The second week of October was National Newspaper Week, but as readers may have noticed, The Leader did not report on this momentous occasion. That same week we reported on the Iroquois Water Tower, and the debate at the South Dundas Council table regarding retaining the Indigenous symbol once the tower renovations are complete. The following week there was the paper’s editorial on the tower, and some of your letters. Normally when there is a controversial issue in the South Dundas community, there will be a few letters and then conversation moves back to the coffee shops and dies off. Thankfully, this important conversation has not died off and how that conversation continues to evolve shows the need for local newspapers still.
The October 28th issue of The Leader contained six Letters to the Editor from Grade 12 students at Seaway District High School. The paper’s editorial about the water tower had been discussed in class by teacher Carrie Gilmour. Students were encouraged to discuss the issue of retiring the Indigenous symbol.
It is important to state here that these students have taken part in multiple classes, courses, and other learning opportunities presented by the Upper Canada District School Board’s Indigenous Education department. School curriculum at both elementary and secondary levels have evolved to include Indigenous authors, history, art, and experiences. There are board-wide commemorations of days like Orange Shirt Day, which recognizes the devastating impact of Canada’s residential school system. Yet even with a more knowledgeable background than older generations, student opinion on whether to keep or retire the symbol was split. But more voices of the community were heard. This does not resolve the issue of the water tower symbol, but reading the opinions of South Dundas youth is encouraging when it comes to civic engagement.
That point was even brought up by UCDSB chair, and former Iroquois reeve, John McAllister, who recognized the Seaway students’ letters and civic engagement in his remarks at the start of the October 28th trustee meeting.
Civic engagement is one of the pillars of a thriving democratic society. It makes what we do even more important. Reporting all sides of an issue, and being a platform for debate, your debate, is what we strive for. When we see an issue resonate in the community and on the pages of The Leader, it demonstrates why the work of a newspaper remains important.