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Feature Article - December 15, 2005

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Feature Article

December 15, 2005

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Gray MerriamLegaleseGeneral information and opinion on legal topics by Rural Legal ServicesNature Reflectionsby Jean GriffinNight Skiesby Leo Enright

Letters to the Editor

Re: Where is Christmas Going?

As a non-Christian who came to Canada from another country, it is quite clear that Canada is a Christian country in the same way that Iran is a Muslim country and Bhutan a Buddhist country. The attitudes and social fabric in each of these countries reflect the religious values and cultural norms held by the majority of the population.

Many factors contribute to the high degree of religious tolerance and harmonious multi-culturalism which has defined Canadian society in recent decades, not the least of which is a broad-based Christian teaching emphasizing respect, and even curiosity for the beliefs of others.

In Canada we are also living in a post-industrial age where many people feel no connection to their ancestral religion and are groping for some sense of identity. It is unfortunate that this lack of belonging is finding expression in self-deprecation, devaluation, and a new form of intolerance.


There are growing numbers of politically correct, well meaning Canadians who misguidedly believe that all the world’s religious, social and economic differences can be eradicated and seamlessly reblended into a projection of their bland and homogeneous utopian dream world where everyone co-exists on a theoretical ‘level playing field.’

Democracy is not about the wishes and aspirations of vocal minorities being rudely imposed on the majority. In characteristic form, the Canadian Government is unwilling and unable to take a definite stand on this issue, and is naively attempting to please everyone. How about a little tolerance towards the Christian majority who opened the doors of immigration to people of other faiths, giving them the opportunity to practice their religion freely in this land?

- Raphael Kerem, Burridge

Ompah fire station will miss John Hawe

In mid-November the Volunteer Fire Department in Ompah lost John Hawe as its Deputy Chief and its best firefighter. Suffice to say North Frontenac's Township Council fired him because he drove the rescue van to an emergency when he did not have a driver's license to do so. This is not an expose on what council did or should have done -- that's a tale that might be written another day. This is a tribute to our good friend John.

Part time mechanic, electrician, plumber, carpenter, John gave volunteer services that have been crucial to the whole community as well as to the fire department. The Ompah Skidoo Club, the Ompah Conservation Association, the Ompah Community Centre — literally every local organization has benefited from his dedication. He gets to all the meetings, helps at the dinners, the parades, the road tolls, the work bees, the fish hatchery, skidoo trail maintenance, chicken barbecues — whatever and wherever the work may be, John will, of course, be there. If something's wrong or something needs fixing — we all just call John.

John moved to Ompah in 1979 and became a firefighter in 1980. Many temporary fire chiefs have come and were soon gone, but John has been the real glue and continuity that kept the department going. In 1992 he was made Ompah's Deputy Chief responsible for Wild Fires and eventually Deputy in charge of the whole Ompah operation. Consider 25 years of service with all the fire emergencies, all the courses, all the meetings, all the training, emergency medical first response calls, keeping trucks rolling, ensuring equipment was maintained and operational, budget and records keeping - he's done it all. As firefighters we often asked "What would we do without John?" We never dreamt township council would cause us to find out so abruptly and unceremoniously.

The following is not really a fire department story but it gives an insight into what John is like. In 1990 the Ompah Conservation Association convinced him to ride for them in a charity skidoo run. Not being much of 'church guy' he balked a bit when we said the proceeds were going to the Ompah United Church but (afraid of the wrath of God we supposed) he showed up. His skidoo was an old Elan one banger, most of the plastic shroud was missing as was half the windshield and some of the seat. John wore a sign on his back which read 'Riding for the OCA' and a helmet that looked like it was last used in the 1926 Grey Cup game. He had no food for the whole day's ride but he came prepared with three things:

Moth balls for the gas tank (the gas in the tank was slightly skunky at three year's old); nylon panty hose in case the drive belt gave out; and a ratty old tow rope. "I have to be at the hotel by 4 o'clock, so let's have at her," he said. At the end of the day he towed us and our new machine home. Project completed in John's normal way.

As the saying goes, now for the rest of the story: Like most of us, John could not afford a trail permit but the OCA did not fire him as their rider. He was not pulled off the trail because his skidoo might have been an environmental risk. No one worried about what the liability issues were because his helmet was slightly below the current safety standard. And he did raise over $100 for the United Church. Times have certainly changed!

Real volunteers do not want or expect recognition, but Ompah Station firefighters and emergency first responders wanted this article written and published. It is not to embarrass him but to give tribute to and say thanks to our Deputy Chief John Hawe. He was fired for doing something we all do in every fire or medical emergency — he responded based on the circumstances in the quickest and best way possible to help someone in need.

- Leo Ladouceur

Agricorps makes life difficult for farmers

A recent story that appeared in the Kingston Whig Standard demonstrates another example of how the provincial government has let down farmers and farm families. Farmers who spend thousands of dollars on crop insurance through OMAFRA’s Agricorp are unable to collect on legitimate claims. The problem stems from an argument over how much rainfall is recorded in an area. The farmer knows there has been little rain for his crops, and those who monitor rainfall in the area are in agreement. Agricorp, however, claims that the rainfall greatly exceeds that measure, and refuses to honour the claim.

The problem comes from how Agricorp measures rainfall. First, they divide the province into 350 zones, then they take the average rainfall for the entire insured period, and from that they come up with a number.

You don’t have to work the land to know what the problem with this plan is. Unless you live right next to the place where the data for your area is collected and the amount of rainfall for each month is exactly the same, you are likely not going to have your claim treated fairly by Agricorp. Double the rainfall in August is of little use if your crops were scorched to a crisp in July.

The solution will not come from Agricorp’s area representatives. Their hands are as tied as those of anyone else. The solution lies in the hands of Agriculture Minister Leona Dombrowsky.

As the minister responsible for Agricorp, she can deal with this problem. If the past is any indication, Dombrowsky will argue that Agricorp is a crown corporation and that she, as minister, is restricted as to how much influence she may bring to bear on Agricorp’s management.

No problem. Agricorp was created by an act of the legislature, and it is through an Act of the Legislature that Agricorp can be compelled to change its method of adjudicating claims.

While Dombrowsky is free to decide how this situation is handled, here are some helpful suggestions. First, stop taking rainfall averages over a four-month period. Take readings every month and determine from there. Second, increase the number of measuring stations. In fact, why not include some form of monitoring equipment when farmers sign up for their insurance plan, provided that the plan is valued over a certain amount? Most times, the Weather Office uses little more than a glass tube with measurement markings on the side. Given that some large farms each pay upwards of $3000 in premiums, Agricorp should be able to spring for a glass tube, as well as a tamper-proof means of monitoring the data – either by remote electronic monitoring, or site inspection by OMAFRA staff.

The bottom line is that farmers pay into a crop insurance system and expect to be compensated if their claim has merit. To lose compensation because of a change in how data is either collected or tabulated by Agricorp is an unfair burden on an industry that has been burdened for far too long.

- Brent Cameron

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