Point Douglas

Getting to Know Kevin Chief- My MLA

What Next?

kevin chiefMonday night we got to meet Kevin Chief in person at a Residents of the Exchange meeting. Kevin is our member of the Manitoba legislature and represents the Point Douglas riding. The people who live in the Exchange District were invited to the Across the Board Cafe to meet Kevin, listen to him give a talk and ask him questions. kevin chiefKevin told us his growing up years hadn’t been easy but he succeeded because all along the way he had people who looked at him and saw potential, who made him believe anything was possible.  Kevin played basketball for the University of Winnipeg and he talked about a lesson he learned from his coach Bill Wedlake. The coach told him it was okay to make mistakes as long as he was making mistakes while trying to get something done. kevin chief square dancer

Something interesting I learned about Kevin at our meeting is that…

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Neechi Commons- Come For Lunch

neechi commons winnipegI’ve been eating lunch regularly at Neechi Commons at 865 Main Street. A number of schools I serve as a faculty advisor for the university are in the area.  neechi commons restaurantI’ve discovered it’s a great place to go for lunch. The commons is an Aboriginal owned and operated cooperative and contains not only a restaurantgrocery store neechi commons but also a grocery store where I often stop after my school visits to pick up items I need for supper .art store neechi commonsThere is also an art store called……..

nichee niche

Neechi Niche.waiter nichee commons winnipeg

The waiters are friendly, helpful and polite and the food at Niche Commons is always good. I especially enjoy the homemade soups.  beef barley soup neechi commonsLast week I had a delicious cream of cauliflower and yesterday’s special was a beef barley. The bannock is wonderful and so are the salads.  wild rice salad niche commonsYesterday I tried the wild rice salad.  The restaurant has a full menu with all kinds of burgers and breakfast items as well. 

Winding Staircase Leading to the Restaurant

Winding Staircase Leading to the Restaurant

Neechi means friend/sister/brother in Cree and Ojibwa.

Kitchen at Neechi Commons

Kitchen at Neechi Commons

Neechi Commons is the largest commercial employer of First Nations and Metis people. More than 50 people are employed by the store and the art shop represents the work of some 40 artists. 

The tables are decorated with stones and little pine logs

Tables are decorated with stones and little pine logs

If you’ve never been to Neechi Commons you should really drop in.  But if you come for lunch come early. The place is often packed. neechi commons

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Share the Magic

The Honorable Christine Melnick

“I’m a person of the book” said Christine Melnick by way of introducing herself. On Tuesday night I was a guest of Christine Melnick, the Manitoba minister of Immigration and Multiculturalism. She had invited members of the Manitoba Writer’s Guild to a reception in her office at the legislature to hear more about a personal project of hers called Share the Magic. Ms. Melnick, who has a master’s degree in library science from Dalhousie University is a passionate believer in the power of the written word to change people’s lives.  She told us that one book can turn someone into a life long reader and then who knows where they can go after that!

Christine has developed a program called Share the Magic, through which she collects  books and then gives them away to people of all ages across the province who don’t have many books. She says so far she has given away over 65,000 books.  This is a personal project of Christine’s. She has invested her own money in it and is a very ‘hands on’ participant.  She loads boxes of books into the back seat and trunk of her car and carts them to various community events for distribution. Christine says she would never give away a book as part of Share the Magic that she wouldn’t give to family or friends, so she personally repairs donated used books that have too much wear and tear before redistributing them. 

First Book Canada Poster

Right now she is working on an ambitious project with the Winnipeg School Division in cooperation with First Book Canada and an American corporate donor to place at least five books in every home in inner city Winnipeg for the Christmas holidays. Christine cites research that shows kids’ reading levels are negatively impacted by long school holiday breaks unless they have access to reading materials. 

Skownan First Nation children choosing books

One thing that impressed me about Christine’s approach was the element of choice that is an integral part of Share the Magic. It is important for people not to just be given books, but to choose books. She talked about a North Point Douglas Children’s Fair where she spread the contents of dozens of boxes of books on tables and then allowed children to pick any ten they liked. Within just a short period of time she had given away 1,300 books. Children didn’t just grab books but took time to really look at them and pick the ones that interested them.

Headingley Correctional Institute

Share the Magic also targets adult populations that may not have access to reading materials. When Christine investigated making more books available to women at the Headingley Correctional Institute she discovered they wanted travel books, dictionaries for Scrabble game help, books to help them learn new languages, biographies and books about animals. They had no interest in books about romance or crime.

Christine speaks to students at Gray Academy who donated 1,700 books to Share the Magic

Christine was full of stories about how she has seen books inspire people, trigger an emotional response in people and empower them. She wanted to make our writers’ group aware of her project because she is always looking for donations of books as well as suggestions for avenues via which she can distribute them to people in the community.  

In a Winnipeg Free Press article Christine said, “This is a literate world. And God help the child who can’t read.”  Christine is certainly giving God a little help in the literacy department with her Share the Magic project. 

If you’d like to donate books or you know where books might be needed in the province you can contact Christine’s executive assistant Cindy Edmonds at 204-253-5162.

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Categories: Literature, Point Douglas, Politics | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Who Should I Vote For in Point Douglas?

This man came to my door last night. His name is Kevin Chief and in the Manitoba election on October 4, he will be on the ballot for the New Democratic Party in the riding of Point Douglas where we live. My husband Dave didn’t meet him because he was in the middle of a Scrabble game on the computer during Kevin’s short visit, but when I told Dave who had knocked on our door, he wished he’d had a chance to talk to Kevin Chief too. Kevin was a member of the University of Winnipeg basketball team for five years and Dave watched him play and followed his career.  Dave has been a basketball coach for the last 35 years, and would have enjoyed chatting with Kevin about his university basketball days.  

There are four other candidates in my riding but I haven’t seen or heard from any of the others. Kevin on the other hand has put numerous pamphlets under my door and showed up in person last night. Perhaps the other candidates aren’t bothering to run too aggressive a campaign because this riding has voted NDP in every election since it was created in 1969.


Point Douglas, which has the highest unemployment rate and lowest average family income of any riding in the province, has been represented since 1990 by George Hickes. George has been elected Speaker of the Legislative Assembly after every election since 1999. Even members of the opposition parties praise the fair and even-handed way he has done his job.  Hickes a former Inuit whale hunter and heavy equipment operator is retiring after twenty-two years of public service. 

This will be the first election I will vote in since moving back to Canada after spending six years in Hong Kong. I am also living in a new riding now and so it will be my first time voting in Point Douglas. I thought I should find out a bit more about the candidates running in my riding as well as the platforms of the parties they represent so I can make an informed decision on October 4th. 

Perhaps I should vote for the Liberal candidate just because we share a name. Mary-Lou Bourgeois works in social services as an advocate for seniors with intellectual disabilities. She is on the Board of Directors for Our Children Are Not Safe an organization dedicated to eliminating child sexual abuse and also volunteers with an anti-graffiti program. Mary-Lou was a candidate in the last election for the Liberals who are running on a platform of Strong Families-Strong Communities.  If elected they promise to improve the highschool graduation rate, fight Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, provide more day care spaces and recreation centre programs, improve emergency room care and support aboriginal youth. 

John Vernaus, the Conservative Party candidate owns an auto body shop and is a boxing promoter who has coached several world champion boxers. He mentors youth through the Teen Challenge program, has been the president of the Automobile Trades Association and is a member of the Manitoba Boxing Commission. The Conservatives are running on a platform of Growing Communities, Safer Communities, Healthier Communities. They promise to cut red tape so it will be easier for new businesses to move to Manitoba, enter into more trade agreements, provide the police with cutting edge technology to help rein in gangs, create a Weapons Enforcement Unit to track down illegal weapons, provide better care for Alzheimer patients and target resources for the fight against diabetes. 

Kevin Chief, the NDP candidate, is working on a Master’s Degree in Education after serving as the coordinator of the Innovative Learning Centre at the University of Winnipeg. He ran federally in the riding of Winnipeg North in a by-election last fall and lost to Liberal Kevin Lamoureux. A former all-star basketball player, he is also a member of a square dance troupe. The NDP who are currently the party in power in our province, are running on a platform of Let’s Keep Building—Don’t Turn Back. They are promising to hire more police officers, prosecutors, doctors and nurses, create a Lighthouse program to get kids off the streets, build more personal care homes, stimulate economic growth by eliminating the small business tax and increase skills and apprenticeship programs.

Teresa Pun, a physician, is running for the Green Party. She and her husband have a pet rabbit they got from the Humane Society. She likes biking and thinks Point Douglas should have an urban provincial park with a community garden, artist studios and yoga classes. Teresa wants to open a vaccination clinic to increase the rate of child vaccinations in our province. The Green Party platform called Towards A Bright Future advocates more sensible liquor laws for Manitoba and free public transportation service. 

Darrell Rankin is running for the Communist Party in Point Douglas.  He is the former chair of the Canadian Peace Alliance, and ran unsuccessfully for the Communist Party in the recent federal election for Winnipeg Centre. He joined the Communist Party of Canada in 1978 and was its leader in 1995.  The Communist Party of Manitoba doesn’t have a website so  I’m not sure what their platform is or what kind of issues and programs they are promoting, but Darrell said in his federal election campaign that he would advocate for aboriginal rights and fight against free trade, wage freezes, tuition hikes, poverty and racism. 

After living in Hong Kong which still does not have universal suffrage even though the Chinese government promised it would by 2007, I can appreciate even more keenly the privilege we have in Canada to elect those who represent us. I’ve traveled to many countries in the last six years where people do not have the right to vote, or where the election process is so corrupt it is almost meaningless. It has made me realize that being informed about who I vote for is a responsibility I need to take seriously. 


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