Bid for sanctuary city status still in limbo

Originally written for and published by Centretown News

The proposal to make Ottawa a sanctuary city is still up in the air after a city hall meeting on March 30.

No concrete decision was made on Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney’s proposal after the city’s community and protective services committee met to discuss the issue. But there is strong support from some religious groups.

Several Ottawa synagogues and churches have come out in support of the sanctuary city plan, which would make Ottawa a safe haven for those with precarious immigration statuses.

The policy would put into place a “don’t ask, don’t tell” concept. Municipal workers would then not be required by law to ask someone’s immigration status when that individual is accessing city services.

Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver have already become sanctuary cities.

The Ottawa Presbytery, a group within the United Church, came out in support of the sanctuary city plan in mid-March.

“We see that there’s a real sense of fear within our city, with non-status individuals, to access community services,” said Steve Moore, a minister with the Ottawa United Church. “These people, because of the fear, are being forced to live in the shadows.”

Moore attended the meeting at city hall, saying that it was more of an information session than anything else. Despite that, the turnout of supporters made Moore hopeful that the sanctuary city policy could pass when it’s eventually put to a vote.

“I was quite bowled over. There were 30 delegations,” sais Moore, referring to the 30 people who spoke to councillors on the committee. “There was a lot of energy in the room.”

Rev. Anthony Bailey of the Parkdale United Church also attended the meeting, and said his congregation is also in support of sanctuary status.

“It really intersects with our idea of promoting the common good,” Bailey said.

Both places of worship believe that compassion and acceptance in this issue go hand-in-hand with their faith, the clergymen said.

“We feel that we need to be compassionate to these people,” Moore said. “We need to recognize that we’re all apart of the human family and that if there are those who are suffering within our midst then we need to do everything we can to assuage that misery.”

Bailey sees nothing but benefits in Coun. McKenney’s policy, saying he’s spoken to mothers who haven’t immunized their children and victims of spousal abuse who haven’t come forward due to fear of being deported.

“People not being able to come forward means that they’re even more vulnerable,” Bailey said. “There are so many implications that show we’re all bound up together in health and safety.”

Coun. McKenney said she has plans to try to convince the other councillors and Mayor Jim Watson that the policy is worthwhile. However, Watson has stated that he opposes the policy.

Despite that, McKenney isn’t backing down any time soon, saying that the issue of people not accessing services due to fear is very important to her.

“I couldn’t just let it happen,” she said. “It’s time to do something as a city.”

McKenney has the support of many religious communities in the city; it’s just a matter of getting the support of the people who make the decisions.

In the meantime, some local churches, including Parkdale United Church and the United Church of Ottawa, can act as asylums for those with precarious immigration statuses.


Gallery Showcases Canadian Photography

Originally written for and published by Centretown News

An upcoming exhibit at the National Gallery of Canada will showcase four decades of Canadian photography from coast to coast. It’s only fitting that it will be displayed in the heart of Canada’s capital.

Photography in Canada: 1960-2000, a celebration of this country’s diverse photographic history, opens on April 7.  It will include more than 100 works by 71 different photographers.

“It was a chance to take advantage of a situation where I could show the work of Canadian photographers at the gallery,” said Andrea Kunard, curator of the exhibit.

It was born out of a series of exhibits that the gallery has done over the years, Kunard said. British and German photography were themes in the past, and now it’s Canada’s time to shine.

Ottawa is the perfect place for an exhibit like this, according to Olivia Johnston, a photography history instructor at the School of the Photographic Arts: Ottawa.

“Ottawa is an important city in the history of photography,” Johnston said, “Malak and Yousuf Karsh famously spent much of their lives here.”

The Karsh brothers were successful photographers throughout the 20th century, and Johnston said the famous portrait photographer Yousuf had a tremendous impact on photographic practice the world over.

Among the photographers shown are Jin-me Yoon, who is currently a professor at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, and Edward Burtynsky.

Choosing who and what to display was a “painful process” for Kunard.

“I consider it a small exhibition,” she said. “There’s really not enough space to show as many as I would like.”

Those in the Ottawa photography scene are anticipating the opening of the exhibit despite Kunard’s hesitancy.

“I’m sure that the National Gallery’s exhibition, as it covers a really crucial time in photographic history, will be fascinating,” Johnston said.

Photographers, both amateur and professional, see the exhibit as an important way of celebrating the history of Canada.

“It fits into the context of the 150 years,” Luce Lebart, the director of the Canadian Photography Institute, said.

Kunard agrees, despite the anniversary not being the original intention of the exhibit.

“It suits the spirit of the year, and I think it hopefully people will enjoy it in that context,” Kunard said.

However, those familiar with Canada’s history hope to see Indigenous and minority voices represented in this celebration of Canadian photography.

“Especially given that the celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary is for many Canadians a reminder of our shameful colonial past,” Johnston said.

Kunard did said that the exhibit is meant to host many different points of view.

“What I’ve tried to do in this show is demonstrate that there’s not a unified voice of photography, but that there’s many voices,” Kunard said, “There are so many small histories here in terms of the country.”

It’s unknown if those small histories will focus on Indigenous backgrounds, but Jin-Me Yoon’s work does focus on her experience as a South Korean-Canadian.

The exhibit opens April 7, and will be on display in the National Gallery until Sept. 17. The Gallery is at 380 Sussex Drive.

Local artist explores Ottawa’s underbelly

Originally published by Centretown News. 

A new art exhibition in Little Italy features local landscapes that any Ottawa resident would recognize — but with an industrial twist.

The exhibition is mainly oil paintings of distinct Ottawa landmarks, including Centretown’s skyline, complete with construction cranes and scaffolding.

Eryn O’Neill, 32, is the artist and an Ottawa native. Her art career began at the Ottawa School of Art, and after a few years of study in Halifax, she returned to Ottawa to further develop her craft.

Her art has an urban vibe, with metal cranes and the undersides of bridges featuring heavily.

“I’ve been exploring Ottawa in an industrial way,” O’Neill said, “Looking at it in a less typical way.”

Many of her pieces feature construction scenes, which is reflective of what anyone has seen driving downtown in the past few years. O’Neill, however, sees construction as much more than just a traffic jam.

“Those pieces, of construction scenes, show that cities are always evolving.”

Lauryn Santini, the director of the gallery, appreciates O’Neill’s unique perspective.

“With her work, she captures things that aren’t always the most scenic,” Santini said, “But the way she paints it really sort of captures it in a different light and makes it scenic.”

Santini has been a long-time supporter of O’Neill, and continues to help her keep in touch while she’s in Waterloo for grad school.

“She’s keeping me connected and relevant to people,” O’Neill said, “It’s amazing to still feel like an Ottawa artist even though I’m far away.”

Of the collection at Santini Gallery, O’Neill said the piece Urban/Nature, a view from the roof of the Canadian War Museum, is her favourite.

The museum is also a fan of O’Neill’s work.

“It’s great to see that local artists are inspired by the urban environment around them,” Yasmine Mingay, the Director of Public Affairs for the museum said.

Both Santini and O’Neill see art as an effective way to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary.

“It gives you a different view of the scenes that you see all the time,” Santini said, “It allows you to stop and appreciate the views that you have.”

Above all, O’Neill appreciates the way that people are celebrating Canada; regardless of the way they’re doing it.

“The 150th anniversary is bringing so many people together from different backgrounds who are just celebrating the country,” O’Neill says, “Painting’s always been my medium, so it’s the way I express myself and my connection with my city.”

The Santini Gallery is at 169 Preston St., at Somerset St. O’Neill’s collection opened on Mar. 9, and will remain on display for the remainder of the month.

Ottawa sees 25% increase in potholes since last year

The warm weather is just one of 45 freeze-thaw cycles that have occurred in Ottawa this season. The average number of cycles for this time of year is only 35.

CBC reported this week that Ottawa’s potholes are particularly out of control this year.

City crews have been hard at work since the new year, filling 20,000 potholes since Jan. 1, a whopping 25% increase from last year.

More snow is on the horizon, though, so even though it’s been above zero for the past few weeks there may be more freeze-thaw cycles in the future.



Indigenous groups call for federal government to change name of Langevin Block

The building that houses PM Justin Trudeau’s office is under fire from Indigenous communities over its controversial name.

Langevin Block was named after Hector-Louis Langevin, a contributor to the Constitution and a figure known for supporting the residential school system that terrorized Indigenous youth for decades.

Perry Bellegarde, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, started the push for a less offensive name through a letter obtained by the Canadian Press. Since then, Indigenous MPs and other government groups have joined the fight.

NDP MP Romeo Saganash and independent Hunter Tootoo, along with the Liberal Indigenous caucus, have come out in support of Bellegarde.

More Canadians have come out in support on social media:

In an era of reconciliation, removing commemoration of genocide seems only fair.

A Change

I’m going to be changing up the kind of content I post! I often post about mental health and my own experience with my recovery. That will not stop, however I do want to get a little more “on brand.”

I am a journalism student and this is a great platform to build up my skills and create something of a portfolio! I’m hoping the few of you who read and comment continue to do so!

See you soon!

You Are Not Weak

There is a stigma against seeking therapy. People think that it’s giving up, or giving in to your illness. People think it’s a sign of weakness, not being able to do it all by yourself, needing someone to help you cope with the burden of existing.

It’s not giving up, and it’s sure as hell not giving in to your illness. The way I see it, making your first therapy appointment, and actually going to it, is a way of pushing your illness away, saying, “I’m going to fight you, neither of us are going to like it, but there’s no way in hell I’m letting you take me down with you.”

You are strong as hell. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.

That being said, therapy is a luxury few can afford. While writing an article for my third year In-Depth Reporting course I spoke to a mental health advocate at my university. They said that the kids who are most at risk for depression and anxiety, among other mental illnesses, are most often the ones who cannot afford to even think about paying for traditional, sit down therapy sessions. Not only that, but free services, such a counselling on university and college campuses, often have such long wait times that they’re not of much use anyways.

When you go to seek help, you generally need help right away, not in 4 months.

If you can, and if you think you need to, go to therapy. If you can’t, there are free online services you can use to help yourself.

I hope for nothing but the best for each and every one of you reading this.

Recovery is Not Constant

On the road to “being okay” there will be bumps and lumps and wrong turns and that is okay. You are not failing just because you fell off the wagon.

You are a human being, and you need to accept that and understand that you will never be perfect, even if there’s a voice at the back of your head telling you that you’ll never amount to anything if you’re not.

You are good and whole and valid even if you aren’t recovering as fast as you, or anyone else, thinks you should be.

Your journey is valid, you are valid – give yourself a break, show yourself some compassion.

My Feelings Are Valid

I have come to terms with the fact that I am not okay. Not always. I have panic attacks and I am depressed but I am dealing with it, maybe not well, but I am still here. That counts for something, right? I am allowed to feel what I am feeling. I do not need an excuse and I am allowed to cut myself some slack.

I interviewed the president of Carleton’s Student Association for Mental Health recently for a feature I’m writing (#journolife). He said, “Give yourself some credit. There is more than one type of pain.”

I am going to make that my mantra of sorts. I am living and persevering, even if I struggle and cry and stay in bed sometimes.

My feelings are valid.

I Don’t Have An Excuse to Be Depressed

Over the course of the past 5 months my mental state has dropped shockingly fast. If I were to describe it, it would be akin to cliff-diving, throwing myself off the ledge towards the tumultuous waves beneath. I have spent months lying immobilized in my own bed, unable to drag myself to class and crying over the simplest difficulties in my every day activities.

I am a second year Journalism major at Carleton University. I am in the top program for my field in the country, accepted just before Christmas 2013 and granted a $12,000 entrance scholarship. I have a wonderful job scooping gelato and steaming milk at an adorable cafe on Bank Street. I live with one of my closest friends in a cute, if small, basement apartment a short ten minute walk from campus. I have a devoted, funny, sweet boyfriend who thinks the world of me. By all accounts, my life is wonderful. I want for nothing and balance my work/school/social life easily.

I don’t have an excuse to be depressed.

But here I am, taking 50mg of Zoloft and sobbing uncontrollably at night. I have days where I can barely sit in a lecture silently, much less tell the Starbucks cashier what drink I want.

I don’t have an excuse to be depressed.

But I’m not the only one.

I found an online journal article, a few years old, that calls me and my peers The Suffering Generation. 

I have never read anything more accurate. My generation is called lazy but I have never met a group of people that is more dedicated to pushing themselves to the limit. My friends and I work 4-5 shifts a week, go to class every single day, and churn out assignments and term papers faster than a Baby Boomer can learn to work an iPhone.

But our struggles are ignored. Our anxiety, depression, eating disorders; all of them are ignored and pushed aside. We are told we are looking for attention or simply overreacting.

“Everyone gets sad sometimes.”

“I get anxious in front of crowds, you’re probably fine.”

“God, eat a hamburger, will you?” or, alternatively, “They can’t be anorexic, look at them.”

We are not “The Me Generation” we are “The Suffering Generation” and the problem is, we’re fine until we’re not. And when we’re not, everything comes crashing down and just before we hit bottom someone invalidates our entire experience, and someone else is lost to this world.

This is avoidable. Stop putting so much pressure on university and college students to be perfect and listen to them.

People who are hurting want to talk, you just have to show them that you are willing to listen.