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Year in review: Five of Back Roads Bill's favourites from 2021

Within this first week of two offerings, Back Roads Bill looks at some of his favourite stories from 2021

It is the end-of-the-year look back, a chance to review 51 stories in a row.

It is my avocation this writing of stories mostly akin to what we have in common, Northern Ontario.

When you submit a story there is usually a loose deadline to adhere to complemented by the photos. The images tend to make the story transition and relevant, especially since I concentrate on “sense of place.”

There are links to embed and the map link to take readers to the locale. By the time you have edited and read the story about five times, it is time to press send to the Editor, Carol Martin. Then it is on to next week’s story. I tend not to read what I have written but I do look at the photos and the map link.

So this is an opportunity to editorialize to tell the Village Media readers a little more about what was on my mind at the time.

Weighing risks against benefits in school trips (4 photos)

This June 9 story resonates with me because I teach this stuff to university students and it is my vocation at the Canadian Ecology Centre.

If you follow the storyline of Nicholas Mills, the teacher, then you will know he was not convicted of criminal negligence. He was charged in 2017 after the drowning death of Jeremiah Perry.

A Toronto teacher was found not guilty in the drowning of a 15-year-old student during a school canoe trip after a judge ruled that his actions weren't a "marked and substantial departure" from the reasonable standard of care.

Many teachers feel he was negligent in what we, as teachers, assume under our Ontario College of Teachers certification, termed In loco parentis. It is a Latin legal term which translates into “in place of a parent.” At the same time teachers want to take their students outside as much as possible following, what seems to be at times, arduous risk management school board guidelines? I have been working on a school trip preparedness template for the educational community for quite some time and it is now being implemented one teacher at a time.

Visit and learn about residential schools because there can be no reconciliation without truth

This July 7 story was at the time of the first discovery of residential school graves so it became topical as I have been to the location of the two Chapleau residential schools a number of times.

Kamloops was one of the first schools. I had been to Ottawa to see the shoe memorial in front of the parliament buildings and started to wonder about the lofty status of Sir John A. Macdonald as Canada’s first prime minister; still do?

I wanted to salute the work of Northern Ontario historian William “Bill” E. McLeod who has written many regional history books including the St. John's (Anglican) Residential Schools, Chapleau, Ontario, 1907 to 1948.

It is a 408-page history of the two schools in the context of their location in Chapleau in the first half of the twentieth century. Considerable space is allocated to the children who died at both schools, where they are buried and to the racism that was rampant in the community of Chapleau.

We had been to Chapleau and walked into the forest where the first school was located. You will have to read the story I penned especially the last paragraph. It is a poignant remembrance of where we are and where, as a Canadian society, have to go.

Bill passed away on June 5. I will remember and am grateful for all the help he gave me on stories and what he uncovered years back and what remains in a spirited forest.

A most unusual epitaph

This Sept. 15 offering was one of those discovery moments, those unique finds.

This headstone is located at the Swastika cemetery near Kirkland Lake. After the biography references of birth and death and next of kin, it says on the front: UFO Are Real Spacecraft.

On the back:

Spinning Objects Vanquish Gravity
Spinning Objects Levitate
Speed To Exceed The Earth's Relative Feet Per Second

Who does that?

This story remains incomplete as I would like to find out more about Glenn Ellsworth Bradley who passed on Dec. 27, 2007, at the age of 88 years. So if you know any familiar contacts please contact this writer.

I have affection for what are now called UAPs: Unexplained Aerial Phenomena and any thoughts of alien existence.

Banding buntings with Bruce Murphy (8 photos)

March 18 was the time of this story and it was an experiential interview on the back roads.

Reading the story you can imagine the situation at hand especially as I tried to take a photo. As a writer, you try and capture this fleeting moment.

“When you arrange to meet Bruce Murphy on the back roads of the Little Clay Belt you are startled as he rolls down the window of his half-ton, out darts a bird, much like the characterization of a magician pulling the white dove out of a black top hat,” I wrote.

At the same time I had to admire the volunteer commitment of Bruce Murphy, also featured in a recent contribution. But on this day I also had the privilege to be with young students who safely walked up the road to the bird banding location. The nearby teacher, Joanne Goddard, was featured in another Village Media , Dec. 23, 2020, back roads story. As an educator, she should be saluted for what she does in a small rural school, way ahead on the experiential teaching continuum.

It was a good news story about natural matters.

Back roads monuments to a tragic fire and railway accident

Around about Aug. 18, the wildfires were raging out west in northwestern Ontario and British Columbia and this story reminded me of the now infernos can affect us. It is an emotional story if only based on the facts of the day.

I have visited this out-of-the-way memorial North West of Nakina with a former student, Ben Jewiss. It is a place that is so remote but so relevant.

It is a site that takes you back to what tragically happened when the weather and logistics go awry. It is a mindful location, thinking about the young lives lost. It did not seem to make any sense in the natural solace of this place in time. The back roads can be like that.

Village Media is not a social media forum but I do get to like a few favourite stories. Next week I will share four stories I love and that resonated with the readers – you told me so. Then it will be on to new prose.