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Other Interesting Community Stories

Kiwanis Club of Orillia Purchases Life-Saving Equipment for Newborns at Soldiers’

ORILLIA, ON – Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital is another step closer to securing new lifesaving equipment for each delivery room in the Obstetrics Department, thanks to a generous donation from the Kiwanis Club of Orillia that will allow for the purchase of a new Panda Bedded Warmer with Resuscitation Unit.

The Kiwanis Club of Orillia, founded in 1924 aims to improve the physical, emotional and social lives of young people in the local and global communities. Over recent years, the club has made numerous donations to local children’s charities and has supported projects in Soldiers’ Paediatrics and Neonatal Intensive Care Units.

“The focus of the Kiwanis Club is to improve the lives of children and I can’t think of a better way to do this than giving them the absolute best chance for quality of life right from the start,” said Kiwanis of Orillia President, Mark Burns. “I know firsthand the value of investing in lifesaving equipment for newborns as my daughter spent some time in Soldiers’ NICU. I can appreciate how this new Panda Warmer will be valuable to staff and Soldiers’ youngest patients and their families.”

The new Panda Bedded Warmers with Resuscitation Units put all the necessary intervention tools in one place so, in case of an emergency, newborns in distress can be monitored consistently while receiving adjustable, immediate life-saving treatment.

“Our hospital is fortunate to be part of a community that is committed to improving health and wellness, exemplified by this generous donation by the Kiwanis Club of Orillia,” said Orillia Soldiers Memorial Hospital President and CEO Carmine Stumpo.“The new Panda Warmers will allow our Obstetrics Team to advance the exceptional care they provide for infants and we are most grateful for that.”

Kiwanis incoming President, Heather Breckles was one of the key champions of this project.

“Many of us in Kiwanis were watching the amazing success of Charlee’s Run, and I reached out to the Foundation to see how we could help,” recalls Breckles. “At first, we thought we could top up Charlee’s Run to reach three units, but the community beat us to it! When the Foundation said they still needed two more Panda Units, I thought, as a club, we can definitelyfund one more.”

President Mark Burns acknowledges the support of the Community in enabling this gift: “The Kiwanis Auction on the first weekend in November is our biggest fundraiser. The support of our donors and bidders is what allows Kiwanis to support children in our community. They have

helped make this Panda Warmer a reality for the Hospital.” 

The new Panda units will replace the Hospital’s outdated setup and allow Soldiers’ care teams the ability to save valuable seconds when a birth does not go according to plan. The Hospital needs a new unit in each of the five birthing suites to fully incorporate this gold-standard in

neo-natal care. Soldiers’ has one final unit to fund to get this project off the ground. 

Georgian strikes gold – once again – at Skills Ontario Competition

The switch to a virtual competition from an in-person one didn’t deter Georgian students from capturing gold at the Skills Ontario Competition held on May 12.

Erik Stinson brought home Georgian’s first medal – a gold – in the Mechanical Engineering CAD category. The

24-year-old from Bond Head is in his third year of the Mechanical Engineering Technology program. This was his first time competing in the Skills competition.

Georgian faculty member and team coach Tanveer Sayed was extremely proud of Stinson’s performance.

“I was honoured to mentor Erik in the Skills Ontario competition,” said Sayed. “He’s been a student of mine for several courses now and has always come to class prepared, while excelling at the tasks and projects he’s worked on. He exhibits a maturity and professionalism beyond his youthful age. I’m very happy for him; he has a great engineering career awaiting him.”

Stinson said that when he started his program he was really impressed by the rigorous nature of the Computer-Aided Design (CAD) courses. “I dedicated a lot of extra time to practising my mechanical CAD skills to try and make the most out of this opportunity and I really grew to enjoy it,” he noted. “My professor encouraged me to compete in the competition and provided me with lots of advice and practice material, which helped me prepare. Skills Ontario was right in the middle of the final week of the semester so there was really no time to get ready in the days leading up to it. I was satisfied with strictly being a competitor and giving it my best shot, so as you could imagine, the win was a wonderful surprise.”

Stinson explained that the competition was split into two halves – each two hours. The first half required competitors to design, model, and create drawings for a longboard within given specifications. The second half required them to design, model, and create drawings for a splash guard for the wheels of the longboard. The design had to be identical for all four wheels, be attached without any extra fasteners, and had to be 3D printable.

Stinson has an eight-month co-op term starting in the fall and plans to further his education with a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, followed by his Professional Engineering (P.Eng.) designation.

Georgian also won its first gold medal in the Hairstyling category.

Hairstyling student Emily Mills is in her final semester. “Throughout my childhood I was constantly practising different hairstyles from videos I watched on YouTube,” said the 21-year-old from Newmarket. “I was talking to my grandmother one day and she asked me why I didn’t go into hairstyling. So, I applied to Georgian’s Hairstyling program in the fall of 2020, and ever since the first day I’ve realized this is the career for me.”

“We’re so proud of Emily’s amazing job at Skills Ontario,” said Davina Hooper, Georgian faculty member and team coach. “This year’s competition looked very different due to lockdowns and COVID-19 protocols. Emily is one of the most dedicated competitors I’ve ever worked with when preparing for the Skills competition. She hasn’t let any of the struggles of the pandemic get in her way. She’s definitely a role model for everyone. I’m so proud of her accomplishments and know this industry is going to take her to incredible places.”

Mills explained competitors had to complete three things in their virtual competition: a cut, hairstyle and colour theory with certain specifications. The cut had to be asymmetrical with the shortest part of the hair above the chin, styled smooth with a middle part. The hairstyle instructions were no part, low bun with a twist and the colour theory had to be something modern.

Mills said she learned many things from the competition but the most important was learning to believe in herself, her strengths, and knowing she’s more capable than she gave herself credit for. “I’m grateful to everyone who made this happen, and thankful for the opportunity to represent Georgian College,” she said.

Once she graduates, Mills plans to work in a salon in Newmarket to complete her apprenticeship and participate in future competitions.

Both Mills and Stinson moved on to represent Ontario in the virtual Skills Canada National competition, held May 26 and 27. The winners will be announced on June 15.

Dr. Bill Angelakos, Dean, Technology and Visual Arts at Georgian, said he was pleased Georgian could continue its support and commitment of their partnership with Skills during COVID-19. “I’m very proud of the hard work and dedication of our faculty, staff and students who participated in both the provincial and national competitions this year in the new virtual format,” said Angelakos. “This truly illustrates their resilience and ability to overcome many different obstacles and our students had an opportunity to put into practice skills we know today’s employers are looking for like creativity, innovative thinking and problem solving.”


Barrie, ON May 25, 2021….Today, TIFT Artistic Producer Arkady Spivak announced the new project, the Canadian Musical Theatre Database (CMTDB). This inclusive online resource will advocate for greater access, leading to increased production of Canadian musicals by professional, community and youth theatre companies, as well as by student productions within the education sector.  

  Talk Is Free Theatre (Barrie), in partnership with Patrick Street Productions (Vancouver), have begun research and development to create a comprehensive and interactive website to support the growth and viability of the Canadian musical theatre industry across numerous sectors. CMTDB will encourage the increased production of existing works by Canadian artists and will connect works in development with more producers, creatives, educators, students and enthusiasts throughout the country.

   Led by Project Manager and Developer Michael Torontow, the team behind the CMTDB are interested in creating an accessible hub where creators, educators, producers, students and enthusiasts can find intersectionality, opportunities for collaboration, information and resources in one easy-to-use website.

   “The impact of the CMTDB will encourage a greater number of Canadian musicals to be produced and make them more prevalent for everyday consumers of entertainment and seasoned theatregoers alike” says CMTDB Project Manager and Developer Michael Torontow. “I want theatre to be as important to Canadians as hockey is, and the Canadian Musical Theatre Database is going to be part of achieving that goal.”

   The Canadian Musical Theatre Database is anticipated to launch in late 2021.

   We recognize the generous funding of the Canada Council for the Arts – Digital Strategy Fund.

Soldiers’ Newborns to receive support they need with help of the Air Canada Foundation

ORILLIA, ON – The new Panda Bedded Warmers with Resuscitation Units for Soldiers’ Obstetrics Department are going to help give babies born at Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital the best possible start thanks to the support from generous donors like the Air Canada Foundation.

  The Air Canada Foundation is a registered charitable organization focused on the health and well-being of children and youth, offering both financial and in-kind support to Canadian registered charities, like the Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital Foundation.

The organization aims to help kids reach new heights and this donation will help ensure Soldiers’ youngest patients have the best chance of doing just that. “It’s important that we partner with other charitable organizations who are helping to make a difference in the lives of children and their families across Canada. Contributing directly to the purchase of the new Panda units will allow Orillia Soldiers Memorial Hospital to provide medical care to more children in need,” says Valerie Durand, Director of the Air Canada Foundation.

The Panda units put all the necessary intervention tools in one place so in case of an emergency, newborns in distress can be monitored consistently while receiving adjustable, immediate life-saving treatment.

  “Panda Warmers are critical to our ability to provide care to our smallest and most fragile patients,” said Dr. Michelle Gordon, Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital Chief of Paediatrics.

“They also allow us to keep babies warm and safe while the team has access to them to provide critical life-saving care. They are essential to our ability to provide intensive care to our sick infants, and we are so grateful for the generosity that allows us to have this equipment in our delivery rooms and NICU.”

These units will replace the current outdated setup in the Obstetrics Department and allow Soldiers’ care teams to save valuable seconds when a birth does not go according to plan. The donation from the Air Canada Foundation, along with proceeds from recent fundraising initiatives, will allow Soldiers’ to purchase three of the five Panda Bedded Warmers needed for the Obstetrics Unit.

To make a donation towards a Panda Bedded Warmer, please visit https://osmhfoundation.ca/donate.

About Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital Foundation

146 MISSISSAGA ST. W., ORILLIA, ON L3V 3B3 | 705-325-6464 | FOUND@OSMH.ON.CA

The OSMH Foundation is a proud partner of Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital and the communities it serves. The Foundation fundraises to purchase medical equipment, sustain programs and assist the Hospital in maintaining its position as a leader in providing quality community-based healthcare.

For more information, please contact:

Sarah Petrie

Communications Officer, Foundation

Tel: 705-325-6464



(Orillia, ON) – Thirty-seven new Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officers are joining our communities in Central Region following completion of their training at the Ontario Police College in Aylmer, and the Ontario Provincial Police Academy in Orillia.

The 37 officers are part of Class 490 that officially graduated today. Policing in Ontario is about working with community partners and stakeholders to ensure public safety through a collaborative effort of crime prevention and law enforcement. These officers bring with them diverse life and work experiences that will greatly benefit their communities.

The new Provincial Constables have been deployed to the following detachments:

Caledon – 7 officers

City of Kawartha Lakes – 3 officers

Collingwood – 3 officers

Dufferin – 9 officers

Haliburton Highlands – 4 officers

Huntsville – 2 officers

Huronia West – 1 officers

Northumberland – 6 officers

Southern Georgian Bay – 2 officers

“Community policing is at the core of the OPP. Officers work and live in the communities they serve, and develop meaningful relationships with local residents and community partners. I am pleased to welcome these new recruits who will continue to enhance the safety of our communities in the years to come. Best of luck to our newest officers as they start their rewarding careers and serve with pride, professionalism and honour.”

– Chief Superintendent Dwight Peer, Central Region, Ontario Provincial Police

The OPP actively recruits and interviews potential candidates throughout the year. Upon successful completion of the Recruitment Process, each Provincial Constable recruit must successfully complete the required training programs at both the Provincial Police Academy and the Ontario Police College. For more information on the OPP hiring process, visit www.opp.ca/careers.

Lakehead-Georgian Partnership graduates first cohort

 The Lakehead-Georgian Partnership, a collaboration between Lakehead University and Georgian College, will celebrate its first cohort of graduates on Tuesday, June 8 and Thursday, June 10.

Ten students enrolled in the Bachelor of Engineering (Electrical) degree and Electrical Engineering Technology advanced diploma program, and Honours Bachelor of Arts and Science (Environmental Sustainability) Specialization in Ecosystem Management degree and Environmental Technician diploma program, will earn their degree-diplomas during Lakehead University’s virtual faculty-specific convocation ceremonies.

Stephen Bond of Barrie, Ont. was one of the first electrical engineering students to set foot on Georgian’s Barrie Campus back in September 2017.  

“It’s definitely a bittersweet moment for me,” he said while reflecting on the last four years. “I’m happy to be graduating and moving on to the next chapter of my life, but it’s hard to believe that my days at Lakehead-Georgian are behind me.

“It was exciting to have been part of the first class of the Lakehead-Georgian Partnership; I’m happy that we helped pave the way for the next group of students who will be studying in these programs.”

For Bond, the opportunity to be part of the inaugural program has added meaning.

“Being part of a smaller class allowed us to make close connections with the people we were studying with. Over the last four years we’ve built off each other and supported each other. The strong bond that we’ve created will continue beyond graduation.”

For leaders at Lakehead University and Georgian College, 2021 marks a significant milestone for the partnership.

“This celebration of our first cohort of graduates gives us a glimpse of our partnership’s bright future,” said Dr. Moira McPherson, President and Vice-Chancellor of Lakehead University. “We look forward to seeing how the knowledge and practical experience they have received during their time with Lakehead-Georgian will have an impact on our local workplaces and communities.”

“Congratulations to each of our graduates and their families,” said Dr. MaryLynn West-Moynes, President and CEO of Georgian College. “Although your four-year journey with Lakehead-Georgian is successfully completed, this is just the beginning of your career and exciting opportunities await you. With your degree and diploma, you are uniquely positioned to enter the workforce or proceed with future studies. We wish you every success in your future.”

Launched in 2016, the Lakehead-Georgian Partnership was designed to expand the learning opportunities offered to Simcoe County students that delivered on the needs of the region and economy. The collaborative degree-diploma programs provide a combination of academic and hands-on practical learning, allowing students to complete a university degree and college diploma in just four years.

There are currently four programs offered through Lakehead-Georgian:

–       Bachelor of Engineering (Electrical) with Electrical Engineering Technology advanced diploma

–       Honours Bachelor of Arts and Science (Environmental Sustainability) Specialization in Ecosystem 

Management degree with Environmental Technician diploma

–       Honours Bachelor of Science in Applied Life Sciences degree with Biotechnology – Health diploma

–       Honours Bachelor of Science in Computer Science degree with Computer Programming diploma

 Learn more about the Lakehead-Georgian Partnership at www.lakeheadgeorgian.ca.

Convocation ceremony and connection details:

Saturday, June 5, 11 a.m. – Lakehead University Orillia campus main Convocation ceremony, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClPDNQQ41P2o_Wo0o8J8C8w/featured

Tuesday, June 8, 10 a.m. – Conferring of degrees from the Faculty of Science and Environmental Studies, http://www.youtube.com/channel/UClPDNQQ41P2o_Wo0o8J8C8w/featured

Thursday, June 10, 10 a.m. – Conferring of degrees from the Faculty of Engineering, http://www.youtube.com/channel/UClPDNQQ41P2o_Wo0o8J8C8w/featured

Theatre Collingwood says “V” is for VACCINE and VICTORY over the pandemic!

Collingwood, ON: Theatre Collingwood is thrilled to announce a very special partnership and a pin that they feel will have incredible power.

Thom Vincent is the president of Global Hospitality and Balmoral Village. His list of accomplishments are way too many to list here.  Thom and his wife, Kari Payne, are not only great supporters of Theatre Collingwood, community-minded philanthropic people, they are truly visionaries.  When the pandemic hit Thom immediately started thinking ahead to the day when we would all be getting our vaccines and, with the help of his friend Jeff Shearer, he developed a concept of producing and distributing a pin that people could receive once they have been vaccinated, to not only show they have done this but to encourage others to get vaccinated, too.  This pin could generate conversations and perhaps most of all assist in helping people to feel confident and safe when they see the person next to them also wearing the pin.  

Holger Meiche, who lives and works in Collingwood and owns a creative company called Surface Design, was enlisted to design the pins which depict the red maple leaf with a stylized “V” for vaccine and victory over the pandemic.  Truly on point, the pins are also being manufactured in Canada (even though they could have been made for much less off shore).  

“We really feel this is a great opportunity for everyone to be Collingwood Proud, support our theatre company, and to take a shot in the arm for Canada and wear your ‘V’ Pin proudly”, said Mr. Vincent.

This story gets better, because Thom has offered Theatre Collingwood the opportunity to distribute the pins and to create a fundraising opportunity for the theatre company.  “These funds will go directly towards our (post-pandemic) redevelopment of our Youth and Senior Drama Education Program”, said Erica Angus, Executive Director for Theatre Collingwood, “and we could not be more appreciative to Thom and his team, especially during this time when theatre companies throughout the world have had to be closed”.  

With Canada Day coming up very soon, and vaccinations ramping up, what better time to order your “V for Victory through Vaccination” Pin.  Pins will be $10 each (plus HST & postage if you want them mailed) and will be available on line at www.theatrecollingwood.ca or by calling the Theatre Collingwood Box Office at 705-445-2200.  What a great Canada Day gift for your family and friends!  

For nearly forty years, Theatre Collingwood has provided entertainment for local audiences, and has strived to enrich the arts community. The company has fostered great collaborative relationships with independent artists and regional theatre companies. Throughout the struggles of the pandemic Theatre Collingwood has used its time to stay connected with the community, work with The CACE (Collingwood Arts, Culture & Entertainment) Group in developing a plan for a Centre for the Arts, and contributed to a regional arts network being developed through The Institute of Southern Georgian Bay. With continued community support, Theatre Collingwood is looking ahead to a bright future when audiences can gather together and experience live performances once again. 

Frontline Healthcare Workers Share their Reflections on the Impact of COVID-19

Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) has launched a #SeeWhatISee social media campaign to share frontline healthcare workers’ reflections on the impact of COVID-19. Sharing these reflections offers a glimpse inside the health centre and the reality of COVID-19.

Frontline workers like Jennifer, manager, Intensive Care Unit (ICU) reflect on the impacts of breaking public health guidelines and protocols. “You would see how devastating it is when because of a family member’s action, somebody dies.

Just a dinner turns out not to be just a dinner.”

“We are seeing entire families wiped out, multiple family members, parents, and children, all being wiped out over a chance encounter. No masks, no precautions and what is left behind is complete destruction,” shares Karen, an ICU resource nurse.

RVH staff see the devastating impacts of COVID-19 on a daily basis and it takes its toll on staff. Nicole, a registered nurse on the Respiratory Unit says that if you could see what she sees, you would see “a nurse who is going into a dying patient’s room, who is holding an iPad for when they are taking their last breaths. It is very hard, I’m the one that is being there for them when there is no one else that can be in there for them.”

Hospital staff and physicians are experiencing a high level of fatigue, stress and burn out. However, despite the

challenges, TEAM RVH is digging deep to ensure they continue to be there for anyone needing medical help. The goal of this video campaign is to catch a glimpse into the daily impacts of COVID-19 at the health centre to encourage everyone to stay the course. Stay home, follow public health safety measures and sign up for a vaccine when eligible.

You can view the reflections on RVH’s social media channels and on RVH’s YouTube channel.

RVH Introduces Supported Virtual Visits 

With visitor restrictions still in place, Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) has introduced a new pilot program to ensure patients can still spend time with their family and loved ones.   

Dedicated staff members will visit units to connect patients with their families and loved ones through a variety of virtual platforms such as FaceTime, Skype or Zoom. These visits can be done through the patient bedside entertainment system or an iPad provided by RVH.  

“Early feedback has been very positive and there’s been so many heartwarming stories,” says Nancy Savage, executive vice president patient and family experience, regional vice president Ontario Health and Chief Nursing Executive. “One patient’s spouse was able to send him a virtual kiss as he was being wheeled in for a procedure; another patient was able to connect with their family in the United States and another patient was so emotional after being able to speak to his daughter and spouse that he broke down in tears, leaving staff to describe the interaction as ‘the most emotional moment in their career’”.   

Patients, or family members, can contact the inpatient units directly to arrange a visit. Once a suitable time is agreed upon and appropriate technology, an RVH staff member will set up and faciliate the visit.   

Barrie resident Tom Culyer has been a patient in RVH’s Integrated Stroke and Rehabiltation Unit for the past two months and due to the pandemic restrictions has not had any in-person visits. He recently had his first visit with his wife of 58 years, Sylvia, and shared his experience. Through the supported virtual visit program, Tom was able to ‘chat’ with Sylvia and his two daughter-in-laws for 20 minutes. “I was so appreciative to be able to see my wife,” says Culyer. “You think you’re a tough guy, but I got very emotional. Being able to see my wife has given me incentive to get better and to be able to go home. Nothing beats having an in person visit but this was the next best thing.” Staff have arranged another virtual visit for Tom and Sylvia to coincide with their wedding anniversary.  

The project was rolled out utilizing two staff members and will expand using newly hired Externs, clinical students in various stages of their fields of learning who assist in a variety of areas of the health centre. Josee Hill, Registered Practical Nurse (RPN), is one of the dedicated staff members and remarked on the success of the program. “This is just an exceptional progam with overwhelmingly positive feedback,” says Hill. “It is really emotional when patients and their family members connect and really does motivate patients. It also provides great reassurance – both to families and the patient – that their loved ones are ok.” 


EDHS received a fantastic upgrade to our new courtyard this week. What was once a dusty pile of pebbles is now a beautifully scaped stone courtyard ready for classes to learn and play in, come September. It was fantastic to see many former students working on this project with Hardship Acres. Special thanks to the whole Hardship Acre team for getting this job done in record time!

Deputy Mayor Walma is Re-Elected to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Board of Directors

(Tiny, Ontario) The Township of Tiny is very pleased to announce that Deputy Mayor Steffen Walma

has been re-elected, for a one-year term, to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) Board

of Directors.

The FCM, which is comprised of elected municipal officials and affiliate members from all regions and

various-sized communities throughout Canada, advocates for municipalities to be sure their citizens’

needs are reflected in federal policies and programs.

As Mayor Cornell stated, “it is essential for rural communities to have a voice at the Federal level.

Steffen has been successful in communicating and advocating for the needs of rural communities

through his involvement on the FCM Board of Directors. In addition, he has made significant headway

on various projects including bringing broadband infrastructure to rural areas. Congratulations to

Deputy Mayor Walma for his successful re-election to the FCM Board of Directors.”

Deputy Mayor Walma noted his appreciation for his re-election stating, “I am humbled and honoured

to be successful in my re-election to the FCM. It is vital that we tell the story of rural communities to

the federal government. This is an important time for municipalities given the current climate due to

the COVID-19 pandemic, to build on strategies that will ultimately better serve communities across


Canada’s Lack of Respect for Indigenous Rights at Home and in Honduras

On May 27, 2021 the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation announced the horrific news that the remains of 215 indigenous children were found in a mass grave on the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia. This announcement sent shock waves across Canada and the world, as children as young as 3 years old were buried at this site; their deaths were undocumented. 

According to Chief Casimir, investigations into finding the remains began in the early 2000s. This discovery demonstrates the cruelty of our white colonial past and total lack of respect for indigenous rights of these and many other young Canadian indigenous children, their families, and their communities. How can we be proud to be Canadians as our Canadian government and Catholic Church authorities established these residential schools and most horrifically carried out unthinkable abuses?

United Nations Human Rights experts and spokespersons stated, “The [Canadian] judiciary should conduct criminal investigations into all suspicious deaths and allegations of torture and sexual violence against children hosted in residential schools – and prosecute and sanction the perpetrators and concealers who may still be alive.” The RCMP has opened an investigation into the mass grave site; the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation will direct the investigation as it moves forward.

The Kamloops Indian Residential School, one of 130 across Canada, opened in 1890 serving over 500 children and closed in 1978. However other residential schools still remained in operation until 1996. 

Canadian Mining Company Aura Minerals Continues to Dig Up Cemetery

Canada has no better track records across the world in regard to respecting the human rights and dignity of indigenous people. The Canadian government turns a blind eye to the atrocities perpetrated against the indigenous people in Honduras, where Canadian tourist and mining companies illegally purchase and expropriate lands for corporate profits. 

In Azacualpa, near Copan Honduras, Aura Minerals has decimated a large area of the community, mowing down the mountain to retrieve gold. At the top of the mountain is the 200-year-old gravesite that is standing precariously. If further excavation occurs, it may fall down on its own. Aura Minerals has mined the whole area, leaving the gravesite hanging at the brink of collapse. Many Honduran families have already lost the remains of their loved ones; others have been forced to remove family members’ remains to be buried elsewhere. 

Why are Canadian mining companies able to operate with impunity in Honduras? If Indigenous leaders speak out against the company policies, they are harassed, imprisoned, or even disappeared or murdered. According to Toronto-based Aura Minerals, their shareholders and investors have adopted a 360-degree policy that “is looking to get better at what we do and build a strong, smarter and sustainable mining company”. Indigenous rights are certainly not on their list! For further information on Aura Minerals, refer to: http://auraminerals.com/company/360-mining/

Not only is Aura Minerals breaching indigenous rights and causing human rights abuses, but the company is also poisoning the local rivers and streams, which are the main sources of drinking water for the surrounding communities. On May 31, 2021, Aura Minerals sent in machinery to dispose of dead horses, which perished after drinking water from the local creek located downstream from Aural Mineral’s cyanide treatment pools. These ‘pools’ are used to separate the gold from the excavated matter using the Canadian banned chemical – cyanide – which is proven to cause serious health affects if consumed at a high level. See attached photo courtesy of Azacualpa Environmental Committee.

Poor Vaccination Availability in Honduras: Canada Sends Aid through World Bank and International Development Bank?  Where is this Aid?

Opportunities to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in Honduras are few and far between. To date, Karen Spring reports that the Honduran people are very slowly receiving vaccines; the elderly and healthcare workers have been the first to receive either the Russian-based Sputnik vaccine or AstraZeneca. Less than 5% of the population to date have received one shot. This small percentage is troubling as Canada has sent funds through the World Bank and International Development Bank specifically to support the Honduran people.

On April 16, 2021, the Washington-based World Bank Board of Directors approved $20 million in funds to implement COVID-19 Emergency Response Projects. According to the WB website, “these financial resources will help Honduras purchase and deploy COVID-19 vaccines and strengthen the countries’ immunization and related health delivery systems.” The funds will also “provide resources to help the Government purchase vaccines and strengthen health systems for a successful vaccine deployment. The credit will also support activities such as the procurement of supplies, contracting and training of human resources, upgrading vaccination monitoring and evaluation systems and communication efforts.” Unfortunately, most Hondurans, particularly the impoverished, the elderly, and families living in poor neighbourhoods and rural and remote areas have not received a first shot to date. So, into whose pockets have Canadian aid donations gone?

Political Prisoner Rommel Herrera Released from Prison

On June 4, 2021, political prisoner Rommel Herrera was released from prison after spending a total of two years in captivity, first in La Tolva Prison then in a psychiatric hospital in Tegucigalpa. Rommel was arrested on May 31, 2018, for allegedly placing a tire on rubble that was set fire on the steps of the US Embassy in Tegucigalpa. At that exact time, our Canadian delegation was in the US Embassy meeting with embassy staff regarding the political prisoners and also discussing the roots of migration and the role that US and Canada play in this migration.  

Our delegation members will always remember that day as we were meeting with Canadian and US Embassy officials in the downtown area of Tegucigalpa where the embassies are located. It took our bus extra time to get to our destination as the streets were filled with protesters. The air was thick with the smell of teargas that stung our noses, making it hard for us to breathe. As we left the Canadian Embassy en route to the US Embassy, the roads were blocked. The military presence was alarming. 

In the middle of our meeting at the US Embassy, the alarm sounded. We were instructed to duck under the table. The Embassy was supposedly ‘under attack.’ On the front steps of the Embassy, a small bonfire was burning and around it there were a few tires. One of the young teachers walking in the crowd was arrested and accused of placing a tire on the fire and was later charged with arson. That person, Rommel Herrera, was sent to La Tolva Prison, where he spent many months with Edwin Espinal and Raul Alvarez. A few months after Edwin and Raul were released, Rommel was sent to a psychiatric hospital ‘prison’ for the remainder of his 2-year detention. The mental and physical abuse Rommel endured was horrific. 

The SCHRM is relieved that this prison ordeal is over for Rommel. To celebrate his release on June 4, Edwin, Raul, and Karen Spring joined him, his family, and many social movement supporters and Honduran media outside the courthouse. Rommel is now with his family working on his road to recovery. We wish him all the best. See photo attached of Edwin, Raul, and Rommel, courtesy of Karen Spring. 

 SCHRM Presentation: Victoria BC Central America Support Committee

Last month SCHRM was invited to speak virtually about our work in Honduras. The audience was particularly interested in how and why our organization was formed and about our work with the food programs in El Progresso and Tegucigalpa. We spoke about the case of Edwin Espinal and other political prisoners, and about Canadian mining and tourist projects in Honduras that marginalize the indigenous population. 

Also speaking at the event was Philip Little, a well-known Canadian human rights activist who maintains close ties with Padre Melo, a popular and greatly respected Jesuit priest in El Progreso. Phil has traveled to Honduras many times over the past 15 years to work with Father Melo who regularly speaks on Radio Progreso. Father Melo has received numerous death threats due to his advocacy for human rights and for speaking against the corruption in the Honduran government. Phil’s work is supported by the West Coast Catholic organization, the ICN.

On June 15, 2021, SCHRM will be presenting to the Barrie and District Labour Council. This organization works with 24 labour union affiliates and represents workers from all of the surrounding municipalities in Simcoe County. Their mandate is to support community-based organizations, lobby municipal and provincial governments on behalf of workers and advocate for workers’ rights and to promote the initiatives of the Canadian Labour Congress. The SCHRM committee looks forward to presenting our work to the Council, which supports our projects in Honduras related to the political prisoners. We thank them for their ongoing support. 

SCHRM thanks our Springwater readers for their support, the Springwater News that gives us a voice, and also many who continue to support the food and relief programs of El Progreso and Tegucigalpa. If you are interested in contributing, please contact us at: janetspring7@gmail.com or 705-734-4238.

Janet Spring, Christine Nugent, Kate Harries, and Meg Jordan for the Simcoe County Honduras Rights Monitor Committee