foundation, as well. Zubair Qasim and Zaid Mirza are our two advisors and National Zakat Foundation, as a whole, is our financial backer.

How common is domestic abuse in a country like Canada?

Domestic abuse exists in every nation and state around the world and Canada is not an exception. Every six days, a Canadian woman is killed by an intimate partner – if that statistic isn’t alarming, 1 in 4 women have also experienced some sort of abuse in their lifetime. Additionally, 67% of all Canadians say that they personally know at least one woman who has been sexually or physically assaulted.

Further, it is important for us to recognize that the Muslim community is not immune to this either. There is domestic abuse in Muslim communities too but this doesn’t mean that our rates are statistically higher or lower than those of the rest of Canadians. We need to understand that people from all cultural, religious, and ethnic backgrounds can be abused. When people talk about “honour killings” what they don’t understand and take into account is the fact that any domestic abuse-related murder is an honour killing, regardless of the religious background of the perpetrator.

Nisa Homes 3

What kind of laws are in place to protect victims from domestic abuse?

Unfortunately, there are no specific laws about family violence, however many of the laws currently in place can work to protect women and men from an abuser. These laws can be found at:

Does the government provide any kind of support to such victims?

Yes, there are some services provided by the government for survivors of domestic violence. There are victim services offices in every major region of Canada, shelters, helplines, and survivors of domestic abuse and violence are also put on the priority list for subsidized housing.

If yes, then why was there a need to establish a facility like Nisa Homes?

Nisa Homes was created due to a need in the Muslim community. We have no statistics or information about the number of Muslim women and children who are abused and this is, in part, due to the Muslim community being unwilling to talk about these topics. Domestic abuse and homelessness are seen as taboo topics in the Muslim community so it is important for us to bring these issues to the forefront because they will not go away if we refuse to address them. We should not deny the existence of abuse in our community but we should instead work to provide education and social services to create a safe environment for Muslim women and children.

Islam honours women greatly, so why haven’t there been strides made to protect them? We, as a Muslim community, have a responsibility to protect and honour women so how can we do that without having specific services for them?

Additionally, Nisa Homes is not just a group of transitional homes. We offer shelter, food, counseling, behavioural therapists for children, referral services, education and employment services, safety and sustainability planning, and financial assistance.

Through working at Nisa Homes, we have discovered that Muslim women often returned to abusive and unsafe homes to avoid staying at shelters due to stigma within the Muslim community as well as the community at large that often further exacerbates the problem by putting the onus on Islam. Additionally, mainstream shelters portrayed a lack of cultural and religious sensitivity from both the other residents as well as shelter workers at times, which results in women not being able to practice their religion, heal through spirituality or be prosecuted for their religious choices by, for example, being turned away from shelters, not being allowed to have iftar if the time did not coincide with dinner, or mocked for praying or making wudu (ablution).

Nisa Homes 4

How are the operations and the facilities funded?

All of our funding comes from private donors – we don’t get any funding from the government. Thus, the majority of our funds come from zakat, sadaqah, and donations. The rest of it is all sadaqah and general donations. Whenever Nisa Homes cannot make ends meet, National Zakat Foundation assists in covering our expenses. However, it is our goal to be self-sufficient within this year, insh’Allah. In order to do that, we need to build a strong donor base which goes out and actively fundraises for Nisa Homes along with donating themselves. Donations can be made at

How can the community help Nisa Homes?

The three most important ways that the community can help Nisa Homes are: spreading the word about Nisa Homes, donating funds or items, and donating your time and effort. Don’t shy away from talking about domestic abuse and violence in the Muslim community – let’s address this issue and help the women and children who fact this abuse.
For in-kind donations, you can always email to see what items we are looking for at a certain time. We always welcome toiletries and non-perishable food items which can be dropped off at our office.

Back To School – A Survivor’s Guide

By Muneezah Jawad

Back To School - A Survivor’s Guide

With school starting in less than a week, we really hope most of us are done with their back to school shopping already. For those who still have to tackle this task, we put together a quick guide to make it a (relatively) stress-free process.

Shop for supplies

From Kindergarten to Grade 8, every class requires different supplies and the best way to know what you need is to look at the school website which usually publishes a supply list by grade. Sometimes more specific things are needed intermittently during the school year and the teacher usually sends out a note letting you know what that is.

The list does get longer as the grades get higher. Kindergarten requires very little, just some tissue boxes, glue and perhaps crayons. Grade 8’s usually require calculators, folders, dictionaries and more.

It’s always a good idea to have an English and French dictionary at home as well as some encyclopedias and if you are like me and like the kids to do a little bit extra at home, you can get a grade specific activity/curriculum book. They have great deals at Costco.

Bag some bags

It’s a good idea to recycle whatever can be used from last year especially backpacks and lunch bags unless the condition is really run down. I usually get new backpacks every 2 years so that the children’s desire to have the latest design is fulfilled and it does not break the bank.

Lunchboxes are trickier and if they are the soft ones they can smell a bit funky after a while and so I replace them every year.  Get something that suits your child’s style of eating. Small children need something with many compartments so that they can have tiny portions of their favourite things. A bento style box or little Tupperware containers work great. I don’t spend too much on these things as they do frequently get lost. Make sure all containers are BPA free.

Lunch Ideas

As there are usually 2 nutrition breaks you need to make sure you separate the food. I usually pack a main meal such as a sandwich or nuggets, some fruit, a granola bar, cheese and crackers and sometimes a treat altogether and the kids pick what to eat when. Please remember that most schools have a peanut free policy. I also have a thermos style box into which I sometimes pack a hot meal. A water bottle that is easy to open and closes firmly is very important otherwise often you will find a flood in your lunchbox.

What’ll they wear?

Unless your children go to a school where uniforms are required you are going to need plenty of clothes. The first step is to go through closets and see what can be reused or passed on to siblings and then make your wardrobe checklist.  September is not a terribly hot month and by October it’s getting chilly in the mornings so it’s a good idea to buy some track pants and fleece for the in-between weather. Layering clothing is the best option as kids can add or remove layers as they need.

If you find a great sale stock up on shoes as kids need a pair of indoor shoes and outdoor shoes. I know that my kids go through several pairs through-out the school year. Velcro shoes are great for the little ones.

I don’t do much back to school shopping. I pretty much avail the sales throughout out the whole year especially at Christmas time.  They are always losing something on the other. Make sure you have plenty of winter gear especially gloves, hats, socks, thermals as kids frequently lose them and then they are sold out of the stores by February but it stays cold sometimes well into April. Going to the States to shop used to be a great idea but with the current downward trend of the Canadian dollar against the US it’s not worth it anymore.

Ease into routine

Slowly returning to a regular routine will also make life easier. We have been sleeping past midnight and waking up late, eating at odd times and generally just chilling. Try pulling back bedtime by an hour every few days until school starts. The American Association of Pediatrics recommends that toddlers 1-3 years need 12-14 hours of sleep, children 3-5 years of age should average about 11-13 hours, School-aged children need 10-11 hours and teenagers need at least 9 hours.

Time their time

Studies also show that students lose 2-3 months’ worth of learning over the summer. That means that even though your child went to school from September to June it would be like they went to school September to March.  So it’s time to curb their device usage. Start limiting their screen time. There are many great apps such as ‘Screen Time’ which can actually lock a child out after a certain set period of time of usage. I use this with my daughter and it works really well. It’s set for an hour a day then it locks her out for everything except phone calls.

Make sure they study 20 minutes daily. More if they are older. This will get them ready to concentrate on their work and in ‘school mode’. A good idea would be to have them write about their summer holidays. It will get them thinking and spelling. Go over their multiplication tables by holding skittle contests. A skittle for whoever gets the answer right.  This would be a great time to go over those activity books that we discussed above. You could do the ones from last year. I never let my kids write in the books but they worked on paper as I have 2 kids close in age and wanted them to be able to reuse the book. You can also find worksheets online. It doesn’t have to be much and the holiday is not over but a little will go a long way. This is actually something they should do all year round.

Put meal times and the socialising on a time table too.  Start talking to them about expectations about the coming year. If it’s an EQAO year, or new high school it’s good to talk those things out. I am constantly telling my daughter to brace herself from an onslaught of work and other temptations as she enters high school. Talk to them about school and morning routines. Laying clothes out the night before, how they will be getting to and from school and who with. If you car pool or use the bus make sure you have the scheduling all planned out well ahead of time. If you have been helping little ones in the toilet over the summer now would be the time to have them start going independently again.

Don’t stress yourself. The first day of school is always a fun and exciting one. If you didn’t get everything done or didn’t have a change to buy something it’s alright. There is nothing that the kids can’t do without initially. Slowly you can fill in the gaps of what you need to do.

About the author:

Muneezah Jawad is the social media manager at and a veteran back to school survivor for the past many years.

Tell us how you have gotten your family ready for September. Do you have any tips for us? Do let us know how your first day went. Most importantly don’t forget to breathe a sigh or relief and lay back with a cup of coffee and enjoy your first day of school morning.

Deerhurst Resort – Kid Friendly, Quick Getaway!

By Sameera Ali

Deerhurst Resort

We have spent so many vacations at home that we have even run out of ‘fun’ activities for the kids to do at home. The idea of spending one more vacation cooped up in an endless routine of ‘push, cry, complain, time-out’ made me frantically search for an escape this past March Break. I was looking for someplace fun and affordable where a 3-4 day getaway won’t make a big dent in the wallet. That’s when I came across the Deerhurst Resort.

Embracing Peninsula Lake, Deerhurst Resort is a year-round retreat in Muskoka, one of National Geographic Traveler Magazine’s ‘Best of the World 2012’ recommended places to visit. It is also just a short five-minute drive from downtown Huntsville and 45 minutes from Algonquin Park which makes it easy for you to check out the area.

It was just a short 2 and half hour drive from our home in Mississauga which was great for my family as I have four kids ranging from 10 to 1 year old kids. Short trip also means less pee pee breaks! Score!

Indoor pool at Deerhurst Resort

The resort offers hotel style rooms that are located in the main building or condo vacation rentals, which are one bedroom suites complete with a working  kitchenette that includes all the essentials. They also have a separate living room, complete with a fireplace, TV and convertible sofas for family time. For our family of six, this was the best option.

We got there a little before check in time at 4 pm and the staff was courteous and efficient and all our keys and towel passes – to access the pool area – were ready for us. Once we entered the suite, we were pleasantly surprised to see the suite looked exactly as advertised on the website. The view over the golf course in winter was very pretty.

A concierge called us promptly to ask if everything was ok and if we wanted any help. She also let us know about all the activities and events happening at the resort that day which I found to be very helpful. In the coming days we also received daily emails keeping us up-to-date on daily March Break activities. Being a busy mom I really appreciated that.

Deerhurst Resort

March Break activities included:

Indoor rock climbing  was inlcuded in the March Break package, reservations are required.

One had to pay extra for dance classes, Kids and Critters, Dog Sledding,  Horse Sleigh rides  and Decades – The Musical. 

Use of 11,000 sq. ft. holiday play zone including a variety of giant inflatables (slides, jumping castles, ball pits, army style obstacle course), Xbox stations and much more all guaranteed a great family time together.

Pony riding at Deerhurst Resort

My kids did the Pony program at the Stables and we were so impressed with our guide Stephanie. She was really great with my kids and took extra time with us. Well worth the money.

We spent most of our days at the playzone or in the pool. Both were not too crowded and were considerably clean. My kids had a blast at the indoor pool! The daily family movie nights were another hit.

For food we passed on the Eclipse Restaturant located right at the resort, instead we got Pizza from Ginos one night, made sandwiches from patties I had brought from home the second night and had Dinner at Kelseys the third and last night. We also did breakfasts (eggs, omelettes, toast) and lunches (pasta, sandwiches) at the suite. It was a little bit of work for me, but the nifty little dishwasher made it easy for me to clean up.

Decades - The Musical, Deerhurst Resort

The highlight of my visit was the Decades Musical Show presented right within the resort! Oh what a marvelous production!

Canada’s longest running musical variety show and also renowned as the show that helped launch Shania Twain’s career, Decades mixes chart topping hits from the 50s to present day incorporating a wide range of artists from Michael Jackson to Lady Gaga. The 2014 line up has been revamped with newer content and hits than ever, including songs by Pharrell Williams, Mumford & Sons, Lorde, Katy Perry and Robin Thicke to name a few. The theatrical performance features over 65 songs and300 costumechanges in 90 minutes, all delivered by an incredibly talented cast. It was a feast for my eyes and ears and I totally got ‘Jiggy With it’ when a cast member pointed at me!

All in all it was a great stay, one we will remember for a long time. Infact we will be back soon in fall to check out the amazing Muskoka fall colors and go hiking along the Algonquin trail.

About the author:

Sameera Ali is a full-time freelance content writer /SEO expert and a mom of four wonderful kids who keep her busy and forever thankful.

Opinion: An Open Letter To Kathleen Wynne

By Amber Hasan

Letter to Kathleen Wynne

Dear Premier,

As a woman, I always felt happy and empowered seeing you climb the political ladder; that too at such a late stage in life. Then you became the Premier of Ontario, and in you I saw hope that may be one day, my self or my daughter can also follow your precedent.

I was wrong. Because it never occurred to me that the woman who just couple of months ago stated that her sexual orientation should not be brought up in defining her role and position, would one day be using her ‘Gay Card’ to label myself and thousands of parents like me ‘homophobe’; just so you could ram a controversial, bizarre and politically motivated sex-ed curriculum, designed by a convicted pedophile Ben Levin and implemented by you and your racist, discriminatory lot who look down from the Legislature building at thousands of parents and call them ‘cons’ of the Conservative Party.

Its desperate times when one starts calling names, or when one points a finger at my friend’s Hijaab calling her a radical parent, or calling me a politically motivated woman, or calling the Christian man holding the largest placard, an ignorant. If only you could look at us as just parents, concerned parents, who are only asking for their right to parent. If only you could have the courage to accept or the heart to understand the psychological, emotional and physical pain and suffering we are going through every day in our struggle against your approved curriculum. Yes the best defense is a good offense! 

On March 27, 2015 you said:

The final thing I want to say is, if after you have read the curriculum and you still disagree, you have permission to withdraw your child from class, you have that permission, that is your right… and it has always been your right, and that is a very important thing and that is what I wanted to say to you.

You lied because when I myself, and other parents, sent the opt out letters to schools about complicated sexual minorities, six gender theory, anal sex, we were told we CAN NOT opt out of these sessions as per the Human Rights Code of Ontario.

Isn’t this preferential treatment for one set of human rights over another? There was and is only one set of rights that stands and protects everyone alike and it is NOT known as Men’s rights or Women’s rights or Gay rights or Queer’s rights but as Human Rights – makes sense?

Parents Protest at Queen's Park, April 2015

So now we are the bad guys for encouraging our children to bully because we keep them home on Pink Day and because we do not want to expose our children in very early grades to sexual concepts they should not be made aware of at that tender age and because we strongly object to the transgender indoctrination which will lead to additional confusion.

The proposed concepts of transgenderism and gender fluidity are already being taught, NOT to grade 4 students but to kindergarten kids. They have been read books authored by writers of adult content. I know some schools where kindergarten teachers brought skirts and makeup and our little ones were coaxed into wearing those, boys and girls alike, and later their pictures were displayed in the school. All this without the parent’s consent!

For me and hundreds of thousands of parents like me, your being gay and celebrating it is NOT an issue, madam Premier. The issue is that you are forcing it on our innocent children and us and then also want us to celebrate this forced lifestyle under the Trojan horses of Equity, Diversity and Inclusive Education.

So who has the phobia now? Us? Or the small few intolerant bigots ripping us of our parental rights are the ones with phobias?

Too much for a premier to handle important issues like budget, auto insurance premiums (Ontarians paid upto 4 billion dollars too much in car insurance) and Hydro One so she chooses the one that comfortably forces her Homophobic Rhetoric on the poor residents.

According to the Toronto District School Board’s survey, the most common type of bullying is for ‘body image’- the reason given by 27% of high school students. The second biggest reason in Toronto schools is ‘cultural or racial background.

Why do we not celebrate a ‘Let’s Pretend To Be Fat Day’ or ‘Turban Day’ or ‘Hijaab Day’?

There is an entire bullying awareness week in November every year. Why is there an entire day dedicated to celebrating your lifestyle, paid with OUR tax money? Why does this type of bullying warrant extra attention or focus vs. all other forms of bullying?

This isn’t about ‘inclusion’ or ‘diversity’ at all. Diversity is about representing everyone equally. These initiatives by your good-for nothing, power and attention hungry, politically corrupt government, do not represent your voters or Ontario’s concerned parents or the hard working immigrants or the strong women but only represent a single community, and a certain agenda, quite exclusively.

This is NOT happening!

Call me homophobe, call me ignorant, tell me to duck my face in sand because I don’t want to open up to the realities of the new era as defined by you, waste my tax money on parades safeguarding the rights of a handful of people, glorify yourself not as the first Woman Premier but as the first Lesbian Premier: I won’t back off, from my children, from my rights as a parent, and from my rights as a proud Canadian.


A concerned parent

About the author:

Mother to a bunch of crazy cakelets,  Amber is a kind of a jill-of-all-trades and master of none. She can be reached via or on Twitter @amberShasan 

Images: 123RF, MetroNews
Video: Youtube/

Opinion: Why Parents Are Appalled At Being Labelled And Abused

By Khaula Mazhar

Opinion: Why Parents Are Appalled At Being Labelled And Abused

We parents are appalled at being abused with derogatory comments. We oppose the new Health and Physical Education (sex ed.) Curriculum and that is all. Here are some of the issues we have with these new revisions.

Problem: Information Overload

Proposed solution: Start by showing six year olds pictures of sexual body parts and teach them ‘proper’ terms for each.

Parents’ concerns: A discussion about ‘private parts’ will no longer have much privacy. Once kids are sitting together being shown pictures and given information they don’t actually need, they will overcome their natural shyness and modesty. They will talk and joke about their parts openly, and the teacher will not be there every second with every child to supervise. All sorts of unwanted information and ideas will be exchanged. Many parents have experienced this and it came about only after the sex ed. class.

There are many children coming from traditionally modest cultures or religions that will not have had such exposure, will giving them this exposure stop them from seeing something on the internet or television? No.

It will however get them curious about something they were not previously aware of and aggravate the situation. They will go out of their way to find out more.

The obvious solution: Teach parents the dangers lurking out there. Monitor kids for what they are watching on T.V. and what games they are playing on the internet. The teacher will not come into individual homes to do this; it is the parent’s job. Put limits on the kids, they do not need to see programs that are not age appropriate or play every game on the net. There are sites that are safe like TVO kids etc. Parents must teach their children not to talk to strangers and if even a friend or family member makes them feel uncomfortable they must inform the parents immediately. The relationship between the parent and child must be so strong that the child knows it can come to the parent with anything even if threatened or ashamed of something that may have happened.

The response from Ms. Wynne: Parents are homophobic.

Problem: Sexting

Proposed solution: Talking to grade four students about the dangers of sexting and the implications of sending sexually-explicit digital images.

Parent’s concerns: Many of the children will not be fully aware of sexting or sending sexualized pictures. Many will have no idea at all, however after the class they will. First make children aware of the possibilities and then request them not to do it? Children think they can find ways to outsmart adults, it is their nature, many of them will defiantly try to find ways to do it ‘safely’ and then feel proud of themselves.  Does the administration actually believe that kids will only discuss this in the class with teachers? No, and those children who knew nothing about all this will now have a whole new topic to explore.

The obvious solution: No cell phones for kids until they get to high school. Monitored internet and television time. Kids do not need to be given gadgets with internet that they can take to the privacy of their rooms and then be left alone. They need to call their friends? Use the landline. The want to play a game or watch a movie, they can do both on the common television. Do they need a computer/laptop/television in their own rooms? No. We as parents need to learn to say no and set limits.  We are seeing the disturbing effects of the ‘selfie’ culture. The need for constant approval based on how one looks needs to be nipped in the bud.

Kids should be out playing, reading books, watching age appropriate shows and just being kids! The argument that kids are growing up faster than they were years ago is stupid considering that we as parents are letting them. We still need to set boundaries and we can do it. We are losing the fight to the media all around us because we are letting them win. The media is now raising our kids for us, we need to take control now. The government should be working with the parents to empower them, not take away what influence we have and hand it to the school.

Since everything will be based on teacher prompts, those discussions could lead in any direction. Not all those directions will be suitable to every child. There will not be enough classroom time for the teacher to handle every child’s needs. This is asking too much of the teachers. This is a parent’s job. The real solution is to provide parents with the right information. Why does the government not want to do this?

Ms. Wynne’s response: The parents are homophobic.

Problem: STIs, teen pregnancies, rape/abuse

Proposed solution: Teach grade six that masturbation is normal and healthy. Teach grade seven and eight that anal and oral sex are ways to avoid unwanted pregnancies and STIs. As long as both partners consent, of course.

Parents’ concerns: It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what our concerns are with this.

Ms. Wynne’s response: The parents are homophobic.

The Real Problem: Sex Obsessed Mass Media

The problem is there is too much sex everywhere, what does this say about the state of our society right now? Rather than exposing our children at an even younger age to sex, thus bringing about an even earlier onset of puberty in the future (will we then be showing one year olds flash cards to teach them about sexual body parts?) why are we not focusing on reducing the amount of exposure to sex the kids are getting?

Is it really impossible to limit internet and the amount of gadgets we give our kids? Is it really impossible for us to keep track with what books they are reading and what movies they are watching? Is it impossible for us to say ‘no’ to certain television programs? Can we not set limits and curfews? Can we not monitor their activities? It is difficult, but none of this is impossible. As kids get older, they can have more freedoms and of course the older kids definitely need an updated sex ed. curriculum. But our younger children need us, they need boundaries. We are seeing the negative effects of too much freedom, why aren’t we learning from this?

Why is the government not supporting parents in this fight to protect our children’s innocence?

What is it that especially disqualifies us from the job that we are doing?

Is it that we are parents? Is the government ‘parent’ophobic?

Image: 123RF

7 Fun Things To Do At A Maple Syrup Festival

By Sadaf Afshan

Family friendly activities at Maple Syrup Festivals

Maple Syrup Festivals are a much loved Canadian spring time tradition. A visit to a sugar shack is a great way for the entire family to enjoy the freshness of spring after being cooped up indoors during winter.

Here are some fun-filled activities that you can enjoy with kids at a Maple Syrup Festival:

Learn how maple syrup is made

A visit to a sugar shack will walk you through the process of maple extraction with tours of the sugar bush to see how maple sap is tapped from trees. You will see demonstrations of early Canadian settlers’ techniques for the production of maple syrup – through the use of cauldron when preparing the sweet syrup, right up to modern methods. At some sugar shacks you can also see how the natives made maple syrup with the help of logs and hot rocks. Many will feature costumed interpreters and provide hands-on and interactive activities along the way.

Pioneer way of making maple syrup

Learn fun facts about maple syrup

Did you know that it takes about 40 litres of sap to produce one litre of maple syrup? Or the fact that North America is the only place that has both the sugar maple tree and the proper weather required to produce maple syrup? These are just some of the facts that you can learn during a visit to a Maple Syrup Festival.

Fun facts about maple syrup

Learn about pioneer life

At many sugar shacks visitors can visit heritage homes or museums where they can learn about pioneer life. Costumed interpreters offer guided tours and hands-on demonstrations of how life was for Canadians a couple of centuries ago.

Victorian Farmhouse at Maple Syrup Festival

Enjoy a wagon ride

Many maple syrup festivals offer horse drawn wagon rides whereas others offer tractor drawn wagon rides. Either ways it’s a fun way to enjoy nature.

Horse wagon rides at Maple Syrup Festival

Buy treats from the Gift Shop

Maple Syrup, maple candies, maple cookies, maple butter, old-fashioned maple taffy – you can purchase a wide variety of farm fresh fine foods from the Gift Shop.

Maple treats at Maple Syrup Festival

Watch Cooking Demos

At many Maple Syrup festivals visitors can watch live cooking demonstrations and learn how to make maple treats like candies, taffy etc.

Cooking demonstration at Maple Syrup

Enjoy pancakes with fresh maple syrup

After a fun-filled day enjoy some hot pancakes with fresh maple syrup under a pavilion nestled in the woods.

Pancakes with maple syrup

There are many more activities families can enjoy such as children’s entertainment, crackling fires, pony rides, romps in the hay bale, play area and farm animals. Before going do check the specific festival’s website to know about the activities offered. Dress up warmly and wear proper footwear since most of the activities are outdoors.

So make sure to take your kids to a sugar shack near you this spring. They will surely love the experience.

About the Author:

Sadaf Afshan is an editor at She also writes a food blog My Culinary Adventures and owns an Islamic Clothing business Chosen Path Abayas.


Have you ever been to a Maple Syrup Festival? Which is your favorite place for enjoying Maple Syrup Festivals? Which activities do you enjoy most there? Please share your experience with other Moms in the comments section.


Opinion: Health and Physical Education Curriculum, Teachers’ Perspective

By Mariam Mazhar

Opinion: Health and Physical Education Curriculum, Teachers’ Perspective

As a Muslim parent I feel frustrated by the entire buzz about the updates being made to the Health and Physical Health Education (Sex-Ed) Curriculum. I have been reading almost every new post and news coming in the media, and have been talking to fellow educators on this issue. I have reached a point that I am clueless about the future of my kids and I feel helpless.

For a moment I stop and imagine that it’s already September and this new Sex Ed curriculum is implemented throughout Ontario, including my kid’s school. So what’s next? Should I pull my children out of public school and home school them?  Or should I register them in an Islamic school?

Sad truth is, I cannot afford any of it. I do not have the time to home school my kids, do not have finances to send them to Islamic school and moving away is out of question. In such a situation I have to come in terms with the new curriculum. My child will have option to skip the class but that worries me even more. If he is not getting firsthand knowledge from his teacher, it will reach him through his peers and most likely in a twisted version.  In such a case I have to gear up and prepare myself to talk openly and confidently to my kids in the light of Islam and Sunnah and what is morally right for them.

As a teacher, I am still waiting for proper guidelines to teach this tricky subject and I am hesitant just like most of the Ontarian teachers but a decade old curriculum surely needed revision. I come from a visible Muslim community for whom talking about sex is almost a taboo and not everybody understands this. However, this sex education is not just for Muslims but for all other religious and ethnic communities. I talked to some of the teaching staff across different boards in Ontario and here’s what they had to say about the new sex education curriculum:

‘I am pretty sure that most of my fellow teachers will teach these topics in a way that is truthful but also age appropriate. Not to mention with their student’s well-being at heart. The language I would use relating to the same topic for younger grades in comparison to older grades is substantially different yet provides those students with the understanding they need. People hear the topics and automatically apply a scary/negative/dirty connotation to it and blow it out of proportion. Keeping our students informed and giving them the tools they need in life is the main goal here, not corruption of our youth. Have some faith in your educators! I am reassuring parents that they can have faith in our judgement as educators to deliver the program in a professional, age appropriate manner to their children. We always have to take the complicated curriculum expectations and decide the best way to teach them to each unique group of students we have. I just feel that we need to be careful to not be so defensive of people having a differing viewpoint that we judge them as ignorant or use sarcasm about where they got their information. Let’s also remember that parents aren’t teachers and so are coming to this with a different perspective. A few people have seemed rather defensive in their responses and I think it’s important to remember that not everyone has to agree with your viewpoint and if they don’t there is no need to be judgemental about it.’

 ‘Schools have a role to play in educating kids about sexuality, but the real issue is who should be doing the teaching and when. Programs need to be taught by competent educators. Understanding the student’s readiness to learn is also paramount, as children develop differently. It needs to be taught by well-prepared, highly skilled teachers who are comfortable delivering the program. Otherwise, it will do more harm than good.’

‘If parents were teaching their kids, that would be great. But especially those parents who are opposed to the curriculum, you know they’re not talking about sexting over dinner. They’re just not. And so it does fall to the schools. I want [parents] to understand that they should be their kids’ number one source of information, and anything else that they get – from schools, or other reliable adults – is just icing.’

‘For some families, their religious beliefs don’t allow the act of masturbation, and when their child’s teacher tells them that this act is ok, parents aren’t ok with this. Now, because we as teachers are diverse and have our own unique values and beliefs on the subject, parents worry those teachers’ opinions, beliefs, and practices may come across in the lesson. Since our roles as teachers are so impactful, parents fear that their kids will be influenced by their teachers on the subject because an in-direct message was passed down with the lesson. They fear that their children will become curious now of things they’ve learned, which can be problematic. That’s why I feel that there is a need for open dialogue between admin, parents and teachers on how the subject is going to be taught. Teachers need to be sensitive, that’s all. If teachers are going to be inclusive in the ways that we teach to help students be successful, like we’ve been taught through differentiated instruction, etc., then we also need to be inclusive in the way that we teach sex education to our students, being sensitive to their individual beliefs, and being careful not to pass down our own beliefs on the subject.’

‘So, how will new teachers be trained, and what kinds of workshops and in-house training will be offered to current? Further, how will administrators deal with the students whose parents have decided that such instruction is not appropriate? Jamming this program through with a September 2015 start date is asking for failure. More time is needed to train, discuss and to familiarize teachers with the material.’

Personally, I believe that parents should be the ones teaching children about sex, especially since it is such a controversial subject among families of different social, religious and cultural backgrounds. The schools should encourage parents to talk to their children at different stages of their development and perhaps offer helpful material, but further than that, it is not their job. I conclude that teachers have too many responsibilities. And I would rather find interesting ways to teach math than sex. Are you in favor of transferring more responsibilities to teachers, from families? My answer to that is this: It is not a good idea.

 Image: 123RF

Opinion: The Moral And Ethical Problems With The New Health And Physical Education Curriculum

By Muneezah Jawad Butt

The Moral And Ethical Problems With The New Health And Physical Education Curriculum

The debate about the new and ‘updated’ Health and Physical Education Curriculum is not a religious one. It’s a moral and ethical one and more so it’s about parental and children’s rights.

The government is setting up something that they think will prevent children from catching STD’s, pregnancy, sexual abuse physically and mentally. However they are not addressing the main problem. Why are children being placed in such situations in the first place? This is what needs to be nipped in the bud.

Teaching little children how to read sexual cues is not the answer. Making sure they aren’t in a position to receive the cues is the solution.  If my child was given a lecture on Masturbation in any other environment other than a school setting by an adult it would be tantamount to sexual abuse. Where is our right to raise our children as we see fit?

Seeds of ideas are being planted in to the minds of children that don’t know how to process them. There is an age for everything. I’m not being naive, I know that my children do and will know more then they let on, however I make the effort to control what my children are exposed to at home; from electronic devices, to the company they keep, I do my best. So the presumption that my kids know as much as everyone else is wrong. Each child is unique and you cannot shove the information down their throats when they are not ready. You are overloading a mind that is unable to fully comprehend what they are learning. Just like you would not teach a grade one student Calculus, the same way you cannot skip a general and natural process of growing up at the relevant speed.

It’s a vicious cycle, you will teach them these concepts, and they will become more curious about them.  It’s ripping the concept of being a child from the child and it’s honestly a travesty. We will have the next few generations of children totally confused and stressed because their minds were polluted with all sorts of biased information. Even if we pull our kids out from such classes they will still have to mingle with those poor souls who did have to listen to it and will be influenced by it.

We are slowly but surely moving towards a society where morals are becoming looser, families no longer spend quality time together and the smart phone is our new best friend. This new curriculum is just the final nail on this coffin.

Image: 123RF