Sudbury and Northern Ontario were hotbeds of news last week.
Truth and Reconciliation
The Truth and Reconciliation Committee released its final report on the sad history of Canada's residential school system. Thanks to our friends at Village Media, we were able to bring you testimony from that report localized to the experience of Northern Ontarians who were caught up in this country's attempt to "civilize" First Nations people.
And while the last of those schools closed more than 20 years ago, the psychological damage done to children and families — from the schools themselves and from the still extant Indian Act — lingers. We encourage you to read that story and the report itself.
The trauma inflicted upon First Nations has not healed, but the report at least pulls back the curtain of ignorance and shines a light on what is the saddest chapter in Canadian history. We do not have a right to be ignorant about the past, not if we want to move beyond it.
Canada would be all the stronger with healthy, vibrant First Nations communities. That healing should start with an overhaul of the Indian Act — beginning with a name change that should have happened decades ago.
Beyond the name, the act continues the paternalistic relationship with upper levels of government that denies First Nations the rights and revenues needed to have strong governments in their own right.
The tide is changing, we believe. First Nations people, particularly younger generations, have a passion for and a pride in their own culture that the residential school system failed in destroying. There is hope.
Another segment of the population that also has been fighting for respect, equality and rights in Canadian society received good news this week when Ontario passed the Affirming Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Act.
The bill both affirms that the Ontario Health Insurance Plan would not fund so-called conversion therapy for gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people, and makes it illegal for such treatments to be forced on anyone under the age of 18.
Conversion therapy is the very definition of medical quackery. It purports to be able to make those who identify as LGTBQ "normal." Not only does the therapy not work (and lead to severe psychological trauma), but it is based on the flawed premise that being "straight" is normal and everything else is wrong.
The more science discovers about primate sexuality and gender — and humans are, like it or not, primates — the more we learn gender identity and sexuality exist on a spectrum and the sexual act, for many species of primate, serves both a social and a reproductive function.
Sexuality and gender identity is biological, not behavioural. We know this now.
Members of the Greater Sudbury-based transgender group TG Innerselves played a key role in the creation of this legislation, which will protect thousands of Ontarians.
Talk about spin
The NorthernLife.ca newsroom had a good chuckle this week when the Wynne government announced it wanted to make changes to the Electoral Boundaries Act by increasing the number of provincial ridings from 96 to 111.
The chuckle came from the wording of the Northern Ontario version of the press release, in which the province patted itself on the back for, in its words, preserving Northern Ontario's 11 ridings.
Much like "conversion therapy" is the very definition of medical quackery, this is the very definition of political spin.
“The 11 ridings in Northern Ontario would stay the same to ensure that northern communities continue to have effective representation in the legislature,” a release from the province said.
This is laughable.
Most of the new ridings proposed would be in — and this, we're sure, surprises no one — Toronto, Peel, York, Durham and Ottawa.
What this means is, while the North gets to keep its 11, our influence diminishes with the creation of more representation for southern Ontario.
As it always has and, it appears, will continue to have to do, Northern Ontario will have to fight to be heard in a growing legislature.
And finally, the proposal by a Sudbury group to build a multi-use convention and arts centre in the city using a combination of private and public money gets an early thumbs up from NorthernLife.ca.
There are some heavy hitters behind the Sudbury Synergy Project and they've consulted a number of other heavy hitters both in Greater Sudbury and beyond in compiling their proposal over the last two years.
Greater Sudbury is the North's premier city, but it is the only one without a large professional performing arts space — something a city our size should have.
What's more, according to the Synergy group's report, Northern Ontario attracts 420,000 business travellers every year, but the Nickel City only captures 14 per cent of this market. Of the 101,000 business travellers to Sudbury in 2010, only three per cent were here for conventions.
As the biggest city in the North, a few hours from Toronto, near Canada's two major highways, we should be the first choice for any convention coming to Northern Ontario.
Two independent consultants reviewed their projections and agree the proposed $65-million facility could break even in record time.
A proposal that would be a major boon to the city's economy, while providing a first-class venue for Sudbury's burgeoning (and deserving) culture scene, and doing it without crippling the public purse is, in our books, an idea that deserves support.
We would like to see a bit more of the rationale and calculations than what is contained in the report on the Synergy Project website, but as an idea with such widespread support among the business and arts communities (talk about synergy), we're impressed and encouraged.
This is the kind of innovative thinking that will move this city forward.