Housing in Toronto: report shows grim rental market

Rent continues to rise, building of expensive condos favoured over cheaper rental units

Housing in Toronto: report shows grim rental market

The rental market in Toronto remains dismal, with a recent report from Rentals.ca showing that Toronto rents are the highest in the country, especially in the heavily student populated areas around UTSG.

As of October 24, the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom was $2,166, and a two-bedroom was $2,589.

Rentals.ca, a popular website for apartment hunters across the country, also reported that the Ontario average asking rent per square foot was $2.76. Vacancy rates in the city are below two per cent, creating a competitive housing climate among Torontonians.

Being in the centre of downtown, UTSG is surrounded by some of the most expensive neighbourhoods in Toronto, such as Yorkville and the Entertainment District. Average rent in Yorkville, which surrounds most of the northeast corner of campus, was $3,468 a month.

However, escaping downtown isn’t a solution to the rising rents, as the top eight most expensive cities in the country are all part of the GTA, including Richmond Hill, Mississauga, and North York.

Rental prices are being pushed up by the unwillingness to buy, according to the website’s report. Toronto has experienced a housing bubble in the past year or so, therefore making people more hesitant to buy.

In addition, high mortgage credit requirements — along with the recently increased interest rate — is “reducing the credits available, reducing the ability for people to buy. So they’re choosing to rent for longer, so that’s certainly increasing demands in the rental market, which would have gone into the ownership market,” according to Ben Myers, who runs the consulting firm that analyzes the data for Rentals.ca’s housing report.

The problem of rising housing costs is compounded with the issue of minimal options for on-campus housing at UTSG. During the 2017–2018 school year, only 6,616 students were able to live on campus, spread out over 11 residences. U of T boasts a total enrolment of 90,077 students.

Most of the students living on campus are in first year, leaving a vast majority of St. George’s 43,820 undergraduate students to find housing elsewhere. However, it is difficult to pinpoint how many students are renters, since U of T does not release statistics on the number of commuters.

A plan to build a new residence at Sussex Avenue and Spadina Avenue was recently approved by the city, but it will not be completed until 2021.

A new residence is also in the works at Trinity College, tentatively located next to the Gerald Larkin Building. However, it is only in the earliest stages of planning and there is no set timeline yet.

Outside of U of T, the willingness of developers to build condominiums, which create more revenue, is not being met by the same demand. According to Rentals.ca, there simply isn’t enough rental housing being built.

Rentals.ca found that while condos comprised nearly 20 per cent of the listings on the site, they made up only six per cent of page views. Due in part to the prevalence of condos, Toronto is comprised of half owners and half renters, as opposed to the national average of two-thirds owners and one-third renters, said Professor David Hulchanski of the Department of Urban Studies.

Hulchanski also commented on the aging of Toronto’s rental buildings, noting that “existing rental stock is about 40 or 50 years old and getting older. In Toronto, almost half of rental stock is in the form of those clusters of 20-storey high rises that were built in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s.”

The most recent complication to the housing situation is the provincial government’s plan to end rent control for new buildings. Current rent-controlled apartments are safe, but there will be no new supply of them. This could cause rents to rise even further, as proprietors of new housing will have no obligation to provide rent-controlled housing.

The myriad of factors that contribute to Toronto’s rising rents, such as immigration and low unemployment, are not likely to dissipate while the city continues to prosper. Toronto is currently experiencing low unemployment at 5.6 per cent. “We’ve really grown dynamically and we are a very successful, desirable city to live in, but we haven’t maintained a fair housing system,” said Hulchanski.

On October 22, let’s change the millennial voter turnout

Young voters are least likely to vote but have the highest stake in our political future

On October 22, let’s change the millennial voter turnout

As millennials have demographically surpassed the baby boomers, young people have the most political power of any other voting bloc for the first time. And according to Elections Canada, their participation is improving. About 57.1 per cent of those eligible to vote aged 18 to 24 took the time to do so for the 2015 general election, up from 38.8 per cent in 2011.

However, compare that to the 78.8 per cent of voters aged 65 to 74 who came out to the polls in 2015, and Canada’s youngest voters appear to be the least interested in engaging in the democratic process. Young people’s interests are effectively underrepresented in the dominant political discourse. This is most clearly reflected in the direction that current provincial policy is taking.

According to the Canadian Millennials Report conducted by Abacus Data, young people are more comfortable with interventionist government action, believing that corporations should pay more taxes and that the government should be more responsible for redistributing wealth. In general, they prioritize spending over balancing the budget in order to alleviate systemic issues like income inequality, and are skeptical of free market fundamentalism.

When asked to choose, 54 per cent suggest that Canada would benefit from a more socialist system. These views are quite inconsistent with the fiscal conservatism touted by the current provincial government.

Perhaps youth voter turnout is relatively low because millennials feel like they have less of a stake in today’s society. Today, people get married, have children, and buy homes much later on in their lives, if they choose to at all.

According to the 2016 Census, millennials aged 20 to 34 are less likely to be homeowners and more likely to still live with their parents, compared to baby boomers in 1981. By comparison, older homeowners and parents may be more concerned with political affairs because of policies that directly affect them, such as property taxes and child care.

Additionally, the transient lifestyles of some millennials may also lead to lower voter turnout, as proof of their current residential address is required to vote. Since people are settling down later on in life, a growing number of people have relatively temporary addresses.

For example, when I was living in residence during my first year at U of T, I assumed that I would not be able to vote in my first election because I did not have any mail to use as my proof of current address. I could have voted in my parent’s ward, where my mail was sent, but that was far away and inconvenient.

I later discovered that if you do not have a permanent residential address, your building administrator can fill out a form called a Certificate of Identity and Residence that will suffice in getting you a ballot, in lieu of mailed documents.  On quite short notice, I was happy to vote in my first ever election after a quick visit to my registrar. Now, the myvote.toronto.ca website makes it simpler to find out what ward you live in, who is running in your ward, and what identification is needed to cast a ballot.

The municipal elections are taking place on October 22, and millennials deserve to have their voices heard and more of a say in the policies shaping our incredible and unique city. An uptick in voter turnout during the last general election shows that young adults are starting to pay more attention to politics.

This may be because stakes are perceived to be higher in today’s political climate. With a culture war quietly raging in the south and populism trickling into Canadian politics, the climate crisis becoming ever more apparent with increasingly intense extreme weather events, and the economy being never too far away from a recession, young people may become more motivated to participate in the democratic process. And so they should be.

We are the ones that will have to deal with the increasingly concerning impacts of climate change, globalization, and neoliberalism. We are the ones that will be affected for decades to come by the short-sighted and unsustainable decisions of antiquated policymakers today. We are the least likely to vote. But the ones that need to vote the most are us.

Madeleine Kelly is a fifth-year Ethics, Society, and Law and Environmental Studies student at New College.

Ford’s handling of Toronto city politics, while reckless, is justified

The premier’s determination reflects a new approach to governance which should not be prematurely dismissed

Ford’s handling of Toronto city politics, while reckless, is justified

Premier Doug Ford’s government has proven to be unusual in the tradition of Ontarian politics. Past premiers have tended to err on the side of caution, operating on a moderate, consensus-based program. They have typically prioritized competent and pragmatic governance over grand ideals and purposes. Ford’s firm, populist, “for the people” style, in contrast, translates to an aggressive, uncompromising decision-making process.

Ford’s decision to cut the size of Toronto City Council — and invoke the notwithstanding clause to defend it — is the most recent example of this novel approach to governance. Objectively, the proposal is a justified one: City Council is far from the most efficient and agile institution it could be. While his headstrong pursuit of this quest is reckless, he is fully exercising the government’s legal rights. He is simply pushing the boundaries that no premier has ever thought to go near.

The Better Local Government Act, also known as Bill 5, which passed in August, began the process to cut City Council from 47 members to 25. Ford argues that the measure sought to end the “culture of waste and mismanagement” around the council. He believes that the high number of members entails a redundant and ineffective process, and by reducing its size, it will be “easier to get things done.”

As an idea, this claim is inherently reasonable. City Council is notorious for its inefficiencies. There is an inherent difficulty in having an efficient decision-making process with 47 independent, outspoken voices. When Toronto is compared with other major cities, the council’s size seems excessive. Los Angeles, for instance, has only 15. Philadelphia has 17, Houston has 16, and Vancouver has 10. These cities have established that effective, capable, and democratic local governments can exist in smaller sizes.

Critics argue that the decision is, at best, reckless and, at worst, anti-democratic. Although less efficient, more voices may be more effective in providing representation. For the average citizen, it is much easier to influence a representative of 60,000 than one of 100,000 people.

The strongest critics challenge the legality of the law, accusing Ford of having sinister intentions. In this view, the decision is an autocratic intervention into Toronto’s affairs that compromises the city’s democracy and silences its citizens, and it is also a vendetta against the council for his own negative experiences as a councillor.

These concerns about effective representation come down to a matter of balance. Of course, the city needs several councillors to ensure representation. But with that being said, it surely should not have too many. The claims about Ford’s intentions seem somewhat far-fetched. This decision is simply the result of Ford’s long-held values of smaller and less costly government.

It would also be an exaggeration to call the general proposal an attack on democracy. Municipal governments are well understood to be under the ‘constitutional authority’ of the provinces, thereby justifying provincial jurisdiction over municipal functions, finance, and governing structure.

Critics, however, are right in pointing out that the particular timing and conduct of the decision is reckless. With the municipal election coming up in October, this decision throws the process into a chaotic situation. There is no reason why the decision had to be made now. The move was also done in a very top-down and unrespectable fashion. Mayor John Tory and the council were given no consultation, let alone any warning, that this was coming. It would have been better to propose this policy first as part of a broader, public consultation with the municipality on the various ways City Council could be improved.

This quick, reckless decision also overlooked the potential illegality of the decision, made clear by the Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba’s ruling, which found that Ford’s decision to “suddenly and in the middle of this electoral process impose new rules” compromised both candidates’ and citizens’ freedom of expression under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

However, Belobaba bases his ruling only on the timing of Ford’s decision, therefore leaving open the possibility that, if done at a latter and more reasonable point, the cuts to the council would be legal and receive no objection from the judiciary.

Ford’s response was unprecedented: the invocation of the notwithstanding clause. As Section 33 of the Charter, this allows the provincial government to overrule certain portions of the Charter. This initially seems to be an overreaction. Although the courts have brought all governments grief, no previous premier has felt Section 33 to be necessary. The clause does have negative connotations, suggesting a disdain for the judicial system and for the Charter itself. The fact that it could be theoretically used to compromise various rights and freedoms has made premiers regard it as too dangerous.

Regardless of the unorthodoxy and recklessness of Ford’s approach, he has the full legal right to follow his course. Section 33 of the Charter was put in place for the exact situation Ford is claiming this to be. The clause, as requested by several provinces, was designed to be an accountability mechanism to the substantial amount of power granted to the courts by the Charter. It also ensures that the legislature, as a democratic and representative assembly, had the final say. Regardless of whether or not this is actually an overreach, the clause allows the Progessive Conservative government to make that determination.

This ability to shrug off convention is consistent with Ford’s ideology and aggressive, populist style — the very thing he promised he would bring to Queen’s Park. Ford is claiming that the good of ‘the people,’ from whom he has, in his own view, received a universal mandate, justifies an aggressive push to get things done regardless of the obstacles in the way. Thus, it is likely that we will continue to see more convention-breaking actions in the future. 

Given that the Ontario Court of Appeal has recently overturned Belobaba’s ruling, the notwithstanding clause has not been used. Nevertheless, the premier’s willingness to do so indicates a new approach to governance in Ontario. 

Sam Routley is a fourth-year Political Science, Philosophy, and History student at St. Michael’s College.

The best of TIFF 2018

Highlights from one of Toronto’s most famous yearly experiences

The best of TIFF 2018

In a city as massive and complex as Toronto, it’s hard for most people to choose one defining annual event. But for me — and admittedly, my cinephilia makes me biased — it’s always the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

The world-famous film festival, now 42 years old, boasted a typically jaw-dropping lineup this year. I had the pleasure of seeing a variety of movies, including inevitable Oscar favourites, future cult classics, and even two very memorable films with close-ups of semen.

Those were 10 hectic days, but below are some of the highlights of 2018’s TIFF.

For awards season followers: If Beale Street Could Talk

Barry Jenkins has returned, his name omnipresent a few years ago with the breakthrough release Moonlight. His previous feature was confident, passionate, and mature. Yet as If Beale Street Could Talk proves, Jenkins’ Best Picture-winning work was just him finding his footing. His newest effort is a sensational ensemble drama, full of rich emotion and an endless barrage of breathtaking performances.

This is not merely some awards-hungry prestige picture; Jenkins has created a unique and bold human drama. With endless sincerity, his camera drifts through a lush and tender colour palette as Nicholas Britell’s string-heavy score washes over us. If Beale Street Could Talk is an earnest and important work from a filmmaker destined to be recalled as one of our era’s greats.

For sci-fi fanatics: High Life

At 72, there are few filmmakers who have performed with the consistency and genius of French auteur Claire Denis. She’s worked with a variety of gifted performers in a vast array of genres, from postcolonial dramas — Chocolat, for instance — to one of the most emotionally distressing horror films I’ve seen: Trouble Every Day.

Her latest movie continues to amaze audiences. High Life follows Monte (Robert Pattinson), a solitary man raising his daughter on an abandoned spaceship, hopelessly alienated from any civilization. What proceeds is a frenzy of ethical and metaphysical questions, with a finale of literally cosmic proportions. Told with ethereal beauty and haunting imagery, High Life is a worthy addition to the filmography of one of cinema’s most original artists.

For arthouse addicts: Ash Is Purest White

Jia Zhangke’s Ash Is Purest White is a lengthy, genre-switching, and emotional epic. It tries its hand as a crime film, an action, and a comedy, but ultimately settles for something a little more delicate and difficult to grasp.

The movie follows a woman who, after spending five years in prison for protecting her lover — a violent crime boss — struggles to readjust into a supposedly ‘free world.’ Spearheaded by a show-stopping performance from Zhao Tao, Ash Is Purest White questions our relationship with time and memory.

For Eurodrama enthusiasts: Transit

The textures, landscapes, and characters from Christian Petzold’s latest film, Transit, all seem familiar. On the surface, there is nothing earthshattering about its tale of a man’s attempt to escape fascism in Europe via migration. Yet Petzold’s handling of temporal relations is quietly innovative. Adapted from Anna Seghers’ 1942 novel Transit Visa, the film sets the narrative in a contemporary setting without changing any of the time-specific details from the source material.

The result is a movie that blends eras into one narrative. Is it the past? The present? A near future? The device is effective at pointing out the cyclical nature of time in a critique of the seemingly undying presence of fascism. Unfortunately, Transit’s subtlety may prevent some from detecting its creativity. This is definitely one of the year’s most expertly-crafted dramas.

For mystery lovers: Burning

Burning, Lee Chang-dong’s latest movie, is a slow-simmer mystery — a film where all answers are obscured behind dense layers of mist. Based off of Haruki Murakami’s “Barn Burning,” the adaptation follows a love triangle turned haywire when sinister intentions come into the mix.

Drenched in melancholic moods and set against bleak landscapes, Burning is a lonesome ambient-fuelled nightmare. Admittedly, the narrative buildup requires dedication and patience. However, once the jigsaw pieces are spread across the table, Burning’s energy drives it to a thrilling finale.

It’s an unconventional and slow-paced thriller, certain to satisfy fans of Kim Ki-duk’s Pieta or George Sluizer’s The VanishingBurning is an investment, but one that pays off in subsequent days of reflection.

For horror fiends: In Fabric

Like a giallo fever dream merged with a psychosexual extravaganza, Peter Strickland’s In Fabric had me in stitches. Likely the most bizarre addition to this year’s Midnight Madness lineup, the movie weaves together a tapestry of characters whose lives take a horrifying turn when they come into contact with a murderous dress.

Between its eerie department store to its evil washing machines, I was frequently in a state of delightful hysteria. Unfortunately, some of the movie’s genius is squandered in a second half that resorts to redundancies, only to recapture its mojo in the final minutes, climaxing in an unforgettable frenzy of cinematic madness.

For documentary devotees: Monrovia, Indiana

For 50 years, Frederick Wiseman has ventured around the world, exploring various settings ­— some renowned, some only remarkable for their lack of distinction. Monrovia, Indiana has him venturing right into the abyss: a nest of Trump supporters.

Remarkably, none of the subjects in this film seem to discuss politics. Instead, they simply drift through their daily routines. Wiseman’s camera captures the minute details of this lifestyle, from graphic surgery in a veterinarian’s office to peculiar mattress sales.

Wiseman’s films have always been about honestly summarizing his own experience of the space he studied, and here, he excels with flying colours.

For tearjerker admirers: An Elephant Sitting Still

After Hu Bo completed An Elephant Sitting Still, his first and only feature, Bo ended his life. I mention this because such a detail feels inseparable from the movie itself. Every scene revolves around a sense of disillusionment with existence; there’s a constant anguish for the entire four-hour runtime.

The spectre of death haunts every moment.

With its desaturated colours, An Elephant Sitting Still is a bleak and intimate epic. Certainly one of the festival’s most challenging movies and a colossal and rewarding achievement.

Beneath all of the grey layers of desperation is a sliver of beauty. This movie is the product of a rare and unique artistic voice.

For crime connoisseurs: Birds of Passage

With his new film, Ciro Guerra trades in the psychedelic atmosphere of Embrace of the Serpent for a grittier and more narrative-driven feature. The product is like a more spiritual Scarface. Both movies are bullet-ridden epics depicting how greed and excess trigger calamities.

Guerra is an immensely talented filmmaker, managing to hit the conventional milestones of crime film, while injecting it with a singular energy. Simultaneously beautiful and brutal, Birds of Passage is a superb Colombian gangster tragedy of Shakespearean proportions.

For experimentalism experts: Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Word of Long Day’s Journey into Night’s unconventional structure has been circulating since its premiere at Cannes. To summarize: the film drops its opening title card 70 minutes in before switching to an hour-long 3D tracking shot for the remainder of the runtime.

Yet the film, Bi Gan’s sophomore feature, is more than just an awe-inspiring technical achievement. It’s also a tender and melancholic portrait of a man’s attempt to resurrect the past. Gan’s tender compositions toy with neo-noir tropes in a Tarkovsky-esque rumination on love.

In my opinion, this is the most beautiful and likely the greatest film that I saw at the festival; every frame sings like a celebration of the cinematic medium. It’s the perfect summation of what TIFF is all about.

We want to hear age

Examining the record resurgence

We want to hear age

On my fifteenth birthday, I was gifted a record player and a vinyl of Arctic Monkeys’ fourth album Suck it and See. At the time, I was participating in a trend that was decades in the making. Record players and vinyls were all the rage, and they continue to be so to this day. But after collecting the rest of the Arctic Monkeys’ discography, as well as some of Sufjan Stevens’ and Father John Misty’s, I had to retire my record player, effectively leaving my small yet expensive record collection as nothing more than mere album art.

The fact of the matter was that the music sounded worse coming from my cheap orange vinyl player: songs skipped, background instrumentals were out of tune, and melodies were distorted. I couldn’t help but be confused by the vinyl craze. I wondered why people were looking to progress in most facets of their lives, but regress in their music.

And I was not the only one bewildered. The vinyl trend has inspired many a thinkpiece, documentary, and heated discussion. It has perplexed those that see music as a sum total of instruments, rhythm, and vocals, but has placated those that take into account experience and historical context.

We are not a society of Luddites. We don’t shed earnest tears over the first edition of the iPod or the initial version of Windows. We want our technologies to develop faster, harder, and more often.

So why is it that a person who has the newest Apple products probably also has an extensive record collection? Is it some kind of blinded dissonance or is there something more behind the trend?

SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY

Liam Baldwin, a graphic design student at York University and owner of a record collection numbering in the 100s and passed down through the generations, explains in an email why he loves listening to vinyls: “You get a really pure and visceral listening experience, with a good quality turntable, speakers and 180 gram vinyl, you can catch every little detail in the recording.”

And it’s these little details that make records so appealing: the ability to catch any flaw or imperfection makes for an authentic listening experience, one free of the sterility of modern, mass-produced, digital music. One can only imagine that this all stems from classic rock vinyls.

You don’t need need to dig deep to find statistics that corroborate this record resurgence. In Nielson Music Canada’s 2017 report, record sales saw a 21.8 per cent increase, which also marked the seventh straight year of growth.

Blair Whatmore, assistant manager at Sonic Boom, Canada’s largest independent record store, observes that “the last five years have been really great for the sale of vinyl records; they’ve come back in a huge way.”

When asked about the types of records that are most popular, Whatmore confirms the relationship between medium, age, and genre: “People are always after classic titles records that originally came out on vinyl and were intended to be heard on vinyl.” She explains, “People are always interested in getting copies of those because that’s the way the artform was designed to be heard. We do well with classic releases from the 60s and 70s and 80s.”

This pattern stands out on the charts as well. Of the top ten bestselling records in 2017 in Canada, only Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. was of the hip hop genre. All the rest were either pop or rock. This illustrates the intrinsic and nearly subconscious association between genre and medium.

Rock and pop dominate the vinyl charts partly because of the aesthetic that surrounds records — you know the kind: a Joy Division vinyl spinning somberly on a player, framed à la Wes Anderson — and partly because rock albums were initially intended for the vinyl medium.

Conversely, hip hop, rap, and R&B dominate the streaming charts. According to Forbes, of the top five most streamed albums in the US in 2017, only Ed Sheeran’s Divide didn’t fall into the hip hop or R&B genre. If you were to see a vinyl spinning, you’d expect to hear Joy Division or The Doors, not Kendrick Lamar or Drake. The former incorporate the fractured sound of vinyl records into their aesthetic. The relationship between outcome and production is therefore synergetic.

Even when modern musicians reference and sample old music, they keep the fractured sound. A recent example of this can be found in Kanye West and Kid Cudi’s collaborative song “4th Dimension” from their album Kids See Ghosts, which opens up with a sample from Louis Prime’s 1936 “What Will Santa Bring.” The sample is crinkly and warped; it offers the tell-tale aged sound that is the crucial juxtaposition to the modern, electronic melody that closely follows.

Kanye doesn’t digitally restore the track because it would lose its personality and authenticity. Imperfection is what makes it interesting.

Listening to records is no different than watching a black and white movie in its original monochrome version. We want to see age and we want to hear age. This is what motivated the original record resurgence — our desire to resurrect the sounds of generations past from an archived graveyard, our desire to hear the same sounds as those in the 50s and 60s.

Modern albums selling out on records is just the aftermath; a trend inevitably stretching its influence to the current and the popular. “I think that part of the reason they’ve become so popular again is that there’s a generation of people who have grown up and didn’t have the CD format; there was never a physical element to music at all,” Whatmore explains. “So I think that the resurgence of vinyl is partly due to that generation of people being able to curate something; curate their collection of records, a reflection of their taste and what they love.”

There is novelty in listening to an album from start to finish — a practice nullified by the very concept of playlists — and in collecting limited edition vinyls and album covers. The physicality of holding a record and putting it on a player adds more to the listening experience than clicking on an icon on your computer screen. So does having a physical collection of the albums that you feel best represent and inform you.

But to say that streaming is killing music — and that records are resurrecting it — is facetious at best. Whatmore says that streaming music may actually boost record sales: “We’re reaching a point now where people enjoy buying music, and they’re streaming music because it is a good way to sample something and learn about new things before you commit to buying them.” Baldwin echoes the same sentiment: “I’ve probably found some of my favourite artists through streaming services [from] which I then went on to buy their album on vinyl.”

The resurgence of record players isn’t happening independent of streaming and digital mediums. There’s a lot of overlap and concurrence; they feed off of and help progress one another. Despite the resurgence, however, records still have a long way to go before they are wholly mainstream again.

The landscape for record stores is anything but conventional. Many record stores in Toronto operate in conjunction with other businesses, oftentimes with ones that have a similar niche or customer set. Vinyl Vault is open on the second floor of Sonic Bar & Café, a Chinatown bar, and Female Treble is open in Eyesore Cinema, a video store on Bloor Street.

Yearning to relate to older generations has been a recurring theme in this article; however, the practice of buying and listening to vinyls in the 60s and doing the same now, is different in intention.

Back then, vinyls were solely for utilitarian purposes: they were used to play recorded music. Now, vinyls have a more complex reason for existing. They are not only meant to play music, but they’re also meant to transport us to a time before iPods and Spotify. For better or for worse, they bring back the sound of two generations ago — imperfect, fractured, yet nevertheless, authentic.

The past is never just the past. Be it by the underground or the mainstream, old fashions and trends are absorbed and repurposed to fit into our modernity; we bring back clothes, makeup, and hairstyles, and refurbish them to meet our needs. Take Polaroids as an example. The ability to hold, shake, and touch the picture is just as significant to the experience as the vintage and raw aesthetic. They’re experiencing a resurgence that stems from the same reasons as that of records: people like the physicality and the authentic feel to them.

SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY

It is easy to blame the record resurgence on hipsters, and to colour record-buying as nostalgic idiocy motivated by those who love 90s indie movies a little too much. But there’s an obvious desire hidden behind the trend: the need for imperfection and authenticity.

In a couple of years, when I can afford a better, state-of-the-art record player, I’m sure my vinyls will be put to good use once more.

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.