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‘Magical’ lantern event sheds light on Asian hate

‘Magical’ lantern event sheds light on Asian hate

There has been a lot of ant-Asian sentiment since COVID-19 arrived in March 2020.

An event held Saturday in Welland was designed to flatten this as much as possible by celebrating the Asian community.

A water lantern festival, hosted by Niagara Folk Arts Multicultural Centre, took place at dusk at Chippawa Park, a public space with a large man-made pond that suited the event nicely, said executive director Emily Kovacs.

She called it a “beautiful evening” that was “quite magical,” an opportunity to celebrate without conflict.

“We thought it was important for us to not only support the community, but also provide a different side of the community,” she said in an interview Sunday.

About 150 lanterns, made from biodegradable rice paper, were cast into the pond, where they sat lit with candles for about three to four hours.

“It was a fantastic turnout,” Kovacs said.

“When you have a collective opportunity to put in your best wishes, you benefit from each others’ goodwill.

“There’s a lot of meaning behind it,” she said about the event, and how it was crucial to hold it through lenses of “art, love and therapy.”

Due to weather concerns, the event was scheduled for Friday but pushed back a day.

The event, Wishes on the Water, was designed to create a safe space, using art to encourage dialogue, compassion and understanding.

The “quiet and personal reflective event” was family-friendly and designed to especially accommodate people with mobility and sensory/auditory concerns, said organizers.

People in attendance enjoyed live traditional and modern Chinese music performed by Helen Huang on violin and Lion Dancers.

Organizers are thankful for its sponsors, such as RBC, the City of Welland through its special events grants program and Ontario Trillium Foundation. Welland Heritage Council and Fort Erie Multicultural Centre were also supportive of the event.

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Emancipation Day events returning to Lakeside Park

Emancipation Day events returning to Lakeside Park

Niagara’s annual Emancipation Day celebrations will return to live events this month.

Organized by Matter of Black (MOB) and BlackOwned905 in partnership with FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, the four-day event will feature workshops, live performances and a vendor market at Lakeside Park and downtown St. Catharines.

The event marking pride and solidarity among the Black Canadian community is returning from two years of virtual and hybrid celebrations.

Performing arts centre programming director Sara Palmieri said the event is meant to “remember, honour and respect the struggles of freedom that Black Canadians experience, while continuing to learn and celebrate.”

In years past, the Emancipation Day Picnic at Lakeside Park would attract upwards of 8,000 people from Toronto to Owen Sound, with some attending from Virginia and Tennessee.

The Emancipation Day Picnic has been held in St. Catharines since 1924.

The raising of the Pan-African flag at city hall will kick off the festivities Friday at 2 p.m.

Events on Saturday will include the Black Owned 905 Market with DJ Rennie from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. along with a performance by SHAD at 5:45 p.m., in front of the performing arts centre at 250 St. Paul St.

Sunday will offer an open house and tour talk at Salem Chapel BME Church on Geneva Street from noon to 4 p.m.

Emancipation Day at Lakeside Park on Monday will feature music and activities all day, including a drumming performance by Alpha Rhythm Roots at 2 p.m., a spoken word performance by poet Dwayne Morgan at 6:30 p.m. and a concert by local legends LMT Connection at 7 p.m.

All events are free.

For a full list of Emancipation Day activities visit

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Niagara Regional Exhibition not ‘picking sides’ by hosting Freedom Tour event

The Niagara Regional Exhibition grounds will be site of a two-day rFeedom Tour event this weekend.

Niagara Regional Exhibition isn’t taking a political stance by allowing a two-day Freedom Tour event to set up at its Welland fairgrounds site this weekend.

That’s according to Mike Gill, president of Niagara Regional Agricultural Society, the organization that operates the site on Niagara Street.

“No one formally opposed it,” he said about event needing approval from the society board.

The event, a “Unity Truck Show,” will run Friday night and Saturday, featuring a number of guest speakers who will discuss “issues they believe in,” said Gill.

“We’re not about to get political in any way. That’s not our place,” said Gill, adding the society is not “picking sides” in the COVID-19 debate.

Events have mostly been non-existent at the fairgrounds since the pandemic started and the society needs the money the event will generate.

“We’re just looking for some rental income,” said Gill.

In 2020, there were “no rentals at all,” which equated to a loss of about $24,000.

In a normal year, the society’s annual budget is about $100,000, with three quarters of that amount coming from one building being rented full time, as well as storage fees for people who keep things such as boats and cars there during the winter.

In 2021, there were four or five events that brought in no more than $9,000 in rental fees, said Gill.

On top of the annual exhibition on the first weekend of June, several other events are on the roster for a full schedule this year, he said.

Asked if the society’s board is concerned about backlash from people who disagree with the messages expected to be shared on the weekend, Gill didn’t seem worried.

“It doesn’t matter what we do. Someone is always unhappy. That’s just the world we live in,” he said.

According to promotional material on social media, the event will include bouncy castles, face-painting and games, part of a “kids fest.”

According to the Freedom Tour website, a “group of like-minded individuals dedicated to spreading the truth of what is happening in our country” will be attending.

A section of the website says the group is “still carrying on about freedom,” due to rules regarding unvaccinated Canadians crossing borders.

People losing jobs due to vaccine mandates is another concern the group shares on its website.

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Niagara schools taking nuanced approach to teaching current events

Niagara schools taking nuanced approach to teaching current events

The war in Ukraine, the COVID-19 pandemic, anti-Black racism, the impact of residential schools — there has been no shortage of concerns or topics of reflection in classrooms the past few years.

In response, Niagara school boards said they have taken a nuanced and thorough approach in bringing discussions about current events into the classroom.

That means relying on the relationships between faculty and students, and giving teachers tools and space to determine the best option to create a safe learning environment, said Michael St. John, superintendent of special education and mental health and well-being for District School Board of Niagara.

“The teachers in our system really pride themselves on, and take care in, knowing each of their students … knowing their learning, knowing their background, knowing their culture, knowing a great deal about their family,” said St. John.

“We don’t go in to teach about Ukraine, we respond to the needs of the students and the questions they may have, some of their natural curiosity and some of their musings and thinking.”

DSBN said its system works to create a foundation and a balance when it comes to world events such as Ukraine or Black Lives Matter, using resources from mental health and well-being teams in combination with resources that come from its curriculum department.

But it’s about more than academics, with teachers learning to how to identify struggling students, and how to appropriately respond.

It may involve a phone call home, or bringing in a counsellor, either for an individual student or for the entire classroom, to work on resiliency and social emotional learning, “which is a big part of our curriculum for kids and their mental health and well-being,” said St. John.

“It really is going to be a mixture and a balance and it’s pretty fluid with regards to what can, and is, being presented to acknowledge and honour all of the kids in the class.”

Jennifer Pellegrini, communications officer for Niagara Catholic District School Board, said students are encouraged to come forward about Ukraine or other global events, with conversations from a faith-based perspective, “focusing on the need for humanitarian aid, justice, compassion and empathy.”

“Questions and conversations may focus on the politics behind the war, and the history of the region. They may also focus on the importance of critical thinking about the information students are consuming online,” she said.

Conseil scolaire Viamonde, the public French school board, said in an email when it comes to the response to current world events, it relies solely on curriculum provided by the Ministry of Education.

DSBN student trustee Salony Sharma said the past few years have brought about “so much discussion and uncertainty” but has created a unique environment to learn and grow, especially as a high school student.

“It’s not like you’re reflecting on history, you’re reflecting on current events and news happening in the context of our own lives,” she said. “You’re starting to form your own perspectives and viewpoints on these things and be experiencing them in real time.”

Sharma, who is in her final year at Westlane Secondary in Niagara Falls, said those discussions have allowed students to use the classroom as “a hub of different perspectives.”

She credited teachers for that freedom, and for encouraging student-led conversations.

“That lets us have a very open conversation without the pressure of the teacher’s opinion or how that might be perceived as a student in their class,” she said.

“To have those conversations helped solidify my own voice … and make me think outside my own privilege or my own bubble.”

Jennifer McArthur, Niagara president of Elementary Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, said teachers use their professional judgment and knowledge of their students to determine how and when to respond to current events.

Some engage students through visual arts by creating a lesson of painting sunflowers, while another may include the Ukraine war as a choice for a topic on written reflection.

But it goes beyond the age or grade of the student and their development, with teachers considering students’ social-emotional needs to make sure they “feel safe.” They also take into consideration the amount of understanding or exposure to current events students may have.

“A teacher with students who are refugees would consider previous and potential trauma that may affect how students react to the topic of Ukraine,” she said.

“If a child has friends or relatives directly affected, their understanding will be vastly different from a student living in a house where it is not being discussed.”

Ontario Secondary Schools Teachers’ Federation District 22 president Shannon Smith said teachers throughout the province engage students in ongoing conversations about current events as an opportunity to teach critical thinking.

“They engage students in ways that are pertinent to their subject area. Whether it’s learning traditional folk music from different countries or incorporating more inclusive novels in their English class, teachers present students with opportunities to expand their understanding of history and social justice,” said Smith.

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Events returning to Welland International Flatwater Centre

Competitors stand behind the starting line for the duathlon course at last year’s Rose City Triathlon at Welland International Flatwater Centre. Rowing, canoe kayak, swim and triathlons are returning to the centre this season.

Rowing, canoe kayak, open water swims, triathlons and dragon boating are returning to Welland International Flatware Centre.

“We are excited to have a return of all the sport disciplines,” said Erin Carl, Welland community services supervisor of festivals and events.

“The events will be hosted by local clubs/organizations to national sport organizations.”

One of the returning events is the Welland Dragon Boat Festival hosted by Welland Heritage Council and Multicultural Centre, on June 11.

Carl said the number of events to be held is close to pre-pandemic numbers.

In 2019, the last full year of operation for the centre before it was closed in 2020 due to COVID-19 mandates and restrictions, 20 were events held at the Townline Road facility.

Last year, 11 events were held on the waters of the recreational canal.

“Clubs and organizations have been submitting their special event applications and confirming their event dates with the city,” said Carl.

She expected to see flatwater events, along with other confirmed events in Welland, on the city’s website soon.

“Staff are open to working with new organizations and groups to host events at the flatwater centre and the city. We are continuing to work and grow the network of event partners.”

Carl said annual maintenance and scheduled repairs are being completed to ensure the venue is operational for the flatwater season and the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games.

The Games — Aug. 6 to 21 — will bring canoe kayak, open water swimming and triathlon events to the flatwater centre.

Other facilities in the Rose City to be used during the games include Youngs Sportsplex, Welland Baseball Stadium and Welland Tennis Club.

“The city continues to work with Niagara 2022 to make sure all venues are ready to host the Games.”

Carl said the city is looking for volunteers to come out and be a part of all the events on and off the water.

“We will be sending out a call to volunteers. If people from the community would like to have their contact information put on the distribution list, they can email or go onto the city’s website to complete the online form.”

She said the Canada Games is looking for volunteers. People can register at

While things are getting ready for the on-water return, the city will also open the new Empire Sportsplex, 11 Shaw St., in the upper parking lot of the flatwater centre in May.

The $2.75-million multi-court sports facility is being built at the centre by Empire Communities, which has two developments in Dain City that will support as many as 2,000 new homes.

Empire is contributing $500,000 for naming rights over the next 10 years.

The sports facility will have six dedicated pickleball courts, three tennis courts with line overlay for pickleball courts, five beach volleyball courts, one full basketball court, two half-basketball courts, washrooms, and office and equipment storage space.

It will also include a nearby splash pad, funded by Canadian Tire Jumpstart at $300,0000.

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Plenty of Family Day events planned across Niagara

Plenty of Family Day events planned across Niagara

Scavenger hunts, snow yoga and free skating.

Niagara residents looking for something to do this Family Day long weekend will find a wide variety of activities planned across the region.

Here are some of the events taking place. More information can be found on individual municipalities’ websites.



A city-wide scavenger hunt “Winterquest” is taking place until Feb. 22.

Participants can download the free GooseChase mobile app and join the game with the code: 3MV899.

They’ll be given missions to complete at outdoor art installations, recreational trials, parks, community rinks and more.


St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canals Centre is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Family Day, with structured programming between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., including collection viewings, interactive activities, a scavenger hunt and a DIY family tree take-home activity kit.

Collection vaults will be open with behind-the-scenes tours throughout the day. An exhibit featuring the relationship between food and family will be on and visitors are encouraged to bring recipes of favourite family meals to pin on the boards in the Burgoyne room.


St. Catharines is offering “SNOWGA in the park — outdoor yoga outside the Russell Avenue Community Centre at noon Monday. Participants can join a 45 to 60-minute class, depending on the weather. Bring a yoga mat and dress in layers.


Participants can get some exercise and practice reading at the Port Weller Community Centre by following the trail of story book pages for a winter walk. Drop by the park between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday.


Participants can bundle up and meet at the Lock 3 parking lot at 10 a.m. for an adventure walk along the Welland Canal. Nordic poles are available to borrow. The city has a Nordic Pole Walking 101 video to view on the City of St. Catharines YouTube page to see what it’s all about.


Public skating is happening at Seymour-Hannah Sports and Entertainment Centre on Family Day with hour-long time slots starting at noon.

Numbers are limited to 40 per session and reservations can be made at


Leisure swims are running throughout the day from 7:15 a.m. to 9:05 p.m. on Family Day. Reservations at Detailed events can be found at



Free skating at the Gale Centre Monday, Feb. 21.

Public skating 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m., 1 to 2:15 p.m and 2:30 to 3:45 p.m.

No walk-ins due to capacity limits. QR Code is required to enter all Niagara Falls recreational facilities.

Patrons can reserve spots at


Niagara Falls Museums is hosting a free Family Day weekend scavenger hunt for families and friends who want to have fun, explore the city and learn some local history.

The contest runs from Friday at 4 p.m. until Monday at 9 p.m.

Participants can download the free GooseChase mobile app and join the game with the code: VW5W6Q. They’ll be sent on nine different missions taking them across the city to find answers to questions.

Those who don’t want to use the app can find a list of locations and questions at

More information is available on the website.


Butterfly Conservatory — The new travelling exhibit opens, “On the Trail of the Monarch Butterfly,” produced by the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in partnership with the Embassy of Mexico

Niagara Parks Power Station — Little Inventors workshops run 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday featuring STEM-related activities designed to inspire young minds. Workshops free with admission.

Journey Behind the Falls — Reduced winter rates in effect, $15.50 for adults and $10.50 for children.

Zipline to the Falls — Open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sunday and Family Day.

Garden at Home virtual series — Niagara Parks horticulturalists kick off an all-new virtual gardening series, Garden at Home. Tickets cost $15 per event with admission to the entire four-part series for $45.

Visit for more details on locations and hours.



Free skating with the donation of a non-perishable food item at Welland Main Arena, sponsored by Welland Optimist Club. There will be a “learn to skate” area with skate aids and bumpers and a play area to try out ringette.

Vouchers for a free hot dog and free drink for each child will be handed out and are redeemable Monday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.


Family Day GooseChase is running from Friday at 3 p.m. to Monday at 6 p.m.

Families will be sent on a scavenger hunt around the city or in their neighbourhoods, building a snowman, creating a snow angel, taking a photo with a hockey stick and more.

Participants can download the free GooseChase mobile app and join the game with the code: ZMG8LL.



Free skate on Monday at Vale Health and Wellness Centre from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Proof of vaccination status is required for anyone 12 and older.

The arena programming schedule with other program details and fees is available at the site by following the links.


Port Colborne Historical and Marine Museum is hosting a scavenger hunt featuring local heritage. Participants can download the free GooseChase mobile app to participate in the “Humberstone Hunt” scavenger hunt.

Details will launch on Monday on the museum’s social media accounts. Those who don’t want to use the app can arrange to get a paper copy by calling the museum at 905-834-7604.