Still a long way to go on path to genuine acceptance
An interesting, if not surprising, account of the breadth and depth of same-sex desire [A double life, June 23, p.3].
The decision to bear witness anonymously makes plain that the long slog to rid ourselves of homophobia, directed both at others and ourselves, still has a ways to go. The larger context is our cultural practice of conflating morality with sexual behavior rather than with an aversion to violence and deceit.
If that were not the case, how one exercises one’s sexual drive would long ago have been of no more salience that eye or hair color and left-or-right-handedness. What totally silly fools we mortals be.
Learning to love the wall
On Monday morning, June 21, just two weeks after the passing of the variance that would allow the erecting of a massive wall along the northern border of the car wash property at 151 Highway 20 E., work began. “Three days,” a worker claimed it would take for completion, and bing, bang, boom, almost true to his prediction, four days later, there it stood.
I admit I had my doubts about ever seeing it. I thought the cost would be a major deterrent but somehow it wasn’t. Mind you it does have a kind of “reclaimed” look about it with damaged, mismatched panels and an odd looking row of welds—but hey, if the price is right and it does the job, why not? Everyone loves a bargain, and what’s unusual about a gigantic highway-style wall looming in the middle of a municipal neighbourhood? Not in medieval days anyway. Council barely gave it a second thought.
To be clear, the whole sound barrier/wall thing was not the suggestion of our community. Our preferred approach was quietening the air-dryers, which by the way the operators now admit is possible with a modest drop in RPM. Rejecting such a simple solution in favour of building an enormous freeway-style noise barrier suggests that Ms. Levay must have gotten some super, can’t-refuse bargain from Rankin Construction —like I mean, almost-free-kind-of-bargain—because building a $60,000 wall makes no apparent financial sense for the owner or the operators.
But then again, going with the most complex, disruptive solution over the simple one has been the hallmark of this clash since the outset: dispute over enforcement; wall over RPM reduction. Perhaps they think that Occam’s razor is a shaving product rather than a problem-solving principle. Anyway, however the wall came to be, it’s there now and will be for a long time, so all that’s left for us to do, given the Town’s “Let the kids fight it out on their own” approach, is to hear how little we can hear, and if it’s still a problem, battle on. I sincerely hope it won’t be so we can all stop worrying and learn to love the wall.
DSBN Trustee Nancy Beamer responds
I would like to respond to the many comments that have been directed at me since the articles written by Trent Moretti and Tyler Cook, about growing up gay in Pelham, appeared in the Voice. These comments are mine personally, as only the Chair can speak for the District School Board of Niagara.
First of all, people must understand the role of a trustee. We deal with governance and policy issues and any constituent concerns that come to the board. The issues of individual students are considered to be part of the operational side of the Board and we, as trustees, can not interact with teachers or principals on issues or interfere with how the school handles matters. The only way to have an issue brought forward is to go through teacher, principal, superintendent, director. These steps must be followed to show a path of trying to resolve a problem. I understand the frustration many people experience when going through the process as I experienced it myself, and that is why I ran to become a Trustee.
I really encourage people to contact their trustee(s) at the beginning of the process and keep them informed of what happens at each step. The trustee cannot change anything but this will help them understand how the process is working or not working, and then steps can be taken to revise policies to make them more effective. I also encourage everyone to document every meeting, phone call, etc. —names, dates, times, what was discussed, tone of the meeting. (Be fair in your assessment.) This is a very important step, because as much as we like to think we will remember everything, the memory is a tricky thing.
The next step would be to bring the issue to the Board by a delegation but this can only be done if the lead-up steps have been followed. From what I am hearing, there appears to be issues that are ongoing in our schools. As the Director is responsible for the operational side of our system, I will be asking him some direct questions as to how the policies are working during our next meeting.
When the young men who wrote the articles went to school, society was much different in its attitudes towards not only 2SLGBTQ+ people but also towards autistic, Indigenous and any “different” people. This does not make it right, but it was the reality of the times. We are evolving but for anyone affected the process must seen overwhelmingly slow.
However, the DSBN has put into place policies (G-29) to stop bullying and hate and harassment. Teachers are given the tools they need to address problems. There are annual professional development sessions for all teachers to help them learn to identify problems, strategies on how to handle situations, and where to go if they feel they need more help.
Our schools have a diverse number of student groups and we listen to the student voice to gain an understanding of what they feel their needs are and we try to implement their ideas. Unlike years ago, the DSBN now offers students a multitude of resources. There are things I, like many of you, was not aware of until I became a trustee. Parents and guardians, and students themselves, should not hesitate to question the school administration as to what resources are available if they are encountering issues. We presently have 28 social workers on staff and they are assigned to specific schools. Each school also has a Youth Counselor, who can help students in need of support in the areas of self- esteem, anger management, social skills, peer relationships, etc. The Youth Counselor can also determine if a problem is systemic in their school, bring it to the attention of the administration, and work on ways to effect change. Most schools have a system where students can reach out for help in a way that their privacy is protected. This is one way a student who is not ready to come out to their parents or peers can now get totally confidential help.
There are also steering committees such as SEAC—the Special Education Advisory Committee— comprised of representatives from groups such as Pathstone Mental Health, Learning Disabilities Association of Niagara, Autism Ontario, Down Syndrome Niagara, Niagara Support Services, etc. These groups provide input and up-to-date information from their associations. Many parents of special children belong to these groups, and it is through them that their ideas for change come forward.
Recently, we have formed an Equity, Inclusion and anti-racism Advisory Committee. The goals of this committee are:
Continuing to grow in our knowledge about the systems and structures that create and sustain racism, oppression and exclusion; collectively taking action to revisit and re-evaluate our practices through an anti-oppression, anti-bias and anti-racism lens; creating the conditions to ensure every child, regardless of their social identity, is challenged to reach high standards; embedding culturally and historically relevant content so students see themselves reflected in the curriculum.
Is everything perfect? Of course not!
But I can personally state that senior staff at the DSBN are constantly working on identifying past wrongs and inequities and are trying to be proactive in their approach to developing a school atmosphere where every child feels safe, valued, welcomed and accepted. Please feel free to contact me at anytime, at [email protected]
Time to take responsibility
The recent news that the remains of 215 children were discovered in unmarked graves outside the Residential School in Kamloops, British Columbia, shook Canadians profoundly. While still trying to come to terms with this, we now have news of hundreds more, and the total will likely be in the thousands.
When families lose a loved one—a soldier in wartime for example—they receive notice of this; in the cases of the residential school children, the parents were not even notified. Their children were buried without ceremony, like so much road kill.
We must not listen to those who say, “I wasn’t there; it’s not my responsibility.”
It is our responsibility to acknowledge that horrors were visited upon Indigenous children that we can’t imagine happening to our own children. We must acknowledge that this is not in our deep past and that in fact survivors of these terrible places still exist today. We must insist that the religious organizations that ran these “schools” take responsibility for what happened.
In times of crisis such as war or the pandemic that we are enduring now, we find the resources to fight back and we must do so now. The government must work with the Indigenous leaders to find out how we can help. Implementation of the 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission would be a good start. Then, we can ask our Indigenous people how we can move on from there.
COMMENTARY / OP-ED | Larry Coté
A bag full of technology
Recently, we experienced an odyssey-like adventure into the inner workings of modern technology. While this is comfortable territory for the younger set, it is alien turf for most seniors.
It all started when our confounded cable box quit working and interrupted our TV viewing habits. Prior to this failure of equipment, I thought we were occasional TV watchers. But when you take away that capability you realize you are an addict, or close to it. There are many lame excuses to turn on this cursed machine such as the hockey games, baseball games, the news or one of the on air personalities at a cable news outlet.
In any case, when talking to the cable service provider, the simple replacement of an aging cable box becomes a complex process. First off, the cable company no longer sells that device and you must rent one from them. More profit for them and more cost for you.
Next, they advise that your modem is old, slow, and obsolete, and should be upgraded to a faster, newer model that will enhance internet surfing. Your spam will download faster to annoy you even more quickly. These technicians talk baud rate bytes as if they were talking to a NASA scientist overseeing satellites orbiting far-off planets.
Following such a brain-exhausting conversation and some extra charges to your monthly bill you can book a technician to set up your devices in three to four weeks’ time or pick up the machinery and do it yourself. As a confirmed addict, being without TV for that length of time is out of the question. What is one to do with their time? There’s a lockdown due to the virus and you are confined to quarters. Having conversations with your other half, listening to the radio or doing another picture puzzle are not particularly appetizing options. So off to the cable company to pick up the whatschamcalits.
At the shop you are presented with a shopping bag filled with remotes, and strange looking devices with a bunch of wires and, crucially, no directions. At home and laying this array of gadgetry out on the living room floor looks much like the forensic reconstruction of a disaster scene. Through the process of elimination you find parts that seem to fit together. Calling on your self-conferred engineering degree, square pieces do not connect to others that are round.
After much trial and error the devices finally to come together. A lot of luck and not an ounce of skill has prevailed. Holding your breath you plug this into that and things begin to flash and light up.
After installing this new gadgetry you now have to go about resetting wireless phones, iPads, laptops, desktops, Alexa devices, printers, cellphones and Kindles.
OMG! Look at the TV screen. One of your least favourite personages is sounding-off again. While not impressed with this person’s opinions you feel immense pride in that you can change channel with the push of a button. ◆
PELHAM AND COVID-19 | Mayor Marvin Junkin
Flying Canadian flag denotes pride of country
A couple of years ago, maybe 2013, I built a flagpole and placed it in such a location that you couldn’t miss seeing it as you drove up the driveway and into our farmyard. As it turned out, this location allowed the flag to be in my line of vision when I am seated in my shop with the garage door open. So whether I am sitting in my shop first thing in the morning planning my day, or at the end of the day having a pop and watching the sunset, there it is my Canadian flag flying true, assuring me that whatever events had transpired that day, good or bad, Canada was still going strong. It is just natural I think, that the longer you live and the more you experience life within this country, the more you understand and appreciate what our flag stands for.
On a personal note, some four or five years ago the wife—oops, Candy—and I took a month to travel across this great country by car, eventually arriving on the western shore of Vancouver Island. Depending on the mood, the flag can instantly bring back countless memories of that trip, anything from the beach at Tofino, first sight of the Rockies as we crossed the border from Alberta into British Columbia, or actually crossing the Rockies, marveling at the engineering feats that the construction of roads and the laying of track represented.
When much younger, I always thought it was strange how much Americans were fixated with displaying their flag. It was visible everywhere from their shopping malls to a very large percentage of private residences. I now understand where they were coming from, and I think it is great that over the last decade Canadians are also getting flag fever. I believe that by flying the flag a person is saying “I am Canadian and proud of it.”
On July 1st I think most Canadians celebrate the day realizing how blessed we as Canadians are to be able to enjoy the everyday freedoms we have, the political stability of our country, and the opportunities that exist for our children.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the recent horrors that have come to light connected to the ill-conceived residential schools. All of these deaths of children taken from their homes and families are a dark stain on our past, but I am confident that we will, as a country, learn from this horrendous tragedy and make amends to our Indigenous peoples and move forward in a way that respects the differences that exist between our two cultures. ◆