William O’Sullivan, left, with Steven Soos. SUPPLIED

Steven Soos has had two recent setbacks, but he won’t let that deter him from his mission.

The producer and host of web-based media talk show True Politics finished second in the recent Welland Ward 3 by-election, losing out to political veteran John Mastroianni in a battle that saw only 25 percent of registered voters participate in the mail-in vote process.

But Soos took a second body-blow when his parliamentary petition e-3351, calling on the federal Standing Committee on Health to launch a study on the merits of declaring a national mental health emergency, was shuttered when the Liberal government dissolved parliament and called a federal election for September 20.

He is free to resubmit his petition three weeks after the election, and start the process again. Soos said about 175 names had been added to the petition online.

“A Liberal power play has taken away this important work,” said a disgruntled Soos. “It’s an unnecessary election call, intended to grab more government seats. This is another shot at the work that we’ve done for mental health. I’m not going to give up. I’ll certainly reintroduce the petition.”

Eight Niagara municipalities endorsed e-3351.

“We keep bringing this stuff forward and upper tier governments keep tearing it down. When will they acknowledge that we are in a state of emergency?”

Niagara West MP Dean Allison had worked with Soos to garner support for his petition.

“The challenge now is to re-engage people, and hopefully not lose the impetus for the petition,” said Allison, who noted that one plank in the Progressive Conservative platform deals with greater support for mental health.

“We understand that this pandemic has been particularly hard on people, so it’s important to continue to raise the issue. It’s important to both me and Steven.”

Another parliamentary petition that bit the dust due to the election call was William O’Sullivan’s e-2306, which called for a public inquiry into historic, systemic sex abuse of minors by some members of the Catholic clergy, over the course of many decades. O’Sullivan himself, growing up in Welland, suffered as a young boy at the hands of Catholic priest Donald Grecco, who was convicted in 2017 on multiple counts of sexually abusing children. Sentence to 18 months in jail, Grecco was paroled after serving just six months. Hundreds of Catholic priests in Canada have been convicted of similar charges, including gross indecency and molestation.

Now a house painter living in St. Catharines, O’Sullivan has mounted a silent vigil in front of St. Kevin’s Catholic Church in Welland almost every Sunday for nearly three years. Since beginning his weekly protests, O’Sullivan has made his intentions clear.

“I want more than an apology—I’m after a third-party independent investigation into the Catholic Dioceses across this country,” he said. “There are close to 400 guilty Catholic priests that have pled guilty in a court of law in this country, and there’s never been an investigation of that institution.”

O’Sullivan has made plans to walk from Welland to Ottawa, starting his journey on August 30, to underscore his commitment to the cause. Along the way, he will be stopping to meet with sexual abuse survivors, and will mark symbolic protests in front of Catholic churches. He hopes politicians will rally to his support for the parliamentary petition.

A GoFundMe account has been started to support O’Sullivan’s walk at https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-sully-walk-to-ottawa-for-kids