Monday, October 19, 2009


By Trevor Suffield

Feb. 12, 2009

School's out forever for Krawchyk School in Brooklands.

There were some tears and a whole lot of cheers from over 200 people as the first strikes of a bulldozer sent pieces of the nearly 100-year-old building crumbling down.

The red brick Krawchyk School, located at 1950 Pacific Ave., is being demolished after sitting vacant for the past 12 years.

To help celebrate the occasion, adjacent Brooklands School held a Red Brick Knock Down Barbecue, giving the community an opportunity to watch the demolition and share their memories.

Principal of Brooklands, Rex Ferguson-Baird, said that he was glad to see the building go.

The building itself has been sitting vacant and it's a bit of an eyesore. There's some graffiti on it, and some minor vandalism from some kids, said Ferguson-Baird.

He added that the community response has been positive because something is finally being done with the property.

The night before, Grade 3 student Cody Pescitelli was chosen in a random draw and given the chance sit in the wrecker's machine and make the ceremonial first strike.

However, shortly before the scheduled 11 a.m. start time, word came down that Pescitilli would not be allowed to operate the crane.

A spokesperson for Workplace Safety and Health said that because of safety considerations equipment like that has to be operated by a trained person.

Undeterred, Pescitelli still got to wear a hard hat and sit in the big machine while his classmates cheered him onbefore the actual demolition started.

They think it's pretty cool, said Pescitelli of his classmate's reaction.

Georgina Probetts has lots of memories of the school, as three generations of her family attended.

I'm sad to see it go, she said holding back tears.

Classmates from 1940-1949, John Galayda and Victor Epp, came from North Kildonan to watch Krawchyk come down.

For Galayda, one of his favorite memories of the school was of the dentist's office.

The dentist wasn't there all the time, but he would check out the kids teeth and do whatever needed to be done, he said.

The Public School Finance Board is payingf $297,942 for the demolition, which is being handled by Imrie Demolition.

According to Wayne Imrie, it will take approximately six weeks until the job is complete to ground level.

Leading up to the event, Ferguson-Baird had been getting requests for red bricks from sentimental former students.

As a result, all the bricks will be saved for former students and community members.

Nora Daniel, whose oldest sister started at the school in 1924, requested 13 bricks for herself and her siblings, as they all attended at one time.

I went to this school from 1938 to 1947, and all my children attended this school, said Daniel, who still proudly lives in Brooklands.

Plans for the school site are for a green space, including a hill, a community garden and possibly an outdoor learning space.

The history of the school will be preserved, assured Ferguson-Baird

We'll make some kind of marker with the limestone and red brick and the two corner stones, he said, adding that a time capsule from current students will also be created.

However, that probably won't happen until 2011 to celebrate Krawchyk's 100-year anniversary, he said.


By Trevor Suffield

Feb. 5, 2009

The recently announced federal budget contained good news for proponents of an inland port project to be located in northwest Winnipeg.

CentrePort, which is to be located near James Richardson International Airport, was one of the projects the federal government indicated it wants fast-tracked in last week's budget.

That is good news for the project, according to Kerry Hawkins, chairman of CentrePort Canada.

We were delighted, said Hawkins, adding last week's budget announcement was a vote of confidence for the project.

There were only two named projects in the budget release that I saw and, of course, CentrePort was one.

However, Hawkins indicated he has some concern that the budget didn't indicate exactly how much money Ottawa is willing to provide for the project.

There were no numbers attached, and so in fact what I've been doing since the announcement is trying to figure out what the funding is, Hawkins said.

Whatever it is it allows us to now proceed full speed ahead with the development of the airport and a couple of other things that have to be done.

A total of 20,000 acres of land has been reserved for the project at the airport. That means that CentrePort will need to make the area more accessible to truck and rail traffic.

As a result, Inkster Boulevard will have to be widened from Route 90 to the west and to Saskatchewan Avenue to the south.

Chris Lorenc, president of the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association, said other infrastructure improvements will be required for the project to proceed.

The other (improvement) is the enhancement of the Trans-Canada Highway west of the Perimeter, approximately a distance of six kilometers, so that we don't have that bizarre bottleneck coming into Winnipeg or leaving Winnipeg through Headingley, Lorenc said.

Lorenc added that the city is going to have to twin Inkster between Keewatin Street and Oak Point Highway in order to have a four-lane trade route.

Whether it's eastbound, southbound, westbound or northbound, there's a quick connection, he said of the upgrading.

Denis Fletcher, executive director of the St. James Biz, is excited at the possibilities that CentrePort could bring to area businesses.

It's been proven in other cities around the world that these free-trade zones are very important and Winnipeg is situated in absolutely the perfect place, said Fletcher.

He added that it would definitely have an impact on the businesses within their biz zone area, and that it has the support of everyone on the St. James Biz board.

I think it's absolutely critical that the project moves ahead, said Fletcher.

It's not a new idea, it's been around for a few years. In the past it seems to have just sort of died a natural death, but I don't think it will this time.

Realtor Allan Asplin said he doesn't expect the inland port project will have an immediate impact on real estate values in the surrounding area.

It really shouldn't affect property values at all, said Asplin, who works for the Judy Lindsay Team.

However, business property values surrounding the airport are difficult to speculate on, according to Asplin, who added that the area is already fully developed.

Anyone who is already established has their location set there, but it's a possibility that CentrePort could bring in new businesses, said Asplin, adding that the lack of available real estate could drive prices up.

Hawkins estimated that the cost of CentrePort could end up being as much $200 million.

CenterPort has started a search to hire a chief executive officer. The new CEO will be the corporation's first paid employee.

Hawkins said funding from Ottawa will determine how long the project takes to complete.

We don't know what we're going to look like when we grow up, but we know what we want to look like when we grow up, he said.


By Trevor Suffield

Feb. 5, 2009

While she was growing up in Aberdeen, Scotland, Mary George's father would not allow books to be displayed in his house.

With the release of her 25th book, The Runaway McBride, local author George has now written enough books to fill a bookcase.

My father had boxes of books hidden away in closets because we didn't display books in a working class home, said George, who lives in River Heights with her husband, Forbes.

Writing as Elizabeth Thornton, her mother's maiden name, the internationally acclaimed George has sold over two million of her historical-romance books worldwide.

George emigrated to Winnipeg in 1969 with her husband and three sons, after working as a teacher and starting a nursery school in Scotland.

They moved to find a dry climate that was better suited to her husband's asthma which Winnipeg has provided, she says.

Once in Winnipeg, George worked as a teacher at Westview Elementary School in Transcona for seven years.

Her favorite job was when she worked as a lay minister at a Presbyterian Church for ten years. As well, she completed an honors thesis on Women in Euripides at the University of Winnipeg.

But it wasn't until she read her first romance novel that she thought she could be a writer as well.

In 1986 she wrote her first book, Bluestocking Bride, and had it published the following year.

I sold my first little book for a $1,000 advance and I made 2% royalties. I didn't know about editors, agents, anything, said the grandmother of five.

Her best sales come from the U.S., because of the population and the publishing industry there, she says.

But novels of this ilk are not without their critics.

Cindy Donatelli, associate professor of Women and Gender Studies at the University of Manitoba, teaches a course called Soap Operas, Harlequins and Talk Shows, which examines gender-specific forms of entertainment that have been identified with women.

I think the value in studying it, is it shows in a way the kind of script that is still traditionally written for so many women, says Donatelli.

She also believes that popular culture forms have a lot to say about the way our society is really conducted.

If you bring it into the classroom, then there's the opportunity to read against the grain, that is to analyze exactly how the medium is constructing and sending the message.

But does that get rid of all the pleasure in it? I don't think so, said Donatelli.

George has no problem with doubters of the genre. She thinks the characters she creates all learn something and grow as women.

I like taking female characters that are not sure of themselves at the beginning of the book, but by the end they are damn sure and know where they're going, said George.

It takes on average ten months to complete a book, which might take a bit longer because she writes all of her novels out longhand - because she never learned how to type.

Instead, she gets her husband, who is a writer as well, to do the typing for her. That also includes typing out blogs and responses on her website.

George, who won't reveal her age, says she can't see herself ever giving up writing.

I may not be writing the same thing, or take a year break and come up with murder mystery's or suspense, said George.

In June, her next release, The Scot And I, will be released.

The launch for The Runaway Mcbride is being held at the Grant Park McNally Robinson on Feb. 19 at 8 p.m.

For more information visit


By Trevor Suffield

Feb. 5, 2009

A portion of Sargent Avenue in the West End will be closed to traffic for the next six weeks as the city works to replace aging culverts along Omands Creek.

Sargent near Empress Street will remain closed during the construction. As well, No. 15 bus service will be re-routed onto Sanford Street during the closure.

Work on the project, which is expected to cost $1.6 million, began last week.

The city is replacing three existing large diameter double corrugated steep pipe culverts because of their deteriorating condition.

The structures stability is compromised and if not replaced could pose a risk to water, sewer and gas utilities in the area, according to a city spokesperson.

Ken Allen, a communications officer with the city, said preparations for the closure have been ongoing for months.

Just like when we re-routed traffic on Bishop Grandin over the Fort Garry Bridge last summer, we had a pretty extensive communication plan around that, and that's the same thing with this project, Allen said.

The city scheduled construction to begin in January so it would not affect nearby businesses during the holiday shopping season.

Most area business owners were notified about the street closure more than a month ago.

Keith Walls, zone manager at the Rona located at 1333 Sargent Ave., said the city did a good job of letting area businesses know about the closure.

We received lots of notification from the city, Walls said. We received an email about a month and a half ago.

So far the closure is having very little effect on their sales, he said.

Customer traffic from this time last year is within 20 people, so (it) really (has had) no effect, he said.

Lauren McEachern, manager of Auntie Fanny's Fine Furniture at 1370 Sargent, said he hasn't noticed any change in the number of customers visiting his retail outlet.

We really haven't found any difference in customer count, McEachern said, adding it's too early to say exactly what kind of impact the closure will have on business.

McEachern said that he was concerned that the city didn't do more to notify area businesses about the closure of Sargent.

We just saw the sign, and heard the news, but didn't actually get any warnings, McEachern said.

Area residents don't seem to have been inconvenienced by the closure.

Larry Santucci, who lives in the West End, said he was prepared for the closure after spotting a sign the city posted in the area.

They had the sign up for a while, so we knew what was coming, said Santucci, adding that he regularly drives his daughter to work in the area.

You can still get around the closure by going down Sanford, he said.

For Lem Jackson, owner of Metal-Etch Graphics located at 1143 Sanford St., the closure might be a positive thing for his business.

The closure could be good to a point where it might increase traffic and awareness of my business during the seven weeks, Jackson said.

St. Matthews Avenue is scheduled to have its culverts replaced next year, with a cost of $1.9 million


By Trevor Suffield

Feb. 5, 2009

For the past seven years, students of a River Heights elementary school have been helping to build schools in Vietnam by reading books.

Through read-a-thons, Rockwood School students have raised over $10,000 for the Winnipeg-based charity Canadians Helping Kids in Vietnam.

Rockwood held a kickoff to February's reading month with a dinner last week which also celebrated Vietnamese New Year.

The event, which featured authentic Vietnamese food, music, and a dragon dance, attracted over 100 people to the school.

Grade 4 student Shea Penney got to perform the dragon dance, and thinks it's important to lend a hand.

Helping out and giving money so that people can to go to school is nice and really important, said Penney.

In a past read-a-thon, Grade 6 student Madeline Robinson finished 10 books and says it's fun to help out.

I love reading and so I usually collect a lot of money, and it feels so good to hand in the envelope in and say ˜I just gave money to kids so that they can go to school," said Robinson.

Students at the school also sponsor a Vietnamese family for $20 a month.

Teacher Jennifer Elliot is the one who connected CHKV with Rockwood School.

In 2000, she traveled to Vietnam to complete the adoption of her son, William.

I became aware, first hand, of the conditions in that country, said Elliot.

When my son was older, I really wanted him to have a positive connection with the country where he was born, she said, adding that a friend told them about CHKV.

She joined their board with her husband and then had the idea to raise money for CHKV's school building projects through read-a-thons at the school.

Tam Nguyen, president of CHKV, was invited by Elliot to share his story with the students.

I thought maybe we'd raise a few hundred dollars, but that first year we raised over $3,000, Elliot said, noting that the students received no personal incentives.

Originally born in Vietnam, Nguyen considers himself lucky to have escaped and to have settled in Winnipeg in 1980.

With nothing more than a little rickety boat, and thought to be near his certain death many times, Nguyen made a vow that if he survived he would one day help others would couldn't leave.

I always kept that promise in my mind, and in 1995 I said I should do it now before it's too late, said Nguyen, who owns Tam Custom Tailor shop on Ellice Avenue.

He has made good on that promise, as CHKV has raised over $130,000 to date.

The next read-a-thon at Rockwood started this past Monday, and Nguyen, who has two kids of his own, is proud of the students of Rockwood and elsewhere who have helped out.

He still has family in Vietnam and regularly travels back to visit. He also travels with members of CHKV, so they can see for themselves the difference the charity makes.

Unfortunately he will not be able to attend the opening of the newest school at the end of March.

However, it will feature a banner that reads: This school was built for the children of Vietnam by the children and parents of Rockwood School.

CHKV's annual dinner will be held in May.

For more information visit


By Trevor Suffield

Jan. 29, 2009

Students from a West Broadway school are hoping that a community rally held last Friday afternoon will help them get an outdoor athletic field built for their school.

More than 100 Gordon Bell students braved -30 C wind chills for a midday rally at 730 Portage Ave., the site of a former car dealership on which Canada Post plans to build a mail sorting facility.

Green-clad students carrying posters were joined by community activists and politicians to raise awareness about their efforts to have an athletic field built near the school.

Morgan Hoogstraten, a Grade 12 student activist at Gordon Bell, was impressed with the turnout of the rally.

It just goes to show how much we want this space, said Hoogstraten, whose hair sported green highlights for the event.

I've been going here since Grade 7, and I can tell how much of an impact this will make on the school in terms of people from the community coming to the school.

Currently, Gordon Bell students only have access to a paved outdoor athletic courtyard located adjacent to the school.

Connor Ferg said he and his friends have the scars to prove how unforgiving the courtyard surface can be.

I've got scars, and I've broken bones on this. It's just not good, said Ferg, a Grade 10 student.

Gordon Bell has occupied its current site near the corner of Borrowman Place and Broadway for more than 50 years. Approximately 700 students currently attend the school.

Morris Glimcher, executive director of the Manitoba High Schools Athletic Association, said while his organization hasn't been involved in discussions about the Canada Post site, it supports the schools efforts.

Gordon Bell doesn't have a football team right now, so maybe it would encourage football, or a home field for soccer, Glimcher said. I think every school should have a field.

Graduating student Leah Borchert, thinks an outdoor grass field would be a great thing for the school and community.

It's something that I really would have loved to have had in my years here, Borchert said.

In the West End there's lots of children and young people and adults with needs that a green space can fill.

Former Gordon Bell student Nancy Chippendale helped organize the demonstration because she feels athletics are important for students.

Many people have their best experiences in school, and I certainly did, playing on sports teams, Chippendale said. It's so positive and healthy.

Rob Altemeyer, MLA for Wolseley, attended the rally to show his support for students and staff at the school. Altemeyer said he understands it won't be easy to find a solution that works for both the school and Canada Post.

The challenge is we have to find a suitable space for Canada Post, Altemeyer said.

We need to find another 2.5-acre lot that Canada Post can build on, and let the students play here.

NDP MP Pat Martin attended the rally and said that something must be done to address the concerns of people in the community.

Martin, who has had discussion with senior officials at Canada Post and the Winnipeg School Division about the site, said that last weeks rally was just the beginning of efforts to galvanize the community.

These kids deserve the same opportunity to play team sports as kids in the suburbs or anywhere else in the city, Martin said. In fact, I would argue kids in the inner city need these opportunities even more.

Martin added that there is still time to resolve the issue. He said Canada Post officials have told him that they don't intend to start building until late summer or early fall.

This is great news, Martin said.


By Trevor Suffield

Jan. 29, 2009

Local bandy enthusiasts want to shed some light on their sport.

Representatives of the Bandy Federation of Canada are lobbying for funding to install four outdoor light standards at Sturgeon Creek Community Club in St. James. The total cost of the project is estimated at $200,000.

Sturgeon Creek is home to the only regulation size bandy facility in Canada. Bandy is a European game that has been described as a cross between field hockey and soccer. It's played on an ice surface that is approximately the same size as a soccer field.

Todd Ritchot, vice-president of Sturgeon Creek, said the outdoor lighting would allow the bandy facility to be utilized far more than it currently is. Right now, players can only practice during daylight hours, meaning practice time is at a premium.

Ritchot is a former bandy player and was part of the first wave of players to take up the game when it was introduced in Winnipeg 23 years ago.

The team that he played on barely scored a goal in its first tournament. More ice time would help in the development of current and future players and allow the game to grow, Ritchot said.

Ritchot was among those who lobbied to bring bandy to Sturgeon Creek when the national team was looking for a home rink three years ago. Both the mens and womens national team are now based at the community club, located at 210 Rita St.

I thought it would be a good opportunity for them to come and bring people to the club, Ritchot said. It's a national team so it would bring some recognition to the area.

Morris Glimcher, president of the Bandy Federation of Canada, is in the process of securing funding for lights at the facility.

Councillors on the Assiniboia community committee recently approved a $25,000 grant for the project. The remaining money will come from other government grants, the corporate sector and community fundraising events, Glimcher said.

We've still got a lot of work cut out for us, he said.

Certainly the ideal thing would be an artificial ice surface, but there's a big dollar figure attached to that. But if we had lights, we could certainly grow the sport and it could be a seven-day activity.

Glimcher says that additional outdoor lighting at Sturgeon Creek would also benefit local soccer and football teams because they would be able to play and practise later during their respective seasons.

Glimcher said he doesn't expect the lights to bother nearby residents, adding bandy teams will respect any light curfews.

So far there has only been one complaint about the bandy facility, Ritchot said, and that involved a local soccer devotee who thought that the bandy ice would ruin the grass underneath it.

But the grass has been greener and greener every spring, he said.

Glimcher would like to see the lighting installed by this fall so it would be ready to use next season.

The Canadian mens bandy team returned to Winnipeg earlier this week after placing second in the B pool in the world championships in VÃsterÃs, Sweden.