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Dwarfism Awareness Day 2020

Today, October 25th is Dwarfism Awareness Day in Manitoba.  To honour this day, I will put material below from the Little People of Manitoba to help create additional awareness about dwarfism.  The photo above is of Samantha Rayburn-Trubyk, the President of the Little People of Manitoba.Who are we? Little People of Manitoba (LPM) is a non-profit, charitable organization dedicated to creating awareness about the prominent issues affecting people with dwarfism, and providing social support for Little People of Manitoba. Why are we so small?This is the most common question asked of a little person.  The simplest answer is that we are born that way.  Being small is just part of our physical makeup, much like the colour of our eyes or hair.  The condition is known as dwarfism and is caused by a genetic mutation that happens in about 1 in approximately every 30,000 births.  More than 80% of little people  are born to average-sized parents with no history of dwarfism in the family. Are Littl…

Naomi and I begin our 24 hour fast at noon today to support children in Manitoba

Today at noon, Naomi and I will begin a 24 hour fast to support the children of Manitoba, specifically the children who have been or who are now in the care of child and family services.  We will be in the Tipi closest to the Legislature.  Hundreds of millions of dollars were taken by the provincial government from the Children's Special Allowances which were meant for these children.   In some cases this was taking away money put in trust for these children when they aged out of care so that they would have opportunities like going to post-secondary education.   This was wrong.  And now the Pallister government has legislation before the Manitoba Legislature which would prevent any legal action to return this money to these children. I believe the money should be returned to these children and I am supporting a protest organized by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, and specifically by Cora Morgan and the Office of the First Nations Family Advocate.  This protest is in the form of…

Karen Keppler 1953 - 2020

Karen was an incredible person who helped so many people. She had a heart of gold. Back in 1994 to 1997 we worked closely together to help communities all over Manitoba get connected to the internet. In the years since she has done amazing things.She has served as Chair of the Winnipeg Library Foundation and helped with raising money for the expansion of the Millenium Library.She helped many people to get new opportunities through the Selkirk and District Learning Centre and through her activities at the University of Winnipeg and the Herzing College.She was an entrepreneur who helped many people move forward and start successful businesses.  Karen was very concerned about her community.  In she wasthe Manitoba Liberal Party candidate in Sekirk constituency.When the COVID pandemic came, Karen was really helpful in an effort to get computers for kids in need so that they could learn at home. Even recently when I was working to understand lead pollution and lead effects on people in Man…

There is a need for improvements at Parkview Place - and we need a public inquiry to look into the concerns being raised of poor care.

On Friday October 16, I asked the Pallister government in Question Period about the situation at Parkview Place, the personal care home in Winnipeg where there has been a very serious outbreak with 94 cases of COVID-19 virus infection and 9 deaths.  There have in recent days been disturbing revelations about the conditions at this home.  I asked why the government had not better protected people in the home.  The Minister of Health did not answer this. I asked whether, with the suspension of the rule that staff can only work at one site, steps were being taken to ensure that staff at Parkview Place would not spread the infection from there to other homes.   The Minister said they were taking steps to ensure workers would not bring more virus to Parkview Place, but failed to answer the question I had asked.   I also asked for a public inquiry into the allegations of poor treatment at Parkview as well as to determine why the virus spread so quickly in Parkview Place.   The Minister did…

The need to check blood lead levels to screen children in Point Douglas, Weston and St. Boniface where there is high lead exposure

On Thursday October 15, in a Member's Statement in the Manitoba Legislature, I talked about the dangers of lead poisoning, the ability to help children who have high lead levels detected between age 1 and 3, and the need to be screening children in areas of Winnipeg which are known to have high lead exposure by checking their blood lead levels. Childhood Screening for Lead ExposureHon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): It arrives silently like a thief in the night, with no visible symptoms, or with symptoms which are easily confused with other conditions.      It robs children of their potential. It damages children's brains. It reduces their IQ. They're more likely to drop out of school. They're more vulnerable to impulsive and aggressive actions because their self‑control is poor. They become vulnerable to developing a mental illness or an addiction and to engaging in juvenile delinquency or crime.      This all-too-silent destroyer is lead. It is toxic and poisonous to c…
On Wednesday, October 14, I asked, in Question Period about the Pallister government's actions with respect to Personal Care Homes.   Sadly, the government was very poorly prepared for the second wave of the COVID pandemic, and has made a bad mistake in putting aside the policy that workers can not be working at more than one site as a result of the very serious outbreak at Parkview Place personal care home.  The government should have had a rapid response team to address this situation, as we have been calling for during the last several months.  The government should also be regularly testing all staff and residents to identify individuals who are infected by asymptomatic.  This last action has proved critical in other locations and is now standard practice at  personal care homes in other jurisdictions * - see below).   Personal-Care Homes - Staff and Resident COVID-19 TestingHon. Jon  Gerrard (River Heights): Madam Speaker, in response to the extremely serious outbreak in the…

Assessing the Pallister government's response to the pandemic - and responding to the Throne Speech

On Tuesday October 13, I responded to the Pallister government's Throne Speech.  My comments were an assessment of the government's response to the pandemic.  Also included were comments on the need to address lead poisoning of children in Manitoba. Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Mr. Speaker, we're in the middle of a pandemic. I want to thank all those who are on the front lines and contributing to the effort to prevent spread of the COVID-19 infections, who are contributing to test and treat individuals who've developed infections with this coronavirus.      I also want to thank the residents of River Heights, who are continually raising concerns with me and keeping me abreast of what's happening in our community.      I want to emphasize that we're now in the middle of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Throne Speech should be first and foremost measured in terms of how it deals with this pandemic.      It's important when facing a crisis th…

Why has home care been depleted during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Friday October 9, in Question Period I asked about the severe cut backs to Manitoba's home care program during the pandemic.  As you will see below the Minister of Health completely failed to even address the question.  This failure to address the question is unbecoming of a Minister of Health.  Rather than address the question, he bragged about the government's response to the COVID-19 epidemic.   His bragging is poorly times for it is increasingly apparent that the Pallister government was woefully unprepared for the second wave of the pandemic.COVID-19 and Home-Care Services
Timing of Funding Changes
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Madam Speaker, in the name of austerity and in spite of increased spending from Ottawa, the Pallister government has made deep, deep cuts into Manitoba's Home Care program. These cuts are so severe that families who were once able to rely on Home Care for their physically or mentally struggling loved ones now report to me that the program ha…

Is exposure to lead a reason for Manitoba's high violent crime rate?

Manitoba has the highest violent crime rate in Canada.   The rate is more than twice as high as most other provinces as you can see from the figure below.   Why is this? 
In a recently released report, I explore the possibility that lead pollution and contamination could be a reason for this high crime rate.  A great deal of evidence now shows that lead can be a reason for a high crime rate. For example the graph shown below is taken from a study in New Orleans.  Lead emissions from leaded gasoline peaked in New Orleans in the  1970s and then decreased rapidly when lead was removed from gasoline (blue line).   Twenty years later there was a peak in violent crime in New Orleans - a peak which corresponded closely to the  peak in leaded gasoline twenty years earlier (purple line).  As has been shown in numerous other studies, which we reference in our report, lead impacts the developing brain during fetal life and in the first few years after birth.   This impact changes the brain and is…

Pallister government is trying to use a budget bill to prevent his government from being sued over its poor handling of services for children

On September 16, we raised concerns about clauses in a budget bill which will prevent his government from being sued for their poor handling of  services for children.    Our full press release is below. PCs Must Remove Measures that Undermine Vulnerable Children from BudgetTREATY 1 TERRITORY,  WINNIPEG, MB - Grand Chief Jerry Daniels of the Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) and Dougald Lamont, Manitoba Liberal Leader and MLA for St. Boniface, say the PCs must withdraw two measures from the budget that are designed to shield the Manitoba Government from being held responsible for the mistreatment of children in care. The PCs have introduced two “get out of jail free” clauses in their budget bill that deny people who have been wronged by the Manitoba Government for suing for compensation — with both cases involving vulnerable children in the care of Child and Family Services (CFS). Unlike other bills, budget bills don’t go before committees for public hearings. One budget measure see…

Raising concerns about another Pallister government untendered contract which will result in poorer service to Manitobans

On September 14th, we raised  concerns about the Pallister government's untendered contract which will sadly mark the end of the provincial Lifeflight program.   Lifeflight has operated for 35 years and has provided amazing emergency medical service for people living in northern and remote communities. One aspect of the changes that the Pallister government has made in the last two years, is that the time for the air ambulance plane under STARS will be much longer than it used to be for many years under Lifeflight.   Lifeflight operated with two Citation jet planes which were much faster than the Super King Turboprop planes which the Pallister government has replaced them with.   This means that if there is an emergency medical call to Gillam, Shamattawa or Leaf Rapids it now takes 2 hours to get there, whereas before it took an hour and fifteen minutes.  The extra 45 minutes could in some cases mean the difference between life and death.   What is also troubling is that this mean…

Helping get family members the ability to visit and care for their loved ones in personal care homes

Since early in the pandemic I advocated for family members who are providing care to their loved one in a personal care home.  I felt that the care they were and are now again providing to their loved ones was important and making a major contribution.   I also talked  with family members who wanted to help and who I knew would be very careful when it came to precautions to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.  This effort was in time successful.  The write up below tells the story. 


Battling to ensure a full and fair environmental assessment on the Vivian Sands' Project

When I heard of concerns about a project to mine silica sand near Vivian just east of Anola in Manitoba, I went out to meet with people in the area.   I found a great deal of concern about the project.  After carefully reviewing the details of what was being proposed, I worked with Dougald Lamont and we held a press conference on August 13 together with Tangi Bell a resident  of the area and Dennis LeNeveu a biophysicist who has had a careful look at the project.  This drew attention to the issues surrounding this project and our call for a full review by the Clean Environment Commission and was covered on CTV and in the Winnipeg Free Press and the Winnipeg Sun. We followed this up, on September 28th with a call for the Federal Government to do a full environmental review.   The letter is below. We are now waiting for the provincial and federal decisions. 






Manitoba Liberals helped save the Lake Winnipeg fishery in 2020

With some excellent political dexterity and effort Dougald Lamont and the Manitoba Liberals were able to achieve changes in a federal program that helped save the Lake Winnipeg fishery for 2020.  
In brief, the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation was not able to take fish because its freezers were full and the market  for pickerel  was down because people were not going to restaurants - where much of the pickerel is sold.  
There was a federal program that allowed for the donation of such surplus fish, but it did not apply to the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation.    Dougald Lamont learned about the nature of the problem and successfully approached the federal Minister responsible and was able to get the program changed so that the Freshwater Marketing Corporation's fish could be donated to First Nations' people in need.  The result is emptying out the Corporation's freezers and allowing the Corporation to purchase new fish from Lake Winnipeg and other fisheries.  An a…

Child care is essential for all Manitobans

This article appeared in the Sou'wester on September 9 2020 Early learning and child care are a cornerstone in Manitoba today.  Residents of River Heights reach out to me on a regular basis regarding the various difficulties they face. Access to this service is vital when both parents are working and child care is needed for people to have jobs and for our economy to flourish.  For example, as children in Manitoba begin returning to school, access to child care is essential for teachers.  If teachers cannot access the child care needed to work, the result is a shortage of teachers.Quality in child care and early childhood education is as important as quantity. Consistency in child care providers helps with the attachment of children. This, plus consistency in the emphasis on education, helps a child’s development and their readiness for school.  Though play is an essential part of a child’s ability to enjoy an experience in child care, it is also an opportunity for learning and fo…

We must improve personal care homes

This article appeared in the Sou'Wester on Wednesday August 12: Personal care homes have been at the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic.  More than 80 per cent of deaths in Canada have been residents of personal care homes. It is expected there will be a second wave of COVID-19.  We need to be ready, as the recent rise in cases in Manitoba may be indicating the second wave has already begun. On June 23, I hosted an online forum called How do we prepare personal care homes for a second wave of COVID-19?   Panelists included Dot Sloik, an advocate of personal care home improvements form Portage la Prairie, Beverley Dueck, a former public relations consultant and myself.  All three of us have had close family members in personal care homes and considerable experience in dealing with concerns in personal care homes. 
We asked a number of important questions including:- Do we need a rapid response team to respond when there is a COVID-19 infection in a personal care home?    The answe…