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Amish arrivals: Old ways are new again in quiet Manitoba town




Months after the first Amish families in Manitoba started arriving in the town of Vita, the sight of their horse-drawn buggies rolling down the highway still draws crowds to the windows.

« People are always quite excited to see them, » said Eva Dyck, who owns Eva’s Restaurant along the town’s main highway. « I think it has brought people out from the surrounding areas to see if they can catch a glimpse of the buggies driving by. »

Last year, signs warning drivers about the black buggies started appearing along the roads, and local officials installed hitching posts in town for the Amish to tie up their horses. In April, a group of 11 families began arriving by charter bus from southern Ontario, which until recently had been the main home for Canada’s Amish population.

The Amish community in Vita, Man., a town of 500 people 120 km southeast of Winnipeg, is the first in Canada to settle west of Ontario, according to a professor who studies the issue and the new Amish transplants.

The Amish moved west in search of new farmland. In the same vein, other Amish communities have moved east in recent years into other parts of Canada, including P.E.I. and New Brunswick.

Much like Old Order Mennonites, the Amish live simply, eschewing modern conveniences that tie them to the wider world, and mostly relying on their own power and that of their animals for work and transportation.

The Amish in Vita put orange reflector triangles on the backs of their buggies to warn other drivers on the highways. (Cameron MacLean/CBC)

« We are overwhelmed almost in seeing that people in the 21st century here are making a livelihood the way our forefathers did in the 19th century. That is quite an eye opener, » said Edward Penner, a councillor for the rural municipality who helped the Amish settle in the area.

New farmers

The desire to become farmers, coupled with the high price of farm land in southern Ontario, motivated the move to Manitoba, said Edward Miller, one of the recently arrived Amish men.

The 30-year-old smiles and waves when a CBC reporter pulls into his driveway. He and his family have just returned from his brother-in-law’s house in their black buggy with an orange, reflective triangle on the back to warn other drivers there’s a slow-moving vehicle ahead.

As Miller unhitches his horse from the carriage, his wife and his six children go inside their two-storey home, which Miller and other community members built themselves.

Edward Miller lives with his wife and their six children in this house just outside of Vita, Man. (Cameron MacLean/CBC)

A herd of young cows stands in a fenced-in pasture, beside a tall, narrow building that serves as a henhouse and a place to store their water tank.

Miller wears dark blue coveralls and a straw hat over his curly red hair. A thin beard covers his face except for his upper lip, in the traditional Amish style.

Amish people don’t allow photos or recordings of themselves, because their faith considers pictures to be sources of pride, which is antithetical to their values of humility and simplicity. But Miller is happy to talk about what brought his family to Manitoba.

Back in his parent’s community near London, Ont., most of the families made a living making various products to sell, but Miller wanted a different life.

« We kind of thought it was good for the young people to work on a farm, because in a shop, the father isn’t at home as much with the children, » he said. « If the children want to be out there [in the fields] with Dad, that seems to work good. »

These young cows will be sold to dairy farmers in the area once they are fully grown. (Cameron MacLean/CBC)

The land Miller and the other Amish purchased has never been farmed, so they have spent the past summer weeding, clearing brush and pulling out boulders, all without the aid of machines.

Miller’s parents wanted his family to stay in Ontario, but he says land prices made purchasing a farm impossible.

« They weren’t really too happy. We didn’t really want to [move away], but there was no way we could farm back there. Any farm would cost you a million dollars. »

The families live on properties scattered over about 10 square kilometres. They started looking for property in the area about two years ago, when Penner said a group of Amish showed up on his doorstep.

Edward Penner, councillor for the rural municipality of Stuartburn, Man., helped the Amish settle in when they moved to the area. (Cameron MacLean/CBC)

Penner sold some of his own property to the Amish, and housed some of them while they explored other options. They have continued purchasing properties that come up for sale, in preparation for at least three more families expected to arrive in the spring of next year.

Before then, the families already here will have to survive their first winter on the Prairies. By placing their water tank in the loft above their chickens, Miller hopes their body heat combined with the force of gravity will keep their water from freezing.

« I don’t know what’s going to happen when it goes down to minus 40, » he said.

All heat in Miller’s home is provided by burning wood in a stove. (Cameron MacLean/CBC)

Emergency compromises

Without cars or telephones, the Amish rely on others to help them travel long distances or to make phone calls in an emergency.

In late October, Miller’s brother-in-law Tobias suffered a brain bleed and needed to be rushed to hospital. His wife ran to a neighbour’s house to call an ambulance, and he was taken to hospital in Steinbach and later Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg for emergency surgery.

Tobias temporarily lost some of his cognitive functions and had difficulty recognizing family members and everyday objects, but slowly he’s bouncing back.

« That was pretty scary, but he’s coming along good, » Miller said.

When it comes to modern medicine, the Amish will use it when necessary to save someone’s life.

« Who’s going to define the line that it’s not in the religion to help someone? » said Chris Hershberger, Tobias’s brother.

Instead of covering medical expenses through the public health system, however, the Amish choose to pay for their care out of pocket. Other members of the Manitoba community, as well as people in communities in Ontario and the United States, pooled money together to pay Tobias’s hospital bill.

Miller uses this machine to spread manure over his fields. (Cameron MacLean/CBC)

Hershberger and his family live on a farm about half a kilometre away from Miller. Whereas Miller’s home is two storeys, Hershberger’s is a low single-story structure made from concrete blocks, with soil piled up around three sides for insulation.

A gas-powered generator sits just inside Hershberger’s front door. Although the Amish choose not to take power from the grid, they will generate their own if needed. The family has a fridge and freezer to preserve food when they are away from home — and to keep ice cream from melting, Hershberger says.

« My way of thinking is keeping it in the centre is the right path. One extreme is as bad as the other, » he said.

Horse-and-buggy people

According to the most recent census data from 2011, there are more than 3,300 Amish people in Canada. They began arriving in what was then Upper Canada in the 1820s.

They didn’t migrate beyond that until the last couple of years, when some groups established settlements in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

A Mennonite horse and buggy travels on the side of the road near St. Jacobs, Ont., just north of Waterloo on March 31, 2012. (Adam Gagnon/Canadian Press)

The Amish are a denomination of Anabaptist Christians that broke away from the larger Mennonite church in 1693, and are largely indistinguishable from Old Order Mennonites in terms of their religious beliefs, said Royden Loewen, chair of Mennonite studies at the University of Winnipeg.

« The Amish tend to wear beards without moustaches and the Old Order Mennonites tend not to wear beards. The Amish meet in homes and barns for their church services whereas the Old Order horse-and-buggy Mennonites will have a church, simple church, meeting houses, » he said.

Although Old Order Mennonites are more common in Canada — there are about 9,000 in this country — Amish are more well known. When a group of Old Order Mennonites settled around Gladstone, Man., in 2006, many media reports mislabelled them as Amish.

This is because « the Amish outnumber the horse-and-buggy Mennonites in the United States very significantly, whereas in Canada, it’s the other way around, » Loewen said.

New neighbours

Inside Eva’s restaurant in Vita, three women sit chatting about the new neighbours.

« I’m not sure how everyone feels about them. I have no qualms with them. I like the sound of the clippy-clops coming down the street, » said Alice Brasseur.

Alice Rondeau recalled a scene from earlier in the summer when one of the Amish men tied his horse up outside the laundromat in town. Rondeau was sitting outside drinking coffee, when she noticed the flies starting to bite the horse.

« The horse reared up, broke his lead, he turned around and they’re so smart, he got onto the highway, he looked up and down, and went home and left the fellow here, » she said with a laugh.

A group of women sit discussing the new Amish community in Eva’s restaurant in Vita, Man. From left to right: Eva Dyck, Anne Brasseur, Iris Osadchuk, and Alice Rondeau. (Cameron MacLean)

Although the horse-drawn buggies have provided a new source of entertainment for the locals, their droppings on the town’s streets and highways have caused frustration for some.

« We’ve had a couple complaints about them, about the horse droppings on the road, » said Penner. « We approached the group and they are cleaning up inside the town. Out in the country they’re not, but in the towns or in the streets they clean up after themselves. That has calmed the town down. »

The women in Eva’s look forward to reaping the benefits of the hard work of the Amish when they sell their garden vegetables and baking at next summer’s farmers’ market.

« This way we won’t go to the store and buy it, we’ll go and buy it fresher, » said Iris Osadchuk.

Despite his uncertainty about what the winter will bring, Miller says there are good people in town willing to help out.

« Everybody that met us here in Vita, they were good as pie, » he said.


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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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