Those who wish to learn will find a way

Reading the Globe and Mail online last week, one paragraph jumped out at me, practically smacking me in the face and starting a chain reaction.

“In high schools, readjustment to the curriculum is worrying experts who fear students aren’t getting a proper learning experience. Others are calling it a huge problem that is causing significant learning losses.”

These two profound sentences stopped me dead in my tracks. At 88, a cancer survivor, retired teacher, wife to the same man for 67 years, mother of three, grandmother of two, great grandmother of two, I feel I have a little bit of experience to share. This I know. So do you. Not all learning takes place in a classroom setting. My thoughts go back to an attic and Anne Frank.

No curriculum is without flaws. If someone truly wishes to teach or to learn they will find a way. All of our children, wherever they are learning, rest assured if they want to learn they will. Perhaps they are not learning according to a curriculum designed for a so-called normal year and normal circumstances, but they are learning. They are absorbing life’s difficult lessons, which will be of great value as they navigate through unexpected dark waters.

I have forgotten much of what I learned in school but I have never forgotten who my teachers were, beginning with my parents. Learning is like the dawn. It happens every day!

In closing I submit a quote from a fearless young woman, Anne Frank (1929-1945), whose learning took place in a secret room during a war. Regarding children and learning:

“Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right path, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.”

Shirley M. Lazareth
Fonthill

Open letter to Mayor Junkin

I object in the strongest terms to the proposed developments either side of the Steve Bauer Nature Trail, and either side of Summersides Boulevard. I have watched the explosive and intensive housing development without accompanying parks, the concomitant loss of remaining natural, bio-diverse wetlands and green space within our town boundaries. I alternately want to scream or weep.

It seems that our Town Council and planners have no vision for a sustainable and liveable community. The planning department and council cannot see that in the short term, any money earned for Town coffers ravaged by the white elephant money pit, a.k.a. the Meridian Community Centre, will in the long term ruin our quality of life. This policy will destroy any remaining biodiversity by digging up and paving over trees and wetlands. The costs of such rampant building aren’t fully offset by the fees paid by developers and the wear and tear on roads and demands on infrastructure and resources are immense.

The storm-water basins do not constitute real, ecologically viable ponds, and the widespread use of pesticides in the new neighbourhoods will kill off any remaining amphibians.

In the proposed plans the Bauer Trail would become just a walking path bordered by a few trees, no longer a “nature trail.” It was sweet this past spring watching children hunting for tadpoles in a pond by Summersides Boulevard and along the Bauer Trail, but if the proposed developments go through there won’t be any more frogs, wildflowers or natural habitat for birds and other animals.

The old arena property has been sold for housing. This recreational parkland will also be lost. Please rethink these plans for our town as we need real parks and wildlife corridors for our wellbeing.

Most of us chose to live in Pelham because it was a slower, quieter, greener and friendlier place than a big urban center. If we’re bankrupt, sell off the Meridian Centre if necessary. Don’t let bad planning or developers’ greed and ambition continue to ruin our town.

E. J. Smith
Fonthill

 

What’s going on with TD Bank

A challenging year indeed! The Federal Government has provided a panoply of programs to deal with the crisis. The best-known program, “CERB” (Canada Emergency Response Benefit), was available to many people who lost their jobs due to the virus. Although “CEWS” (Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy) is less known, the cost of the program has grown to $83.6 billion this fiscal year, making it the single largest direct spending measure of the government’s COVID-19 response so far.

What is the CEWS program? CEWS was designed to subsidize 75% of a worker’s salary if he/she were to be “furloughed” rather than “laid-off.” This means that if an employee is furloughed and the employer pays 25% of the normal wage the worker receives a full salary. When employers receive the funds from the federal government, they direct it to employees. The individual remains an employee of the company and receives a full salary but normally resides at home and is not involved in work.

Over 200 Toronto Dominion bank branches have been closed in Ontario plus many more across Canada. The TD Bank claims that the closures are to fight the COVID-19 pandemic with particular concern for rural communities. Requiring rural customers to drive several miles to a bank in an urban area is counterproductive in fighting the spread of the virus. Residents in rural communities should be encouraged to avoid urban centers and large crowds of people.

Banks are far more capable of enforcing social distancing than restaurants and other businesses that opened weeks before the TD branches reopened. Local banks rarely have to deal with large numbers of customers who are moving throughout the premises looking for a variety of different items. Banking clients are accustomed to a rigid regimen of lining up in a defined area. Furthermore, the bank employees are well-protected in rigid positions behind protective barriers.

The CIBC and Royal Bank branches in Fonthill (my location) remained open for business, but the TD Bank branch closed early and did not reopen until Monday, October 5, 2020.

Protection from Covid-19 does not explain the TD bank closures.

As widely reported at the end of March, TD Group President and CEO Bharat Masrani announced that none of the bank’s 85,000 employees would lose their jobs as a result of the virus.

What motivated the TD bank closures even though other banks in the same communities remained open and how were no jobs lost despite hundreds of bank closures?

CEWS provides a possible answer.

Has the TD Bank abused the intent of the program by “furloughing” an excessive number of employees for an excessive length of time? The very fact that other major banks, under identical conditions, have not followed suit is evidence enough that the actions of the TD Bank may amount to corporate overreach and a betrayal of public trust.

Multiple attempts to discover if the CEWS program has provided funding to support the TD Bank closings have proven fruitless. Correspondence with various elected officials, financial executives, and the Ontario Financial Ombudsman have provided no answer to the simple yes or no question: “Did the TD Bank receive funding through the CEWS program to pay its furloughed employees?”

Vance Badawey (MP for Niagara Centre) replied: “I am not saying yes. I am saying that we do not have access to this information and so we cannot know whether or not they are on CEWS.”

The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) replied: “…due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), as you are aware, banks have closed some branches without giving notice. Although providing advance notice of a branch closure to bank customers and the public is required under law, under exceptional circumstances, banks can temporarily close their branches without notice. In these cases, banks can close branches if the closure is temporary and is caused by events beyond the control of the bank.”

This action by the TD Bank is itself an infraction because the banks closed abruptly without notice, with no rationale provided and no indication as to when the banks would reopen. When the banks did eventually reopen there was no prior notice provided.

A list of the TD banks closed in Canada is available on their website, www.tdcanadatrust.com

Caveat: If anyone can provide clarification on this matter I would appreciate it. I hope that my suspicions are wrong and if they are I apologize and offer a mea culpa.

Ken Fisher
Fonthill

 

Hunting and farming not comparable

In response to your letter, Mr. McLeod [“Hunters hunt where the game is,” Letters, Nov. 11, p. 7], I have some points to make.

You equating me to someone complaining about a farmer spreading manure is truly unfounded. During my lifetime I have actually shovelled it and not minded in the least. In comparison, you’re so put off by goose and duck “calling cards” that you justify killing them.

We do not know you personally or other hunters hunting near our home; therefore, not feeling comfortable with someone, we have no idea what their capabilities are to just immediately trust their ability to do what is right. Firearms can injure and kill. I do not like gambling on the safety of pets and family, thank you. In the past we’ve had bullets bounce off our roof.

The Niagara Region is now very populated with new subdivisions spreading daily and taking habitat away from wildlife at an alarming rate. So naturally wildlife is becoming more concentrated so that is probably why duck and goose “calling cards” can be seen.

Hunted animals do not always die a humane death when taken out by a hunter. I recently learned of a fawn shot in the shoulder that panicked, then was hit by a car and thrown into a ditch to die. Another “hunter speak” —we hit vital organs so the animal dies quickly without pain. Oh, the fairness of it all.

Meanwhile, in the early morning hours of Thursday, November 12, between 6 and 6:30 AM, illegal hunting took place on our private property on Regional Road 27 opposite Green Road.

Two hunters dressed in camouflage outfits trespassed on private property and illegally hunted in the pitch dark, like poachers.

Hunters are not to hunt until half an hour after sunrise.

Message to these two illegal hunters —you were spotted as you threw the dead deer into the back of your pickup, a white RAM, and it was noted you are approximately 50 years old.

This has been reported to the Ministry of Natural Resources as well as the Niagara Regional Police. You have absolutely no business on our 12 acres of property shooting next to an extremely busy Regional Road 27.

To any other hunters thinking of doing any type of illegal hunting on our property, any day or night of the week, think again, because you will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The entire neighbourhood has been told and are watching. Do not even venture to set foot on our private property, or, above all else, harm any wildlife, especially the deer.

Faye Suthons
Welland

 

COMMENTARY / OP-ED | Dr. Mustafa Hirji

A COVID-19 message to Niagara

Cases of COVID-19 have continued to rise in Niagara, including a daily record of 63 cases in one day last week. Provincially, we are likewise seeing record numbers of daily cases. In Niagara, since the start of October, we have lost at least 13 more of our fellow residents to death from COVID-19.

In the spring, COVID-19 cases were controlled by a lockdown that forced us to stay home. By limiting our social interactions with others, we were able to reduce the spread of infections. However, that came at significant economic and social cost.

The provincial government has been attempting to take a balanced approach to reducing the spread of infections: reducing social interactions enough to slow the spread of infections, but also limiting the harm to the economy and social life. Unfortunately, given that infections continue to rise in Niagara, that balance has not yet been found.

Just as staying home limited social interactions and slowed the spread of infections in the spring, that same dynamic is needed now to slow the spread of infections. Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, recently advised all Canadians that we need to reduce our in-person social contacts in order to control COVID-19.

I am therefore urging everyone in Niagara to:

Limit in-person social interactions to people within your household. Minimize interactions with people who don’t live in your house and one or two persons who are essential to maintaining physical and mental health (e.g., caregivers, social supports to someone who lives alone). This means you should avoid in-person social interactions with friends, with co-workers when not at work, and with extended family. When dining at restaurants, going to the movies, or partaking in other social activities, you should limit it to your household members.

Stay home if you have any symptoms of illness, however mild. While it is cold season now and many of us are used to mild infections at this time of year, a mild illness could be COVID-19 and may be much more severe for someone else who might catch it from us. By staying home if sick, we protect everyone else in our community.

To help support this, our local restaurants, bars, wineries, breweries, and other food and beverage service operators will soon begin to ask for information including if you have any symptoms of illness before you can dine with them, and to ask that you confirm that you are dining only with your household or persons essential to maintaining physical and mental health.

As always, when outside of our household, we should continue to keep two metres distance from others, wash/sanitize our hands frequently, and wear face coverings routinely indoors and when we cannot keep two metres distance outdoors.

We know the past eight months have been challenging in how we have had to adjust our personal lives, and this is another way we will need to temporarily adapt. However, our personal actions are the biggest determinant of COVID-19 spread, and our choices of how we interact socially with others will determine if we control COVID-19 and save lives, or if we will allow COVID-19 to spread further and necessitate more provincially-imposed restrictions on our social lives and economy.

I believe that if we successfully reduce our social interactions to just our households, we are well-positioned in Niagara to be able to reduce our COVID-19 case counts, keeping our community safe and healthy, and allowing some more openness for the holiday season.

Dr. M. Mustafa Hirji is the Acting Medical Officer of Health for Niagara Region.

 

COMMENTARY / OP-ED | Larry Coté

To mask or not to mask—it’s not really a question

This uncontrollable pandemic continues to rage and rampage populations here and practically everywhere. The predicted second wave is upon us and threatening to swamp our healthcare systems. The medical community continues their valiant efforts to treat victims and find ways to control the spread of this terrible virus. It appears that a vaccine may be on the horizon but is hardly yet close at hand.

One of the strategies associated with the fight to control, and hopefully eliminate, this viral attack is the matter of wearing a mask. There are some few who refuse to don a mask and the rest of the population is having trouble unmasking the reasoning of these rebels. Admittedly, there may be some who have a medical reason for not wearing a mask. Such alleged cases should require certification by a medical practitioner and not just a self-proclamation.

However, before going further into this matter, one might legitimately ask what might be my qualifications to advocate for the wearing of masks? I do not claim to be a medical doctor. I do have two university degrees that presumably helped my ability to reason and enhanced whatever modest skills I might possess. But even more important than this formal education, I graduated with the class of H1N1 survivors. This particular graduation was a very enlightening, and I must say a joyous occasion. Succumbing to that virus was an unwelcome actuality in light of the fact that I was inoculated with the flu vaccine prior to the onset of that flu season.

I took to my bed with the typical flu symptoms. Headachy, chills, runny nose and the like. However, even in that bedridden state and with my wife’s homemade chicken soup, these conditions worsened. Soon thereafter I was having difficulty breathing, turning blue, becoming weaker and lightheaded.

My wife called 911 and an ambulance was dispatched. The EMTs quickly diagnosed my oxygen deficiency and rushed out to the ambulance to get the oxygen equipment. Soon thereafter I was en route to the hospital. I distinctly remember the technician in the back watching over me when he told the driver no need to use lights and siren as I was responding well to the oxygen application.

Upon arrival at hospital, my case was triaged behind two other stretcher cases carrying patients who were diagnosed nearer to death than I. After a short while, I was admitted to the emergency ward and examined every which way and back. I won’t go into the details of my six-day stay in the emerg but to say I had a collapsed lung and, unbeknownst to me, was diagnosed as a victim of COPD. This lung disease most probably due to my years of smoking tobacco. Since that diagnosis, every time I see a smoker I feel a pang of sorrow for that person damaging their lungs with every puff. It is likely their bodies will pay dearly for that despicable habit in the not-so-distant future.

Fortunately, I survived this H1N1 viral attack, and other than a somewhat lessened lung capacity, have no lingering after effects that I am aware of. I mention that because it it is reported that this COVID-19 virus may leave some victims with after effects that could linger for some while and maybe even for life.

And so it is, based on that learning experience, I believe that I can speak with some credibility about the issue of wearing or not wearing masks during this current pandemic.

When I encounter persons not wearing masks I want them to know that my reaction is trepidation mixed with more than a dallop of ire. Why is it that they don’t care about the welfare of others they encounter? How is it that they can ignore the medical science that has proven beyond a shadow of doubt that masks are very effective in reducing the spread of this deadly virus? Even if they doubt the validity of the medical science, could they not err on the side of prevention and comply with the urging of the medical community? How is it they choose to ignore this particular law but choose to obey traffic laws and other laws such as those that require one to wear clothes when in public?

Some who don’t comply with the benefits of wearing masks claim the rule to be an invasion of their right to freedom. Yet these same people accept so many other rules that restrict their absolute freedom such as the rule that they not drive their cars through a park or children’s playground. Does not a posted speed zone infringe on their freedom?

Some of these maskless wonders subscribe to the notion that the pandemic is a hoax as proclaimed by their most favourite elected official, #45, south of the border. Perhaps they would be willing to console the 10,968 Canadian families that have lost loved ones to the virus with that preposterous construct. Remarkably, such people live among us and, at times, masquerade as normal folks.

Those who refuse to wear a mask should be required to remain indoors and never allowed to venture out in public until the pandemic is over. Otherwise, just wear the damned mask!

 

PELHAM AND COVID-19  Mayor Marvin Junkin

Higher Niagara infection rate prompts move to Orange status

On Friday, Nov. 13, the Ford government moved various municipalities/regions up the colour chart, meaning they would be subject to stricter rules involving businesses staying open and some businesses closing down altogether. Residents will be facing stricter rules regarding movement, and who they are allowed to socialize with. The changes came into effect this Monday, with the exception of Toronto, which moved into the red zone on Saturday. Niagara Region has now been downgraded from yellow (protect) to orange (restrict), Regions in the orange category must abide by stricter rules for contact tracing at bars and restaurants, with no more than four people seated at a table. Sports and recreation facilities cannot have any spectators, other than a parent or guardian supervising children, and all users of the facilities must answer a questionnaire. For full details please see the Public Health website, www.niagararegion.ca/health/

No sooner had the provincial government made these announcements than the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce (GNCC) issued a press release calling for this blanket order to be rescinded, taking note of the particular restriction that only family members living in the same household can sit at the same table when dining out. The GNCC feels that this order is unfairly attacking businesses that have been following all the rules passed down from Public Health, and it is their view that private parties held by residents are the main cause of these super-spreader events that for the most part are causing the surging number of COVID-19 cases, not only provincially but also nationally.

I personally received a call from a resident, who works for a winery in Lincoln, who also thought the government was barking up the wrong tree. She relayed to me that last Saturday, while in St. Catharines, she noticed a large house party next door, with very few people wearing masks. When she attempted the report the event to authorities, she was told at each number that she had reached the wrong authority, please try a different number. The third official attempted sent her back to the first, so she just gave up. Upon phoning Niagara Public Health and retelling this story to a nurse, she informed me that the following is the correct number to call when reporting an offence under this order: (905) 688-8248, extension 7590, is available 24/7. Ask for the Environmental Health duty officer. I hesitate to include this number, as I don’t want Pelham to be a place where people are phoning the authorities about their neighbours. Instead, I hope that everyone acts responsibly from the start because it is the right thing to do.

It should also be noted that when a region moves into the orange category, enforcement is stepped up and fines, not warnings, will be the norm.

Although the cooler weather is upon us, health officials are stressing that it is still very important to get outside for exercise and fresh air, and to eat a healthy diet. Keeping fit and eating healthy is always a good thing, but even more important in these times.

A special thank you to everyone at the Fonthill Legion Branch 613 for holding a Remembrance Day ceremony even in these difficult days, allowing the residents of Pelham the opportunity to pay their respects to those who have served and those who continue to serve our great nation. It was my privilege to be a small part of the ceremony. Thanks to everyone involved.

Until next time…