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JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2021

COLD COMFORT

COVID-19 FORCES HOMELESS ONTO CALGARY’S STREET

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Journalism A DEGREE MADE FOR YOU If you’re dreaming of a career as a social media specialist, communications manager, podcast producer, reporter or multimedia journalist, get started at MRU.

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>In this issue 4

TECH

4-5 > Is Calgary moving into a digital future? 6-8 > Sci-fi fusion: robots serving tradition cuisine. 9-11 > Radio waves aid clean oil extraction.

CULTURE

12-15 > Alternative medicine demystified. 16-19 > Filipino rapper, Rubix, digs into his roots.

SOCIETY

20-21 > Inside the head of a former QAnon believer. 26-27 > Uganda activist advocates for LGBTQ+ refugees. 28-29 > Shelters for victims of domestic violence under financial stress during the pandemic.

COVER

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22-25 > CALGARY’S HOMELESS OUT IN THE COVID COLD

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PRINT MASTHEAD FALL 2020 Lead Editors > SOLAYA HUANG and BAILEY TAYLOR GINGRAS-HAMILTON Photo and Design Editors > ASHLEY FAZEKAS and ERIN SWEERE

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Contributing Editors › FLOYD BLACK HORSE MACKENZIE HERMANN NIKITA LEHNERT-THIEL TRISTAN ORAM IZAIAH LOUIS REYES

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Managing Editor > ARCHIE MCLEAN: damclean@mtroyal.ca Faculty Editor > SEAN HOLMAN: sholman@mtroyal.ca Production Supervisor/Sales > BRAD SIMM: bsimm@mtroyal.ca 403-829-7424 CORRECTION: Due to an editing error in the article “Sue-Shane Tsomondo’s Top Ten Literary Picks” (Calgary Journal, Nov/Dec 2020), a review of the book Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie mistakenly used text from a review of the book Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo” by Zora Neale Hurston. That review should have read, “Half of A Yellow Sun is a historical masterpiece and a masterclass on how to tell stories about historical events outside of non-fiction.” The Calgary Journal regrets this error. CALGARYJOURNAL.CA

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TECH

CALGARY’S PIXE

As Alberta faces an uncertain economic

BAILEY GINGRAS-HAMILTON bgingras-hamilton@cjournal.ca

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s a city with an entrepreneurial spirit, numerous company headquarters and a skilled population, Calgary has the resources needed to grow its tech sector and revitalize Calgary’s damaged economy. However, tech boosters say Alberta needs to act now to promote that sector, or the province could lose the trained workforce that drove its economy for decades. Among those pushing for the sector’s advancement is Jeremy Barrett. A member of the City of Calgary Economic Resiliency Task Force, Barrett says Calgary already has a large base of companies that invest in technology. “We have a disproportionate number of head offices here. We’ve got major multinational companies and, if you were to talk to people in Regina or Saskatoon or Edmonton, even they don’t have the same concentration of companies,” Barrett explains. This concentration of company headquarters means more funding and investment potential for companies and start-ups.

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Another advantage Alberta has is its entrepreneurial attitude. Not always an oil and gas powerhouse, the province learned to capitalize on its rich natural resources, and could put that same energy into developing clean technologies. “We had to figure out how to take a substance that is as thick as molasses in Northern Alberta, and develop it into something that can be transported around the world,” says Barrett. “I think if we can do that, we can figure out how to create new technologies.” In addition, Alberta has many highly-trained workers in the province. And, according to Margo Purcell, CEO and co-founder of the new tech-focused school InceptionU, the skills they learned in oil and gas can be easily applied to the technology industry. “If we look at the domain-specific knowledge we have with energy, there’s transferable parts of that. There’s transferable parts with tech as well,” she explains. These transferable skills have had an impact. According to Invest Alberta, the number of tech companies headquartered in the province grew 33 per cent from 2013 to 2018.

However, due to COVID-19 and the uncertainty around the oil and gas industry’s future, Calgary’s downtown core is approaching a 30 per cent vacancy rate. Indeed, according to David Edmonds - the industry chairman of A100, an organization that aims to strengthen the province’s tech industry - the sector has often “ebbed and flowed in reverse to the energy marketplace.” While he believes the governing United Conservative Party has been listening to his group’s recommendations to diversify the economy, Edmonds stresses that Alberta needs to promote a message that the province “is open for business, and open for all business.” “What we’re hearing is one story, which is energy, energy, energy,” Edmonds says. “We’re a young, vibrant, growing tech sector. We have open positions.” Those positions are being undermined by the UCP’s energyfocused approach, which has included cutting many tax credits and financial incentives that promote diversification in Alberta. However, that’s not the only thing holding Alberta’s tech sector back. Due to the focus on oil and gas within postsecondary institutions, there is a lack of talent that deters companies from coming to the province.


TECH

ELATED FUTURE

c future, is it time to turn to technology?

“We don’t, quite frankly, produce enough graduates in computer sciences, digital technology [or]computer engineering to attract enough tech companies to, for example, fill the downtown office towers,” Barrett says. While existing universities in Alberta could promote their own tech-centred programs, Barrett believes that creating a tech-focused institution in Calgary would benefit the industry exponentially. He gives the example of New York City, which did not have a thriving tech industry a decade ago. However, after establishing Cornell Tech, it saw tremendous growth in the sector. Calgary does have an up-and-coming technology school: InceptionU, which was founded two years ago with a focus on coding and computer sciences. Purcell says InceptionU not only builds talent to help existing companies within Calgary, but also attracts new companies to the city. “When we look at where things are going, that the world has gone digital and is continuing to go even more digital for all sectors, if the need was great two years ago with the existing tech sector, it’s only going to grow even more,” Purcell says.

Focusing on growth within the tech sector through messaging, education and financial incentives is important because the tech landscape is extremely competitive. “Countries, provinces and regions are hungry for this. So it’s important that we have as attractive an offering to help these companies get going as other regions do,” Purcell says. “When companies can establish anywhere, we need to make sure they know they’ll be supported in lots of ways, including through policy and incentives, to be able to get over some of those humps they’ll encounter at all stages in their development and growth.” Providing that support is essential because the consequences of not doing so are severe. Even though Alberta has been a popular destination for post-secondary graduates due to its robust economy, Barrett believes the province cannot count on oil and gas to continue attracting skilled workers. Without investing in new industries like technology, Calgary could lose its workforce. “What we need to do is to find other industries that can complement our existing ones,” Barrett says. “And then, number one, give our young people a reason to

stay or come back, and number two, attract educated people from other places to come here in greater numbers to really build up our economy and get into new areas.” Edmonds supports Barrett’s position, stating that “you can’t measure” the loss of young people who either move away or do not come back to Alberta due to economic uncertainty. The longer the province waits to invest, the further it falls behind. According to Edmonds, technology is one of the fastest growing industries globally, and if we do not invest now, we will lose opportunities to other provinces. “Every single human on the planet will be impacted by some form of technology,” he says. “We need to be exporters of our intellectual property and the products and services that have come as a fact of our intellectual property that we’ve created.” Even though the move to diversification and technology is daunting for many Albertans, Purcell is confident that the province can adapt. “As tough as this is, the one thing that I do see is that we are pretty resilient folks out here. And this is our opportunity to really dig in and create again.”

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Clay Pot Rice Mixing technology and tradition SOLAYA HUANG shuang@cjournal.ca

PHOTO: RACHEL MACH

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TECH

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ood has always been deeply rooted in Chinese culture. According to Taoist philosophy, the universe finds balance in the forces of yin and yang and food is no exception. Yin foods create cool energy in the body, while yang foods create warmth. Opposites, yet perfectly balanced. Harmony within the human body. However, at Calgary’s Clay Pot Rice, local restaurateur Alex Guo isn’t just trying to find balance with his food. Amidst Calgary’s economic downturn and the COVID-19 pandemic, he’s also trying to balance his business’s accounts. And, with the help of robotics, he may just have found a way of doing that, sparking a conversation about the role of technology in society. Guo was born in Guangdong province in South China. The coastal province, which fronts the north shore of the South China Sea, is known for its delectable Cantonese cuisine. “I think all Chinese are cooks. Cooking for us is easy,” says Guo. However, Guo didn’t initially pursue work as a restaurateur. His first passion was medicine. “When I was young, I wanted to be a doctor,” says Guo. “In 2010, I met Dr. [Tony] Kim, he’s the top dental technician in Calgary.” After following Kim into the dental industry, Guo began working as a dental technician, manufacturing crowns under a microscope.

Clay pot rice is popular dish in Hong Kong’s street markets. PHOTO: YMGERMAN/SHUTTERSTOCK When cooked right in a clay pot however, “It’s so easy right now,” says Guo on the soft white rice crisps up, giving it its purchasing the robots. “You just go to the signature texture. internet and search it and then you can “Most first-generation Chinese miss their buy it. That’s it.” hometown food. That’s why I wanted to use Because of his years of experience the traditional way of cooking in a clay pot,” working at the dental lab, Guo wasn’t says Guo. phased by the idea of learning to work Clay pot rice is also a popular dish found with this new technology. in Southern Chinese street food markets. “When I bought it, a friend of mine Noting how popular ramen, a staple said, ‘You’re crazy — you should just shut Japanese street food, is in the city, Guo down, you should close the business, save thought, “Why can’t we bring some Chinese money.’” Instead, he revamped the entire concept street food to Calgary?” Amy Cen, the manager at Clay Pot of his restaurant, attracting attention and Rice, adds, “It’s easy to just adjust to your customers with the unexpected waitstaff surroundings and forget about where you’re at a time when human contact is a risk. coming from, so I think it’s nice to have little Guo named his new establishment Clay places like this to remind you of your home.” Pot Rice, after the traditional Chinese dish Guo says that, although most Chinese which the restaurant specializes in. restaurants are “not using the traditional “In Calgary, even in Alberta, most people way of cooking,” they do use traditional and try cooking rice the easy way, just using the familiar ingredients. At his restaurant, Guo rice cooker,” says Guo. “The rice is soft, so they takes an Asian fusion approach by letting think that clay pot rice is soft.” his customers choose their own toppings. With this unique combination of Asian fusion, traditional cuisine and technology, he hopes to make traditional Chinese food more accessible and to “introduce clay pot rice to younger people.” As an added bonus, robotics can be used to help reduce staffing costs. For many businesses in China, this is common practice. However, many fear the consequences of robots and artificial > Alex Guo intelligence replacing human jobs.

“It’s interesting, I liked that. I still like that,” he says about the work he did. His transition to the restaurant industry may seem drastic, but when business at his lab had dropped down by 80 per cent, Guo didn’t have many alternatives. “We don’t have enough jobs for dentists — I needed to put food on the table,” he explains. In 2017, Guo opened Red Tails Cajun Seafood Bar. Though it was a refreshing change of pace to bring fresh seafood to a landlocked city, the restaurant was forced to close its doors just two years later. “I remember the day [the] upstairs caught fire. Our restaurant got [completely] water damaged,” says Guo. With the damages, a battered economy and the high cost of seafood, the restaurant was doomed. So Guo did something even bolder than starting a seafood bar in the prairies: he bought robot waiters.

“Most first-generation Chinese miss their hometown food. That’s why I wanted to use the traditional way of cooking in a clay pot.”

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TECH He adds, “There are many challenges in Alejandro Ramirez-Serrano, a professor the world, hunger and natural disasters at the University of Calgary’s Schulich — we need help. I don’t think we have the School of Engineering, understands this man capacity in terms of numbers to fight fear but believes that this technology all these challenges.” presents many great opportunities. “For example, the pandemic that we’re “Maybe I’m biased because I work in undergoing right now. We need more robotics, but I see robots as a mechanism doctors [and] nurses. In this case, artificial to complement our human abilities, not intelligence will be helpful and robotics to replace us.” will be helpful in providing assistance to However, the increasing use of Chinese doctors to treat more patients.” technology in North America and the At Clay Pot Rice, the robots are much fear of Chinese technological surveillance less complex. One is a greeter at the door, has been especially prevalent during the who plays music and dances around for pandemic. So, coupled with COVID-19customers. The other carries food orders fueled racism, Guo’s business is a risk, but in its two slots and delivers them to the he isn’t worried. The reception so far has programmed table. Guo’s main goal is been encouraging. for them to attract customers and boost “I think that we need to stay together business. and fight the virus together. That’s why “I just want my restaurant to survive to I’m not thinking about the people [that] the next year, the next year and the next blame the Chinese,” says Guo. “The year,” says Guo. customers, they come to my restaurant, Being a they know the local business owner is Chinese. owner is a Our robot is also tremendous from China. We struggle in didn’t bring the the current virus. We brought economic this interesting climate, but thing.” Guo believes “Why most that with people are passion and a afraid of robots bit of luck, it’s taking our jobs a risk worth and so on [is] > Alejandro Ramirez-Serrano taking. because we “Just look tend to misuse at me. I was a and abuse dental technician, I didn’t have experience [technology],” says Ramirez-Serrano. in the restaurant business,” says Guo. The future of this technology is also “If you have a good idea, just do it. not as distant as it seems. Outside of Don’t worry about anything [else],” he China, there are many start-up companies continues. “If you feel it’s a good thing, researching and using robotics in the you’ve got the experience now.” service industry. Though he misses working at his lab, In Boston, four MIT graduates he says that no matter the job and field developed “robot woks” for a local he’s in, it’s about working hard with what restaurant called Spyce. Customers place you’ve got. their order on a tablet, the ingredients are “I think whatever you do, dental lab gathered, dropped into the wok and the or restaurant, you just focus on the one robotics take care of the rest. thing,” says Guo. “I like working with In Europe there are also some computers and robotics, stuff like that.” organizations looking at adopting Over the last several months, countless robotics that, according to Ramirezbusinesses and retailers have had to close Serrano, “are not just serving food or their doors. Luckily, Clay Pot Rice caught dispensing food [but] they’re actually the attention of just the right people. cooking food based on what the user In mid-October, a food blogger named would like.” Ian Kewks uploaded a Tik Tok showing off While Ramirez-Serrano says serving is the robots and food at Guo’s restaurant. the technology in its simplest form, he The post went viral with over 100,000 expects even more use of robotics and views and helped attract new customers artificial intelligence in the future. and advertise the restaurant. “We’re seeing Alexa and all the home “To be honest, I’m just lucky someone assistants that we have. In many houses uploaded our robot to TikTok. “If you we have devices that control our house ask, ‘What makes success?’’ I cannot say temperatures, heating, ventilation — all [but] I’m proud of my rice. I’m proud of these things [have] been embedded in my dish.” our society, little by little.”

“There are many challenges in the world, hunger and natural disasters — we need help.”

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Alex Guo (left) and Amy Cen (right) at Clay Pot Rice, where the walls are covered in Chinese murals. PHOTO: SOLAYA HUANG

Clay pot rice, as it’s made at Guo’s restaurant. The dish is cooked right in the clay pot and served fresh to the customer by one of the robots. PHOTO: RACHEL MACH


TECH

Microwaving old technology goodbye

Harnessing radio frequency waves for clean oil extraction

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TECH

We’re actually utilizing something similar to a microwave oven: except it’s a much, much bigger oven. > Dr. Okoniewski

NIKITA LEHNERT-THIEL nlehnert-thiel@cjournal.ca

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lectrical engineer Dr. Michal Okoniewski had spent much of his early career studying how electromagnetic radiation from cell phones interacts with the human body. However, discovering the processing power of graphics cards led him to cofound his own company to commercialize it. And now he is working with the energy companies to explore how radio frequency waves can be used to extract oil without creating greenhouse gases. Okoniewski’s interest in physics began when he was still just a student in elementary school. He explains he’s always enjoyed “the logic behind it and [its] ability to explain what’s happening in the world.” That led him to study electrical engineering at the Gdańsk University of Technology in Poland. “We had about 32 hours of math in the first year per week. So that was pretty hard. We would start classes at seven o’clock in the morning, and it took about every day to finish until nine in the evening. And we were just exhausted,” Okoniewski recalls. But that hard work paid off: Okoniewski got his PhD and walked away with an expertise in computational electrodynamics and radio frequency. Afterward, he took a postdoctoral position at the University of Victoria. He spent about six years there before transferring to the University of Calgary in 1998, where he now works as a professor in the Schulich School of Engineering. While working in that department, Okoniewski

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Dr. Michal Okoniewski is the chief scientific officer and co-founder of Acceleware PHOTO: COURTESY OF ACCELEWARE LTD.

developed software to simulate the interactions between electromagnetic radiation from cellphones and human tissue. “We were modelling how the cell phone that you keep in your hands radiates or how it dissipates energy inside the hand and human head. How deep that radiation goes, how strong is this radiation, what are the terminal effects of this radiation, essentially electromagnetic dosimetry.” However, to effectively conduct these complex simulations, a lot of computational power is needed. “We were really trying all the supercomputers we could get our hands on, and they were still too slow for us,” Okoniewski explains. That’s when Okoniewski and his team decided to use graphics processing units instead. According to Okoniewski, GPUs are better known for providing the processing power for video games, creating the “very, very rich video on the screen.” They discovered that GPUs have an enormous processing power, which can be harnessed for scientific computation - a utility that had not yet been popularized. This led to the next big step in Okoniewski’s life: together, with four other colleagues, the group of engineers cofounded Acceleware in 2004. “We were way ahead of the game on this one, so we decided, ‘Okay, maybe that’s something that we really figure out.’ And we started the company making those (accelerated) computations utilizing GPU platforms.”

That’s when Okoniewski paid a visit to Nvidia, a California-based technology company famous for manufacturing GPUs. Nvidia had a similar vision to Acceleware and a synergistic relationship was born. Nvidia invested in the company and happily gave their support. However, this initial investment could only get them so far. It became evident that Acceleware needed to start turning a profit if they were to survive beyond their first year. “This forced us also into something which is probably very different from, or what would be happening if we were working in [a place like] Silicon Valley, and that is forcing us to actually get the product to market much faster than we wanted or should.” Embracing this risk, Acceleware released a commercial computational platform accelerated by GPUs named AxFDTD. According to Acceleware’s website, “AxFDTD earned the distinction of being the first FDA-approved electromagnetic modelling software to measure radio frequency energy absorption by the body.” The company also mentions that many Fortune 500 companies such as Blackberry, Samsung, LG, Nikon, Merck, Motorola, Boeing and Lockheed Martin continue to buy this product to develop everything from cell phones to MRIs. However, Acceleware’s trajectory took a turn in 2010 when a major American-based oil company sought out Okoniewski’s expertise.


He wouldn’t say which company that was. However, Okoniewski does have several patents with Chevron in the United States. This company asked Okoniewski to simulate what was going wrong with their experiments in using radio frequency-based heating for oil extraction. “That led to a very productive, mutual collaboration, in which we’ve started not only to understand what went wrong there but how to fix that.” Radio frequency-based heating provides an alternative to the way that extraction process currently works. Oil sits in the ground like a rock; it takes very high temperatures to loosen it up enough to the point where it’s extractable. Most energy companies use traditional steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) for oil extraction. This method uses an external water source which is heated to create steam. The steam is then sent underground at a very high temperature and pressure, producing enough heat to extract the oil. Alternatively, electromagnetic energy from radio frequency waves can provide that heat by warming up the connate water molecules in the earth, similarly to how your microwave oven at home heats the water molecules in your food. Realizing this technology’s potential, Okoniewski and the rest of his team started to independently develop new ways to apply radio frequency energy to gather heavy oil using their GPU accelerated software. Okoniewski says the company’s competitors are mostly using traditional dipole antennas, which are common in the communications industry, to carry the electromagnetic energy. “That approach was something that we [and others] tried years back and realized what are the shortcomings of this approach, and these are mainly that it doesn’t lend itself to very large industrial installations,” he continues. Essentially, “it doesn’t scale up to the necessary sizes that you need in commercial economic production, and would not lead to overall efficiency required to make it commercially viable.” “We understood that, given the challenges underground, you have to start completely from scratch and redesign it, using a different concept altogether.” With that, RF XL emerged. It uses a lossy transmission line to carry the electromagnetic energy instead of dipole antennas. Okoniewski compares his RF XL technology to a microwave oven, “except, it’s a much, much bigger oven. And, if you will, it’s not radiating inside the oven but radiates out into the formation.” Put simply, RF XL sends radio frequency waves underground to act as a “seek and destroy” method to target the already-existing water molecules within the earth, turning them into steam. As a result, the steam then transfers its heat to the rock and oil, allowing it to be sucked up into a pipe and brought to the surface. This method of oil extraction has the potential to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions. “We’re all electrical, and so our system is as clean in terms of GHG as the source of electricity that you’re using.” In fact, according to Acceleware’s zero greenhouse gas whitepaper, the technology is “expected to initially generate an approximate 25 per cent reduction in carbon emission compared to a natural gas-fired SAGD project.” This number is expected to increase “to an estimated 50 per cent as the Alberta grid retires coal-fired power plants…by 2030.” “Or 100 per cent if you use renewable sources,” Okoniewski adds. In addition, according to Okoniewski, the steam used in the traditional SAGD technique is “not very efficient, and obviously, very CO2 intensive. And then as you take this steam down, you experience quite a bit of heat loss.” As a result, Okoniewski says, with RF XL “you have a technology that is much greener, and at the same time is

cheaper. You know, that doesn’t happen very often.” To ensure everything they tested in the simulations would work, Acceleware conducted a field test five per cent of the size of what a full-scale pilot project would look like. “The thing that was truly amazing was a lot of things had to go right, and a lot of them did go right. And it worked, and it was sort of an almost anti-climactic moment,” Okoniewski says. “We also successfully delivered half a megawatt power into our test site. This was by far the highest power ever attempted. And you know, you’re gearing up for troubleshooting, gearing up for solving lots of problems that you expect will be happening, but all of a sudden, it just worked.” However, Okoniewski cannot let out a sigh of relief quite yet. The next big step will be implementing a fully-realized commercial-scale pilot project scheduled to happen in 2021 with two megawatts of radio frequency power. “I’m super excited about the fact that we’ll be doing this relatively soon. But I’m a little bit worried that it will erase my skiing season,” Okoniewski jokes. “This test is going to utilize our knowledge and experiences that we have gained, and our understanding of all the materials...if this test is successful, we’ll be ready to deploy this thing next year.” Although Okoniewski isn’t sure if RF XL will replace existing SAGD installations, he believes it has all the potential to revolutionize future projects. “So, I think there’s potential to change the industry in Alberta. It doesn’t take a day, or two, or a year, but it has the potential.” Okoniewski also imagines the possibility of an even cleaner future. “I think that oil is going to be used for quite some time, not just as an energy source but also the raw materials. But just imagine, and this is not what we’re working on immediately, but imagine that instead of producing oil, you could actually produce hydrogen in the future,” Okoniewski says. “If you could find an interesting way of producing hydrogen in the future or, you know, in a way in which you don’t produce carbon on the surface, that leaves the carbon underground. That, that is a phenomenal future, and it will likely require technology like ours.” Okoniewski predicts that, in addition to scaling up RF XL production, Acceleware will also be doing a lot of research into using hydrogen as renewable energy in the coming future. As for Okoniewski, he hopes to see himself spending more time in the mountains and less time in the office.

TECH

How RF XL WORKS “Two RF XL heating lines are deployed in the payzone from a single well connected to surface power. These heating lines deliver radio frequency energy, turning the water already present in the formation into steam, heating the oil and causing it to flow into the producer well below. As the water turns to steam, it no longer absorbs radio frequency energy. Still, energy continues to reach further into the formation, heating more water and mobilizing more oil: less energy, less cost and a much cleaner solution.”

- Acceleware

“I think there’s potential to change the industry in Alberta. It doesn’t take a day, or two, or a year, but it has the potential.” > Dr. Okoniewski Application of RF XL demonstrated in a diagram. PHOTO: COURTESY OF ACCELEWARE LTD.

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CULTURE

CRYSTAL CLEAR

Here’s what you should know about complementary medicine MACKENZIE HERMANN mhermann@cjournal.ca

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lternative medicine has always been part of the healing process for many Canadians, with its usage dating back centuries and across cultures. But these ancient practices are becoming more popular thanks to celebrities and pop culture coverage. And that popularity is increasing due to the stressful times we find ourselves living in. The term alternative medicine can cover everything from massages to crystal healing, and consists of a variety of treatments and practices not found in standard western medicine. To help identify alternative practices, the Government of Canada describes them as being “holistic” and involving the “patient as an active participant” with a “focus on disease prevention and well-being.” According to a recent study by the Fraser Institute, 56 per cent of Canadians surveyed in 2016 had used at least one form of alternative healing or medicine over the past 12 months and Alberta is the province with the highest use of alternative practices in Canada. Those therapies have also recently been highlighted by popular series such as Netflix’s Unwell, which explored popular wellness trends from essential oils to fasting, as well as documentaries such 2017’s controversial film Heal, that focused on the influence our emotions have upon our physical health. Celebrities have also been endorsing alternative methods and products. Singer Adele swears by crystals to help with stage fright, sports legends such as Tom Brady and Odell Beckham Jr. have recently launched their own holistic wellness lines and actress Gwyneth Paltrow has built a controversial and lucrative empire with her lifestyle company, GOOP. Many of those treatments are now called complementary rather than alternative - a change that’s welcomed by practitioners such as Ana Laura Pino, a Calgary-based crystal healer. “I’ve never liked the emphasis on the word ‘alternative’ because it implies that it needs to be one or the other and that should never be the case,” said Pino. “This isn’t modern western medicine pitted against alternative practices. They’re most powerful when combined. That’s why we prefer to say complementary.” However, the effectiveness of these practices remains largely disputed or unproven. Why then are more Albertans turning to them? Well, the provincial government’s health information website states these complementary approaches to healing are compelling for many people, who “feel a stronger sense of control when they become involved in their own health.” According to three Calgary holistic practitioners, that feeling is especially important during a year that has been filled with increased anxiety and uncertainty. For Pino, the majority of new clients coming to her practice are searching for help with managing their stress. “There are a lot of illnesses related to stress. We’re more stressed than ever and we’re so lucky that we can use modern medicine to treat the symptoms of our stress,” said Pino. “But how often are we addressing the stress itself? We need to ask ourselves why we’re stressed and identify our triggers to come up with practices … to help us manage.” Calgary Reiki master Geneva Robins has found new clients are turning to this ancient form of energy healing in search of a deeper connection to themselves and their environment. “This has been an immensely challenging year for all of us. I think for a lot of people, they’re searching for that feeling of connection,” said Robins. “A lot of us are grappling with this intensity and deep pain on so many levels.” “To wake up every day and face everything, we’re looking for new ways to manage and cope.” Herbalist Diana Mayorga has found that most new clients are turning to this ancient form of medicine due to a desire for control over their own health and a search for empowerment. “I think for a lot of people, being able to know that your stomach hurts and you have something in your pantry or greenhouse that might help is really powerful. Obviously, if your stomach is bothering you for days then of course go see your doctor,” said Mayorga. “But I think it isn’t just that holistic medicine is seeing a random boom in popularity. I think people are really increasingly eager to have the opportunity to educate and help themselves.” If you’re curious about these practices and want to learn more about how they work, here’s what you should know.


CULTURE

CRYSTAL HEALING As a crystal healer, Ana Laura Pino has seen more public interest in crystals, but stresses that, although the increasing popularity is new, the practice is not. “Humans have been working with crystals around the world for thousands of years. There are records of people working with crystals for healing, for protection - what a lot of people still consider to be magic,” explained Pino. “This is nothing new. Crystals are mentioned in ancient texts from India, China, Central and South America, Egypt and even the Bible.” The general belief system behind the power of crystals to promote spiritual, physical and emotional healing is that they interact positively with our chakra - the energy fields throughout our bodies that each have a specific vibrational frequency. Pino explains the belief behind the healing power of crystals with a simple analogy. “I always give the example of if you hold two tuning forks and one is of a low vibrational frequency and the other is high, eventually what will happen is that the low frequency will raise itself to match the high frequency,” she said. In this example, our chakra is the lower frequency tuning fork and the crystal is the higher. Eventually, the energy of crystals is believed to naturally train our energy to match theirs - with the belief that this will in turn lead to improving balance and enhancing our physical, emotional and

PHOTO: ANA LAURA PINO spiritual wellbeing. Like chakras, different crystals are thought to have different healing properties and purposes. When working with clients, Pino assesses what chakras are out of balance and chooses the crystals that will encourage harmony. Crystals are also commonly used to assist with meditation and intention setting - a practice where individuals identify specific aspirations. This is based on the belief that crystals act as a vessel of sorts to focus our energy and intention upon, with the idea that where intention goes, energy flows. “To me, the power of intention is the same as prayer or being determined to reach a goal. I believe that there is nothing more powerful than accessing your intuition and setting your intentions, ” said Pino. “This is a fundamental concept behind working with crystal grids, it’s about knowing what your goals are and what you want to manifest.”

“I believe that there is nothing more powerful than accessing your intuition and setting your intentions.” > Ana Laura Pino

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CULTURE HERBAL MEDICINE

Different herbs are thought to be capable of treating different ailments PHOTO: ANA LAURA PINO

ENERGY HEALING WITH REIKI Geneva Robins is the owner of Calgary Reiki studio LunaHolistic. She became a Reiki master in 2007 as she was simultaneously earning a master’s in ecology. While Robins considers her journey to energy healing unconventional, she is passionate about the practice. “I was working in environmental science and I really did love it. But the problem I kept running into was until people really care about themselves, we can’t ask them to care about anything else,” Robins said. “At the same time, I was studying this method called Reiki and how it helped people realize and connect with what really matters for them.” A newer practice, Reiki originated in Japan in the 20th century. Commonly translated from Japanese as “vital energy”, the practice involves a healer placing their hands over a person’s body to channel universal energy. That practice comes from the belief that we are not limited to just our physical being, and that our bodies act as a vessel for our mental, emotional and spiritual states as well.

Diana Mayorga is a Calgary-based intuitive reader, Reiki master and clinical herbalist. Running her own clinical practice since 2005, Mayorga began studying herbalism after seeing the positive impact naturopathy had when coupled with the standard medical treatment her mother was receiving for multiple sclerosis. Seeing first-hand the impact of modern western medicine when paired with naturopathic healing has been a driving force for Mayorga’s work and beliefs. “I’m very much an integrative medicine person. This is no judgment on anyone and their beliefs, but that’s something I always like to throw out there because I think there’s always this assumption around people like myself,” said Mayorga. “But there are a lot of us who believe that we should be very integrative about everything. Your health doesn’t need to be a spectrum that you fall on either end of.” Herbalism, also known as phytotherapy, is an ancient practice that focuses on using plants to assist in the body’s natural tendency to heal itself. It’s a practice found across cultures and modern herbalism borrows heavily from ancient Chinese and Indigenous medicine.

Similar to working with crystals, Reiki begins with the client setting a specific intention for the benefits they hope to gain from the session before it begins. Robins considers the most common result of a session to be that “people say that they feel calmer, more centred and at peace” depending on the session and intention. A practice that relies on transferring the universe’s energy, Robins understands the confusion surrounding the purpose of Reiki. “There’s really solid science proving the connection between our mental and emotional states and the stress that our bodies are under. And so from a very simple point of view, what Reiki does is help put people into a state of rest and relaxation. In a lot of ways, it’s like a facilitated meditation,” she said. Robins has seen an increase not only in people’s interest and willingness to try Reiki in the past couple years but also in the general understanding of it. “When I first started out and I’d tell people I did Reiki, they’d say what’s that? And I’d explain it and they’d look at me like I had three heads. Now there is certainly a lot more awareness.”

Mayorga considers a key factor of herbalism and general holistic healing to be “seeing the forest through the trees,” meaning treating the whole self rather than an isolated illness. “I’ll have a client that I’m seeing for an herbal session, and they have certain illnesses that are very acute and bothering them. But when I put that aside and start just asking about their general health, I learn that they’re chronically constipated and nobody’s addressed that,” said Mayorga. “Obviously it isn’t a cure for their chronic illnesses, but I can give them the tools to help give them some ease and help their body function better as a whole.” For Mayorga, a big part of practicing herbal medicine is helping provide her clients with the information they need to make their own decisions about their health. “This is definitely not the same as when you go to a medical professional, which of course you should, and they have ultimate authority. I want people to walk away and understand that they have their own choices they can make,” she said.

“This is definitely not the same as when you go to a medical professional, which of course you should, and they have ultimate authority. I want people to walk away and understand that they have their own choices they can make.” > Diana Mayorga

Reiki is a popular form of energy healing PHOTO:SHUTTERSTOCK

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CULTURE DO THESE PRACTICES WORK? Conventional modern medicine is based on scientific knowledge, extensive studies and proven treatments. In contrast, the effectiveness of crystal healing, herbal medicine and Reiki is contested. Studies on the healing power of crystals have been limited, but suggest that results are due to the placebo effect. However, research from Johns Hopkins University on the power of positive thought has found people with a familial history of heart disease who valued positive outlooks and intentions were a third less likely to have a heart attack than their negative counterparts. Herbal medicine is thought to be effective in treating minor ailments such as stomach aches and has been proven to help in some cases with menopause. It is not recommended for treating any serious illnesses and studies have indicated that some herbs can react negatively to medication.

“Only you know what’s right for you... remember that it’s a big world, there are lots of things and activities you can try until you find what makes you feel better.” > Geneva Robins

The effectiveness of Reiki is highly debated. Reiki treatments are available in some hospitals across Canada and the United States and have been used to successfully manage posttraumatic stress in veterans. From a scientific standpoint, it is considered a pseudoscience. For those who are more open-minded to the effectiveness of these practices, the Johns Hopkins University website states that some complementary medicine “therapies are supported by scientific evidence, others are not. Many still need to be studied. This doesn’t mean these therapies don’t work, it just means that experts haven’t studied them enough to know if they do – and if so, how.”

ARE THESE PRACTICES SAFE? When used in conjunction with modern medicine, these practices are largely considered safe to try and can even be recommended by medical professionals. However, they can also become dangerous when used to replace modern medicine, as seen recently in the controversial case surrounding the death of 19 month-old Ezekiel Stephan. Stephan died in 2012 after not receiving proper medical treatment for over two weeks as he became increasingly ill with viral meningitis. His parents initially treated what they believed to be a cold with garlic and horseradish. After becoming progressively lethargic, Stephan was given naturopathic treatments instead of being taken to a hospital. In a highly-publicized case, Stephan’s parents were initially found guilty in 2016 of failing to provide the necessaries of life. In 2019, after the Supreme Court overturned the conviction, they were ultimately found not guilty.

Complementary treatments are becoming more popular. PHOTO: ANA LAURA PINO Although this tragic case occurred in Alberta, it received national coverage and served as a cautionary tale of the dangers of abandoning modern medical treatment and assistance. “I always tell my clients that big problems need a big team, and I’ll always encourage people to get help from lots of sources. I obviously love Reiki. But it doesn’t replace things like eating well, maintaining strong relationships, seeing a counsellor and going to the doctor,” said Robins. Belief in complementary medicines can also sometimes go too far. Well-known examples include the antivaccination movement and the increasing number of wellness practitioners who publicly support the right-wing conspiracy theory QAnon. Crystal Mohr, strategic communications manager for the Canadian Medical Protective Association, emphasized the importance of communicating with your doctor when trying alternative practices, writing in an email that: “Physician-patient communication is important when considering alternative medicine. Physicians should encourage their patients to inform them if they are using complementary or alternative medicine or natural health products.”

ARE THESE PRACTICES FOR ME? If you’re interested in trying out complementary medicine treatments and therapies, it’s important to first do your own research and consult a doctor. Mayorga advises to also research different practitioners until you find the right fit - the same approach you’d take when choosing your family doctor or dentist. If you’re looking for more help with your health and general wellbeing but don’t feel comfortable with trying unproven treatments, keep an open mind to what options might work best for you. “Some people feel they need to go out to nature, to ground and recharge. It can be hiking, camping, yoga, crystals, whatever works. There’s no right or wrong way to manage. Find a practice to make your own, build your own connection and work to find your own peace,” advised Pino. “Only you know what’s right for you. And if you don’t want to try this, that’s great,” said Robins. “Always follow your intuition. And don’t get too overwhelmed remember that it’s a big world, there are lots of things and activities you can try until you find what makes you feel better.”

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R HYME & B ELiEViN’ A

IZAIAH LOUIS REYES ireyes@cjournal.ca

loud applause fills the Richmond school gymnasium as the fourth grade class showcases their hip hop dance accompanying an original song they composed. Ryan DeGuzman, 30, who goes by the stage name Rubix, helped the class put that performance together when he was invited by the school to teach the basics of hip hop dance and music for a week. Watching from the front row, he felt a sense of pride seeing the kids apply those skills. After the applause, while everyone was exiting the gym, one of the parents approached DeGuzman, a taller white lady whose face expressed a mix of curiosity and gratitude. She told the story about how she had struggled, for five years, to help her son with his English class. He had problems with writing and no amount of practice or tutor was able to get him on track. On the brink of giving up, she suddenly found pages filled with poetry in her son’s room. She asks DeGuzman how he did it.

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“I don’t know how,” DeGuzman says. “All I do is go in, teach them the basics and encourage them and tell them that they can do it.” But that experience made him realize he’s “dealing with a powerful tool that can help kids that we don’t even know are going through shit.” Growing up, DeGuzman also struggled, trying to find his identity as a Canadian-born Filipino who grew up in a predominantly white community. But he found that identity when he became part of the hip-hop community as a locally known artist. And now, he’s using this new perspective to help uplift youth in Calgary. DeGuzman’s parents hailed from Tondo, Manila, Philippines. Located next to Manila North Harbour Port, the city is notorious for having one of the highest crime and poverty rates in the country. It was also the location for the infamous Smokey Mountain Landfill that had about two million tons of flammable and decomposing waste. “My family grew up in extreme poverty and my grandparents only want what’s best for their kids and my

parents only want what’s best for us,” DeGuzman explains. “They would rather have their kids grow up in North America rather than the Philippines because there’s better financial opportunities and it’s safer out here.” That led DeGuzman’s mom, Zenaida DeGuzman, to migrate to Canada in 1979, staying in Winnipeg and then settling in Calgary three years later. “It’s crazy because she had to leave her whole life in the Philippines, all her friends and family. There was no internet yet, no Facebook. So I can only imagine how huge of a sacrifice she and my dad made so they can secure a bright future for their kids in Canada,” DeGuzman says. Calgary was where Zenaida and her husband Roel DeGuzman had their first child Rachelle and five years later, Ryan. DeGuzman and his family lived in an apartment in Mission but eventually got a house in Fairview. “My parents wanted to get a house because they sponsored my lola (grandmother) to come here and they wanted more room.”


CULTURE

RUBIX

re a c h e s f o r a higher hi p - ho p c a l l i n g DeGuzman performing locally in a Calgary venue. PHOTO: EJ NEGRE

DeGuzman spent his entire childhood in this community. That’s where he realized he was not like the other kids in school. “Everything was pretty Filipino at home: The food that we ate, only speaking Tagalog, the music that my parents would play. And I think that played a role in why, in school, I would feel so alone and disconnected.” DeGuzman attended St. Matthew’s for elementary and junior high school, a French immersion school located in the Acadia community. He says he was one of roughly ten Filipino kids there. “A lot of times kids in school wouldn’t even know what a Filipino was and, because they couldn’t understand that, they would just say ‘Oh, he’s Black,’” says DeGuzman. As a kid, DeGuzman was disheartened by how his classmates talked about what he loves the most about being Filipino. “I would have friends over and my mom would feed them Filipino food like sinigang. And the way they would

describe it to their parents (was) like, ‘Oh you know there’s rice and then this gooey liquid.’ And it made me wonder, ‘Why am I like an alien?’” DeGuzman recalls. “I wasn’t able to correct him because I was passive, thinking, ‘Oh it’s okay if he doesn’t understand.’ I just wanted to be accepted and I didn’t want this to be an inconvenience.” That desire for acceptance came from wanting a big family like the ones he would see “roll together” everywhere. He says he also didn’t always get the attention or appreciation he was looking for. As a result, DeGuzman began searching for it among his peers but realized it came with a price. “A lot of times I would end up bouncing around different groups because I could never quite find a good fit,” DeGuzman explains. “I had to sacrifice my own identity just to fit in. If I had to act white, okay, I’ll act white and this became a really big thing throughout my childhood.”

As DeGuzman continued to deal with his identity issues, his sister Rachelle introduced him to a genre of music that turned things around. “At the end of grade nine she took me to see the documentary Tupac: Resurrection. I didn’t really know much about Tupac and his history but after that documentary, I saw how his music and unapologetic, true to himself personality impacted the world.” Being inspired by Tupac, DeGuzman quickly became immersed in rap music. “I got into the [choir] program in high school, they put me on stage and that became the biggest adrenaline rush I’ve ever had and I fell in love with it.” As a result of his school’s choir program, DeGuzman got a chance to rap for an audience in student showcases. He believes it “nurtured his passion for music” and motivated him to keep pursuing under his stage name Rubix. He chose it for a rap battle, and the name itself stands for “Resilience Under Burden Inspires Xcellence.”

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CULTURE

DeGuzman still works on improving with his music while teaching youth how to get started with theirs. Inset: DeGuzman with his mom, Zenaida (RIght) and dad, Roel (Left) PHOTOS: IZAIAH REYES

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DeGuzman began building his reputation as an artist in 2007. He went “on solo missions” downtown, performing at open mics and networking with everyone he could. Two years later, he met Lamar ‘Twizzie’ Ramos, a fellow rap artist in Calgary. “This was one of the first times I had met another Filipino rapper from Calgary and we were vibing off of just some hardcore hip-hop shit,” DeGuzman recalls. He and Ramos became great friends. In 2013, Ramos got a big break, being invited to compete in Fliptop, the premiere rap battle league in the Philippines. At Fliptop, the audience watched rappers verbally duking it out for three rounds like prizefighters. There were three judges and the competitors delivered their wittiest and most scathing insults at each other - all for the purse and the glory. “Wild experience!” Ramos exclaims. Prior to competing at Fliptop, Ramos had been active in Canada’s own rap battle league, King Of The Dot, and had enough wins to get some attention back in the Philippines. “Getting to hang out with some of the most popular battle rappers in the world. It was humbling and scary as well because of the pressure to deliver for me.” There, Ramos battled other Filipino-American and local Filipino rappers. He brought DeGuzman along to be a part of his crew. “The entire trip I knew I couldn’t fully relax until it was all over but having Rubix there and knowing someone has your back was much needed for my morale,” says Ramos. While Ramos saw the trip as a chance to build his reputation, DeGuzman saw it as an eye-opening experience. “I learned about Francis Magalona,” says DeGuzman, referring to the pioneer of Fillpino hip-hop. “I was with Twizzie at a record store when I came across a Francis M. triple disc collection of his first three albums.” Magalona, who went by the moniker “Francis M.” is considered the first artist to make that music mainstream in the Philippines. He was nationally known for his hits such as ‘Kaleidoscope World’ and ‘Mga Kababayan Ko.’ Unfortunately, in 2009, he lost his battle with leukemia but would leave an indelible legacy for the future of Filipino hip-hop. “I noticed that Filipino hip hop, starting with Francis M. has always been conscious rap,” referring to a style of rap, different from the gangster or party styles due to it’s thoughtful and introspective nature. “It’s always been about community and uplifting,” DeGuzman explains. “That’s something I’m proud to share because I view myself as a conscious person, aware of myself but not above making mistakes or bad decisions.” From American artists, such as Tupac and Immortal Technique, to Filipino artists such as Francis Magalona, DeGuzman always preferred smart and insightful rhymes. Discovering there were a lot of other people with the same preference made DeGuzman feel right at home. “I learned about the Spanish colonization, Jose Rizal, Bonifacio, the Katipunan and the different revolutionaries back then,” says DeGuzman. “It all validated my urge to stand and fight for something, my conscious music and warrior spirit was validated.” As DeGuzman learned more about himself and his heritage, he found another outlet to channel his knowledge and experiences. “God has put me on this earth with this life and set of experiences from both sides and the ability to connect with each one and I just believe there’s got to be a reason for this.”


CULTURE

“God has put me on this earth with this life and set of experiences from both sides and the ability to connect with each one and I just believe there’s got to be a reason for this.” That belief led DeGuzman to get involved with the program Movement with a Message. The company is an afterschool program that uses dance and performing arts as a platform to reach troubled youth. Connie Jakab, the head of the program, invited DeGuzman to teach kids about hip-hop, but the rapper was hesitant. “I started to get plugged into that community bit by bit, but I wasn’t comfortable [at] that time, feeling like I was an amateur still.” But Jakab insisted DeGuzman should attend one of her classes to shadow her. “It’s easy to create opportunities for someone like Rubix who you know will shine if given the opportunity,” she says. DeGuzman agreed to shadow her and was happy that he did. “After she showed me her way, I thought it was pretty easy and I could definitely teach breakdancing fundamentals,” says DeGuzman. DeGuzman kept improving as a teacher, class after class. And Jakab kept giving DeGuzman contracts to the point where he could leave his nine to five job and go full-time as an artist-teacher. “All these programs supported me by being a source of income,” DeGuzman explains. “It also supported my art because it went hand in hand with my music and style of conscious rap so how could I say no? ” In 2017, DeGuzman and his team also got hired by Beakerhead, the non-profit art and science program, to teach kids how to write rap songs about their science units. “In that year I was able to refine my rap teaching courses and really tightened it up. This was also when I realized that I love teaching kids,” DeGuzman explains. “I can fuck with this a lot because it’s fun and even though I might teach 800 kids in one day, seeing them use what they learned in cyphers, learning how to battle, that was some cool shit to see.” Word got around about DeGuzman teaching, which gave him the opportunity to direct his own program, Bounce Back. Created through the Youth Central organization, it aims to help youth in the prison system by empowering them through their “passion for rap, poetry or just music in general.” “As I hang more and more around these kids and learn the challenges they face day to day, I was shocked because I faced the same thing so how could I not share my experience.”

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The cost of conspi A former QAnon supporter talks about their time

F

or some people, high school is one life. For others, it can’t finish soon later category. “I was bullied a lot. And I was also qu all the other kids so they just ganged got into lots of trouble,” causing him t Outside of this though, he still had S hung out with regularly after droppin “We were close. We watched TV show said. They also played a lot of Cuphea Daniel says he enjoyed writing and d contemplated creating a comic book. Around this time, Daniel started rea often frequented “r/collapse,” a subred “the potential collapse of global civili site’s description.

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SOCIETY

iracies in the movement TRISTAN ORAM toram@cjournal.ca

e of the high points of their n enough. Daniel fits in the

uite a violent bully. I scared up on me and beat me up. I to drop out early. Star and Ben, two friends he ng out. ws and anime together,” he ad, a multiplayer video game. drawing, and even once

ading conspiracy theories. He ddit dedicated to discussing ization,” according to the

“I was just desperate for some sort of hope,” he said. “I felt like the whole damn world is going to fall apart, but what if the government is hiding stuff in deep underground military bases?” This led Daniel down a rabbit hole that eventually result in him being indoctrinated into the cult known as QAnon -- a United States based conspiracy theory that has turned into a worldwide movement. Daniel left the group in April 2020, but experts say such departures are unusual and that the problems QAnon is creating may only get worse. Daniel, who is now 24, said the rabbit hole he stumbled into involved him visiting even more extreme subreddits, such as “r/ conspiracy,” which is dedicated to posting outright conspiracy theories. He claims this was when he was “manipulated and brainwashed” into the world of QAnon by an individual who he now fears - leading him to ask the Calgary Journal to change his name. QAnon is a far-right conspiracy theory, based primarily on the idea that Donald Trump is fighting a secret battle against highranking elites who run the world and secretly abuse children and worship Satan. The conspiracy theory first appeared on Oct. 27, 2017 on the online message board 4Chan. An anonymous user, claiming to be a high-ranking United States government official known only as “Q” posted that Hillary Clinton would be arrested on Oct. 30, 2017. The family friend who introduced Daniel to QAnon peaked his interest by “bringing up military stuff” which appealed to his interest in military history. From here, Daniel was introduced to more popular QAnon conspiracy theories. One such example is Pizzagate, a debunked conspiracy theory claiming that high-ranking U.S. Democrats were involved with a child sex trafficking ring that operated out of a pizza shop in Washington, D.C. Daniel says he supported the group because he felt that spreading its conspiracies would “help society collapse even faster,” something he strived for mostly due to the resentment he had for people after the bullying he received at a young age. “It basically destroyed my life. I hated people because of it. I didn’t have empathy for other people,” he said. Travis View, host of the “QAnon Anonymous” podcast with Julian Feeld and Jake Rockatansky, started studying and taking an interest in QAnon in 2018 as it began spreading worldwide. “The QAnon phenomenon isn’t something that is staying as sort of a fringe, kind of irrelevant internet thing. It’s something that kept creeping up into the mainstream,” View said. Researchers at Concordia University have found that QAnon has supporters in 71 countries around the world, including Canada. View said QAnon has been associated with the Yellow Vest movement here, whose members often espouse far-right and anti-immigrant views in Canada. QAnon’s presence in Canada became solidified on July 2, 2020, after Corey Hurren drove his truck through the gates of Rideau

Hall in an attempt to allegedly harm Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Hurren had posted QAnon conspiracy theories and hashtags on Instagram. In an interview with Vice, Concordia University PhD candidate and extremism expert Marc-Andre Argentino said, although we didn’t know the full scope of Hurren’s beliefs and how deep into QAnon he was, “he’s consumed enough of [QAnon’s] content to know the very specific hashtags to use.” Then, on July 9, 2020, a few days after the Hurren incident, Livewire Calgary reported QAnon flags, a blue flag adorned with a Q and the Punisher skull logo, were hung up outside of homes in southwest Calgary. View attributes the fast spread of QAnon to the appeal of its message. “QAnon is a hyper populist movement that is extremely distrusting of any institution,” View said.

“I think as soon as they can’t use Donald Trump as their messiah, they’ll rally around someone worse.” > Daniel

Moreover, in a report co-authored by Argentino and Amarnath Amarasingam, an assistant professor in the school of religion at Queen’s University in Ontario, QAnon’s ideology is “rooted in an apocalyptic desire to destroy the existing, corrupt world to usher in a promised golden age.” QAnon followers can be found in many movements. They have been part of antimask and anti-lockdown rallies related to the COVID-19 pandemic. They have also infiltrated the Save the Children movement, which advocates for an end to child sex trafficking but has also been used by QAnon members to spread their conspiracy theories. Daniel says he did not attend any rallies during his time with the group. Instead, he supported the movement by posting conspiracy theories on Reddit and 4Chan, and trying to recruit people in online communities he was a part of.

“I basically destroyed my own presence in the furry fandom by gaslighting people and trying to convince them of QAnon,” he said. The furry fandom consists of individuals who are interested in animal characters with human characteristics and personalities. Daniel was part of the QAnon movement until 2019 when he contemplated leaving. He says April 2020 was when he fully left the group and cut ties with the person who first introduced him to it. His decision to leave stemmed from realizing that “it was molding me into a person that I don’t want to be. I don’t want to be a New Age religious fanatic.” View says that someone leaving the QAnon movement and rejecting their ideas is rare, although it can happen. “It’s a really hard thing. If you have invested countless hours of your life in the QAnon community, it can be incredibly hard to let it go,” View said. “It can happen. It just requires a tremendous amount of strength and emotional turmoil to get to that point.” Daniel’s time with QAnon cost him quite a few personal relationships. “I still feel like everyone treats me with skepticism at best,” he says. And although he’s reconnected with his old friends Star and Ben, he feels like their relationship is strained. “They take everything I say with a grain of salt. They only listen to things they can mock me with. But I don’t know if that’s just my paranoia,” he said. Daniel is still very much haunted by the conspiracy theories he followed while he was a believer in QAnon. “I still want to know the truth I guess, but it feels like I’m trying to make myself feel smarter than I actually am.” Daniel slowly started to abandon sites like 4Chan and InfoWars as his prime source of news and information. 4Chan is the online message board where QAnon first originated, while InfoWars is a far-right media outlet owned by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. He still does not look to mainstream outlets and traditional journalism for his news. But he does continue to visit the collapse subreddit to “look at the collapse of the world from a scientific perspective rather than the religious perspective of QAnon.” The future of QAnon is uncertain, as social media sites move to ban the group’s activities and Trump’s presidency appears to be at its end. However, View said predicting the future of QAnon is “as difficult as predicting what Donald Trump is going to do.” “At the moment, many QAnon supporters believe Donald Trump is going to win,” View said in an interview late last year. He’s convinced that QAnon is going to be a force to contend with well after President Joe Biden’s inauguration. Daniel shares the view that QAnon will be around for a long time in the future. “I think they’re probably going to get a lot scarier,” Daniel said. “I think as soon as they can’t use Donald Trump as their messiah, they’ll rally around someone worse.”

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Out from the cold but at what cost? COVID-19 emphasizes the need for affordable housing for those experiencing homelessness ERIN SWEERE esweere@cjournal.ca

ALL PHOTOS: ERIN SWEERE 22 JAN/FEB 2021 CALGARYJOURNAL.CA


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omelessness has always been difficult in the cold winter months, but this year has added more hardships as shelters face decreased capacity and COVID-19 outbreaks. People are afraid of shelters, leaving them to fight hunger and the cold on their own. Outreach programs and shelters help with day to day living essentials, but their common goal is to house the homelessness - a need that has been highlighted as a result of the pandemic. Even before the pandemic, some of those experiencing homelessness had been reluctant to use shelters. Dino, a man who has experienced homelessness for almost six years now, says he only goes to shelters once or twice a year. “It seems like, if you don’t use it to the maximum, you’re not the priority for them. They like people who really depend on them. That’s what I think, and that’s not me,” he says. But some do depend on them. And, since there are almost 3,000 people who are experiencing homelessness throughout the city at any given time, shelters can be crowded. This year, the high volume mixed with COVID-19 has made the decision to access shelters even more complicated. “It’s a life and death sort of scenario. People have to now make the decision do I freeze outside or do I go inside and potentially risk catching COVID,” says Chaz Smith, founder and CEO of non-profit BeTheChangeYYC. Homeless shelters have been forced to lower their capacity to accommodate social distancing. According to Smith, the Calgary Drop-In Centre, for example, would have around 1,000 people staying there in the colder months. This year though, Smith says they can only have 300.

The Calgary Drop-In Centre did not respond to an interview request from the Calgary Journal. However, this is not an uncommon practice. Alpha House has dropped its capacity from 120 beds to 88, and, in the case of a COVID-19 outbreak, they cut that number to 44. This “outbreak mode” has been activated twice already this year. Lower capacity is not the only thing that has changed in shelters. There is increased cleaning of all surfaces, employees and volunteers wear personal protective equipment like gowns, masks and face shields and there is a universal mask policy for all clients who enter. Masks are provided for those who do not already have one. “We don’t really experience any pushback on any of those rules. You might have to remind some folks to keep their mask on, to pull it back up over their nose, particularly if they’re sleeping,” says Shaundra Bruvall, communications and fund development coordinator of Alpha House. “For the most part, clients are happy to have a place to stay that is safe, warm and they’re understanding of the fact that those measures are in place to protect them.” Despite the COVID-19 regulations and precautions, there is still always a risk of transmission in congregate settings, and some people are avoiding shelters in fear of catching the virus. “It does look much more friendly than what it looked like previously, but I can still sympathize with people not wanting to go just because of the sheer capacity or volume that shelters can have,” says Smith. “I mean, I don’t really particularly want to be in a room filled with hundreds of other people. Most people don’t at this point.”

And that may be why shelters and organizations like BeTheChangeYYC have been seeing more “rough sleeping,” people finding shelter in stairwells, entrances, tents, under tarps and in tree-covered areas of the city than they would in the past. Rough sleeping is a common practice in the warmer summer months. According to Bruvall, it has been increasingly obvious to those who work in this social services sector that there has been an increase in encampments or people sleeping where they typically don’t. These practices, however, become dangerous during the winter. There are a variety of reasons why people choose to avoid shelters. Anxiety around COVID-19 has played a big part, but other factors such as pets and spousal sleeping arrangements can also impact someone’s decision to access shelters. Shelters are often divided by gender or do not have the space to accommodate sleeping next to a spouse, nor do shelters allow pets. “Inevitably, people will freeze to death and die this winter outside,” Smith explains. “Logically thinking, people are afraid. They just want housing, a place where they can go and be safe. But in the meantime, we need to keep people alive, so that they can be housed.” Because of this, outreach programs are an important support system for individuals who cannot access the resources that shelters provide. BeTheChangeYYC is among those outreach programs. Three times a week its volunteers walk the streets and alleys of downtown. So far, they have averaged helping around 50 clients a night this winter. They provide essential basics

“At the beginning of the pandemic, we wanted to ensure that there was a place for individuals who had no fixed address to go and have a safe space to isolate. As you can imagine, a shelter is not the place for that.” > Mathew Nomura

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BeTheChangeYYC volunteers walking the streets and back allies of downtown Calgary such as food, water, clothing, hygiene products and harm reduction supplies. They also give out emergency supplies such as tents, tarps, rain ponchos, socks, jackets, toques, mitts and gloves, as well as program referrals to access housing, detox and emergency shelters. That support is especially important right now, when people aren’t visiting the shelters that usually provide those kinds of supplies and services. BeTheChangeYYC currently has 26 active outreach workers, most of whom are social workers, rehabilitative counselors or addiction specialists. All positions, including Smith’s, are voluntary, which means every donation goes back into the community. Smith says that outreach also creates a sense of community for people living on the streets. Community, in a sense, can act as a support system in and of itself. “It brings us a snapshot of what a community can look like. It might not be the full thing with all the answers, but it definitely is a piece of it,” Smith says. Another important resource outreach brings is referrals to housing programs. COVID-19 has demonstrated that having a home is a key part of keeping yourself safe and socially distanced from others. But thousands of Calgarians a year find themselves without a place to stay and feel safe. To ease that stress and provide a safe space, the Calgary Homeless

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Foundation has partnered with several organizations across the province, as well as the Government of Alberta, to create a program called the Assisted Self-Isolation Site. “At the beginning of the pandemic, we wanted to ensure that there was a place for individuals who had no fixed address to go and have a safe space to isolate. As you can imagine, a shelter is not the place for that,” explains Mathew Nomura, vice president of Calgary Homeless Foundation. This facility helps those who are showing symptoms or have received a positive COVID-19 test isolate in a safe space with security and food, and is staffed with healthcare professionals and case management workers. Rather than discharging people who were in the ASIS back into homelessness or a shelter, Calgary Homeless Foundation and its partners created a program to transition the homelessness into a more secure living environment. “They would go into this transitional housing and receive some supports and programming, and we’d be looking for more permanent supportive solutions for themselves,” says Nomura. Since its start in May, the transitional housing program has had 154 individuals enter, and has had 77 transfer into supportive housing. An additional 90 have entered through ASIS and have since exited into either supportive or individual housing.

Chaz Smith on an outreach mission giving out emergency suplies.

PHOTO: ERIN SWEERE

PHOTO: ERIN SWEERE


SOCIETY

“There’s no lack of space for people to be indoors. It’s just a lack of action, creating that space and making it accessible to this population.” > Chaz Smith

Alpha House has also used the pandemic as an opportunity to push for transitional and rapid housing. “Rapid housing means identifying, supporting and moving folks into housing programs or placement opportunities as fast as possible,” explains Bruvall. “We are always working with people on housing but rapid housing refers to allocating more of our resources to making it happen quickly.” One option for rapid housing is converting empty buildings into makeshift shelters. Twenty-eight per cent of Calgary’s downtown core has been vacant for the majority of the pandemic. Smith believes a reasonable solution to temporary housing is to use these empty towers and hotels as emergency shelters. Giving people their own room, bathroom, phone and bed would slow the transmission of COVID-19 amongst this vulnerable population. “There’s no lack of space for people to be indoors. It’s just a lack of action, creating that space and making it accessible to this population. I wish that we would have, as a society, given these vulnerable individuals the space that we have an abundance of in our city,” explains Smith. Nomura, however, says the homeless need more than just their own room. Because homelessness is a community that often includes people who have trauma, substance misuse issues and poor mental health, support systems need to be put in place for people to thrive. “It’s the complexity of the human being and what’s happened to them that they find themselves in that situation. You want people to be successful, you want to help people rebuild and recover. And that does come with program supports,” says Nomura. “It brings back the question that although there is space, how do we share that space so that people have supports through programming

to address their situation appropriately so that they have a path out of homelessness and that they’re not on their own.” Both Nomura and Bruvall also believe that they should be put into affordable housing or housing programs. “The purpose of an emergency shelter is in its title, right? It’s an emergency. The longer that emergency shelters exist, the less they become emergency, and the more they become how somebody accesses any type of shelter,” Bruvall explains. Nomura sees the same problem, asking, “What’s normal about people living in a shelter? Is that the normal that we want?” The path to housing is often a slow process. There has been an average increase of 308 new affordable housing units per year since 2001. However, Calgary needs between 2,000 - 2,500 new units a year to keep up with the demand. Dino has been on the housing list for quite some time without seeing any results. “At first I would go multiple times in the same week, right? And then I slowed down and pretty much gave up,” he says. But the crisis caused by the pandemic could lead to changes that will help people like Dino. “We have an opportunity to really examine the issues as they relate to homelessness, and how do we address those issues together as a community at all levels of government to ensure that shelters are not the normality of what we should expect in Calgary,” says Nomura. “Shelters, if ever, should just be a brief, one-time occurrence, if that was to ever happen. They should not ever be where a person lives. Housing is the solution. Housing with recovery supports is the solution.”

BeTheChangeYYC volunteers preparing emergency supplies for their outreach trip

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MISSION LORENZO GAVILAN VARGAS lgavilan-vargas@cjournal.ca

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hen Adebayo Katiiti attended Mr. Gay Pride Uganda in 2016 he had to give up his crown from the year before and give a speech. Just as he got onto the runway, the event was raided by police. “Cops came in, and they started arresting everybody, beating up everybody,” says Katiiti, who explains homosexuality is illegal in Uganda. That resulted in attendees willing to do anything to avoid the police. “I witnessed friends, I witnessed community members scared to the extent that two of them jumped off the eighth floor to the ground to escape cops and to escape brutality.” It was experiences such as this that highlight how unsafe life was for Katiiti, a trans man, at home in Uganda. Thanks to a swim competition that took him to Edmonton, he was lucky enough to be able to seek asylum in Canada. But his new life in Alberta has not signaled an end to injustice and his fight to make things right. That fight started in his home country. A study done in 2013 by the Pew Research Centre showed that 96 per cent of Ugandans believe homosexuality should not be accepted in society. “You’re queer and people can attack you on the streets and beat the hell out of you. Stone you to death. I’ve had friends who have passed away,” says Katiiti. However, homophobia is not limited to just citizens. It’s also punishable by life in prison. So the police are also looking to find homosexuals. “If you knew somebody who’s gay, and you don’t report them to the police, you are going to jail for like three to seven years. And if your parents knew that you were gay and they didn’t tell the authorities they go to jail. So they took my phone and I was so worried and so scared for my friends I just made a post on Facebook saying lose my number if you know me,” says Katiiti. Despite all the homophobia, the LGBTQ community in Uganda still hosted Pride events, with Katiiti being arrested when police raided the Mr. Gay Pride Uganda event in 2016. In a place where it is illegal to be yourself, members of the LGBTQ+ community are often forced to look to other avenues where they are free to express themselves. For Katiiti, sports acted as exactly that. It was much more than simply a game or a pastime. To him, sports, namely soccer, represented an escape. “I’m this resilient human who if I want to play soccer, you’re not gonna take away my right to play. I used to play with a bunch of boys. My brother could stop me, but he couldn’t really, really stop the passion that I had for it – to express myself and to play the game and be myself. So I used to also steal my brother’s pants, trousers and shorts. And that

“A lot of friends were like, ‘No man you’re was taboo like, ‘Yo, you can’t wear my things. gay. You’re no longer my friend. God doesn’t You’re supposed to be wearing dresses.’” want that. You can’t be in my circles.’ I lost a lot Another sport that has played a vital role of friends too, but in Katiiti’s life is those were not my aquatics. friends. If you’re “I learned my friend, you’re swimming gonna be there for when I was 20, me. You’re gonna after one year at accept me the way the university, I am.” because I did a His friends course unit on were not the only swimming and I people he was fell in love with it. getting backlash I kept swimming from. and made it to “My family the university kicked me out. team and then This time they made it to the disowned me. My national team. sister sent me a Then we had lot of messages, a this competition lot of threatening coming up, the messages, calling IGLA swimming me evil. You don’t competition.” belong. You can’t The IGLA, or be with us. You’re International not part of our Gay and Lesbian > Adebayo Katiiti family.” Aquatics All of this Championships, was on Katiiti’s were held in mind during the games, and he made the Edmonton in 2016. Four days before Katiiti decision to apply for asylum in Canada and his team arrived in Canada, he had been since he did not feel safe going back to arrested at the Mr. Gay Pride Uganda event. Uganda. The process was not an easy News then got out of the raid while Katiiti was one, and Katiiti had to overcome many in Canada and his name was released to the obstacles in his path. Ugandan public as a homosexual.

“My family kicked me out. This time they disowned me. My sister sent me a lot of messages. A lot of threatening messages calling me evil. You don’t belong. You can’t be with us. You’re not part of our family.”

Adebayo Katiiti continues to fight against injustice in Alberta, after moving here as a refugee PHOTO: COURTESY OF ADEBAYO KATIITI

“During all this time, it was an entire trigger, writing my story down again, going through everything that happened and putting it down, it was a trigger. And apparently, immigration doesn’t offer mental health services or counseling services after you share your experience, after you literally be vulnerable,” says Katiiti. “I almost took my life during the process, because I feel like I’ve lived an independent life from home, so getting help is really hard for me.” As a result of that experience, Katiiti started up Rights for All Refugees In Canada Now or RARICAnow. The organization creates awareness and shares the struggles and stories of LGBTQ+ refugees in Canada. Katiiti says he personally reaches out and opens his doors for refugees who were kicked out of the house by their parents. “It’s still a taboo, even though parents are here they hear about diversity, LGBTQ and stuff, they still kick their kids away.” For someone who extends a hand to others in need, Katiiti still deals with his own struggles — including a recent encounter with Edmonton police at a friend’s house. “We were just hanging out playing dominoes and the voices went a little bit high. We couldn’t control the voices, some of those games really hype me up.” As a result, somebody called the cops on them. “They entered and I was literally seated down,” said Katiiti. “So I was in freeze mode because, by then, I still had a lot of phobia for cops. I was so scared so I started feeling really anxious and I just froze in one space.” In the aftermath of the incident, Katiiti says he was very triggered. “I went into a depression mode, you know, I couldn’t even do work. I support people, but I really couldn’t even do anything,” he explains. “Nobody touch me. I don’t want to talk to anybody. I was in the heat, and I got out of that heat at the death of Tony McDade.” McDade was a black trans man who was shot to death by a police officer in Florida in May. Katiiti took offence to the way McDade was portrayed in the media and the reaction from the black community. “I just felt this wave of reclaiming, of calling for justice.” Katiiti wants to reclaim his body and the bodies of other black LGBTQ members from the system. “Our community needs more than this and our black LGBTQ community needs more care, more attention, more resources, more support that the system doesn’t actually want to provide to them. We’re free but we’re prisoners of our freedom in these kinds of systems. you’re free but you have to keep yourself in prison for your safety.”

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PANDEMIC OF A DIFFERENT SORT Funding and support deperately needed to break the cycle of domestic violence

Esther Elder is the CEO of Discovery House, a shelter for victims of domestic violence. PHOTO: CALGARY JOURNAL

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hen Esther Elder fled her abusive relationship, she was severely concussed. Her ex-boyfriend had bashed her head against a tree just a few days before. Still recovering, she spent the night in a motel with a friend. Shortly after dinner, the phone rang and the caller asked for Elder. She recognized the voice of her abuser. When Elder asked how he’d found her, she was told to look out the window. Turning, she immediately felt paralyzed. Elder’s abuser was staring directly at her. “My legs were, I can remember, like water,” Elder says. “I couldn’t even hold myself up anymore.” The traumatic experience has inspired Elder to end gender-based violence in Calgary. She is now CEO of domestic violence shelter Discovery House. But the COVID-19 pandemic has caused unexpected challenges for that shelter and Elder is working harder than ever to ensure the shelter remains a reliable option for women and children. Elder can relate to those women as a result of her own experience with intimate partner violence. When she became involved in her own abusive relationship, she didn’t know what that violence looked like. However, Elder clearly remembers how the abuse escalated slowly in a cycle of coercive control followed by making up. “The abuser apologizes and is very, very kind and you feel very, very special and you’re convinced it will never happen again,” Elder says. “And then it does happen again.” Her abuser had cracked her cheekbone and rib and bit off a small piece of her ear before Elder left. But her abuser followed her and she continued to experience coercive control for the next 12 months. One night, Elder was walking home from work. Unbeknownst to her, Elder’s abuser had hidden in the bushes. When Elder walked by, he jumped out and grabbed her, leaving her shocked and disoriented. “These are tactics that he would kind of use to just remind me that he was there,” Elder explains. Although Elder had broken off the relationship, it took years for it to truly end. Elder remembers feeling both empowered and afraid after becoming independent. “When you give your power away or someone else is controlling everything, you’re not free at all,” Elder says. “So it felt wonderful, but it was also scary in that I didn’t know what it would look like moving forward.” Elder’s feels she can make a difference in the domestic violence sector due to these personal experiences. Leaving her own abusive relationship has allowed her to understand the complexities of fleeing intimate partner violence. “For some people who don’t quite understand domestic violence or intimate partner violence, you might think, well, why don’t you just leave?” Elder says. “But recognizing and understanding the barriers that are in the way of just leaving. It’s not a matter of, I want to leave, it’s a matter of, is it safe to leave?” When Elder was asked to join Discovery House, she valued the opportunity to help victims find a safe haven. Discovery House is a second-stage shelter which provides longer-term housing for women and children rebuilding their lives. Elder finds the work there incredibly rewarding. “I see a renewed sense of hope that things are going to be better,” Elder says. “A renewed sense of life.” Since 2015, only three per cent of families have returned to Discovery House, which Elder believes is a testament to their success helping women and children.

SAMREED AHMED sahmed@cjournal.ca “I see them transition out of our programs whole and healed and excited about what the future can be,” Elder says. During her tenure, Elder has provided evidencebased data for funders to understand the impact of their donations. Her psychology background has also helped Discovery House create a prevention and intervention framework to end the cycle of abuse for women and children.

“Based on the numbers alone, it’s a pandemic and it’s a pandemic that hasn’t received the media attention it needs to. It hasn’t received the funding from the government that it needs to.” > Esther Elder

Still, Elder is quick to acknowledge that running Discovery House is a group effort. “My leadership approach is very much, we’re all one big team,” Elder says. “So the success of Discovery House doesn’t lie on any one person, not the CEO, not one clinician. It’s all of us really working together.” Elder says that just as everyone needs to do their part to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, everyone needs to do their part to stop domestic violence. “COVID, obviously, is a big deal. I’m not saying it’s not,” Elder explains. “It is, but it’s got a lot of media attention, it’s been brought to the forefront.” Elder believes that before this COVID-19 pandemic, there was already a domestic violence pandemic. The Calgary Police Service responded to approximately 25,000 calls related to domestic violence in 2019, well above the five year average. “Based on the numbers alone, it’s a pandemic and it’s a pandemic that hasn’t received the media attention it needs to,” Elder says. “It hasn’t received the funding from the government that it needs to.” Discovery House needs to raise approximately $1.2 million annually to address that funding gap. Now, this

deadly underfunding problem has been worsened by the coronavirus pandemic. Suddenly, women are in lockdown with their abusers 24/7 and cannot make calls for help. “They’re very limited as to how they can reach out or notify someone that this is what’s happening and they need help because their abusers won’t let them,” Elder explains. “And they wouldn’t want their abusers to know they’re calling for help because they don’t want to be abused or beat up or anything like that. They want to appease their abusers so that there’s no escalation of abuse.” Discovery House is struggling to provide critical resources to those women due to COVID-19. Elder explains that the shelter’s yearly budget was created prior to the pandemic and new challenges — from technological expenses of working remotely to cleaning and sanitation costs — have arisen. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Calgary Food Bank was able to provide assistance to Discovery House. Now, an additional $6,000 is spent monthly on food alone. “What it puts at risk really is our ability to continue providing the life-saving programs and services that we do for the number of women and children,” Elder explains. “We serve about 600, of which about 453 are children, every year.” Elder hopes that these women and children can continue to receive the help they need, and the community will take interest in ending domestic violence by supporting Discovery House’s programs. “We’ve got to wake up, we need to take note and we need to each do our part to stop domestic violence,” Elder says. Many agencies have been looking for funders after additional costs and charitable dollars have been spread thin. Still, Elder isn’t shy about putting her message out there and asking for financial support from donors. “I would say that their financial contribution is not only saving lives,” Elder says. “It’s directly breaking the cycle of domestic violence by supporting Discovery House to provide trauma informed, evidence-based programs so that women and children can heal, build resiliency and be equipped to live independently free from domestic violence.”

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