Monthly Archives: February 2022

Heritage Lives: The County Court House, A Storied Piece Of Local History

By Terry Hughes

How many times did I pass this impressive building as a boy on my way to the Cross Street Pool and wonder what kind of function it served? The accompanying plaque, above left, sums up the highlights of the building but until you enter those huge wooden doors one has no idea what stories are hidden inside. 

While teaching at Gordon School, the topic of downtown came up and the Court House in particular. Later that week one of my students said that her mother worked in the office there and wondered if we would like to tour the facility? It was not too much longer before we pulled up in front of the building and was met by Dave Thomas the registrar who volunteered to show us around. 

The outside of the building was under construction and as we later found out was in need of major repairs. As we toured the halls you could see but hardly hear the workers chipping away at the loose cement and replacing windows. The walls were made of limestone and nearly four feet thick!  The roof was replaced with slate and the three cupolas were re-covered with copper. 

The interior was a total disaster. It had not been touched except for patchwork repairs in decades since the fire in 1913 with the plaster peeling off the walls, holes in some of the portraits of former judges and poor lighting. The main courtroom lacked air conditioning and reached one hundred degrees in the summer  

Before we move on, a political reality was facing Mayor Dick Reuter. The outside work was going to cost several millions of dollars and because the city had taken over ownership from the region, it was faced with a huge debt and the repairs to the interior had not been started! This situation was compounded with the province possibly leaving the three court rooms vacant and moving its operations to St. Catharines. The mayor contacted our member of Parliament, Gib Parent, who contacted Premier Harris and he reversed the decision to move the courts. A long-term agreement was reached that would help fund the repairs. 

The rest of the tour included a climb upstairs to the governor’s apartments (warden) and down to the very lowest of the jails cells where the worst offenders were housed…a very cold and damp place. We also saw the table onto which the victim of a hanging was dropped through the trap door after execution and wheeled out to the yard where they were buried.  Two six-foot tables were used to tie down and whip prisoners when they entered the jail as a reminder to obey the rules. Thirteen hangings occurred in three municipal jails until they were halted after 1958. 

With the future secure for the building, the interior went through a metamorphosis. Old paneling was removed revealing details long forgotten. The ceilings were removed allowing sunlight to shine through the cupolas to the main courtroom and two ante rooms formerly used as washrooms. Walls were repaired and new light fixtures imitating the gas lights of yesteryear illuminated the facility.  Extra courtrooms and electric security were added and prisoners were to be housed in the new facilities in Thorold. 

The remaining picture shows the county building around the turn of the century on property owned by the county from Dorothy Street (bus terminal) to Cross Street.  The building in the foreground is the registry office, later the Eatons order office, the wall enclosure, jail and courthouse. 

Next column: Public access and more jail stories at the county building.

(Terry  Hughes is a Wellander who is passionate about heritage, history and model railroading. His opinion column, Heritage Lives, appears on the blog once or twice monthly.)

No Ice Is Safe Ice, Welland Fire Chief Cautions

Ice fishing on the recreational canal/ File photo Joe Barkovich

WELLAND – With ice thawing and water runoff and rain posing a new hazard, the City of Welland reminds everyone to avoid the Welland recreational canal and all stormwater ponds.

Chief Eckhart

When the temperatures drop cold enough in the winter months, the canal freezes; however, the water underneath remains active. Due to the constantly moving water underneath the service, gaps or flooding areas where ice forms make the canal unsafe for recreational activity. Additionally, water run off weakens the ice and rain adds a risk of melt and water pooling – which may freeze and deceive users.

COVID-restrictions permitting, activities involving skating should take place at arenas or properly maintained outdoor rinks. For City-operated outdoor rinks, check the City’s website for updates. If your winter activities take you onto ice-covered bodies of water, be mindful of areas you explore.

“Avoiding the canal and stormwater ponds in the city is the best way to stay safe this winter,” said Adam Eckhart, fire chief. “We understand that many residents will enjoy winter activities that include fishing, snowmobiling, skating, and more on frozen water surfaces, and we encourage everyone to know the risks before venturing out onto the ice.”

According to Lifesaving Society, approximately 35 per cent of drownings in Canada occur from October to April when most people have no intention of going into the water. Snowmobiling and ice accidents account for most of these incidents.

Ice Safety Tips:

  • Check the ice thickness
  • Colour of ice matters; clear blue ice is the strongest, white or opaque ice is much weaker
  • stay away from ice that looks honeycombed
  • Near-shore ice is often much thicker and safer than ice farther out
  • No ice is safe, use caution around all of our bodies of water and don’t venture out alone’
  • Wear a lifejacket and survival suit; these items can preserve body heat
  • If you are going out onto the ice, know what to do if you break through

To stay safe, check the ice to make sure it’s thick enough and always wear a lifejacket during activities around the water. When in doubt, stay clear of the ice.

(Attribution: City of Welland news release)

Catholic Diocese Mourns Death of Bishop Emeritus O’Mara

Bishop Emeritus John O’Mara /2016 file photo Joe Barkovich

John Aloysius O’Mara, Bishop Emeritus of the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Catharines, died Wednesday, February 16, 2022. He was 97.

According to a close friend of the bishop, Bishop O’Mara died in his sleep at Hotel Dieu Shaver Health and Rehabilitation Centre, St. Catharines.

He was born in Buffalo, New York, November 17, 1924.

He was ordained priest in June, 1951 in St. Michael’s Cathedral, Toronto.

In May of 1976, he was named the third bishop of Thunder Bay diocese and was ordained Bishop in June. In February, 1994, he was transferred to the Diocese of St. Catharines as its third Bishop. He was installed at the Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria April 13, 1994. He retired in January 2009.

Bishop O’Mara held many appointments and positions during a career that saw him attend two Papal Conclaves. As secretary to James Cardinal McGuigan of the Archdiocese of Toronto, he attended the conclave in 1958 where Pope John XXIII was elected and then 1963, the election of Pope Paul VI. For many years, he was deeply involved in the Catholic Health Care Ministry in Ontario, work that was of great importance to him. Also held near and dear was his participation in and commitment to social justice organizations and initiatives.

Following his retirement, he was in residence at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary parish, Thorold, where for many years he assisted in pastoral ministry.

Visitation will be held Monday, February 21 at St. Alfred Parish, 272 Vine St., St. Catharines from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. The funeral Mass will be at St. Alfred, Tuesday, February 22 at 11 a.m.

Community Trails Strategy Vision Positions Welland As A Leader In Connected And Active Communities

Merritt Island trail, showing snow removal by the city after a winter snowfall./Photo by Joe Barkovich

WELLAND – Focusing on active and connected communities, the City of Welland’s new Community Trails Strategy (CTS) provides a blueprint for expanding cycling, walking, and recreational trail networks over the next 20 years. 

The CTS guides the City in improving and enhancing active transportation and trail infrastructure and recommends programming and design approaches to increase community trails. In addition, the City is applying for the Federal Governments Active Transportation Fund and seeks other funding opportunities to offset the costs to implement the strategy.


“This strategy will pay dividends for our community for a very long time,” said Rob Axiak, director of community services. “Establishing a direction for our trail networks by focusing on being an active community, Welland continues to make itself a desirable place to live, work, play, and invest.”

Aligning with existing trail and active transportation supportive policies and plans from various levels of government, the CTS complies with current guidelines, enhancing Welland’s features and existing assets. This year, snow removal on Merritt Island and the Stop 19 Trail made the trails accessible throughout the winter and was received with fanfare by the community.

Some key goals of the CTS are to:

  • Enhance connectivity between trail networks, sidewalks, and on-road cycling routes to create an integrated, connected system of trails and active transportation infrastructure.
  • Refine existing plans, particularly the City’s Parks, Recreation and Culture Master Plan, to develop an implementation strategy, project phasing, and cost estimates.
  • Connect residents and visitors alike to Welland’s Trails and natural heritage to provide more opportunities for recreation, transportation, and access to amenities.
  • Enhance Welland’s position as the Trails Centre of Niagara Region, bringing new tourism and economic development opportunities to the city.

The CTS is an exciting opportunity for the City and a top priority for the community services department as it continues to support and enhance the community’s health and wellbeing of the community.

To view the CTS, when uploaded, visit:

(Attribution: City of Welland news release)

REDress Project Honors Victims And Survivors Of Colonial Violence

Indigenous Student Success Leader Emily Schutt prepares red dresses for display at the Welland Campus. Part of the REDress Project, dresses will be displayed at both NC campuses from Feb. 14-18 as a visual reminder of victims of colonial violence. /Supplied photo

On a day that is dedicated to celebrating love, a meaningful initiative will help open hearts to lives lost and impacted by violence.

Niagara College will join Brock University in hosting the REDress Project on February 14. The initiative is dedicated to raising awareness of Missing and murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) and Two Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex and Asexual (2SLGBTQQIA+) people.

The goal of the REDress Project is to pay tribute to individuals lost to violence, as well as those who survived, and acknowledge the impacts that violence had on their families, friends and communities, noted Lianne Gagnon, director of Student Services.

“It’s only by shining a light and providing information that we can take the steps to expose the truth of the violence. That’s why we feel it’s so important to educate our students and staff about the violence perpetrated against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people, in the hope of eliminating it,” said Gagnon. “As postsecondary providers in Niagara, we are proud to stand with our partners at Brock and take a lead role in informing our communities to end the violence and work towards a more diverse and inclusive future for all.”

Beginning February 14, NC will host a week-long display of red dresses in prominent outdoor locations at its Welland Campus and Daniel J. Patterson Campus in Niagara-on-the-Lake. The dress displays are intended to be powerful visual reminders of the thousands of MMIWG and 2SLGTBQQIA+ people who were victims of colonial violence over the past 40 years, and to help raise awareness of the REDress Project throughout the College community.

“Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to host the REDress Project because the victims and survivors that we honour are not just statistics; each one of them was a person who was loved,” said NC Indigenous student success Leader Emily Schutt. “We are proud to join our partners at Brock in displaying the red dresses on our campuses, and hope that the initiative encourages everyone to take the time to learn more about the REDress Project and the MMIWG inquiry.”

The red dress displays, for which the REDress Project was named, originally began as an art installation by Métis artist Jamie Black in 2011 at the University of Winnipeg and has since been replicated in communities across Canada.

This will be the second year that the College has will host REDress project and red dress displays on its campuses. NC Indigenous Education launched a REDress Drive in early 2022 to collect red dresses donations from the College community in support of the initiative.

NC Indigenous Education and Brock University are hosting a REDress Project virtual panel event on the evening of February 14. Panelists include Robyn Bourgeois, acting vice-provost, Indigenous Engagement and Aboriginal Student Services, Brock University; Jennifer Moore Rattray, who served as executive director of the national inquiry into MMIWG; and Fallon Farinacci, survivor and advocate for MMIWG.

The virtual event will take place via Microsoft Teams from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Advance registration is required through Eventbrite at: There is free admission to attend and donations will be collected to support Abbey House – a residence for Indigenous women who are experiencing crisis. Elder support will be available during the event.

On the evening of February 14, Niagara Falls and Brock University’s Schmon Tower will be illuminated in red in honour of the REDress Project.  


A National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls was launched in September 2016. Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls was published in June 2019. The report contained 231 Calls for Justice, which also included a public campaign to expose what has been experienced by Indigenous people and a national task force to examine the unresolved cases. In 2021, the Government of Canada released its plan to address the tragedies experienced by MMIWG and 2SLBGTQQIA+ by committing $2.2 billion dollars to fund the goals outlined in the final report. A National Action Plan was released in 2021 that focuses on ending the violence against MMIWG and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people.

(Source: Niagara College media release)

City Seeks Community Members For Affordable Housing Committee

WELLAND – Applications for the City of Welland’s newly created Affordable Housing Advisory Committee are now open and accepted until Thursday, March 31, no later than 4:30 p.m.

Seven volunteer positions are available – five will be ratepayers/residents with experience in affordable housing, and two members will be from the Welland Affordable Housing Task Force. Applicants must be a resident/ratepayer in the City of Welland to fill a vacancy on this committee.

“Affordable housing is one of the most important issues we’re facing right now and into the near future,” said Mayor Frank Campion. “Our community is growing, and we need to make sure we have opportunities for everyone to get into their first home or to downsize later in life. Housing should not be for the privileged. This committee will bring ideas and action to a crucial issue.”

The committee is tasked with identifying and advising on affordable housing matters, including conducting research and providing advice to Council regarding affordable housing policies, proposals, and affordable housing matters that are from time to time referred to the committee by Council.

The committee is advisory, not legislative, and reports to Council under the terms of reference. The committee, in part, will

  • Work with the City to advocate senior levels of government increasing funding under affordable housing and homelessness support programs.
  • Assist in developing an Affordable Housing Community Improvement Plan for the City, including participation in the Request for Proposal (RFP) Process and developing a suite of municipal financial and non-financial incentives, in consultation with City Staff, external government and non-gov agencies, the general public to support the creation of new affordable housing.
  •  Provide comment on affordable housing components of the update to the City’s Official Plan.
  • Work with the Niagara Region and senior levels of government to create an inventory of surplus vacant government lands, particularly city-owned lands, and where deemed appropriate, consider for the development of affordable housing.

To apply and read the committee’s terms of reference, visit: Affordable Housing Advisory Committee (

(Source: City of Welland news release)

Nominees Sought For Niagara Humanitarian Award

Nominations are now open for the 2022 T. Roy Adams Humanitarian of the Year Award.

T. Roy Adams

In memory of the late Councillor T. Roy Adams, Niagara Region initiated a memorial award in 2003 in his name. It is presented annually and honours a resident of Niagara who best exemplifies Roy’s values and dedication to community service; a person who sees volunteerism as an integral part of their life.


The 2021 winner was Susan Venditti, who was recognized for her lifelong dedication to caring for those less fortunate in our community. Wellanders who were chosen to receive the award for their humanitarian efforts were Paul Turner in 2016 and Douglas Rapelje in 2020.

You can view the criteria for the award, and nominate someone you know, on Niagara Region’s website. Nominations are open until March 31, 2022.

Mr. Adams was an eminent Niagaran, well known throughout the Region, Canada, and abroad for serving his community, his country and his fellow citizens.​

(Source: news release, Niagara Region)