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The night the residential school burned to the ground — and the students cheered




The first thing Jenny Spyglass remembers is the shouting. There was a fire, she was told, and she needed to get out — now.

It was 1948, and smoke was pouring out of the basement of the Thunderchild Indian Residential School.

The large dormitory room filled with girls getting ready for bed exploded into chaos. Seven-year-old Spyglass was given a thin blanket and was marched down the fire escape into a January night with temperatures reaching –35 C.

Flames quickly consumed the old wooden building. The large barrel of diesel and lubricating oil in the basement didn’t help. The fire was so large, it could be seen 65 kilometres away.

There were no casualties because they were all prepared.— Milton Tootoosis

It would be understandable if the students were frightened that night.

But instead of crying, many students started cheering.

Now 77, Spyglass, like other survivors, is convinced that boys at the school intentionally set the fire that burned the school to the ground.

And she’s glad they did.

Residential school survivor Jenny Spyglass says she’s glad the residential school burned down. (David Shield/CBC)

Stories of abuse, overcrowding and death

The story of the Thunderchild residential school is a familiar one.

Established in 1901 by the Roman Catholic Church just outside the village of Delmas, about 30 kilometres west of North Battleford in central Saskatchewan, the school was designed to house and educate First Nations children in the area.  

However, there were problems.

Milton Tootoosis, historian and headman of the Poundmaker First Nation, said many stories of abuse at Thunderchild came out during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings.

The TRC spent six years documenting Canada’s residential school legacy — a government-funded, church-operated assimilation program from the 1870s to 1996 — and issued 94 recommendations, including several involving child-welfare reform.

Tootoosis’s parents went to the Thunderchild school in the 1940s. When he asked his father about the school, he would immediately fall silent.

« It’s a way they survived, » Tootoosis said. « They didn’t want their children to know what really went on in those schools, to protect them from the shock and likely the anger we would have experienced. »

The Thunderchild residential school operated from 1901 to 1948 near Delmas, Sask. (Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan)

Death rates were high in the overcrowded school, according to Shattering the Silence: The Hidden History of Residential Schools in Saskatchewan, a report written by the University of Regina’s faculty of education.

According to a paper prepared for the Law Commission of Canada, 15 per cent of the students at the school died in 1928, a rate of up to five times the provincial average for non-First Nations students.

A survivor and a brother lost

Spyglass was three years old when a black Jeep drove up to her family’s home on the Mosquito-Grizzly Bear’s Head-Lean Man First Nation.

Indian Agents and a priest « were pointing their fingers at me, and my mom started crying, » she said. « I should have had the feeling that something was wrong. »

She said the agents took her and threw her into the back of the vehicle. Dust caught in her throat as she bounced along the gravel road.

« I yelled and I screamed and I fought, » she said. « That didn’t help. »

She would spend the next three and a half years at the school. She said life there was hellish.

« It’s hard when I talk about it. Sometimes I can’t sleep. »

A group of parents camp near the Thunderchild school as they visit their children. (Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan)

One day at the school’s church, she saw her brothers sitting on the boys’ side of the aisle. She sprinted over to them for a hug. She hadn’t seen them in weeks. She said the nuns caught her and threw her into the school’s basement for the rest of the day.

« I thought they were going to leave me to die, » she said. « It was no use crying. They just left me. »

She said food at the school was inadequate.

« I didn’t like dry bread, dry bannock. That’s how we ate, » she said. « I didn’t know what a chocolate bar was — or an apple or an orange or a banana. »

Over the years, Spyglass said most of her brothers and sisters ran away from the school, except her older brother, Reggie. He died at the school after contracting tuberculosis.

« Reggie was my best friend, » she said. « Reggie was my playmate. He was everything to me. »

She said the strict conditions at the school made it impossible to mourn.

« I didn’t know how to grieve, » she said. « I didn’t know what to do. »

The original residential school building. (Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan)

The warning spread quickly

Spyglass and Tootoosis said the fire at the school was carefully planned by students.

Word quietly spread from student to student that night, telling everyone to get ready. Tootoosis said the boys were told to go to sleep with their clothes on and cover up with a blanket, so they would be ready once the fire started.

« There were no casualties because they were all prepared, » Tootoosis said.

According to an RCMP investigation report from the time, the fire started in a cupboard where custodians kept their tools. The nun who discovered the fire tried to throw water on it but was forced out by thick black smoke.

The provincial fire investigator believed the fire might have been set intentionally and asked RCMP to question four teenage boys. However, the boys claimed they had nothing to do with the fire, and the case was eventually dropped due to lack of evidence.

Once outside, Spyglass and some of the other children were taken to a garage to spend the night.

I hated school right through my teenage years. I would make an excuse to go to the washroom outside and from there I would take off.— Jenny Spyglass

In the morning, she was taken back to her home and her family.

« From far away, I saw a young man running towards us, » she said. « When I recognized it was my big brother Martin, I threw my little blanket away and my big brother carried me home. »

However, life wasn’t easy for Spyglass once she got home.

« All I did was cry, » she said. « I told my mom never to let me go anywhere. »

Finding culture and forgiveness

She began to attend a day school at the nearby Red Pheasant First Nation. Whenever she heard that the local Indian Agent was visiting her school, she would hide in the bushes, terrified she would be taken from her family again.

« I hated school right through my teenage years, » she said. « I would make an excuse to go to the washroom outside and from there I would take off. »

She dropped out of school after finishing Grade 10.

« I started drinking, and I didn’t like my life, » she said.

Jenny Spyglass and her husband Mervin Cox in the mid-1970s. (Submitted by Jenny Spyglass)

Eventually, she got married and had children. She started working at a school. She even got into politics, serving as a band councillor for 21 years and chief for four years — the first woman to hold that office in the North Battleford area.

However, it wasn’t until she discovered her culture that she was able to feel happy. After going to her first round dance, she bought a sewing machine and made her first dress.

« I was dancing, and I felt peace, » she said. « Those people that hurt me so much, I forgave them. »

These days, she works as an elder at many schools in the North Battleford area. She said it’s been an important part of her healing.

« I feel it within my heart, » she said. « I put my arms around them. I cry with them. »

Still, Spyglass doesn’t mourn the Thunderchild Indian Residential School. There’s no more than an empty field now where it once stood.

« They should have burned it a long time ago, » she said. « Maybe then my brother would be still alive. »


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Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme




Get a taste of adventure with Starburst XXXtreme based on the legendary NetEnt Game. The nostalgic themes are sure to capture fans of the classic version as they get treated to higher intensity, better visuals, and features. The most significant element of the game is its volatility. Patience will not be an essential virtue considering the insane gameplay, and there is a lot of win potential involved. It retains the original makeup of the previous game while adding a healthy dose of adrenaline. 

Starburst Visuals and Symbols

The game is definitely more conspicuous than before. The setting happens over a 5-reel, 3-row game grid with nine fixed win lines, which function if a succession from the left to the right reel is present. Only those players that that attain the highest win per bet line are paid. From a visual standpoint, the Starburst XXXtreme slots illustrates lightning effects behind the reels, which is not surprising as it is inherited from the original version. Available themes include Classic, Jewels, and Space. The game is also available in both desktop and mobile versions, which is advantageous for players considering the global pandemic. According to Techguide, American gamers are increasingly having more engaging gaming experiences to socialize to fill the gap of in-person interaction. Starburst XXXtreme allows them to fill the social void at a time when there is so much time to be had indoors. 

Starburst XXXTreme Features

Players get to alternate on three features which are Starburst Wilds, XXXtreme Spins, and Random Wilds. The first appears on reels 2,3, or 4. When these land, they expand to cover all positions while also calculating the wins. They are also locked for a respin. If a new one hits, it also becomes locked while awarding another respin. Starburst XXXtreme offers a choice between two scenarios for a higher stake. In one scenario with a ten times stake, the Starburst Wild is set on random on reels 2,3, or 4, and a multiplier starts the respin. The second scenario, which has a 95 times stake, starts with two guaranteed starburst wilds on reels 2,3, or 4. it also plays out using respin game sequence and features. The game also increases the potential with the Random Wilds feature to add Starburst Wilds to a vacant reel at the end of a spin. Every Starburst Wild gives a random multiplier with potential wins of x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or even x150.

The new feature is sure to be a big hit with the gaming market as online gambling has shown significant growth during the lockdown. AdAge indicates the current casino customer base is an estimated one in five Americans, so Starburst XXXtreme’s additional features will achieve considerable popularity. 

What We Think About The Game

The gambling market has continued to diversify post-pandemic, so it is one of the most opportune times to release an online casino-based game. Thankfully Starburst XXXtreme features eye-catching visuals, including the jewels and space themes. These attract audience participation and make the gameplay inviting. The game also has a nostalgic edge. The previous NetEnt iteration featured similar visuals and gameplay, so the audience has some familiarity with it. The producers have revamped this version by tweaking the features to improve the volatility and engagement. 

That is characterized by the potential win cap of 200,000 times the bet. Starburst XXXtreme does not just give betting alternatives for players that want to go big. The increase of multipliers also provides a great experience. If the respins in the previous version were great, knowing that multipliers can go hundreds of times overtakes the game to a new level. 

Players should get excited about this offering. All of the features can be triggered within a single spin. Whether one plays the standard game or takes the XXXtreme spin route, it is possible to activate all of the features. Of course, the potential 200,000 times potential is a huge carrot. However, the bet size is probably going to be restricted and vary depending on the casino. It is also worth pointing out that a malfunction during the gameplay will void all of the payouts and progress. Overall, the game itself has been designed to provide a capped win of 200,000 times the original bet. 

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‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year




In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal




MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.


The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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