Jon Gerrard

Jon Gerrard

River Heights constituency report

Jon Gerrard is Liberal MLA for River Heights.

Recent articles of Jon Gerrard

Acting to reduce hatred

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Acting to reduce hatred

Jon Gerrard 3 minute read Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022

We need to address discrimination, bullying and hatred in all its forms in Manitoba, which is most often directed against people from groups who have been historically targeted — such as those who are Indigenous, Jewish, Muslim (especially those who are Palestinian), Asian, 2SLBGTQ*, or neurodivergent (with ADHD, autism or learning disabilities) or those with mental illness.

I believe all of us are opposed to hatred directed against people, in all its forms. We are particularly opposed to hatred expressed as violence. It is our challenge to address hatred, to reduce it and to eliminate it. It is, as we all appreciate, an enormous challenge.

In order for us to understand what individuals and groups experience, individuals and groups who been discriminated against must share their experiences and define what they perceive as discrimination and hatred so that all will have some appreciation and we can as a society make changes.

An example of this approach is that taken by many in the Jewish community to define anti-Semitism. While there is more than one definition of anti-Semitism, the most widespread is the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism. This definition, together with its examples, provides a perspective of what is, and what is not anti-Semitism. For example, “Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion” is anti-Semitism while “criticism of Israel, similar to that levelled against any other country, cannot be regarded as anti-Semitism.”

Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022

Dreamstime

It is our challenge to address hatred, to reduce it and to eliminate it.

Those with learning disabilities need support

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Those with learning disabilities need support

Jon Gerrard 3 minute read Wednesday, Sep. 28, 2022

In my fourth year of medical school, I was fortunate to have an elective in which I spent three months with Prof. John Soothill at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital in London. It was a stimulating time, as he was a brilliant scientist and clinician, and he was a fountain of ideas. But when I arrived, he startled me by saying right at the beginning that he had dyslexia and had to learn virtually everything by listening to others, for he had great difficulty reading. Reading was almost useless to him as a source of information.

During medical school, he listened intently to his teachers, for he was unable to learn from books. With this approach, he passed his medical school exams and went on to become an incredible physician who showed empathy and understanding toward children and their families who struggled with health conditions. He knew what it was like to struggle. It helped him understand others, and he reached out to those who, like him, had a learning disability.

For a time, he sat on the board which made decisions on who would be accepted into Oxford University. He looked out for those with learning disabilities because he recognized that if they had made it as far as to be applying to Oxford, they deserved to have their struggles rewarded by being accepted.

From that point on, I determined that I would look out for those with learning disabilities in order to understand and to help them. I quickly learned that children and adults with dyslexia, if given a helping hand, can do very well and succeed when given the opportunity. I have been able to advocate for and to help others since.

Wednesday, Sep. 28, 2022

In my fourth year of medical school, I was fortunate to have an elective in which I spent three months with Prof. John Soothill at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital in London. It was a stimulating time, as he was a brilliant scientist and clinician, and he was a fountain of ideas. But when I arrived, he startled me by saying right at the beginning that he had dyslexia and had to learn virtually everything by listening to others, for he had great difficulty reading. Reading was almost useless to him as a source of information.

During medical school, he listened intently to his teachers, for he was unable to learn from books. With this approach, he passed his medical school exams and went on to become an incredible physician who showed empathy and understanding toward children and their families who struggled with health conditions. He knew what it was like to struggle. It helped him understand others, and he reached out to those who, like him, had a learning disability.

For a time, he sat on the board which made decisions on who would be accepted into Oxford University. He looked out for those with learning disabilities because he recognized that if they had made it as far as to be applying to Oxford, they deserved to have their struggles rewarded by being accepted.

From that point on, I determined that I would look out for those with learning disabilities in order to understand and to help them. I quickly learned that children and adults with dyslexia, if given a helping hand, can do very well and succeed when given the opportunity. I have been able to advocate for and to help others since.

The need to improve home care in Manitoba

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The need to improve home care in Manitoba

Jon Gerrard 3 minute read Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022

Throughout the pandemic, I have received concerns from constituents about home-care services provided by the province.

The concerns stem, in part, from changes made over 10 years ago, which made home care less flexible to the individual needs of those it was designed to assist. In more recent years, the concerns we hear relate to the inadequacy of services, problems with home care being delivered in a timely manner (for example, accurate mealtimes for a person with diabetes) and the poor ability to tailor services to the individual conditions of people receiving services.

It is imperative that we have improvements in home-care services, including in staffing and in training. I am aware of an individual who, in the last two years, had to be placed in a personal care home because home care was inadequate and not reliable.

I have heard from seniors that vital home-care visits for medication, feeding and hygiene are simply being skipped due to staffing issues, and in some cases, people are going days in between visits.

Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022

Throughout the pandemic, I have received concerns from constituents about home-care services provided by the province.

The concerns stem, in part, from changes made over 10 years ago, which made home care less flexible to the individual needs of those it was designed to assist. In more recent years, the concerns we hear relate to the inadequacy of services, problems with home care being delivered in a timely manner (for example, accurate mealtimes for a person with diabetes) and the poor ability to tailor services to the individual conditions of people receiving services.

It is imperative that we have improvements in home-care services, including in staffing and in training. I am aware of an individual who, in the last two years, had to be placed in a personal care home because home care was inadequate and not reliable.

I have heard from seniors that vital home-care visits for medication, feeding and hygiene are simply being skipped due to staffing issues, and in some cases, people are going days in between visits.

Advocating for cochlear implant coverage

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Advocating for cochlear implant coverage

Jon Gerrard 3 minute read Wednesday, Jun. 22, 2022

Many people owe a debt of gratitude to Gladys Nielsen, who came to me two years ago with her concern that she and many others with cochlear implants need, or will in the near future, replacement processors.

A cochlear implant is a surgically implanted electronic device which helps people with inner ear damage who cannot be sufficiently helped with a hearing aid. Cochlear implants use sound processors that fit behind the ear. The processor captures sound signals and sends them to a receiver implanted under the skin behind the ear. The receiver then sends the signals to electrodes implanted in the snail-shaped inner ear, the cochlear.

At some point in the life span of a cochlear implant, the processor for the implant needs to be replaced. This costs more than $10,000, a big and almost-impossible expense for an older person on a fixed income.

Together, Gladys and I set to work to advocate for provincial funding under Medicare for a major portion of the replacement processor’s cost. We began by putting together a petition. In due course, Gladys collected more than 1,000 signatures. Between October 2020 and the budget in April 2022, my colleague Cindy Lamoureux, MLA for Tyndall Park, and I read more than 40 petitions in the Legislature. This effort was complimented by a rally at the legislature in October 2021, by questions in the Manitoba legislature, and then an appearance by Gladys at the finance minister’s pre-budget consultations.

Wednesday, Jun. 22, 2022

Gladys Nielsen helped lead the fight for cochlear implant replacement coverage under Medicare.

David Barber’s immense contributions

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David Barber’s immense contributions

Jon Gerrard 3 minute read Wednesday, May. 4, 2022

Born in Dauphin in October 1960, my friend Dr. David Barber passed away a few weeks ago and I would like to recognize this important Manitoban, who brought so much to our province, our country, and our world.

As a teen in 1975, David Barber helped to build the Fort Dauphin Museum. He enjoyed fishing at a cabin on Waterhen Lake and canoeing to Fort York and Churchill. While doing so, he developed a love of the Arctic and became one of the foremost Arctic scientists in the world. He initially began his post-secondary education in physical education at the University of Manitoba, but after travelling to the Arctic, changed his path and studied the Arctic and arctic ice at the University of Waterloo.

He would go on to lead some of the largest Arctic research projects in the world, becoming one of Canada’s most influential Arctic researchers. He recognized the extraordinary decrease in the size of the permanent ice in the Arctic and that it was the result of global warming. He also organized and led Arctic expeditions to give us a broader understanding of life in the Arctic, both above and below the ice. He put Canada at the forefront of Arctic research and was known as an ambassador of the Arctic and of science.

He had an innate ability to connect with people who were not scientists. He could take a really complex idea and simplify it so that they would understand. When he returned to Manitoba, he championed changes at the University of Manitoba which brought together a broad range of researchers to study what was and is happening in the Arctic. His ability to write grants and conceive big projects was truly remarkable. Using that skill he helped bring record amounts of about $200 million in grants to the University of Manitoba — the largest amount brought by any researcher in the physical sciences.

Wednesday, May. 4, 2022

Dr. David Barber, photographed at his home outside Winnipeg in October, 2020
John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press

More action needed on International Women’s Day

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More action needed on International Women’s Day

Jon Gerrard 3 minute read Wednesday, Mar. 16, 2022

As I write this article, it is International Women’s Day, and I have just returned from a breakfast marking this special day with a sombre reminder of the challenges women face in many places in the world.

The breakfast speakers focused on women’s stories from the front lines in Afghanistan. Sadly, the stories told were of the opportunities and rights being taken away from women. Under the Taliban, most girls are no longer allowed to go to school. Under the Taliban, women — even those who are highly educated with post-secondary education degrees, including doctors, lawyers, judges, and midwives — are not allowed to work. Too often women, particularly those from minority groups including Tajik, Uzbek, Hazara, Shia Muslim or Christian backgrounds, are being persecuted. It is a sad and very tragic change from the situation less than a year ago, when much greater freedom and opportunities were available to women in Afghanistan

The event was emceed by Victoria Romero, Sheva Schwartz and Anita Neville and the speakers included Kobra Arianta, originally from Afghanistan. She has relatives who remain in Afghanistan and want to come to live in Winnipeg to escape the incredibly difficult and dangerous conditions there. We also heard from Ariana Yaftali, a leader in the Afghan community in our province. She has been working closely with Hospitality House in helping to greet new refugees from Afghanistan and to help them in their transition to life here. Karen Gordon, of Hospitality House, spoke of the work she and her organization do daily to help refugees.

Lloyd Axworthy also spoke of the global situation. There are rapidly growing numbers of refugees, not only from Afghanistan, but many more recently from Ukraine. The infrastructure for helping refugees is based on what has been developed over many years but is now out of date. The global effort to help refugees needs to be improved and to be better supported financially. As one example, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees only has about one-third of the budget needed to provide services to those seeking refugee status. Because of this, the work of registering new refugees is significantly delayed. In his role as chair of the World Refugee and Migration Council, and co-chair of the new Manitoba Advisory Council on Immigration he is leading the way in calling for changes and improvements.

Wednesday, Mar. 16, 2022

Ariana Yeftali, a leader of Manitoba’s Afghan community, spoke on the plight of women at an International Women’s Day event on March 8.

Health-care improvements are needed in 2022

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Health-care improvements are needed in 2022

Jon Gerrard 3 minute read Friday, Dec. 31, 2021

In River Heights and in Manitoba, we are caught up in the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a critical time, with the Omicron variant coming at a point when Manitoba’s health-care system is greatly stressed just dealing with the fourth wave. We cannot wait for a report from a task force, which was only appointed a couple weeks ago, when we need action right now.

Nurses are burned out beyond belief, with short staffing levels and high acuity caseloads. This needs to be better acknowledged.  There needs to be a major effort to provide better working conditions for nurses, to achieve the staffing levels required for high quality care, and to ensure routine medical and surgical care can happen even during the pandemic. 

In the last two weeks, Manitoba Liberals have called for a series of measures to address the current situation. Manitoba needs free rapid covid tests to be made readily available through pharmacies, libraries, liquor marts, malls, and other readily accessible community locations. We need to make vaccines mandatory for workers in long-term care. We must enhance vaccination requirements for children. Businesses and organizations should disclose their vaccination policies for staff and customers so that clients can make informed decisions.

For too long, communication about public health orders have not been clear. A messaging campaign to directly challenge misinformation around vaccines and public health orders would help with misinformation. Last, the approval of monoclonal antibodies (MABS) to reduce symptoms for unvaccinated individuals who fall ill with COVID-19 would likely reduce deaths in the province owing to COVID-19. This would also reduce hospital and ICU needs.

Friday, Dec. 31, 2021

In River Heights and in Manitoba, we are caught up in the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a critical time, with the Omicron variant coming at a point when Manitoba’s health-care system is greatly stressed just dealing with the fourth wave. We cannot wait for a report from a task force, which was only appointed a couple weeks ago, when we need action right now.

Nurses are burned out beyond belief, with short staffing levels and high acuity caseloads. This needs to be better acknowledged.  There needs to be a major effort to provide better working conditions for nurses, to achieve the staffing levels required for high quality care, and to ensure routine medical and surgical care can happen even during the pandemic. 

In the last two weeks, Manitoba Liberals have called for a series of measures to address the current situation. Manitoba needs free rapid covid tests to be made readily available through pharmacies, libraries, liquor marts, malls, and other readily accessible community locations. We need to make vaccines mandatory for workers in long-term care. We must enhance vaccination requirements for children. Businesses and organizations should disclose their vaccination policies for staff and customers so that clients can make informed decisions.

For too long, communication about public health orders have not been clear. A messaging campaign to directly challenge misinformation around vaccines and public health orders would help with misinformation. Last, the approval of monoclonal antibodies (MABS) to reduce symptoms for unvaccinated individuals who fall ill with COVID-19 would likely reduce deaths in the province owing to COVID-19. This would also reduce hospital and ICU needs.

Promoting excellence in health care

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Promoting excellence in health care

Jon Gerrard 3 minute read Friday, Dec. 3, 2021

To have an excellent health-care system, areas of excellence and those who are doing the really good work need to be supported, while gaps or shortfalls in the system need to be identified and addressed. 

One of the best ways to identify areas of excellence within our health care system is to look at awards given to doctors by their peers.  On Nov. 20, I attended a dinner where Doctors Manitoba presented these awards. The recipients have all been involved with inspiring work. They are from all over Manitoba, including at least two from River Heights. They include:

• Dr. Murray Kesselman worked for many years as section head of the pediatric intensive care unit and provided, as well, emergency care for children. He has also worked in northern/remote pediatrics and has travelled around the world as part of Operation Smile to help children born with cleft lips and/or cleft palates.

• Dr. Maryanne Crockett, a pediatric infectious disease specialist, is the director of research and knowledge translation at the Institute for Global Public Health at the University of Manitoba. She has developed transcontinental healthcare initiatives in various countries including Albania, Kosovo, Mozambique, India and Pakistan.

Friday, Dec. 3, 2021

Alex Lupul / Winnipeg Free Press
Dr. Brent Roussin, chief public health officer for Manitoba, was named physician of the year at the recent Doctors Manitoba awards.

Addressing the need for quick access to eye surgeries

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Addressing the need for quick access to eye surgeries

Jon Gerrard 3 minute read Friday, Nov. 5, 2021

Vision and ophthalmology are important. Prompt attention to eye surgeries is essential.

I was recently approached to look into this by a River Heights constituent. Retinal detachment surgery is urgent, and the procedure is to prevent irreversible damage to the retinal (nerve) tissue and permanent vision loss.

Cataract surgery, in contrast, is viewed as elective. But, if left too long, cataracts can be difficult to remove and the surgery can become complicated. Delayed surgery can take longer and may require further surgery; it may cost more and have slow or poor vision recovery. Doing cataract surgery in a timely manner can avoid these unnecessary difficulties.

Most cataract surgeries are in people over age 65. In an older person, poor eyesight can lead to a fall which can result in a broken hip or head injury; these can be life threatening or life altering. I know this well as both my parents suffered from declining vision as they aged. Both had life-limiting falls and broken hips. In both cases, the declining vision almost certainly contributed to the falls.

Friday, Nov. 5, 2021

Vision and ophthalmology are important. Prompt attention to eye surgeries is essential.

I was recently approached to look into this by a River Heights constituent. Retinal detachment surgery is urgent, and the procedure is to prevent irreversible damage to the retinal (nerve) tissue and permanent vision loss.

Cataract surgery, in contrast, is viewed as elective. But, if left too long, cataracts can be difficult to remove and the surgery can become complicated. Delayed surgery can take longer and may require further surgery; it may cost more and have slow or poor vision recovery. Doing cataract surgery in a timely manner can avoid these unnecessary difficulties.

Most cataract surgeries are in people over age 65. In an older person, poor eyesight can lead to a fall which can result in a broken hip or head injury; these can be life threatening or life altering. I know this well as both my parents suffered from declining vision as they aged. Both had life-limiting falls and broken hips. In both cases, the declining vision almost certainly contributed to the falls.

Making schools safer for everyone

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Making schools safer for everyone

Jon Gerrard 3 minute read Friday, Oct. 8, 2021

With children in River Heights back in school, we are all concerned about their safety. 

We all want to make sure they do not get the COVID-19 virus, also known as SARS-CoV-2. For children old enough to be vaccinated, getting vaccinated needs to be a priority. For those less than 12 years of age, other measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 are needed, although it appears a vaccine may be available in the near future for those under 12. 

There has been a lot of talk about the need to improve ventilation in schools as well as mask use. An evaluation of the effect of improving ventilation and wearing masks was done in schools in the U.S. state of Georgia and the findings from this study are helpful.

The study was done in November and December of 2020. This was a time before the appearance of the delta variant, but the findings nevertheless give us an indication of the importance of addressing ventilation in schools.

Friday, Oct. 8, 2021

With children in River Heights back in school, we are all concerned about their safety. 

We all want to make sure they do not get the COVID-19 virus, also known as SARS-CoV-2. For children old enough to be vaccinated, getting vaccinated needs to be a priority. For those less than 12 years of age, other measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 are needed, although it appears a vaccine may be available in the near future for those under 12. 

There has been a lot of talk about the need to improve ventilation in schools as well as mask use. An evaluation of the effect of improving ventilation and wearing masks was done in schools in the U.S. state of Georgia and the findings from this study are helpful.

The study was done in November and December of 2020. This was a time before the appearance of the delta variant, but the findings nevertheless give us an indication of the importance of addressing ventilation in schools.

Afghanistan is affecting us

Jon Gerrard 3 minute read Preview

Afghanistan is affecting us

Jon Gerrard 3 minute read Friday, Sep. 10, 2021

We have all been very surprised by the rapidity with which the Taliban took over Afghanistan - even before the United States was fully withdrawn from the country.

The recent rally for Afghanistan on the steps of the Manitoba Legislature drew many. From those who were there, I learned of the raw fear that the Taliban will limit the opportunities for and the potential of women.

I learned of the awakening that has happened in Afghanistan during the last 20 years - and about the generation of people who grew up in a more liberated world.

Since the rally, I have been surprised bythe number of people whose families came from Afghanistan who have come to my River Heights constituency office to ask for help. While I am a provincial politician, when I have people coming to my office, I do my best to help, even if it is more of a federal issue.

Friday, Sep. 10, 2021

Supplied photo
Members of the local Afghan community and other concerned Manitobans recently rallied in support of the Afghan people in the wake of the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan.

Recognizing Emancipation Day

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Recognizing Emancipation Day

Jon Gerrard 3 minute read Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021

This is the first year, across Canada, that we recognized Aug. 1 as Emancipation Day.

On Aug. 1, 1834, slavery was abolished in the British Empire. As there were certain limits (people over six years of age were designated as apprentices and required to work 40 hours a week), full emancipation was not achieved until four years later on Aug. 1, 1838.

Historian Marcel Trudel estimated there were about 4,200 enslaved people in Canada between 1671 and 1831, and that initially two-thirds were Indigenous and one-third of African descent. Toward the end of this period, with an increased number of people coming to Canada with slaves, those of African descent outnumbered those who were Indigenous. It is an all too often forgotten or unmentioned part of our history.

In River Heights, we have many residents of Indigenous or of African descent. Emancipation Day has a special meaning for them. It is also an important opportunity for all Canadians to become more aware of this part of our history. Emancipation of slaves meant freedom to all, freedom from enslavement for those who were slaves and enhanced dignity and respect for everyone.  

Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021

This is the first year, across Canada, that we recognized Aug. 1 as Emancipation Day.

On Aug. 1, 1834, slavery was abolished in the British Empire. As there were certain limits (people over six years of age were designated as apprentices and required to work 40 hours a week), full emancipation was not achieved until four years later on Aug. 1, 1838.

Historian Marcel Trudel estimated there were about 4,200 enslaved people in Canada between 1671 and 1831, and that initially two-thirds were Indigenous and one-third of African descent. Toward the end of this period, with an increased number of people coming to Canada with slaves, those of African descent outnumbered those who were Indigenous. It is an all too often forgotten or unmentioned part of our history.

In River Heights, we have many residents of Indigenous or of African descent. Emancipation Day has a special meaning for them. It is also an important opportunity for all Canadians to become more aware of this part of our history. Emancipation of slaves meant freedom to all, freedom from enslavement for those who were slaves and enhanced dignity and respect for everyone.  

Better than Bill 64

Jon Gerrard 3 minute read Preview

Better than Bill 64

Jon Gerrard 3 minute read Tuesday, Jul. 13, 2021

On June 17, I hosted a Zoom town hall meeting to discuss better options for improving education in Manitoba than those presented in Bill 64.

It is important to not just criticize Bill 64, but to present alternatives which will be effective and are needed in Manitoba to improve our education system. Some of these approaches are already being used in Manitoba thanks to innovative school boards, superintendents, principals and teachers who have focused on improving education.

Much of this innovation and improvement would, sadly, be lost under Bill 64.

Our first two panelists, Doug Adams and Heather Shelton, are teachers who have worked in a very diverse school in Brandon.

Tuesday, Jul. 13, 2021

On June 17, I hosted a Zoom town hall meeting to discuss better options for improving education in Manitoba than those presented in Bill 64.

It is important to not just criticize Bill 64, but to present alternatives which will be effective and are needed in Manitoba to improve our education system. Some of these approaches are already being used in Manitoba thanks to innovative school boards, superintendents, principals and teachers who have focused on improving education.

Much of this innovation and improvement would, sadly, be lost under Bill 64.

Our first two panelists, Doug Adams and Heather Shelton, are teachers who have worked in a very diverse school in Brandon.

Close to home – the residential school in River Heights

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Close to home – the residential school in River Heights

Jon Gerrard 3 minute read Saturday, Jun. 12, 2021

The Assiniboine Indian Residential School on Academy Road operated from 1958 to 1973.

It ran from 1958 to 1967 with an annual enrollment of about 100 youth from First Nations communities across Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and northwestern Ontario. From 1967 to 1973, it served as a hostel where students stayed while attending area high schools.

In recent days, Canadians have been shocked to learn of the 215 children’s bodies found in unmarked graves near Kamloops, B.C. Led by Indigenous people, the search of other sites across Canada will continue, possibly including the Assiniboine residential school site.

Fifteen years ago, in the spring of 2006, I visited the Brandon Friendship Centre, where I saw a plaque which honoured children who stayed at the Brandon residential school between 1896 and 1923 and who never went home.

Saturday, Jun. 12, 2021

The Assiniboine Indian Residential School on Academy Road operated from 1958 to 1973.

It ran from 1958 to 1967 with an annual enrollment of about 100 youth from First Nations communities across Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and northwestern Ontario. From 1967 to 1973, it served as a hostel where students stayed while attending area high schools.

In recent days, Canadians have been shocked to learn of the 215 children’s bodies found in unmarked graves near Kamloops, B.C. Led by Indigenous people, the search of other sites across Canada will continue, possibly including the Assiniboine residential school site.

Fifteen years ago, in the spring of 2006, I visited the Brandon Friendship Centre, where I saw a plaque which honoured children who stayed at the Brandon residential school between 1896 and 1923 and who never went home.

Taking care of yourself in the time of COVID

Jon Gerrard 3 minute read Preview

Taking care of yourself in the time of COVID

Jon Gerrard 3 minute read Tuesday, May. 18, 2021

In my work as an MLA, I am finding that the COVID pandemic is creating major challenges for youth and young adults in River Heights.

When your world is turned upside down and you can’t do sports like you usually do, when education is often virtual, when you can’t hug people (except for your close family) and when you can’t just get together with a group of friends, life feels very unfair. 

Everyone is different.  For some, spending lots of time on Zoom or Teams or another video conference platform is OK. Many feel that Zoom can’t compare to experiencing life in person. For some it is easy to accommodate being in class with a mask on and physically distancing, while for others it is just not working.

Some have a family member they can go outside with for a walk or a run, or play tennis. Others don’t. Some have an outdoor or sport opportunity nearby that can still be played in small groups — like throwing a Frisbee, hitting a golf ball or playing tennis. Others don’t. 

Tuesday, May. 18, 2021

In my work as an MLA, I am finding that the COVID pandemic is creating major challenges for youth and young adults in River Heights.

When your world is turned upside down and you can’t do sports like you usually do, when education is often virtual, when you can’t hug people (except for your close family) and when you can’t just get together with a group of friends, life feels very unfair. 

Everyone is different.  For some, spending lots of time on Zoom or Teams or another video conference platform is OK. Many feel that Zoom can’t compare to experiencing life in person. For some it is easy to accommodate being in class with a mask on and physically distancing, while for others it is just not working.

Some have a family member they can go outside with for a walk or a run, or play tennis. Others don’t. Some have an outdoor or sport opportunity nearby that can still be played in small groups — like throwing a Frisbee, hitting a golf ball or playing tennis. Others don’t. 

The many problems of the new education bill

Jon Gerrard 3 minute read Preview

The many problems of the new education bill

Jon Gerrard 3 minute read Friday, Apr. 23, 2021

Central to the changes being made by the current provincial government is Bill 64, which will eliminate school boards.

The bill will create 794 community school councils which, like mini school boards, will provide oversight of what is happening, including staffing, at each of the public schools in Manitoba.

At the same time, superintendents in school divisions will be replaced by 15 directors, with each responsible for schools within a region of Manitoba. The directors will be appointed by the government and will be responsible to a Provincial Education Authority.

The elimination of school boards appears to be based, in part, on a misunderstanding of their role.  

Friday, Apr. 23, 2021

File photo
The effects of Bill 64 will be felt in Manitoba classrooms.

One of the classrooms that has been downsized to accommodate 16 students at Andrew Mynarski V.C. School on Wednesday. Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020.

Reporter:

Thanks to those who helped us through

Jon Gerrard 3 minute read Preview

Thanks to those who helped us through

Jon Gerrard 3 minute read Thursday, Mar. 25, 2021

On March 9, almost a year after the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Manitoba, I put forward a resolution in the Manitoba Legislature expressing thanks and gratitude to all those who have carried us through the COVID-19 pandemic. 

It passed unanimously with all-party support. Below are excerpts from my speech.

  “It is time to say thanks to all who have helped in our efforts to survive and to do well–as well as we can - during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 “Many of those we thank are unsung heroes, people who, for example, kept our food supply moving so that we were not short of food. This includes everyone from farmers to those involved in food processing, to truckers who deliver the food to stores and to those who work in retail outlets.

Thursday, Mar. 25, 2021

Supplied photo
River Heights MLA Jon Gerrard's motion commending the actions of all who have helped Manitobans through the COVID-19 was passed unanimously by the Manitoba Legislative Assembly.

Help the homeless ‘all the way home’

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Help the homeless ‘all the way home’

Jon Gerrard 3 minute read Friday, Feb. 26, 2021

We need to do better. 

On Feb. 7, we Manitoba Liberals released our Phase 2 report on homelessness in Winnipeg. For me, it has been a three-month journey to understand the reasons for so much homelessness in Manitoba.

Nancy Chippendale, an activist concerned about the needs of those experiencing homelessness, approached me last fall to say that we needed to look into the situation. 

We did the planning in October. In November, December and January, we talked to many people who are trying to help those who are homeless. We also spoke with individuals with lived experience of being homeless. I learned a lot and the result is the report titled All the Way Home: Ending 40+ years of forced homelessness in Winnipeg.

Friday, Feb. 26, 2021

Supplied photo
The proliferation of homeless people staying in bus shelters for warmth has drawn plenty of attention this winter. We need to do better.

Looking ahead to the light at the tunnel’s end

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Looking ahead to the light at the tunnel’s end

Jon Gerrard 3 minute read Monday, Dec. 28, 2020

Soon, we’ll begin a new year. After a year in which our lives were dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic, we enter 2021 with a number of vaccines and a light at the end of the tunnel to signal the end of the pandemic. The end will not come quickly, but it will come in 2021.

How that light glows and grows will depend on us. We have lost too many of our loved ones and too many of our elders, while seniors in personal care homes remain in danger from the spread of COVID-19. Too many families are now struggling. Some who rely on medications to manage diseases like diabetes are having to face the difficult choice of getting their medications or buying food. And so many of our local business owners are suffering as a result of the lockdowns and restrictions that have been put in place during the pandemic.

We must do all we can to  help each other get safely through this difficult time, even as we begin to plan with more hope for the renewal which is to come.

In River Heights, we can begin to look forward to our local businesses fully reopening so that we can walk in and talk with our friends and neighbours while we shop. We look forward to being able to visit more freely with others and resume the socializing that is so important to our mental well-being. We look forward to when our community centres, churches, synagogues and temples will be available for everyone to worship, play, and come together as a community.  

Monday, Dec. 28, 2020

Soon, we’ll begin a new year. After a year in which our lives were dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic, we enter 2021 with a number of vaccines and a light at the end of the tunnel to signal the end of the pandemic. The end will not come quickly, but it will come in 2021.

How that light glows and grows will depend on us. We have lost too many of our loved ones and too many of our elders, while seniors in personal care homes remain in danger from the spread of COVID-19. Too many families are now struggling. Some who rely on medications to manage diseases like diabetes are having to face the difficult choice of getting their medications or buying food. And so many of our local business owners are suffering as a result of the lockdowns and restrictions that have been put in place during the pandemic.

We must do all we can to  help each other get safely through this difficult time, even as we begin to plan with more hope for the renewal which is to come.

In River Heights, we can begin to look forward to our local businesses fully reopening so that we can walk in and talk with our friends and neighbours while we shop. We look forward to being able to visit more freely with others and resume the socializing that is so important to our mental well-being. We look forward to when our community centres, churches, synagogues and temples will be available for everyone to worship, play, and come together as a community.  

Addressing homelessness in Manitoba is critical

Jon Gerrard 3 minute read Preview

Addressing homelessness in Manitoba is critical

Jon Gerrard 3 minute read Friday, Dec. 4, 2020

Homelessness exists everywhere in our province. In River Heights, we have seen camps of homeless people near the walking bridge in west River Heights and near the former rehabilitation centre in east River Heights.

This spring, when the COVID-19 pandemic was in its early stages I called for special attention for people who are homeless during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, with a recent rise in COVID-19 infections, the resulting lockdown and imminent cold winter, this concern is at the forefront.

There has, in the last year, been a noticeable increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness, as made evident by the three major shelters being at or near capacity. We’ve also seen an increased number of camps of people who are homeless in various parts of Winnipeg. Transit drivers have observed an increased number of people spending the night in city bus shelters.

Other jurisdictions have found effective solutions to address homelessness. Medicine Hat is known for its ability to find a rental unit quickly for every person who becomes homeless. The U.K. and New York City are among a number of jurisdictions which have funded the cost of hotel rooms for those who are homeless in an effort to slow the spread of the pandemic.

Friday, Dec. 4, 2020

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
A person walks past a tent at a homeless camp on Higgins in Winnipeg in September 2020.

Fasting for children in care

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Fasting for children in care

Jon Gerrard 3 minute read Friday, Nov. 6, 2020

From noon on Thurs. Oct. 22 to noon on Fri., Oct. 23, my wife Naomi and I were fasting in a tipi in front of the Manitoba Legislature.

Our fast was part of an effort by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Office of the First Nations Family Advocate to draw attention to the impact of the provincial government taking money from children in the care of Manitoba’s Child and Family Services.  

The money in question is the universal child benefit which is provided by the federal government to every family with a child or children in our province. 

In the 1990s and early 2000s, these monies for children who had been removed from their families and put into the care of Child and Family Services, instead of being provided directly to the families, were provided to the agency responsible for the children and were to be used to directly benefit the children. 

Friday, Nov. 6, 2020

Supplied photo
River Heights Liberal MLA Jon Gerrard and his wife, Naomi, spent a day and night fasting in a tipi on the Legislative grounds to bring attention to the fact money has been taken from children in the care of various agencies.

Child care essential for all Manitobans

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Child care essential for all Manitobans

Jon Gerrard 3 minute read Thursday, Sep. 10, 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 for the development of social skills. For this reason, my colleagues Dougald Lamont, Cindy Lamoureux and I believe that putting child care and early childhood education under the provincial Department of Education merits serious consideration — to stabilize and enhance the supports for it, and for the linkage to later education. There are several high-quality early learning centres right here in River Heights that need support.

Thursday, Sep. 10, 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 for the development of social skills. For this reason, my colleagues Dougald Lamont, Cindy Lamoureux and I believe that putting child care and early childhood education under the provincial Department of Education merits serious consideration — to stabilize and enhance the supports for it, and for the linkage to later education. There are several high-quality early learning centres right here in River Heights that need support.

We must improve personal care homes

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We must improve personal care homes

Jon Gerrard 3 minute read Friday, Aug. 14, 2020

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 save 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 from 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 first-hand experience in dealing with concerns in personal care homes. 

We asked a number of important questions including:

Friday, Aug. 14, 2020

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 save 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 from 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 first-hand experience in dealing with concerns in personal care homes. 

We asked a number of important questions including:

Black history must be taught in Manitoba schools

Jon Gerrard 3 minute read Preview

Black history must be taught in Manitoba schools

Jon Gerrard 3 minute read Thursday, Jun. 18, 2020

“Black lives matter!” was the chant that echoed loudly when some 15,000 to 20,000 people came out to a rally at the Manitoba Legislature on June 5 hosted and organized by Justice 4 Black Lives Winnipeg. 

Many residents of River Heights, including myself, attended. As the conversation around the Black Lives Matter movement continues to grow globally and right here in our community, we must remember that as we fight for justice, we must address the systemic discrimination and exclusion of Black Manitobans on many levels.

The powerful chants at the rally reminded us of the urgency and necessity of action. One important area in which we can take such action is our education system. On March 10, 2019, I hosted a public forum in River Heights on education in Manitoba. One of the panelists, Alexa Joy, is the founder and president of Black Space Winnipeg and a longtime activist in our community.

Ms. Joy described the pressing issues of anti-Blackness within much of Manitoba’s education system.

Thursday, Jun. 18, 2020

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Protesters gather on the west side of the Manitoba Legislative Building for a rally in support of justice for black lives in Winnipeg on Friday, June 5, 2020. For Malak Abas story.

Winnipeg Free Press 2020.