BENJAMIN PRIEBE The Standard
The University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) has partnered with the Baagwating Community Association and the Mississaugas of Scugog Island to fund the building of their new Aboriginal Resource Centre (ARC). The new ARC building, located at 151 Athol St. in Oshawa, aims to expand UOIT's current aboriginal workshops and outreach programs into a larger facility. The large and beautifully sculpted structure is projected to finalize construction by the end of March, and will open with an official ceremony in the coming months.
Jill Treen, UOIT's Aboriginal Student Development and Outreach Specialist and a self-identified Métis, works in the current ARC to "provide Aboriginal and non-aboriginal students with anything they need, from traditional meals and ceremonies to workshops where they create dream-catchers, to help with the application process for bursaries and grants."
The current ARC at UOIT is a small room, which offers a comfortable home-away-from-home. The space is used by Aboriginal and non-aboriginal students alike to relax, study, and have a coffee with friends - while surrounded by the culture native to Canada, from B.C. to Nova Scotia.
Ms. Treen explained that the Baagwating Community Association has been instrumental in the expansion and advances of the ARC centre. The new building, located at 151 Athol St. in Oshawa, has even been named the Baagwating Indigenous Student Centre, in recognition of the more than $450,000 that was contributed to construction by the local organization.
"UOIT has a very good relationship with the Mississaugas of Scugog Island," said Ms. Treen. "We work together to revitalize and raise awareness of aboriginal culture in Durham, they help us with the ceremonies and workshops we offer to our students, and we attend their powwows once per year on Scugog Island."
Being a Métis woman herself, Ms. Treen strives to support and encourage knowledge of the Aboriginal culture, among both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students.
"I think it is important because it fosters an inclusive community and awareness of our roots," said Ms. Treen. "Since the campus is located on the traditional lands of the Mississaugas of Scugog First Nation and it is projected that Oshawa alone has roughly 10,000 First Nations people; we want to bring that community together and let them be proud, especially the young adults."
According to Ms. Treen, the ARC, which mirrors many similar centres at post-secondary schools across Ontario, "attempts to close the educational attainment gaps between Aboriginal and non-aboriginal students, by supporting First Nations students in their academic career."
However, Ms. Treen believes that the issues facing Aboriginal students do not lie solely in marks and test-grades, but aso in the fact that many of their 85 self-identified students are the first generation in their family to strive for post-secondary education.
A StatsCan report details the gradually rising, but still low, education rate within the Aboriginal population. "In 2006, one-third or 33 per cent of Aboriginal adults aged 25 to 54 had less than a high school education compared to nearly 13 per cent of the non-Aboriginal population, a difference of 20 percentage points."
The entire staff of UOIT's ARC are proud of the fact that they go above and beyond when giving their students anything they could need. Ms. Treen even goes as far as contacting the enrolled and self-indentified students before they even start their first semester, and offer beneficial programs and services in an effort to foster a strong and personal relationship - she attributes UOIT's 97 per cent retention rate of Aboriginal students to this.
"Moving forward we want to expand and grow our community and the services we offer," said Ms. Treen. "One program I would like to implement is tutoring - we would have university students tutor other university students, who would then tutor high school students. It's all about mentoring and building a strong connection to both education and traditional culture."
Stay tuned to The Standard for further information regarding the official opening of the Baagwating Indigenous Student Centre and further services offered by the ARC.
DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
UXBRIDGE: Councillors are hopeful that a new program offered by the federal government will provide the necessary funds to enable the township to begin work on the downtown flood alleviation project.
At council's meeting on the evening of Monday, Feb. 24, councillors discussed the New Building Canada Fund. The new fund's Small Communities Fund will set aside $1 billion nationally over ten years to fund local projects in communities under 100,000 in population, which councillors are hopeful will enable the municipality to partner with the Region as well as the federal government to begin construction of a new culvert beneath Brock St. as part of the township's flood alleviation plan.
"It mentions disaster mitigation, could we apply to partner with the Region to do work on Brock St.?" asked Mayor Gerri Lynn O'Connor. "It's beyond our ability to pay, and if we could get this done as one third, one third, one third it would become a lot more feasible."
The downtown flood alleviation project carries a price tag of approximately $12 million, and Public Works Director Ben Kester has previously stated that he expects a detailed design of the project to be completed this year.
The township will have to act fast, as the federal government is targeting this spring as the first time applications for funding will be accepted.
Regional Councillor Jack Ballinger added that a recent meeting he attended with Jim Clapp, Durham Region's Commissioner of Finance shed some light on the tight time lines associated with potential federal funding.
"After the 2014 federal budget was announced, Mr. Clapp held a meeting and said if you have any applications that were turned down, dust them off and get ready to get them in when any new programs are announced," said Councillor Ballinger.
Councillors later voted to contact Durham Region about the possibility of partnering for the project.
DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
UXBRIDGE: Concerns from the Ottawa Valley township of Greater Madawaska over rising policing costs led councillors to bemoan the Region's bloated police budget at a recent council meeting.
Included in council's agenda for their meeting on the evening of Monday, Feb. 24, was a letter from the Township of Greater Madawaska detailing their concerns over increasing costs of Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) patrols in 2015.
Under a new billing model, Greater Madawaska anticipates an increase of 192 per cent per household in 2015 for police, jumping from $369 to $911. However, some councillors considered it a bargain compared to the cost of the Durham Regional Police Service (DRPS).
"With what we pay, and 50 per cent of the Region's budget being police, $911 seems like a hell of a deal. Maybe we should get the OPP here," opined Ward 2 Councillor Pat Molloy.
Mayor Gerri Lynn O'Connor was quick to point out that the township must remain with DRPS, but also voiced her frustration with rising police costs.
"We've had this discussion before, and we can not get out of Durham Regional policing," said Mayor O'Connor. "It is 50 per cent of the Region's budget, which I think is totally out of control."
Last year, Mayor O'Connor was a vocal opponent of the increase in the police budget, jumping to $172.1 million up from $169.6 million in 2012.
Regional Councillor Jack Ballinger added that this year, the Region's police budget is set to rise 3.2 per cent, to $177.6 million - the lowest increase in the past 18 years.
"That's only because of what happened last year," retorted Mayor O'Connor.
As well, 2014 marks the fifth consecutive year that DRPS will not be hiring any new officers.
DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
UXBRIDGE: Former Uxbridge Mayor Bob Shepherd is the latest candidate to declare his nomination for this fall's municipal election, and is once again seeking the mayor's chair.
Originally elected as Ward 4 Councillor in 2003, Shepherd defeated Anne Holmes and Susan Self to become Uxbridge's Mayor in 2006. It was a position he would hold until 2010, when he finished second in the polls to Gerri Lynn O'Connor.
In a press release, Shepherd outlined what he believes to be the major issues facing Uxbridge residents as they prepare to head to the polls on Oct. 27.
"There are three very important matters that have to be dealt with in the Township. They are: property taxes, downtown revitalization and the promotion of entrepreneurship and small business," Shepherd said.
During his tenure as Mayor, Shepherd was actively involved in the Township's purchase of the former St. John's Training School lands (later known as Kennedy House), now known as 'The Fields of Uxbridge' and home to the Rotary Skate Park as well as the township's soccer fields. Shepherd has stated that further implementation of the township's Master Plan will be another of his key objectives should he prove successful in his latest run for mayor.
"The 'Fields of Uxbridge' formerly known as Kennedy House is also an issue that will be one of the priorities in my tenure as your mayor. Recognition and implementation of the existing master plan will ensure its future as a viable attraction in the Township for decades to come," said Shepherd.
In the lead-up to the election in October, Shepherd is inviting Uxbridge residents to connect with him through social media, and share their ideas about Uxbridge's future.
"I have created a Facebook page 'Bob Shepherd – Mayoralty Candidate' which I invite you to visit. I will be using this media to share my thoughts and ideas with you on how we can work together to make Uxbridge Township an even better place to live, work and play," Shepherd added.
A full list of declared candidates, as well as pertinent election information can be found on the township's web site at www.town.uxbridge.on.ca/2014_elections.
BENJAMIN PRIEBE The Standard
SCUGOG: Township of Scugog Fire Chief Richard Miller presented a fourth quarter review and a summary of the usage of Scugog's new mobile Fire Safety House to Scugog Township Mayor Chuck Mercier and his councillors on Monday, Feb. 10. The report follows an intensive Fire Operation Review and dispute between the Port Perry Fire Fighter's Association and the Township of Scugog, late last year.
With two full-time firefighters, Port Perry relies mostly on volunteer firefighters to respond to its emergency calls. Chief Miller explained to councillors that Scugog's volunteer firefighters are trained once per week on subjects such as SCBA use, fire suppression, and auto extrication - and certified on the exact same level as its full-time employees.
"We have an average of twelve volunteers responding to our all-calls," said Chief Miller. "The Scugog Fire Department operates on a Standard Operational Guide, which dictates how many firefighters must be present for each call. While medical calls only require a minimum of four guys to arrive at the station and leave on one truck, the majority of our calls require a tanker and pumper truck as well, totalling between eight firefighters for a motor vehicle collision to as many firefighters as we can get for a large structural fire, sometimes we even have to call in Caesarea's trucks."
Ward 5 Councillor Howard Danson questioned the all-call model, asking Chief Miller if every volunteer who responds to a call must be paid for his time.
"Everyone who shows up must be paid for a minimum of one hour," said Chief Miller. "Usually we take the guys we need on our trucks, and the rest will clean, check equipment, or hang hoses until they go home."
Fire Chief Miller stated that the Scugog Fire Department's all-call model is not a perfectly economic system, and that "with a composite fire department and the majority of our firefighters being volunteer, it is very difficult to keep our costs down anymore than they are."
With the discussion turning to the aspect of fire prevention and inspection, Scugog Township councillors were displeased to hear that of the 61 properties inspected for fire code compliance in the last quarter of 2013, only 22 were found to be in compliance with regulations.
Finally, Chief Miller happily reported that the Scugog Fire Safety House has received extensive use, as a total of 1,627 adults and children toured through the house and practiced escape and safety procedures.
Scugog Township councillors were impressed with the Scugog Fire Department's drive to promote fire prevention and safety.
DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
NORTH DURHAM: One of the year's most anticipated fundraisers returns to the Scugog Community Centre on Saturday, March 1, as Big Brothers Big Sisters North Durham hosts its annual Wing and Pizza Night.
The 19-plus event allows local residents to judge which establishment has the best pizza and wings in North Durham, while supporting Big Brothers Big Sisters' many community initiatives.
Several local establishments will be participating in the event including: Clem's, Crusty Pizza, Dominos, Great Blue Heron Casino, Harp & Wylies, Jester's Court, Jim's Pizzeria, Jude's Sports Bar & Grill/The Pub, KJ's Shack, Salvatore's, Talk of the Town Chip Truck, Vos' Independent and Yellow House.
The event will be hosted by Carolyn Ellis and Jerry Archer of KX96, and will feature a DJ, cash bar, silent auction and numerous raffle prizes.
Doors open at 7 p.m. at the Scugog Community Centre, located adjacent to Scugog Arena at 1655 Reach St., with wings and pizza served between 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.
Tickets for Wing and Pizza Night 2013 are $30 each, and $35 at the door (subject to availability). This event sells out annually, so be sure to get your tickets early to avoid disappointment.
Wing and Pizza Night tickets are currently on sale at the Big Brothers Big Sisters office in the Port Perry Scout Hall at 15585 Simcoe St., Gus Brown Port Perry, Flawless Dry Cleaners and Port Perry Printing.
Contact Margaret Ayres at 905-985-3733, ext. 1 or email@example.com for more information on this tasty fundraiser.
DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
UXBRIDGE:Ward 2 Councillor Pat Molloy is hoping for another four years of representing the northwest portion of Uxbridge Township following his recent acceptance of nomination to run for the seat in this October's municipal election.
In a press release, Councillor Molloy noted the work that has been done over the past four years at keeping Ward 2's facilities and roads well maintained.
"In Sandford we replaced the leaking roof at the Sandford Hall at a cost of $80,000. And, with the co-operation of Bell Mobility, they have re-considered the placement of the cellular tower that Sandford residents felt so strongly would be in a highly visible and poor location," said Councillor Molloy. "The Siloam Hall had a new furnace and railings installed this fall. Zephyr had the parking lot repaved at a cost of $27,000, and we were able to add a small basketball court while we were paving. In Bristol Springs we are working with the go-kart track to cut down on noise and parking issues. We have worked hard as a Township to get rid of the horrible limestone on our roads, but the process is slow and expensive. This term of Council we allocated an additional $1 Million from reserves to move quicker to resolve this issue."
In addition to his duties as Ward 2 Councillor, Mr. Molloy also serves as Chair of the Finance, Administration and Emergency Services Committee for the township, and has worked diligently on the budget process despite several obstacles.
"Since 2010 we have had to deal with the issue of a drop in development fees by roughly $2 Million annually; while at the same time we have been subjected to substantial cuts in Provincial Partnership funding," added Councillor Molloy. "Council has dealt with our financial sustainability responsibility, and the future looks very bright for our Township with moderate taxation over the next ten years. Uxbridge Township is financially secure with appropriate reserves and no debt. Very few municipalities in Canada can make that statement."
As well, Councillor Molloy has been actively involved with the planned construction of a new fire hall for the municipality, as well as the crafting of a new Fire Master Plan.
"Our new Fire Hall is in the works and part of our tax increases over the past three years will now allow us to complete this project without any further impact on our residential tax levee. We have created a new Fire Master Plan and this year a new Township Emergency plan. These plans are integral to the safety of our residents."
In 2012, Councillor Molloy was at the forefront of a battle to keep the municipality intact after plans emerged that would have seen the northwest portion of the township split from the remainder of the municipality as part of an electoral distract reform.
"My presentation to the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission in 2013 was successful in keeping 3,500 residents in northern Uxbridge Township within the Uxbridge–Pickering federal Riding rather than segregating us to a very small piece of the Newmarket Riding."
Another challenge for councillors over the past four years has been bringing new business to the community, and Councillor Molloy remarked that he is pleased with the efforts to attract new investments in Uxbridge Township.
"Council has actively pursued new business to our town. The industrial park is almost full and we welcome the addition of King Breweries to our community. King Breweries will be making a substantial investment in our town, and we all look forward to their new facility coming very soon."
It is his understanding of the unique challenges faced by rural residents that sets him apart, and Councillor Molloy is hopeful for another four years to continue his work on council.
"As a member of the Uxbridge Township Council I bring to the table an understanding of rural Uxbridge, with its vibrant agricultural industry and a different community appreciation than many urban centers."
For all of the latest news on the 2014 municipal election, including a list of all candidates, please visit the Township of Uxbridge's web site at www.town.uxbridge.on.ca.
DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
SCUGOG: A Valentine's Day fire caused the temporary closure of the Great Blue Heron Charity Casino on Scugog Island.
According to Scugog Fire Chief Richard Miller, the fire began on the morning of Friday, Feb. 14 in a utility room at the casino, caused by ice falling from the casino's roof.
"It turned out to be a broken propane pipe coming into the building caused by ice falling off the roof," Chief Miller told The Standard.
Chief Miller added that the casino's sprinkler system doused the fire, and Scugog fire crews remained at the scene for approximately five hours to ensure it was safe for the casino to resume business later in the day.
"We were working at getting any hot spots, and ensuring that the fire was completely out," added Chief Miller.
After a temporary closure, the Great Blue Heron re-opened for business at around 6 p.m.
Chief Miller pegged the cost of damage caused by the fire at approximately $10,000.
BENJAMIN PRIEBE The Standard
UXBRIDGE: How many times have you and your loved ones been witness to tragedy, whether first-hand or half a world away, and had a conversation which ends on the sentiment of wishing you could do something more to help? Often, these conversations fade away and crumble under the stresses of daily life.
For one group of Uxbridge residents, a personal tragedy was the catalyst that drove a group of friends to raise money for one local child. The Bonner Boys have carried the torch for their beloved friend Brent Bonner for the past ten years, and grown from a group of five friends to an organization of more than 35.
The Bonner Boys, a not-for-profit charitable organization based in Uxbridge, are tallying up the money raised from their 'Come bust a Moooooove' fund-raising gala on Feb. 1. The event, which benefited two Uxbridge men who were injured in a farming accident late last year, is just one of the many community oriented projects which the Bonner Boys embark on every year.
The Standard met with Bob Ferguson, a member of the Bonner Boys and manager of parks and recreation facilities for the Township of Uxbridge, for a deeper look into the origin Bonner Boys; and perhaps even a peek into their future.
"We pitch in to help the people in our community in any way we can," said Mr. Ferguson. "Our causes range from the splash pad at the Uxbridge Arena, to helping a family through the struggles of illness and medical expenses – no job is too big or too small."
The list of causes which the Bonner Boys fund is long and distinguished; they personally sponsor a youth sports team in every league, manage a scholarship at Uxbridge Secondary School, raise money to help local children play sports and have organized fun and exciting galas to benefit families in need.
The Bonner Boys, who are now nearing the point of putting one million-dollars back into Uxbridge, come from humble beginnings.
"Back in 2004, my best friend Brent Bonner passed away in a car accident – he had a 10 month-old-son named Ben, so me and four of mine and Brent's friends got together to raise a trust fund and make sure Ben would be provided for," said Mr. Ferguson. "Brent was such a first-class guy, he was well known and he helped people however he could – the Bonner Boys just try to carry out the good work he did and keep his memory alive."
The Bonner Boys were unofficially formed with that single act of kindness, and as Mr. Ferguson puts it, "the projects and events were so exciting that we never stopped. It all snowballed from there; none of us expected the project to grow so big."
Mr. Ferguson explained that charity is the best therapy he could ask for when it came to dealing with the loss of his best friend. Brent Bonner's passing was very difficult for his friends to deal with, but they have found solace in the charity which bears his name.
"I was on the Fire Department at the time, so I was actually one of the first responders to the scene when Brent passed," said Mr. Ferguson. "It's been very, very hard on all of us. I'm just glad that ten years later, Ben is eleven-years-old now and he's playing hockey, doing well in school, and a really happy guy."
Throughout the group's first five years, the Bonner Boys never advertised their donations or their brand; they acted as low-key boosters of the community they loved.
"There was a big change a few years ago, when we started handling large amounts of money and decided to incorporate," said Mr. Ferguson. "Incorporating into an official charity brings many rules and regulations; we had to start taking minutes and someone had to be named president. Still, no single person runs the Bonner Boys – it's a huge family of members and supporters."
Many of the current Bonner Boys grew up in school or playing hockey together, and are now in their mid-thirties; an age where careers, children, and households demand the majority of their time and efforts.
Despite his busy life working for the Township of Uxbridge and taking his children to their gymnastics and hockey practices, Mr. Ferguson still finds time to the Bonner Boys' monthly meetings in his garage-turned-man-cave on Monday nights.
"We all gather round and turn the TV to a hockey game and pitch ideas and plans for the next step and the next person we want to help," said Mr. Ferguson. "I think the reason I can still find energy for the Bonner Boys is because it isn't work, it's a good, fun time with my friends. The biggest pay-off is seeing the look on someone's face when you change their life for the better."
"I'm really proud of all of the guys for sticking it out and giving their time," said Mr. Ferguson. "Whether you give us two hours a year or 500 hours a year, you're just as much a member of the team. We owe our success to everyone, from our corporate sponsors, to my mother who spends a week making food for 1200 people, to the kids who donate their birthday money because they want to help us help other kids."
The Bonner Boys' next big event is their eleventh annual hockey tournament, which draws 38 teams made up of players of every calibre – from the weekend pond-hockey warrior to current NHL players. It runs from May 2 to 4. For more information on coming events, or to learn how to become a part of the Bonner Boys, go on-line to www.BonnerBoys.org.
DARRYL KNIGHT Special to The Standard
UXBRIDGE: This Family Day, the Uxbridge Kinsmen Club is inviting the community to celebrate in a most Canadian way.
On Monday, Feb. 17, the Kinsmen Club will once again be holding a free Family Day Skate on Elgin Pond between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. as a fundraiser on behalf of the Uxbridge Youth Centre.
According to Club Secretary Jim Campbell, the Kinsmen Club is planning to provide hamburgers and hot dogs, and hot coffee and hot chocolate at no cost to participants.
As well, there will be a donation box on-site to accept donations, the proceeds of which will benefit the Uxbridge Youth Centre.
Another great Family Day event being held in uxbridge is a free Family day bowling event hosted by Living Water Community Church between 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. at Parish Lanes, located at 69 Brock St. West in downtown Uxbridge.