Political Opinions

Director of Recreation, Parks and Properties retires after 42 years

Township of Springwater / August 15, 2019 – After 42 years of service in the municipal sector, Ron Belcourt, the Director of Recreation, Parks & Properties, has announced his retirement effective September 3, 2019. The Director is responsible for overseeing all municipal parks, facilities and recreation programming, as well as creating lasting partnerships with community groups.

Starting his career as a rink employee at the Flos Elmvale Arena in 1977, Belcourt has been a fixture in the community for over four decades. He joined Springwater Township when the municipality was amalgamated in 1994. Later that year, he assisted in the construction of a structural addition at the Flos Elmvale Arena—Springwater Township’s first major project as a municipality.

“Ron has shown leadership through times of great change,” said Mayor Don Allen. “His dedication and commitment to the municipality has helped build the Township of Springwater into one of the best communities to live in Ontario. His retirement is tremendously well-deserved and we will miss his expertise, wealth of stories and knowledge of the past.”

When the Township opened its Administration Centre in 2009, Belcourt was the key staff contact during construction. As part of the building committee, he implemented Council’s vision for an environmentally sustainable and responsible building with ample recreation space at the adjacent sports park. The facility achieved a LEED Silver Certification in recognition of its limited impact on the environment.

Belcourt continues to leave a legacy as his retirement looms. Council recently approved a partnership agreement with the newly renovated Elmvale District High School to bring shared facility space to community members. Belcourt was instrumental in orchestrating this financially viable and creative solution. In exchange for capital support and a share of operating expenses, the Township will manage community use of the high school in the evenings and on weekends and school holidays. Community use may include new recreation programming, fitness memberships, and private and public rentals of the performance stage, gymnasium, commercial kitchen, fitness room and more.

Ron Belcourt with grandson Tripp at Homer Barrett Park in Elmvale    “It certainly doesn’t feel like it has been 42 years since my first shift when I had to prepare the ice for future Canadian figure skating champions, Michelle Simpson and Brian Orser, to practice,” said Ron Belcourt. “Along the way, I have had the privilege to work with great coworkers, community volunteers, sporting organizations and residents from every part of Springwater. I look forward to the new challenges that await me as I volunteer in the community, spend time at the golf course, and finally attend to the jobs at home that have been put on hold for many years.”

Belcourt will continue to participate in the community as a resident of Springwater.

The Township of Springwater is one of sixteen member municipalities within the County of Simcoe. Comprised of both urban and rural communities, Springwater is a popular four-season destination and home to approximately 19,000 residents. Visit our website at springwater.ca.

 

Mayor Don’s Update - by Don Allen

Retirements

Most of you know that CAO Robert Brindley will be retiring effective August 31st after a 35 year career in the municipal sector and 7 years with Springwater. I will miss his positive, creative, supportive presence. He has been great to share ideas and work with. I know he will do well in the next interests he chooses to pursue, and I wish him great health, happiness and success. Thank you, Robert, for all you have done with and for Springwater.

After 42 years of service in the municipal sector, Ron Belcourt is retiring as Springwater’s Director of Recreation, Parks & Properties. He joined Springwater Township when the municipality was amalgamated in 1994. Ron has had a hand in helping to develop virtually every important project over his career with Springwater. His knowledge of the history of the Township development is unmatched. It is always fun to hear him tell some of the “good stories” of what has gone on over the years in Springwater. We are glad you will be remaining close Ron so we can stay in contact. All the best to you and family and thank you for all you have accomplished.

New CAO

As a result of effective succession planning, the Township is pleased to welcome Jeff Schmidt as Springwater’s new CAO effective September 1, 2019. Schmidt has worked for the Township since 2013 as the Director of Finance and since 2018 as the Deputy CAO/Director of Finance. Since Jeff arrived, he has led made many positive changes in the Township to find savings, increase efficiencies, and prepare for the future through long range financial planning and asset management.

Schmidt is a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) with an Honours Bachelor of Administrative Studies degree. Prior to working with the Township of Springwater, he held the position of Director of Finance & Treasurer with the Township of King and has held previous management positions with the City of Barrie and the Regional Municipality of York. I have worked with Jeff for the last 5 years and am very much looking forward to working with him as CAO.

LINX Transit Service and Elmvale bus shelter

New LINX Transit Service routes have been added to this ever-growing Simcoe County transit system. Routes just added include: Route 2 – Wasaga Beach to Barrie (south) with stops in Clearview and Essa; Route 3 – Orillia to Barrie (north) with stops in Oro-Medonte; Route 4 – LINX is assuming the existing Collingwood to Wasaga Beach Link with no alternations to current operations. Ridership on the new routes (only) is free until September 2. Ridership is increasing and the existing routes include stops in Elmvale and Midhurst in Springwater.

The Elmvale & District Lions Club graciously committed $7,500 towards a contemporary bus shelter to be erected at the Elmvale stop. Council contributed the remaining balance of $1,200 in order to purchase a 5’x10’ bus shelter with solar LED lighting and a bench for community members.

Springwater Swing Golf Tournament Proceeds

The 13th Annual Springwater Swing Golf Tournament, hosted at Orr Lake Golf Club on June 12th, raised net proceeds of $37,471. The tournament was a great success due to the support of the golfers attending and generous sponsorships received. Funds yet to be allocated from prior year’s proceeds were added to this to get $67,866 in net proceeds to be allocated. Council approved the allocation of this amount as follows:

Barrie and Area Physician recruitment                                         $8,000

South Georgian Bay Physician recruitment                                  $3,000

Elmvale & District Area Food Bank                                            $2,500

Purchase 12 Outdoor Save Stations (below)                                $33,000

Charitable and Community Organizations Initiatives                  $21,366

Save Stations

Council approved the purchase of 12 outdoor Save Stations that provide the community the power to safe a life when needed. A Save Station is a public AED (defibrillator) that delivers life-saving support at the critical time frame of an emergency. Some of the proceeds from the Springwater Swing Golf Tournament are being used to purchase these to be installed at locations across Springwater, from parks to community centres to libraries. A public unveiling of these newly installed units will occur on September 7 at the Anten Mills Fun Fair. This is the largest purchase of any one community to make AEDs truly accessible by having them at multiple locations.

Elmvale District High School (EDHS) Joint Use and Cost Sharing Agreement

Since 2012 Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) has worked extensively with Township staff, representatives from the community and Councils to get approved and built the $8.5 million addition to EDHS, which was officially opened April 26, 2019. Key to this addition was SCDSB and the Township entering into a Partnership Agreement to enable the Township to manage community use of parts of the school facility from 6pm to 10pm daily, weekdays and school holidays. Proposed uses of the facility will include recreation programs, fitness memberships, gymnasium rentals for sports programs, theatrical groups/programs, instructional programs, community events, private rentals and the establishment of a community kitchen program. All facility programming and facility rentals will be administered by Township recreation and customer service staff. The Township will also provide onsite staff and program instructors as required to facilitate the scheduled uses. Private Rentals will be offered to the business community, community groups and residents for a variety of events.

To date, the hard work and generosity of many people has resulted in raising approximately $270,000 in contributions through a community fund raising campaign for the enhancement of school and community programming for the “nice to have extras” that are not funded by the Ministry of Education. In addition to the community fund raising, the Township has committed $50,000 per year for 10 years for the capital construction cost.

The Township will enter into a revenue sharing/cost sharing agreement with the SCDSB for the identified areas of the facility that will be used for this purpose.

The Township will develop a fee structure for the facility in accordance with current Township policies to cover the Township’s portion of operating costs.

An Administrative Committee shall be formed to attend to the implementation of this Agreement and review decisions of a newly formed Working Committee. The Working Committee shall be formed to attend to the day-to-day needs of the facility and its users

This is a tremendous, innovative accomplishment as a result of creativity and hard work of many dedicated people over the years. This partnership will serve the EDHS students, the local community and the Township with a first- class facility for recreational, leisure and lifelong learning opportunities for many years to come.

Elmvale Farmers Market

Again this year, the Friday market offers lots of good fresh produce and crafts at very reasonable prices. From 9am to 2pm in the parking lot at the Elmvale Community Hall over 20 vendors feature in-season produce, crafts, gifts and baked goods from local producers across Simcoe County. This supports the local economy and gets the freshest food for your family.

All Way Stops – St Vincent Street, Midhurst

A pilot project for all way stops on St. Vincent Street at Cedar Creek Drive and on St. Vincent Street at Jodies Lane has occurred since September 2018. Of the feedback received through emails and phone calls, 70% of the respondents were in favour of keeping the all way stops at both intersections.

Prior to the installation of the all way stop intersections, only 34.1% of traffic was at or below the speed limit. Since the installation, 67.46% of traffic is at or below 50km/h. In addition, the traffic travelling between 51km/h to 60km/h has decreased from 45.5% to 28.85% and traffic going between 10km/h to 20 km/h above the speed limit has decreased from 17.7% to 3.39%. Traffic going over 20km/h above the speed limit has decreased from 2.7% to 0.3%. Council has approved the all way stops remain on a permanent basis.

Other

Edwin Espinal We all breathed a sigh of relief when we finally heard there was some progress in the 18-month battle to get Edwin out of prison and have the prospect of freedom. He is out of prison on bail until his court case comes up next May. This is due to the incredible hard work of the Spring family and supporters. I hope we can get him to Canada for a visit in the interim.

 The No Stopping Zone on Forest Hill Drive from Pierce Court to Mid Park Boulevard in Midhurst has had the no parking hours extend now to prohibit parking from 8:00am to 10:00am Monday to Friday.

A review of the 2006 Open Air Burning Bylaw has need reviewed and revised to a new draft bylaw to be presented to Council at its September 4, 2019 open meeting.

Upcoming Events - August

Minesing Slo-Pitch Labour Day Tournament August 30, 31 & September 1 at Tree Nursery Sports Park. Visit the Minesing Community Page on Facebook for more information

The comments here reflect my perspective and do not necessarily represent those of the whole of Council.

Check out my recent radio interview reviewing current Springwater news items with Rock95 and 107.5 KOOL FM news director Dan Blakeley. See https://barrie360.com/springwater-update/

Contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 705-728-4784 ext. 2013 to set a time to meet or reach me directly at 705-302-4253. We can also stay connected on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @MayorDonAllen and review updates on www.donallen.ca.

 

Tiny Mayor’s Monthly Column

Tiny’s Community Garden is now open! Hours of operation are Monday to Friday, 9am to 11am. Located at Perkinsfield Park (43 County Rd 6 S). Stop by for some fresh produce or learn more about the garden from our on-site Environmental Stewards. As part of Tiny’s Local Food Project, the community garden offers rental plots to members of the public. 

Have you heard about Tiny’s new rolling boardwalks? We’ve installed 350 metres of rolling boardwalks at Lafontaine Beach Park, constructed of wooden planks and decommissioned fire hose. The boardwalks, which are being piloted this summer, are a cost-effective way to enhance mobility for pedestrians, individuals experiencing mobility related issues, and wheelchair and stroller users.

Tiny’s Fire and Emergency Services Family Fun Day is on Saturday, August 24 from 11am to 2pm at the Wyevale fire station (817 County Rd 6 S). Enjoy a free BBQ lunch, a Jaws of Life demo, fire hose target practice and more. Bring your fire extinguisher for a free inspection. Admission is free with a Food Bank donation.

The Mayor’s Charity Golf Tournament and Dinner is on Friday, September 13 at Brooklea. Funds raised will benefit 17 local charities. Register now individually or as a four-some for 18 holes of golf with a cart, lunch and dinner. Dinner-only attendees are also welcome. 

Our next Town Hall Meeting is on Thursday, September 19 from 7pm to 9pm at the Wyebridge Community Centre (8340 Hwy 93). Meet your members of Council and get real-time updates on your community. 

Save the Date: Our Health Speaker Series – Outrunning Cancer (September 3), Terry Fox Day (September 15), Doors Open Simcoe County (September 21), and Farm Crawl (October 5). 

Find full details about Tiny events, programs and news at www.tiny.ca

Did You Know: Tiny needs your help to reduce the spread of invasive Phragmites. Volunteer for a community dig or learn about safely removing invasive Phragmites from your property. Visit our Volunteering Opportunities webpage for details. 

Until next month!

Mayor George Cornell

 

Elmvale BIA Update

Music in the Park is winding up for the Summer with two more performances of local artists for visitors to enjoy. 

This week Saturday, August 24th enjoy the sounds of Darcy Windover.   

Saturday August 31, the BIA is pleased to present our final performance of Music in the Park with Ryan Harvey MacIntyre 

Music in the Park has been a great success this Summer,  we have enjoyed the various local artists and visitors have been able to check out the many businesses that are open while they listen to some amazing talent.  

Check out the new patio!

Downtown Elmvale has a patio available to patrons.  Steeler’s Restaurant and Pub opened it’s much anticipated outdoor patio this past weekend.  It is a great way for guests to enjoy a meal and check out the local Elmvale amenities and enjoy the summer sunshine.  Steelers is located at 23 Queen Street W in Elmvale

Elmvale BIA Business Highlight 

Celebrity Auto Sales

58 Yonge Street North

Elmvale, ON - Tel 705.332.6311

https://celebrityautosales.ca/

Celebrity Auto Sales is Elmvale’s premier source for pre-owned vehicles under $10,000! Since we opened our dealership in 2007, we’ve been sharing our commitment to providing you with quality vehicles and excellent customer service. At Celebrity Auto Sales, you’re always treated like a star!

 

County investment ensures the sky is the limit for the future of Lake Simcoe Regional Airport   

Midhurst/August 13, 2019 – County Council has approved the execution of agreements with the City of Barrie and Township of Oro-Medonte to purchase additional shares and become the majority owner of the Lake Simcoe Regional Airport (LSRA). Effective January 1, 2020, the County of Simcoe will own a 90-per-cent stake in the Lake Simcoe Regional Airport, which is set to undergo rapid expansion in an effort to boost regional economic development, create jobs and grow commercial, passenger and commuter air traffic.

“Simcoe County is one of the fastest growing regions in Ontario, we’re the fourth most popular tourist destination and home to more than 16,000 businesses,” said Warden George Cornell. “Our investment in the Lake Simcoe Regional Airport will allow us to capitalize on future opportunities that help drive our economic prosperity, create jobs and enhance transportation options for our residents. Our strong financial position allows the County to make this strategic investment at this time and we thank our partners at Barrie and Oro-Medonte for their commitment to advancing the airport’s long-term strategic plan.” 

The County of Simcoe has held shares in the LSRA since 2014. On Tuesday, August 13, County Council approved the acquisition of an additional 50 shares from the City of Barrie and 20 shares from the Township of Oro-Medonte, which will see the County of Simcoe become the majority shareholder. The City of Barrie will continue as a key joint owner holding a 10-per-cent stake in the regional airport.

In June 2018, airport shareholders approved a new Strategic Plan for the LSRA, which presented a three-phase plan focussed on developing infrastructure, including a runway expansion from 6,001 to 7,000 ft to allow for greater aviation activities. The County remains committed to the expansion opportunity, which will allow LSRA to become a true regional commercial airport with the infrastructure and capacity to become a centre for corporate aviation and support regional domestic and international markets.

As one of ten commercially significant regional airports selected by the Greater Toronto Airport Authority to form part of the Southern Ontario Airport Network, Lake Simcoe Regional Airport is also well-placed to support economic development needs on a larger scale. The investment in the expansion of Lake Simcoe Regional Airport will allow Simcoe County to help meet forecasted demands in air service across Southern Ontario and thereby increase the competitiveness of our region, province and country.

For more information on economic development efforts by the County of Simcoe is available at simcoe.ca/edo. To download the Lake Simcoe Regional Airport Strategic Plan - April 2018, go to https://simcoe.civicweb.net/document/45119.

County of Simcoe is composed of sixteen member municipalities and provides crucial public services to County residents in addition to providing paramedic and social services to the separated cities of Barrie and Orillia. Visit our website at simcoe.ca.

 

County takes further steps to help get waste materials off the streets

Midhurst/August 14, 2019 – The County continues to experience impacts to curbside waste collection services and is now taking further steps to get waste materials off the streets.

In addition to prioritizing garbage and organics to minimize collection misses of these materials, the County has brought in additional contractors to assist in the collection of recycling. Due to this shift in resources and the high priority placed on the collection of garbage, organics and recycling by our residents, County Council voted to cancel this year’s curbside collection of electronics, which had been scheduled to occur from September 16 through 27, to allow more resources to focus on the collection of garbage, organics and recycling materials through the end of September.

“This decision was not taken lightly by Council or staff,” said Warden George Cornell. “We pride ourselves in providing a high level of service and innovative and convenient waste collection programs to our residents. Hearing from our residents the importance of garbage, organics and recycling pick ups, we have taken the necessary action to prioritize these services. We apologize for the inconvenience and please know that staff and Council are working hard to ensure that our contractor meets our service expectations.” 

Residents are reminded that electronics can be dropped off at a County waste management facility free of charge at any time throughout the year during regular operating hours.

These actions are being taken since the County’s contractor, Waste Connections, continues to experience challenges with staffing due to labour shortages, drivers reaching their maximum legally permitted hours to operate, and increased summer waste volumes. These issues are compounded by the heat and humidity, among other factors. The best way to receive information in real time is through the new Simcoe County Collects app, which can be downloaded from the Apple Store or Google Play free of charge.

What residents need to know for August and September:

Materials should be set out at your curb by 7 a.m. on your collection day and left until 8 p.m. as routes are being adjusted

We are prioritizing the collection of garbage and green bin organics in order to reduce odour and animal impacts. Crews may return the next day for collection of garbage and organics if missed on your regular day, so please place these items back at the curb by 7 a.m. the following day

We expect further recycling collection misses. If recycling is missed, please bring recycling materials in from the curb for double collection on your next regularly scheduled day unless otherwise directed (see point 4 below)

In some instances, recycling collection crews will be sent out to zones which have been missed on alternate service days including Saturdays as resources allow. Alerts to these alternate service days will be posted through the County’s channels:

Simcoe County Collects app (available free of charge at Google Play or the Apple Store)

www.simcoe.ca

Through Twitter (@simcoecountycs, @simcoecounty) Facebook (@CountyofSimcoe)

If missed, residents are encouraged to utilize cardboard boxes, plastic storage boxes, and blue or clear plastic bags for overflow recyclables. As always, to reduce issues with odours and contamination of recyclables, cans, bottles and cartons should be rinsed

Curbside electronics collection has been cancelled for 2019. As always, electronic materials can be dropped off free of charge at any County waste management facility during regular operating hours. Our new Simcoe County Collects app features information on all our waste management facilities, including their locations and operating hours

 

NVCA Media Release

UTOPIA, Ontario (August 9, 2019) – Today, the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority (NVCA) released a new Integrated Watershed Management Plan (IWMP). The purpose of the plan is to guide how the NVCA manages the watershed and its resources over the next 20 years.

When developing the plan, the NVCA consulted with its eighteen watershed municipalities, three county partners, the agricultural and development communities and non-governmental organizations. First Nations groups were also contacted as part of the consultation process.

Through the consultation and the Conservation Authorities Act, the IWMP has a strong focus on the environmental, economic and social needs of the watershed. These issues are addressed by managing both natural resources and human activities together.

“This is a very important document for the NVCA and everyone who lives, works and plays in our watershed,” said Doug Hevenor, CAO of NVCA. “By maintaining a healthy environment, it enables us to have healthy lifestyles, recreational opportunities and business growth.”

The issues addressed in the IWMP are: water quality and quantity, flood and erosion management, resilient biodiversity and habitats, sustainable economic and recreation opportunities, improved quality of life and neighbourhood desirability, and the ability of the watershed to adapt to stressors such as climate change and urban growth.

“The NVCA understands that our watershed is changing all the time,” continued Hevenor. “The Integrated Watershed Management Plan is designed to be a living document so that it can be revisited and updated to reflect these changes.”

The IWMP was partially funded by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Municipal Climate Implementation Fund.

For more information about the IWMP or how it was put together, please visit NVCA’s website.

 

Doug Downer MPP Barrie Springwater Oro-Medonte

September means the end of summer and the beginning of a new school year. I hope everyone enjoyed their summer and are ready to get back to the classroom.

Our government is excited to share our brand new curriculum with students and teachers this year. This curriculum focuses on preparing students for future careers while embracing life skills such as financial literacy and a new math strategy, amongst other exciting changes.

Ontario’s parents will also be receiving additional support this year. The provincial math strategy includes online resources to keep parents apprised of course material and current learning methods. The Parents’ Bill of Rights takes additional steps to keep parents involved in the education of their children. 

With these improvements to curriculum, combined with ongoing investments in local schools, we can ensure our students receive a world-class education at home in their communities.

A child’s time at school sets them on course for the next chapter of their life. The friendships they make during this time can be long-lasting and impactful. We wish all educators, students, and parents a safe and happy school year.

While school may end, learning never does. Join MPP Andrea Khanjin and I on September 4th at the Southshore Community Centre between 12 pm – 3 pm for a Free Seniors Information Day. This event will provide information on local programs and service that benefit seniors. For more information, please contact either of our offices. Best wishes this back to school season.

 

County releases 2018 Progress Report on 5-Year Positive Aging Strategy

Midhurst/August 14, 2019 – The County of Simcoe has released its first report detailing the progress on the implementation of the recommendations outlined in 2018-2023 Simcoe County Positive Aging Strategy: Older Adults Strengthening our Communities.

“Our inaugural report card highlights our commitment to fostering and promoting age-friendly communities in Simcoe County,” said Warden George Cornell. “Together with our community partners, the County continues to implement large-scale change, provide targeted funding and develop creative solutions that help all our residents remain active, social and engaged in our local communities.”

2018 key achievements are outlined below. The full progress report is available at www.simcoe.ca/age-friendly.

In 2018, County Council approved $500,000 in annual funding towards the implementation of an annual Age-Friendly Seniors Housing Grant Program to support the development of age-friendly housing that allows older adults to continue to live independently in their own homes

30 applicants across 14 municipalities have already accessed accessibility funding

The County was awarded funding for three additional long-term care beds at Georgian Manor by the Ministry of Long-Term Care, bringing the total number of beds operated by the County of Simcoe to 146

The Community Paramedicine Referral Program made more than 4,100 referrals for patients requiring additional services at home. 60 per cent of those referred received enhanced support as a result

The Community Paramedicine Home Visit Program, which deploys Rapid Response Paramedic Units to provide in-home visits when not responding to 911 calls, provided 651 home visits and 128 follow-ups in Orillia, Oro-Medonte and Ramara. This program is expanding to North Simcoe in 2019

As the proportion of senior residents in Simcoe County continues to increase, the County is committed to working with community partners and the Age-Friendly Advisory Committee to implement the recommendations identified in the 2018-2023 Positive Aging Strategy.

About the Age-Friendly Community Initiative

The County of Simcoe received funding from the Government of Ontario as part of its Age-Friendly Community Planning Grant Program. This funding served to establish a baseline assessment of Simcoe County’s age-friendliness and develop a comprehensive strategy. A variety of community engagement processes collected feedback from residents 60 years of age and older, caregivers, and service providers for older adults to produce the Building an Age-Friendly Simcoe County - 2016 Community Needs Assessment and the County’s 2018-2023 Positive Aging Strategy. Both documents are available at http://www.simcoe.ca/age-friendly.

County of Simcoe is composed of sixteen member municipalities and provides crucial public services to County residents in addition to providing paramedic and social services to the separated cities of Barrie and Orillia. Visit our website at simcoe.ca.

 

EDWIN ESPINAL AND RAUL ALVAREZ RELEASED FROM A MAXIMUM SECURITY PRISON IN HONDURAS!

Finally, after almost 19 months, our hopes and struggles with your strong advocacy and support have come true!

On Thursday August 9, 2019, Edwin Espinal was released on his own recognizance in a bail hearing in Tegucigalpa; Raul Alvarez was released on Friday August 16 with similar conditions. These are the moments that all supporters, families, Honduran and international human rights groups have been waiting for. As I write this update, I am in Tegucigalpa for a week to celebrate this momentous occasion with Edwin, Karen, Raul, their families, and international human rights supporters who have also traveled to Honduras for this event.

For the past week, Edwin has rested and spent time with Karen and his family. On the weekend, we travelled to a few quaint Honduran towns to get away from the city. Edwin has gone shopping, assembled a trampoline for his nieces in the backyard and is enjoying reading the newspaper and listening to music, things that he was unable to do for so long. I find it very exciting being with Edwin and Karen when people in the streets or at the grocery store or mall, come up and congratulate him on his release, thanking him for standing up for human rights of the Honduran people. Many he doesn’t know. Edwin is very well respected in his community and throughout Honduras for his human rights work.

Edwin’s Bail Hearing:

At Edwin’s bail hearing of Thursday August 9th, three presiding judges from the National Jurisdiction Court were quick to bring down their decision for his release. Edwin and Raul’s pre-trial detentions were arbitrary and unfounded (facts that we have been arguing for the past 19 months) yet they were sent to a maximum-security prison. This release was perhaps due to the arbitrary nature of their detention or the fact that President Juan Orlando Hernandez has lost credibility throughout the country and on the international stage. Yet it is disturbing that Edwin and Raul were severely compromised for such a long period, awaiting a decision that only took the three-judge panel 45 minutes to make. Why did it take three bail hearings for the judicial system to come to this resolution? Is it because President Juan Orlando Hernandez is about to fall?

Trial Hearing

Edwin attended his scheduled trial hearing on Thursday August 15th, which was another successful event to celebrate. (Raul’s is later next week). The judges would not accept most of the circumstantial evidence presented by the public prosecutor. Edwin's lawyers provided solid arguments that made the prosecution's case look very weak. The court also flatly denied the prosecution’s request for an appeal of their decision. Edwin's full trial date is set for May 14, 2020 and his lawyer is confident that the decision will be very favourable. In attendance were representatives from the Canadian and EU Embassies. They both remarked that they would be following Edwin’s upcoming trial.

Edwin and Raul must sign before a judge weekly and cannot leave the country. Edwin must apply for special permission to the courts if he wishes to visit Canada.

Protests Continue: Two Political Prisoners Remain

Despite this quick and very positive outcome in both hearings, yet 19 months in coming, two political prisoners remain in gruesome conditions. The most concerning is the case of Gustavo Caceres, who is mentally challenged; he cannot read, write, or speak. He was arrested when military police planted drugs on his person and took photos of him. Merely selling bags of water in the protest to support his mother and himself, his arrest was a setup.

A second political prisoner, Rommel Portillo, remains in La Tolva, arrested in late May after allegedly placing a tire on a fire burning outside the US Embassy. His court date is unknown; we fear for his safety in La Tolva. Like Edwin, Raul, and Gustavo’s detention, being sent to a maximum-security prison is arbitrary and excessive for the alleged crime. Hence international human rights groups and those in Honduras continue to pressure authorities for his release. The Honduran people remain in the streets, marching and peacefully protesting the corruption of this narco-trafficking government of Juan Orlando Hernandez and demanding the release of all political prisoners.

Moving Forward

The Simcoe County Honduras Rights Monitor continues to advocate for Edwin’s safety as he may face danger; Edwin will therefore be accompanied at all times for his protection. We also are concerned for Raul’s wellbeing.

SCHMR is sponsoring an event: Canada’s Role in Honduras in Toronto, on September 18 at 7 p.m., St. Stephens-In-The-Fields- Church, 103 Bellevue Avenue, Toronto. Panel speakers include Yves Engler, a Montreal-based author and political activist, Grahame Russell, lawyer, author, political activist, and Director of Rights Action, and Tyler Shipley, author on Honduran history and politics and professor at York University. We are also hoping that Karen Spring will be able to speak at this event, yet understand that she may be unable to leave Honduras due to Edwin’s safety concerns and her continuing work with the HSN.

The Toronto event will be held in Minister Chrystia Freeland’s riding in the midst of the October election. We wish to bring attention to the role our government during Freeland’s tenure has played in Honduras. Canada continues to do business as usual with the Honduran regime, despite serious allegations against President Juan Orlando Hernandez for narco-trafficking, corruption and committing severe human rights abuses against the people. To date, Minister Freeland and PM Trudeau have not publicly spoken against the JOH government. For further information, please refer to the latest Toronto Star article by columnist Rick Salutin on Edwin and Karen’s crisis entitled, The strange and distasteful case of Canada and Honduras found at: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/2019/08/15/the-strange-distasteful-case-of-canada-and-honduras.html

In terms of a Canadian celebration for Edwin, we are eagerly anticipating the time when Edwin will be able to visit Canada. After Edwin is hopefully exonerated in his trial in May, 2020, SCHRM will be planning a community celebration to provide an opportunity for our extended family, friends, and community neighbours to meet Edwin and to celebrate his release from prison. Perhaps it may be earlier if Edwin obtains special permission from the courts and if a visitor visa to Canada is granted by our Canadian government (Edwin was denied a visitor visa twice to Canada in the past).

We thank our community who have supported the SCHRM in raising awareness of our Elmvale family crisis for the past nineteen months and your continued advocacy for political prisoners in Honduras. Also thank you to Michael Jacobs of Springwater News for publishing our bi-weekly updates and for his ongoing advocacy for our cause! We look forward to celebrating together with our whole community, hopefully in the very near future!

Janet Spring and the Simcoe County Honduras Rights Monitor Committee