Adults learn to ice skate at Kingston’s Market Square – Kingston


The skating rink at Market Square in Kingston was blocked off Sunday morning for adults who were learning to skate.

Sarah Wurtele was among those lacing up her skates as she prepared herself to step on the ice after 22 years.

“I stopped skating when I was 10, and this is my first time skating since then,” Wurtele told Global News.

When she first got on the ice, “it was dread,” Wurtele said. “I thought I was going to fall but I haven’t fallen yet.”

This is a feeling many adults shared at the second annual adult skating class, which was part of Kingston’s Feb Fest.

Kurt Browning describes ‘lifelong love affair’ with figure skating at Kingston-area seminar

“I think it’s great that they have it for adults because a lot of programs are geared towards kids, but there’s not that many for adults, and we feel embarrassed,” said Wurtele. “We feel self-conscious trying to learn how to skate, especially around young kids.”

Veteran skating instructor Lynn Grivich was teaching adults to skate at the event.

“We’re getting a great response,” Grivich said. “There’s a lot of newcomers to Kingston that have perhaps never skated before.”

The event brought about 25 adults to Market Square, half of whom were, like Wurtele, starting from scratch.

Grivich says she finds “a lot of satisfaction seeing just how nervous and stiff they are when they initially come on to the ice and then gradually start relaxing.”

Sky’s the limit for Kingston skater Jessica Lui

Global News asked Grivich to provide some pointers for new skaters.

She says the most common mistake people make is that they push the blade forward instead of pushing from the side.

“You’re pushing and bending from side to side,” said Grivich.

She also adds that the most important tip of all is to relax, something that sounds simple but is usually the hardest for those new to the ice.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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Provincial cuts leave adults with disabilities ‘hanging on a ledge’


Like too many young people on the autism spectrum, Nazarenus Rimando struggled with the transition from high school to adulthood.

After failing most of his college courses in computer repair maintenance, he retreated to the family’s Scarborough apartment, where he grew increasingly withdrawn and depressed.

Rimando’s mother Maria, who searched frantically for help between shifts at her factory job, says it “felt like watching a slow death. It was heartbreaking.”

The turning point came in the spring of 2016 when the provincial Developmental Services Office suggested the family try independent facilitation, a service that since 2015 has helped more than 1,700 young people like Rimando create a meaningful adult life.

Through independent facilitation, Rimando was able to re-enrol at Centennial College, start volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, join a local martial arts gym and even learn how to sail a tall ship.

Provincial NDP social services critic Lisa Gretsky (Windsor West), who met with families in her riding Thursday, said she is shocked Ford’s “government for the people” is abandoning such a vulnerable population.

“These families have been completely blindsided by this cut and don’t know where to go to pick up the pieces,” she said Friday.

“People with developmental disabilities want to be part of society just like everybody else,” she said in an interview. “And we need to make sure, as legislators, we are making decisions that are empowering them to be able to do that.”

Before the Rimandos met facilitator Joanne Wilson, Maria says her son was “just a shell.”

“Now, he has someone he can trust. And who I can trust too. I can really see the growth. He’s becoming a better person,” she says.

Rimando, 24, also feels the difference.

“I was stranded. I didn’t know where to go,” he says. “Joanne gave me the direction I needed … If the government is going to completely cut this fund, I will be left hanging on a ledge or worse. I may even topple down.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services said the “time-limited project” has run its course and that an independent evaluation by the previous government concluded its benefits were not demonstrably different than services and supports offered by community agencies.

Those who want to continue using independent facilitation can use Passport funding, a provincial program that provides money to individuals with developmental disabilities and their families to pay for respite and personal support in the community, said Graeme Dempster.

But advocates say the government’s evaluation was seriously flawed. As for using Passport funding, they say it isn’t a viable option because more than 16,000 individuals, including the Rimandos, are on the wait list. And those who get Passport funding say it’s not enough to cover services as well as independent facilitation, advocates add.

Life is full of transitions, but the passage from adolescence to adulthood is arguably the most difficult, says Judith McGill, a Toronto social worker who has been helping individuals with developmental disabilities and their families navigate the journey for more than 20 years. With provincial funding, McGill’s organization, Families for a Secure Future, has been able to train and mentor eight facilitators who support the Rimandos and 220 others in Toronto, Guelph, Peel, Halton and Durham.

For young people with developmental disabilities such as autism or Down syndrome, becoming an adult too often means moving from high school to their parents’ basement, segregated day programs or group homes.

Admission to psychiatric wards, long term care and even homeless shelters are common — and costly — responses when things go wrong.

Independent facilitation was beginning to change that trajectory, McGill says.

“Individuals with developmental disabilities yearn to find places in the world where they belong and can make a contribution,” McGill says. “They have the right to take up their citizenship and be supported to fully participate in life alongside others in their community.”

Unlike other “person-directed planning models” for people with developmental disabilities, independent facilitation is truly independent, she says. It does not offer residential or day services, nor does it manage or oversee an individual’s provincial funding, assessment, eligibility or service provision.

Instead, facilitators are problem-solvers and “community connectors” who “walk alongside people as they begin envisioning and making changes in their lives,” she says.

“We help people find their voice after years of having parents, teachers and professionals speak for them,” McGill says. “We help them explore their gifts and talents. And then we help people put them into action.”

Parents unable to manage or co-ordinate their adult son or daughter’s daily life believe the only options are day programs, which cost as much as $35,000 a year, or residential care, that typically runs at $140,000 annually, McGill says.

Independent facilitators, however, work with individuals to discover their dreams, interests and goals and connect them with much less costly community resources.

Since Ontario began funding independent facilitation as a demonstration project in 2015, seven such organizations in Ottawa and southern Ontario have helped 458 people plan to move out of the family home into more independent living arrangements. They facilitated 879 transitions from high school to post-secondary education and other adult roles, and helped 266 establish community support networks.

Over three years, the demonstration project has helped young adults with developmental disabilities establish, enhance or sustain more than 2,100 jobs, volunteer positions or meaningful leisure roles in the community, according to the Ontario Independent Facilitation Network.

Independent facilitation also supports families as their children move through different life stages. And it helps parents prepare for their children to be supported when they are no longer around by helping them maintain relationships with extended family and friends, and develop meaningful connections to people in their neighbourhood and broader community.

“It keeps them out of crisis, which costs hundreds of thousands of dollars,” McGill says. “Walking away from 1,354 people we are currently working with is tantamount to throwing away millions and millions of dollars.”

For Rimando, “expressing things is sometimes a hill you have to climb.”

But he is determined to tell anyone who will listen how his life has changed with his facilitator’s help.

“I always wanted to achieve something … that recognizes me not as an autistic person who has this disability and drawbacks, but recognizes me as a person who can overcome these drawbacks.”

“If this funding is cut and the program shuts down, there is no way for me to move forward,” he says. “I won’t know what to do next.”

Laurie Monsebraaten is a Toronto-based reporter covering social justice. Follow her on Twitter: @lmonseb


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A third of Toronto’s young adults live with their parents. Here’s how Bloor West compares to the Bridle Path, and more


Twenty-six-year-old Ian Sinclair has found the perfect basement apartment in the west end.

It’s close to transit, with its own entrance. He even gets along well with his landlords, who happen to be his parents.

“Essentially I’m their basement tenant but not paying rent,” says Sinclair, who works full-time in the public sector. He moved back into the house he grew up in near Runnymede Station after graduating university in 2017.

“I definitely feel fortunate and privileged,” he says of his situation. “I have many friends from school whose parents aren’t from the city so they didn’t have a choice.”

As Toronto’s housing crisis continues, experts are seeing a new divide taking hold among the younger generation: those who can live with their parents — and save for a down payment — and those who can’t.

The highest percentage is found in one of the city’s wealthiest communities, Bridle Path-Sunnybrook-York Mills, where a whopping 75 per cent of young adults are sticking with mom and dad.

“I see living with parents as a form of privilege,” says University of Waterloo assistant professor Nancy Worth, who studied the issue in a 2017 report called GenY at Home.

Worth said living at home is also increasingly being seen as a smart financial move that sets younger people up for success, rather than the old stereotype of the “lazy millennial” trapped in their parent’s basement delaying adulthood.

“It’s sort of introducing a kind of inequality within a generation, rather than just across a generation.”

The trend is not only about money, Worth says, as many boomer parents and millennial kids have a closer relationship than previous generations. Precarious work also pushes people back home, as it’s hard to lock into a 30-year mortgage or even a yearlong lease on a six month contract.

But without affordable housing options for younger people, it’s the family who steps up, and that impacts who is able to then save and buy future real estate, she says.

“If you can’t give your kids $50,000 but you can give them their room back, especially in your large single family home, you’re essentially giving them a savings of rent which can be quite significant in a place like Toronto.”

In the Bridle Path, notoriously one of Toronto’s toniest addresses, adult children living with their parents just makes sense in terms of “pure square footage,” says Barry Cohen, owner of ReMax Barry Cohen Homes Inc., who sells homes in the area.

“It’s quite common through the Bridle Path because the homes are so large and extravagant,” he said, noting there are even a few multi-generational homes in the neighbourhood, with features such as separate entrances, designed for grandma and grandpa as well as mom and dad and adult kids, Cohen notes.

“Why not live in the lap of luxury?”

The lowest rates of young adults living at home are in neighbourhoods along the waterfront and financial district, like Niagara (4 per cent), and the Bay Street corridor (7 per cent), where smaller, newer, condo units make multi-generational living crowded.

“You’re in 450, 500 square feet, you don’t have room for parents, you don’t have room for a cat,” says Nora Spinks, chief executive officer at the Vanier Institute of the Family, with a laugh.

In a city where the average detached home costs about $1.3 million, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board, and the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is now more than $2,000, say figures from market research firm Urbanation, cost is the biggest factor for many.

It certainly was for Sinclair, who’s saving the “tens of thousands of dollars a year on rent, at least,” for a future down payment, by living with his parents in the west end.

But there are other reasons for living with mom and dad, such as taking care of a sick parent, or coming from a culture where it’s more accepted, says Spinks.

Amani Tarud, 24, who grew up in Chile and has Middle Eastern heritage, says it’s normal and even encouraged for young single people to live with their parents there.

“It’s a very North American ideal that you have to leave once you turn 18,” she says.

Tarud lives in a two-bedroom apartment near Yonge and Eglinton with her mom, twin teenage sisters and the family dog. She graduated from the University of Toronto last June but is sticking around as long as she can to save a nest egg for rent and work on paying off her student loan. Even though it means sharing a bedroom with her mom.

“Does it get in the way of social and romantic life a little bit? Yeah sure, but it’s not terrible by any means at all.”

Tarud, who is working in child and respite care, says a place of her own would be way out of reach financially. And there are perks such as being able to take care of each other when they get sick.

“If I have to live with a roommate it might as well be here, because at least it’s someone that I get along with,” she says.

Urban planner Cheryll Case lived with her parents in the Etobicoke neighbourhood of Kingsview Village The Westway (where 49 per cent of single adults aged 20 to 34 do the same) for a year after graduating from Ryerson University.

She too feels lucky she was able to save up “a good cushion” for rent before moving into a townhouse with her boyfriend and a roommate.

But, she notes, there are many neighbourhoods where if you want to remain in the area the only real choice is to stay in the house you grew up in, because of a lack of affordable housing.

Building more “missing middle” units across the city, lowrise apartments and townhomes that are a more affordable alternative to the two extremes of highrises and single detached homes, would help with supply issues, she says.

“It’s a great privilege to live with your parents and you save money, but it’s a great privilege to be able to live on your own if you so choose,” she says.

May Warren is a breaking news reporter based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @maywarren11


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Free prescriptions for many children and young adults in Ontario set to end in March


Free taxpayer-funded prescriptions to children and young adults under 25 will end in March if they have private insurance coverage.

The looming change in the OHIP+ pharmacare program, expected to save $250 million a year, was first announced in late June as Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives took power but the time frame for implementation remained a mystery until now.

Changes to Ontario’s OHIP+ pharmacare program will impact children and young adults covered under private insurance plans. Drugs will still be free for those without insurance.
Changes to Ontario’s OHIP+ pharmacare program will impact children and young adults covered under private insurance plans. Drugs will still be free for those without insurance.  (NICOLE CRAINE / NYT)

“The government is fixing OHIP+ by focusing benefits on those who need them the most,” said a notice posted online on a government website this week putting the proposal out for public comment until the end of January.

Sources said the government hopes to have the necessary systems in place with insurers and pharmacies by late March.

Under the new plan, children and young adults will continue to get free prescriptions if they or their parents do not have private health insurance coverage.

Otherwise, private insurance plans become the “first payer” for prescription medicines.

At issue is how pharmacists will be able to verify whether customers under 25 have private coverage, or deductibles or co-payments.

The Ontario Pharmacists Association said it supports the initiative and is eager to have a smooth, streamlined process to make sure children and young adults get the medicines they need without snags.

“There’s still some technical issues and IT system issues to work out,” Allen Malek, the association’s executive vice-president and chief pharmacy officer, told the Star on Friday.

At drug stores, pharmacists will ask customers if they have insurance and check their coverage online. But pharmacists are concerned about the complications of performing a “policing” function on behalf of the government.

“It puts us at a risk we cannot necessarily protect against,” said Malek, concerned some customers, whose insurance plans require them to cover some of their drug costs through co-pays or deductibles, may say they do not have insurance to avoid paying anything.

The association is concerned the government will make pharmacies liable for the costs if it’s later discovered the customer had private insurance.

Health Minister Christine Elliott’s office would not specify how the system would be made fail-safe, other than to say “our government is broadly engaging with employers, pharmacies and insurance companies as part of our efforts to ensure a smooth transition and implementation.”

New Democrat MPP and health critic France Gelinas (Nickel Belt) said the change will be more costly to administer and prone to complications.

“This patchwork system is the most likely to have big cracks for people to fall through, especially since, right now, the government has no sure way to figure out which children have or have not been put back on their parent’s private insurance plans.”

The Green party questioned the promised cost savings, saying Finance Minister Vic Fedeli has put them as low as $100 million and as high as $300 million at different times.

“They have been playing fast and loose with the numbers,” said a statement from the office of Green Leader Mike Schreiner, MPP for Guelph.

About 4,400 medications are eligible under the pharmacare plan launched a year ago by the previous Liberal government.

In his fall economic statement, Fedeli estimated the move will save “at least” $250 million.

“The government promised that it would find efficiencies while ensuring that vital public services are affordable and sustainable, now and in the years to come,” he wrote.

Ford has promised to find $6 billion in annual spending cuts in a bid to eliminate a provincial deficit the government pegs at $14.5 billion.

Drugs covered under OHIP+ are the same ones used in the Ontario Drug Benefit Program for seniors and people on social assistance.

Rob Ferguson is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robferguson1


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Students want Ontario to scrap special minimum wage that is lower than that paid to adults


Ontario is the only province in Canada to have a minimum wage for young workers that is lower than the minimum wage for adults — and Grade 12 student Taamara Thanaraj isn’t happy that a scheduled increase to that rate may soon be frozen.

She was one of a group of 30 students who gathered under drizzly skies at Yonge and Bloor Sts. Friday to protest Bill 47, provincial legislation that, if passed, will result in significant rollbacks to labour protections recently enacted including increases to the general minimum wage and the subminimum wage for students.

“Right now, minimum wage is not a livable wage for a lot of people, especially for parents. That’s why a lot of young people do work,” said Thanaraj, who attends the Scarborough Academy of Technological, Environmental and Computer Education at William Arnot Porter Collegiate Institute.

Bill 47 will keep the general minimum wage at $14 an hour, but cancel an increase to $15 scheduled for January. It will also cancel a scheduled bump from $13.15 to $14.10 an hour for students’ minimum wage.

Employers in Ontario are not required to pay the general minimum wage to students under 18 who work part-time during school or work during a school break or the summer holidays.

“Ontario is the only province in Canada with a lower minimum wage for students, and those (provinces) that previously had a lower rate eliminated them years ago,” the report said.

“In our view, the impact of the provision is discriminatory, and, although the Human Rights Code effectively permits discrimination of those under 18, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not.”

Thanaraj said she helped organize Friday’s protest to advocate for young people — and to send a message to government that they deserve equal treatment.

“The government is assuming that because you’re a younger person, you don’t have financial responsiblities. But that’s such a generalization, because most young people are saving up for post-secondary opportunities,” she said.

According to the Ministry of Labour’s policy manual, the rationale for the exemption is “to facilitate the employment of younger persons,” who may struggle to compete for jobs with older students with more work experience.

Several business groups opposed removing the wage differential. These included the Ontario Restaurant Hotel & Motel Association, which said, in its submission, to the review that requiring employers to pay students under 18 the general minimum wage “will have a huge impact on the overall business” and “will greatly affect youth employment.”

Documents obtained by the Star through a Freedom of Information request show Morley Gunderson, the CIBC Chair in Youth Employment at the University of Toronto, advised the review experts that “the evidence suggests that the sky will not fall in if the student subminimum (wage) is raised, although it may reduce their employment, perhaps by two per cent or so.”

The review recommended that government eliminate the lower student minimum wage over a three-year period, which the Liberals’ Bill 148 did not do. It did increase the base rate.

The Progressive Conservative provincial government has called Bill 148 “job-killing” legislation, and says its proposed replacement, Bill 47, will “make the province open for business, grow the economy and help create good jobs”

NDP MPP Jessica Bell, who addressed Friday’s protest, said Bill 47 serves “an economy of the rich.”

“Even if we’re not old enough to vote, that doesn’t mean we don’t understand our civic rights. Because we’re old enough to work,” added Thanaraj.

“It’s about more than just a $1 raise; it’s a fight against poverty and discrimination in the workplace.”

Sara Mojtehedzadeh is a Toronto-based reporter covering work and wealth. Follow her on Twitter: @saramojtehedz


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