A love letter to Pride

A reminder that regardless of how far we have come, there is still more that needs to be done

A love letter to Pride

There are few places where one can strip themselves of any veil and express the unadulterated version of themself. Throughout the years, Pride has become one of these safe havens.

Pride highlights the LGBTQ+ community in all of its glory. The carnivalesque themes and harlequin atmosphere project and celebrate the years spent hiding from oppression and fighting for basic rights the right to love, to express, and to simply be.

LGBTQ+ individuals fight, whether in public or private, to be a part of the fabric that creates and connects societies worldwide. Pride allows members of the LGBTQ+ community to defend their feelings, protect their right to resist social stigma, and promote the rich diversity that defines the community.

There is a fearlessness to Pride, backed by a history infused with tenacity and courage, that leaves me in awe. June 16, 2017 was the first time I attended the Pride parade. People of every age, shape, and ethnicity filled the streets. The crowd was as polychromatic as the flags that they carried, and the atmosphere was filled with glitter and charged with ecstasy.

Amidst the bombastic music and vivid rainbows, all I saw was the unreserved emotion — the wide smiles that make eyes gleam, and the tears running down faces, filled with nostalgia and joy.  Coming from a country like Pakistan, where many aspects of society are censored, I had never had the privilege of experiencing something like this before.

I have always been a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community, possibly even before I understood how sexuality and gender are constructed in our world, but in those moments at Pride, a newfound appreciation for the movement grew in me.

The spectacle of ‘come as you are’ is terrifying for most people, myself included. We fall into a façade that we feel will be accepted, rather than letting the world adjust to accommodate, or simply accept, us.

Although I have experienced discrimination as a Muslim woman of colour, I also identify as cisgender. I cannot claim to completely understand the struggle of being constantly mislabeled by heteronormative culture, as I have never had to justify who I’m attracted to or the identity that I adopt.

But as I marched alongside all the supporters who had come out to celebrate Pride, I realized that this community has every right to be heard. A flicker of hope sparked in my heart that one day people in my country could do the same.

Freedom of expression is a relative term in Pakistan, but so are all the other freedoms that we take for granted in the West. Pakistan is a country submerged in years of turmoil and deluded by biased religiosity. There is a lack of free will, despite citizens being charming and humble. Even social activists are often afraid to advocate for the inclusivity of various sexualities, genders, and identities.

The monochromatic city walls retain the stories of people who are desperate, but afraid, to be themselves without discrimination. I have seen my friends struggle because we come from a society laced with conservatism, which leaves them unable to live their truths.

Narrow-mindedness bred through education paves a predetermined path for every generation, before its members even realize who they are or who they love. People have to think twice before touching, and the simple act of interlocking fingers turns into hushed shadows. They begin to live in the darkness — secretly existing, but never really seen. Where I am from, this is all too often the narrative of the LGBTQ+ community.

Standing at Pride, I wanted more for my country. I wanted ruffled feathers, ostentatious costumes, hopeful slogans, and liberation. It was all right in front of me people reveling in the light as they walked through the streets of Toronto.

For me, that felt like the importance of Pride. It is not just a celebration, but a remembrance of the journey that led to these moments and the road moving forward. That is, a road for further inclusivity that dispels the latent bigotry and gives rise to equity.

While the West has made strides, there is still a vast amount of LGBTQ+ culture that needs to be taught and mainstreamed. It goes beyond a day or a month — paradigms need to be shifted worldwide.

The LGBTQ+ community has always faced adversity with love and resilience, from Stonewall to the fight for transgender rights. Members and supporters of the LGBTQ+ community keep marching to retain the rights given to them, with the hope that we can spark change in a countries where these rights do not yet exist.

This year, Pride encompassed not only the vibrant festivities, but also highlighted the violence that has recently struck the community. Pride serves as a reminder that regardless of how far we have come, there is still so much that needs to be done.

Rather than touting what I have done for the LGBTQ+ community which is little in comparison to what the community has taught me this is my love letter to Pride.  

Top 3 activities to do in Toronto this summer

Twenty degrees, a mild breeze, and Insta-worthy pics — summer in the Six has never looked better

Top 3 activities to do in Toronto this summer

Being a student in the city can be costly, which is why we’ve found three things you can do this summer in Toronto that are both fun and free. 

Miami meets Monaco in downtown’s very own Harbourfront. Where the yachts and water meet the horizon, Toronto’s Harbourfront has one of the most beautiful sceneries this city has to offer. While the Harbourfront is perfect for a pleasant yacht trip, those living on a student budget can enjoy a beautiful summer afternoon here too.

Upon arrival, you will find yourself surrounded by water vehicles of all kinds, from speed boats and sailboats, to yachts and cruises. Following Lake Ontario’s shoreline, the boardwalk is a great place to walk while seeing all the boats, both parked and coasting. Walking further to the west down the shoreline, you can enjoy the sand between your toes, as well as the beautiful view of boats sailing across the water.

Where is this sand you speak of? If you walk far enough along the coast, you will reach Lake Shore Boulevard West and Toronto’s Waterfront. Here, you will find even more boats, but also sand, bikes, and walking trails perfect for those who want to get fit in the great outdoors. 

If you want to feel like you’re in the streets of Europe, check out the Distillery District.

Located in a little pocket of east downtown, the area is known for its cobblestone laneways. At the heart of the District is the romantic love lock sign where visitors are invited to secure their feelings under lock and key. Reminiscent of the Pont Des Arts ‘Love Lock’ Bridge in Paris, the Distillery District provides students with a taste of Parisian romance.

For a little taste of Japan, the famously beautiful cherry blossoms are back for another round. They can be enjoyed for free at  High Park, U of T’s Robarts Library, and Trinity Bellwoods Park amongst other locations across the GTA. These flowers only bloom once a year, so keep your eyes peeled for their bright colours. 

Toronto is such a diverse and vibrant city, and you can enjoy its many perks without breaking the bank. If you’re lucky, you’ll also get that perfect Instagram photo!

A collection of upbeat and chill tunes to delve into before class starts in the fall

There’s no time for summertime sadness when the sun is shining and your playlist is on shuffle

A collection of upbeat and chill tunes to delve into before class starts in the fall

While words can be used to describe summer, I feel that they don’t do it much justice. More than any other season, summer just feels like a collection of random anecdotes strewn together in some slurred slideshow with the speed setting turned on way too high.

In an effort to add to your own personal summer slideshow, this playlist provides, along with some surefire bops, a collection of experiences for your amusement and exploration. So get out there! Enjoy the season! We’ll be back in class before we blink.

“Boyfriend” by COIN, 2017

As this song plays, imagine you’re somewhere, dancing your heart out, out of breath, muscles aching, playing the air guitar — and drums! — and being absolutely reckless in love. As the chorus comes, you scream it triumphantly, but honestly, you couldn’t care less because you’re having the time of your life!

“No Missy” by c a n d i d !, 2018

Close your eyes and imagine the falling action-to-resolution transition of every romantic story in existence. If, when you listen to this song, you aren’t immediately transported outside someone’s window with a boombox or driving miles throughout the night to be with your unrequited love, replay the song but this time lying sprawled across the floor. Angst and/or Weltschmerz recommended.

“Daft Pretty Boys” by Bad Suns, 2016

Fair warning, when this song comes on, its funky beats will implore you to wear circular sunglasses and bop your head with reckless abandon. If your willpower can surpass even that, you will have to fight the mental image of yourself catching sight of an absolute gem at a party, going in for the kill, and realizing as you talk that they’ve got the personality of a rock. C’est la vie, mon amie!

“Lovely Day” by Bill Withers, 1977

This classic sounds the way that sunlight on your face and a nice, chilled glass of insert-summer-liquid-of-choice tastes on a warm summer’s day. It musters up feelings of just waking up after deciding that there’s nothing more to do aside from enjoying that you simply exist. Skip down the street nonchalantly and try to tell me these beats don’t just crack your battle-hardened university facade.

“Stars and Galaxies” by Carver Commodore, 2017

You are now camping, young one. The fire beside you is dying down as the smell of s’mores wafts through the air, faint smoke providing a fine silk screen between you and the glory of space and time itself. As the colors of the Milky Way wash over you, a feeling of ecstasy can’t help but spread throughout you, the stars winking back in similar appreciation of your solid mug.

“Perspective (Interlude)” by Burns Twins, 2016

You and your friends are walking from one place to another with a mischievous zeal and only enough money for a large fries between you all. The day is a little chilly, but despite the hunger and weather, you’re doing just fine. Remember, the real journey was the friends we made along the way!

“Where the Sky Hangs” by Passion Pit, 2015

I don’t know where you got that ’80s perm, but it’s now bouncing to the synth-pop beat of this jam as your head and shoulder pads follow suit. Imagine yourself performing synchronized snapping to the beat next to a pool, while a group of you pretend to want to swim in its chlorinated glory, its reflection providing great lighting for a picture by the tables.

“Rich Girl” by Hall and Oates, 1976

I triple-dog-dare you to not get up and dance to this slapper. As this plays, hark back to laying down, miserably searching for jobs on the internet while you fill out the same form seven times and lie about your job experience. What other song can provide you a feeling of fulfillment and ask its listener to call into question the ethics of sugar babying?

“What’s Up?” by 4 Non Blondes, 1992

You are now a royal-to-be on the top of a mountain, looking down onto the valleys below with grace and dignity. Yet, your family’s imposition of royal duties weighs on you, and you must scream to the high heavens your misfortunes. A single tear rolls down your cheek as you ask the world in its entirety, ‘HEY, what’s GOING ON?!’

“Everything is Salted Caramel” by Exam Season, 2017

You’re doing your absolutely favorite thing in the world as a ray of sunlight comes through and shines directly onto you. The monotony of summer can weigh on you, but everything will be just fine. Life might get you down, but not to worry; ‘everything has to be sweet and salty’, young one.

Why is Toronto’s hip-hop scene stagnating?

A push to move away from melodic and slightly more aggressive melodic singing

Why is Toronto’s hip-hop scene stagnating?

With Drake and The Weeknd dominating the charts, Tory Lanez carving out significant space for himself in the industry, and B-listers like Jazz Cartier, Roy Woods, and Killy rising on YouTube and SoundCloud, it’s easy to get carried away with pride for the music coming out of Toronto. But if our city is ever to be side by side with the likes of New York, Atlanta, LA, and Chicago as a cultural centre of hip hop, it’s going to need to diversify.

At least in the beginning of a city’s musical evolution, it’s crucial to have a sound. For New York, this was boom bap in the ’70s, buoyed by artists like KRS-One, who coined the term, and driven further into the ’90s by prolific figures like Nas. For Los Angeles, it was G-funk in the ’90s, guided by Dr. Dre’s greasy bass lines and funk-inspired synths, combined with Snoop Dogg’s effortless and relaxed delivery. Toronto is in an evolutionary period itself, but it’s starting to get boring.

Drake’s sing-rap style, along with Noah “40” Shebib’s atmospheric production on songs like “Hold On, We’re Going Home” and “One Dance,” redirected hip-hop to ballad romances, dancehall, and more introspective themes. This was a needed change. With the rise of The Weeknd following in Drake’s footsteps of emotional introspection, Toronto has added drug-addled sex and depression to the list of topics that artists are exploring in hip-hop and R&B.

The hardships of romance, the human ego, and the widespread abuse of drugs and alcohol that artists seem to be aware of but rarely make efforts to change are almost the entirety of Toronto artists’ subject matter. This is hardly unique in hip-hop. Toronto, however, delivers these themes in a melancholy drone, usually framed around suspicion of peers and an ever-creeping sadness.

If we were to characterize Toronto’s production, it would be by a diehard love of minor keys, ambient synths, and heavy reverb on vocals. The emphasis is on the words; the instrumentals take a backseat. Shebib personally likes to muffle drums for segments at the beginning of verses, a great indicator in any track that Drake is about to talk about his ‘tings.’

Piano is common in Toronto production, but it’s often so far in the background or so layered with effects that it hardly resembles the original instrument. We borrow our sharp trappy snares and rattling hi-hats from Atlanta; sometimes R&B artists will trade these for dancehall-style beats.

This is a style unique to us, one with a lot of artistic merit and definitely worth pursuing. But like all great bearers of music culture, Toronto must evolve to maintain its relevance.

Roy Woods is essentially a lyrically deficient version of The Weeknd, and the even lesser-known anders a rehash of Woods. Tory Lanez has a particularly interesting soft-to-aggressive vocal range that he uses to great effect on “Fallback” and “B.L.O.W.,” but listen to the instrumentals on either of these and you’ll hear the same drowned piano and trap influence.

Cartier and Killy deserve some credit for their willingness to experiment, but they fall in a similar trap. Cartier’s producer, Lantz, has developed an orchestral trap beat style that almost won Cartier a XXL spot, and an unreleased Killy song, tentatively titled “No Sad Days in LA,” has soaring, razor sharp guitar riffs and furiously satisfying bars. The two boast a similar energy to Lanez and a tasteful use of autotune, but they nonetheless fail to escape the gravitational pull of our attachment to minor keys and similar drum beats.

This isn’t to say these artists are identical or not worth listening to. Nor is this a call for New York boom bap revival — which Joey Bada$$ did, and is done. The problem is that every new Toronto artist who releases music along the same lines of sing-rap and emotional crooning limits our chances of raising the next Chance the Rapper, Anderson .Paak, or Kanye West. There is more musical space to explore, and the market exists for it, yet Toronto artists seem afraid to do so.

Rare is it to hear jazzy dissonant chords in Toronto instrumentals, and yet Mac Miller’s “Dang!” was well received for it. Any vocal styles other than melodic singing — and slightly more aggressive melodic singing — are for the most part shunned by Toronto artists. Yet Chance the Rapper is one of the biggest stars of our generation. Goldlink also employs one of the more interesting vocal techniques in the industry today, and his single “Crew” was recently certified platinum. Anderson .Paak borrows from soul, disco, and jazz, and was nominated for two Grammys. Run the Jewels produced a whole album with only cat noises and vocals. What exactly is our excuse?

The demand for new and revolutionary material never ceases. Toronto consumers are not lovers of just Toronto hip-hop, but hip-hop in all its flavours. There’s no reason we should limit our palate to one or two.

Cole city

A potential Desmond Cole mayoral bid spells promise for a progressive Toronto

Cole city

There is more to Desmond Cole than meets the eye. Witness him in person and his humility is palpable — we recall how gracefully he moderated Azeezah Kanji’s 2016 Hart House Hancock Lecture, or how open he was to conversation when we, a couple of strangers, encountered him on the street earlier this year. When the public eye puts pressure on him, however, he does not prioritize respectability or diplomacy. He unleashes an incisive logic that is difficult to swallow and impossible to ignore.

Freshly named ‘Best Activist’ in Now Magazine, Cole specializes in doggedly raising uncomfortable truths to those in power. Over the past two years, we’ve observed Cole confront such truths in many forms: as columnist, radio host, public speaker, and critic. And now, we’re ready to see him do so as mayor.

Last month, Newstalk 1010 released a poll which asked Torontonians whom they would consider to vote for as mayor — and Cole’s name was included without his prior knowledge. Of more than 800 Torontonians polled, 30 per cent indicated they would give Cole “a great deal” or “some” consideration. Later, on Facebook, Cole announced he was considering running against current mayor John Tory in the 2018 municipal election.

In a sense, Cole and Tory are not simply hypothetical political opponents; they have long been at odds. The 35-year-old Black activist-journalist has consistently and directly challenged the older, white career politician and businessman, especially with regard to police accountability and race relations. But Cole has a vision that eludes his incumbent: one that can inspire the public to imagine a radically better future.

The personal is the professional

Prior to holding the municipal government to account, Cole was more intimately concerned with another powerful institution. In a 2015 Toronto Life article titled “The Skin I’m In,” he gained widespread attention for his description of how he has been followed, stopped, and interrogated by police without cause — a total of over 50 instances. His story shone a bright light on the police practice of carding, which was found to target Black Torontonians 17 times more than white Torontonians in parts of the city.

During his subsequent tenure as a columnist for the Toronto Star, Cole grounded his personal experiences with police within wider commentaries on racial justice, ranging from the anti-Blackness of Pride Toronto to the indefinite detention of migrants in Canada’s prisons — all of which demanded accountability from powerful institutions. Not only did these issues frequently pit him against Tory and the Toronto Police, but they caused him to butt heads with the Star’s own publisher, John Honderich, who admonished Cole for writing about race too often. Soon, Cole found that his weekly articles had been cut down to a column once every other week.

Nonetheless, Cole remained headstrong in the public sphere. In 2016, at an anti-racism public consultation, he challenged Tory to explain why he never met with Black Lives Matter Toronto during their 15-day protest campout in front of police headquarters. “I should have been there,” the Mayor conceded.

In April this year, Cole again rattled the establishment by holding up a Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB) meeting where Tory was present, as he rebuked their decision not to destroy the data collected from carding. The Star again policed Cole’s behaviour, arguing he had breached the paper’s apparent policy that journalists cannot play both “actor and critic.” In response, Cole resigned from his columnist post. “If I must choose between a newspaper column and the actions I must take to liberate myself and my community,” he said, “I choose activism in the service of Black liberation.”

The false dichotomy between activism and journalism peddled by his editors at the Star reveals how uncomfortable the city’s powerful, predominantly white institutions still remain on addressing race relations. But for Cole, the personal is the professional; his identity as a Black man is inextricably connected to his work.

His resignation from the Star, his protests at the police board meeting, and his contemplation of the mayoralty convey one clear quality: being neutral is not an option. He clearly and unwaveringly champions principles of accountability and justice, and acts on them at a personal cost. Toronto urgently needs to bring marginalized communities into the politics from which they are normally excluded — and Cole’s strong, personal connection to such constituencies represents the kind of strength we need in the leadership of this city.

Freedom and justice: all or nothing

Speaking about race, reconciliation, and Canada 150 at the “Glorious & Free?” panel at the 2017 International Festival of Authors, Cole asked the audience, “Are you free if I’m not free?” He was referring not only to how Black liberation is intertwined with other struggles for freedom, but also to his upcoming court date on November 23, further to his arrest at another TPSB meeting in July.

Cole explained what happened in a statement on Facebook. “I went to speak about Dafonte Miller, 19, who was beaten by a Toronto Police officer… but the police board did not put his situation on its agenda. When I spoke about Dafonte anyway, I was arrested and charged with trespassing — at a public meeting.” Cole’s stand for Dafonte reminds all Torontonians that if any one of us is subject to institutional violence and suppression, none of us are truly free.

As mayor, Cole would likely prioritize the cornerstone issue of police accountability, which affects many minority communities in Toronto. We might expect him to start by dismantling the current governance structure of Toronto Police, implementing direct and democratic community ownership of the city’s law enforcement system, and finally, removing the presence of armed police from public schools.

At the same time, racial justice is not the only issue on Cole’s mind. Indeed, being a progressive candidate would mean fighting for all who are marginalized.

Through his Newstalk 1010 radio show, 70,000-strong Twitter audience, and journalistic work, Cole has devoted coverage to various key concerns affecting people in the city, including the overdose crisis, lack of affordable housing, austerity measures, and transit issues. He has also mapped solidarities with Indigenous, migrant, queer, and trans people in the city. Because Cole wants to prioritize issues marginalized by the incumbent, he would be a clear progressive option who could draw alternative perspectives from his work on the ground and make the mayoralty about the many, not the few.

“My future in politics”

A Cole mayoralty would mean many things to many people. At the moment, only Doug Ford has been confirmed as an official mayoral candidate. Both Ford and Tory are elite figures who represent the interests of the right and centre-right respectively. Even if Tory runs and wins a second term, the critical value in having a candidate like Cole is that he has the potential to smash the eliteness and mediocrity that currently immobilizes Toronto’s politics.

Additionally, a majority of Toronto’s residents identify themselves as visible minorities. The visibility of a mayor of colour in a city of colour would thereby align with the rise to power of other racialized leaders: think federal New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh and Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi.

However, electing Cole as mayor is not a matter of novelty or tokenism. In his own right, Cole has demonstrated his active and unwavering commitment to progressive issues. The mayoralty would simply offer him a larger scope to continue to reshape dialogue and embolden grassroots progressive movements toward intersectional justice. He could do for this city’s stale politics what Bernie Sanders or Jeremy Corbyn achieved with their own campaigns: provide the vision of an outsider who does not shy away from radical social change.

In 2006, as a Toronto City Council Candidate for Ward 20 (Trinity-Spadina), a 24-year-old Desmond Cole was profiled by a Varsity writer. Contemplating the possibility of his electoral loss, Cole foreshadowed to The Varsity: “I still accomplished something. I’ve built a base for myself and for my future in politics.” He continued, “This has been too much of a success to let it be a one-off.”

Eleven years later, we, as part of another generation of Varsity writers, are ready for Cole to finally realize that future in politics — if he decides to run.

Clement Cheng is a third-year student at Victoria College studying Peace, Conflict and Justice Studies, Geography, and English.

Ibnul Chowdhury is a third-year student at Trinity College studying Economics and Peace, Conflict and Justice Studies. He is The Varsity‘s Associate Comment Editor.

In Photos: Canada 150 in the city

Toronto celebrates the occasion with events across the city

In Photos: Canada 150 in the city

July 1 marked 150 years since Canada’s confederation. This summer series focuses on events that explore this milestone while pondering the question: how did we get here?

On July 1, 2017, Canada turned 150 years old. The milestone was met with celebration, condemnation, and consideration from around the country. In Toronto, events both big and small were held in light of the occasion.

The Varsity explored the city with our cameras, attending a variety of Toronto’s Canada 150 events. (Click the photos to enlarge).


We started the day by watching the Parade of Nations run down Yonge Street. The morning parade was organized by the Community Folk Art Council of Toronto and consisted of 25 different multicultural groups with nearly 2000 participants. Yonge Street was transformed into an international celebration; some highlights included a band from Serbia, beauty queens from the Philippines, and balloon flowers from a Vietnamese community group.


Once the parade was finished, participants and viewers gathered in Yonge-Dundas Square to take photos, shop for Canadian merchandise at vendor booths, and hang out until an afternoon of musical performances began.


The festivities at Queens Park began at 10 am with a citizenship ceremony where 150 people took the Oath of Citizenship, officially confirming their Canadian citizenship. The family-filled event included music performances, Canadian vendors, and activities for children. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne briefly spoke on stage, praising Canada’s multiculturalism and diversity.


Up by 550 Bayview Avenue, Evergreen Brickworks hosted its weekly farmer’s market in addition to a holiday garden event series called Brewer’s Backyard.


The Brewer’s Backyard celebrated Canada Day along with the 30th anniversary of Great Lakes Brewery, one of Toronto’s many craft breweries. The event spread festivity through affordable drink, healthy foods, and the natural beauty of the Koerner Gardens. The Brewery also showcased 19 different craft beers on tap, as well as the debut of the CanCon Session IPA, a new brew inspired by ACTRA Toronto.


Plenty of people packed in Nathan Phillips Square to see musical performances and take photos by the ‘Toronto’ sign. Food trucks were lined up around the venue with people eating on any available grass they could find around the square.


Nathan Phillips Square, though busy, was quite relaxed throughout the day; people and puppies alike were decked out in Canada Day gear, enjoying the scenery of City Hall.


Spadina Museum was open to the public free of fare in celebration of Canada 150, hosting numerous visitors throughout the day. The garden behind the museum was packed with people celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Annual Toronto—St. Paul’s Canada Day Picnic organized by federal Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett. The event acknowledged Canada’s 150th anniversary as a milestone to remind Canadians of the colonization of Indigenous peoples as well as the importance of reconciliation.


There was a noticeable presence of resistance around the city. Signs were taped up around the downtown core objecting to the celebrations of Canada 150 on behalf of Indigenous peoples. At the Annual Toronto—St. Paul’s Canada Day Picnic, two people held a homemade sign that read, “Canada 150 is a celebration of colonial violence, genocide, & land theft.” Hashtags like #Unsettle150 and #Resistance150 made the rounds on picket signs and social media.


Toronto’s Harbourfront was one of the busiest locations in the city throughout the day. A festival entitled Our Home on Native Land – which began on June 30 and continues until July 3 – occurred around the Harbourfront. The event was created to acknowledge the contributions of Indigenous and newcomer artists on Turtle Island and featured a variety of notable musicians, DJs, singers, and dancers.

Harbourfront also showcased family-specific activities. When we arrived we spotted children riding paddleboats and families enjoying picnics on the eastern end of the harbour. Plenty of visitors lined up to enjoy a culinary Canadian staple: Beaver Tales.


One of the most popular – and controversial – parts of the Harbourfront was an unmissable six-storey giant rubber duck. The area around it was crowded with people vying for the perfect selfie with the yellow creature. Vendors packed themselves into the western-end of the harbour selling duck-related merchandise.


The Beaches were filled with anticipation for the annual fireworks show that occurred at 10 pm. The massive aura of the fireworks saturated our lenses with vibrancy and colour. Inspired beach-goers lit the soaked dunes of Woodbine beach with their own fireworks, transforming tubes of paper into flares that covered the night landscape.


We finished our day taking photos of the fireworks off the CN Tower. The streets around the tower were filled with people; tripods were angled up at the tower awaiting the show while families were camped out on the ground along Front Street and the Harbourfront. Once finished, the crowd cheered, cars honked, and the audience applauded the final show of the night.


YouTube Space opens in Toronto

Sets featuring table hockey and moose antlers work to reflect the Canadian experience

YouTube Space opens in Toronto

Google has opened their first YouTube office in Canada, located at George Brown College.

YouTube Spaces were created in April to help grow and support YouTube channels through educational and technical services. According to Chris D’Angelo, global head of production and programming for YouTube Spaces, “the goal of YouTube Spaces is to help create better storytellers and allow YouTubers to make the most out of the video-sharing platform.”

Adam Relles, head of the YouTube space in New York City and an instrumental figure in opening the space in Toronto, explains, “You look at Toronto, and it’s a city that has its own culture and history of impact on creative — things like The Second City, and Kids in the Hall, and tonnes of music like Drake and The Weeknd… So, there is a significant influence.”

With the rise of Canadian YouTubers like JusReign, AsapSCIENCE, The Sorry Girls, Superwoman, and LaurDIY, it makes sense that Google would install an office in Canada, making a total of eight locations around the world.

The 3,500 square foot space is open to all YouTubers with over 10,000 subscribers. Once a YouTube content creator attains 10,000 subscribers, they are invited to an “Unlock the Space” orientation seminar designed to familiarize them with the environment and its capabilities. These capabilities include high-quality camera equipment, sound stages, special production programs, educational offerings, exclusive events, and screenings.

The space itself has a unique Toronto feel with contributions from design students at George Brown College. Each set in the space is inspired by different aspects of Canadiana. From the graffiti-mural by Toronto artist Runt, to the cottage rec-room including moose antlers and table hockey, each space reflects different parts of the Canadian experience.

Although exclusive benefits are limited to individuals with over 10,000 subscribers, access to the Space’s Online Creator Academy and Open Houses are available for anyone with a YouTube channel.

U of T track stars attack Rio

Four U of T track and field athletes to represent Canada at Olympic games

U of T track stars attack Rio

Although they were missing from the opening ceremonies, Canada has sent, arguably, its best track and field squad to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.

Among the 65 athlete roster — including London 2012 bronze medalist in the men’s high jump, Derek Drouin, and 100m sprinter, Andre De Grasse, are four female athletes: Alicia Brown (women’s 400m and women’s 4x400m relay), Gabriela Stafford (women’s 1,500m), Andrea Seccafien (women’s 5,000m), and Micha Powell (women’s 4x400m relay), who are not only representing Canada, but U of T as well.

Alicia Brown

Graduating with a bachelor of Communications, Culture, Information and Technology from U of T in 2013, Brown had an incredible intercollegiate career with the Varsity Blues. In 2013, she was the winner of both the provincial and national 300m titles, and was also a member of the national record-breaking women’s 4x200m relay team. Brown was also named U of T’s 2013 female athlete of the year. 2013 was a breakout season for Brown, who, along with all of her university accolades, won the national championship for the 400m.

After graduation, Brown continued to train with Blues sprint head coach Bob Westman and competed for the University of Toronto Track and Field Club (UTTC) where, this year, she crushed the women’s 400m Olympic standard and won the national championship in a personal best time of 51.84. Alicia competed in the preliminary heats of the women’s 400m on Saturday, August 13, where she placed 28th. You can catch her again in the women’s 4x400m relay on Friday, August 19 at 7:40 pm.

Micha Powell

Joining Brown on the Canadian women’s 4x400m relay squad is 21-year-old Micha Powell. Powell, who trains with the University of Toronto Track Club, had a successful season competing in the NCAA Division I Track & Field championships for the University of Maryland, where she holds the indoor and outdoor 400m records. Although the decision of which four of six possible athletes will be chosen to run in the four-woman relay lingers, with a personal best 400m clocking in at 51.97, Powell is a strong contender to represent Canada next Friday in the 4x400m relay preliminaries.

Gabriela Stafford

Third-year U of T psychology student Gabriela Stafford is the third track and field athlete to represent Canada and U of T in Rio. The 20-year-old middle distance phenom will take to the track in the women’s 1,500m event where she has clocked a personal best time of 4:06.53. Stafford is no stranger to success — her career as a Varsity Blue has seen her win multiple accolades, including a silver at the 2015 CIS Cross-Country Championships, two individual golds at the 2016 CIS Championships (over 1,000m and 1,500m), as well as several provincial titles. Stafford booked her trip to Rio after finishing first at the Canadian National Track and Field Championships back in July where she dominated a field of senior athletes in the 1,500m final.

Andrea Seccafien

A member of the UTTC, 5,000m specialist Andrea Seccafien booked her ticket to Rio at the Canadian Olympic Track and Field Trials in July by winning the 5,000m event with a time of 16:00.41.

After sitting out last season due to injury, Seccafien, who is a University of Guelph Alumni, joined the UTTC and has had a stand-out season, winning the prestigious Hoka One One Middle Distance classic in Los Angles where she clocked a personal best 15:17.81 — placing her well below the Canadian Olympic standard. Andrea raced on Tuesday, August 16, at 8:30 am, in the 5,000m preliminaries at Olympic Stadium in Rio. She ranked 20th after the race.