Towards Effective Light Rail Transit in Ottawa

Ottawa’s LRT – D. Deby photo

I admit to being excited when Ottawa’s LRT launched. By its second day of operation, I found an excuse opportunity to try it out, and marveled at the efficient ride, gleaming new stations and impressive scenery en route.

There were a few gaps—not least accessibility challenges, minimal space for bikes, and the problem that the switch to LRT didn’t benefit everyone (for many residents, including me, it means longer commuting times and fewer bus options). Still, the LRT marks an important shift to more environmentally sustainable transit in Ottawa. We were offered a big-city, world class system that would reduce carbon dioxide emissions, fossil fuel consumption and road salt use, and increase connections to healthy transportation options (biking, walking).

Now, like many other residents, I’m frustrated.

Daily delays and breakdowns, in conjunction with the elimination or adjustment of many bus routes, have eroded confidence in the transit system. Residents are calling for solutions, improved accountability and transparency, and better public communication.

Obviously, Ottawa needs a public transit system that works and is equitable and accessible to everyone—which means not putting all our eggs in one (LRT) basket.

We could draw on (eco-)systems thinking here. Systems thinking is about seeing all the parts of the system and the relationships among them as an integrated, dynamic whole, rather than just the individual parts. Integrating (eco-)systems thinking into design can improve a system’s capacity to handle pressures and disruptions. Fundamental to complex systems is the existence of alternatives, so the system is maintained even when something goes wrong somewhere. Redundancy, diversity and resilience are features of systems approaches.

That means a problem with one train car door doesn’t shut down the entire train/transit system. It means that bus options remain, so people have alternatives to get to where they need to go, at least through a period of transition from buses/transitway to LRT if not beyond. It means investing in improving ParaTranspo, and cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, as seamless parts of an integrated system.

It’s good that the City has announced some attention to and investment in solutions. Let’s make sure they’re comprehensive ones.

All Roads Lead to Tunney’s Pasture – D. Deby photo

Nature-Inspired October Events in Ottawa

Tree Fest Ottawa’s PhotoSynthesis III poster: Pollinators and the Urban Forest photography exhibit

Immerse yourself in these tree- and greening-inspired events coming up this weekend and this month:

Depaving Event: The Champlain Park Community Association, Kitchissippi Ward Councillor Jeff Leiper, the City of Ottawa, EnviroCentre and other partners are hosting a depaving event on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019 from 9:30 a.m.-12 p.m. Volunteers are invited to help remove one block of pavement from Pontiac Street, between Carleton and Cowley Avenues. Replacing the asphalt with grass will expand Champlain Park and connect it with NCC parkway greenspace. Details are available on Councillor Jeff Leiper’s website and the Facebook event page. Find out more about the importance of depaving for the environment on Depave Paradise’s website.

Speaking for the Trees Book Talk: The Ottawa International Writers Festival hosts renowned botanist, biochemist and author Diana Beresford-Kroeger for a discussion of her book, To Speak for the Trees, on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019 from 2-4 p.m. at Library and Archives Canada. Diana Beresford-Kroeger’s writings have changed the way we think about trees, their value and our relationship to them. Her book shares her journey and explains how trees are part of the solution to the climate emergency in ways we might not be aware of. Find out more and register through the OIWF website.

PhotoSynthesis Festival: Tree Fest Ottawa’s PhotoSynthesis III festival is on now until Monday, Oct. 14, 2019 at Lansdowne Park. This year’s photography exhibit focuses on Pollinators and the Urban Forest. In addition, programming on Sunday Oct. 6, 2019 from 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. includes a talk on native pollinator health in Ottawa, a guided walk on pollinator gardens, a nature scavenger hunt, a bee box making workshop, stories and mural painting.

Fall Rhapsody: The NCC’s Fall Rhapsody takes place from Saturday, Oct. 5-Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019 in Ottawa’s core, the Greenbelt and Gatineau Park. The website has tips on where to find beautiful fall colours and activities taking place across the national capital region. A sample of activities includes brunch and family yoga in Gatineau Park, guided nature hikes at Lac Philippe, a picnic and kite flying in Meech Creek Valley, Anishinabe Nibin (Algonquin summer) cultural activities, and more. On weekends, there are free shuttles from downtown Ottawa to Gatineau Park and Camp Fortune.

Forest Bathing: The Garden Promenade and Forest Therapy Ottawa are offering an opportunity to experience forest bathing in the fall colours of the Dominion Arboretum, on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019 from 9:30-11:30 a.m. Find out more and register on Eventbrite. Check out Forest Therapy Ottawa’s website for more information on the benefits of quality time spent in forests, and on other upcoming forest wellness events.

CommuniTree Conference: Blackburn Community Association, in partnership with Just Food and Ecology Ottawa, is holding a CommuniTree Conference on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019 from 9 a.m.-1:15 p.m. at the Just Food Farm. Sessions cover the City’s Urban Forest Management Plan and Tree Bylaw, urban forest sustainability, the Healing Forests project, citizen science and community tree mapping, and a walking tour of a community food forest. Register in advance through the Blackburn Community Association website.

Global Climate Strike Ottawa-Gatineau

Global Climate Strike Ottawa-Gatineau September 27 2019 poster courtesy @GregEqEd

It’s time.

In fact, it’s past time. The last four years have been the hottest ever recorded on Earth, and the human-caused climate crisis is affecting all aspects of our daily lives, from extreme weather to ecosystem destruction to adverse effects on human health. We can change this path, but we need to act quickly.

Around the world, people are demanding immediate action to address the climate emergency. Young people in particular, through #FridaysforFuture and #GlobalClimateStrike, and inspired by Greta Thunberg, have been speaking out about the need for those in power to do things differently.

In Ottawa-Gatineau, on Friday, Sept. 27, 2019, young people, environmental groups, workplaces, and anyone who has a stake in our shared climate future are taking time out to gather on Parliament Hill to support the call for action.

People will be meeting at 11:30 a.m. at Confederation Park (corner Elgin and Laurier) in Ottawa, and the corner of Portage and Laval in Gatineau, then heading to Parliament Hill. Join if you can. Check for details and updates on the event page.

The Global Climate Strike is taking place Sept. 20-27, 2019, to coincide with the UN Climate Change Summit on Sept. 23, 2019 and Youth Climate Summit on Sept. 21, 2019. It’s anticipated that millions of people in 150 countries will be walking out of school, work or home to draw attention to the need for action and justice to address the climate emergency we collectively face.

Find out more at Fridays for Future Canada and Climate Strike Canada. Locally, check out Fridays for Future Ottawa and other local groups.

Grève mondiale pour le climat Gatineau-Ottawa 27 septembre 2019 affiche grâce à @GregEqEd

 

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.

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.