Feeling Food Insecure?

Grocery StoreHey Canada! Did you know that just a handful of food giants produce the majority of the food you eat? In fact, Nestle and Pepsico are the number one and two biggest food companies in the world, respectively, Nestle alone with 8000 brands and $99 billion in sales in 2013.

According to Oxfam’s Behind the Brands, only ten companies are part of an industry valued at $7 trillion, larger than even the energy sector and representing roughly 10% of the global economy. In their report, they state:

“…the food and beverage industry has used cheap land and labor to produce the least expensive products possible – often of low nutritional value while maximizing profits. Costs like the impact of drained water resources, rising greenhouse gas emissions, and exploitative working conditions have remained off company ledgers, while the industry and its shareholders have prospered.” Source Oxfam

In a press release on Tuesday, March 24th, the Brazilian Investment Firm 3G Capital, part owners of H.J. Heinz, announced their plan to purchase Kraft Foods for $40 billion US and merger with Heinz. CEO Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. helped orchestrate the deal and with a combined income of about $28 billion, the Kraft Heinz Company will be the 3rd largest food and beverage manufacturer in North America and the fifth largest in the world. (Pepsico Inc. and the little known but massively successful Tyson Foods Inc. place first and second North America). Food_Insecurity

Warren Buffett is no stranger to the food and beverage industry. He has a net worth of $70 billion and was named the richest person in the world by Forbes, before giving away a portion of his vast fortune. Meanwhile, Berkshire Hathaway Inc., of which Buffett is the majority stock holder, is the fifth largest public company in the world. It wholly owns Dairy Queen, half of Heinz, an undisclosed percentage of Mars Inc. and has a 9% minority holding in the Coca-Cola Company.

Buffett bought up Coca-Cola Company stock back in 2008, eventually purchasing up to 7% of the company for $1.02 billion. It would turn out to be one of Berkshire’s most lucrative investments, and one which it still holds. Oh yeah, and Berkshire Hathaway also own 5% of Restaurant Brands International, the fast food restaurant company that 3G Capital created after the merger between Burger King and Tim Hortons. And back to Tuesday’s press release, which states that Heinz shareholders will collectively own 51% of the new company OR Warren Buffett holds that 51%. See where I’m going with this?

Oxfam conducted a study in 2013 that found that roughly 67% of US respondents were concerned about how their food is produced, (I don’t have Canadian stats for this)which shows that most of us really care about what we eat but also, at what costs those cheap and tasty foods come to market.

But even if you think you are choosing store brands that represent your core values, those same mega corporations may actually still own them? For example, White Wave, producers of Silk, acquired Earthbound Farm Organic, America’s largest grower of organic produce in 2013, Hain Celestial owns Earth’s Best Organics and Arrowhead Mills and General Mill’s recently purchased Annie’s Homegrown in 2014. (See link here)

General Mills, who purchased Annie’s Homegrown last year, was the same corporation that lobbied against GMO labelling in Oregon and Colorado with $1.5 million dollars just for lobbying at their disposal. By comparison, Annie’s put up $135,000 supporting the measure before the General Mills Borg swallowed them up. (See link here)

With these food conglomerates continually snowballing and picking up acquisitions along the way, the 1% of the world’s wealthiest own these food giants and control what the rest of us 99% eat.

According to the US based consumer protection group, Food and Water Watch, they state:

“Bigger food companies…actively target smaller and local brands as well as the lesser brands of their competitors for acquisitions or mergers.”

Even as I sit here, eating from a partial bag of Humpty Dumpty Cheese Sticks, I’m cognisant of the fact that some bigger company might swoop in and buy up privately owned Old Dutch before this blog post goes up. The same independent watch dog also states:

“…many firms sell multiple brands of the same product, which leads consumers to believe that they are choosing among competitors when they are actually just choosing among products made by the same firm that may have been made at the same factory.”

You see examples of this in our own country. Weston, Canada’s largest food processing and distribution company and owners of Loblaws, No-Frills and Shopper’s Drug Mart, stocks their shelves with Country Style, Old Mill and Wonder breads, bagels and English muffins, appearing that they offer a selection of products to the consumer.

In actuality, Weston foods, including Wonder for which they hold the license for in Canada, produces all of these products. By their own words, Weston foods refer to the bread market as oligopolistic. (See link here Slide 10) I’m no economist, so I had to look that particular word up, but what it means is that the market is concentrated with very few players. That’s not an ideal thing in a free market.

You won’t find any of Weston Foods’ direct bread competitor in any of Loblaws’ stores either: Canada Bread, the makers of Dempster’s. The largest Mexican-owned baking company Grupo Bimbo (named in 1945 by mixing the two words bingo and Bambi – I’m not making this shit up!) just purchased Canada Bread and former subsidiary of Maple Leaf Foods. Will the newly minted Dempster’s producer dump the maple leaf logo and rename it Mexican Bread? Doesn’t have the same ring to it.

According to Oxfam International, the wealthiest 1% will soon own more than the rest of the world’s population by 2016. Members of this global elite had an average wealth of $2.7 million per adult in 2014. The siblings and owners of the family business Mars, Inc. have a combined total worth of almost $80 billion dollars. That’s just for candy and gum. But Oxfam also calculated that the top 80 wealthiest individuals who it turns out have a combined wealth of $1.9 trillion dollars, equal to Canada’s GDP. And Warren Buffet and the Mars siblings have half of that!

Consumers, of course, can create change on their own. According to Food and Water Watch, shopping the perimeter of the store and avoiding processed foods and choosing whole foods can make a huge difference not only in your health, but also your grocery bill. My sage advice to you is do your own research and while we cannot control the vast majority of things in this world, we as consumers can control what we purchase and put in our mouths.

The Lack of Diversity in Toronto Talk Radio

SheepYears ago, I studied radio broadcasting in Hamilton and while in my second year of college, I had a 30 day unpaid internship at Q107 in their final year at the Hudson’s Bay Centre. It was a coups to get an internship in a major market like Toronto and I was the only one in my class to do so, but I knew someone, which in-turn got me an interview.

Back in 1991, Standard Broadcasting owned CILQ.

I worked in the news department at Q107 with news director Bill Carroll and host of the lunch hour magazine style program, Barometer. My immediate supervisor and producer of Barometer was Sharon, a plucky graduate of Mohawk College. She was a good enough role model although I don’t think that they paid her very well since she only ever wore the two same shirts every other day. She did her own work effortlessly and I was blown away by how she edited tape so quickly (cause in those days that’s how they did it) while delegating my work and showing patience, even if at 21 it was well beyond my expertise.

I was also overwhelmed and slightly intimidated by all of the maleness of the on-air personalities including John Gallagher, Dan Pollard, John Derringer and Music Director Joey Vendetta. Pollard and Gallagher fought like dogs, sometimes screaming at one another so loudly that I had to leave the room. Derringer had been a mess, sent to rehab to clean up his act, returning clean, sober and slimmed down considerably. I’d heard gossip that he’d almost set a plane on fire. I even spent the day with their veteran Queens Park Correspondent, who kept a bottle of booze in his bottom desk drawer. Couldn’t say that I blamed him, because that job was beyond boring.

Working in the ol’ boys network, especially with the owners and management being predominately male, I discovered that radio was going to be a tough business to enter as a woman. There were a few gals on staff in news and on-air, but most of them worked in promotions or traffic, tucked away neatly in a booth in another part of the station. As for diversity? None, like zilch.

After college, I became close friends with an aspiring radio personality, who worked days as a waiter and pulled all-nighters in a major market Toronto station. I’d sometimes hang out with him at the station or call-in to keep him company. He was paying his dues, you see, because with the exception of City TV, it was rare to see any minorities working in the business. The first thing he did was change his name, not an uncommon practice for personalities to do. But he had to anglicize it, because his real name sounded too ethnic.

survey-shows-u-s-newsrooms-lack-diversity2Fast forward to 2015. Television and radio has survived or maybe it’s just hanging on, despite the internet. And yet, as I look at the diversity in radio (and television for that matter), not much has changed.

Why is that? Private media holdings in Canada that include radio, television and newspapers are run by just a few large conglomerates: Rogers, Bell and Shaw. (there are two others, but not nearly as big) I would need a whole other article to speak about why, besides apparent oversight from Canada’s regulatory agency, the CRTC, this is so very wrong. CBC is the exception being a crown corporation and mandated to have its employees reflect Canada’s diversity.

In 2007, Standard Broadcasting, formerly the largest, privately owned multimedia company in Canada, had sold all of their radio and TV broadcasting assets to Astral Media. BCE Inc., owners of Bell Media upon approval by the CRTC in 2013, purchased from Astral Media Inc. its pay and specialty television channels, conventional television stations and 106 radio stations across Canada, broadcasting in 45 markets.

In Toronto, Bell owns CTV, CP24, some specialty channels and four radio stations: CHUMFM, Newstalk 1010, TSN Radio and Virgin Radio. Rogers Media owned CHFI is the number one rated radio station in Toronto with 13% of the market, but CHUM FM is not far behind at 10%. In news, CBC Radio 1 is the number one news station in Toronto with CFRB hot on its tails. 680 News, also a Rogers station, lags behind at 6%.

In recent years, with massive restructuring and some controversial dismissals of on-air personalities and staff, CFRB listenership had dwindled down below 5%. But then August of last year, Bell Media laid off three female staff from Newstalk 1010 including Morning news anchor Evelyn Macko, Queen’s Park reporter Katie Franzios and reporter Amber Gero, a fourteen year CFRB employee and woman of colour. But since then their audience has grown and according to the Bureau of Broadcast Measurement, they showed a respectable 7.5% share in Toronto just last November, just slightly behind CBC.

I realize that it has now taken me about 800 words to get to the point of this blog post. At Newstalk 1010, with all of the rearranging and layoffs and dismissals, there is still almost no diversity. Through their website, I was able to compile a list of 54 on-air hosts, reporters, news editors and anchors. I discovered, not surprisingly, that white men make up the vast majority at 81% while women represent just 16.5%. The most discouraging thing of all is that just two persons out of 54 or 3.5% are culturally diverse (AKA not white). Oh yeah, and they each have a weekly one hour show out 168 weekly hours.

When I asked Newstalk 1010 Program/Brand Director Mike Bendixen (FYI he’s a white dude, too) why he thought this was, I think he was actually surprised at their lack of diversity, but to be fair, he was unable to make a comment. I thought that maybe their listenership was predominantly male but he assures me that that’s not the case. He did reiterate that they do have women working in news, reporting and traffic, but I have accounted for them. I cannot speak for those behind the scenes, and maybe there is an enormous core staff of females and people of diversity running that machine.
Population ImmigrationToronto DemographicsThis is where things get a little more nuanced. According to the 2011 Census (see charts above), 49% of all Torontonians are immigrants with almost 48% being visible minorities. In the GTA, where almost half of Ontarians reside, 38% of the population are immigrants and almost 36% are visible minorities. That means that a third of all persons living in the GTA are not white.

Why should I or anyone be concerned about these numbers? |

Let me break this down – A large Canadian conglomerate owns almost a third of our media, and in the largest market in Canada stockpiles a news station with like-minded persons that don’t offer equitable representation, that is, people without a different voice, a different culture, a different perspective.

To me that is embarking on some scary shit.

And my friend who started out in radio more than twenty years ago? He’s now a house hold name, even if his on-air name is not his own.

Other reading: New Media Looks Like Old Media

Male Circumcision: Hashtag Campaign Raises Awareness of Bodily Integrity

circumcision-banner2A Florida mother has fled with her son Chase after a court ordered that she follow through on a signed a legal agreement between herself and the boy’s father Dennis Nebus, that the boy would receive a routine circumcision. The problem is that back in December 2011, Chase’s mother Heather Hironimus never followed through with the operation for which the father would arrange and pay for and she and her son are now opposed to the operation, despite the father’s wishes. Heather and Chase’s supporters and anti-male circumcision activists have created a Saving Chase fundraising and awareness campaign and matching twitter hashtag.

This topic isn’t anything new, and it will most likely be argued for decades to come, in such the way that vaccination or global climate change are the topics that are always hot button at the moment.

I always state, and I will reiterate again, that I am highly biased on many topics, including this one. However, in this particular situation, I don’t just believe that I am right, I know I am.

Some of you many know that I am a feminist, and as such, I am vehemently against any form of female genital cutting, culture and religion be damned. So then I wonder, how is it not possible for me to be just as outraged that we as a society, for merely a marginal improvement on health, can support and condone the ancient and ritualistic mutilation of an intact penis?

While trying not to impose my own western values upon other cultures, I am really torn on this issue. Political Scientist Rebecca Steinfeld reconciles my misgivings in an interview with Tove Lyssarides titled: Hysteria -– Male Circumcision is a Feminist Issue Too. She states, “To preserve the community, one sacrifices some individual rights, in this case those of the individual boy. The problem is that sacrificing basic concepts like individual rights and bodily integrity to a particular worldview focused on community could be a slippery slope. Plus, it would require re-thinking opposition to FGC, and perhaps even re-allowing it on the basis of parents’ religious beliefs or cultural preferences. In my opinion, this should be unconscionable.”

The ancient practice of male circumcision dates back to the Egyptians. After failed attempts at castration, which resulted in hemorrhaging and death, they discovered that male circumcision had safer outcomes and yet still emasculated the male slaves with “the indestructible marking and the distinctive feature of the slave”. (SOURCE: History of Circumcision from the Earliest Times to the Present, by Peter Charles Remondino).

Aside from religious rites, it has been used for many reasons including cleanliness, coming of age and to curb sexual urges, as written by J.H. Kellogg, the insane Victorian doctor and author of The Plain facts for young and old: Embracing the natural history of hygiene and organic life. There he states: “A remedy which is almost always successful in small boys is circumcision, especially when there is any degree of phimosis. The operation should be performed without administering an anaesthetic, as the brief pain attending the operation will have a salutary effect upon the mind, especially if it be connected with the idea of punishment, as it may well be in some cases. The soreness which continues for several weeks interrupts the practice, and if it had not previously become too firmly fixed, it may be forgotten and not resumed.”

While I can’t find conclusive data, the circumcision rate in Canada is about 30%, with very almost nil stats from Newfoundland and Labrador with the highest rates in Albert and Ontario. (SOURCE: Wikepedia).

My own family tried to persuade me toward circumcision of my two boys with an old story of dear uncle of mine who was in the war (not Afghanistan or Korea, I mean like World War II). He was never circumcised as a child because my mother’s family were Catholic, but while stationed for 2 years in India, he developed an infection during the war. This is an extreme case, I’ll tell you; my mother recalling pictures of him covered from head to toe with boils.

Infant circumcision takes away the choice from that human being, to decide for themselves what they want to do with their body when they are old enough to make that decision for themselves, for non-medical reasons such as aesthetics or religious beliefs.

Well, that’s what those who support male genital cutting are trying to sell. And for what reason? Health.

Why are they selling heath now as a reason to circumcise? Because, that is science and that is what any first world western nation stands by.  And yet, The Canadian Paediatric Society considers circumcision a non-therapeutic procedure and does not recommend routine circumcision for newborn boys, is no longer covered by most health care plans and fewer paediatricians are offering this paid service. The looked at both sides of the equation and formulated an opinion based on science. Here are the stats for the uncircumcised male so you can see for yourself (SOURCE: Canadian Paediatric Society):

• .7 % will be admitted to hospital for a UTI before they are one year old.
• .10 % will have a circumcision later in life for medical reasons. Older children who are circumcised may need a general anesthetic, and may have more complications than newborns.
• Circumcision slightly lowers the risk of developing cancer of the penis in later life. However, this form of cancer is very rare. One of every one million men who are circumcised will develop cancer of the penis each year. By comparison, 3 of every one million uncircumcised men will develop penile cancer each year.
• Will have a decreased risk of urinary tract infections.
• Will have a reduced risk of some sexually transmitted diseases in men. The CDC states that the benefits of male circumcision outweighs the risks, based upon rates of HIV transmission of uncircumcised men in Africa. While it America it states, “heterosexual transmission accounted for only 5% of infections. The potential impact of MC (male circumcision) on the U.S. epidemic through prevention of heterosexual transmission to men is, therefore, currently limited.
• Circumcision also makes it easier to keep the end of the penis clean.

There are anatomic contraindications (procedure should not be used as it may be harmful to the patient) for routine circumcision that includes some conditions such as webbed penis, hypospadias (present but malformed foreskin), chordee (curvature), ambiguous genitalia (genital ambiguity) and buried penis, but with an otherwise healthy child, here are an abridged list of rare complications from routine circumcision.(SOURCE: Stanford School Of Medicine):

• Bleeding is the most commonly encountered complication of circumcision with an incidence of 1% in a large retrospective review. (SOURCE: PubMed Central) The expected blood loss during neonatal circumcision is just a few drops, so bleeding that exceeds this expectation is a complication. Fortunately, almost all cases of bleeding with neonatal circumcision are very mild.
• Infection: Because newborns are relatively immunocompromised, infections in this age group can become serious problems. Although rare, meningitis, necrotizing fascitis, gangrene, and sepsis have all been reported as complications of infected circumcision sites.
• Insufficient foreskin removed: A more problematic situation can occur if the redundant foreskin slides back over the glans and scars down, creating a phimosis. In this case, surgical repair is necessary.
• Excessive foreskin removed: Because the foreskin is attached to the glans on the inner surface, it is possible to draw skin from the penile shaft up into a circumcision device and remove too much. In most cases the denuded area will epithelialize spontaneously and give a satisfactory end result, but the inital appearance can be quite distressing to both parents and practitioner.
• Adhesions/ Skin bridges: During the process of circumcision, these adhesions need to be lysed in order for the foreskin to be completely removed. If adhesions are not completely removed, the circumcised edge of the foreskin may be drawn up over one section of the corona and create an asymmetric appearance.
• Inclusion cysts: As the circumcision site is healing, inclusion cysts may form along the cut edge. These cysts are thought to either result from smegma accumulating in the incision or from the epidermis rolling in at the time of the procedure. Inclusion cysts may be asymptomatic or may become infected. If size or infection are problematic, surgical excision may be necessary.
• Abnormal healing: As with any wound, the possibility for abnormal healing is present with circumcision.
• Meatitis: When the urethral opening becomes red and inflamed, the condition is known as meatitis. This is typically a self-limited condition which resolves as the epithelial surface of the glans thickens post-procedure.
• Meatal stenosis: Meatal stenosis, a narrowing of the urethral opening, is an uncommon complication of circumcision that usually does not require treatment. It is thought to result either from chronic meatitis that leads to scarring or from mild ischemia of the glans during circumcision.
• Phimosis: When circumcision is performed on a boy with penile web or buried penis, the circumferential edge can pull together in a purse-string fashion and result in the penis being trapped under circumcision site, creating a secondary phimosis. In some cases, good outcomes have been reported with watchful waiting, but surgical correction may be necessary.
• Chordee: When chordee is not present at birth but develops as a complication of circumcision, it is thought to be due to uneven amounts of foreskin removal from the ventral and dorsal surfaces. In this case, the corporal bodies are normally formed — unlike “true chordee” — but the healing of the asymmetric edge causes the glans to deviate. Surgical correction may be necessary.
• Hypospadias: When not present at birth and noted as a complication of circumcision, it is thought to be related to injury from a clamp device that results in avulsion or splitting of the ventral glans. Surgical correction may be necessary.
• Epispadias: As a complication of circumcision, it is also rare but is possible if the device used to create a dorsal slit in the foreskin is inserted into the urethra inadvertently. Surgical correction may be necessary.
• Urethrocutaneous fistula: The creation of a fistula between the urethra and the skin is another rare complication of circumcision. It occurs when there is injury to the urethra. This is thought to be most likely if there is aggressive clamping or suturing on the ventral surface of the glans or penile shaft as the urethra lies quite close to the skin in this area. Surgical correction is necessary.
• Necrosis of the penis: Necrosis is also a rare complication, but it has been reported as a complication of circumcision in the setting of infection or injudicious use of an electrocautery device to control bleeding.
• Amputation of the glans: This is a rare but devastating complication of circumcision which has been reported with inappropriate placement of the Mogen clamp. The clamp is designed to allow the device to open only enough to allow the foreskin, and nothing else, into the area of compression, but if placed incorrectly with all or part of the glans admitted into this area, amputation will occur.
• Death: Death is an extremely unlikely complication of neonatal circumcision, but it has been reported. During a five-year period at the Massachusetts General Hospital, 7.4% of all visits to a pediatric urologist were for circumcision complications. This translated to an average total cost per patient for redo procedures of $1,617 and an estimated annual cost of $137,122 to the institution. (SOURCE: PubMed Central)

In conclusion, it is heartening that this topic has been brought into the forefront. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t think that it will be easily solved, and while I would personally like to see an outright ban in Canada of infant male circumcision, I don’t know if that will happen any time soon.

Becoming a Defensive Pedestrian

CrosswalkI’m a walker. I walk pretty much everywhere: my kids to and from school, shopping, to grab a coffee or for a meal. Unless I have a great distance to go, I generally walk and one thing I have noticed is that there are a lot of distracted pedestrians out there, and like the distracted driver, it can be a life threatening or even deadly bad habit.

In the past 24 hours in the GTA, 3 pedestrians have been struck and killed by cars, and just yesterday a 25-year-old woman sustained life-threatening injuries after being hit in an intersection resulting from a hit-in-run accident. The police calling for the driver, who fled on foot, to come forward.

Between 1989 and 2009 almost 9,000 pedestrians were killed and hundreds of thousands were injured on Canada’s roads. See here. By contrast, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada reported 635 aircraft related deaths over a ten year period (between 2004 and 2013).  That total, combined with deaths resulting from home grown terrorism, is still a fraction of pedestrian related deaths. Half of Canadians polled by CBC News, felt less safe from terrorism than they did two years ago with two thirds of Canadians polled believing that a terror attack will occur in the next five years. But Canadians are almost ten times more likely to be killed by a car while walking than to die by aircraft or at the hands of a terrorist. Why is there no outrage against that?

In Toronto alone, pedestrian deaths hit a record high in 2013, accounting for 40 deaths, half of these seniors. See here. And according to a Globe and Mail article, last year wasn’t much better; by September of 2014, 19 pedestrians had been killed, even with and despite awareness campaigns.

Victims of pedestrian injury and death are most often seniors or children. According to a document compiled by the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, “those over age 70 are more likely to be involved in a serious pedestrian incident than are younger people”. Children are especially vulnerable. According to the same document, “children need three important skills that are typically not acquired until between 9 and 11 years of age: the ability to determine and use a safe crossing pathway, the capability to realistically assess a vehicle’s speed and the cognitive means to judge safe gaps in traffic.”

According to the CDC, in 2012 in the United States, 34% of all pedestrians killed in traffic crashes were legally drunk, with a blood alcohol concentration of greater than or equal to 0.08 grams per deciliter. In Canada in 2008, among pedestrians tested for alcohol post-mortem, almost 40 percent had been drinking and 27 percent had BACs over 160 mg%.” (Sorry, I don’t understand the blood alcohol levels here, but you get the idea)

Obviously, driver training and some regulation of speed limits and signage can make a difference to the outcomes. Technology can even lead to safer road conditions by employing safety devices inside and outside the car that can protect the pedestrian. But in the meantime, there are some things that we, proactively can do to protect ourselves.

It is never too late of too early to learn road safety, and if you don’t find this too patronizing, here is my list of do’s to follow to be a safe and defensive pedestrian:

• Whenever possible, cross the street at a designated crosswalk or intersection. I know, the light takes forever to change OR it’s too far to the intersection, but this is the safest way to cross the street.

• Always look both ways before crossing any street including a marked crosswalk or an intersection with a Walk signal. It’s funny, when I was a kid, it was drilled into my head to look both ways before you cross the street. Funny how I rarely hear that any more, despite it being one of the best forms of advice.

• Continue to look as you cross the street and check every lane of traffic, and any gap, as you walk. This is so important. Until you are on the other side of the street, you are NOT in the clear. It’s not the time for pulling out your cell phone or texting your Mom. Keep your eyes on the road at all times.

• Do the same when crossing at intersections but also watch for turning vehicles. I think that turning vehicles are especially dangerous. I always look to the turning car to make sure that they yield me, because sometimes, or even many times in my experience they won’t. Just because you legally have the right-of-way doesn’t mean that the cars will yield you.

• Never allow a marked crosswalk or WALK signal to allow you to feel safe. The light has changed and BOOM, you’re in the road; without looking both ways before you cross the road, before waiting for all cars to come to a complete stop, before you look through the windshield of the car pulling up to the intersection to see if he/she sees you. You should always be on your guard. A car, or bus, or truck can hit you at any time. I also ditto this for crossing guards. Just because they have a stop sign and a whistle does not mean that cars will obey them any more than the rules of the road.

• Always watch out for traffic and do not use electronic devices or wear head phones when walking into the road because when you are looking down or you’re distracted, you cannot see or hear a car coming toward you. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen people, young and old alike doing this. It drives me crazy. Or, while on their electronic devices, standing IN the intersection before the crosswalk or WALK signal has changed. Please don’t do this.

• Be visible when possible. Toronto’s dress code is all shades of black, which makes visibility especially hard for drivers at night to see you. I purposely bought my son electric yellow snow pants, that glow like there’s no tomorrow, and trust me, not only can I see him from a mile away, but so can drivers. If you don’t have access to glowing snow pants, opt for retro-reflective clothing or glow tape.

• It’s safest to walk on a sidewalk, but if one is not available, walk on the shoulder and face traffic. In my current neighbourhood, we have no sidewalks on the side streets. It is really difficult, especially in the winter, with snow and ice forming at the side of the road. Use extreme caution.