Members of council will receive a report for Monday’s (Feb. 7) meeting that unpacks the experiences of discrimination in St. Thomas and Elgin county.
It contains the results of a survey undertaken by the St.Thomas-Elgin Local Immigration Partnership (STELIP) and we spotlighted last week a pair of online presentations to be held this coming Tuesday spotlighting the results of that survey.
Delving into the report should prove uncomfortable at times for our elected representatives on two broad fronts.
First, and foremost, the report points out “Discrimination is happening in locations that are managed by the City of St. Thomas and this reality needs to be addressed.”
Secondly, the report states the obvious, “With no immigrants, visible minorities, nor Indigenous People represented on the City of St. Thomas Council, this report can help all of us better understand how these groups are experiencing life in our community.”
As to this point, over the past year mayor and councillors had two separate opportunities to appoint an individual from one of these three groups to fill vacant seats and, instead, opted for convenience.
In her preamble to the report, Petrusia Hontar, STELIP project manager, explains the survey was undertaken last spring and participants were divided into three groups: immigrants and visible minorities; Indigenous Peoples; and white, non-immigrants.
In total, 407 individuals from St. Thomas and Elgin participated with the responses analyzed by a Ph.D. student from Western University.
When asked about experiences of discrimination in the past three years, 68 per cent of immigrants and visible minorities and 87 per cent of Indigenous respondents indicated they had experienced some form of discrimination.
In contrast, 36 per cent of white, non-immigrants advised they had experienced some form of discrimination.
So where and when does this discrimination occur?
When interacting with neighbours; when using public areas; when applying for programs and benefits; when looking for housing; when using municipal facilities like libraries, community centres and arenas; and when using public transit.
In summary Hontar notes, “The immigrants and visible minority survey participants who experienced discrimination gave the lowest rating when asked about their feelings of acceptance and belonging in St. Thomas and Elgin county, the experiences of this group are directly affecting their experience with the community.”
She concludes with an ask of council.
“That council renew its commitment to addressing the discrimination being experienced in our community by embedding equality, diversity and inclusion within its practices and re-engage in the work of STELIP through city staff participation, specifically looking at inclusion and integration as occurs in other neighbouring communities.”
You can read the full report at https://www.stthomas.ca/common/pages/DisplayFile.aspx?itemId=18316516
The STELIP report begins at Page 40.
Area residents and members of the business community are invited to hear the results of the Experiences of Discrimination survey via a pair of online events to be held on Feb. 8.
Service providers and employers are invited to attend from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at which time workplace-specific information and interventions will be discussed.
The general public will meet online from 6:30 to 8 p.m. when community-wide considerations will be discussed.
You can register online on Eventbrite.
Employers and service providers: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/243180458297
General public: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/246780084877
There are numerous residents of St. Thomas who are less than enamoured with the many traffic roundabouts now found in the city.
At present, there are a total of 13 and that number will continue to grow.
For the detractors, what about the concept of mini-roundabouts?
Pint-size versions of those already in place to facilitate traffic flow.
Or will a proliferance of these completely drive you round the bend?
In a report to council on Monday, Justin Lawrence, Director of Environmental Services, is seeking council’s approval for a trial design and implementation of mini-roundabouts as funding permits.
He says there are a dozen potential locations for future roundabouts, however many of those are space constrained.
Good news, however, enlightens Lawrence as there is a new design gaining traction across Europe and now south of the border in mini-roundabouts.
The key difference is the centre and splitter approach islands are traversable so that vehicles with a tighter turning radius can cross over them.
As a result, they require a much smaller footprint.
Lawrence offers Axford Parkway and Sauve Avenue along with Greenway Blvd. and Pine Valley Drive as potential starting points for mini-roundabouts.
If built as a standalone project, the cost is estimated at $150,000 to $200,000 per roundabout.
Incorporate them into road rehabilitation and the price tag drops to $50,000 to $75,000.
With the islands traversable, you just know it’s only a matter of time before the freedom-loving motoring element drive right across rather than proceed counter-clockwise around them.
UNITY CAN BE SO ELUSIVE
Turning the calendar back to August of 2020, newly elected Conservative Party of Canada leader Erin O’Toole could find one of his biggest boosters right here in St. Thomas.
Elgin-Middlesex-London MP Karen Vecchio hung in until the bitter end to hear O’Toole had captured 57 per cent of the final ballot votes to Peter MacKay’s 43 per cent.
We talked to Vecchio the morning after O’Toole took over leadership of the party and she stressed he would bring plenty to the table.
“The one thing he will bring is caucus unity,” she noted. “With 121 members, it is very, very important. His Ontario colleagues all have great respect for him.
“But we also know how well he did across the west, and so it will be easy to unite on that.
“In no time,” she added.
She went on to note, “For me, I know I can bring the concerns from my riding. It is so easy to communicate with him.”
Less than two weeks later O’Toole appointed Vecchio Deputy Houser Leader of the Official Opposition.
Fast forward 18 months and that caucus unity had unravelled.
O’Toole lost the support of members last weekend in a 73 to 45 vote following which he formally stepped down.
It came after a leadership review was triggered, following weeks of anger and disappointment over O’Toole’s performance since last September’s federal election loss.
“Serving as a political leader can be difficult, but Erin has shown immense perseverance throughout his term.”
On Wednesday of this week, Conservative MPs chose longtime Manitoba MP Candice Bergen to take over the reins temporarily.
O’Toole, meantime, advised he will remain as MP for Durham riding in Ontario.
No doubt disappointed with the turn of events, Vecchio issued a statement Thursday in which she wrote, “I want to congratulate our new interim leader, Candice Bergen. I look forward to working alongside Candice and focusing on ensuring unity within our caucus and the party as a whole.”
She went on to thank O’Toole “for his commitment and dedication to our party. Serving as a political leader can be difficult, but Erin has shown immense perseverance throughout his term.
“I am thankful for the time spent working on important issues alongside a great parliamentarian such as himself.
“I will continue working to ensure Canada gets back on track and I look forward to continuing working alongside my colleagues on the important issues facing Canadians.”
THE ECHO CHAMBER
Last week’s conversation with St. Thomas Police Chief Chris Herridge generated substantial feedback and here is a sampling.
Deb Hardy suggested it must be frustrating for police.
“They are likely on a first-name basis with those repeat offenders. Clearly the solution is NOT to cram more people into EMDC (Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre).
“Our government needs to cough up some cash for real solutions. A new build, a complete overhaul of the justice system, more rehab facilities.”
To which Brett Longfield responded in the following fashion.
“Is ‘more cash’ or perhaps simply reallocation of such the just means for ‘real solutions?'”
Leticia Amanda offered up several suggestions.
“It is time that we gather as citizens to demand better for our neighbours, vulnerable or otherwise.
“By encouraging government bodies to have basic needs met like housing, food security, basic income, and belonging we can and will see an improvement.
“Implementation of a safe supply of substances, a detox/withdrawal, a hospital that communicates, an act team who is flexible and will meet people in the community, paid peer services, safer consumption facility that is peer-run, and constructive things to do in the community for everyone is the next step after basic needs are taken care of.
“We need all levels of government to see that this is important and urgent.”
Dennis Kalichuk has praise for Chief Herridge.
“Thanks to Chief Herridge for his insights into this complex issue, and for continuing to stress and understand that we need changes and improvements to our current models of care in the crises of mental health and addictions.”
“The mental health issues and homelessness are not a core police function.”
Terri Hikele offers this insight.
“Heartbreaking and frustrating for police to deal with the person within their powers and for the resident to deal with police within their current capabilities!
“Sometimes when dealing with mental health/addiction/homelessness, they are not able to solve the problem, just react after problems occur.”
John Beecroft stresses hospitals need to be opened up for these individuals.
“Self-medication with street drugs does not help. The hospitals provide a safe, warm and tailored program for these people.
“I’d still like them to all be part of our community in a safe manner. These people certainly don’t belong in jails as it would only compound their issues.
“Dumping them back out on the streets just keeps the cycle going.”
To which Sue Margetts responds in the following fashion.
“Beds are limited, it isn’t as easy as you think.
“Grace Cafe will be opening up space beside the cafe that will help with resources and be directing people to rehab.
“Most importantly they have to want to get well, treat them with dignity, give them something to feel good about.”
Scott Birkby says the problems extend beyond our borders.
“Great article, it’s an issue we face worldwide and it needs more attention for positive change to occur.”
And Paul Noble says he is not going to elaborate on his thoughts other than to offer the following.
“The mental health issues and homelessness are not a core police function. I have other ideas but will keep these to myself.”
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.