CORNWALL, Ontario – In a year dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Cornwall Mayor Bernadette Clement sat down with Seaway News to talk about the notable events of 2020, and a few things she expects for 2021.
“The highlights for me have been how resilient we have been as a community,” said Clement, referring to the response of different parts of the community to the pandemic.
Clement pointed out that Cornwall had experience with the pandemic before much of the rest of the province.
In February, Cornwall hosted Canadian passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, who were being quarantined at the Nav Centre after possibly being exposed to COVID-19.
Clement said that the City successfully welcomed those passengers, and quickly learned a lot about the virus and how it is spread as medical experts from Public Health Canada came to Cornwall to speak with local officials and the media.
She explained that while the year has been difficult, she has hope as she has seen residents rise to the challenge.
“Every time I look around, someone is donating something, someone is doing something in business, or someone is creating some art,” she said.
The region has responded to the pandemic together, with the City of Cornwall, the United Counties of SD&G, the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, and the United Counties of Prescott-Russell declaring a state of emergency together on March 13.
Over the summer, Cornwall dealt with issues around race and policing in response to demonstrations that swept North America after the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed in police custody in the United States.
Cornwall had its own demonstration on June 6, which was organized by two young women of colour, and saw both the Mayor and the Chief of Police Danny Aikman participate.
Clement said that after months of reminding people to keep their social distance and stay home, that she was pleased to see that the organizers of the Cornwall march had taken steps to keep attendees safe, including insisting on wearing masks, and enforcing social distancing.
“I wanted to make sure that the message was about staying safe, but also recognizing that these young women had something to say,”
Clement pointed out that the march lead to the creation of a new group, the Coalition for Unity, Respect, Equality/Equity for All (CUREA), which is dedicated to addressing issues of systemic racism in Cornwall and the United Counties of SD&G.
For the year 2021, issues that Clement sees Cornwall City Council and administration addressing include a focus on housing, developing the waterfront, and continuing to move the port lands file forward in partnership with the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne.
Clement said that Cornwall will need 100 more housing units to meet the city’s growing needs and that she wants to see a housing task force implemented to tackle this issue.
For the Port Lands project, Clement pointed out that the Cornwall and Counties Community Futures Development Corporation (CFDC) had been handed management of the project, but that she wanted Cornwall City Council to take steps in preparation of developing the site in partnership with the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne.
“We want to make sure we are starting off on the right management foot,” said Clement, explaining that she wanted Council to undergo cultural training before working with Akwesasne on the project. “We want to make sure that we are understanding of the culture and the history there. I think it is essential for us to be good economic partners.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has meant a necessary shift in strategic priorities, but Clement said that she wanted to see some priorities, like the development of Cornwall’s waterfront gain a new focus in 2021, with just about a year left in this Council’s term.
Council recently created a new position, Strategic Planning Coordinator, which was filled with the hiring of Katherine Wells. Wells will be responsible for coordinating and helping to execute Council’s strategic priorities.