Reeee-session…

We live in a resource based community. The two major industries are pulp and gold. Mining, because it is an extractive industry has a finite life. When the gold runs out, the industry is gone. Our  community has been anticipating the decline of the gold mines for some years now. Little did we realize that our forest industry was in greater jeopardy.

The truth is that the forest industry has been under seige for some time now and we have been slow to recognize the signs. As with most industry today the world price of a product aids in the determination of life expectancy; in this case the price offered per ton/tonne of pulp has gone down; the price of gas and diesel to deliver raw materials has gone up; the distance from the harvest has become greater; past practice of not replenishing the natural resource–replanting regularly, deliberately; all culminate in the closure of many mills in Canada and more specifically here in north western Ontario.

I find myself looking at the displaced workers from our mill. Many are people I taught in either elementary school or secondary school at some point in their lives. Memories of conversations with some of them frequently pop into my head as I observe the changes in the rhythms of the community and its inhabitants. “Hey, Sir!” said one of them in a Gr. 12 Law class 25 years ago. “I’m going to graduate at the end of this semester; go to work in the Mill and buy a new TransAm!” And he did; he did; he did. I know because the following year that same student brought his new TransAm to the school to show me. So much for attempting to convince them to stay in school and get their Gr. 13 and go on to College of University. And I thought then, “How do I argue against this?” If only I knew then what I am seeing now!

That student was one of many whose attitude was that the “Company” would always be there; the money is great–I will always have enough; I don’t need more education, my life is set.

For the past year, many of those who saw the mill as a way of life; as a way through life, are finding that they cannot get jobs elsewhere because they have insufficient education to fill the expectations of current employers. Those same people are struggling to go back to school to get high school equivalency or to get sufficiently upgraded so that they can go on to higher education in order to be retrained. All are struggling to do this now on Employment Insurance along with paying the mortgage, put food on the table, heat the house for a six or seven month winter, and on and on… The Insurance should run out shortly.

It says something to me about the need for all of us to become life-long learners. Deliberately! Take a course of some kind every year of your life. Become used to the skill of learning. Make learning a habit! Wake up each day determined to learn one thing new today that will help one grow in one’s life. Plan for the future…for the unexpected. Know that nothing in our lives is carved in stone.                      –GRB

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