EAST VANCOUVER COMMUNITY CHARITABLE STATUS IN
A special general assembly was
called for the Greek Orthodox Community of East Vancouver (Saints Nicholas
& Dimitrios Church) in regards to the charitable status of this parish
community. That meeting took place on Tuesday evening, October 24th, in
the church basement hall. To reach a quorum at least 80 members needed to be present
and that number was well exceeded. People came to make sure their
memberships were up to date so that they could vote. Many new members were
also signed up.
The president, George Sachinides explained that the charitable
status of the society had been suspended.
Apparently Revenue Canada had not received the required filing
documents for 2010. Its phone calls and messages in regards to the matter
had been not been answered for reasons unknown so the government had
cancelled the charitable status. Mr. Sachinides, upon discovering this
earlier this year, had tried to deal with Revenue Canada to sort out the
problem for many months, without success, so a lawyer who specializes in
society and charity law had to be hired.
The lawyer Anders Ourom explained that it is not just a simple
matter of filing the missing documents to reinstate the charitable status.
The rules for applying for a charitable tax number for an organization has
undergone many changes since the Greek Orthodox Community of East
Vancouver was first registered in Victoria in 1978. Its constitution now
does not meet those newer rules. After much consultation between the
federal government, the society register in British Columbia and the Greek
Orthodox Metropolis, Toronto the changes to the constitution were agreed
upon as the first step to regaining charitable status for the community.
It now was up to the membership to also approve those changes.
It was also pointed out that some of the various activities of the
community did not qualify for charitable status. The annual Greek
festival, one of the major fundraisers for the community in July is a case
in point. So a separate non-charitable organization would have to be
formed as an arm of the community. But this will be a step that needs to
be taken after the changes to the constitution are filed with the Society
Registrar and with Revenue Canada.
the changes to the constitution were not approved by the membership it
would be the death toll of the community. Without charitable status the
community could not issue tax receipts for income tax purposes.
Revenue Canada had given the community a time limit to get the
constitution updated and make any other changes as necessary. Otherwise
the community could be liable for taxes and fines and forfeit all its
property and assets for non-compliance.
members were in agreement that they did not want to lose their parish
community so readily agreed to the proposed changes.
this community has to change its organization and accounting practices in
order to meet the new rules for charity status it is possible that the
other communities will soon have to also.
BRITISH COLUMBIA GREEK
The annual Greek festivals of
British Columbia have all come and gone for this year.
These include those of the four main Greek communities, two in
Vancouver, one in Surrey and one in Victoria as well as the festival in
Vancouver by the Hellenic Canadian congress of BC.
first one out of the gate was the festival of the Greek Orthodox Community
of Surrey & Fraser Valley (Sts. Constantine & Helen Church) which
took place on the community grounds at 96th Avenue and 132nd
Street in Surrey from June 8th to the 17th.
This was only the second year for the festival at this location but
the people of Surrey are starting to get used to this location as
attendance was up from last year. That community has the best set-up for
the comfort of those attending as the entire outdoor area is covered in
tents. The ceiling of these tents is different than those at the other
festivals. They filter out strong sunshine but allow in a lot of light.
Also the stage is placed so it is visible from all areas. The major
stumbling block for this festival is the lack of parking spots as both the
roads are major thoroughfares. But people who are willing to drive around
a bit and don’t mind some walking could find parking in the surrounding
neighbourhood. That community is trying to work with Surrey City to come
up with some long term solutions to the parking situation.
in line was the Greek Fest on Broadway in Vancouver on June 24th. This was
organized by the Hellenic Canadian Congress of BC, an umbrella
organization representing many of the Greek organizations across British
Columbia. West Broadway Avenue was closed to traffic from Macdonald to
Blenheim Street from early morning to late at night for this family
orientated festival. Taking part were not only the various Greek
organizations but also many of the local merchants and other sponsors.
This event was the last day of the Greek Heritage Festival in Vancouver
which began on May 15th and featured poetry readings, lectures,
films, and other events related to Greek culture.
Greek fest on Broadway is noted for being a “green” festival, as
compositing is a big feature of this event. All the food containers,
wrappings and food waste were compostable and deposited in special organic
containers, greatly reducing the amount of garbage ending up in the
GREEK SUMMER FESTIVAL –EAST
“Live a Day the Greek Way”
was the theme for the festival of the Greek Orthodox Community of East
Vancouver on Boundary Road in Vancouver. The festival ran from June 28th
to July 8th and was open every day from noon until 11:00 pm.
It featured Greek cuisine, a live band, Greek dance groups as well
as other local and ethnic dance groups.
The festival opened each day
with music by Alpha Video and closed most nights with live bouzouki with
Yanni Sahamis and his band. Natalia Pardalis and Friends also provided
some of the music. The entertainment, other than the taped music did not
usually begin until after 5:00 pm. However
on Canada Day the entertainment started earlier, at 2:30 pm.
Throughout the festival the Greek dance performances featured the
Alexander the Great Dancers, the Cretan Dance Group, the Dimitrios Dance
Group, the Diaspora Hellenic Dance Group of Surrey and Socrates Greek
School. Also featured were Latin, Gypsy and Balkan music. The ethnic dance
groups presented Asian, Croatian, Hawaiian, Hungarian, Italian, Polish,
Portuguese, Serbian and Spanish dances. There were also tap dancing and
belly dancing. The official opening ceremonies took place on Saturday,
June 30th. On July 1st
there was a cake
cutting ceremony in honour of Canada Day.
VICTORIA GREEK FEST 2012
The Greek festival in Greater
Victoria took place this year from Aug. 28th to September 3rd.
The community and church are located on Elk Lake Drive in Saanich,
about half way between the ferry terminal in Sidney and downtown Victoria.
For those not wanting to pay the fees for taking a vehicle from the
mainland there is the option of taking the local bus from the ferry
terminal to the church as the bus stop is right by the church.
The festival opened each day at
11:00am. Entertainment started at noon and continued throughout the day
except for about a two hour mid-afternoon break on the first four days.
Live music was provided by the Gypsy Rovers and the Bouzouki TRIO. Greek dance performances were provided by the Orpheas Greek
dancers and the Kariatis Greek dancers, both groups from Victoria. The
Diaspora Hellenic Greek Dance group came from Surrey, BC and performed
from Aug. 31st to Sep. 2nd.
Two groups came from Alberta, the Dionysos Greek Dancers of Calgary
and the Dionysos Greek Dancers of Edmonton.
Both of these groups performed from Aug. 31st to Sep. 3rd.
There were also two groups that came directly from Greece. The Holy City
of Messologi Greek Dance group had come to this festival for a few years
now and was joined this year by the ELKELAM Dancers from Athens.
Both of these groups performed on every day of the festival.
Hungarian, Irish, Spanish, Middle-Eastern and belly-dancing were
also featured throughout the festival.
At last year’s festival the
community president had shown Patrides the expansion plans for the
community hall. Those plans are now in progress. The foundation to the
expansion was nearly completed. Also
the iconography inside the church had been added to. By next year’s
festival most of the new construction could be completed.
GREEK FOOD FESTIVAL –
HELLENIC COMMUNITY OF VANCOUVER
The last Greek community
festival of the year is that of the Hellenic Community of Vancouver (St.
George Cathedral). It differs from all the others as it is an indoor
festival rather than an outdoor one. It is also the shortest one as it is
only over three days. The 35th annual festival took place this
year from October 19th to 21st. The emphasis on this
event is more the food and not so much the entertainment.
The Philoptochos ladies spend
many days before the event preparing the Greek cookies and pastries for
the bake sale. The loukemathes, another popular Greek dessert were
prepared fresh each day and were featured, along with Greek coffee at the
“cafenio” in the upper hall. Gyros
were available in the tent just outside the entrance to the main hall. The
“taverna” featured souvlakia while the “dining room”, which took
up about half of the main hall, featured a choice of dinners. The upper
mezzanine featured an art display, gift shop, Greek wine and other
entertainment consisted mainly of dance performances by various Greek
groups as well as some other ethnic dance groups. The Greek groups
included the Cretan dancers, the Alexander the Great dancers, dance groups
from the Greek schools, the Zefyros Greek Dance group (formerly the
Dimitrios Dance Group) which is now based out of the Hellenic Community
Center and the Diaspora Greek dance group which is based in the Surrey
community. There was also a “Bouzouki night” with a live band on the
crowds were not as big as they were in the early years. Attendance has
fallen off, perhaps because people are tightening their purse strings or
maybe there is not enough advertising of the event. Or it could be that
people have already had their fill of Greek festivals over the summer.
Thirty-five years ago the Hellenic Community of Vancouver was the only
community. It had its fall food festival as well as organized the outdoor
summer Greek Day on Broadway. Then the Greek Orthodox Community of East
Vancouver came into existence and also started its own summer fest. In the
early 1990’s the Greek Orthodox Community of Surrey and Fraser Valley
was formed and it also developed its own festival.
So now the Vancouver community is not the hub of Greek culture that
it used to be.
THE CATASTROPHY AT SMYRNA
On the 16th of September the Society of Greeks of
Constantinopolos and Asia Minor of British Columbia together with the
Hellenic Community of Vancouver held a special commemoration for the 90th
anniversary of the destruction of the city of Smyrna and the genocide of
Greek Christians in Asia Minor by the Turks. A memorial service was held
at St. George Cathedral. This was followed in the community center hall
with a special presentation. One of the speakers was Maria Kalogeroupoulou,
visiting adjunct professor at Simon Fraser University. She originates from
Athens. The main talk was given by Dr. Andre Gerolymatos, the director of
the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Centre for Hellenic Studies at Simon
Fraser University. He spoke on the 1922 expulsion and slaughter of Greek
Christian in Asia Minor, the burning of the city of Smyrna and the efforts
to rescue survivors. He also spoke on how the Greco-Turkish war and the
influx of refugees to Greece affected the politics in Greece.
REMEMBERING OXI DAY-1940
This is the Greek equivalent to Remembrance Day, honouring those
who went to war defending their homeland. It marks the day that Greece
entered WWII. It was on that day in 1940 that the Greeks stood up to the
AXIS powers with a resounding “NO”.
The OXI Day-October 28, 1940 and Greek Independence Day-March 25th,
1821 are two important celebrations for all Greeks, regardless of where
they now reside. Until a few years ago the OXI Day ceremonies were held
only at Sts. Nicholas & Dimitrios Church while the March 25th
ceremonies were held at St. George Cathedral. Now, while these sites still
remain the “official” sites, at the direction of Metropolitan Sotirios
all the other churches are also to hold special services for these
occasions. Therefore St. George Cathedral in Vancouver and Sts. Helen
& Constantine Church in Surrey also held commemorative services.
Sts. Nicholas and Dimitrios Church and the Greek Orthodox Community of
East Vancouver therefore the official ceremonies again took place. Fr.
Evangelos Aravantinos was assisted by Fr. Dorotheos Tryfonopoulos, the
first parish priest of that church. The representatives of the Consul of
Greece and various Greek communities and organizations were invited to the
church service as well as the celebration in the hall afterwards. The
Greek School and Sunday school children this year also had a presentation
in the church in honour of OXI Day.
The Consul General had been recalled to Greece some months ago and
his replacement has not yet arrived so the Director Agathe Spyrou along
with the Maritime Attaché Antonios Mazis represented the Consulate
in Vancouver. At the
lunch Ms. Spyrou read the letter on behalf of the Republic of Greece and
gave her own message on the importance of this national celebration.
Tsoula Berggren, the Consul of Cyprus and Mr. Peter P. Kletas, president
of the Hellenic Community of Vancouver were also among the dignitaries.
The AHEPA Golden West District #26(BC) were also represented. Speaking on behalf of AHEPA (American Hellenic Educational
Progressive Association) was the president of AHEPA Canada, George
Vassilas who was here from Montreal.
the church was almost full many people left right after the service
instead of taking in the ceremonies and the lunch in the hall. There were
many empty seats at the tables. Is it that people no longer respect this
special event in Greek history or is it because people just did not want
to pay the $15 for the lunch? There were over thirty lunches left over so
the president requested that people buy them at a reduced rate and take
them home. Would it not have been better to provide a simpler lunch, such
as sandwiches and coffee for free? It would probably not have cost the
community any more than the full meal where much of it was wasted. Perhaps
then also the hall would have been packed for the talks given by the
special guests. After all if the families with children do not get
involved while the children are young how are these children going to see
these special occasions when they become adults?
Is it not better to have the church and hall full of people to
commemorate these events instead of trying to use the occasions to make
was also a lack of respect shown for the occasion by some of those who did
attend the lunch. Instead of listening to the speakers they turned their
backs and carried on their own conversations with their table mates. Is
this how they would treat invited guests in their own home?
looks like a change of attitude by both the organizers and the people in
general would help to ensure that these events are carried on and
respected for generations to come.
HARVEST FEST AT EAST
Halloween over the years has become very frightening for young
children. Many parents are reluctant to have their children go out to
trick or treat as it would expose their young children to some of the
macabre decorations on many of the houses. So Fr. Evangelos of Sts.
Nicholas & Dimitrios Church in Vancouver wanted to give parents a
better option. Therefore the Greek Orthodox Community of East Vancouver
was the site of a Harvest Festival on the evening of October 31st,
organized by Chrys Gonidakis and Helen Ismirnioglou. Children enjoyed an
evening of pumpkin carving, games and special treats.
SURREY GREEK ORTHODOX
COMMUNITY GOING STRONG
The Greek Orthodox Community of Surrey and Fraser Valley (Sts.
Constantine & Helen) is the fastest growing Greek community in BC.
It has come a long way since its early beginnings over twenty-two
years ago. It started out in the old Fleetwood Hall which doubled as both
a hall and a church, definitely not an ideal situation. Not only does it
now have a proper house of worship, a hall and a multipurpose building but
its membership is growing. It now offers Greek School and Sunday school.
The Diaspora Dance group is also based out of the community, using both
the main hall and the multipurpose building for instruction as that group
is the largest dance troupe in British Columbia. The group has about
seventy registered participants, ranging from ages three to adult.
The main instructors are Eleni Diamantopoulos and Fr. Costa Tsiolas.
Fr. Costa is well liked by the younger generation and has drawn
them in not only to the dance group but also to the church. He had a slow
start when he first became the parish priest but over the years has become
more confident in his role as religious leader and mentor. There are many
young families now attended the church on a regular basis, many coming
The move to having a proper church also has brought out the
philanthropic character of many people, those who are members of the
community as well as those who are not. Some people attend the church but
do not become members because they do not want to be involved in the
“politics” but gladly support the church. Many people have worked hard
to turn the church building into a proper Orthodox church, either through
donations of money or time and labour.
Much has been accomplished in the past few years.
The church has new pews and new carpet. The beautiful iconostat,
chanters stand and candle stands are also new and have been imported from
Greece. Icons have also been ordered from Greece and soon they will also
be installed on the walls. New chandeliers are also planned. The basement
hall has undergone renovations. The upper level of the old house on the
property has been turned into a multipurpose room. It is used for the
Greek School and for Greek Dance instruction. The basement of the house is
used for storage. The grounds have been paved and fenced. A bell tower is
also being planned. Also
improvements to the entrance are planned as the present stairs are not
easily accessible for anybody with mobility problems.
For many years there were struggles within the community due to
conflicting visions for the community – those who were interested in the
church and those who were interested in it as a “club”. It has taken
some people many years to accept the fact that it is a parish community.
Now that conflict should be put to rest and everyone can concentrate on
working to a common goal. With the cooperation of the leaders and the
people it will not be many more years before further expansion for this
church community will become necessary.