Where to start?
There are more signs of progress in the fight against the dreaded coronavirus; however, we can’t let our guard down. Two vaccines that are made by American companies have shown promising results. Both Moderna and Pfizer claim about a 95% success rate in combating the virus. There is also a Russian vaccine called Sputnik, but even with positive news from this vaccine, I will refuse to receive this vaccine. Sputnik is from a developing country that is still very corrupt and doesn’t have good health care. The United States is a developed country, and I feel I can trust their pharmaceutical companies. Both vaccines still need to have more people monitored for side effects before there is final approval from both US and Canadian regulatory bodies. I hope as you read this that you will have a little more patience as it looks like this lifesaving vaccine might be available starting in April. Two shots will need to be given to bring COVID-19 under control. The Moderna vaccine is more promising because it can be stored in a standard freezer as opposed to needing to be stored at temperatures of -70c.
This news couldn’t come at a better time, because Canada doesn’t have the virus under control. We may not be seeing numbers like they are seeing in the United States, based on multiplication of cases, but the problem in Canada is that six provinces are having massive spikes of cases. I think most of the responsibility is because people are experiencing COVID fatigue. An interesting note is that two of these provinces, Manitoba and British Columbia, didn’t get hit hard in the spring, during the first wave. Ontario, Quebec, and Alberta were experiencing moderately high numbers of cases during April and May. The four Atlantic Provinces got hit with fairly high numbers at first. We can look to them as a role model to how they have recorded only a few clusters of cases, mainly in New Brunswick, during this second wave.
Back on the topic of the vaccines. Both Moderna and Pfizer have shown very few side-effects with their experimental serums. Until these vaccines can be made available please continue to wear a non-medical mask because it isn’t always possible to maintain six feet of space between people in crowded indoor spaces. The good news about this virus is that it doesn’t seem to spread by walking past someone. Your chances of getting ill increase when you are in the same room as an infected person for a considerable length of time.
In conclusion, the news from two major pharmaceutical companies couldn’t have come at a better time in this pandemic. When these vaccines are approved, the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions should receive this medicine first. The end is in sight, but life won’t totally return to normal until 2022.
Open letter to the DSBN
From coast to coast to coast, there have been numerous name changes of schools, streets, swimming pools and parks because those names are honouring racist people. In Port Alberni, British Colombia; A. W. Neill Elementary, in Edmonton, Alberta; Dan Knott School and Oliver School, in Regina, Saskatchewan; Dewdney Avenue, and Park and Pool, in Winnipeg, Manitoba: Wolseley Avenue and School and Cecil Rhodes School, in Toronto, Ontario; Vaughan School. Prime Minister Trudeau renamed the Langevin Block, out of respect for the Indigenous peoples, because Sir. Hector Langevin was associated with the Residential school system; and in Halifax, Nova Scotia: Sir John A. MacDonald School. All of these instances were widely reported by national news outlets. Surely, the Trustees on the District School Board of Niagara have seen at least one of the articles.
This should be a wake up call for the DSBN to reconsider the name change from E. W. Farr Memorial School to Wellington Heights, in Fenwick. Isn’t it time for the Ministry of Education to mandate that every board look at the names of their schools through an anti-racist lens? We should not have to petition them to do the right thing.
The Duke of Wellington was a racist who epitomized white privilege. He is not a person whom our students should look up to. Granted, he was a great commander and defeated Napoleon in the Battle of Waterloo, and was Prime Minister of Britain, but we cannot celebrate him when we know that he was anti-Semitic, was pro slavery, and basically dismissed our Indigenous people. His values are of the past and we cannot celebrate them.
Is it any wonder that Indigenous people and people of colour are so frustrated. Is there no one listening?
“There are none so blind as those who will not see. There are none so deaf, as those who will not hear.”
I am sending a copy of this letter to Kelly Pisek, the superintendent responsible for Pelham Schools, and am asking that she, the Director of Education, the Chair of the DSBN, and the Trustees include it in official correspondence for board consideration.
This is such a simple fix, and what a perfect opportunity to do so.
DSBN REPORT | Nancy Beamer, Trustee
COVID, COVID, COVID!
If you are like most people you are starting to experience “COVID fatigue.” It has been a long, long nine months, but if we are to succeed in overcoming the spread of this virus, we must continue to persevere.
The good news is that, even though the Ontario numbers have seen a steady increase, our schools have been doing well. To date, there have only been 22 cases of COVID in our Niagara Public Schools, including one last week at Glynn A. Green Public School, in Fonthill. There has been no in-school spread across the district. This shows that not only are our procedures and policies working, but it also shows that the students, teachers and support staff have adapted to and accepted the responsibilities of the new “normal.”
Teachers have worked so hard to make the transition to this new learning style easy. I am sure we all have a deeper appreciation for their dedication to their students and to their profession.
Parents have taken notice of this and many families have decided to return their children to in-school learning. At the transition time in early November, 860 students indicated that they were ready to come back to actual school and only 150 students decided to change to virtual learning. It is nice to see that as we all progress down the COVID pathway, confidence is returning and we are starting to move forward. Senior staff at the Board deserve a lot of credit for doing such a good job of reorganizing staff and spacing without major interruptions to student learning.
Up until this last few days, Mother Nature has cooperated weather- wise and many classes could be held outside. Now with colder weather setting in, the schools, with input from Public Health, are moving forward with re-opening the gyms for Phys Ed classes. If all goes well with this, the next step will be the re-introduction of extra-curricular activities. This will move forward in slow, careful steps to ensure the safety of everyone.
At the secondary level, things are changing too. Classes have switched to a one-week turnaround. It is thought that this will help with learning retention. Also, there are three secondary schools, DSBN Academy, Eastdale and Port Colbourne, with small cohorts. Students at these schools have returned to all in-school learning. This means that they are at school Monday to Friday. Times and curriculum are the same as at other schools. Hopefully, this is another step in achieving our goal, which is to get all our students back to school full time.
At our last Board meeting, the formation of an Equity and Inclusion Trustee Advisory Committee was approved. This committee is chaired by Trustee Shannon Mitchell (Niagara Falls) and I am pleased to be on it. This is the governance part of the committee made up of senior staff and trustees. There will be also be an Equity Advisory Committee set up that will include students, parents, community groups, staff and the chair of the Trustee committee.
These groups will work on identifying and addressing bias and systemic barriers in the DSBN and providing feedback on issues related to equity, inclusion and diversity. If this committee is of interest to you, applications will start in January. Check the DSBN website.
Over the last few months, there has been a renewed focus on offensive names. As most of you know, I ran for the Board because I felt the renaming of the elementary school in Fenwick from E. W. Farr to Wellington Heights, did not follow proper procedures and that the chosen name was unacceptable for a myriad of reasons. I have not forgotten this. It is like that hidden app that is constantly running in the background of your computer. So, when I saw that Trustee Kathleen Woodcock from the Waterloo District School Board had brought forth a motion to form a committee to review all the school names in their board, I immediately contacted her. We had a lengthy conversation about how she formed her motion, the problems the committee will face setting the parameters for the review and the fact that she had support not only from the majority of the other trustees but also from their Director. She and I agreed to stay in touch. There have been many examples of name changes recently, including the removal of the Vaughan name from a secondary school in that town and the change of the McGill sports teams’ name from Redmen to Redbirds.
The Names Matter Group has been reactivated under the leadership of Vilma Moretti, and they are pursuing the issue of the school name in Fenwick. As I have indicated to them, as a Trustee, I can no longer be a part of the group, but when they officially bring this back to the Board, I will make sure their community voice is heard because Community Voices Matter.
If you have any questions or comments that you would like to see addressed by the new Equity and Inclusion Committee, please feel free to get in touch with me by phone, 905-892-5280, or email, [email protected] ◆
COMMENTARY / OP-ED | Larry Coté
That other pandemic—Plastics
Well, at long last, there appears to be some official movement towards banning some items of plastic from polluting our beleaguered environment. The Federal Government recently announced a list of so-called single-use plastic items to be banned as of next year. While the list of items is not very lengthy, it may well be an indication that the Federal Government is responding to the many scientists who have claimed the unguarded disposal of plastic is lethal to the environment.
The list of products targeted by this recent announcement are thought to be among the most egregious contaminants and readily replaceable by biodegradable materials. The six items on the list are as follows: drinking straws, coffee cups, grocery bags, stir sticks, six-pack rings, and some forms of take-out food containers.
To demonstrate the magnitude of the problem, the banning of these items represents less than 1 percent of the plastics entering into the environment annually. So, it is incontrovertible that much more needs to be done to reduce this threat to all people and other forms of life that share what has become a fragile planet.
According to oceanographers, even the sea floors are littered with items of plastics. The stomachs of many whales, turtles and other sea creatures have been found to contain indigestible plastic items such as water bottles, packaging of all sorts, and even flip-flops just to name a few.
Another serious issue associated with this particular pollutant is the contention that this man made chemical element is nearly indestructible and will not degrade for many, many years. Likely, beyond your lifetime. Also, the problem of volume is incremental, meaning that today’s discarded plastics are in addition to those items disposed of months, and even years ago.
The solutions to this environmental destruction are very challenging. A major issue is that, for the most part, the responsibility is largely on the shoulders of each individual. Does one have the wherewithal, courage and gumption to avoid consuming products that are made of or encased in plastics? Further, if and when one encounters plastics of any kind, how does one dispose of this virtually indestructible material properly? Putting such stuff in the blue box doesn’t end the problem but merely passes it along.
We might expect future government actions, such as imposing a levy on enterprises that continue to make use of plastics either in producing materials or using plastic in other ways such as packaging. The reality is that should there be an added cost to reducing and avoiding the use of plastics, and it is the consumer who will ultimately shoulder that cost. But if one admits to the destructive and unhealthy nature of discarded plastics then it may be well worth the price of admission.
At this point, the age-old adage may be appropriate here. One can choose to be part of the problem or part of the solution. If one chooses not to buy one item packaged in plastic today, then that’s a start. ◆
PELHAM AND COVID-19 | Mayor Marvin Junkin
Niagara steady in orange-restrict range
Last Friday the province processed 58,000 COVID-19 tests. Coinciding with this record number, the province reported a record high 1,855 new cases of COVID-19, also on Friday. The seven-day average for the province also reached a record high of 1,489, which is the highest seven-day number since the first confirmed infection was reported in Ontario in late January.
Niagara continues to maintain its orange-restrict range although the core numbers used in determining the rating remain precariously close to the next rating: red-protect. Our number of new cases per day remains in the high teens or higher, and it is this number, I suspect, that prohibits Dr. Hirji from rescinding his family-members-only section 22 for patrons dining in a restaurant. The good news for the Region is that the vast majority of COVID cases—nearly 97 percent—self-isolate at home, with less that 1% admitted to intensive care. All Pelham cases are self-isolating at home with two active cases currently within the Town.
One matter that has recently been brought to the Town’s attention is the rental of ice time at the MCC by out-of-region teams. On Monday morning senior staff and the CAO discussed the situation and did indeed find that bookings were made by groups from red zones outside our Niagara health zone. From now on, any booking identified as being from such zones will be cancelled.
The North Pelham Youth Association is currently conducting a fundraising campaign. Donations can be made on the Canada Helps website, and made in memory of or in recognition of others. The Association was recently featured in a Voice article and is striving to bring its hall up to current accessibility standards along with a general face-lift.
Until next time…