A man threatened 2 Muslim women. These Canadians responded with flowers.

For me and for a lot of people, recent political events have made the world feel a little less ... welcoming. And that's true in places outside of America, too.

Janelle Venne, who has lived in Ottawa and, more recently, Alberta, Canada, for most of her life, says this recent surge of hatred is spreading north.

She tries to do her part every day, whether that's volunteering to cover up racist graffiti or just flashing a warm smile to passersby. But Venne says she heard a news story a few weeks back that made her stomach turn. A man had taken a rope out of his jacket, tied it into a noose, handed it to two hijabi women he saw at a light-rail station in Venne's town of Edmonton, and taunted them, singing "O Canada." The encounter was caught on camera by the two women.


“I was thinking, 'Why doesn't somebody do something about this?'" Venne says. "Then I realized: I am somebody.”

Venne came up with the idea to take back her local train station as a safe space for all by handing out flowers to any women she saw there wearing hijab.

Initially, she thought she'd spend about $50 of her own money on a few carnations. But the more people she talked to, the more people wanted to get involved.

Working alongside other volunteers, including Nakita Valerio from AMPAC (the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council), Venne scraped together over $500 in only 24 hours.

That meant she was able to buy about 1,000 flowers to hand out.

Nakita Valerio (center) and Janelle Venn pose with flowers. Photo by Nakita Valerio, used with permission.

On Dec. 7, 2016, almost exactly a month after the incident, Venne and other volunteers set up shop between two escalators on the main train platform.

People filtered past in bunches — dozens of them, hundreds. And each time a woman wearing a hijab hurried through the crowd, Venne and others quietly slipped her a flower, their way of saying "You are welcome here."

"The first person I gave a flower to, she just about broke out crying and gave me a huge hug," Venne says. Another woman received a flower on her way to class, then came back to the station just to thank the volunteers again.

A group of people are giving out flowers in the University LRT station to Hijabi women in response to the hate crime...

Posted by Yasmeen Abdallah on Wednesday, December 7, 2016

In 12 hours, Venne says, the group handed out over 800 flowers.

And what might be even more encouraging than the sheer number of kind gestures performed by the volunteers that day was the interest from non-Muslim passersby.

"All different kinds of people came up and asked what they were up to and asked how they could help," Venne says. Many of the flowers were given to curious strangers who promised to hand them out throughout the day.

Photo by Nakita Valerio, used with permission.

Of course, not everyone loved what Venne was doing, and a few said so. “But the percentage was so tiny," she says. "They're loud, but they're obviously not the majority.”

Unfortunately, Venne and her friends can't be everywhere in the world at once, making sure everyone feels safe and loved.

So she has a few pieces of advice for anyone who might find themselves witnessing harassment like the incident that took place at her local train station:

“Completely ignore the harasser. Communicate with the person being harassed,” she says. Make normal conversation with them. Make them feel comfortable. “Eventually, the harasser will go away.”

If you're up for doing something more proactive in your own community to make the world feel safer, a little can go a long way.

"Because women who wear hijabs are so targeted and so easy to spot," Venne says, "I figured they should be targeted for a positive reason for once."

More
Photo by Raul Varzar on Unsplash

A quarter of domestic cats have had their claws removed. Even though it might make the owners lives a little easier, the procedure can be incredibly painful for the animals and has been described as "barbaric."

Most of Europe and Canada have banned cat declawing (onychectomy), as well as several U.S. cities, but New York just became the first state to do so. Now, any vet who declaws a cat in the there will face a fine of $1,000, unless the procedure is medically necessary.

"Declawing is a cruel and painful procedure that can create physical and behavioral problems for helpless animals, and today it stops," New York GovernorAndrew Cuomo saidin a statement, per USA Today.

Some people get their cat declawed to stop their furniture and flesh from being destroyed. However, declawing a cat isn't the best way to stop a cat from scratching. In fact, it's probably the worst. "If a person has an issue with a cat scratching, well, first of all, I'd advise them don't get a cat because that is the very nature of a cat. But, secondly, there are ways to change cats' behavior. Get scratching posts. There are vinyl sheathes that could be placed on the nails," Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal said. Rosenthal sponsored the bill and is a cat owner, herself. "[T]here's many ways to address that behavior." None of the ways you address the problem should include taking it's claws off.

Keep Reading Show less
Cities

In today's installment of the perils of being a woman, a 21-year-old woman shared her experience being "slut-shamed" by her nurse practitioner during a visit to urgent care for an STD check.

The woman recently had sex with someone she had only just met, and it was her first time hooking up with someone she had not "developed deep connections with."

Keep Reading Show less
Well Being
Sony Pictures Entertainment/YouTube


A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD - Official Trailer (HD) www.youtube.com

As a child, I spent countless hours with Mister Rogers. I sang along as he put on his cardigan and sneakers, watched him feed his fish, and followed his trolley into the Land of Make Believe. His show was a like a calm respite from the craziness of the world, a beautiful place where kindness always ruled. Even now, thinking about the gentle, genuine way he spoke to me as a child is enough to wash away the angst of my adult heart.

Fred Rogers was goodness personified. He dedicated his life not just to the education of children, but to their emotional well-being. His show didn't teach us letters and figures—he taught about love and feelings. He showed us what community looks like, what accepting and including different people looks like, and what kindness and compassion look like. He saw everyone he met as a new friend, and when he looked into the camera and said, "Hello, neighbor," he was sincerely speaking to every person watching.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture