- by Anne Finlay-Stewart, Editor

It is right to speak up if you think something is wrong. It is right for the authorities to look into it and for the media to ask questions.

But what happens after the investigations are over?  It is also our obligation to follow up.

When cooking oil appeared in the driveway of the new Popeye's Louisiana Kitchen on 16th Street, all the agencies responsible for protecting your health and safety began to investigate, with the full cooperation of the owner. 

A representative from the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MOECP) attended, as did the City's Director of Public Works and an Owen Sound By-law Officer. Although the oil is a food product and not toxic, there is a proper method of disposal, and that was investigated.

No cooking oil was found in the City's water system in the area. No City bylaw was broken. At Popeye's expense, the mall management contracted tonickasonletter have the catch basin on site pumped out. Here is the contractor's report.

grease tankThe Rothsay oil recyclers were unable to supply the pre-ordered grease tank before the opening due to shortages at the US border, so on one occasion the restaurant had to use the mall's grease bin at the back of the food court until Rothsay could supply a temporary barrel. As soon as it could be delivered, the restaurant installed the permanent indoor tank they use in all new stores, pumped out directly into a Rothsay truck.

Grey Bruce Health Unit inspectors have given their approval to the restaurant three times following unannounced inspections of its kitchen, food handling and storage. Their inspection results for this and other local establishments are available to the public here.

There has been no stray garbage since the steel-lidded garbage bins in the enclosure beyond the security camera's view were fitted with locks, keeping out humans as well as animals and birds.

These were not the only challenges that have faced the Owen Sound restaurant since it opened a month ago.

The owner hired a manager from Owen Sound to interview and hire dozens of local staff recruited through ads, local recruiters and Y Employment Services. Managerial staff came to our community from his three other Ontario stores to train the staff and work the busy opening week. Some local staff report that they received unusual calls telling them not to come in for their assigned shifts, or discouraging them from ever coming to the restaurant. Others learned that their employment documents had gone missing at the same time that the local manager left the position. That investigation is ongoing.

Most disturbing was the vandalism that occured at Popeyes at the same time as the Owen Sound Muslim Association was similarly attacked. Although security camera footage from Popeyes helped to arrest a suspect, the restaurant owner and staff stood alone.  The authorities, city officials, the mall management and owners, stayed silent. Only when the charges were published in the media was the public aware of any connection between the events. 

We cannot allow ourselves to be complacent.  A single individual charged will not guarantee that everyone, especially people of colour, will feel safe or welcome in our community.  As some said that violent words and acts "have no place here" and "will not be tolerated", and were scraping and deleting, others were sharing rumours and encouraging their friends in fears and boycotts.

We have paid people to entice newcomers to our area. Georgian College actively recruits international students to fill their programs and help meet their budgets. The Chamber of Commerce invites new businesses to become members. The City has worked with developers to open up commercial and residential spaces, and encouraged investors to bring their money, open businesses and create jobs here.

Who do we think is coming? What is our plan for supporting their businesses and making their families feel at home in our neighbourhoods? How will we help them though unexpected challenges?

We pride ourselves in being a welcoming, safe, inclusive community. How do we intend to prove that? – because the words are not enough.

As customers, business and civic leaders, neighbours, parents and colleagues, we have to show up and make these words real.

Face to face. Day by day.


Photo by Belinda Fewings on Unsplash