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Our Community: Syrian families welcomed to Canada

The best welcome for a Syrian family to Canada is an introduction to Canadian culture at its best, says the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.
Dr. Donald MacAskill and Szilvia Korda with audiology equipment for hearing aid assessment and fitting at the Island Deaf & Hard Of Hearing Centre.

The best welcome for a Syrian family to Canada is an introduction to Canadian culture at its best, says the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.

The gallery is teaming up with the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria to provide newly arrived Syrian families, many of them refugees from the civil war there, with a year’s worth of passes to Family Sundays.

“When people come to Canada, I can think of no better way to understand their new home than a visit to art galleries and take part in the cultural activities of their new country,” said Jon Tupper, director of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.

The art gallery’s Family Sundays are monthly events that usually offer some creative activity for children, such as painting in a studio.

The passes for the Syrian families to Family Sundays will also allow them to bring along interpreters. Estimates are that 290 Syrian refugees will arrive in Victoria in the near future.

“The whole thing will be for them to get to know us and us to get to know them,” said Tupper.

To learn more about the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and Family Sunday, go online to

Forces members are champion blood donors

Honouring Canadian servicemen and women on Remembrance Day this year could extend to personally adopting their generosity with a gift of life of your own.

Canadian Blood Services reports Armed Forces members are some of the most regular and generous donors in Canada. In 2006, the Department of National Defence became the first organization to sign up as a Partner for Life.

So this year, Canadian Blood Services is recognizing the service of Armed Forces members. But it also points out all citizens can serve their country and communities just by rolling up their sleeves.

Canadian Blood Services estimates 100,000 new donors are needed across the country this year, but in the past few years only 85,000 have stepped forward.

The Victoria blood donor clinic, at 3449 Saanich Rd., is open Tuesday to Thursday, 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and on Friday, including Nov. 11, Remembrance Day, 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and on Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Recalling the high ground at Passchendaele

Cycling the Belgian sites of great First World War battles, such as Passchendaele, Victoria historian Paul Ferguson gained insight into what soldiers regarded as “high ground.”

“The most famous pictures of Passchendaele were all taken in the low-lying areas, where it’s wet and muddy,” said Ferguson in an interview. “Then of course they had to climb out of the mud to capture the high ground.

“Everything was always about the high ground,” said the military/home-front historian and Royal B.C. Museum registrar. “And that is where the Canadian memorial at Passchendaele is, on the high ground.”

The battle resulted in an estimated 250,000 British and 400,000 German casualties.

Ferguson will lead a talk and show images of his cycling tour of Belgium, including Passchendaele and Ypres, on Friday, Remembrance Day at the Royal B.C. Museum. It’s just one of the events for the special day planned by the museum.

The landscape of places such as Passchendaele is now regenerated and mostly farmland. But the First World War keeps on asserting its memories as shattered steel and war debris are turned up every year by farm machinery in what Europeans call the annual “steel harvest.”

“This is a regenerated landscape, but the evidence of that war still abounds,” said Ferguson.

To learn more about Remembrance Day at the Royal B.C. Museum, go online to, click on the calendar of events and then on Lest We Forget Remembrance Commemoration.

Film explores the power of women 

Girl Rising, a film about the power of young women around the world to move beyond difficult circumstances, will be shown Wednesday in Esquimalt.

The film is an initiative of the Victoria branch of GRAN, Grandmothers Advocacy Network, a cross-Canada organization is pushing on many issues, including those affecting young women.

After the film, a panel discussion with a student, an educator and a GRAN member will be conducted to talk about the issues.

The show will run Wednesday, Nov. 9, 6:30 to 9 p.m. (doors open at 6 p.m.) at the theatre of Esquimalt High School, 847 Colville Rd. Admission is free.

Take it slow with local food

Slow Food, a community organization dedicated to enjoying food and supporting its producers, is putting on a theatre presentation celebrating the farming life next weekend.

Slow Food Vancouver Island and Gulf Islands is staging a dramatic adaptation/reading of the acclaimed Trauma Farm: A Rebel History of Rural Life, by Salt Spring Island writer Brian Brett.

Originally commissioned by the Belfry Theatre, Sketches From Trauma Farm is a one-act reading/play based on Brett’s poetic reflections of running a small mixed farm.

Proceeds from Sketches will go to assist food gardens and small farms in Sierra Leone and in Uganda.

Slow Food volunteer Joan Athey said her group believes mindfully enjoying the pleasures of the table gives us a better connection with people who grow, breed and raise our food. When it comes to supporting farms in places such as Africa, much of the group’s effort is centred on the preservation of heritage seeds. These are seeds for plants grown for generations. They are not genetically modified, patented or controlled by agribusiness.

Sketches From Trauma Farm will be performed at 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12, at the Odd Fellows Hall, 1315 Douglas St. and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 13, at the Metchosin Community House. 4430 Happy Valley Rd. Tickets are $25 or $20 for Slow Food members. For more information, go online to

Local sailor will guard cenotaph

A decorated sailor from CFB Esquimalt has been selected as one of six Canadian Armed Forces members to stand guard at the cenotaph in Ottawa on Remembrance Day, next Friday.

Leading Seaman Kyle Ruttan, originally from Verona, Ont., has been posted to Esquimalt for the past three years. He has served on two deployments and in June the commander of the Royal Canadian Navy awarded him a commendation for rescuing a man from a burning vehicle.

Ruttan, 31, will represent CFB Esquimalt and Maritime Forces Pacific in the Remembrance Day Sentry Program.

In an interview, Ruttan said he felt grateful to be selected.

“It’s an amazing honour, that’s for sure,” he said. “It’s a real honour to not only represent the Navy but also the Logistics Branch because I’m in the support trades.

“It will be a phenomenal experience,” he said.

Centre collecting hearing aids

When a person loses their hearing, it can lead to isolation from family, friends, neighbours and the entire community.

Denise Robertson, executive director of the Victoria-based Island Deaf and Hard of Hearing Centre, said hearing loss can lead to depression, loss of mobility and movement, and so result in poor mental and physical health.

“A person just doesn’t go out, she doesn’t go to meetings with friends,” said Robertson. “A lot of people even stop going to church.”

She said hearing loss can be even tougher on seniors because many of them can’t afford the cost of hearing aids. According to a recent CBC report, a single hearing aid, depending on features, runs from $695 to $4,000.

So Robertson’s group has launched a program, the Sound of Change, to collect, clean, reprogram and refurbish old, donated hearing aids and give them to about 200 people over the coming year. These people will pay just the $25 annual membership fee.

The centre will also provide a visit with the audiologist, a fitting, training sessions for lip reading and sessions to help with job-seeking.

The Island Deaf and Hard of Hearing Centre is assisted with funding from Lions of B.C. Hearing Conservation, the Vancouver Foundation and the United Way of Greater Victoria.

To learn more about the centre and the Sound of Change Initiative, go online to or telephone 250-592-8144.