Written by Denise Deby.


Amazing, transformative, hopeful–these are some of the ways people are describing the Peoples’ Social Forum, taking place in Ottawa Thursday, August 21-Sunday, August 24, 2014.

The Peoples’ Social Forum is a gathering of individuals and organizations working towards social, environmental and political justice. It’s been described as the largest ever forum in Canada of social movements, with thousands of people and more than 200 groups attending. They’re coming together to work through issues, find common ground and propose changes to the unsustainable, unjust and inequitable way things are done now.

Participants can choose from hundreds of workshops on themes that include the earth, food, the economy, governance and more. Here’s just a tiny sample:

  • The Vision for the National Historic Site at the Sacred Chaudiere Falls, with architect Douglas Cardinal (Thurs., 9 a.m.)
  • Learning from Andean Indigenous Peoples on Living in Harmony with Mother Earth, with KAIROS (Fri., 9 a.m.)
  • Documentary Activism: Political Filmmaking, Screening and Social Movements, with Cinema Politica (Fri., 9 a.m.)
  • Extreme Heat Events: Working Together to Address Poverty and Climate Change, with the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (Fri., 10:45 a.m.)
  • Food as a Catalyst for Change: Mapping Levers and Opportunities, with Food Secure Canada (Fri., 10:45 a.m.)
  • Resisting Water Privatization with CUPE, Polaris Institute and Municipal Services Project (Fri., 10:45 a.m.)
  • DIY Community Gardening with Brock DIG (a campus community garden) (Fri., 1 p.m.)
  • Sharing My Treaty at Niagara Wampum Bundle – A Traditional Teaching, with Dr. Lynn Gehl (Fri., 2:45 p.m.)
  • Beyond Extraction – How Will We Greet the Future? With MiningWatch Canada (Fri., 4:30 p.m.)

Also included is a “People’s University” with workshops on topics such as poverty, capitalism and pipelines; Assemblies on Indigenous solidarity, water, social economy, climate change, mining justice and more; a children’s forum; and a range of other events.

Following an Algonquin ceremony at sunrise on Thursday, Aug. 21, the Forum launches with a Unity March on Thursday, Aug. 21, starting at 2 p.m. at Jacques Cartier Park and the War Museum, arriving on Parliament Hill around 4 p.m. with speakers, music and cultural activities.

There are lots of associated activities that are open to anyone to attend. The Art Sparks Change Festival is happening along Sparks Street, with live music, art and performance (see the schedule here). Some highlights: The Winter We Danced concert, book launch and round-dancing on Thurs. at 7 p.m.; a “Breaking Good” break dancer jam on Fri. 12-2 p.m.; “Poetic Justice” spoken word, hip-hop and slam poetry on Fri. 6-10 p.m.; and a Traditional Pow-Wow on Saturday from noon-6 p.m.

Events at other venues include (for example): “A celebration of activism and independent media” on Thurs., 5 p.m. at 25One Community; “Material Witness: Art, Activism & Fibre” on Fri., 7 p.m. at Gallery 101; Asinabka Best Of 2014 and “Upping The Anti” journal Launch Party on Sat., 7 p.m. at Club SAW; an open stage on Sun., 7 p.m. at Celtic Cross Pub; and tons of music, poetry, performance art, film and video, art exhibits and more. Many of the events are free or pay-what-you-can.

I also recommend checking out the themed walking tours of downtown Ottawa on topics such as money, labour and local food solutions, led by Ottawa (de)Tours and on Indigenous social, political, cultural and artistic spaces, led by Indigenous Walks.

Running such a huge, multifaceted and diverse gathering that aims to give everyone a voice while respecting differences will be challenging, but the Peoples’ Social Forum holds much potential. Sharing of good ideas, respect for Indigenous lands and rights, action towards positive social, political and environmental change and continued collaboration after the Forum are some of the possible positive outcomes. Above all, it’s a place to meet people, listen to perspectives that aren’t heard often enough and learn about and negotiate creative paths forward.

You can download the full program, find out more and get registration information at http://www.peoplessocialforum.org/home/. Follow on Twitter at #PSF2014 and @forumsocial2014. Some events will be livestreamed at http://www.livestream.com/rabbletv.


Written by Denise Deby.

Ottawa and the River from Gatineau Park - D. Deby

Two events this weekend are a reminder of how we are a part of nature and how much we need to be a part of protecting the environment on which we depend.

On Saturday, Aug. 16, the Ottawa Riverkeeper hosts Ottawa’s first Interprovincial Swim between Parc des Cèdres, Aylmer/Gatineau and the Lac Deschenes Sailing Club in Ottawa.

Ottawa Riverkeeper, in partnership with Swim Ottawa, organized the 4 km, 2-hour swim to highlight the need for governments and agencies on both sides of the Ottawa River to collaborate in keeping the river healthy. (The Ottawa River falls under the jurisdiction of two provinces, four conservation authorities, several provincial and federal agencies and over a hundred municipalities over its 1,271 km length.)

The swim supports Riverkeeper initiatives, particularly the purchase of water quality test kits for its Riverwatch Program. Donations are accepted at giveeffect.org or at 613-321-1120.

On Sunday, Aug. 17, CPAWS-Ottawa Valley and MEC Ottawa are holding the MEC Big Wild Challenge. It’s a run/walk along several trail loop options in Gatineau Park. Organizers promise an active day with “plenty of fun streams to cross, rocks to climb, natural obstacles to maneuver around, and amazing views over the Outaouais region” as well as entertainment, snacks and prizes. Funds raised go towards CPAWS’ campaigns across Canada to protect at-risk wilderness.

For more information and registration go to http://action.cpaws.org/site/TR/Events/BigWildChallenge?sid=1002&type=fr_informational&pg=informational&fr_id=1070, or contact Amy at CPAWS. The run starts at Gatineau Park parking lot P7B at 9:00 a.m., with pre-run sign-up at 8:30 a.m., and costs $20.

Written by Denise Deby.

Biodome under construction - D. Deby photo

There are at least three good reasons to head to Brewer Park this Sunday.

1. Biodome Garden

Hard-working volunteers at the Brewer Park Community Garden have created Ottawa’s first Biodome Garden. It’s a geodesic dome structure containing beds where gardeners can grow food for several months beyond what Ottawa’s climate normally allows. It will also house an aquaponics system and host community and education programs.

The Garden’s grand opening and tour is at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 17.

I had the opportunity to speak with garden leaders Michael Oster, Johanne Ranger and Guy Soulière this spring. They explained that the Biodome uses solar and radiant energy and rainfall capture in an efficient, low-input system for local food production. Michael Oster points out that the technologies are readily available—although it took research, determination and community support and expertise, as well as financing from the City of Ottawa’s Better Neighbourhoods Program, TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, Just Food and the Community Garden Network, to make the Biodome Garden happen.

They hope people will come and learn about the Garden and even adapt some of the ideas being tested there in other community, school and home gardens. Visitors are welcome to tour the Biodome Garden and celebrate its launch. You’ll spot the Biodome at 100 Brewer Way across from Brewer Arena.

2. Savour Ottawa Harvest Table

Want to try culinary delights whipped up by talented Ottawa chefs using fresh, seasonal ingredients grown by local farmers? Come to Harvest Table on Sunday, Aug. 17.

This annual event in Brewer Park brings local producers (e.g. Bryson Farms, Acorn Creek Garden Farm, Hall’s Apple Market) together with local restaurants (e.g. Thyme and Again Creative Catering, Le Café at the NAC) and local craft breweries and wineries.

Tickets are $75, and you have to buy them in advance here. (Check here for Laura Robin’s article on Harvest Table in the Ottawa Citizen.)

3. Ottawa Farmers’ Market

The Ottawa Farmers’ Market will be open at Brewer Park on Sunday, and every Sunday until mid-November, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Pick up a week’s worth of fresh produce, baked goods, eggs and other treats, or ingredients for a picnic in the park. Find more information and the list of vendors here.



Written by Denise Deby.

Leafcutter Bee (Megachile sp.) by Bob Peterson on Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/pondapple/5190457579/in/photostream/ Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

Leafcutter Bee (Megachile sp.) by Bob Peterson on Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/pondapple/5190457579/in/photostream/ Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

In an earlier post, I mentioned some local sources of information on how to turn a yard, garden or balcony into an inviting area for butterflies, bees and other pollinators.

This week, Just Food is holding a talk on Creating Native Pollinator Habitat. The speaker is Susan Chan, a pollination biologist, advocate for native bees in Ontario and manager of the Native Pollinator Program at Farms at Work in Peterborough. She’ll be talking about the importance of native pollinators for food production and conservation, and how to create habitat for them.

The talk is on Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014 at the Ottawa Public Library Main Branch at 7 p.m. (doors open at 6:30 p.m.). $10 admission.



Written by Denise Deby. Thanks to Sarah Lowe, Green Homes Showcase Tour Coordinator at EnviroCentre for the suggestion and information.

Solar panels on house - photo courtesy of EnviroCentre

Solar panels on house – photo courtesy of EnviroCentre

EnviroCentre is hosting its annual Green Homes Showcase Tour on September 27, 2014. The tour gives people a glimpse into homes that have incorporated green renovations such as solar energy, geothermal systems, eco-friendly flooring, insulation, finishing, lighting and more, and the chance to speak with homeowners and building professionals.

Last year the tour welcomed people to about a dozen homes, including houses, a cohousing unit, condominiums and country homes. This year EnviroCentre is looking for additional homes to showcase. If you’re interested in having your home included, you can email or call 613-656-0110 ext. 108 by August 8, 2014.

You can find more information on the Green Homes Showcase Tour at http://www.envirocentre.ca/energy/tenants-homeowners/green-renovations/.



Guest post submitted by Olivia Gilmer-Chekosky, Community Garden Network Intern, Just Food.



Just Food invites you to participate in the 8th Annual Urban Agricultural Bike Tour taking place on August 23, 2014. This tour aims to increase awareness and community support for the various community gardens we have in the city, create a dialogue with participants about the importance of food localism and accessibility and create a fun and family-friendly event for everyone.

When: Saturday August 23rd, 2014

Meeting location: Strathcona Park parking lot (off Range Road in Sandy Hill)

Meeting time: 10:00 am

5$ donation to the Food Bank or pay-what-you-can

The full route will run through six community gardens while a shorter, family-friendly route will run through four.

If you are interested in participating in or volunteering for the bike tour, please email Olivia at cgnintern@justfood.ca or call 613-699-6850 ext: 12.

Just Food is a non-profit organisation committed to developing a just and sustainable food system in the Ottawa region which focuses on food localisation and food access through various unique partnerships, projects and services.

[You can find more details about the Urban Agricultural Bike Tour on Just Food's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Just-Food/111353395601762.]


Written by Denise Deby with information from Ben Powless, Ecology Ottawa.

Energy East Ride

Ecology Ottawa is hosting two more events about the proposed Energy East oil pipeline through Ottawa.

On Tuesday, July 29, 2014, they’re holding an information session at the Johnny Leroux Arena in Stittsville from 7-8:30 p.m.

On Saturday, August 2, 2014, they’re inviting everyone to welcome the Energy East Resistance Ride, a group of people cycling from Nova Scotia to Ottawa along the Energy East pipeline’s proposed route. There’s a rally at noon at the Human Rights monument, a critical mass bike ride through the city and a gathering at a local pub.

Find out more about the Energy East Resistance Ride here. RSVP for the welcoming rally and bike ride in Ottawa here.


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