The Old Canora School Finds a Fresh Breath of Life with Turkish Canadian Society

A children’s play performed on the TCS stage.
Photo Credit: Sim Senol

Sim Senol

Older residents of Britannia-Youngstown, Canora, Glenwood, and West Jasper/Sherwood might remember the days when the the old Canora School served the community as an elementary school from 1949 to 1972. The school was closed at the end of the 1972 school year, but has had a daycare facility operate in it since its closure. Turkish Canadian Society (TCS), a cultural organization established to serve a relatively new and small immigrant community, purchased the building in 1999. Like many non-profit organizations relying on volunteers, TCS had its ups and downs when it comes to using the building effectively, but thanks to a new batch of volunteers who have been working hard to revitalize the society, the building has been utilized far more than usual in the last four years.

In addition to the Whitehall Day Care and Out of School Care operating out of the building, a martial arts school led by Sifu Michael offers classes to adults and children at the building. Azerbaijani Cultural Society uses the space to hold their cultural band and folk dance rehearsals regularly.  Over the years, smaller cultural groups from the Kyrgyz, Uzbek, Uyghur, and Afghan communities with even smaller budgets than the Turkish Canadian Society have also utilized the facility to hold cultural celebrations. 

Maintaining a large, old building poses a significant challenge to Turkish Canadian Society, and there is still a lot of maintenance work needed in the building. However, the Society was able to secure a CFIP grant from the Alberta Provincial Government in 2017. Thanks to the $125,000 grant received from the provincial government, and a matching sum allocated by TCS, major renovations of the roofs of both the gym and the main building were repaired in the last three years. As well, the gym floor was leveled and refinished. Before the COVID-19 pandemic halted TCS activities in mid-March, a Somali soccer team had started renting the space for soccer once a week, and three different groups were using the space to play volleyball. The newly-renovated gym even served as a venue for a Christmas Round Dance organized by the Red Road Healing Society. Organizers of the Round Dance were gracious to welcome and share their gifts with some members from the Turkish Canadian community who also attended the celebration. 

A backgammon tournament.
Photo Credit: Sim Senol

TCS itself uses the building for several activities, classes, and events. A weekend Turkish school for children, adult Turkish as a Second Language classes, daily iftar dinners during the whole month of Ramadan, basketball and volleyball classes for children, a Turkish drama club, and annual Turkic and children’s festival celebrations are just a few of the regular activities happening in the building. These events and classes are open to general public, and with the exception of classes which might have a nominal fee they are mostly free of charge. 

Although TCS will not be able to host large events and celebrations in the building for the foreseeable future due to COVID-19 restrictions, the TCS Board is open to supporting any group who needs a safe space to hold gatherings of less than 15 people at this time. Both the gym and the main hall on the third floor will allow ample social distancing for any non-profit group in the community, should they require a space to hold a training session or a meeting during our province’s transition to normalcy. Inquiries about space rentals can be directed to Details about upcoming events and activities can be found at

Sim Senol is the Treasurer/External Relations Coordinator with TCS.

*Editor’s Note: The mosque discussed in the previous issue of SPANN that is being built on the Canora School site, is being built as a separate, independent building on the northwest end of the property, next to the baseball field. The main school building and the gym will still remain intact. 

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