Timmins Columnists | The Daily Press
A good news story
A wonderful thing happened recently and I knew I had to share the story with you, especially because it would never have happened without you. But where would I begin? For over a week, I mulled the circumstances in my mind and soon realized I would have to go way back to the beginning.
Finlay: COVID-19 and Canada’s prisons – we must treat inmates more humanely
Prison lockdowns during the pandemic mean community volunteers and advocates (so necessary for rehabilitation) have not been able to continue their work, and virtual family visits are constantly cancelled. The misery for the incarcerated is very real.
No need to sugar-coat COVID realities
Ontario’s response to COVID-19 has, at times, seemed restrictive, other times appropriate, still other times too lenient. Overall, there seems to be a lack of information and a lack of evidence-based decision-making leading to questionable pronouncements benefitting certain stakeholders, while those preaching the rules feel that they are above them.
Things to think about when planting a memorial
As we navigate through another pandemic lockdown, many of us are thinking about spring already. Mild temperatures we have experienced so far this winter are fueling dreams of getting our hands in the dirt, sowing seeds and nurturing plants. One very tragic reality of COVID-19 restrictions has really hit home for me. Celebrating the life of lost family members and friends has changed so much. We are no longer able to offer support by gathering. The beginning of healing the hurt has traditionally been sharing wonderful memories, celebrating a life well lived. A memory I have from many years ago was sitting at the kitchen table with my two sisters after mom had passed. We were going through some of her possessions and decided to sort through the collection of buttons she had stored in old cookie tins. As kids, it was a treat to look through the buttons, sorting them into little baggies according to colour and style. My boys enjoyed that activity at grandma’s house and my granddaughters have had a chance to delve into those same tins, too. In the last few months, I have lost a good friend here in town, an uncle in southern Ontario and now a second of my closest friends, who doesn’t live here in the Sault, is losing a parent. We were not able to gather here or travel out of town to support those that could really use our help at this most difficult time. What can we do to commemorate a person’s passing that shows our respect in a meaningful way? My go-to idea has often been to plant, or donate towards planting, a tree, shrub, or perennial in memory of that special person. Watching a leaf unfurl in spring, a flower bloom in summer or the glory of leaves change colour in fall can invoke happy memories of those people that we have lost. If you are considering a memorial planting, there is some planning you can do now, while gardens lie dormant under the snow. 1. Consider the location that will best suit the memorial. Should it be a private or public space? What is most relevant for you, your family, or your community. 2. Do you have an area suitable for a permanent planting? Do you own your home or rent? Trees should be planted in a permanent location, whenever possible. Shrubs can be moved when reasonably young. Perennials are always easy to relocate. 3. Once you have chosen a location and the type of memorial you want, consider the spot carefully. What is the soil type there: sandy, rocky, an area with heavy clay or does it have good loam? How much sun does the location get? Are there buildings, overhead wires, or underground utilities in the area? Will nearby mature trees unfavourably affect the plant’s ability to thrive? Does that location receive strong winter winds or is it quite sheltered? Where do you pile snow in the winter? 4. What was that person’s favourite plant? This may a good starting point for your choice. Just be sure if Mom loved lilacs, Dad was especially fond of maples trees, or your friend is best honoured by planting a pollinator garden, that the location you choose will allow the memorial plant to thrive. When doing research, be sure to consider plants that will thrive in our area. We are in Canadian planting Zone 5a. That relates to American Zone 4. We can often get away with choosing perennials and shrubs from the Zone 5 lists as they will be insulated by our normal deep layer of snow. However, trees spend the entire winter above the snow line, so I always recommend you stick to Zone 4 choices. A good criteria for choosing plants is looking to see which varieties thrive in our area and are available from local garden centres.
Province could do a lot better in easing pain of lock-down
After spending weeks ensuring Ontarians that he “wouldn’t hesitate to act” if numbers got worse, then watching numbers get worse while hesitating to act, Doug Ford has finally announced a stay at home order. The too-little-too late announcement has been fought hard by anti-maskers and conspiracy theorists, including one of Ford’s own (though now ex-PC) MPPs, who wrote in a letter to Ford that “lockdowns are deadlier than COVID.” You’ll never see me deny that the lockdown is hard on everyone – it can create loneliness, trigger depression and anxiety, has impacted relationships, and has caused severe financial hardship for many – while not fully stopping the spread of the virus. But here’s the thing – that’s not, strictly speaking, the lockdown causing those issues. It’s a lack of proper government support and programming for the people of this province. A full lockdown of the province, paired with proper financial supports for those who aren’t essential and must stop working, would go a long way. Expensive for the province and country, yes, but ultimately less expensive than the toll this is all taking on our healthcare system. Implementing paid sick days is absolutely required to make the lockdown successful, otherwise you’ll have sick essential workers (who, ironically, are largely the most underpaid workers, often working part-time for minimum wage) going to work because they can’t afford to stay home. It absolutely blows my mind that Ford is refusing to acknowledge this. If people can’t afford to stay home, they will go to work. If it’s stay home or feed your kids that week, they’ll pick feeding their kids and just hope that their symptoms aren’t COVID. I mean, what would you pick? If you worked for minimum wage, had no savings, and knew that if you didn’t get a full paycheque you wouldn’t be able to properly feed your kids, you might well pick “hope for the best” too. The lockdown has also had major impacts on mental health, causing depression and anxiety, or making preexisting conditions worse. As someone with a lot of experience with mental health disorders – both my own and that of immediate family – I know that addressing these disorders is not simple, but investing in mental health care is a fantastic start. Ford could provide more funding to CMHA so that the agency could offer more than one day a week of walk-in (or, call-in, as the case may be) counselling. He could also cover psychiatry appointments under OHIP. Heck, even doing that temporarily for the course of the pandemic would make SO much sense and help thousands access the care they need. Similarly, investing in broadband to ensure everyone has access to a good Internet connection, and putting caps on what providers can charge for Internet and/or phone plans would help to address issues of loneliness. Perhaps not fully, but it would be a step in the right direction. Leading into the pandemic, if Ford had properly funded healthcare, the system would have been more prepared to confront the virus. Similarly, creating a system for long-term care that actually works rather than allowing for-profit companies to provide a bare-minimum quality of care would have helped to at least slow, if not halt, the spread of COVID within LTC homes. So yes, the lockdown sucks. Nobody likes being trapped in their home for weeks with little to do and missing friends and family. But if we had a government that cared to invest where they should instead of making endless cuts, we might not be in such a mess right now.