On 9 February, the Parent Council meeting featured two guest speakers, Niloofar Mohtat and Dr. Taaha Muhammad, to discuss topics about public city planning and youth mental health.

Parent Council is a Marc Garneau CI community-run group committed to a quality learning environment through communication between students, teachers, and parents. Various issues and concerns regarding the school and the community are discussed.

One such topic of concern was the risk of flooding in the Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood. The first speaker, Ph.D. candidate Niloofar Mohtat, addressed the recent increase of urban flooding and its dangers. Thorncliffe Park is at risk to such floods due to its large low-income households and high population density, as well as a high reliance on public transportation. “Approximately 45% of residents use public transportation as their main form of commute,” said Mohtat. Her presentation included a link to a survey on the perceptions and experiences of floods, garnering input from the public to use in her studies.

As a solution to the issue of flooding, Mohtat proposed better flood management through the introduction of green spaces, pockets of grass, trees, and other vegetation spread throughout the community. According to Mohtat, these green spaces also provide other benefits, including additional gathering spaces, beautifying the community, and creating areas for walking and cycling. A second survey link was provided to obtain information on the public’s opinion of green spaces and where they should be located.

The discussion then moved on to another salient concern in the community. The second speaker, Dr. Taaha Muhammad from Naseeha, discussed the issues surrounding youth mental health. Naseeha is a faith-based Muslim mental health organization geared towards supporting communities and individuals through a helpline, education outreach, web therapy, and research and development. They provide services incorporating an understanding of religion for more nuanced counselling. An increasing number of individuals are turning to their services as they continue to broaden their scope, doubling operating hours from 6 to 12 hours every day and opening up texting as a form of contact. Dr. Muhammad hopes to expand his services further in the future.

In the meeting, discussions on youth mental health involving case studies were prompted. Dr. Muhammad encouraged the participants to consider the main barriers preventing individuals from seeking support, as well as how to best handle cases involving religion and the guilt of committing a religious sin, stressing the impact faith has on mental health. Naseeha found that the most common causes of contact were psychological and relationship-related issues. Dr. Muhammad said that their next training for counsellors will specifically target navigating parent and family conflicts.

Moving forward, the Parent Council hopes to continue addressing the needs of students and creating a safe, accepting environment. Their next meeting will be on 11 May 2022, where they will be inviting guest speakers for a workshop on anti-Asian racism awareness and education.