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This is Europe: An image of homelessness in Paris |

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“The meaning of the other and love have disappeared from this society. Without money, people do not exist.” – Jean, a 33-year-old homeless man living on the streets of Paris

At least 3,000 people are thought to be living on the streets of Paris this winter, more than half of whom are believed to have been born outside of France.

According to France’s National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE), in 2014, the number of homeless adults in the Paris Metropolitan Area had increased by 84 percent in the proceeding decade.

Some of that growth has been attributed to the 2008 financial crisis, some to the large numbers of migrants and refugees making their way to the French capital and some to the failure of salaries to keep up with the rising cost of living, particularly the cost of buying or renting a home.

According to INSEE, 16.1 percent of Parisians – roughly 463,000 people – live below the poverty line, with an average monthly income of 747 euros ($848.65), which is 261 euros ($296.52) less than the poverty threshold.

The result is that having a job no longer offers protection against homelessness. Fifty-year-old Kemal understands this all too well.

He used to be a taxi driver, but health issues led to him losing his job. 

“I have earned salaries of over 2,000 euros ($2,272) in the past, but Paris is an expensive city and I could not pay my debts,” he recalls. “Today, I have lost everything and my health problems will not allow me to dream of a better future.”

Now, Kemal sleeps beneath a shelter made from scraps of plastic in a square on the outskirts of the city.

“But I do not lose hope and I keep working hard every day to improve my life and to be able to earn some money to one day travel to a country with sun every day. The cold and rain is worsening my health condition,” he adds.

“Without money, we do not exist any more in France,” explains Eddy, a 35-year-old homeless man from Tunisia who originally came to France in search of a better life. That dream now lies shattered on the streets of the capital.

But studies have shown that Parisians tend to have more sympathetic attitudes towards the homeless than residents of many other European cities.

According to a 2009 study, 75 percent of French people felt some degree of solidarity with those sleeping on the streets and 56 percent said they could imagine one day being in the same position.

Every night, dozens of volunteers patrol the city’s streets ‘en maraudes’, searching out those in need of a blanket, a paracetamol or just a conversation.

“In Paris, it is impossible to die from hunger. There are so many good organisations providing us with a free meal every day,” says Hicham, a homeless man who is originally from Morocco and carries with him a book that Paris’ City Hall has created listing the social services available to those in need.

But according to campaign group Morts de la Rue, 400 homeless people died across France in 2017. Many organisations believe the real number to be much higher.

“Some ask for money, some for food. Cold is our worst enemy,” explains Nasser, a homeless man originally from Algeria. “But the indifference of the people is an obstacle that is difficult to overcome.

“The solitude of our lives can happen to anyone. The people of Paris need to understand that we just want a smile or a simple ‘bonjour’. That can make a cold day not be hell for us.”

A fan of the writer Victor Hugo and the artist Picasso, Nasser explains: “There is beauty in every corner of our lives, but this society has lost sensibility. Ideas have disappeared and money is making this society blind to love.”

 Across Europe, the far right is on the rise and it has some of the continent’s most diverse communities in its crosshairs.

To the far right, these neighbourhoods are ‘no-go zones’ that challenge their notion of what it means to be European.

To those who live in them, they are Europe. Watch them tell their stories in This is Europe

With thanks to the team and volunteers of Secours Catholique, Medecins Du Monde, Secours Populaire and Association Aurore who helped make this article possible.

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25 Best Senators’ Memories From 25 Years at Canadian Tire Centre

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There is a special birthday in the Ottawa suburb of Kanata this weekend.

Canadian Tire Centre turns 25. Its doors first opened on Jan. 15, 1996, for a Bryan Adams concert. The Senators played their first game in their new arena on Jan. 17, 1996, when they lost to the visiting Montreal Canadiens.

I’ve spent a great deal of my life has at that arena. I don’t know how many Sens games I have been to there — I would ballpark it somewhere between 600 and 700. But I thought it would be fun to look back and share my 25 most memorable moments at the arena. I am not counting numerous concerts as great moments in the building — I often joke that the four best concerts I have ever seen there are Garth Brooks, Garth Brooks, Garth Brooks and Garth Brooks. I am not counting the 2009 World Juniors either. I am sticking entirely to the Sens.

25. Paul MacClone

Mike Watson was just sitting in his company seats, minding his own business, watching the Ottawa Senators take on the Florida Panthers on a January night during the 2012-13 season. The casual discussion among reporters after the game was how he broke Twitter.

Watson’s friends had told him that he looked like then-Senators’ head coach Paul MacLean. When he got face time on the new high-definition scoreboard, in the front row and directly behind the coach, the crowd buzzed and cheered.

Senators coach Paul MacLean had a doppelganger behind the bench.

The shot of Watson behind the bench spread quickly on social media. Surely, everyone thought, he must have been planted in that seat. He wasn’t. The last time he had sat in those seats, Cory Clouston was the coach, and no one noticed him.

As the season went on, the MacLean doppelganger became a local celebrity and was somewhat of a mascot during Ottawa’s playoff run.

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With spare parts and derring-do, Ottawa’s own Rocketman reinvents skating

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An Ottawa man is turning heads on frozen stretches of the Ottawa River with a homemade device he jokingly refers to as his “jetpack.”

In reality, Brydon Gibson’s gas-powered, propeller-driven invention is more Rona than NASA.

“I got my hands on some weed whacker motors and I figured strapping one on my back and making skating a little bit lazier would [be] a good idea,” said Gibson, 24.

He bolted a 38-centimetre propeller to a wooden frame, fashioned a throttle out of a brake handle and cable salvaged from a 10-speed bike, then added padded straps cut from a dollar store backpack. He laced up his skates, and suddenly Gibson was zipping along at speeds reaching 40 km/h. 

“I was actually getting a little scared at one point because I was going a little too fast,” the inventor admitted.

There are no brakes, but there is kill switch to cut the power “when something goes wrong,” said Gibson. “It’s actually a little finicky.”

This is not the first iteration of Gibson’s invention. As a teen, he built an electric propulsion device in his parents’ basement, though it never got to the testing phase.

“Ever since I was a kid … I’ve been taking apart things I found on the side of the road, making a mess of my parents basement, spreading electronics everywhere,” he said.

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‘It is frustrating’: U.S-educated nurse from Ottawa hits barriers to getting licensed in Ontario

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Before she accepted a swimming scholarship to attend Boston’s Northeastern University, Ottawa’s Rachael Geiger made sure it had the kind of nursing program she wanted. The school’s baccalaureate nursing program offered a fifth year of co-operative placement after four years of study — something Geiger thought would leave her well prepared for a career as a nurse when she returned home after university.

But it hasn’t worked out that way.

Two and a half years after graduating summa cum laude from Northeastern, the 25-year-old is unable to work as a registered nurse in Ontario.

Geiger said she was initially surprised, especially since she wrote the same licensing exam in Massachusetts as is written in Ontario, the NCLEX-RN exam. She is licensed to practise in Massachusetts and Illinois.

“I never thought it would be such a challenge.”

She and her family are frustrated at how difficult it has been for her to get registered to be able to practise in Ontario. That frustration is heightened by the fact that nurses have seldom been in such high demand in Canada and around the world as the COVID-19 pandemic strains health systems and shortages loom. Local hospitals are among those trying to recruit nurses. The Canadian Nurses Association has been warning that Canada will experience extreme shortages in coming years.

“It is frustrating to sit and see all the news about nursing shortages and not be able to help,” said Geiger.

Doris Grinspun, chief executive officer of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, the professional association that represents registered nurses, nurse practitioners and nursing students in the province, said she was “more than surprised” to hear of the difficulty Geiger has had.

But Grinspun, who initially studied nursing in Israel and then the U.S. before becoming one of the country’s nursing leaders, said the system of allowing foreign trained nurses to work in Ontario is unnecessarily slow and complicated and leads many valuable nurses to simply give up or find another career. Grinspun herself challenged the system when she first came to work in Ontario.

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