Library transformed into a space for community support, equity and inclusivity to cope with pandemic

By Maddy Van Clieaf, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

 July 23rd, 2021



The Burlington Public Library, BPL, has served as a community hub for information, engagement and literacy since 1872. With the unprecedented events of the pandemic, the library has transformed into a space for community support, equity and inclusivity.

Lita Barrie, CEO and President of BPL

Lita Barrie, CEO and President of BPL, and her team of librarians and staff have been working throughout the pandemic with other community groups and libraries to establish comprehensive services that capture the community’s needs.

The library worked in two ways to accommodate the community. Barrie explained that “it was about what we could do in our capacity as the library to help keep our community safe and our staff safe.”

Just as Burlington shifted online, the library closed its doors on March 13, 2020. Staff and patrons alike adapted to the digital format, with the library seeing a 103% increase in eCheckouts.

This might be social distancing to the extreme.

To respond to the increased demand for online services, BPL transformed their website into a ‘virtual branch’ offering a wide variety of staff picks eBooklists, online learning resources and activities for children at home, as well as a list of community resources for those in need.

As well, a partnership with the Mississauga, Hamilton, London and Ottawa Public Libraries boosted BPL’s digital book collection, expanding the total digital collections to 330,000+ titles.

All the pandemic did for the library was increase the demand for something to read.

Barrie continued, “The second way BPL accommodated the community was in trying to adapt to whatever constraints the pandemic was presenting at one time or another to provide meaningful library service. Part of what we tried to reimagine through the pandemic is how we could continue to be open to the community while our physical branches couldn’t be.”

Reimagining the way a library works and functions in the community means the services provided by the library are constantly changing to adapt. They provide for a broad demographic; young kids learning to read, students, and senior citizens.

Maddy Van Clieaf is a second year journalism student at Carleton University.  She is with the Gazette as part of the federal governments Local Journalism initiative.

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Council will come back from their break and dig into what will be tough budget discussions - the number on the table now is 5.47% increase

By Staff

July 21, 2021



Budget time – and this is going to be a defining period of time for this council.

Traditionally politicians put forward a budget that lowers taxes in an election year.

That is going to be very very difficult for this Mayor; she has yet to learn budget discipline.

Will the Mayor learn to listen to and hear what some of her council members and the public are saying. The Finance department will do their best to make a case for some fiscal prudence.

Her council will learn to clamp down – when staff finishes telling them what the city is really up against fiscal prudence will kick in.

Insurance costs have sky-rocketed. Repairing the covid19 damage to the local economy is going to take time.

Burlington is fortunate in having a Finance department that knows what they are facing – and while council lauds their efforts they don’t pay enough attention to the advice that Treasurer Joan Ford puts forward.

The city will be doing another survey – that’s all part of the process. The complexity of municipal budgets is difficult for people to get a grip on. There isn’t a balance sheet or a profit and loss statement – municipalities are not in place to make money – they are there to deliver services and hold funds for those unforeseen situations.

Take the budget survey and tell the finance people s which City services are important to you.

You are encouraged to complete an online survey at All the feedback captured through the survey will be shared with Burlington City Council. The survey will remain open until Sept. 30, 2021.

Key meeting dates for the 2022 budget include:

Sept 22, 23, 28, and 30
City Council workshops with presentations from each City service area

There used to be public budget meetings that filled the main room at the Art Gallery

Nov. 3
Corporate Services, Strategy, Risk and Accountability Committee Meeting: 2022 Budget overview report

Nov. 4
2022 Budget Virtual Town Hall

Nov. 30 and Dec. 2
Corporate Services, Strategy, Risk and Accountability Committee Meeting: 2022 Budget review and approval

Dec. 14
Meeting of Burlington City Council: City Council to consider approval of the proposed 2022 budget

Changes in how Council meetings will take place as the Region works its way through Step 3 of the Re-Open Plan.  It might be possible to hold real public meetings with perhaps limited public participation.

Does this Council really want the public in the room looking them in the eye and asking some hard questions?

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Two members of Council issue a Joint Statement and then put it on their Facebook pages

By Staff

July 21st, 2021


Sometime after we were advised of the Facebook posting the Office of the Mayor issued a document

It is a different way of communicating.

Mayor Meed Ward and Councillor Lisa Kearns released a Joint Statement today on the Holland Park development proposed for Fairview and Drury Lane.

Basically they said there wasn’t all that much they can do about a development that has literally nothing in the way of caps on the height.

There is a drawing of what the developers are proposing set out below.

Our question is:  Was posting the Joint Statement on Facebook pages an attempt to slip something past the public?

The proposal is for seven buildings with heights ranging from 29 to 37 storeys. .

Related news stories:

It is going to be the biggest residential development the city has ever seen – with no height controls.

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Twenty plus demonstrators protest outside Quarry gates - passing trucks drown out the sound

By Ryan O’Dowd

July 20th, 2021



This morning CORE Burlington (Conserving our Rural Ecosystems) hosted their first event since the start of the pandemic to oppose Nelson Aggregate’s Mount Nemo quarry expansion application. According to the citizen groups united against Nelson, the proposal is anything but new.

The messaging from the speakers at today’s event was clear, this is the same proposal dismissed in 2012, CORE founder Gord Pinard, calls it the “zombie quarry.” Singer and activist Sarah Harmer enforced this message.

“This quarry proposal was a terrible idea in 2004 and is still a terrible idea in 2021,” Harmer said, “every level of government opposed this project.

“It’s an unfair process that the citizens of this area have to mount another opposition and it speaks to governance issues at the provincial level.”

Nelson’s previous attempt to expand the Mount Nemo quarry was denied in 2012 after failing to include protections for the endangered Jefferson Salamander.

The resulting legal battle cost 2.1 million dollars of Burlington tax-payer money.

The Jefferson Salamander is accommodated for this time with Nelson claiming their native wetlands will be strengthened by the development.

When asked about Nelson’s proposed differences Harmer said the current project and the dismissed proposal were, “materially the same.”

Nelson has suggested sourcing aggregate from other locations will be worse environmentally in the long run due to C02 transportation issues.

“You can’t balance greenhouse gas with permanent destruction,” Janet Turpin Myers, of CORE, told the Gazette. Adding, despite their transportation concerns Nelson already ships fill and asphalt from as far as Toronto and Oshawa.

Shane Phillips, leading the Ear to the Groundwater campaign which fights threats to groundwater, spoke of systemic issues with governance on environmental issues.

“We’re not talking about political parties; it doesn’t matter what parties are involved it’s the same policy. Corporations are driving policy-making, lobbying is driving policy-making. And so, I’m trying to say ‘connect the dots,’ so that people understand this is everyone’s backyard. You can’t say ‘well we need [aggregate] but not in my backyard,’” said Phillips.

The community speaks.

While Phillips was indifferent to party others evoked Premier Doug Ford as a potential factor in Nelson’s new proposal.

“Maybe it’s political; they think they can sneak the quarry in with a construction-friendly [provincial] government,” said protest attendee, Doug Annette.

CORE suggested the environmental impact projections in Nelson’s proposal are incomplete.

Janet Turpin Meyers was opposed to the idea of a quarry expansion the moment she heard about it 15 years ago. A published author who might yet write a book on rural Burlington.

“They’re slanting the proposal [through omission] to their agenda,” Myers said.

In a December 2020 objection letter, the community group cited an overly rosy outlook including claims Nelson’s application treated global warming trends as anomalies, used dated emission factors from the EPA (some 30 years old), and sourced background data from distant communities when the Mount Nemo information was unavailable.

Sarah Harmer performs Escarpment Blues; a piece she wrote 15 years ago when she and others opposed the Nelson application. A truck hauling aggregate passes by in the background.

Today’s speakers raised their voices to be heard over the roaring trucks going to and from Nelson’s existing site. Harmer performed Escarpment Blues, and the audience snapped and swayed along, to a song they knew very well – it was written for their 2005 fight against Nelson.

Harmer spoke about how it felt to have a song from fifteen years ago every bit as relevant today, she cited vigilance.




Ryan O’Dowd is a Sheridan College journalism student who is part of a federally funded Local Journalism Initiative that will have him reporting for the Gazette well into 2022.  He is a Burlington native who plays the guitar.

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Police parking lot offered as a safe place to transact business. Really!

By Staff

July 20, 2021



The Halton Regional Police Service is pleased to announce the launch of our first Buy & Sell Exchange Zone.

A zone is an area the police set up that they deem to be a safe place.  Right outside police headquarters is probably as safe as you are going to get.

Why such a zone?  The Halton Regional Police explain:

Many people have become victims of crimes like robberies, frauds and thefts when attempting to buy or sell property online. The purpose of the Buy & Sell Exchange Zone is to provide some additional peace of mind to those who are buying, selling, or trading property online. If you are meeting new people while finalizing online transactions, we encourage you to use our Exchange Zone.

You can expect to be safe outside Police headquarters

The clearly-signed Exchange Zone is situated in the visitor parking lot of our 20 Division facility, which is located at:
95 Oak Walk Drive, Oakville, Ontario L6H 0G6 – Phone: 905-825-4777 ext. 2

If you are unable to meet at our Buy & Sell Exchange Zone, please consider completing your transactions in well-lit, public and popular locations to avoid being a victim of crime.

Tips to protect yourself during a buy and sell exchange:
• Complete your transaction during daytime hours only.
• Use the buddy system when possible. Bring a family or friend with you, or at the very least, let someone know who you will be meeting, the time, and the location of the exchange.
• To reduce the potential of falling victim to fraud, never complete a buy and sell transaction by mail.
• When meeting in person, always inspect goods you wish to purchase before giving money to the seller.
• Limit the amount of personal information you provide.
• Stop. Pause. Think. If something seems too good to be true, it likely is.

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Online registration for indoor summer recreation programs opens July 24

By Staff

July 20, 2021


Burlington will open online registration for indoor summer recreation programs for adults 19+ and adults 55+ beginning Saturday, July 24 at 9 a.m.

Registration for swimming programs at Tansley Woods, Aldershot, Centennial and Angela Coughlan pools will also open on Saturday, July 24 at 11 a.m.
A complete listing of indoor summer programming can be found online at< Drop-in programs
Registration for drop-in recreational swimming and skating programs at indoor City facilities is required 25 hours in advance of the program start time. Drop-in swimming programs start today, Monday, July 19, and skating programs will resume Tuesday, July 20.
New self-serve option for withdrawing from drop-in programs

New this season, participants have the ability to withdraw from drop-in programs online by logging into their Live & Play account. More information about the new feature is available online at

All City programs will continue to follow public health guidance when required, including physical distancing, capacity limits and wearing masks or face coverings. Individuals participating in an in-person program will be required to fill out the mandatory health screening form at before each session.

Individuals who have questions or require assistance can email live& or call 905-335-7738 between 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, and 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on weekends.

• Recreation fee assistance funding is available to resident individuals or families who require assistance with the cost of City of Burlington recreation programs. For more information or to apply, visit You can also leave a confidential voicemail message at 905-335-7738, ext. 8501 and staff will return your call to assist you.

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Life is getting closer to normal now that we are in Step 3 of the ReOpen plan

By Alexandra Vanquest
July 19th, 2021

After months of lockdown and restrictive measures, there is at last some good news for Ontario residents.

The province has moved into Step 3 of the Road to Reopen plan five days earlier than expected.

The new chief medical officer of health confirmed the news to reporters last week, saying that the acceleration of the timetable was, in large part, due to the large number of local citizens who are putting themselves forward daily to get vaccinated.

Step 3 of the plan has two main objectives – to expand what can happen in an indoor setting and to further expand outdoor activities.

Among the new changes for indoor locations:

• Up to 25 people at a time can attend indoor gatherings and public events;

Spaced out to meet social distancing requirements – people are now able to get out for an indoors meal.

• Indoor dining is now permitted with no capacity limits other than the proviso that tables should be at least two metres apart;

• More people are now allowed to attend religious services like weddings, funerals, and christenings;

• Indoor sport and recreational fitness facilities can operate at up to 50% capacity (with spectators capped at 1,000 people);

• Similarly, concert venues, theatres and cinemas can operate up to 50% capacity (up to the same limits); and

• Nightclubs and other places of entertainment can operate up to 25% capacity, with up to a maximum of 250 attendees allowed.

Outdoor locations are also opening up.

• With limited exceptions, up to 100 people can attend outside gatherings and organised events;

• Outdoor sporting and recreational facilities are now capped at up to 75% of the approved capacity, or 15,000 people, whichever is the lower;

• Casinos, museums, aquariums, galleries, fairs, and amusement parks are capped at 75% capacity or a maximum of 5,000, (which is the lower) for unseated events. In the case of mixed seating events, the crowd limit is revised upwards to 15,000 people.

Online casinos have always been available and are becoming more and more popular. You gamble when and where you want.

Of course, those interested in playing online are not limited to visiting physical casinos. There are many online versions available and some of the newest online casinos in Canada are listed here.

Provincial officials have confirmed that masks and face coverings will still be mandatory for indoor public events during Step 3, and that masks will be required in some public settings along with the observation of other public health protocols.

Getting to the 80% vaccinated level is what it will take to open things up even more.

Even where it is not obligatory, people will still be encouraged to wear masks over the coming months to minimize the risk of transmission of the virus.

It is expected that Ontario will remain at Step 3 for at least 21 days, and until at least 80% of those eligible – currently all those aged 12 and older – have received at least one anti-Covid vaccination and 75% have received two jabs.

If those targets can be met, then the provincial government has indicated that it is prepared to remove the majority of the remaining health and workplace safety measures, including lifting the capacity limits for both indoor and outdoor events.

Many Ontarians, fed-up with more than a year of restrictions on personal freedoms, will have their fingers crossed these thresholds can be met, and that life can finally get back to some sort of normal.

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Rivers: Is the Pandemic Over or Is This Deja Vu?

By Ray Rivers
July 19th, 2021

The roller coaster ride with COVID has slowed down once again in this province. Our infection numbers have declined substantially since we peaked at over 4000 cases back a few months ago. Clearly the ‘stay-at-home’ and other public health restrictions have helped, though it’s the vaccinations that have really made the difference. And our governments deserve credit, the feds for securing vaccine supply and the province and local health authorities for rolling out the vaccinations.

Yet Ontario’s infection rate is still hovering in the triple digits and only about half of the adult population is vaccinated . But, the Premier is boasting about getting back to normal soon, much as he did last year. But chances are better than even that he is wrong again.

Normal is a long way off. Over the last few days the provincial infection numbers have either settled onto a plateau, or started inching back in the wrong direction. And Ontario’s new medical officer of health is now predicting another increase in infections come September, just as we saw last year.

If we look at the British and Americans. We see how they had mostly opened up their economies when their vaccination levels were similar to those in Ontario. But the results have been disastrous. COVID cases have soared over 90% across the UK such that their infection numbers are now back to those of last January, when they were in the grip of the Alpha (UK) variant and hardly anyone had been vaccinated.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is prepared to life all controls for the UK: covid19 infections are expected to rise while the PM goes into self isolation.

Medical officials in the UK have characterized Boris Johnson’s COVID policy of ‘living with the virus’ as just creating a breeding ground for new viral variants. In the US, the Delta variant has become the prime enemy of the people, with cases doubling every couple weeks and with increases in infections rising in every state. Authorities are laying the blame on the fall off in vaccination rates.

The virus and Delta variant may be the enemy, but those refusing the jab are its enablers. Just as in Canada, the virus in the UK and America is being spread primarily by the unvaccinated. So why aren’t more people rolling up their sleeves? US president Biden accuses social media of killing Americans by spreading anti-vaccine disinformation.

In France, when vaccinations started slowing down and COVID cases started rising, President Macron made vaccination mandatory for all health care workers. And then he made vaccine passports mandatory for access to congregate places, like bars and sporting events. That was a powerful incentive and a million people signed up almost immediately to get the shot in the arm.

Only two provinces in Canada are even considering issuing vaccine passports and regulating their usage. And Ontario isn’t one of them, despite calls from the mayor of Toronto and the business community to do just that. Premier Ford, while saying everyone should get the jab, keeps muttering about a split society, whatever that means. And also he refuses to mandate vaccines for health care workers.

Quebec chooses to use QR codes as vaccination passports.

It can’t be a constitutional rights or a privacy issue. After all, this is the same premier who instructed provincial police to block people moving across the provincial borders and to conduct random checks of vehicles and ticket those not travelling to a workplace. He is the guy who ordered COVID-safe golf and outdoor recreational tennis facilities and children’s playgrounds, shuttered under threat of thousands of dollars in fines.

The truth is that this pandemic will not be over until everyone, who is able to, gets fully vaccinated. It’s how we eliminated smallpox and for a time, measles. It’s either that or we social distance it into oblivion as New Zealand has done successfully so far. And it is likely too late for that.

With an election coming up next year, one would think Mr. Ford would want to ensure that Ontario’s economy is opened up as quickly and safely as possible – not another false start. Getting everyone vaccinated is the best bet for that to be possible.

After the turbulent series of confusing and often counter-productive provincial policies over the last year and a half, this might demonstrate that Mr. Ford is actually capable of learning on the job and responding to the public will. Otherwise it’s deja vu.


Background links:

Step Three and COVID –   French Experience –  

The Next Wave –  Ford Opposes –    Ontario Medical

Mandatory Vaccinations –   England Threat to the World

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Federal provincial funds allow for the completion of several projects

By Staff

July 17th, 2021



Burlington is to receive provincial and federal funding from the Investing in Canada Infrastructure -Program (ICIP)  that will help fund four projects:

  • Elgin Street Promenade, Stage 4
  • Design and Construction of Palmer Trail
  • City Hall Customer Service Window Renovation
  • Roads, Parks and Forestry Operations Centre Renovation

In total, the City will receive $852,200 of funding, $681,760 from the Federal Government and $170,440 from the Provincial Government.

In August 2020 the Federal Government announced adjustments to the ICIP program to help provinces and territories and ultimately municipalities to deal with the financial pressures brought on by COVID-19. This new stream of funding is designed to deliver more infrastructure projects during the pandemic by increasing the types of eligible projects and accelerating approvals.

Funded Projects

When completed – the promenade will complete the trail from Brant Street to the Centennial Trail.

Elgin Street Promenade, Stage 4

    • – A 4m-wide fully accessible pedestrian and cycling trail located in the downtown core. Approximately 75 per cent of this trail is complete. This is the final phase of this four-part construction project and represents a vital link to connecting the downtown to an existing 8km trail that links to the broader community.
  • Palmer Trail – A 3m-wide fully accessible pedestrian and cycling trail located the heart of the City. Phase 1 was constructed in 2019. Approximately 50 per cent of this trail is complete. This proposed work is to complete the final phase, providing a key north-south link connecting neighborhoods to the larger trail system. The proposed width of these new trails will easily accommodate physical distancing between people passing each other and also allows for people to walk side by side.
  • City Hall Customer Service Window Renovation – The existing City Hall service counter requires a renovation to facilitate physical distancing and customer service requirements. Funding will be used towards the reconfiguration of the existing counter location to allow for customer privacy and an adequate queuing area away from the common traffic flow area.
  • Roads, Parks and Forestry (RPF) Operations Centre Renovation – A reconfiguration of the existing floor plan at the operations centre is necessary to accommodate RPF service requirements. The renovation will allow for supervisors and staff to work and collaborate efficiently and will also provide for additional physical distancing for staff and contractors through controlled queuing areas.
Related news story:
Final phase awaits funding


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Memo to Council: Region decides to hold budget increase at 2%

By Pepper Parr
July 15th, 2021


On July 14, 2021, Regional Council approved Halton’s 2022 Budget Directions Report. The Report provides guidelines to staff to maintain existing service levels for Regional programs while supporting the community’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. It also establishes a target property tax increase at or below the rate of inflation (2.0 per cent).

“The 2022 Budget Directions Report is an important step in the development of our next Budget and Business Plan,” said Halton Regional Chair Gary Carr. “It lays a foundation to help us preserve our strong financial position, keep property taxes low and support our community as more residents get vaccinated and Halton gradually reopens.”

The Report identifies priorities for Regional investments in 2022 to ensure residents have access to essential services while providing for critical program enhancements to address community growth. It also ensures next year’s Budget aligns with the strategic themes, objectives and outcomes outlined in the 2019–2022 Strategic Business Plan.

Seven of those smiling faces represent Burlington – if they voted to hold the 2022 tax increase to 2% for the Region – can’t they do that for the City?

Financial pressures related to the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccine rollout are also identified in the Report. Staff are closely monitoring current and potential fiscal impacts as they develop plans for 2022. The Region will continue to address program pressures, reallocate resources to priority areas and maintain service levels to help achieve a property tax rate increases at or below the rate of inflation.


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City awards $25,200 for community projects, through the Neighbourhood Community Matching Fund

News 100 greenBy Staff

July 15th, 2021



The City of Burlington announced the names of the 2021 Neighbourhood Community Matching Fund recipients today.

A community investment of $25,200 will go towards three community projects, focused on enhancing infrastructure amenities within parks, gardens, buildings on public lands or on lands that are accessible to public.

2021 marks the fifth year the City has provided the program.

The projects funded for 2021 include:

Robin Bailey, Executive Director of the Food Bank talking to Adria Cehovin at the Urban Farm on Brant at Ghent.

Grow for Change Urban Farm Community Therapeutic Programs ($10,000)
This project will provide the community with access to a new temporary green space near Brant Street and Ghent Street, as well as therapeutic horticulture programming for adults and youth, to promote positive social and mental health.

The Orchard Community Garden Project ($10,000)
This brand-new community learning garden at the Trail Head Parkette (5401 Redstone St.), will include eight large garden boxes with fruits and vegetables and native pollinating flowers and plants. Food and plants harvested from the garden will be shared with the community and donated to the local food banks.

Community Garden in Roseland ($5,200)
This community garden in Roseland, at Port Nelson United Church, will be an accessible space for relaxation, reflection or a neighbourhood meeting. The space will feature numerous seating areas; herbs; perennials that support and encourage the pollinator population; and a ‘Peace Pole,’ an internationally recognized symbol of hopes and dreams that stands for peace on earth.

The successful projects have one year to complete their projects and must comply with the current public health regulations and provincial framework during development and implementation.

We never thought that the Roseland community needed public support for a community garden.

Our understanding was that the “farm” on Brant Street was being funded by the Molinaro Group who owned the land. When Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns first announced the project she made no mention of public money being used.

Quick Facts:
The Neighbourhood Community Matching Fund was created in 2016 to inspire residents to champion community-led projects.

The goal of the fund is to improve neighbourhoods by creating a sense of belonging and community pride, while building meaningful connections.

Through the fund, Burlington residents are encouraged to submit community-led project plans that help make our city a better place to live and play.

• For 2021, the Neighbourhood Community Matching Fund focused on small projects that enhance infrastructure amenities within parks, gardens, buildings on public lands or on lands that are accessible to the public that meet the goal of the fund.

• All projects are to be planned, led and implemented by, and for the community in a public setting.

• Approved projects receive up to 50 per cent of the funding for the project from the City, to a maximum of $10,000. The community groups selected match this funding with an equal contribution made up through any combination of volunteer hours, donated services, donated materials and supplies or other funds raised, such as cash donations.

• For more information about the Neighbourhood Community Matching Fund, visit

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Lady of The Lakes getting frequent shampoos

News 100 greenBy Staff

July 15th, 2021



We have a reader who I lives directly across from the Fountain at Spencer Smith Park.

She tells an interesting story about some “shampooing” that has taken place recently.

“A number of times last year the fountain was “shampooed” resulting in a foam party down at the park.

Foam for the lady

Lady of Lakes has been getting shampoos frequently. The Park maintenance people do not appear to be amused.

“I watched as City workers arrived each time to clean up the “mess”. It appeared that each time they needed to drain the fountain and clean it and refill it. It also appeared to take quite a few workers and quite a bit of time and effort to restart the fountain.

“A few days ago (I think last Saturday) I noticed during the day that the fountain was once again shampooed with foam bouncing about the park – quite a few people noticed it and were having a bit of fun chasing bubbles.

“They drained the fountain and have not performed any work to restart it – I’m guessing that perhaps they’ve had enough and have decided to leave it dry – but I’m not sure. It’s a shame but I do get it.”

“The photograph is one from last year’s shampooing from my front window view.”

The city might want to have one of the Park Ambassadors to be on the look out.

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Joan and the Mayor: Columnist taken to task

background graphic redBy Pepper Parr

July 15th, 2021



It is difficult at times to follow an argument when both sides are not in front of you.

This morning the Hamilton Spectator published a piece written by Mayor Mead Ward who takes Joan Little, a Spectator columnist, to task.

We have published both the Little column and the response from Meed Ward.

Joan Little column of July 7th in the Hamilton Spectator:

Tough council decisions exposing rifts in unity

When writing my last column, I got a rude awakening about how some things are done today in Burlington. I had questions about a city report on the Regional Official plan, so e-mailed a senior planning person to check that my understanding was accurate. The reply came from a name I didn’t recognize. Too late I realized it had been filtered through the communications dept – read PR people!

Because I watch committee and council meetings, I seldom request additional help about issues. This reply was filtered through PR people, an insult to highly capable specialists in their field. Citizens would thank communications staff if they improved the city’s dreadful web site, which offers several hundred (mostly irrelevant) results for any search.

The Adi development on Lakeshore is underway, a constant intrusion on neighbours’ lives.

Disclosure – I live nearby. The worst problem is that the Ford Government has overridden reasonable hours of work bylaws. Burlington’s, like many, is 7:00 am to 7:00 pm. Ford’s is 6:00 am to 10:00 pm, seven days a week. Ironically many other businesses faced restrictions.

Adi simply wants too much development on a tiny lot. City staff refused it, as did council, but OMB chair Susan Schiller (now a full-time vice-chair of the new Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) approved it. Note – New legislation rolled five tribunals into one super-tribunal – the OLT. It handles land use, environment, conservation review (heritage), expropriation, mining, etc.

Because Adi wants 26 storeys on such a small lot, they’ve had to excavate seven floors to meet minimum parking standards – probably deeper for elevator shafts. This, within a couple of hundred meters of the lake. The site ponded regularly. They hit bedrock early, so have jack-hammered for months, from 6:00 am. And this small deep hole magnifies sound, like an echo chamber.

It there any chance that months of daily jack-hammering could weaken foundations of nearby buildings? Do cities ever do stress tests to ensure neighbouring buildings aren’t compromised by development activities?

Recently Coun. Lisa Kearns had hosted a virtual meeting with Adi to answer questions. There were few answers. A subsequent Adi communique made excuses about a “complex” project.

Surely they knew the deep parking garage (deepest in the city) required a larger excavator? That simultaneous activities could create problems? They did however provide a number to call when problems arose (905) 335-2929. With affected neighbours on all sides, calls could be numerous.

Council faces a tough 2022 budget that projects the city portion of total taxes (city, region and education) could rise 5.57 per cent, with an overall increase of 3.33 per cent.

The last council meeting exposed chinks in Mayor Marianne Meed Ward’s grip on council.

When this council was sworn in almost three years ago, only the mayor and Paul Sharman had experience. Five were new, and tended to “follow the leader”. Now they think for themselves.

The issue was Rainbow crosswalks. Burlington installed its first one last year for about $10,000, with consensus that the program would continue. Recently the mayor presented a motion to install six (three this year) and directed staff to address options on rainbow benches and banners.

Councillors Kearns, Sharman and Shawna Stolte supported one a year, because the mayor’s motion meant using unbudgeted dollars from reserve funds this year, and future capital budgets.

Meed Ward’s motion carried four to three. Then she issued a statement thanking the three who supported her, perhaps leaving the impression the other three did not support Pride.

In response the three dissenters took the unusual step of issuing their own statement, outlining costs associated with the mayor’s position. They claimed it would cost taxpayers up to $50,000 this year, and upwards of $100,000 plus, in unplanned future funding. Our mayor is capable, but my observation is that when she wants something, budgetary caution suffers.

It will be interesting to watch council as we approach 2022’s municipal election. Will the chinks become large chasms?

Freelance columnist Joan Little is a former Burlington alderperson and Halton councillor. Reach
her at


Meed Ward opinion piece in the July 15th, Hamilton Spectator:


Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward

Thank you to columnist Joan Little for her recent roundup of Burlington issues, particularly the recent 4-3 vote on funding additional rainbow crosswalks to show our city’s support for our 2SLGBTQIA-plus community.

There are several factual errors in the column that must be corrected, especially on such an important topic. I recognize these errors come from a statement on social media by several council members, which also contained inaccuracies. Accurate information can be found in the minutes or recording of meetings, all available online. (See June 8 minutes, item 5.5)

I brought a motion at committee to add three additional rainbow crosswalks in 2021, using the appropriate reserve fund, with consideration for three additional crosswalks to be discussed and funded during the 2022 budget discussions. Those discussions are still to come, and council will determine the source of funding at that time. The cost to date is an upset limit of $50,000 (not $100,000, as noted in the column).

Six crosswalks would provide one per ward throughout the city, something we heard was important from several councillors and the community. Doing multiple crosswalks now provides the potential for bulk savings on paint and contracted services.

It’s been said a council’s priorities are found not so much in the words of their strategic plan, but in the actions of their budget. We fund what we value.

The motion also provided consideration for rainbow benches and banners, with a report back from staff on cost and feasibility. That motion carried 5-2 at committee and 4-3 at council.

Only one alternative motion was presented at committee and supported by three council members.

The column stated councillors supported one rainbow crosswalk “per year” — that is incorrect. Per the minutes of the meeting, the actual motion tabled was for one additional crosswalk in 2021, and removing consideration for three additional crosswalks during upcoming budget discussions. If approved, that would have limited additional crosswalks to one and done. That motion failed 4-3.

I thanked those who supported the original motion. The three councillors who voted against it issued a statement explaining their vote, which is welcome. In the interest of transparency and accountability councillors are encouraged to explain to residents how they voted and why, whether in the majority or minority. I have regularly done so myself in my monthly newsletter, as both a councillor and now as mayor, including the vote count.

The characterization (and headline) that the 4-3 vote on this matter “exposed chinks” in the mayor’s “grip” on council, does a disservice to every member of Burlington council.

All members of council are fully capable, independent thinkers who have made decisions from the start of their terms based on the evidence presented, the merits of discussions and what they believe is best for their constituents. These decisions are done regardless of who puts the motion on the floor. Please respect that — and them.

I’m immensely proud of the careful thought and compassion they bring to each discussion. During this term, we have had 7-0, 6-1, 5-2 and 4-3 votes. That’s as it should be. I can’t imagine any council anywhere in the world that has unanimously passed every motion brought forward to them, nor is a 4-3 vote to be avoided. We welcome different viewpoints. When we disagree, we aim to do so respectfully.

On July 8, at committee, councillors unanimously supported a motion I brought forward to embark on renaming Ryerson Park, out of respect for Indigenous residents and as part of our path to reconciliation.

If reported on (and I hope it is), I hope this unanimous vote won’t be characterized as the mayor now regaining a “grip” on council.

Rather I hope coverage would focus on the importance of renaming the park as part of our commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action, and the unanimous vote as reflective of the deep commitment of every member of council to reconciliation and action.

I hope these clarifications are helpful to your readers’ understanding of what took place.

Marianne Meed Ward is mayor of Burlington.

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New city auditor announced

News 100 blueBy Staff

July 14, 2021



The City of Burlington announced the appointment of Maciej Jurczyk as the City Auditor starting August 16.

The City Auditor reports directly to the Audit Committee, a standing committee of Burlington Council. The Audit Committee is comprised of both City Council members and citizen members, of which three members were directly involved in this hiring process.

city auditor

Maciej Jurczyk: newly appointed city auditor

Maciej brings over 20 years of internal audit and organizational performance experience. He has worked in both the public and private sectors. More recently, Maciej was with the City of Brampton in various audit and business improvement capacities as well as Director Internal Control & Organizational Performance for Niagara Region. Maciej was a member of the City of Burlington Audit Committee for four years as well as a member of the Halton Region Joint Audit Compliance Committee.
City Auditor role

The Office of the City Auditor is an independent office. The City Auditor sees the whole of the organization and supports the City in the achievement of its strategic, department and service-oriented goals and objectives. The work of a City Auditor includes:

• assessing how risks are managed
• providing recommendations to increase the certainty of achieving goals and objectives
• looking at operations through a continuous improvement lens to support enhancements
• advising and consulting management and staff during the development of new opportunities and projects to enhance internal controls and minimize risk.

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Deputy Chief Wilkie Appointed as Member of the Order of Merit

News 100 blueBy Staff

July 14th, 2021



On July 13, 2021, Deputy Chief Roger Wilkie was presented with the Member level of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces by RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki.

Wilkie Rober HRPS

Deputy Chief Roger Wilkie: MOM

The Member of the Order of Merit (M.O.M.) specifically recognizes exceptional service or performance of duty over an extended period, usually at the local or regional/provincial level. Normally, recipients are invited to a ceremony where they are presented with the insignia of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces by the Governor General at Rideau Hall or la Citadelle. This year, due to the pandemic, the presentation was virtual in nature.

Established in October 2000, the Order of Merit of the Police Forces honours the leadership and exceptional service or distinctive merit displayed by the men and women of the Canadian Police Services, and recognizes their commitment to this country. The primary focus is on exceptional merit, contributions to policing and community development. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is the Order’s Sovereign, the governor general is its Chancellor and a Commander, and the commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is its Principal Commander.

There is a rigorous nomination and appointment process involved in receiving this recognition, with a focus on exceptional merit, contributions to policing, and community development and/or implementations.

Deputy Chief Roger Wilkie began his career with the Halton Regional Police Service in 1996. Throughout his career he has served in uniform operations in the Town of Milton, Town of Halton Hills, City of Burlington and Town of Oakville. He has worked in the Drug Unit, Mobile Surveillance Unit, Homicide Unit, Criminal Investigations Bureau, Domestic Violence Unit and as the Executive Officer to the Deputy Chief. He has also led several areas as the Operations Commander in Milton and Halton Hills, District Commander in Oakville, Critical Incident Commander for major public safety incidents and the Commander of Emergency Services, Training, and Human Resource Services. He was promoted to Deputy Chief of Regional Operations in 2018, and in October 2019, he started in his current role as Deputy Chief of District Operations.

In addition to his role as Deputy Chief, he is Vice President of the Executive Board of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police and is also the Co-Chair of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

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City Council starts a six week break - back at it September 6th

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

July 14th, 2021



They waved to the cameras once the motion to adjourn was passed – and with that the seven members of Council were off for the summer.

They return to a thick schedule of meetings September 6th.

Some have set out pretty hectic schedules for themselves; others are taking a break.

Meed Ward - at lectern

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward

Nothing specific from the Mayor – she will network with her tribe and shore up the weak spots.

Stolte May 5

Ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte

Ward 4 Councillor Stolte is going to hold Pop Up meetings in parks throughout her ward. We lost count at seven locations. They will take place on Wednesdays from 5:00 to 7:00 pm.

Bentivegna plans on something a little more subdued – he will be meeting with small groups of five or six in back yards to listen and to ensure that they know he will be running again.

AB Apr 20

Ward 6 Councillor Angelo Bentivegna

Bentivegna is very effective in working a crowd; he plunges right in and makes friendly. He isn’t as available for media – basically he doesn’t respond; he used to – early in his first campaign he posed for pictures and talked about his plans as a city councillor. When he didn’t like what we had to say – he stopped talking.

Sharman Jan 2020

Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman

Councillor Sharman is going to focus on his Orchard Park community – it might have to be virtual. He has an annual Appleby Line event that might make it out of the Covid19 social distancing limitations.

Ward 1 Councillor Kelvin Galbraith will be taking part in a couple of community events. The Rolling Horse Tour d’Aldershot is on his calendar. Summer is cottage time for the Galbraith household.

Every member of Council will begin, or have already begun, looking at their election prospects.

Lisa Kearns

Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns

Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns will be doing some Zoom broadcasting. A usually reliable source told the Gazette that Kearns told him she would not be running for the Council seat even if she lost the attempt to gain the Liberal nomination for a seat in the Legislature.

We all know how that event went – she dropped out the day another candidate threw her hat into the ring.
Kearns can be mercurial at times. Will she live up to the statement she is reported to have made?

The long break gives the people elected to represent the interests of the tax payers time to think about what they have managed to get done and what they want to do with the time left in this term of office.

The achievements have been significant – they set a different direction in terms of the development that is taking place and will take place.

They have also come to learn more about the strengths and weaknesses are of their fellow council members and what they can achieve personally.

Some rude awakenings for several.

For those that decide to run again – most of them will – but they aren’t all going to retain their seats.

The Mayor will run again – she loves the job and, truth be told, there is no one out there who can beat her at this point in time.

Also true – she was the best choice the city had for Mayor in 2018

The budget could trip her up – there are too many changes coming on the expense side. Insurance premiums are going to sky rocket for the municipal sector – and there isn’t much councils can do.

Spending on small items will add up –a reported $100,000 for Rainbow Crosswalks comes under the Mayor’s “want to have”. She used to talk in terms of must have and nice to have.

There are two members of Council with Mayoralty aspirations – both realize this is not their time – 2026 might be.


City Manager Tim Commisso

City Manager Tim Commisso has done a fine job of rejigging the way the administration is to operate and put some very qualified people in place. He has a number of top level positions that will see retirements – Legal and Finance might not change while the pandemic has to be dealt with but once things are secure they will want to live different lives.

Will Commisso renew his contract? Probably not – but his work isn’t done yet.

However, his replacement gets better every day.  And a majority of Council thinks she great.  Awesome was the word used by several.

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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If you need proof of your vaccinations.

News 100 blueBy Staff

July 14th, 2021



needle and vaccine

People can prove they are fully immunized by showing the physical or emailed receipt that was provided to them at the time of vaccination.

Vaccination receipts can also be downloaded or printed through the provincial portal.


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City manager now has the authority to make $250,000 spending decisions - he has to tell Council in September how many times he did that

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

July 14th, 2021



Council is on their summer break until September 6th.

The city will wake up each day – do the things a city does and hope that the wheels don’t fall off.

The City is still in a declared State of Emergency which puts the day to day running of the city in the hands of the Emergency Control Group (ECG).

What if they have to do something quickly – really quickly to deliver the services council has approved?

Council found a solution for that – they gave the city manager delegated authority to spend $250,000 without referring to council before getting the cheque signed.

Pretty decent amount in terms of pocket change for city manager Tim Commisso to carry around. That kind of cash could certainly burn a hole in one’s pocket.

Commiso July 5 a

City manager Tim Commisso

To be serious this is just prudent management that allows the City Manager and his delegate (when the City Manager is absent) to make the decisions normally deemed to be decisions of Council. Such decisions would be limited in dollar value to $250,000 at a maximum per individual decision. In making these decisions, the City Manager and his delegate will have the support of Burlington Leadership Team and Emergency Control Group.

This authority begins on July 14 and stays in place until September 6.
The City Manager and the Mayor will stay in touch and if a situation crops up that is more than critical the Mayor can call a Special Meeting of Council and do the necessaries.
The City Manager is required to report any and all decisions made under this delegated authority to Council in the September Corporate Services, Strategy, Risk and Accountability committee meeting.

In addition, the City’s Corporate Continuity of Governance & Operations Plan describes the importance of the succession of leadership, particularly when involved in an emergency situation, to ensure the City of Burlington can carry out mandated responsibilities. In the case of the ECG, this succession is clear between the City Manager and his alternate, namely the Executive Director, Environment, Infrastructure & Community Service.

FLOOD man walking in water Harvester Road sign

It was a relatively light downpour – it just lasted a long, long time.

Many will remember the crisis that occurred when during a Sunday in August 2014 rain began to fall and it kept falling. When it was all over the city had to deal with the 191 mm of rain that flooded basements, underpasses and large open areas.

The preparations in place at the time taught city council that things had to change.

In May 2020, the City’s service re-design strategy outlined a responsive and highly measured approach to resuming delivery of City services and operations. This strategy included a framework for governance and decision making, clearly outlining those decisions to be made by Council and those that could be made directly by the Burlington Leadership Team/ECG/Service Leads.

The decisions of Council are in accordance with the following approved framework:

Guidelines for ECG spending

There are five question the City Manager and his leadership have to ask when they are making a decision about the delivery of services.

City staff looked at a number of options before arriving at a recommendation:

1. Hold decisions until the resumption of committee and Council meetings in September – NOT RECOMMENDED

This option would hinder the City’s ability to respond to changes in the Provincial re-opening regulations and orders in a timely manner resulting in further financial impacts, potential loss of service and significant reputational damage.

2. Seek approval of Council to delegate decisions up to $250,000 per individual decision to the City Manager (or his delegate in his absence) –RECOMMENDED
This option is consistent with the application of all formal delegated authority decision making by the City whereby authority transcends from Council to an identifiable staff member. In discussion with the City Clerk, delegating most COVID re-opening activities to the City Manager through the Council break would be most appropriate. The City’s current policy framework, with the Delegated Authority By-law and Procurement By-law have Council established approval limits that will be respected throughout this time. In September, a report to CSSRA as an addendum would report the COVID-related activities during the break. When the dollar threshold is expected to exceed $250,000, the City Manager and City Clerk will confer with the Mayor on the need for a special council meeting.

3. Seek approval of Council to delegate decisions to the Mayor – NOT RECOMMENDED
This option is not consistent with the application of all formal delegated authority decision making by the City. Delegation of authority, as is the case with all areas under the existing Council approved Delegated Authority by-law, sees the authority transcend from Council to an identifiable staff member.

4. If and as required, Mayor to call a special meeting of City Council to consider and approve COVID related service redesign decisions – NOT RECOMMENDED
This option is contrary to Council’s prior approval of the annual Council Meeting Calendar which specifically sought to re-establish an extended break during July and August. In so doing, both Council and staff are
afforded the opportunity to “lead by example” and support measures that address ongoing fatigue and stress caused by many months of COVID emergency response. However, there is a provision in the recommendation for the City Manager and City Clerk to confer with the Mayor on a call of a special council meeting should the $250,000 per individual decision threshold be exceeded.

Joan Ford, the city's Director of Finance knows where every dollar comes from and where every dollar gets spent.

Joan Ford, the city’s Chief Financial Officer is on top of every financial decision made – her counsel is sought and respected by the City Manager.

The Chief Financial Officer continues to have corporate oversight of all COVID-19 service re-design decision impacts and reporting to Council. The City Finance team, working closely with other staff, have applied extraordinary due diligence in securing COVID related funding (approximately $20 million in total). As a result, the City is very well positioned financially to address any impacts arising from additional service redesign decisions in July and August.

As long as it doesn’t rain in August and assuming that the vast majority of the public act responsibly and get their vaccinations – we could be in for a decent summer.

The announcement yesterday by the Chief Medical Officer for the province that he expected a wave of infections in September is certainly a bummer.

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Brant Museum re-opens - features a Space Exhibit - starts July 20

eventsblue 100x100By Staff

July 14th, 2021



Things are opening up

Brant Museum transformedThe Brant Museum announced today that they have a special feature on Space that will run from July 20 – September 18, 2021

Health in Space: Daring to Explore is a special exhibition developed by the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, one of three museums under Ingenium – Canada’s Museums of Science and Innovation, in collaboration with the Canadian Space Agency.

Brant museum SpaceHealth in Space demystifies the health challenges — such as variable gravity, radiation, and isolation — that astronauts face while living and working in space. Through authentic artifacts and captivating interactive activities, this exhibition will engage visitors to better understand Canada’s role in advancing health research.

Discoveries in this field will be essential for the success of future deep-space expeditions, and may also help solve medical challenges on Earth.

Health in Space also includes video interviews with Canadian astronauts, which offer first-hand insight into their experiences. A special section within the exhibition highlights astronaut David Saint-Jacques’ recent mission, from his selection and training to the experiments conducted while aboard the ISS.

The hours of operation are Tuesday to Saturday, 10am – 3:30pm, with COVID-19 protocols and procedures in place to allow the public to safely enjoy the galleries and exhibition.  Visitors can purchase tickets in advance online or in-person.

Museum hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 10am – 3:30pm with COVID-19 protocols and procedures in place to allow the public to safely enjoy the galleries and exhibition.

Entrance fee:  

$10 – adults

$8 – seniors

$6 – child

$30 – family (2 adults and up to 4 children)

Free – child under 3

Did you know…

Did you know that David Saint-Jacques was the most recent Canadian to go into space? Before he was an astronaut, he worked as a doctor in Puvirnituq, Nunavik, a remote community in Northern Quebec where he had to make work with minimal resources, just like in space!

Canadarm in space

Canadarm in use – serving the shuttle

Did you know that there is no “up” on the International Space Station (ISS)? The ISS is a small space, so all four walls are covered with workable equipment, therefore, whichever way an astronauts head is pointing is considered “up”. Also, switches have an very visible “On/Off” on them, since there is no “up” to show that it’s on.

Did you know that the Neuroarm was inspired by the same technology and principles at the Canadaarm? The NeuroArm allows surgeons to do very delicate operations while a patient is inside an Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine.

Did you know that Mercury is the smallest plant in our solar system? It is only about 40% larger than the Earth’s moon.

Did you know that astronauts go swimming to train for spacewalks? Floating in space is a lot like floating in water. Astronauts practice spacewalks underwater in a large swimming pool and train seven hours in the pool for every one hour they will spend on a spacewalk!

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Brave App – Another Tool to Prevent Fatal Drug Poisonings

graphic community 5By Staff

July 13th, 2021



In the first six months of 2020, Halton Regional Police Service (HRPS) officers responded to 168 suspected drug poisonings. One-third of those victims overdosed while alone, and nearly one in five did not survive.

In their media release the police explain why a new service has been put in place and the outcome they hope will be realized.

“We have been asked why we have taken a harm reduction approach to the overdose crisis in our community. The answer is simple: our goal is to prevent overdose deaths. Ultimately, a life saved today is an opportunity for recovery tomorrow.

“In an effort to ensure our community is aware of any and all resources available to them, we would like to introduce you to the Brave App.

“The Brave App is designed to connect people at risk of overdose with help they need: an ally they can talk to, a human supporter to help them stay safe, and digital monitoring technology to help them when they’re in danger. The app connects them with a community of overdose responders, and/or professional emergency first responders.

“The app is another tool that can be used to reduce the harms to individuals, families and communities from substance use, and is a complement to the services and resources that are available in Halton. The Brave App is not a substitute for calling 911.

“The Brave App was developed independently by Brave Technology Co-op, a multi-stakeholder cooperative in Vancouver B.C., and is not affiliated with the Halton Regional Police Service.

Brave app

Designed by people who use drugs.

How the App Works
1. A person at risk of overdose can use the app to connect with remote, peer support through a voice call.

2. If your supporter thinks you might be overdosing (through a pre-determined span of non-response), they will request access to the details of your private Rescue Plan.
This plan can include your location, access instructions, and an emergency contact to call instead of, or in addition to, calling 911.

3. You will then receive a 10-second countdown alert letting you know that information will be shared unless you indicate that you are ok by dismissing the alert.

4. If you are unable to dismiss the alert, then that information will be revealed to your supporter, who will only use it for the purpose of sending help.

Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act
If you use the app, and your Rescue Plan includes calling 911, our frontline officers and other first responders in Halton carry naloxone and we want to assist. As a reminder, the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act provides broad legal protections for anyone seeking emergency support during an overdose, including the person experiencing an overdose.

This means that individuals, including youth, will not be charged for offences such as simple possession for calling 9-1-1 in an emergency.

People who request supervision remain anonymous and their location is only revealed if it is necessary to keep them safe. If there is no overdose, then their location is not shared. No account is needed to use the Brave App, and you don’t need to share your name, number, e-mail, or mailing address. No personal information is shared with responding Emergency Services unless it is part of the pre-determined response and only if the Rescue Plan is activated.

Learn More
The Brave App can be used by anyone with a mobile phone and internet access, and is available for download, for free, on both Apple and Android phones.

Click HERE to learn more about the Brave App

Photo credit: Sara Wylie, National Day of Action | February 21, 2017

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