Something significant is happening in Ottawa and across the country, and how we respond to it will have profound consequences for environmental and social justice and our collective future.
Indigenous groups and supporters are standing in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en people, whose Hereditary Chiefs have rejected the construction of a Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline through their territory. The RCMP have forcibly removed people who were peacefully residing on their land.
Although the Wet’suwet’en’s rejection of the pipeline through their territory includes environmental considerations, the situation is about much more than a pipeline. The Wet’suwet’en have never given up their lands, or laws. The Canadian Supreme Court has acknowledged this. The B.C. government has recognized the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in law.
There’s no other way to see it: Canadian governments and police are illegally and violently supporting corporate interests, at the expense of Indigenous peoples, and the environment. The response of Indigenous peoples and allies across the country has helped expose the colonial and destructive nature of the relationship between Canada and Indigenous peoples that has existed for generations and continues today.
Here on unceded Algonquin territory—Ottawa—Indigenous youth gathered at the Justice building and took to the streets last week in support of the Wet’suwet’en.
On Monday, Feb. 17, 2020, there will be a rally at Confederation Park, starting at 2 p.m. It’s an opportunity for everyone to show support for the Wet’suwet’en nation, and insist on dialogue to create a new relationship. See the event page for details.
Check out this resource for other ways to support the Wet’suwet’en people.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
“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.”
“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.”
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.
“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.