Regina’s Waskimo Winter Festival returns for 2019 with a rare opportunity – Regina


Despite the sub-zero temperatures, thousands in Regina braved the cold for the third annual Waskimo Winter Festival.

“You can embrace winter in this province, you really can. It’s easy to hide inside, but we build Waskimo to encourage people to embrace winter,” said festival organizer Jim Aho.

Thousands brave the cold for Waskimo Winter Festival 2018

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For the first time in 16 years, several people took advantage of a rare opportunity — the chance to skate on Wascana Lake.

“There’s something very magical about being able to skate on our lake, especially when you consider a whole generation of kids have grown up in Regina, never knowing the joys of skating,” Aho said.

From activities on the ice to events off the ice, there was no shortage of things to do to help shake off the frosty temperatures. Events included a bird-watching field trip, cross-country skiing and the “hole-ympics” outhouse races.

Another highlight of the winter festival was the polar plunge, making a comeback for the first time in many years to raise money for the Special Olympics.

Thousands come out for return of Waskimo in Regina

“In Waskimos of years ago, we used to dig a hole in the ice and actually plunge into the lake water, but we can’t do that anymore,” Aho said. “So we have the big plunge tanks and the hot tubs beside them.”

The Snobears were also new to the festival this year. Described as a motorhome on wheels, the outdoor vehicles provided a refuge for those looking to escape the chilly weather. There was also an indoor carnival at the Conexus Arts Centre including a magic show, an escape room and axe-thowing.

Organizers say the event continues to grow each year and has become a family tradition, no matter how cold it gets.

WATCH: Edmonton’s Silver Skate Festival forges ahead amid cold snap


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Kingsbury returns to moguls podium with 1st victory at Mont-Tremblant


​Canadian Mikael Kingsbury landed back on top of the podium Saturday, winning gold at a moguls World Cup race after a disappointing performance a week earlier.

Kingsbury, the reigning Olympic champion, scored 86.73 points on his home course to rebound from a fifth-place finish last week in Lake Placid, N.Y., that halted his perfect start to the season.

WATCH | Mikael Kingsbury finishes 5th:

Kingsbury finished fifth in New York on Friday, the first time in five events that he’s failed to win on the World Cup circuit. 1:29
The victory was the first for the Deux-Montagnes, Que., native at Mont-Tremblant.

Japan’s Ikuma Horishima was second with 85.02 points while Dmitriy Reikherd of Kazakhstan was thing with 83.42.

On the women’s side, 2018 Olympic silver medallist Justine Dufour-Lapointe of Montreal won bronze. Perrine Laffont of France won the event while Australia’s Jakara Anthony took silver.

Chloe Dufour-Lapointe was fourth.

Laffont scored 75.51 points for her seventh moguls World Cup victory.


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Living Things Arts Festival returns to Kelowna for third year


Professional performers from across Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. are in Kelowna for the Living Things International Arts Festival.

It’s a month-long celebration of visual art, live theatre and music.

“It’s a festival for people who are curious about things that they may not know,” organizer and UBCO Prof. Neil Cadger said.

More than 1,700 people came out to events last year, their second annual event, which continues to be organized by UBC Okanagan’s Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies and Inner Fish Performance Co.

“We did it in three weeks”: Pop-up theatre production utilizes unique Kelowna performance venue

“There’s very little in the festival that has that recognition that some people desire before they go somewhere. They want to know what it is before they go,” Cadger said.

“You can’t do that in this festival. You have to be curious about work, about performance, about dance, about art. The curiosity is a big part of it. You need to be interested in the unfamiliar.”


Opening night took place at the Alternator Gallery in the Rotary Centre for the Arts, feature an exhibition by Canadian artist Patrick Lundeen.

“It’s my first solo exhibition in B.C.,” Lundeen said.

Lundeen’s artworks on display were mostly made in Kelowna in the last year, he said.

The artist has been featured in exhibitions in New York and Toronto in his career.

Past reviews have described his work as full of pop culture expression.

The Kelowna exhibit of “Noise Farm” demonstrates that Lundeen isn’t afraid to combine just about anything and call it expression.


“I just wanted to do something that was really junky and kind of funny, like an out-of-control garage sale, or like a party where things just kind of got out of hand and you didn’t know what was going to happen.”

Lundeen teaches painting at UBC Okanagan. He believes paint can be anything you wash over your art like the sounds his artworks make.

“I treat everything the same, like putting something on and taking something off and changing things around almost the same way as I would paint,” Lundeen said.

Organizers hope to attract audiences looking for a professional art experience with an edge.

“We have this love for the theatrical devices: puppets, masks and performing objects. So much of what’s in the festival will be that,” said Cadger.

A full schedule of the events that take from from Jan. 11 until Feb. 9 can be found at

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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‘It felt like a movie’: Single father of twin girls returns to Canada after surrogacy ordeal


A Canadian man who was shocked to learn that twin girls born to him overseas didn’t automatically qualify as citizens has finally been able to bring the newborns home after being stranded in Kenya for over a month.

Joseph Tito arrived back in Toronto on Wednesday after a weeks-long ordeal and 36-hour flight that left him « exhausted » but relieved to finally be home.

Tito says he’s ready to take on the challenge of fatherhood.

« Being a first-time parent is overwhelming for everybody, but being away from the comfort of your home caring for two newborns has been tough, » Tito wrote in an Instagram post earlier this week announcing he had been granted the visas to bring the girls, Stella and Mia, home.

« What a ride this has been but at the end, like I said a million times, I would go through hell and back for these two precious beings. »

‘I didn’t think it was real’

Tito chronicled his surrogacy process in a blog after noticing there were few online resources about it for men or same-sex couples.

He says he’d taken every precaution to make sure the process was completely above board and chose Kenya in part because the cost of finding a surrogate to bear his children was least prohibitive in the east African country.

His children don’t qualify as citizens because of an amendment to Canada’s Citizenship Act in 2015 that limited automatic citizenship for babies born to Canadians outside of Canada to one generation. For Tito, who was born in Italy and automatically received Canadian citizenship, that meant he couldn’t transfer citizenship to children born abroad. 

« Even before I started this journey, I looked into it. I contacted the embassy, I contacted the clinic, I contacted lawyers, » he told reporters when he landed in Toronto on Wednesday.

That’s why when he learned his children weren’t automatically Canadian citizens, he was « floored, » he said.

« It felt like a movie, » Tito said. « I didn’t think it was real, especially for a country like Canada. »

‘Incredibly arbitrary’ 

It’s a change that immigration lawyer Joel Sandaluk has long felt was « problematic. »

« What it essentially does is it creates two separate classes of Canadian citizenship — one which is inherently more valuable than the other, » Sandaluk said.

« Certain Canadian citizens are able to pass along their citizenship to their children even if they’re born outside of Canada whereas other Canadian citizens are not, » he added, noting the legislation applies only to people born after Feb. 14, 1977.

« It’s also incredibly arbitrary. I know of a number of individuals [who] have more than one child, one of whom may have been born outside of Canada and it is maddening for the parents to realize that even within their own family there are different classes of citizenship. »

For his part, Tito says he understands why the law was put into place, but would like to see it changed.

Sandaluk echoes that sentiment. 

« I believe the intention of the government at the time was to make sure that people couldn’t constantly be having more Canadian citizens and the number of Canadian citizens and citizens couldn’t be constantly expanding outside of Canada to a group of people who had no connection with Canada whatsoever, » he said.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada did not respond to CBC Toronto’s request for comment. 

The girls’ exact status in Canada isn’t known, but they aren’t yet permanent residents, says Tito. Tito says he’s sent in sponsorship papers for the girls and plans to take the necessary steps to secure their citizenship after he settles in.

For now, though, he says he’s just looking forward to spending quality time with the tiny new additions to his family.

His first order of business: « Feed them, bathe them in fresh water and put them in their nursery. »


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London Christmas tree curbside pickup returns for one day only – London


Londoners are being warned that they only get one chance for curbside Christmas tree pickups this year and to get them to the curb as quickly as possible.

The city will be collecting Christmas trees curbside on Monday.

“We ask that Londoners have their trees placed at the curb by 7 a.m. Monday, no matter your regular garbage pickup day,” said City environment director Jay Stanford.

London Salvation Army surpasses Christmas Kettle campaign goal

Stanford said crews will only collect from each neighbourhood once.

“Make sure to remove all decorations or tree stands are removed and if you put it out in a plastic bag, remove that as well,” he said.

Residents can also bring Christmas trees and other holiday greenery to one of the city’s EnviroDepots, which are open Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

If you miss tree collection Sunday and Monday, Stanford suggests placing your Christmas tree in your backyard to provide winter protection for birds, then putting it at the curb for the spring yard waste collection.

You can check the city’s online Zone Finder for spring yard waste collection schedules.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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Brock professor returns to classroom following sexual harassment investigation


Brock University says a professor disciplined by the university following a sexual harassment investigation is returning to the classroom next week.

Professor David Schimmelpenninck is scheduled to teach a non-compulsory second-year course after an almost three-year absence from the classroom. The absence was a result of discipline following an investigation into sexual harassment, the university has confirmed to CBC News.

The university says the absence also relates to health issues and accrued academic leave.

The return comes after a Dec. 14 decision from an arbitrator who concluded that Schimmelpenninck should be permitted to return to the classroom, « pursuant to the university’s collective agreement with its faculty association, » the university’s administration said in a statement emailed to CBC Jan. 3.

However, it says a set of conditions have been put in place for Schimmelpenninck’s return to teaching.

« He agreed to these conditions and has undertaken steps to meet them, including completing coaching for respectful workplace practices, » the email said.

Brock hasn’t elaborated further on the conditions.

The statement says Schimmelpenninck returned to campus in the summer of 2018 but was not scheduled to teach in the fall term. However, the arbitrator has since confirmed his right to do so.

‘Unwelcome sexual advance’

The sexual harassment finding dates back to October 2014, when Schimmelpenninck met his students at the local campus bar after his class for drinks.

After the bar closed, he invited a female student and another male student back to his office for more alcohol.

According to the investigation, the male student eventually went home, leaving the female student alone with the professor.

« It was after my friend left that he shut the door and came and sat next to me and that’s when the incident occurred, » the woman told CBC News in 2016.

The university conducted an investigation into the matter and hired a lawyer. 

The sexual harassment allegations date back to October 2014, when Prof. David Schimmelpenninck met his students at the local campus bar after his class for drinks. (Brock University website)

The lawyer’s investigation found that the incident « involved an unwelcome sexual advance, inappropriate and unwelcome physical touching, comments of a sexual nature, [and] a provocative comment attempting to arrange ongoing intimacy. »

The university received backlash after a 2016 CBC News investigation revealed that Brock had warned a former student to keep quiet about the internal investigation that determined her professor gave her alcohol and tried to force himself on her sexually.

« Brock University appreciates that the 2016 incident was a difficult chapter for the university community. In the past three years, Brock has taken significant steps to develop its policies, procedures and resources to more effectively address human rights issues and to better address the well-being of everyone on campus, » the statement said.

It says Brock has taken a number of steps to protect members of its community.

« The university continuously exercises improvements and best practices to address concerns related to sexual assault and harassment, and to ensure a safe environment for the Brock community. »

CBC is trying to reach Schimmelpenninck for comment.


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A Canadian high blood pressure study sees ‘exciting’ early results as investors bank on healthy returns


It is early days, but investors in a unique health promotion experiment are bullish.

A six-month regime of personal coaching, exercise and healthy eating sponsored by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada has succeeded in keeping blood pressure in check — without drugs — for several hundred Toronto-area adults at risk of developing hypertension.

Doug Purdy, 73, walks his Wheaten terrier Chloe near his home in the Keele and Finch area. Purdy says he’s lost 16 lbs. since he signed up for the Heart and Stroke Foundation's Activate program aimed at curbing high blood pressure.
Doug Purdy, 73, walks his Wheaten terrier Chloe near his home in the Keele and Finch area. Purdy says he’s lost 16 lbs. since he signed up for the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Activate program aimed at curbing high blood pressure.  (Richard Lautens / Toronto Star)

The three-year, $3.4 million project that will eventually involve 7,000 participants in the GTA and Vancouver was launched last year as Canada’s first health-related social impact bond, or “pay-for-success” initiative.

Results for the first 500 enrolled last May are “very exciting,” says Heart and Stroke senior manager Erin Kim, who is leading the “Activate” project in partnership with the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing.

Eleven private investors, including businesses, charitable foundations and wealthy individuals, are funding the initiative through the MaRS Centre. The Public Health Agency of Canada will pay up to $4 million depending on how many participants are recruited, complete the program and see their blood pressure stay the same or go down.

Hypertension is the leading cause of stroke, a key risk factor for heart disease and one of the most common reasons for a person to see a doctor and be prescribed a drug, says Kim. It affects more than 6 million Canadians and costs the health-care system more than $14 billion a year.

Left untreated, half of Canadians over 60 with blood pressure in the “high-normal” range (121-139 systolic/80-89 diastolic) will develop hypertension within four years.

In the first cohort, more than 90 per cent stuck with the program for the full six months. And blood pressure readings for a sample of 100 of the first 500 participants showed an average 5.2-point drop. It means some participants moved their blood pressure readings from “normal-high” to “normal” — a significant finding for a drug-free intervention, researchers say.

Heart and Stroke is enrolling its second cohort of 4,100 participants from across the GTA between January and May. Another 2,400 participants in Vancouver will be signed up in 2020.

If the prevention initiative keeps average blood pressure stable for all 7,000 participants during the six-month program, Ottawa will pay the MaRS investors a return of 6.7 per cent. If the program overshoots this target and average blood pressure goes down, investors will receive an 8.8 per cent profit, or $600,000 in total. If the program fails to meet its goals, investors lose most of their money.

“Health promotion is hard. But it’s much better for individuals and society to adopt healthy lifestyle changes and prevent high blood pressure and the need for medication,” Kim says. “And that’s what this program is trying to demonstrate.”

Most of the support is provided through the Heart and Stroke’s “Activate” website and a specially designed app which includes coaching, health information, recipes, mindfulness training and goal setting, says Kim.

Participants with elevated blood pressure must be over 40, non-diabetic and not on medication for hypertension. Once enrolled, they are encouraged to keep a daily log of what they eat and how much exercise they get. The program includes free access to a Loblaws dietitian, a two-month YMCA membership and opportunities to meet others enrolled in the project through periodic community events. Participants receive PC Optimum Points as a reward for healthy behaviour.

The six-month program aims to help participants make “small, healthy choices” to help prevent the onset of high blood pressure, Kim says.

Toronto retiree Doug Purdy, who lost 16 lbs. “and two belt loops” between May and October, says the program changed his life.

“I always had good intentions about exercising. But this helped me get with the program,” he says.

Purdy, 73, credits his Wheaten terrier Chloe and a new exercise partner he met at the YMCA for keeping him on-track. He became so accustomed to working out at the Y, that he took out his own membership when the two-month free trial was up.

“My blood pressure is down to normal now,” he adds.

Regular exercise, along with healthy shopping and eating also produced positive results for Mississauga accountant Babatunji Farinloye, 50.

“I had a health club membership, but this program really helped me develop a habit,” he says. “Now, if I don’t work out, my body feels like something is wrong.”

A grocery store tour along with instructions from a dietitian on how to read product labels, “was a real eye-opener” Farinloye says.

“No more white bread,” he says with a laugh. “I am eating a lot more vegetables, especially colourful ones.”

Mississauga accountant Babatunji Farinloye, 50, says he's happy with the positive results produced by regular exercise and healthy eating since he became part of the Heart and Stroke Foundation's Activate project.
Mississauga accountant Babatunji Farinloye, 50, says he’s happy with the positive results produced by regular exercise and healthy eating since he became part of the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Activate project.  (J.P. MOCZULSKI)

Elementary school teacher Teresa Galati, 56, says the program has helped her manage stress — and her elevated blood pressure.

“I have learned how to take time to meditate and it really helps,” she says.

Galati found the personal coaching particularly useful.

“I was able to go online and ask questions and even if my coach wasn’t available, someone always got back to me,” she says. “If you don’t have time to meet with someone, it’s great to be able to go online. It was phenomenal.”

Investors are also happy.

“We are very pleased with how the first cohort worked,” says MaRS director Adam Jagelewski. “We are setting ourselves up for the second and third cohorts that will ultimately dictate whether investors will get their returns or not.”

While some critics say government should not be paying a “middle man” to deliver public health and social services, Jagelewski says the pay-for-success premium makes everyone involved work harder and allows public officials to show taxpayers what their money has been able to accomplish.

“It doesn’t have to be a social impact bond,” he says. “Outcome-based contracts that have rigour around outcomes-based measurement are where we ought to be going generally.”

A social impact bond using private investors to take on the risk is just one way to do it. Governments could just as easily take this approach, he adds.

“The question is how can we learn from the way this program was designed and apply it to diabetes and other chronic disease and even mental health and addictions,” he says. “I’m hoping this program is a beacon of light for preventative programs across the board.”

As Heart and Stroke gears up to enrol its next cohort, the foundation is inviting employers, unions, health care providers, community associations and other groups to encourage their staff, members, patients and clients to join the free wellness program. Staff from Loblaws, Shoppers Drug Mart and CAA Club Group have already participated and Deloitte and others are on board for the next cohort, Kim says.

For employers with more than 500 staff, Heart and Stroke will send volunteers to the workplace to measure blood pressure and enrol those who qualify. Those who don’t qualify still get access to the foundation’s health resources and a free two-week YMCA membership.

“As everyone knows, a healthier workforce is a happier workforce, with less days off etc.,” Kim says. “We are really keen to know if corporations would spread the word for us because it could really benefit them too.”

Laurie Monsebraaten is a Toronto-based reporter covering social justice. Follow her on Twitter: @lmonseb


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El Mocambo’s neon palm returns as owner shows off huge, ambitious changes


There is, once again, light at the end of the tunnel — or above the front doors, at least — for Toronto live-music lovers eagerly awaiting the rebirth of El Mocambo.

A brand-spankin’-new replica of the El Mo’s iconic “neon palm” sign will be lit on Thursday evening amidst as much pomp and circumstance as rock ’n’ roll will allow, in its familiar perch since 1948 over 464 Spadina Ave. Most of the marquee and the art-deco entryway beneath it are finally restored to their former glory, too. A private party to celebrate the venue’s 70th anniversary will follow.

Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble—Live At The El Mocambo 1983 is a high-powered performance from SRV’s early days, featuring Testify, Texas Flood, Pride and Joy and a fiery interpretation of Jimi Hendrix’s Voodoo Chile (Slight Return).

It’s not the grand reopening of the beloved nightclub that owner Michael Wekerle — the Bay Street financier and former Dragons’ Den star who bought the dilapidated property in 2014 to rescue it from being turned into a computer store — would have preferred. But that’s coming. This time it’s really coming. Just don’t ask him for a date.

Read more:

Opinion | Edward Keenan: Preservation of Honest Ed’s sign part of new movement, ‘sign-ism’

“This is where everything’s starting to transform,” said Wekerle Monday, as the 2,300-kg El Mocambo sign — painstakingly recreated in every detail by Cambridge’s Pride Signs, save a few modern-day technical upgrades — was being hoisted into place outside the El Mo construction office. “It’s been very stressful, to say the least, for the last four-and-a-half years. It’s about four times the cost and about three times the time that we should have taken to do it. But you know what? At the end of the day, it was not to be taken lightly because we wanted to bring back the El Mocambo.”

El Mocambo rivals the 71-year-old Horseshoe Tavern and its comparably grotty Spadina Ave. neighbour to the north — the currently demolished Silver Dollar Room (required under City of Toronto law to return) — as Toronto’s most beloved rock ’n’ roll destination.

It could be the city’s best-known venue internationally, in fact, as it was the site of some of the recordings found on the Rolling Stones’ 1977 album Love You Live — not to mention a rumoured dalliance between Mick Jagger and Margaret Trudeau, then the wife of then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau. Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy graced its stage when it was predominantly a blues club during the 1970s but, by the time the New Wave era came around, the El Mo would play host to the likes of Blondie, the Ramones and Elvis Costello. U2 was paid $500 to play its first gig in North America there in December 1980.

The club has escaped extinction a number of times. It was declared dead in 1989 and 1991, and bounced back during the late 1990s as a choice underground punk-rock spot under the stewardship of promoter Dan Burke, who actually hosted a Neon Palm Festival in 1999 to relight the original El Mocambo sign.

El Mocambo owner Michael Wekerle is seen riding the sign Monday as it is first lifted off the truck. The famed music venue on Spadina installed the updated iconic sign and will light it up on Thursday — one more step toward reopening.
El Mocambo owner Michael Wekerle is seen riding the sign Monday as it is first lifted off the truck. The famed music venue on Spadina installed the updated iconic sign and will light it up on Thursday — one more step toward reopening.  (Richard Lautens / Toronto Star)

It was sold again in 2001, got a major renovation that stripped off some grime and it was never quite the same again — the upstairs room briefly became a dance studio — despite still luring Queens of the Stone Age for a memorable gig in 2008. Cadillac Lounge owner Sam Grosso bought the building in 2012, pledging to restore El Mocambo to its “former glory” but the bookings never happened.

Billy Idol at the El Mocambo in the 1980s.
Billy Idol at the El Mocambo in the 1980s.  (Toronto Star file photo)

It’s actually rather fitting that a replica of the old neon palm will adorn the new El Mocambo because, much like the original sign, the original El Mo was in such rough shape when Wekerle bought it off Grosso for $3.6 million that he essentially had to oversee the construction of an entirely new “building within a building.” It’s more or less a replica of the old El Mocambo itself and, while the space is still pretty raw, you can see it taking shape — especially if you’re lucky enough to sneak a peek at the top-secret renderings for the final product — and the broad outlines are comfortingly respectful of the old layout.

There’s still a smaller room in the 400-capacity range with a stage on the west side of the ground floor, while upstairs a long, wide room in the 600-700-cap range will maintain the stage — which will be flanked by the original El Mo sign, “butterflied” into two halves — in its familiar position in the middle of the north wall, albeit now with a third-floor VIP balcony where the low ceilings used to be. There’s now a freight elevator backstage to spare bands hauling their bass amps up three flights of stairs, too. Oh, and there’s a recording studio overseen by legendary producer/engineer Eddie Kramer and John Storyk, the chap who designed famed New York studio Electric Ladyland, tucked in the corner behind the balcony.

That’s the 21st-century angle on the new El Mocambo: when finished, the entire thing will be “a recording studio that happens to be a nightclub,” as Andy Curran, the one-time Coney Hatch frontman who now heads the nascent El Mocambo Records and El Mocambo Entertainment operations, puts it. Even the third-floor dressing room is wired into the control room on the top floor. It will be a cinch to record, stream or broadcast top-quality audio and video from pretty much anywhere in the building.

Mick Jagger leads the Rolling Stones at the El Mo on Mar. 4, 1977.
Mick Jagger leads the Rolling Stones at the El Mo on Mar. 4, 1977.  (Ken Regan photo)

“In reality, (Wekerle) has actually built a recording studio,” says Curran. “The whole thing is wired. Each floor is soundproofed. The amount of work that went into soundproofing is, as our production manager says, so crazy that you could potentially have the Dropkick Murphys on the ground floor and Diana Krall playing a jazz set upstairs and you would not hear anything.”

All the technology going into the new venue is thinking ahead of the curve, too. Obsolescence will not be a problem.

“There will be no issues for the next 15 to 20 years” besides any cosmetic updates, says Wekerle, who’s cutting deals that he hopes will make “Live from the El Mocambo” content as familiar as the Austin City Limits or Live From Abbey Road brands.

“This is being built for the next 50 years. We have probably overspent in the short term, but we’re probably saving in the long term.”

Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age performs at the El Mocambo on Friday May 9, 2008.
Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age performs at the El Mocambo on Friday May 9, 2008.  (Carlos Osorio/Toronto star file photo)

He’s coy about how much this project has actually cost him, but he’ll freely admit it’s a lot.

“Oh, man. You couldn’t even guess. The over/under is $20 million. But it’s over. It’s over. I’m eating every Thursday and Saturday, but it’s OK,” says a laughing Wekerle, conceding that there have been moments when he worried that he was in way over his head. “I don’t think a day has gone by when I haven’t been stressed out about what’s the next issue here? ‘Oh, we hit a pipe? OK, we gotta do this differently.’ ‘Oh, this permit hasn’t come due? Well, we’ll have to hold off on the drywallers.’ It’s just been issue after issue. Maybe I would have changed my mind if I’d known how big a job it was at first.

“But it’s great for the city. I really believe in it. And thank you to anyone in the city who’s come up to me and said, ‘Thank you for bringing the El Mo back.’ It’s not me, it’s a whole team of people, but it really means a lot to me that people have reached out to say I’m doing something right. Yes, we could have done it cheaper. Yes, we could have opened it earlier. But it would have been lacklustre if we’d opened it earlier with just a touched-up facade, and it wouldn’t have had the kind of impact I think we’ll have.”

So when is the new El Mocambo going to open?

“I’ve been reluctant to say,” he sighs. “I keep saying ‘spring 2019.’ I’d like to have it open to do something during Canadian Music Week in May, but the date I’ve been giving is April 2. Maybe I should say April 1 because it gives me an out.”

Ben Rayner is the Star’s music critic and based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @ihateBenRayner


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100 years later, Montreal’s Black Watch regiment returns to Wallers, France


Soldiers from Montreal’s Black Watch regiment marched Saturday through the streets of Wallers, France, returning to the French village their regiment liberated a century ago.

The village issued an invitation to the regiment to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.

In October 1918, German artillery was set up on the western part of the city to hold back Allied forces. The German troops were eventually pushed back, but not before setting several buildings on fire during their retreat.

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After four years of occupation, local residents greeted the Canadian soldiers as heroes.

To commemorate the anniversary, the Black Watch regiment sent a contingent of 100 past and serving members.

“To walk in the footsteps of those who came before us, whether in the Black Watch or other regiments, it’s moving,” said Eric Booth, a former Black Watch reservist. “It’s moving. The people have made us feel very welcome.”

Booth’s grandfather wasn’t in the same regiment, but did move through the same village in 1918. Private J.W. Thresh served with the 22nd Battery of the Royal Canadian Artillery.

WATCH: Canada’s 100 days: Key battles from the First World War

One of the stories Booth says his grandfather shared was how he found out the war had ended. The morning of November 11th, 1918, Thresh had climbed a hill of mining tailings to get a view of the area. When he came down, he ran into a young local woman.

“The miner’s daughter looked up at him and said ‘la guerre c’est fini’: the war is over,” Booth said.

The village was decked out in Canadian red and white for the occasion. Part of the parade route was under Canadian flag banners.

Analysis: PM Trudeau is in France this Remembrance Day, just as he should be

About 200 local residents turned out, including a local hockey team that’s preparing for a trip to Quebec City’s upcoming PeeWee tournament.

The day’s events started with a wreath-laying at a monument dedicated to local soldiers, but then moved to the town square in front of a church for speeches about Canada’s role in the liberation.

Rene Gonnez says he attended to thank Canadians personally.

“It’s to honour Canadians,” said Gonnez. “That’s very important.”

WATCH: Trudeau pays respects to fallen soldiers in France

One member of the Black Watch regiment contingent was American Hugh Gemmell. The United States didn’t enter the First World War until 1917, and Gemmell’s grandfather turned to Canada for an opportunity to fight. Willam Gemmell joined the Canadian military and served with regiment. After the war, he returned to the US.

Gemmell never met his grandfather, who died in 1938 at just 45 years old.

“He was sick after he got back from the war,” Gemmell said. “He died young, like a lot of them did.”

There was also a dedication to a fallen Black Watch soldier. A street in Wallers has been named after Corporal Hugh Gray, killed by a German mortar shell just days before the signing of the Armistice that ended the war.

Gray made it through the village and was on a reconnaissance patrol alone. The street where he was killed is now called “Rue Caporal H. Gray.”


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