Welcome to Threads through Time!
For two weeks in August 2022, the Niagara Region will host the Canada Games. This unique multi-sport event for young athletes was first held in Quebec City in 1967. Since then, the Canada Games have taken place every two years, alternating between Summer and Winter sports, in communities across the nation. The Canada Games’ main goal? To ‘strengthen the fabric of Canada through the power of sport.’
Threads through Time is a digital exhibit designed by a team of Brock University students, faculty and staff to showcase Niagara’s rich history as part of the cultural programming for the 2022 Canada Summer Games. The team was inspired by the history and legacy of the Canada Games, and by the Niagara Host Society’s “13 for 13” Cultural Festival, in which the Niagara Region and each of its 12 municipalities have been paired with one of Canada’s 13 provinces and territories. The team has created a Mind Map for each of the 13 pairings. Each Mind Map starts at a local historical point of the interest in Niagara, with 13 separate threads then connecting it to other local sites, to historical events and people of note in the province or territory that the municipality has been paired with, and with Canada Games stories.This exhibit reveals how Niagara is connected to sites, events, personalities, and artifacts throughout our vast country.
And it is these threads, weaving back and forth across time and space, that have created the unique patterns in the fabric of our nation.
Niagara Region & Ontario
There are intricate webs of connection that exist between the people of Niagara, the province of Ontario, and the Canada Games. These three elements are tied together by one main thread, or theme: the lives and legacies of Indigenous peoples.
The Indian Council House in Niagara-on-the-Lake is the Point of Interest by which many of these threads are connected, and remains a symbol of early Indigenous-settler relations. Treaties were made in the Niagara Region, and throughout the province, as settlers were invited to live together on this sacred, beautiful land we call home today.
Thus, it is important to recognize that the 2022 Canada Summer Games in Niagara will be taking place on treaty lands, as they have in the past in both Thunder Bay (1981) and London (2001). Today, Indigenous-settler relations are being re-negotiated through endeavours like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, acknowledgement of Ontario’s history with residential schools, and the more recent creation of the Games’ Indigenous Partnership Council.
Fort Erie & Nova Scotia
The thread that ties Fort Erie and Nova Scotia together is black history. These two places, both Little Africa (FE) and Africville (NS), became populated in the 1800s by Black refugees escaping enslavement. These areas were home to incredible people and movements propelling civil rights for black people in Canada, including Josiah Henson, the Niagara Movement, and Viola Desmond.
Despite being treated as second-class citizens, black men in these communities took up arms in times of conflict. From the Coloured Corps in Niagara to the No. 2 Construction Battalion in Nova Scotia, these all-black groups cemented their place in our nation’s history. Yet, for these men, conflict continued off the battlefield in their personal lives as they daily struggled against the impacts of racism.
This is particularly true when it comes to recreation; sport being a therapeutic practice for war veterans. Segregated leagues and teams existed throughout the 19th and 20th century, including Nova Scotia’s Coloured Hockey League which was largely made up of residents of Africville. Sports like hockey and boxing saw the increased participation and success of black athletes, who broke colour barriers in what were white-dominated activities. At the Canada Games, inclusion of black athletes has become a priority exemplified in the work of coaches like Team Ontario’s Cyril Bollers, who led the men’s hockey team to win gold medal in 2015.
Lincoln & Newfoundland
The municipality of Lincoln and the province of Newfoundland can be connected througah themes of military history, commemoration, and aviation. The Beamsville Aerodrome, or Camp Beamsville, was used as a training ground for the Royal Flying Corps in 1918. Frank Johnston, a member of the Group of Seven, spent five days at the aerodrome, and created the painting titled Beamsville. At the local Trinity United Church, there is a stained-glass window that is a memorial to all those who gave their lives in World War I, including the names of twelve church members.
In Newfoundland, the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial and the Placentia War Memorial both honour the lives of those from the province who fought and died in WWI. Placentia, NL was also the location of the signing of Atlantic Charter in 1941. During WWII, Newfoundland's Gander Airport served as a staging ground and takeoff point for military flights into Europe. Sergeant John Benjamin Stallwood of Beamsville, Ontario who died in service during WWII is one of many soldiers buried in Gander Cemetery. The Gander Airport played a key role during 9/11, confirming the province's hospitable reputation.
The Canada Games offer the Jack Pelech award each year, given to the team who best demonstrates the values of good sportsmanship and cooperation. Playing sports can cultivate camaraderie and friendship, which is why it was common for military units during WWI to form sporting teams, like the Royal Newfoundland Regiment's Hockey team, and Beamsville's Royal Flying Corps Football team. War veterans commonly use sport and exercise as a form of rehabilitation following their service.
Grimsby & Prince Edward Island
The farming community is a driving force in both Grimsby and Prince Edward Island. Since the 19th century, Grimsby has played an important role in the Ontario fruit farming industry. In the 1920s, Grower's Cold Storage was one of the first locations in Canada where artificial refrigeration was used for cooling produce. The Grimsby Arena, home to the Peach Kings, was also used in the summer months for fruit packing during the '30s and '40s. In fact, the Montreal Canadiens used this arena for their training camp from 1922-24 since at that time it was only the fourth indoor arena ever to exist in the country.
PEI's Charlottetown Forum, or "Ice Palace" was the first ever indoor arena on PEI, built in 1930. It closed in the spring of 1990, due to the brand-new Civic Centre opening in 1991 for the Canada Winter Games in Charlottetown. The Winter Games are coming back to PEI in 2023, and the Cavendish Farms Wellness Centre, built for the 2009 Canada Summer Games, is once again one of the main sporting venues. This popular community arena is sponsored by Cavendish Farms, the major P.E.I.-based purveyor of frozen potato products founded back in 1882.
You can learn about Cavendish Farms and more at the Canadian Potato Museum in O'Leary, which celebrates Prince Edward Island's famous relationship with the potato, while also demonstrating the evolution of agricultural technology on the island. Grimsby saw a similar technological progression. Grout Agricultural Works (est. 1856) produced tools such as the binder, grape hoe, and their award-winning sulky plow.
Thorold & Manitoba
Early 20th century labour disputes and unionism are the main threads that connect the municipality of Thorold with the province of Manitoba. Established in 1913, Ontario Paper Ltd. was a mainstay of Thorold's pulp and paper industry, who's workers organized the first papermakers' union in Canada: the Local 101, International Brotherhood of Paper Makers. There is a rich history of unionism in Thorold, including the 19th c. Knights of Labour, of which Thorold had 3 assemblies, the Order of the Sons of Italy of Ontario (est. 1915), and many more.
In addition to making paper, Ontario Paper Ltd. also produced synthetic vanillin, or artificial vanilla, which was a chemical by-product from the pulp processing. Just like Thorold, Manitoba had a number of paper mills, including Manitoba Pulp and Paper. The town of Pine Falls was built for its workers, and the mills were eventually purchased by Abitibi Power and Paper Company in 1928. A branch of this company existed in Thorold as well, where there was a strike in 1975, supported by local politicians like Mel Swart, NDP MPP for Welland-Thorold. In 1921, Thorold's Beaver Board Fibre Strike took place, where workers walked out when faced with wage cuts. At this time there were concerns that workers of Eastern European descent had ties to Socialism/Communism in worker ideology. The Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 saw similar attitudes towards the unionizing workers, depicted in the The New York Times headline that read: "BOLSHEVISM IN WINNIPEG."
A leading figure in the Winnipeg General Strike was Helen “Ma” Armstrong who's father Alfred Jury co-founded the Knights of Labour in Canada. The Winnipeg Tribune promoted the views of the Citizens' Committee of 1000, who opposed the General Strike. The paper unofficially ran the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame and when the Tribune folded in 1980, a Sport Hall of Fame was formed by the Manitoba Sports Federation. The MSHoF ran an exhibit celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Canada Games during the 2017 Canada Summer Games in Winnipeg, MB. Interestingly, the 1985 Canada Summer Games in Saint John NB were almost called off because of a labour dispute.
Wainfleet & Nunavut
The protection of heritage and the preservation of the land are important themes for both Wainfleet and Nunavut, and in more recent years, the Canada Games have worked to implement environmental sustainability at the Games.
The Wainfleet Bog is the only bog and wetland in the Niagara Peninsula and the largest remaining bog in southern Ontario, home to a variety of flora and fauna, including the endangered Massasauga rattlesnake. At the 2007 Canada Winter Games in Whitehorse, YK, athletes participated in the game of Snowsnake, which is a traditional game of the Dene People wherein participants compete by throwing long carved pieces of wood along a tack of snow.
In Nunavut, Tallurutiup Imanga is one of the most important ecological areas in the world as it is home to 75% of the global population of narwal, and the largest subpopulation of polar bears in Canada. Some of these animals, as well as snakes, wolves, and birds are featured in the work of Inuit artists like Kenojuak Ashevak.
The territory of Nunavut accounts for 21 percent of Canada’s total area and is made up of 25 communities; most of which are isolated and only accessible by plane or boat. Coming from communities separated by thousands of kilometers, stories like the Nunavut badminton team at the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, AB and the Kugluktuk Grizzlies lacrosse team show the strong bonds of northern communities in spite of the distance. Box lacrosse is coming back to the 2022 Canada Summer Games in Niagara, for the first time since 1985.
Niagara Falls & Northwest Territories
Niagara Falls and the Northwest Territories are connected by a variety of threads. Native to the Niagara River, the Seneca people have long practiced their craft of birchbark canoe-making, using them to travel from the mainland to and from Navy Island which sits in the Niagara River, between Canada and the U.S. On the American side of the Falls, the Tuscarora people historically sold their beadwork and other crafts to tourists following the opening of the Erie canal in the 1820s. In the Northwest Territores, the Inuit people also create beautiful soapstone figurines and sell them as keepsakes to curious travelers.
Similar to Niagara Falls, the majestic Virginia Falls in the Northwest Territories is accompanied by portage trails which offer beautiful views to tourists. Adding to Canada's northern beauty, stories of the Northern Lights as one of the seven natural wonders of the world are steeped in Inuit legend. The Seneca and other nations within the Haudenosaunee have their own legends about the origins of Niagara Falls, which are lit up featuring "movements inspired by nature," including the aurora borealis.
The Niagara Falls have been central to both conflict and peacemaking in recent history, hosting the ABC Peace Conference in 1914. Over 80 years prior to this, the Caroline Affair between British forces and Canadian rebels during the 1837 Rebellions ended in the wreck of The Caroline on the shores of Navy Island. In the Northwest Territories, shipwrecks were commonplace, such as when the HMS Investigator was wrecked in 1853 while attempting to cross the Northwest Passage.
Indigenous history and tradition are part of the fabric that makes up Canada today, shown not only in nature, legend and craftsmanship, but in sport as well. The first Arctic Winter Games were held in 1970 in the Yukon, paving the way for the 2007 Canada Winter Games where traditional arctic sports were showcased, such as the two-foot-high kick. Shortly after the first Arctic Games, twin Sisters from the Northwest Territories, Sharon and Shirley Firth won gold & silver in cross country skiing in the 1971 Canada Winter Games in Saskatoon.
Welland & Quebec
Canada's francophone history and culture are exemplified in places like Welland and Quebec. For instance, the Empire Cotton Mills impacted Welland's cultural heritage since their inception in 1913 by employing its citizens. Many of their employees came from the Dominion Textile factory in Quebec, and thus a "French Town" was born here in Niagara.
The textile industry in these areas relied on the labour of blue-collar, unionized workers. In both Welland and Quebec there were strikes that allowed men to argue for better wages and working conditions. The camaraderie that existed at this time between the workers extended into the sporting world, and organizations like the Montmorency Football Club were formed.
Within these communites, groups like the Reseau des villes francophones et francophiles d'Amerique and the Association des Hommes D'affaires Canadiens work to preserve and showcase francophone cultures. This value has been promoted in recent years at the Canada Games as well. At the 2013 Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke, QC, the Host Society decided to use their merchandise to acknowledge French culture through common greetings. Their clever "la bise" t-shirts helped to promote the well-known kiss on both cheeks when greeting a family member or loved one.
West Lincoln & Saskatchewan
West Lincoln is one of Niagara's larger municipalities, and much of it used as farmland. Saskatchewan is also one of Canada's main crop-producing provinces, and in both of these instances, the railway was historically an essential service that served to connect people traveling far distances.
The Smithville Train Station was a stop on the TH&B Railway which connected much of the Toronto, Hamilton, and Buffalo areas. The TH&B would eventually connect with the Canadian Pacific Railway, which ran all the way across Canada, facilitated by people like those in the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters; railway employees - a vast majority being Black men.
In the west, the Grand Trunk Railway connected much of the western provinces. In northern prairie areas like the Red River, the Metis people used carts to remain connected to the trade happening further south. Similarly, the Battleford Trail to the west of Regina was a well-known trade route for Metis nations, and a vital path during the Northwest Rebellion. Altering the physical landscape to benefit the progress of mankind took place on a smaller scale during the 1971 Canada Winter Games in Saskachewan, with the creation of Blackstrap Mountain across a section of the flat prairies to host the alpine skiing events.
Pelham & Alberta
The themes for the pairing of Pelham and Alberta are education and aviation! Pelham is home to the oldest non-denominational school in Ontario, St. Johns Common School (c. 1804). Pelham's first secondary school was the Pelham Continuation School, later known as the Pelham District High School, formed in 1922.
Pelham was home to female pilot Dorothy Rungeling, whose personal papers now exist in the archives of Brock University. Brock graduates like Team Ontario Chef de Mission Steve Sevor have large roles to play in the 2022 Canada Summer Games in Niagara, where Pelham is home to the cycling events.
In Alberta, Rosella Bjornson was the first woman hired as a commercial pilot on a North American airline in the year 1967. She first learned to fly at the Air West Flight School in Lethbridge. At the 1975 Canada Winter Games in Lethbridge, AB., area schools were actually closed down and athletes were transported between venues by school bus. Alberta's oldest common school was the Edmonton 1881 School. About 10 miles northwest of this was the Edmonton Indian Residential School which replaced the Red Deer IRS in 1924.
The 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, AB offered a pilot program to certify Indigenous officials from all over the country. The Games promote other programs that support the delivery of sport to Canadian athletes, such as the Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD) program which was discussed at the 2005 Canada Summer Games in Regina, SK.
St. Catharines & Yukon Territory
The threads that connects St. Catharines to the Yukon are found in the theme of immigration, illustrating the diverse people groups that have left their mark on this country. Victoria Lawn Cemetery (VLC) is St. Catharines' largest and most historically significant cemetery, and is the final resting place of many individuals who arrived in the city as immigrants.
Some of these immigrants buried in VLC include those who worked on the Welland Canal many of whom perished while working there in the early 20th century. Other notable people who moved to St. Catharines from other countries include philathropist David Bloss Mills, Rev. Anthony Burns, and Dr. Theophilus Mack. In 1873, Mack started the St. Catharines Training School and Nurses Home, where women recieved professional nurse training.
For a woman living in 19th-century Canada, nursing was a noble profession. However, other activities, such as traveling far into the north without a male companion, definitely raised some eyebrows. Mary Hitchcock & Edith Van Buren ventured to Klondike in 1898, during the height of the Gold Rush where mass numbers of people migrated west with the prospect of striking it rich. These women spent time in Dawson City, which was littered with saloons, dance halls and Cancan dancers. At the 2007 Canada Winter Games in Whitehorse, YK, members of the organizing committee were given garters and Canada Games pins as memorabilia representive of Yukon's riveting history.
Port Colborne & New Brunswick
Historically, the shipping industry has been a pillar of both the Port Colborne and New Brunswick economies, and it remains important to this day. Port Colborne was initially called "Gravelly Bay" by the Loyalists who settled the area in the late 18th century named after the shallow, bedrock-floored bay upon which it sits. In New Brunswick, communities were formed along mainwaterways and in sites like Albert Mines, which employed locals in the commercial extraction of petrolium products.
In Port Colborne, one of the main employers was Dominion Grain, which played a central role in grain movement through the Great Lakes, but tragically experienced a massive explosion in 1919, killing 10 people. Danger was also prevalent during the prohibition era, when these places experienced privateering and rum-running.
The water provides a perfect space for not only industry, but recreation as well. The Paris Crew - a group of four New Brunswick rowers - won at the International Rowing Regatta in Paris in 1867, and the province continues to produce fantastic rowers. At the 2013 Summer Canada Games in Sherbrooke, QC, the New Brunswick team took home sixteen medals, including in the men's single scull, double sculls, and men's eight. Four years later at the 2017 Canada Summer Games in Winnipeg, MB, the Roland Michener Award was given to New Brunswick rower Max Arsenault for exemplifying leadership, cooperation and excellence.
Women, politics and social activism are the threads that run through the municipality of Niagara-on-the-Lake and the province of British Columbia. Rye St. Heritage Park is named after Maria Rye, who founded "Our Western Home" for British Home Children in the late 19th century. Rye was a leading figure in securing basic rights for women. This site was previously occupied by the Niagara-on-the-Lake courthouse and jail, where a protest led by Sally Carter took place in 1837 after a formerly enslaved man named Solomon Moseby was threatened with re-enslavement by his former Kenucky master. Carter was not the only Black woman in NOTL to have taken a stand against slavery. In 1793, an enslaved woman named Chloe Cooley was forcibly bound and sold across the Niagara River to continue working as a slave in the U.S.
All the way in British Columbia, women's suffrage movements were taking place at the same time, led by women like Mary Ellen Spear Smith, who like Cooley has been designated as a National Historic Person. Other notable women in B.C. like Emily Carr and Daphne Odjig have made their mark on history by creating beautiful artwork inspired by both the west coast and Indigenous culture. During the 2015 Canada Winter Games in Prince George, B.C., artist and Lheidli T'enneh band councillor Jennifer Pighin designed the medals and some of Team B.C.'s official apparel. Another powerful woman associated with Team B.C. at the Canada Games is Judy Joseph-Black, a familiar face on their Mission Staff, a current member of the Canada Games Council, and is advocate for athletes and coaches with a disability, women in sport, and Indigenous sport.