Legacy of so­cial jus­tice ac­tivist im­mor­tal­ized with plaque

Seaway News - - NEWS - Adam Brazeau

CORN­WALL, On­tario – A tear­ful cer­e­mony com­mem­o­rated the count­less ef­forts of a so­cial jus­tice ac­tivist who suf­fered from bipo­lar dis­or­der.

Fam­ily and friends paid trib­ute to Denise Vernier dur­ing a plaque un­veil­ing in her name, in­stalled in Lamoureux Park, at the foot of Au­gus­tus Street.

The plaque is ded­i­cated by the S D & G Coali­tion for So­cial Jus­tice, a non-profit group that Vernier be­longed to.

“This is a very happy day for the mem­ory of Denise,” said Michael Vernier, her for­mer hus­band of 23 years. “It means a lot be­cause her ef­forts to make peo­ple aware of the im­pacts of poverty were no­ticed.”

The recog­ni­tion of Vernier’s past role as an avid ac­tivist for On­tario Works (OW), the On­tario Dis­abil­ity Sup­port Pro­gram (ODSP) and min­i­mum wage earn­ers rights took a few years to sur­face. The Corn­wall woman had gone miss­ing on Sept. 19, 2010, and her body was trag­i­cally found months later.

“It was a sur­prise when I heard about it, I thought it was for­got­ten, but it wasn’t. Peo­ple still re­mem­ber that she did the best she could to help those in poverty and fight for their rights,” said Michael.

Elaine MacDon­ald, S D & G Coali­tion for So­cial Jus­tice pres­i­dent, spoke dur­ing the plaque un­veil­ing about the tire­less ef­forts Vernier made to or­ga­nize change for those liv­ing in poverty. MacDon­ald said Vernier founded the S D & G Ac­tion Coali­tion on ODSP, ac­tively pe­ti­tioned for dis­abil­ity rights and was named Corn­wall and Dis­trict Labour Coun­cil’s com­mu­nity ac­tivist of the year.

Amongst all the heart­felt speeches given for Vernier, MacDon­ald quoted from a trib­ute pro­vided to her from Lori Tay­lor, for­mer chair of the S D & G Coali­tion for So­cial Jus­tice.

“Denise’s ad­vo­cacy work and pe­ti­tion al­lowed peo­ple to look in the face of those strug­gling to make ends meet and those work­ing tire­lessly to change un­just con­di­tions,” said Tay­lor. “When Denise was there, peo­ple could not look away and ig­nore the is­sues.”

The lo­ca­tion of the plaque in Lamoureux Park holds a sen­ti­men­tal value to Michael, who was teary eyed as peo­ple ex­pressed their pro­found re­spect for a “com­mu­nity cham­pion.”

“We al­ways walked this park to­gether,” said Michael. “This was our favourite spot when­ever she was stress­ful.”

Af­ter the brief cer­e­mony, nearly 20 peo­ple at­tended a light lunch at the RCAF Wing 424 to fur­ther dis­cuss Vernier’s legacy.

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