Humble advocate’s idea spreading across Ontario

Jeff Plain was named to Mayor Mike Bradley’s Honour List for 2016. Plain, who works with Community Legal Assistance Sarnia, developed a ‘Let’s Walk Together’ outreach program to help First Nations clients navigate the legal system. The program is being adopted in other centres around the province. Glenn Ogilvie

Cathy Dobson

A Sarnia man has been recognized for developing a unique outreach program designed to help First Nation’s people navigate the justice system.

For his quiet efforts, Jeff Plain was named to the 2016 Mayor’s Honour List.

It’s a privilege, he said.

“And it’s cool that Mayor Mike Bradley sees value in what we do.”

Six years ago, Plain established Baamsedaa (Let’s Walk Together) at Community Legal Assistance Sarnia (CLAS) to nurture trust in a system that can often be intimidating.

Plain, 53, who started out as a volunteer at CLAS, said he was driven to become an advocate because of the example set by his father, Wilson Plain.

“It was in my heart,” Plain said. “I care for our community members. Any help we can provide, that’s what it’s all about, especially with the youth.”

In 2011, officials at CLAS believed so strongly in Plain’s plan to help indigenous residents that temporary funding was found for Baamsedaa, then permanent funding arrived from Legal Aid Ontario.

His program has been lauded in both the aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities. It’s also been duplicated in Hamilton, and funding was recently approved to establish similar outreach in Waterloo, Windsor and St. Thomas.

“His understanding and honesty allowed him to connect with First Nations’ clients to build a trust and be a part of the process,” Bradley wrote about Plain. “Clients can relate to his lived experience and also see that he does not judge anyone …

“Mr. Plain is a proud Anishinabe man who is humble in his achievements, which make his dedication and service especially worthy.”

Other Mayor’s Honour List recipients are:

EMILY FORTNEY-BLUNT, teacher and lifelong social justice advocate who spearheaded efforts to bring a Syrian family to Sarnia and help them become established.

GREG BOYLE AND RICHARD PONIC, owners of Tim Hortons on Exmouth near Front who are committed to hiring people with disabilities.

EVAN DUGGAL, 11, a student at Bright’s Grove Public School who raised $5,000 for first aid kits at a clinic in Zambia.

RANDY EVANS AND TOM ST. AMAND who voluntarily spent two years researching the history of Sarnia’s street names.

LINDA M. GRYNER who co-ordinated IODE Christmas Home Tours for 10 years.

MEMBERS OF THE KINSMEN CLUB OF SARNIA who organize the annual Sarnia Christmas parade enjoyed by thousands every year.

MEMBERS OF THE LAMBTON OUTDOOR CLUB who organize year-round activities and marked their 25th year in 2016 with a bench dedication on the Howard Watson Nature Trail.

NORM LAMOUREUX, chair of Information Sarnia Lambton, keeps information of local services updated, and assists at the Central United Church’s computer drop-in centre as well as the Inn of the Good Shepherd.

LAWRENCE HOUSE BOARD OF DIRECTORS for their perseverance in bringing the arts centre back from the brink and for creating a flourishing home where artists can sell, share, meet and follow their passions.

SUSAN MACKENZIE, leader of the Save SCITS campaign and founder of the Ontario Alliance Against School Closures, for her dedication to keeping schools open for the betterment of the community.

MEL AND SHIRLEY MATTHEWS, operators of a youth bowling program that includes those diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, for their commitment to young people in Sarnia-Lambton.

KYLE MCVITTIE, a mental health champion and role model for youth, involved in many initiatives including the Let’s Face It project at Lambton College

SHARON BERRY-ROSS, tireless volunteer who is co-chair of the Sarnia Lambton Suicide Prevention Committee and leads the community in many other child and youth initiatives.

MEMBERS OF THE SARNIA GOLF & CURLING CLUB CHARITY PRO AM COMMITTEE who have raised more than $417,000 in 40 years and assisted countless organizations.

RAVI SRINIVASAN, founder of the South West International Film Festival now going into its third year in Sarnia. Recognized for his commitment to expanding local arts and culture.

DONNA STEWART  (POSTHUMOUSLY) who volunteered with Sarnia Starfires Girls Hockey and the Sarnia Organ Donor Awareness Association, including annual organization of SODA’s successful Jazz & Blues in the Village.

ANITA TRUSLER, a passionate advocate of safe bike riding and team captain in the annual MS Ride where her team of 90 raised over $50,000 in 2016.

WAYNE WAGER, dedicated member of the Sarnia Heritage committee since 1985.

ALLEN WELLS, former director of education for the public school board and administrator for Community Awareness Emergency Response. His volunteering encompassed minor hockey and soccer, the United Way, Central Forum and the Bluewater Buccaneers Marching Band.