No Country for Only White Men: The Dewdney Murals

Controversial Dewdney mural. It talks about Joseph Brant
selling Six Nations land to settlers.

My friend and retired counsellor, Jean Haalboom phoned me up to tell me that the Dewdney murals had been removed from the Region of Waterloo cafeteria. I was stunned. Then not surprised. The Dewdneys were originally commissioned by a local bank then eventually made their way to the region. There are also some Dewdneys depicting 1950s life that I assume are in storage at the Ken Seiling Museum.

Who gets to tell the story Article from the KW Record

The article from the Record concentrates on the role of indigenous people in the first Dewdney painting but there is another glaring absence from the later murals. Women. Despite the fact that many women worked in industry at the time, including my mother, the last mural depicting the forward movement of prosperity does not contain a single women. The mural depicting the 1900s only has a woman as a passenger in a car. There are no depictions of the huge arrival of immigrants from around the world during the 1950s, only the arrival of the Mennonites earlier. Some women with a baby were in that mural, behind the men.

I was part of the art committee that commissioned the more up to date mural with modern scenes of women and racialized citizens working and playing in modern situations. I understand that mural has not been removed, though at the time it was controversial because it showed the variety in our society and “didn’t fit” with the Dewdneys. This mural was to try to correct some of the problems with the Dewdneys, rather than removing the popular works. Yes, they were popular.

When the Region of Waterloo was developing the Ken Seiling, Region of Waterloo Museum, a black woman came as a delegation to council. She was a local teacher and asked that the history of blacks in Waterloo County be included in the museum. A number of councillors scoffed, saying there were no black settlers in Region of Waterloo history, and if there were, they were transient. She held her ground, pointing out there was a settlement in the Queen’s Bush.

Queen’s Bush

As we know now, black history in Waterloo Region is Queen’s Bush and a lot more.

Black History

Eventually, black history was included in the new museum along with a few panels about First Nations.

Good for the Region of Waterloo Museum for mounting the Dewdney exhibit. I hope they will also include an exploration of the exclusion of women and racialized people from the murals.

Despite my surprise at their removal, I agree that the Dewdneys have had their day and do not belong on the walls of the Region of Waterloo cafeteria. It is important though that they not be hidden away or destroyed. They are a part of our history and I commend the museum for mounting an exhibit. Perhaps the National Gallery of Canada could take note.

Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council: Death By Politics.

“Once your belief in the power of punishment to solve social problems is shaken, your whole politics will start shifting.” @l_melo_h on twitter.

For a number of years, the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council has seen the writing on the wall. This past year, they asked to no longer be an arms length organization of the Region of Waterloo.

A number of years ago, Police Chief Matt Torigian held a meeting to talk about this wonderful idea he had discovered out west. It was essentially another Crime Prevention Council. I remember standing up at the meeting and asking about this similarity. Over the years, police travelled to places around the world looking for ideas for crime prevention. They ignored the Crime Prevention Council in their backyard.

On January 26th, Regional Council approved a framework for the Community Safety and Wellbeing plan to much back patting and congratulation of those in the community who have been consulted. https://www.regionofwaterloo.ca/en/health-and-wellness/community-safety-and-wellbeing-plan.aspx

On March 31, 2022, the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council will be no more, the staff dismissed. Five years of funds will be given to Community Justice Initiatives as part of their new Justice hub initiative which will include the Crime Prevention Council, although there is no way of knowing what that new council will look like or if the funds will continue at the end of the five years.

According to minutes of the prevention council’s May 8, 2020 meeting Redman told the council the status quo was not an option because of budget constraints and overlapping mandates with Wellbeing Waterloo Region.

Three options were presented by Redman at the time: shut down, reimagine the council’s work and potentially partner with Wellbeing Waterloo Region or leave the regional umbrella and receive two years of regional funding.

The crime prevention council reports directly to the regional chair.

Quote from The Record: https://www.therecord.com/news/waterloo-region/2022/01/24/crime-prevention-council-merges-into-justice-hub.html

The Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council was ignored when they pointed out that for 28 years, this community collaborative has been doing the very same work as the Community Safety and Well Being Framework (The WRCPC was once called the Waterloo Region Community Safety and Crime Prevention Council). The Crime Prevention Council was turned down when they applied to do the behind the scenes running of the Wellbeing organization. 18 months ago, the Region of Waterloo terminated the Executive Director and took over WRCPC. The community board no longer had any power.

In 2001, my first year on Regional Council, I ended up as a regional rep on the Waterloo Regional Crime Prevention Council. In this conservative community, I was surprised an arms-length community organization that promoted crime prevention though social development was funded by the Region of Waterloo.

The Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council (WRCPC) was an initiative core funded by the Region of Waterloo since 1994.  Started by the late MP Andrew Telegdi, former Councillor Mark Yantzi, former Regional Chair Ken Seiling and Chief Larry Graville, among others, its work was rooted in a long history of restorative justice and community stewardship in Waterloo Region. Here is a list of accomplishments.

  • First council of its kind in Canada that got to define what crime prevention through social development means, i.e. make the connection to other social issues such as poverty, homelessness, problematic substance use. The creation of root causes. Many other councils followed their model of government community partnership.
  • Instrumental in starting the National Municipal Network on Crime Prevention www.safercities.ca that put Waterloo Region on the map (visitors from Japan, China, Norway, Mexico, many municipalities from across the country, the UN, and many more visited to get advice from the council and to visit many projects)
  • Pulled significant funds into the Region for projects such as InReach (street gang prevention). A lot of corporations supported campaigns such as Say Hi, Look Deeper, Reach out.
  • Working hard to get Naloxone into the hands of those who needed it.
  • Authoring the first statistical report on the actual numbers of overdose deaths in Waterloo Region.
  • Supporting neighbourhoods through engagement staff and such projects as Safe and Sound .
  • Strong advocating in many areas of justice such as mandatory minimum sentences, safe schools legislation, and the opioid crisis.
  • Supporting many community organizations throughout the years. Many of them were at the start up stage. For example: WAVYE (Waterloo region youth against violence everywhere),  KW Coalition of Muslim women, African Caribbean network, Alliance for Children and Youth (now the Child and Youth Planning Table which remains at the Region).
  • Hosting the Justice dinners that gave voice to many diverse issues
  • Developing the Friend program and Porch Chats that mobilized the grass roots
  • Starting the Upstream campaign, the course on Critical Reflections and the notion of “smart on crime” All of these are now mainstream
  • Assessing annually public perceptions about crime and fear of crime which the municipalities used for planning
  • Developing curriculum at Conestoga college for a degree in Community and Criminal Justice that is unique in the country   
  •                                                                                                                                                      
  • Evaluating and researching the impact of COVID on domestic and intimate partner violence
  • Speaking about sex trafficking prevention
  • Researching and reporting for the community on issues of significance such as the gap analysis when it comes to violent offenders, the reintegration challenges for women from GVI
  • Creating policy papers always based on community input such as the Integrated Drugs Strategy, the Breaking the Silence Against Violence Against the LGBTQ Community and Islamophobia,

But along with all these successes came controversy. This is particularly true concerning the opioid crisis. Promotion of Naloxone, a drug that when administered on the spot can stop death from an overdose, was met with foot dragging at other levels of government.

Complaints came to the Region from the province and the feds that the Council was too radical in their stance. Persistence paid off and now the drug and training on administering Naloxone is readily available. Lives have been saved.

I believe police and social services did not understand why an organization funded by the Chair’s office wasn’t under their control and was instead led by a community board. (Something that needs to be addressed as the Community Safety and Wellbeing Framework moves ahead with a lot of members from Region of Waterloo staff on its committees.)

Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council formed a community of practice; a place where people came for close to 30 years to make difficult discussions. A place where there was honest dialogue about what was happening in Waterloo Region. An organization that fostered change and got things done.

Praise for the Community Safety and Well Being Framework is lovely, but the proof will be if they actually follow up on the changes recommended for our community. The status quo is hard to move. Good luck to them.

Cancer in the Time of COVID

Yesterday I finally got the courage to delete the pictures on my phone of my husband when he was dying. One where he lay, skin and bones, with his mouth open as if he was dead. Several of the foot that went black. Why on earth would I have such pictures on my phone? Because, COVID.

I first noticed that my husband, John ate very little, didn’t walk the dog very far, and slept a lot in August of 2020. I pointed this out to him and he said it was because at 76, he was getting old. In the family tradition, he said to me, “I’m fine.” To understand how alarming this statement was to me, my mother-in-law on her death bed kept saying, “I’m fine, love. I’m fine.”

I phoned the doctor and due to COVID, she wanted to have a phone visit. Despite having stage two diabetes, we had not physically visited our family doctor since around February 2020, just before the pandemic hit. We would tell her our weight and do our own blood pressure. For many months, we could not even go to the lab for our regular blood tests. I insisted she see him in person.

I took John to the doctor but I was not allowed in with him. The waiting room was closed. So I sat in a chair by the elevator in the eerily quiet Boardwalk medical building. John said the doctor didn’t seem too worried. As the child of parents who died of cancer and the retired director of HopeSpring Cancer Centre, I knew something was wrong. I phoned the doctor and insisted John should have a CT scan. She said fine but because of COVID, he would not be able to get an appointment until January 2021. This was early September 2020.

That evening I visited a friend and by chance, she had another friend visiting her who has gone through many fights with cancer. I burst into tears and told them my fears. The cancer survivor agreed and said I must insist on a CT scan as soon as possible, even if it was in London or Toronto. My friend’s husband suggested the States, but we realized the border was closed, due to COVID.

I knew John would be dead if we waited until January for a CT scan. This was not an idle fear. My neighbour’s daughter-in-law waited until January 2021 for a scan after many visits to her doctor saying “It’s not my diet, something is seriously wrong”. She has stage 4 colon cancer. This mother of two adorable kids and a lovely husband is now struggling with many chemos and surgery for something that should have been caught much earlier.

We managed a CT scan in Cambridge. I was able to go with John to the scan. In a surreal waiting room, a man told us that any vaccine would be dangerous because the government is putting nano technology in it to follow our every move. I asked him if he had a cell phone. He did. I pointed out the government could already follow him if they chose (probably not) through his phone. That went nowhere.

In October, the results of the scan came back. John went for his first visit to the cancer centre. I sat in our car in the Grand River Hospital parking lot and listened over the phone as the oncologist told him he had stage four esophageal cancer and 6 months to a year to live. I heard him crying. I held my phone and cried too.

Over the next few months, he visited the cancer centre for more CT scans, chemo and radiation. I would drop him at the door and he would go in. As he became weaker in early 2021, he would head in with a walker and finally, in a wheel chair. At the end, when he could no longer dress himself, normally I would have gone in as his primary caregiver and helped him. Instead, very kind nurses, volunteers, and PSWs helped him. He was a chatty man and by the end, they would call him by name. At the end of his chemo and radiation, when there was nothing more to be done, the cancer staff called me into the waiting room and he rang the gong (usually reserved for people who are cured or in remission). By that time he was very thin and obviously dying.

In March 2021, my daughter, a PSW who works at a local nursing home, came to help me look after her Dad. At the same time, she separated from her husband and she and my two grandchildren came to live with me. With also a year and a half of nursing school, she was a life saver.

Eventually, we had a masked nurse come once a week to see John at home. We also wore masks but at the end they said John didn’t have to. With all the people coming into the house, we managed to get him double vaxxed. The thought that he could get COVID in his state was horrifying. A PSW eventually came once a week to bath John, to give Bronwyn a break. We had no problem getting a hospital bed and other equipment. He declined quickly.

We were told that he could go to hospice and that we could visit. My daughter had been through months of lockdown with her nursing home residents where relatives could not visit. We did not trust that the hospice would not suddenly go the same way and he would die alone.

Bronwyn and I took care of him at home. It was hard but with my daughter, he had no bed sores or rashes, and someone was always there to see to him. My older daughter would come one or twice a week for a cheerful visit with him. At the end, all of us, including my grandchildren were present when he passed away.

Now my grandson, with mild autism, will hold up his mug and we will say, “Cheers to Pa!” Then he will say, “We saw Pa’s body go by.” (Wrapped in tartan blanket and out of the house to the hearse). I will say, “It was very sad.” Then the two children will talk about happier times with Pa.

The pictures on my phone? His palliative care doctor once said to me over the phone, “What do you think of Doctor So-and-So, his radiologist. Doesn’t he have a nice beard”.

I said, “I have never met him.” I didn’t say, “I have never seen you either.”

All the consultations went through the palliative care nurse who reported on John’s condition. The doctor did talk to me over the phone. I had to send the doctor photos of what John looked like and what was happening with his foot. Because, COVID.

The Ring on My Finger

Ring
My ring

After 46 years, almost 47, my wedding ring is no longer on my left ring finger. On Saturday, my husband John died peacefully at home with his family around him. Cancer is a bitch. Not only have I lost a companion and best friend, I am also now a widow.

My mother kept her wedding and engagement rings from the marriage to my father on her left finger until she died. She was widowed twice, once in world war two and once a month before my own wedding. The first set of rings she gave to Bob’s mother as they had only been married a few months. The second set she wore for 27 years after my Dad died of cancer. Cancer is a bitch.

I have decided to move my rings to my right hand ring finger. A google search told me that widows create pendants from their rings, wear them around their neck, move them to another finger, or keep wearing them on their left hand. Occasionally rings are put in the coffin of the spouse. I do not believe in putting jewelry in the ground. My daughter wore my mother-in-law’s ring during her marriage. Her marriage is ending in the usual way these days, by separation.

I did not realize how many times my thumb touched my wedding ring these last few months. Now it goes to touch a ghost and there is the indent of 46 years. I never took my plain wedding ring off, not even in the shower.

The ring on my right hand seems odd, a little tight and heavy. It seems sad. I wonder if I should take it off and have naked fingers like I did in the 1970s when I met my husband.

I will keep it on my right ring finger. Over the years of working, I collected a lot of lovely rings. My engagement and wedding rings will continue to join them.


Due to COVID, John’s obituary and funeral will be a little delayed. There will only be 7 family members at it. I will post his obituary and the livestream of his funereal when the arrangements are final. A reception will be held when the pandemic is over. Thank you for all your condolences.

Hidden First Nation

When my daughter was getting married, her husband’s father flew in from B.C. We had dinner with him and Mark’s step-mother at King’s Buffet. After the dinner, when they had returned to their hotel, I asked Mark and his brother, “Is your father native?” They both looked ashamed. It turned out that their father is one quarter First Nation. Both blond haired and blue eyed like the German side, Mark and Alan had been taught not to talk about that side of the family.

Eventually my grandchildren were born, both blond haired and blue eyed like the English and German parts of the family. My husband is interested in genealogy so my daughter followed up with Mark’s father about his ancestors who were English and First Nation. His wife sent us the papers that showed the children were one sixteenth Chippewa of the Thames, Ontario.

The children’s great-great grandmother married a white man. From 1876 to 1985, a First Nations woman who married a white man lost her status and so did her children, but a First Nations man who married a white woman kept his status as did his children. First Nations status continues to follow the patriarchal line that only men can transmit status. This led to a large group of non-status First Nations, Metis and Inuit. There are also First Nations and Metis that are not recognized as official bands or part of an official band.

https://www.ictinc.ca/indian-act-and-womens-status-discrimination-via-bill-c-31-bill-c-3

We have been told that we shouldn’t say that my grandchildren have First Nation heritage as they are white and they are only one sixteenth. My husband can trace our family back to the gentry that inspired the book Tess of the D’Urbervilles around the same time but we can’t speak about the children’s First Nation heritage.

We carried on, my younger daughter taking a few courses on First Nation history out of interest but being careful not to publicly talk about this part of their heritage. I did slip once before we knew about this and mentioned the sadness I felt at my son-in-law’s shame in a speech.

Recently my daughter’s marriage ended. Through the children’s organization involved with the break up, a woman phoned her. The woman was First Nation. She had discovered that Bronwyn had put down First Nations as well as English, German and Swiss for the grandchildren on an intake form. She informed Bronwyn that hiding this heritage is part of the First Nations genocide. Robert and Mary, but especially their father, are part of the reconciliation process.

I bring this up because my older daughter sent me an article by Michelle Latimer, the producer who left the CBC program Trickster for not being First Nation. CBC shut down production of the second season of this excellent show. Shame on the CBC.

In the following article, Michelle describes how she lost everything when people thought she was pretending to be Metis or First Nation. With much research and the help of genealogists and relatives, she has proven she is First Nation from a small village flooded for a lake. Her family is non-status.

<a href=”https://medium.com/@Michelle.Latimer/in-my-own-words-by-michelle-latimer-f940ff4fce3f”>https://medium.com/@Michelle.Latimer/in-my-own-words-by-michelle-latimer-f940ff4fce3f</a>

My husband and I watch the program, “Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates Jr.” on PBS. Many times only verbal knowledge is passed down in a family, or no knowledge at all. I know a woman who was part of the 60s scoop who had to work to regain her status. Another woman is Metis and has detailed her family history on her twitter feed. Her family are not regulation Metis.

I believe that this absorption into the colonial culture through marriage and children is another way of destroying a people. It is not lost on me that both shame and discounting of heritage are working to make this part of my son-in-law and my grandchildren’s heritage disappear.

We got the long form census. I filled it out. On the question that asked “What is your cultural background”, I wrote about my grandchildren, “English, Welsh, German, Swiss, First Nation.” I then had to answer if this was status or non-status, (non-status) or Metis (yes), official Metis (no). First Nations is now part of my family tree. We won’t be looking for status cards, or special grants, or pretending to be First Nations or really anything. We want the acknowledgement that First Nations is part of my grandchildren’s heritage and must not be lost.

Get Moving on Pharmacare!

As you know, my husband has cancer. He is presently doing well on oral chemotherapy. Whenever we look south to the United States, we are proud of our public health system. Wait a minute! Should we be proud of Ontario’s health care system?

My husband does not pay a cent for his cancer health care and his chemo. Our neighbour around the corner has a son with cancer. That son pays $5,000 a month for his cancer related medications. A woman I used to work with has macular degeneration. The good news, she has the kind that has a cure that will save her eyesight. The bad news, she has to pay $1700 a month for a shot in each eye. Why? They are both under the age of 65. There is no Pharmacare for people between the ages of 24 and 65 in Ontario. Those under 24 can only have Pharmacare if their family does not have private health insurance.

With unemployment increasing due to COVID, more and more people do not have Pharmacare benefits through their work. One of my best friends must now pay out of pocket for her insulin. Unlike countries in Europe, which include prescription drugs as part of their public health care, Canada does not. This leads to B.C. having Pharmacare for all and Ontario not having Pharmacare for all.

We have a minority federal government. In the past, the parties of minority governments have worked together to bring benefits to Canadians. The Liberals and the NDP both promised Pharmacare in the last election. Certainly COVID has taken everyone’s attention but with the many side effects of the virus, surely it is time for Pharmacare across Canada.

I am thrilled that my husband and I are not losing all our retirement savings and maybe our house due to the cost of his oral chemo. What about everyone else? We know the Conservatives would never endorse a Pharmacare program but what’s holding up the Liberals bringing forward a plan and the NDP, Bloc and Greens endorsing it?

Here is a template for the political will for Pharmacare.

  • Lester B. Pearson was the Liberal Prime Minister of Canada from 1963 to 1968. His government saw Medicare introduced on a national basis, after his party wrote and introduced the legislation for hospital and out-of-hospital treatment, and received the support of Douglas’ NDP.

Unmaintained Pedestrian Walkways Need City Clearing.

Yesterday my husband decided to take the dog for a walk while I was at Sobey’s. Our dog Amber loves the city plowed trail behind our house. To get to it, my husband and the dog decided to go down the walk through. My husband fell on the ice of the unmaintained route. He scraped the side of his head and strained his arm. He was lucky he didn’t break a bone.

Discussions on social media from active transportation activists have talked about having the Cities of Waterloo Region plow all the sidewalks, as is done in Elmira. Waterloo decided to up bylaw enforcement instead. As you can see from the above pictures, the residents in my neighbourhood are very good at keeping our sidewalks clear. The only place on the sidewalk that is solid ice is in front of the pedestrian walkway. A sign says “No Winter Maintenance”. This seems to include the patch of public sidewalk in front of the walkthrough. I talked my neighbour who lives beside this patch of ice. He says that part of the sidewalk doesn’t belong to him. It doesn’t belong to the neighbour on the other side either. It belongs to the CITY OF WATERLOO.

The unmaintained walkthrough is used by children going to school, dog walkers, cyclists, and pedestrians generally, many with strollers. If the City of Waterloo is really for increasing active transportation, if the City of Waterloo is really for clean sidewalks in the winter, as they say they are, they should maintain pedestrian walk ways. I know at one time men from the House of Friendship cleaned the sidewalks in downtown Kitchener. It’s an idea that could work.

Fortunately, my husband will heal and probably won’t need physiotherapy, but I am sure that if we talked to the lawyer who got my older daughter $10,000 dollars after a car ran into her when she was cycling, the City of Waterloo would be liable, despite the “No Winter Maintenance” sign.

How does the city get away with leaving a solid patch of ice on the sidewalk when the rest of us have to clean our walks? How does the city get away having a heavily used pedestrian walkway left as a sheet of ice? This policy must be changed.

2020 Sucked, the People Didn’t

I am sitting here in tears. Tears of gratitude to my neighbours. As you may have guessed from previous posts, my husband is on the cancer journey. Two of our neighbours just came to our sidewalk with their dog dressed up in red lighted ropes and a long silver sweater. They had Happy New Year on a piece of cardboard along with other words of greeting for my husband. They had a socially distanced talk with John and Amber. Thank you so much.

My husband is a big walker of our dog, Amber. I never realized how much he is loved in our neighbourhood. We have had cards and little gifts and everyone always asking me how John is doing. (He is doing well on oral chemo). When it snowed, a neighbour snowblowed our walk. The last snow, a neighbour shovelled our walk and humbly said, “I was just walking by with my shovel and noticed you hadn’t done your walk yet.”

My friends have given me books to read and people have asked me how I am doing as caregiver. (Fine)

I would also like to thank the wonderful people at the Grand River Cancer Centre. Most of our visits with the doctors, symptom management staff, and dietitians have been by phone, which is actually not a bad thing for a tired cancer patient and they are so supportive. Plug here for hopespring.ca who have counselling, support groups, and even wig delivery.

Also, thanks to my two daughters and son-in-law who have also helped with the snow and my eldest daughter drops of Lady Glaze donuts for her Dad.

My 2020 started off with the funeral of one of my best friends, Laurie Strome, an extraordinary community organizer. Then came COVID and I retired from HopeSpring in April. Which was good, as John seemed off and I fought for a CATscan for him.

My grandchildren are taught from home as they have seizures, as does their mother. Their epilepsy is under control but helping teach kids with mild autism at home is not a treat. Thanks to my daughter and the kids’ teachers.

My daughter is also a PSW at a nursing home. If you think your year was bad, be an isolated patient in a nursing home. My daughter’s home is a good one, very safe, but it has been hard for her clients to be alone, she says. My daughter takes her violin and plays the piano for her clients as they had no events at all over Christmas. My daughter got her first COVID shot on Dec. 29. A great ending to 2020.

Happy New Year 2021. Despite it all “Life is Good”

Take Paradise and Put Up a Parking Lot: Ford Government Taking Away the Science of Conservation Authorities.

The rural neighbours complained about the property. Fill from a road project was filling up parts of the owner’s property. It caused water problems for the neighbour’s land. A bulldozer was destroying a wetland that drained into a tributary of Cedar Creek and then onto the Grand River. https://www.exchangemagazine.com/morningpost/2011/week40/Monday/100304.htm

In one of the few cases prosecuted by the GRCA, the owner was fined $10,000 and made to clean up the fill. This was a long and drawn out case. The owner hired a lawyer associated with a group who feel they can do what ever they want on the land they own. This is a similar philosophy to the anti-maskers.

A few years ago, a GRCA staffer did a study for an advanced degree. She looked at flood damage in a similar river system in the United States that did not have the Ontario rules and regulations that restrict building on flood plains and inside flood lines. The GRCA looks after flooding along the Grand and its tributaries. People complain about the restrictions, saying in this time of climate change, “It has never flooded here.” The study found that the system that allowed building suffered millions of dollars of damage, GRCA lands had very few problems. Some floods on the Grand do cause damage, but this is mostly to properties that were already in flood prone areas before Hurricane Hazel in the 1950s. The flooding caused by Hurricane Hazel is the bar for flood control in Ontario.

Conservative governments in Ontario don’t seem to like conservation authorities, which is odd since the original GRCA was founded by business owners disgusted with the state of the river. In the mid 1990s, conservation authorities were mostly funded by the province. The conservative Harris government took that money away and many GRCA staffers were laid off. The GRCA turned to the municipalities with a levy that funds the dams and flood control. Permit fees cover the work of dealing with building and property concerns. The GRCA works with property owners, developers and municipalities, using science, to keep our watershed and ground water safe and available and to prevent flood and drought damage.

While the present conservative Ford government has made a few good last minute changes to schedule 6 of bill 229, thank you, there are still some pressing problems with it. The association of large municipalities and many others have asked that schedule 6 be removed from a bill dealing with COVID relief. David Crombie, a Conservative and former federal cabinet minister, resigned as the Chair of the Greenbelt Council in protest over any changes to the present Conservation Authorities Act. He says schedule 6 will cut environmental protections in the province.

Schedule 6 will strip powers from local conservation authorities and expand ministerial authority on zoning and other potentially sensitive environmental issues. A conservation authority must now allow a development if the province issues a minister’s zoning order. The minister’s zoning order will bypass public input and force a zoning change. The conservation authority must allow the development but can include conditions. These conditions can be appealed by the permission holder. The conservation authority and the permission holder must enter into an agreement for requirements that the holder must complete to compensate for ecological impacts. This would mean that the owner dumping fill from a provincial road project on his property would just pay money to continue if the minister felt what he was doing was fine, despite the objections of the GRCA.

Apparently this change is due to the objections of the Toronto Conservation Authority to a development project that would destroy an important wetland. In a pro-development government with a minister who has been openly hostile to conservation authorities, this is a disaster.

The good news if this change goes forward, is that in a democracy, governments and government ministers inevitably change. It always amazes me how the government of the day seems to think they will always be in power. Imagine a future where the minister’s zoning order is controlled by a member of the Green Party.

However, this is a power that is not necessary. Conservation Authorities and municipalities are at the forefront of scientific environmental protection. Schedule 6 should be abandoned.

For more information on the Grand River Conservation Authority, the Region of Waterloo and environmental protection, read my paper presented to the International Making Cities Liveable Conference here: https://wordpress.com/post/janemitchell.blog/1943

A good summary of this situation is outlined in an article by Leah Gerber in The Record on Fri. Dec 4. https://www.therecord.com/news/waterloo-region/2020/12/04/province-reveals-last-minute-changes-to-the-conservation-authorities-act.html

Sadly, Schedule 6 has been passed and our wetlands and sensitive environmental areas are at risk.

The Middle of a Pandemic is not the Time to Cut Daycare Spaces.

The Region of Waterloo runs 5 wonderful, high quality daycares. The daycare in Elmira has just been expanded. They are located through out the Region. Now once again, a review by outside bean counters has suggested the daycares be closed as they are not “efficient”.

This means that these daycares cost more because their staff are unionized and paid what Early Childhood Educators should be paid. Unlike the workers in even the best non-profit daycares that must rely on parent fees. Council feels that the 6.8 million invested in these day cares would be better spread, a small amount for each, over all the other daycares in the Region.

The closing of the Regional daycares was rejected in 2015 for several reasons. Some of those reasons still stand and now there are more reasons to reject this proposal. 

The parents whose children attend the Regional daycares need good quality care, like all parents. Some of the children have disabilities. With the extreme shortage of daycare spaces, any parent who gets a good spot “wins the lottery”. Do not use that statement against them, suggesting they are privileged. How are they privileged?  Are there parents jumping the One List daycare queue to get a regional spot? If so, the public needs to know how and why. Elmira Children’s Centre is the only daycare in Elmira.  I know there are quality non-profit spaces, just that there are not enough. 

Right now daycares are running at 70 percent due to COVID. 2000 empty spaces and 50 at the regional daycares. Here is the problem with those figures. They are temporary vacancies caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Schools also have physical vacancies. Children at home are not attending before and after care. This is caused by families not sending their children to daycare and school because of the risk of COVID.  

All of these children and all of the waiting lists will return when parents return to work. Even working at home, you cannot work properly at a job and look after a child or children at the same time. The Regional spaces will be gone. 

What happens to the physical buildings and equipment? In the last go round of this idea, it was found that existing daycare providers were not interested in taking over the Regional daycares. At that time, the union with its higher wages and benefits had to be part of the sale. I expect their desire would be even less when they are dealing with the effects of COVID. What a shame to see the equipment sold off and the buildings mothballed. Staff let go into a fragile economy. 

KPMG has stated that the Regional day cares are not efficient. Why? The daycares are unionized and the staff get paid what ECEs should be paid.  

Kudos to the person who thought up the sneaky statistic that 10 percent of the childcare money goes to the 1.9 percent of the children who go to the Regional Day Cares. Region owned Sunnyside Home gets a greater percentage of Regional money than the other Homes for the Aged and Waterloo Region Social Housing gets a greater percentage of Regional funds than the other non-profit housing. Similar statistics can be made for both those important social services. With this reasoning, obviously they are next on the chopping block. 

My children and grandchildren attended the quality non-profit daycare I founded and was the first president. It is not easy for a group of working parents to build and run a daycare. My mother mortgaged her house and the executive director of the daycare bought the property at much lower prices than today, although her husband was a student at the time. Many sacrifices. Why should those lost spaces be recreated by the working parents who are now going through serious financial loses and stress due to COVID? 

Two new schools will also have daycares added in the near future. Our Region will still be growing with new families after the pandemic. Those schools and daycares are for student growth. The spaces of the Regional Daycares will be gone. 

Who thought up the idea that it was unfair for the Region to run its own daycare programs, programs that existed before the Region became the childcare service manager. Parents and children should lose their spots because somehow it is unfair for them to have a daycare spot. Am I to assume that the wonderful daycare spots will also disappear simply due to a philosophical, cannot even bring myself to say moral, reason? 

Selling the Regional Daycares is a Band-Aid solution to a continuing problem: Despite many promises, a lack of Federal and Provincial movement to create a daycare system that mirrors our public education system. 

Thousands of people in Waterloo Region marched for Black Lives Matter and moving money to social services. Saying you will help BIPOC children by what? A course on how to treat racialized preschoolers instead of a good daycare space for them? That just doesn’t cut it. An 8 percent increase in policing and the closing and letting go of 200 daycare spaces and well paid day care workers doesn’t look good on Regional Council.

Council needs to find a temporary solution for the COVID childcare problem, not a permanent one.

You might also like to read the words of Mary Parker, the Head of Child Care in 2015, the last time the Regional Day Cares were on the chopping block. https://janemitchell.blog/2015/10/29/why-it-made-sense-to-keep-the-regional-daycares/

Unfortunately, Waterloo Regional councillors decided to close the daycares. A sad day for the Region of Waterloo.