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A conspicuous absence

By Charlotte Prong Parkhill, Kitchener Post staff

Every weekend across the region, politicians of every stripe attend community events. You’ll often see your mayor, city councillor, MPP or MP at Chinese New Year, Oktoberfest or Family Literacy Day.

They often turn up at fundraisers and they’ve been spotted at karate demonstrations and the opening of a Subway, yet they were conspicuoulsy absent from one important event this week.

Last week, politicians were falling all over themselves to show support for BlackBerry and the tech community.

At last summer’s Greek Festival, while I wilted in the roasting summer heat, I ran into Kitchener-Conestoga MP Harold Albrecht. He looked fresh as a daisy, even though it was his third or fourth event of the day. The weekend before, he told me, he’d hit almost 20 events.

It’s a great opportunity for both the politician and the public. The constituent may have a chance to informally chat with their elected representative, bending their ear on policy, complaining about something, or extending an invitation to yet another event.

The politician is seen as caring and connected to various communities, and often gets a free meal.

So it was disappointing not to see more of an official presence at the candlelight vigil for Kelsey Felker at Civic Square on Monday night. A city council meeting had just ended an hour before, inside City Hall, and yet there didn’t appear to be any councillors who stuck around for the vigil.

About 100 people did attend, standing outside in sub-zero temperatures to pay respects to this young woman, just 24 years old when she was murdered and dismembered.

As we learn more about Kelsey’s story, we’ve heard that she had substance abuse issues and was a sex trade worker. We’ve also heard that she was kind, generous and friendly, probably putting a brave face on a difficult life.

Many of those who attended had a connection to Kelsey. They were personal friends who had known her  for many years, and people who also live their life on, or close to, the streets. There were social services students from Conestoga College. There was the man and woman who found her body.

And there were others who had no connection to her at all, but wanted to pay tribute to a young woman who, because she lived here, because she was the same age as our daughters and sisters  and friends, is one of us.

That was Kelsey’s community. But it is a community that is shunned by too many people, viewed only as a burden and not as a part of our larger whole.

It’s too bad it took a death for attention to be paid, and even then, not enough.

One Response to “A conspicuous absence”

  1. Melissa Y says:

    There is absolutely no excuse for this. I saw news of the memorial at least twice in The Record and heard it at least 10 times on various local radio stations. Local politicians ignore the plight of homelessness, low income and working poor in our community all too often. Do their votes (or lack of voting because they have no address and therefore cannot vote) not matter to you? Do lives of Waterloo Region residents not matter to you? Or is it simply that you do not want to align yourself with drug addicts and sex workers? Are you scared of homeless people? Are you afraid that by attending a memorial you’re giving your approval of the activities some of the people there may have been involved in?

    This is exactly why charity projects such as my own FoodLove exist… because local government is pushing people aside… the very people who need their help more than anything. Did you know that one phone call from you today could save a working poor mom from having her heat turned off? Did you know that one 1/2 hour chat with with someone could completely change the course of their life?

    In most ways, I am beyond proud to call myself a resident of this great region but today, I am ashamed to say that my Kitchener has a local government that wouldn’t give a second glance to a woman who was constantly working to make her life better, who was an active volunteer and friend to many of the people whom you would deem “second-class”. Shame on you.

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