Category Archives: Children

New free art program starting May 26: ArtStarts at River Market

ArtStarts-RiverMarket-May2013-LogoArtStarts at River Market, an ongoing free arts-based workshop series for kids, kicks off on May 26. This is a new monthly event series in New Westminster for kids and families who want to get creative and have some fun. Donald’s Market ONE members will recognize this name as one of the recent winners for the ONE prize.

ArtStarts in Schools is a not-for-profit organization that promotes art and creativity among BC’s young people.  At the ArtStarts Gallery in downtown Vancouver, Canada’s first devoted exclusively to young people’s art, they currently host a kids workshop series called ArtStarts on Saturdays. And now, New Westminster is the second community to host this program!

The folks at ArtStarts are really excited about expanding the program into New West, as they strive to provide quality arts experiences to young people in all areas of the province, and winning a ONE prize has given them the opportunity to find a home in New Westminster at River Market. (For those of you who don’t know about the ONE prize, funds accrue based on purchases by members at Donald’s Market, and organizations and individuals can apply to receive grant funding. ONE members vote on who gets the rewards, and this year four different applications were awarded prize money. Membership to the ONE program is free, and there are perks to being a member. Check out the website for more on the ONE program.)

Taking place at River Market at Westminster Quay on the last Sunday of each month, ArtStarts at River Market will offer free arts-based workshops for kids. Presented twice, at 11am and 1pm, these 45-minute workshops feature a broad range of performing and visual artists, representing diverse cultures and disciplines.

artstarts-sheldon-casavantThe kick off on May 26 features a performance and workshop by magician Sheldon Casavant. His magic show is light-hearted and highly interactive;  objects will appear, disappear, and even float in the air. Magic is traditionally passed on from magician to magician, so Sheldon may even teach the secrets of some magic tricks to budding magicians in the audience.

At future workshops, look forward to cartoonist Julian Lawrence on Sunday, June 30, who will guide kids to create an original 8–page mini-comic describing themselves, their family and their culture. On Sunday, July 28, enjoy the antics of ventriloquist Kellie Haines and her puppet friends. She’ll also teach kids how to make their own puppets. (Bring a sock!)

Find out more about ArtStarts at River Market on


Bracing for impact …

One week from now, I am expecting to welcome my third little baby into this world. It could happen sooner, of course, or later, but either way, this is the home stretch. After having had two already, I’m fully aware that my life is about to change (again) in ways I can’t predict. I’m writing this note so you’re not left wondering if I go quiet for a while.

The fact is, I don’t really know what will happen on the blog over the next few months after the baby is born. With my older son and daughter, the postpartum period was a surprisingly rich one for me, not only as a mother but as a person and citizen.  After my first baby, I spent a lot more time in the community, rather than in an office tower in Vancouver or Burnaby. My experience of trying (and mostly failing) to make connections with other parents and explore my city was the seed of the idea for Tenth to the Fraser. After my second was born, I helped to organize Summerfest In Grimston Park, an annual community-building event in the West End. So I’m looking forward to seeing what will happen in the coming months – all that time breastfeeding and rocking babies in the night provides a lot of room for thinking and planning.

On the other hand, I also remember how hard it was to find time for doing. It was worse with my first than with my second: I was not only unskilled at domestic labour (I never liked keeping house or cooking) but also unprepared for just how much time a baby can need, and how brief the periods of rest can be between feeding, rocking, changing and comforting an infant. Oddly, it was easier with two. I was more accustomed to the domestic labour that begins after the baby is born. I didn’t expect to have much time for anything, and so I was much more efficient in using the time I had. Time also passes more quickly when you have older children to keep you busy. I held my daughter and played with my son, and we all were happy together. But three children and the demands of school and activity schedules are a whole other ball game. Time for ‘doing’ will be dear.

I don’t know what this will mean for Tenth to the Fraser. Regular readers will know that the frequency of posts has dropped, as I have been preoccupied with running my business and caring for my family, but it is hard to say how things will change over the coming months and years. I may find I have more to say, or less. There may be more people who step forward with guest posts, or less. I may get better at juggling the various demands on my time, or I may need to scale back for a time to keep my sanity! Hopefully those of you who look forward to posts on this blog will be patient while I find my new ‘normal’ after the baby.

One thing I can be sure of: I am very happy to be raising my little brood in this community over any other.


Musings from a first time soccer coach

A couple of happy Royal City Youth Soccer players. Photo: Tayfun Ozdemir.

A couple of happy Royal City Youth Soccer players. Photo: Tayfun Ozdemir.

I don’t edit emails for content as often as I should. At least I didn’t when I contacted RCYSC (Royal City Youth Soccer Club) looking to help out with my son’s soccer team. When I offered to volunteer as a coach, I meant to write that I could volunteer as an assistant coach. Needless to say, I was surprised when the coordinator emailed me back with my very own team roster. I have never so much as coached an ant farm, never mind a gaggle of six-year-old-boys with varying attention spans. I knew this would be an adventure.

RCYSC as an organization makes a good first impression. There are a lot of solid people volunteering in the background to make things run smoothly. About the only thing they don’t provide is coaches, so that’s were lucky dads (and moms) like me come in. The club offered a couple of coaching clinics, free of charge, with instructors provided by BC Soccer. I spent a half a Saturday in a classroom, and the other half on the field doing drills, sprints and learning technique.

The first thing they teach you is to keep things fun and to keep the kids interested. I think I’ve done pretty well on both accounts. You quickly learn that over-coaching is a mistakes; explain something for too long and you’ll soon have eight kids digging for worms or talking Pokémon.  Basically the kids are there to get their beans out and it’s my job as coach to channel that energy into what should resemble some soccer skills. At first I had no idea how my team would respond to Coach Matt. My Italian-Hungarian background has blessed, or cursed me, with a rather booming voice; getting their attention without yelling was no problem. I have yet to cave and resort to using a whistle.

How did our team do? While no records are kept in terms of wins, losses, and goals scored, the kids make sure you don’t forget. We did well, and the boys all seemed to enjoy themselves.

The best part of the whole experience was watching kids improve their skills and build their confidence. It’s easy to coach the natural athlete who excels no matter what the sport, but much more rewarding with the one who isn’t so sure of himself.

Update: This blog entry has been a long time in the making. I have since signed up for another year of coaching. The first thing I noticed with my new team is:

  1. They are much more skilled than they were a year ago.
  2. They also have a lot more sass than they did a year ago.

I guess you can’t have one without the other. It should be another good year.


Parent participation preschool in Queen’s Park hosts open house on Saturday

Nestled in amongst the trees in Queen’s Park is a preschool that has been educating the smallest citizens of New Westminster for decades. Almost 50 years ago, a group of New Westminster parents decided to come together and take an active part in their preschoolers’ education and thus began Queen’s Park Preschool (QPP).

The preschool has had many evolutions over the years. When QPP opened its doors in 1965 it cost only $12 a month to send a child to the Preschool and the Preschool had to have its own bus that would pick up the students for class, as at the time most moms didn’t drive. The parents who were part of this first year worked hard and became involved in charity work, and started a group called ‘Self Aid Never Ends’ this group eventually became the Fraserside Community Services Society. QPP has been participating in supporting the community of New Westminster ever since.
As part of its educational philosophy, QPP helps the preschoolers to understand that they are part of a much larger community. Annually each class participates in the Fraserside Community Services Adopt-a-Family program, the Preschool regularly donates needed items to Family Place, QPP provides scholarships to graduating students of New Westminster Secondary School and the Preschool brings in Practicum Students participating in Early Childhood Education.

This was my family’s first time through the Preschool. Many of the families my son is at school with have gone through QPP two, three, even four times! And for some families it is now the second generation going through the Preschool. My son is turning five this summer and will be off to ‘big boy school’ in September. Which has me looking back on my experience in being a part of a parent participation preschool, and quite truly I would do it again in a heartbeat, and I will be doing it again in two years when my daughter turns three!

I am going to miss the time I got to spend with my son at the school. All too soon he will not want his mom around, let alone play with him and his school buddies. When he was going through the three year old class I was working full time and the days that I was in the school were special for me and him. This year, as he has been through the four year old class I have been on maternity leave and again the days I spend with him at school have become even more important as they are treasured times for just the two of us that don’t involve his baby sister.

Another wonderful part of the Parent Participation program are the monthly educational sessions for the parents, which I have found to be incredibly helpful as a first time parent of a preschooler. Topics have covered everything from time management, the importance of laughter, sex education, and mental and physical development. These lectures really make you feel like everything is going to be okay, your child is normal and if you need help, help is really out there.

Inside the classroom, because QPP is Parent Participation and the parents are in the class to help with activities, art and play, the teachers are provided the opportunity to really teach to every child and give them the best start to an education. Whether they have additional needs or not, because there is so much help in the classroom, the teachers can focus on what each child needs each and every day.

There are two amazing teachers in each class. In the three year old class there are Barb and Eleanor. They could not be more suited to teaching three year olds. They are two very kind, nurturing, caring ladies who really help transition these new little students from being in the home, to being in a classroom for the first time. It is like going to school and having two more moms! I have watched them as they have helped the kids learn to share (some for the first time), use their language to express themselves whether they are sad, angry or happy, and bring the very shyest of children out of their shell so that they could find what they love to do and were comfortable in a room full of busy children their own age.

In the four year old class there are Jessica and Jenny and they are perfectly suited for teaching four years olds. They bring so much energy and excitement to this age group. Since the four years olds are comfortable with the school and at this age can adapt more easily, they instinctively have more energy and these two ladies know how to channel it into productive and imaginative play. They really show the preschoolers that school and learning is fun, it is really interesting and sometimes it can be very, very messy.

Queen’s Park Preschool with its rich history, amazing teachers, fantastic facility, play-based philosophy and gorgeous location is a perfect place to start your child’s lifelong love of learning. There is an Open House this coming Saturday, April 14, from 9:00am to 11:00am, come for a visit, meet the teachers and find out what PPP is all about!

There are still openings available in the 3 PM class for the upcoming 2012-2013 school year. Please contact the Preschool at 604.526.1153 or visit their website at for more information.

Queen’s Park Preschool offers two $500 scholarships to graduates of New Westminster Secondary School. If you are a graduating this year and are an alumni of Queen’s Park Preschool, or if you are graduating this year and are looking to enter the field of Early Childhood Education you may qualify for one of these scholarships. The application Deadline is the end of May. Please contact the Queen’s Park Preschool for applications or further information.


Help available for families of kids with special needs in New Westminster

For families with kids with special needs, help is available.

For families with kids with special needs, help is available. Thanks to help from New Westminster's Public Health services and the New Westminster Children's Centre, Linda's son is a happy and well-adjusted three-year-old.

I moved to New Westminster in December of 2008, when my older son was just three months old. I didn’t know at the time that I was mom to a child with special needs. Luckily, there are many resources here in New West for my son and our family. I want to share my experiences with you, so that if you have concerns about your child’s development, you’ll know that there are people here who can help. Because I didn’t know. Not at first.

From the time that he was born, my son was different from other babies. He cried constantly, rarely slept for more than half an hour at a time and had problems with feeding. As he got older, he hit many milestones early, but he had no interest in learning to talk. He also avoided eye contact, he melted down during story time at the library and the concept of pointing eluded him. I started taking him to doctors, but couldn’t seem to get anywhere.

When he was 19 months old, his little brother was born. When I took the baby to visit the Public Health Nurse at the Public Health Unit, I mentioned the concerns I had about my older child. She listened with empathy and then, in a move that forever improved the life of my firstborn, she referred him to the Fraser Health Speech and Hearing Clinic and to the Infant Development Program at the New Westminster Children’s Centre.

The Speech and Hearing Clinic warned me that the waitlist for treatment was nearly a year long, but an assessment could be arranged fairly quickly. It was during the assessment that, for the first time, someone else echoed what I had secretly suspected for months. The Speech Pathologist noticed that my son was displaying many symptoms associated with autism.

The Infant Development Consultant contacted me within a few days as well and immediately set up a home appointment to do an assessment. She arrived with no judgment about my unwashed dishes or piles of laundry. She enquired about the challenges my son and I faced, made observations, interacted with him in a variety of activities and took pages of notes. She pointed out several areas where he was not only meeting developmental expectations, but exceeding them. However, it was clear that he was dramatically developmentally delayed and immediate intervention was needed.
Our Infant Development Consultant came to our home regularly. She gave me easy, accessible activities to do with my son to try to coax him out of his world and into ours. She arranged for play dates at the Children’s Centre with other kids, referred him to occupational therapy and got him seen by a physical therapist.

The official diagnosis of autism came just before my son’s third birthday. A ‘Child and Youth with Special Needs’ Social Worker from the Ministry of Children and Families, located at the Children’s Centre, came to my home during nap time and helped guide me through the daunting task of filling out government forms and selecting appropriate therapy. When a clerical error at the funding unit in Victoria caused delays, she intervened and had the problem resolved immediately.

Around the same time, my son graduated from Infant Development and began working with a Supported Child Development Consultant. She helped find him a spot at a wonderful daycare and arranged for funding for a support worker to help him with the daily challenges he faces.

Because of the many resources that are available here in New Westminster, my son is a happy and well-adjusted three-year-old. His advanced understanding of letters and numbers leaves me in awe and he is now learning to interact with his peers and the world. Because of the support he gets, I no longer fear for his future. It’s looking brighter every day.

The New Westminster Children’s Centre is located at 811 Royal Avenue. They take referrals not just from medical professionals, but from parents themselves. If you have concerns about your child’s development, call them at 604.521.8078 local 318 and ask for either Infant Development (0-3 years) or Supported Child Development (3+ years). They will help you determine if your child meets the criteria to be eligible for services.


Free Bobs & Lolo concert at Royal City Centre Nov. 26

Bobs & Lolo

Bobs & Lolo

British Columbia tot pop stars Bobs & Lolo are coming to New Westminster for a free concert to kick off Royal City Centre‘s Christmas activities this year.

On Saturday, November 26 the Juno-nominated sweet-voiced duo will perform a special family show starting at 11am. The mall will also offer free face painting by Mrs. Picasso, 12noon to 4pm. You can preview some of the tunes they’ll sing on the Bobs & Lolo YouTube channel.

The mall will also be offering pet photos with Santa every Sunday between November 27 and December 18 from noon to 4pm.


Council candidates weigh in on family issues in New West

This is the second of two articles sharing election candidates’ opinions on children and family issues in New Westminster. The first article focused on trustee candidates. Kathleen asked all candidates to answer two questions: what is within the elected officials’ ability to influence and what specific initiatives would the candidates personally implement if elected? Unfortunately, due to time constraints, only three council candidates responded: Betty McIntoshBob Osterman and John Ashdown.

The role of the city is to ensure the livability of the city. In relation to child and family issues, this can include parks, recreation programs and space, identifying child care space and other community services.

More broadly, issues like transportation and safety also impact how liveable a city is for families. Incumbent councillor Betty McIntosh explains “The city develops Policy guidelines and has a Social Planner to assist the development of the Policies that are child focused. City Council works closely with School Board on major Capital Projects such as building of 3 new schools. The newer middle schools had City monies to increase the gym size for community shared use.”

A lot of the city’s work is in advocate to other levels of government for thing traditional in the provincial (and sometimes federal) mandate. As Betty said: “Council meets informally and formally with members of other levels of government frequently at Conventions. A variety of issues on homelessness, affordable housing, traffic and transportation are discussed.”

Child care is the most obvious example; the city can help identifying child care space, but does not run, operate or fund child care facilities. Bob Osterman indicates that council knows, “that the Social Health of a Community is directly related to adequate child care and inclusion of children in all our deliberations.”

Using the same framework as I used in my post on trustee candidates’ ideas on child and family issues, I have organized highlights from council candidates’ responses under the three headings: stop, create and advocate. I did not receive responses to my questions from any of the mayoral candidates.  (You may note that I also included ‘Reduce’ and ‘Improve’ headings in the trustee post. I omitted those headings here because I wanted to just choose the best responses and not have too many quotes from the same person.)


John Ashdown: “Procrastinating, weighing out the impact decisions will have on Labour rather than to taxpayers and families. High Taxes are one of the key things working against families. They must be brought into line. The Bottom Line. ”

Betty McIntosh: “Public meters on Sunday need to be free.”


John Ashdown: “I would look at the existing programs to determine value vs cost. Then, I feel there would be room to introduce new programs and policies.”


Bob Osterman: “We would like provincial, federal Funding for : Social Housing, Enhancement of Royal Columbian Hospital, rebuilding our old infrastructure (Sewers, Water, Roads) We are the level of government closest to the resident Family, we need the funding support to continue to foster, build and enhance a healthy society.”

Betty McIntosh: “Advocate for increased funding to existing programs (Societies) for children & seniors.”


If you were to ask me, my two top issues in New Westminster from a child and family issues perspective are:

  1. Parks and Recreation: There are some great parks in New Westminster that I would like to see maintained. However, in a city where much of the year we experience rain and damp mornings, I would like to see more availability for safe spaces for indoor active play. Strong Start, which is funded by the provincial government I believe, is great. However, often there is a lack of programs and spaces on the weekend to support working parents.
  2. Walk-able City: If we want to encourage parents and their kids to spend time in New West, then we need business districts that better cater to the needs of middle income earners and have a vibrant business community. There seems to be a lot of dollar store/thrift store types business in New West and not a lot of opportunities for our family to spend where we live. So business development in downtown, uptown and Sapperton is important to me.
What child and family issues do you see in New West? What would you like to see our elected officials do about them?

Why You Should Care Who is a School Trustee

Last round of municipal elections I had a four month old baby and while we made it to the polls, I remember vaguely choosing a mayoral candidate, and a few councillors I knew and liked, and that’s it. I didn’t select any school trustees because in my mind, there was no point. My child was a mere four months old and I didn’t think that a school trustee would have an impact on me. At least not until he made it to school, right? And even then we were considering homeschooling and private school and I felt like if my kid wasn’t in public school then it wasn’t going to matter.

This election I have a remarkably different opinion. I now firmly believe that the position of school trustee is every bit as important as councillors – perhaps even more important – regardless of whether you have children.

Why? Well, first let’s look at what the school trustees even do. The BC School Trustee Association (admittedly, a group who serves the trustees it represents) has a relatively succinct description of what a trustee does:

Trustees engage their communities in building and maintaining a school system that reflects local priorities, values and expectations. School trustees listen to their communities; guide the work of their school district; and set plans, policies and the annual budget. Reflecting the strength of local representation, boards report back to their communities on how students are doing: boards are directly accountable to the people they serve.

Essentially, trustees determine how, who, and at what price the assets (schools and other school district owned buildings) are used as well as in depth policies for how everyone must behave while doing so. And while most of us automatically think this refers only to the children in the community who attend public school, it actually represents a glut of other groups: sports groups (both adult and children), service groups, clubs like Girl Guides or Cub Scouts, the proprietors of craft or plant sales, as well as other groups who may rent the facilities for events.

Additionally, the School District themselves identifies these as the functions of trustees:

  • Policy, Planning and Evaluation
  • Action on Legal Requirements
  • Selection of Senior Personnel
  • Public Relations
  • Final Appeal
But why does this matter to everyone, even those who don’t have kids in the system or even have kids at all? It’s simple: if you have healthy and happy kids in your community, your community is better for it. Let’s not forget that the assets and policies the trustees govern are paid for in part by your tax dollars. Don’t you want them to do a good job with your investment?


And finally, there is a giant body of science based knowledge out there that shows children thrive most when they are given all the right building blocks, and some of those blocks don’t come from their immediate families. (Just Google “healthy kids research” – over 49 million hits). Teachers, neighbours, community role models, and the community at large all have an impact on the children in our community. The New Westminster Children’s Charter, endorsed by both the City of New Westminster and the School District, sets out what kids need to thrive.

In short, if you’re on the fence about why you should be voting for a school trustee, I urge you to consider that these are the people that will help further the growth of children in our community who are going to grow up and hopefully stay in our community and become us – voters, taxpayers, and hopefully deeply engaged citizens. I’d prefer kids who want to contribute and who care about what happens, don’t you?

* * *

Here’s a list of what candidates said in our survey when we asked “Why should residents who don’t have children care about school board issues?” (arranged alphabetically by last name with a link to their full questionnaire responses published earlier this week.)

Jonina Campbell: Education matters to everyone. How we educate and raise youth affects all society. Furthermore, there are issues relating to schools that affect local neighbourhoods such as traffic planning, playground space, and space for community use. Already our schools are open for recreation and the arts (ie. Massey Theatre). I’d like to explore ways we can continue to expand the use of our schools. For example, because New Westminster has limited space available to build new recreation facilities, our schools could be used for recreational opportunities on the weekends. This might include something like a yoga class or open gym for children.

Casey Cook: Everyone should care about education and School Board issues. A healthy school system is a great contributor to a healthy community. Furthermore, today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders. They are tomorrow’s decision makers. On a practical level, residents are taxpayers and should have a level of interest as to how effectively their taxes are being spent.

Michael Ewen: Beyond the democratic and economic argument about a well educated work force being more able to contribute to the development and hopefully evolution of our economy, residents should care that our schools are more fully utilized for the community. Due to budgetary constraints we are looking at a new policy that will see us charging our community user groups. We should be continuing the practice of keeping these facilities open and available to our community, at little or no cost.

Jim Goring: Public Education has an impact on the quality of life in our community in ways that benefit all, creating good citizens, supporting democracy, providing employees some who become employers.

Lisa Graham: On average, children are ‘in the public education system’ for a relatively short 13 years but are ‘in the community’ for their lifetime. This is particularly true in the Royal City — in fact, some families have called New Westminster ‘home’ for multiple generations! Unfortunately, too many residents do not realize that they are already vested stakeholders in school board issues because it is their tax dollars that fund the public education system. Schools are a microcosm of the larger society; as such, it is important to hear from yet-to-be engaged constituent groups, not only because they have a right to be heard, but because their contribution/input on school board matters can help shape outcomes that will impact the larger community. Active collaboration amongst all stakeholders can create a better community for all of us. The best consultation outcomes are the ones that sort through the most input; it’s in everybody’s best interest to participate in public matters.

James Janzen: Because we are all going to be relying on these kids to be the citizens of the future.

Brenda McEachern-Keen: Empowered students = empowered citizens. The social skills students learn as children will be the social skills they take into adulthood. The values our schools instill will be the values they live.

MaryAnn Mortensen: A healthy school community is vital to the community as a whole. We have roughly 6,000 students in New Westminster and we know that while some residents are transient, most stay and raise families here. One of the roles trustees play is to ensure that through sound policy making, we provide the best learning environment and safe buildings in which students can learn and teachers and staff can teach and support students and staff. Trustees are also charged with the duty of distributing a budget. This money is all our tax dollars at work. Part of good governance also means that we communicate with services/agencies/organizations in the community that encourage, support and engage children in their learning and lives while they are in our school system. The cost to society is enormous when we do not pay heed to our school communities. The seven trustees you elect oversee the management of our school district. Many have only to think about the concerns around the Massey Theatre’s future or how the lack of planning for new schools has impacted not only our students but also the community around where to site the elementary, middle and high school. Our schools are called community schools because they are shared hubs for all community members. Resident Associations were impacted by a decision to charge insurance fees for their meetings, extra-curricular activities and activities for children and adults are impacted by the decisions of our Board of Education. Too often, people do not realize the impact a school board has on its community and they vote only for council and Mayor. It is my hope that the community is awakened to the reality that your seven-member school board does matter to you whether or not you have children, whether or not you have children in the system or whether your children are grown. Your tax dollars pay for public education and our school buildings. You have a right and obligation to ensure that you vote for individuals who you believe will spend our $60 + million dollar budget responsibly and equitably and manage the schools in your community with good governance.

James Pepa: Children are our future and we should all be active in their education.

David Phelan: Our schools have strong connections to our community. The community uses our schools for a variety of social, community and athletic events. Community support and involvement is strong for many school programs, such as Hyack Football and the spectacular performances put on by NWSS students at Massey Theater. The Neighbourhoods of Learning areas in the new schools will provide a varied number of programs that residents will be able to access. We also have the opportunity to create connections to our environment in our new schools. This can be building relationships between our schools and community gardens, local farmer’s markets and Farm to School Programs. These connections can be used to promote healthy eating patterns in our children.

Glen Richmond: Because our students are the future citizens of our community and, as products of their environment, their experiences will affect others in the fullness of time.


Candidates on best behaviour at school board all-candidates debate

School trustee candidates prepare for an all-candidates debate in the NWSS library.

School trustee candidates prepare for an all-candidates debate in the NWSS library.

At the first all-candidates school board trustee debate of the 2011 civic election, hosted by the New Westminster Teachers Union, emcee and Left Coast blogger Stacey Robinsmith had a bit of last-minute shuffling of tables and chairs to do. As he shoved the last one into place he quipped, “That’s CUPE work, sorry everybody!” Stacey got a good laugh for that zinger, but his little joke also reflected one of the contentious questions of concern to the (unfortunately somewhat sparse) crowd of union folk, council and mayor candidates and political axe-grinders.

In Alfie Lau’s coverage of the event in the Record he mentions that the candidates “scored no knockout blows,” and so no clear winner emerged. The structure of the “debate” – as with most all-candidates debates – didn’t really lend itself to verbal repartee, and within the limited opportunity for rebuttal, in all cases the candidates played it safe.

I’m no expert in school board matters, but it seems to me that over the past three years, the big issues in the local newspapers have been the tortuously slow progress on building new schools, the investment in the district’s business company (which has lately started to show a return), the question of whether to close tiny Hume Park Elementary and above all, the toxic politics that divide the current Board and hamper its ability to efficiently fulfil its mandate.

The interests of the crowd, or at least those who submitted questions, had little to do with any of the issues I was expecting to hear about. A number of questions were asked about the potential for outside interference from unions for candidates who were employed by unions as teachers or who have accepted New Westminster and District Labour Council funding and endorsements, the role of private enterprise in schools, support for programs of choice and levels of funding for students with disabilities.  These are contentious issues for some union members, but (correct me in the comments if I’m wrong) these are not the burning issues that matter to the majority of New West voters. The only candidate that alluded to the difficulties the board has faced in achieving consensus was Casey Cook, who noted, “Where we are challenged as a district is what takes place in the boardroom.”

Given that, the other big surprise was just how similar all the candidates’ answers were.

As I mentioned, over the past three years every mention of the school board has been paired with moaning about how dysfunctional it has been. Yet when it came time to hear from each of the candidates, virtually all of them said they were for the same things: putting kids first, offering parents and kids choices when it comes to education, providing access to technology to enhance learning, supporting programs of choice, being prudent stewards of the budget, etc. etc. While their aspirational values may be the same, where the rubber meets the road is how they define these ideas and what steps, tradeoffs and choices they would make to realize these. I am hoping to hear more specific commentary differentiating the candidates’ approaches later in the campaign.

A number of mayoral and council candidates were present to listen, shake hands and support trustee candidates. I didn’t expect to see such easy camaraderie among the candidates. I even overheard councillor Betty McIntosh take a moment to offer some public speaking tips to one of the new female candidates. I didn’t expect to see the more experienced politicians mentoring the political newcomers. I don’t know whether this is something that’s typical, but I was glad to see it.

Major themes the candidates kept returning to included how to improve communication between the school board and constituents, how to strengthen school ties with the community, and especially the need to lobby for more funding from Victoria for schools.

In response to a question about candidates’ views on advocating for more support staff, Michael Ewen explained, “The issue here isn’t whether we support support staff. Are the schools clean? They are as clean as we can afford to get them right now.” He went on to say that the issue is fundamentally one of funding. “We need to encourage the province to fully fund the needs of our students.”

On the topic of asking for more funding, Jim Goring stressed that “rallying, ranting and raving” were not effective, and said lobbying as a group along with the B.C. School Trustees Association would be the way he’d want to go about it.

Lisa Graham pointed out that there was no problem in demonstrating need in the district, saying, “The current levels of funding are not sufficient. There are many, many more needs than there are dollars to meet those needs, whether it be for special needs supports, more custodians, technology for teachers … all those things take money.”

MaryAnn Mortensen agreed, saying, “I think it’s a given that we need more money in public education and that we need to look at our own finances.”

And James Janzen said that lobbying for funding was “one of the primary roles of trustees in B.C. – and it’s too bad that it is.”

Other notable quotes from the evening: 

  • “I was ensured by one employer that I was a successful failure at almost everything. Vote for me for school trustee!” – James Bell, who is also running for council.
  • “I’m a huge fan of technology. The world is moving very, very quickly and if we want our students to keep up in the world they need that exposure to technology. We need to bring in every piece of equipment we can reasonably afford that would give our students these tools. We need to make sure our computer labs are up to date, the equipment is up to date.” – Glen Richmond
  • “There’s nothing wrong with a conflict of interest. There’s a great deal wrong with an undeclared conflict of interest. People have lost faith in the decision-making process because they perceive there are a lot of conflicts that are not being declared.” – Casey Cook
  • “Communications between school board trustees and PACS & DPAC is vital. It’s a function of a trustee to have a connection with the people, not just the issues. There’s a huge difference between hearing the issues via email and hearing the issues in person.” – MaryAnn Mortensen
  • “I believe we need to take the time to listen to all groups.” – James Pepa
  • “When it comes down to it, you’re not going to make a decision based on how many sign up or how many sign a petition. You’re going to make decisions that are best for the children in this district.” – David Phelan
  • “People are very disappointed in the lack of progress for schools. People were disappointed that the money went elsewhere and not to students.” – Jonina Campbell
  • “Whenever we make a decision about anything we have to ask where is the child in this decision. If it’s not the girls and boys of New Westminster, we need to go back and think again.” – James Janzen
Note: more photos from this event are in an album on our Facebook Page, where I will be adding photos of civic election candidates. 

BOO! Westminster: Local Halloween events for the whole family

The second annual Petrifying Pooch Parade, hosted by local pet-sitting business Calli Co., is Saturday, October 29 from 12-2pm in the Queen's Park off-leash dog park.

The second annual Petrifying Pooch Parade, hosted by local pet-sitting business Calli Co., is Saturday, October 29 from 12-2pm in the Queen's Park off-leash dog park.

Halloween is just around the corner, so here’s a handy dandy list of events for everyone (and we do mean everyone) in the family. The pets in your life will be snout over tail for the Petrifying Pooch Parade, the horror fan will scream with joy for the Haunted Hall and you can even get a chance to PUMP yourself up with a Halloween workout!

With all this Halloween fun, New Westminster has become BOO Westminster.

Mwa ha ha ha ha

Drag Divas Halloween
Saturday, October 29t, 10:00 pm, Heritage Grill
Join MZ Adrien and the Guest Divas Moaning Lisa and Erica Divine (with a special cameo by Tish Snooky). The gurls are planning some fabulous fun with some of the spoookiest characters around. Prizes prizes prizes, food, drink and a whole lot of fun! Wear your costumes and be ready some divalicious drag.

Halloween Costume Party
Saturday, October 29th, 6 pm -1 am Terminal City Pub
It’s the time of year to play dress-up and party like animals. TheTerminal City Pub is having it’s annual Halloween Costume Party. Prizes for the top three costumes, shooter specials all night, dance floor with killer tunes and UFC Pay Per View. Contact the pub for ticket inquiries.


BYOP (Bring Your Own Pumpkin) and work out in costume at the October 31 Halloween PUMPkin workouts in various locations around New West.

BYOP (Bring Your Own Pumpkin) and work out in costume at the October 31 Halloween PUMPkin workouts in various locations around New West.

Halloween Fun
Friday, October 28th, 3:30 pm, New Westminster Public Library, 716 6th Avenue
Ghostly stories and a Halloween craft await kids ages 4 – 10 at this free event.

All Treats, No Tricks
Sunday October 30th, Noon -3 pm, 810 Quayside Drive,
The River Market is celebrating Halloween and the grand opening of four new merchants. There will be live entertainment, crafts, and pumpkin carving. Your kids can show off their costumes and trade for treats at select merchants.

2nd Annual Petrifying Pooch Parade
Saturday, October 29th, 12 pm – 2 pm, Queen’s Park Off Leash Dog Park
Save the date – you won’t want to miss it! Dress up your doggies in their favourite Halloween costumes and join other dog lovers for this SPOOKTACULAR event! Refreshments will be provided for both doggies and humans.

Halloween PUMPkin Work Out
Monday, October 31 various locations and times throughout Boo Westminster
Bring your own pumpkin (5 to 10 lbs), dress up in your spooky best and head out to the PUMP-kin work out. Be motivated, encouraged and inspired to a new life of health and fitness, and have a good giggle while you are at it. Email newwest@survivorbootcamp to reserve your spot.

World Animal Day Children’s Art
Sunday, October 30th from 12 pm- 4pm, Centennial Community Centre
The event brings animal awareness to young people and organizers are inviting children to wear animal costumes with prizes going to the best and cutest. It is being put on by the New Westminster-based Campaigns Against The Cruelty to Animals

The Metro Hosts 2nd Annual “Haunted Hall” – a Spooktacular Fund-Raising Event for the Entire Family
October 26-October 31 1 pm – 8 pm, 759 Carnarvon Street
This Halloween, The Metro will once again be transforming its 8000 square foot events centre into Haunted Hall – a spooktacular fund-raising event in support of local charities. Families of all ages will be entertained by over 8000 square feet of cobwebs, ghosts and goblins, spooky sounds, tricks and treats, pumpkin patch for little humans and haunted hall tours with live spooks for the not so faint of heart. Entry is $5 per person or $10 for a family pass in support of The WITS Anti-Bullying Program and Purpose Society.

Family Spook House Adventure
Thursday, October 27, 10 am – 12 pm, Queensborough Community Centre
Come enjoy the indoor Spook House and enjoy a celebration of costumes and carefree fun. Don’t forget to wear your costume for a spirited Halloween. Lots of equipment like the bouncy equipment, ride‘em toys, gym equipment and more. The activity leader will be sure that your morning is fun and interactive. This is also a great opportunity to meet other families
in the neighborhood.

It’s a Halloween Party!
Friday, October 28, 9-11:30 am, Queen’s Park Arenex
Ghosts and goblins from the Motoring Munchkins drop-in program are invited to dress as their favorite Halloween creature and join in the party fun. There are plenty of tricks and treats for all! Entry fee includes a digital emailed picture of your child against a spooktacular backdrop.

Monster Madness

Wednesday, October 26, 3:30 pm-5 pm Centennial Community Centre
No bones about it – prepare for that ghoulish night by making hobgoblin crafts, terrifying treats and mucous membrane milkshakes. The sca-a-ary activities continue with spooky stories and howling fun.

Count Chocola’s Creatures
Wednesday, October 26 6-7 pm Centennial Community Centre
Have fun making creepy chocolate and tricky treats just in time for Halloween. You’ll create ghosts on broomsticks and spooky snacks that will captivate even the non-squirmish. Make special eerie decorations for your room and treat yourself to ghastly witches brew.

Family Halloween Hoopla
Saturday, October 29, 1:30-3:30 pm Centennial Community Centre
Calling all monsterous moms, Dracula dads, ghoulish grandparents and spine chilling children to an afternoon of witchy, wacky fun. Try your skills playing eerie games, get creative making creepy crafts and cookie decorating. There’s spooktacular fun for the whole family including a magic show by Johnny B Good.

Haunted Halloween Family Skate
Saturday, October 29 6:30 – 8 pm Moody Park Arenta
Moody Park Arena’s horrific Halloween experts have a “Spooktacular” evening of fun planned for the whole family to enjoy. Prizes will be awarded for best costumes.

Haunted Halloween Happening Party
Friday, October 29 6 – 8 pm Queensborough Community Centre
Join a fun filled ghoulish night of activities at the Queensborough Haunted Halloween Happening Party. Our leaders will be making wicked crafts, face painting help you carve some scary pumpkins. The night will end with a magic show by “Johnny B Good” Remember to dress up for this Family event.

Costume Contest
Friday, October 28, 6-8 pm Queensborough Community Centre
So you think you can make the best costume? Stop by the Haunted Halloween Happening Party for a night full of Halloween fun! There will be a costume contest that is fun for all ages – strut your stuff for a chance to win a prize! Contest starts at 6:00 pm! You may get in the contest line as soon as you register. Awards will be announced at 7:45 pm

Pumpkin Carving
Friday, October 28, 6-7:30 pm Queensborough Community Centre
Join us for our 6th annual pumpkin carving party at the Queensborough Community Centre. Bring your own pumpkins and we will provide all the tools and creative patterns. Best of all, they do all the clean up! Please RSVP your attendance as registration
is required.

Pumpkin Carving Contest
Friday, October 28, 6-7:30 pm Queensborough Community Centre
Halloween is just around fun and participate in our Carving Contest. Be as wild creative as you like! If you cannot get a hold of a pumpkin in your area, feel free to use any vegetable or fruit. The important thing is that you carve it yourself. Original carved pumpkins only, no generic stencil cut pumpkins allowed! Awards will be announced
at 7:45 pm sharp!

CGP Halloween in Wonderland
Wednesday, October 26, 6:30-8:30 pm
I’m late, I’m late for a very important date…No time to wait. Join Alice, the Cheshire Cat and
the Mad Hatter as they bring their Wonderland madness to Canada Games Pool.

For info on even more events in the Lower Mainland, this writer is a big fan of the yoyomama halloween and pumpkin patch listing.


It’s A New West Thankgiving Thanks-Fest!

Well, it’s the Thanksgiving long weekend. And I thought that it might be a good idea to look around me, and take stock of all of the things that I have to be thankful for, particularly here in my adopted home of New Westminster.

Here in Canada, our Thanksgiving is based around the Anglican calendar, a liturgical festival that quietly mirrors the pagan Harvest Festivals in Britain, and those festivals celebrated very similarly by First Nations peoples who engaged in harvest festivals for many thousands of years. Over the centuries, the “thanks” part of Thanksgiving has come to mean many things to many people .

What does thanks mean to me, here in New West?

Like many things in life for me, it’s the details, the simple pleasures for which I give thanks. I don’t have to face hypothermia, typhoid, fighting off a bear with a skinny branch, or injuries sustained in clearing a patch of land to build a log cabin like our early Canadian forebearers did (and for which I also give thanks).

But, thanks are thanks, no matter what era in which one finds oneself. And here are some of mine.


The Library

New Westminster Library

Photo: Dennis Sylvester Hurd

Libraries are a sure sign that civilization is alive and well. At the risk of sounding like a very, very old man, libraries democratized information long before the Internet came along to claim the crown. And they’re still important, you young whippersnappers.

Ours is a five minute walk from my apartment. I have celebrated the New Westminster Library here before, of course, as have a number of writers here on Tenth To The Fraser. But recently I’ve discovered yet another treasure it provides me – classic movies on DVD! Netflix this!

Public Transit

Tranlink public transit New Westminster

Photo: Nathan Pachal

Although it’s been under attack recently, public transit in New West still kicks all manner of butt, and was one of my reasons for moving here. Then, I was without a car. I am therefore in favour of, and thankful to, any city that empowers its citizens to choose not to own a car if they don’t want one, or can’t afford one.

Since my little girl lives in North Delta, and it’s such a big deal to cross a river around here (with only 3 buses crossing a river, only one of which stops at a SkyTrain Station during regular service hours), I’ve since had to buy one. If only New West was looked to as more of an example of how public transit should be integrated into a community.

Moody Park

Photo: Robert John Davies Jones

Toward the end of the summer, I got off the 155 bus on 6th Street, between 10th and 9th. It was fresh, sunny day. There was a gentle breeze. The bus pulled away, and I looked across the road into Moody Park. The trees cast cool shade onto the grass, awash as it was with cheery sunlight. Dogs played. People gathered, laughing around picnic tables. It was life! And people were out in it, enjoying it together. It made me feel grateful to be here.

Rainbow Market

Photo: RJDJ

Rainbow Market on 8th street at 4th is the convenience store very close to my apartment – even closer than the Library! When there’s no milk for coffee, it’s been there for me in a pinch. But, it’s not just about the convenience. It’s about the time my daughter got a free candy (with my permission) when it was noticed that she was feeling a bit disappointed that day by the chap behind the counter. That kind of stuff counts.

9th Street

Photo: RJDJ

Some of the oldest houses that I’ve seen in New Westminster are just around the corner from me here on the Brow-Of-The-Hill. There is something about a house that is over a century old that really makes one feel very connected to a place that celebrates such an illustrious history, existing in a form that is both wonderful, and somehow alien too across the span of decades. It feels, at times, when walking in historic neighbourhoods like this one (as I’m wont to do), that time itself is something of an illusion.

I suppose too, I am in a state of constant admiration of those who live in those houses along 9th street. I am amazed at how devoted they must be to have made themselves so actively a part of that ongoing history just by taking care of a house like that, preserving that shared history for us all.

Drink Urban Lounge

Drink Urban Lounge

Photo: Raul Pacheco-Vega

I consider Drink Urban Lounge on Columbia Street to be my local, with a fine selection of beers, great food, and friendly wait staff. There’s something that is both cozy and sophisticated about it that I noticed the moment I stepped in there. I know The ‘Drink has been compared to a Yaletown place, but I actually think it’s its own thing.

When they played David Byrne on the box, along with some cool jazz, a spot of Bob Dylan, a touch of Wilco, they really had me. And one time recently, our hostess made us nachos even after the kitchen was closed. How great is that? Great enough to at least say “Thanks!”


My favourite meal of the day is brunch. And when I crave it, Eggs Benedict is the first dish that leaps to mind, with strong coffee, fried potatoes, and freshly-squeezed orange juice – comfort food. All of this is mine at Angelina’s, a breakfast and lunch place down by the Quay (115 – 960 Quayside Drive ) which has become a fast favourite, for which I’m thankful is here in our city. It’s owned by a couple who are extremely friendly and know their trade. It feels kind of like a B&B without the first B. But, show up early, ’cause it’s cozy.

The Quay

New Westminster Quay

Photo: Stephen Rees

I believe that human beings draw a strong psychological lift being near water. And to have a place to walk near it, with greenery, a pub, a playground, a River Market, and grocery store along the way, that lift is made all the more a thing for which to be thankful.

Army & Navy

Photo: RJDJ

This is one of my favourite places on Columbia Street, not just because of the wide range of fashions and household items at very reasonable prices. But, because it reminds me of my childhood in the 1970s, when all department stores were set up like this. The soundtrack helps. When you’re in the Army & Navy on Columbia Street, your soundtrack will be pop music of all kinds, as long as it was released between 1956 to 1976. It’s like being a kid again! Well, for me it is.

Queen’s Park and surrounding environs

Photo: RJDJ

Like I touched on when speaking about 9th street, history fascinates me, and with many homes dating from the early 1900s in this extraordinarily pretty neighbourhood, there is plenty to soak up. In addition, quiet, tree-lined streets in a neighbourhood that still passes the pint of milk test (15 minutes to buying a pint of milk without climbing into a car) once again shows me a big part of what makes a great place to live, and how neighbourhoods should be planned.

Really, I just enjoy walking around this neighbourhood, admiring the individual beauty of each house, admiring the aesthetics of another age, and once again being made aware of how important history and a sense of continuity is in New Westminster, and how I feel I’ve been invited into it.


Friends, of course.

I sure have made a lot of friends in this town, ones I love to chat with, to hoist pints with, to share stories with. There is nothing quite like a support network, with “support network” perhaps sounding a bit too clinical for what it actually means to me.

As we grow up and get older, our relationships become more selective, perhaps. And being Canadian, we’re a bit more guarded as to who we let in than perhaps our American cousins are. But, like our other cultural cousins, the British, once you’re in, you’re in. How can you not be thankful for something like that?

So, I am.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


5 Songs About Thanks


New summer camps come to New West

Trying to figure out how to keep your kids busy and out of your hair this summer? Here’s an option—Urban Academy is offering all sorts of summer camps this year, right here in New Westminster.

The arts-infused school is excited about this new offering and sees it as a natural extension of their arts-infused curriculum.

this is a picture of a woman dressed in a costume that is somewhat fairy and somewhat Mother Nature. She is gesturing with er hand and making a funny face. She is outdoors in a park.

“We’re looking forward to opening our doors for camps this summer,” says Michael Bouchard, Urban Academy’s head of school, in a press release. “We’ve got something for everyone, and it’s a great way for kids to continue to learn and have fun when school’s out.”

The full-and half-day camps are all a week long and will run throughout the summer at Urban Academy, in the former Robson Manor. Topics include French, drawing, painting, science, clay, and music theatre and options are available for kids from five to sixteen years-old.

All of the camps will be led by teachers from Urban Academy, except for the Clay Creations one which will be taught by an established artist.

Camp details are as follows:

  • Creative Puppetry, ages five to seven, July 11 to 15, 9 a.m. to noon, $126
  • Become a Puppeteer, ages six to 11 years, July 11 to 15, 12:45 to 3:45 p.m., $126
  • Music Theatre, ages five to 12 years, August 22 to 26, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., $226
  • Clay Creations, ages six to 11 years, July 25 to 29, 9 a.m. to noon ,$130
  • Fun in French, ages six to 12 years, July 25 to 29, 12:45 to 3:45 p.m., $126
  • Introduction to Photography and Pinhole Cameras, ages 11 to 16 years, July 4 to 8 or July 11 to 15, 9:00 a.m. to 4 p.m., $315 (materials included are valued at $60 per student)
  • Drawing and Painting 101, ages 11 to 16, July 18 to 22, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., $290 (materials included are valued at $60 per student)

The comprehensive camps give kids a unique experience and go beyond what many similar camps do. For example, in the photography camp, students will build a darkroom, take a photography tour of downtown Vancouver, and visit a print shop where they will print a short series.

Limited spaces are still available for most camps but are selling fast. More information is available at

Please call the school at 604-524-2211 to register and secure your child’s spot.


Let’s talk lunch: should schoolkids get more time to eat?

Our kids can eat lunch in 15 minutes, but should they? New Westminster District Parent Advisory Council (DPAC) wants to double the eating time for elementary and middle school children from 15 minutes to 30 minutes so that our kids can have more time to chew.

Currently, students have 15 minutes to eat their lunch, but as I understand it, that time is supposed to include washing up before eating, clearing away lunch kits at the end and getting coats & shoes on for playtime afterwards. Even if washing up & donning boots takes only 5 minutes (and I would guess it’s longer for 30 small fry in a small space), that only leaves 10 minutes to eat – and no time for talking.

It may sound like a small issue given the complicated stuff SD40 is wrestling with, but it’s not just about placating Poky Penelopes and Slow-eater Peters (and their helicopter parents). There are good reasons to believe that a 15-minute eating period is not only uncomfortably short (do you take only 15 minutes for lunch? I sure don’t) but also has some potentially serious impacts on kids’ health and ability to learn in class.

In a letter of support for DPAC, former Chief Medical Health Officer for Vancouver Coastal Health Dr. John Blatherwick writes:

In this time when we realize that the link between obesity and poor health needs a concerted effort by our entire community, it makes sense for the New Westminster School Board to consider the research that [DPAC Vice-chair MaryAnn Mortensen] has put together showing an optimal lunch eating time between 24 and 35 minutes. It becomes obvious that a 45 minute lunch break is insufficient.

We need time for students to wash up, eat, relax and PLAY during their lunch break. If we need a minimum of 24 minutes for them to eat, it is obvious that a 45 minute period means something is dropped. Often this is eating (which leads to poor class room outcomes in the afternoon), washing up (which leads to health problems), relaxing (poor afternoon education outcomes) and PLAYING (both poor education outcomes and health problems).

The New Westminster School Board is in the education business. And good education outcomes come with good health outcomes…As the former School Medical Health Officer for New Westminster School District, I strongly urge the Board to NOT put this issue aside for another year. Health and education outcomes will suffer. This is an issue to address now.

As Blatherwick mentions in the last paragraph, this issue will be discussed at tonight’s school board meeting. Those with strong opinions on the issue may want to speak out at the meeting at 7:30pm at City Hall tonight.

What do you think? Should School District 40 extend the eating period for students? If so, how do you think the district should adjust the school day so that teaching and playing time aren’t impacted?


Two days of Easter fun in New West this weekend

Lots to do in New West this Easter weekend! Photo: Vanderdehaage (Flickr)

Lots to do in New West this Easter weekend! Photo: Vanderdehaage (Flickr)

In New West, we certainly know how to celebrate! When I moved here from Delta four years ago, I had a bit of a culture shock. I was amazed by the sheer number of festivals and events that take place in the city. In Delta, we had the Delta Days Parade, but there wasn’t really much else that was easy to get to. Here, we have something to celebrate every month throughout the spring and summer. For me, the Easter weekend has always been my unofficial kick-off to the flurry of festivals we have in the months to come.

This year, though, there are two days of Easter fun! There is, of course, the annual Antique Car and Easter Parade on Sunday, but with the re-opening of the River Market this year, there are now festivities on Saturday for everyone to enjoy, especially if family lunches and dinners take you out of the action in Queen’s Park on Sunday.

The fun starts at River Market’s Easter celebration on Saturday, April 23 from 10:30 to 2:30. It also happens to be Pedagogy Toys’ 4th birthday. Bloom Art Studio will be hosting Easter Egg Dyeing from 10:30 to 11:00. The Paddlewheeler Pub will be supplying hot chocolate and cookies to those who attend from 12:30 – 2:30. Much to my delight, I’ve found out that Crepes Des Amis will also be providing Sweet Apple Cider and French Sweet Crepes (and I can’t wait until they open at the River Market next month). There will also be tons of entertainment by the Vancouver Circus School, Jania Russell, and the Creole Jazz Band, not to mention face painting and balloon animals for kids – and of course, the Easter Bunny!

The fun continues on Sunday with the 31st annual Hyack Antique Car Easter Parade. The parade starts at noon, but you can come down to the Front Street Parkade starting at 10:00 to get an up-close look at the beautiful cars. There will be entertainment by the Fouruvus Dixieland Band, and the Easter Bunny will also make an appearance. The parade will start at noon and travels down Columbia Street to 12th Street, up 12th Street to 6th Avenue, and then along 6th Avenue to Queens Park. The cars will be hanging out at the park afterwards, so you can check them out when they arrive.

In the park, New Westminster Parks, Culture, and Recreation has their Easter Festivities beginning at 11:00 until 2:00. There will be special family games and treats for children 3 – 10 years old. The petting zoo will be open (hooray!) and there will be entertainment in the Bandshell for the entire event. There will also be face painting, crafts, clowns, and a concession with hot dogs, popcorn, and hot and cold drinks. Kids can also get their photo taken with the Easter Bunnies for a suggested $2 donation, with proceeds going to New Westminster Youth Services.
All the events go on rain or shine, and right now, the forecast is calling for good weather. I think after writing all that, I’m glad I’m not the Easter Bunny – he has a lot of places to be this weekend!


New West Public Health Unit is moving uptown May 2

Just an FYI for parents of babies & toddlers and other regulars at the public health office: the New Westminster Public Health Unit is relocating to Uptown from its current home at 537 Carnarvon.

As of May 2 the public health nurses will be offering vaccinations and other services at 218-610 Sixth St. The phone number will remain the same, 604-777-6740. I just thought I’d pass on the news because I know I’d automatically head down to the old office for my kids’ next vaccinations if I hadn’t heard the news!

Here’s a map showing the new location:

View Larger Map


A Modest Proposal for Hume School

Hume Park Elementary has been on the chopping block multiple times (a few examples: in 2009, and again in 2010), and each time dedicated parents come to its’ defense and each time Hume Park gets voted to stay open and each time everyone breaths a sigh of relief.  Yesterday, I read that, once again, a trustee is putting forward a motion to consolidate Hume Park with it’s bigger brother up the hill, Richard McBride Elementary. The motion won’t get voted on without another trustee to second it but if it passes, once again the uncertainty will take a toll as potential attendees will be enrolled in neighbouring schools with a more stable future.

I think Hume Park Elementary should be shut down and be turned into a branch of New Westminster Public Library.


Looking at Hume Park Elementary from the spray park at Hume Park

A view from a school

I live on the topographically low end of Massey Victory Heights. My son is 2.5 years old and Hume Park is our catchment school.  What happens in our school district here in New Westminster is very much on my radar these days because as Briana pointed out in early 2010, if you want your child to be enrolled in a “program of choice” (and I do, our sights are set on Montessori), you have to sign your kid up at birth, essentially, in order to be considered for a spot. So while Kindergarten is just over two years away, I’m paying close attention to what’s going on in our district.

When I moved to this neighbourhood last summer, I was quite caught up with this romantic “Little House on the Prairie” one-room schoolhouse idea that our son would attend Hume Park Elementary (if we lose out on the weird system that is the allotment for Programs of Choice). “Oh, it would be so lovely,” I thought. “All that attention by the staff, all that closeness with his fellow students.” I was quite in love with this charming notion until someone pointed out a few things to me. Namely, Hume Park Elementary doesn’t have a gym, their library is small, and they share their principal with F.W. Howay School. They have 26 students – TWENTY SIX –  currently enrolled in their four grades and they don’t currently have a kindergarten class (only 2 registered this past September). They do have a before and after school care program and they also have an active and dedicated PAC headed by Nikki Binns, and I applaud their tireless dedication to a cause they believe in.

Heres’s how I see it:

For one, the district can save money. As a district, it doesn’t make fiscal sense to keep a school that serves on 26 students open at a cost of around $250,000 a year. (I got that number from this article, which indicates what the potential savings would be). I realize the teachers would simply be relocated, but being relocated and teaching 25 students rather than 4, for example, seems to be a better use of wages. An argument can be made that a child who gets more one on one time from their teacher might get a better education – but I think kids also learn from each other and by witnessing their peers try.

Second, being such a tiny school, they lack a gymnasium and have a very small library. Granted, the school is in a beautiful park with lots of amenities, but a gymnasium is also good for things like assemblies, plays, arts and culture, and rainy day sports. I realize the students get to tack onto McBride’s programming and events, but this means they need to truck themselves up to McBride. Personally, it would make me feel like an outsider if I got brought in for special events. I love that Hume Park can foster an amazing tight-knit sense of community – but if one regularly feels like an outsider getting brought in, it would be confusing at the least.

Third, it’s been supposed that McBride couldn’t handle the additional students (that’s stated in a number of the articles, here’s one). Currently, we’re talking about 26 students. Already, 40 or so students have withdrawn from Hume and gone elsewhere and it seems to have worked out. This factor was also disputed in an article in the Record in 2009.

Finally, there has been mention that Sapperton (and Massey Victory Heights) is growing and will need Hume Park to remain open to meet a large influx of families. With the Brewery District development charging along at full speed, as well young couples or young families (like me) settling in homes being vacated by long term residents who are either passing away or downsizing, there have been indications of a significant demographical shift. This is happening, albeit very slowly. It will take years to see the numbers needed to justify the continued use of Hume Park Elementary. Additionally, the Brewery District isn’t really attempting to attract those families. If you read their text on their marketing website about the residential units, nowhere does it mention the keywords families look for: playgrounds, parks, recreation, activities, nature, proximity to schools, crime rates, and access to and other child-centred resources. They’re selling to hip, young, urban professionals who want to have coffee with a friend or pick up groceries with ease.

Turning Hume Park Elementary into a public library branch will make it a better neighbourhood asset – a library will reach a larger group of residents than an elementary school with less than 30 children. Additionally, a new library could also include room for a resource centre for the School District’s Home Learners Program. Their current resource centre is on busy Sixth Street in between 3rd and 4th Ave – I haven’t been in it, but it’s positioned between random storefronts (some empty and for lease and others tenanted) and a pub.

NWPL is a fantastic library – it’s generally busy every time I go in there at any time of day, and it’s well stocked and well run with nice staff. It has great programs for kids and adults, and features all sorts of pluses: free wifi, computers for use, fantastic archival and historical research resources, meeting rooms available for use by community groups, and a recently updated online catalogue. NWPL is doing a great job and have been adaptive and proactive to the needs of the citizens as best they can.

But there’s only one. And while it’s centrally located, it’s not really that convenient for those of us over here in the Sapperton McBride – Massey Victory Heights area or the Queensborough area. My other-side-of-the-bridge friends are getting themselves their own branch soon, if all pans out with the redevelopment of the Queensborough Community Centre. (detailed PDF plans for that are here and a silent movie virtual tour is here).

A tree doing its thing in Hume Park.

So, my opinion is that Hume Park Elementary (with some restoration) could make a beautiful library branch with room for a resource centre. All those lovely glass windows, a reasonable sized parking area, a great setting, close to transit, and serving an interesting mix of area residents – seniors, young families, and everything in between.

I don’t have any answers about how it would play out – I assume the building and land are owned by the District and the library is a department of the City, so there would likely have to be a land exchange similar to what is going on right now while three new schools get built. I also don’t really know how expensive it is to operate a library as I doubt they generate much revenue and I don’t know where the addition of something like this would sit on the City’s priority list. All I’m saying is if the seemingly inevitable closure of Hume Park Elementary happens (and in all honesty, if it’s not this current time, it’s only a matter of time given the history), wouldn’t a library be a fantastic repurposing of the space that would still suit the needs of our community?



Family Place opening satellite drop in at 12th Street

My friends at Family Place sent me this note I thought I’d share:

New Westminster Family Place is pleased to announce that we are opening a new program at 1170 – 8th Avenue (corner of 8th Avenue and 12th Street, on the main floor of the building that has Sprott Shaw upstairs).

This program will run every Friday morning from 9:30 – 11:30 starting April 1st.   Join us for fun and games, circle time and wonderful crafts.  Meet your neighbours and make some new friends.  For information call 604 520-3666.


Bloom Art Studio: messy & inspiring fun for kids

Wesley & Kale with their "shadows"

Wesley & Kale with their "shadows"

Note: Bloom Art Studio has offered a special contest for Tenth to the Fraser readers! Comment on this post to before April 21, 2011 and enter to win four free classes at the studio (valued at over $60). Plus, ‘like’ Bloom’s Facebook page for another chance to win!

Bloom Art Studio at River Market is a safe place for kids to get messy – without driving parents crazy.

Owner Kimberly Chiem recently invited me and Jen Arbo to bring our kids down  to experience one of her parent-and-toddler art classes. It was a simple activity I remembered doing when I was in elementary school: first the kids lay down on strips of kraft paper so the parents could trace them, then the parents cut out the silhouettes and taped them to the walls and windows for the kids to paint.

Our kids painted their “shadows” on the windows of the studio. Wesley glopped paint on the floor and all over the chairs. Kale channeled Jackson Pollock and started flinging paint against the window.

“Don’t worry about it,” said Kim. “I’ll clean it all up later.”

Wesley prepares an apple for stamping

Wesley prepares an apple for stamping

Magic words. At home, I like to craft with the kids, but I’m always a little leery of anything truly messy. It’s fun, but I always worry about the cleanup. In a space like Bloom, the kids are free to play with colour and form in a space that’s designed to handle mess. The washable paint cleans off their little wooden chairs and concrete floor. The wall is intended to be coloured on. And even the windows are fair game.

Wesley had so much fun that I brought him back another day, this time with his baby sister (aged16 months) in tow. That day’s plan involved fruit & vegetable stamping. Kimberly provided a plate with halved strawberries, bok choy, lemons, potatoes, apples and other produce and a selection of colourful paints. Once again the craft was simple (and messy): dip the fruit or veg in the paint and stamp it on paper.

Even my littlest enjoyed this craft, and when my son finished his prints and asked if he could have a brush to paint free-form, Kim was happy to go with the flow. A few little artists joined my son in asking for a brush, while others happily kept dipping & stamping their veggies.

Little Nora enjoyed painting too

Little Nora enjoyed painting too

Bloom Art Studio offers a variety of classes and events for kids, including “mini-camps” over Spring Break March 21-25. You can sign up for a series of lessons or opt for the drop-in rate ($8.57 + tax during the winter session). There are even some activities for grown-ups: a monthly Occasional Knitter’s Group (launching March 25 at 7pm) and a Japanese Hand-Built Pottery Class.


On Covering Child Minding

Update: the motion was withdrawn.

I read  that Councillor Jaimie McEvoy has brought forward a proposal that Council is considering that would allow for up to $40 a day in childcare expenses. According to that report, the move is designed, in part, to bring younger people to public office. Right now, Councillor Jonathan Cote is the only City Councillor that would benefit from this proposal but the idea is by adding this benefit into the compensation and benefits package that are offered to our elected Council, it might just be the trigger that encourages young folks to get involved.

I initially wrote a very long post about why I think this proposal misses the point. I talked about the fact that having children is a choice, and that childminding doesn’t always have to cost because family and friends will often sit for kids for traded services or because they want to spend time with their favourite grandkid or niece. I also pointed out that no one was covering my costs, and I wouldn’t think to ask my employers to do so.

But I’ve been thinking this one over and I’ve deleted the bulk of my post because the issue here isn’t about a paltry sum of money. Offering to cover a few bucks a month for an occasional babysitter only brushes the surface of a much larger problem: young people don’t view working as a City Councillor as a desirable position or a viable income. If the proposal is aimed at getting younger people into office, then let’s talk about how we do that, because $500 a year for a babysitter isn’t going to make me go running to City Hall to put my name on the ballot.

Photo by Dennis Sylvester Hurd

The compensation of a New Westminster City Councillor has been set for 2011 at $34,711.  The wage is not enough to raise a family in this city in my opinion, and relying on additional streams of income (another job or a pension) seems to be the only way it can be done. I wondered how the City came up with that number in the first place. From the City’s website:

Council’s remuneration is determined by a mathematical formula that uses remuneration data from several Metro Vancouver municipalities and economic indicators. The formula calculates a minimum and maximum increase. Historically, Council has tried to maintain an annual remuneration rate close to the Metro Vancouver average.

I’m not picking on Councillor Cote here, but as the only one who would benefit from the proposed childminding benefit, I’m going to use him as my example. It’s well known in our city that Councillor Cote works in insurance and is also going to school. I am sure it is a balancing act on his schedule to fit in family time, school, and his obligations to his two sources of income. I think many working parents struggle with time poverty; that is, never having enough time to do everything identified as needing doing. A higher wage at a single job could free up some time and make a position on City Council more attractive to younger people with families, more so than a few bucks for a babysitter. If all of what little free time you do have is taken up by the needs of public office, then public office becomes a detested chore and its attractiveness diminishes.

I think the other main contributing factor is a growing disconnection to one’s community, and to a certain degree, voter apathy. Briana blogged in 2008 regarding New Westminster’s performance at civic elections, and frankly, it’s flat out sad.  Less than 30% of us bothered to show up for the election in 2005. Yikes! I’ve lived in New Westminster for over 15 years now, having transplanted from Vancouver Island. At first, it was just a place to live and go to college.  But it wasn’t until I purposefully plugged into my community a half a dozen years ago at the age of 30 that I started caring about the development of genuine community.

I think people who jump on board to be a City Councillor are motivated, in part or in whole, by the desire to help create a better place to live and a desire to surround themselves with caring people in the community. It takes a special someone to be okay with a public life.  I know many details about our City Councillors they don’t know about me. For instance, I know where a good number of them live, where they work, what charities they support, and what assets they have. And not everyone is comfortable with such a level of transparency. You have to be committed to the cause to put yourself in that position.

Photo by Dennis Sylvester Hurd

So, what if we start actively encouraging younger people to develop a deeper sense of community? What if people graduating from high school were already plugged into New Westminster and were already volunteering their time and energy into making this a better place? What if teenagers were encouraged to have a voice in the City? What if working in the public realm is seen as worthy and desirable? Neil talked about what a hard decision it was to decide to run for Council in his recent article. How do we get young people to see the benefit of contributing to their community when they are young, rather than have an epiphany as they hit their 30s, 40s, or later?

I have two good friends that moved here from another area of the Metro Vancouver area. They bought a great condo in a great location at a relatively good price. They’ve told me time and time again they struggle to understand the long history and complicated relationships that make up the fabric of New West. There is far too much that one needs to intrinsically know in order to “get”  New Westminster. Briana talks about this in her post from August 2009 - Be Not Deterred by the Wall of Plaid.

I say, as a community, it should be our duty to represent New Westminster – both online and in real life – for what it is, what it can be, and what we want it to become.  We need to act in a positive way and be welcoming and encouraging to both new residents and young people. We need to find ways to connect with others at community events, within community groups and by using new languages and channels like Twitter and Facebook.

Those of us who already feel protective of our genuine community need not hoard it for ourselves, but should feel empowered to share it. I believe this act would change the face of City Hall more than $500.


Middle Childhood Survey

The Middle Childhood Development Committee is looking for input! If you’ve got 10 minutes to spare, feel free to take this survey. Middle Childhood is ages 6-12. Here’s the link if you are unable to see the survey below.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world’s leading questionnaire tool.


Kids’ Activities in the Summer

The Early Childhood Development Committee (for children ages 0-6) and the Middle Childhood Development Committee (6-12) are looking for input for their upcoming Summer Activity Guide. Do you have an event or group you’d like to share?

Stayin' Cool

“I am really interested in getting information back from smaller groups that might not already be connected to any of our committees,” says Betina Ali, the co-chair of the Middle Childhood Development Committee.

The two committees are jointly working on a summer calendar that will be distributed throughout the City (at schools, recreation centres, community service providers…) to provide families with children 0 – 12 information on what is going on in the City from June to August when schools are out. They do not intend to duplicate all the information that is currently being printed and distributed, but rather, they plan to bring everything together in one place as a resource for families. They  hope the book will be filled with lots of FREE family oriented events.

Space is limited so priority will be given to New Westminster-based programs/events/activities.

Please email for more info or to submit your activity.


Recollections of Childhood in Moody Park in the 1950′s

Recently, we have had some excellent posts here on Tenth to the Fraser by New Westminster resident, historian and Friend of the “New Westminster Museum and Archives” Ken Wilkinson. Based on some survey results and the readership statistics, I know that Ken’s articles are popular and anticipated by our readers.

To add to this genre, I will be posting an occasional guest post from my father, Richard Tomkinson, who was born here in the Royal City in 1943 and was, with his brother Robert, the 3rd generation of New Westminster Tomkinsons. These recollections of childhood have as their epicenter, 1040 7th Ave, a house removed only 3 years ago, across from Lord Kelvin Elementary and just next to the pool area of Moody Park.

I have edited what began as an interview format, into a narrative so any deficiencies in fact or style are all mine. Likewise, I have kept all of the best of the source material, so any lighthearted word or turn of phase must also be attributed to the source.
Will Tomkinson, Ed.

Email, 1940's style ... Birth announcements via telegram announcing Richard & Robbie's arrivals.

My memory of growing up around Lord Kelvin school and Moody Park area was mostly of unrestricted roaming and fun, with groups of boys and girls from the post-war baby boom filling the neighbourhood houses.  Younger kids would move through the back lanes, neighbourhood streets, over back fences and through yards and the neighbourhood streets in packs, older kids in groups of 4 or in pairs.

This was all without supervision of course, at any age, but there was a curfew for children in the 50s. I seem to remember there was a horn that blew meaning that you were supposed to be at home rather that at roam. I don’t remember the source of the horn but I seem to recall that it was in the east of the park, as it sounded fairly far off. Moody Park itself was ever popular in the summer when the Kiwanis pool was open. I remember the pool’s opening day but I am not sure exactly when that was. (Editor’s note: I suspect this was in 1947 but I have not been able to confirm this.) Of course in later years we all had the adventure of struggling over the fence for a midnight swim. In the park, the playground was a big draw, as it still is, but lacked any hovering parents. During late fall as the huge towers of leaves from the many trees were often piled up, which were great fun.

The Author, circa 1947

Hard to imagine now, but great fun was the circus that regularly visited in the 50′s. That was always exciting and an adventure opportunity. Circus came for a week sometimes, other times for two days. In the beginning it was a real big circus with many tents, rides, animals etc. As time went by it got less and less. Mostly the circus set up in the high ground opposite and away from Kelvin school. Seems to me they set up once in the north field but it was boggy and had mosquitoes. Actually the north field was probably responsible for all the mosquitoes for a mile around. Yes, some enterprising kids would get jobs from the circus hands. Kids got jobs, I got 25 cents here and there for little jobs while they set up and tore down. During the winter and into the spring the north side always flooded, sometimes dangerously, and often in the winter provided a very large skating rink. We would be cautioned not to cross the ice on our way home from Lester Pearson Junior High. Did we listen? Kids today, just like kids in the 1950’s.

Richard as a teenager in New West, circa 1959

With so many kids around, you would have thought there may have been some neighborhood rivalry but there was not much of that. There was a gang on Nanaimo we battled with, that was about it. We also had a bunch of really smart kids in the general ‘hood, which did not mean they stayed out of trouble, but they were involved much more in sports. Box lacrosse, tennis, little league baseball, soccer, girl’s softball, and junior softball kept many kids and young adults coming to Moody Park.  Mostly kids would go to sports on their own except for little league which had a lot of parent involvement, and was the site of quite a number of adult punch-ups. Then, as now, lawn bowling kept the seniors in ‘whites’.

In the spring, I remember using the park for practice on May Day poles or with batons. This was before Hyack had the profile it has now. Back then it applied to the Anvil Battery only. The park was also a place for city youth programs and Young Life meetings at Century House. As a youth I remember those meetings and hanging out in the late evening in the playground just barely on the safe side of aggression which was often in play. I learned to run real fast at just the right moment, probably not much different than most of today’s young ones. On the other side of aggression was the first kiss and a lot of confusion.

By the time the city’s 100th anniversary came around in 1959, I was 16 and had a lot of other things on my mind other than 7th street and the park. Band, cars, school etc…. but I will always remember the scary long walk through the park coming home from band practice. Even today the shadows threaten, but never did I actually have an event to regret.


Family Place Expands to the Heights

We’ve talked about Family Place a few times here on 10th, and it’s no secret I have quite the bias for this place. I asked Marjorie Staal, Executive Director, to update me on what’s happening in their world.

“New Westminster Family Place is excited to be able to announce there is a new drop-in at F.W. Howay School, said Staal. “It is every Thursday morning from 9:15 to 11:15.”  Being at the school allows them to expand their offerings, as well. Staal says that whereas in the main drop in centre at 93 Sixth Street there isn’t room for a gymnasium, the F.W. Howay Family Place staff are now able to offer stories, crafts,  gym time and lots of toys for the children’s enjoyment. That precious gym time is something I can really appreciate and while I have also used the provincially funded Strong Start program at McBride Elementary (which does offer gym time) I have recently found Strong Start’s classroom to be too crowded. It’s really great having access to a second program that offers gym time on this side of McBride Boulevard.

The funding for Family Place’s new program is provided through the United Way of the Lower Mainland.  F.W.Howay School is tucked up behind Canada Games Pool, on Cumberland just south of 10th Avenue. It’s accessible by bus using the 154.

Satellite Map

The program runs out of the Daycare Room which is across from the office. Free coffee, free programming and free fun all in one place! It’s win win win.

The main drop in site for Family Place is located at 93 Sixth Street and runs every morning from 9:30 – 11:30 Monday to Saturday and Monday and Tuesday afternoon from 1:00 until 3:00.  Their main drop in centre also has a library of books and a toy lending library, and regularly offers parenting programs.

“All of our programs are free and we love to meet new families,” says Staal.  ”For information call 604 520-3666 or check out our website and monthly calendar at”

Here’s a picture tour of the new site:

From Courtney Crescent


Front doors


Cupboards all decorated

One of the play areas

Great artwork!

Great collection of assorted books