Skating Rink at Grand Mosque Expands Sense of Community

Thank you Winnipeg Free Press for covering this very exciting project!

To see a complete list of public skating rinks in the Waverley West ward see: Skating Rinks

Skating rink at Grand Mosque expands sense of community

By: Malak Abas     Published January 5, 2022

Waverley West’s newest seasonal skating rink sits alongside Winnipeg’s largest mosque, open to anyone looking to get outside and hit the ice.

Manitoba Islamic Association board chairman Idris Elbakri has built a skating rink in his backyard every winter for a few years for his children.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic last year, a conversation began between city councillors and the Muslim organization to set up a similar recreation space in the Winnipeg Grand Mosque parking lot, but plans fell through.

Regardless, it got people thinking, and Elbakri took his backyard building skills — and several volunteers from the mosque’s community — and opened the simple rink to the public Monday.

“With just some volunteer work and experience from building our own backyard rinks, we thought we’d go just a little bigger and try to make it happen and, fortunately, we were able to pull it off,” Elbakri said Tuesday.

It was a golden opportunity for Waverley West Coun. Janice Lukes, who put in $1,000 toward the project through community initiative funding provided by the city.

“There’s so much new development out there, and we don’t have our community centre in the heart of the community… for all these new developments, there’s not really many (rinks),” said Lukes.

St. Norbert-Seine River Coun. Markus Chambers also contributed to the project.

The community rink is open to all, and visitors are welcome to stay as long as they want — the Manitoba Islamic Association

just asks people follow COVID-19 safety precautions and stay safe.

“We ask that people wear appropriate protective gear but everyone’s welcome to skate,” Elbakri said. “We’re hoping to do some functions where we give out hot chocolate to folks and just invite our neighbours and the community to enjoy it.”

In just the short time the rink has been open, a makeshift warming tent was constructed Monday evening.

“That’s exactly what we’re looking for, just for people to enjoy it, to hopefully uplift our spirits a little bit,” Elbakri said. “And we also want the mosque to be a place where people feel welcomed and supported, and this is just one way of doing that.”

Lukes called the rink an opportunity for people who may not visit the mosque otherwise to get to know their neighbours.

“We have so many new Canadians in the Waverley West ward who want to try skating and everything, and that’s fantastic,” she said.

“And from my perspective, the mosque is one of the most open communities, the mosque has done incredible outreach, and I think this is just another fantastic opportunity to meet the community.”