If you were unable to attend this morning’s (Oct. 28) dedication ceremony, you owe it to yourself to visit Veterans Memorial Garden on Moore Street.
Chairman Herb Warren and his memorial committee – Worth Chisholm, Douglas Nicholson, Coun. Mark Tinlin, Shelly Haycock, Ron Smith and Allan Weatherall – have created a beautiful downtown sanctuary in honour of the men and women who have served and gave their lives in past conflicts.
The garden incorporates the city’s war memorials in one downtown location. This would include the The Great War Memorial which stood in front of St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital and the Second World War and Korean War memorial at Princess Avenue.
And new to the city is the Afghan War Memorial at the south end of the garden, erected to honour the 40,000 Canadian Forces personnel – including three dozen from 31 Combat Engineer Regiment (The Elgins) who volunteered to serve in Afghanistan. A total of 159 Canadians lost their lives in that country.
The memorial is the work of sculptor Tyler Fauvelle, based out of Lively, located southwest of Sudbury.
We caught up with him this past week as he ensured everything was just perfect for this morning’s ceremony.
He describes his work as representing “a Canadian soldier stationed in Afghanistan. He’s sitting on a Canadian piece of granite, which is a symbol of being rooted in his home. At his feet is an old-fashioned ammunition box which draws inspiration from the history of The Elgins, the history of Canada. And there is a symbol of a beaver on the front, which is not only a symbol of Canada but is a symbol of The Elgins, also.
“He is equipped with some of his military equipment. He is gazing off into the distance, and in this case he is gazing toward these other monuments. He is sharing, through that gaze, an understanding that only a veteran can understand about what it is like to go and what it is like to come home. And, in my opinion, that links the entire park . . . the wonderful thing they have done here.”
A moving tribute from the personable artist who added, “No matter what war you are in, war is essentially the same throughout time. What the soldiers take home never changes. That was the main inspiration of the piece.”
So how did an acclaimed sculptor born in New Liskeard end up crafting a timeless memorial with a permanent home in the heart of St. Thomas?
“Herb (Warren) was looking for a sculptor and he reached out to various people,” explained Fauvelle. “He came across the Francis Pegahmagabow sculpture I did, the highest ranked Indigenous soldier in Canadian history up in Parry Sound. He happened to see that in the newspaper. He gave me a call, we met and we liked each other. We presented to the committee and the rest is history.”
For Fauvelle, his latest work has taken on added significance in a world wrestling with the reality of post traumatic stress disorder.
“This is an important monument because other monuments honour people who are long past, whereas this honours people who are still here today. The effects of war, not only from Afghanistan, are continuing to this day. And the point of the piece, of course, is honouring people who didn’t come home, but also honouring those who never really came home at all. They came home changed forever.
“To me, that’s the most important message in the piece. That thousand-yard stare toward the other monuments.”
His Afghan memorial also embodies a personal philosophical insight.
“I have a sacred duty to commemorate and make sure people never forget,” stressed Fauvelle. “As these important moments of Canadian history and identity pass from living memory, it’s through our monuments that we’ll remember and understand who we are and where we came from. And also help us not to make the same mistakes again. As you see, throughout history, we don’t seem to learn from our mistakes. We just seem to be repeating them and repeating them. And, when you see these three monuments together, we haven’t really learned from our mistakes. And maybe we’ll understand through the loss of our young people, maybe we will learn.”
Visit Veterans Memorial Garden to pause and reflect for a few moments. And not just on November 11.
WILL THERE BE ANOTHER DAY?
While there has been little, if any, visible activity around the Sutherland Press building, that is about to change next week.
City manager Wendell Graves said Friday, workers from Schouten Excavating will be on the scene in the days ahead.
“As far as I know they are going to be mobilizing at the first of the week, so we should see equipment . . . and they will get at it. Things are falling into play.”
As stated previously, once the building is reduced to a safe height, the adjacent transit terminal will again begin operations.
In a previous email from Graves announcing the court’s latest decision, he alluded to the city recovering costs from owner David McGee.
So, to what extent can the city proceed with financial recovery?
“In the latest decision from the appeals court, they granted the city the costs for that event,” explained Graves.
“As you have seen in the past, we can’t recoup 100 per cent of the costs, because of the court rules. The submission was for about $15,000 in legal costs, just for this last round in the appeals court.”
Fair enough, but what about recovery of the substantial legal costs accumulated over the ten years of the Sutherland Saga?
“We have other methods for doing that. We will be attaching all of those costs to that property. It will go on the property tax roll.”
As will the cost of demolition. Should McGee fall in arrears, the city could acquire the vacant Talbot Street lot after the prescribed time period.
As has always been the case in this protracted process, there is a word of caution.
“Now, down the road someplace, there may be an opportunity for Mr. McGee or somebody to challenge the costs,” Graves noted.
“They could take the costs back to the court. That would be another day.”
Akin to revisiting a bad dream.
A disturbing set of statistics released this week in a report from the health unit. That would be the health unit in Oxford county, which released its first community health report that delves into opioid and other substance misuse.
In 2016, the rate of opioid-related deaths in Elgin-St. Thomas was lower than most other public health units in the South West Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) region at 5.5 per 100,000 population. The Ontario average is 6.2 and only Grey-Bruce and Perth in the SW LHIN had lower rates.
Then the numbers take an ugly turn.
Elgin-St. Thomas led the SWLHIN region in opioid-related hospitalizations at 38.5 per 100,000 population, almost three times the provincial average of 13.7 per 100,000.
And, Elgin-St. Thomas led the region in opioid-related visits to the emergency department at 45.1 per 100,000 population, surpassing even Middlesex-London at 39.6 and well above the Ontario average of 31.7 per 100,000.
The report notes, “Little is documented about existing drug use networks, for example, how individuals are travelling between Oxford County and other jurisdictions and how that is affecting the local situation. Further, although we have access to a great deal of information, there is currently no system to rapidly share information between community partners in an ongoing fashion and collectively interpret the current drug use situation.”
Frightening statistics and, by all accounts, this is only the tip of the iceberg.
RATHER THEY DIDN’T BLOW IN THE WIND
Has Dutton Dunwich become the poster child in the fight to give municipalities a say in the province’s Green Energy Act? Or will it be recognized as the small Elgin county municipality that valiantly fought to have the voice of rural Ontario heard by a Liberal government that doesn’t give a whit for those living beyond the GTA?
Dozens of Dutton Dunwich residents gathered outside the community centre Wednesday evening (Oct. 25) to again register their opposition to the prospect of towering wind turbines sprouting up across the municipality. The final mandated public meeting on the Strong Breeze wind power project was held at the Dutton Community Centre, and the opposition to the 57.7 megawatt undertaking has never been more vocal.
For the past five years, Dutton Dunwich Opponents of Wind Turbines has argued provincial government regulations have removed local decision-making regarding the building of wind turbine farms. That has allowed Chicago-based Invenergy to push forward with plans for the 20-wind turbine project in the face of stiff community and municipal council opposition.
“If anything the opposition is stronger,” stressed Dutton Dunwich Opponents of Wind Turbines spokesperson Dave Congdon. “More and more people are coming forward to express their disatisfaction and opposition to it. There is still lots of fighting ahead of us. Hopefully the powers to be come to their senses and realize we should probably do more studies before we continue putting these things up.”
Additional turbines are not necessary in Dutton Dunwich, or anywhere else in the province for that matter, Congdon argued.
“We spent almost $2 billion in Ontario last year to get rid of hydro we couldn’t use, yet we’re putting more capacity up. Everyone that sees them asks the same question, ‘How come they’re not spinning?’ They’re not spinning because we don’t need the power. And even though they’re not spinning, we’re still paying. You look at the increase in our bills over the last 15 years and it’s incredible. The majority of that comes from the Green Energy Act.”
It is not possible to present a viable business case for additional wind power projects, adds Dutton Dunwich Mayor Cameron McWilliam.
“Where is the cost benefit analysis? You have your health issues, your environmental issues and no cost benefit analysis whatsover. It does not make sense whatsoever.
The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, their mandate is to protect the environment.That includes natural environment, wildlife and humans. Where are they in this whole process? These units will be the biggest in Canada, if it gets built.”
The opposition in Dutton Dunwich isn’t unexpected, conceded James Murphy, Invenergy vice-president of business development, at the first public meeting held in March of this year.
“Power plant projects are not always the most popular projects and there are a host of concerns that arise with them. I think they are all valid concerns. We try to listen and do the best we can to address them. We can’t guarantee everyone is going to come away entirely satisfied, but we’ve done everything we possibly can to try to accommodate them.”
As part of the process, Invenergy has made public its Draft Renewable Energy Approval (REA) documents, which detail how the firm plans to construct and operate the Strong Breeze Wind Power Project in Dutton Dunwich.
“The REA prepared for them, we feel is incomplete,” suggested McWilliam. “We have an engineering firm that has looked at that and we have some comments as part of the process.”
Will Invenergy and the province listen to and address those comments? Based on past track record, not likely.
“We haven’t had any dialogue outside of our community meetings here,” said a frustrated Congdon. “We have gone through the Freedom of Information Act and the majority of the information we’re looking for through that has been redacted because they don’t want to reflect on a third party.
“We invited Kathleen Wynne, but she won’t come because she’ll ignore rural Ontario like she has from the very beginning. It’s all about Toronto and Toronto is what counts to her. Outside of that, she doesn’t care about the rest of Ontario. As long as we continue to pay our taxes, she is happy.
Congdon continued, “Their answers to most questions is we’re following the guidelines as laid out by the Ontario government. So how do you fight something that is protected under the Green Energy Act. It essentially takes away all of our rights as taxpayers.”
McWilliam added it’s time for the province to walk away from what he feels is a bad deal, any way you look at it.
“In the current political climate, people are not in favour of these projects anymore. In business, if you start a project and you’re part way down the road and it’s not working, then cut your losses, learn what you can and get out.
“If you are really listening to the people, then listen to them.”
As was the case with the absurd gas plant debacle.
Should the Wynne government choose not to listen, and subject to Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change approval, construction could begin as early as next year.
Coincidently, the same year voters cast their ballots in the provincial election. You can bet the folks in Dutton Dunwich have long memories, especially if their gaze turns to towering turbines looming on the horizon.
Questions and comments may be emailed to: City Scope
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