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‘Disaster is what brings us together.’ Greektown community united after tragedy


greek town united after tragedy

TORONTO — The doors at St. Barnabas on the Danforth are always open, but the people seeking solace inside the Anglican church the day after a deadly shooting wanted to bolt them shut.

Less than 24 hours earlier, gunfire had shattered the cheer of Toronto’s Greektown where the church is located. In the melee, a troubled man had sprayed bullets indiscriminately through the bustling neighbourhood, killing two people, injuring 13 others and leaving countless more questioning the safety of an area they’d long seen as an oasis.

Rev. Jeanette Lewis understood the calls to lock St. Barnabas’ doors rather than make the church available for anyone needing to discuss the tragedy, but she felt denying entry would send the wrong message.

In short order, she said, residents came to agree. The neighbourhood resumed business as usual mere days after the devastating shooting, and on the one-year anniversary of the tragedy, she said the community has emerged as strong as ever.

“Disaster is what brings us together and brings the best out of us,” Lewis said in an interview. “It’s like when there’s a terrible snow storm and you’re standing at a bus shelter. You’ll talk to somebody whereas you won’t on a nice day.”

Efforts to recover from the deadly shooting spree focused on vigils and tributes in the days immediately following the rampage.

Makeshift memorials sprang up to honour the lives of 18-year-old Reese Fallon and 10-year-old Julianna Kozis, both of whom died in the violence.

The Danforth, a long-time hub for Toronto’s Greek community, is now home to dozens of diverse businesses and a popular destination for Toronto residents and visitors alike. Some of those businesses experienced a downturn in traffic in the days immediately following the shooting, Lewis said, citing wary restaurant patrons opting to grab takeout rather than dining in public.

Local campaigns to encourage visitors to return appear to have worked, Lewis said, noting neighbourhood hot spots are still doing brisk business and attendance at community festivals was at or slightly above levels seen in more peaceful years.

Beneath it all, however, community members say scars remain.

Roula Panagiopopoulos, who’s called the Danforth neighbourhood home for more than 20 years, said safety concerns dominate much of the chatter among her fellow residents.

As co-founder of the newly minted Danforth Residents Association, she said her efforts have focused on meeting with politicians at all levels of government, raising concerns with city police, and debating the merits of installing more cameras along the stretch of street where the shooting took place.

Gun control, too, has become a hot topic, with at least one community yard sale doubling as a fundraising vehicle for a national organization in support of limiting access to firearms.

Panagiopopoulos herself said the shooting lies at the heart of her personal safety concerns, adding it’s permanently changed her interactions with her neighbourhood.

“I ensure now that I don’t come home after dark any more,” she said. “I personally will have a hard time going on the Danforth on a Sunday night. I know it is irrational, but it’s just something that will always stop me.”

A local arts organization also said safety and gun violence were prevalent themes among participants in a series of workshops meant to spread messages of love, acceptance and strength in the months following the shooting.

Shana Hillman, executive director of East End Arts, said participants often raised concerns about feeling safe in public spaces, though their anxieties encompassed areas like racism and intolerance more than the specific events of July 22, 2018.

The posters they created in the workshops, many of which now appear throughout the neighbourhood, were envisioned as messages meant to reaffirm the values of the community and express support to anyone spending time there.

“It’s not our job to solve these problems, but as a local arts service organization there is a way that we can … give the community the tools to talk about or deal with issues,” she said.

For Alexandra Kaklamanos, tools for discussion would be welcome.

Her daughter, Raphaella Zymaras, was among a group of eight friends capping off a birthday celebration on the Danforth when shots rang out.

Half of them, including Zymaras, escaped injury by seeking shelter in a local cafe. The other half were caught in the gunfire, resulting in serious injuries for three of them and Fallon’s sudden death.

Kaklamanos said her daughter cannot bear to revisit the neighbourhood where her friend was killed, insisting on taking detours around the area when travelling between her home and university campus.

Kaklamanos herself, however, has found comfort in the resilience of a community where she spent many happy hours as a child and young adult. She returned to the area for the first time since the shooting a few weeks ago, compelled by a need to try and reconstruct what her daughter endured.

What she found, however, was an unexpected sense of peace and reassurance as she enjoyed lunch at a local restaurant and saw the community functioning much as she remembered.

Kaklamanos hopes her daughter, too, may one day feel safe in the streets where she once felt terror.

“When I went there it did me good,” Kaklamanos said. “For her it will be more important to go and say, ‘You know what? It’s still safe. It’s still okay to be here.”

Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press


151st Cowichan Exhibition includes new category: best home-grown pot



VICTORIA — One of Canada’s oldest fall fairs is putting a new twist on its annual showcase of local livestock, produce and fruit by adding a new category for best home-grown marijuana.

The Cowichan Exhibition in Duncan, B.C., which dates back to 1868, has created a best cannabis category to embrace legalization and celebrate local pot growers, said exhibition vice-president Bud James.

The fair starts Friday and the cannabis entries will be on display in the main hall at the Cowichan Exhibition Grounds along with the region’s top vegetables, fruits and baked goods. First prize is $5, second is $3 and third place gets a ribbon.

“We just decided this year, because it’s an agricultural product, and it’s been grown in the valley for years, and now that it’s finally legally grown, we would allow people to win a ribbon for the best,” said James.

He said fair officials believe the Cowichan cannabis category is the first of its kind in Canada.

An official at the Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions, a non-profit organization representing rural and urban fairs, said she had not heard of any other cannabis judging contests prior to the Cowichan Exhibition, but couldn’t confirm it was the first.

A fall fair in Grand Forks, B.C., is also judging local cannabis, but the event starts Saturday, one day after Cowichan’s fair. Those who enter the competition in Grand Forks can compete for best indoor- and outdoor-grown cannabis.

James said fair organizers contacted the local council and RCMP prior to adding the cannabis category. The mayor and council did not oppose the contest and the RCMP referred organizers to B.C.’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, the agency monitoring retail sales of non-medical cannabis, he said.

Organizers decided to go ahead with the event after its plans were not rejected, James said.

“Our interpretation of the rules are you can’t make it attractive to people under 19 years and we are not making it attractive,” he said.

James said the cannabis entries will be placed in a glass display case and the individual entries will be sealed in clear zip lock plastic bags.

“It’s being judged to the same standard of judging garden and field produce,” he said. “It’s done by uniformity. You want all three buds to be the same size, same shape, same colour. It’s also the dryness, texture and smell. It’s exactly the same way you would judge apples or carrots or hay bales. It’s all done the same way.”

James said the contest doesn’t involve sampling the product.

Bree Tweet, the manager of a medical cannabis dispensary in nearby Ladysmith, will judge the marijuana entries, said James.

The exhibition received 18 cannabis entries and James said the contest created a buzz at the fair.

“The enthusiasm of the entrants, the people bringing their entry forms, they are so enthusiastic it’s unbelievable,” he said. “They are so thrilled that it’s happening, that we’re doing it because they’ve been waiting for years for legalization and now, they finally got it and now they have a chance to show what they can do.”

James, who has entered his prized Dahlia flowers at past fairs, said the addition of the cannabis category has exceeded expectations with the 18 entries.









Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

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School board defends book pictured on principal’s desk after online uproar



A Toronto-area Catholic school board says an online firestorm that erupted after a book on how to teach black students was photographed on a principal’s desk stems from a misunderstanding over the book’s contents.

The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board says the book, titled “The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys,” has a provocative title but is actually a helpful resource on tackling racial and cultural oppression in education.

Michelle Coutinho, the board’s principal of equity and inclusive education, says such materials are a particularly useful reference given how diverse the student population is in the district and at that specific school.

The controversy emerged this week after a Brampton, Ont., high school, Cardinal Ambrozic Catholic Secondary School, posted a photo of its new principal on Twitter.

The photo, which shows the book on her desk, set off heated debate, with some suggesting it was a sign of racism or incompetence, or a prop meant to bolster the school’s image.

The image was also shared on instagram by 6ixBuzzTV, a popular account with roughly 1.2 million followers.

“LOOOOL. No principal should make it this far while subsequently needing a book like this,” one person wrote on Twitter. “She a bad principal,” wrote another.

Some defended the book, however, and the principal’s efforts to educate herself. “She’s making an effort to connect with her students, it’s more than most principals do,” another tweet read.

The board said it was surprised by the uproar and hoped people would look up the book before jumping to conclusions based on its title.

The principal intends to address the photo in a public announcement and invite any students with lingering questions to see her, said Bruce Campbell, the board’s spokesman.

The book, written by three researchers and published in 2017, aims to improve outcomes for black students by helping teachers create learning environments in which they feel nurtured and engaged. The title references the fact that white women make up the bulk of the teaching force in the U.S.

Coutinho said the book asks educators to challenge the biases they may bring into the classroom.

“We know that we’re steeped in a colonized kind of world view and how do we break out of that in our everyday practices?” she said, noting it has been used in the board’s anti-oppression training in the past.

Cardinal Ambrozic’s new principal was involved in a book study at several schools that delved deeply into the text last year, Coutinho said.

“If we’re going to make any changes to the education system, we have to start talking about these things and talking about them openly and honestly without shame or blame.”






Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

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january, 2020

mon06jan(jan 6)8:00 amfri31(jan 31)12:00 amJanuary is Alzheimer's Awareness Month8:00 am - 12:00 am (31) Event Organized By: K. Jobs

sun12jan(jan 12)2:00 pmsun22mar(mar 22)5:00 pmAnne Frank: A History for Today opening at Red Deer MAG2:00 pm - (march 22) 5:00 pm mst Red Deer Museum & Art Gallery Address: 4525 - 47A Avenue, Red Deer

thu23jan(jan 23)6:00 pmsat25(jan 25)11:00 pmRed Deer Justice Film Festival6:00 pm - 11:00 pm (25) welikoklad event centre, 4922 49 St, Red Deer, AB T4N 1V3

fri24jan1:30 pm3:00 pmMonthly Mindfulness Drop-InMonthly Mindfulness Drop-In1:30 pm - 3:00 pm

mon27jan11:15 am1:15 pmLuncheon With Arlene Dickinson11:15 am - 1:15 pm Cambridge Hotel and Conference Centre, 3310 50 Avenue