“News crisis” deserves government attention

These days, when I open my newspaper I’m always wondering whether it’s the last time I’ll get to read my favourite column or get a story about what’s happening in our community. Due to years of government inaction and the hostility of big foreign players, Canada’s news industry is dying.

Here’s the thing, though: Canadian storytelling matters. Whether it is on screens or in our newspapers, whether it is about a new initiative to support local businesses or about a new after school program — our stories tell us who we are as a society. So if these stories disappear, so do we. And that’s the crux of my fear. Canadian storytelling is going extinct and the government is simply standing idly by.

An election will be called any day now. I want our candidates to know that my vote comes at a price: if you don’t offer substantive solutions to the Canadian news crisis, you can forget about my vote.

I hope my fellow readers will join me in demanding more from our elected officials.

Barbara Rybiak


Niagara’s natural heritage system

It is obvious that Pelham residents appreciate our natural spaces. Even before Covid, the trails and natural areas both locally and throughout the Region were popular and well-used. Our green spaces are not only great places to spend time, they are also vital green infrastructure providing residents with many free services like flood attenuation, summer cooling for our urban areas, erosion control, pollution mitigation and crop pollination. With development pressures, increasing action must be taken to protect Niagara’s green spaces.

As required by the province, a part of the Region’s new Official Plan will be the Regional Natural Environment System (NES). An NES should be composed of significant land-based and water-based features, such as waterways, wetlands and woodlands, plus enough land in buffer zones around them to protect them from adjacent uses. There should be linkages between them so that the whole functions as an ecological system that is robust enough to protect the area’s biodiversity into the future.

Regional staff have reduced the options for the NES to Options 3B and 3C for land-based features. The differences between the two may not appear great at first, but for those of us in urban areas especially, they are significant.

Option 3C includes large, medium and small linkages between features outside of settlement areas, and small linkages, if they are in a natural state, between features in urban areas. This is important because a Natural Environment System that does not link natural areas is not a system. In contrast, 3B would not require these vital small linkages. As well, Option 3C prescribes mandatory minimum buffers for natural features outside of urban areas, while 3B only “suggests” them. Finally, Option 3C allows for the inclusion of enhancement areas in urban areas (such as small restoration areas adjacent to existing woods or wetlands) where 3B does not.

Niagara Region and its municipalities could go much further in ensuring our natural systems are maintained and functioning, but adopting the best option for the Regional Natural Environment System, 3C, would be a good start.

So, what’s one small thing that you can do to make a difference? Contact Pelham’s Mayor and all Regional Councillors and let them know you that you would like to see Option 3C adopted.

Pelham’s Regional Councillor Diana Huson has been supportive of Option 3C. So far Mayor Junkin has not demonstrated the same support. Regional Council’s Planning and Economic Development Committee will be reconsidering this issue soon, so time is of the essence.

Our children and grandchildren deserve to grow up in a healthy community with vibrant green natural spaces that provide them with all the benefits that we have enjoyed. Please make your voice heard.

Jackie Oblak


Clarence Darrow, meet William Jennings Bryan

My thanks to last week’s letter writer for encouraging investigation into reading and investigating all reliable sources to come to a personal conclusion about origin [“Genesis, Darwin, creation and evolution,” Letters, July 28, p.6]. I, too, have pondered the question of how did I get here. With the almost limitless resources accessible from our cellphone a reasonable answer to the question “Where did I come” from can be pursued anywhere there is cell service.

Pascal’s wager is an argument in philosophy by the 17th-century French philosopher, theologian, mathematician and physicist, Blaise Pascal. It posits that human beings bet with their lives that God either exists or does not. To get started, you can Google “Mathematical Probability that Jesus is the Christ.”

There are so many respected authors to read, like Lee Strobel, who has a Master in Studies of Law degree from Yale Law School. Lee was an award-winning journalist for 13 years at the Chicago Tribune and other newspapers, and has written at least nine books on why he believes in the Bible.

There is also “Evidence That Demands a Verdict,” which provides an expansive defense of Christianity’s core truths and thoughtful responses to the Bible’s most difficult and extraordinary passages. It invites readers to bring their doubts and doesn’t shy away from the tough questions. As a young man, Josh McDowell considered himself an agnostic. He truly believed that Christianity was worthless. However, when challenged to intellectually examine the claims of Christianity, Josh discovered compelling and overwhelming evidence for the reliability of the Christian faith. After trusting in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, Josh’s life changed dramatically as he experienced the power of God’s love. After his conversion, Josh committed his life to telling a doubting world about the truth of Jesus Christ. After studying at Kellogg College, Josh completed his college degree at Wheaton College and then attended Talbot Theological Seminary, graduating magna cum laude with a Masters of Divinity. Working with Campus Crusade for Christ and founding the youth outreach, Josh McDowell Ministry, Josh has shared the gospel more than 27,000 times with more than 45 million people in 135 countries. He is the author or co-author of over 150 books, including such classics as More Than a Carpenter and Evidence That Demands a Verdict. There is also YouTube for deeper investigation. Many authors like davidjermiah.org are seen on YouTube and can be listened to on the radio or their websites.

There are many faith-based radio stations to choose from online from all over the world. Locally in Niagara there is WDCX 99.5 FM, or myflr.org, heard on 89.3 FM. Additional sources: William Lane Craig, J. Warner Wallace, Dr Phillip E. Johnson, Dr John Lennox, John Polkinghorne, Charles W. Colson, Michael Behe, Antony Flew, The Bible Project YouTube, Viktor Frankl, G. K. Chesterton, John Stott, Dr Jobe Martin, ATP Synthase, Corrie Ten Boom, Dr Russell Humphreys, Warren W. Wiersby, C.S. Lewis, and John Bunyan, to name a few.

“The unexamined life is not worth living” is a famous dictum apparently uttered by Socrates at his trial for impiety and corrupting youth, for which he was subsequently sentenced to death, as described in Plato’s Apology. Napoleon Bonaparte is quoted as saying, “I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I founded empires. But on what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of people would die for Him.”

P. Bryant

Editor’s note: It was nearly 100 years ago, in July 1925, that a Tennessee teacher named John Scopes was put on trial for teaching evolution in a public school classroom—the so-called “Scopes Monkey Trial,” nicknamed after a comment made by prosecuting counsel William Jennings Bryan, a thrice-failed presidential candidate, who complained that students were being taught that humans descended “Not even from American monkeys, but from old world monkeys.” Bryan died suddenly five days after the trial’s conclusion, which historians believe had a greater impact on the decline of fundamentalism in the US than did the court case itself (Scopes lost, though the conviction was later overturned on a technicality). It is a testament to the enduring human desire to wrest meaning from the universe that debate over these issues continues a century later.



Vaccination visas—Yea or nay?

The next big sociopolitical divide in this country, and many others, will be whether a vaccination type visa will be required to enter into or participate in the usual gathering places. Sports facilities, shopping centres, air travel, restaurants, and a host of other spaces where people gather are such examples.

Canada’s Prime Minister and Ontario’s Premier have suggested such legislated compliance will not occur in their jurisdictions. However, many sectors, nationally and internationally, disagree with such sentiments and may convince legislators otherwise.

Many who oppose the introduction of such a visa resist the government’s further intrusion into their lives. At first glance, that might appear to be a reasonable proposition, except that other mandated vaccination programs have been enacted in many jurisdictions, including Ontario. For example, most schools require students to be vaccinated against a variety of diseases.

Those who advocate for vaccinations point out that such requisites have almost eradicated specific diseases from our population. The theory behind such requirements demand that the common good overrides individual rights unless there be substantive exceptions not to do so. A number of vaccines have reduced, or even eliminated, the debilitating effects of diseases such as measles, chicken pox, and polio. These vaccines and others such as the annual flu shot have greatly reduced not only the patients’ discomfort, but boosted general wellness and the country’s economic welfare as well.

Staring in the face of those objecting to the introduction of some type of visa documentation is the fact that over 90 percent of those currently contracting the disease are unvaccinated individuals. Of equal note, vaccinated individuals who contract the virus almost always display minor symptoms that do not require lengthy treatments and costly hospitalizations. It is expected that unvaccinated persons will ultimately and continually face significant limitations in many public and private venues well into the future.

According to some reports, there are preliminary discussions among some nations considering the implications of some form of a visa-like mechanism to accommodate international travel and trade. There is also a growing notion that all fully vaccinated persons will require booster shots if variants are allowed to continue to develop. Such international agreements are complicated, time consuming, and difficult to consummate. Ideally, an international mechanism would help eradicate the Covid-19 virus and particularly before more variants develop resistance to current vaccines. Meanwhile, some mix of public and private practices will likely be introduced requiring legitimate proof that the client or individual has been given a vaccine approved by such gatekeepers.

Since a number of diseases have been eliminated or controlled through mandated inoculation programs, there is the prospect that the Covid-19 virus could be similarly addressed.

This current pandemic has had significant debilitative consequences around the world. That underscores the need for worldwide measures to eliminate this disease. Meanwhile, the highly contagious nature of the coronavirus requires the wearing of face masks and vaccinations as the only known routes to its riddance from our lives.


PELHAM AND COVID-19 | Mayor Marvin Junkin

Forerunner or foolish—jury out on Alberta Covid move

Once again, the province of Alberta is taking the lead in Canada as far as ending Covid-19 restrictions. Last week, Alberta’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, unveiled an unusually bold plan to move past the pandemic. The most controversial change is that as of mid-August, Albertans who test positive for Covid-19 will only be highly recommended to isolate, rather than required.

As with most decisions made regarding the pandemic, whether they were for enforcing or loosening the restrictions, this decision has split the medical community within the province. A voice of support for the new regulations came from south of the border, where Dr. Sarah Fortune, chair of the Immunology and Infectious Diseases Dept. at Harvard University P.H. Chan School of Public Health, commented to the CBC, “I think Alberta is taking reasonable steps in the face of having done a good job of bringing the viral numbers down and in the face of good vaccine coverage.”

Dr. Hinshaw also defended doing reduced testing, stating, “We wouldn’t be able to continue to test everyone with just a mild illness and we know that the vaccines we have are highly effective and they really shift the risk that Covid-19 brings to our population.” The doctor noted that more children were admitted to ICUs during the province’s last flu season than have been for Covid-19. For comparison’s sake, Florida is currently seeing 66 new cases per 100,000 residents per day, California 20, and Alberta 3. In New York state, which has 57 percent of its population fully vaccinated, cases are up almost sixfold since July 4, but hospitalizations are up only 32 percent, and deaths have kept falling that whole time and are now at five deaths per day, on a seven-day average, in a state of 19.5 million.

Vaccination numbers in Niagara remain impressive, with 70 percent having one dose and 60 percent fully vaccinated. At the MCC, the clinic has been moved from the first-floor gymnasium upstairs to the Accursi Room. The clinic itself has been downsized to eight injection sites, and walk-ins will continue to be taken. Please watch the Town website for future openings of this clinic.

I have received several emails from residents living on Sulphur Springs Drive this past week, inquiring when the road rehabilitation will begin. The road has been closed nearly five years now, and last year Town staff awarded the repair work to a local contractor by way of the usual bidding procedure with a starting date of approximately July 1. Working with an engineering firm, located in Guelph, they have submitted their plan to the NPCA, NEC and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Although told in advance that the federal permit would be the hardest to obtain, that department took one look at the submitted plan and promptly issued the required work permit, stating that the work window would be from July 15 to September 15, 2021. For whatever reasons, the two local government agencies have been unreasonably lethargic in their process to the extent that the Town is now considering declaring the site an emergency, due to the ongoing erosion of the road, which would allow the road repairs to commence without further delay. While we would like to have everyone on side, these residents have waited patiently long enough and the time to act is NOW.