Category Archives: Living in Ontario

Are We Ready?

By Rahila Ovais

Are We Ready For The Revised Health And Physical Education Curriculum?

Ontario parents are not holding back their concerns when talking about the new Health and Physical Education (sex-ed) curriculum introduced by the Wynne government. While we may question the appropriateness of these ‘updates’ and also voice our concerns and discomforts on the topic, have we also considered how else do/can our kids get this information?

The internet is an open world to all of us. Do we monitor our kids 24/7 with their devices, at school (whether public or private), out with friends or at a family sleepover?

While I disagree with some of the terms of this curriculum, I want to know how we as parents are going to teach our kids about these pressing issues. Let’s say, if we withdraw our kids from the class for that day, how do we ensure our kids will not hear something further misconstrued from their friends?

And then what’s wrong with kids learning the names of their body parts or consent? I believe every kid should know how to say NO, and yes as early as 4 years old and there is a very valid reason for that too. Child abuse is a topic like an elephant in the room, it happens where you least expect it and these days our children are at risk via multiple exposures, not just physical abuse but also online! How do we ensure safety of our kids?

Will you have this talk with your kids? Not just talking about puberty but also explaining to them about the risks of sexting or any unwanted sexual touching? Can we be as open with our kids when discussing this topic as school teachers might be?

The real question is: if we are opposing this new curriculum or if we wish to have it revised, in which case, what are our options? What would you do to inform your kids about the risks of today’s society? We can have every reason to oppose this new curriculum, but what are we going to do for our kids in this regard? We can’t keep them sheltered. What we can do is raise awareness.

We must remember that living in Canada we, our kids and our families are exposed to these challenges day in and day out. Our kids are going to eventually learn about this one way or the other. What we can do is further our teaching of religious, cultural and moral values. That is what we should focus on. Instead of being reactive, let us put our efforts on being proactive in this situation. Ideally we all would like this curriculum to be revised making it more age-appropriate but the government has made it quite clear that won’t be happening. So now we must jump into action on how to communicate to our kids that not everything they learn from school applies to our lifestyle, our religion and our values.

Now is our opportunity to strengthen our bonds with our kids, to give them a heightened understanding of our religion and moral values. That’s where our focus should be. We need to educate ourselves and then only can we educate our kids clearly identifying the challenges of being a Muslim in these times.

About the author:

Rahila Ovais is a Pharmacy Technician working at the Ontario College of Pharmacists. A mother to four, she’s called Jeddah, KSA, where she was born and Karachi, Pakistan, where she was brought up, her homes before moving to Toronto twenty years ago. She is also a very opinionated person who has a hard time keeping her thoughts to herself.

Image: 123RF 

Fifty Shades Of What The Hell?

By Khaula Mazhar

Parents Say No!

 

We wanna make sure they get the right information, Mr. Speaker.

 ~ Kathleen Wynne to the Speaker of the House in response to MPP McNaughton’s question on the new sex ed. curriculum consultations.

 

What is that right information? I really ‘wanna’ know and I am sure other parents would like to be enlightened as well. We would like to know how can you be more concerned with our child’s safety than us. If this is such a concern for you, why was everything so hush-hush?

Maybe because the new curriculum is going to be pretty much the same one that was proposed in 2010?  Then it would make perfect sense because children in grade one really need a graphic lesson on sexual body parts. They will need it to… let’s see…be prepared for when they …when they what? They are in grade 1. The only concern a six year old has is getting a snack on time. That is the only concern they should have. How about teaching them in depth about the digestive system? Eating and pooping is something they have been doing every day, they should learn all about that first.

As for stranger danger, you don’t need to show six year olds pictures of organs to explain to them strangers shouldn’t be touching them. If a stranger comes up and touches them anywhere they need to yell their little heads off.

A class full of little kids, together, showing them pictures of something we parents go through so much trouble teaching them to keep private! ‘Remember your bodies are private and if someone makes you uncomfortable…?’ So now private parts aren’t private?

Yes I am aware that there is a lot of information on the internet. My question is why a six year old would doing online unattended in the first place?

Which brings me to the conclusion that you consider the majority of us parents to be mentally incompetent. Parents have this ‘talk’ with their kids when they feel the time is right. In accordance with their religious and cultural beliefs which are to be respected, because it is everyone’s right. Remember rights? You are all about rights, so please stop shoving your opinions down our throats. But you don’t think we can parent our own kids, so you are assigning this job to teachers. Who gave you the right to take away our rights?

Please spare me your logic, I experienced this first hand last year with my daughters. The teacher gave a lesson and conveniently crossed it off her list. Where the hell was she when the little demons of sexual curiosity were running rampant in the different corners of the class? Where was she when a little girl told my daughter she was going to “shove a pencil up my v—–?” And the dozens of other little horrifying discussions my daughters brought home, that the teacher did not care to listen in on and clarify in the class. All this after the ‘sex ed’ class. Thanks teachers, I appreciate how you totally defecated and I had to scoop your poop.

But you know exploring bodies and feelings and sex is okay and just the thing to discuss with six year olds because you want to encourage them to be masturbating by grade six and having anal sex by grade seven because we all know they aren’t going to practice abstinence. God forbid that.  Seriously grade eight girls pushing for learning about consent? Why are grade eight girls concerned about consent? Why are kids in grade eight having sex?

So we might as well teach them how to fool around in a way they don’t end up with an unwanted pregnancy. How about we teach them all about the reality of having a baby? If they knew what the hell women go through to bring life into this world maybe they would realize sex is not just fun and games to be experienced with a number of different partners the second they get the chance. It comes with a responsibility to take care of one another. It is a beautiful thing to be experienced at the right time, yet it has been degraded into something low and cheap. It has lost its value.

But we want a modern society, not a backward one. And a modern society is all about sex and being absolutely uninhibited, just as it was at the height of many empires throughout history. That should be the only thing on our young generation’s mind all the time. Never mind that the downfall of the Greek and Roman civilizations came about when their society became obsessed with sex. It’s not like history ever repeats itself.

About the author:

Khaula Mazhar, author of Mama Loves Me, has written for Dawn Pakistan and now bestows her wisdom upon the world at her blog. Last time she counted she had five kids, however the vast amount of laundry has given her doubts. This is a cause of constant distraction as she tries to finish writing the next NYT best-seller.

Suggested reading:

A Tale of Three Empires 

Downfall of American Civilization

Global Views on Premarital Sex

Event Report: ISNA Community Forum On The New Health And Physical Education Curriculum

By Rumina Rizvi

ISNA Community Forum

A hot topic in the news these days, the suggested updates to Healthy and Physical Education Curriculum are giving many parents sleepless nights. It is the same set of ‘updates’ that had to be backrolled a few years ago after a public outcry against it. This time however its proponents are in no moods for arguments, consultations, announcing that the changes will be implemented in the academic year beginning in 2015.

Sister Sumera Wasiq, a community worker, organized a community forum at ISNA Canada premises recently, inviting speakers, guests and concerned parents to talk about the proposed changes to the curriculum.

The guests at the event included Sheikh Alaa Elsayed, Regional Minister Charles Sousa and Jason F. Policy Director.

Hina Mirza Zuberi, media and events coordinator ISNA, Canada welcomed the attendees and guests to the forum.

The congregation started with recitation of Qur’anic verses and their English translation. Sheikh Alaa Elsayed welcomed the parents and expressed his gratitude on a large turnout on the cold week night. He requested all parents to be patient and kind to the guests and write down their questions to be handed to the guests for the Q/A session to be conducted later.

The turnout was amazing, with more than 1500 people showing up to a standing room only.

In the questions and answers sessions and manifests in September, Charles Sousa from the Ministry of Finance said parents can exempt their children, he said:

‘The religious schools and home schoolings would be exempt. It would not be integrated into the other subjects, contrary to the 2010 curriculum which states Cross-Curriculum and Integrated Learning is actually just that, crossing subject matter into other classes, and even refers to Language, Social Studies and Science’.

The parents however were not satisfied with the replies and had ambiguities on what to be expected out of the curriculum after its release.  Their major concern was for their children’s innocence and vulnerability and also protecting their rights, values and religious beliefs. They could not come to terms with finding the curriculum to be age appropriate with explicit materials being used for explanatory means.

Concerned parents were asked to write to their MP’s and MPP’s in opposing the curriculum and implementation in the coming fall of September onward in all public school in entire Ontario.
Another peaceful demonstration by the parents will take place next week (today, February 24, 2015) at Provincial Legislature Queens Park, Toronto at 11am. It is also expected to generate some heat and pressure on the Minister of Education and the Premier.

You can watch a video of the session here.

Parents opposing the curriculum can also sign up to the petition here.

 

Disclaimer: The event was only hosted on ISNA Canada premises, however it did not represent the opinion or viewpoint of ISNA Canada, and ISNA will not be held liable to ideas expressed by the organizers.
Image: ISNA Canada FB page 

Tax Credits For Families

By Nadia Ali

Tax Credits for Families

It’s that time of the year again, when we start collecting all paperwork in preparation for filing our taxes. The tax deadline is April 30, but families start the prep work by the start of the year. Whether you are a new immigrant or a family trying to make sense of all tax ‘speak’, here are the most common tax credits that all families would be coming across when they file their taxes.

In layman’s terms, a tax credit is the amount of money you can use to lower the tax you owe to the government in a given year. For example, you are working and the total tax deducted from your income equaled $5000 during 2014. When you calculate your tax credits for 2014, these amount to $1500. The government will refund this $1500 to you when you file the taxes and claim these tax credits. Even if you are currently unemployed and therefore not paying taxes, your tax credits can be claimed by your spouse to obtain the refund by offsetting against their taxes.

At the time of filing taxes, accurately calculating all tax credits you are entitled to will help to get a nice, hefty check for the refund. Even if you get your taxes filed by a professional, it’s wise to be aware of these common tax credits to make sure your accountant does not miss out any. And more importantly, to save all receipts of these expenditures to submit to your accountant at the time of filing taxes.

Children’s fitness and art activities

This year you can claim a maximum of $ 1000 related to children’s fitness expenses. If you paid $ 800 for summer camp and swimming lessons, keep all these receipts, as you can claim the whole amount as a tax credit. Another $ 500 can be applied to any art classes your children may have enrolled in. When enrolling children in arts, music or other activities, please don’t forget to ask whether the program qualifies for either fitness or arts tax credits. The great news is that you can claim both the children’s fitness amount and the children’s arts tax credit for the same child for eligible programs.

Childcare expenses deduction

If both spouses are working/studying and avail childcare, the amount of childcare you paid to the nanny, nursery school, babysitter, or an after-school program can be claimed as tax deduction. Childcare expenses can be claimed up to a maximum of $8,000 per child under age seven, and $5,000 per child age seven to 16.

Allowable child care expenses are those paid to enable the parent to earn employment income, carry on a business, attend an eligible program at a designated educational institution for at least three consecutive weeks, or carry on research or similar work for which a grant has been received.

Fees for day camps and day sports schools, private schools (the portion of tuition costs relating to child care services), boarding schools, and overnight sports schools and camps can all be claimed as childcare expenses.

Even if you utilize services of a home-based babysitter, ask them to give you receipts for the payments you make to them. More importantly, if a relative is helping you take care of your children while you work, and you are paying them, you can even claim these payments under childcare expenses.

Elderly Parents

If you have parents or parents-in-law living with you who suffer from a disability or illness, you could be eligible to claim tax credits for each parent. The caveat in this situation is that they should be residing with you at the same address and not living separately. The parent or grandparent must at the time have been a resident of Canada, and the tax credit is not available if they were just visiting you.

Public Transit

The public transit pass tax credit is available for the cost of passes for commuting on buses, streetcars, subways, trains for e.g. MiWay, GO, Presto, TTC, etc.  Taxpayers can also claim the transit pass tax credit on behalf of a spouse, and children under age 19. So, do keep those transit passes safe; or if the pass does not provide important information such as date of validity and amount paid, you should also retain dated receipts or credit card statements to support the tax credit claim.

Medical Expenses

Generally, all eligible medical expenses can be claimed, even if they were incurred outside of Canada.  When medical expenses are reimbursed by an insurance plan, only the portion not reimbursed can be claimed.

There is a long list of eligible medical expenses, including:

  • payments to medical practitioners, dentists or nurses, or to public or licensed private hospitals in respect of medical or dental services;
  • additional costs related to the purchase of non-gluten food products;
  • expenses paid for training courses for a tax payer or a related person in respect of the care of a person with a mental or physical impairment, who lives with or is a dependant of the taxpayer;
  • cost of purchased or leased products, equipment or devices that provide relief, assistance or treatment for any illness;
  • remuneration for tutoring persons with learning disabilities, or other mental impairments, if the need for such services is certified by a medical practitioner.

There are also some exclusions from medical expenses that can be claimed. For example, non-prescription birth control devices, drugs and medications that you can purchase without a prescription like multi-vitamins, funeral and burial costs, and gym memberships, to name a few. You cannot claim medical expenses for which you are reimbursed by your employer or are entitled to be reimbursed. Amounts paid for purely cosmetic procedures are not eligible for the medical expense tax credit.

Hopefully your tax filing experience will be easier this year. 

About the author:

Proud mom to a six year old boy, Nadia Ali has earlier worked with Ernst & Young as an auditor. She is now a tax professional at H&R Block and is looking forward to another busy tax season.

Canadian Résumé, Eh?

By Tabinda Nayyar Siddiqui

photo credit: flazingo_photos via photopin cc

photo credit: flazingo_photos via photopin cc

Hurray! I got my degrees assessed. Now comes another daunting task as I need a résumé – actually a Canadian résumé.

Résumé is a summary of your education, experience and skills; written in an attractive style to catch  the  recruiter’s attention in a 30 seconds scan. It’s your most important self-marketing tool to position yourself for next step, the job interview.

There is no straight forward recipe to a buzz-creating resume. Google can provide you with tons of information on functional, chronological and even hybrid resumes. This article aims at only best practices and useful tips regardless of the résumé style you wish to follow.

Get started

Visualise how it would appear, make a plan in your head and jot down all points. You begin with use of headings to organize the information in your résumé. Common résumé headings include:

  • Highlights of Qualifications
  • Professional Experience
  • Education
  • Trainings & Professional Development

First comes first

Organize the information from most important to least important with regards to the job you are applying for. Always highlight your skills pertinent to the job description.

Short and sweet

Keep your résumé short. In Canada, most people have a résumé that is 2 pages long. No one has time to read long pages of text.

Custom made – one size doesn’t fit all

Custom made – sounds rich, right? But that is a Canadian standard. Make your résumé stand out from the crowd with high quality content, error free writing and customizing it each time for what matters most for a particular job.

Career experts recommend that you customize your résumé for each job, especially at the beginning. Generic résumés do not work in today’s labour market.

For some jobs, you can change a few sentences to focus on certain skills and accomplishments. For others, you may need a completely new résumé.

Easy on the eyes

Make your resume visually attractive. Use some white space to allow the reader’s eye to rest. Use a font that is easy to read and not distracting to the reader. Recommendations are 10-12 point fonts such as Times New Roman, Arial, Gill Sans MT.

Make sure to keep the formatting consistent throughout your resume. For example, if you choose to bold a job title, make sure every job title is in bold. Also, make sure that all of your bullet points, section headers, dates, etc. are lined up whether it is left, center, or right hand justified.

Let the drums roll… Highlights of qualifications

This is your chance to shine, list your accomplishments. Employers hire you for the set of skills you have acquired over the years. Describe achievements, rather than listing duties. List action words with numeric examples wherever possible. i.e. Proven track record of selling over 100 softwares a month.

Print it, look it over and get it reviewed before you start sending out your résumé. You may wish to save it as a PDF document to ensure that formatting is consistent and employers will be able to open the document without difficulty.

We wish you the best of Canadian luck in your job hunt!

 

About the author:

Tabinda Nayyar Siddiqui is an HRIS Data Analytics, Reporting, Data Conversion, Implementation and Maintenance professional, with an MPA in Human Resources. She is also working on getting her CHRP and CCP certifications.

To Rent Or To Own?

By Iman Khan

Image source: freeimages

 

To buy or to rent? The mind boggles! After all, would it not be judicious to own a house if we intend to be here for the long haul instead of whiling away money in rent every month? And like every new immigrant, this ubiquitous question had been on our minds ever since we made Canada our home a year ago.

For most of us, our parents’ generation gravitated towards investing in land or property as hands-down ‘the’ winning choice for financial stability, since real estate always appreciates in value. But perhaps it is time to move away from ideas we grew up with and reassess our investment portfolio! In the current scenario, with banks handing out loans and credit even to the most financially vulnerable of us, the real estate market has now reached a whole new level of nonviable.