From the beginning of The Lake Report, three years ago next week, one of our goals was to begin to bridge the gap between longtime Niagara-on-the-Lake residents and newcomers.
In our front-page editorial in Issue 1, in May of 2018, we wrote that “The Lake Report intends to quench the thirst for a print newspaper in NOTL. Part of that includes featuring stories about locals, both new and old.”
So it's disappointing to hear from a town survey that people are still feeling discriminated against because they aren't born and bred in town.
Imagine buying a home in Niagara-on-the-Lake because you genuinely want to live in what various surveys have declared one of Canada's “friendliest” towns, only to find your neighbours hold a grudge because you're new, or from Toronto, or Oakville or whatever.
While there is evidence that many complaints to the town are from phones with 416 area codes, it shouldn't paint all Toronto people as griping quidnuncs. Anyone from anywhere can be a jerk of a neighbour. Plus that doesn't mean their complaints are not valid. (And many people who have “come from away” years ago have retained 416 mobile numbers.)
It's not to say you can't or shouldn't be proud to be a longtime, generational NOTL resident — you absolutely should celebrate your heritage and tell stories of how the town was. We publish historical retrospectives every week.
And you can even disagree with the way the town has become a tourism and retirement destination. But what would NOTL be without them?
Newcomers have often heard that they'll never be considered locals unless they were born here or can trace their NOTL bona fides back generations. That quaint joke isn't so funny when you read some of the nasty online comments whenever a newcomer dares question the status quo. Start with bird cannons: The “not-so-friendly” side of NOTL quickly rears its head.
A former NOTL councillor once told us that “People move here and want to pull up the drawbridge behind them so no one follows.” (Well, maybe during a pandemic, but that is another issue entirely.)
But don't blame people coming to live here. Blame the real problems that started to hollow out the town and force locals out, like the municipality allowing the short-term rental industry to devastate neighbourhoods and artificially inflate housing prices, or the school board closing the high school so a younger generation lost its ties to NOTL.
The vast majority of NOTL residents are proud to live here, no matter when they arrived, so there's no room for discrimination based on how long someone has been in town.
The world has changed, NOTL has changed. Accept it, because change is a constant in life. Meanwhile, to paraphrase the late Rodney King, “Can't we all get along?”