Let the children have a say in their future


Young people have been speaking out for their rights. Many are wise beyond their years.

Without the blinkers of ideology, workaday priorities and ingrained values, they can see clearly what’s happening. They’ve had to step up for their own futures because too few of their elders are willing to accept that rampant consumerism has been an illusory quest for happiness at the expense of the planet’s life-support systems.

“We have learned that if we don’t start acting for our future, nobody else will make the first move,” a Guardian article signed by 46 young people, including 16-year-old Swedish student Greta Thunberg, said.

Kids understand that their well-being, safety and lives depend on a healthy planet, with clean air, good water, nutritious food and a stable climate. And many are skilled at distinguishing truth from lies.

But while tens of thousands are marching in streets worldwide – for the #FridaysForFuture youth climate strikes that Thunberg started and more – they don’t always see much evidence that adults with the power to make change are listening.

“We’re feeling the burden of it, so it makes sense that I would care the most,” 15-year-old Lily Gardner of Lexington, Kentucky, told the Guardian. “But I think it’s really difficult to get politicians and legislators to take our voices seriously, especially because they believe that we do not have any voting power.”

What if we gave them that power?

A cheeky movement to lower Canada’s voting age from 18 to eight might sound... out there. But I’m not seeing much evidence that adults are any better at making political decisions than young people. So many grownups are electing politicians who don’t even accept climate science, let alone the need to treat climate disruption as an emergency. Many governments and politicians around the world seem more beholden to the fading fossil fuel industry than the people they’re supposed to represent.

“Politicians have known about climate change for decades,” Thunberg and her fellow youth wrote. “They have willingly handed over their responsibility for our future to profiteers whose search for quick cash threatens our very existence.”

This is not hyperbole. Every reputable scientist in every climate-related discipline, from oceanography to atmospheric physics, is saying we have little time – not much more than a decade, if that – to turn things around, to keep from pumping so many greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that they can’t be re-absorbed or broken down before Earth heats beyond its ability to support human life.

Every legitimate scientific academy and institution in the world agrees. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has worked with scientists and researchers worldwide to regularly compile and summarize the research and evidence to share with government leaders and policy-makers. There’s no shortage of solutions. Many are being deployed and new ones are being developed all the time, but not quickly enough. The only thing holding us back is lack of political will.

Yet many grownups are willing to risk that all these scientists and their research are wrong – even though we’d still end up with cleaner air, water and soil and healthier people if we took their advice and it turned out they all somehow missed something. Those who are gambling away our youth’s future often support politicians who are likewise willing to bet against impossible odds.

Young people may not always make the best or most informed decisions, but given that their futures are at stake and they understand that change is possible and necessary, I can’t imagine they would make worse decisions than their elders.

As adults, we must do all we can to support our youngers.

The Friday youth walkouts expanded to a Global Climate Strike on September 20, kick-starting a week of activities that people of all ages were invited to join, and culminated in another strike on September 27.

We should encourage our kids and grandkids to take part in such events and get out there ourselves. Let the children speak, and listen to them.

We should also make sure to take our election responsibilities seriously, asking candidates about their climate plans and voting for those who are committed to a cleaner, safer, brighter tomorrow.

Should we let the kids vote? As the 18to8 campaign says, “Let the future decide the future”.

• With contributions from David Suzuki Foundation’s senior editor/writer Ian Hanington. More at


Frugality is a lifelong habit


My parents were salt of the earth, hard-working, charitable people, but not wealthy.

My father ran the flower farm for his father and then inherited it.

It was a hundred acres of exquisitely beautiful blue agapanthus, red hot pokers and red cluster roses.

The daily labour of love involved tending, nurturing, fertilizing, weeding and the uniquely tropical task of snake proofing so that he and his small crew stayed safe.

Every day they would cut the day’s quota of flowers, load them on to wheel barrows and push them, maneuvering the hills and valleys of the farm to our house atop one of the hills.

The small crew would collect their few shillings of fair daily wage and go off to their shacks on the farm.

My parents would bathe, eat supper and then start the next few hours of work on the verandah.

The stems of flowers would be bunched together with ferns grown in my mother’s front garden and the bunches placed in buckets of water, dozens of them lined up along the verandah that took up two sides of the house.

My older brothers helped and we, the younger children, hankered to help, too.

This work often went late into the evening, ending near 11 pm when my parents went to bed exhausted.

My father woke up at 4 am to transport the buckets by small truck fifteen miles to flower stalls and florists mainly in town but also directly to the homes of customers who could afford the luxury of fresh flowers for their vases.

In the segregated apartheid South Africa of the forties, fifties and sixties, these homes were of white memsahibs.

Growing up, we the children, watched this daily toil as well as all the other household chores that needed to be done by hand.

Money was always tight and greatly respected.

My four oldest sisters and our oldest brother were not educated beyond the local elementary school and all five were married by family arrangement.

The rest of us received high school and some post-secondary with me being the most fortunate of all having received a university education.

Providing us with education was a priority for my father and a mammoth financial commitment.

Which is why, since I benefited from my father’s financial sacrifices to educate me, I never stopped studying even when I came to Canada.

I worked during the day and studied at night, achieving my doctorate many years into my working life. 

So the lesson of frugality was lovingly etched, embroidered into our psyches and never left us.

My oldest sisters became self-taught seamstresses and sewed to supplement their family incomes.

Another sister, despite having to leave school at grade ten to be married, continued her part-time education and became the backbone support to the lawyers for whom she worked. My brothers became teachers, a mechanic and an industrial worker.

So, hard-earned money is treated with great care.

The habit of donating to charities, especially children’s charities has been ingrained, but caution about buying things for ourselves has been the main lesson of frugality.

I now catch myself saying, “Don’t throw that out, there are so many people in the world who cannot afford to do that!”

This mantra even guides how much food I cook because throwing out food is a complete no-no.

Sometimes when I see a really good sale and buy two instead of one piece of clothing I fret and keep one new for months before I finally wear it, remembering to donate something from my wardrobe to a charity that calls.

As I write this I have finally given myself permission to go ahead and wear the few new things I buy.

I figure I have reached a stage in my life when I can say, “If I like it today, go ahead and wear it today”.

Frugality has lasted a lifetime and has served my siblings and me well.

• Dr Vicki Bismilla is a retired Superintendent of Schools and retired college Vice-President, Academic, and Chief Learning Officer. She has authored two books.


DEAR DIDI,  I have a bone to pick with my family over my food choices


 Dear Didi,

You know how many desis have to explain to their non-desi friends the intricacies of a vegetarian diet? I have the opposite problem.

I am a meat-eater in a family of vegetarians and at social and family get-togethers, I have to justify my food choices. It’s not like I am forcing them to provide meat options just for me, so why do I have to explain what I eat when I am on my own or with friends who love their burgers and butter chicken? FED UP

Let’s face it, whenever you have a gathering of desis food will come up and the conversation can go on for hours just like it does in my family’s group chat.

Even as we are eating food, we are thinking about our next meal, talking about it and comparing notes.

As annoying as it is, you can either tell them to stop talking about it and confront it head-on that you don’t like it when they judge your food choices, especially since you aren’t asking for special treatment or food they would not eat themselves.

Or you could try the distraction method!

Just start the conversation yourself about different vegetarian foods that you look forward to at social and family get-togethers.

For me (and I too am a carnivore), whenever I am home I can’t wait to eat my mom’s curry or saag or mullee parathas. Once you get them chatting about the food that is in front of them and/or the favourites that didn’t make the cut, they will stop thinking about you and your food choices.

Like I said, it’s funny. I have a family chat going and inevitably there is always a daily post about food, so I would feel lucky if I was you that it is just there for a little while and then you are gone!

Plus, trust me when I say that as you get older, the less the family and their judgements will bug you.

I used to get upset whenever my mom would give me a disapproving look about something I was eating or drinking but not any more.

In the big scheme of things, it is best for you to come out to see family and build memories with the people you want rather than have the annoying ones keep you away.

And next time you are there have an extra helping of your fav veggie dish for me, too.

Enjoy every morsel.

I may be able to help! Is there something that you wish you could talk to someone about? Email me at Kul@Dear or follow me on Twitter and Face-book at @Dear Didi_KSC. Want more Dear Didi? Listen to my pod-cast – Generation Immigrant – on all major platforms. Listen, rate, review, repeat. Hope to hear from you soon!


We hear so much about ‘grace’. What is it?


We hear so much about ‘grace.’ We hear about this or that person showing grace to others. So what is grace?

Grace is more than kindness, generosity, gentleness, sympathy or mercy. It includes all these qualities but it’s far deeper and richer. It is love; specifically, undeserved love. It’s showing love to someone who does not deserve it. Strictly speaking, grace is showing love to someone who deserves the exact opposite.

That’s grace!

It’s costly for the person who shows grace to others. To the person who receives grace, it is free; he has not earned it.

A grace that you earn is not grace at all!

Let’s talk about the grace of God. That’s where we need to begin – with God. So many people talk about God’s grace, but they don’t believe it. This is because they think that they have to do something to earn His grace. They think that if they are helpful, do good to others, and live a moral life, they will receive God’s grace.

But that’s not grace! That’s justice. This view is saying that God gives me what I deserve; that is, something good for what I do. That means you earned it. And that’s not grace!

God’s grace is free, unmerited or unearned. His grace is given to those who deserve the exact opposite: judgment, punishment, and death. That’s people like you and me. But God showed His grace, toward undeserving people like me, in His Son Jesus Christ. He, the One without sin, received willingly what we deserved; that is, judgment, punishment and death on the cross. By trusting in Christ and what He did on the cross, we receive what we don’t deserve; that is, God’s grace. By believing in Jesus, God adopts me as his son forever, with full rights and privileges! This grace is amazing!

God offers His amazing grace to us in Christ who paid the price for redemption. All I need to do is accept His gift of grace with a believing heart. He offers it to you in Christ. Do you accept it? 

I know this may offend many people because they think they have to pay their own way to get to God. But that’s not grace. Grace is God’s love given without our deserving it and is received by faith in Christ.

A simple way to remember grace is the acronym G.R.A.C.E. which is God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.

• Reverend Tony Zekveld can be reached at Hope Centre at 416-740-0543 and

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