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Feds deny Ottawa Somali centre funding claiming it's not Black enough –



Leaders of a Somali organization in Ottawa say their relationship with Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) has been severely damaged after the department rejected its funding application by arguing it’s not Black enough.

“At this day and age, to come across something like that was very, very, very shock[ing] and somewhat uncalled for,” said Mohamoud Hagi-Aden, one of the founders of the Somali Centre for Family Services. The centre is among hundreds of organizations the government rejected, claiming they failed to meet its Black leadership criteria. 

Hagi-Aden said he was in disbelief when he read the rejection letter, which claimed his organization was not sufficiently led by Black people. The centre’s founders, management and board are all of Somali background, according to the centre.

“The people who have been making these decisions [are] either from another planet, or they’re not from the [Black] community,” he said.

The letter recently sent by my department to unsuccessful applicants for funding was completely unacceptable.– Families, Children and Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen

Executive director Abdirizak Karod applied last summer for the federal funding, called the Supporting Black Canadian Communities Initiative, after learning it was for Black groups looking to improve their work and community spaces. He said he wanted to use the funding to buy laptops for clients so they can access services and training remotely, as well as refurbishing the organization’s 28-year-old office building.

The funding guidelines say the groups must be focused on serving Black communities, and that at least two-thirds of the leadership and governance structure must be made up of people who self-identify as Black. 

“I got an email saying our organization is not a Black-led organization,” Karod said. “I didn’t believe that what I [saw]. And believe me, I read it three times.” 

Abdirizak Karod applied for the Supporting Black Canadian Communities Initiative funding last summer. His application was rejected this month. (Somali Centre for Family Services/Facebook)

A letter to the centre dated Jan. 12 states that “information provided did not meet this eligibility criteria or was insufficient to clearly demonstrate that the organization is led and governed by people who self-identify as Black.”

A second letter was sent the next day to correct the first letter. It said the group was rejected because “ESDC did not receive the information required to move forward with your application.”

“They never tell us why we got rejected. They never tell us anything,” Karod said, explaining how he answered all the questions on the application. 

“How we can trust this department again?” he asked. “I can’t trust them…. It was not an honest mistake.”

Letter ‘completely unacceptable’: Minister

ESDC declined an interview with CBC News, pointing instead to the minister’s Twitter thread.

“The letter recently sent by my department to unsuccessful applicants for funding was completely unacceptable,” Families, Children and Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen tweeted. “As soon as it was presented to me, I quickly demanded a retraction and met with my officials to discuss how such a mistake could have happened in the first place.”

Hussen, who was born in Somalia, said he will “make sure it never happens again,” and vowed to work with Black-led organizations to improve.

But the statement isn’t good enough, according to Hagi-Aden.

“How will [ESDC] repair the damage they’ve done to the Black community? We have so many barriers and so many difficulties,” he said. “The trust that we had in the system has been so severely damaged.”

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Summer 2024: 16 Italian museums waiting to be explored!



The appeal of Italian museums in the summer months

Summer 2023 turned out to be a highly successful season for Italian museums, with exponential growth in visitor numbers and record ticket sales, confirming Italy as one of the world’s most popular cultural destinations. According to data presented by the Digital Innovation Observatory for Culture of the Milan Polytechnic School of Management, the number of visitors to Italian museums, monuments and archaeological sites rose by 16% last year compared to 2019 and ticket sales were up 27% in the same period.

Record-breaking Italian museums
Among the world’s most popular museums, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence had more than 5 million visitors in 2023, an increase of 27.8% from the previous year. The Vatican Museums in Rome also continued to welcome huge numbers of tourists from around the world, and Turin recorded very positive figures too. The Turin Cinema Museum was seen by more than 800,000 people, attracted in part by the blockbuster exhibition on movie director Tim Burton, while the city’s Egyptian Museum saw an increase in ticket sales thanks to innovative exhibition projects and the newly re-opened Writing Gallery.

Museums and hidden treasures: a heritage just waiting to be discovered
Besides its most famous museums, Italy also boasts an extensive network of less well-known but equally fascinating cultural institutions. The increasing frequency and range of the services run by the FS Group’s Passenger Hub have had a decisive role in facilitating tourism even in the country’s smaller towns. Partly as a result of Trenitalia’s reduced rates and special offers, growing numbers of people have easily been able to reach museums and cultural events across the country. This is also an objective of True Italian Experience, a digital hub that offers sustainable and genuine travel experiences for visitors to savour the essence of Italy, and whose Main Partner is Trenitalia.

The range of Italian museums extends from large cities to lesser-known treasures scattered around the country. Starting in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto, places like the Diocesan Museum in Vicenza have attracted attention with their unique collections of sacred art and ethnographic items reflecting the region’s rich culture. Not far away, in Desenzano del Garda, the Museum of the Battle of San Martino opens a window on Italy’s Risorgimento, with its collection of memorabilia and documents on the historic battles fought for the unification of Italy.
In Parma, the Magnani Rocca Foundation, also known as the “Villa of Masterpieces“, is another jewel in northern Italy. Its collection, with works by artists of the calibre of Goya, Monet and Titian, attracts art lovers from around the world keen to admire the paintings in a unique setting.

Moving into central Italy, the museum offer includes many other exceptional sites examining the historical and archaeological roots of the area. With its history-rich towns, Umbria provides fascinating underground experiences in Orvieto and Perugia. Here, visitors can journey through a maze of tunnels and caverns excavated over the centuries beneath the old cities, for a unique opportunity to see the life and construction techniques of the past. In Tuscany, between Grosseto and Orbetello, the Archaeology and Art Museum presents the history of this stretch of coastline through a vast collection of artefacts ranging from the Etruscans to the modern age.
In the Marche region, the Mole Vanvitelliana in Ancona is an example of an historic building that hosts cultural events and art exhibitions, but it is just one of many museums, like the Rossini Museum in Pesaro or the Augusto Capriotti Museum of the Sea in San Benedetto del Tronto, which houses one of the largest collections of Mediterranean fish.
Travelling south to Puglia, the Sant’Anna Synagogue Museum in Trani looks at the history of the local Jewish community, illustrating its heritage and traditions through collections of artefacts and historic documents. Close by in Polignano a Mare, the Pino Pascali Museum Foundation is dedicated to contemporary art, with works from some of the most innovative artists of the 20th century and temporary exhibitions that attract an international public.
In Naples, the National Railway Museum of Pietrarsa tells the history of the Italian railways with its extraordinary collection of locomotives and carriages illustrating the country’s technological and industrial evolution.
Finally, in Palermo in Sicily, the Palazzo dei Normanni and the GAM – Gallery of Modern Art are just two locations that not only hold artworks of inestimable value, but also host cultural events exploring contemporary artistic movements.
From North to South, Italy is a never-ending succession of art, culture and tradition that goes far beyond its best known and most popular destinations: with treasures of incalculable value, the country is a great museum waiting to be discovered step by step.

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Mélanie Maynard Hosts Sophie Bourgeois on Sucré Salé: A Heartfelt Conversation



This Wednesday evening, Mélanie Maynard welcomed actress Sophie Bourgeois as a guest on the popular show Sucré Salé. The conversation touched on various aspects of Bourgeois’ career, including her role in the renovation show Ma maison cassée.

Mélanie Maynard was effusive in her praise for Bourgeois and her captivating presence on Ma maison cassée, sharing her personal enthusiasm for the show. “It’s so captivating, I stayed up late… I watched the episodes one after the other,” Maynard confessed, highlighting the compelling nature of Bourgeois’ work on the show.

Early in the interview, Mélanie Maynard posed a poignant question to Sophie Bourgeois: “We don’t see you much on television anymore, is that by choice?” Bourgeois responded candidly, “Absolutely not, and that makes me sad,” expressing her disappointment over her reduced visibility on television.

The heartfelt exchange between Maynard and Bourgeois provided a glimpse into the challenges and triumphs faced by actors in the ever-evolving television industry.

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Canadian swimmers poised for multi-podium performances in Paris



John Atkinson compares Canada’s Olympic swim team in Paris to a complex jigsaw puzzle requiring a deft hand to complete.

Swimming Canada’s high-performance director of a dozen years is managing his deepest Olympic team yet, with 17-year-old Summer McIntosh its centrepiece.

While the women have carried the swim team to the podium at the last two Olympic Games, the men’s side is showing medal potential in Paris.

“The men’s program is in a very different place than it was leading into Tokyo,” Atkinson said.

Canadian women won six swimming medals in Rio in 2016 and another half-dozen in Tokyo in 2021.

“The last two games, we had six medals. We’re looking towards six and beyond,” Atkinson said.

Canada’s 28-member team at the pool contains multiple medal threats swimming in more than one race.

Strategically managing talent to extract maximum medals from seven relays creates many moving parts for Atkinson and Canada’s seven coaches led by head coach Ryan Mallette.

“Sometimes you have to be comfortable with things looking chaotic because you know there is a plan behind it all,” Atkinson said.

“We are going to have some athletes that race on Day 1 and are still racing on Day 9 and all the way in between, where before you might have an athlete waiting until Day 8.

“When you have the team we have now, and qualified seven relays for the first time ever, everybody is going to be on their own very dynamic plan not only for racing, but recovery between races to sustain the nine days of that performance.”

Swimming starts Saturday at the Aquatics Centre, which is one of just two permanent sport venues built for Paris 2024 alongside Le Bourget Climbing Wall.

Toronto’s McIntosh steps onto the blocks in the women’s 400-metre freestyle a podium contender in that event and more.

Reigning 100-metre Olympic butterfly champion Maggie Mac Neil races the heats and semifinals of that event Saturday, when she could also join seven-time Olympic medallist Penny Oleksiak in the women’s 4 x 100 freestyle relay final.

Veteran backstroker Kylie Masse, who was a double silver medallist in Tokyo, eyes a return to the Olympic podium.

“I would love to go faster than I’ve ever been,” said the 28-year-old from LaSalle, Ont.

Backstroker Ingrid Wilm, butterfly specialists Josh Liendo and Ilya Kharun and individual medley swimmers Finlay Knox and Sydney Pickrem have all reached podiums at the two world championships held over the last 12 months.

“We’ve seen the success of the women. We want to get to that point,” Liendo said. “We’re not afraid to aim high. We want to be able to win medals, be in finals and be a challenge in races.”

Deploying those swimmers, and incorporating key cogs Rebecca Smith, Taylor Ruck and Mary-Sophie Harvey into relay heats and finals is part of the chess game Canadian coaches will play in Paris.

Canada will race for the first time in the mixed medley relay that made its Olympic debut in Tokyo.

An example of Canada’s juggling act is the men’s and women’s medley relay heats fall on the same Day 8 as the mixed relay, men’s 100-metre butterfly and women’s 200-metre medley finals.

“Not just with Summer, but particularly with Summer and others who have this multiple-event conundrum, we have a plan as to where they might not be needed in prelims for relays, then they’ll come in for finals,” Atkinson explained.

“There’s plans for when they get their massage therapy, there’s plans on meal and nutritional intake, that they get that immediately. There’s plans to manage all activities outside of the pool.

“Nine days of racing … it’s not always the fastest swimmer that wins at the Olympic Games. It’s the one who recovers the most day to day.”

The New York Times and German broadcaster ARD reported in April that 23 Chinese swimmers tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug in the months leading up to Tokyo’s Olympic Games in 2021, when some were allowed to compete.

Chinese authorities said the drug entered the swimmers’ systems through contamination. The World Anti-Doping Agency accepting that explanation caused a war of words between WADA and U.S. anti-doping chief Travis Tygart and threats of litigation from WADA.

McIntosh, in the 400 freestyle, and Canada’s women’s 4 x 200 freestyle relay finished fourth in races in which Chinese swimmers won medals in Tokyo.

The Associated Press reports China’s swimming team in Paris retains 11 athletes who tested positive for a banned heart medication ahead of Tokyo.

“There is somewhat less trust in the system when these stories come out. We don’t know the full intricacies of what’s transpired, but every time that comes out, trust gets dented and it does take time to come back from that,” Atkinson said.

“My message to everybody has always been, control the things you can control. You can control what you do, you can control how you swim, you can control how you perform. What you can’t control is what someone else decides to do. You have to almost put that in a box to the side, focus on what you need to go and swim to your absolute best and be better at Paris than you were at our trials.”

– With files from Gregory Strong.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 25, 2024.

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