Brantwood Learn to Skate an Intro to Canada

When temperatures drop well below zero, many Canadians take to the ice to help beat the winter blahs. For some newcomers to this country, a Saturday afternoon skate in Brantwood Park in January marked their first experience with this great seasonal pastime.

Smiling but nervous, all were eager to learn.

The Newcomer Skating Program is offered free of charge by the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre, in partnership with the Community Activities Group of Old Ottawa East.

The program started out as a kids-only learn-to-skate, but organizers found that parents also wanted to participate.

Traditionally, there are a lot of families registered in the program, representing many cultural groups.

This year, a Somalian woman and her cousin sent their children (ages seven, eight and nine) out on the ice. Although born in Canada, it was their first time on skates.

When asked about the program, one of the mothers said in French: “It was a surprise! My cousin signed the kids up and didn’t tell me until today.”

Program Director Chris Osler was on hand with crates of helmets and skates for participants to borrow.

“For a lot of people, this is the first time they’ve actually put skates on,” he said. “The fit and the feel take some getting used to.”

Barbara, a woman in her 40s from Chile, said she registered because she wanted to be able to join her children, who can already skate a little bit. Although she roller-skated as a child and has lived in Canada for several years, it took her a while to get up the courage to try ice skating.

Referring to the rink and the gently falling snow, Barbara called it, “a kind of romantic scene,” a place for “good family fun”.

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