With the passing of another year, we look back on some of the stories that made headlines across the northeast in 2019.
In January, the River East Collegiate Musical Arts Parent Association made a $500 donation to the school’s music therapy program. The donation was quickly bolstered by another $1,300 in anonymous contributions towards the purchase of percussive instruments for students in River East’s independent skills program to make use of.
"It’s phenomenal," said principal Diana Posthumus, who retired in June. "It really expands the opportunity that kids have, from basic hand shakers and whatnot to a great repertoire of instruments that kids are just thrilled to be able to use."
"It’s really great that the division sees the value in music therapy," added Allison Shiach, a music therapist with the River East Transcona School Division. "(But) there’s always room for growth. There’s always more students who could benefit, and more students who could benefit in different ways."
On Feb. 4, a Grade 4/5 class at Bird’s Hill School (3950 Raleigh St.) got a visit from Winnipeg Jets’ rookie Mason Appleton as part of I Love to Read Month.
The 23 students in the classroom — and many of the staff on hand — were excited to host a Jet.
"The kids were super pumped," said teacher Caitlin Diachun. "It was hard to get anything done this morning."
"Reading is ultra important," Appleton, who read from the children’s book Whiteout: A Winnipeg Jets Story, answered questions, and signed autographs, told The Herald. "To get that foundation at a young age, that’s very important."
Bird’s Hill School was one of 11 schools in Winnipeg that were visited by Winnipeg Jets players for I Love to Read Month.
At a March 19 meeting of the East Kildonan-Transcona Community Committee, plans were approved for a complex of townhouses at 1414 Ravelston Ave. which, when complete, will add 72 units to the site.
Ravelston locals appeared to voice their opposition, as they did at the initial subdivision and rezoning public hearing in January.
"There is nothing being done here that is sensitive to the people living on Ravelston," neighbour Rose Kernaghan told the committee.
"There has been a lot of discussion on this over the last few months," Coun. Shawn Nason (Transcona) said. "Once it is built, I believe it will be accepted by the community."
On April 4, 36 Grade 7 and 8 girls from across the River East Transcona School Division took part in STEM From Dance, a day long workshop held at Garden City Collegiate.
"It’s always intimidating to learn something new, to be in a new space requires a bit of vulnerability," said Yamilée Toussaint Beach, founder CEO of STEM From Dance. "We find that dance lowers that barrier."
Along with Toussaint Beach, instructors included professional dancer Stacie Canon, and Jessica Watson, a coach, figure skating instructor, and software developer.
"I was really excited once I read about the program," said Carol Ridd, consultant of the arts for RETSD. "We’ve never had an opportunity like this presented to us. Of course, we wanted to get on board."
Twin sisters Mandeep and Manpret Saini, Grade 8 students from Salisbury Morse Place School attended the event.
"It was fun to learn that we can use science and dance together," Manpret said.
On April 23, the skate park at Victoria Jason Park (255 Redonda St.) was officially reopened following $460,000 in upgrades.
"The skate park is a very popular destination in Transcona and its renewal will be used and appreciated by many people in the community," Coun. Shawn Nason said.
The renewal project was announced in the summer of 2017. It included construction of a new poured-in-place skate park, new bollard fencing around the skate park area, and an expanded parking area at Victoria Jason Park. The upgrades were funded through the 2018 parks and recreation enhancement program and land development reserve funding. The new park features include pool coping, concrete edges, slappy curves, and a variety of obstacles and ramps.
"I think this brings a lot for the youth of Winnipeg, and Transcona especially," said Mitch Lavoie, skateboarder and general manager of Beaver Concrete Canada, which designed and built the new park. "Now they have something of quality to develop their skills. When I was growing up, we didn’t have that."
May: REC Reach for the Top team travelled to national competition
A team of students from River East Collegiate travelled to Toronto, Ont., to compete in the national Reach for the Top championship, held May 24 to 27.
The team — made up of Owen Rempel, Lukas Sawatsky, Matthew Kwiatkowski, Libby Hildebrandt, Katie Wright, and Will Kendrick and coached by Cherylene Kentner and Catherine Ramsay — qualified for the provincial trivia tournament, which was held at Gray Academy on May 1.
Created in 1961, Reach for the Top is a high school quiz competition that was broadcast on CBC for decades. Teams of four qualify for national rounds by competing in non-televised tournaments held at high schools throughout the school year, which are known as Schoolreach competitions.
On June 10, students and staff held a teepee-raising ceremony on the front lawn of Kildonan-East Collegiate.
The 20-foot tall teepee is part of a permanent outdoor Indigenous learning space. The celebration on June 10 included a blessing from elders Norman Meade and Carol Moar, drumming and singing by Buffalo Red Thunder, along with the raising of the tipi itself.
"It was very fulfilling," said Nathaniel Lenton, a Grade 12 student at KEC from Peguis First Nation. "It was such a great feeling, having the whole ceremony. It filled my heart up."
Members of First Nations Together, a student leadership group at KEC that spearheaded the campaign to raise the tipi and build a permanent outdoor Indigenous learning space at the school. The group was founded two years ago as a way to make the school a more inclusive and welcoming space for Indigenous students.
"We wanted to make a difference," student Kiera Fleury explained. "(Too many) Indigenous students who come from reserves to go to school, they turn to drugs and alcohol, they start skipping and they don’t graduate."
The teepee and the adjacent medicine garden are only the beginning of an ongoing dialogue between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.
"It’s important to show our commitment to truth and reconciliation," Darwin MacFarlane, principal of KEC, said. "We’re excited for how this new space will enhance student learning now and into the future."
In July, not only were a pair of new Transcona BIZ sponsored public art pieces to were unveiled on the streets of the Park City, but a piece painted on the side of Sevala’s Ukrainian Deli was also named "mural of the year" for 2018.
On July 4 and 5, artists James Culleton, Rachel Lancaster, Glenna Evans, Leif Norman, and Darryl Neufeld could be seen painting segments of Bond Street’s sidewalks between Pandora and Regent avenues.
On July 9, the Transcona BIZ unveiled a new mural by artist Cathleen Hues on the north side of the Scout Hall at 110 Winona St.
Meanwhile, the Life Goddess mural on the east side of 126 Victoria Ave. was presented with awarded the "mural of the year" honour by themuralsofwinnipeg.com founder Bob Buchanan.
However, later that month, it was announced that an award winning mural on the corner of Madeline Street and Harvard Avenue would be painted over.
New leadership at Tabor Baptist Church, which changed its name to CityLight Church later in September, wanted a new look for the church going forward.
"We thought and prayed about the idea of coming to join this congregation here," said Andre Lederer, one of three pastors of CityLight Church who will be working out of the church at 710 Madeline St.
The east and west sides of the Tabor Baptist Church were painted by renowned mural artist Charles Johnston in 2007. The images of Jesus and the Worshipper won TheMuralsofWinnipeg.com’s mural of the year for 2007 and gained international attention when a neighbour objected to the art work.
"I think it’s a mistake," Johnston, who has painted award-winning murals across Manitoba and internationally over the past two decades, said as the plan to paint over the murals was made public. "I feel it’s a very singular, direct image that embraces the architecture of the building. That doesn’t happen every day, and you can’t bring that back."
Arvid Loewen, a North Kildonan resident and grandfather of 12, continued his charitable work this summer.
Starting on May 20, Loewen cycled an average of 330 kilometres a day, doing a loop from his home in North Kildonan to Lockport and back six days a week. He completed his 15,000-kilometre commitment on Aug. 8, culminating with a two-kilometre bike parade, where he was joined by over 60 cyclists of all ages.
The event marked the 30th anniversary of Mully Children’s Family, a Christian charity that provides housing and education for orphans in Kenya. Loewen has supported the charity for the past 15 years, raising over $6 million in the process.
This year, Loewen was invested into the Order of Manitoba for all the work he has done supporting Mully Children’s Family.
"Its humbling," Loewen told The Herald. "It’s an honour, and of course I’m deeply thrilled. Any kind of exposure is very helpful in the ongoing ministry work we’re doing."
Former St. Paul MP and East St. Paul resident Joy Smith was also invested in the Order along with Loewen this year.
Manitobans went to the polls on Sept. 10 and elected a Progressive Conservative government to a second term in the provincial legislature.
In northeast Winnipeg, incumbent PC MLAs Cathy Cox (Kildonan-River East), Andrew Micklefield (Rossmere) and James Teitsma (Radisson) were re-elected, along with Jeff Wharton in the new constituency of Red River North, which includes East St. Paul.
Incumbent NDP MLAs Jim Maloway (Elmwood) and Matt Wiebe (Concordia) were also re-elected.
In Transcona, NDP candidate Nello Altomare unseated incumbent PC candidate Blair Yakimoski by a slim margin of 115 votes, 4,029 to 3,914. In October, Altomare was diagnosed with stage 2 Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. He is currently undergoing chemotherapy. Despite his diagnosis, Altomare said he is committed to working through treatment.
On Sept. 25, an Ohio buckeye was planted in front of Glenelm School (96 Carmen Ave.), the first of 59 trees that will help replace those lost recently to Dutch elm disease in the Elmwood neighbourhood.
The project was made possible by a $53,000 grant from the Elmwood-East Kildonan ward’s land dedication reserve, which was approved in April.
"This is going to sound corny, but trees feel like they’re our neighbours," said Lisa Forbes, a member of GeNA’s tree committee. "A couple of us just opened our doors and saw that our big trees were gone."
The trees planted in Glenelm in the fall include silver and amur maple, golden linden, bur oak, and ornamental starlight crab apple and Japanese lilac trees.
Trees across Winnipeg took a beating when the city received an "unprecedented" amount of snowfall leading up to the Thanksgiving weekend.
"The timing of this storm has been significant, because a lot of our canopy was still in leaf," said Martha Barwinsky, the City’s top forester, on Oct. 17. "So we had freezing rain on those leaves, creating heavier weight, coupling that with additional snow and high winds."
On Oct. 15, mayor Brian Bowman declared a local state of emergency, in part to allow the City "to gain access to private property in order to deal with public trees that have fallen onto private property, and private trees that have fallen onto public property."
Six weeks after Manitobans went to the polls in the provincial election, the people were back at it for the federal election.
On Oct. 21, voters in Kildonan-St. Paul elected 29-year-old Conservative candidate Raquel Dancho, who unseated incumbent Liberal MP MaryAnn Mihychuk.
"It feels amazing to be a woman at 29 and be elected, and such an honour," said Dancho, who received 19,690 votes, according to Elections Canada. "I am so grateful to my volunteers."
Mihychuk, the Liberal candidate who served as MP for the riding from 2015 to 2019, was disappointed with the results.
"We should hold our heads up high," she told supporters as results were announced. "We did an incredible job ... The majority of voters in Kildonan-St. Paul voted for progressive change."
Between Mihychuk, who received 12,187 votes, and NDP candidate Evan Krosney, who had 9,187 vote for him, the two had 48.8 per cent of the vote, while Dancho received 45 per cent.
In Elmwood-Transcona, incumbent MP Daniel Blaikie (NDP) was re-elected, receiving 19,841 votes according to Elections Canada, or 45.6 per cent of the vote in the riding. Meanwhile, 16,426 voted for Conservative candidate Lawrence Toet, who represented the riding from 2011 to 2015.
On Nov. 27, Grade 9 students at Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute hosted an official ceremony where 74 people received their Canadian citizenship.
Justice Suzanne Carrière, who presided over the ceremony, spoke to the crowd about the rights and responsibilities that come with Canadian citizenship, as well as the importance of reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous peoples.
"We are so happy," said Reynaldo de Guzman, who was among the 72 new Canadians who took the oath of citizenship along with his wife and their two children. "It is a great privilege."
The ceremony at MBCI was organized by Catherine Schroeder, a Grade 9 teacher at the school, as a means of giving her students a first-hand lesson in citizenship. After the 74 new citizens recited the Oath of Citizenship and received their citizenship papers, Grade 8 and 9 band students performed O Canada. Following the ceremony, a reception was held, which was catered by the school’s Grade 9 culinary class.
"One thing we encourage as a school is for our teachers to make learning real wherever possible, and for a real purpose," said Andrea Neufeld, principal at MBCI.
"I feel like everybody should witness a Canadian citizenship ceremony," Janessa Degenhardt, another Grade 9 student, said. "It’s awesome."
A housing development that seeks to assist those recovering from addiction cleared its first hurdle in December.
On Dec. 4, the East Kildonan-Transcona Community Committee approved a subdivision and rezoning application and variances for 307 and 315 Talbot Ave., where the complex is to be constructed, with a few minor amendments, following a public hearing.
"We believe this comprehensive approach is new to Winnipeg," said Don Kroeker, president of Winnipeg Supportive Housing Inc., which is partnering with nearby Riverwood Community Church on the 40-unit, four storey project.
Residents would work with social workers on-site and be provided ongoing support from a recovery coach and counsellor from Finding Freedom/RE:ACT, a Winnipeg-based trauma informed addictions treatment and recovery program. A small cafe or bakery, where participants in the program could work to gain work experience, would be built within the existing brick building on the corner of Stadacona and Talbot.
"This is an excellent project," Coun. Jason Schreyer (Elmwood-East Kildonan) said at the conclusion of the public hearing. "If anyone is going to do this with the best of intentions, it’s Riverwood Church. No one has answers to some of the problems we have. But in order to find those solutions, we have to try new things, and Riverwood is trying something here that is very worthy."
The project is currently in the midst of a major capital campaign to raise the $6.46 million needed to build and fund the programs. Barring delays, construction is set to begin in the spring of 2020 and be complete in the spring of 2021.
Community journalist — The Herald
Sheldon Birnie is the community journalist for The Herald Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org Call him at 204-697-7112