July 2023


Thank you all again for tuning in to the PEN Newsletter!

Image Credit: C. Bonasia

After delving into some of PERC’s history last month I now want to share some thoughts about our present and where we are headed. Although I’ve only just begun in my role editing the PEN, I am noticing some consistent trends that shape what is presented in each edition.

The PEN has for decades been part of the Ottawa community, where is has been an outlet for local community groups to communicate with the public even when their budgets are too small to accommodate mass media . This is a critical asset of community discussions, and it has the power to shape the narratives influencing community action.

By giving a platform to voices that are otherwise overlooked, the PEN offers an opportunity for community discussions to break away from common media processes that recycle statements from a limited group of ‘experts,’ who then have amplified power to shape public decision making. As Rashad Robinson, an American civil rights leader and president of Color of Change, the United States’ largest online racial justice organization, wrote: “Without people in ‘narrative motion’ we cannot achieve narrative change. We must remember that a few big clouds do not water the earth below them—millions of drops of rain do the watering.”

While the PEN can offer a space for that dialogue, it can only do that when people are able to offer their voices. But when those people who are working for change are already overworked it can be difficult to sit down and write an article, and too often those groups who most deserve to be heard are already under too much other pressure.

So, if you are working to bring positive change to Ottawa and would like to get your message out, but lack the time or capacity to do so, please reach out to let the PEN know how we can help make that happen. I should also add that some of our partner organizations—like those enterprises that are part of Sustainable Capacity Solutions, which is now a recurring contributor to the PEN—specifically cater their services to building capacity of small non-profits.

“We cannot let ourselves get lost in the clouds. We must ensure we are raining down on our culture and our narrative environment with the voices and actions of real people, in order to nourish that environment and facilitate the growth of the ideas we want to flourish in it.”

Rashad Robinson, Changing Our Narrative About Narrative

Image Credit: C. Bonasia

Stories from the PEN!

And now on to the Stories from the PEN, where you can read about inspiring individuals and organizations stepping up to engage in issues affecting our local communities.

Image Credit: Ottawa ACORN

Ecology Ottawa Council Watch

Ecology Ottawa is reviving its Council Watch program, a volunteer-powered group coordinated by Ecology Ottawa that:

  • identifies issues of ecological significance before Council,

  • recommends actions for Ecology Ottawa and/or the Ottawa ecology community to take on these issues, and

  • conveys issues before Council to the broader public

Take a moment to read an update from from the group’s coordinator, William van Geest, about Council’s environmental actions last month in City Council Settles for Near-Inaction on Waste Management.

From the PEN Archives

In 1992, the recently renamed Peace & Environment News ran an article about a “New Gizmo to Reduce Your Energy Consumption.” The device, called PowerStat, would continuously monitor a home’s energy consumption to help homeowner implement effective energy saving measures. At the time, Kanata Hydro was conducting a pilot study at the Dobbin Coop, where 45 units where equipped with the “gizmo.”

Read the article, and more from the April 1992 issue, in our archives.

Sustainability Star Awards

Sustainable Eastern Ontario (SEO), an Ottawa-based nonprofit that fosters partnerships and collaborations on sustainability activities throughout Eastern Ontario, is calling for nominations for its Sustainability Star Awards.

The awards have been offered each year since 2017 as part of SEO’s. effort to celebrate leaders working in our community in areas such as safeguarding water quality, improving access to sustainable transportation options, protecting nature and biodiversity, sharing knowledge of sustainable living, enhancing food security, promoting renewable energy, finding waste management solutions and developing green businesses and communities. You can find more about the awards, included information about past winners, here.

The selection process is based on several criteria that highlight the candidate’s leadership in several fields, including Sustainability, Leadership, Collaboration, Community Building, Diversity, and COVID-19 Resiliency. To nominate candidates, please use this Google Form.

The deadline to submit nominations is Monday, July 31, 2023. All nominees and nominators will be notified by mid-September. For more information about the nomination process, please email: [email protected]

Other News

Image Credit: C. Bonasia

  • At the start of the month, advocacy group Justice for Workers Ottawa led a march from Major’s Hill park to protest the Ontario government's policies on healthcare, cost of living, and environmental issues, among others. The march was part of the "Enough is Enough Day of Action" in coordination with similar marches across Ontario, and took place on the anniversary of the re-election of Doug Ford. You can read CTV’s coverage of the march here.

  • On June 9, counter-protesters organized in Westboro against a protest—which organizers said was against “gender ideology” being taught in schools— that took place almost right in front of Notre Dame High School.

  • Just days after the march, smoke from forest fires in Quebec and Ontario drifted across Ottawa and other cities along North America’s East Coast, which are usually insulated from wildfire impacts. Amidst the severe wildfire season—the worst in Canada’s history—firefighters say they are sick of the work conditions after years of lagging pay raises from Canadian and US governments.

  • Those of you living near where Highway 417 crosses over Bronson Ave. will likely experience worsened traffic during a 3 day closure of that section of highway from July 13-17, and from a 3 week closure of Bronson itself between Catherine and Imperial streets from July 6 to 27.

  • At the end of June, the Transportation Committee met to decide on the proposed updates being made to the Use and Care of Roads Bylaw (No. 2003-498). Despite advocacy from local groups like Ecology Ottawa, For Our Kids Ottawa, Just Food, and Ottawa Food Policy, the Committee did not explicitly allow residents to grow food, plant trees, or use raised beds in the city Right-of-Way. But staff have been directed to report back to City Council sometime between April-June 2024 with recommendations for residents to grow food and use raised beds in the Right-Of-Way based on doing more research of options, and to consider including fruit and nut trees in the inventory for the Trees in Trust Program.

  • Two other City Committees—the Planning & Housing Committee and the Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee—are reviewing a report that considers changing zoning bylaws to allow retail food stores in some areas where they are currently not allowed. The changes could help improve food access by allowing grocery stores to be established within walking distance of communities where current zoning rules are restrictive.

    • That same report “also deals with temporary measures to exclude the construction of renewable energy facilities, like wind and solar farms, until a complete a complete set of regulations that aligns with the city's official plan is brought before council in the fall. The report also recommends limiting the land used for battery energy storage facilities in agricultural zones until the new regulations are prepared,” CTV News says.

Image Credit: C. Bonasia

Thank you for reading, and I look forward to connecting with you again next month through the PEN Newsletter. In the meantime, please use the comments section of the newsletter or email [email protected] with thoughts or questions.

—Christopher Bonasia, PEN editor

PERC appreciates all of our readers for giving us this chance to connect with members of our community, and we love being able to provide you with a forum to discuss pressing environmental and social justice issues.

But we also rely on your support to make this happen. If you are interested in helping our organization continue to use storytelling and networking to help individuals, non-profits, and community groups work locally for a greener and more peaceful world, please consider making a donation to the Peace and Environment Resource Centre. You can find out more on our website, or by using this link.

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