Canada Day in Ottawa

Canadian flag image by Pierre-Yves Guihéneuf from Pixabay

It’s Canada Day—a day to reflect on what this country is all about.

For me, it’s increasingly about understanding Canada as a creation of and a continuing space of colonization.

There are many great things about the people and lands where we live, but the narratives that dominate on Canada Day—a celebration of an inclusive, just and kind country, built through the hard work of its residents—mask the perpetuation of relationships that are based on power, privilege and persecution.

Until we can see our country for what it is, we will continue to perpetuate those harmful relationships.

There is plenty of information available on how we got to this situation, and what we need to do about it—including in the writing and activism of Indigenous people, and in successive commissions and enquiries. Some places to start:

1. Read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Report and Calls to Action:

“For over a century, the central goals of Canada’s Aboriginal policy were to eliminate Aboriginal governments; ignore Aboriginal rights; terminate the Treaties; and, through a process of assimilation, cause Aboriginal peoples to cease to exist as distinct legal, social, cultural, religious, and racial entities in Canada. The establishment and operation of residential schools were a central element of this policy, which can best be described as ‘cultural genocide.’ …Getting to the truth was hard, but getting to reconciliation will be harder. It requires that the paternalistic and racist foundations of the residential school system be rejected as the basis for an ongoing relationship. Reconciliation requires that a new vision, based on a commitment to mutual respect, be developed.… Virtually all aspects of Canadian society may need to be reconsidered.”

2. Read the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Report and Calls for Justice:

“European nations, followed by the new government of ‘Canada,’ imposed its own laws, institutions, and cultures on Indigenous Peoples while occupying their lands. Racist colonial attitudes justified Canada’s policies of assimilation, which sought to eliminate First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples as distinct Peoples and communities. Colonial violence, as well as racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people, has become embedded in everyday life – whether this is through interpersonal forms of violence, through institutions like the health care system and the justice system, or in the laws, policies and structures of Canadian society. The result has been that many Indigenous people have grown up normalized to violence, while Canadian society shows an appalling apathy to addressing the issue. The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls finds that this amounts to genocide. ….Our Calls for Justice aren’t just about institutions, or about governments, although they have foundational obligations to uphold; there is a role for everyone in the short and the long term. Individuals, institutions, and governments can all play a part; we encourage you, as you read these recommendations, to understand and, most importantly, to act on yours.”

3. Learn about why Grand Chief Verna Polson of the Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation Tribal Council is on a hunger strike outside 100 Wellington Ave. across from Parliament Hill, which like the rest of Ottawa is on unceded Algonquin territory. The federal government is set to open the building at 100 Wellington as an Indigenous Peoples’ Space, in collaboration with the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Metis National Council.

Algonquin nations are asking people to support Grand Chief Polson. You can also send a message to federal government leaders in support of the Algonquin Anishinabe call for a full partnership by using this link, and sign an online petition.

Here is more information from the Algonquin Anishinaabeg Aki Media Project:

“To all people who stand in solidarity with the Algonquin Anishinabe First Nation, we ask that you visit our Grand Chief Verna Polson who is bravely camped at 100 Wellington St. in Ottawa for 11 days now and counting. The Grand Chief is protesting the disrespect the Government of Canada and the three NIOs are showing to the Algonquin People by not including them as full and equal partners, on whose lands Canada’s Parliament Buildings are built. The Algonquin protocols are not being recognized and as titleholders to the land, we must protect it for the children of today and tomorrow. Our rights as a host nation are in jeopardy with this project. We will not be ignored.

We ask that you bring a tobacco tie, containing your prayer and good intentions of support. The Grand Chief will graciously receive your tobacco and keep it safely by her side to inspire and motivate her until the Algonquin Nation are full and equal partners. The tobacco gathered at the protest camp will then be feasted and offered into a sacred fire at a ceremonial site within the perimeters of Algonquin territory. Show your support! Show your respect!”

The establishment of new, respectful and equal relationships with Indigenous peoples and nations? That would be something to celebrate.

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July 2019 Long Weekend in Ottawa

Transformation: the Welcoming Ottawa Mural in Vanier – a 9-story outdoor, community-created mural depicting a butterfly and other images in celebration of Ottawa’s diversity – D. Deby photo

On this long weekend, there’s no shortage of interactive and outdoor events around town. Check the weather forecast before you go, but go!

The annual Welcoming Ottawa Week (WOW) celebrates Ottawa’s diversity. This weekend’s events include guided heritage walks in Chinatown and Vanier to learn about the contributions of immigrant communities to those neighbourhoods; an African, Caribbean and Black Multiculturalism Day at Mooney’s Bay with music and dance performances, food and family activities; and WOW activities at the Ottawa Public Library and Ottawa Jazz Festival. Take your electronic device outside and check out Immigrants of Ottawa’s online exhibit of photos and stories of Ottawa residents who have received awards for their efforts to welcome newcomers.

Ecology Ottawa is hosting a Celebration of Britannia on Saturday, Jun. 29. Learn about their Green Infrastructure campaign, pick up tree seedlings and other green infrastructure items, and enjoy the free vegan and vegetarian barbecue.

StopGap Ottawa is inviting people to help build wooden ramps to increase accessibility at local businesses. The Community Ramp Build is at Makerspace North on Saturday, Jun. 29.

For more ideas, check out OttawaStart’s Big list of Ottawa farmers’ markets and Ultimate guide to Canada Day 2019 in Ottawa.

Three Things to Do for the Environment This Weekend in Ottawa

Household items curbside marked “free” for Give Away Weekend in Ottawa – D. Deby photo

Here are three ways you can incorporate environmental action into your activities this beautiful spring weekend:

Take Part in Give Away Weekend

Clear your clutter, recycle household items that might be useful to others, and find free treasures. During Give Away Weekend, people are invited to set out unneeded but usable items at the curb, marked “Free,” for others to take. The City of Ottawa website has tips on what and how to share your stuff and how to dispose of items that aren’t picked up.

Enjoy Community Outdoor Events

This weekend brings a variety of community outdoor festivals, plant and art sales, which provide a great way to spend some time outdoors while supporting local. There’s Westfest, an amazing annual free festival of music, art and more. The juried New Art Festival is on in Central Park in the Glebe. A great place to buy heirloom organic plants for your garden is at Greta’s Organic Gardens’ sale on Sunday, Jun. 9. You can find fresh produce and local food items at one of Ottawa’s outdoor markets. There’s a plant swap at the Ottawa Farmers’ Market at Lansdowne on Sunday, Jun. 9. And check out the new pedestrian plaza on William Street in the ByWard Market!

Help Clean Up Flood Debris

The City of Ottawa is urgently seeking volunteers to help clean up sandbags and other materials from sites of flooding. The City’s website has details on how to get involved.

Doors Open Ottawa and Intergenerational Day 2019

Maplelawn Gardens in spring – D. Deby photo

June is a great month for creative, city-building events in Ottawa. Here are two happening the first weekend in June:

Doors Open Ottawa 2019

Have you ever wanted to see what happens behind the scenes at a local museum or historic site, learn what goes on at a food centre or greenhouse, experience an innovation centre, get to know embassies or places of worship, or visit a wildlife sanctuary? More than 130 sites of architectural, historic, cultural, religious, scientific or social significance are opening their doors to visitors on Saturday June 1 and/or Sunday June 2, 2019 for Doors Open Ottawa. A free shuttle bus takes people between many of the buildings, and more than 50 are downtown within walking distance of each other. Find details, including a list of participating buildings and an interactive map, on the City of Ottawa’s website.

Intergenerational Day 2019

For the first time, thanks to local organizers, Ottawa will be part of Intergenerational Day. On Saturday, June 1, 2019, groups around the city will host activities that bring together people of all ages, build relationships and celebrate the contributions of all generations. Everyone is invited to participate in events, and even contribute individual actions, large or small. Intergenerational Day events in Ottawa include community plant sales/swaps, art exhibits and fairs, neighbourhood garage sales and even an intergenerational picnic with a focus on climate action. Find out more (or contribute an activity!) on the iGenOttawa website.

Climate Action Events in Ottawa

Flooding and ducks on the Ottawa River Parkway recreational path – D. Deby photo

It’s heartening to see more attention to climate action in Ottawa.

Here are some opportunities to call for, find and implement solutions to our climate emergency:

The next Student Global Strike for Climate happens on Friday, May 24, 2019 from 12-2:30 p.m. Young people and their supporters in Ottawa will join millions around the world to continue to press for climate action. Starts at Ottawa City Hall (Laurier Ave.), with a walk to Parliament Hill and then Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna’s office.

A coalition of organizations and individuals are hosting several Town Hall events to inform the creation of a Green New Deal in Canada. The Green New Deal is intended to address a range of crises–from climate to work to housing to Indigenous rights–through a new economic model and relationships. The next Town Hall in Ottawa is on Sunday, May 26, at 2 p.m. at Tom Brown Arena hall (141 Bayview Rd.)

Evidence for Democracy and Science First are hosting Carbon Pricing: Fair & Effective Climate Action on Wednesday, May 29, 2019 from 7-9 p.m. at Impact Hub Ottawa. This panel discussion with speakers from Pembina Institute, Clean Energy Canada, the Business Council of Canada and the media will focus on climate solutions.

Ecology Ottawa is hosting a meeting to exchange ideas for its Renewable City Campaign and next steps for climate action in Ottawa. It’s on Thursday, May 30, 2019 from 6-8 p.m.

Future Rising Ottawa is organizing The Future Is Rising, a gathering on Parliament Hill, on Friday, May 31, 2019 from 12-1 p.m.

Speakers from Free Transit Ottawa, Extinction Rebellion, Ecology Ottawa and Solidarity Ottawa will share ideas for addressing Ottawa’s climate emergency at Confronting Climate Emergency: Ottawa and Beyond. The panel takes place on Friday, May 31, 2019 from 7:30-9:30 p.m. at Sandy Hill Community Centre (250 Somerset St. E.).

Climate Justice Ottawa is hosting several events on climate action for volunteers and the public, including a Climate Quiz social on Tuesday, Jun. 4, 2019 as a fun way to share knowledge about climate change and learn about Our Time Ottawa and the Green New Deal. Check the Facebook page for details.

There’s a Sandy Hill Intergenerational Climate Picnic on Saturday, Jun. 1, 2019 from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. at Sir Wilfrid Laurier Park (288 Chapel St.) as part of Intergenerational Day. It includes participatory art, live music and more.

Ottawa VegFest is hosting a panel on science and action related to Climate Change and Species Extinction on Sunday, Jun. 2, 2019 from 2:30-4 p.m. at the RA Centre.

Parents for the Planet is hosting a Picnic & Protest on Friday, Jun. 7, 2019 from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

David Suzuki, Avi Lewis, Maude Barlow and other speakers will be at A Green New Deal for Ottawa to talk about the climate crisis and the Green New Deal, on Friday, Jun. 14, 2019 from 6:30-9 p.m. at Glebe-St. James United Church. Register in advance.

Check the links for details and registration for the events. Let us know of others!

Making Cycling Safe in Ottawa

Chalk tributes and calls for action for safe cycling, Ottawa City Hall, May 22 2019 – D. Deby photo

Update:Rolling for Justice Bike Ride and Gathering will take place on Wednesday, May 22 at 7:45 a.m. to show respect for the person who lost their life and to press for safe cycling in Ottawa. Everyone is welcome to cycle, roll or walk together, starting at the southwest corner of Nicholas and Laurier at 7:45 a.m. and ending at City Hall. Organizers encourage people to wear black and to ride silently. Further details on the Facebook event page, and/or follow #ottbike and #ottbikeaction on Twitter.

* * *

Sorrow, anger, fear.

These are some of the feelings prompted by yet another death of an Ottawa resident, while he was cycling on one of Ottawa’s designated bike routes.

Sorrow—for the person who was killed, his family and friends and their loss.

Anger—that infrastructure- and driver-caused injuries and deaths are normalized in our city and that prevention of those injuries and deaths is not treated as a priority.

Fear—that while I’m cycling to and from work or errands my life is at risk. My own routes often take me on the Laurier Bike Lane, or through the Parkdale-Ruskin intersection. While the city has made some welcome improvements in cycling infrastructure, cycling in Ottawa is still unacceptably dangerous.

Improving it requires collective action and investments in better infrastructure, including changes in the way we think about and value those who use non-vehicle modes of transportation. As a cyclist, I try to bike safely and defensively, but all the helmets, lights, reflectors and bright orange vests I personally invest in are not going to keep me safe.

What was heartening yesterday was the groundswell of people, including city councillors, who spoke up, gathered outside City Hall, and left tributes to the cyclist. Hopefully this will be a turning point in our tolerance for cyclist and pedestrian injuries and deaths.

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Jane’s Walk Ottawa 2019

Jane’s Walk Ottawa poster “Explore, share stories about your community, and connect with neighbours” courtesy of Jane’s Walk Ottawa

Jane’s Walk Ottawa is happening on Saturday, May 4 and Sunday May 5, 2019.

This wonderful annual series of urban and neighbourhood walking tours is a celebration of the built and natural environments and how residents shape those environments through their daily lives.

This year Jane’s Walk seems particularly poignant, as communities in Ottawa-Gatineau pull together to address flooding, both shaping and being shaped by the rivers, urban and rural landscapes and infrastructure, and weather.

If you can, check out some of the impressive walks this weekend—the Jane’s Walk Ottawa schedule includes more than 50. Walks are led by knowledgeable local residents, are held in English and/or French, and are free.

Here are some examples:

There’s also a celebration to mark what would have been the 103rd birthday of Jane Jacobs, with a reading from Walking in the City with Jane by author Susan Hughes, colouring with Ottawa in Colour, games and cake, on Saturday, May 4, 4-7 p.m.; and a Jane’s Walk Wrap Party on Sunday, May 5.

Jane’s Walks celebrate, challenge and enlighten our perspectives on the city and the choices we make that influence it. Do check it out!

Consult the schedule of walks and interactive map on the Jane’s Walk Ottawa website.

Thoughts are with everyone continuing to deal with the flooding.

Image of Canadian Museum of History with Jane Jacobs quote “Designing a dream city is easy – rebuilding a living one takes imagination” courtesy of Jane’s Walk Ottawa