Reflecting back on the tumultuous year that was 2022

Editorial – It’s nearly Christmas and the year-end of 2022 and, if there ever was a year in recent times that demands reflection, this is the one.

Some things come immediately to mind: we are living in the post-Kamloops children’s graves discovery time. That was a year and a half ago, but for a great many Canadians, that shocking revelation has, to a greater or lesser extent, brought the Truth and Reconciliation concept, and its many recommendations, into a focus with which we are just now coming to terms.

Children of Indian Residential Schools, those who perished there as a result of illnesses, accident or abuse, and families of the children lying in the graves of Kamloops and near other former residential schools across Canada suffered the final insult of being denied a burial in their home communities among their family and ancestors.

While the regional schools at Spanish and in Sault Ste. Marie have not revealed the astonishingly high numbers of children’s graves associated with some residential schools, we do know that children from Manitoulin Island died at the boys’ and girls’ schools in Spanish.

When we hear of the children who died when they were away at school, though, it reinforces the idea that, in Canada, it has traditionally been hard to be successful in this country if you are “Indian.” All of those markers of children dead well before their prime really underscores this observation, where merely growing up can be counted as a “success.”

Here is a related anecdote: about 30 years ago, this writer was attending an educational conference in Sudbury. There were teachers there from the Island’s band-operated schools and a conversation with a teacher from one of those schools revealed that she and her husband had made the calculated decision to speak only English in the home and so deny their children an upbringing in their Ojibwe heritage language.

She said she and her husband now regretted this decision, as did their children, but their reasoning had been that knowledge of their heritage language, perhaps speaking English with an accent, might hold them back, not enabling them to be “successful.”
This conversation has remained rooted in this writer’s mind as a hard vestige of the lingering effects of colonialism of which the residential school program was the ultimate example.

As previously observed, it has traditionally been difficult to be Indigenous and be successful in Canada and, at the end of the day, this is the light the Truth and Reconciliation process sought, and seeks to shine on recent history.

The “Truth” part is the children’s graves associated with residential schools and the fact that, in the example cited, parents felt it was to their children’s benefit to be disallowed their heritage language. The “Reconciliation” part is quite simply how are we, as a nation, going to think about these things in the future? Beating ourselves up, we of European and other non-Native origins, accomplishes nothing. Supporting legitimate concerns by First Nations people accomplishes a great deal and is very relevant to how we want to continue to evolve as a nation of caring people, indeed and not merely in theory.

Pope Francis visited Canada in July, accomplishing one of the chief recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He finally came, offering apologies for his church’s role in this inhumane process which had been accomplished and supported at the behest of successive national governments spanning over a century-and-a-half and, after meeting with and hearing the stories, directly from First Nations people during the five days of his Canadian visits, finally admitted on his trip back to Rome that the process resembles cultural genocide.

This year we’ve watched as we lurched out of the woes of the COVID-19 pandemic; watched as the convoy of truckers, representing some of those people disturbed and angered by COVID-19 vaccination and public masking mandates, occupied downtown Ottawa for nearly a month; watched as the federal government voted to enact the Emergency Measures Act to dislodge the blockade; and watched the obligatory juridical review of whether or not the government met the conditions necessary to call for the Emergency Measures Act.

This has all been newsworthy and significant, of course, but in a bicultural area like our own on Manitoulin Island, the fact that the penny is dropping on the reality of the impact of the colonization process on people of First Nations descent is the big story of 2022.

Pope Francis, for example, had resisted every effort to encourage him to visit Canada and to apologize for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the residential school program and fulfill that key recommendation of the TRC Commission. He resisted, that is, until the story of the children’s graves at Kamloops, and other schools, spread around the world. And then he came and, to his credit, named the program for what it was.

All of this, the TRC Commission, Pope Francis’ visit, the truckers’ convoy and Ottawa’s response to it have been recorded in this newspaper this year.

It’s what we do, make national issues into relatable local stories. This paper endeavors to give people on all sides of major issues like these a place to express themselves, both through being interviewed for news stories or to show their insights and observations through letters to the editor and op-ed pieces.

We record for posterity what we believe is important for the citizens of Manitoulin Island.

The Expositor was, for example, the first newspaper in Canada to gain and publish an interview with the newly-elected Moderator of the United Church of Canada in July, an Indigenous clergywoman who addressed issues relevant to Manitoulin and when Pope Francis made his initial speech in Alberta, we had a reporter embedded with that reporter’s parents, residential and Indian day school survivors, to record their keen responses. Those events occurred on a Monday and that story appeared on the front page that week. Three people from Wiikwemkoong met Pope Francis during his stop in Quebec and we presented their observations the following week.

For the paper itself, this has been an interesting year: two long-serving staff members moved on to other career challenges, Robin Anderson after 11 years (during which time she had been first an award-winning journalist before moving successfully into the customer service/advertising sales side) and Kendra Edwards, an award-winning graphic artist who was one-half of the production team for more than five years. Thank you, Kendra and Robin, for your significant contributions to the paper.

But eventually, two young women have come to work here, taking on Robin’s and Kendra’s roles and putting themselves on learning curves. Welcome Brea Addison to the production team and Hope Gulyas to the customer service/advertising sales side.

Besides these departures and arrivals, the “oldest newspaper in Northern Ontario” got to celebrate some serious longevity among staff members as the national newspaper association, of which The Expositor is a member, recognized office manager Kerrene Tilson for over 50 years in the newspaper industry (48 of them with this paper) and editor Tom Sasvari for over 25 years as a journalist (the number is actually 36 years, all of them on Manitoulin). Kerrene and Tom were awarded, respectively, gold and silver “quills” (this harkens back to a more primitive writing apparatus).

Expositor publisher Alicia McCutcheon completed her term as president of the Ontario Community Newspapers Association this year and her father, retired publisher Rick McCutcheon, to his great amazement, was selected as a charter member of the Ontario Community Newspapers Association’s new Hall of Fame.

It seems just about everyone on the staff got some recognition this year: reporter Mike Erskine’s work was named the national best agricultural story and former staffer and current freelance reporter Warren Schlote was also recognized with a national first place award, for best news story.

Production chief Dave Patterson’s work won him two awards for best Ontario websites and The Expositor, for the second year running, was deemed to be worthy of first place in Ontario for public service.

These are laurels, and they are all well and good. But we know about laurels: they wilt and, in our business, publications like ours have to keep on earning their spurs, over and over, week after week.

That brings us to our vital content providers, and we would like to first acknowledge the authors of the ‘Friends and Neighbours’ section where rural news is shared from the writers’ respective communities. From Kagawong, it’s “Team Fergmeijer” with the wittiest and punniest column ever. In Silver Water, the news is faithfully recorded by Karen Noble. In Meldrum Bay, it is the efforts of Elaine Bradley just as Lillian Greenman lets us know what is going on, on Barrie Island. Thank you as well to Willie Munro who reports on activities at Gore Bay’s Millsite residence.

And then there are the specialists. New-ish to these pages (only four or five years) is Heather Marshall’s well-read and interesting monthly introduction to some of the Island’s newest residents. The column is titled “New-ish to Manitoulin” and it’s a hit. Thanks, Heather.

Petra Wall, for more than 15 years, has been providing readers with the other end of the spectrum, profiling folks who have, mostly, lived their whole lives here. Thank you, Petra.

On our website, these two columns consistently rank at the top of readership in their respective weeks so it’s clear this is what people find interesting and vital.

Thanks, Rose Diebolt, for your consistent and healthy chef-tested recipes from “Rose’s Kitchen.” We enjoyed one of your recent recipes last week!

Andre Leblanc, in his Page 7 fixture column, ‘Ice Chips and Canoe Quips’ marks the Island athletes’ accomplishments week after week. Thanks, Andre.

Speaking of sports, Mike Brock, a sometimes CBC and Leafs TV sports producer, has given Island readers a humorous and insightful look into the world of sports. Great work, Mike.

Alexandra Wilson-Zegil, new to the masthead this year, gives us a week-by-week recap of what’s going on at Manitoulin Secondary School in ‘Kids in the Halls.’ Welcome to the team, Alexandra, and keep up the great work.

Thank you, Claire Cline, for the nicely named ‘Mindemoya Book Mice’ monthly contribution about interesting reads in her library. To her now-retired colleague Debbie Robinson, long time Assiginack librarian, thank you for years of good work.

The hospital auxiliaries in the Island’s two vital sites provide invaluable service so thanks Judy McKenzie for news of Mindemoya Auxiliary and Laila Kiviaho for the news of the Little Current Auxiliary.

Dr. Joe Shorthouse, Professor Emeritus of Laurentian University, has provided numerous, scholarly insights into the natural world around us right here on Manitoulin. Well done, Joe. Keep up the good work representing Manitoulin on the Great Lakes Islands Alliance.

As usual, thank you to our many Island postmasters/mistresses and rural route contractors for the timely delivery of this newspaper, week after week.

Thank you as well to the communications staff of the Island’s three police forces for providing the paper with useful and timely information.

And to all of the individuals, organizations and businesses that support this newspaper, thank you very much. Our mission is to provide Manitoulin with a useful news source that also assists consumers and jobseekers in making informal decisions.

To everyone, thank you for your support. Our staff collectively wishes you a happy Christmas and very good 2023.

Sincerely,
Alicia McCutcheon
Kerrene Tilson
Tom Sasvari
Mike Erskine
Dave Patterson
Marilyn Harasym
Debbie Bailey
Lori Thompson
Warren Schlote
Maureen Strickland
Brea Addison
Hope Gulyas
Al and Laura Dionne
Linda Rutenburg
Jake McColman
Rick and Julia McCutcheon

Lack of job posting has writer concerned over fate of Providence Bay post office: If fears prove to be founded, it will be a sad celebration of 150 years of service

To the Expositor:

I understand that the postmaster in Providence Bay will be retiring around December 31, 2022. I have noticed that Canada Post has not posted her job as vacant so as to hire a replacement. I fear Canada Post plans to close the Providence Bay Post Office.

I note that 2023 will be the 150th anniversary for the Providence Bay Post Office. If they’ll do it once, will they do it again?

Most likely. Once this idea is implemented somewhere, it will be hard to stop this idea from oozing out to everywhere. Will everybody on Manitoulin Island soon be reduced to no rural post offices, no rural route mailboxes, with only ‘super mailboxes’ along main highway corridor roads? How far will you be forced to drive to pick up a oversize box shipped from Amazon? Will this slow or stop the problem of off-Island shopping which causes severe financial leakage and damage to on-Island stores?

Who will stand with Providence Bay and help save our post office?

Glenn Black
Providence Bay

EDITOR’S NOTE: As of press time Monday, The Expositor had uncovered no evidence of any plans by Canada Post to close the Providence Bay post office.

Politicians debating issues could be a comedy skit: Differing information from civil servants leads to monumental frustration

To the Expositor:

Sometimes I watch these politicians debating on issues, I’m even laughing at them sometimes. Then they’re wearing three-piece suits and it’s almost an insult to these suits because there just a bunch of clowns. They can never get anything right and they are just messing up people minds too. What they are doing every time I’m trying to deal with them, I can tell how stupid they are. That government employees are sometimes stupid, that they do not even know what the heck they are doing at times or do not understand how the system works. I’m getting sick and tired of dealing with morons and most times it is unavoidable too because I’m getting different information from everybody. I have to deal with it like there is no communication with these people in their line of work. I’m very well organized and I do not like it when somebody is screwing me up with their stupidity. I usually get mad when that happens.

Ronald Osawabine
Wiikwemkoong