Every country needs its whistleblowers. They are crucial to a healthy society. The employee who, in the public interest, has the independence of judgement and the personal courage to challenge malpractice or illegality is a kind of public hero. ― Fuad Alakbarov
Deep River is a different place than when I left it in 2002: Centennial Rock has a new landscape, Mackenzie is now a Community School, and everywhere I look I see a name I did not know before: Larry Dumoulin. In the North Renfrew Times, in Counsel Meetings, on Social Media, in the aisles of Giant Tiger, on the CBC: Larry Dumoulin’s name and his opinion call out for change to everyone who will listen.
I had no idea who Larry Dumoulin was. Through my extensive research (Google, my friends and family), I understand Larry has lived here for a long time and even worked for the Town as Treasurer when I was still in elementary school. Mr. Dumoulin has had his spoon in the pot for years. With the advent of Facebook “Discussion Groups”, Larry Dumoulin is a household name. Larry regularly disrupts the status quo of our small town and is not afraid to do it.
Living in a small town, we wrestle with social dynamics that spill into all aspects of our lives. A medical professional who does our physical in the morning might sit beside us at church that evening. The police officer who confiscated our underage booze backpacks on the way to Summerfest might be the parent who invited us over for our friend’s birthday party the week before. A councillor that we face-off against about municipal decisions one night might also be the teammate who wins the face-off for our hockey game the following night. Awkward? Ya. Surprising? Nah.
Close social ties in an isolated town makes a community stronger. Your doctor can fill a prescription quickly, the police officer might give you a “you’re a good kid” break, and our municipal officials consider the nuanced concerns of the townspeople. We all go-along-to-get-along in our non-social activities to allow for smooth and harmonious social lives.
The problem with going-along-to-get-along is that we maintain the status quo. Change does not happen. Systems that never worked are never fixed. Problems within an organization bloom into catastrophes. Small biases turn into systemic unfairness. Like the junk drawer in our kitchen, ignoring annoyances and problems can result in a heaping mess that nobody is willing to address.
I have never met the fellow. I understand that most of the bees in his bonnet are with the functioning of the Town. Whether it be an under-researched proposal to switch police forces, or the neglected decision of what to do about our fire services, Mr. Dumoulin is not content to go-along-to-get-along. Instead, Mr. Dumoulin asks hard questions. Mr. Dumoulin demands answers. Most importantly, Mr. Dumoulin incites the public to take an active concern in the town politics that affect us all.
We are not always happy with town decisions. Complaining to one another over brunch may feel great, but does little to change anything. Many of us cannot or choose not to publicly share our opinions on town issues because of our work, our social circles, or even our own ignorance on the topic. Having a town adjitator keeps everyone accountable, promotes change and certainly adds to our conversations around the water cooler.
For anyone who has yet to read one of Mr. Dumoulin’s indictments on the town issues, I urge you to get out your dictionary and have a stab at one. They are well-written, sophisticated submissions that easily put the President of the United States’ correspondence to shame. When you reach the end of the submissions, you may not agree with them. You will admit, however, that they are persuasive.
Mr. Dumoulin’s regular advocacy can seem intrusive, overbearing and, in short, annoying to some. Mr. Dumoulin’s positions on issues can be polarizing. Mr. Dumoulin’s methods can be controversial. Many do not agree with the arguments he makes or the creative ways he chooses to make them. Mr. Dumoulin’s voice on Facebook can be loud – so loud, in fact, that a new Facebook Group was required to discuss the issues he has taken-up.
Being a lawyer by trade, I recognize that speaking-up for change can be unnerving, isolating, and even punishing. Nevertheless, the most important discussions are often the most challenging. We are all very lucky to have someone in the town who is willing to have those discussions – whether we agree with him or not.
I began my year here wondering “who the heck is Larry Dumoulin?” I am left now wondering where our town would be without our favourite pot-stirrer. I propose a toast! Here’s to Larry Dumoulin: a man we can all count on to speak-up on our issues, even if we disagree with him, and even we have never actually spoken with him before.