Adjoa Andoh,  one of the stars of Netflix’s Bridgerton, recently joined, Frances-Anne Solomon’s,  In the Director’s Chair. In this  intimate and fun masterclass she speaks  frankly about her career, including the world’s first all-women of colour Shakespeare production. Well known on the other side of the pond, you may also recognize the accomplished director, actor and writer from the movie, Invictus with Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon or the 2019, Netflix thriller, Fractured. 

Frances-Anne SolomonClick to watch the replay In The Director’s Chair, Sunday, February 7,  4 p.m. EST.

In The Director’s Chair is a masterclass with Frances-Anne’s industry friends and takes place on the first Sunday of every other month on CaribbeanTales -TV’s.  

Side note: Bridgerton has been by far, so far, my 2021’s binge watch favourite. The love story, the chemistry between the Duke of Hastings and Daphne Bridgerton sucked me in. Or maybe it was just the swagger, the smoldering looks of THE DUKE, just maybe.  Honestly, anything that Shonda Rhimes has her hands in, usually resonates with me, keeps me coming back.


I was in Shoppers Drug Mart a couple days ago. I glanced over the magazine display as I typically do. And then: I stopped dead in my tracks. I saw something I have never seen in my lifetime. There were seven  Black women gracing the covers of  seven very prominent mainstream magazines. This is a big deal. 

There was a time when you would never have seen this ( ahem, a few months ago). To have one Black woman on these covers would have happened once in a decade, and until maybe 10 years ago, then once in a few years. Why? The response was that when Black models or celebrities were on the cover, less magazines were sold. I’m not sure how accurate that response was, I didn’t really believe it. It was just one of those excuses I filed away under Racism 101. And it’s not lost on me that they are appearing in the current climate, to support the awareness of anti-Black racism. And Vanity Fair has gone one step further to feature Breonna Taylor. The true test will be a year from now when it’s not at the forefront of the minds of mainstream society. But nonetheless, to see it brought a smile to my face. 

We live in a society that traditionally uses physical characteristics as the basis to value women. And the standard of beauty – historically, considered the epitome of beauty by which all women are compared – is the Caucasian, blond, blue eyed, fair, straight hair woman. And if placed on a continuum of beauty,  the opposite least valued are Black women’s features. 

And in communities of colour,  beauty is  judged by how close one’s features are to Caucasian  women, hence the issue of shadism. This is like comparing apples to oranges, makes no sense – how could one race’s standard of beauty be used as the universal standard? There is beauty in all races, all women. 

Mindsets are changing as society becomes more open and exposed. 

But let me be clear, within the Black and African diaspora, even with the influence of colonialism; there has always been a rich appreciation for the beauty of Black women. Magazines such as Ebony, Essence and various others have shown and highlighted the wide range of our unique beauty. 




Fall 1992. Detroit.

I was in my 3rd. year at the University of Windsor (after taking a year off) located in Windsor, Ontario, Canada; the border city to Detroit, Michigan.

I lived in a red brick duplex, a two bedroom converted into a three bedroom by making the supposed living room an additional bedroom – by adding a futon and a dresser – this was my room. It worked. I had two roommates – girl friends. We all made do, and lived our most fun, adventurous lives. It was by nature adventurous, because we were away from home discovering ourselves, our boundaries our limitations, our beliefs and our politics.

I had a boyfriend whom I loved with all my heart; he lived in Toronto 3.5 hours away. Albeit, we had broken up a few times.

Detroit was just a hop skip and jump across the bridge or the tunnel. I studied and I played and took the odd job to pay for the much anticipated spring break getaway.

I was having the best time of my life. I only wish I knew it back then, so I would have “mindfully” basked in the elation and not allowed the small insignificant worries to take away from the absolute joy. Of course at the time they didn’t seem small but with age and experience comes awareness.

On this particular night I was dressed to go hang out with my friend *Rob . I was excited and happy. Rob and I were platonic friends. Rob had confided in me a few days before that he was gay. Prior to him telling me, he would go out and not include me, I began to feel excluded; our friendship had been going on a couple years – we had met at the University. So I was feeling pleased and honored that he trusted me with his secret, and that he finally felt that I would have accepted and embraced him regardless of his sexuality.

With the knowledge of his lifestyle now shared – he felt comfortable to invite me out. We were heading to a gay underground bar in Detroit.

As we walked in, the music was booming, in a nondescript black bar, no fancy décor, no windows, in fact it was more like a warehouse and a bar set up for drinking. It was buzzing with people, mostly men. Masculine, Black men; there were a couple of effeminate types and transvestites but for the most part, they were strong, tall, masculine, clean cut, some corporate – looking and some thuggy-looking.

I was a sociology major, I observed. Men were on the dance floor with their partners – slow dancing, close, intimate and tender – the same way I would have danced with my boyfriend countless times.  I was shocked, speechless, but I played it cool – I was taking it in, learning. The shock wasn’t necessarily seeing the men together, it was more that they didn’t fit that stereotype of a gay man – you know effeminate, high pitch voice, slim, flamboyant. They were dudes – big, strapping, masculine, with swagger and testosterone-loaded. Men that my girlfriends and I would probably take a second look at walking down Michigan Ave.

I felt like I was in another world. I was. I was in their world – a safe space to be free without judgement, violence, disapproving glances or general homophobia.

Rob was enjoying himself … leaving me to go check out a potential love match.

It was the end of the night, and as we left that non descript nothing special bar, it dawned on me. I was entering into a different world – both figuratively and in reality. My world changed in those moments in the bar, it expanded and pushed the boundaries of a mindset I had all my life.

It gave me a deeper understanding of Rob’s reality. I realized the simple things I took for granted. For instance, I was able to freely walk the streets hand in hand with my boyfriend and even steal a little kiss on the lips if my heart should move me to do so. Anything short of explicit sex, and we were ok; there was no threat to our lives. For days after, different things came to light, literally jumped out at me; I was “woke”. I noticed all the ads on the billboards and the television commercials about love and family showed White heterosexual couples. All the laws on marriage were for men and women joined in “holy” matrimony. The society was built on and infused with the acceptance and elevation of love and loyalty shared between a male and female; both systemically and culturally.

It was in those moments, those days following, I realized my heterosexual privilege. One that I had without knowingly, taken for granted … not even a thought.

But while I was going through my awakening, in 1992-Canada, Rob (and most gay people at the time) was dealing with the fear of coming out and to whom. He was attuned and acutely aware of the behaviors and violence that began with the words fag, faggot, fairy, flamer, sick, abomination, chi chi man, batty man, batty boy, not to mention religion and the religious; as well as, the possibility of discrimination at work or on campus.

As for those other men in the bar and their possible stories; some were likely in the closet dealing with the daily stress of living a double life – married with kids; or in full-blown relationships with women. Some were probably living lonely and alone. They didn’t want to be disloyal or betray these women nor did they want to be alone but they didn’t see another choice – to be ostracized and abandoned by family and society; wasn’t an option.

On top of the three realities above: mine, Rob’s and a bar of strangers is the fact that we were also all Black living in a society that already deemed us second and third class citizens.

I’m a Black woman. By the nature of my being, in this Eurocentric patriarchal society – what privilege did I have? But now, I realized my own. I fit into the larger expectations of society, one intrinsic to the foundation  and its beliefs because I’m biologically attracted to men. Strictly dickly as they say! I never thought anything of it before that night. I wasn’t that naïve I had known that homosexuality existed, a boss I had when I worked in Town Shoes while in high school was gay. At that time I didn’t think about it – frankly, I didn’t really care about what he did in his bedroom and honestly he was just my boss not family or a friend.

Fast-forward 28 years, Rob is still a dear friend. We’ve both been through ups and downs; still living adventurous lives pushing society’s boundaries. Unfortunately, although there are now laws that acknowledge and legally allow marriage, adoption, Gay Pride parades as well as the existence of a political and powerful LGBTQ community, there are remnants of the past – Rob just a few years ago was attacked on the streets for his sexuality. The difference today is that any violence against someone that is a result of homophobia is now classified as a hate crime – homosexuals are now a protected class. And anyone who spews words such as faggot or fairy –are the ones ostracized (publicly anyway.) Oh and yes racism that is clearly part of any aggression is also classified as a hate crime. And in the last 5 – 10 years, commercials show Black, interracial and gay couples as families that eat cereal, do the laundry and take road trips! A sign of the changing times.

*Name changed to protect his privacy.





 Is feta cheese made from cow’s milk or sheep and goat’s milk? The answer may not be as obvious as you think. I recently had a chat with my mother about feta, that’s Greek Feta cheese. She like most everyone takes for granted that the feta cheeses sold in stores are all made from sheep or goat’s milk or a combination of the two and are from Greece. I informed her, that it’s not necessarily so. In fact this was not the first time I had this same discussion. A close friend,  ever so gingerly – as not to embarrass me –  advised me that feta is made from goat or sheep after I questioned (while out) whether the feta in a spanakopita was made from cow or goat/sheep’s milk . She gave me a strange – you poor uniformed unexposed woman – look. I proceeded to tell her that some feta cheeses are actually made from cow’s milk. She left it alone and I’m pretty sure she felt she would leave me to my ignorance as a couple times after that when dining out and questioning any feta choices on the menu, she would give me a look. The fact is we are both correct – there was a time when feta was indeed exclusive to sheep and goat’s milk, but it has since changed, I’m not certain of when cow’s milk started masquerading as Greek Feta, but it has.  

Why is this a thing for me? It’s not really, well yeah, it is kinda. I don’t drink/eat cow dairy due to an allergy and so it’s important for me to know exactly what kind of cheese I’m eating. I can and do enjoy goat cheese – crumbled, hard and soft.  Furthermore,  my 60-second chat with my mother made me realize that most people assume and take for granted that feta is the traditional goat/sheep cheese from Greece.

I’m here to tell ya, “it aint always so”. And if you don’t think it’s such a big deal, well the Greek cheese makers sure did, so much that courts have had to rule on feta to lower the tensions between the big dairy nations – Greece, France, Denmark and Germany. Trade agreements amongst countries have been drafted and implemented to regulate the world trade of genuine Greek Feta, it’s origins and who has the right to use the label.

To be considered authentic feta from Greece and to carry the coveted label – Greek Feta – it has to be produced in the designated regions of Greece that have been granted the “protected designation of origin”; they include Thrace and the island of Lesbos, Macedonia, mainland Greece, the Peloponnese, Thessaly and Epirus. The process and the use of sheep and goat to make the cheese is also a part of what contributes to the legitimacy of  Greek Feta. Those produced outside the regions listed above, and made from sheep or goat’s milk must state on their packaging, “Feta style/type cheese” – variations of this labeling in the same vein differ around the world. As well, there are also types made from barn-raised cow’s milk labelled feta; which clearly, is not genuine feta.

In 2013, Canada honored the legal decision and trade agreement. Our mere location makes it mandatory for Canadian cheesemakers to add “feta style/type cheese” to their packaging. However those companies who were using the term prior are still allowed to use feta but they are not allowed to package with any artwork alluding to their cheese being Greek.

Generally, in regards to cow’s milk feta, companies are clear in the ingredients about feta made from this source. An example is the popular Canadian cheese brand Krinos, one of their offerings, organic feta is actually made from cow’s milk: https://krinos.ca/products/organic-feta-cheese/. Many of the American made feta cheeses are also produced from cow’s milk.

Cow’s milk feta is perfectly fine for most, but for those of us who are lactose intolerant  it is a big deal; taking for granted that all feta is goat can cause a whole host of  -avoidable- health related problems if eaten unintentionally.   The reason I and so many others are able to digest the goat cheese easier than the cow cheese are the casein/proteins A1 and A2; cow is A1 and goats are A2 , and if you are lactose intolerant A2 is better for your digestion. 

If you aren’t a cheese connoisseur and unable to tell the difference  in taste between the cow’s milk feta style cheese and Greek Feta (albeit,  goat and sheep’s cheese do have distinct flavors), the different source for feta may not be of concern  for you.

So there you go, the answer: authentic Greek Feta from designated regions in Greece are made from sheep and goats milk, while elsewhere there are many brands producing feta from sheep, goat  and  cow’s milk. Maybe now, my friend won’t give me the look, the next time we head out for a bite.





So, I had a frightening experience the other day. I was sitting in a small boardroom, gray walls, no windows except for a dark glass (two-way mirror) with about nine other strangers: 50 to 70 yrs. old. We were all corralled for a focus group to get our opinions and experiences, and in the middle of sharing my perspective in response to a particular question – my mind went blank. Completely. Nada.

Couldn’t connect … what?

I’d lost my train of thought before, in fact many times, but this was different. I just couldn’t connect the dots, I couldn’t find the last word that I left off that may trigger a retrace-the-steps-memory. The facilitator left me and moved on to another participant. Needless to say, I was embarrassed. She came back to me, and again the same thing happened.

The irony; or is the universe giving me a warning sign?

The irony: the focus group was about those who were related to or helping friends or family suffering from dementia and Alzheimer. You can fully appreciate my instant anxiety and embarrassment. I just knew the rest of the group was diagnosing me with early onset dementia and believe me I was right in there with them. I was scared. I tried to brush it off for the next hour, continuing to answer questions but 90 percent of my thoughts and feelings were drowning in a sea of heightened emotions.


Losing my train of thought as I said was nothing new, but not being able to reconnect – that had never happened before. Usually there is some sort of activity or brain wave but there was radio silence. I knew that a woman of my age often has memory challenges – it’s normal with the hormone changes. Nothing to fear; but fear drove me to call my cousin as soon as I left. She shared a similar experience and said she noticed forgetfulness by many of our aunts and uncles – but there was no history of dementia or current diagnosis in the family.

It calmed me somewhat, but having watched a Dr. Oz segment on dementia, I knew a little something about prevention and decided that I would inject the following into my lifestyle – more social contact and be actively and consciously present and mindful always. I’m an entrepreneur, freelance writer and editor and have worked from home for almost 10 years – no regular daily professional contact with the outside world except for early morning workout’s at the gym five or six days per week. It has become my social outlet and similar to the 80’s sitcom “Cheers”, where everyone knows your name; the interactions are usually filled with quick catch-ups and a whole lot of humor but no big dialogues to speak of. I’m single; no kids. I decided that I would make sure to engage in some networking or social activity once or twice a week. Cause honestly after so many years of working in seclusion my communication skills have waned to say the least – my witty sense of humor has diminished – instead of being quick, the quick comeback shows itself an hour or days after a conversation. My vocabulary, instead of the more sophisticated varied versions found in a Thesaurus, what comes to mind are the basic words learned as a three year old and those are the ones that find their way into my discussions – and that’s after my brain does a run through of options (like an old school Rolodex) that are nowhere to be found. Don’t get me wrong I’m no preeminent wordsmith and in fact I’m not one who tries to impress by using “big” words. But you know what they say; if you don’t use it you lose it. Furthermore,  before you think I don’t have a life I do have my mother, family and friends that I talk to and see on a regular basis.

That very night, I decided I was going to be more conscious and present in my thoughts; as opposed to the easily distracted, multi-tasking mind that has constant useless chatter going on or the disengaged la-dee-da go through the motions state of being.

It worked, I was mindful, present, which on a spiritual level is where you should be. That’s another article. In any case, still I made an appointment to see my doctor. I explained to her what happened, and she brought out the MoCA (Montreal Cognitive Assessment) test a tool for evaluating cognitive disabilities – 30 questions that help to determine dementia by assessing your orientation, short-term memory, executive functions/visuospatial ability, language, abstraction and attention. You are scored out of 30 and a final mark of 26 or more means you are considered normal. My score came out to 28 or 29. I can’t remember which one exactly, but my lack of memory has nothing to do with dementia – yep, I can giggle about it now! Needless to say – relief washed over me – early onset dementia isn’t the problem.

She also broke down my concerns. As for vocabulary – as an editor and writer for the general public, you are trained to write so that someone at a grade three level can understand – clear, succinct and simple. An aha moment! Whew! She prescribed watching Ted Talks regularly to keep my head in the game and agreed with my plan to increase my social interaction. Also, sometimes our brains just go on autopilot, not her exact words but mine. And of course, my changing hormones are probably a contributing factor.

So once I knew that it wasn’t early onset dementia, I needed to learn more about this memory loss and brain fog that women experience when they become perimenopausal. Now it’s no longer something that happens to other women – it’s happening to me. I’ve heard it for years from my mother, my aunts and now girlfriends.

Firstly, the experts do not claim to know exactly why menopause affects us cognitively, but have deduced that it may be related to falling levels of estrogen which affects parts of the brain that influence memory, attention and emotions. However what they know for sure is that it’s a normal part of our transition and aging as women. Those words alone are comforting. In fact, Nada Stotland, MD,MPH professor of psychiatry at Rush University in Chicago, states, “menopause is a normal healthy stage in life”.

So what is cognitive function?

According to the https://www.neuronup.com, “Cognitive functions are those mental processes that lead to the acquisition of knowledge and allow us to carry out our daily tasks. They allow the subject to have an active role in the processes of receiving, choosing, transforming, storing, processing and retrieval of information, allowing the subject to navigate the world around him.”

Basically it allows us to reason, to pay attention, remember, and process information so that we can interact with our environment independently and fully engaged.

According to a study published in the journal Menopause, the first year after your last period is when memory problems are more acute. So there you go, it gets better.

Managing the change

The effects linked to perimenopause and menopause – the hot flashes, mood swings, insomnia and brain fog – are all normal healthy parts of the process. Of course they cause fatigue and discomfort but I think half the battle is knowing for sure what is causing the irritability, night sweats and then accepting it, because not accepting it and being negative just makes it worse than it is. I know it ain’t easy! Sleep deprivation is one of the worst symptoms because it affects all areas of our lives.  Our daily routines and lifestyles are affected in different ways and can be unpredictable.  Sitting in a meeting or going on a date where all of a sudden you have beads of sweat forming on your forehead and dripping like you just came out of the shower and trying to act normal like it’s not really happening – well that’s embarrassing. But is it really? What if we just own it? Be matter of fact about it … because it is simply  – a matter of fact.

So now I know, with the combination of all the symptoms – hot flashes, night sweats, memory problems, insomnia – that I’m not in the stages of dementia or any other illness or disease but that I’m a woman going through a healthy phase of life.

How do I manage all these inconvenient annoyances without showing my Tasmanian Devil?  Meaning, looking fierce from the lack of sleep and hot flashes, and although not looking for a fight will quickly show my clenched teeth, screeching at the slightest hint of a side eye. Maybe, just maybe – I see you  about to roll your eyes –  I frame it as a colorful stage of life; interesting, dynamic, eventful, unpredictable, the experiences on which laughs and giggles can be had in the comfort of other women also going through it. Plus, if God blesses me to reach the rocking chair stage of life and to have the benefit of consoling, regaling younger women on my embarrassing, treacherous and gut laughing stories – they will know I made it through … to tell the tale. And so will they.

The choice on how to cope is personal, but there is definitely one thing that I’ve observed of those at this stage: those who manage their stress levels have less symptoms. Daily exercise has been my go-to option for stress management for about 30 years. The only other thing, than the memory that I’ve noticed are the hot flashes and I take Maca root, a natural alternative – and so far so good, it’s worked wonderfully.

There are many options, opinions and advice from traditional western to Chinese medicine and alternative practices to old wives tales. I’m sure in all that, there is an approach that will work perfectly for me (and you). I will just have to take the time to figure out what works for me step by step.










Organic produce is better for us and on that I think most will agree.  What people differ on is whether they trust that a brand is authentically organic or just packaged with the same old pesticides but sold at the premium organic sale price. A healthy dose of skepticism is always good which is why you should always do your own research.

In Canada there are different certification bodies that assess, monitor and ensure the standards required for organic farming.  Products that are traded inter-provincially or internationally are  regulated by the Organic Federation of Canada. These certification bodies can give you some sense of security and comfort but if you are still skeptical you can always visit the farms if they are close enough to you.  A conversation with the store/retailer  will usually  glean their purpose, values and integrity. Some farms have videos that show how their processes work with produce and animals.

Identifying locally grown organic products

At the time this was published , with the exception of Quebec and British Columbia provinces do not have regulations that require producers or processors  of locally produced organic  to  have their operations certified. However, you can reach out to the province’s consumer protection bureau to confirm organic legitimacy. Also, keep in mind the certification process can be cost prohibitive for some small businesses.

The Organic Federation of Canada states the following:

It is very easy for Canadian consumers to identify organic products.

  • The “organic” label must always indicate the name of the authorized certifier that inspected the products and validated their designation.
  • In addition, product labels may bear the Canada Organic logo, which will be easily identified on product labels. However, the use of this logo is optional.
  • Only products that contain more than 95% organic ingredients may be labelled “organic” and may bear the logo.
  • If the percentage of organic ingredients is between 70% and 95%, the label will bear the words: “Made with x% organic ingredients.” It is compulsory to indicate the percentage of organic ingredients on the label if it is between 70% and 95%.
  • If the product contains less than 70% organic ingredients, the word “organic” may only appear on the ingredients list, only to describe the certified organic ingredients.
  • All accredited certifying bodies under the Canada Organic Regime are listed on the COO website.
  • As a last resort, any consumer may ask to see the organic compliance certificate issued by the certifier who inspected the product labelled “organic.” Organic compliance certificates are absolutely essential. Products that are not backed by these certificates may not claim to be organic.

Source: Organic Federation of Canada

Organic labels

Logo: The following logo can be used to identify organic produce, however, organic produce that follow the organic Canadian standards may not always have the logo on the packaging. Also, imported products that were produced with  Canadian standards may  have the Canadian organic logo.


Beware of labels that tout “natural “ ingredients, this does not mean it is organic.

Should we trust organic labels? Most of us do not have the time to go the extra mile to make sure our products, especially organic products are as they say on the packages or in our produce sections; we hope and take for granted that regulations are followed and that our grocers are ethical and conduct business with integrity.

By Lisa Chin Quee

As October approached, I remembered it was Breast Cancer Month. It had me thinking about cancer. My curiosity about how  donations were distributed and what was being done as it relates to prevention took root.  I decided to do some research. Well, my question then turned into various answers and even more questions, which lead me to disappointment but then to what can be done for change and to help the process along. I wasn’t concerned with the fact that funds go to administration, as long as it’s done responsibly, people who do the work should be paid for their dedication and commitment. It was more about prevention, particularly food and pesticides and everyday exposure. We’ve been researching for so long, that there must be discoveries on what, why and how the disease grows which means we must have some knowledge on how to prevent it. Right? Here’s what I found out.

The distribution of cancer donations

In Canada, only 2.6 percent of funds raised in 2010 went to prevention. If you gasped at those figures – we’re on the same page! The majority of it goes to research – biology (studying the difference between normal cells and cancer cells) and treatment – understandably, but what are we (Canada and the rest of the nations) doing about the information we’ve discovered or gleaned from all these years of research? According to the World Health Organization (WHO) we’ve learnt that 30-50% of cancers are preventable. This is what we know:

  • Tobacco smoking causes cancer.
  • Environmental pollution (air, water and soil) & occupational carcinogens have been linked to cancer.
  • Infections can lead to cancer – for example, HPV and Hepatitis B&C
  • Radiation is linked to cancer.
  • Lack of physical activity and poor diet can contribute which means exercise and eating fruits and veggies are good protection against developing cancer.
  • There are a host of various chemicals considered carcinogenic and identified by the World Health Organization as harmful. Too much to address for the simplicity and scope of this piece.

And so treatments and links to causes have been discovered and prevention addressed – somewhat.

What have we done in response to the findings- prevention wise?

In Canada we’ve banned smoking in close quarters and cosmetic pesticides used for making pretty lawns; implemented workplace safety codes and conduct. There’s an annual list, Dirty Dozens, Clean 15 published by the EWG (an American non profit), that identifies which fruits and vegetables have the most pesticide residue, and suggests the ones you should probably buy organic or the ones that are fine to eat non organic. But have we gone far enough? Is this the best use of the findings?

It’s time for redistribution of cancer funds

Looking at the amount of dollars that actually goes to prevention, it’s minimal at best. The old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, seems to be lost or missed by the powers that be. Shouldn’t the percentages of distribution of funding for cancer shift, shouldn’t more funds be allocated to prevention? We are focused on treating the results of an illness that we know in some circumstances are preventable; the research and hard work of dedicated  scientists gave us that information. But it is now time to amend our strategy, to direct more funds to prevention so that we have to worry less about treatment.

Prevention – promoting a healthy lifestyle: Is it enough?

There is the promotion of an active lifestyle, healthy eating – on a superficial level it looks good. Although I can’t say I’ve seen any ads or public service announcements promoting activity because it helps to prevent cancer. Anyhow yes, those things help to alleviate and protect but…here is an example to better convey my thoughts:

There is that person, lets call her Jen, who is very health conscious and eats properly, exercises and lives a positive life – but Jen develops a sickness or cancer. And sometimes the response to that type of individual is: “You see, Jen  is doing all the right things, so why bother exercise, quit smoking or eat organic …  you can still get sick or end up with cancer.” And yes, we are human and just never know what might take us. But, let’s take a minute to review, Jen makes the effort to eat well (she eats fruits and vegetables), exercises, meditates, uses beauty products to moisturize her body and has a fulfilling career. On the surface it all looks good, she is  doing all the right things, but take a deeper look. She eats well – fruits and vegetables – but all the products she buys are covered in pesticide residue. She works out regularly on a stationary bike but it is manufactured with a known carcinogen. She takes a shower after working out and moisturizes her skin (but the skincare products may contain known harmful ingredients) and she works in an environment where there are products or office furniture that is also made with these substances. It does sound dire when broken down in this way – but it’s the reality of our modern times. Is it enough to promote a healthy lifestyle? As individuals we should do what we can, but what about the things we have no control over like the manufacturing of products or the farming of our foods?

We must go to the source of these chemicals and business practices

There are products that we use daily that have been identified as having carcinogenic materials in them. Materials that big businesses use to manufacture their merchandises, and unfortunately some although knowing this, continue with business as usual without regard for their customers’ health or the environment. Some seek alternatives while some are only likely to make changes if legally required by the government; and the government bureaucracy is slow in changing policy and law. So if government is afraid to legally mandate to the extent of requiring companies to make changes, then businesses should be mandated as it is in Europe and California, to add labels that warn of products containing carcinogenic substances. Let’s be clear, I believe the government should be the watchdog that protects its citizens and consumers. However, in the mean time, place the decision with the consumer; let them make the choice on how much of a risk they are willing to take with their lives. When an informed consumer goes to purchase they will likely choose the products that are less harmful; and there it is, the incentive for companies to change their practices – the affected bottom line, the loss of sales, potential bankruptcy. So as part of a prevention strategy companies should be required to state on their products (label) sensitivities or links to cancer. An example is the California Prop 65, in California companies are legally required to label warnings on products that may have carcinogenic materials in them. In Europe the use of warning labels have also been implemented.  And quite frankly, there are some people who won’t care and will continue to use products labelled to be highly carcinogenic. Look at smoking  for instance, there are still millions who inhale with labelled packages; suffice to say, some manufacturers will still have customers and a profitable bottom line.  It’s easy to dismiss questions and pacify consumers with a response that harmful levels are way below the limits that will cause human damage, but if everything we are using has some form of carcinogen – doesn’t that raise the chances of being affected?

Funds redistributed – what does it look like?

How about the use of cancer donations and funds  to help companies? Your response: “Well, that sounds crazy – these big profit making companies should look at alternatives and cover their costs for transitioning if need be.” I agree completely, but how about smaller businesses, food in particular – actually local organic farmers. Agricultural pesticide residue and food preservatives contribute to cancer and other illnesses; this means the majority of the population is ingesting these chemicals. Why not use raised funds to subsidize local farmers to produce organic foods? It would help to increase the quantity of organic farms consequently more healthy options and affordable for all, not a privilege only for those in higher income brackets.

Canada, we are behind. For years, until now I  thought Canada was a leader in making sure its citizens were safe by protections in policies/importation of foods and products. I’ve always been suspect of our American neighbour, but Canada I always thought of as North America’s conscience. I’ve come to learn that I’m wrong. Canadian government, aware of  chemicals in our products, foods and ultimately the affect on our health has not gone as far as it can to protect Canadians.   And it’s not for lack of awareness, there are Canadian non profit, non partisan organizations like Environmental Defence who through research and aligning with experts present the facts and concerns. But if we need to take baby steps, then labels need to be a requirement until businesses realize that healthy can also mean profitability or at least until their social responsibility conscience kicks in. Charities (and government – three quarters of  research funding comes from the government) need to review the findings on research that their donations have helped to discover and based on the facts and analysis redirect funds  toward ideas that contribute to prevention . The status quo,  apart from being unacceptable … is killing us.


Carolyn Gotay PhD, Trends in Cancer Research Funding, 2013

World Health Organization (WHO)

National Post,  The Fundraising Complex – The New War on Cancer, Claire Brownell   https://nationalpost.com/features/the-fundraising-complex

California : www.p65warnings.ca.gov

Keep informed:


2018 Dirty Dozen and Clean 15: Fruits and Vegetables to Buy Organic

Photo credit: Khamkhor

Eating healthy these days isn’t just about eating your required nutritional amounts of fruits and vegetables or covering off the recommendations of the Canadian food guide. We, the consumers must take it a step further. It’s in our best interest to be mindful of farming practices used to get the food we eat to market.

For years the agricultural industry has been using pesticides to limit the loss of crops from weeds and pests; allowing for maximum volume of products to be traded and sold at market. However, the problem is that we also ingest the pesticides sprayed on crops, even after washing. The American Academy of Pediatrics released a report on a study that linked exposure to pesticide residue early in childhood development (fetus to early childhood) with birth defects, hyper activity disorder, cognitive defects and childhood cancers. It’s important for pregnant women and families with young children to try to reduce the consumption of residue as much as possible. Although the study speaks of children, my common sense tells me that regardless of age, we are all affected by the pesticide residue and should also be mindful of what we are digesting.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) an American non-profit organization, publishes an annual guide called Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce; the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15. The Dirty Dozen are fruits and vegetables that have the most pesticide residue and should if possible be bought from the organic section of your grocery store. The Clean 15 lists those with little or no pesticide residue and can be eaten non organic. The guides are based on the USDA Pesticide Data Programs report from the monitoring of pesticide residue. Canada imports lots of fruits and vegetables from the USA, so their monitoring and testing is relevant to us.

Canadian grown produce tend to have less pesticide. According  Health Canada, the government uses the Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) which is the maximum amount of pesticide residue expected on produce after harvest that is safe for human consumption (including infants, children and pregnant women). This limit is said to be below the degree of what is considered harmful. All foods (domestic and imported) are measured for MRL and must meet Health Canada expectations.

Dirty Dozen

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Nectarines
  4. Apples
  5. Grapes
  6. Peaches
  7. Cheeries
  8. Pears
  9. Tomatoes
  10. Celery
  11. Potatoes
  12. Sweet Bell Peppers
  13. Plus – Hot peppers

Highest levels of pesticides. Buy organic.

Clean 15

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet Corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Cabbage
  5. Onions
  6. Sweet Peas (frozen)
  7. Papayas
  8. Asparagus
  9. Mango
  10. Eggplants
  11. Honeydew Melons
  12. Kiwi’s
  13. Cantaloupes
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Broccoli

Lowest levels of pesticide, it’s safe to buy non organic.

Organic can be quite expensive, so the other option is to properly wash and/or peel those fruits and vegetables with the high concentration of pesticide residue. But do keep in mind, it will remove some of the residue but no amount of scrubbing and washing will remove pesticide that has seeped into the skin.

How to Wash Vegetables and Fruits to Remove Pesticides

The basic wash and scrub under tap water will remove some dirt but will not be enough to clean off pesticide residue. A recent study in the Journal Of Agriculture and Food Chemistry compared the effectiveness of three ways of washing to remove pesticide residue – using Clorox bleach, baking soda and tap water. As it turned out, baking soda was the most successful. However, it still has its limitations; it will not remove residue that has been absorbed into the skin or deeper. For example, apples, if pesticide is absorbed into the skin, the baking soda will not go deep enough to clean it. The alternative and budget friendly choice is to peel the skin of the apple – however, you will be losing other important nutrients found in the skin.  The best choice would be to buy organic.

According to consumerreports.org, one should always wash fruits and vegetables as soon as you get it home, don’t wait until you are ready to eat it. The longer pesticides stay on fruits the more they are absorbed and harder to remove. The most effective way to get rid of pesticides is to place in a bowl or sink of water (at least two cups), with one teaspoon of baking soda for two minutes or more, the optimum length of time being 12-15 minutes. The agricultural industry uses various pesticides and the testing used to create these washing instructions may not effectively remove all the kinds used. But there is a consensus that this is one of the best options to cleaning your fruits and veggies.

Leafy vegetables (kale, lettuce, brussel sprouts): remove the outside layers, this will help to remove most of the pesticide residue.

Beware of packaging that states contents are natural or green; there is no standard on which to base these claims. In order to use the term  organic on labels, the produce has to also have the certification of the particular certification body.


Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce, EWG

Health Canada

USDA Pesticide Data Programs

Canadian Organic Growers

By Lisa Chin Quee

Recent headlines dominating the newspapers, T.V news reports and social media are of those in Hollywood speaking up and confronting their sexual abusers.

As I read those headlines, in my mind and heart I commend those for finally being able to stand up, without fear of social ridicule, without fear of recriminations, without fear of not being believed, without fear of losing their livelihoods. I’m pleased that the time has come where the environment has changed, that women and men can now have the support needed to come out to and call out their abusers. In fact, the climate is such that the serial perpetrators are the ones sitting behind closed doors in fear of being called out. Knowing in some way that the deplorable behavior of Donald Trump has somehow, made it all possible, it has galvanized some; even though it was mostly white female votes that got him in the White House. An interview in In Style Magazine with Amy Shumer and Jessica Seinfeld echoed my thoughts exactly. Jessica Seinfeld asked Amy: “What do you think 2016 has done for women? Amy’s response, “ I think it broke our hearts and then it made us so much stronger and closer.” Those are my thoughts in my own little bubble. Having learnt many moons ago in university about the history of a patriarchal society, oppression and how our male dominated culture and institutions inherently protect the behavior and actions of men.

Then I get on FB, and I see some really outrageous responses and realize and am reminded of my little bubble. A male friend posted, on his FB page that, “I’ve been assaulting myself for the last 8 years”. Someone had responded to him, obviously about his post being inappropriate and he responded telling her or anyone to go #$%^ yourself, or unfriend me”. Then a woman had responded in support of him and with disgust stating why bring allegations after 10 yrs. Needless to say, I was appalled at both their responses, his for the post and response, her; I immediately kicked out of my universal woman’s club.

It so happened that a couple of days later I saw the male friend who posted that on his status. At first I didn’t say anything, as I thought to myself: is it worth it? I’ve learnt over the years since my university days that debates on racism and sexism can get pretty heated for me and it’s wiser to choose my battles than to try and enlighten or change everyone’s mind. In fact, I came to learn that I was called “uptight controversial bitch”, behind my back – but that’s another story.

I went back and forth in my mind about addressing it. Then, he actually brought it up as he was quite bothered by the response of a woman he said, that asked him if it was his daughter would he be so quick to make light and be dismissive. Needless to say, once he opened the gate, I couldn’t help but march right in, hands on hips.

I told him that I thought it was in poor taste and that if there was a standard for posts – using Trump vs. Barack – that his post would be on the lower end of the scale of lack of taste and sensitivity akin to Trump.

He tried to explain, that he didn’t mean anything by it, that we have to be able to laugh. I said, it isn’t a joking matter and never will be. Furthermore, it doesn’t matter when a person chooses or has the confidence or strength to confront their abusers.

Sexual assault, rape, molestation is a tragic event for the person who is the victim of any of these acts. And lets be clear, the majority of sexual abuse is by someone known to the abused not a stranger. From that moment on, their lives are forever changed – some, most still have to cope with seeing the perpetrator in their lives daily. The way each person deals with the occurrence differs, some people put it in the back of their minds, suck it up and work at not having to live it over in their minds and no one would ever know as their “lives” seem so “normal”. Some are more deeply emotionally affected and turn to other forms of coping: substance abuse, promiscuity, and aggressive or anti-social behavior. On top of feeling like they did something to cause it (as that is the first question they are asked) and lack of self -confidence.

In a power position, workplace (employee vs. boss) the boss uses his position to manipulate receiving sexual favours etc. The employee fears coming forward because they may lose their livelihood or gain a reputation in their industry that affects other opportunities and advancement. If a woman or man, waits 50 years, 5 years, 5 weeks, 5 minutes, five seconds to confront their abuser – the response time – one should not be valued over another. It has taken that person that long to build up the confidence or come to the realization of what happened. There are more women speaking out now because the climate warrants it, it has become a bitter landscape taking all the progress back decades (Trump). Women are standing up, fighting, people are feeling more confident and are gaining support.

To question the time period of confrontation is diminishing the emotions/experiences of the people coming forward. It is akin to whites saying, slavery was 100 years ago, ignoring the fact that a racist institution still exists.

Yes, this joke is too early, but it will always be too early.

I will share three stories with you of women I know personally who felt comfortable sharing their experiences with me. And I only share it here, to perhaps bring some understanding, some enlightenment on how one is affected and reasons for waiting; waiting to confront abuser especially now as opposed to the 70’s 80’s 90’s and early 2000’s. The names have been changed as I respect the privacy of these women, my friends.


At 13 years old a family friend in his 30’s, who she babysat for, took her in the basement, pulled down her pants and fondled her. This happened for months, in the late 1970’s. At that time society’s general perception of rape, was thought of as forcible sex by a stranger.

He coerced her not to tell anyone. She didn’t. A year later, another older man messed with her. She became promiscuous as a teen. Choosing physically abusive men as partners, drinking and partying, using weed and alcohol. Now she is in her early 50’s and for the first time coming to terms with what happened so many years ago. If she should decide to confront her abusers 37 years later – who is anyone to judge her for waiting?


At 13 yrs old, she was walking alone in her neighbourhood in 1980. She was alone. A stranger, dragged her into the bushes, and raped her. She didn’t tell anyone. She didn’t tell her parents. When she told me, we were in our late 20’s; at the time of the rape, we were friends. I asked her why she didn’t tell her parents, she wasn’t able to verbalize why, but I understood. I understood. Her behaviour throughout our teens, finally made sense…her drinking, self-hatred. She was not promiscuous; in fact she was adamant on waiting to lose her virginity. I’m not certain if she still considered herself a virgin after her attack or she was using that as a reason to cover her emotional turmoil relating to sex after rape.   She told me about the rape in our late 20’s because of the following reason. She had been walking in the Eaton Centre, she was in her late 20’s. A man came up to her, and said, “I see you’ve grown up” and walked away. His face, his voice…it was the man who had raped her. She lost it. That is when she finally revealed it to me. He is still a stranger, she doesn’t know who he is, she froze when she realized who it was. She is an alcoholic, and has made questionable choices throughout her life, and maybe she would have made the same had she not been violently raped. But we will never know, because she lost her innocence that day. If she knew who he was, and decided to report him. Who is anyone to judge her for coming forward almost 40 years later?


At 16 yrs. old. Cindy had an admirer. He was about 22 yrs. old and a cousin of her friend. She didn’t particularly like him as she thought he was a little old for her and not really her type. However he was persistent, and since it was her friend’s cousin, she gave in to the pressure and said yes to a date. She went to meet him at his home, where he lived with his mother. However, when she got there, he was the only one home. She was with him in his room. He started to kiss her but she didn’t really want to, but she kissed him. One thing led to the next and she told him to stop, he wouldn’t listen to her, he held her down and penetrated her. She left feeling violated, but not sure if she did something wrong because she was at his house. She said no but he wouldn’t stop. That night she felt all sorts of emotions, she couldn’t believe it happened but wasn’t sure if it was her fault. He called her that night; he apologized to her for what he did. That was confirmation for her that his actions were wrong. She avoided him after that: she didn’t take his calls. She didn’t tell anyone about what happened, not even his cousin. It was 1984. She coped with it. Three years later while attending university she learned of the term, date rape and no means no. She finally had the words to describe what happened to her. 25 years later she saw him. He acted as if she was an old friend, seemingly not a memory of the last encounter. She has no reason to confront him she says, as he showed remorse and apologized hours after it happened. She doesn’t wish to revisit it.

The fourth story isn’t a story that I have been told personally. That is of women in the work place who have been sexually harassed. Yes they may be older, but it doesn’t change the dynamics and the added threat of losing ones job or professional opportunities when someone in power is the abuser. It also may take years to cope with the ramifications of an abusive situation.

Please, before you make light or berate a woman for taking her time to confront her abuser, think before you speak. Your words may be silencing another woman close to you who has been dealing with a sexual assault. Silencing is what abusers hope for, do not assist them in getting a way with sexually assaulting someone who could very well be your sister or brother, niece or nephew.

Have you ever heard yourself saying:

Why don’t we have sex like we used to?

He doesn’t want to have sex as often.

I feel like she is doing it because she has too.

What can I do to improve our sex life?

If these thoughts have ever run through your head or are running through your head right now you are in good company.  These are just a few of the most common questions that I hear as a sexologist.  One of the most powerful ways of creating the sex life that you want is to start looking at sex as a symptom of what is going on in the relationship overall.  When the sex is good generally speaking the relationship is good.  When sex is bad usually there is something going on in the relationship that isn’t working.

I had a client who was confused and unhappy with his sex life.  For the first year of his marriage the sex was great and in the last three months things had tapered off and he felt that his partner was only having sex because he wanted it not because she got any enjoyment out of it.

I asked him if anything happened three months ago.  He confessed that he had promised his wife that he would stop smoking and a month later she caught him smoking.  Again, he promised that he would quit and again a month later she caught him smoking.  Where the link between smoking and sex may not be readily apparent the break in trust is.  He could see that because he had lied to his wife and she had caught him in the lie twice the trust has been damaged and trust is a fundamental component of her connecting sexually with him.

In the above situation it was the relationship and trust that needed work not specifically the sex.  Sex happens between the ears long before it happens between the legs so if she is thinking he can’t be trusted the sex is going to suffer.  If you find yourself wondering why your sex life is not where it once was, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. When did you notice that things were not working?
  2. What was happening in the relationship at that time?
  3. Was there an impact on either person at that time?
  4. Was the issue resolved?

Start there.  Do some detective work and if possible include your partner in figuring out where the relationship needs work.  Once the relationship is repaired the sex usually gets back on track. And if it doesn’t stay tuned for next month’s article.

Remember, when it comes to sex, there is no right way, there is no wrong way, there is just your way.

Dr. Stephen de Wit is a Toronto sexologist. Stephen helps people discover and create the sex life they have always wanted. He is on a one man mission to ensure that everyone lives the sexually empowered existence.  He has completed his Doctorate of Human Sexuality and focuses his energy on keynotes, workshops, seminars, writing and media appearances always with a fun, interactive, high impact approach.  For more information visit www.drdewit.com.