Growing support for those who could use a boost

I had the pleasure of checking out the Food Bank Farm in Sault Ste. Marie this year.

The work being done by Colin and Sharon Templeton, along with their team, is having a significant impact on our community.

The Food Bank Farm operates on a not-for-profit basis and fresh, quality food is distributed to local families in need.

“At the height of our season we were delivering fresh produce twice a week to the Soup Kitchen,” reads a newsletter put together by the group.

“When we add it all up we delivered approximately $13,000 worth of food to the Soup Kitchen. Not a bad year with very poor weather.”

The Food Bank Farm is launching a new initiative I’d like you to be aware of. The team wants members of the community to become Food Bank Farmers.

They want local gardeners to plant an extra row of veggies that will be given to local families. The farm plans to establish drop-off locations where people can leave their donations.

If you’re interested in being a part of this initiative, contact project coordinator Ayushi Shah at planning@foodbankfarm.ca or 705-255-1459.

This is a great example of innovative thinking from members of our city, and we can all help take this to the next level by getting involved.

A busy start to May

May has arrived and the first week of the month was a busy one, with some great events and announcements taking place around the city. It’s worth a look back on some of the good news stories and notable events that happened to lead off the month.

Special Olympics Announcement

On Wednesday May 3rd, Sault Ste. Marie was announced that it had been selected as the host site for the 2019 Ontario Special Olympics Winter Games. The community last hosted the Special Olympics in 2001 and this will be the first time we have hosted the winter games.

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At the announcement that the Sault will host the 2019 Special Olympics Ontario Winter Games on Wednesday May 3rd.

With 450+ athletes and coaches expected to make the trip for the games, the event will be quite substantial and a significant economic boost for our tourism sector. But more importantly, the games will afford us the chance to celebrate the human spirit and the unique abilities and potential of every person. I know it will be a very meaningful event for everyone involved and I am glad that we will be able to host it in our community.

At Wednesday’s announcement, Special Olympics Ontario declared the Sault Ste. Marie’s bid was “the best they had ever seen.” Congratulations to the Sault Ste. Marie Police Service and Tourism Sault Ste. Marie for all of their excellent work on securing the event.

Riding the Big Bike with Reggie and his crew

A month or two back, I dropped in at Reggie’s Place after work with a few people. Lorraine Daigle (Reggie’s sister) asked me if I would be interested in riding the Big Bike with their team in May. I suggested that I’d be glad to do it, but that I thought it was important that we had Reggie participate as well. Lorraine pledged that if I did it, she would get Reggie to do it.

Fast forward to Thursday May 4th and both Reggie and I made good on our respective promises. The Reggie’s team was kind enough to outfit me with a flashy cape and even added me to their team name. It was a great time with a fun bunch of people and best of all we were able to support the great cause of heart and stroke research.

Jane’s Walk for Accessibility

On Friday May 5th, I took part in the Jane’s Walk for Accessibility that occurred downtown. City Accessibility Advisory Committee Member Diane Morrell led our tour of Queen Street East and it was very enlightening. There are many little things that make for accessibility challenges—like the slope of a driveway or uneven sidewalk blocks—that you don’t really appreciate until you travel in a wheelchair or push someone in a wheelchair. Making our city accessible is an on-going job, one that government, businesses, and residents all have to be mindful of its importance.

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Touring Queen Street East, as part of the Jane’s Walk.

This is the second year that Jane’s Walks have taken place in the city and they are a tremendous event. The walks are a great way for residents to learn about neighbourhood histories and local urban issues from their fellow citizens.

Milestone Anniversaries

On Sunday May 7th, I was privileged to attend a mass and dinner in celebration of the 100th anniversary of St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church. Throughout its history, the church has been an important place of spirituality and worship. It’s also provided an important link to Ukrainian culture and heritage. Best wishes to everyone from the church’s community as they celebrate their centennial year!

A Place for Everyone

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to meet a newly-arrived refugee family at the airport. They were a family of seven from the Congo. They had undergone a long and tiring journey, travelling from Zimbabwe to Germany to Toronto and then to here. Despite the difficulties of their travel and despite being overwhelmed at arriving in a place unlike anywhere they had experienced before, I could tell they were relieved to be here.  Exhausted no doubt, but relieved.

It was touching to see, just as it was touching to see the excitement and happiness on the faces of the staff from the Sault Community Career Centre and the volunteers from the community who were there to receive them. I was even able to carry out a young, sleeping boy to the car that was taking the family to their hotel. It was a special moment.

It is my understanding that there are more than 65 million refugees in the world, displaced because of war, famine, and political instability. It’s a shocking statistic.

We can all agree that Canada is a big place. We’re a country of some 36 million but we could accommodate many millions more than that. Canada has the opportunity to be a world leader in resettling displaced persons. To put it very simply, we have the room.

And not just in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. There is an opportunity for Sault Ste. Marie. We’re a City with a population in the 70,000s, but we have the infrastructure to support 85,000 or 90,000, perhaps even more.  With the right support from the provincial and federal governments, slow-growing places like Sault Ste. Marie would be able to take in a substantial number of refugees and new migrants to Canada.

I think that could be a very good thing for our City. While I recognize that people need opportunities for work and so forth, people can also create those opportunities. People create economy. Ultimately, bringing people here means more customers for businesses, more students for schools, and more people paying taxes. It’s an investment in our own human capital.

However, to make this happen we have to adopt the right mindset. We have to embrace diversity and inclusiveness and we have to work hard to make newcomers feel at home. Like the arch in front of the Civic Centre declares, we have to be “the friendly City.”

Ultimately, we are going to need a lot people just to maintain our current labour force and population and those people, whether they are immigrants, new Canadians, millenials, or former Saultites thinking of moving back, are all going to want the same thing: a City where they feel safe, welcomed, and at home.

We can only achieve that if we commit ourselves, as a community, to the values of tolerance, respect and open-mindedness. It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s not just a moral imperative, for us, it’s also an economic and social imperative.

I think we are on our way. As Mayor, I’ve spoken with international students who are enthusiastic about the City and want to stay after they graduate. I’ve seen the recent outpouring of local support in the wake of a hateful incident that happened here and also in response to the tragedy in Quebec City. And I’ve seen the caring and commitment of citizens who have stepped forward to donate time, money, and possessions to help those fleeing unimaginable circumstances settle in our community.

We don’t have to look further than Passport to Unity, held yesterday to see some of the great work happening in our community.  It was a tremendously successful event and I noted, as I made my rounds, that the family from the Congo that I had welcomed at the airport a few weeks ago was there – eating submarine sandwiches in and amongst dozens of other newcomers.  I was happy to see them.

Sault Ste. Marie can be a place for everyone. With all the challenges in the world and with our own demographics being what they are, we have to be.

-CP

Ste-Foy

This was going to be a different post. Then on Sunday January 29th the mosque attack in Ste-Foy, Quebec City happened.

As is well known now, this hateful crime has taken a tremendous toll. Those killed, injured and subjected to this extreme violence were husbands and fathers, friends and colleagues. They were part of the fabric of their community in Quebec City and they were a part of the fabric of this great country. The loss of these lives and the hatred that motivated it is senseless –  making it hard to understand.

No country can hope to be immune from the problems of the world, but it is still shocking to see such a reprehensible act happen in our country.  The only comfort we can take is in the response that has come in the aftermath of this tragedy, from across Canada, from around the world, and from within our own community.

As a nation, we’ve mourned in unison for those lost in the attack and for those left bereft by their loss. We’ve seen Canadians stand in solidarity with our country’s Muslim community and we’ve seen kindness and empathy be extended to our own small but growing Muslim community in Sault Ste. Marie. We’ve seen countless people raise their voices and take action to show that they care; to show that they will not abide hatred happening in our midst.

To be sure, there is more work to do here, just as there is more work to do everywhere. However, I feel resolute in my conviction that ultimately we are going to do it.

The promoters of hatefulness and bigotry seem to be having a moment right now. But it’s a moment that’s going to pass. Because for every racist, bigot, or xenophobe there are hundreds more of us who are tolerant, compassionate, and welcoming. Our voices are louder, our will is stronger, and our collective might is much greater than anything the forces of intolerance could hope to marshal. Matched against us, the beliefs they espouse are not going to take hold and their attempts to sow fear and division are not going to succeed. They’re not going to win.