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The CKMS Newsroom works to provide a deeper analysis of the issues that affect our communities, than that which the mainstream news sources provide. Read the most current stories at CKMS Community News. Contact the newsroom at news@radiowaterloo.ca

City of Kitchener tackles sign clutter on city roads

MP Holmes
Kitchener, ON

Kitchener City Council is addressing the issue of excessive road signs to combat clutter and visual pollution on city roads by changing its sign bylaws.

The changes are meant to discourage the use of roadways for marketing purposes. Only special event directional signs, such as signs advertising open houses and portable signs for new home developments, are allowed on city boulevards.

Key revisions to the sign bylaw include regulations on the timing and duration of sign placements, mandatory inclusion of dates on signs, the relaxation of distance requirements from buildings for certain signs, and the removal of the City’s 30-day sign hold provision.

City of Kitchener Councillor Paul Singh and the city’s Coordinator for Planning and Zoning Services, Joanne McCallum, emphasized that in addition to cleaning up the roadsides, the new regulations will help city staff police these nuisance signs.

Garlic Mustard poses a threat to the Grand River Watershed

MP Holmes
Kitchener, ON

People out for their daily walks in the Waterloo Region may have noticed a tall plant with the clusters of white flowers. It’s the garlic mustard plant — and it’s invasive, destructive, and spreading.

Garlic mustard may not be the most egregious of the invasive species, but it is the most widespread. The plant spreads quickly through seed dispersal  and dense stands of garlic mustard can produce more than 60,000 seeds per square meter and can double in size every four years.

National Invasive Species Awareness Week runs from May 12th to the 18th to encourage Canadians to take action to stop the spread of invasive species.

Ron Wu Winter of the Grand River Conservation Authority describes Garlic mustard’s spread, the challenges it poses for removal and control, and its ability to release chemicals that inhibit the growth of native plants.

Vision Zero 2024 update addresses road safety

Pedestrians and cyclists in Kitchener are at a disproportionately high risk of serious injury or fatality due to aggressive and inattentive driving, according to the latest City of Kitchener Vision Zero Annual Update Report.

This year’s report update was presented at the City of Kitchener’s Community and Infrastructure Services Committee meeting on Monday, May 13th. Adopted in 2021, the Vision Zero strategy aims to eliminate severe injuries and fatalities on Kitchener’s roads, with the 2024 report outlining over 40 action items for street safety improvements. The report highlights the problems of aggressive driving behaviours and the inadequacy of road designs to ensure the safety of vulnerable road users.

Delegates to Council discussed lowering speed limits, increasing the number of traffic cameras, and implementing infrastructure changes as potential solutions. Other delegates detailed the successes they have found in educating young students on road safety and encouraging alternative modes of transport.

Wordsworthy Literary Award marks 40 years of independent bookselling in Waterloo

MP Holmes
Waterloo, ON

To commemorate its 40th anniversary, the only independent bookstore in Waterloo, Wordsworth Books, has revived the Wordsworthy Literary Award. The award, presented for the first time in several years, recognizes outstanding literary contributions from Canadian authors and is intertwined with the bookstore’s history.

One of the owners of Wordsworth Books, Mandy Brouse, explains why the award has been revived and how it connects with the store’s history. Over the past 40 years, Wordsworth Books has weathered the challenges to its business, including recessions, the ION LRT construction, and the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to the loyalty of its customer base.

The winner of the 2024 Wordsworthy Literary Award will be announced at 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 11 at the store’s Uptown Waterloo location.

Pedestrian collisions adding up in Waterloo Region

MP Holmes
Kitchener, ON

recent hit-and-run incident in North Waterloo is the third such occurrence in Waterloo Region since the beginning of 2024. Thus far, in 2024 alone, the WRPS has publicly reported 22 pedestrian-related collisions locally. Various factors contribute to these incidents, including distracted drivers and distracted pedestrians.

The impacts of being hit by a car can be serious and the increased size of vehicles can contribute to more severe injuries. While attempts to increase driver accountability have so far failed at Queen’s Park, police have trained their focus on preventative measures and awareness to improve road safety.

The show features an interview with Waterloo Regional Police Services staff sergeant Scott Griffiths and insights from Janice Jim, the chair of the City of Waterloo Active Transportation Committee and vice president of CycleWR.

Kitchener City Council approves $250 Million Plan for Net Zero Emissions by 2050

MP Holmes
Kitchener, ON

At its April 29 Council meeting, Kitchener City Council approved a $250 million capital grant over 25 years ($10 million per year) to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

This decision, part of the city’s second corporate climate action plan named Pivot Net Zero, aims to significantly reduce emissions primarily from city facilities and the city vehicular fleet. In an earlier show this week, CKMS spoke to city staff about these changes.

These goals come amidst various challenges including technological uncertainties and financial constraints. Despite these hurdles, the plan has garnered unanimous support from the council, emphasizing the need to set a positive example for the community and act urgently in the face of the climate emergency declared by the city in June 2019.

The plan aligns with the city’s broader strategic goals of cultivating a green city.

Transit desert shrinks with restored late-nite bus service in Waterloo

MP Holmes
Kitchener, ON

Waterloo Region Council agreed to restore a late night bus three nights a week, which will help deal with the “transit desert” that has impacted late-night GO bus riders.

The last transit bus of the night leaves the University of Waterloo Station by 12:20 am but still four more GO buses arrive after that time each night without connecting GRT services.

The motion, which passed at the meeting on Wednesday, April 25th, will restore Route 91, the late night bus service between the University of Waterloo, Laurier and Uptown Waterloo.

Grand River Transit will reintroduce Route 91 in early September and the bus will run from 12. 30am until 2am Thursday to Saturday.

In this program, two delegates who were present at the meeting describe their relief and concerns about future late night transit.

After a mild winter, get ready for a hot summer in the city

MP Holmes
Kitchener, ON

 

The weather last winter in Waterloo Region was mild and unstable, just as predicted. This variable weather is expected to continue into a hot, dry summer with potential serious repercussions on our community.

These predictions follow an unusual year of weather, complicated by global weather disturbances, including El Niño. According to the University of Waterloo weather station, the winter snowfall amount as of the end of March was at less than half of the average of the typical season.

Milder winter temperatures are causing other concerns as well. With the U. S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that in 2023 24, the ice cover on the Great Lakes reached a record low of less than 3 percent ice cover basin wide.

Dr. Annabella Bonata, research associate and manager of the Intact Center for Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo explains the dynamics responsible for our changing weather patterns, emphasizing the potential consequences and highlighting the need for adaptation.

Recycling and giving back — celebrating Earth Day in Waterloo Park

MP Holmes
Kitchener, ON

Amid bursts of hail, rain and snow, Earth Day celebrations in Waterloo Park included collecting e-waste to raise funds for the Tune Up the Playground project. The Earth Day event, organized by Friends of Waterloo Park, also featured sunflower seed planting, a park clean up and community organizations, such as the KW Library of Things, that promote the sharing and repairing of consumer goods.

While the amount raised was still to be determined, the goal of the Tune Up the Playground project is to install interactive musical instruments in Waterloo Park to promote creativity and community engagement.

Blooming roadsides restore habitats for pollinators

MP Holmes
Kitchener, ON

A few years ago, it was common for car windshields to be spattered with bugs after a drive in the country. According to Jennifer Leat of the Pollinator Roadsides Project, that’s not happening so much anymore. There are fewer bugs, and fewer bugs equals fewer pollinators.

A community driven project to help pollinators will be happening on Saturday April 13 to restore habitat corridors for pollinators by planting pollinator-friendly native plants along roadsides.

Backed by a grant from the Region of Waterloo’s Community Environment Fund with support from volunteers and sponsors, the Pollinator Roadside Project seeks to increase biodiversity, support pollinator conservation, reduce maintenance costs, and control water runoff. The project also hopes to set a provincial and national precedent for prioritizing sustainability in roadside plantings.

Jennifer Leat, Lead of the Pollinator Roadsides project talks to CKMS about the project and the importance of pollinators.

The rise of ticks and lyme disease in Waterloo Region

MP Holmes
Kitchener, ON

 

In 2023, the Ontario government designated Lyme disease a disease of public health significance.

Lyme disease, a combination of skin rashes, fevers, headaches, and fatigue, is contracted from black legged ticks, and if left untreated, can escalate to affect joints, the heart, and nervous system.

Statistics from Public Health Ontario showcase an increase of 300 new Lyme disease cases across the province, From 1, 490 in 2022 to 1, 795 in 2023.  In Waterloo Region, the 2003 data has not been released yet, but by looking at earlier years, a clear upward trend is evident, from 13 cases in 2021 to 22 cases in 2022.

ETick.ca is an online platform where people voluntarily report tick sightings in the environment or when found on humans or animals. Comparing the first three months of 2023 to 2024 shows there has been a threefold increase in blacklegged tick reports for KW on eTick.ca.

The Region of Waterloo’s Public Health Manager for Vector-borne Diseases is Rebecca Piovesan, and she talked to CKMS News about lyme disease  and back-legged ticks.

In addition to resources above:

Canadian Veterinary Medical Association,

 The Ontario government page on Lyme disease and tick removal.

 

 

Stories of Hope: Community-Led Food Assistance Programs in Waterloo Region

MP Holmes
Kitchener, ON

In the last three months of 2023, food assistance programs in the region marked almost a 50 percent increase in usage compared to the same period in 2022. In those last three months of 2023 alone, almost 15, 000 unique households accessed a food assistance program, a 43 percent increase over that period in 2022.

These numbers are from the Food Bank of Waterloo Region  and they highlight the surge in demand for food and the growing issue of food insecurity within our community.

However, amidst these challenges, there are stories of hope and compassion emerging through community-led initiatives that are making a difference in the lives of those in need.

These initiatives include the Tiny Home Takeout and Food Not Bombs, which are both operating on shoestring budgets with a crew of volunteers and demonstrate the power of grassroots movements in addressing basic human needs.

CKMS has more on this story

Funding cuts, negligence and broken promises have pushed a successful community program to the brink of survival

MP Holmes
Kitchener, ON

 

The Male Allies program in Kitchener Ontario played an important role in understanding the sexual assault charges levied at Hockey Canada, but now the program is struggling amidst funding cuts and unmet promises.

Run in conjunction with the Sexual Assault Support Centre Waterloo Region, the Male allies group and its sports-focused program remains an important component  in preventing gender-based violence. The program is supported by community foundations, including Rangers Reach, the community foundation of the Kitchener Rangers hockey team, but without stable operational funding, the positive impact of the training sessions on young athletes is in jeopardy.

CKMS talks to Jacob Pries, the  project facilitator of the Male Allies program, and Craig Campbell, the executive director of Rangers Reach.

 

House of Commons debate Gaza, while Kitchener families stuck in visa limbo

As the House of Commons prepares to debate the Israel-Palestine hostilities this week, several families within Kitchener say they are left powerless while their loved ones are trapped in Gaza.

Shatha Mahmoud, an organizer of the Palestinian Youth Movement in Kitchener, says that families are facing pain and terror amid the convoluted and detail-laden application process for emergency visas.

MP for Kitchener Centre, Mike Morrice, details discrepancies in the refugee visa process, the government’s response, and the March 18 parliamentary debate on the emergency visa system.

“No St. Patrick’s Day during Genocide” places focus on Palestine

A group of local Irish community members is asking the public to support and advocate for Palestinians this St Patrick’s Day. The group hopes to draw attention to the current deteriorating situation in Palestine.

Justine Rogers Basan, an organizer of the event, explains how the day will highlight the genocide in Gaza and the historical solidarity between the Irish and Palestinian people and draw parallels between the oppression experienced by both communities. The organizers of the event have called for a ceasefire, a Canadian arms embargo, and an end to the occupation in Palestine.

“No St. Patrick’s Day during Genocide” will take place at Waterloo Town Square on March 17 at 11 am.

Irish Real Live Festival focuses on alternative ways to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day is coming up — and with it, a whole bunch of stereotypes about Irish culture. The organizers of the Irish Real Life Festival in Kitchener wants to move beyond the usual narrative towards a deeper understanding of Irish culture in the broader world.

The eight-day festival is in its 9th year and celebrates all elements of Irish culture and not just those which, in 2019, led to a party that at its peak saw 33,000 students converge on Ezra St in Waterloo.

The Festival kicked off last weekend in Kitchener amidst local and international tensions. Organizers of the Irish Life Festival spoke with CKMS News about how they are working to expand people’s understanding of the Irish story by, if not detaching it from the association with heavy drinking, at least showcasing another side of Irish culture.

Within this year’s program, various events draw on Irish storytelling, spirituality and history to demonstrate similarities between different cultures and how, even in the face of war, peace is possible.

Waterloo Region Paramedic Services exceed response time targets, but off-load delays remain a challenge

MP Holmes
Kitchener, ON

High patient volumes and staffing shortages within local hospital emergency rooms are impacting the ability of local paramedics in the Waterloo Region to respond to critical calls.

The preliminary Paramedic Services Annual Report was presented to the Community and Health Services Committee at Regional Council (item 8.2 on the regular agenda) this week reporting response statistics, off-load delay mitigation, and changes to the categorization of system alerts and patient acuity.

Although call volumes requesting paramedic help increased only by 1% in 2023, in 2022 call volumes increased by 11% over the previous year, and the paramedic service is still adjusting to these high call volumes.

While the local paramedic service exceeded all of their provincial and regional response time targets, the challenges posed by off-load delays, which happen when paramedics are held up in hospital emergency departments waiting for patients to be transferred to the care of a hospital, are a significant factor in response time.

Kitchener demonstrators demand immediate arms embargo on Israel

MP Holmes
Kitchener, ON

Early Wednesday (Feb. 28), about 50 demonstrators in Kitchener blocked the entrance to local arms manufacturer Colt Canada on Wilson Avenue, demanding that the Canadian government impose an immediate and total arms embargo on Israel.

The demonstration is part of a broader protest across the country which is demanding a Canadian arms embargo on Israel and highlighting military exports from Canada to Israel. It was organized by Labour 4 PalestineLabour Against the Arms Trade, and World BEYOND War, in response to the call by a coalition of more than 30 Palestinian unions and worker organizations to end all complicity and stop the flow of weapons to Israel.

CKMS has more on the story.

Protestors demand change after fatal police shooting, some Black community members question demonstration

MP Holmes
Kitchener, ON

About 60 people gathered in front of the Waterloo Region Police Services (WRPS) building in Kitchener on Friday to protest the fatal shooting by police of Nicholas Nembhard, a 31-year-old Black man.

Nembhard was killed in the evening of Feb. 19, the third such fatal shooting in the region since 2007. Police confirmed Feb. 20 that the Special Investigations Unit was investigating the shooting.

The next day, on Feb. 21, the African, Caribbean, and Black Network (ACBN) put out a statement condemning the WRPS’ killing of Nembhard, a “Black man in distress due to a mental health crisis.”

Organizers of the Friday demonstration explained why they felt the gathering was necessary and explained their demands of police, including changes to responses to mental health calls.

But some people felt organizers had not done enough to include the Black community and had used the killing of a Black man to push their own agenda.

CKMS has more on the story.

New report sounds alarm that Ontario taxpayers’ money is being diverted from public hospitals to private health care

MP Holmes Kitchener, ON

Public hospitals in Ontario have been starved of billions of dollars under the Ford government while private health clinics have received a windfall of taxpayers’ funds, according to a new report by the Ontario Health Coalition.

“Robbing the Public to Build Private: the Ford Government’s Hospital Privatization Scheme” was released by the Waterloo Region Health Coalition, in part with the larger Ontario Health Coalition, at the Waterloo Public Library on Feb. 21.

According to the OHC report, over the last few years, private clinics in Ontario received a 212 per cent increase in funding in one year, rising from approximately $38 million in 2022-23 to over $120 million in 2023-24. At the same time, public hospitals received an increase of 0.5 per cent to their operating budgets. In Kitchener alone, this underfunding has manifested in 140 vacant RN positions due to lack of funding.

CKMS has more on the story.

Housing or Heritage? Kitchener struggles with tough questions

February 2, 2024

Much of the six-hour Kitchener City council meeting on January 29, focused on delegates’ opposition to the City’s proposed Growing Together Plan.  

One of the objectives of the plan is to increase affordable housing stock close to the ION stations and major transit areas.

Most of the delegates to Council were in various ways associated with property development and opposed the recommendations in the report.

There were others, not related in a financial capacity to issues of rezoning, who also disagreed with the recommendations.

Some of the objections raised were about the challenges of preserving the integrity of heritage neighbourhoods during a housing crisis in which the city wants intensification.

Gail Pool of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario North Waterloo Region branch was one of the people who presented opposition to the Report’s recommendations for the Victoria Park Heritage District.

Sandbag structures may provide a safe and warm refuge for encampment residents this weather

Tent fires have become a common occurrence in the winter at the Victoria Street encampment in Kitchener and a local housing advocacy group is helping find solutions.

FightBack KW, thinks it might have found an answer. The organization is building temporary sandbag structures that two people can live in and up to six can congregate in.

Fire is a problem because the tents used at the encampment were not designed for winter use. In order to survive the winter outside, people must insulate or warm their tents, which carries huge risks and can be a difficult balance to achieve.

FightBack KW is looking for community partnerships with relevant businesses to fund and help build the structures. The next build day that individuals are welcome to participate in is February 3, this Saturday from 11-dark.

Wren Wombwell of FightBack KW talked to CKMS News about the situation and the sandbag structures.

City of Kitchener votes to repurpose instead of recycle old computers

Kitchener City Council voted unanimously on Monday to divert city-owned end-of-life computer equipment from the e-waste stream.

Instead, the City will donate this equipment to the Working Centre’s Computer Recycling program, which already accepts technology donations and provides low-cost computer equipment to the community.

The city examined the possibility of running this program in-house, but collaborating with the Working Centre provides benefit to the community and makes sense logistically and financially.

The Computer Recycling Program at the Working Centre, at 58 Queen St. in downtown Kitchener, is open two days a week to provide the community with access to affordable technology.

Chief Medical Officer warns of potentially deadly disease on the rise in Waterloo Region

MP Holmes

Invasive Group A Streptococcus (IGAS) – which can cause afflictions from a sore throat to flesh-eating disease – is on the rise in Waterloo.

Chief Medical officer of Health Dr Hsiu-Li Wong presented the respiratory disease update at the Region of Waterloo council meeting on Wednesday evening.

While the overall number of people infected is still low as of early January, the Public Health Agency of Ontario noted that 540 infections were reported in Ontario alone from October 2023 to the end of December. Within this data were 6 children under the age of 9 who succumbed to the disease.

Dr .Wong described symptoms of a severe IGAS infection, which include fever, sore throat, neck pain and rash that continue to worsen.

Epidemiologists do not yet understand why the disease has spiked and recommend taking precautions including proper hand hygiene and staying home when sick.

Region opts for wait and see approach for Erb’s Road outdoor shelter closure

The debate over the future of the outdoor shelter at 1001 Erb’s Road was reignited at the Region of Waterloo Community and Health Services Committee on January 16.

The Region must either find a solution to the wastewater management problem at the site or move the shelter altogether before April 2025. While some councillors wanted staff to begin to work on a wind down plan, others thought it could wait.

The site, at 1001 Erb’s Rd, sits beside the landfill just west of the Wilmot line, making it primarily a concern for Wilmot Township.

Councillor and Wilmot mayor Natasha Salonen’s motion was a response to the admission at the November 7 Community and Health Services Committee meeting in which regional staff told council there was no plan in place for the shelter to draw to a close. Regardless, Councillor Salonen’s motion was defeated.