Let Us Be Heard

As most of us in the area know, there is a lot of turmoil surrounding the Dryden Firefighters Association and the City of Dryden.

For a while I was fairly keen to stay out of the entire debate, thinking that my voice didn’t really have a place. That was over a month ago. I’ve watched the events unfold from afar and I’ve talked to people who stand on both sides of the issue. And while I still don’t think it’s my place to say anything, I couldn’t just sit by while the issue drags on and people I care about are left in danger.

After speaking to a few of my colleagues, I decided there was something I could do, something that played well into my strengths… I could write a letter.

The following is a letter I wrote to major national news outlets including CBC The National, The Globe and Mail, and CTV News.

Almost two years ago I wrote about Northwestern Ontario and our penchant to be left behind and for a long time I have struggled with how to change that. Perhaps if we keep ourselves in the minds of the nation, it will remind them.

 

RE: Story: Dryden Firefighters Strike and City Council Response

I realize this email is going to be a bit of a read, but please stick it out, something important is happening.

There is a town in Northwestern Ontario that often goes forgotten. Its people have been hardened by the cold and neglect of their southern neighbours. And when the rest of the country does look their way, it is usually in tragedy. Missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Contaminated water. Forest fires. These are just some of the tragedies that go side by side with the name Dryden, Ontario.

But that is not why I am writing you today. I am writing because this town – a town that I love and was raised in – is currently experiencing a violation of democratic rights that has gone on too long.

In February of this year, the Dryden Firefighters Association went on strike. The volunteer department of over thirty brave souls has banded together in solidarity because they have lost faith in our local government and their Fire Chief. It is now halfway through April and this situation has not been resolved. Thousands of people are coping under the protection of a handful of firefighters (from a second smaller fire hall) forced to service a region they cannot possibly cover alone.

Whether or not you agree with the decision to strike is beyond the issue. The violation of rights has come from the response of the Dryden City Council. A majority of the elected officials, the mayor, CAO, and counsellors have tried to strong-arm the situation and have shut down public discourse. The City blatantly refuses to hold a public forum regarding the issue and has taken the voice of the people, those who elected them into office, and silenced it.

For over six weeks Dryden has been torn by this issue, dividing friends and family. People have taken to social media to voice their concerns, letters to public officials go unanswered, and still these citizens are being denied a say in this issue. An issue that goes beyond the intricacies of public office. These are citizens who no longer feel safe at night for fear that their homes may go up in flame with no one to answer the call. Fear that an accident on the road could leave them trapped inside a ruined car, left to perish. Fear that their autonomy and right to be heard by their city has been stripped away.

I am writing to ask that you don’t let another Northwestern Ontario story go unheard. I am writing to ask that you stop ignoring us. Start with the city council, stay for the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Stay for the mercury contaminated water in Grassy Narrows First Nation. Stay for the dilapidating infrastructure that is killing our people. Stay for the drugs and the violence, and the lack of jobs and health care. Stay with us this time. People live here, Canadians live here, and they need your help.

Below you will find a selection of links that provide further context to this issue. I urge you to bring this story to the attention of the nation, this story and all the rest, and to keep bringing them forward.

Thank you kindly for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.

As you must know, it is impossible to sum up this issue without leaving out a lot of content. I tried my best to do that while insisting action to be taken. I know people will have opinions on this and I welcome them all below, but even more so I urge you to reach out with letters of your own. Be it letters to the media or even the provincial government. This issue has gone on too long, and we know from experience that if left on its own, it will continue to fester and go unresolved.

We say this a lot in Northwestern Ontario, but it’s true; if this happened to any other city, someone else would have stepped in by now. Someone other than our own media would be covering this. It’s time we forced them to do so.
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