Monthly Archives: September 2021

Niagara College Marks National Day For Truth And Reconciliation

Elder Dave Labbe, who is an alumnus of Niagara College, addresses a group gathered in front of a fire during an Honouring the Children event. The event was held in the Indigenous Garden (Daniel J. Patterson Campus in Niagara-on-the-Lake) on the morning of September 30. /Niagara College photo.

It was a day to mourn losses, honour survivors and learn about the truth of residential schools.

On September 30, students, faculty and staff at Niagara College joined residents across Canada in commemorating the inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

“Our priority at Niagara College is to commemorate the day in a meaningful way,” said College President Sean Kennedy. “Our goal is to amplify Indigenous voices, and encourage our College community to learn the truth of residential schools, and to engage with truth and reconciliation initiatives at our College and in the community.”

Indigenous Education at NC hosted two events for the College community on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation – one in-person and one virtual. The day kicked off with a morning Honouring the Children event held in the Indigenous Garden at NC’s Daniel J. Patterson Campus in Niagara-on-the-Lake. The College community was invited to drop in, pay their respects and reflect on the children who were forced from their communities to attend residential schools.

Elder Dave Labbe, who is an alumnus of NC (Electronic Engineering Technology, 1971) lit a fire, offered medicines, and guided the College community through the time of reflection.

“Be the vanguard. The world is watching what Canada does right now,” he said.

A Virtual Circle Discussion: Truth Before Reconciliation event drew participants from the College community via Zoom during the afternoon to listen to stories told from survivors and those impacted by residential schools. Attendees heard from guest speaker Sharon Slippery, who is a third-generation residential school attendee, as well as Elder Gary Parker of the Seneca Nation.

The event focused on the importance of understanding the truth of the profound effects that residential schools had and continue to have on Indigenous communities. It addressed the forced assimilation of Indigenous children, the effects of intergenerational trauma, and it honoured the strength of survivors.

“Niagara College’s September 30 events are intended to be a starting point for an ongoing discussion around Truth and Reconciliation and as initial steps in the important work that our College will be undertaking related to Truth and Reconciliation,” said Rick Anderson, Vice President, Student Success, who became NC’s first Indigenous vice president when he was appointed to the role in January 2021.

Lianne Gagnon, Director of Student Services, which includes Indigenous Education at NC, noted that while this was the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation at the College, it follows in the footsteps of its annual Orange Shirt Day initiatives. Hosted by Indigenous Education, Orange Shirt Day events have served as a reminder of the devastating history of Indigenous residential schools; their impacts on Indigenous children, families, and communities; and to reinforce that every child matters.

“Now that it is officially known as the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, we are focusing on the truth first. Before non-Indigenous people can do reconciliation work, it is important to first learn about Indigenous culture and the effects colonization had on them,” said Gagnon.

“We can’t start rectifying the wrongs if we don’t know what they are. We felt that the Virtual Circle would be a valuable way to share information with our staff and students, and to give them a better understanding of why reconciliation is important, while we remember and honour residential school survivors.”

In addition to the events on September 30, some areas of the College also hosted initiatives leading up to the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. On September 27, NC’s Centre for Academic Excellence hosted a session for faculty and staff members grounded in the book Decolonizing Education: Nourishing the Learning Spirit by Marie Battiste. NC’s schools of Business and Management; Hospitality, Tourism and Sport; and Environment and Horticulture held a virtual session on Sept. 27 to help its faculty and staff learn about the importance of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and about how to support Indigenous students.

(Source: Niagara College release)

Welland Mayor’s Statement On National Day For Truth And Reconciliation

September 30 will forever take on new meaning, as this year, we honour Indigenous survivors, families, and communities on the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

This day marks the long-overdue acknowledgement of the devastating effects of the residential school system. It also marks the opportunity to promote Indigenous history and culture and how the Indigenous community weaves their threads in the fabric of Canadian Culture and nationality.

Though it is impossible to fully understand the residential school system’s impacts on the Indigenous cultures and generations, it should not prevent us from trying. We must take time, not just on September 30, but at the turn of every corner, to learn about Indigenous culture in our community and beyond. We must open our minds to accepting new ideas and traditions of the past of cultures, not our own. And we must commit to calling out injustices toward Indigenous communities at the moment, not after the fact.

The City of Welland is proud to acknowledge and support the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and will provide staff with resources to learn more about Indigenous history and culture. Staff are encouraged to participate in Orange Shirt Day, whereby donations will support Indigenous organizations. 

Additionally, the City will amplify information and resources about Truth and Reconciliation by posting content on its social media feeds on September 30 about this topic only.

The Welland Public Library is organizing a free presentation and Q&A session on September 30 from 6-8 p.m. They will be joined by Irene Goodwin and Teresa Edwards from Legacy of Hope Foundation (LHF). Irene is a Survivor of the Indian Day School System, and both Irene and Teresa are Intergenerational Survivors. 

But this is just the beginning of our journey to understand and reconcile. We cannot stop here. We must not stop here. Each day is an opportunity, and as we move past the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, we must build towards the next. 

I invite Indigenous groups and organizations to connect with staff to assist the City in further embracing and incorporating Indigenous culture into the community. 

Frank Campion, Mayor, City of Welland

Merritt Park Ceremony Honors Monument Artist

By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large

WELLAND – Page-Hersey Workers’ Monument artist Neil Bilbe was paid tribute Friday morning  during a ceremony in Merritt Park.

Mr. Bilbe, 83, has dementia and lives in a long-term-care home. Two friends from the home were brought to the ceremony with him. 

His daughter, Shawn, and her husband Doug Reeve, attended and watched the proceedings, pride event on their faces. They are shown with Mr. Bilbe in one of the photos, above.

The event was organized by Claire Masswohl, the impetus behind the initiative to move the statues to the park. 

“Join us as we celebrate the monument’s new home and thank the very talented artist Neil Bilbe,” the invitation to the event reads in part.

The monument’s original home was the former Page-Hersey property. It was moved to the park about two years ago, thanks to Masswohl’s organizing talents and persuasiveness.

Mayor Frank Campion was effusive in his praise for her work and for other projects in the community.

He said their importance should not be underestimated.

Too much local history and heritage gets lost over the years because without stewardship, they fall through cracks in the passage of time and become lost forever.

That’s why this project, and one other that was specifically mentioned – the Central Station Education Initiative – are so important to local communities. Masswohl is also part of the former fire station project.

The event provided opportunity for supporters to witness what their “generous contributions to moving this important piece of art and local history to its new home” helped accomplish.

Several were on site and Masswohl introduced each and provided backgrounds on their respective roles.

City Celebrates Niagara Francophone Community With a Flag-Raising Event

WELLAND  – In celebration of Franco-Ontarian Day today (Sept. 25), the City of Welland recognizes and acknowledges Niagara’s Francophone population, holding a Franco-Ontarian flag-raising Friday at City Hall.

The City of Welland, with a community that is 11 per cent French-speaking, is one of Ontario’s 26 designated Francophone communities.

“It is the people who make up our community and what Welland embodies, and the Francophone community in Welland is a vital piece of who we are,” said Mayor Frank Campion. “I am proud to raise the Franco-Ontarian flag in recognition and support of our French-Canadian community here in Welland.”

Visiting Discover Welland — Decouvrir on the City’s website allows visitors a French-language section rich with information on the best places to see and visit in the City as well as highlight Welland’s attractions, history of Francophone culture, sister city Sorel-Tracy in Quebec, and relevant links to related news and resources. 

The City of Welland continues to strengthen partnerships with organizations such as Francophone Employment and Resource Centre (CERF-Niagara), Centre de Santé Communautaire, Foyer Richelieu Welland, l’Auberge Richelieu Welland, Collége Boréal, and Paroisse Sacré-Cœur. These organizations are vital in supporting Welland’s French-speaking families.

Minister of Francophone Affairs, the Honourable Caroline Mulroney, also wrote a letter of support to the City of Welland for advancing the Francophone community’s many contributions to the City and the province. 

(Source: City of Welland website)

Five Bridges Fall Classic Back In Town Saturday

WELLAND – After a one-year absence because of pandemic-related protocols, the Head of the Welland ~ Five Bridges Fall Classic is back in town this Saturday.

Hosted by the South Niagara Rowing Club on the fourth Saturday in September every year (except 2020) since 1980, the popular rowing competition is run on the North Course of the Welland International Flatwater Centre and is in its 39th year.  It is held in partnerships with the Welland International Flatwater Centre and the City of Welland.

According to information on Regatta Central, Saturday’s event (as of Wednesday morning, when this was prepared) has 215 entries from 16 participating clubs. The first race gets underway at  9 a.m.

Here is a list of participating clubs:

Argonaut Rowing Club, Toronto, 20 entries;  Barrie Rowing Club, Barrie, 1 entry; Don Rowing Club, Mississauga, 29 entries; Georgian Bay Rowing Club, Midland, 1 entry; Hanlan Boat Club, Toronto, 12 entries; Hanlan Rowing Club, Toronto, 1 entry;

Leander Boat Club, Hamilton, 13 entries;  London Western Rowing Club, London, 7 entries; Niagara Falls Rowing Club, Niagara Falls, 31 entries; Notre Dame Rowing Club, Welland, 28 entries; Ridley College, St. Catharines, 14 entries; Ridley Grad Boat Club, St. Catharines;

South Niagara Rowing Club, Welland, 23 entries; St. Catharines Rowing Club, St. Catharines, 28 entries; Tillsonburg Rowing Club, Tillsonburg, 1 entry; Unaffiliated (Canada), 1 entry.

The following info, written with clubs and athletes in mind, is found on Regatta Central and makes an interesting read even for locals:

The Race Course begins just south of the old Thorold Road boat launch (end of Thorold Road) with a naturally scenic 1.5 km stretch of open water running beside beautiful Merritt Island and over the historic Aqueduct to the Civic Square.  It then proceeds under five bridges travelling 3.7 km south through the heart of the City of Welland to the Finish Line on the North Course of the Welland International Flatwater Centre.

The first bridge is the historic Main Street Bridge, with its towering frame, with the Division Street Bridge just 150 metres away as you pass through the City’s Downtown Core.  Opening up after the Division Street Bridge the Recreational Waterway then affords you a 750 metre stretch of uninterrupted water before coming to the Lincoln Bridge.  A quick pass under the main columns of the bridge takes you into the community recreation portion of the waterway with another 750 metre stretch of open water before having to navigate the historic Railway Swing Bridge and the Broadway Bridge.  The waterway then immediately enters the North Course of the Welland International Flatwater Centre and competitors have approximately 1.2 km remaining to make their move!

There is only one way to pass under the Main Street, and Railway Swing Bridge.  The Division Street, Broadway and Lincoln Bridge provide for alternate passage under each bridge within the buoyed course and either passage may be used when one passage appears congested.

(Source: Regatta Central. File photos by Joe Barkovich)

Proof Of Vaccination Required At Recreational Facilities And Other City Sites

WELLAND As of September 22, all entrants to some City facilities will need to be fully vaccinated (two doses plus 14 days) and provide their proof of vaccination along with photo ID.

This approach, as part of the provincial proof of vaccination program, focuses on higher-risk indoor public settings where face coverings cannot always be worn. For City of Welland facilities, this includes meeting and event spaces, facilities used for sports and fitness, and sporting events at locations such as:

  • City Hall (meeting rooms only at this time)
  • Welland Community Wellness Centre (WCWC)
  • Welland Arena on King Street
  • Welland International Flatwater Centre (WIFC)
  • Chippawa Park Community Centre
  • Hooker Street Community Centre

“We have followed the public health and provincial guidance throughout this pandemic, and complying with the province’s proof of vaccination system continues to ensure our resident’s safety as they enjoy our facilities,” said Steve Zorbas, CAO. “Staff are preparing for this added level of safety and will do everything possible to make it as smooth and uninterrupted a process as possible.”

For a limited period (on or after September 22, 2021, but before October 13, 2021), for indoor social gatherings associated with weddings and funerals (in meeting and event spaces), the negative result of a COVID-19 antigen test may be provided instead of proof of being fully vaccinated.

The province is developing an enhanced vaccine certificate with a unique QR code and accompanying verification app to allow users to securely and safely verify their vaccination status when scanned. The enhanced vaccine certificate and a verification app to enable businesses to read the QR code will be available beginning October 22. City staff will adopt this method when available.

For more on the City’s guide to reopening and the health and safety measures in place to keep visitors to all City sites and facilities safe, read the reopening document.

(Source: City of Welland news release)