Wonderfully diverse and more important than ever: this year’s Asinabka Film and Media Arts Festival is happening August 9-13, 2017.
This annual celebration of Indigenous culture and issues brings the work of filmmakers and artists, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, from around the world to Ottawa.
This year’s festival includes film screenings, contemporary art exhibits, music, dance, seminars and workshops. Opening night on Wednesday, Aug. 9 includes an outdoor screening of films on Victoria Island, while a diverse selection of films from many cultures and nations runs Wednesday to Sunday at the Museum of Nature. Saturday’s schedule includes the Asin (Rock) Fest of live music.
This year, July 1 is important. Not because it’s Canada’s “150th anniversary,” though.
This year, important and compelling voices are drawing attention to Canada as a colonizing, settler nation. It’s a picture that isn’t as pretty as the stories we tell ourselves about our country. But it’s a more accurate one.
Indigenous peoples are reminding us that our country is founded on treaties that haven’t been upheld; on dispossession of land from the people living here; and on policies and strategies designed to eliminate them. The policies and strategies have changed over time, but they continue, as does the discrimination and racism that have become institutionalized.
Celebrating this history, and the society we’ve created—however respectful of rights, diversity and the environment we try to be—just doesn’t seem right.
So, here on this unceded Algonquin land we call Ottawa, here are some things I think we can do:
Listen. Learn about Unsettling 150, and why people have gathered on Parliament Hill and at the Human Rights monument this weekend. Listen, and resist the urge to reply with all the good things about Canada and Canadians—yes, there are many—but that’s not the point here. Follow people on social media who bring Indigenous perspectives.
If you’re not sure what Indigenous people are asking for, and what it means for you, start with Leanne Betasamosake Simpson’s article on land and reconciliation.
Read. Read the Truth and Reconciliation Report. Read Christie Belcourt’s Canada, I can cite for you, 150. Read an Indigenous writer. (My June/July reading includes Katherena Vermette’s The Break, Thomas King’s The Inconvenient Indian, Richard Wagamese’s Medicine Walk, and Leanne Simpson’s Dancing on Our Turtle’s Back.)
Support groups calling for change. Help protect the places in our city that are sacred to Algonquin and other Indigenous peoples. Spread the word. Make July 1, 2017 a turning point.
Festivals can be great ways to get outside, celebrate the diversity that is Ottawa, and connect with community. Starting this week:
Welcoming Ottawa Week, June 20-30, 2017
WelcomingOttawa Week is an annual festival celebrating Ottawa as a city that welcomes newcomers, and hosting events where residents can get to know more about each other. Activities include a series of heritage walks in Chinatown, Little Italy and Lowertown with local residents sharing the stories of how immigrants have shaped those neighbourhoods, and Indigenous Walks, to understand Ottawa’s public spaces from an Indigenous perspective. There’s also a recreational soccer tournament, photo and art exhibits, film screenings, community picnics and much more.
Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival, June 20-25, 2017
This colourful and fascinating annual festival at Vincent Massey Park (and a few other places) celebrates the artistic and culture diversity of First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples. It includes live musical performances, theatre, art and food vendors, Aboriginal Day Live! and a three-day Pow Wow. Not to miss.
Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival, June 22-25, 2017
With origins connected to nature and the bounty of the land and water, the annual Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival brings more than 150 teams to compete in dragon boat races at Mooney’s Bay Park. There’s also live music, a family zone, food vendors and more.
Local community and Indigenous groups and individuals are concerned about a festival taking place this month on Albert Island. The groups are not opposed to the festival itself, Craft Fest, but say it should not be held on Albert Island and the proposed condo development site (Zibi).
Among those who have expressed concerns are Kitigan Zibi Elder Albert Dumont and Westfest producer Elaina Martin. The Stop Windmill group has sent an open letter to Ottawa 2017 regarding its support for the festival. Free the Falls and others plan to hold a rally outside the entrance to Albert Island on Sunday, Jun. 11, 2017, the start of the craft festival, at 11:00 a.m.
It’s important that we learn what’s at stake and why people are concerned about these lands, particularly at a time when Canadians and their political leaders are talking about reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
Elder Albert Dumont is leading a Faith is Peace Walk from Victoria Island to Parliament Hill on Friday, June 23, 2017, starting at 10 a.m., for people to understand and support an Indigenous vision for the area:
We seek the return and restoration of our sacred site, Akikodjiwan/ Asinabka/ Chaudière Falls and Islands, to the Anishinabe (Algonquin)….
Together, we will show the world that Indigenous spirituality is real and is as rich with the blessings of Creator as are all the other faiths practised by the citizenry who make up the population of Canada.”
June is underway with some amazing (and free) activities and events.
Kitchi Blanket Exercise
Join KAIROS in a journey to help understand the effects of colonization on Indigenous peoples. Using blankets that represent the land, participants trace a shared history from life before colonization, through treaties, residential schools, the “60s’ scoop” and more. Friday, Jun. 2, 2017 from 5-7:30 p.m. on Parliament Hill. A Pot Luck Community Feast and Open Mic on Saturday, Jun. 3, 6-9 p.m. at the Bronson Centre will honour Blanket Exercise facilitators and Elders.
Visit an organic farm, re-imagine uses of the Ottawa Rail Bridge, help spread native plant seeds, join a hike and yoga in Gatineau Park, or take part in any of the other dozens of micro-actions in support of the environment and civic engagement on #100In1Day in Ottawa. It’s on Saturday, Jun. 3, 2017; see the website for details.
Doors Open Ottawa
This is your chance to see inside buildings not normally open to the public, and/or of historical, architectural or civic interest. Included are the Lemieux Island water purification plant, Parks Canada’s conservation labs, Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind’s national training centre, SunTech Greenhouses, the Wild Bird Care Centre, and many embassies, museums, places of worship, government buildings, fire stations, sports and sailing clubs, art studios and more. Cycle or take a shuttle bus between some of the sites (see website for details). Buildings are open Saturday, Jun. 3 and/or Sunday, Jun. 4; check the schedule for times.
A great reason to spend some time outdoors: Westfest, Ottawa’s free festival of music, art and family activities, with an incredible lineup of performers. It’s happening Friday, Jun. 3-Sunday, Jun. 4 in Laroche Park, Mechanicsville. See the website for schedule and details.
World Environment Day
Reconnect with nature: that’s the theme of this year’s World Environment Day, #WithNature, on Monday, Jun. 5, 2017. Take part by spending time in a park, going for a hike, planting a tree, birdwatching or digging in the garden; add some indoor plants to your life. Take photos and share what you’ve discovered. Contribute a landscape photo to the “World’s Biggest Nature Album,” or help build “the world’s largest nature database” by downloading the iNaturalist app and using it to record the biodiversity around you. You can also search for WED-related events in Ottawa.
The 10th annual Great Glebe GREEN Garage Sale is happening Saturday, May 27, 2017 as part of the massive Great Glebe Garage Sale. This year you’ll find…free trees! There’s also a veggie BBQ, water bottle filling station and entertainment. Find it all at 680 & 690 Bank St. (Rogers Plus and Kunstadt Sports parking lots).
Ottawa Race Weekend
There’s still time to support runners and walkers in the annual Ottawa Race Weekend, May 27-28, 2017. Many are running for good causes–check out the list of charities involved. (I’m participating for MitoCanada.)
March Against Monsanto
On Saturday, May 27, March Against Monsanto – Gatineau/Ottawa takes place to raise awareness about the risks of genetically modified foods, neonicotinoids and harmful agricultural practices. It’s from 1:30-2:30 starting at the entrance to Major’s Hill Park.