Catholic school board reverses its decision and will now fly the Pride flag

By Pepper Parr

January 19th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

After hours of rancorous debate the Halton District Catholic School Board voted 5-3 to allow the flying of a Pride flag outside schools in Burlington, Oakville, Milton and Halton Hills during the month of June – Pride month.

The inability of many of those taking part in the debate to follow rules of procedure and the attempt to revise the agenda was a sad example of how adults resolve their differences.

Those opposed to the flying of the Pride flag were argumentative, petty, and disruptive but failed in their effort to keep the flag off the flag poles.

The students were very good in making their point.

It was not a debate for the board to be proud of – the beliefs might have been strongly held but that does not excuse the behaviour seen last night.  It was most unfortunate.

The 5-3 vote in favour of flying the Pride flag was necessary.

Voting for the motion: Trustees Brenda Agnew, Patrick Murphy, Nancy Guzzo, Peter DeRosa and Janet O’Hearn-Czarnota.  Trustees Tim O’Brien, Helena Karabela and Vincent Iantomasi voted against.

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Open Letter from the Halton Members of Parliament to Catholic Trustees

By Pepper Parr

January 18th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The four Members of Parliament who represent the people of Halton wrote an Open Letter to the Trustees of the Halton District Catholic School Board.  The contents of that letter are set out below.

Dear Trustees,

On January 18th you will have an opportunity to vote on whether you will allow your schools to raise the Pride Flag this June.  From a group of one elected officials to another we understand the seriousness in which you take this vote and the role that your convictions play in determining how you will side.

Next week, you can act to show the 37,000 students that you teach that the Halton Catholic District School Board embraces diversity, celebrates love, and recognizes the community’s desire to officially embrace the 25LGBTQ+ members of your schools.

In 2016, the Pride Flag was flown for the first time on Parliament Hill. Some of us were there that day to celebrate this important milestone for Canada and the 25LGBTQ+ community. The simple act of raising the rainbow flag made an enormous difference in the lives of the advocates who fought for this ceremony to take place. It told them that their country supports them, that their country loves them, and that their country needs their voice at the highest levels of political leadership. You can send the same message to the students, their parents, and your staff, that the HCDSB supports them, loves them and that they are called to shape the future of their community.

To quote your colleague Trustee Agnew, “(you) have a chance to be leaders, champions if you will, of the future, of amazing things to come.”

On January 18th you have a chance to stand up for change. As the federally elected representatives for Halton, we express our unwavering support in favour of raising the flag.

Thank you for taking time to consider our request.

 

Honourable Anita Anand, MP Oakville     Honourable Karina Gould, MP, Burlington

Pam Damoff, MP, Oakville-North Burlington          Adam VanKoeverden, MP, Milton

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Letter from Halton MPs to Catholic Trustees was inappropriate

By Pepper Parr

January 18th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

Opinion

Last Friday, the four members of Parliament who represent the people of Halton sent an open letter to the Trustees of the Halton District Catholic School Board.

Cabinet Ministers Karina Gould (Burlington); Anita Anand, (Oakville) along with Pam Damoff (Oakville North Burlington) and Adam VanKoeverden, MP, (Milton) wrote about a matter that is not something in which the federal government is involved.

Education is a provincial matter with trustees elected at the local level to represent parents with children in the school system.

The Gazette wonders if it is appropriate for Members of Parliament to meddle in a provincial matter that is being fiercely debated at the local level.

Emotions are running high; views are strongly held. What value does the opinion of someone from a senior level of government add?

The concerns of the four Members of Parliament are legitimate enough but one has to wonder what the upside is for the MPs. Have they brought any clarity to the issue?

Do any of them have children in Catholic schools?

Karina Gould has a mandate as Minister of Families, Children and Social Development but that mandate does not reach into issues that are local.

The differences between the Catholic communities are philosophical and political and they will be resolved politically.

The parents who are opposed to the flying of the Pride flag in front of schools support their children; love their country and believe they are serving at their level of political leadership.

If the federal Liberals had anything of value to add perhaps a comment would be appropriate.

They add nothing other than their opinions.

The Gazette feels the letter was inappropriate and that the members of the Catholic community have to work this out on their own.

Related content:

Letter to the trustees

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

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Opposing views on Pride Flag will be heard by Catholic Trustees on Tuesday

By Pepper Parr

January 16th, 2022

BURLINGTON,, ON

 

The debate on flying the Pride flag at Catholic schools in the Halton Region will be heard by the Halton District Catholic \school Board on Tuesday.

The Gazette has chosen two delegations that reflect strongly held position on the issues.

Both should be heard.

The Rainer Noack and Veronica Touhey delegations follow.

Chairperson of the board, board members, delegates, families – it is an honour to have been asked to
support this evening’s delegation. My name is Rainer Noack and I worked for the Halton Catholic District School Board from 1989 to 2006 where I taught both Dramatic Arts for Grades 10 to OAC, and English for Grades 9 and 10. I was a passionate, popular, and distinctive educator in my field. I spearheaded the entry of the Halton Catholic District school Board into the Ontario Drama Festival (formerly known as the Sears Drama Festival).

Rainer Noack

I am here to support Lauren MacDonald and her team in their efforts to ensure that the Halton Catholic District School Board will raise the Pride Flag in the future, as a demonstration of equality and solidarity for all human beings. The Catholic tradition teaches that human dignity can be protected by a healing community and can be achieved only if human rights are protected and responsibilities are met.

Therefore, every person has a fundamental right to life, and to those things required for our human
dignity. I believe that in order to set students up for success and to become healthy contributing members of society, they need to have models. As educators, we are on the front line of helping children every day, and it is indeed some of those teachers and forward thinking leaders that have allowed many Catholic schools to become safe spaces, and recognize that there are many forms of diversity that need respect.Refusal to raise the flag is a blatant signal to further marginalized people demonstrating fear and xenophobia. The parliament of Canada on July 20, 2005 enacted the Civil Marriage Act, which legalized same-sex marriage in Canada; fourth country to do so. 2005 was the year I married my husband, thus for the first time, acknowledging my sexuality societally. In June 2006, my husband and I, along with many others, including members of the Toronto police force, carried the Pride Flag down Yonge street. A portion of this flag is now displayed in the Canadian Museum of History in Ottawa.

During my tenure with the school board, I was there for students who were struggling to accept their
identity. I was there to witness students driven to suicide through a lack of acceptance. Statistics have shown that those attending a Catholic school have a substantial increase in the odds of attempting suicide or suicide risk by the age of 15 and self-harm by the age of 19.
The Supreme Court does not try to hide the fact that it will shed no tears if Catholic schools vanish from the scene while they continue to receive public funding and continue to enforce outdated rules of the Bible and continue to believe in supremacy of the Papacy. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees a set of human rights enforced by judicial review of legislation. Many Catholic school boards have begun to reconsider the conflict between Catholic beliefs and Human Rights.

Trying to change attitudes is brave and progressive, and I am grateful to be able to share my views here today. As teachers, we promote healthy lifestyles and attitudes and our daily business is prevention intervention. Our experience has taught us that it takes a lesson repeated over and over to truly change an attitude. The best way to teach is by example, and therefore it is the responsibility of adults to model the kind of beliefs, behaviours, and attitudes that will make a better world.

The world needs to examine its conscience. Now, more than ever, is the time to give hope to disenchanted youth. The media advertises that research funding is being designated for youth to reduce violence and mental health issues. This work is as well as wasted if a definite message is not sent by our school boards.

We must be more progressive.

Today’s children will become tomorrow’s patrons, employees, and entrepreneurs. We owe it to them to
help them to feel that we each have a fundamental right to freedom.

Thank you

LIFT HIGH THE CROSS, RAISE NOT THE ‘PRIDE’ FLAG
My name is Veronica Touhey and I address this board as a parent who sends my children to
Catholic schools with the good faith and understanding that they will be taught the magisterial
teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

I know that flying the “pride” flag over Catholic schools and administrative buildings violates
these teachings.

It would deeply sadden me to see that flag raised by schools of the HCDSB.

Some believe that the raising of the “pride” flag is necessary to stop bullying and discrimination,
and while these are always good intentions in themselves, the act of raising that flag over
Catholic schools will undermine the mission of Catholic education and the mission of the Halton
Catholic District School Board.

The mission statement of the HCDSB states that the Board is “…dedicated to providing
excellence in Catholic education by developing Christ-centred individuals enabled to transform
society.”

Flying the “pride” flag will not help the board to achieve these crucial objectives. It will, in fact, betray this mission.

Many who advocate for the raising of the flag assert that it will make the schools it flies over
more welcoming, inclusive, and supportive of people.

That only proves that our hearts, and our wishful thinking, can deceive us.

The “pride” flag is a lie.

The flag isn’t about inclusion, diversity, and acceptance, but about conformity, exclusion and
intolerance. The “pride” flag is in fact a giant red flag of warning for anyone concerned about
traditional values and the freedom to live by them.

The “pride” flag is a symbol of mortal sin. It’s no coincidence that “pride” is both the name of
that flag, and the name of one of the seven deadly sins. In fact, pride was the cause of the
Original Sin committed by Adam and Eve, and it is considered the source of all the other deadly
sins.

The Catholic Church can never condone mortal sin, and the “pride” flag is a symbol of mortal
sin.

There are those who will say that secular institutions fly that flag, and so our Catholic schools
should follow along and do the same. But it has never been the mandate of the Catholic Church
to follow the fashions of the world.

Quite the opposite is true.

The Catholic Church is charged to lead the world to Christ.

We should be leading the world by doing what the HCDSB mission statement claims it is here to
do, by “developing Christ-centred individuals enabled to transform society”.

To transform society away from sinful ways and toward Jesus Christ.
Secular institutions that fly the “pride” flag have no mandate to defend the teachings of the
Catholic, or of any other Faith. But this board does!

The Faith we express is that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, Jesus
Christ, not to condemn the world, but to save it. We know that God is love, and that He
demonstrated this love by dying on the Cross.

The “pride” flag is a mere worldly symbol. The Cross represents the very heart of the Church
and its values, which transcend all symbols.

We do not need any flag, for we have the Cross!

The Cross demonstrates and reminds us of the love God has for all people, no matter who they
are. It tells us that God desires to gather us all to Himself as one family in Christ.

The Cross is our sign of true love and of mercy, of eternal life. It is a bold declaration of hope in
a world full of sorrows. That is the hope we must nurture, a hope in the Lord as our strength.
Symbols such as that “pride” flag will come and go, but as St. Paul tells us, “Jesus Christ is the
same yesterday today and forever.”

We teach our children the marks of the Church, which we recite each time we say the Creed.
The marks of the Church remind us that the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church must
speak with a single voice and reject all that is not in keeping with it.

That “pride” flag is not in keeping with our Faith.

Our children are watching us. What will we teach them now?

Thank you for your time and for allowing me to address the Board.

r

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Pride flag issues bedevil the Catholic School Board - federal MP's write an Open Letter

By Pepper Parr

January 16th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Tuesday of this week the Halton District Catholic School (HDCSB) Board will hear delegations related to raising a Pride flag and a Student Senate survey.

The Catholic school board has consistently resisted requests for a Pride flag outside any of their schools whereas the public school boar raises the Pride flag outside every school.  City Hall also raises the Pride flag outside city hall on appropriate occasions.

Burlington city council has allocated up to $10,000 per instantiation for Rainbow Crosswalks in every ward of the city.

The Catholic Student Senate is made up of three or four students from each high school plus the three student Trustees.

In their delegation the student senate asks that:

Our vision has been particularly informed by a desire to fight for equity and inclusion of all students in our schools. In times of increasing isolation, we recognize the importance of ensuring that all students feel welcome in our schools.

Our vision is to ensure that through the affirmation of the human dignity that our schools become a place where all students feel like they can achieve, believe, and belong.

We wish to not only highlight the voices of students that have historically been marginalized in our communities but ensure that we model Christlike leadership in our efforts to create an environment of compassion, kindness, humility, and faith at the HCDSB.

In a survey done by the Student Senate 70% of students responding want the Pride flag to be raised;

How strongly do you support the flying of pride flag in schools? (1 being strongly opposed, 5 being strongly in favour)

Approx. 6% of students responded strongly opposed

Approx. 8% of students responded opposed

Approx.
4% of students responded neither opposed nor in favour
Approx. 15% of students responded in
favour
Approx. 70% of students responded strongly in
favour

As for the motion to raise the Pride flag – 11 delegations – 9 in favour.

This is an issue that is not going to go away.

Adding to what is a school board issue is the releasing of an Open Letter on Friday from the four area Members of Parliament (all Liberals) asking the Trustees to consider supporting the motion from the students.

In part, the four Members of Parliament wrote:

Next week, you can act to show the 37,000 students that you teach that the Halton Catholic District School Board embraces diversity, celebrates love, and recognizes the community’s desire to officially embrace the 2SLGBTQ+ members of your schools.

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Sweetgrass to be the name of the former Ryerson Park

By Pepper Parr

January 14th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

Ryerson Park was to be renamed.

Egerton Ryerson was no longer in fashion and the Mayor saw merit in renaming the park, which was adjacent to the elementary school of the same name.

Based on a Motion brought to the Standing committee, the recommendation was to approve Sweetgrass Park as the new name for the park formally called Ryerson.

In July of 2021 council supported a Motion Memorandum from the Mayor which included the following staff direction:

Direct the Director of Recreation, Community and Culture to initiate the renaming process for Ryerson Park in keeping with our naming policies, ensuring equity, diversity and inclusion is reflected in the new name, and report back to committee with a recommendation for a new name by November 2021.

Staff completed a three-phase engagement process with the Community and worked with a small group comprised of the Chair of the Inclusivity Committee,

Stephen Paquette

Stephen Paquette, resident and Indigenous elder, ward Councillor Shawna Stolte, and Denise Beard, Manager of Community Development were named to the committee to review community suggestions.  The Trustee for the ward also attended the meeting to observe the process.

Using the Naming of Corporate Assets Policy, the small group reviewed the policy to determine which criteria would be weighted higher than other items. For example, the group felt that a name that reflected a sense of place and supports diversity and inclusivity, was more significant than honoring a person, persons, a family group living or deceased who have made a significant contribution to the community.

A field of sweetgrass

After coming to consensus of the evaluation matrix, and streamlining the list of names to remove duplications, or names that violated the policy, each member of the small team completed an individual rating and ranking of the suggested names.

At a consensus meeting the small group supported the following themes

Head of the Lake Park

Unity Park

Truth and Reconciliation Park

It was through that discussion that Stephen suggested a pause to consult with an Indigenous linguist to see if there was an appropriate Indigenous word that might best reflect the theme.  Also, during the same discussion, Paquette educated the group on “Sweetgrass”, one of the sacred medicines to many First Nations. It is used as a purification medicine in ceremony to purify ourselves and to heal.

Single strands are not very strong but when woven together the grass is very strong.

Many indigenous communities weave baskets out of sweetgrass

The planting and use of sweetgrass is widespread by most Indigenous cultures in this area. This transcendence and the use of sweetgrass resonated with the group.

After the meeting Stephen sought the advice of an Indigenous linguist to find the right word.  Sweetgrass was added to the list of names.

Community voting took place through the Get Involved page on the city web site. Over 1,600 votes were cast by Burlington residents.

The results are:

Heat map showing where the cotes for the new park name came from.

Name Percentage of Votes

Head of the Lake Park 16.1%

Unity Park 39%

Truth and Reconciliation Park 5%

Sweetgrass Park 40%

Committee had many options to consider:

  1. Use the most voted name by the community which supports the community engagement process.
  2. Combine the most popular names for example – Sweetgrass Unity Park.
  3. Give the park the same as the recently announced re-named school

Ryerson Public school has been renamed Makwendam Public School.

Makwendam Public School. Pronounced muck-kwen-dum, the Indigenous word for “to remember” in the Anishinaabemowin language.” This would provide consistency between the two properties but did not honour the public engagement process.

Replacement signage reflective of the truth and reconciliation – speaking about the past and why the name change and the City’s aspirations for Truth and Reconciliation by re-naming the park – would cost about $5,000.

Despite creating the system of publication education in Ontario Egerton Ryerson has been set aside to make room for a much needed change in the public acceptance to the damage done at residential schools operated for the most part by Christian churches

Staff are also looking at the installation of a medicine wheel or healing circle in the park as well as sweetgrass plantings. Staff have had some preliminary discussions with a potential donor to support the capital investment for the medicine wheel or healing circle. The donor would look for their donation to be matched by the City.

More than 500 suggestions were submitted; once whittled down to four names, the community cast over 1,600 votes

 

 

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Food4kids Halton gets new leadership: Dania Thurman appointed Executive Director

 

By Staff

December 28th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

We first saw Dania Thurman in action when the community rallied around Central High school that was threatened with closure when the Halton district School Board made the decision to close two of the city’s seven public high schools.

Dania Thurman

Central was on the chopping block. Thurman who describes herself as a Powerhouse Program Manager with a passion for children’s health and community engagement and as a seasoned business professional with 10+ years of client development and community engagement experience in diverse sectors.

She has been recognized for demonstrating a natural aptitude for public relations, as well as for partnership management and program coordination with a verifiable history of contributing directly to company growth and expansion throughout her career.

This month, Ms Thurman was appointed Executive Director of Food4kids. She brings three years experience as Community Development Manager with Halton Food for Thought where the focus was on strengthening relationships with all stakeholder groups, including volunteers, staff, school administrators, and elected officials.

She follows Gayle Kabbash who has moved on to be the director of Food4Kids Ontario. Thurman said ” Gayle has made Food4kids Halton what it is today and really should be recognized for the tremendous work she has done. I am just the newbie coming in to carry on her work.”

Thurman’s work included bridging communications and aligned objectives with educators and administrators throughout the planning and development of student nutrition programs which meant analyzing barriers and issues impacting student nutrition distribution in collaboration with staff and partners.
Previous work experience included eight years as a Client Care Specialist.

Thurman earned a diploma in Musical Theatre from Sheridan College and a Certificate in Non-profit and Voluntary Sector Management from Ryerson University.

Her volunteer experience includes serving on the Board of Directors of the Compassion Society of Halton and the YWCA Hamilton.

Food being prepared for a breakfast program at a Burlington elementary school.

Food4kids Ontario oversees the development of new and emerging Food4Kids programs within Ontario, provides resource and support to existing Food4Kids programs in Ontario and develops and executes accountabilities for partner agencies that includes program implementation and best practices, financial management, metrics and evidence-based outcome as well as community outreach and engagement.

Food4Kids Ontario was incorporated and commenced operations on September 28, 2016, under the Ontario Business Corporations Act as a not-for-profit organization and is a Canadian registered charity under the Income Tax Act.

The organization has a healthy balance sheet with revenue of $831,438; expenses of $652,286. The organization provides significant resources to assist partner agencies in the implementation of Food4Kids locations in other geographic locations.

In the fewest words possible: Food4kids feed children.

Related news stories:

Telling their story

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Second quarter of 2021: restrictions and changes - but life went on and people continued to be people

By Ryan Dowd: Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

December 28th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

2021 has been a year we are not going to forget quickly. We have learned that major changes are coming but we don’t know yet precisely what they will be. A look back at 2021 might give us a hint – it will certainly remind us of what worked and what didn’t.

Well into the year and things were not looking any better. Doug Ford’s April 1st announcement that the province would be entering yet another lockdown was no April Fool’s joke. In the throes of rising COVID-19 case counts, the promise of spring, inspired by vaccination distributions and loosening restrictions, was snatched away.

City manager Tim Commisso, heads up the Emergency Control Group that makes changes in service delivery and spending during a pandemic while at the same time keeping council fully informed.

On April 8th, the Gazette patted the City on the back for the job they’d done managing Burlington during the pandemic, writing “What is visible is how Staff have upped their game to meet demands that change by the day – at times by the hour.” Not everyone felt that way: by April 13th City Manager Tim Commisso had to ask the public to be kind and considerate to City staff doing their jobs and doing their best to serve the community.

President and CEO of Joseph Brant Hospital, Eric Vandewall, asked for public support in staying safe in a piece published in the Gazette on April 15th, the hospital was at 94% capacity, all non-urgent procedures had been postponed, Vandewall implored the public to follow guidelines.

For Burlington school boards it was back to online learning on April 12th. Ontario gave authority to police to ticket folks who left their home without a good reason and restricted outdoor activities, neither of these was well received: both exacerbated stress on Burlington and Region staff. Amid the backlash, the Halton Regional Police Service released a statement on April 17th explaining they would not be pulling people over at random.

On April 20th City Council had a Halton meeting, wrestling with the province’s controversial mandates and not finding much they could do. “We need your help,” said the Mayor, “to be patient; we are all tired, frustrated, and worried.” On April 22nd Municipal leaders in the Region of Halton called for sick pay for workers and a tightening definition of what is essential.

A year into the pandemic COVID-19 gloom continued to dominate the April news cycle, but by the month’s end Halton residents aged 50+ who couldn’t work from home had been approved to book their vaccination in early May.

Earlier in the month, the Gazette brought the exact lack of public engagement in budget building under scrutiny following an influx of cash poured into the city on April 9th, the federal government dropped $1.9 million while the province added its $1.6 million and the city will contribute $1.3 million for a total of $4.8 million all to be used to revitalize Civic Square including a grand entrance on the ground floor. There was very little in the way of public input.

In early April Halton Region asked residents to share feedback on how and where they wanted to see the community grow over the next thirty years. The Province’s Growth Plan required that Halton plan to accommodate 1.1 million people and 500,000 jobs by the year 2051. Halton Region currently had a population of 595,000.

Burlington was going to grow up and not out and much of the growth was going to be clustered around the GO stations. Plans for a seven tower development are going forward. .

Meanwhile on April 6th City Council outlined their growth plans that included a seven-tower development next to Burlington Go Station that would have a planned 2500 residents.  The zoning for the property did not have a height limit.  One way or another the development was poised to happen Councillor Kearns expressed excitement for it.

By month’s end, Regional Police Chief Stephen Tanner became the longest-serving Chief in the country.

The beginnings of an urban farm. Land was loaned to a group that grew produce donated to the Food Bank.

Elsewhere Burlington traditions continued to take different shapes due to the pandemic, Burlington Mundialization Committee coordinated a virtual celebration of spring, including a live photo stream of the Japanese cherry blossoms in Spencer Smith Park. The virtual Sakura Festival commemorated Burlington’s 32-year twin-city friendship with Itabashi, Japan.

On May 1st, the Gazette reported a Town Hall: Lisa Kearns for Burlington:  virtual event where the Ward 2 Councillor set out to tell Burlington why she should be the Liberal candidate in the next provincial election. The Gazette suggested Kearns was in the process of scaring off anyone else who would seek the nomination and throughout the month that looked to be the case. There were even reports Kearns was grooming a colleague to succeed her Ward 2 position.

By May 23rd there were reports of another candidate, days later on May 27th that candidate was revealed as Mariam Manaa, a young woman who cut her teeth working for Burlington MP Karina Gould and Oakville/North Burlington MP Pam Damoff.

Days later Andrea Grebenc, the Chair of the Halton District School Board, announced she too would seek the provincial Liberal nomination.  For a short period of time the race looked crowded, but Kearns promptly withdraw on the 28th. Kearns and Grebenc put out a joint statement singing one another’s praises. Gazette commenters wondered where Mariam Manaa fit into all of this, and why neither Kearns nor Grebenc mentioned her, in due time it proved to be an excellent question.

Three women went after the nomination for the provincial seat. Lisa Kearns above, Mariam Manaa to the right and Andrea Grebenc below sought the Liberal nomination.

As for day-to-day City Council happenings in May, spending fell under scrutiny. Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman wanted to shake up the way the city budget was prepared with a tighter unvarnished look at just what the departments are doing.

In a May 8th meeting, Ward 6 Councillor Angelo Bentivegna announced he didn’t want to be part of a tax and spend council. This followed a report on looking at different operating models for the Tyandaga Golf course, the model was tax-funded. Councillor Bentivegna argued that the spending would normally be part of the creation of a budget and setting the tax rate was instead being debated without input from the finance department. Bentivegna was the lone vote against the golf course funding, despite his colleagues’ assurances the golf course spending wouldn’t be reflected in taxes this year or the next, his point was at some point the public would be asked to pay for this.

Meanwhile, the community remained frustrated under pandemic conditions but there were some positive signs, by May 7th 42% of Halton residents had their first vaccination.  Ontario announced that outdoor recreational amenities could reopen if COVID measures are in place, beginning Saturday, May 22 at 12:01 a.m.

The story on the opening of the Farmers Market was more about social distancing than what was going to be offered for sale.

In May the Gazette photographed outdoor fun in the sun, children smiling brightly chasing an ice cream truck’s familiar jingle, families headed for the beach with towels and snacks, properly distanced lines to grab a hot dog at Easterbrooks, and couples listening to gentle breaking waves, rhythmic and soothing against the shore. The Farmers Market opened for the season on May 18th to a small but eager crowd.

Of course, there was bad news:  City Council went into a Closed Session on May 5th and cancelled their Park Ambassador program. The reports were that this was the result of a city employee harassed or injured by unhappy citizens. City staff member, Amber Rushton, alluded to civil unrest and anti-government movements while discussing the incident. It was truly a disturbing situation, and it seemed any efforts to police outdoor COVID safety protocols had been abandoned.

Chicken Little is expected to make appearances in the June provincial election

While all of Burlington continued to navigate their way through the endless pandemic MP Jane McKenna trivialized COVID-19. In a bizarre and tone-deaf comment, McKenna labelled members of the oppositions as “chicken littles” over COVID-19, accusing them of exaggerating the pandemic’s seriousness. However, it offered the Gazette the opportunity for a rare moment of levity amid pandemic news. The Gazette published McKenna’s comments alongside a rubber chicken on life support. That chicken was named “The Dirty Plucker” by Gazette readers.

“June is the Month of Play,” was the first message of the month from Mayor Marianne Meed Ward’s desk, after 14 months of on-and-off lockdown Burlingtonians could be forgiven for thinking they misread the release.  Burlington ran a Get Outside and Play Challenge all month where participants learned more about Burlington while completing activities.

On June 2nd Burlington came out of a stay-at-home order that had been in place since April. Ontario re-opened on July 11th, ahead of the re-opening the Gazette was asking the important questions, “Does this mean that one minute after midnight – between the end of Thursday and the beginning of Friday that I can be outside with my ten best friends quaffing an ale?”

School boards began discussing outdoor graduation ceremonies.  An expectation was established that students would return to classrooms in September. There were outdoor gatherings exceeding limits and parties that broke the rules that Mayor Meed Ward responded to. But the good was outweighing the bad in terms of progress in the COVID fight.

THIS is what a bottle and can drive is all about.

Amidst the sunnier circumstances, Burlington’s generosity was in fine form for charitable events in June. The Joseph Brant Hospital Foundation partnered with local businesses to raise funds for a hospital that the community needed to lean on more than ever before. The Neal Family bottle drive for the Food Bank and Compassion society had another strong outing. Julie Neal spoke to the Gazette about her role establishing the popular bottle drive, just three years after moving to Burlington, “Who am I? I’m just a nobody loving the community I now live in.” For the Food Bank, their gardens began to sprout, on June 1st there was lettuce, sage, and rhubarb to harvest along with the garlic greens and garlic heads that were planted last season. Aldershot’s Skyway Diner ran a food item collection for the bank all month, finding a way to help others despite being in the hard-hit hospitality industry. Burlington Green announced their city-wide Burlington clean-up was back on for its 11th year on June 17th.

On June 25th St Matthews Anglican Church won a business excellence award for their work in the not-for-profit sector for the work they do for the community, including hosting a weekly drive-through food-drive throughout the pandemic.

In June the community battle to keep the current Robert Bateman High school functioning at some level was won. At their June 2nd meeting, Halton District School Board trustees approved a plan to relocate Gary Allan Learning Centre to Robert Bateman High School.

Elsewhere the City of Burlington Council wanted more rainbow crosswalks, plus benches and banners, to show support for LGBTQIA+2S Community. The Catholic District School Board voted not to permit the flying of the rainbow flag at Catholic schools. As for the locations of Burlington’s new rainbow crosswalks:  The people voted to locate one right outside the Catholic Board offices.

Ryerson Public School was to get a new name.

Despite a more positive news month for Burlington, national and provincial news weighed heavily on all. The discoveries of mass graves at residential schools were felt throughout the country. For Burlington’s part the Halton District School Board voted to rename Ryerson Public School and the city voted to rename the adjacent park – both had originally been named after Egerton  Ryerson for his contributions to the Ontario education system.

On a Friday afternoon the Muslim community held their Call to Prayer in Spencer Smith Park. The Gazette published a handmade sign held up by a Muslim woman that spoke to the editor’s heart, it read:

“I love you. You’re probably thinking  you don’t even know me. But if people can hate for no reason I can love!”

On June 28th, the underestimated Mariam Manaa, a young Muslim woman, won the Provincial Liberal nomination.

Related news story:

The first quarter of 2021

 

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What could a Commonwealth Games in Burlington look like? eSports is getting a close look

By Pepper Parr

December 26th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

Part 3 of a 3 part feature on bringing the Commonwealth Games to the area.

Antonio Gomez Palacio was part of a delegation to a city Standing committee where the plans for bringing the 2030 Commonwealth Games were set out for public discussion.

Previously Louis Frapporti and Paul Paletta who is now President of Penta properties, owners of the land much of the Games activity would take place on, delegated.  Links to their  participation are set out below.

 

Thank you very much, Lou, (Louis Frapporti – Chair of Games Bid committee) and thanks to everybody.

We come into this very much from the perspective and the true belief that there is a tremendous opportunity through everything that we do to meaningfully improve the well being of community.

And as Lou described, this sense of greater purpose is what aligns the initiative that brings us all together, but ultimately is the guiding post that we’re using as we continue to move forward.

In doing this, we’ve also partnered with the Conference Board of Canada and building on a foundation of research that they’ve been doing for many, many years that culminated in 2018 on the publication of the community well-being framework, but has continued to be a huge part of the research, and has developed a series of evidence based indicators around how we can design and plan communities and environments and parks.

In a way that truly and meaningfully improves the well being of communities. The Conference Board through the Commonwealth Games will continue to be involved and refine and nuance with city input and from your own staff and your own community.

The indicators that we will be using so that we can continue to bring evidence into the entire planning and design process. And of course, City of Burlington already has a tremendous amount of really good thinking that we’re keenly aware of and we want to make sure is brought forward in everything that we’re doing. Your newly minted Official Plan and the work that is being done around major transit station areas and many of the initiatives the city are bringing forward and many of the priorities that you’re bringing forward.

So through the Commonwealth Games, we’re currently in the process of starting to identify and elicit interest in all of the different opportunities that may exist for specific sites, then use interventions, programming, all these kinds of things, which is where the very excitingly opportunities exist.

There’s an enormous amount here to unpack and we have no hope of having you fully understand the opportunity on a call of this length. So we’d be delighted to make ourselves available for independent or other discussions with you to explain further what it is that we have in mind. But the one point I would make is as you’re trying to understand what this means, is that we’re talking about a specific development site as part of a Commonwealth Games. In the very early stages of our work it was made very clear to us that bids had failed principally for a couple of reasons.

One, there was really insufficient private sector support. And number two, you had a small group of bid proponents or enthusiasts who created a bid without really consulting with the broader community and simply asked the broader community to accept or support their bid. What we felt in consultation with the Commonwealth Games Foundation (CGF) was that a way to differentiate the bid is not to start with what the bid people want, but to identify with communities that would be impacted by the bid want, and then to make that the bid and the way to do that and activate that necessarily depends on private sector,  land owners, private sector developers and other organizations to step up,

And there are three catalyst projects of which the King Road site would be one. The other is the downtown Hamilton redevelopment project and the third is a large redevelopment project in the city of Brampton.

Highway 403 was mistakenly labelled Highway 401.

So the question then becomes what is it we would wish to have here at present. The CGF has not finalized its sports program and very helpfully, they’ve indicated to us that they have considerable flexibility around the sports that are included.

We had initially thought that Burlington would be the site and home of lawn bowling in the initial bid relating to 2030. We’ve since moved profoundly beyond simply having lawn bowling in the city of Burlington to explore with you a variety of different opportunities that relate to sports and recreation, infrastructure and facilities.

Both discussions have already involved partnerships with post secondary institutions around the site. We’ve discussed and are having consultations with leading advanced manufacturing innovators who might be interested in being a part of this catalyst project. Of course, as Paul alluded to, we’re very focused on integrating innovative, thoughtful level affordable housing initiatives into the site and beyond as part of the accommodation programming for the games. But in creating housing inventory, that would be available as of 2030, and very notably creating really an internationally significant and thoughtful blending of the natural heritage in the region, to the development, recreation and sport. assets that we hope to create

Burlington as an International Centre for Gymnastics Excellence?

Among the opportunities open to us are discussions that I’m currently having with respect to a number of sport organizations, track and field in athletics is searching for new Canadian national home. And as Canada is interested in international home, there were a variety of organizations that would be very interested in gymnastics, for example, in creating a centre of excellence for facilities in the city of Burlington, both projects would absolutely require the support of the private sector in the support of senior levels of government, and should any of those projects be of interest to the city of Burlington, being potentially located in the King Road site or otherwise?

We’d be delighted to advance those conversations on your behalf with you with those sport organizations and senior levels of government as an element of the big but at all events. We’re not prescribing that you do anything in the city of Burlington we’re looking to commence a process that we call the framework in that exploring what might make most sense for the citizens in the community.

One of the most exciting opportunities that we have that we’ve been working on now with with Paul and others for the better part of a year and a half, is in partnership with academic institutions creating a new and innovative ecosystem in the digital economy centered on gaming, and all elements of gaming, graphic design, coding and  programming.

eSports is well entrenched amongst students – many parents have yet ti hear about it – including Burlington’s Mayor

And rather than creating a facility around the gaming, creating an ecosystem that collides all of the capacities, experiential learning, technical skills, training and private sector partners, as part of the development project at King road in the coming months.  Having engaged Deloitte and their national gaming practice consultancy practice, to provide us with modeling around this. We really look forward to carrying on that conversation with you and what might you say. Does eSports have anything to do with the Commonwealth Games?  The Commonwealth Games has announced its desire to integrate eSports and gaming into the Commonwealth Games as an element of those games as all of the major gaming properties are doing.

And we’ve decided to embrace this given what it means from a skills training and economic perspective as a key element of our work here around the 2030 bid.  And we see Burlington potentially as incredibly significant place that combine young people skills training experiential learning and economic investment in digital media or digital gaming as a potential element of this development.

So to conclude, we see the games is focused on sustainable development, wellness and well being as providing all of us with an opportunity to collaborate on attacking some of the biggest challenges of our time and doing it on the world stage, giving the city of Burlington  an opportunity to be seen by over 70 countries a billion and a half people and not just in 2030, but in the years leading up to it as the centre of activity around the delivery of something that’s internationally innovative in its approach to combining private sector development, a variety of new and different stakeholders to the return of the games 100 years after their birth.

 

Related news stories:

Burlington learns about plans for bringing Commonwealth Games to Hamilton/Burlington.

Paul Paletta now President of Penta Properties

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Inflation in a Time of COVID and Global Warming

By Ray Rivers

December 20th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

COVID and climate change, not the federal deficit, is driving up prices in this country. Public health measures have led to global supply chain blockages and workplace interruptions. And 2021 has been the absolutely worst year for disastrous climate events, including forest fires, flooding and drought. Prairie grain harvests, for example, are reported to be 30-50% lower this year, which also impacts meat prices.

Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre in the House of Commons

So it’s unfortunate that Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre is peddling misinformation. He blames the high deficit and debt levels for the country’s current 4.7% increase in the price of an average basket of goods. He argues that it is because government debt has resulted in too much money being printed and circulated in the economy. But that is not what is happening.

To complicate his argument, Poilievre is demanding federal tax cuts, including the revenue neutral carbon tax, which will….put more money in people’s hands and further increase the deficit.

Poilievre is entitled to his opinion but no reputable economists support his thesis. Canada is actually doing better than most OECD nations when it comes to inflation and with an inflation rate a whole third lower than we’re seeing south of the border. Canada’s inflation has been hovering around 4.7% for the last couple of months, though nobody is discounting that it might climb a little higher before it declines again.

In any case,Ha good chunk of Canada’s economy is inflation proofed – our pensions, income tax deductions, etc. which have been indexed to the consumer price index (CPI). And our health and education programs are all publicly funded. So it’s mostly food and other consumables, some of which are waiting to unload at the ports or sitting in a barge adrift in Vancouver Harbour.

The Covid19 virus and the variant Omicron along with Climate Change are the structural changes we are going through right now.

And then there is housing. Housing prices have been rising for a while now. And while low interest rates, allowing more people to qualify for mortgages, are partly responsible, the real culprit is the extremely high rate of immigration. Canada’s immigration target is 400,000 new entrants a year, over 100,000 of those looking for housing in the GTA.

Some level of inflation is not unhealthy in a growing economy and/or one experiencing some measure of structural change. And structural changes is what we are going through right now, thanks to COVID and climate change. The federal government has a number of tools to slow down inflation should it get out of hand. These include tax increases, reducing government spending and transfers, import and export restrictions and controlling the interest rate.

The Finance Minister just renewed the Bank of Canada’s mandate, which includes exercising monetary policy to raise interest rates and attempt to bring inflation down to 2% or less. However, given the still shaky economic situation with an ongoing pandemic, nobody should expect the Bank to jack up rates, particularly for the current bout of price increases which reflect an economy very much in transition.

Higher interest rates will also raise the cost of the government borrowing to finance our debt and deficit. That will lead to increased deficits and possibly eliminate funding for other government programs. In the end higher rates suppress economy activity by reducing consumer demand. That will lead to higher unemployment which no government ever wants.

Raising interest rates would push Canada’s international exchange rate up as foreign investors up their Canadian investments to get the higher rates here. That would prompt exchange rate increases and impact Canada’s international competitiveness as our exports become relatively more expensive and imports relatively cheaper.

This is the situation Brian Mulroney found himself in the late 80’s as he attempted to quell inflation with monetary policy. We ended up with higher unemployment, deterioration in our terms of trade and creating the greatest accumulation of federal debt in Canada’s history – that is until the pandemic hit us.

Over-reacting to Canada’s modest inflation rate can be fraught with these potential complications. The Minister of Finance and Bank of Canada are betting that the supply chain blockages will be resolved and the price pressure will lessen. But given where we are with the pandemic rebounding energetically, and climate change throwing curve balls around every corner, nobody is in a hurry to raise interest rates or cut taxes. That is possibly except for Pierrre Poilievre who has no idea what he’s talking about.

Ray Rivers, a Gazette Contributing Editor,  writes regularly applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.   Ray has a post graduate degree in economics that he earned at the University of Ottawa.  Tweet @rayzrivers

Background links:

Pierre Poilievre –  National Debt –  Crop Failures –

Food Prices –   Inflation –   Fiscal Update

Actual Fiscal Update –   Home Prices –

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Clarksdale students decorate lobby of hospital

By Staff

December 17th, 2021

BURLINGTON, O N

 

Students at Burlington’s Clarksdale Public School  wrote and decorated Christmas cards that are currently on display in the lobby of Joseph Brant Hospital as a way to brighten the days of patients, staff and visitors.

 

The walls of the hospital lobby are a lot brighter looking these days.

Teacher Kelly Kozsurek says she learned of this activity from a former HDSB teacher and thought it would be a great way for students to provide patients, staff and visitors with colourful holiday cheer. The school was provided with cards by Joseph Brant Hospital Foundation​’s ‘Join the Joy’ committee and students decorated one side of the card and wrote a kind message on the other side.

“We chose to do this activity to provide students with the opportunity to do something for others,” Kozsurek says. “Not only will they brighten someone’s day, but they will feel empathy for others and pride in themselves for making a positive impact.”

Principal Shelly Andrews says this activity has taught students a wonderful holiday message that there are many ways they can help make the world a better place.

“I’m so proud of the contributions they have made to help give back and in their efforts to let people know they are cared for. Students of all ages were so excited to participate in this tradition. I love that they have learned we can change the world one smile at a time.”

Anissa Hilborn, President of the JBH Foundation.

“One of the objectives of the Foundation is to connect the community with the hospital, and our Join the Joy campaign and the holiday greetings are a great way for our staff, physicians, patients and their families to feel the support of the community at the holidays,” said Anissa Hilborn, President of the JBH Foundation. “It truly brightens the hospital at this time of year and we’re so grateful to Clarksdale Public School and all the schools across Burlington who sent in messages of joy this time of year.”

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$50 million and we can put our name on it: Council votes to make an offer to purchase Bateman property

By Pepper Parr

December 6th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Fifty million – and not enough information in the hands of the public.

City Council agreed this afternoon to make a formal offer to purchase the Bateman High School property for $50 million.

Council agrees to make an Offer to purchase the Bateman site

Mayor Meed Ward said the site will become the biggest facility in the city –more than twice the size of Tansley Woods which is the largest at this point.

To the surprise of this reporter we learned that the pool is not owned by the city – Halton District School Board (HDSB) appears to be the owner.

It will be a shared space with plenty of space for community events

There are all kinds of details that are not known; the HDSB will retain some of the space, Brock University is in talks with the city to rent space, Tech Place is going to need an affordable place to operate and has eyes on the Bateman location and the Library might become a tenant as well.

Councillors Stolte and Kearns hold off on fully agreeing to the decision to purchase; they want much more information in the hands of the public.

Councillor Sharman put is quite clearly when he said this was not an agreement to purchase – this was an agreement to continue discussions with the vendor.

The task now he said “ is to figure out how to pay for it.”

The matter comes up again in March of next year.

At the Special meeting of City Council this afternoon two of the seven members of Council voted not to approve the decision to make a formal offer: Councillor Kearns and Stolte took a pass on putting their thumbprint on this one.

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Shuttleworth elected Chair of HDSB trustees for 2022

By Pepper Parr

December 5th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

There was a significant change at the Halton District School Board last week.

The policy is to elect the Chair and the Vice Chair of the Board of trustees for the year going forward.

Former Chair, Halton District Board of Trustees Andrea Grebenc

Andrea Grebenc, served as chair for a number of years and in that time created a voice for the Halton Board and spoke strongly for policy changes across the province.

When media were looking for a voice, Grebenc was there to respond with a consistent soundly researched views that reflected the concerns of trustees across the province.

She will be missed.

Margo Shuttleworth elected Chair of the Halton District School Board trustees for 2022

Margo Shuttleworth was elected for the year ahead. Her first sentence was that this “was going to be a rocky road ahead”. Indeed, it will be.

It was interesting to hear trustee xxx Amos say “not this time” when trustees were polled on their interest in running for Chair.

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Vanderwal given Prime Minister's Awards for Teaching Excellence

By Staff

December 1st, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Christine Vanderwal, an Itinerant Resource Teacher with the Halton District School Board, has received a prestigious Prime Minister’s Awards for Teaching Excellence (Certificate of Achievement). She was nominated for her role as a teacher in Viola Desmond Public School in Milton in the 2020-2021 school year.

Christine Vanderwal, an Itinerant Resource Teacher at the Viola Desmond Public School in Milton in the 2020-2021 school year.

In receiving her award, Vanderwal is recognized for her teaching approach that incorporates a wide range of learning tools, creates an inclusive classroom where students feel their culture and identity is valued, and uses various technology methods such as photography, animation and stop motion to engage and motivate students.

The Prime Minister’s Awards for Teaching Excellence nomination said: “(Christine) begins every year with a focus on building authentic connections among all members of the class, including herself. This starts with an exploration of identity, as individuals and as a community, with engaging discussions and activities that allow every learner to share their perspectives and ideas, as well as their personal uniqueness and culture. She integrates concepts of Design Thinking and Knowledge Building using technology, art and drama to explore the topics that matter including Indigenous issues and human rights.”

Upon learning of her nomination, Vanderwal expressed her gratitude to her colleagues who nominated her. “I want to thank colleagues Pieter Toth and Matt Coleman who put together such a thoughtful nomination package, and I am honoured that so many people, whom I deeply respect, contributed such meaningful words on my behalf,” Vanderwal says. “It is humbling to be included amongst such wonderful educators. I also want to thank the students who I have had the pleasure of learning alongside throughout my career. It is from them that I have learned the most. It is a privilege to be an educator, and my greatest joy is to work in a community alongside young people, empowering them to use their voices, uncover their gifts and explore their passions.”

“We are so proud that an HDSB educator has been honoured with the Prime Minister’s Awards for Teaching Excellence,” says Curtis Ennis, Director of Education for the Halton District School Board. “Christine embodies the Board’s values by ensuring her students are learning in an environment dedicated to equity, collaboration and inclusion while focused on 21st century learning. It is wonderful to see our staff implementing the important elements of our 2020-2024 Multi-Year Plan where students will learn from, grow with, and inspire each other. We congratulate Christine on this prestigious award.”

 

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No prom, no graduation ceremony - life for Covid19 high school students

By Ryan O’Dowd: Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

November 26th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

In March 2020 high school halls across Burlington looked surreal. The last day of school is often a celebration. Emptying exam rooms are littered with crumpled cheat sheets, short-hand notes for lessons already forgotten, while laughter echoes through the halls. Kids slam their faded blue locker doors and storm from the building, headed for long summers that for them seem short.

In March 2020, there was no such exodus. One day they were there, the next they were gone, it was like a vanishing act.

What followed was an on-the-fly rethinking of how high school education could be handled from a distance. Confusion, isolation, lack of motivation, lost friends, and missed events followed.

I spoke to Burlington high school students to get their take on the educational and social ramifications of education during COVID-19.

Many Burlington students reported in the immediate aftermath of March 2020 lockdowns, on how high schools operated with grade freezes and asynchronous learning.

The grade freeze meant whatever mark a student entered COVID-19 with in the spring semester of 2020 couldn’t go down. Asynchronous learning means students were given access to pre-recorded lectures, assignments, or notes and asked to go through the material independently. Some students didn’t even speak to teachers for the remainder of the 2020 spring term.

Matthew, a grade 10 student at Notre Dame High School, completed grade 9 under those difficult circumstances. He noted the grade freeze coupled with the asynchronous approach made it difficult for many students to find motivation. For his part, Matthew completed his work, determined not to be behind when things got back to normal.

When school resumed in September of 2020, and it was clear the pandemic was going nowhere, the students and teachers had a more open dialogue.

“When we started back up some teachers kind of opened up about how hard it had been for them to teach online. And they kind of understood where we were at; that we were kind of losing our entire high school experience, that things kind of suck,” said Matthew. “They made us feel like we’re not alone, we’re all in the same boat, we’re all going through the same thing.”

A grade 10 Burlington student, Sam, also found it difficult to focus, and the lack of in-person communication with his teachers made it hard to get help from them when required.

“They made us feel like we’re not alone, we’re all in the same boat, we’re all going through the same thing.”

“Returning to the classroom was way better. I was happier, less stressed. I was able to do my work. Online I’d get behind and not be able to catch up,” said Sam.

Sam talked about getting to see his friends in-person, not just over a screen. The loss of social activities was echoed by every student who spoke to the Gazette.

Matthew talked about the social elements of school and how they motivated him educationally. Matthew was involved in several arts through ballet, theatre, and piano, and struggled when the structure of his routine was taken away.

“I lost quite a lot. I just lost every sort of outlet, it felt empty. But I tried doing more stuff, the theater companies I worked with were doing online classes but that just didn’t feel the same because you couldn’t really interact with anyone on Zoom. It was just kind of awkward,” said Matthew.

The pandemic impacted students at all different stages of learning, for Matthew and Sam their high school careers were turned upside down early on. Other students, like Stephanie, now in post-secondary school, who was in grade 12 in March 2020 lost the ending of their time in high school.

“I was really upset when I learned that not only the prom wasn’t happening anymore, but graduation wasn’t happening either. I didn’t even get graduation online. I was so excited that I made it on the honor roll, and I got these achievements from school that I couldn’t even really show off to my family,” said Stephanie.

“I was really upset when I learned that not only the prom wasn’t happening anymore, but graduation wasn’t happening either.

Perhaps too much pressure is placed on moments like prom and high school graduation to be defining for young people but they surely are for some. Those of us who lived them will probably say they weren’t as big a deal as the movies made them out. Most proms are stilted affairs defined by awkward flirtation and decisions that would make you cringe as an adult, memories that might creep up on you like an uncomfortable itch. Graduations are rarely American Graffiti, instead students conglomerate to sit overdressed and overheating for an overlong affair while names are called to receive a diploma you’ll bury somewhere and never look at again.

But the class of 2020 will live on as the group who never got to find that out the hard way. Instead, it exists as a tantalizing “what if?” Stephanie reflected on losing those potentially pivotal moments and worse still a growing distance among friends.

“My friends and I missed out on a lot in our senior year, and maybe it was just because we went our separate ways after high school, but I do blame the pandemic a bit for the reason my friends and I lost touch,” said Stephanie.

Stephanie reflected on how her experience with education during the pandemic influenced her decision to go onto post-secondary school knowing the socially distanced format would, for a time, carry on.

“I was so used to being away from the classroom environment that I think I went back into my introverted habits. I liked to be alone and I think I even ended up liking the idea of getting my college degree online. I think if I wasn’t so used to doing online school I would have preferred to be in a physical college class.

I think there are some positive and negative aspects to doing online college courses, for me at least. I live two hours away from my college so I’m happy I’m able to learn online, but at the same time, I’ll never be able to form great friendships with my classmates or my professors.”

Other students who spoke to the Gazette echoed similar concerns, a lack of connection and confusion occupied the forefront of young people’s experiences.

Young people have been susceptible to education struggles and increases in anxiety and depression throughout the pandemic and it’s not hard to see why from the first hand accounts of their learning experiences. The academic and social elements lost may be irreplaceable. These students are members of the first generation who will have little to no memory of a world without smartphones, they have to contend with access to often-toxic social media since their childhood.

The academic and social elements lost may be irreplaceable.

Concerns existed before the pandemic about a potential deficit in face to face communication, an uptick in isolation, and poor mental health.

These concerns are surely exacerbated by the uneven and lonely experience that was high school during COVID-19.

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Student Experiences of Racism: December 2 - 6 to 7 p.m.

By Staff

November 24th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Student Voices: Student Experiences of Racism & HDSB’s Strengthened Commitments to Anti-Racism Information Session (Virtual) will take place on Thursday, Dec. 2 at 6 – 7 p.m.

This information session will be livestreamed on the HDSB YouTube Channel.

The link to access the livestream will be on the homepage of the HDSB website (www.hdsb.ca) on Thursday, Dec. 2. Questions can be submitted prior to and during the event on Thursday, Dec. 2 by emailing studentvoice@hdsb.ca

The Halton District School Board  conducted virtual focus groups with secondary students (Grade 9-12) in Spring 2021 to gather student insight into the Board’s current response to racism in schools.

Gathering this information supports the Board’s ongoing accountability to its equity goals, as outlined in the 2020-2024 Multi-Year Plan and the Human Rights Equity Action & Accountability Plan: The Way Forward. The focus groups were hosted virtually across each of the four municipalities in Halton.

Curtis Ennis, Director of Education

“As a Board we are invested in learning more about how well students feel we have responded to incidents of racism in our schools,” says Curtis Ennis, Director of Education for the HDSB. “The information and insights received through the focus groups were reviewed and a report has been developed by HDSB staff in the Indigenous Rights & Education, Human Rights & Equity and Research departments along with the Board’s Human Rights & Equity Advisor, which highlights existing and strengthened commitments to guide and inform a plan of action and enhanced accountability to address racism.”

The Student Voices: Student Experiences of Racism & HDSB’s Strengthened Commitments to Anti-Racism report will be publicly released on Nov. 30, 2021 and will be available on the Student Voices webpage.

 

 

 

 

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After quarter of a century of trying to reduce gas emissions is it time to admit it’s not going to happen without a miracle

By Ray Rivers

November 19th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

After 26 annual conferences of the parties the world community is no closer to halting or even decreasing global warming. The COP spectacle is one of delegates gathering with false hopes and promises of reducing our global carbon footprint, even as that footprint continues to expand without a foreseeable end. After a quarter of a century of trying to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) it may be time to admit that it’s not going to happen without a miracle, and that our’s is indeed a dystopian future.

The Prime Minister attended – did Canada make an impact?

COP has become another one of those events where everyone wants to be – youth, indigenous peoples, disappearing Pacific islanders, government bureaucrats and mandarins, environmental organizations, and even the oil companies. It’s another venue to claim everything and get nothing and a chance to get a grant from the rich countries. These extravaganzas have become little more than an annual reunion for the attendees – see you all same time again next year.

I’ve attended a few of these COP meetings, once representing Pollution Probe back in 1998 and caucusing among the environmental groups. There had been a lot of enthusiasm back then. The Kyoto protocol had just been negotiated and the USA, the world largest historical greenhouse gas emitter, was leading the effort. Bill Clinton and Al Gore had helped craft a Kyoto protocol calling for enforceable emission targets with significant financial penalties for those signatory nations who found themselves out of compliance. It was a significant first step.

But by 2003, when I represented Clean Air Canada as part of the business community, that enthusiasm had been replaced by pessimism. GW Bush added to his legacy as America’s worst president ever, and his violations of human rights, by pulling the US out of Kyoto.

American delegates were seen disrupting the proceedings and the halls of the conference were cluttered with oil company representatives making their pitches that climate change was just another hoax.

COP26 had more lobbyists taking part than registered delegates. The people who are going to have to live with a climate that is not going to be kind were out in force. Were they heard?

Once the Americans scuttled the Kyoto deal there was little appetite for the rest of the world to continue, though Europe and even Canada did for a time. Stephen Harper, whose earlier views on global warming had placed him firmly in the denial camp, pulled Canada out of the treaty once he had gained a majority. And he did this, ironically, just as Canada came close to meeting its Kyoto commitment thanks to Ontario’s phase-out of coal.

COP 26 in Glasgow last week was an almost abject failure on so many counts. Despite pleas for climate action by host Boris Johnson, the world’s leaders have settled for business as usual. And that means greenhouse gas emissions are increasing globally instead of declining and will reach their second highest level this year, despite the pandemic.

Fossil fuels are the main culprit and emissions from burning coal the most egregious insult to our climate. India and China came to the rescue of the nasty coal – refusing to allow the term ‘phase out’ to be used in the final communique. China plans to peak its coal use somewhere around 2030 and India sometime later.

Coal still provides almost 40% of the world’s electricity. Yet 40 nations, including Canada, have committed to entirely phase out coal for electricity by 2030. But China, Japan, India, and the United States, which together account of over 75 percent of global coal use have refused to commit to that goal.

We continue to fail them – how might they react in the years ahead?

Some 20 countries and institutions are promising to end direct international public finance for unabated coal, oil, and gas and to prioritize financing for clean energy by the end of 2022. In addition to international financing, Canada provides the highest subsidies for fossil fuel development among all G7 nations. A group calling itself the ‘Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance’ (BOGA) including Costa Rica, Denmark, France, Greenland, Ireland, Sweden, Wales, and the Canadian province (nation) of Quebec committed to taking “concrete steps” to reduce oil and gas extraction.

Perhaps the biggest sign of failure was when the US and China (whose leader hadn’t even bothered attending), announced that they would take the conversation on emission reduction off-line. Gas lighting, double speak, or just an excuse to get out of the room, that bilateral approach is unlikely to amount to anything. China and the USA have to get over unfair trade practices, industrial espionage and Taiwan before they could have a civil discussion on climate change. And China, with the second largest global economy still maintains the façade of calling itself an undeveloped nation.

COP 26 wasn’t a complete waste of time, there were locally sourced ‘sustainable’ sandwiches for the delegates, despite the three hour hybrid/gas guzzler delivery drive from Aberdeen. But this COP will not help the planet keep its temperature rising beyond what scientists have identified as the critical 1.5 degree C temperature increase over the pre-industrial period.
Global net GHG emissions from human activity would have to decline by about 45% from 2010 levels to 2030 in order for us to meet that goal.

Canada’s new climate plan comes close to that goal, but after all, it’s just another plan. This year’s heat dome and the river of rain climate-bomb, which knocked British Columbians into climate reality, occurred when the global temperature was only 1.1 degree C above pre-industrial levels. And the science community tells us that these kinds of climatic effects will only get worse – Ontario may be next.

If not COP, then what can we do? Concerned individuals could always help by consuming less red meat; making their next car an EV (electric vehicle) and converting their appliances to electricity, but the heavy lifting has to come from governments with their regulatory powers.

For example the federal government has committed to banning the sale of new gasoline powered automobiles by 2035, it has mandated the carbon tax, provides incentives to buy an EV, promised new caps on gas emissions and the phase out of coal for electricity by at least 2030. The previous Ontario government phased-out coal and started a program of renewable energy.

The world’s leaders once hoped that the Montreal Protocol, which saw a mostly successful cooperative global effort to eliminate ozone depleting substances, would serve as a model for action on global warming. They created the IPCC (international Panel on Climate Change) which has done a truly amazing job identifying the crisis and what we need to do about it. But none of that matters if the political leaders at those COPs won’t step up and do the right things for the sake of humanity.

Coal is used to generate whatever it is the facility produces.

Some politicians have mused that it may be time to reform global trade rules in favour of protecting the planet’s climate. I recall having a conversation with US officials, back in 1997, who were proposing tariffs on imports from nations with lower environmental standards than the US – sort of levelling the playing field. Conservative leader Erin O’Toole seemed to want to open the door to that kind of thing in his last election platform.

A massive boycott of Chinese-manufactured exports, for example, might help bring President Xi to his senses. We simply can’t wait till 2030 to begin phasing out coal. If the diplomacy of COP doesn’t work, then maybe it is time for a more forceful approach.

Political journalist Rex Murphy, who is as close to a climate change denier as they come, suggested in a tongue-in-cheek opinion piece that maybe it’s time for net zero COP meetings. In fact, looking at the failure of the COP process to reduce, let alone stabilize our carbon footprint, he may have a point.

Ray Rivers, a Gazette Contributing Editor,  writes regularly applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.   Ray has a post graduate degree in economics that he earned at the University of Ottawa.  Tweet @rayzrivers

 

 

Background links:

What is COP –  Greta Has Spoken –    COP 26 Text

Harper’s Climate Denying History –   Ford Lower Gas Prices

Rex Murphy

 

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Ryerson school will now be known as Makwendam Public School

By Staff

November 18th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

At the November 17, 2021 Board meeting, Halton District School Board Trustees selected Makwendam Public School as the new name for Ryerson Public School, located at 565 Woodview Road in Burlington.

The name was unanimously supported by all Trustees. The new name will take effect immediately; a plan will be developed to make changes to school signage, website and sports uniforms.

The name Makwendam, pronounced muck-kwen-dum, is the Indigenous word for “to remember” in the Anishinaabemowin language.

Halton District School Board chair Andrea Grebenc

In their discussions, Trustees considered that this name would honour the reason for renaming the school, that is, Egerton Ryerson’s involvement in the creation of the residential school system. There have been growing calls to remove Ryerson’s name from public buildings and institutions and the HDSB has received formal requests to remove Ryerson’s name from the school.

“The choice of Makwendam Public School speaks directly to the purpose of renaming Ryerson Public School – as we as a country search for the lost children on residential school lands, we must remember, we must learn and be better,” says Andréa Grebenc, Chair of the Halton District School Board. “The Halton District School Board is committed to Indigenous Perspectives and Awareness, as outlined in our Strategic Multi-Year Plan commitments. We look forward to hearing the results of the City of Burlington’s naming process for the adjacent park.”

Egerton Ryerson: his role in the creation of the residential schools has, unfortunately, been distorted.

At the Board meeting, Trustees heard from Evan Rochon, a Grade 6 student at Ryerson Public School. In his delegation to the Trustees, Evan supported the name Makwendam.

The naming process began in September to ensure the parent/guardian, student and the broader community had the opportunity to provide input. In total, more than 1,200 names were submitted.

The City of Burlington is in the process of renaming the park adjacent to the former Ryerson school that shared the name of the man who gets credit for creating the education system that has served the province very well.

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Three year olds being recruited to sign on for kindergarten - the start of a 12 year journey

By Staff

November 16th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

It has come to this.

Three year olds getting their first look at what kindergarten has to offer them in a virtual Zoom setting.
Is this the best that creative minds can do?

Appears not.

In a media release the Halton District School Board said:

Starting school is a big step for children and parents/guardians, and the Halton District School Board wants to make that transition as smooth as possible. This fall, the HDSB is welcoming future students and their families to a virtual Kindergarten experience at kindergarten.hdsb.ca to learn more about making the first school experience a happy one.

Clip from a video introducing three year olds to kindergarten. Where is the grass? This is a muddy yard.

Is the correct answer to every question: Why?

Due to current public health restrictions, traditional in-person Kindergarten Open Houses are not possible this year. Instead, we have created a virtual experience for three-year olds and their families.

At kindergarten.hdsb.ca, three-year olds can explore a Kindergarten classroom to see what their future classroom might look like next September. There are videos to watch, pictures to view and fun activities for kids.

Parents/guardians can learn about the Kindergarten program at the HDSB, play-based learning, community resources in Halton and before-and-after school care. Families can also sign-up to receive a welcome package from the HDSB including a free children’s book.

Registration for Kindergarten begins in January 2022 and will be by appointment only (in-person and/or virtual) through the school your child will attend.

Further information will be shared in the new year.

To begin Kindergarten in September 2022, children must be four years old by Dec. 31, 2022 for Year 1 Kindergarten and must be five years old by Dec. 31, 2022 for Year 2 Kindergarten.

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When it comes to changing hearts and minds, facts are only one part of the equation - climate activist will engage you in a conversation on the other parts

By Pepper Parr

November 15th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

If Climate Change still matters to you after what we have learned from the COP26 conference in Scotland – then you want to listen to Katharine Hayhoe.

She is being brought to Halton by the Halton Environment Network via Zoom on November 18th at 8 PM for a Virtual Discussion with United Nations Champion of the Earth, Climate Activist and Author Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, as she joins our community to discuss her new book “Saving Us”.

In Saving Us, Hayhoe argues that when it comes to changing hearts and minds, facts are only one part of the equation. We need to find shared values in order to connect our unique identities to collective action. Dr. Hayhoe’s book is a multilayered look at science, faith, and human psychology to give you the tools you need to start talking about climate.

Get your copy in person or online at your local library, or at your local bookstore and learn from one of the top climate scientists in the world on how to talk about climate with your friends, co-workers, and family.

Join the discussion by registering here: bit.ly/LetsListen2021

For more information: https://climatecollective.ca/hccreads/

Follow #HCCReads & @haltonclimate on twitter to follow the conversation.

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