Ma Ferguson offered equal justice to the little people


A last-minute addition to the City Scope lineup this week, predicated by the death Tuesday of Edra Sanders Ferguson in her 105th year of “an overflowing life.”

The Times-Journal, and this corner in particular, championed “Ma Ferguson” as she was known for many years by Toronto lawyers.

The photo on the front page of Friday’s T-J offers a tantalizing taste of the individual who served as the first woman alderman in St. Thomas; to initiate a Red Cross Clinic in Guelph; and to be appointed the first Division Court judge in Ontario (later to become the Small Claims Court).

St. Thomas native and Order of Canada recepient Edra Ferguson, left, and Tara Muzumdar, the Belmont House Nursing Home employee who nominated her.

We will forever cherish the personal note from Edra’s nephew, St. Thomas lawyer John Sanders, sent this past June after the announcement she was to receive the Order of Canada for her contributions in the fields of law and women’s rights — the oldest person ever to receive the Order of Canada.

Better yet, today’s (Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011) Bygones photo on page 2, sent along by Gina Coady at Elgin County Archives, transports us back to 1926 and a striking Edra as a member of the Alma College debating team.

The correspondence from John Sanders included the following reaction from Edra to the Order of Canada announcement.

“I don’t know what I did that made me deserving for this national honour but I am proud that I am apparently the oldest person in Canada to ever receive this honour.

“These days the elderly are often going through the same struggle which women did during this past century and I am happy I may have helped my current age group break down another barrier.”

One honour eluded her: recognition by the London-centered school board of Edra Sanders Ferguson’s position in life that allowed her to offer “equal justice to the little people.”

The perfect role model for the population — present and future — at the former Edward Street Public School.


The public gallery at city hall will likely be chock a block Monday as Sue Fortin-Smith, chairman of the Municipal Heritage Committee, and Laurence Grant, who researched and authored the report for council, present their case for designating Balaclava Street School as a heritage building.

It’s likely to be a fractious session, what with the record of previous councils with regard to protecting the city’s heritage and rumors floating on potential redevelopment in the area neighbouring the school.

Serge Lavoie, secretary of the St. Thomas-Elgin Branch of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, noted this week “Many people are often reluctant to consider heritage designation for their properties, fearing that property values will decline and future renovations and improvements will be difficult.”

It’s a valid consideration and, as such, the local ACO group at its January, 2012 meeting, will host an information night for businesses, property owners, realtors and heritage advocates to explain the benefits of heritage preservation and building improvement.

Pity this information night couldn’t have been scheduled prior to Monday’s deputation to council.

It might avoid a trip down the path known as Alma College Way.


Last week in this corner, we berated the library CEO and board chairman for their admission the costs of moving to, and relocating in, their temporary digs in Elgin Mall were unanticipated and unbudgeted.

Now, we understand the budget for renovation of their Curtis Street home may not include a contingency component. I guess that falls in the unanticipated category.

If that is true, the $150,000 over-run associated with the library move may be chump change when the final tab comes in early next year.Prepare to dig a little deeper into the crevices of those pockets, folks.


While Steve Peters was serving the nibblybits Wednesday in Toronto at a farewell party as Speaker of the Ontario legislature, Jeff Yurek was letting ’em eat cake.

Steve’s successor was touring Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre in the riding, an overcrowded provincial jail much in the news of late for what coroner’s inquests have heard are life-threatening conditions which have led, in the case of one inmate death, to a lawsuit.

Jeff was quoted in a release from his office:

 It was an eye-opening experience to witness the day-to-day conditions in which the guards and management have to work.”

The Tory MPP for EML doesn’t mention the prisoners.


“I think this video should go up on the city’s website! And the EDC’s too! This is how you get people to discover St. T. rather than the promise of a factory job!”

We’re sure those desperately looking for decent jobs in the area will appreciate the sympathy and the not-so-subtle jab from Ald. Mark Cosens in his online comments posted in support of Mira RogosinLavoie’s excellent YouTube video. (See Eric Bunnell’s People column in Friday’s T-J).

City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be e-mailed to:

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