Laurier Brantford offers only two courses on black history this year

Although Laurier Brantford is hosting a film series and a public lecture to celebrate Black History Month in February, the campus offered just two black history courses in the 2015-16 academic year.

The campus’s history program offers three courses about black history, according to program co-ordinator Geoff Spurr.

“We do teach specific courses on Africa and African Americans, just nothing is being offered…this year,” said Spurr. He said most history courses are offered on a two- to three-year rotation, except for many first-year courses.

Next year, the history program plans to offer two courses on black history: The African American Experience Since 1871 (HI 331) and War and Society in Africa (HI 306). “Well, that’s the plan, to offer it next year. It’s based on enrollment; sometimes you don’t get the enrollment. But I think that one will be quite popular,” said Spurr.

When asked, Lauren Burrows, education and inclusion co-ordinator at the Brantford campus’s diversity office, said she did not know how many courses the university offered on black history. But she said it was important for the school to offer them.

“I think there should be more courses about black history, race and gender because they all intersection,” said Burrows. “We are all race.”

Spurr acknowledged the university is aware of the small number of black history courses offered and would like to increase them. Spurr said there are a few challenges the program has encountered that prevent it from offering more black history courses.

“We don’t actually have any specialists in African or African American history here. We have six faculty members, but four of them are cross-listed or cross-appointed,” which means they teach in multiple programs, he said.

The lack of black history courses has been discussed inside the department, including when they had the opportunity to hire a new faculty member three years ago. The program weighed hiring a specialist in Asia, Africa and Latin American history. Ultimately, a specialist in Asian history was hired. The program hopes its next hire will address the need for a specialist in black history.

“We thought there was a huge gap in terms of Asia. We didn’t have anyone teaching Asian history and we had very few faculty with any kind of specialty in Asia. It was a tough decision and we kind of went that route. Hoping that if we got a future hire we would do it in Africa,” said Spurr.

A second challenge is the requirements placed on history students to graduate. They must take a certain number of courses in three categories: premodern, modern and global history. Certain black history courses do not fit into any requirements meaning history students will only receive an elective credit instead of receiving credit for a premodern, modern or global history course.

As part of Black History Month, the history program welcomed Dana E. Weiner to the Brantford campus on Feb. 12. Weiner is a specialist in African American history and will discuss researching the topic with students.

To celebrate Black History month, Laurier Brantford student organization SOUL is running a film series on black history. SOUL showed the 2014 satirical drama “Dear White People” on Feb. 8th, as the second of three movies it is showing during the month. After the film, the 32 people in attendance participated in a discussion moderated by student Justin Manning.

“I was pleased with the turnout for the event and the number of people who stayed and didn’t just take food and leave. I hope the people who stayed learned something tonight,” said Manning following the discussion.

The third and final film in SOUL’s month-long series is “42,” the story of Jackie Robinson, the first player to break baseball’s colour barrier. It will be shown on Feb. 29 at 8 p.m. in RCW 202.


Brantford Cold Cases

Police considered it a cold case when the investigation expels all of its leads and evidence without solving the case. In the city of Brantford, there are currently three cold cases.

The first cold case occurred on September 8th 1983 with the disappearance of 25 year old Mary Hammond. Hammond left her Elgin St. townhouse at 3:30 am, cutting across a field towards the bakery she worked at on Morton Ave. When Hammond did not make it to work the police were contacted. Police followed her footprints but only found items from her lunch and pieces of clothing. The police never found Hammond. Police investigated a suspicious vehicle parked near the bakery, but never located the truck.

In 2012, the case was reopened as Police executed a search warrant for a house on 143 Market St. Police performed a forensic search, but the case still remains cold more than 30 years after the disappearance of Hammond.

On Friday April 8th 1994, truck driver Michael Lovejoy was making his return journey to Michigan after picking up parts in Buffalo. Travelling westbound on the 403, Lovejoy pulled over a kilometer and a half east of the Wayne Gretzky Parkway overpass. Lovejoy proceeded to take off his socks and shoes to have a nap in the bed in the back of his truck.

On April 9th, Lovejoy was found dead after being shot multiple times. Despite receiving over 300 tips, the case remains unsolved. Numerous tips from witnesses claim they saw a male park a transport truck with similar markings and paint behind Lovejoy’s truck. Witnesses state the man then got out of his truck and walk up to Lovejoy’s truck. However, this man has not never been identified.

The final Brantford cold case occurred on Thursday July 28th 2005, when a women walking her dog discovered a full-term baby boy near an abandoned train tracks near Dufferin Ave and Parkside Drive. A police investigation was launched to discover who the mother was.

On August 3rd, Police received a letter from a woman claiming to be the mother saying she would be in contact with them. However, no further contact was made. Nine days later, police released two pieces of the letter from the public hoping to find a way to identify the mother.

The baby was laid to rest on August 17th, given the name “Baby Parker.” The name was given to the baby after the street, Parkside Drive, where the baby was found.


Author Note: Another class assignment, and one I would like to revisit and rewrite in a longer format. This assignment had only 600 word count. This has really sparked my interest in cold cases and could see myself revisiting the topic and maybe even writing a book if I ever had the financial resources to dedicate that much time and money into the topic.


Brantford Halts Subdivision Expansion

City councillors listen to residents’ pleas and vote unanimously to halt planned construction in phase three of the Pace Avenue subdivision.

Following a two and a half hour discussion, the nine city councillors present all voted against the rezoning of land along Pace Ave. The land was to be used to build five more single family homes in the subdivision. Ward One councillor Larry Kings and Ward 5 councillor David Neumann were absent from the Committee of the Whole meeting to vote.

The first hour and a half of the discussion was painfully slow as councillors attempted to gain a better understanding of the situation and what the developer was attempting to accomplish and how it would affect current residents of the subdivision. The developer had filed an application to rezone land on Pace Ave to build five single family homes and move a storm water pond sitting on the land to complete the third and final phase of the subdivision. Ward four councillor Rick Carpenter went through the over 30 page report and questioned nearly every point in the report, gathering answers from the engineers, city officials, city planners and the developer.

However, it was not until the residents of the Pace Ave subdivision were given a chance to speak did the councillors fully grasp what some residents have had to live through for almost 19 years.

“I’ve lived in a construction zone for years.” Said Laura Flannigan who bought one of the first houses built in the Pace Ave subdivision. Flannigan’s sentiment was shared by all but one of the 11 residents who took to the podium to talk to council.

Real Estate agent Terry Hardy moved out of the subdivision in the fall of 2014 after describing his frustration with a lack of progress being made to complete the subdivision. “Residents who pay five to six thousand dollars in property taxes expect to have roads paved, sidewalks completed and no mounds of dirt making the land look like a construction site. I’ve never paid so much in taxes and been so embarrassed in where I live.” Said Hardy.

Hardy’s complaints of incomplete parts of the subdivision are some of the 53 outstanding items that have not been completed from the first two phases of the subdivision plan. Hardy also noted that from May to October 2014, a high percentage of residents put their homes up for sale due to frustration over the lack of completion. Hardy himself, sold three houses within the subdivision.

Of all the residents to voice their displeasure with the proposed rezoning, none spoke with a passion of Kurt Rose. Rose moved into the subdivision nine years ago. “I’ve lived in a construction zone for nine years.”

Rose also brought up the pond that the developer wanted to move as part of the proposed third phase. “I was under the belief the pond would always be there. It was the reason we bought our house.” Said Rose.

Rose’s concerns did not end with the lack of completion and the moving of the pond. Rose’s main concern was safety. “Safety should be our number one concern and I’m not sure that beings meet. There was a fire in 2014 and the street has no secondary access. The fire truck had to use land on phase three to turn around.” Said Rose.

Rose ended his speech with a question to councillors’ to ponder, “Where will we be left again if these are not built to completion again.” Said Rose.

Following councillors hearing the concerns of every resident who wished to speak, the councillors briefly dilated prior to voting.

“When people can’t enjoy their neighbourhoods it’s a sad state.” Said Ward four councillor Cheryl Antoski.

Antoski’s sentiments were backed by Ward two councillor John Utley who described the expectations of owners when they first purchased homes in the subdivision years ago. “Homeowners envisioned owning a home where they could look out their windows and see a pond. Instead they will be see housing. There expectations will never be meet and I will not be supporting the motion.” Said Utley.

Ward one councillor Rick Weaver heard the cries from Rose about safety and said “I will not support the proposal because of the lack of access for emergency vehicles.” Said Weaver.

“It’s hard to gain their trust back after what they’ve been through… I will not be supporting the development.” Said Carpenter.

Ward two councillor John Sless provided the most colourful explanation for not voting for the proposal. “It’s like the movie Groundhog Day. You wake up and nothing changes. I will not support the motion.” Said Sless.

With councillors voting against phase three of the development, the developer is allowed launch an appeal and attempt to get the decision overturned.


Brantford MP Phil McColeman

Phil McColeman takes lessons learned from education and business experience as a home builder as framework for his political career as Brant Conservative MP.

61 year old Phil McColeman will be running for re-election in October for Parliament. McoColeman will be looking to win his Brant riding for the third time since 2008, but it is the lessons learned throughout his university career and business venture building houses that shape the way he views politics.

McColeman’s decision to enter politics came in 2006 following the Liberal Sponsorship Scandal involving the Paul Martin Liberal government. “Corruption happens, what made me the most upset was that the people showed no remorse, saying it’s the government’s money. No it’s my money… Its good hardworking people’s money who pay taxes… It’s their money not the government’s money… I trust the government to spend it properly.” Said McColeman.

But McColeman’s introduction in politics came from his business interests. Starting a family construction business over 25 years ago, he became a government lobbyist. McColeman became the local president of the Brantford Home Builders Association before becoming the provincial leader. He recalls having to meet with Ontario Premiers about the home building industry and ways to improve affordability and becoming more energy efficiency.

The building blocks of McColeman’s career can be traced back even further when he was in grade 13 and decided to make the drive to Waterloo to speak with the Dean of Admissions of Wilfrid Laurier University. After discussion with admissions, McColeman says he was “lucky to get into university.” As he was able to convinced admissions to grant him admission on a probationary status. McColeman eventually graduated and went on to attend Kent State University where he worked as a grad assistant. Today, McColeman is still associated with the university that gave him a chance as he serves on the Wilfrid Laurier board representing the Brantford campus.

Through his university experience, McColeman described post-secondary education as transformative. “Education transformed my life and others. Young people need the opportunity to become educated at all levels.” Said McColeman.

Education is one of the key areas of interest for McColeman. The Conservative backbencher is also interested working with people with disabilities. McColeman works closes with the Federal Minister to improve life for the disabled. McColeman’s other passion comes from his business interest of home building. McColeman has been working to change the tax framework placed on every new house that is built. The tax is eventually passed down to the homebuyer. McColeman pointed to the city of Markham where the tax reaches $54,000. He suggests the government needs to intervene and set a controlled tax.

With just over six months until the election, McColeman outlines the issues he feels will be the major issues come October 19th. He states health care as being a traditional issue that comes up every election. He then points to two other sectors that will be the major issues during campaigning. McColeman describes the economy as healthy but notes how jobs and employment will be a major issue.

The third issue that McColeman predicts as being a major topic of discussion are related to world events such as terrorism and security. McColeman brings up Bill C-51, Canada’s Counter Terrorism Act that gives more power to the police and RCMP. Bill C-51 allows for the detaining of individuals who are directly tied to a terrorist organization. The process as described by McColeman, has the police go before the judge and present evidence. If the judge rules in favour of the police, they are issues a warrant to arrest the suspect, search their property and hold the suspect for ten days.

McColeman describes his relationship with the media as one based on trust. He says the media can paint a stereotypical picture of what every political party and politician looks like. In the opinion of McColeman, this is a lack of disrespect shown by the media. However, he also believes that each party paints the picture of their party in the public sphere, based on popular opinion and constructs. But McColeman concedes that both sides, the media and government must eliminate the distrust between the two parties along with any biases. Sticking to his belief, McColeman is an open book with the media. “Everyone in the media has my cell phone number. It could ring right now. I need to be accountable to the local media.” Said McColeman, who promises members of the media that he will produce a response to their question before their deadline.

McColeman describes himself as “driven and motivated.” He views himself as a results orientated man. “I want to see results. I want results as fast as possible.” Said McColeman. The building blocks of McColeman’s success in business, family and politics are due to the character he has developed throughout his life. He describes his theory on his personal character as “the power of the individual.” A theory he developed through his father, an honest, hardworking blue collar Canadian who worked multiple jobs to support his family. For McColeman, he looks to help people with similar ideals. People he describes as looking to create their own success and are self-reliant in order to live fulfilling lives.

Despite a business career of over 25 years and a political career that is in its seventh year, McColeman still views his greatest accomplishment as his family, including his four children and four grandchildren.

Dave Levac: Brant MPP & Ontario Speaker of the House

Ontario Speaker of the House and Brant MPP Dave Levac

Provincial MPP Dave Levac looks toward setting a record as the longest standing provincial speaker of the house position.

Levac started his political career in 1999, running as a liberal because his ideals came closest to matching those of the liberal party’s. Levac viewed politics as the best way he could get further involved within his community. Levac had been involved with countless volunteer events to help improve the community. Levac was responsible for helping organize the Queen’s visit to Brantford in 1997.
Prior to beginning his political career in 1999, Levac spent 25 years as an educator. Including a 12 year run as an elementary school principal. Levac credits his role within the education system with providing him a training ground for his current role as speaker of the house. “I learned how to manage a classroom, read people and deal with different types of people.” Said Levac.
Levac was nominated for the role of speaker of the house by a Conservative MPP at the start of his fourth term. Levac’s nomination was seconded by a Liberal backbencher. Levac would then go onto win a 50 plus one drop-off ballot vote to become speaker. After being elected for a fifth time as the MPP of Brant, Levac became the first man in Ontario history to be elected for a second term as speaker of the house.
Levac describes his role as speaker as being neutral within Queens Park. “The speaker is neutral. No political stuff. No advertising or cheerleading.” Said Levac. Levac takes being neutral very serious. Levac does not even allow for people to accuse him of leaning to heavily to one side or another. Levac no longer goes to any Liberal party meetings, functions or events. “I had already lost many of my party ties and was more interested in doing what’s best for the people.” Said Levac. Levac believes there has been no situation in his role as speaker of the house where he could have been more neutral.
Levac said, “I know I’m doing a good job when both sides accuse me of being too hard on them.” Levac used that sentiment as part of his pitch for being reelected speaker of the house. “I convinced the people I had the proper demeanor. (MPPs) Know what you’re getting.” Said Levac. If Levac holds his position through the end of this term, he will become the longest serving speaker in Ontario history.

Brantford Mayor Chris Friel believes economic development is key to social improvement

January 28th 2015

Brantford Mayor Chris Friel continues to triumph economic development as the answer to social improvement within Brantford as he starts his fifth term as Mayor.

In 1994, when Chris Friel first ran for Mayor, he was referred to as the “boy Mayor.” The then 27-year old Friel began knocking door to door as an attempt to win votes. Friel recalls knocking on the door of an 80-year old man who agreed to vote for Friel because “you (Friel) didn’t know what you can’t do.”

When Friel decided to run for election in 1994, he was a recent Masters Student graduate from the University of Waterloo. Friel wrote his final thesis on the deindustrialization of Brantford in the 1980s. Friel would go onto defeat incumbent Mayor Bob Taylor and would soon go to work on ways to redevelop the Brantford economy.

In the 1980s the Brantford economy was based on farm machinery manufacturing. However when Massey-Ferguson and White Farm Equipment went out of business thousands of people lost their jobs and Brantford’s unemployment rate reached 26 per cent by 1994. Friel’s plan for economic development started with focusing on bringing small and medium sized buildings to Brantford. Friel decided that Brantford would focus on two sectors of business, the food industry and the advanced manufacturing business.

The success of the food industry has been incredibly success for Friel and Brantford. The food industry continues to grow for Brantford. With over a thousand people employed within the industry. The food industry continues to grow for Brantford as new plants are being built to accommodate the new contracts that Brantford is being award.Friel described the effect bring new industries into Brantford had on the city. “New businesses allows for people to move up the cycle.” But for Brantford to continue moving up the ladder, Friel believed he had to start at the lowest rung on the ladder.

Friel believed that in order to successfully change the economy he had to start with education as Brantford had a high provincial dropout level. To implement change, Friel and the city of Brantford paid to build a Wilfrid Laurier University campus in the Brantford downtown core. The campus has successful rejuvenated the downtown while improving the level of education within the city as well as brining more high quality jobs to the city. Despite not receiving any provincial funding for ten years, the campus is home to over 3000 students and 20 buildings. Friel calls the “University the biggest change” in the process of emerging from deindustrialization.

In order to pay the millions needed for the university campus Friel was forced to find a new source of income for the city. The answer came from an unlikely source as the city sold a building they had acquired when Bell defaulted. Brantford sold the building for $4.1 million which the government and Ontario Lotto and Gaming Corporation turned into a casino.

The Casino has proven to be a major income generator for the city. Brantford receives five per cent of slot gross after payout. In the first year of the casino, Brantford made $4.3 million. In the past year, Brantford was able to negotiate a percentage of the casino’s poker room profits. For 2015, the city of Brantford is projected to generate its biggest profit ever of over $5 million.

As the city of Brantford has emerged from the deindustrialization, the focus has shifted from economic development to social improvements for Friel. Brantford under the leadership of Friel have launched many initiatives to improve life for citizens. The city of Brantford under Friel has seen the social assistance numbers stabilized to help the disadvantaged. Friel describes the process as “managing the problem, while looking for creative ways to solve the problem.” Friel began by targeting neighborhoods with low test scores with the idea of “breaking the cycle starting with the kids” said Friel. Smart Brantford is a focus initiated by Friel to improve inclusion within the city, including improvements at libraries and rec centers. Smart Brantford hopes to improve technology and programs to build skills for future jobs.

Friel has also launched Safe Brantford, a program designed to lower crime rate. Brantford has always had a higher than average crime rate in Ontario. But Friel hopes the multiple phase program will continue to reduce crime numbers in Brantford. Operation Shutdown is a cooperative effort made between multiple police stations across the province as well as Six Nations. However Friel admits, “Drugs are still a problem the community struggles with.”

Breaking the cycle is a major emphasis for Friel was he has been able to gather every agency to break the crime cycle of youths and get them on what he calls a “progressive path.” The question for Friel when looking at troubled youth is “how do we save this person?” The answer for Friel has started with the community. Boots on the Street is an organization that focuses on attacking problem housing complex and dealing with addiction and mental health. Friel calls housing a problem for the city as the city has nowhere to put people when they finish detox rehab allowing them to return to their bad habits. Friel calls for an improved Provincial and National housing strategy.

As Friel started his fifth term as Mayor, the biggest problem he faces is that Brantford is running out of land for both business infrastructure and residential infrastructure purposes. Friel began negotiations with Brant County in 2003 to readjust boundaries, however those talks have stall as Friel was beaten in two straight elections until Friel was reelected in 2010. The city and the county continue to negotiate.

Craig Sumi

January 21st 2015

For over the past decade, Craig Sumi has worked behind the scenes of provincial parliament at Queen’s Park helping ministers deal with the media.

Sumi started his professional career as a journalist, working for several newspapers companies across Ontario before settling in at the Hamilton Spectator. While at the Spectator, Sumi was given a one year assignment at Queen’s Park covering education and health.

During his first year covering politics at Queen’s Park, Sumi describes his first thoughts about the daily happenings at Queen’s Park.

“Reports are sharks, politicians are dinner (in media scrums)” said Sumi. Sumi uses the comparison to describe how reporters will hound politicians to get the answers they need to write their stories. While politicians are dinner, precooked and ready to eat and unable to fight back against the sharks.

Sumi recalls how some reporters had a rolodex of names and numbers of sources they had within Queen’s Park, ranging from the politicians themselves to their aids and even the garbage men. The reporters or sharks will go to any limit to find a new angle or a new story.

Following Sumi, yearlong assignment at Queen’s Park returned to the Spectator, but soon realized that politics and not journalism was his true calling and passion in life. Sumi returned to Queen’s Park, where today he holds the position of Media and Issues Management.

Sumi describes his new position as civil service staff that supports the political offices. During his time working at Queen’s Park, Sumi has worked for the NDP, Conservative and Liberal governments.

The average day for people working inside Queen’s Park starts before the sunrises at five. The early risers are university students who have been hired to monitor and scan newspapers across the province to gather what some of the major issues will be. Starting around seven, Sumi and his staff analyze the findings and generate what questions reporters might ask during question period. A half hour later, Sumi will brief the ministers on what the issues of the day are and prepare them for question period.

“It’s question period, not answer period because they never really answer the questions.” Said Sumi to describe the tactics politicians often take with reporters when confronted with questions from the media.

Part of Sumi’s job involves dealing with controversy and preparing politicians with the best course of action to handle the controversy. Sumi recalls a scandal known as “ghetto dude.” Ghetto dude was an email scandal where a minister had inappropriately referred to a potentially homeless man as “ghetto dude.” Sumi describes the course of action the politicians handled the situation, which was to simply say sorry and ask for forgiveness.

Another scandal that Sumi recalls with great detail was the orange medical helicopters overspending. Sumi recalls how the report was due to be released in late March and would be negative news for the politicians due to the vast overspending for the helicopters. Sumi notes how the helicopter report could have been negative news for at least a week. Sumi and the politicians decided the best course of action was to divert the negative news in the press with a different source of negative news. Sumi and the politicians pushed up the release of the “sunshine list” which details the salary of every employee at Queen’s Park. The annual report was also negative but as an expected report distracted the media and seemingly made the negative news of the helicopter report go away.

Sumi described other techniques used by politicians to deal with the media. Sumi notes how Friday afternoon are notorious “dump days.” Dump days are where politicians will release all their negative news to the media right before people go home for the weekend. The second technique described by Sumi is giving scoops to media outlets. However, these scoops come with multiple conditions. The conditions can include placement on the front page of the newspaper above the fold and that the reporter is not allowed to get other sources for the story.

Sumi has been in the position for the past 14 years, and summarizes his job as making sure that the politicians have no surprises coming their way when they are forced to deal with the media.