St. Thomas will be the venue for the latest inquest into an inmate death at the Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre (EMDC).
The coroner’s inquest into the death of 47-year-old Michael Fall on July 30, 2017, will begin Sept. 23 at the Elgin County Courthouse.
Fall was one of five inmates to die that year at the London institution which has experienced 15 deaths in the past decade.
An inquest is mandatory under the Coroners Act and it will examine the circumstances surrounding his death. The jury may make recommendations aimed at preventing future deaths.
It’s certainly not the first inquest into an inmate death and, most recently, on June 22 another male prisoner was found unresponsive in his cell and later died in hospital.
Two days later, Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek advised in a statement, “I will continue to work with the solicitor general to ensure the safety of correctional officers, staff and inmates.”
Yurek had been particularly vocal about deaths at EMDC as a member of the official Opposition and we caught up with him yesterday (July 5) for an update on what the Doug Ford government is undertaking to ensure the safety of staff and inmates at EMDC.
“The government has been adding things to the jail and working behind the scene and the minister (Solicitor-General Sylvia Jones) is fully engaged.
In fact Yurek talked with her yesterday “on what else we can do.”
He noted, “We’ve added mental health workers, social workers, more correctional officers, the ion detector for drugs and drug-sniffing dogs.”
“There are too many people sitting there waiting for trial that have not been convicted of anything.”
According to Yurek, Minister Jones “has more plans for later this summer which should help improve the safety.
“But I think the key issue we have to look at is the opioid crisis. It is in our community, it’s growing and unfortunately, it is infiltrating our jails.”
Of utmost importance, stressed Yurek, is how do we stop that contraband from getting into our jails. It has to be the Number 1 priority to stop these overdose deaths.
“Obviously the government has to figure out a better way to deter that from happening,” said Yurek.
“I think the justice system needs to be looked at as well,” Yurek continued. “There are too many people sitting there waiting for trial that have not been convicted of anything.
“Are there other opportunities. Looking at drug treatment as opposed to jail. Or better mental health supports. We are slowly working toward that.”
Yurek pointed out the need for more supports in the system to deal with mental health issues and addiction.
“I think this is just a reflection of what is in our communities now.”
At the end of May, both Jones and Deputy Premier and Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Christine Elliott visited St. Thomas to announce $70,775 in funding that will allow a CMHA caseworker to continue working with the St. Thomas Police Service’s mobile crisis intervention team.
CMHA Elgin will also benefit from a $70,575 funding infusion for a post-court transitional case manager to support individuals with mental illness who are released on bail, found not guilty or released without detention to engage community mental health services and supportive housing.
HOW MUCH OF A SAY?
Should impacted municipalities in Ontario have a say in where future landfill sites are to be located?
Going a step further, will the province go so far as to allow those communities a veto if a proposed landfill is to be located within their municipal boundary?
Remember the previous government’s Green Energy Act which, in effect, removed communities like Dutton-Dunwich from the conversation?
MPP Yurek, the province’s new environment minister, will spend the weekend diving into reports and documents dealing with that very matter, prompted by such a controversial proposal in neighbouring Oxford County.
Walker Environmental is proposing to turn a limestone quarry located in Zorra Township – two kilometres from Ingersoll – into a landfill for non-hazardous household waste.
As he gets up to speed, Yurek pointed out Premier Ford “has made mention of having some form of say for municipalities. I’m looking forward to having discussions with the ministry and also Ernie Hardeman (Oxford MPP) and the premier’s office to take a good look at it.
“What’s happening obviously isn’t serving the best for municipalities.”
In a conversation a couple of years ago with Hardeman, he pointed out “Municipalities have a right to decide where the Tim Hortons is built in their community; surely they should have the right to have a say in where a landfill would go.”
Yurek assured once he is up to speed, “We’ll work with the municipalites that are experiencing issues with new dumps wanting to be put in their area.”
In the case of the Zorra Township proposal, the concern for OPAL (Oxford People Against the Landfill) and Ingersoll Mayor Ted Comiskey is maintaining the integrity of the area groundwater supply.
Yurek stressed yesterday, “I think the key is finding that balance where you can get some community agreements in place between the landfill folks and the municipalities that address all the concerns and mitigates impacts but, at the same time, ensures we do have a place for garbage to go.”
NO MORE TEMPORARY
The rumble and clank, clank which was the trademark of traffic traversing the single-lane Bailey bridge are now confined to memory status by the glistening new Dalewood bridge, officially opened Friday (July 5) morning.
At a ceremony held at the south end of the graceful structure, area residents, city staff, contractors and elected representative paid tribute to the old and then marched briskly across the new span at Dalewood dam.
The temporary bridge, supplied to the city by the Ministry of Transporation in 1983 at a cost of $35,000, served northside residents well for 33 years before permanent closure in 2017.
Its replacement – at a cost of just over $5 million – consists of two traffic lanes with a sidewalk on the east side.
So, no more pausing at either end of the bridge to let opposing traffic proceed.
In a report to council in 2016, David Jackson, manager of capital works, observed “Bridges remain visible pieces of the community for over 100 years. With some creative design and cost-effective engineering, they can become icons that contribute toward community identity.
He continued, “Construction of a bridge is a once in a 100-year opportunity to create something inspiring.”
A sentiment echoed Friday morning by MPP Jeff Yurek.
“I see how long a temporary bridge lasted, this permanent one is going to be here for centuries. It’s going to be another great link into London but it’s also going to be a great link for people in London to come here and spend their money in St. Thomas and Elgin. A great place to live, shop and play.”
“It’s a beautiful sight,” added MP Karen Vecchio. “This is absolutely what the city needed.”
Acknowledging the bridge closure and disruption to northside residents, St. Thomas Mayor Joe Preston noted, “What a beautiful area of St. Thomas and while the bridge and road have been shut off, we’ve all been missing how beautiful it can be out here.”
The project has involved removal of the existing structure; replacement of the roadway from Woodworth Crescent to Water Tower Line; construction of the new bridge; improvements to the storm drainage system; road, curb, and sidewalk on the east side of the roadway; habitat enhancements; and landscaping/tree planting.
McLean Taylor Construction Limited of St. Marys was the low bidder on the replacement bridge tender. The firm worked on the Sunset Drive bridge rehabilitation project in 2015.
Green Party leader Mike Schreiner will pay a visit to St. Thomas on Monday (July 8) as part of his Clean & Caring Economy tour.
He is scheduled to tour The Atrium at 26 Princess Avenue beginning at 6:30 p.m.
The local enterprise which provides a collaborative workspace for entrepreneurs “is an ideal location to highlight the Green Party’s support for innovative solutions to nurture knowledge-based small businesses,” according to a release from the newly established Elgin-Middlesex-London riding association.
The event is open to the public and no doubt will be of interest to those looking to cast their ballot away from the three main parties in the upcoming federal vote.
FOR THE CALENDAR
An open house is to be held Monday (July 8) beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the Carnegie Room at St. Thomas Public Library to allow residents to learn more about the city’s Positioned for Growth undertaking.
The project is studying the need to adjust the city’s urban area boundary to accomodate residential growth over the next 20 years.
Four potential growth areas – all hugging the city’s western limits – are underconsideration as the population of St. Thomas is projected to grow to over 50,000 by 2041.
In May of this year, the city hosted Coffee Conversations, an opportunity for residents to discuss the project.
Based on that feedback, Monday’s open house will feature an informal format with the project steering committee available to provide updated information about the preferred growth area.
More info is available at Stthomas.ca/PositionedforGrowth
Questions and comments may be emailed to City Scope
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