Howard win streak snapped

Quebec skip Jean-Michel Menard has a habit of coming up big at the Brier, a fact Glenn Howard knows all too well. Wednesday afternoon in Calgary, Menard, the 2006 Brier champion, was the first to topple the mighty, previously unbeaten Howard rink at this week’s national curling championships in Calgary. Menard beat the three-time world champs 8-5 at the Pengrowth Saddledome. "Jean-Michel is one of those skips who knows what it takes to win at the Brier and if you don’t bring your ‘A’ game with you, you are going to lose," said Howard. Coupled with a 9-7 win over the Jamie Koe rink from the Northwest Territories/Yukon on Wednesday morning, the Howard rink sits in second place with an 8-1 record, heading into the final day of round-robin play on Thursday at the Brier. Kevin Martin’s Alberta rink defeated the Jeff Stoughton rink from Manitoba 7-2 on Wednesday evening to move on top of the Brier standings with a perfect 9-0 record. Midland native Russ Howard kept his New Brunswick rink in contention for a possible playoff berth by posting a 7-4 win over Prince Edward Island late Wednesday evening. The win improved Howard’s record to 5-4, leaving him in a four-way tie for fourth place heading into the final day of round-robin play on Thursday. Heading into his game against Menard, Glenn Howard felt he had a score to settle, dating back three years. Dominating the field and seemingly on his way to a Brier championship win in 2006 in Regina, Howard and teammates Richard Hart, Brent Laing and Craig Savill had their hopes dashed by Menard in the final that year. Later, Howard would state that loss to Menard was probably one of the toughest of his lengthy competitive career. In what has been a disturbing pattern in recent Brier contests, Team Ontario found itself trailing 2-0 to Quebec after the first end, but rebounded to tie the game at 3-3 after four ends. Menard then struck for three big points in the fifth end to move ahead 6-3 and led 7-4 after seven ends. Howard managed to narrow the gap to 7-5 after the eighth end, but Menard added one point in the ninth end to seal the win and snap Ontario’s winning streak at eight games. In their earlier win over the day over Koe, team Howard once again trailed by a 5-2 score after four ends of play. But the Coldwater rink rebounded with three points in each of the seventh and ninth ends to pull out a 9-7 win. In other Brier action Wednesday, Russ Howard and his New Brunswick team went down to defeat against the Brad Gushue rink from Newfoundland/Labrador. Howard lost 8-5 in a reunion of the two skips, who combined to win a gold medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. On Thursday morning Glenn Howard battles the Dacey rink from Nova Scotia, before moving on to the evening showdown with Kevin Martin’s Alberta rink, in a game which will probably decide first place in the standings. But before facing Howard, Martin will also face Dacey in Thursday afternoon action. Russ Howard and his rink will close out round-robin play Thursday with games againt the NWT/Yukon and British Columbia.


Fake holdup draws real police

A mock stickup at a Tottenham gas station for a movie Sunday night sent a heavy police presence to the community after a member of the public witnessed the filming and thought it was rea At about 8:20 p.m. a resident called police and reported an armed robbery in progress at the gas station just north of the Tottenham Mall. The witness said they could see a suspect holding a man hostage with a gun to his head inside the station. Police from Nottawasaga, Caledon and Dufferin OPP detachments responded to the scene along with a tactical command post trailer. The first officers arriving reported seeing a gas station employee running from the building with his hands over his head. The suspect was seen in the building near the cash register. Officers pulled their weapons and demanded that the suspect surrender. Police then learned the gun was fake and there were Centennial College film students inside the building making a movie for a school project. After the situation was defused most of the police officers started leaving the scene, but OPP Const. Mel Tourigny said the incident was still a heavy drain on police resources. "It was treated like an armed robbery," said Tourigny. "You have practically every available unit start heading in that direction. It tied up officers from three detachments." A spokesperson for Centennial College, Mark Toljagic, said the school regrets the incident. "The college is very apologetic to local residents and the OPP for the mix-up," he said. He said the students had received permission from the gas station owner and that filming was done when the business was closed. He also said the windows were darkened for most of the shoot, but at one point the windows were opened, which is when the witness saw the incident. Police watched the film footage to confirm it matched up to what the witness reported. Tourigny said police are supposed to be notified well in advance of any film shooting to avoid confusion. Toljagic said up until now, the school has had a guideline that students approach local municipalities or police departments to notify them of all public shooting. He said that practice is now going to be stiffened to ensure another mix-up doesn’t happen in the future. "They’re going to make it an absolute policy now, and students will have to produce a document that shows that the local police office signed off on the (project)," he said. Officers told the students about the potential risk to both the film crew itself and the rest of the public. The actors were also warned about how the public and the police perceived the threat. Police notified the college about the incident. Toljagic said he isn’t aware if the school is planning on taking any further disciplinary action.


March Break activities will keep kids busy

While it may not feel like it, spring will soon be arriving. But, before that can happen, kids across the province get to enjoy some relief from school and homework in the form of the annual March Break – which will be taking place March 16-20. Parents across the community will be happy to know there are a ton of activities and day camps available to keep their young ones busy. Midland’s Huronia Museum is running a March Break camp for kids. This year’s theme is all about spring, said education co-ordinator Gillian Ross. Each day will include games and crafts designed to take the kids’ minds off the cold. “The kids have something to do all day,” she said, adding activities are also aimed at a variety of age groups. Activities will include a hunt for a pot of gold, origami projects, frog races and a Welcome to Spring celebration on March 20. Children will also have the opportunity to enjoy the last blasts of winter tobogganing on Campbell’s Hill and skating at the North Simcoe Sports and Recreation Centre. Ross noted parents can book their kids for the entire week or just for one or two days. “We’ve been running (our camp) for a long time, (so parents know) their kids are not only safe, but are also having fun.” The Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre will be offering a March Break Day Camp to children ages six to 12. “Actively engaging in exciting exploration and learning is inevitable when your child comes to our March Break Day Camp,” Nicole Saltsman, marketing and communications co-ordinator, said in a news release. “It will provide your child with an increased understanding of and appreciation for the world around them.” Children will get the chance to take part in cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, guided hikes, tree and animal identification, and hands-on crafts. In addition, they will come face-to-face with turtles, snakes and birds of prey. Quest Art School and Gallery, meanwhile, will be offering a variety of hands-on activities for young Picassos, including clay sculpture, decorative painting, beading and print making – all taught by well-known local artists. Fledgling Jamie Olivers or Nigella Lawsons will have the chance to hone their culinary skills during the Real Canadian Superstore’s camp for kids ages six to 11. On March 16 from 9 a.m. to noon, kids can get stuffed full of fun as they learn all about food that is stuffed. On March 20, they’ll get to clown around the kitchen as they have a blast making circus-inspired favourites. Participants will get to take home a clown-face cake and learn simple cooking and baking skills. Staff at the Penetanguishene Centennial Museum will also be busy as they explore the globe with children during the museum’s day camp. “We will be very busy visiting five different countries in five days,” said curator assistant Jan Gadson. Participants will travel from Egypt to Ireland before heading south to Jamaica and Mexico. Kids will be given a different clue each day as to their final destination. “We’re going to have lots of activities both inside and out,” said Gadson. “We’re a small and nurturing group, and the kids will have a fantastic time.” Space is limited in most of these programs, so parents are encouraged to pre-register their children as soon as possible. [email protected]


Homework help in danger of fizzling

A free homework club, a service offered by Beaver Valley Outreach (BVO), may be no more unless more local students take advantage of the one-on-one tutoring help and school resources offered. The club, also supported by Beaver Valley Community School and the L.E. Shore Library, provides laptops, school supplies, project supplies and help for students in grades three to nine. BVO launched the homework club after learning from a survey and  assessment that extra school help was one of the top identified needs of the community. Five years ago, BVO secured three years of Trillium funding to cover the cost of staff and snacks for the program. When that ran out, the Beaver Valley Community School offered some funding for the program, but Carolyn Letourneau, Executive Director of BVO says that funding won’t be available next year. Currently, homework help is available every Tuesday and Thursday from 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the L.E. Shore Library. There is space for 12 to 15 students, but Anne Doran, coordinator for the club, says the space is never full. Often there are only about 2 or 3 students and sometimes Doran and Jake Gardner, also on staff, don’t have any students to help. The Outreach board takes time each year to assess the more than 20 programs offered, and determine what changes, if any, need to be made. Letourneau says that, although she and others want to see the program continue, it’s hard to justify it when so few people are using the service. Cutbacks or even cancellations may be necessary. "It’s silly that more people don’t take more advantage of this program," said Letourneau, adding that the feedback they receive from parent’s whose children are involved is positive. "Questions that students would be afraid to ask teachers, they aren’t afraid to ask us," said Gardner, a grade ten student at Pretty River Academy. Doran said the program offers students a fun and welcoming environment. "It’s an encouraging atmosphere," she said. "We just want people to come." Currently, Doran and Gardner offer help with homework, projects, math skills, reading skills and anything else the students may be working on. Additionally, they provide snacks, educational games and workshops on subjects like study habits and Internet safety.


Ice conditions changing hourly

Despite repeated warning from police to stay off the ice, many are failing to heed the warning. “Ice conditions are not changing daily, but locally, they are changing hourly,” said Const. Peter Leon in a news release. This past weekend was no exception, he noted, as one snowmobiler could have been a part of what was a tragic weekend with a number of deaths on the ice and one on a closed Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) trail. “On Saturday night, shortly after 9 p.m., a homeowner who lives on Sawlog Point Road in Tiny Township was out walking the family dog when the sound of a snowmobile that was being operated on the ice suddenly stopped. The eerie silence was soon replaced with cries for help as the snowmobiler had gone into the frigid waters of Georgian Bay,” stated Leon, adding the Tiny Township Fire Department responded to the scene along with police and paramedics, beginning what would turn out to be a dangerous ice rescue. The man was safely brought to shore and transported to the Huronia District Hospital in Midland suffering from hypothermia. “This rescue, if not for the actions of the firefighters involved, could have ended tragically if the circumstances were different Saturday night. While attempting the rescue, the firefighters even went through the ice themselves on a number of occasions,” he said. “Life is valuable and the message is simple, please stay off the ice. It is not only unsafe for any type of recreational activity, but puts the lives of rescuers at great risk.”


Lock it or lose it!

Some experts predict that in excess of 200,000 bicycles are stolen across Canada annually. Before the winter snow had melted Grey County OPP had already received reports of bicycle thefts. "Although the theft of a bicycle may seem like a minor crime to some, it certainly isn’t from the perspective of the victim," says Media Relation Officer Steve Starr. "They are the pride and joy of many who use them for transportation daily and put a considerable portion of their savings toward the initial purchase. In fact, the purchase price of some high-end mountain bikes and race bikes may rival a small car." Starr says whether you own an expensive bike or a beater that you picked up at a yard sale there are things you can easily do to protect against theft. • If your bicycle is high value think about obtaining insurance coverage or at least enhancing your home policy for include your unusually valuable bicycle. • Consider registering your bike if a program is available in your community but at the very least record the serial number, a description and photograph. • Consider marking the bicycle in several spots with a security mark or label. A personal number like a licence plate or driver’s licence number can be used and at least one should be clearly visible. • Most importantly, purchase a good quality lock and keep your bike locked whenever you leave it unattended. Lock it or lose it! Many bikes are stolen from the owner’s property so where possible, in addition to locking the bike, store it indoors or in a locked shed or garage. When away from home, try to lock the bike to a fixed object in an area that is clearly visible to the general public.


Blackhawks win OMHA title

The Collingwood Hanna Motors Atom AE Blackhawks were crowned OMHA Champions last week by defeating New Hamburg in the finals. The members of the team are: Tyler Atkinson, Hazen Mercer, Ethan Parent, Morgan Lewis, Joesph Sammon, Justin Mills, Brandon Piroli, Jarryd Ling, Nicholas Sammons, Adam Leal, Jaden Dankevy Jacob Kranjec, William Hanna, David Evans and Dylan Demers. The coaching staff is Peter Sammon, Steve Sammons, Adam Parent, Peter Atkinson and Steve Lewis. Contributed Photo/Tempo Photography


Pets perish in fire

Two dogs and two cats died in a house fire close to the base of Blue Mountain last weekend. The Blue Mountains Fire Department responded to a fire at 128 Brooker Blvd. on Friday at 10:37 a.m. on Friday, March 6. When fire crews arrived, the entire back wall and roof of the two-storey home was on fire. No one was home at the time of the fire and a neighbour placed the emergency call. Fire Prevention Officer A.J. Lake said crews gained access to the roof space and were able to quell the flames quickly enough to reduce structural damage and content loss. Fire fighters tried to revive the pets, but were unsuccessful. A rabbit did survive the blaze. Lake estimated the loss from the fire at $180,000. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.


Men ‘jumped’ me, boy tells court

A teenager was punched, held underwater and had his earrings ripped out during a tussle over a controversial Balm Beach fence, a Midland court heard Tuesday. The boy, now 15, was the first witness called in the trial of John Marion and his son Greg. The boy cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. The two Tiny Township men were charged with assault causing bodily harm after allegedly roughing up the then-14-year-old when he twice scaled a six-foot-high wooden fence to cross the Marion property. The youth shared his version of the events of July 24, 2008. “I saw a man charging out of the back door and screaming,” said the boy, referring to Greg Marion. “When he said, ‘Get the f*** off my property,’ I stepped in the water and said, ‘I’m not on your property.’” At that point, the Mississauga teen said before Judge Jon-Jo Douglas, Greg Marion “jumped” him and pushed him in the water, ripping out his diamond-stud earrings and pushing him under the surface. The boy also injured his right hand in the scuffle. “I was trying to keep my head above water because he was on top of me,” he said. “Then the older Marion came running out and struck me in the back of the head.” The boy’s account aligned with that of his father, who told Crown attorney Jennifer Armenise he saw Greg Marion speaking with his son, who was standing ankle-deep in the water at the time. “The gentleman in question lunged at my son,” said the man, pointing at Greg Marion in the courtroom when asked to identify the person he saw that day. Dressed casually in faded jeans and an untucked, striped dress shirt, Greg Marion had no visible reaction to the testimony. The alleged victim’s father said when another man entered the fray, taking a swing at his son, he was already sprinting to the scene to help. He pointed to John Marion, dressed for court in a grey sports coat and black slacks, as the second assailant. Defence attorney David Wilcox challenged the testimony, suggesting the younger boy threw the first punch when John Marion pushed him toward the water. “I didn’t punch him,” said the boy, shaking his head. In his cross-examination of the father, Wilcox offered up the theory that he was the aggressor, actually punching John Marion twice in the head after the initial fracas ended. “I never punched either one of them,” said the man, a self-employed contractor. Three witnesses to the altercation gave testimony that in some ways contradicted that version of events. Freda O’Brien, a Toronto resident vacationing at Balm Beach last July, said it was John Marion, not Greg, who first confronted the boy and “struck him with a closed fist.” Mike and Michelle Davis also pointed to John Marion as the initiator of the melee, although they differed as to whether he pushed or punched the boy. Michelle Davis told police at the time that it was a shove, but said Tuesday it was a punch. In addition, O’Brien and Mike Davis each stated the teen’s father threw punches during the incident, contradicting what he had stated earlier. “They were all punching,” said O’Brien. “It was a huge ball – just like you’d see in a cartoon – all arms and feet.” John Marion’s wife, Elisabeth, said it was her son Greg who first approached the boy as he crossed their property for the second time. As the pair spoke, she told the court, her husband walked toward the boy and pushed him toward the water. “All of a sudden, the boy took a swing,” she said. “Then he grabbed my husband by the shirt and swung him around.” She said the boy’s father quickly arrived and began hitting her husband and forcing his head underwater. “(John) got out from under him and crawled on his hands and knees up to the beach, and (the man) kept punching him in the back of the head,” she said. Elisabeth Marion testified she never saw her husband or son strike either the boy or his father. Armenise questioned Elisabeth Marion about the impact the long-running fence dispute has had on her life. Acrimony over public access to the beach in front of the Marions’ waterfront home has led to name calling and vandalism. “Living hell,” the longtime Balm Beach resident said of the last few years. The disagreement has seen a chainsaw used on a portion of the fence and a pellet gun fired at the Marions’ car, as well as a section of fence being set ablaze just 12 hours before the July 24 confrontation. The Crown has called all the witnesses on its list, while the defence will continue to present its case when the trial resumes May 28. [email protected]


Principals dismiss school rankings

The majority of Midland-area schools fared poorly in a Report Card on Ontario Schools, released earlier this week by the Fraser Institute, a conservative think-tank. The report rated 2,778 elementary schools based on tests of reading, writing and mathematics administered by the province’s Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO). Midland’s Monsignor Castex School received the highest local marks with an 8.1 overall rating out of 10 – up from 7.7 last year – while Penetanguishene’s James Keating Elementary School received the lowest. Its overall rating went down from 3.5 in 2007 to 2.5 in 2008. Janice McMurdo, principal at Huron Park Public School in Midland, did not want to comment on the Fraser Institute’s ranking of schools. She said she bases her evaluation of student progress on the school’s regular assessment program, report cards and the EQAO data. “From that,” she explained, “we build a school improvement plan and we work as professional teams to create programs designed to improve student achievement.” Debra Slingerland, principal at Canadian Martyrs School in Penetanguishene, said neither the school, the board, the provincial government nor EQAO supports the Fraser Institute’s use of the EQAO results to rank schools. “While the EQAO data is important to us and assists us in identifying areas of strength, as well as areas where we can improve, these numbers do not represent the whole story about our school community,” she told The Mirror. “Student learning is much more than just a numbers game,” she added. “We take great care and concern at Canadian Martyrs that we look at each individual student’s needs so that we can determine how we can work with our teachers and parents to ensure their ongoing success in school.” Tim Mallon, principal at Burkevale Protestant Separate School in Penetanguishene, said while he believes his school can do better on this assessment, he is pleased that scores have improved steadily since 2006. “One of my goals when I became Burkevale’s principal this year was to improve our results on the provincial literacy and math tests,” he said, adding EQAO results “are only a small snapshot of how effective a school is at educating the whole child.” David Clegg, president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, described the report as a “flawed document” that should be given a failing grade by schools and parents. “Multiple-choice tests don’t accurately assess student knowledge,” he stated in a press release. Clegg added the best way for parents to find out how their children are doing is to talk to their teachers. Peter Cowley, the Fraser Institute’s director of school performance studies, said critics of the report too often excuse a school’s poor results by blaming them on socio-economic factors. By doing so, he noted, these critics are essentially writing off a student’s chances of success based on a family’s economic standing. “Every school should ensure that all its students meet the provincial standard in reading, writing and mathematics, no matter where the student lives or how much their parents earn,” he said. “Our report card allows parents to quickly and easily determine if their child’s school is improving or worsening academically.” Cowley pointed out that one purpose of the report card is to encourage schools to improve. – With files from Torstar News Services