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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Categories: Point Douglas, Politics | Tags: | Leave a comment

Holocaust Memorial- A Broken Star

I was biking past the Manitoba Legislative Buildings and saw a monument I’d never noticed before. It was in the shape of a broken Star of David.holocaust memorial winnipeg legislatureTaking a closer look I discovered it was a monument built in remembrance of victims of the Holocaust. It was dedicated in 1990.  

holocaust memorial winnipeg legilature groundsThe walls were designed to reflect the sunlight since the monument was to be a sign of hope, rebirth and the rebuilding of lives. names on holocaust memorial winnipegThe names of the 3,700 victims, memorialized on the monument’s walls, all had surviving family members living in Manitoba. 

holocaust memorial in winnipegThe legislature of Manitoba was the first in Canada to provide a designated space for a Holocaust Memorial. Philip Weiss, an award-winning Winnipeg furniture maker and craftsman, led the campaign to have the memorial built. Weiss was a Holocaust survivor who was seized from his parents home in Poland by the Nazis when he was just 15 years old and sent to two different concentration camps. holocaust memorial winnipeg legislature groundsThe names of  various concentration camps are engraved at the base of the monument. 

monument to holocaust winnipegThe monument also includes a menorah and the words These we do remember and our hearts are grieved.  Some people had left memory candles in the space below the menorah. 

holocaust memorial winnipegI’ve learned that each year on Yom Hashoah or Holocaust Memorial Day there is a service of remembrance at this monument during which each name inscribed on it is read aloud. 

Other posts about the Holocaust………

Meeting a Holocaust Survivor in Hong Kong

Brundibar- More Than It Seems

Taking Teens to Israel and Palestine

Categories: Historical Events, Politics, Statues | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Louis Riel- Are Two Statues Better Than One?

louis rielLouis Riel’s important role in the history of our city and province is recognized in a new music video by Winnipeg’s own Royal Canoe featuring Exodus of the Year- my favorite song by the band. exodus of the year video royal canoeThe video shows Riel’s statue on Broadway Avenue, his statue in St. Boniface and his grave.

LRpb.tifRiel’s contributions have been recognized in many ways- in an opera, in a terrific graphic novel by Chester Brown, in the name of a Winnipeg school division, and in the February provincial holiday named after him. Two statues of Louis Riel in Winnipeg- one in St. Boniface and one on the Manitoba Legislature grounds reflect the two sides of the man who is widely known as the Father of Manitoba but was hanged as a traitor. louis riel st. boniface statueI’ve blogged about one of the Riel statues already and thought it was time to write about the other. So I stopped at 450 Broadway on a bicycle trip last week to snap some photos of the Riel statue there by artist Miguel Joyal.

louis riel statue broadway winnipegIn this statue Riel isn’t naked as he is in the St. Boniface one. louis riel boat tripHe is  dressed in a suit and vest and bowtie -although he is wearing moccasins and a sash in recognition of his Metis heritage. 

louis riel statue

He is holding the Manitoba Act in his hand which was based on a List of Rights Louis Riel wrote that included among many other things recognition of this area of Canada as a province by the federal government, the right to representatives in the House of Commons and Senate and the use of both French and English in all government communication. 

louis riel st. boniface collegeThe statue of Riel in St. Boniface (which by the way used to stand on the grounds of the Manitoba Legislature) does a better job of showing the tortured soul Riel was in many ways, and what a price he paid for his political activism, exiled for years to the United States as a wanted criminal and struggling with mental illness. 

louis riel legislatureThe statue on Broadway shows him as the great statesman, forward thinker and founder of the province of Manitoba.  It is probably good that we have both statues in our city. 

Other posts about Louis Riel…..

A Graphic Louis Riel

A Controversial Statue

The Provencher Bridge

Could I Have Been A Grey Nun?

We’re Living in a Piece of History

The Street Where I Live

 The Park At the End of the Bridge

Categories: Downtown, Politics, St. Boniface, Statues | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Letter to the Editor

WFP-Logo-Black11Winnipeg is proposing some changes to its laws about acceptable behavior for bus riders using the city’s transit system. These proposed changes were outlined in a recent news story in the Free Press. Since I am a frequent rider of city buses I wrote a letter to the editor of the paper giving a suggestion for making one of the proposed changes more effective. It was published on July 9 and can be read on the Have Your Say page. 

Other posts about city issues…….

I Think I’m Going To Be On Television Tonight

I Was On the Radio

Aren’t You Scared To Live In Winnipeg’s Exchange District?

Residential Parking

Categories: Miscellaneous, Politics | Tags: , | Leave a comment

A Mural For Bill Norrie

bill norrie mural langside and ell iceI was walking to the West End Cultural Centre on Sunday night and went past this mural.  Unveiled in September of 2013 it pays tribute to Winnipeg mayor Bill Norrie who died in July of 2012.  Bill Norrie grew up not too far from its location at the corner of Ellice and Langside. 

bill norrie mural

Tom Lamb – A Sculpture by Leo Mol on the Bill Norrie mural

Bill’s wife Helen Norrie, whose photo is displayed prominently in the mural, said at the mural’s unveiling that she appreciated the way it pictured so many of the things her husband was passionate about and interested in. For example, the mural includes a sculpture of Tom Lamb by Winnipeg artist Leo Mol. Norrie officially opened Mol’s sculpture garden in Assiniboine Park during his last year in office. There is also a panda since Bill Norrie helped to bring the pandas to Winnipeg. 

bill norrie at his desk muralThe mural was painted by local artists Michel Saint Hilaire and Mandy van Leeuwen and shows the former mayor sitting at his desk surrounded by items that were meaningful to him. bill norrie's family home on banningThe artists have even included a likeness of Bill Norrie’s childhood home on Banning Street.

norrie cottage and panda

The Norrie cottage and a panda

Bill Norrie was the mayor of Winnipeg from 1979-1992 and at the mural’s unveiling current mayor Sam Katz characterized him as a kind and gentle man who loved his community. University of Winnipeg President Dr Lloyd Axworthy also paid tribute to Norrie saying, “he never forgot his roots.” 

Helen Norrie on Bill Norrie mural

Helen Norrie photo on Bill Norrie mural

Helen Norrie observed, “Bill loved Winnipeg and this mural shows that.”

Other posts about Bill Norrie…….

Words of Wisdom from Winnipeg Mayor  Bill Norrie

Other posts about murals……..

Gunn’s Bakery

The Winnipeg Strike

Other posts about Leo Mol…..

Visiting the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden

Tom Lamb Mr. North

Tree Children


Categories: Famous Citizens, Murals, Politics, West End | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Eat Like You Give A Damn

My cousin Kirsten was gracious enough to let me interview her and write an article for the latest issue of Rhubarb magazine about the important work she does at the University of Winnipeg. The magazine has chosen to feature the story on its webpage so you can read it HERE. 

The online version of the magazine doesn’t include any of the photos I took so I’m including several here.

Kirsten with the Eat Like You Give A Damn campaign sign on University of Winnipeg cafeteria window

Kirsten with the Eat Like You Give A Damn campaign sign on University of Winnipeg cafeteria window

Paw Moo makes soups, sauces and dressings in the  Diversity Foods kitchen

Paw Moo makes soups, sauces and dressings in the Diversity Foods kitchen


Kirsten and Samy a business student from Haiti who works for Diversity Foods

Kirsten and Samy a business student from Haiti who works for Diversity Foods



Categories: Downtown, Politics, Restaurants | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Winnipeg’s Kelly House- A Home with a Long History

kelly house 88 adelaide streetThis charming home is right here in my Exchange District neighborhood at 88 Adelaide Street, but I had never noticed it till just a couple of weeks ago when I was on  a walk. Built in 1884 it stands as the lone residential dwelling on a street of warehouses, factories and businesses. In 2010 it became the home of Cancer Care Manitoba. 

sunburst motif gables kelly house winnipegI loved the sunburst gingerbread motif on the gables. When I got home from my walk I did some research to learn about the house. thomas kelly winnipegThe house was built by Michael Kelly a contractor originally from Ireland in 1894 for a cost of $2.200. In 1875 the land on which it stood had been given to Alexander McDermott as part of a Crown grant. He sold it to John McKechnie, the Scottish owner of a Winnipeg foundry who in turn sold it to Michael Kelly and his brother Thomas.  Michael lived in the house till 1894. 

kelly house oldMichael and Thomas rented the house to a variety of people.  A Mrs. M Redmond rented it when Michael moved out and in 1896- J.M. Murray a printer took out a lease. James Cadham an architect settled in with his family from 1897 to 1901. Cadham had come to Manitoba from Ontario with the Wolseley Red River Expedition and stayed when he was discharged. By 1908 there was a boarding house at 88 Adelaide run by Mrs. Margaret Little and it was in that same year Thomas became the sole owner of the house. kelly house 2004In 1922 the house was seized by the city of Winnipeg because its owner Thomas Kelly was involved in a big scandal and had failed to pay his taxes. Kelly was arrested for perjury, embezzlement and fraud and although he tried to escape to the United States ended up being sentenced to two  and a half years in Stony Mountain prison. He had been given a contract to build the Manitoba Legislative Buildings and was charged with graft and corruption and lost the contract.  Turns out he was lowering wages and changing building specifications to keep costs down to the unrealistically low bid he’d made. An article in the New York Times claimed he had defrauded the Manitoba government of some $1.182,562. According to an article by Bruce Cherney Kelly only served a nine months of his prison sentence and not behind bars, but staying at the warden’s house and passing his days playing poker. kelly house 2007A whole variety of people owned 88 Adelaide after that, a restaurateur, a hotel proprietor, and a sportswear company.  In 1982 the Winnipeg Film Group had its offices there.
back of kelly house 2004

In 2007 the house was incorporated into the plot of a series of children’s middle years fantasy books called The Serpent’s Spell written by Rae Bridgman.  The 2008 annual report of Centre Venture says they will partner with the City of WInnipeg and Adelaide Investments Group to restore Kelly House as the new headquarters for Heritage Winnipeg.

Photo by Gordon Goldsborough

Photo by Gordon Goldsborough

But I also read the house was in danger of being razed for a parking lot in 2010 and Cancer Care Manitoba saved it and renovated it. The sign on the door today says it is the home of Cancer Care Manitoba as does the Manitoba Historical Society website. 88 adelaide street winnipeg

If you enjoyed this post you might also like…………

Winnipeg’s Millenium Centre- Haunted by Ghosts

Winnipeg The Chicago of the North

We’re Living in a Piece of History

Categories: Buildings, Exchange District, History, Politics | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mennonites and Canada’s First Nations People Have More in Common Than You Think

IMG_5751Mennonites and Canada’s First Nations people have many things in common. I was surprised to hear that statement from Ovide Mercredi last Friday night at Thunder Bird House on Winnipeg’s Main Street.  Mr. Mercredi, a lawyer, and former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, was speaking at a dinner and program organized by Mennonite Church Manitoba and Mennonite Church Canada, as part of their mission to build mutually beneficial relationships with our country’s indigenous people. 

13011_ovide_mercrediMr. Mercredi said both Mennonites and Canada’s First Nations people know what it means to be oppressed. Mennonites left Ukraine and fled to Canada to be free from oppression. Mr. Mercredi noted that unlike Mennonites, Canada’s indigenous people have had no other countries to which they have been able to flee, in order to escape the oppression they have experienced in their native land.

 Upon their arrival in Manitoba in the 1870s the Mennonites were given two large reserves of land both east and west of the Red River. Canada’s First Nations people were also given reserves of land by the government. The Mennonites received 6% of Manitoba’s land at the time of their settlement. The First Nations received a much smaller percentage of the province’s land for their reserves. Mennonites were given good agricultural land, while Canada’s indigenous people were given mostly muskeg.

 Mr. Mercredi explained that another thing his people and Mennonites have in common is strong religious beliefs and an abiding faith in the Creator. The Canadian government allowed Mennonites to practice their faith freely, and even granted them special dispensation to remain true to their religious belief in pacifism, exempting them from military service.  First Nations people on the other hand had their spiritual practices outlawed by the Indian Act and the government tried to convert their children to Christianity by forcing them to attend residential schools.

Finally, like Mennonites, Mr. Mecredi said his people belong to a collective entity, a community with which they can identify. Mr. Mecredi fears the Harper government’s plan to introduce legislation that would allow First Nations members living on reserves to own their own property will irrevocably damage that collective identity. 

Although Ovide Mecredi said he was going to talk about how Mennonites and Canada’s First Nations people were the same, he essentially talked about how we are different, how much more privileged Mennonites have been.

Mr. Mecredi is a knowledgeable and articulate spokesperson for Canada’s First Nations and he used his platform on Friday night to educate us about the challenges facing his people and to explain a concept he called a double understanding. It describes a relationship where both parties not only listen, but they also genuinely hear one another, and try to understand one other’s point of view.

Cartoon by Terry Mosher- Aislin- 1991- from the collection of the McCord Museum- Montreal

Cartoon by Terry Mosher- Aislin- 1991- from the collection of the McCord Museum- Montreal

 He emphasized the need for a double understanding between Canada’s First Nations people and the current government, warning the country is headed for real conflict if that kind of working relationship cannot be established. He said there are now thousands of university educated aboriginal leaders who will rise up across the country to bring about necessary change in a peaceful way. The Idle No More movement protesting the government’s Bill C-45 is an example of the kind of political action we can expect to see.

I left Thunderbird House on Friday night keenly aware that everyone has a role to play in helping reach a double understanding with Canada’s First Nations people, not just Mennonites, but all religious groups and all Canadians.

If you enjoyed this post you might also like……….

Residential Schools- The Hiroshima of the Indian Nations

 There Must Be 50 Ways to Use a Bison

Words of Wisdom From Winnipeg Mayor Bill Norrie

Categories: Churches, Downtown, Famous Citizens, Historical Events, Politics | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Where Are the Solutions? Residental Parking in Winnipeg’s Exchange District in Crisis!

There were some people who were pretty upset last night at a meeting held for the residents of Winnipeg’s Exchange District. The topic of discussion was parking. In the past the city has sold annual residential parking passes to people who live in the east or west Exchange. The pass allows us to park personal vehicles we have registered with the city on the streets near our homes for as long as we want, whenever we want. With parking spaces at a premium in the area, and accusations that some local residents were abusing the passes, the residential parking pass program was eliminated. The city did ‘grandfather in’ people who’d had passes in the past, allowing them to keep their passes for one more year while the city figured out an alternate solution for residential parking in the Exchange District.

When residents received a notice that a meeting was going to be held in the Can West building on November 21 we all assumed the solution the city had devised would be presented to us. Not so.  The meeting was simply a chance for us fill out a survey and  to ‘voice’ our concerns; and people certainly did just that.

  I felt reasonably fortunate after the meeting. I own a permanent parking spot in a garage adjacent to my building and it was included in the purchase price of my condo. There are people however who recently purchased condos in some of the newer buildings in the area that don’t have parking spots. They purchased those condos because they were told they could buy a residential parking pass and park their cars on the street. Now they can’t and their only alternative is to pay expensive meter parking fees and run outside every two hours to move their car during the day. One woman moved into a brand new condo with twenty suites and says the other nineteen are empty and will remain so till the parking problem is solved. 

A downtown developer voiced his concerns as well. He bought a number of  Exchange District buildings to remodel into condos expecting the residents of those condos could park on the streets. Now they can’t and until a parking solution is found he won’t be doing any renovating. He’d gladly demolish one or two of the buildings he purchased to create parking for the others. However as is the case with most buildings in the Exchange District, the ones he purchased have a historical designation so he isn’t allowed to tear them down even though he owns them. 

One resident got quite heated. The city wants people to move downtown and then they make it impossible for them or their guests to park there? C’mon! What is the city thinking? One woman spoke about the positive impact it has on an area when people make their homes there instead of just businesses or offices being located there.  If that is important than the city needs to make it easier and not harder to live in the Exchange. 

My concern is one many people my age shared. When our elderly parents come to visit we park outside on the street and give them our indoor spots. When our children and grandchildren come to visit from out of town we do the same thing. The city’s elimination of the residential parking passes is making it difficult for many of us to have our families visit us. We also feel the lack of residential parking has decreased the value of our homes. 

We asked how many people had been abusing the passes. It seemed like only a few had. Could the city not deal with these cases individually, cancel those passes and let the rest of us keep ours? Apparently the interests of businesses like restaurants need to be considered as well. New restaurants won’t locate in the Exchange if their patrons can’t find parking. 

We were told a new parking garage is in the works for our area and there is a possibility Exchange residents will be able to purchase a reserved space for $28,000 or rent spots in those garages by the month at a cost of around $200-$250. However Exchange residents may have to walk up to four or five blocks between the garage and their home depending on where they live. 

At the meeting there were a variety of presentations. One was by Colin Stewart from the Winnipeg Parking Authority who told us they need to consider all the users of parking in the Exchange District and that there are many different kinds of parkers with different needs. Bert Treller, from Imperial Parking, the largest commercial provider of parking in the Exchange was also present.  His company is willing to work together with the city and residents to come up with creative solutions to the Exchange District parking crisis. We also heard from Sharon Feigon representing a car share cooperative. I wrote about that idea in a previous post. Loretta Martin of Centre Venture was also answering questions.  Apparently people from all these groups have been meeting regularly to try to come up with parking solutions for the Exchange. 

The message they got from the residents last night was that the sooner they do that the better!

Categories: Exchange District, Politics | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

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.

If you liked this post you might also want to check out……….

Good Will and Good Memories

Manitoba Writers’ Guild

Winnipeg’s Millenium Library

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

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