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Eric Bunnell’s People: A show of peace in Pinafore Park

Posted: August 12, 2023

(August 10, 2023)

By: Eric Bunnell

A woman nudges lanterns at the shore of Lake Pinafore
A gentle nudge floats lanterns Sunday onto Lake Pinafore at a commemoration of the anniversary of the Second World War devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by atomic bombs. Eric Bunnell PHOTO BY ERIC BUNNELL /jpg, SF, apsmc

“As we float these lanterns on the water, it is my wish that the world will live in peace.”

And with that sendoff spoken by Dr. Sharon Koivu, about 20 spectators watched Sunday evening at Pinafore Park as two-dozen brightly decorated, candlelighted paper lanterns were set on Lake Pinafore to commemorate the anniversary of the Second World War devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by atomic bombs.

It was the post-pandemic return of an annual observation started 39 years ago by Sparta Quakers.

Despite a gentle prodding, the lanterns hugged the shore as violinist Ian Johnson played John Williams’ theme from Schindler’s List.

But before the lanterns were collected, their peaceful sight underscored the terrible threat of nuclear war facing the world today.

Recalling the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 78 years ago, Sharon said: “While these events may seem distant, we must not forget the past or we are destined to repeat it.”

Indeed, at a time Russia has threatened the use of nuclear weapons in its war on Ukraine, Sharon told her listeners, “calls for peace remain relevant today.”

“In August of last year, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that the world is now in ‘a time of nuclear danger not seen since the height of the Cold War.’”

And in January, the hands of the Doomsday Clock were moved forward.

Sharon is a longtime peace activist. In medical school in the ’80s at now Western University, she was a founder of the London chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility – today, the International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War.

And chatting later, she discussed whether disarmament truly can happen.

“I think it is possible,” she said. “That’s a question I’ve pondered now for almost 40 years.”

As long as there are nuclear weapons, there is the threat of nuclear war, Sharon says.

“I like to believe humans can work together for peace, as much as we can work together for our destruction.”

Health-care protest

In May, more than 400,000 Ontarians voted in a referendum led by the Ontario Health Coalition, including residents of St. Thomas and Elgin.

And overwhelmingly, by 98 per cent, they said they oppose the privatization of public health. Among other things, the provincial government’s Bill 60 permits establishment of for-profit private clinics to provide OHIP-funded services. The government says the move will increase access to health care. Critics say it will gut public health.

Now, the coalition is calling for a mass protest on Sept. 25 at Queen’s Park.

And, locally, Julie Berry, who organized referendum polling last spring in Sparta and Port Stanley, has booked a bus from St. Thomas for the noon-hour gathering in Toronto.Although she’s better known as an activist working for peace and social justice, Julie says, “if health care isn’t social justice, I don’t know what it.”

There is room on the highway coach for 56 people and it’s slated to leave at 9 a.m. from the parking lot of the Doug Tarry ballplex before returning in late afternoon.

The ride is free – “We would love donations” – and to claim a seat, call Julie at 226-973-6622.

Elgin County Pride

Rainbow flags are flying in St. Thomas and Elgin, where both municipalities have declared this week as Elgin Pride Week.

Elgin County Pride flag-raising
Smiling for the camera at an Elgin county Pride Week flag-raising Tuesday are Warden Ed Ketchabaw, right, Elgin Pride Week co-chair Devon Church, centre, and ElginÐMiddlesexÐLondon Tory MP Karen Vecchio.Eric Bunnell jpg, SF, apsmc

There’s a host of activities planned by the organizing Elgin County Pride committee, an offshoot of the Rainbow Optimist Club Southwestern Ontario, including a weekend of events at Pinafore Park, starting with a movie night Friday. Details are posted to

Proclaiming the week at a flag-raising Tuesday, Elgin Warden Ed Ketchabaw told onlookers, “The intent of the Pride flag being raised … is to show support for the Rainbow Community and show the commitment of the community to provide a safe and welcoming place that improves the overall quality of life for all members.

“We look forward to the County of Elgin and its community members as being and fulfilling their title as ambassadors and leaders as we strive for equality in Ontario, Canada and, even more broadly, the world.”

Joining the flag-raising was Elgin–Middlesex–London Tory MP Karen Vecchio, who spoke of unity, especially in 2023.

“It’s important that we stick together. We are friends. We are neighbours. And we are all here together.”

Devon Church, co-chair of Elgin Pride with Marty Withenshaw, said following the flag-raising that seeing the rainbow flag flying on the county’s ceremonial flag pole in front of Elgin Heritage Centre is meaningful.

“If we are driving by, we feel like someone is actually going to help us if we need it.”

Devon, a leader of Queer Club, a youth group that meets from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays at the YWCA St. Thomas-Elgin, announced Tuesday the formation of a social group for adults, which will meet the third Thursday of the month at the Canada Southern railway station.

Earlier, St. Thomas Mayor Joe Preston proclaimed the week in the city at a flag-raising Friday at city hall before the long holiday weekend.

New food bank numbers

Well, no sooner was the ink dry on last week’s entry about the increased demand on services of the St. Thomas-Elgin Food Bank, that new numbers were provided.

As of Aug. 4, the food bank had provided groceries so far this year to 10,883 people.

That number compares to 13,462 for all of 2022, 10,081 for the 12 months of 2021, and 8,230 in 2020.

“I got seven skids of soup today,” Karen McDade, the agency’s PR and administration manager, said Tuesday.

And even at a special price, “there goes $12,000 in the blink of an eye!”

Karen asked for another mention of the agency’s new Top-Up Program for families with school-age children four- to 18 years. Happy to oblige!

With school out for summer, and school food programs on vacation, the Top-Up is a weekly boost of lunch things like Kraft Dinner, soup, noodle bowls, granola bars and puddings, and juice boxes.


All the above in advance of a major summertime food drive Aug. 17 at grocery stores around town.

Guest curator

A note from Elgin County Heritage Centre.

“We are winding up the museum’s most successful show since we had the History of the Toilet here in 2008,” curator Mike Baker says with a smile.

Cycling: An Unspoken History is to close Sept. 2 after being extended through the summer. Guest curator Rick Wolfe – whose collection includes the 16 rare bicycles and ephemera on exhibit, among them an example of one of the earliest motorcycles built, a 1901 Lamson – is to give his final public tour of the show at 2 p.m. on Aug. 24.

“Rick brings an interesting personal story to each bike, having ridden and restored most of the bicycles in the exhibit.”

(And who knows? He may even share the embarrassment of crashing head over heels on a high wheeler – not an uncommon event with the type – and being thrown smack dab onto the thorns of a brier patch.)

Colours in the Park

And just to remember that Colours in the Park – a celebration of 40 different cultures – is calendared for the afternoon of Aug. 26 at Pinafore Park.

It’s the followup to Colours on the Beach on July 15 in Port Stanley, and is a funder in support of the campaign to raise $8 million for an MRI machine at St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital.

The afternoon is organized by Indian Culture of London Ontario, with the South Asian Association of London and Surrounding.

In addition to food and music, there is the fun of participants throwing handfuls of coloured powders on each other – an event inspired by the Indian springtime festival of Holi. The colours are available for purchase through EventBrite.

See you soon

And that’s that for now.

This corner will return.

Stay well.

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