‘How did a Third World country arrive right in the backyard of what they say is the greatest country in the world?’

city_scope_logo-cmykWith the drawing to a close this past week of Indigenous History Month and the horrific revelation of more bodies discovered in unmarked graves at another residential school, our conversation with Ray John took on increased significance.
He is an impassioned Indigenous cultural teacher at the London District Catholic School Board and with boards elsewhere in the province.
He has worked in the education field for more than 15 years and he says the mixed emotions of the past month have had a unifying effect in his Oneida community and within Indigenous communities elsewhere in the country.
“You drive up and down in our community and you see so many orange shirts. You see toys out there dedicated to the young ones that are gone.
“But there’s a real sense of unity here. It’s not that it wasn’t here before. I think it is more that we are supporting each other.”
John has been awarded for working “tirelessly in the spirit of Truth and Reconciliation” and he stresses only through engaging in tough conversations will Canadians be able to educate themselves on Indigenous culture and the tyranny of residential schools.

“The main thing is ask. Have tough conversations. Those conversations need to be had regardless of how the opposite person feels.
“All education, regardless of whether it’s in the school or on the radio or on social media, it’s an education.”
Ray JohnHe feels this past month has been an opportunity for all Canadians to listen to, elevate and amplify Indigenous voices.
“We have to listen now to the stories of (residential school) survivors and people who lived it. Like the outcome of the Holocaust or the outcome of slavery.
“Those stories are going to continue because it’s first-hand accounts. You’re listening to somebody that actually lived it. And that is the best education you are going to get.”
However, those conversations need to continue, implores John, this is not just a movement in the short term.
“In previous years it was just one day, Solidarity Day, and we had that June 21.
“And now it has become an entire month. But I think this year, it brings more light to the issues and beauty of our culture.

“To help people such as yourself to say, ‘OK, where can we go from here?’ All we can do is go forward and take what is given to us and seed that opportunity.”

“And the conversation needs to continue. So many of my people want it to continue so it is not just a movement it is something that continues on.
“We’re talking about it in the fall, we’re talking about it next spring.
“We need to celebrate, also, how many different Indigenous nations are within the area.
“So, it (this month) has been sad but it is shedding light where more people are asking questions. And that is one of the reasons I stayed in education to do that.
“To help people such as yourself to say, ‘OK, where can we go from here?’ All we can do is go forward and take what is given to us and seed that opportunity.”

“Those are issues we are going to have to talk about now. Talk about the clean water, the efficiency of the homes that are not up to par. Our education isn’t up to par. Our grandmas and grandpas aren’t looked after properly.”

John observes all that time spent listening to the stories of his father and grandfather is now paying off.
“The doors are opening. Fifteen years ago when I first started, it was frustrating but I had to be patient.
“Now, that patience has paid off. Ever since the first news came out from Kamloops I’ve been online, I’ve been on the news and sometimes it is overwhelming.
“But, at the same time, this is what I wanted. I wanted that opportunity and now I’m utilizing it.
“So all those years that I sat and listened to my dad’s stories and my grandfather’s stories, it’s paying off now. The time is now.
“I can’t sit here and say, oh I wish they would stop asking (questions). No, that’s not what we’re going to do. I need to be at the forefront helping people.”
Many more issues are facing Indigenous communities, like access to clean drinking water, reminds John.

“When we do things for people, our heart has to be in it.”

The question that needs answering is how did a Third World country arrive right in the backyard of what they say is the greatest country in the world?
“Those are issues we are going to have to talk about now. Talk about the clean water, the efficiency of the homes that are not up to par.
“Our education isn’t up to par. Our grandmas and grandpas aren’t looked after properly.
“And it’s not where we’re victimizing ourselves. We’re now being able to shed a lot of light on the issues a lot of Canadians don’t (know about). And it’s right in their backyard.
“How did a Third World country arrive right in the backyard of what they say is the greatest country in the world.
“And again, it’s not to point fingers and it’s not to say ‘Well, you did this.’ No, this is what we’re bringing, so help us.”
John stresses the significance of the slogan ‘Every Child Matters.’
He reminds us, “When we look at that, we’re looking at human rights across the entire country.”
He has produced a series of very short, thought-provoking videos in a series entitled “Lessons From The Earth & Beyond that touch on the importance of family, love, education and responsibilities versus rights.
His message, based on aboriginal culture and teachings, focuses on the importance of establishing balance in all things by demonstrating respect for others, modelling positive leadership qualities amongst peers, being a good role model for younger students as well as looking after each other and our surroundings.
He reminds us, “When we do things for people, our heart has to be in it.”
The videos can be found at http://www.helpingourmotherearth.com
I urge you to take a few minutes out of your busy day to watch one of John’s messages.


Is the dumpster fire that has smouldered for the past three years at city hall soon to be extinguished or is another flare-up in the works?
Seems St. Thomas Fire Chief Bob Davidson this week announced his retirement, effective the end of July.
Or did he?
Was he pressured into leaving?
It’s been a toxic atmosphere with the St. Thomas Professional Firefighters’ Association since Davidson’s hiring after the death of popular fire chief Rob Broadbent in August of 2017.
Davidson, who came on board in January of 2018, had been deputy fire chief in Chatham-Kent.

Ray Ormerodjpg

Ray Ormerod

The decision was made at city hall to hire a chief externally, rather than from within with Deputy Fire Chief Ray Ormerod considered a strong candidate.
Word has it Ormerod was not even granted an interview.
Ormerod subsequently left the department earlier this year.
Firefighters have gone two years without a contract and a move to 24-hour shifts has never gotten off the ground.
Matters really went south in August of 2019 when the St. Thomas Professional Firefighters’ Association forwarded a letter of non-confidence in Davidson to Mayor Joe Preston and members of council.
The content of that letter was a topic of discussion during an in-camera meeting of council.
This corner postulated at the time the most likely scenario in closed session would have been a vote of confidence in the chief by council, with correspondence to that effect conveyed to members of the association.
Since Davidson’s arrival, there has been an alarming increase in grievance claims filed by the firefighters’ association.
With the prospect later this month of no chief and no deputy chief, quick action will be required.
Is there truth to the rumour Ormerod has been asked to return as acting chief on a temporary basis?
When did the city find out about Davidson’s retirement?
Was that the reason for a special meeting of council called June 22 to deal with a labour relations matter?
Or was that meeting related to the ongoing contract negotiations with the firefighters’ association?
Is a release forthcoming on the status of Davidson?
Calls to city manager Wendell Graves and Mayor Joe Preston were not returned yesterday (Friday).
Seems the police service can promote from within a highly qualified individual in Chief Chris Herridge.
Likewise at St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital with the recent announcement of Karen Davies moving up to become CEO and president later in August.
But such is not the case with the fire department.
That is not until the heat intensifies and you discover the best person for the job possibly was right there all this time.

Related posts:

Backing the guarantee with a financial pledge, St. Thomas/Elgin to get its long-awaited end-of-life hospice

MPP Jeff Yurek’s winding down decree has conservation authorities winding up pushback efforts


From now through to the end of the month, city residents who qualify can apply to access the Social Services Relief Fund.
This is for those who have experienced a drop in income during the COVID-19 pandemic forcing you into arrears on your rent, mortgage or utilities.
One-time funding of up to $3,000 may be available to assist you with payments.
There are several ways in which you can apply.
To have one mailed or emailed to you, call 519-631-9350 and select Option 3.
You can pick an application up at the St. Thomas-Elgin Social Service office at 230 Talbot Street (in the Mickleborough Building), Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.
Or, you can download a copy at http://stthomas.ca.
Applications will be accepted until the end of July.


We received a nice request from reader Georgia yesterday (Friday) for permission to use a City Scope photo of the vandalized interior of the former chapel at Alma College.
The photo was taken in 2015 and Georgia noted, “My parents were married in the chapel in 1952 and I have a photo of their wedding from the same angle as your photo. I wanted to post it for family and friends on my personal Facebook page to show a ‘now and then’ of the chapel. My family is from St. Thomas and I have two aunts that attended Alma College.”

Alma Chapel wedding combined July 2021We gladly gave her permission and she promptly forwarded back the finished product, which is a thought-provoking contrast in fortunes of the Ella Bowes Chapel over the years.
That’s the photo you see here.
In subsequent emails, Georgia explained “my family has a lot of history in St. Thomas. My dad and grandparents have passed but my aunt still lives there. My grandfather Walter Meredith worked for Michigan Central and played baseball for both the St. Thomas team and the railroad team. He’s fourth from the right in the photo below.
St. Thomas baseball teamLet us know the feedback on your creative efforts, Georgia.
And, any readers with further info on the two baseball teams are more than welcome to share them with City Scope readers.


Ever since he was unceremoniously chucked from cabinet, we’ve lost contact with MPP Jeff Yurek.
Requests for an interview have gone unfulfilled. Voice messages unanswered.
Yurek has every reason to feel bitter, betrayed even.
But, no doubt, constituents are anxious to hear of his plans with a provincial election looming next year.
Was his demotion from cabinet an acknowledgement from Premier Doug Ford that Yurek’s seat in Elgin-Middlesex-London is secure?
Is Yurek’s political career at a crossroads?
We’re here for you, Jeff.

Questions and comments may be emailed to City Scope

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And a reminder, I can be heard weekday afternoons as news anchor and reporter on 94.1 myFM in St. Thomas. As always, your comments and input are appreciated.


One thought on “‘How did a Third World country arrive right in the backyard of what they say is the greatest country in the world?’

  1. Jeff Yurek was broadsided, and I have no doubt he is seriously considering his options. He is, and has been a hardworking member on behalf of we constitutents. When Ford was chosen, although it’s not something Jeff would share, I’m sure he just held his nose and plugged on.

    I’ve crossed life long party lines to support him, and will continue to support him, no matter what party he might join (maybe not the NDP) or if he runs as an independent.

    We are lucky to have Jeff and Karen Vecchio as our representatives.


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