My Diamond & Coal Awards: March 2012


Waterloo Region Museum

Diamond Award Winner

Waterloo Region Museum

Ever since I first stepped inside the Waterloo Region Museum a year ago, I knew it was a diamond award winner. The central atrium alone could be a diamond award winner. I love how they have worked Huron Road and the Grand Trunk railway into the floor so that you can see them and where they cross. The train sized entrance with a train on the other side is just pure genius. The combination of stone and glass oddly enough give the space both a sense of grandeur and warmth.

But I decided to wait until the exhibit space opened last fall. It wasn’t until Christmas break that I was able to get there when I took my kids for some special activities like old fashioned board games.

If you haven’t seen the permanent exhibit, go. Now. Today.

This exhibit takes a look at the history of Waterloo Region from a number of perspectives with an emphasis on manufacturing. Everyone living in Waterloo Region should be required to see this exhibit–though perhaps not at the same time as you are alone with a 3 and 5 year old.

There are also temporary exhibits worth seeing.

If you’re looking for a place to take out of town guests, the Waterloo Region Museum is a good selection especially if they have an affinity for history. If they have kids, the best time to visit would be in the warmer weather when the open air Doon Heritage Village is also open. I saw it for the first time last summer and it has come a long way since my last visit when it was known as Doon Pioneer Village.

For residents, look for special events at Waterloo Region Museum such as the environmental fair when there are even more reasons to visit.

You can tell that a good sum has been invested in this long awaited museum. From what I can tell, every single penny was well spent. The Waterloo Region Museum will not only be a Diamond Award winner today, I’m sure it will qualify 100 years from now.

Coal Award Winner

Federal Government’s Approach to Crime

Most commonly, these awards have an urban planning focus. In doing so, they also take into account community building. This month the emphasis is on community building though there are planning implications.

In the photo above is the Grand Valley Institutions for Women also known as the federal prison for women in Ontario. Yet this award is not a reflection on the work of outgoing (former?) Warden David Dick and his team. I’m sure they are doing the best that they can with the challenge they’ve been given.

The prison now holds 3 times the number of women that it was originally designed to hold. There have been expansions so that it now can hold 162 prisoners but it often holds more–as many as 183. To hold more women, new facilities have been built and more are planned. These changes are at the expense of the philosophy behind the prison’s original design that placed an emphasis on rehabilitation as facilities and space devoted to this purpose are used to hold more women.

I had a tour of the facility a couple years ago. Even at that time double bunking was common where a single bed was intended and rooms not meant for sleeping were being used for that purpose. My impression of the facility was that they were making an effort but the demands placed upon it were becoming increasingly hard to meet. It was not the conventional prison seen on tv or in the movies but you definitely knew that you were in prison. For most folks on the outside, it’s not a place we’d ever want to be. Since then it sounds like even more women have been sent to Grand Valley as a result of the federal government passing mandatory minimum sentences.

What we’re doing is essentially putting these women in the penalty box without any attempt to help them avoid coming back. That alone qualifies the federal government’s approach to crime for a coal award.

The Waterloo Region Record has featured some excellent articles on this situation such as one on that looks at why Grand Valley is so full and one that is based on a recent tour of the facility.

But we’re only seeing the leading edge of a much more significant problem. The federal government recently passed its omnibus crime bill C-10. The result will be even more people going to prison. Can Grand Valley hold any more? It’s difficult for me to see how–at least not without entirely giving up on rehabilitation.

Yes, we can build more prisons but that definitely means investing in enforcement over prevention or rehabilitation. A more efficient use of our tax dollars is to address the root causes of crime so that expensive punishment is not required. A more efficient use of our tax dollars is to make sure if a women goes to prison, she has a chance to build a better life and learn from her mistakes. Putting women or men in the penalty box only wastes money by temporarily taking people out of a life of crime.

You would think a Conservative government that wants us to consider it fiscally responsible would make different decisions. That it doesn’t merits its approach to crime a coal award. Some day, I’d like to see this facility be able to emphasize rehabilitation as originally intended by its innovative, progressive design. When that occurs, it’ll get a diamond award.

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