Editorials - March 31, 2023
Growing more dire
The housing crisis in Ontario is so dire that some Ukrainian refugees have found it easier to return to their war-torn home country than to find permanent accommodation here, a group that helps refugees settle in the Kitchener-Waterloo region has reported. Canadians are opening their homes and welcoming the Ukrainians in who are fleeing the war, but, despite the generosity and compassion, permanent solutions for a new life here seem to be outside the realm of possibility for some.
The federal government announced this month that it was extending the temporary visa program giving Ukrainian citizens and their families until July 15 to apply for a free visitor visa that would allow them to work and study here for up to three years. The program extension is the right thing to do, but the overall plan doesn’t seem to be coming together, despite the best efforts of bureaucrats and volunteers alike. Not everyone is arriving with a host family lined up and many of the refugees are ending up in homeless shelters or government-assisted hotels for weeks. Some of the families could see no path to a sustainable future here, especially when looking for suitable shelter, and opted to go back.
With the soaring price of real estate and so many Canadians experiencing homelessness or currently under-housed, the crisis isn’t just for the Ukrainians, but it is a bold highlight on an issue when a refugee finds it preferable to return to an active war zone than to fight for an affordable apartment in southwestern Ontario. – DS
This week, The Citizen received word that, after 163 years, St. John’s Anglican Church in Brussels would be closing its doors. Easter Sunday will be its final regular service, with deconsecration taking place at a later date. In this issue, we also have an extensive report from Londesborough correspondent Brenda Radford outlining all that the Masonic Lodge of Hullett had done over the years before closing earlier this year. Some of our great institutions are in jeopardy.
From local churches to service clubs to community centres, it’s becoming more and more clear that, to be overly reductive, if we don’t use it, we’ll lose it. As churches see their congregations dwindling and service clubs challenged to keep up robust membership numbers, the churches face the very real possibility that they may have to close.
With our local community centres and halls, it’s become clear that usage levels need to impress those signing the cheques, lest they be the next budget line item to get the chop. The chaotic North Huron budget proceedings have shown that if residents, for a second, take a service for granted, that it could be pulled out from under them.
Not everyone has the time to actively volunteer on a weekly basis, but communities like those scattered throughout Huron County rely heavily on volunteerism and institutions based in faith, recreation and arts and culture to remain vibrant, interesting places to live. If you want to keep something alive and meaningful in your community, support it in any way you can. Volunteer, donate, spread the word and do your part. As the world changes, tomorrow is never guaranteed. – SL
Just around the corner
An outbreak of bird flu, H5N1 clade 22.214.171.124b, is spreading across Canada, killing birds and infecting mammals. Experts warn that the virus is “gathering momentum” and may become transmissible to humans, potentially sparking another pandemic. While human cases remain rare, there is a risk the virus could adapt. Health Canada is monitoring the virus for genetic changes that could indicate it is developing the ability to transmit more efficiently in mammals.
With COVID-19 still fresh in the minds of Canadians, preparing for another pandemic isn’t an exciting prospect, but it is necessary nevertheless. Depending on who is asked, Canada’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic ranged from “needs improvement” all the way to, “complete disaster.” Proactively making plans to fight the next pandemic is one way to avoid repeating mistakes. To prepare for a pandemic, countries need to maintain robust public health systems and have emergency response plans in place, such as adequate funding and resources to identify, track and contain outbreaks. Also critical is access to testing, personal protective equipment and medical supplies. Strong social programs also need to be in place to ensure vulnerable populations are protected in the event of an extended sickness or loss of employment.
Additionally, there needs to be effective communication strategies in place to keep the public informed about the risks and measures being taken to prevent the spread of the disease. This includes ensuring that up-to-date information is accessible through multiple channels, such as social media, websites and traditional media outlets. The scourge of online misinformation has to be countered with persistent vigilance.
Surprise might have been an excuse for the slow and clumsy response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the event of a bird flu pandemic, that excuse won’t fly. – SBS