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Collective opinions of the community

Governor General Announces 61 New Appointments to the Order of Canada

On December 30th, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, announced 61 new appointments to the Order of Canada. Recipients will be invited to accept their insignia at a ceremony to be held at a future date.

On this list is John Hartman, C.M., Lafontaine, Ontario For enriching Canadian contemporary art by bringing landscapes and cityscapes to life on printing plates, canvas and paper.

John Hartman was born in 1950 in Midland and lives near Lafontaine. He studied Fine Art at McMaster University. He established his reputation with the exhibition Painting the Bay at the McMichael Canadian Collection in 1993. These were large-scale paintings of Georgian Bay, aerial views of the landscape, painted with thick, juicy paint. In the skies Hartman painted stories about the places depicted. Hartman continued to experiment with works that combined figurative, narrative and landscape. He received national exposure with the exhibition and book Big North which toured Canada between 1999 and 2002.

Hartman’s path of painting the intimate and intertwined relationship between people and place, took a turn in 2003. He began to paint aerial views of cities as living organisms.  He creates complex landscape and cityscape paintings inspired by the natural environment of his native Canada and the formal qualities of German Expressionism. The artist paints in a thick, energetic impasto to craft compositions from an aerial perspective.

About the Order of Canada – Created in 1967, the Order of Canada is one of our country’s highest honours. Presented by the governor general, the Order honours people whose service shapes our society; whose innovations ignite our imaginations; and whose compassion unites our communities.

More than 7 000 people from all sectors of society have been invested into the Order of Canada. Their contributions are varied, yet they have all enriched the lives of others and have taken to heart the motto of the Order: DESIDERANTES MELIOREM PATRIAM (“They desire a better country”). The striking, six-point white enamel insignia they wear symbolizes our northern heritage and our diversity, because no two snowflakes are alike.

Appointments are made by the governor general on the recommendation of the Advisory Council for the Order of Canada.

A Message from Doug Shipley, MP

Canada Summer Jobs 2021 Funding Application is open!  The application period opened December 21st and applications must be submitted no later than January 29th, 2021.

Canada Summer Jobs is part of the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy.  This federal initiative helps young people to get information and gain skills and work experience that will aid in successful transitions to the labour market.

This program is also beneficial to many local employers from both the profit and not for profit sectors.  This program functions by providing wage subsidies to eligible applicants to help create quality summer work experiences for young people from the ages of 15-30.   This provides our youth with valuable opportunities to develop and improve skills and improve their access to the labour market.  And it builds a greater potential workforce for our community and communities just like ours across Canada. 

The program is delivered by Employment and Social Development Canada.  Full details can be found online by searching ‘Canada Summer Jobs’ at Canada.ca

Canada Summer Jobs is one of many programs that people may be trying to access in coming weeks.

 Many federal programs that were implemented to assist individuals and businesses during the pandemic are still available and may have been modified.  If you have questions about any of these federal programs my staff and I are still here to help during the lockdown.  Please contact us by telephone or email if we can assist with any federal matters.  Stay safe!


Doug Shipley, Member of Parliament

Barrie – Springwater – Oro Medonte

A Year In Review – Doug Downey

This has been an incredibly challenging year for people around the globe. Here at home, Ontarians have sacrificed, supported. and worked hard to adapt to new and changing circumstances. I have heard from hundreds of people locally about how lives and livelihoods have been affected. None of this has been easy, and I want residents to know that I am hard at work behind the scenes every day, making changes and modernizing systems that will benefit them.

I continue to advocate for the people of Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte on all levels. Tens of millions of dollars have been secured for local organizations and municipalities to help them through this year and into next; to build for the future. Thanks to the advocacy of local parents, we were able to secure funds for Shanty Bay School to be rebuilt. I’ve worked with other Ministers and municipal leaders to ensure a clear path for a senior’s living centre in Springwater, plus a medical and automotive innovation park in Oro-Medonte. We’ve seen investments in mental health resiliency, infrastructure, transportation, policing, post secondary education, health care, and long-term care beds.

As we look toward 2021, our government continues to work toward a more modern, accessible Ontario for all. The government’s focus since day one has been to make services more streamlined and convenient across all facets of daily life, including our court systems, digitizing government services, removing red tape and simplifying policies, while protecting public health and safety, and creating more flexible and responsible public services.

Serving Ontarians as Attorney General has also been a unique and fulfilling experience. In the past year alone, my Ministry has appointed dozens of judges, passed 3 bills (one with unanimous consent) affecting 32 statues and 4 related regulations. We have amended 18 statutes, had 6 regulations put through other vehicles, and 4 private members bills on MAG statutes were introduced, 2 of which received Royal Assent. My team has worked to transform and modernize the justice system decades in a matter of months. This means Ontarians will have an easier, faster, and more accessible justice system.

There is still more valuable work to be done. I am looking forward to finding more new ways to innovate as we come out of 2020 and guide our economy toward a healthy recovery. Thank you to every single person in Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte for all you have done this year to keep our community working together. Front line workers, parents, children, businesses; everyone has done their part to contribute to our safety and well-being as a community. I will continue advocating for you as we focus on growth in the new year.

Murders of Newly Announced Libre Opposition Party Members Running for Congress

Environmental Land and Water Defenders Denied Bail   •  Report from Tegucigalpa, El Progreso Food Donation Programs

The year 2021 brings Hondurans little hope for change as COVID cases rise. With no support from the Honduran government, people also try to rebuild after the devastation of the two November hurricanes of Eta and Iota. Honduran government agencies take international donations, yet the people still wonder why countries continue to support the Juan Orlando Hernandez government as aid does not reach them. They ask, “where is the money?” Our Canadian government sends aid, but it does not reach the people.

Murders and Attacks of Libre Party Candidates and Environmentalists: Raul Alvarez and Others

The year 2021 is an election year. In March, the primaries begin, yet those who announce their candidacy to run in the electoral primaries are at great risk of harassment or even death. Their families also face peril. Running against the National Party is dangerous yet very important to affect positive change for Honduras.

The National Party has had a long history of corruption and repression. In November 2017, President Juan Orlando Hernandez ran for a second term, which is illegal according to the country’s constitution. In addition, he committed electoral fraud, shutting the election down when the vote count was not in his favour. After counting resumed, votes were in his favour; he declared himself the elected president. When the people went into the streets to protest the electoral fraud or spoke out against this, they were teargassed, beaten, murdered, disappeared or imprisoned. Edwin Espinal and Raul Alvarez were arrested for peacefully protesting in January 2018, along with 22 others. They spent 19 months in a maximum-security prison in pre-trial detention. After almost three years, their trials are still pending because of delay after delay.To ensure another National Party victory in November 2021, people understand from past experiences that the government threatens any electoral opposition. As a lead-up to November, the murders and serious threats have already begun. Why does our Canadian government continue to support and provide aid to this corrupt, narco-trafficking regime of Juan Orlando Hernandez that threatens its opposition?According to Brent Patterson of PBI Canada (Peace Brigades International) “Between 2010 and 2016, Canada’s bilateral aid disbursements to Honduras totalled $175 million, with average disbursements of $29 million per year.” He quotes human rights defender Dina Meza, “Giving resources to the Government of Honduras is giving them tools so that they continue to violate the population. The focus of the international community is very important to curb all these human rights violations.” In other words, Canada must stop funding this corrupt government and doing business there.

Shortly after Raul Alvarez announced his candidacy this past November to run as a 2021 Libre congress representative for the area of Francisco Morazán, Tegucigalpa, he was attacked and seriously injured. While selling fruit in his neighbourhood, Raul was stabbed in the lower abdomen, eye, and hand. Raul was rushed by pickup truck to hospital with life threatening injuries. He underwent abdominal surgery and is now at home recovering. He fears that he has lost sight in one eye and movement in his hand as he was bludgeoned in the stomach, face, hands, and legs. He still awaits proper treatment yet there is a serious lack of medical care in Honduras. Since perpetrators of violence enjoy a 90% impunity rate, his attacker will never be questioned or prosecuted.

On December 26, 2020, Felix Vasquez, an environmental and human rights defender, was killed at his home in the small village of El Ocotal in Central Honduras. A group of masked men carrying machetes and guns attacked him in front of his family. Vasquez was a leader in his indigenous Lenca community who had already filed complaints over other threats and attempts made against him due to his political work. Vasquez had recently announced his candidacy to run for Congress. He was a true community man, working to better the lives of his Lenca community members and fight for the natural resources of the area being expropriated by Canadian and US companies.

Less than 48 hours after the murder of Felix Vasquez, another indigenous environmental leader was killed. Tolupan leader, Adán Mejía was attacked on his way home from tending to his corn crops. Canadian journalist Sandra Cuffe based in Latin America notes that 7 indigenous leaders have been killed in 2020 in Honduras. Many of these land defenders have been executed for defending their communities from Canadian and US mining and hydroelectric dam projects and/or protecting their lands from expropriation for Canadian and US tourist projects.

Persecution of Environmental Land Defenders: Case of Guapinol and Dump Site 41

Another very disturbing case is one that I have mentioned in previous articles – the case of the 8 water defenders from the rural community of Guapinol (see photo attached, courtesy of Karen Spring). These men have been imprisoned for 11 months so far for blocking the road to a mining site under construction illegally by a US steel company. On December 22, 2020 bail was again denied for the men who continue their pre-trial detention in horrific COVID-infested conditions.

The Guapinol defenders merely peacefully blocked the road to the mining site as many Springwater/Elmvale residents did in 2009. In Elmvale, 10 protesters were charged with mischief as they blocked Tiny Concession 2E to stop Dump Site 41 construction trucks. Charges were dropped. Yet in Honduras, similar actions have been met with a year’s imprisonment with more to come and if convicted, a long prison sentence.

Canadian-Backed Dam in Arizona, Honduras

Along the shores of the Jilamito River, a land conflict has continued for the past few years where land defenders of the community of Arizona in Northern Honduras have tried to stop the building of a mega hydroelectric dam by the private company INGLESA. Community members have been harassed, arrested, imprisoned and even murdered for speaking out. This project will deplete communities’ water supply along the river, cause major environmental disasters, and threaten their livelihood. The dam is funded by the US Development Finance Corporation and the InterAmerican Development Bank using public funds provided by the Canadian taxpayer. The affected communities are begging for strong voices to stop this project.                 

Report from Tegucigalpa Food Program: Representative – Maria Sanchez

Honduran residents in neighborhoods of the cities of Tegucigalpa and Comayagüela Honduras, who are direct beneficiaries of the bags of basic food, appreciate the donation received by the Canadian solidarity organization of Simcoe County. In times of Covid-19, the government has not provided the necessary help needed for families and regulates the people trying to go to work in the markets to generate income for their families. Private companies have arbitrarily dismissed thousands of Hondurans nationwide, deepening the crisis.

The last delivery of food was made at the end of November 2020 where 130 bags of food were delivered to families and university students who could not return to their communities for various reasons. The aid was distributed among people who are dealing with situations of domestic calamity – extreme poverty due to job loss, illness, and losses due to flooding– and who support others in their community. Each recipient provided our committee with a brief description of their situation so that their needs could be monitored.

Over 130 poor families have benefitted from the monies donated by your highly supportive Canadian organization. Hondurans beneficiaries from El Progreso and San Pedro Sula who were affected by the hurricanes received a donation of 83 pounds of beans. We also thank our volunteers who dedicate their time and expose their lives to the risk of contagion and violence when they enter high-risk neighbourhoods. These volunteers were loaned motorcycles and trucks for the food delivery.

The demand for food is huge and constant. Each community representative provides us with a report on the names of the families who have received packages for our records and for monitoring of future need. The government does assist us with the purchase process, rather, it hinders it; military patrollers threaten to take the packages from the volunteers. Delivery is difficult because of this possibility of harassment and confiscation; officers say that they will complete the deliveries, but volunteers know this will not happen. Thus, our helpers must take small amounts and make more trips. Volunteers run the risk of being stopped and having their motorbikes or cars expropriated; some are asked for circulation authority papers which do not exist.

There are other urgent needs; medication, oxygen, protective gear such as masks, gloves, etc. Our work continues, with support from the Simcoe County Honduras community. We thank you!

Report from El Progreso Food Program: Representative Prisila Alvarado

During and after the critical days of the Eta and Iota hurricanes, 446 affected families have been and continue to be served, with an average of 8 members per family making a total of 3,568 people served. For 30 days during and after the hurricanes, 624 dishes of food were prepared at lunch and the same quantity at dinner, making a total of 1,248 dishes per day, making a global total of 18,720 food dishes.  At present, food assistance continues to be given to families, we prepare rations which are distributed to families so that they can prepare their own food. Mats, bedspreads, awnings, and personal hygiene kit clothes have been distributed (See photos attached, courtesy of Prisila Alvarado).
 We are grateful for all the collaboration from Simcoe County and Karen Spring through the Solidarity Network. Without your support this would not be possible; infinite thanks for the help for our victims and brothers in distress. Although there is nothing to celebrate due to the hardships caused by hurricanes Eta and Iota and COVID-19, our community wishes your community the best for 2021.

A Personal Note

On New Year’s Eve, Edwin and Karen invited me on FaceTime to watch the fireworks display in Tegucigalpa from their apartment complex balcony which is high on the hill surrounding the city. It was an extraordinary display of lights. Firecrackers lit up the night sky. Despite the hardships encountered in 2020, the Honduran people celebrate the beginning of the new year with hope. They bless their strong family ties and the community solidarity they have built. Edwin, Karen, and their Honduran family wish Simcoe County residents a happy new year and thank you for your solidarity and support of the struggles the Honduran people encounter day to day.

The Simcoe County Honduras Rights Monitor, formed three years ago this January after Edwin Espinal was arrested, also thanks you for your continued support! Happy New Year!

Janet Spring for the Simcoe County Honduras Rights Monitor Committee