With 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.
Monday night (June 21), city council is expected to declare Mark Tinlin’s seat officially vacant after his death on June 13 at the age of 79. It is the second time in just over a year that members of council have gone through this emotional process.
In March of last year, council was faced with the death of second-term councillor Linda Stevenson. Former councillor Steve Wookey was appointed to fill the vacant seat.
The process has not always been that seamless as we’ll delve into shortly.
Born and raised in St. Thomas, Tinlin was characterized as a “great role model for the rest of us,” by Mayor Joe Preston.
He graduated from the Ontario Police College north of Aylmer in 1963 and served with the London Police Service from 1962 through 1966.
He spent five years with the RCMP and over 20 years guiding security at universities.
His municipal career included stints as a councillor and deputy mayor of the Township of South Frontenac.
He was first elected to city council in 2014 as an alderman.
Preston had high praise for Tinlin.
MPP Jeff Yurek’s office has been the target of a couple of healthcare-related protests over the past few weeks, with the latest being yesterday (Friday).
About 30 nurses gathered over the noon hour to protest against Bill 124 and the lack of pay equity in the bill supported by Yurek. It caps public sector wage increases to no greater than one per cent for three years.
Nurses ask health care is included in the public sector but why are physicians exempt.
The nurses stress this is not about pandemic pay and we caught up with Rebecca Jesney, an RN in the emergency department at London’s Victoria Hospital, to learn more.
“Nurses are realizing the Doug Ford government as well as Jeff Yurek, are affecting nurses specifically and targetting us at a time when we’re supposed to be recognized as heroes.
“Nurses have had enough.”
Pleasant surprises have been in short supply the past two months in a world locked in the grip of a coronavirus that introduced us to social distancing, self-isolation, face masks, makeshift home offices and the vulnerability of those housed in long-term care facilities who often died alone with loved ones unable to say goodbye.
So, Friday’s announcement by the Ford government that, beginning Monday, the door to recovery is going to open just a crack is welcoming news
There is a sliver of light at the end of the tunnel.
The day before, there was a prelude to the shape of things to come with the introduction of the province’s Jobs and Recovery Committee which, according to the media release, “will focus on getting businesses up and running and people back to work after the COVID-19 pandemic is over.”
Let’s pray it never reaches this stage – and to date, there is no indication St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital is about to be overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients – however, the president of OPSEU is urging the province “to look for creative ways to combat the spread of the coronavirus.”
Warren ‘Smokey’ Thomas is urging the Doug Ford government to consider opening portions of previously shuttered regional mental health centres including the facility south of St. Thomas and the Rideau Regional Centre in Smiths Falls to ease a potential capacity crisis in the healthcare system.
In a media release issued last month, Thomas noted, “They can be used for currently hospitalized alternative care patients or as dedicated COVID-19 centres to relieve pressure on our hospitals. Let’s be proactive. Now is the time for action.”
Have to admit, we haven’t experienced a week like this since, what, the 2008 financial meltdown? Wall-to-wall coronavirus coverage with the city unveiling its balanced approach to the COVID-19 pandemic and city manager Wendell Graves suggesting the management team likely would not have to declare an emergency.
A day later and the Doug Ford government did exactly that.
City hall closed, municipal facilities all shuttered. Students on furlough for at least a couple of weeks.
Ditto for many of their parents.
Have you ever seen traffic on Talbot Street downtown so sporadic?
Do you think life will return to normal on April 6?
Do you think COVID-19 gives a tinker’s damn about a calendar date?
Once every month or so, you’ll find Elizabeth Reavely standing beside the entrance to the laneway leading to the CASO station off Talbot Street.
Sign in hand, she is quietly protesting on behalf of her daughter Claire in the hope of alerting downtown traffic to the plight of autistic children across the province.
The small group of parents usually catch the attention of Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek, whose office is at the end of that laneway.
“Jeff comes out and talks to us usually every time and he did hold a round table,” advises Reavely. “But for the most part, his hands are tied.
“He has to toe the party line and it’s too bad. We need the MPs and MPPs to take a step back from their parties and say ‘my constituents need this.'”
Is it a case of listening to the people or backpedalling in the face of stiff opposition?
The agenda package for Monday’s (June 3) city council meeting includes a letter from Premier Doug Ford with regard to cost-sharing with municipalities for land ambulance, public health and childcare services.
The proposed cuts to joint funding were to come into effect this year even though municipalities have already set their 2019 budgets and tax rates.
The funding changes are a move by the Ford government to address the province’s $15 billion annual deficit and $347 billion long-term debt.
While talks continue, no settlement has been reached between OPSEU Local 152, representing 22 health care professionals and Closing the Gap in St. Thomas. Their contract expired on March 31 of last year.
And, those employees could be off the job in a week’s time.
Closing the Gap is a healthcare provider offering services in homes, schools, workplaces, long-term care homes, hospitals, and clinics across Ontario.
On May 2, a final offer from the employer was presented to OPSEU members who unanimously turned down the deal.
The outstanding issue remains wages, with Closing the Gap earning, on average, $165 per client visit while paying their employees $46 to $48 per visit, some of those lasting almost two hours. Continue reading