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Local Council of Canadians members grateful for Parker's pioneer spirit

By Patricia Daly

Patricia Daly

Patricia Daly

Elma Parker, now 91, has been a longstanding advocate, activist and past-president of the Council of Canadians (COC) in Northumberland County for many years.

We regret to say that she is now in palliative care at Northumberland Hills Hospital.

Being the iron-lady that she is, she guided the chapter through many tricky straits and narrow passes over the years and was instrumental in establishing this chapter of the Council of Canadians back in 1989.

We have much to thank Elma for. She has left us a legacy of steely determination and dedication that has helped shape how we all think and see ourselves. She has been a role model in this millennial age of political and social activism for generations to come.

Her stalwart patriotism grew out of a passionate love of the land in Roseneath on a farm where she grew up during the great depression and later on a farm she and her husband managed for many years.

In her memoirs she recounts in great detail the hardships that she and her family endured during the great depression and the way things were done in those days. But still says, “there is no better way to grow up than on a farm.”

“Everything was done by hand. There was nothing mechanical, unless you consider horse-drawn grain binder, threshing machines, manure spreaders and seed drills “mechanical.”

“Milking was done by hand and the cream separator was hand-turned,” she says. “Grain was stooked and allowed to cure until the threshing mill arrived. That was a filthy job especially if they were threshing out of the barn and the straw blown in a stack for winter use and the grain went into the granary. Men would come to dinner and before they washed up only their eyes were visible. The house would be a hive of activity too, preparing meals on the wood stove for 10 to 12 extra hungry men,” she recalls. Manpower was exchanged among neighbours for threshing, wood sawing, silo filling, etc.

“I had to walk three and a quarter miles to school, no such thing as school buses”, she remembers. “In the winter during the short days, I left home in the dark and arrived back home after dark. Roads were never plowed and often the only tracks ahead of me belonged to a rabbit. I never thought of this as a hardship, but a challenge to be met.”

She recalls getting Scarlet Fever in 1935, and the big red card that was tacked on the pine tree by the front gate to warn everyone of the contagious disease that lurked on the premises. “While we were quarantined no one could leave the premises. No milk, cream,eggs or other produce could leave the premises. But Dad was allowed to go for groceries and apparently scarlet fever germs didn't attach themselves to money?”

The house, she says, was not insulated in walls or ceiling. The only source of heat to the big upstairs was a short line of stove pipes. They never had a radio until after they got hydro in 1938.

Elma grew up during a period when women were not considered to be very important but as things began to change and in November 1955 she was elected secretary-treasurer of Local 186 of the Ontario Farmer's Union and served four years in that position. And, later she served as lady director of the OFU for Northumberland County.

When her husband Arnold's health began to deteriorate in 1962 the family packed up their belongings and moved to Cobourg. Elma had quite a career in real estate after that and has many stories to tell about that period of her life.

As president of the Council of Canadians here for many years she has been a voice for hardworking family farmers. She has been a voice for fair-trade, and electoral reform, an advocate for the right to water, water security and protection.

Elma spoke out about the threats associated with climate change when it wasn't very sexy to do so. And, also worked toward sustainable living and food security, a green economy and better universal health care.

We at the COC will take on these responsibilities remembering we owe to Elma an immense amount of gratitude for her pioneer spirit.

Elma knows how important it is to stand up for decency and the harmony we all hope to achieve and how dire it is that everything simply must make sense in this country and in this world as we all move forward.

She never gave up the fight and never shall we.

Patricia Daly is a member of the local branch of Council of Canadians