OPEN LETTER FROM OUR COMMITTEE CHAIR
OCTOBER 13, 2021
What was initially one-on-one correspondence between a local individual and the Canada Day in Wilmot Committee chair has now evolved into a conversation with a coalition made up of local service clubs with the New Hamburg Board of Trade volunteering to take the lead. We were informed that the New Hamburg Board of Trade was to investigate further and report back to this newly formed committee.
At the core of this inquiry appears to be a consolidated effort to publicly name each volunteer organizer (committee members) without any declaration of intent or compelling justification for this petition.
Additionally, the Canada Day in Wilmot event’s accountability has been called into question specifically around a recent $300 donation to the Crow Shield Lodge as part of this country’s, this associations and this community’s commitment to acts of reconciliation.
The following is an open letter from our Committee’s Chair:
Dear New Hamburg Board of Trade,
As per the April 12, 2021, Board of Trade Podcast it is stated that the goals of the Board of Trade are not a President-driven agenda, "it's a member-driven agenda". Based on this statement this query appears to be approved by the New Hamburg Board of Trade Executive and that all Members have been notified ahead of the correspondence that has recently been received.
As a few New Hamburg-based service clubs have joined the New Hamburg Board of Trade as a coalition in this discussion, it was decided to simplify this discussion for all by posting a reply on this website.
As it has been stated since 2017 Canada Day is a not-for-profit event organized by community-minded volunteers from across the Township. Any surplus funds used for down payments for the following year’s entertainment. Canada Day In Wilmot is not a registered charity.
In the first year or two we had representatives of various community organizations. However, as time went on fewer representatives would show up either for personal reasons, possibly disinterest or possibly demonstrating confidence in what had been planned/accomplished. Obviously, the pandemic presented additional challenges to gather in accordance with public health requirements.
As a result of moving the event from the flood-prone and fire route challenged Scott Park location to the safer and more accessible Fair Ground grandstand location myself and a few volunteers have received pushback to this change of location. Although the consensus was that adopting this new location was beneficial for attendees and exhibitors, things have escalated to the point of being sent unwelcome threats of physical violence to myself which have been reported to the authorities.
I believe these untoward actions are not representative of the community I love. This event and overall community can’t afford to lose additional volunteers or organizers due to intimidation and unwarranted fear-inducing harassment. This is not what anyone signs up for when donating their time and often personal finances for the betterment of their community.
One club mentioned in the correspondence, has declined to participate in any manner since the move from Scott Park to the New Hamburg Fair Grounds in 2017.
The New Hamburg-based organizations that have assembled to seek oversight of a community-driven not-for-profit Canada Day event have contributed within their means annually and participated in the following ways:
Graciously lending the event the use of their tent for the stage area and serves food and beverages taking their profits to fund their community initiatives. We had been delightfully informed that in 2017 (and 2018?) that this service club achieved record sales.
Serves Alcohol for profit to fund the organization and its community initiatives.
Serves Ice cream for profit to fund their community initiatives.
Sells tickets for the Duck Race/Duck Draw to fund their community initiatives.
All sponsors and advertisers received receipts for their records and all local Service Clubs are free to share this information with each other. Additionally, profits made by each club or vendor can be shared with each other if mutually agreeable.
All contributions to the operation of the event, no matter the amount are appreciated and contribute to not only the event’s success but its survival. Please note that there are a variety of Wilmot-based companies, organizations and individuals from outside of New Hamburg who’ve contributed thousands of dollars. Many have expressed satisfaction with the event and their appreciation for the public enjoyment and media exposure for the community.
Since the pre-pandemic Canada Day attendance has been substantially higher beginning in 2017, we believe that this has had a positive effect on local businesses and vendors through direct sales and consumer awareness.
It’s possible to attribute this increase to out-of-township visitors, however it is equally possible that the diverse programs and quality of entertainment now appeals to a broader audience including young local families. Commerce, consumer awareness and tourism would seem to align well with any board of trade’s objectives.
Personal connections of some of our volunteer organizers have allowed us to provide some world class acts/athletes that this event would have otherwise never been able to afford.
I must ask the New Hamburg Board of Trade and the coalition it speaks for to look beyond the town it represents in appreciation of the regional support of those who’ve also contributed to the success of this event for all of Wilmot’s residents and those who’ve traveled to join us in Wilmot.
‘Pay it Forward’ is a theme many in the community have happily embraced and have been the recipient of. This type of goodwill is also at the core of service clubs across Canada. The $300 donation in support of the Indigenous community’s healing and education-based Crow Shield Lodge, was part of larger Celebrate Canada funding application. Like the previous year’s Celebrate Canada grants, proof of the expense must be provided before being reimbursed.
National Indigenous Peoples Day was on June 21st of this year however due to pandemic health restrictions and the Indigenous community in mourning the presentation of these symbolic gifts of reconciliation could only be safely and respectfully offered recently.
I’ve experienced an outpouring of love and support from many individuals and local service clubs when tragedy struck my family. This is the community I’m so proud of and have loved to give back to for decades.
Recognizing pain and mourning in our community and supporting those suffering from a great loss is something I’ve seen this community do with great compassion and care. Sadly, too many times it has been a child where this community truly steps up in any way possible to assist in the healing. As difficult and as heartbreaking as these moments are they’ve also provided me and many in the community with great hope.
Seeing this community “Pay it Forward” has been a constant source of joy and inspiration for me and my family. It makes me sad that our correspondence has avoided the topic of “Paying it Forward” to local Indigenous community members who’ve been left to struggle on their own for far too long.
The email from the New Hamburg Board of Trade stated that community togetherness has not been realized during the past several years of Canada Day. It is unfortunate that this is the perception of this coalition. However, the data including attendance numbers do not support this assertion. In 2018 Canada Day fell on a Sunday. To ensure community togetherness an interfaith prayer service was held that celebrated the common themes of community, family and diversity with the grace of unity.
If there is a genuine consensus from across Wilmot and the region that ‘community togetherness had not been realized’ then I honestly can’t think of a better way to demonstrate togetherness than sharing a symbolic gesture of kindness and hope for our Indigenous and Metis neighbors who’ve lost so much.
In closing, the question that is most frequently asked is where does Canada Day in Wilmot go from here? The answer is, we don’t have the answer - Yet.
As a community, and Canada as a nation, we still have much to learn and unlearn. That said, I believe we can recognize that all nations residing on Turtle Island, cherish children, elders, family, community, and tradition. We want to belong, feel safe and welcome. We love, we laugh, we honour in remembrance. We admire the same sunrises and sunsets, the colours of the leaves in autumn and the vibrant flowers in the spring.
Starting from a place of shared values, listening to learn from Indigenous mentors along with a commitment to do no harm, we can find an innovative new path forward through respect, creativity, and compassion.