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Young Canadians say current events, string of bad news adding to anxiety


Anxiety and apathy have both come easily to Galen Watts so far this year.

The PhD student at Queen’s University has watched with a mix of dismay and detachment as headlines about rampant wildfires in Australia and the threat of imminent war between the United States and Iran flooded his screens. The bad news intensified last week, with word that the American-Iranian tensions had escalated to include a missile attack targeting U.S forces in Iraq and hours later a deadly plane crash near Tehran that killed 276 people, including at least 57 Canadians.   

But Watts’ reactions to the bleak headlines felt muted after three years of dramatic emotional shifts between resignation and outright fear.

Watts, 30, said the latest raft of troubling global headlines marks another ride on the seesaw he and many of his fellow millennials feel they’re riding. The constant barrage of bad news and urgent commentary, he said, has left him questioning the validity of his emotional reactions.

“I can’t tell whether I’m being alarmist or whether we are actually in a very alarming time,” he said in a telephone interview from Toronto.

Social media is rife with both young Canadians expressing open angst about issues such as politics, climate change and economic instability, as well as voices quick to denigrate them for what is perceived as unjustified fearmongering.

A common theme among those critiques is the sense that past generations have faced and overcome comparable global crises and that those currently in the early stages of adulthood lack perspective on the struggles before them.

But Henry Giroux, chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest at Hamilton’s McMaster University, dismisses such characterizations as an overly simplistic reaction to what he describes as a complex and unprecedented set of circumstances young Canadians are contending with.

Giroux said millennial malaise has its roots in political and economic policy directions first established as far back as the 1970s, ultimately leading to a job environment that offers young workers few opportunities for stable, fairly compensated jobs.

The rancorous politics of recent years, combined with the growing threat posed by climate change, create a fear that Giroux finds entirely justified.

He said that while past generations have undoubtedly faced down challenges, their successes should not be used to drown out a new generation’s fears.

“That may be true, but that doesn’t in any way tell me anything about the seriousness of the historical moment in which young people find themselves today,” he said. “Simply saying that these are generational issues fails to identify what the issues are.”

Recent research has attempted to document the heightened negativity millennials report, with the spring 2019 edition of the National College Health Survey painting an especially stark picture of mental health deterioration over the past few years.

The survey included about 55,000 students across 58 Canadian post-secondary campuses and found more than 60 per cent of respondents were dealing with above-average or tremendous stress levels. It also found that 23 per cent of respondents had been diagnosed with anxiety, and 19 per cent with depression.

In 2013, when 38,000 students from 32 schools were surveyed, 12.3 per cent had an anxiety diagnosis and 10 per cent had been diagnosed with depression.

Dr. Katy Kamkar, a clinical psychologist with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, attributed part of the spike to increased education around the importance of discussing and seeking treatment for mental health conditions, but said personal and societal issues also play a role.

Kamkar said millennials across the spectrum struggle to grapple with a host of concerns ranging from individual debt levels and dubious employment prospects to political stability and the state of the environment.

“A lot of things going on in our society, all those can contribute to a lot of uncertainty, a lot of worries and anxiety,” she said.

Watts blames social media for some of the pervasive discontent, saying most platforms perpetuate echo chambers that amplify distressing messages while shutting out perspectives that may bring more nuance to the topic at hand.

He said the perpetual sense of “vague outrage” he encounters has at least one positive effect by motivating his generation to engage and take action on issues like climate change rather than sinking into apathy or despair.

But he said the constant urgency winds up giving some issues intense focus while giving others short shrift.

He cites subjects of race and gender as examples, noting that while he feels they are important and worthy of discussion, they have eclipsed matters related to class and economic inequity that he believes to be equally deserving of attention.

Watts said the most recent barrage of concerning headlines will do little to ease his generation’s concerns.

“We rarely have opportunities to talk about issues in a non-outrage mode,” he said. “We are either yelling on Twitter or Facebook, or leading our day-to-day lives, free of an awareness of larger issues. I liken this dynamic to having headphones which only have one volume: really, really loud.”

This report by the Canadian Press was first published Jan. 13, 2020.



Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press

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Lineups form outside grocery stores in St. John’s, N.L., on 5th day of emergency



ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Emptying kitchen cupboards were re-stocked in St. John’s, N.L., on Tuesday, as residents lined up at grocery stores open for the first time since last week’s massive blizzard.

The lineup at one Sobey’s store stretched around the parking lot and out onto the street by the time doors opened at 10 a.m.

The city had advised people to buy enough food to last 48 hours, but some would-be shoppers still turned away upon seeing the epic queue.

Within 20 minutes, there was little room to move inside the store as people filled their carts with essential foods and household items, leaving some shelves nearly bare.

The openings at Sobey’s and other grocers occurred on the fifth day of a state of emergency in the provincial capital, as cleanup continued from a storm last Friday that brought 76 centimetres of snow to some areas.

Hundreds of Armed Forces personnel have been brought in to help in the effort, and more were expected to arrive on Tuesday.

One St. John’s resident, Doris Squires, said she and her husband walked down to Sobey’s early with a plan to beat the crowd, but arrived to find others had the same idea.

Squires said she was looking forward to a re-stocked kitchen Tuesday night.

“I’m going to put on a pot of fresh meat soup, if I can get some fresh meat,” she said.

Several taxi companies offered free rides to seniors and people with disabilities who needed to pick up supplies.

Inside the store, Margaret Connors was co-ordinating with neighbours to buy milk and other essentials for those who couldn’t make it out.

“We’re just combining forces to help out people on our street,” Connors said. “I think everybody was surprised at all of this, but I think people are pulling together.”

Just around the corner from Sobey’s, there was a sense of relief at The Gathering Place, a service centre providing meals, warmth and other basic needs for low-income residents.

Ashley MacDonald, director of social programs, said the state of emergency has been hard on guests who rely on the centre for food and toiletries and couldn’t afford to stock up ahead of the storm.

Many were without power or any means to keep up with updates from the city, MacDonald said, noting some people approached her in the street during the last few days asking where they could find food.

“They’re in the dark about what everybody else knows,” MacDonald said.

About 70 people showed up on Monday to eat and to warm up, MacDonald said, and more than a dozen took home canned supplies for other community members who were housebound.

MacDonald said there was a sense of relief that day as people were finally fed, saw their friends’ faces and swapped stories after an isolating and precarious stretch.

She said planning ahead for warming centres and access to food should be a priority during such weather events in order to better support vulnerable members of the community.

Scott Seabrook, who lives in a bedsit nearby, was at The Gathering Place for a meal Tuesday afternoon. He said he’d been relying on the centre since moving to the city nearly a month ago for a job opportunity that fell through.

Seabrook said staff sent him home with some extra canned food Thursday night, warning they might be shutting down for a couple of days.

“I’ve been living on canned goods since then, and I shared it with some of the people in my room,” he said.

Seabrook said the weather-related closures have also made his job search more challenging, with nowhere open to accept resumes.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said about 450 troops — including some 175 reservists — would be in Newfoundland on Tuesday to help the province dig out from the storm.

Premier Dwight Ball said Tuesday afternoon that the Armed Forces had completed more than 160 assigned tasks so far, and the call volume of requests for assistance had been “extremely high.”

Travel remained difficult across eastern Newfoundland on Tuesday. Most businesses other than groceries stores in St. John’s were directed to remain closed, with exceptions for gas stations and some pharmacies.

The city said it would allow the St. John’s International Airport to resume flights Wednesday at 5 a.m., and taxis would have permission to resume commercial operations at midnight.

Search efforts also continue for Joshua Wall, 26, who was last seen leaving his home in Roaches Line during Friday’s blizzard to walk through a wooded area to a friend’s home in nearby Marysvale.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2020.

Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press

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Ottawa launching ‘Buy Canadian’ campaign focusing on food and agriculture



A “Buy Canadian” advertising campaign focusing on local food and the national agricultural system will be rolling out in the coming months, the federal government said Tuesday.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada officially began seeking bids for a firm to design and implement the multimillion-dollar campaign earlier this week, according to a document posted on the department’s website.

Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau, meanwhile, issued a statement confirming the general aim of the campaign that’s expected to roll out this summer.

“We are investing $25 million to the “Buy Canadian” campaign to build consumer confidence and pride in Canada’s food producers and highlight the advantages of their products,” Bibeau said. “Consumers in Canada can be extremely proud of Canadian producers, who continue to innovate to meet the growing demand for food, while finding solutions to challenges such as environmental sustainability.”

The request for proposal, which gives interested companies until Feb. 18 to submit a pitch, indicates the government is committing to a five-year “social marketing” campaign to give Canadians a better understanding of the country’s agriculture system and educate them on what constitutes Canadian food. The successful bidder will be hired for a year ending next March, with the possibility of extending the contract for up to three more years.

The document lays out short and long-term goals for the project, stating the first priority is to raise awareness of the standards and practices at play in the Canadian agricultural sector. The intermediate goal involves making it easier for Canadians to identify domestic products, leading to the ultimate goal of urging residents to seek and identify more food, seafood and agri-food products when shopping.

The government proposes spending between $1.5 million and $4 million a year on media advertising for the campaign, which will use digital platforms as the primary means of communication.

“The campaign should tell the story of Canada’s agri-food sector and reach audiences on an emotional level in order to instill pride and confidence in the country’s food systems,” the document reads, stressing that particular effort should be made to connect with historically “under-represented groups” such as women, seniors, Indigenous Canadians and official language minority groups.

The request for proposal indicates the successful bidder will need to be mindful of provincial efforts to promote their own fresh, local offerings, but does not provide any specific guidance.

That potential conflict is one of many reasons why at least one industry observer views the government campaign with skepticism.

Sylvain Charlebois, senior director of Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab, said discussions around food have always been complex due to a fundamental tension between the two government ministries with a stake in the issue.

While Health Canada focuses on nutrition through efforts such as the recently retooled Canada’s Food Guide, Charlebois said Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has traditionally concentrated more on economic development and sector growth.

As a result, he said, conversations around Canadian food tend to focus either on health benefits or financial cost, but rarely incorporate both.

The request for proposal appears to acknowledge as much, noting that “cost and nutritional value still rank higher in consumers’ decision-making” before outlining its vision for the “Buy Canadian” campaign.

Charlebois also said that several provincial governments have run successful promotional efforts for decades, citing Foodland Ontario and Prince Edward Island’s Canada’s Food Island as notable examples.

“There’s a legacy there that needs to be recognized,” he said. “Provinces have actually been doing this for a very long time, so for the feds to come into the game of promoting local foods all of a sudden could actually create some confusion.”

But Charlebois foresees other complications as well, including a failure to clearly define what Canadian food truly means.

He said the request for proposal makes no mention of whether Canadian food processors will be included in the effort, noting such facilities also make significant contributions to the domestic economy.

Bibeau’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether provincial co-operation or processor inclusion will form part of the campaign.

This report by the Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2020.

Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press

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january, 2020

mon06jan(jan 6)8:00 amfri31(jan 31)12:00 amJanuary is Alzheimer's Awareness Month8:00 am - 12:00 am (31) Event Organized By: K. Jobs

sun12jan(jan 12)2:00 pmsun22mar(mar 22)5:00 pmAnne Frank: A History for Today opening at Red Deer MAG2:00 pm - (march 22) 5:00 pm mst Red Deer Museum & Art Gallery Address: 4525 - 47A Avenue, Red Deer

thu23jan(jan 23)6:00 pmsat25(jan 25)11:00 pmRed Deer Justice Film Festival6:00 pm - 11:00 pm (25) welikoklad event centre, 4922 49 St, Red Deer, AB T4N 1V3

fri24jan1:30 pm3:00 pmMonthly Mindfulness Drop-InMonthly Mindfulness Drop-In1:30 pm - 3:00 pm

mon27jan11:15 am1:15 pmLuncheon With Arlene Dickinson11:15 am - 1:15 pm Cambridge Hotel and Conference Centre, 3310 50 Avenue