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Youth earn $5,000 for Haliburton Heat Bank

Joseph Quigley

Two Haliburton Highlands Secondary School (HHSS) students earned $5,000 for Heat Bank Haliburton County through the Youth and Philanthropy Initiative (YPI) Canada June 4.  

Bence Suranyi and Stefan Salaris beat out their Grade 10 civics classmates with their presentation on the Heat Bank.

The school-wide competition is part of the YPI program, which runs similar charitable contests in schools around the world.  

Suranyi said their presentation highlighted the success stories of the charity.

“The Haliburton Heat Bank is a less-known charity than the other ones that were competing,” Suranyi said. “I think that helped shed light on the Heat Bank.”  

“The stories that (Heat Bank co-ordinator) Tina (Jackson) gave were probably really moving because sometimes they were really tragic,” Salaris added. 

 The YPI initiative has run at HHSS for 12 years. The program goes into the curriculum as a graded project for the school’s civics class. The project requires students to engage with charities in their community and share what they have learned in a presentation. The top-five projects compete in front of the school, with the winning group earning $5,000 for their charity.

The group has donated more than $50,000 to local charities since it started running in Haliburton.  Teacher Paul Longo, who co-ordinates YPI at HHSS, said the program remains successful. 

“It gets Grade 10 students out in the community, visiting charities, asking questions, learning about what we do in this community that’s so important as far as volunteer work,” Longo said. 

Jackson said the charity, which provides firewood and heat to vulnerable people, has participated in projects for YPI before. But this is the first time the charity has won.  

“I am just so proud of the work that both of these youth did, in pouring everything into the presentation that won us the money,” Jackson said. “This is one of the largest donations we’ll likely receive this year.“

They were absolutely passionate. They believed in what we were doing,” she added.  

Salaris said to succeed in the competition, it is vital to choose a charity you care about.  “Pick a charity you believe in, like and would stand for,” he said.

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Make this a local Christmas

The Bank of Canada increased interest rates, again, Dec. 7, this time by 50 basis points, to 4.25 per cent. In other words, if you’ve got a variable rate mortgage, the ‘ouch’ continues. The rate started the year at 0.25 per cent and was 3.75 per cent prior to Wednesday. 

Some say there are signs the economy and inflation is slowing, however, the labour market remains stubbornly strong. We’ve also been told that Canadians should brace for further ballooning of their grocery bills next year. The most recent edition of Canada’s Food Price Report predicts another five to seven per cent price jump. 

That means a family of four can expect to pay $16,222.80 in 2023 for groceries – an increase of $1,065.60 from 2022 prices – according to the report. Energy prices are also expected to soar. The federal government is unlikely to dole out much of a helping hand. 

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation claims Canada’s federal debt is growing by $878 per second, which is $52,701 per minute, $3.1 million per hour, or $75.9 million every single day. The debt clock is currently over $713 billion and Canada’s federal debt continues to grow daily. At the provincial level, the Government of Ontario’s debt is $348.9 billion and growing. 

As Minden Hills mayor Bob Carter said during his council’s inaugural council meeting, no white knight, no Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and no Marvel Comics character is going to bail out Haliburton County residents. We have to do it ourselves. 

Let’s start with Christmas. 

Statista, a retail and trade website, states the average Canadian household spends about $2,375 on Christmas. That includes $451 on food, $616 on decorations and $1,308 on presents. Faced with rising interest rates, inflation, government and personal debt, why in the world would we do that again this year? 

The Globe and Mail reported this week that consumer debt in Canada topped $2.36 trillion in the third quarter, up 7.3 per cent from last year It’s time we collectively lowered our holiday expectations. It may seem trite but why not buy fewer, less expensive, gifts?

 There have been plenty of Christmas craft markets featuring locally-made items at reasonable prices, where you can eyeball the very person you are giving your money to. 

As always this time of year, we also implore you to shop at local businesses, and not online. 

When you purchase at locally-owned businesses rather than nationally-owned, more money is kept in the community because local businesses often purchase from other area businesses, and service providers. Purchasing local helps grow other businesses, as well as the local tax base. 

While out for my daily walk, I ran into a chap who has had a good financial year. He told me he practices the ancient art of tithing. In olden days, people would give one tenth of their crops to the landlord. Others have given to their churches. 

Today, tithes are voluntary and often paid out to charities. If you can pay it forward, we urge you to do so. Many in our community cannot give onetenth of their net earnings.

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Curtain rises on Highlands Opera Club

Many teens and young adults might not realize how their passions intersect with the world of opera. 

The Highlands Opera Studio’s new Opera Club is aimed at helping youth explore music, performance arts, set design, wardrobe creation, makeup and more, all through the lens of the operatic arts. 

“It’s a really great way for youth and young adults in the community to experience opera and see it’s allowing us more access to different types of music and theatre,” said club director Corina Mansfield. “It all kind of goes together for opera.” 

Any young adult older than 13 is invited to attend, “even if it’s not the opera that they love,” Mansfield said. 

“Maybe they’ve discovered something in the musical arts that they want to aspire to, or even just have opera as a wonderful hobby. We don’t have to be great at things to love them.” 

While the group kicked off meetings with a meet-and-greet Oct. 24 and a trip to Toronto to watch Carmen, regular events and activities will depend on the interests of group members. “It’s not going to be like every week or anything like that because I know that youth in the community are busy,” Mansfield said. 

She and Highlands Opera Studio hope to show how the skills picked up in learning about opera can be transferred to other artistic practices, whether painting set backdrops or composing music. 

Mansfield gave the example of sitting directly behind the conductor during a performance and being able to see how the music on the page translates onto the stage. 

“The dork in me just goes insane,” she said. If a teen is interested in cosmetics, for instance, they could spend their time in the club picking up how different methods help tell stories about characters or accent how they appear to the audience. 

“All these different interests, all these different professions, all these different careers and they come together to seamlessly make this amazing thing that you don’t think about it when you’re watching it.” 

For more information on future meetings, contact Mansfield at info@highlandsoperastudio.com

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‘Forgotten’ exhibit showcases Haliburton’s emerging visual arts talent

The Rails End Gallery and Arts Centre is serving up 11 moments of creative introspection, courtesy of the creative minds roaming the halls of Haliburton Highlands Secondary School. ‘Forgotten’ is a group art show planned, produced and presented by the school’s graduating class of artists, on display at the Haliburton gallery until Dec. 17. 

The class decided on the theme together, after compiling images they found inspiring. “There were a lot of broken, abandoned objects, structures… and I was thinking we could broaden the idea, expand a bit,” said Riley Boermans. 

He suggested ‘Forgotten’ as a unifying theme and it stuck. 

Each student has crafted an original piece of art speaking to the idea. Boermans painted his grandfather’s rusted truck, lost amidst towering trees and grass. 

Other students, such as Colleen Petric, found inspiration in the way memories are made and fade. “Present experiences influence our views on past memories, and past memories influence our present experiences,” she wrote in an accompanying artist statement. 

Petric told The Highlander she found her final piece looked slightly different than she expected as she navigated colour and acrylic painting techniques. 

“I thought it might look a lot gloomier but I like the outcome, too,” she said. 

Boermans, as well, chose a medium he wasn’t completely used to. He said painting, unlike drawing, was confusing. “Going from being able to put something on, and being able to [erase it] to once you put it on, it’s on, and you have to work around it,” he said. 

The Rosetta Thing, by Lucas Wingell, is a three-dimensional piece inspired by the Rosetta Stone. “I was sort of ‘think of forgotten cultures.’ So, I thought of forgotten languages,” Wingell said. He incorporated carved letters from medieval Latin, Elder Futhark and the now-extinct Tocharian languages. 

“These three scripts represent not only the ancient languages but also the forgotten people and cultures of the past,” Wingell wrote in his statement. 

He questions what other languages might disappear as English becomes ever-more dominant throughout the world. For teacher Karen Gervais, the show is a chance to see her students’ work through a creative process collectively. “It’s neat to see it from the start, right from concept to development of the final work,” she said. “It’s definitely a bit of pressure we’re under, since it’s a pretty short timeframe, a semester.” 

Students also had the chance to develop their own artists’ statements and present their work to friends, family and the public at a reception Nov. 25. “I think it provides good learning with reallife deadlines and sometimes having to burn the midnight oil. It always comes together in the end,” Gervais said. The Rails End Gallery is open Wednesday to Saturday.

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CanoeFM host named Blues Booster of the Year

CanoeFM radio host Patrick Monaghan has been named Blues Booster of the Year by the Toronto Blues Society. 

Host of The Buckslide Blues Cruise Tuesday nights, Monaghan is “well known as one of the biggest supporters of Canadian blues musicians,” said the society in a Nov. 29 media release. “A champion enthusiast like a few others, Patrick Monaghan is a classic Blues Booster,” said Derek Andrews, president of the Toronto Blues Society.

“CanoeFM is lucky to have Patrick as an advocate, as are all blues musicians who benefit from his passion.” Monaghan’s 40-year love affair with the genre has seen him travel across Canada and the United States to festivals and concerts, as well as developing an international radio audience and the Haliburton-based Buckslide Blues Society.

 Monaghan has also been awarded multiple honours for his radio show through the National Campus Radio Association, hitting 300 shows in Jan. 2022.

 Achieving the milestone was a goal Monaghan had in mind during a stretch of difficult months receiving treatment for cancer. 

“I would like to thank the Toronto Blues Society for choosing me for this prestigious award,” Monaghan said. “I am honoured and thrilled to receive the Blues Booster of the Year Award. “I would also like to thank my peers, colleagues and the blues community for their support. Many kind and helpful people have helped me along the way. 

About four years ago, I was diagnosed with a serious illness, again many members of the blues community stepped up to the plate ready to help in any way that they could. I am very grateful for their efforts. I consider my job as ‘keeping the blues alive’ but the last few years, the blues have been keeping me alive.” 

The Buckslide Blues Cruise sets off each Tuesday evening at 7 p.m. Monaghan will be formally presented the award at the 26th annual Maple Blues Awards gala on Jan. 30 in Toronto.

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Haliburton County Huskies’ Saini out to prove himself at World Jr. A Challenge

OAKVILLE, ON - OCTOBER 21: Patrick Saini #75 of the Haliburton County Huskies is interviewed by The OJHL Tonight after the game at the Sixteen Mile Sports Complex on October 21, 2022 in Ontario, Canada (Photo by Michelle Malvaso / OJHL Images)

Haliburton County Huskies forward Patrick Saini has been rubbing shoulders with some of the best up-and-coming players in the country this week after being invited to attend the Canada East team camp ahead of the World Jr. A Challenge. 

Taking place in Cornwall, ON from Dec. 11 to 18, the showcase – returning for the first time since 2019 – will feature two Canadian teams as well as invitees from Latvia, Sweden and the U.S. Speaking to The Highlander before heading south, Saini said it would be “a dream come true” to make the Canada East roster. 

Thirty-three players from Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes were invited to a three-day camp, beginning Dec. 5, with a 22-man roster to be announced Dec. 8. “As a young hockey fan, you grow up watching Team Canada all the time. To be a part of that, and to wear the jersey would be such an honour,” Saini said. “It’s an exciting opportunity. I just have to enjoy it, not get too focused on making the team and see what happens… I know what kind of player I am, so if I do my thing and work hard, then I’ve got a good chance.” 

The World Jr. A Challenge has been running since 2006, providing a platform for junior hockey players under the age of 20 to show their skills on a national level. Future NHLers such as David Pastrnak, Kyle Turris, Cale Makar, Andrei Svechnikov and Nikolaj Ehlers have competed in past tournaments.

While rosters for the visiting nations have yet to be announced, there will likely be some big-hitters competing again this year. Latvia, Sweden and the U.S. will each compete in the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship, being held in Halifax, NS and Moncton, NB from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5. In years past, teams have used the Jr. A Challenge as a tune-up for that event when it’s held in Canada. 

No matter the opponent, Saini is confident he’ll be able to hold his own. The 19-yearold centre has been in fine form for the Huskies this season, putting up a team-high 50 points in 27 games in the Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL). While recognizing linemates Ty Collins and Christian Stevens, Saini also heaped special praise on Huskies’ trainer Owen Flood for helping him to take his game to a new level this year. Haliburton’s Matt Duchene also played a role, Saini said. 

“I worked so hard during the summer with Owen. He was able to take the best parts of my game and elevate them even further, and then helping me in areas that could use some work. I wouldn’t be where I am today without him,” Saini said. “I also skated with Matt Duchene in the summer, and I learned a lot from him.” Should Saini crack the Canada East roster, he will miss four games with the Huskies, returning after the holidays for a Dec. 30 tilt on home ice with the Mississauga Chargers. 

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Curling sweeps back to normal in Highlands

Haliburton Curling Club president Wanda Ruddy said it’s been nice getting back to regular curling action this season. Photo by Sam Gillett

Curling is alive and well in the Highlands, with all three clubs across Haliburton County reporting substantial increases in membership for the new winter season. 

With back-to-back seasons impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, clubs in Haliburton, Minden and Wilberforce are operating without restrictions this year, though are maintaining enhanced cleaning practices and encourage members to wear a mask when not on the ice. 

John Sexton, a member of the Minden executive, said it’s been an emotional couple of months as he’s seen many long-time players return to the rink. 

“We are absolutely thrilled to be back. Curling is such a social sport. We missed out on so much the past couple of years. It’s wonderful to have curling as we know it, and as we love it, running again,” he said. With the first of two 10-week sessions underway, the Minden club has 190 curlers registered for the year. 

That’s up from 120 last season. Sexton said there are nine active leagues, including competitive options for men and women, co-ed recreational and a new ‘BS’ league, which is run in partnership with Boshkung Social. “That’s more about getting out, having fun and meeting new people. We have a lot of younger players involved in that.” Sexton said the Minden club has welcomed around 40 new, first-time curlers this season. 

It’s a similar story in Haliburton. Of the 235 registered curlers playing across 10 leagues, there are 43 new members. 

Club president Wanda Ruddy said this put the club’s membership back to pre-pandemic levels, after having around 120 players last year. Haliburton runs three, eight-week sessions in order to accommodate snowbirds who travel south before the holidays. The first session wrapped up Nov. 30, with session two running until Jan. 31. 

The final session will run in February and March. 

Planning is underway for a series of big, session-ending bonspiels – the first in Haliburton since 2019. The Skyline men’s competitive bonspiel is happening Jan. 21, with a mixed competitive competition taking place the first weekend in February. 

That tournament will feature 24 out-of-town teams, Ruddy said. The ladies’ Highland Lassie bonspiel is scheduled for March. Operations at the Wilberforce Curling Club are better than ever according to president, Darrell McQuigge. 

The organization has seen a 70 per cent increase in its membership from pre-pandemic levels, now boasting 71 active members. “That’s brought lots of new energy and fresh volunteers to help us keep things going. Now we’re looking at how we can make things even better,” McQuigge said. The club held an in-house glow in the dark bonspiel Nov. 26 and has several other events, some involving out-of-town teams, lined up for early next year. Also returning this year are complementary ‘Learn to Curl’ sessions, where seasoned curlers will spend a day teaching novices about the ins and outs of the game. 

A similar initiative is also offered in Haliburton. 

“We have free sample curling on Wednesdays where people can come out to see what we’re about… a bunch of our members have been trained to be instructors through the Ontario Curling Association,” McQuigge said. 

“It’s a great sport to get into – it doesn’t cost a lot to play, and the social engagement is huge. There’s always plenty of smiling faces on curling night.” To learn more about each club, visit haliburtoncurlingclub. com, mindencurlingclub.com, or wilberforcecurling.com.  

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Dancers to crack open the iconic Christmas tale

Students from Skyline Dance Studio performed an excerpt from The Nutcracker ballet Dec. 3 at the Shindig. Photo by Lisa Gervais.

In many ways, Heritage Ballet’s The Nutcracker is synonymous with the Christmas season in Haliburton County. 

After a two-year pandemic hiatus, the iconic ballet returns to the stage of the Northern Lights Performing Arts Pavilion for the 18h time this weekend, Julie Barban said Heritage Ballet is producing The Nutcracker this year but has worked with Skyline Dance Studio and utilized its dancers and space.

 Rehearsals began around the Thanksgiving Day weekend. Meanwhile, the team dug out the costumes and props. Barban said they have made some updates to costumes “because it’s been a couple of years.” 

She said Dani Smolen is making two new tutus, one for Sugar Plum and one for Dewdrop. There will be a lot of new dancers this year due to the roster at Skyline, who all want to do The Nutcracker, she said. 

This year’s main character, Marie, is played by two dancers, students Chloe Morissette and Alexis Dacey. Alyssa Morissette is the Sugar Plum Fairy. 

Sophie Longo is the Snow Queen. Michaela McCready-DeBruin is Marzipan and Avery Bullock leads the Chinese tea dance. Barban said she’s excited “and the kids are super excited” to bring the ballet back to a Haliburton County audience.

 “Especially because we have so many new kids who are doing it this year, too.” She said they have 50 children and teens. In 2019, they had 83. “But this is better, 83 is a lot and we have 14 adults.” She and the dancers can’t wait to, “be at it again and be in public, whether it’s in the audience or up on stage. It’s just so nice to be out there dancing again. “A big thank you to Skyline for their support and using their studio for rehearsal space and promoting us as well.” For dates and times and tickets, go to onstagedirect.com

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Curry Bishop remembered as pillar of Haliburton County community

As one of the most influential people in the Highlands over the past 60 years, Curry Bishop’s fingerprints can be found across all four corners of Haliburton County. 

Whether through his work as a land surveyor, his passion for developing property or his half century-plus commitment to various public causes, Bishop played a pivotal role in shaping the County. On Nov. 21, Bishop passed away at the age of 91. 

Hundreds attended a celebration of his life at Sir Sam’s Ski/Ride Nov. 30. “Dad was one of a kind,” son, Greg Bishop, told The Highlander. “He got involved in so many things around town. 

His legacy is one that is shared by many from his generation – they were doers, who made a difference. They helped build and develop this whole area.” 

Born in Niagara-on-the-Lake in September 1931, Bishop was a boy when his family relocated to Haliburton in 1940.

 They moved in with his grandfather, W.R. Curry, after his dad, Harry Bishop, enlisted in the war effort. Curry had a huge influence on Bishop’s life, passing down a ferocious work ethic that Greg said was unmatched. 

In his 20s, he earned a degree in civil engineering from the University of Toronto, taught math at Haliburton Highlands Secondary School, worked for consulting firm Marshall Macklin Monaghan in northern Quebec, and eventually settled in Haliburton, purchasing FT Webster’s surveying business. He married Aldyth Sisson, and had his first daughter, Deb. He later had daughter, Shirley. “My favourite thing about my dad was his sense of adventure. We enjoyed a lot of them (adventures) over the years,” Deb Bishop said. He loved being outdoors, with hunting his favourite pastime. 

Deb would accompany her dad on hunts, appreciating the time they got to spend together. Owning property on North Lake, the family would hike regularly, and enjoyed snowmobiling and ice fishing. 

Remembering one of her dad’s quirks, Deb recalled being regularly dragged out in the family vehicle on cold winter nights for what they thought was an exciting reason. “He’d say ‘we’re going to see a man about a dog’. We’d head out, drive for a while and then, after he parked, he’d pull out his survey equipment. 

A lot of times he’d be out there for an hour, and we’d lose sight of him. When he came back, he’d say ‘oh, the man doesn’t have any dogs today,” she said. Some of the best memories involve family trips south of the border, to properties the Bishops owned in Florida and Arizona. 

Later in life, Deb would bond with her dad over their shared love for dancing. 

Mayor Murray Fearrey knew Curry well, working with him on Dysart et al council in the 1990s. Elected as deputy reeve in 1992, Bishop served a single term in office, taking over as reeve after incumbent Chris Hodgson became the riding’s MPP in 1994. “He was thrifty, certainly very concerned about municipal finances and taxpayers’ dollars,” Fearrey said. 

To his Rotary family, Curry was always seen as “Mr. Reliable.” “He was kind of like the elder statesman of Rotary,” said club president Ursula Devolin. “He had 56 years of perfect attendance and was our longest serving member… it’s going to be strange going back for regular meetings and knowing Curry won’t be there for a visit.” He maintained an active role in various initiatives, such as the annual car draw. 

Curry would sell upwards of 1,000 tickets alone, with Devolin saying many area residents refused to buy tickets from anyone else.

 Almost all of Greg’s favourite memories with his dad came while they were out in the bush, chasing down a kill. 

“We had our best days together while out hunting… we had one special moment a few years ago, when he was 85. He wanted to score himself a big buck, and so we all came together to try and get him set up and sure enough, he got himself an eight-point buck,” Greg said. “I still remember that because he said ‘I’ll never shoot anything again. I’ll never hunt again.’ It was nice that I got to share that with him.” 

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TLDSB students testing below provincial average

TLDSB began its staggered start to the school year Sept. 8. File photo.

Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) director of education, Wes Hahn, believes student learning is “moving in the right direction” board-wide after the Ontario Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) reported an increase in local student achievement in the 2021/22 school year, though still down in many areas when compared to the provincial average. EQAO tests assess students’ literacy and math skills during Grades 3, 6, 9 and 10. 

Testing resumed virtually in the spring following a two-year COVID-19 enforced absence. Seventy per cent of Grade 3 students across TLDSB are reading at the provincial standard, up from 67 per cent in 2018/19; 57 per cent are meeting the provincial standards for writing, the same as in 2018/19; and 56 per cent are meeting the minimum expectations in math, up from 53 per cent three years ago. 

Despite these improvements, TLDSB students come in under the provincial average in each category. Seventy-three per cent of students province-wide met the minimum standards for reading, 65 per cent for writing and 59 per cent for math literacy. 

There were some improvements at the Grade 6 level too. 

Seventy-eight per cent of TLDSB students can read at a grade equity level, up from 76 per cent in 2018/19; 75 per cent are writing to the provincial standard, up from 73 per cent in 2018/19. Meanwhile, just 40 per cent of students are hitting provincial targets for math, down from 42 per cent in 2018/19. These were all down from the provincial average for reading (85 per cent), writing (84 per cent) and math (47 per cent). 

At the high school level, 45 per cent of Grade 9s met provincial standards during math testing, down from the provincial average of 52 per cent. 

Hahn noted it was difficult to compare these results from prior years since new de-streamed math courses, introduced by the province in September 2021, replaced the old applied and academic teaching practices. 

In 2018/19, 57 per cent of TLDSB students enrolled in applied met provincial standards, up from the provincial average of 44 per cent, while 86 per cent of those taking academic courses met the minimum expectations, up from 84 per cent province wide. Grade 10 students who took the literacy test in TLDSB fared better than the provincial average. At the applied level, 57 per cent were found to meet provincial expectations, up from 50 per cent Ontario wide; 92 per cent of those enrolled in academic classes passed the test, up from the provincial average of 91 per cent. 

Hahn noted an in-depth report on EQAO testing would be delivered at a Dec. 6 board meeting. “This is a good indicator of our baseline, where we’re starting. We have a lot of work to do, but in the elementary [level] we’ve seen four of our six areas improve, which is a testament to the staff and their commitment to learning through a very difficult time period,” Hahn said.

 “We have a lot of work to do in our math area, across the board. We will continue to make this a focus moving forward.”

 New board 

There were four new faces inside the boardroom at the Lindsay Education Centre Nov. 22 as the new TLDSB board of trustees met for its inaugural meeting. 

Heather Bradley, Tim McAlpine, Esther Childs and Deb McInerney were each welcomed by returning board member Bruce Reain, who is back as board chair for a third successive term. 

He will be joined by familiar faces Louise Clodd, who will serve as vice chair, Haliburton County trustee Gary Brohman, Judy Saunders and Colleen Wilcox. “I look forward to working with everyone. It’s been a couple of tough years and I’m pleased with the job we did as a board, the strategic plan we developed and how we’re focusing on that. It’s our job now [to guide that work forward],” Reain said.  

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Animal rescues struggle to meet demand

Don Kerr will provide free makeshift cat shelters.

Don Kerr hoists an orange cooler onto the table inside a building at Minden Cat Angels, a volunteer-run shelter outside the village. 

It won’t keep drinks cool anymore but it will help stray cats stay warm this winter, with a hole cut out of the side and a dry bed of straw inside. It’s a strategy Kerr will use throughout the season to help Minden cats once his location is at capacity. “I can’t take them all,” he said. “But I can offer [people] at no charge a shelter box as long as they’re willing to supply cats with food and some warm water during the winter.” 

Kerr operates one of the only shelters for cats in Haliburton County and is expecting to have to turn cats away this fall as the weather gets colder. “I limit at 18 in here,” he said. “And that’s pushing it because I only have, right now, maybe two volunteers coming every week.” Cats such as George and Oreo lounge in Kerr’s heated shelter, or take strolls along elevated catwalks. It takes hours of work a week to keep up with their needs. 

One way Highlanders can help, Kerr said, is to donate coolers. 

Kerr will turn them into single-home dwellings, that residents can put outside to help keep stray cats alive during the deep freeze. There’s always a need for adoptees too. Kerr expects an influx of cats due to one of the only other shelters in the Highlands being forced to shut its doors to new cats. Cats of Paint Lake’s property is likely to be sold. 

Operator Heather Deveaux said the non-profit is in a “holding pattern.” The organization’s board will decide what the future could look like at an upcoming board meeting. “I kind of feel guilty because I’ve had to sort of step back when I know the need is so great,” Deveaux said. “But on the other hand, on a personal level, it’s gruelling. It’s exhausting. It’s heartbreaking.” 

She said running a shelter, especially a small volunteer effort like Cats of Paint Lake, means no days off and lots of late-night animal hospital visits, long drives and sad moments with sick animals. 

While she can’t accept new cats, her phone is still ringing. “I still get phone calls whether it’s from other rescues or from people who’ve seen animals in the community or people who need to surrender their animals,” she said. “What we are doing still is networking because we spent a lot of time connecting with other rescues.” 

Deveaux urged Highlanders to consider getting stray cats spayed or neutered, a service many veterinarians will conduct on stray cats for lower rates. She said Cats of Paint Lake was in the process of writing grants that might have funded low-cost spay and neuter pop-up services in the Highlands. “That’s one of the big reasons that people don’t spay and neuter is that it’s extremely expensive,” she said. 

While feral cats are more likely to multiply on their own, they aren’t the only animals seeing an increased need for shelter. 

Kristyn Elyse, who operates Snowflake Meadows, a dog boarding, rescue and re-homing centre, told The Highlander in the summer that the need for dog foster families and adoptees has remained high. While she isn’t accepting new dogs at the time, this summer and spring she said she was experiencing an unprecedented demand for her services.

 “Kennels are full, shelters are full, we are experiencing a severe foster shortage because fosters are volunteers: people. The same people that also want to travel and see their friends and family now that restrictions are lifted,” she said in an email. 

She said she noticed a halt to the number of folks willing to act as foster homes for dogs, meaning she was at her limit with dogs at Snowflake Meadows. “I don’t think any rescue was prepared for the abrupt halt that occurred in March and came to a complete standstill in April. Ask any rescue and they will tell you they have never seen it like this,” she said. Both Kerr and Deveaux said they have numerous stories of Highlanders finding close friends in their new adoptions. Deveaux added that while she currently isn’t accepting cats, the Highlands’ support “blew her away.” 

Once, she found out a cat’s surgery was crowdfunded while the veterinarian was operating. “People care about these animals, and it’s not their fault that they’re out there,” Deveaux said. “It’s irresponsible pet owners or sometimes [the animals] escape. Of course, if they escaped before they’ve been fixed, that’s a problem.” 

To donate to Minden Cat Angels or find out more about their cats, visit Minden Cat Angels on Facebook.

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