Caring Dads Program Established to Bring Change to Domestic Violence

Founded in 2001, Caring Dads is an intervention-based program dedicated to improving the lives of children in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States. It is a cause I’ve been personally very proud to support. Caring Dads exists to change current practices to better include fathers in efforts to enhance the safety and well-being of their children.

The program’s main focus is aimed to bring positive change for men who have been abused, neglected, or exposed their children to domestic violence.

More often than not, child protection agencies and family mental health services tend to work primarily with mothers; a trend that is intensified when fathers are deemed to be high risk. Despite the importance of the role of fathers in families, this means that those fathers who most need to be monitored and helped by our intervention systems are not involved.

According to facts by Caring Dads, men’s children pay the price with higher rates of aggression, substance use, criminal involvement, suicide attempts, mental health problems and chronic health conditions.

Children at risk should never have to be raised in a violent environment. The Caring Dads intervention program guides fathers to positive change by investigating their situation as soon as possible. When fathers are positively involved with their families, children benefit cognitively, socially, emotionally and developmentally.

As part of the 17 week program, men have the opportunity to meet with an accredited Caring Dads facilitator to learn how to rebuild trust in their families, recognize unhealthy behaviors and what effect abuse has on children. The program gives these men the chance to talk about their own experiences, and equips them with the tools they need in terms of support to be better parents.

There are many advantages to including fathers in efforts to enhance the safety and well-being of their children, including the potential to improve father-child relationships and to offer an additional route to ending violence against women, among other areas.

Anyone who is interested in helping can become an Accredited Caring Dads Facilitator by attending a Facilitator Training event. These events are held monthly in various locations across Canada and costs vary according to location and accreditation.

The services being provided through Caring Dads and similar organizations are making a genuine impact on our youth and their families. Visit for more information on how you can get involved.

Registered Education Savings Plan Canada’s Answer To Funding Student’s Education

In our technology-driven world, continued education after secondary school is important. Going on to college or at least into an apprentice position is the best way to secure an education that will ensure you a job that will support you and your family. However, the cost of continued education is often the first reason a student gives when asked why they have chosen not to pursue a quality education. Canada has put many plans and options into place to remove the financial obstacles that students are facing. In this article, we will address one such plan.


RESP is short for “Registered Education Savings Plan”.  For 60-years CST Spark has been helping Canadians save and plan for their child’s education after their high-school years. To be clear, there are other programs. However, CST Spark believes people should have a choice. They should be able to work with their saving program and live comfortably. They should receive excellent family support and service. These core values are the foundation that CST Spark is built upon.


In 1969 CST proposes RESP to the government as well as a law that for a person who is involved in a RESP, there are no federal taxes due. Due to the low income that most students earn while they are in school, they rarely pay taxes when they make a withdrawal during their college years. This is why we say RESP funds are virtually tax-free. In 1972 the government introduces RESP and implements the tax changes.

How Does RESP Work?

Your CST Spark plan is based on the age of the child or children at the time you begin. You can begin the process by filling out the online application. How much you want to pay and when you want to pay is u to you. Make your initial payment and CST will take it from there. There is online help, or you can contact them through the contact information on the site. You will notice immediately; they are there to help you. If you have a problem or a question, do not hesitate to reach out to them.


RESP Withdrawal

  • This RESP amount can be withdrawn by the subscriber at the time of the student’s post-secondary education.
  • Only the person who opened the RESP account can withdraw it.
  • The subscriber will need documentation (a letter of joining) to submit to the bank that has all of your information listed as well as the schedule of the student. It is important to state if the student will be attending full-time or part-time classes.
  • You can only withdraw $5000 during the first 15 days of your joining in the government-approved financial institute
  • Once 15 days are over you can withdraw any amount of your choice.

RESP Rules

  • You cannot withdraw the funds early or else you may subject to paying fines.
  • RESP plans are for residents of Canada only
  • Only the subscriber who opened the account can claim the payment.
  • RESP was open for at least 10 years before a withdrawal is requested.

What if you don’t use your RESP?

If the student you were saving for is not interested in advanced education, you can transfer the funds to another family member as long as the deposit does not put them over the maximum amount allowed. If that is not an option, you can withdraw the money. However, you will be charged a 20% penalty and will be responsible for the taxes on the money.

Can we use RESP for other expenses?

Yes, you can use the amount withdrawn from the RESP for other expenses as long as they are connected with your education. This could be expenses like your hostel fee, travel expenses as well as food expenses and uniform. But you cannot use the money for non-educational items.

You can use the money as long as you don’t spend the money on non-education related things like your personal uses or so.

Final Words

The RESP plan has proven itself over the years. This plan has allowed people who are low income or middle income to send their children to some of the best colleges in the nation. It has taught the youth of our nation that working and saving toward a common goal is a worthy plan of action. Canada has invested heavily in our people and it is our people who have taken us to new heights. We will continue to rank in top levels of education studies around the world and we will continue to make new paths for our students to grow and learn.

Why Connected North Deserves Our Support

Connected North changes lives through technology. The non-profit organization uses high definition video to connect children in isolated northern communities. Technology can help bridge the gap between teacher and student, allowing those in remote areas to gain access to essential educational resources and learning opportunities.

Connected North works with content providers, funders, and community partners who help deliver immersive and interactive youth engagement and education to Indigenous students across the country.

Cisco Canada, the Toronto-headquartered tech company that launched Connected North, provides the video technology. Besides the basics of education, the goal is to help Indigenous students improve their language skills, as well as share histories and stories with other communities, and provide mental health support.

The program has been recognized by the International Society for Technology in Education, with Mali Bickley, on behalf of Connected North, awarded for outstanding contributions to video conferencing in education. Bickley has been a key member of Connected North as a Classroom Collaboration Specialist since September 2015. Bickley creates customized and authentic learning opportunities for Connected North students and teachers, including a mentoring session with Canadian WNBA player Kayla Alexander and students in Nunavut.

Participating Connected North schools include the Innuhaq School in Arctic Bay, Ontario, the Sk’aadgaa Naay Elementary School in Skidegate, BC, the Ghuch Ria Community School in Carcross, Yukon and the Deh Gah School in Fort Providence, NWT.

The Connected North network serves around 10,000 students across 42 schools in all three territories and five provinces. But many more northern schools are interested in getting involved. That’s where we can help.

Last year, I became involved in the Tech4Good Connected North On-Ice Challenge, a one-day hockey tournament where participating teams earn funds to participate in a “draft” of former NHL players, who then join their team.

Bryan Trottier, Canada’s most decorated Indigenous athlete, was the first former NHL player to sign up. Of Metis heritage, Trottier recognized the importance and potential for Connected North. And when he heard that we needed to attract teams, he called me. Now, Bryan and me go back a few years. We first met at the Road Hockey to Conquer Cancer event in 2011 and we share a passion for hockey. So I didn’t have to think twice when Bryan called asking for my participation.

Working with others on my team, we raised $16,700 for a cause that generated more than $300,000 for Connected North. Plans are already underway for another tournament in 2019. I’m impressed by the work done at Connected North and proud to support them.

3 Financial Considerations That Affect Your Kids During A Divorce

3 Financial Considerations That Affect Your Kids During A Divorce

Going through a divorce will affect everyone in your family, especially young children. The impact on children is both emotional and financial. After a divorce, it’s normal for both parents to downsize their life and make decisions to make do with less. The following financial decisions are often necessary, yet they could significantly impact your children:

1. Moving to a cheaper house or apartment

After a divorce, your income will take a dive, and you’ll need to downgrade your living arrangements. Without the luxury of a combined income, you may not be able to uphold your child’s familiar standard of living. To a child, downsizing their lifestyle can be extremely upsetting, and not for the same reasons an adult might be upset. For adults, it’s usually about status and image. For kids, it’s about familiarity and routine.

Unlike adults, young children sometimes don’t adapt quickly to changes in their routine. This is especially true of kids on the autism spectrum. For kids on the spectrum, change creates anxiety and stress. Even kids who aren’t on the spectrum often suffer when their routine is drastically changed.

Moving disrupts a child’s routine

Moving disrupts a child’s routine by taking them away from friends, extended family members, and sometimes their school. That’s why primary caregivers can’t just pack up and move far away when they’ve got an existing custody arrangement. However, in 1996, in Gordon v. Goertz, Canada’s Supreme Court decided the primary caregiver can move provided they’ve got a good reason, and are willing to accommodate the access parent. Finding an affordable place to live after a divorce might be reason enough. Still, you can’t escape the disruption in routine.

For example, say your child grew up in a 6-bedroom, 5,000 square-foot home with a three-car garage, a large laundry room, upgraded kitchen appliances, and an entertainment room. Moving into a two-bedroom apartment will be a shock to their system because it will force them to reorient their entire life.

For instance, they’ll have to develop a new routine for doing laundry in a community area and navigate the complexities of waiting for machines and dealing with other people. It’s a good learning experience, but it’s also a source of stress.

Pay attention to what kind of change affects your kids the most. When you look for a new place to live, accommodate your child’s needs as much as possible. For example, if your child needs their own room to feel secure, find a place that will give them their own space with a door. If your child has a fear of heights, look for a bottom floor apartment. If your child feels better with a pet, find a pet-friendly apartment or look into getting a service animal if your child qualifies.

2. Changing jobs

Changing jobs isn’t just about getting a bigger paycheck. Sometimes changing jobs is a logistics decision. For instance, if you move fifteen miles further from your job, you might need to change jobs to reduce your commute. Do you really want to wake up at 3am to beat the traffic to a job you don’t start until 7am? Probably not.

A new job might come with a smaller paycheck, and that means less cash for your child’s extracurricular hobbies like dance, karate, ballet, soccer, etc.

If your new job is in retail, expect to work some or all holidays. Parents who work holidays is already a source of stress for children. Hopefully, the holidays are far enough away that your child will have time to adjust to their new life before having to worry about where you’ll be for Christmas.

3. Taking on multiple jobs

Like changing jobs, taking on two or three jobs to make ends meet will impact your kids. If you work multiple jobs in the same day, your kids won’t see you as often. You’ll have to hand them off to a babysitter or daycare center, and you’ll miss out on bonding time.

When they’re older, they’ll understand you did it to give them a good life.

4. Spending less on groceries

If you need to slash your food budget in half or more, your kids are going to notice. For instance, if your kids are used to three-course meals, they’re going to be upset when spaghetti is on the menu four nights a week.

Use the opportunity to teach your kids

No matter your financial situation, use the opportunity to teach your kids about money. Teach them to save, invest, and make wise financial decisions. They’ll thank you for it later.

Batman Editor Makes the Exodus Super!

Whether or not you celebrate Passover, you may have heard of the Passover Haggadah, the guide book that each spring season Jews everywhere use in their homes to perform the annual Passover Seder service. The ancient tome relates the story of the Exodus from Egypt and is replete with erudition, customs and blessings. The Haggadah is published in a myriad of forms, mostly scholarly and text-heavy. There are illustrated versions, though many abridge the text and are mostly aimed at kids or the unaffiliated. What if there was an unabridged illustrated version to appeal to Seder attendees of all ages and backgrounds equally? What if there was a Haggadah to recast the origin story of Jewish identity in a medium that’s contemporary, cool, and fun?

That’s the idea behind the Passover Haggadah Graphic Novel, a non-profit project now being produced by veteran DC Comics editor Jordan B. “Gorf” Gorfinkel and illustrated by Erez Zadok, a top graduate of the renowned Bezalel Academy in Jerusalem. The purpose of this Haggadah is clear to Gorf and his growing team of investors: using a proven medium of popular culture for engaging generations of all ages and backgrounds – and even faiths – in history, tradition and culture.  

At a time when superheroes are more popular than ever, the Passover Haggadah Graphic Novel will bring to life the classic stories and universal themes of slavery and freedom by adapting an original, modern translation of the unabridged original text as “Marvel-style” sequential art.  Facing pages will feature the unabridged (and yes, fully Kosher) Hebrew text and English transliteration. And “how to” instructional comics will depict the holiday rituals and customs for everyone at the table to follow.

The inspiration came from Gorf’s own background. He could quote chapter and verse of Batman. The bible? Not so much, even though he says, “the close connection between Judaism and comic books, which was a Jewish innovation, was always there. Says Gorf, “Think of the Passover story this way: Desperate parents float their son to safety, where he is adopted and raised to adulthood, finally discovering his true destiny as the hero of his own people.

“We could be talking about Superman, although in reality, we are also talking about Moses.”

Gorf for nearly a decade managed the Batman franchise at DC Comics.  His work has served as the inspiration behind TV shows and movies, including “The Dark Knight Rises” and “Birds of Prey.” In the corporate sector, he produces storytelling content for companies like Microsoft and Hasbro and non-profits like TOMS Shoes and the Steinhardt Foundation, to name a few. He leads the Super Storytelling Seminar for companies and organizations across the globe, working with executives and employees to craft more engaging communication. He is also a cartoonist who for two decades has been drawing, a weekly comic strip for Jewish newspapers and featured online. He is pulling together all the threads of his creativity and Jewish pride in the Passover Haggadah Graphic Novel.

Although the book is still in production, and set for release next year, it’s already drawing strong interest and support from proponents of Jewish identity and continuity. It’s not hard to see why. “Who wouldn’t want a graphic novel to use at their Seder?” Gorf says. If you’re interested in learning more about Gorf, the Passover Haggadah Graphic Novel or making a tax deductible contribution, visit the project’s website at  

Norma Walton, Kid-Size Money Sense

“Mommy, I’d like a fitbit for my birthday.”Fitbit
“What is a fitbit?”
“Mommy!!  You know.  They track your steps and how much exercise you do each day.”
“Oh, how much do they cost?”
“I don’t know, mommy.  But if it is too expensive you don’t need to buy it for me.  Depending on the price maybe I can buy it for myself.”

My eldest son is almost 10 years old.  He is an athlete and very health conscious.  I have no doubt that he would use a fitbit and it is a great birthday present idea.  He is aware, though, that our family of six has a limited budget.  He and his siblings know that often we cannot afford the things they want us to buy.

Yesterday morning the kids and I purchased five pairs of used roller blades for $40.  The kids help me shop on kijiji and they usually come with me to view and purchase the items.  They also help me grocery shop and they know to look for items that are on sale as opposed to full price.

The kids are starting to learn how to analyze the value of the things they want.  They don’t yet have part-time jobs so they don’t yet calculate how many hours of work would be required to purchase the item, but hopefully that will come in future.  Their money sense is slowly, but surely developing.

I worked part-time from the time I was 13 years old.  My first job was at the Byron Public Library.  I loved that job and earned $3.75 per hour.  I would come home each night with at least four new books I wanted to read.  That job taught me how many hours I needed to work to pay for the things I wanted.  That job also made me appreciate that other jobs might make me more money and thus take a shorter amount of time to accumulate cash.  I subsequently waitressed and also worked on the line at Ford Motor Company, two jobs that made me far more money than the library although neither was as much fun.

Math photoLearning basic math was the first step to help our kids develop a sense of money.  Giving each of them wallets to keep their money was a second step.  Helping them understand the monetary gifts they receive and the money they earn from garage sales came next and gave them some responsibility and independence around money.  Permitting them to spend their money on items they want is also valuable as it helps them associate the cost versus the benefit of purchases.

I also find that the more involved the children are in the families’ financial decisions the more quickly they become able to analyze the choices that are being made.  My children play hockey and it costs a lot of money.  Their cousins travel to Aruba, Las Vegas and New York and get to do fun things in the sun during the winter that our family cannot afford.  Our children would love to do both but they were an integral part of the decision to allocate the money to their hockey instead of travel.  Hence they are content with that choice and don’t complain (much) about what they cannot do.

It is enjoyable to watch our children become good at understanding and managing money.  Hopefully that knowledge will help them make intelligent financial choices as they grow older.  In my view, financial prudence is similar to maintaining a healthy weight.  It is both a daily struggle and a lifelong journey.

What is the worth of life and limb?

While this is a financial blog, I am going to take some editorial licence here and move to us – each of us – and the death wishes that many people exhibit daily – and no, I am not talking about smoking yourself to death. I’m talking about the rush to cross streets against “Do Not Walk” signs or playing dangerous games of chicken crossing in the middle of blocks dodging traffic – and all for what? And drivers and cyclists (and skateboarders) who are so self-important they run reddish-orange and red lights? And all for what?

Sixty seconds.

I travel into and out of downtown Vancouver a few times each week – sometimes in the calm of mid-day and sometimes in the unorganised confusion of rush hour – actually hours! Once off the highway into town, I enter the “psycho-zone” of pedestrians and other drivers who chose not to think – not to think about themselves or everyone else around them.

I don’t know about your city, but most traffic and pedestrian lights around the Greater Vancouver area are traffic activated or respond to cross-walk controls on the sidewalks. And interestingly, I have found very few that have a cycle longer than 1 minute – 60 seconds – 20 breathes. What in our lives makes us think for even 1 moment that our lives will not survive waiting 60 seconds?

Sure, for some drivers it is just missing the light or waiting for some other hesitant driver who is unsure of themselves or their vehicle. Perhaps getting caught behind a large transport vehicle or bus is the proximate cause of our momentary anger. For the walkers of the world – even if it is raining, we are all drip-dry – we won’t dissolve like sugar. The skateboarders and cyclists weave around anything and everything – vehicular and pedestrian – all to gain previous seconds – why? We aren’t in the Olympics in a controlled environment – we are at the mercy of everyone and everything around us.

Please think – is my life and my body worth more than 60 seconds in time? I hope so!

Internet and E-mail Safety (and security)

In this blog, let’s look more closely at internet and e-mail scams and security.

Knowledge is power – and never truer than when surfing the net. The most common risks are viruses, key-stroke recordings, miscellaneous malware and Trojan horses.

Viruses do the same thing to your computer as they do to us – they make it sick; they can even kill it. Key-stroke recording software is installed by hackers and allows them to record all of your keystrokes with particular attention to usernames and passwords – they love banking, credit card and email access the most. Malware is also malicious as it can take many forms: from tracking your internet use patterns to copying files to a remote computer to erasing key pieces of software. Trojan horses get uploaded and then sit in wait – silently for a triggering date or event and then allow the hackers to take control of your computer and use it for attacking other computers.

The only 100% protection against these threats is don’t surf the net! Now let’s get into reality – hardware and/or software firewalls together with anti-virus and anti-malware software.

Hardware firewalls are called routers and they act as a first line of defence between the internet and your computer and are relatively inexpensive to acquire and are not very complicated to install. Software firewalls are generally a second layer of protection after the hardware firewall. Most reputable commercial ISPs (Internet Service Providers) provide this as part of their customer offering and may reside either on their servers or on your computer.

Anti-virus and anti-malware software is sold by several companies (Norton, AVG, Kasperski, F-secure and MalwareBytes to name but a few). Most suppliers offer free versions of their protection suites but remember if it is free, there is a reason! They are in business to make money and the free versions are teasers only. They do help of course, but don’t provide complete protection, so beware of freebies! Running “in the background” on your computer, they analyse every attempt at both inbound and outbound communication over the internet for suspicious software code and either block or delete access to outsiders. You can control all of these functions through a “control panel” that is installed with this software.

Be very selective on the websites that you visit. Some categories are higher risk for spreading these problems than others – dating sites, erotic picture and video sites together social media are the greatest sources of problems – avoid them!

Rule No. 1 – if you don’t know the sender or you didn’t sign up for any e-mail notifications from stores or websites, DON’T OPEN IT! The “Nigeria” scams and grandchild scams are run constantly on e-mail as are Lottery scams of various types.
Rule No. 2 – see Rule No. 1.
Rule No. 3 – ensure you have a full-version of both anti-virus and anti-malware software installed on your computer that gets automatic signature updates – preferably daily – to stop evolving threats. If you follow these 3 rules, you are going to be safe 98% of the time.

The final 2% is chain-mail – the electronic version of old chain-letters – if you get one, regardless of the identity of the sender, do not forward it – even if it is from a close relative or friend – don’t!

A great reference book on scams is from the Competition Bureau of Canada – The Little Black Book of Scams – click here to get there immediately. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre has a website that is all about various scams and identity theft. Click here – Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre Home Page.

Providing For Disabled Children

Having a disabled child is a both a blessing and a burden and about which most of us have no real idea.  One of the concerns parent share is how to assure enough money for the child beyond their own death.

In Canada, a recent (2007) initiative is the Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP)  This is a program that permits capital to accumulated for a disabled person on  a tax preferred basis and with government grants connected to funding.  It is theoretically possible to acquire $70,000 in grants over a lifetime.  Not shabby!

When the RDSP is added to the maze of programs and trusts and other arrangements that are in vogue, it is possible that a disabled person could enjoy an adequate lifestyle despite the passing of their parents.

Ottawa lawyer, Ken Pope, specializes in estate and other planning for people in this situation.  He recently published an article that points out a frailty in the RDSP sytem.  There is no clear way to recover the funds deposited if the child dies before the parents.  You can see more here.

Caring financially for a disabled child is a complex field of study.  There are many approaches and not all are compatible.  A skilled professional practitioner can provide an efficient approach and that efficiency means you child lives a little better or maybe you can get the answer for a smaller capital input.  Do not overlook second-to-die life insurance.

This kind of planning is not a do-it-yourself project, it has to work.

Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is presently with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.

Would You Accept a Bar Code Implant?

In a perfect world, universal implantation of the implantable microchip radio frequency identification device (RFID) is activated by a chip reader.

It is tamper-proof, practically undetectable and indestructible, and is implanted under the skin. 

This device as claimed would be used only for legitimate, legal and noble purpose, could make life better for all of us, provide better security and peace of mind for us and our loved ones, and even save lives, and tremendously benefit mankind as a whole. 
However, this is not a perfect world. 

Bar codes for human beings?

But no one wants to be treated like a human bar code by the authorities.
The most serious threat to liberty could be an all-inclusive database mandated by government–a national identification card with biometric identifiers. Such an ID will increase unsolicited surveillance, will blur the distinction between public and private databases, and will undercut a presumptive right to maintain anonymity. The ID would devolve into a general law enforcement tool having nothing to do with response to terrorism.

The resulting level of intrusion necessitated by implantation would impinge on our many legal rights. It is plausible that, since the technology has not yet been perfected, we as a society would believe there is no need to address the incipient legal problems until devices are used. Justice Rehnquist adopted this view in a U.S. Supreme Court decision concerning beeper surveillance where the respondent had indicated that if beeper surveillance were constitutional, “twenty-four hour surveillance of any citizen of this country will be possible, without judicial knowledge or supervision. 

However, because of the very sweeping reductions in personal liberty and privacy that such implantation represents, the legal ramifications need to be explored now. Although the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the U.S. Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures, a national identification system via microchip implants could be achieved in two stages. 

A system using the technology, although introduced as a voluntary procedure, may be difficult to dislodge despite limitations of individual freedoms because its advantages will be extremely attractive. The positive applications may be said to outweigh the detrimental legal consequences at that time. Therefore, it is not too soon to consider the repercussions that mandatory microchip implantation would have, as a pre-emptive measure. Upon introduction as a voluntary system, the microchip implantation will appear to be palatable. 

The U.S. Fourth Amendment has been invoked with reference to internal intrusions upon individuals to obtain evidence, which could be used against them. Examples include the withdrawal of blood and bodily searches, which require surgical procedures or other means to extract substances from the body. 

English Common Law and the U.S. Fifth Amendment provides in principle that no citizen shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, an U.S. Supreme Court justice once noted that “[A] person is compelled to be a witness against himself not only when he is compelled to testify, but also when… incriminating evidence is forcibly taken from him by a contrivance of modern science.”

To avoid a governmental mandate, citizens may advocate for an outright ban. This drastic measure may also be necessary in a system that is initially voluntary, for it may well be the precursor to a mandate. Short of that, the best way of preventing incipient problems is to protect rights before desensitization.

Although use of such a device at first appears farfetched, examination of the existing technology and the potential utility proves that microchip implantation is both possible and, for some purposes, desirable. Beginning with voluntary introduction, Americans and Canadians may be lulled into accepting them. This article thus sounds a warning bell. The time to prevent grievous intrusion into personal privacy by enacting appropriate legislative safeguards is now, rather than when it is too late.

By: Mark Borkowski is president of Mercantile Mergers & Acquisitions Corporation. Mark can be reached at