François Legault is a lot of things: he’s a millionaire, he’s a baby boomer, and he is a populist. He is also one of the few premiers to not need Montreal votes in order to end up in office, and the first anti-union Premier in Quebec since the bigoted and dictatorial Maurice Duplessis. Legault’s biggest crime as premier, however, is prioritizing the financial interests of wealthy baby boomers over the lives and safety of younger generations, and nowhere is this clearer than in Legault’s back-to-school plan.

We are still very much in the throes of a fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Right before the December holidays Quebec had a massive spike in cases due to the highly infectious Omicron variant for which Montreal schools accounted for nearly half of all outbreaks.

Numbers seem to have dropped over the holidays, but this is clearly not just because cases are being underreported due to the limited ability of home testing to detect of Omicron, and insane lineups to get an in-person test due to the highly infectious nature of this variant. It’s also because the kids have not been in school.

As I write this, it is the day before elementary and high-school students are required to return to in-person schooling, a plan for which Legault and his cronies in government are utterly inflexible. (ed’s note: the snow ended up cancelling many classes that the government did not)

“I think the government is putting on the illusion of caring for the kids, but really their motivation is money,” said “A”, a mother of two whose children are expected to return like all other Quebec kids on January 17, 2022. “They want parents back at work at all costs,” she said, adding that she is “f*cking scared to send them back.”

A is not the only one afraid to send her kids back. X is a teacher and mother of three, one of whom has severe, non-verbal Down’s syndrome. She says that since public health measures have been put in place over the last two years, her daughter – whose condition makes her especially vulnerable to lung and sinus infections – has been less sick than she has ever been in her life. X would rather her special needs child not get Omicron given the lack of research into how the variant will affect her morphology.

“She catches everything,” X says, knowing that when her sons, who attend regular elementary and high schools catch anything, her daughter will most likely get sick. Unlike other kids, her daughter cannot communicate symptoms like a sore throat, so her mother would only know to get her tested if she’s alerted by her school or shows visible signs of illness.

The child’s special needs also make it harder for her to address basic self-care, such as regularly drinking fluids so she doesn’t get dehydrated. That said, if given a choice between in-person schooling and online learning, X expresses distaste for online learning given the disastrous effect it has had on her sons’ mental health.

X is one of the few to propose an alternative to online learning and in-person schooling that the Quebec government seems to have willfully avoided considering: providing parents with homeschooling materials or even giving kids a break from schooling entirely, at least until the current wave passes.

“All this back and forth? What’s the point?” she asks, referring to the constant cycle of school closures and re-openings in response to the regular outbreaks in schools doing in person learning.

Carolyn Gehr, a high school math teacher with the English Montreal School Board, has concerns of her own, pointing out that there are currently no class bubbles in place, so you can have hundreds of unmasked kids in the hallways and cafeterias over lunchtime.

“It’s a disaster waiting to happen,” she says, adding that the government’s plan to call in parents to supervise classrooms when teachers are out with COVID cheapens the teaching profession, making them seem like “nothing more than glorified babysitters,”

“A” feels that none of the government’s decisions are based on the current science regarding COVID and the Omicron variant.

“It’s not a very good idea to send them back with even less rules about isolation and contacts. I won’t know if my kids have been in contact with a positive case and they could very well bring COVID to their aging grandparents, who despite being triple vaccinated, can still get severely ill,”

It’s no coincidence that this back to school plan will primarily affect working-aged adults while many wealthy Baby Boomers have the luxury of working from home or are retiring in droves and can therefore stay home safe from Omicron.

This is the not the first time the government’s COVID plan has put Gen X and younger generations in mortal danger either. Past vaccination campaigns that prioritized people with chronic illnesses with the over 65 camp, younger people with diseases such as diabetes that put them at a higher risk of developing complications from the virus were considered a lower priority for the COVID vaccine than Baby Boomers in perfect health. This is an issue that I raised on multiple occasions in interviews with CBC Radio last year.

François Legault’s actions are not the ones of a man ‘doing his best’ as many wealthy members of his generation believe. They’re the actions of someone who doesn’t care how many young people he kills in order to keep himself and his cohort rich and comfortable.

Legault is up for re-election this October and it would be wise of younger people across in Quebec to recognize his actions as those of a man who prioritizes pocketbooks over people and elect someone who will be more responsible with the health of ALL Quebeckers instead.

Featured Image of a painting by Samantha Gold

It’s been a tough year. A virus is killing people left and right, and Quebec is under curfew from 8 pm to 5 am every day in an attempt to curb its spread. Leaders have had to make tough choices, and that includes Côte-des-Neiges— Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough mayor Sue Montgomery.

In addition to running the borough through the pandemic, Montgomery has been dealing with issues with Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante that culminated in Montgomery’s expulsion from Plante’s party, Projet Montréal and her victory is Superior Court against the City of Montreal in December 2020. I had an opportunity to speak to Montgomery by phone about the pandemic and her recent legal victory.

We spoke just after Quebec had announced the curfew. When asked about the new rules, Montgomery pointed out that no one has ever been through a pandemic like this before. She spoke of how adherence to the new measures speaks to a broader sense of civic responsibility among the citizens of the borough.

“I understand the frustration with people…We’re all tired, we’d like get back to work, but the bottom line is that everyone has to do their bit,” she said, repeating the public health guidelines of hand-washing, mask wearing, and social distancing. “The sooner we all start doing that, the sooner we can get back to normal.”

As to what role the borough has in the implementation of public health guidelines, Montgomery points out that the province sets the rules and municipal governments are there to play a supportive role. The borough’s activities include supporting community organizations that help the less fortunate and vulnerable, mentioning the unemployed, elderly, and disabled. She noted that since the start of the pandemic, the demand at food banks has skyrocketed.

Montgomery mentioned that the unusual circumstances created by the pandemic have brought to light certain issues, such as the need for affordable housing to combat homelessness, and places for people to be able to relieve themselves with dignity, as safety measures have made it impossible for people to avail themselves of toilets in restaurants and cafes. The latter is not only a disability issue, but also a sanitation issue.

Regarding her recent Superior Court victory, Montgomery’s feelings are mixed: she’s thrilled at her win and she’s saddened by the fact they had to go through it.

For those of you who don’t know what led to Montgomery’s expulsion from Projet Montréal, here’s a quick summary:

Sue Montgomery was elected Borough Mayor of CDN-NDG in November 2017 as a member of Valérie Plante’s Projet Montréal. When she took office, she brought with her Annalisa Harris, her chief of staff.

Harris and the Borough Director, Stephane Plante (no relation to the mayor) clashed, with the latter claiming psychological harassment by the former. The City of Montreal ordered a report that they claimed confirmed psychological harassment by Harris of the Borough Director and Mayor Plante demanded that Montgomery fire her.

Montgomery refused, requesting to see the report first. The City of Montreal refused to provide it, and Montgomery refused to fire Harris without proof of misconduct.

In response, Plante kicked Montgomery out of her party. After numerous attempts to settle the dispute amicably, it ended up in court.

The Superior Court, presided over by Judge Bernard Synnott, ruled in Montgomery’s favor, confirming the claims of psychological harassment by Harris were bogus, but also affirming elected officials’ authority over bureaucrats like the Borough Director, and allowing her access to the aforementioned report.

The City of Montreal had until January 11, 2021 to appeal the decision, but there’s no news of them filing an appeal.

Despite every road block, Montgomery is positive about all she’s been able to accomplish. As for Plante’s role in the events leading up to the legal decision, Montgomery has some choice words:

“Had Valérie Plante done her job from the get-go and read this report about so-called harassment, we wouldn’t be in this situation. Because of this court procedure, I have now been able to get the report and there is nothing in there that could even be remotely considered psychological harassment. There’s been a lot of effort, a lot of money, a lot of drafts throughout this last year because Valérie Plante didn’t do her job… Valérie should have supported me the way I supported Annalisa. She preferred to not take a stand.”

Montgomery says she stood by Annalisa Harris because it was the right thing to do, and rightfully points out that to fire her without evidence would have been illegal under Quebec labor law. She feels she handled it as best she could. Montgomery gave Annalisa Harris a choice as to whether to fight the accusations or not because the borough mayor would not fire her, speaking highly of her chief of staff’s abilities.

Montgomery knows that the issues leading up to her victory in court will still need to be addressed but she is prepared to offer an olive branch to the City of Montreal and Mayor Plante. With the municipal elections in November 2021, Montgomery confirmed that she is running again and is creating a new party, though the name of it is still in the works.

Featured Image: Sue Montgomery running for CDN-NDG Borough Mayor in 2017 (photo by Samantha Gold)

We are in the midst of a global pandemic. COVID-19 is ravaging the United States and the European Union and other countries are slowly easing their lockdown restrictions as doctors, epidemiologists, paramedics, and other essential workers scramble to get it under control.

As a member of the immune-compromised I have been extremely careful. I haven’t been to a store, restaurant, or bar in months, and I don’t let anyone in my home unless they wash their hands, remove their shoes, and keep two meters apart during their visit. When I go out, it’s always straight to a car and to a private home where I am extra careful to minimize physical contact and wash my hands regularly. When I’m in any public space, however briefly, I always wear a mask.

That said, while it is highly unlikely that I have COVID-19, it’s not impossible. I am having flu-like symptoms that started with a mild sore throat and a little chest congestion.

After mulling it over, I decided to bite the bullet and get myself tested yesterday. If you’re having any cold or flu-like symptoms, have been to a bar recently, or come in contact with anyone who tested positive for COVID-19, you should get tested too.

Not sure how? I’m here to help.

This article is about how to get tested for COVID-19 in Quebec and what to expect. I hope you’ll be encouraged to at the very least get assessed to see if being tested is necessary. We’re all in this together, so let’s keep each other safe and informed.

First step is to call one of the Quebec government’s COVID-19 information lines, depending on your region. Not sure if you should get tested? Tell the phone operator and they will transfer you to a nurse who will assess you.

If she thinks you need to get tested for COVID-19, she will ask you for your postal code, find the nearest test center, and book you an appointment that best fits your schedule. You will also need to provide your phone number, Medicare number, and email address.

You should get an appointment confirmation by email almost immediately. You can also expect to get multiple reminders by text message in the day or two before the appointment. They will give you the option of cancelling your appointment online.

While it’s not my place to tell anyone what to do, I will say that it is better to know one way or the other than to not know if you have COVID-19, so keep that appointment.

Bring a mask with you and be prepared to wait in line outside the test centre. The one closest to me was at 5800 Cote des Neiges in Montreal, in a sort of construction trailer in the parking lot of the Jewish General Hospital. Every once in a while someone in full mask and protection gear will come out and ask if anyone has an appointment. If you do, they will call you in.

Once inside, you are immediately required to put on a fresh mask and sanitize your hands. Then you are sent to a waiting area with chairs divided by walls to ensure social distancing.

You’ll feel a bit like a sideshow display, but it’s comfortable. The ambiance of the test centre feels like the pop up lab the government set up in the movie ET and you will be required to sanitize your hands nearly every step of the way.

After a few minutes, the worker who called you in will sanitize the phone allowing you to speak to the administrator who is protected by a wall with a window, not unlike the setup in some prisons. You are required to press your Medicare card to the window for the admin worker who will register you, which includes confirming your email address and emergency contacts. They will ask if you’re ok getting a negative result by email as well.

You are then sent back to the waiting area. I cannot vouch for wait times, as I know they vary, but I was called in less than thirty minutes.

A nurse in full protective gear will then bring you to a room near the exit. Another nurse similarly dressed will be seated at a computer and will ask you questions about travel, who you have been in contact with, and what your symptoms are. They will then give you a sheet with a number you can call if you don’t get your results in two to five days and your file number.

If the results are negative you will get an email. If they’re positive, expect a phone call.

Then the dreaded moment comes: the nurse asks you to lower your mask below your nose, holds out a giant flexible swab, and tells you to tilt your head back.

You know that expression “Mind if I pick your brain”? That’s exactly what the test itself feels like. You think that swab can’t possibly go further up your nose, that there simply isn’t room, and yet it does.

However, the test is quick, and the nurses are as gentle with administering such an uncomfortable test as can be. Just when you think you can’t take it anymore, the swab is out and you’re free to go with your information sheet and instructions to self-isolate for five days.

You are warned that the phone call when and if it comes will say “Private Number” in your caller ID and won’t leave a message. A healthcare worker will then instruct you to sanitize your hands immediately before you go out the exit. You are then free to go home to self-isolation.

That said, if you are having any symptoms resembling a cold, flu, or sinus infection and/or have been anywhere or in contact with anyone that puts you at risk of catching COVID-19, get yourself tested. The comfort of knowing one way or the other far outweighs the speedy discomfort of the test itself.

We’re all in this together. Stay safe, stay sane, wear a mask, and wash your hands.

Featured image by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

We are in the midst of a global pandemic and Quebec has declared a state of emergency. Schools are closed and Premier Legeault just announced that bars, libraries, theatres and other public spaces will be as well. CLSCs and hospitals are turning people away, and the immune-compromised are being advised to stay home to avoid the Corona Virus.

During these trying times of toilet paper hoarding, quarantines, and hand sanitizer shortages, common sense and decency are the keys to getting through this epidemic in one piece. I am here to offer you some.

This article will give you a crash course on what to do and not do during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Virus Itself

There is an excellent video out there by Dr. Peter Lin, a family physician in Toronto. He talks in depth about the virus, but I’m going to give you the basics.

The Corona virus is a virus that started in animals and got transmitted to humans via a live animal being sold at a fish market in Wuhan, China. The virus itself is a family of viruses that latches on to your lungs and can cause everything from the common cold, to SARS or MERS.

The symptoms of the virus start off as those of the common cold i.e. runny nose, sore throat, cough, and fever, and diarrhea. As it gets worse, people get short of breath, have difficulty taking in fluids, and their kidneys shut down.

Because the virus is new, there’s currently no way to treat the virus directly, so doctors are just quarantining people and addressing their symptoms. The people most at risk of catching it and dying are those with compromised immune systems; that means the elderly, babies, and people with chronic illnesses i.e. diabetes.

So How Can You Fight the Virus?

Wash your damn hands, and wash them often for at least twenty seconds. If you’re on the move, use hand sanitizer – a real one, not these all-natural snake oil versions so many idiots are promoting or posting recipes for online.

You should also avoid touching your face, as the virus spreads that way. Sadly, the surgical masks most people are wearing aren’t really helpful at preventing the virus because they’re not air tight.

That said, they are useful because they keep us from touching our faces and in cases where you’re coughing or sneezing, the masks keep whatever virus you have from spreading. No mask to cough or sneeze into? Use the crook of your elbow or a tissue.

If You Are Coughing or Sneezing, Wear a Mask

Do NOT get defensive or angry if you’re coughing or sneezing up a storm and someone offers you hand sanitizer or a clean mask. Remember that the flu kills thousands of people every year, and an epidemic is not the time to be a dick about this.

Whether it’s a common cold, allergies, or the flu causing your cough or congestion, don’t be a dick, wear a mask in closed spaces like elevators, metro cars, buses, and waiting rooms. If you refuse, do not be surprised, defensive, or angry if you are asked to leave.

This is a time when human contact should be avoided. I know in Quebec we love to do the two-cheek kiss thing, but that very well might be part of what got us in trouble to begin with.

Want to greet someone? Here are some alternatives from pop culture and around the world that do not involve touching one another:

  • In the Philippines and Mexico, they will put their left hand over their heart and bow to one another
  • The Vulcan “Live long and Prosper” hand gesture
  • A friendly wave
  • In Japan and China, bowing is common
  • Curtsy
  • Smile at the person
  • Touch elbows like Gene Wilder and Madeleine Kahn in Young Frankenstein


If you can afford to stay home, stay home. The virus is spreading in crowds, which is why the NHL and NBA have put their seasons on hold and concerts are being cancelled left and right.

Experts are recommending people avoid public transport, going to work etc. You may feel silly sitting in your apartment for two weeks, but self-isolation may very well save us all.

For those of you with day jobs, work from home if you can. Remember that your employer can and should face serious legal consequences if they try and penalize you for taking necessary precautions, even if that means not coming in to work.

In 2020 it is utterly absurd that with today’s technology employers are still insisting so much of the workforce do their jobs on site. The only thing that should matter to your employer is that the work gets done and sent to them, not where it’s done from.

Do not hoard toilet paper and other necessities. Unless you have severe gastro-intestinal symptoms, you’re just a jerk if you bought every last roll of it from your local store.

If you did stockpile toilet paper and are having regrets, share some with your more vulnerable neighbors i.e the elderly, disabled. You don’t have to put it in their hands. Leave a pack on their doorstep when they’re home with a friendly note and ring the doorbell. I’m sure they’ll appreciate it.

If you were travelling recently, especially if your trip was to the US, you need to self-isolate immediately. The US has declared a state of emergency and your immune system was likely compromised by the travel itself.

If you have ANY symptoms or questions about COVD-19, call this number: 1 877 644-4545. The Info Sante number – 811 – has been having technical issues lately that caused waits of up to three hours this week so the government set up an alternate line. Call them if you need to.

Don’t Be Racist

Last but not least, DO NOT use the virus as an excuse to be racist to Asian people. The virus may have originated in China, but it has now spread worldwide.

In spite of this, people of Asian descent, be they Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino, Korean or Japanese are seeing an uptick in business boycotts and racist attacks. As a Filipino Canadian, I cannot help but shake my head at the stupidity of it all.

Here’s a wakeup call: Asians have been in Canada since before Confederation. Those railroads that allowed John A. MacDonald to unite Canada from sea to shining sea were built largely by early Chinese immigrants.

Whether it’s the descendants of those who built the railroads, those interned in camps during the Second World War, Filipinos who built communities in Montreal and Toronto, and refugees from the Vietnam War, Asian Canadians are part of what makes this country strong. In spite of this, there’s been vandalism in Chinatown.

Though Italy is on lockdown because of the virus, I haven’t seen any attacks on Italian Canadians in the news and the reason seems pretty obvious. Italians look Caucasian, Asians do not.

That said, don’t be racist, and call out anyone you see being racist towards Asian Canadians. Same goes for anyone picking on Iranian Canadians because the virus has spread in Iran.

The Corona virus is in Canada and things are crazy right now. Let’s keep a cool head and do what it takes to get through this in one piece.

January 28th marks the twenty-eighth anniversary of the Morgentaler decision by the Supreme Court of Canada. On that day in 1988, a majority judgment struck down section 251 of the Canadian Criminal Code thus legalizing abortion in Canada.

Despite every subsequent attempt by the Conservatives to make abortion illegal again, the women of Canada remain free to choose.

And it was all thanks to Dr. Henry Morgentaler.

Henry Morgentaler was born in 1923 in Lodz, Poland, and spent five years in a concentration camp where his mother and sister perished at the hands of the Nazis. He came to Canada after the Second World War, went to medical school and became a doctor.

Somewhere along the way he became a humanist, and after witnessing the suffering caused by so many botched abortions – entire hospital wards were devoted to them – and hearing the pleas of desperate women, he began performing abortions, then illegal, in safe, clinical environments.

At the time, abortions fell under Section 251 of the Canadian Criminal Code. Under Section 251, abortions were illegal except in very specific circumstances. In order for a woman to get an abortion, the law required that the decision be put to a panel of three doctors who would assess whether it was required under the circumstances. The only criterion was the health of the mother. If the panel agreed that carrying the pregnancy to term would put the woman at risk, the right to an abortion was granted, after which a fourth doctor would have to administer it.

The law was an impractical one. Many hospitals didn’t have enough doctors to form the required panel and the extra one to perform the abortion. The notion of a woman’s health was applied subjectively and could mean her physical or mental well-being. In many major cities the decision was often rubber stamped and granted to anyone who asked. In more conservative and rural areas, hospitals seemed to find any excuse not to grant a woman an abortion, and so the botched back alley abortions continued, and women continued to die as a result.

Morgentaler was tired of seeing this happen, and he performed abortions on any woman who came to him for help, some even secretly referred to him by his fellow doctors. Eventually he was arrested. He bravely told the authorities to go ahead and prosecute, no jury would convict him.

And he was right.

Despite the fact that he had clearly broken the law, he was acquitted every time.

In 1974, the year following his first trial, with no legal precedent behind it, the Quebec Court of Appeal overturned his acquittal and replaced it with a conviction. Morgentaler was sentenced to 18 months in prison which he began serving in 1975. In prison he suffered a heart attack while in solitary confinement and was briefly transferred to a nursing home. Despite legal custom that made a prisoner eligible for parole after serving a third of his sentence, Morgentaler was only released after ten months, in 1976.

His treatment by the authorities caused massive outrage and protests erupted all over the country. The government recognized that was time for change.

The year of his release from prison, the Canadian Government under Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau changed the law so that appeals courts COULD NOT overturn an acquittal by a jury.

This amendment, known as the Morgentaler Amendment, was created as a direct result of his defiance of and persecution by the authorities.

In other words, before Morgentaler, if a jury found you not guilty of a crime, say, for example, firebombing a clinic and killing a doctor, a higher court could simply say “No, I don’t think so,” make it a guilty verdict, and send you to jail.

Following the Amendment, all an appellate court can do is order a new trial.

Whether you are Pro-Life, Pro-Choice, male or female, religious or not, the Morgentaler Amendment affects and protects YOU.

It guarantees that you won’t arbitrarily be sent to jail if you are acquitted by a jury of your peers.

And for that alone, Morgentaler is a hero.

On May 29, 2013, Morgentaler died, and news sources everywhere erupted with timelines and debates about the morality of what he did.

The perceived morality or immorality of what Morgentaler did is irrelevant.

Regardless of your position on the subject, remember that any time you find yourself facing criminal charges and end up a free man at the end of your trial you owe your freedom in part to an abortion doctor.

Need a bit extra cash? $1000 or more? No need to quit your day job, or do anything illegal. You can even earn the money while sitting on a couch watching TV. Sounds good? Maybe too good? Perhaps you have already been tempted.

Posters in the metro and ads in local newspapers offer you the chance to earn good money while making the world a better place. Behind these ads are pharmaceutical companies like Algorithme Pharma and GCP Trials, recruiting ‘volunteer’ subjects for their clinical drug studies.

Drugs must be tested on humans somewhere between being tested on animals and getting prescribed to real patients, as part of a process that is worryingly called a Stage 1 clinical trial.

The financial compensation for ‘volunteering’ is generous enough to help you think a bit less about any risks. But even if the thought of becoming a human guinea pig makes a lot of people nervous, that has only created a larger demand for volunteers who are either a little more adventurous or in greater need of money.

It’s fair to say that the drug companies who are promoting this paid volunteering for the benefit of humanity and medical advancement are also targeting people’s need for cash in a tight economy. The compensation ranges from $1000 to $2000, which is paid tax-free. The absolute anonymity given to the volunteers means that they could be forgetful about declaring it to any government agencies.

“I try to think about all the sick people waiting for new advancements in drugs. Someone has to do it, it might as well be me.”

As a veteran of over ten or so of these clinical trials, Peter (not his real name) has taken his chances and earned a substantial amount of cash. Still, he feels like he’s filled an important need by participating in biological research.

“I try to think about all the sick people waiting for new advancements in drugs. Someone has to do it, it might as well be me. But I guess it’s not exactly the sort of thing that everyone wants to do, and I wouldn’t even tell my own mother that I did it,” Peter said.

Brave potential subjects would need to be in perfect health before being selected. That is tested during a “screening appointment.”

E-Magine Art/Flickr CC
E-Magine Art/Flickr CC

“That’s an exhaustive medical exam sold to volunteers as a ‘free check up,'” Peter explained. “If there’s anything wrong with you they’ll find it. And that includes checking for the presence of recreational drugs you’ve been using, which will disqualify you automatically.”

Once subjects are cleared and placed on a study they will be confined to the clinic for about 48 hours and closely monitored. But Peter insists that is hardly a hardship.

“It’s for your own safety and it’s actually relaxing. You can do […] basically nothing. […] Watch TV, videos, or bring your laptop and surf the net. […] Lots of volunteers are students who just catch on their studies.”

“One time, they messed up so badly there was blood everywhere because they kept stabbing my arm and missing my vein with the needle.”

But what might seem like a relaxing holiday has a few inconveniences. For example, there are strict restrictions on anything from bedtimes, access to toilets, and control over what you eat. Also the requirement to stay indoors during the study could be a pain for smokers.

But the possibility of getting a little stir crazy is not the biggest inconvenience, especially to those who don’t like needles or the sight of their own blood.

“You’re being tested mainly on the ability of your body to absorb, and eliminate a drug. So you’ll be stuck about 20-30 times with a needle during the stay extracting a total of about a quarter litre of blood,” Peter said.

“They do it with varying degrees of skill. One time, they messed up so badly there was blood everywhere because they kept stabbing my arm and missing my vein with the needle. I screamed until they stopped and so they taped up the arm. Then they started on the other arm.”

If that makes potential volunteers skittish it’s worth noting that accidents, which involve much more than a little extra blood loss, have been documented. In 2006, a group of six volunteers in London, UK took part in a study contracted to pharmaceutical testing firm Parexel International. Shortly after the dosing, the nurses heard the six subjects screaming that heads were “exploding.” Minutes later after falling victim to fainting and severe bloating, all six were carried away to emergency wards with multiple organ failure.

Ethicists concluded afterwards that the subjects in that trial were not fully informed of the risks and that their need for quick cash had been exploited.

“You can be choosy and avoid the more experimental ones. I always stay away from stuff that affects the heart or the brain.”

Peter says he has witnessed volunteers have bad reactions to drugs in a clinic here in Montreal, but he shrugs off such cases as “rare and part of the risk you take.”

“You get all the available information about the drug you are testing before you sign the papers. So you can be choosy and avoid the more experimental ones. I always stay away from stuff that affects the heart or the brain.”

In the end Peter admits that he has stopped doing trials, which he had been doing at the maximum allowable: two or three trials each year. He developed an infection in the arm that was frequently used for drawing blood during trials. “I asked the study doctor if it is dangerous to do a lot of studies. Of course he said no – but he’s working for them.”

So did Peter really think he was doing something meaningful beyond improving his savings by nearly $10,000 in three years?

“Yes,” he says firmly. “But you also have to realise that the drug companies are in business to make big money […]and part of the reason drugs are so expensive is because that they have to pay people like me.”

Featured image by Micah Taylor/Flickr CC.

In our fifth FTB Podcast, we discuss school lunch shaming, the first openly gay pro football player Michael Sam joining the Montreal Alouettes and new PQ leader PKP. Plus the Community Calendar.

Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau



Josh Davidson: FTB food columnist

Jerry Gabriel: FTB contributor & Als fan

School lunch shaming report by Josh Davidson

FTB Podcast #5: School Lunch Shaming, Michael Sam Joins Alouettes and PKP by Forget The Box on Mixcloud

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

Laying in a tent that defies all logic and common sense underneath a sleeping bag because everything is pulsing, feeling the vibrations of live music and people. Smelling nature, every sense electrified, and every feeling new and intense. Beneath your eyes are more colours than you could have ever imagined, melting into each other and swirling uncontrollably to create a new way of thinking. Music is more intense, art is more beautiful, everything is sensual, and your mind is open wider than it has ever been before.

Sounds great right? Be careful! Drugs are fucking scary and can kill you. Being reckless can mean DEATH! It’s important to be in a safe place with people you trust while tripping. A bad trip can change your life forever – but I’m not going to give you the scary accounts that your D.A.R.E. counsellor gave you. Be an adult and make up your own mind.

Music festivals are more than just pretty girls dancing in flowing dresses with flowers in their hair and guys playing frisbee, while bands play all day and night. Music festivals are also the Number One place where people experiment with psychedelic drugs. Rapper A$AP Rocky openly reports that he took LSD at the South by Southwest festival and then slept with nine women. Whoa. Not everyone has psychedelic orgies, each experience is different.

A painting I did of Lisa Frank on acid.
A painting I did of Lisa Frank on acid.

I was recently at a smaller scale festie and I couldn’t believe how many people were selling all the drugs. “Molly… Mushrooms… Ketamine…” were common greetings, almost like a peanut salesman at a ballgame. Every conversation I overheard involved the sentence “Man, I was really tripping balls last night!” Every person there was on something, it seemed. I was surprised how out in the open it all was, considering that all of these things are illegal. The police were out in full force all around the gates of the festival. I know a few people who were busted for weed. They didn’t get all the drugs though.

Scantily clad smiling girls and sweaty shirtless guys slithered about with wide eyes, fully dilated pupils, and the look of a god/goddess. Hula hooping, flow arts, dancing, making and listening to music, and art making are commonly enhanced by these drugs. Colorful intricate art is important to the visual experience.

The first two hits didn’t seem to do a thing, then a third was taken (not a good idea, give it time to kick in). By the time all three kicked in, everything was a roller coaster ride. I was also the funniest person in the world. Eyes watering. Dancing as if floating. Everything was warm and life made sense. Several hours in I did not have the same zest. Hiding within myself I needed to go into the cocoon and go the fuck to sleep.

Often the worst part of an acid trip is the fact that it can take 12 hours or more to come down. You feel like it’s going to last forever, and that’s super duper scary. When doing these drugs you definitely want to plan at least 48 hours for the high and the come down. Don’t plan on working the next day or going to dinner at your parents house. Interacting with anyone at all will seem difficult actually. Also, your serotonin levels will be depleted so don’t expect to be jovial.


The term “Psychedelics” refers to drugs that alter cognitive perception and cause dreamlike hallucinations. Tests have been done that prove these drugs can help with stress, PTSD, OCD, and dealing with the end of terminal illness. The most commonly used drugs in this category (besides marijuana) are LSD (acid) , psilocybin mushrooms (magic shrooms), and DMT (the spirit molecule). MDMA (Molly or Ecstasy) and the dissociative drug Ketamine are also very popular recreational drugs in this setting. Cocaine, marijuana, hash oil dabs (pure THC) and good old fashioned alcohol are often thrown into the mix to try and maintain a state of control over the “trip”.

Dabs are intense, you need to use a blow torch to do them. The first time I ever did one was in my friend’s van and I definitely felt like a badass. Molly/Ecstasy is scary because most of the time it is cut with dangerous chemicals or you are actually buying bath salts. Candy flipping is when you combine ecstasy with LSD. Hippie flipping is combining ecstasy with mushrooms. DMT is the strongest of these drugs – it contains chemicals naturally released when you are dying.

Music festivals need to realize that they can’t stop people from experimenting with recreational drugs. Harm reduction and education is so important. The Lightning Bottle Music Festival in California is offering resources to help minimize the potential fall out. They are partnering with DanceSafe and the Zendo Project to provide a judgement free space to address drug dangers before they happen. They educate people about things like heat stroke, dehydration, and the signs of overdose. They also provide condoms, earplugs, water, and an extended line of communication about safe trips. The Zendo Project advocates drug policy reform and mental health services for people on psychedelic drugs. If someone is upset or confused during their trip they can turn to a trained drug therapist for help.

Major festivals have been under a watchful eye due to the amount of tragic drug overdoses and deaths. The fact is that most of the cheap synthetic substances being pushed are not what they are supposed to be, often mixed with things like rat poison. Colorful pills and powder filled baggies traded off in porta-potties between strangers are dangerous. The Electric Zoo festival requires their audience to watch an anti-drug PSA and also has medical students on hand to help with situations.

With anything you put in your body it is important to do the research and be smart about your choices. Some people see the psychedelic experience as a birthright, that you must expand your mind to see the world completely. Nobody can police your brain.

“Nice bike!” “Actually, it’s a trike!” —Me

Yes, I’m 28 years old and I ride a tricycle. It’s a magical machine painted floral and Barbie pink, beautiful with streamers and a basket. Riding my tricycle has changed my life. She is my baby and she inspires me to fearlessly explore my city in unimaginable ways. I am healthier and more in tune with the world at large because of my trike. A whole new world has been opened to me. The people I have met and the community I have gained access to is by far one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

Everyone remembers their first time. That wind blowing through your hair – the thrill of moving fast and having independence is intoxicating. I remember learning to ride my first bicycle when I was a little girl. My huffy was a rockstar, I chased many ice cream trucks on that bad boy. Biking is a way to regain childhood innocence and zest for adventure. Just put down the car keys and strap on a helmet, you will instantly feel better.

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Before and after: A trike transformed

Being a cyclist is more than just a hipster trend; it is a way of life and passion for better living. Bicycles and their variations are a healthy and quick means of green transportation. Fixed gear bikes have a sleek design that fills the need for speed. Many people go to great lengths to customize their rides into moving masterpieces. Freak bikes may include double decker bikes with two welded frames, low riders, pimped out tricycles, unicycles, and other even more creative mods.

Vintage cruisers are popular for leisure riders and in the fashion world. Runway fashion shows featuring bikes are trending. I was lucky enough to be in one! Dressing for your destination is a theme. Tweed rides are slow roll bike rides where riders don vintage tweed apparel. It’s so charming to put on those cat eye sunglasses and vintage dress , hair done up with extra hairspray of course, and cruise on a sunny spring day. Be careful with billowy dresses though- they can get caught in your wheel. What I normally do is wear shorts under my dress and tie it in a knot when riding. You learn that real quick.

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Chelsea Lee Jones

My trike is pretty. I often think that I am going to get mugged by a gang of Hello Kitty clad 8 year old girls for it. It’s so me, it’s the ride I always dreamed of. A very close friend of mine, Chelsea Lee Jones, was a passionate cyclist and true creative force of nature. She helped me transform a tricycle that I picked up out of a garbage pile into a magical ride. She insisted that I pimp my ride. We disassembled her and painting everything with spray paint and lace as a stencil. It is a true work of art. I am very proud of the work we did. Tragically Chelsea passed away shortly after the trike transformation was complete. Every time I ride it’s for her, she is with me protecting me, she is in my heart.

Chelsea didn’t give a fuck. She danced, she was loud, she loved, and she biked in mini skirts. I remember biking with her during Buffalo Porchfest, drinking beer, watching bands, and enjoying life together. I will forever miss her beauty, wit, and sweet grace.

My trike is like me: slow, colorful, and it has a wide ass that gets her into all kinds of trouble. I smile 100 per cent of the time I am on it. I’m always the last one at the midnight bikeride, a ride where at least a 100 riders explore Buffalo into the wee hours of the morning. But I can carry a case of beer and a boombox, so I always have friends. I don’t endorse or recommend riding under the influence of alcohol, but honestly that’s why I ride a trike, stability.

My precious trike is a real panty dropper. I have literally picked up guys (and a few girls) in bars with the line “get in my basket” and rode off into the sunset with them behind me. Winning.

I’m not the only tricyclist in Buffalo. Madonna is my trike style inspiration! She is hardcore. She is a truly incredible woman. Her outlandish style is perfectly eclectic and simply charming. Her trike matches her look, a vibrant spectacle of stuffed animals, horns, and found objects adorn her epically pimped out trike. She is the personification of a smile. Check out this blog about her here.

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Madonna photo by Jon Piret

Buffalo is a very bike friendly city. More and more bike lanes and paths are popping up and it is easy to ride to any part of the city. Big rides like the Critical Mass Midnight bikeride on Sunday nights, the slow roll, the sky ride, and even more smaller rides make it fun to explore with friends. Go bike buffalo advocates bike safety and infrastructure and holds workshops for cyclists young and old as well as bike recycling.

Shameless plug time. I work at the Hostel Buffalo Niagara. It’s actually where I write most of these blogs, last minute the night before deadline. This place is fantastic, anyone who plans on coming through Buffalo should come say hi. Besides the art gallery, kick ass VHS collection, a sexy staff, and rad ping pong table we also have a free bike share! I have also been incredibly inspired by the cyclists who have come through here on their way across the country. I will never feel lazy riding on the slight up hill on my 2 mile ride home again. We also have a discounted rate if you are traveling by bike! Food Not Bombs happens here every Saturday with bike carts carrying free food for all. It’s a magical place. Calling all Montreal cyclists to come up to Buffalo, let’s go for a ride together! It’s a beautiful day.

Our entire lives we’re taught a lot of things about what’s healthy and what’s not. It comes flying at us from all directions, and it’s hard to keep track of it all. From the internet and television, gossip and conjecture, doctors and pharmacists even. But how often do you hear some fact about some thing being good for you, only to find out a year later that now people are saying it’s bad for you? All the time. Or at least you would if you hadn’t lost your hearing back in 2009 during that ear-augering trend everyone was going on about.

There’s all these questions that seem to constantly flop back and forth. Am I supposed to eat lots of eggs or no eggs? Should I be worried about this skin cancer or just power through it to get that perfectly bronzed tone? How many glasses of wine should I give my children per day? We may never get a straight answer out of the so-called “experts” about a lot of these questions. But here are three long-standing beliefs that I happen to know* are full of as much crap as the big adult diaper-mulching craze of summer 2011.

Marijuana smoke is less harmful than cigarette smoke

This is a doozy. Weed activists love to tout this one out at every turn, but the simple fact is it’s untrue. Just look at the evidence; you look way cooler smoking a cigarette than you do smoking pot in any form. The act of lighting a cigarette alone is one of the coolest looking things a person can do. Compare that to the chimp-like awkwardness of someone trying to smoke from a water-based “bong” device, and suddenly that cigarette is infused with an even more urbane elegance.

Just look at the historical figures we associate with smoking marijuana. People like Bob Marley and John Lennon; unbathed musicians who beat their wives. Do they have the same class and sex appeal as the likes of Audrey Hepburn or that one guy from The X-Files?

Cholesterol is bad for you

If you eat a lot of fatty foods, cholesterol can build up in grimy deposits in your arteries, and for that reason has been vilified not only by the healthing community but by society at large. But, really, are huge lumps of grease in your arteries such a bad thing? The answer is no. And here’s why. As cholesterol buildup erects monuments to indulgence at various points in your blood stream, it is at precisely these points that a bottleneck is created and the blood flow is forced to push through at a much faster rate. The result is that the pressure of the flowing blood, or “blood pressure” as I’ve named it, is significantly increased.

Now, how can this increase in “blood pressure” benefit us, you ask? Simple. Look no further than one of nature’s simplest and most widespread creations, the garden hose. Even with the water cranked all the way to the max, the slow, lazy arc of the hose’s discharge will take a long time to wear down and wash off that hardened-on muck from the side of your filthy automobile. But, were you to slide the edge of your thumb over the nozzle, say a third or half of the way, the water would be forced out at a much faster velocity, tearing up that gunk in a matter of moments and leaving the rest of your day free to do whatever it is you like to do with a free afternoon and a length of hose.

So, naturally, the same is true with your arteries and blood. The more of these cholesterol points there are along the arterial highway from your heart to your various extremities, the faster the abundance of functions your body needs to perform will be done. And all the more efficiently. So keep piling in those processed meats and cheeses, and just remember that chest pains and shortness of breath are signs that your body is operating at its fullest capacity.

Condoms are an important part of a safe and healthy sex life

Sex doesn’t feel as good with a condom.

*Johnny Scott holds no licences or credentials in medicine or nutrition. He does, however, own a comprehensive book on cat anatomy, and is pretty sure that’s enough that he can just go from there.

Photo by kokopinto via Flickr


I bet if you were to ask a selection of happy couples how often they have sex, the most common answer would be somewhere along the lines of “as often as we want to.” Relationships tend to have a higher success rate if both partners have a similar sex drive, since a disparity in libido means that one party is always compromising. But what exactly is the “right” amount of sex for couples to be having in the first place, if there even is such thing as the Goldilocks standard for sexual frequency?

According to a very interesting take on the subject from Jezebel, couples who attend therapy to address their issues with incompatible sex drives are most often told that twice a week is a good benchmark to aim for. The author questions this seemingly arbitrary number and discovers that while there is no medical basis for this recommendation, it does seem to stack up with the average reported by happy couples.

For these couples, sex and happiness enjoy a synergistic link. Having more sex makes them happier, and being happy makes sex more likely as well.

But for couples where one partner craves sex more than the other, quantifying the amount with a rigid number can be very damaging for a couple looking to foster intimacy through genuine desire as opposed to the dreaded fulfillment of “duty.” Imposing this “twice a week” rule can also cause issues for couples that are happy with the amount of sex they’re having, especially if it’s less than this so-called proscribed amount. Seems like we’re always antsy for statistics about what’s normal so that we can have something to compare ourselves to, positively or negatively.

The truth is we should all probably be having more sex, considering its myriad of health and wellness benefits. First of all, it acts as a great form of stress relief while burning calories, approximately 85-100 per 25 minute session. Exchanging bodily fluids means exchanging all the germs that go along with them, and as it turns out, that can be a good thing for your immune system.

According to a study at Wilkes University, having sex once a week raises the level of immunoglobulin A in your saliva by 30%, an antibody that is part of the body’s first line of defense against germs and viruses. Therefore, having a healthy, frequently sex life makes you less prone to catching colds.

Sex leads to feelings of relaxation and physical intimacy, both of which are known to provide significant immunological benefits as well. Finally, as if that weren’t enough, sex has also been shown to boost your brain power and intelligence. Researchers have found that middle-aged rats experienced an increase in neuron generation after engaging in sexual activity, which is thought to restore cognitive function and boost brain power.

After this sexual activity was stopped, the benefits to the brain power were lost, giving more agency to the old expression, “if you don’t use it, you lose it.”

It’s 5am.  You haven’t slept all night and yesterday’s news is slowing sinking in.

You’ve been diagnosed with a chronic disease.

Your life is about to change dramatically. You are justifiably overwhelmed. But there is hope.

The next day you run into an old friend from high school who also happens to have suffered the same fate yet she seems rather happy. She has been reading up on an alternative medicine called homeopathy; a safe, gentle medicine that can work well for chronic conditions.

Later that day you walk home in high spirits and immediately run over to your computer and Google homeopathy, but something weird happens. Just two spots under the first article is “Homeopathy: The Ultimate Fake.”

Click. 4000 words later you’re feeling like you just had the wind knocked out of you.

It’s not that your friend meant to deceive you. It’s the fact that she’s been Scammed. Hustled. Bamboozled. You’ve just learned the cold hard truth about homeopathy: it’s just placebo effect.

You  have no doubt this article was written in the name of science. It sounds like a scientific report; the writing is cool, calm and collected. If that wasn’t enough, then there’s the fact that it’s written by a very articulate doctor who quoted many scientific studies and statistics.

You throw in the towel…It’s been a roller-coaster of a day. Time to rest. And the next day you decide to call up your friend. You need to give her the bad news as gently as possible.

“Oh Quackwatch! Oh ya, know ALL about them,” she says with sheer enthusiasm.

Confusion on your part.

“Oh you don’t know?” she asks playfully.

“That website is mostly just one guy’s opinion on different alternative health products. These happen to cost a fraction of the price of modern pharmaceuticals and they’ve been getting more and more popular. As a consequence, they are taking away a nice chunk of business from the big pharmaceuticals.”

“I did a search on Quackwatch for antidepressants but I didn’t find anything. This is weird. I figured if this guy was legit he would mention them because a lot of what Quackwatch claims about homeopathy is actually true of antidepressants.”

Say again?

She goes on to inform you how no one really knows how antidepressants work. No research exists which explain how they work. And researchers discovered many studies were hidden from the public that suggest antidepressants are no better than placebos.

“Look, I’m not against antidepressants whatsoever. But when I read that, I wondered why is Quackwatch not talking about the $11billion we consumers spend each year on something that research is saying to be no better than a placebo?”

Good question.

“There was a big research study published in the Lancet a few years back. This is one of the world’s most respected scientific journals where other researchers double check and triple check any published study to make sure they are done properly, also known as Peer Reviewed. This makes sure the studies meet the highest scientific standards in the world.”

“The researchers found that homeopathy was no better than a placebo. But then something happened.”

“Other researchers started finding huge problems in the study. They discovered 110 studies that proved homeopathy works were “accidentally” excluded. Long story short, six months later, four letters get published letting everyone know that the placebo theory is 100% not true.”

Your friend makes a good point. But you aren’t convinced. Now you need to find out for yourself .

You hop on to Google. After a lot of head scratching and time wading through a sea of info you find out that:

Meta-analysis is when scientists look at many different studies and see if a theory can be proven right or wrong. Randomized controlled trial is when the researchers randomly decide who will get a placebo and who will get the real medication.

A blind study means that the patients trying the medications don’t know if they are in the group getting the real medicine or if they are getting the sugar pill. Double Blind means even the researchers don’t know.

And then comes the silver bullet:

The 2005 peer reviewed meta-analysis of over 100 double blind randomized controlled trials on homeopathy offers crystal clear scientific evidence that the placebo theory is 100% false and that homeopathy can work for certain (not all) chronic conditions. Period.

You feel Scammed. Hustled. Bamboozled. This “consumer watchdog” maintains that homeopathic research is unimpressive and that homeopathy is just a placebo.

But you also feel thankful that your friend tipped you off. You’re excited to find out all about this new medicine that could be life changing for you.

Google Search: “homeopathy” Yes! I’m feeling lucky!

Here we go! Homeopathy – Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia

Click. Add to Favorites

16,000 words later…. “What?  I thought wikipedia was legit!”

You scroll back up to the first paragraph, and read it again with utter disbelief: “Scientific research has found homeopathic remedies ineffective and their postulated mechanisms of action implausible…homeopathy is generally considered quackery”

The implications are scary:  1,500,000 people look up the word “homeopathy” every MONTH. The FIRST article those 1.5 million people see is “Homeopathy – Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia”  from a popular website with a reputation for objectivity. Presenting false information. And using derogatory emotionally loaded words like quackery.

You wonder how many of those million and a half people have chronic diseases and are looking for hope…

Back Click. Remove Bookmark. Clear History. (yes, I know anyone can edit Wikipedia, but this one’s already the subject of an edit war.)

Google “Copeland’s Cure: Homeopathy and the War Between Conventional and Alternative Medicine”

No Google. I don’t want to “feel lucky”. I just want the truth.


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The rising number of apps designed to help people be healthier is a testament to the many uses of the smart phone. People are using their phones to find healthcare solutions, diagnose illnesses and to lead healthier lives. Mobile computers including iphones, Android phones and tablets are all quickly becoming one of a doctor’s most invaluable tools. Take a look at how technology is helping us be healthier today.

Healthcare infographic