Simple fun or homage to violence? Zombies stir debate

Oh my. Where’s the skate park you promised? Why are we paving over paradise in Pinafore Park. All that money to lay down a few hundred feet of railroad tracks and erect a replica station. And now . . . zombies.
Bryan Bakker is a nice sort of guy. Cares about the city and its employment prospects. That’s why he ran provincially for the NDP in 2003 against Steve Peters.
A 2003 bio posted on the Ontario Secondary School Teacher’s Federation website even notes Bakker “is an active supporter of Amnesty International.”
He’s an organizer of the St. Thomas Tom Zombie Festival planned for later summer that is geared to local teens.
He is aiming for a festival which includes vendors, food and fun, and music – and a zombie walk, where costumed participants stumble zombie-like through a community.
Gee the latter event sounds like any late Saturday night along Talbot Street.
“We want to help teens in St. Thomas and the area with a fun, dress-up activity,” the father of two pre-teen daughters told the Times-Journal last week.
“(One) that doesn’t involve beer tents.”
Tom Zombie Trailer
The event has teamed up with a St. Thomas-based youth charity, It Takes 2 Youth Leadership Institute, dedicated to developing youth leaders.
Zombie culture is hot right now with all ages and Bakker sees a fun way to engage young people in this city.
He’s pitching his idea 10 a.m. Wednesday to city council’s special events committee.
He’s not in for an easy ride.
A couple of community leaders have voiced opposition in the T-J and both plan to be on hand to air their concerns to the committee.
“I want this community to be known for its love and family orientation, and its wholesome activities,” Pastor Peter Cusick, St. Thomas Pentecostal Assembly, Wellington St., told the T-J’s Eric Bunnell.
“I really don’t see this as simple fun, and I know that’s how it’s being portrayed,” he continued.
Pastor Beth Fellinger, of storefront Downtown Destination Church on Talbot Street, takes it further.
“As a downtown church, we see the violence and the garbage every day,” she asserts. “Do we need to celebrate that?
“Is (violence) what we need to celebrate as a society at the moment?”
A reference to the Boston Marathon bombing.
I think associating Bakker’s youth-oriented zombie festival with the mayhem in Boston is a quantum leap in logic.
But, let’s check in with our readers.
“Zombies are at the height of pop culture popularity,” writes John Allen on the T-J website. “Sure it’s not for everyone, but the organizers are working very hard to create a fun, energetic event targetted towards youth.
“I know people who are in their 80s who would not miss a single episode of AMC’s The Walking Dead,” he continue. “This proposed festival has nothing to do with “violence and garbage” nor is it in any way a reflection of the Boston bombing to suggest such a thing, in my opinion, shows exceptional poor taste on the part of the protestors.”
“The 2 churches need to lighten up and let people let have some fun,” adds Lois Lane. “It is no different than Halloween, except no candy. I saw one in Halifax and it was fun to watch. One establishment hosted zombie karaoke.”
On the other side of the street, Hanna Taylor notes: “Maybe I am just being a concerned parent, but I am kind of bothered at the idea of my toddler and other small children seeing a bunch of zombies walking down the street. Has anyone considered how frightening this could be for younger children to witness?
“I agree it would appeal to teens, etc., but I think consideration for parents with small children should be taken into consideration. Hopefully event planners will hold this zombie event in an area that is away from young children. Hopefully not down Talbot Street.”
We’ll be on hand for Wednesday’s meeting to ascertain the pressure to be exerted on members of council, the majority of whom we predict are dead set against a zombie celebration.

We won’t identify this individual by name – she still has a month left as a medical transcriptionist at St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital – but we appreciate her musings on the days leading up to being unceremoniously outsourced.
“I have been sad but mainly angry that this is happening and the hospital just does not care about their workforce as people,” she writes.
“They have made no attempts at placing us in other positions within STEGH where we would be qualified.
“Most of us have extensive medical administration experience besides just being transcriptionists, but we have to go through interviews again in order to be placed elsewhere if a job does get posted. Unless, of course, you know somebody.”
And, the bloodletting isn’t over she advises.
“The public needs to know how many jobs one of their city’s main employers is planning on eliminating. It does not stop with us.
“Until you have had to do it, you have no idea how difficult it is to have to go to a job every morning for the next six weeks while knowing that job will be eliminated. I took great pride in what I did. It’s too bad STEGH did not have that same pride in us.”

We have it on good authority the Ministry of Labour has been on site at city hall to deal with accusations of harassment. We’ve already documented complaints of verbal abuse lodged by a long-term employee against treasurer Bill Day.
Seems incidents of harassment against city staffers are more than isolated cases.
And what’s this we hear Day was placed in charge while CAO Wendell Graves enjoyed a few days off last week.
What message does this send to those beleaguered employees who have filed complaints?
Shouldn’t city hall be the benchmark for employment standards?

“If someone dies in a workplace accident, it’s looked at as a workplace accident . . . . Nobody looks at it as being criminal.”
David Kerr, president of St. Thomas and District Labour Council, which is organizing Sunday’s National Day of Mourning for killed and injured workers to begin at 12:45 p.m. in Pinafore Park.

City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to

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