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‘It feels like she should’ve been here all along’: Sask. woman meets birth family on Christmas Day





It has been a very special Christmas for Janet Anderson, who says she’s found what she’s been searching for all her life.

The 64-year-old from Moose Jaw, Sask., met her birth family for the first time on Christmas morning in B.C., 64 years and two days after being adopted by another family two provinces away.

“My heart is so full — it is, it really is,” said Anderson. “I feel like I am a whole person now, whereas before, there was always a puzzle piece missing and my family has filled that here.”

In October, Anderson received her registration of live birth in the mail from the Saskatchewan government.

She found her birth mother, Jean Stahl, on Facebook and decided to reach out by messaging her daughter, Elaine. After the initial shock wore off, the two began talking regularly and Elaine Stahl invited Anderson to Haida Gwaii, B.C., to join the family for the holidays.

There was always a puzzle piece missing and my family has filled that here.– Janet Anderson

On Christmas Eve, Anderson’s flight from Vancouver to Sandspit, B.C., was cancelled and there wasn’t another scheduled for two days. But she was determined to make it.

“Christmas is a time for families to come together and it’s really important,” Anderson said.

Janet and her adoptive father, Richard Anderson, are shown on the day she was adopted: Dec. 23, 1954. (Submitted by Janet Anderson)

She instead caught a flight to Prince Rupert, B.C., and took an overnight ferry to the island. Elaine and her husband Greg picked her up at the terminal at 5:30 a.m. on Christmas morning.

“It was everything I hoped for and more,” said Anderson. “I have a sister!”

Moose Jaw, Sask. woman Janet Anderson had the chance to finally meet her birth sister and mother in B.C. on Christmas day after being adopted as baby in 1954. 0:57

They both recognized each other right away. The two long-lost sisters have barely left each other’s side since.

“She was crying and I was hugging,” said Anderson. “It was an awesome moment that we’ll both never forget.”

“It was just such a relief and so exciting to finally meet her,” said Elaine. “For me, it was only two months. For her, it was 64 years waiting.”

Janet Anderson first connected with her half-sister, Elaine Stahl, shown at left, on Facebook, before speaking with her mother, Jean Stahl, shown at right. (Submitted by Janet Anderson)

Anderson was in for a shock when her birth mother was waiting to meet her in the car.

“I had waited all my life to meet her and to look at her and to just see her and hug her,” Anderson said. “There’s no words to describe it.”

Jean Stahl was 25 when she gave birth to Anderson at the Salvation Army Grace Haven, a home for unwed mothers in Regina, and eventually put the baby up for adoption. (At the time, her name was Lillian Jean Avery.)

She went on to get married and raise four children in Salmo, B.C., where she still lives.

Until this year, she had only told her parents and her husband Kurt about the baby she gave up as a single woman. She never said anything about the birth father, who was 24 at the time of Anderson’s birth.

Content with her adopted family growing up, Anderson only began seeking information about her birth family in 1991 without much luck. But when the Government of Saskatchewan opened its adoption records for adult adoptees on Jan. 1, 2017, it allowed Anderson and other access to all their paperwork as long as it was not vetoed by a birth parent.

Stahl always wondered if she would be contacted by her daughter one day, but had signed a paper saying she wouldn’t seek her out. She is still processing the impact of the reunion, Anderson said.

For Christmas, Stahl gave Anderson a framed photo of the two of them, before Anderson was adopted. (Submitted by Janet Anderson)

Anderson said they had a breakthrough as mother and daughter when she stopped Stahl from walking back to her granddaughter’s house alone.

“It was raining out and it was a little slippery. Off she was going. And all of a sudden, I looked at her and said, ‘Mom, stop,'” said Anderson. “I didn’t want her to fall, and it’s the first time I called her mom.

“It just came out. It was such a natural thing to say to her. I think that made her realize it’s real.”

For Christmas, Stahl gave Anderson a framed photo of the two of them, before Anderson was adopted.

It took me 64 years but it is just so worth it.– Janet Anderson

Anderson gave everyone personalized Christmas ornaments with the date of their meeting and sentiments about being together at last.

Janet is staying with Elaine at her house in Haida Gwaii for the holidays. (CBC News)

Anderson said she’s been met with both love and acceptance by all of the family. She has also met her two brothers, Jerry and Jamie, over Skype.

“It feels like she should’ve been here all along,” said Elaine.

The sisters have found out they have a lot in common. Both of them were lifeguards as teens, both spent their summers in Penticton, B.C., as young adults, and both still have a bad habit of rolling their eyes when they’re annoyed.

“We’re both very stubborn,” Anderson said, laughing.

While some people have said their connection is only DNA, Anderson said it’s unexplainable to those who haven’t been in their situation. She encourages everyone else who is searching for their birth family not to give up.

“It took me 64 years but it is just so worth it.”


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Dreessen: Ottawa has to shed its image as a town that doesn’t like fun





Ottawa has long held a reputation as a place that fun forgot. People who live here know that there is a lot to love about the city: its history, the Rideau Canal, proximity to parks and rivers, excellent clubs, museums and galleries all make Ottawa a great place.

More spontaneous fun things are harder to come by. We’ve created a process that makes it hard for small businesses to thrive and where the process is more important than the outcome.

In 2016, a local artist planned to give away free T-shirts celebrating Ottawa 2017 on Sparks Street, until the local Business Improvement Association (BIA) asked him to move, squashing a fun event to bring people together.

In 2017, business proposals to the NCC executive committee made a business case to open cafés at Remic Rapids, Confederation Park and Patterson Creek. In the summer of 2020, two opened; the Patterson Creek location, opposed by neighbours, has yet to see the light of day, though the NCC website indicates it may happen in 2021.

In each case, the cafés are only open for a few brief summer months. Despite the fact that Ottawa celebrates itself as a winter city, we can’t, somehow, imagine how people might want to enjoy a café in the spring or fall, or during winter months while skiing along the river or skating along the canal. Keeping public washrooms open, serving takeout and, yes, using patio heaters, could make these cafés fun additions to our city for most of the year.

More recently, Jerk on Wheels, a food truck with excellent Caribbean chicken and two locations, has run intro trouble. The one on Merivale Road continues, but the Bank Street location in Old Ottawa South has to close. According to social media posts from the owners, despite the business having all permissions in place, local restaurant franchises of Dairy Queen and Tim Hortons have objected to its presence.

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Ottawa businesses frustrated with slower pace of Ontario’s Roadmap to Reopen plan compared to other provinces





OTTAWA — As Canada plots its roadmap to reopening, each province is choosing their own path to reopen the economy and lift the COVID-19 restrictions.

Some are moving towards loosened restrictions at a faster pace than Ontario, which is frustrating for business owners who say they are ready to receive customers safely.

Patio season is upon the city, and at Banditos Restaurant on Bank Street, owner Matt Loudon is staging the large outdoor dining area to prepare for the summer rush. But the patio will have to remain closed until at least June 14, when it is expected Ontario will move into Step One of the three-step Roadmap to Reopen plan

“I hope they push it up a little bit,” says Loudon. “It’s beyond frustrating all the other provinces are opening up before us, we’ve been locked down longer than anybody else.”

Loudon, who owns two restaurants, says their outdoor seating has always been safe and that they have invested in added measures like sanitization stations and personal protective equipment for the staff. Indoor dining will continue to remain off limits in Ontario until Step Three. When patios do open, tables will be limited to four people. 

Unlike British Columbia’s four-pronged approach that began May 25. Residents in the province are now allowed to dine both inside and out, with a maximum of six per table, not restricted to one household.

Quebec will enter into its first step Friday, where outdoor dining will be available for two adults and their children, who can be from separate addresses per table. This applies to red and orange zones in the province. The curfew will also be lifted. 

In Gatineau, hair salons opened their doors to customers last week. Ten minutes away at Salon Bliss in Ottawa, all owner Sarah Cross can do is hope she can reopen sometime in July.

“Most people think that government funding covers all the bills but it’s far from it,” says Cross. Her upscale salon has nine chairs and over the course of the pandemic, in order to comply with regulations and keep staff and patrons, safe, only three chairs can now be filled. She says the hardest part is that the rules constantly change and vary in each region, adding it doesn’t make sense how one is better than the other.

“Our livelihood is dependent on what the decisions are made and if they were aligned with one belief system then I think they would have the trust of the public to follow these protocols.”

Many Ontario business owners say it’s not only a matter of necessity they open, but can do so safely. Infectious disease physician Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti agrees, and says the province needs to expedite its timeline.

“Especially with the fact that we are in the post vaccine era,” says Chakrabarti.

“It’s important for us to remember that we have been following this case count very closely for the last year and certainly we’ve had some experiences with opening things, especially with the second and third waves we have to remember that as we go forward now vaccines are a huge difference maker to the situation. Cases may go up but that doesn’t mean the most important thing will go up which is hospitalizations.”

Chakrabarti says while people will still get infected with COVID-19, with the reduced risk of hospitalization in large numbers there is no reason to restrict the community. He says while it’s not time for packed stadiums, it’s also not time for lockdowns and Ontario should re-think its strategy.

“We have to faith in the vaccines. We have seen in the other parts of the world like Israel, the U.K.,and the U.S. our neighbours to the south,” says Chakrabarti. “They are very safe and effective and our ticket out of this pandemic. We really should be taking that.”

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$2.9 million tax break for Ottawa Porsche dealership receives the green ligh





OTTAWA — Ottawa city council has given the green light to a $2.9 million tax break for a new Porsche dealership in Vanier.

Council voted 15 to 9 to approve a grant under the Community Improvement Plan initiative to build a Porsche dealership at the corner of Montreal Road and St. Laurent Boulevard.  The project by Mrak Holdings Inc., a.k.a. Mark Motors of Ottawa, would be built at 458 Montreal Road.

Under the Community Improvement Plan approved by Council, business owners can apply for a grant equal to 75 per cent of the municipal tax increase attributable to the redevelopment. A report says the goal of the Montreal Road Community Improvement Plan is to “stimulate business investment, urban renewal and property upgrades in the area.”

Coun. Catherine McKenney was one of nine councillors who opposed the tax break for the Porsche dealership.

“I agree with the Community Improvement Plan, but I know and what people see here is that this application does not meet the criteria,” said McKenney about the CIP proposal for the Porsche dealership.

“A car dealership, no matter whether it’s Honda, or a Porsche or a Volkswagen, it does not first off belong on a traditional main street. This does not the meet the criteria of a CIP, it will do nothing for urban renewal.”

Approximately 70 people gathered at the site of the proposed Porsche dealership Tuesday evening to oppose the tax grant.

Coun. Diane Deans told Council she doubted any councillors who supported the Community Improvement Plan when it was developed in 2019 thought it would support a luxury car dealership.

“I don’t think it fits. I don’t think a clear case has been made that this incentive is required for the Mark Motors project to move forward at all,” said Deans. “I don’t believe there’s a clear community benefit.”

Coun. Riley Brockington, Deans, Jeff Leiper, Carol Anne Meehan, Rick Chiarelli, Theresa Kavanagh, Keith Egli, McKenney and Shawn Menard voted against the tax break for the Porsche dealership.

“It will lead to a $17 million investment on Montreal Road, it will create about 20 jobs in that neigthborhood,” said Mayor Jim Watson.

Watson noted auto dealerships were not excluded from the Community Improvement Plan when approved by committee and Council.

A motion introduced by Watson was approved to use property tax revenue generated by the redevelopment for affordable housing.

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