Hello readers, and welcome to the second edition of the PEN Newsletter!
Ottawa residents have seen some rapid seasonal changes since we released our last newsletter, beginning with an early April ice storm. Coincidentally, the storm brought renewed relevance to the urban canopy and greenspaces discussion featured in the last special edition as fallen trees and branches left many without power throughout the city.
But rising temperatures in the following weeks thawed the ice and snow and prompted local officials to issue flood warnings as the spring freshet raised water levels along the Ottawa River. There are still flooding risks and today’s rainfall adds to the already-high water levels. But while this current flooding has remained below historic levels, the increasing risk of flooding in recent years—marked especially by a 1-in-50 year event in 2017 and a 1-in-100 year even in 2019—has been acknowledged by the City as a result of climate change.
(Ottawa’s Spring Flooding 2023 information page—with information about the current situation, support for affected residents, and access to sandbags—can be found here).
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: ACORN
Our first story for this month is about Ottawa Tenants Organizing Against Rent Hikes and is contributed by Denis Lanouette, a member of independent national organization ACORN and a tenant of Vista Local. Lanouette has organized with neighbors and Ottawa ACORN to protect the affordability of their homes against massive rent increases from Timbercreek Communities (also know as Hazelview). Their advocacy has secured lower increases, but the rates still exceed the allowable provincial guideline for rent controlled units (new units built or first occupied after November 15, 2018, are exempt from restricted rental price increases).
Next, in Organization Highlight: Rural Ottawa Youth Mental Health Collective, Meagan Ann Gordon, the Collective’s Project Manager, gives an update on the Collective and its work to bring better mental health support for youth in Ottawa’s rural areas. Although nearly 80% of Ottawa’s total land area is rural, youth in rural areas often face barriers to accessing mental health services that are predominantly located near the urban centre.
This month’s PEN also includes a blog post from Refugee 613—Roxham Rd and Why it Matters—that describes how the federal government’s March 24 announcement to close the unofficial border crossing at Roxham Road in Quebec will effect people seeking to file a refugee claim in Canada. The original post can be found here.
And to round out this edition’s stories, Aïda Warah, Founder of Gentleways for Our Planet, makes a case for granting legal personhood to rivers as part of a growing movement seeking to recognize the rights of nature, in Rivers as Persons.
Image Credit: C. Bonasia
In addition to this month’s PEN Stories, a few other local news threads to cover:
After the City’s Transportation Committee held a special public meeting in mid-April, the City Council has now approved updates to Part One of the Transportation Master Plan (TMP) that will guide decision-making for Ottawa’s transportation system over the next two decades. Work for Part 2 of the TMP is expected to come before the Committee and City Council in 2025 after staff “develop a capital infrastructure plan and identify the transit and road projects needed to accommodate future travel demands across Ottawa.”
The City is now undertaking a review of its Wildlife Strategy that was approved in 2013 to guide responses to human-wildlife conflicts in Ottawa’s Rural Areas. Members of the public are invited to provide comments and feedback, and are being asked to complete a short survey about how residents are currently finding information on wildlife in the City.
And last night, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) reached a tentative deal with the federal government that included a compounded wage increase of 12.6% from 2021 to 2024, language for negotiating remote work arrangements on a case-by-case basis, and protections against contracting out. The tentative deal ends a nearly two-week strike that involved around 155,00 workers. The deal’s full text has not yet been released and still awaits ratification by union members, while 35,000 CRA workers remain on strike as their contract is being negotiated separately.
Below are a number of upcoming events where you can engage with growing and pressing issues in your community [the following list is not exhaustive]:
Launch: Yardshare—on Wednesday, May 10, online from 7-8pm. Please email [email protected] to register for link. Have a yard you're not using that you'd be open to sharing with another person? Would you like to garden but don't have any access to land? Participate in YardShare! This launch showcases the (free to use) website that provides into for matches, and provides key pieces you need to think about ahead of time, whether you are a landowner or landseeker. Sample agreement included that you can tweak for your situation.
Synapcity and CAFES Ottawa are proud to present an important workshop session on Ottawa's Tree Canopy on the evening of Thursday May 11 at Just Food Farm. You can join them as they discuss neighbourhood and city wide responses to protecting and strengthening Ottawa's tree canopy. Attendees will have a chance to ask questions and share insights during breakout sessions. Stay tuned to Synapcity's social media and newsletter for more information including a link to register.
Seedling Saturday on Saturday, May 13, from 10am-1:30pm at Just Food Community Farm, 2391 Pepin Court, Blackburn Hamlet in Ottawa. Seedling Vendors, Music, Food vendors, Ask the COG-OSO expert, Garden tips, Nice day at the community farm. Free parking or Bus 25 takes you in front of farm. Outdoor Portapotties and Indoor Accessible Washroom available. If you’d like to learn more, volunteer and/or sell your seedlings, please contact [email protected]
Free Workshop: How to Start a Community Garden, Wednesday, May 24, online from 6:30-8:30pm, Please email [email protected] to register for link. Learn about the steps involved in starting a community garden, including how to search for land/offer your land, what is essential when starting a community garden, the support available, tips for organizing and much more! Suitable for new gardens, or existing gardens looking to onboard new volunteer coordinators. [Please note: The attendance of at least one garden coordinator (or a member of the garden who is working on the proposal) at a How to Start a Community Garden workshop is a requirement in order to apply for funding through the Community Garden Development Fund (CGDF).]
The Ottawa Wildflower Seed Library is hosting a plant exchange. Free native plant seedlings will be available on June 17th, from 1 PM-2:30 PM at Springhurst Park (24 Brunswick Street, Ottawa). These seedlings are donated from community members who ensure these are "straight" species that are native to the region. The Seed Library does not accept donations of cultivars (plants that have been modified or hybrized) or non-native species because these do not make good food for our native bees and other insects that support birds and other parts of our ecosystems. Volunteers will be available to help select plants that will thrive in various conditions.
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
Image Credit: O. Bonasia
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.