The good, the bad, the cu­ri­ous

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - -- Richard Ma­honey [email protected]­gar­

The year that is about to end, like most ev­ery year be­fore it, had its share of ups and downs. Here is a list of some of the good, bad and cu­ri­ous news items from 2018.

Hon­esty the best polic y

In June, some area res­i­dents re­ceived un­ex­pected pay­outs from the Knights of Colum­bus af­ter their lot­tery tick­ets went miss­ing in the mail al­most a year ago.

The pay­ments were re­funds for tick­ets peo­ple had pur­chased for a 2017 Knights of Colum­bus On­tario Char­i­ties Foun­da­tion raf­fle.

“Due to cir­cum­stances be­yond our con­trol, your tick­ets were lost by Canada Post and did not make it into the draw held on July 13, 2017,” read a let­ter from the On­tario K of C trea­surer Mar­cel Lem­men and deputy Dan Hef­fer­nan. A coun­cil had re­turned its lot­tery ticket stubs to the On­tario State Of­fice by reg­is­tered mail well be­fore the draw date. Canada Post lost the pack­age and was un­able to trace it. The Al­co­hol and Gam­ing Com­mis­sion of On­tario, which is­sues lot­tery li­cences, was in­formed of the sit­u­a­tion by the Knights of Colum­bus State Of­fice.

“We were told to treat these tick­ets in the same way we would treat lost or stolen tick­ets,” the let­ter con­tin­ued. “We opened an in­ves­ti­ga­tion with Canada Post. The draw pro­ceeded as sched­uled.” Canada Post found the tick­ets four months af­ter the draw. On the in­struc­tion of the gam­ing com­mis­sion, the or­ga­ni­za­tion has re­turned the ticket money to each ticket buyer.

A farmer’s night­mare

Ev­ery farmer’s night­mare be­came a hor­ri­ble re­al­ity for aMaxville fam­ily early Au­gust 28. About 80 dairy cows were among the live­stock that per­ished in a barn fire at the My­lyn Farm op­er­ated by Tammy and Char­lie Jack. The blaze that be­gan at 2:30 a.m. caused losses of be­tween $3 mil­lion and $4 mil­lion. For­tu­nately, no­body was in­jured. Any­one who has ever been a vic­tim of fire knows that it is im­pos­si­ble to ever ac­cu­rately as­sess dam­ages and losses, and also knows that a life’s work can be so quickly erased. When the sun rose on the sad scene, the sense of dev­as­ta­tion was pal­pa­ble. The air was acrid and hu­mid as a strong wind spo­rad­i­cally whipped through the smoul­der­ing de­bris. The Jack fam­ily mem­bers hud­dled to­gether as they spoke to in­ves­ti­ga­tors. But, like so many farm­ers be­fore them, soon they would be think­ing of the clean-up and re­build­ing.

Wrath of Mother Na­ture

Few things are as hum­bling, and fright­en­ing, as a tor­nado. “Wild” and “scary” were just some of the words that de­scribed an Au­gust 29 wal­lop from Mother Na­ture.

Amaz­ingly, no­body was in­jured but there were some close calls and many fraz­zled nerves as high winds and rain tore through the re­gion, bat­ter­ing build­ings and de­stroy­ing trees. Thou­sands of res­i­dents were with­out power for most of the day and night of Au­gust 29. At least one barn was top­pled in North Glen­garry while Bainsville res­i­dents re­ported tor­ren­tial rains that forced many mo­torists to pull over to the side of the road.

Test­ing, test­ing

As usual, there were many mile­stones. Green Val­ley turned 140; Maxville Manor turned 50; in Jan­uary, the 20th an­niver­sary of the Ice Storm was re­mem­bered; La journée de la femme or­ga­niz­ing com­mit­tee cel­e­brated its 10th birth­day. An­other mo­men­tous oc­ca­sion oc­curred this year when South Glen­garry agreed to be­come a test­ing site for au­tonomous ve­hi­cles fol­low­ing a re­quest from the On­tario Good Roads As­so­ci­a­tion which asked the united coun­ties of Stor­mont-Dun­das-Glen­garry to seek out suit­able test zones. Most of the roads in the three coun­ties were found to be suit­able for self-driv­ing cars to use.

Light in the dark­ness

Oc­to­ber 24, about 200 peo­ple as­sem­bled at the Grotto in Alexan­dria at a vigil to re­mem­ber mur­der vic­tim Ém­i­lie Ma­heu. A few days ear­lier, her for­mer part­ner, the fa­ther of her 22-mon­thold daugh­ter, had ad­mit­ted to killing the 26-year-old Green Val­ley woman. “I did the crime, I will do the time,” Bran­don Smeltzer had de­clared in a Corn­wall court­room.

When she learned of this “sense­less act of vi­o­lence,” vigil co-or­ga­nizer Natalie St-De­nis said, “It broke my heart.” She and psy­chol­o­gist Dr. Suzanne Fil­ion held the cer­e­mony to re­mem­ber the vic­tim, to com­fort her fam­ily, and to try to raise aware­ness of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence. Peo­ple sang, prayed, hud­dled to­gether, cra­dled can­dles and strug­gled to un­der­stand.

“Unit­ing tonight is a con­crete ges­ture that helps us all to slowly di­gest the re­al­ity of this sit­u­a­tion,” said Dr. Fil­ion.

“When we shed light on some­thing, the dark­ness and fear go away,” said Ms. St-De­nis.

Many peo­ple in at­ten­dance had never met Ém­i­lie Ma­heu but they felt it was im­por­tant to be there, to share the grief and anger. They were urged to keep Ms. Ma­heu’s mem­ory alive by bright­en­ing the lives of oth­ers. They were also told that their ges­tures of love and sol­i­dar­ity “rekin­dled a sense of con­fi­dence in hu­man­ity.” Those words helped but the re­al­ity was still dif­fi­cult to di­gest.

An un­in­tended con­tender

The demo­cratic process has its glitches. Take Ne­vada, where in the US midterm elec­tions, a dead man was elected to the State As­sem­bly dur­ing the US midterm elec­tions. In On­tario, the mu­nic­i­pal coun­cil and school board elec­tions in Oc­to­ber had some anom­alies. Some peo­ple got two voter reg­is­tra­tion cards, some re­ceived none, some were barred from vot­ing. But all in all, the ex­er­cise went off with rel­a­tively few prob­lems. How­ever, there was a glar­ing ex­am­ple of vot­ers be­ing un­in­formed. In the race for the Up­per Canada Dis­trict School Board trustee seat, Jim Ban­croft, who was no longer a can­di­date, got 1,825 votes. He re­ceived less than the win­ner John Dana­her, who got 4,086, and Mar­shall Wil­son, who fin­ished with 2,178. Mr. Ban­croft re­ceived a size­able num­ber of votes de­spite the fact that back on Oc­to­ber 1, more than two weeks be­fore on­line vot­ing could be­gin, he was with­draw­ing from the con­test. One would think that with all the so­phis­ti­cated gad­gets we have at our dis­posal, delet­ing one name from the elec­tronic bal­lots would be a piece of cake. But ev­ery sys­tem has its lim­its.

Feel-good stor y

Josh Mac­Don­ald re­sem­bled a char­ac­ter from a science fic­tion movie when he was watch­ing TV, wear­ing high-tech glasses and op­er­at­ing a hand-held con­trol. The 39-year-old Alexan­dria man was demon­strat­ing a gift he got from the com­mu­nity -- a pair of eSight elec­tronic glasses that has dra­mat­i­cally im­proved his vi­sion that has been im­paired since birth. Un­til now, if he wanted to watch a tele­vi­sion show, he would have to al­most press his face up against the set. “The e-glasses are work­ing won­ders for me,” said Mr. Mac­Don­ald. The $12,500 de­vice was ac­quired thanks to a fund-rais­ing drive or­ga­nized by the Alexan­dria and Dis­trict Lions Club. “The com­mu­nity has been fan­tas­tic,” stated club pres­i­dent Michel Depratto. When the club learned that no gov­ern­ment as­sis­tance was avail­able, the or­ga­ni­za­tion de­cided to reach out to the pub­lic. “We knew we were tak­ing a gam­ble,” re­called Mr. Depratto, not­ing that the $12,500 was an am­bi­tious goal. “But we de­cided to give it a try. The com­mu­nity came through,” said Mr. Depratto.

That up­beat note is a good way to end 2018 and look ahead to the new year.

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