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Knitting

I have been knitting for over 6 years now, and it is definitely one of my favourite pastimes. As I’ve learned more about it, and slowly learned new projects and new methods, my appreciation of it has only deepened. I’ve learned that there are so many benefits to knitting, beyond being able to produce clothes on my own. They include:

Community

Knitting (and other hobbies) are a wonderful way to meet others and connect over a common activity, share ideas/patterns and participate in mentoring/learning relationships. There are even digital knitting communities, like the hugely popular knitting social networking site, Ravelry.

Relaxation

In her always sold out talks, knitting blogger The Yarn Harlot (aka Stephanie Pearl-McPhee) has explored the neuroscience of knitting, and its short and long-term impact on the human brain. Long time knitters have the same overdeveloped areas of the brain as people who meditate constantly, like Buddhist monks. Its meditative qualities both allow it to be an activity that is entertaining when done alone, or done unconsciously while the brain engages in other activity. Knitting has been shown to possibly reduce the pain of diseases like Crohn’s and fibromyalgia. Knitting has been shown to potentially reduce trauma and post-traumatic stress when “used” in emergency situations. If we all carried emergency knitting, we could reduce the impact of bad days, bad news, and stressful or frightening situations. Some students with ADHD use knitting as part of their learning plan, allowing part of their brain to focus on the repetitive motion of knitting, and increasing focus and engagement on their lesson or reading. None of these effects happen overnight though, a small amount of practice on the basic stitches is necessary first.

Appreciation of history

Knitting has helped me develop a greater appreciation for history and tradition, connecting with an occupation that people having been doing for over 1000 years. And as a male knitter, I’m often teased for doing something so “delicate” and “feminine”. Beyond disagreeing to such constrictive gender identifications, I’m fascinated to learn more about how much male tradition there is in knitting (it was originally a male-only occupation). This includes events like the world wars, where often men were sent knitting needles and wool instead of completed clothing, because they were to produce their own in times of rest. Beyond utility, this may have been a welcome distraction, as the repetition and focus knitting demands could have helped soldiers find some peace.

Charity

This is one of my favourite aspects of knitting, and connects so well with others. There are many community groups and organizations that knit together for common goals, both close to home and international. Currently I knit for a London group called Keeping Kids Warm, which collect hand-knitted and bought clothing for children in disadvantaged neighbourhoods in the city. To me, this is a wonderful way to give back to our city, meet other knitters and connect over a common hobby and passion. It is also a terrific way for many to continue to connect with their city, as many of the contributors are elderly and/or shut in, so though they cannot come out to events they can continue to participate.

These are only a few of the many benefits of knitting. There are many knitting groups across the city, and in most communities. I encourage everyone to give it a try, and am always glad to help others learn if they’re interested in starting!

One week ago, as the allegations and RCMP investigation against Mayor Joe Fontana unfolded, I started a change.org petition asking the mayor to temporarily step down.

This is what the petition says:

Mayor Joe Fontana, please temporarily step down as Mayor of London until the allegations against you have been resolved. I do not believe that you can effectively lead London under these current circumstances.

We ask you to consider the same standards our community holds for other similar positions that rely on public trust such as police officers, teachers, doctors and lawyers. Stepping down, much like paid suspension, is not a declaration of guilt, but ensures the highest level of confidence in public office.

I didn’t know what to expect, but had no idea the reaction would be so immediate, and strong.

The night I started the petition, I was contacted by am980 to discuss why I started it, and what I hoped to accomplish. The next few days, I was approached by the Londoner, London Community News, Fanshawe’s radio station 106.9 the X, The Western Gazette, CJBK and CBC’s Ontario Morning. The London Free Press, Metro News London, Yahoo! News Politics and National News Watch also ran stories.

And the petition itself grew steadily. By Friday the petition had over 750 signatures, currently sitting at 797.

I am grateful for how much discussion there has been about this important issue. On Friday I decided the next step was to encourage everyone that feels strongly about this issue to contact the mayor and council to voice their opinion, and to send a letter of my own. If you’d like to contact the mayor and council, you’re completely welcome to use this as a template.

This is the letter I submitted to Council:

To the mayor and city council,

I feel that the serious allegations against the mayor and the ongoing RCMP investigation into his conduct have cast a cloud over City Council and the City of London. I support the online petition asking the mayor to temporarily step down in his duties as mayor until the issue is resolved. This petition has been supported by 759 people to date, and the numbers are increasing.

Any person holding a position of public power or influence who has been publicly accused of the misuse of such a position for any means has effectively compromised their own personal image, the integrity of their leadership capabilities, and the way visitors and residents alike view London as a place to live, work, and play.

I want to thank those members of Council that voted for allowing Councillor Branscombe’s motion to be heard before Council Tuesday night.

I am deeply concerned that so many council members voted against even hearing the motion. It is, of course, each council member’s prerogative to decide how they will vote on any given motion, but it is irresponsible to shut down debate before it has even begun, especially when it is a concern that affects all Londoners. Further, the fact that Mayor Fontana voted for this motion, even though it directly concerns him, represents a clear conflict of interest and further tarnishes citizens’ trust in the integrity of council.

Councillor Branscombe’s motion would have been an excellent opportunity for the entire Council to debate the issue with so many Londoners viewing. I hope that those that voted against the motion will reconsider, and allow a debate if the motion comes before Council again.

I ask Mayor Fontana to do the right thing and step down during the investigation process, and work to restore public faith.

Over the weekend, I received respectful and considerate replies from Councillors D. Brown, Swan and Bryant.

Councillor Stephen Orser also sent this reply, within 5 minutes of my e-mail:

I had no idea how to respond.

We deserve respect and consideration from our elected officials. When a member of our council gives a flippant and abusive response to our concerns, it only degrades faith in our local government still further. How much worse, when the abuse is from someone defending the integrity of the mayor under a cloud of investigation.

Coming back to it in the evening, I sent an e-mail to Councillor Orser with City Clerk Cathy Saunders cc’d asking for an apology and explanation. I also e-mailed Cathy to ask what I could do about it.

I have yet to receive a response from Councillor Orser.

Cathy Saunders was extremely helpful in her answers, though she apologized for not being able to do more. She told me that under section D of the current Code of Conduct, the only avenue for complaint is to the Human Rights Commission, and that’s only if there are concerns of a human rights violation.

I then asked her if Council had appointed an integrity commissioner, if that person could investigate complaints like this. She replied “If Council were to adopt a new or revised Code of Conduct, it may include a provision for an integrity commissioner to investigate, but Council will need to consider this as they review their Code of Conduct in the near future.

We may just have the worst council ever.

What do we do now?

What do we do when our council can’t police themselves, but a majority won’t appoint someone who can police them?

Wait and see what happens, or demand answers and respect from all members of Council?