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The very talented Matas brothers

left-right: Robert, David & Manuel Matas

By GERRY POSNER With all of the families in Winnipeg that have produced remarkable children in a variety of ways, surely one family that would rank right up at the top would be the Matas family. In this particular case, I refer to the three sons of Harry and Esther Matas. (The other Matas groups have also achieved much, but I am limited in space to cover all of them). The three sons of Dr. & Mrs. Matas – David, Manny and Robert have all reached some rather lofty levels in their respective fields and in fact, still continue to do so even to this day.

I suppose you would have to be asleep not to be aware of David Matas. It seems that singlehandedly he has taken on the cause of defending human rights around the world and has been a force in the pursuit of justice against former Nazis. His work is truly overwhelming in its depth and scope. In fact, there really is not enough paper to cover all of his accomplishments. Let’s start with the fact that in David Matas, you have a Winnipeg-born graduate from the University of Manitoba with a BA, a Master of Arts from Princeton, a Bachelor of Arts (Jurisprudence ) from the University of Oxford, and later a Bachelor of Civil Law. He is also a Barrister of the Middle Temple United Kingdom and, of course, a member of the Manitoba Bar. That was but the beginning for Matas. Matas served as a law clerk to the Chief Justice of Canada (a rather exceptional assignment ), became a special assistant to the Solicitor General of Canada and from there has continued on a path to what might be called achieving justice. He spent some years teaching at McGill as well at the University of Manitoba.

But it has been Matas’ work in human rights, his significant involvement in attacking the organ harvesting in China and his work for B’nai Brith in seeking justice for the victims of the Holocaust that has occupied David Matas over more than 30 years. The organizations that Matas has served in his human rights work are numerous and yet all, vital. His reach is extensive in terms of this work wherever there are abuses he uncovers.
In 2006, Matas along with former Winnipegger David Kilgour released the well known Kilgour-Matas report detailing the over 40,000 transplants of organs that had been harvested from members of the Falun Gong in China. In fact, so impressive was their work that both Kilgour and Matas were nominated in 2010 for a Nobel Peace Prize. I am hard pressed to come up with other Winnipeggers who have reached such an illustrious status. Moreover, he has been legal counsel to B’nai Brith for years, has brought to the attention of the Canadian Government and later prosecuted former Nazis living in Canada. For all of his contributions in so many areas to Canada, he was made a member of the Order of Canada. What I suggest stands out about David Matas is that with all that he has done, it has been done not for fame, not for money, and not for power, but just for the sake of bettering the world.

David went into law, but his brother Manuel went into medicine. Manny received his M.D. from the University of Manitoba and later a diploma in Psychiatry from McGill University. He became a clinical psychiatrist whose career spanned 42 years prior to his retirement. For most of his career, he worked in university teaching hospitals in Toronto and Winnipeg. He also worked for the Scarborough Board of Education. He was Medical Director of Adult Outpatient Psychiatry at the St. Boniface General Hospital for many years, as well as acting head of the Department of Psychiatry at the same hospital for several years. His subspecialty was ADHD. Manny was Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Manitoba. He published many articles in peer-reviewed psychiatric journals and was a frequent presenter at national psychiatric conferences. After working at the St. Boniface Hospital for 20 years, he went into private practice with an office in the Medical Arts Building.

And, not to be forgotten, try this out” His book, “The Borders of Normal: A Clinical Psychiatrist De- Stigmatizes Paranormal Phenomena” was a #1 Amazon Best Seller in two categories: Parapsychology and Unexplained Mysteries. It was also a Whistler Independent Book Awards Finalist. This book, which received rave reviews, delves into many different aspects of the paranormal including dreams that come true, telepathy, ESP, visions, premonitions and near death experiences. Matas drew on his experience as a psychiatrist to examine the paranormal phenomena which, he claims, are in fact normal aspects of being human. Aside from all of that, Manny is a photographer, portrait artist and public speaker, father and grandfather.
Try growing up as the third brother with all of that around you. Robert Matas did just that and chartered his own course. Following receipt of an Honours degree from the University of Manitoba in Philosophy and a year spent at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Robert spent some eight years with the now defunct Winnipeg Tribune, both as a city hall reporter and later a provincial affairs reporter.

From 1980 through 2012, Matas became very well known for his work with the Globe and Mail in Toronto from 1980-88 and later in Vancouver from 1988-2012. Believe it or not, he had more than 5, 000 bylined articles in that paper over his career. During his time with the Globe, he served as the BC Bureau Chief, Western Canadian Desk Editor, National Correspondent, columnist, investigative reporter, feature writer and political reporter. Matas also provided commentary for radio stations in both Canada and the US. He also contributed to a book about government surveillance. In short, Matas was a serious journalist who covered local, provincial and national issues. Since retiring from the Globe in 2012, Robert has involved himself as a commissioner on the Vancouver City Planning Commission, also as a member of the City of Vancouver Independent Election Task Force. He has even co-edited a 50-page booklet on UBC’s 100 -year relationship with China. That might be something the Trudeau government might want to look at these days.

There they were in the 1950s – three Jewish boys growing up on Waterloo Street, just south of Corydon. Harry and Esther Matas may have had a glimmer of the future that lay ahead for their sons, but I believe they would be more than amazed at the heights the trio has achieved. The nachas is well deserved and, although Harry and Esther are not around to see this success, those of us that have any connection to any of the Matas brothers or even for those that do not, we can surely share the joy.

And, in fact, if you were to read the Matas family history which you can find online by Googling “Matas Family Winnipeg”, you would find a lengthy story about the extended Matas family, including grandparents Simon and Anna Matas and Max and Rose Steiman.
Their grandsons have done them proud. Best of all, the boys are very connected to one another and feel part of a large family network that includes children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and now great -nieces and great-nephews, along with many close cousins.

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Features

Remis Lecture Group at Gwen Secter Centre attracts large crowds to hear from two well-known speakers

Mayor Scott Gillingham speaking to the Remis Lecture group at the Gwen Secter Centre Thursday, May 16

By BERNIE BELLAN On two successive Thursdays in May (May 16 and 23), the usual fairly small number of attendees at the Remis Lecture Group luncheons more than doubled in size as large numbers of guests came to hear two well-known speakers: Mayor Scott Gillingham (on May 16); and Doctors Manitoba President Dr. Michael Boroditsky (on May 23).

The Remis group is open to anyone to attend, but anyone who is not a regular member of the group is asked to notify in advance that they will be attending by calling 204-291-4362.

I thought it might be interesting to provide readers with snapshots of what both Mayor Gillingham and Dr. Boroditsky had to say, despite my writing for a Jewish newspaper (and website) and trying to think desperately how I could tie in either speaker to a Jewish theme. How about if I mention that the mayor said he really enjoyed the kosher meal provided by the Gwen Secter Centre, which featured kugel as the main dish?

In a separate article I’ll write about Dr. Boroditsky’s talk. (I have posted about his having said that a new association of Manitoba Jewish physicians has been formed. You can read that article at https://jewishpostandnews.ca/faqs/rokmicronews-fp-1/jewish-physicians-in-manitoba-form-association-in-response-to-antisemitism/: )

Scott Gillingham began his remarks by telling the audience that he was born and raised in Brandon, where he honed his skills as a very good hockey player. First elected to Winnipeg City Council in 2014 and reelected in 2018, in 2022 he ran for mayor.

Readers might remember that former mayor Glen Murray had entered that race and was, at first, considered the heavy favourite to win the election.

Gillingham told this amusing story about election night, which was October 26, 2022: Apparently CTV News had called the election in Murray’s favour shortly after the polls had closed at 8:00 pm.

But, as events transpired, CTV was quite wrong, and it wasn’t long before Gillingham took the lead for good. As he noted to the Remis group, “By 8:30 I had lost and won the election all within a half hour.”

Gillingham explained to the audience of 38 that, as this year is the 150th anniversary of Winnipeg’s incorporation as a city, he wanted to give them a brief history of the city.

The first mayor of the city was Francis Cornish, Gillingham noted, elected by a total of 398 people who voted in our city’s very first election. The Gillingham family’s own history of settlement in Manitoba began in 1907, he said, when the first Gillinghams arrived from England, “and headed as far west as they could go until they ran out of money.”

The key event in Winnipeg’s history, he suggested, came when businessman J.H Ashdown convinced the federal government of the day to route the first trans-Canada railway through Winnipeg rather than Selkirk. Ashdown was instrumental in Winnipeg’s quickly building a bridge across the Red River, which turned out to be decisive in the government’s eventual decision. “That kind of vision and action built the city that we love,” Gillingham suggested.

Continuing on the theme of building upon that which has been laid down already by visionaries in the city’s past, the mayor said: “The fortunate thing for me is stepping into this role has afforded me the opportunity to inherit what’s already in place.”

For that, Gillingham thanked the many generations of entire families that have contributed so much to “the health and welfare of this city. Yes, we have challenges,” he admitted… “we have struggles, we have potholes,” but we still have a great city, he insisted.

He pointed to two specific projects in Winnipeg’s history that came about as the result of great vision and determination: the building of the gravity-fed aqueduct from Shoal Lake and of the Winnipeg Floodway. Gillingham also noted former Mayor Stephen Juba’s role in the building of City Hall in 1962 as another example of vision, as was the construction of the Manitoba Legislative Building in an earlier era.

“As we look back over these past 150 years,” Gillingham said, “we realize there’s a lot to inspire us.”

Turning to some of the more immediate problems that continue to fester here (as they do in almost all major urban centres), the mayor admitted “we don’t have enough housing…I’ve challenged our staff to approve 8,000 units of housing in 2024.” (He added that, as of the day he was speaking, 3,500 units had already been approved, so the goal of 8,000 was well within reach.)

He noted, as well, that new census figures for Winnipeg are about to be disclosed “next month” – which means they may already be out by the time this is read, and the anticipated fairly large increase in Winnipeg’s population is only going to add more pressure to build more housing.

As Gillingham put it, “I love my kids, but I don’t want them to live with me forever.”

The mayor also referred to some of the improvements in technology that are underway in the delivery of certain services to the public. He referred specifically to an enhancement to 911 service that will allow anyone calling that number to send a photo to the 911 operator, which should lead to a much better understanding of what type of emergency situation is being talked about. (By the way, Gillingham noted, the very first 999 service – which was the antecedent of the current 911 service, began in Winnipeg, under Mayor Juba, in 1959.)

Gillingham spoke of the need to challenge the Chamber of Commerce to come up “with an actionable set of recommendations which Winnipeg should focus on.”

He noted, as well, that in meeting with business leaders throughout North America, he has learned that they are specifically “interested in Winnipeg – and not Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, or Calgary” and each time he’s asked them “what it is they’re looking for and how we can provide it in Winnipeg?” Later in his talk he returned to this topic and elaborated on what it is that business leaders are looking for, saying they’re looking for “skilled labour and are we connected to markets?” As well, he noted, many are looking for “green energy and a quality of life for their employees” which, he suggested, Winnipeg has in abundance, with “world class arts, pro sports, universities, a diverse population, and cottage country within an hour and a half.”

At that point the mayor began to field questions from the audience. The first question posed was “Whether, in concentrating on growth for the future, are the needs of the inner city being ignored?”

Gillingham answered that there is currently a major investment in housing in the downtown. “There is $122 million in federal funding” earmarked for downtown housing, he said, of which “$30 million has already been received – which will lead to 600 new units of housing downtown.” He added that there will also be “new spray pads in the north end” this year.

The mayor also noted the creation of a new “concierge service” for anyone wanting to build something, whereby if “you call one number you can correlate all the housing requirements,” rather than having to contact a number of different city departments.

He also mentioned the next “round of funding” from the federal government, which “will focus on transportation infrastructure for rapid transit.”

Someone asked Gillingham to define what the term “affordable housing” actually means?

The mayor answered that it would be “80% of the market rate,” so that if housing is renting for $1,000 then $800 would be affordable. He pointed to new housing that will be going up where the old Public Safety Building once stood. “It will include units for less than $1,000 a month,” he said. “If a builder can include at least six units of affordable housing we’ll give them money to offer those,” he added.

Another question was about the Arlington Bridge and what will happen to it?

The mayor answered that “we’re waiting for a consultant’s report.”

I posed a question about cycling, noting that both the mayor and I are ardent cyclists, but for anyone who wants to take their bike downtown, it is extremely difficult to find a secure are in which to leave it. I suggested that the city ought to take one of the many vacant lots downtown and build a secure (above ground) compound, in which cyclists could leave their bikes. I even proposed to the mayor that it could be called “Gillingham’s Island.” (For anyone under a certain age that reference might be totally lost, but lucky for me the Remis group – and the mayor, are of sufficient age to have got the joke.)

Gillingham did address the issue of bike thefts in the city (and I just had another bike stolen not too long ago), saying that anyone can register their bike for free by going to 529garage.com. It would help police in locating the owner of a stolen bike if it’s recovered.)

The final questions were about Portage and Main. The first questioner wondered why this time around the mayor was in favour of opening up Portage and Main whereas in 2018 he was opposed?

Gillingham responded that “something happened between the plebiscite (whether to open Portage and Main to pedestrian traffic) in 2018 and today that’s shifted people’s attitudes.”

He was also asked “When you open Portage and Main will you be closing the concourse?”

The answer was “No, more information is needed.”

Finally, someone wondered whether the skywalk system could be extended to connect the west side of Portage Avenue to the east side – and thus to the skywalk system which connects east of Main Street.

Gillingham said that “We’re open to the conversation. The only date we have in mind is the reopening of the street at street level.”

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Features

Connecting the Dots: Ari Posner- Meet Ari Posner

Ari Z. Posner, son of Barry and Bebe on the left and Ari P. Posner, son of Gerry and Sherna with the cap on the right

By GERRY POSNER I suppose we are not the only family to have inter-related connections. At least, not in the old days of the shtetl. What I do know is that finding my way through these family relationships took me years to figure out and understand. Recently, the dots got connected once again.

It all started (at least as far back as I can go) when around 1905, one Isaac Posner married one Kayla Shulman. They were living at that time in the same shtetl or at least close to the same shtetl of what was then known as Propoisk (now Slavgorod) in present day Belarus. From this marriage emerged three children: a daughter, Lillian Posner – later Romalis;l a son, Samuel L. Posner; and another son, Solomon Posner. That was simple enough. As it turned out, Issac Posner was an older brother of my grandfather, Herman Posner. Isaac’s wife, Kayla, was the sister of my other grandfather, Harry Shulman. Even that was not terribly complicated. In short, my father’s uncle Issac, married my mother’s aunt Kayla. That marriage linked the Posners to the Shulmans in Round 1.

When Isaac and Kayla’s kids married, a son, Sol, married a woman from Iowa City Iowa, named Rhea Markovitz. Not long after, in December, 1937 a son of Herman Posner (my grandfather) – Samuel R. Posner, (my father), married a woman named Rhea Shulman ( my mother) also from Iowa City, Iowa. She was a daughter to Harry and Anna Shulman of Iowa City. Thus, in Iowa City there were two first cousins – Rhea Shulman and Rhea Markovitz, born less than a year apart and both of whom later married men from Winnipeg, both with the initials SP – one Sol Posner and one Sam Posner. Of course, the marriage of my mother, a Shulman, to my father, a Posner, created Round 2 of the Posners and the Shulmans joining together. Are you still with me?

When, in the course of time, Sol and Rhea and Sam and Rhea began to have children, they created a relationship for their children in what might be considered by some to be almost incestuous. Rhea and Sol had two sons, Barry and Craig (of blessed memory), both of whom were and are likely still known to many readers to this day. My parents had Linda, my brother Michael, and me. We were, and still remain, cousins to Barry to this day. I was, and still am related to Barry and Craig in no less than three ways. Why? First of all, Barry’s father Sol was a first cousin to my father Sam. Secondly, Barry’s father was a first cousin to my mother Rhea. Thirdly, Barry’s mother Rhea was a first cousin to my mother Rhea. So the ties are deep. Confusing as well.

Of course, what solidified these roots even further was the fact that Sam and Rhea, my parents, and Sol and Rhea, Barry and Craig’s parents, all lived for the rest of their lives in Winnipeg. So, there were two S. Posners – three in fact, as Sol had a brother, Samuel L., a pharmacist. But, let’s not get sidetracked. The two Rheas were very close and I suspect there had to be much confusion about these two women with the same name and almost the same age. Moreover, the two families shared similar experiences each summer. That was because Rhea Posner – Barry and Craig’s mother, took her kids to Iowa City to spend part of the holidays with her parents, while my mother – Rhea, would also take my siblings and me to visit her parents in Iowa City, Iowa. My cousin Craig and I were the same age (born one month apart ) and hence spent much time together, both in Winnipeg and Iowa City. I never could quite get the picture as to why I saw him in both locations. All I knew was that he was my cousin.

Well, we all grew up with this similar history and genetic connections. When Barry married the former Bebe Melmed, three kids followed. The eldest son was Ari Z. Posner, who grew up in Montreal – where Barry and Bebe lived. When I married Sherna Bernbaum, we also had three kids, the eldest of whom was Ari P. Posner. The fact that these boys had the same name – Ari, was more of a fluke as they were not named for the same person. Oddly, (or maybe not given the past history) Ari Z’s middle name is Zvi, the same name as my son, only in the case of my son, Zvi is his Hebrew middle name. Ari Z. is about 5 years older than Ari P. That difference is about the age difference between Barry and me.

Recently, and to my delight, my son Ari had a good reason to go to L.A. to receive a music award and, to my greater delight, he expressed an interest in seeing the other Ari, whom he had never met. L.A. is where the other Ari Posner resides. As it turns out, their names were not the only dot that connected them. Both have made a career in the arts, Ari Z has done it in writing, creating and producing for TV primarily – and has been very successful in his field. Ari P. is a composer. He is not that far removed from the other Ari since he often writes music for TV in the US and Canada.

I think of grandfather Herman Posner and his brother Isaac. Would they not be amazed at this connection? Or better yet, what would my great-grandfather Shmerya and wife Yudasha have to say about two of their descendants now – approximately 170 years after their births, meeting and reinforcing the family ties. As much as so much has changed, this little bit of Posner history is the same.

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Features

New website for Israelis interested in moving to Canada

By BERNIE BELLAN A new website, titled “Orvrim to Canada” (https://www.ovrimtocanada.com/ovrim-en) has been receiving hundreds of thousands of visits, according to Michal Harel, operator of the website.
In an email sent to jewishpostandnews.ca Michal explained the reasons for her having started the website:
“In response to the October 7th events, a group of friends and I, all Israeli-Canadian immigrants, came together to launch a new website supporting Israelis relocating to Canada. “Our website, https://www.ovrimtocanada.com/, offers a comprehensive platform featuring:

  • Step-by-step guides for starting the immigration process
  • Settlement support and guidance
  • Community connections and networking opportunities
  • Business relocation assistance and expert advice
  • Personal blog sharing immigrants’ experiences and insights

“With over 200,000 visitors and media coverage from prominent Israeli TV channels and newspapers, our website has already made a significant impact in many lives.”
A quick look at the website shows that it contains a wealth of information, almost all in Hebrew, but with an English version that gives an overview of what the website is all about.
The English version also contains a link to a Jerusalem Post story, published this past February, titled “Tired of war? Canada grants multi-year visas to Israelis” (https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/article-787914#google_vignette) That story not only explains the requirements involved for anyone interested in moving to Canada from Israel, it gives a detailed breakdown of the costs one should expect to encounter.

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