Jennifer Laviolette

Jennifer Laviolette

The Storyteller’s Film Festival is getting ready to showcase some Manitoba talent in the film industry, whether it be writing, directing, or acting. The interest in making films has increased and event organizers are seeing more entries comes from all over the province.
“There will be eight films at this year's Storyteller’s Film Festival,” said Storyteller’s Film Festival Organizer Cheryl Antonio. “Seven of those will be short films and one will be a feature length.
“Submissions for the festival has gone up and they have been coming from all over the province. They went up this year. Also, this year, we had two submissions from one local film maker, however, one of the films, A Conversation About Racism, is about and stars, an Opaskwayak Cree Nation (OCN) member.”

The newly elected Manitoba NDP government released their first budget as the provincial government last Tuesday. There were several key points within the 2024 budget that impact rural and northern Manitoba, as opposed to just the City of Winnipeg.
“Today’s budget is really about investing in healthcare and lowering costs for the average Manitoban,” said Premier Wab Kinew.
“We think there was too much centralization within the perimeter in terms of healthcare, the ag industry and so many different sectors. We now think it’s time to decentralize and return not just the service, but service centers and hubs to the regions.”

Published in Opasquia Times News

Healthcare shortages are everywhere in Manitoba and all across Canada, but St. Anthony’s Emergency Department has been hit hard with over a 50 percent vacancy rate in their nursing staff. This led to a social media post put forward by the Manitoba Nurses Union (MNU) on behalf of the nurses working at St. Anthony’s, who are asking for help.
The post reads, “The public needs to know what is happening in St. Anthony’s Emergency Department in The Pas. We are not ok! We have a 56 percent vacancy rate with two additional nurses off injured.
“We are working with nurses who are redeployed from the medical ward and are partially ER trained, with some not trained at all to work in ER, meaning they have none of the mandatory courses to work here. Agency nurses are coming to help, but some of them have no ER qualifications, or limited ER qualifications. We need help, but shouldn’t be expected to train and mentor while working short under additional stress.

Published in Opasquia Times News
Tuesday, 09 April 2024 16:09

Lido Theatre building a total loss

It was not the news many people in the tri-community wanted to wake up to on a Monday morning, but it definitely was a shocking way to start the week. At around 4:38 a.m. on April 8, The Pas Fire Department received a call that smoke was coming from the Lido Theatre building.
The Pas Fire Department, along with their Mutual Aid partner, Opaskwayak Cree Nation Fire Department spent 17 hours battling the flames, in hopes to save the building, along with the investigation and clean-up.

Published in Opasquia Times News
Tuesday, 09 April 2024 08:33

Madge Lake Bible Camp celebrates 70 years

Attending camp as a child can create so many life skills and fond memories. Madge Lake Bible Camp (MLBC) has been well-known in the area for its summer camp opportunities for youth and is now celebrating its 70th anniversary in operation. Since its conception, MLBC has not only grown in size, but in the programming, it offers as well.
“MLBC was founded in 1954, with a desire to have the gospel message become more clearly understood by more people,” said MLBC Camp Director Ryan Wiesner. “Jack Shakotko had a vision to start a Bible Camp, and Walter Zinkiew and others from Swan River, Minitonas, Kamsack, Little Woody, Alpine, Durban, Benito, Pelly, and Roblin all came together to have a work bee to clear the area.
“The first summer, there were only tents at the camp. The next year they added a long building with five cabins in it for the girls. The year after, they added another long building with five cabins in it for the boys. Later, they built a chapel with a kitchen in part of it.
“In 2010, the camp board bought the Riding Stables, and it has added so much to our programming,” said Wiesner. “We offer five weeks of Ranch Camps for ages 10 and up, from beginner to intermediate, and these camps always fill up fast. Hardcore Ranch Camp is our advanced riding camp, where campers get to take their horses on an out trip, riding to different locations in Duck Mountain Provincial Park for a few days. Also at the Riding Stables, we also offer riding lessons, trail rides and wagon rides to the public throughout the summer.
“The camp has grown so much from the tent cabins and chapel it was at its beginning. We now have 20 buildings on site including cabins for campers and staff, a dining hall, a chapel, etc.
“Just two summers ago, we added a biotech to our sports pad, a tarp building over a cement pad that we call the gym, which doubles as storage space in the winter,” said Wiesner. “This has immensely helped our program, especially on rainy days.”
Wiesner has experienced firsthand what it was like to be a youth that attended MLBC. Those memories and experiences have stayed with him all through the years and led him to take a more active involvement at MLBC as he got older.
“I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to attend MLBC as a child,” said Wiesner. “I remember three years, possibly one more, that I got to attend. It was always such a highlight for me and I have many wild stories from time spent at camp.
“Probably what I remember most was the chapel time when the gospel became real to me and later in the evening during cabin devos, I was able to talk and pray with my cabin leader.”
“Camp ministry has always had a special place in my heart,” said Wiesner. “I regularly volunteered as maintenance, cabin leader or even as a cook in the kitchen at various camps in the area, usually, one to two weeks every summer since I was 18. When I was in my mid-twenties, in 2004, my girlfriend at the time, Andrea, who is now my wife, and I decided to go and work at the camp full-time for the summer as cabin leaders.
“The next year, 2005, the camp board called me in April, to see if I would consider being the director for that summer. As I was just graduating from Bible College, I decided I would give it a try, and as they say, the rest is history.”
MLBC has not only grown in size but in capacity and attendance as well. The pandemic didn’t deter youth from returning to camp and last year’s attendance numbers were record-breaking.
“Our attendance has been going up and up the last few years,” said Wiesner. “When I first started as Camp Director in 2005, the camp had 255 campers that summer, which grew to 465 the next summer.
“This past summer we broke the previous year’s attendance record with over 1,000 campers. Lately, it has been very rare when our camps are not at full or nearly full attendance.”
MLBC experienced the challenges, much like other programs and organizations, when the pandemic hit. Staff were creative and found ways to run day camp programming in communities in the surrounding areas, and were able to keep youth engaged during that time period.
“We were unable to run overnight camps in 2020, because of the pandemic,” said Wiesner. “That summer we revamped our program and did day camps in different communities such as Swan River, Roblin, Yorkton and Langenburg. We also did two weeks of day camp at the camp. That year we were still able to see around 400 campers in our day camp programs.
“The next year we had planned for day camps again, but the Saskatchewan government gave overnight camping the green light in June, so we completely redid our schedule and offered overnight and day camps.
“One thing we noticed throughout the pandemic, was how our supporters continued to help the camp in lots of different ways,” said Wiesner. “Financially, we are so grateful for how people continued to help us during that uncertain time.”
With camp programming fully restored, there is a wide variety of camps and programming for youth to choose from. For many years, schools have been doing year-end summer field trips at MLBC as well.
“We have camps for all ages,” said Wiesner. “We have a Squirt Day Camp for ages 3-12 on July 1. We have overnight camps all summer for ages 7 and up. We have weekend retreats for young adults, adults, and seniors. We offer two family camps, the first one is the Family Rodeo Camp from June 14 to 16 and the second one is Family Camp from August 2 to 4.
“We also offer a variety of camp programs. Our Ranch Camps often fill up fast. We have a Wilderness Camp for teens, where they learn basic survival skills. Just a few summers ago, we started offering Sports Camps for kids and teens who love and want to be coached in volleyball and basketball. Junior Sports Camp, for ages 10-13, is July 22-25, and Senior Sports Camp, for ages 13-18, is August 5-10.
“For many years we have been offering programs to school groups that come from both Manitoba and Saskatchewan,” said Wiesner. “Our programming includes a rock wall, archery, canoeing, biking, arts and crafts, field games, geocaching, pond dipping, fire building, and more. We are always looking for creative ways to reach out and support schools in our areas and love having teachers and their classes participate not only in programs but fun and organized ways of creating lasting memories.
“We offer school groups and have a few retreats in June. Our official camp kick-off day is July 1, on Canada Day. We have a Pancake Breakfast in the morning from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the camp. We also run Squirt Day Camp in the afternoon for kids and families.
“The Stables are open from May long weekend to September long weekend,” said Wiesner. “For more information on all of our camps, or to book a ride at the stables, check out our website We actually offer programming year-round, to the surrounding communities, geared towards kids, teens and young adults through monthly events. For more information on any of these, check out our socials.”
The hiring of staff for MLBC is a big undertaking and there are lots of different positions and responsibilities to fill.
“It takes a lot of staff, which we call summer missionaries, that come in either a volunteer capacity or in a paid role,” said Wiesner. “We have many support staff that help at the camp as LITs, CITs, cooks, nurses, program staff and maintenance. Other front-line positions are cabin leaders, stables staff, and camp speakers, who all work together to help run the camp, especially with as many programs as we have going on at one time.
“There are many weeks that we are offering up to three different programs at the camp. For instance, we may have the main camp going at the same time as ranch camp, at the same time as sports camp or wilderness camp. While we may be also offering a day camp, either at the camp facilities or in one of the surrounding communities, we are also offering public stable opportunities all at the same time.
“This last summer we had over 90 summer missionaries and that is not including all the amazing adult volunteers that come out to serve in the kitchen, maintenance, and nursing positions,” said Wiesner.
Wiesner enjoys every aspect of MLBC, from the programming for the youth to watching them progress from kids attending to becoming cabin leaders.
“We have many returning campers and staff, and the transformation we get to see over the summer and over the years is amazing,” said Wiesner. “We have campers who have started coming to the camp at age 7 and now are cabin leaders. I love seeing their growth in maturity and in their relationships with God and with the other campers and staff. Seeing kids grow in their faith and in their leadership, skills is very rewarding.”
A big celebration in honour of MLBC’s 70th Anniversary is planned for this coming weekend with some entertainment and a look back at the past 70 years.
“On April 13 we will be celebrating the camp’s 70th Anniversary with a Banquet Celebration,” said Wiesner. “Everyone is invited to attend, there will be no entry fee, but will include a free-will offering. We will have a short program with talented musicians, Travis Kranz and Josiah Paul, sharing some music, a slideshow with older to newer pictures, and we want to honour the builders of Madge Lake Bible Camp, the many volunteers that helped to start and continue the camp throughout the years.
“We have been so fortunate over the years to be surrounded by many people in the various communities that have come alongside the camp and have helped in so many ways. If you or someone you know of has poured into the camp over the years, please consider this your invitation to come celebrate our 70th Anniversary.”

One never knows the true power of giving, until one is faced with a life altering challenge or medical need. Margaret Lathlin knows all too well about when a loved one is faced with a great need or health challenge. In 2015, one of Lathlin’s granddaughters, Tameka, suffered from Mitochondrial myopathy, Encephalopathy, Lactic Acidosis and Stroke (MELAS), which is a rare combination of medical conditions that lead to her having several seizures a day, some which lasted hours.
Local fundraising took place to help Tameka’s family with their needs during their most challenging times.
Now Lathlin has another granddaughter who faced a severe medical condition and needed treatment immediately.
“My granddaughter has autism and is non-verbal, so we didn’t know anything was wrong or that she was really sick, until we took her to the doctor,” said Lathlin. “She was taken by medivac from The Pas to Winnipeg and that’s when we learned she was having heart complications. They put her in a coma in Winnipeg, due to her having a hard time breathing, so they had to relax her heart. The operation couldn’t be done in Winnipeg, because they didn’t have the equipment, so from there she was taken to Edmonton.

Organizers and directors are already making plans for the 58th Opaskwayak Indigenous Days, (OID) which will be held this year on August 12 to 18. A big part of the events is the OID Princess Pageant and directors have put out a call for all Indigenous girls interested in running.
“It’s really exciting and I’m super pumped to be a part of it,” said OID Senior Princess Pageant Director Jett Bignell. “I ran when I was 17 years old and it was one of my most favourite experiences. I graduated high school and then I ran. It was exciting for me, because I got to be around our elders and involved with the youth kind of like a big sister role model. For the most part, I still talk to many of those women today.

The Town of the Pas held a Special Meeting for the 2024 Budget on March 25.
Council received the final amount from the Kelsey School Division, which results in a slight increase from what was indicated in previous discussions and leads to a 0.66 mill rate increase. The total amount which the Town of The Pas is required to levy under Section 188 of The Public Schools Act for 2024, is $2,981,347. Town council has no control over school tax portion.
Some additional expenses were also added to the 2024 budget. The Tri-Com Recycling forklift final amount was $7,850 that the request was for.
Initially, there were some expenses for truth and reconciliation were added to the amount of $10,000.
As well, the clean-up costs for 220 Edwards Avenue, The Lido Theatre, is put at $50,000 in the budget, but the controller felt that is a low amount to budget for this expense. Two quotes have been received so far. Mayor Murphy said it’s just a starting point to work toward and didn’t feel it had to be done all at once. He said council should work towards that budgeted amount rather than the scope of the work that needs to be done, and go from there.

Published in Opasquia Times News
Tuesday, 02 April 2024 08:17

Spending a lifetime on a cattle farm

Swan Valley cattle rancher Bruce Anderson is coming close to watching his family’s way of life hit a milestone in celebrating 100 years of breeding cattle. Anderson can remember his time growing up on the family farm, how very different it is from today’s generation and way of doing things.
“When I was growing up on the farm, there was a lot more manual labour back then,” said Bruce Anderson.
“It was really hard to balance any sports or school activities with farm responsibilities. We had outside chores before and after school from the time I was ten or so.
“We made over ten thousand square bales each year for use in the barns and for the cattle shows.
Working on the show cattle in very cold barns and travelling to the shows across Canada and U.S. without cell phones is something I think about a lot.
“Things have gotten a lot more automated and our equipment and infrastructure has improved considerably,” said Anderson. “The requirement of off-farm income to support the family farm has added a lot of pressure and time constraints.”
Anderson’s father learned to manage money very early in life and passed that skill on to Bruce. He grew up knowing that there would be years where things would fluctuate and that it was important to have some extra in waiting, for those times. Anderson also embraced the advances that came with cattle breeding, which helped with the succession of not only the breeding of cattle but operations in general.
“My dad was very frugal and taught me to be careful with my money and that has helped us through the tough years of growing our farm,” said Anderson. “We implanted some of the first embryos in the early seventies and that technology has improved our herd considerably through the years.”
Cattle farming was something that was in Anderson’s blood, so it was no surprise that he would continue on with the family farm and breeding cattle.
“Our family had been raising Angus since 1933, so it was all I knew, and in my heart,” said Anderson.
“I purchased my first Angus cow when I was nine and now almost 50 years later, she is still the breed of momma cow I want to have on my farm.”
There are a lot of factors to consider when breeding cattle, particularly when establishing a purebred line such as Anderson has done.
“You need patience to watch the animals develop, it takes 36 months from conception to the first calf off a female you bred to see the results of your matings,” said Anderson.
“There have been fads in the purebred industry through the years, but we have always strived to produce a consistent product as our customers are the commercial cattleman and whatever we produce has to work for them. We source genetics from across North America to constantly improve our herd, through the use of artificial insemination and embryo transplant. “
Anderson has heard from his father and experienced the impacts of what a drought year can do to cattle operations. His father experienced one of the worst droughts in history in 1930s and then Bruce himself recalls the drought from 1960.
“I remember my dad talking about his mom walking the cattle up to the Roaring River to water daily, where our farm is located now,” said Anderson. “This would be a two-mile walk with small children and literally a hill both ways. We were fortunate in the Valley to not feel the effects of the severe drought like the southern parts of Canada.
“Dad and his brother also cropped land and were somewhat diversified so that helped.”
Anderson can recall the work put into their first bull sale in the Valley and now the event has grown both in size and work involved in putting it together. In 2014, the Andersons began hosting their bull sale directly on their farm.
“We started out in a group sale called the All Breeds Bull Sale with other local breeders,” said Anderson.
“Their efforts and cooperation improved our marketing options and helped make Swan Valley known as a place to purchase bulls. We always deal with distance living here, and over the years technology has helped bridge the miles. We have sold bulls by private treaty as well and established our own sale in 2010, and holding it on the farm required facility for the sale.
“We advertise through a lot of different venues and now produce our own catalogue, taking videos and pictures ourselves. Technology has broadened our target markets and we often have bulls go across the prairie provinces and into the US; however, the majority are within a 100-mile radius. We always wanted to keep our sale local as we are firm believers that supporting your local community is the secret to keeping it thriving.”
Bruce is now watching as his children carry the torch and looks forward to watching the family legacy reach the milestone of 100 years.
“At times it is hard to let go of the reins, but I’m very proud of the integrity and work ethic our kids have,” said Anderson. “My dad would have been also. He loved the cattle industry and the Swan Valley, and both Austen and Breanna respect the legacy he left. I hope that I have helped to instill that in them. Watching our grandchildren grow up and knowing our love of this industry is my greatest reward. I look forward to our 100-year milestone in 2033.”

Wednesday, 27 March 2024 09:13

Dewar finds a new home and team in Toronto

Connor Dewar recently underwent his first professional hockey career trade from the Minnesota Wild to the Toronto Maples Leafs on the trade deadline. He was traded for Dmitry Ovchinnikov and a 2026 fourth round pick.
“It was really weird at first, because I’ve never experienced being traded before, even in my Junior career,” said Dewar. “I knew at some point in my career it would happen; it happens for a lot of hockey players.
“It’s been exciting to come and play for a Canadian market. When I was growing up as a kid, I was watching Hockey Night in Canada every Saturday, so it’s cool to be in the marquee slot in the market for the hockey world.

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