311 calls about pit bulls down from last year, according City of Ottawa data

Originally written for Data Journalism: JOUR4208 at Carleton University

Ottawa 311 received 75 calls about Pit Bulls from January-August 2017 compared to 85 during the same months in 2016, according to an analysis of data from the city.

Pit Bulls, and other similar breeds, have been prohibited in Ontario since 2005 due to Breed Specific Legislation (BSL). Residents are not allowed to own, breed, or sell bull-type dogs. But there’s been speculation in Ottawa as to whether or not the ban is really worth it.

Roger Chapman, Ottawa’s bylaw chief, said in an interview with Metro News last year that it’s too costly to enforce the breed ban. Especially because only around 2 per cent of Ottawa’s annual dog bites are from pit bulls, according to Chapman.

From January-August this year, 369 311 calls were about dog bites, but only 75 calls fell into the specific Pit Bull category, which also includes simple sightings of the breed. Groups advocating for an end to the BSL use that fact, among others, to fight the ban.

Sit With Me is an Ottawa based rescue that currently has multiple pit bulls in its care, all of which can only be adopted by someone living outside of Ontario.

Ashley Ladouceur from Sit With Me, says that the issue of the BSL is near and dear to her heart. It poses many issues for the rescue, and for dog owners everywhere, Ladouceur says.

“It’s a very poorly applied bandaid for a much larger problem,” Ladeouceur says.

About half of the dogs at Sit With Me right now are pit bull type breeds, and none of them can be adopted into Ottawa, or neighbouring Montreal due to BSL.

“It’s not effective in any way,” Ladeouceur says, “It’s just one of those things that politicians do to appease people who scream about dog bites.”

Those trained in canine behaviour don’t really see a point to BSL, either.

Julie Ott is the owner of Canine Foundations, a mobile behaviour consulting and dog obedience company. Ott is the Head Behaviour Consultant, specializing in dog aggression.

“It’s not increasing public safety,” Ott says of the BSL, “It’s a huge strain on our legal system and it’s not effective in achieving its goal.”

Located in the GTA, Ott says that the most common dogs she sees when dealing with aggression are not pit bulls.

“I see a lot of Mastiffs and livestock guardians,” Ott says.

Not only that, but she thinks Pit Bulls get a bad rep.

“They’re one of the most friendly out of the guardian breeds,” Ott says.

When the BSL was first introduced in Ontario, more than 10 years ago, many dogs were abandoned.

“We saw a lot of pit bulls being dumped,” Ott says, “Tied to doors and left behind. Shelters were full of them.”

And then different large breeds starting cropping up.

“There’s been an influx of larger, more unstable breeds since the ban has gone through,” Ott says, “Dogs that are nowhere near as human-friendly as the pit bull!”

It’s all about socialization, Ott says. Introducing dogs of all breeds to urban environments, along with other dogs, people, and children is the key to having a friendly, safe companion.

“That is what brings down the number of bite incidents,” Ott says, “Not banning breeds, but educating people on how to interact with dogs.”


Potentially inappropriate medication prescribed to seniors in 2015-16 top off the list for hospital visits, according to CIHI

Originally written for Data Journalism: JOUR4208 at Carleton University

Over 1 million Canadians visited hospitals in 2015 and 2016 due to concerns about potentially inappropriate medication prescribed to senior citizens, according to an analysis of data from The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). Nearly 1 million of those visits, over 900,000, were in Ontario.

That number outweighs every other reason for a hospital visit in the CIHI data.

This isn’t the first time that seniors, and those that care for them, have become aware of the sheer number of prescription medications that seniors take.

65 per cent of seniors take 5 or more prescription medications, with that number growing with a patient’s age, according to a 2014 report by CIHI. 40 per cent of seniors 85 and older take more than 10 medications a day.

The Canadian Deprescribing Network (CaDeN) is investigating how many of those medications are really necessary.

Dr. Barb Farrell and Dr. Cara Tannenbaum co-created CaDeN, an organization aiming to phase out medication that is no longer needed or simply lower the dosage of some medications for patients.

“Stopping medicines not only made people feel better but started to make them live longer,” Dr. Justin Turner, CaDeN’s Assistant Director, said.

According to CaDeN, some medications can cause more harm than good as patients grow older or more ill.

Turner explained that the older a person gets the more medical conditions they often have to deal with. With each condition comes a set of guidelines on which medications to take.

“By the time you get the guidelines for those conditions, you’re on 15 medications,” Turner said.

In this case, more medicine does not always lead to a healthier body.

“A lot of people are in the hospital because while they were taking the right medicines, the medicines did not mix well together,” Turner said.

CaDeN works with healthcare professionals and patients alike to evaluate prescribed medications and decide which are necessary and which are not.

“70 per cent of older adults in Canada would be willing to stop their medications if their doctors told them to,” Turner said. The only problem is that most doctors don’t believe that’s true, according to Turner.

Turner suggests that if patients want to take a stab at deprescribing, they start a conversation with their family doctor. It all comes down to the patient to get the ball rolling.

Turner does stress, however, that consulting with your family doctor is of the utmost importance when attempting to lower the dosage of a medication, or stop taking it altogether.

The overmedication of seniors isn’t just a Canadian issue. In the United States, seniors account for less than half of all hospital stays, but the majority of their visits revolve around complications with their medications, according to a 2014 action plan by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In the end, it all comes down to patients and their individual needs.

“I really started to notice that when we focused on individual patients and what their needs are – we could stop a lot of their medicines and they felt better,” Turner said.

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.