Keshia Chante at Bayshore

December 29, 2011 8:29 am

It was a pleasant surprise for Ottawa to see Keshia Chanté perform in Bayshore’s E-Style lounge as a part of the Candlelighters event, a non-profit organization that provides support to young cancer patients and their families. From the performance, it is clear that Chanté has been in the spotlight for a long time and loves what she does.

Julie Lan with Keisha Chante at Bayshore Shopping Centre. Photo: Q3 Studio

While most teenagers spend their down time hanging out with friends, Chanté had big dreams and was making a name of herself in the music industry. Chanté has been a Canadian pop icon since her single “Bad Boy” when she juggled finishing high school and her music career. Her success comes from always believing in hard work and being true to herself: “You have to balance life and fun. I finished school for me and for my fans, and I never preach about things that I don’t follow myself. I believe in the responsibility of owning up to your actions.”

After a departure from Sony BMG Canada, Chanté is back with a released her third album, Night & Day. Similarly to her previous album, Chanté is very involved in the production process: “I handle some legal and paper work, organizing meetings and discussions. I’m very hands-on as it’s important to have pride in your work and you want it to reflect yourself”. Night & Day features familiar dance beats similar to Chanté’s previous singles and signature style, but it also offers melodic tracks: “I love dancing, R&B and hip hop, I love how dance tracks put people in good mood, but there are two sides of me”. Table Dancer, a single from Night & Day, is a reflection of Chanté’s recent trip to Vegas: “I get inspirations everywhere. Sometimes I wake up in the morning, have a great idea and spend the day just writing”.

Chante with fan at Bayshore Shopping Centre. Photo: Q3 Studio

Even though Chanté has grown musically since “Bad Boy”, in her track “Edit, Cut & Delete” from Night & Day she’s still singing about, uh hem, a bad boy: “I definitely have a type, I love guys with an edge. Obviously every girl loves a funny and charismatic guy and so do I, but I also like one that keeps me off my toes and often take control”. Hey, what girl doesn’t?

Wind in the Willows is a Breath of Fresh Air

December 19, 2011 3:25 pm

Take a classic English children’s tale, add some whimsical puppetry and spice it up with gentle humor and you have the latest offering at Ottawa’s Arts Court theatre.

The Wind in the Willows by the Rag and Bone Puppet Theatre is a treat for younger children and adults alike. Featuring puppeteers Kathy MacLellan and John Nolan and musician Russell Levia, the production takes a journey through the lives of animal friends the Water Rat, Mole and Mr. Toad who live on the banks of the River Bank.  The classic turn of the century tale set in the English countryside comes alive during the production through the use of simple back drops such as silk scarves and falling leaves, all aided by the delicate sound of live music including an oboe, banjo, zither, hornpipe.

Based on the classic tale.

The effect is startling – a shimmering white scarf falling down on the Water Rat and the Mole as they venture into the Wild Woods represents snow falling, two green scarves moving in concert with each other represents the flow of their beloved river. Then there is the puppetry itself. MacLellan and Nolan do an excellent job at switching from one character to the next – from a washerwoman, to a judge to a baby otter – in a seamless performance. Both puppeteers artfully combine the use of smaller hand puppets with puppets that resemble soft sculptured stuff toys and the use of masks, wigs and other props. A video screen which forms part of the puppet stage adds to the special effects of the show provides moving montage such as a windy dark forest and a road down which Mr. Toad drives a car.

Wind in the Willows ~ a delightful tale for a young audience

Best of all for the young audience are the frequent touches of humor in the script mixed with Canadiana. For instance, the English picnic of cucumber sandwiches and ginger beer featured in the original tale becomes the more Canadian rice crispy squares and soda pop. Deft touches of humor throughout the show delighted the young audience. The section of the Wind in the Willows tale where the adventurous and irresponsible Mr. Toad becomes obsessed with motor cars (with disastrous results) elicited squeals of delight and laughter. A particular hit with the kids was the character of Mr. Badger with his deep voice, handle bar mustache and bowler hat who frequently interacted with youngsters during the show. All in all, the Rag and Bone Theatre did a fine job in turning a much loved but slow moving English classic into a fast paced rollic without losing any of the charm of the original story. The Wind in the Willows production by the Rag and Bone Puppet Theatre is highly recommended viewing for both children and their parents alike.

The next Rag and Bone production of the Wind in the Willows will be held at the Shenkman Arts Centre at 245 Centrum Boulevard Ottawa on April 1 and 15, 2012. For more information on Rag and Bone please visit  More information about other upcoming productions at Arts Court can be found by visiting


Honoring Shannen’s Dream

December 14, 2011 11:40 am

Long before the Federal Government’s planned delivery of mobile homes and food to the remote Northern community of Attawapiskat, there was Lady Evelyn Alternative School.

While Attawapiskat has recently become a household name across Canada after it declared a state of emergency, the native community has been on the radar of the small alternative school in Ottawa’s East for some time now. For two years, in fact.

A message from Shannen Koostachin.

But while Attawapiskat’s call to Canada was for food and shelter, Lady Evelyn’s students answered a different call.  This time, a cry for support from perhaps the bravest school girl this nation has ever known – Shannen Koostachin of the Attawapiskat First Nation.  Shannen died, at the age of fifteen, never having known the inside of a proper classroom or a decent education. She knew however, that she and every other child in Attawapiskat, deserved one, and she spent her short life fighting for it. In her words:  “School should be a time for dreams. Every kid deserves this.”Shannen’s journey began when her school (the only elementary school for 400 children in Attawapiskat) closed due to diesel fuel contamination under the building. Portable trailers were put in the playground as a “temporary school.” Nine years later, they were still there.  No school. The doors warped and the heat went off in winter. The children walked in the cold from portable to portable.

The children of Attawapiskat's call for a new school.

In 2010, Shannen died in an automobile accident – never seeing her dream – for all First Nations children to have “safe and comfy schools” come true. It’s a situation, Lady Evelyn Alternative School and others have found unacceptable.  In April 2011, months before the Attawapiskat crisis, the school took its message to Parliament Hill. Letters were delivered to politicians in support of Shannen’s Dream to “rally behind the principle of equitable education rights for First Nation children and youth.”  However, the school hasn’t stopped there. It has organized fundraising activities and recently answered the call from the Attawapiskat Food Bank to collect and send food to the James Bay community.

Let’s hope, once Attawapiskat is no longer in the headlines, Shannen’s Dream and the dreams of Attawapiskat and other struggling First Nations communities, are not left behind. For more information on Shannen’s Dream (and the efforts of Lady Evelyn Alternative School) please visit:

For more OLM articles on Attawapiskat, click HERE.

A Highrise of Events

December 13, 2011 4:07 pm

Construction in Hull is getting serious and so is the Association des Résidents de l’Île de Hull, highlighted by the lineup of events for their Mercredis de l’ARIH. “This season we wanted to cover more angles than the musical sphere,” said the President of the ARIH Paul Duval. “We wanted to reach out to more residents and members of the community,” said Duval, who unveiled the events at the Petit Chicago Bar.

The list of events

The association decided to go all out this year organizing ten events in Hull to celebrate its 10th anniversary. The line-up varies from musical shows, documentary screenings and spaghetti dinners, all taking place in Hull on Hump Day. One event which stands out is the One Thousand and One Nights dinner hosted at the Moroccan restaurant Chez Fatima, located on Promenade du Portage on January 11, 2012.

Over the years, Association des Résidents de l’Île de Hull has become more involved within the community in different ways. “We planted over 150 trees and bushes in Hull and opened three community gardens in the area one being ecological,” said Duval, the Hull native. Willing to achieve more, l’ARIH decided to host more events to finance their plans, which aim to improve the life of residents of this low-income community. “Like everyone, we need money to function and survive,” said Duval.

Establishing a small rink in Parc Fontaine is a perfect example of how the association helps improve the quality of life on the island of Hull. “We used to have four skating rinks in the area and we were down to one,” explained Duval. To help have much needed second rink volunteers maintain it during the cold winter months and offer skating classes for those eager to learn to skate. However, it’s not all smooth skating for the association.

Marie-Ève Gratton Director of Communications and the President of the ARIH Paul Duval

With the influx of residential homes and government buildings, the biggest challenge for l’ARIH remains the grocery store dilemma. “We used to have three before and now we don’t have any,” said Duval. The last supermarket metamorphosed into an SAQ Dépôt in 1999. There was a proposal to build a food store within the proposed multipurpose Robert Guertin Centre, but the plan perished when the Federal Government announced it would not participate in the project. This forced the City of Gatineau to revise its initial plan and to cut $14 million from the development, forcing the association to seek out a new site. “The ideal location for a grocery store would be near a busy boulevard allowing people to pick something up after work,” said Duval.

Until then, the biggest realisation for l’ARIH is the Grande Tablée. “This is our little baby and we proud of what it has become,” said Duval. The event which also culminates les Mercredis de l’ARIH includes live music and a dégustation of products from the Outaouais region. It takes place at Parc Fontaine from 11 am to 11 pm on Québec’s National Holiday.

The stage of the Petit Chicago where many shows will be hosted.

Big Soul Project Delivers Huge Holiday Fun

December 6, 2011 3:46 pm

“We’re here to sing about peace, love and hope.”

As the dozens of robe-adorned choir members of the Big Soul Project shuffled out from the sacristy of the Fourth Street Baptist Church last night – colourful cloth draped around their necks and ear-to-ear smiles spreading while they waved to family and friends stacked in pews – it was hard not to feel all three of these things.

The reasoning behind the Monday night show is a spot-on representation of community choirs, local arts projects and their fundamental purposes. The choir’s official holiday concert, taking place this upcoming Saturday at the Dominion-Chalmers United Church, has sold its 1000 tickets – so, for a small food or cash donation to the Fourth Baptist Church, the public were free to attend last night’s dress rehearsal and sample the full program. Holiday cheer and good will at its finest.

Photo by Jake Morrison

Roxanne Goodman, the fearless shepherd coaxing the energetic claps, steps and three-part harmonies out of the community gospel choir since 2008, modestly stood before the hundred-piece choir – a group that’s generated so much interest it can hardly fit its members behind the altar of the quaint Glebe church. Heaps of voices piled through the small venue as the crew “wet their whistles” with a fun version of the winter classic “Jingle Bells”, the first of many numbers that audience members were prompted to croon along to. The band chimed in – a lovely touch of saxophone, percussion, bass and guitar that would accompany vocals throughout the night – and over the hill we went.

Kicking off with Eric Clapton’s “Let it Rain” and sliding into gospel goodies like “Joy To The World”, and “This Little Light of Mine” – the concert received the mighty nudge it needed after a delightful interjection from Goodman, who swiveled at her podium to address the audience about the purpose of collaboration and the beauty of song.

“If someone tells you not to sing or tells you to ‘stand in the back’, something inside you diminishes,” she said to a hushed audience. “Who am I to tell someone not to sing? I don’t recall anywhere in the Bible where God says, ‘Don’t sing – you’re not in key.’

“That doesn’t matter. We’re here to make a joyful sound.” Holiday cheer and good will strike again.

Photo by Jake Morrison

After the Director herself performed a haunting solo of “Oh Holy Night” alongside a simple steel drum backing, a John Mayer hit slid its way into the set list as well as a ballad written by a member for her husband and number one fan, who stomped the night away from the audience. A soloist’s rendition of “Croire” – the booming anthem performed at Jack Layton’s funeral – spoke to much of the program’s thematic thread and this year’s concert title, Croire-Believe.

A bright moment took place near the end of the evening, when a soloist was introduced as “an example of what happens to someone who enters the choir – someone who has a little voice and then starts to believe they can sing.” Flashes of the tiny-framed yet big-voiced Sister Mary Robert from Sister Act came to mind, before the live version squeezed out from the crowd of singers – an equally as petite lady who further drew mental comparisons after shouting her powerful bluesy rasp into the free-held microphone on “How I Got Over”. Huge gospel backing, a mid-song instrumental jam and fired-up crowd didn’t stop her voice from coasting over the aisles and securing her a spot in our hearts, and Sister Act 3.

Any pitchy moment, forgotten word or nervous soloist went unnoticed, because as Goodman and the voices of her gospel devotees so clearly chanted – none of that really matters. The pats of support on each other’s backs, lively whoops in between verses, synchronized sways and beaming smiles are evidence that the Big Soul Project hopes to show, if nothing else – that a little groove and a little faith in each other are exactly what the season calls for.

Wingin’ It is the 2011 Shaw Rocket Prize Winner!

December 2, 2011 10:49 pm

Toronto-based Temple Street Productions was awarded the $50,000 Shaw Rocket Prize for Wingin’ It, as voted by Canadian children in every province. A staple for Family Channel viewers, the show also airs on Disney XD Canada and is distributed internationally by BBC Worldwide. Wingin’ It was chosen as the winner of the Shaw Rocket Prize at an award ceremony held at the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa on November 29th.

A half-hour sitcom, Wingin’ It chronicles the adventures and misadventures of Porter, an Angel-In-Training and his odd couple other half, Carl, a typical high-school kid. To earn his wings, Porter has been assigned to transform hapless student Carl into the most popular kid in school. If he succeeds, he’ll earn real wings and a halo. If he doesn’t, it’ll be a millennium before he gets the chance to try again – and Carl will still be unpopular. Think of It’s a Wonderful Life with a 21st century twist.

In the second season, Carl (played by Dylan Everett) is still trying to survive high school, while Porter (Demetrius Joyette) continues to iron out the kinks in his magic. In the process, the two get into a lot of exciting and wacky escapades – with clever episode titles like “Err a Parent,” “Don’t Dimension It,” “Carl+Alt+Delete” and “Magical Kiss-tery Tour.”

“We are thrilled about winning the Shaw Rocket Prize. We feel like we’ve earned our wings!,” quipped Wingin’ It producer Ivan Schneeberg.

Porter Jackson and Carl Montclaire

The 7th annual Shaw Rocket Prize was presented by Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney at Ottawa’s venerable Fairmont Chateau Laurier Hotel, where the top five Canadian programs for kids aged 6 to 12 were celebrated. The other finalist shows produced across Canada made for very tough competition: dirtgirlworld, My Babysitter’s a Vampire – The Movie, Survive This, and Wibbly Pig.

“I’d like to congratulate Wingin’ It for winning this award,” said Minister Kenney. “Being selected by top industry experts, and then confirmed by a jury of child viewers – the hardest critics of all! – is a testament to the true popularity and success of this program.”

An international jury of industry experts selected five finalists for the 2011 Shaw Rocket Prize. The international jury was comprised of Adina Pitt, Cartoon Network; Joe Godwin, BBC; Tim Brooke-Hunt, ABC Australia; Nicole Keeb, ZDF (Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen [Second German Television]); and Michael Carrington, Turner Broadcasting. The international jury selected Wingin’ It as a finalist because of its creativity and appeal to kids.

Wingin’ It takes the recognizable setting of high school, mixes it with the everyday challenges of young people coming to terms with growing up, and twists it with a little bit of magic to create stories which are engaging and above all great fun!,” said Michael Carrington, Chief Content Officer, Europe, Middle East and Africa, of Turner Broadcasting.

Once narrowed to five finalists, a jury of kids from across Canada chose their favourite program. They voted in October and November after viewing each finalist’s television and digital media content online.

The Shaw Rocket Fund is a not-for-profit corporation that focuses on stimulating excellence in Canadian children’s programming. To date, the Shaw Rocket Fund has invested $120 million towards 488 television productions including digital content. Contributors to the Fund are Shaw Communications, Shaw Pay Per View Ltd., Shaw Direct, EastLink Cablesystems and Delta Cable Communications Ltd.

For more information, visit the Shaw Rocket Prize website at

Canada: Apartheid Nation in Review

November 30, 2011 3:45 pm

Faced with extreme poverty and a harsh climate, the remote, decaying and polluted northern Ontario aboriginal community of Attawapiskat has become a national cause célèbre, one month after the Ottawa premiere of a 26-minute documentary entitled Canada: Apartheid Nation, which depicts the plight of the inhabitants of this depressed community on the desolate western shore of James Bay. The screening – held in the Auditorium of Library and Archives Canada on October 26th – was co-sponsored by the Canadian Film Institute and Ottawa Life Magazine.

The lack of appropriate weather-resistant housing in Attawapiskat as winter settles in has prompted community leaders to declare a state of emergency, a move that has since attracted saturation media coverage and belated federal government attention. The Red Cross is delivering emergency blankets and heaters to those living in substandard housing. Sadly, Attawapiskat is but one of many such remote aboriginal settlements that one would expect to find in the Third World, and not in a “caring and compassionate” First World nation such as Canada.

A recent selection at the Toronto Indie Film Festival (which runs alongside the Toronto International Film Festival), Canada: Apartheid Nation exposes the truth about horrendous living conditions in remote northern First Nations communities: Third World conditions in a First World country. While living next to one of the richest diamond mines in the world, the community of Attawapiskat faces poverty, homelessness, despair, pollution, substandard education and decaying infrastructure, according to director Angela O’Leary and producer Laurie Stewart for Sagesse Productions of Ottawa.

The Attawapiskat First Nation is representative of the product of an archaic federal government department of ‘Indian’ Affairs: the filmmakers claim that the department’s policies systemically discriminate against Canada’s First Nations peoples. However, there are heroes from within the aboriginal community (from children to Chiefs) who are working quietly and surely to effect great change, no longer expecting help from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC).

Dan Donovan, publisher of Ottawa Life Magazine, introduced the film to a packed house:

Canada: An Apartheid Nation

“After this fantastic short film by Sagesse Productions was premiered at the 2011 Toronto Indie Film Festival, audiences were perplexed, shocked, stunned and saddened by its depiction of the dreadful living conditions in Attawapiskat, a remote Cree community on the eastern shore of James Bay in Northern Ontario. Once I saw Canada: Apartheid Nation, I wanted to do whatever I could to get it out there, as the plight of Canada’s aboriginal community is extremely distressing and attention should be paid. Angela O’Leary – a very successful businesswoman and entrepreneur in the high-tech field – approached Ottawa Life Magazine and asked if we could help her promote Canada: Apartheid Nation. Ottawa Life had been running a series on Aboriginal Pathways for the last year and a half and was only too happy to oblige. I was also quite intrigued that this businesswoman would go to such a remote community in the middle of winter and put this film together.

“The distressing fact of the matter is that in this country, aboriginal people are living in Third World conditions,” Donovan continued. “Over 40% of Canada’s aboriginal population does not have access to safe drinking water. The highest suicide rates in the country are in aboriginal communities. There is still a very paternalistic attitude towards the aboriginal community… indifference on the part of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, or an attitude of – out of sight, out of mind. The Auditor General of Canada has said repeatedly that the solution to this problem is getting rid of the department of Indian Affairs, which has an annual budget of $18 billion and is mostly staffed by white guys. Trouble is, these guys aren’t doing their jobs – and they are being very well paid not to do their jobs. So power should be transferred to Canada’s aboriginal community to take responsibility for their own affairs.

Attawapiskat Sign

“It’s obvious from this film that there are some people who care, but caring isn’t enough,” Donovan summed up. “We need to collectively demand change and accountability. People at Indian Affairs need to be removed if they are not doing their jobs. Here we have an $18-billion-a-year department, and yet many of the people INAC is supposedly responsible for have been living in abject poverty for decades.”

Director Angela O’Leary attended the screening to introduce and discuss her film.

“As Canadians, we stand up for people all over the world – we stand up for human rights,” O’Leary said. “It’s a Canadian trait that we’ve embraced and this is all very well and good. We feel strongly about helping those in other countries but have we forgotten about our own fellow citizens? Do we feel it is acceptable to neglect our own people?  We build schools in Afghanistan but won’t build them on aboriginal reserves, which must wait months – and often years – to receive funding approval from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.  I recently interviewed Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada. She posed a really important question: ‘Are we willing to trade off buying fighter jets and organizing expensive international summits to provide all our people with equal access to health care, education and clean water?’ I sincerely hope the film will shed some light on this question… the most pressing issue of our time.”

For more information, visit

Flaunting it all for a Friend

November 22, 2011 10:43 am

Underwear models, pole dancers and eyebrow threading; Flaunt is not your average charity event.

Flaunt is the brainchild of Stacey Bafi-Yeboa, local fashion designer of the brand Kania. Bafi-Yeboa was inspired to throw a fashion fête, now in its third year, in support of Ovarian Cancer Canada after a friend was diagnosed with the disease.

Stacey shaking it!

The event, held at the Ottawa Convention Centre, was the ultimate girls-night-out. Women of all ages and even some men were treated to “upscale glamour”, which was also the dress code. A $40 ticket more than paid for itself in a complementary manicure, hair blow-out, make-over, skin care treatment and an eyebrow threading.

A candy counter was set up for guests to make do-it-yourself treat bags. But a whole other treat was the eye-candy parading around; two male models strutted in men’s designer underwear by Dylan Ribkoff, a Canadian brand.

A series of pole dancers, from Cherry Blossom Pole Dancing Studio Inc. spun beside the DJ, while attendees browsed tables displaying Canadian-based clothing and accessories. The featured vendors donated a portion of their sales to the charity, according to Marilou Moles, the event’s social media representative.

Pole Dancing

Bafi-Yeboa is a regular Ottawa Fashion Week participant and her passion for the Canadian fashion scene is ubiquitous in all she does. “[This event] supports the national pride,” said Moles.

Eight looks from Bafi-Yeboa’s Spring/Summer 2012 collection , first seen at Ottawa Fashion Week in September, were auctioned off in name of the cause. In Stacey’s signature glamourous style, models grooved onto the dance floor wearing feather headdresses, while the designer danced in the middle of it all.

Flaunt made a typical Friday night in Ottawa chic, luxurious, and fashionable. Bafi-Yeboa put on an intimate affair for over 600 Ottawans. Each attendee left feeling special, beautiful and proud to have been part of this woman to woman initiative, which reflected Bafi-Yeboa’s mantra: to make every woman feel radiant.

Supporting Our Youth

November 18, 2011 2:57 pm

Growing up is not easy. As adults, we sometimes forget how many challenges youth face on a daily basis.

Since the tragic suicide of 15 year old Jamie Hubley on October 14th, many questions have been raised. How could this have been prevented? Where could Jamie have turned to for help?

Where can youth go if they are dealing with depression, if they are experiencing suicidal thoughts? Where can kids go if they do not feel safe at home? How can they address homophobic bullying in their schools?

Luckily, Ottawa has many resources available for youth. Many organizations work with youth; here are just a few of them:

PTS-Pink Triangle Services

Pink Triangle Youth (Twitter: @PTSOttawa)

Pink Triangle Youth (PTY) is a drop-in youth group for people ages 12-24, organized through Ottawa’s Pink Triangle Services. It is a safe, sex positive space for queer youth. Every Wednesday, anywhere between 25 and 40 youth attend this drop-in group.

Merissa Taylor-Meissner is the Senior Coordinator of Pink Triangle Youth (PTY). She works with other volunteers to organize workshops and facilitate discussions among participants.

“The workshops are about issues that queer youth face today, such as coming out, bullying, mental health stigma, what kind of resources are available and how to reach out to friends who might be suffering”, explains Taylor-Meissner. “We also do fun ones, like feminism, kink 101, and sexual health. We make sure to cover a wide variety of topics.

Taylor-Meissner shares that, for many queer youth who come from a place where their sexual orientation or their gender identity isn’t accepted, PTY is the only place that they feel like they can be themselves. “”If you come from a place where you aren’t accepted, attending a group with people who have had similar experiences helps you feel like you can be yourself and creates a safe space,” says Taylor-Meissner.

Pink Triangle Services is a very small organization that offers many programs and services, not just for youth. They are always looking for donations or volunteers to assist in their programming efforts.

Pink Triangle Youth takes place every Wednesday, from 7pm to 9pm at 251 Bank Street.

Jer’s Vision

Jer’s Vision (Twitter: @jersvision)

Is there an issue with bullying at your local high school? If so, Jer’s Vision can help. Canada’s first national youth-run diversity organization, Jer’s Vision goes into schools in Ottawa and works with youth to address the culture of homophobic & transphobic bullying by engaging straight youth to become allies who understand the experiences of their LGBTQ peers and support them.

Volunteers from Jer’s Vision visit schools across Canada, in order to educate students and staff on how to prevent bullying in their schools through workshops, youth initiatives and conferences. They will work closely with teachers and with Gay-Straight Alliances or Rainbow Clubs in order to overcome discriminative behaviours. “The goal of Jer’s Vision is to prevent bullying before it becomes an issue,” says Executive Director Jeremy Dias. “We work with students and teachers and give the tools that they need to promote diversity in their schools.”

Jer’s Vision started as an organization running a single scholarship to recognize students who work to promote diversity in their schools and work to end bullying. In five years, the organization has grown to include activities in every province and territory.

“Our organization does one crucial thing: change the culture of the schools to make it safer and more respectful for all, including victims, bullies and bystanders” says Dias.  “Success will not come from one presentation, but from ongoing work with these schools and communities, and that includes everything from workshops, field trips, conferences, dialogues, art events, and so much more!”

In addition to their hands-on work in school, Jer’s Vision runs the International Day of Pink, a campaign against Bullying, Discrimination, Homophobia and Transphobia in schools and communities. “We invite everyone to celebrate diversity by wearing a pink shirt and by organizing activities in their workplaces, organizations, communities and schools on April 11, 2012,” says Dias.

Jer’s Vision is a volunteer based organization. They are always looking for people to help, donate and get involved. To invite Jer’s Vision to your school, community organization or business, check them out at

Jer’s Vision is located at 440 Albert Street.

Operation Come Home

Operation Come Home (Twitter: @OCHOttawa)

Operation Come Home (OCH) works with at-risk and homeless youth, in order to prevent them from becoming homeless adults. OCH offers many programs and services for homeless youth, in areas like education, outreach, housing and employment. “If we can give youth the resources they need now, they will not end up living in the streets and are less likely to become homeless adults,” says Jamie Hammond, OCH’s Communications Officer.

OCH operates a drop-in and resource centre for youth aged 16 to 25. The centre is open from Monday to Friday, 8am to 12pm.  This is the only morning drop-in centre for youth in Ottawa. Breakfast is prepared for them, and youth can access the clothing cupboard, with clothes, hygiene products and sleeping bags. They also have access to phones and computers if they need to check their emails or look for jobs. There are social support workers who work at the centre they might need.


OCH operates the Rogers Achievement Centre, which is the only on-site high school for at-risk youth in Ottawa. Youth aged 16 to 30 who have a couple of credits they need to complete or that are working on their GED, can register to attend this school. Students are able to work at their own pace and a teacher from the Ottawa Catholic School Board is available to help them every day. “Just because someone is not in school doesn’t mean that they don’t want to be there,” says Hammond. “Youth who don’t fit in the conventional learning environment or who get kicked out of their house might not be inclined to go back to school. Our Achievement Centre allows them to continue their education.”

OCH operates two social enterprises: BottleWorks and BeadWorks. BottleWorks is a successful bottle pick up service that employs 2-3 youth. The program works with many restaurants in downtown Ottawa. Youth will collect the bottles and keep the money received. Restaurants get a tax receipt for participating in this program. Also, BottleWorks has a new partnership with Beau’s Brewery for a residential delivery service, called BYBO (Buy Your Beau’s Online). Customers can order their Beau’s products online, and have them delivered by OCH’s BottleWorks service, starting November 25th. BeadWorks is a program where youth come into the studio and make jewelry. All the materials 1are provided and the jewelry is sold, with 75% of the profits go to the youth and 25% going back to the program. OCH now has a store front and is currently trying to draw in more people into the studio.

OCH also operates the Job Action Centre, where they offer a pre-employment program for a 12 week period, for youth aged 16 to 30. From Monday to Friday, 8 or 9 youth work on resume building, interview techniques, cover letter writing. They get certified in WHMIS, Smart Serve, First Aid and CPR, Conflict Resolution. They get paid to minimum wage. “By the end of the program, the goal is for them to either go back to school or to get a job,” says Hammond. “We work with youth to overcome barriers that might prevent them for getting a job.”

OCH offers many other programs, such as a healthy lifestyle program and a housing assistance program. Up to 250 youth take advantage of OCH’s programs every month. “Since we moved locations from Murray Street to Gloucester Street, our intake of youth has double or tripled,” says Hammond.

OCH is always accepting for donations for their drop-in centre, such as milk and coffee, canned goods, and clothing. In the wintertime, they are always short on coats or long sleeved shirts for men and women. Any donation is appreciated.

If you know a teen in need ~ reach out and help!

Operation Come Home is located at 150 Gloucester Street.

If you know a youth in need, reach out and look within our community. There are many organizations in the Ottawa area who work tirelessly to support youth.

Interested in supporting the work of these amazing organizations? Get involved! These organizations rely heavily on volunteers. Cannot give your time to these organizations? Feel free to make a donation. Every bit helps.

Tea, Tranquility and Tradition

November 15, 2011 2:57 pm

As the cold weather rushes in, many of us will reach for a steaming cup of tea. The inaugural Ottawa Tea Festival taught guests about culture, tradition, and hospitality through the history of the hot drink.

Kimiko Uriu, the festival’s organizer, said over 600 people attended the event, which opened with a speech from Ms. Mariko Kaneko, Counsellor of the Embassy of Japan. “This is a unique event that has brought together many cultures and countries,” said Kaneko.

Photo by Marc Cousineau

Next, a traditional Japanese tea ceremony took place center stage at City Hall. The ceremony was led by Luke Oldham and his mother-in-law Kyoko Kosaki.

Oldham was inspired by Kosaki to study the art of the ceremony at the Omoté-Senke Selha School in Japan. He handmade the scrolls, tea caddy, and carved tea scoop used in the ceremony over four years of study. “Japanese tea ceremony is more than an act of just drinking tea, but an act of serving…It’s a way of showing respect to the guests around you,” he said.

Traditional Japanese Kimono

Each step of the ceremony is highly ritualized. Every item are made to exact specifications and high quality materials. For example the bowls and serving scoop accommodate two and a half sips of tea; the customary serving size.

The mantra of the ceremony is Wa, Kei, Sei, Jaku, meaning harmony, respect, purity and tranquility. The ceremony was slow and peaceful; everything that contradicts mealtime in Canadian society. “It suits my personality,” said Oldham. “Quiet, thoughtful, methodical.”

After the tea was sipped and the accompanying sweet treats were nibbled each utensil was cleansed and put away. “For every action that is done there is an equal action to undue that action,” said the ceremony’s moderator.

Kosaki, a petite, sweet-as-can-be, Japanese woman, said she holds tea ceremony lessons at her home on Tuesday afternoons to keep the culture alive.

Photo by Marc Cousineau

Ottawa’s capital city mentality provided a perfect back drop to educate Ottawans about cultural traditions said event organzier, Uriu. “I traveled to a lot of tea growing regions, China, Korea, Japan. I found the more you learn about tea the more you learn about a culture.”

The festival featured many additional performances and lectures including a Korean tea ceremony, a talk on Fair Trade branding, and a matcha tea educational session led by Uriu.

The event raised over $1000 for Ashinaga, a charity benefitting orphans affected in Japan’s devastating earthquake and tsunami last March. The Japanese Counsellor thanked Canadians for their support during one of her country’s most tragic years. “The children who have lost their parents, it will take them time to heal.”

Uriu said the Ottawa Tea Festival will be an annual addition to the city’s events calendar.

Beloved Children’s Classic Coming to Arts Court

November 14, 2011 4:24 pm

The buoyant exuberance of The Wind in the Willows can soon be experienced live on stage in Ottawa.

The childhood classic will be performed at the Arts Court Theatre (2 Daly Avenue) for two shows (at 11am and 4pm) on December 10.

Ottawa puppetmasters John Nolan and Kathy MacLellan of Rag & Bone Puppet Theatre breathe life into Kenneth Grahame’s magical characters using large puppets, hand puppets and masks, acted by humans and on film, all underscored by Russell Levia’s live music!

Wind in the Willows

“We are delighted to shine a spotlight on this inspiring local company that has been producing stellar work for more than 30 years,” said Linda Balduzzi, executive director of the Ottawa Arts Court Foundation.

Four little animals – the shy Mole, Rat (who loves the river), Badger (who doesn’t go out much), and Toad (whose boisterous adventures can have dangerous consequences) – stand up to bullies, rescue a baby otter, and learn how to listen to what the wind whispers in the willows.

This holiday season, Ottawa audiences will have a chance to celebrate one of the city’s very own puppet theatre companies with The Wind in the Willows! “The sheer joy radiated by the characters in this show makes it a perfect family outing to celebrate the holiday season,” says puppeteer extraordinaire John Nolan.

Come on an adventure with Toad this December as he motors through Arts Court! It’s a wild ride you won’t want to miss!

Tickets are limited, so call today! Tell them Ottawa Life Magazine sent you!


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Arts Court Theatre, 2 Daly Ave

11:00 am and 4:00 pm

Tickets: $15

Box Office: 613-564-7240

This Weekend Check out Bessy Art at the Barber

November 11, 2011 3:03 pm

Looking for something different to do this weekend?  Head to “Bessy Art at the Barber” for a cool take on the whole vernissage/salon  concept.  Take a step back in time and head to Sam the Barber’s shop on Bank Street and check out the amazing art of local up and coming artist Bess Fraser.

“This show is based on the word Salon/a gathering, a meeting for learning and sharing ideas.  I am hosting the “Salon” at the “Barber” to dress it down a little.  I want people to discuss art, what they like, what they have seen and what art they themselves may have made. My art will be on display to get the discussion going.”

Bessy Art at the Barber

Sam’s shop is the perfect spot for this kind of event and frankly, it’s an original and creative take on an art event, taking out all the stuffiness that can sometimes be associated with the art scene.  “I am grateful to Sam the Barber for generously lending me his shop. I just love the space because of the setting, location, lighting and what the space has been used for in the day, where people gather, chat and at the same time.  BessyArt at the Barber will be all about discussion and laughter.”

While she is a creative designer for web and print, Bess has always used painting as a personal creative outlet.  “My high school had a large art focus. As a young adult I went to a number of renowned galleries in Europe viewing first hand big important art. Since then, I have studied visual arts, art history, painting and a lot of figure drawing.” But it has really been in the past year that things have really taken off for her as an artist.  “I gained enough confidence to paint more. Creating art and actually showing your work is pretty raw, and you are really putting yourself out there. I think musicians must feel that way about their songs.  It’s kind of like putting our heart and soul on display for everyone to see.”

Her art is fresh and it is saucy. “Composition and colour have always played a role in all of my work and my work combines the two with a certain looseness of paint.”

Come and have a laugh and while you’re there, talk some art and help support a local artist this Sunday November  13, from  5:00 p.m. to 8:00pm at the Barber, 1096 Bank.

Check out her work at

Sweden Dreams the Dream

9:11 am

Combine an internet romance, an estranged mother and son and a vacation to Taiwan and anything can happen. That’s the premise of Sweden’s contribution to this year’s European Union Film Festival. And if the reviews are anything to go by it is also full of twists intrigue.

Miss Kicki – Dreaming the Dream tells the unlikely tale of Kicki a Swedish ex-pat who returns to Sweden to be reunited with her 16-year old son. Brought up by his grandmother, Kicki’s son is disinterested in getting to know his estranged mother. To help them get reacquainted, Kicki takes her son on vacation to the exotic Asian capital of Taiwan. The only hitch is that Taipei also happens to be the home of a Taiwanese businessman she has been conducting an internet romance with. What happens next involves gangsters, a friendship between her son and a Taiwanese boy and a mother-son reconcilation of sorts.

Kicki star Pernilla August prepares to meet her on-line paramour, a Taiwanese businessman.

As well as being an engaging story, the Swedish offering to Ottawa’s week-long European film festival (November 17 to December 4) also has its fair share of high profile actors and film accolades. Star of the film Pernilla August is a celebrated actress in Sweden. In 1992 she won the best actress award at the Festival de Cannes for The Best Intensions. (In an obscurely known film fact August also played Shmi Skywalker in the Star Awards prequels.) And despite it being Director Håkon Liu’s first feature length debut, Kicki has scooped up three film awards – including the Winner of the Telia Film Award at the Stockholm International Film Festival. Kicki also got the nod for a special mention award at the Pusan 14th International Film Festival 2009 and the Rainer Wener Fassbinder Prize at Mannheim-Heidelberg. Swedish media have also lapped it up describing it variously as ”a jewel”, a “brilliant debut” and describing its lead actress Pernilla August as “radiant.”

Miss Kicki – Dreaming the Dream will screen 7pm on Monday, November 21 at Library Archives Canada on Wellington St.  More information on the film is available at the Swedish Embassy website at

Unofficial Launch of Northern Lights Showcase

November 9, 2011 9:05 am
Northern lights logo

The 2012 Northern Lights Showcase – a three day extravaganza of the North to be held in Ottawa next February – had its unofficial launch last week with a photo shoot and press conference involving seven high profile Northern leaders.

In attendance were: Premier of Nunavut Eva Aariak, President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami Mary Simon, former Premier of Northwest Territories, Nellie Cornoyea, Senior Negotiator of the Nunatsiavut Government Isabella Pain, Chairman of the Kativik Regional Government Maggie Emudluk, renowned Inuit Artist Kenojuak Askevak and Canadian Singer/Songwriter Elisapie Isaac. Also in attendance was Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq. Ms. Aglukkaq is also the MP for Nunavut, the Federal Minister for Responsible for the North and the Federal Minister Responsible for the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency.

Northern Lights Showcase 2012

The photo shoot by re-known Ottawa photographer Paul Couvrette at the Lord Elgin Hotel was held to take the photograph January cover of Ottawa Life Magazine. The theme of the issue is women of influence in Canada’s North. It also marked the unofficial start of the final run up to the 2012 Northern Lights Showcase. The event, a joint venture of the Baffin Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Labrador North Chamber of Commerce, will celebrate Canada’s north and eastern arctic including the regions of Nunavut, Nunavik, Nunatsiavut and Labrador.  Northern Lights, a business and cultural showcase strives to strengthen partnerships between Canada’s northern and southern key business and government stakeholders. Around 1,000 attendees and 140 exhibitors are expected to attend the event.

Canada's Northern Lights

Speaking in her role as Minister Responsible for the North and for the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency Leona Aglukkaq said the Northern Lights Showcase was “our opportunity to showcase what the North is all about with its culture, artists and its business opportunities.” Creating economic links between the North and the South will be the focus of the Northern Lights Showcase along with a promotion of the rich cultural heritage of Northern Canada.

Economic growth in the North Aglukkaq said was “huge” with her riding of Nunavut recording the largest increase of any province or territory in Canada. Statistics Canada stated Nunavut’s real GDP increased by 11 per cent in 2010 compared to the national average of 3.2%. “It is important,” added Aglukkaq “that Inuit be part of that growth which is very important not just to Nunavut but to the three territories that present 40% of Canada’s land mass.”

More information on the 2012 Northern Lights Showcase and how to be involved please visit

Come Enjoy a Flavourful Feast at the NAC This Saturday!

November 2, 2011 2:13 pm

Canada’s holistic nutritionists will combine their knowledge and experience with local celebrity chefs to create Feast of Flavour: Ottawa’s Holistic Food Event. The gastronomic affair will take place at the National Arts Centre on Saturday, November 5, from 11am to 4pm. Chef Lynn Crawford (host of Food Network Canada’s Pitchin’ In) and Chef Michael Blackie (co-host of Food Network Canada’s Chef Off!) will be on hand while holistic nutritionists certified by the Canadian Association of Holistic Nutrition Professionals (CAHN-Pro) invite Ottawa-area foodies to taste mouth-watering foods, wine and beer, and to sample savoury and sweet dishes – all prepared by Canada’s top chefs and local/organic food companies.

This “experiential food event” offers a day of tasting, learning and discussion about the therapeutic properties of traditionally prepared dishes and how research can now confirm that the flavours in some of our favourite foods are also what provide their healing benefits.

“As holistic nutritionists, we want to share our knowledge about food with Canadians in a whole new way,” says Jennifer Sexton, holistic nutritionist and board member of CAHN-Pro. “Tasting and experiencing the flavours of fresh, local dishes prepared using traditional techniques offers a great opportunity to talk about what our ancestors intuitively knew about preparing and preserving foods to maximize both their flavour and healing benefits.”

Ticket purchase and other information about Feast of Flavour: Ottawa’s Holistic Food Event are available through

For more information, contact: CAHN-Pro Ottawa

A Wheel to the Wise – Plan Ahead: Winter is on the Way!

November 1, 2011 9:00 am
High Resolution Logo for Print

With winter approaching and the cold weather settling into our bones, isolation and loss of independence is a reality for far too many senior citizens and for those living with special mobility needs in Ottawa, one of the world’s coldest and most snowbound capital cities.

As our mind fills with these foreboding thoughts, it is important to start planning a safe and reliable mode of transportation in order for seniors and the mobility-challenged to attend medical appointments and social outings, and to complete vital errands. Knowing what means of transportation are available to suit each individual’s specific needs, early preparation cannot be stressed enough – particularly for the loved ones and caregivers of those who suffer from any form of Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Wheels for the Wise, a new service now available in Ottawa, specializes in providing safe and reliable chauffeured accompaniment for seniors and for those with special mobility needs to and from their weekly responsibilities, appointments and errands. The Chauffeur-Companions at Wheels for the Wise are retired professionals – offering clients physical and emotional assistance for the entire duration of the outing. In addition, they are trained in CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and are First-Aid- and AED (automated external defibrillator)-certified. They have also been cleared by an Ottawa Police Service records check for working with vulnerable individuals, and hold a clean driver’s abstract issued by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation.

Wheels for the Wise

A spokesperson for Wheels for the Wise says the service even offers audio recordings of medical appointments to those who have power of attorney so they will know exactly what the doctor said if they could not be present due to prior obligations.

To highlight the organization’s commitment to improving the transportation options for seniors and people with special mobility needs in Ottawa, Jana Mitchell, Founder and CEO of Wheels for the Wise, is one of the service providers invited to participate in the roundtable discussions being held by the Council on Aging on November 23. These Age-Friendly Focus Groups have been coordinated as a continuation of the recent Mayor’s Seniors Summit, which was held on October 3 at Ottawa City Hall. The information and recommendations gathered during these roundtable discussions will be used to formulate an Older Adult Plan to go before City Council in 2012.

Mitchell will address, among other issues, the cost of insurance for small businesses to operate, particularly commercial auto insurance. “We have to charge a minimum of $45 per hour, in large part because our insurance rates are very high”, Mitchell told Ottawa Life Magazine.

Considering the time it will take to implement any such recommendations, Wheels for the Wise has launched a donation and sponsorship program that allows businesses and individuals to sponsor a person living with special mobility needs who lacks sufficient income to access their services. Mitchell states: “The stories we hear daily are heartbreaking and we have to do our part to prevent isolation and prolong independence for as many people as we can.” Wheels for the Wise allocates all donated funds based on a waiting list of recipients who have been screened though an application process to confirm their financial eligibility.

For more information, contact Jana Mitchell, Founder/CEO, Wheels for the Wise Inc., 613.709.WISE (9473);;

Le Petit Chicago Getting Back in Style

October 28, 2011 9:30 am
4 Jeudis on Laval St

Walking through the old streets of the Le Vieux-Hull sometimes makes one wonder how life was at the turn of the twentieth century. Walking on the brick pathway of Aubry St. and come across the historic hotel Chez Henri in Place Aubry, where the renowned Al Capone smuggled booze, one speculates just how wild the Roaring Twenties were.

Martin Gauld offering free popcorn

While those days are long gone, on the night of the 26 of October these crazy years were relived during the Noble Experiment as the first edition of La Nuit Folle took place in Hull. Organized by Vision centre-ville Gatineau and its partners, the night’s theme focused on the 1920’s and 40’s. Those years were Hull’s epopee as Americans yearned for booze and Quebecers couldn’t get enough of it. During this time the region matured into Sin City as southerners fled the Volstead Act. Many commercial activities and establishments developed around bootlegging like gambling houses, cabarets and clubs attracting famous names such as Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.

After the prohibition era, Hull faced a severe hang-over and with no available cure, the City succumbed to social problems such as drugs, prostitution and unemployment. Now, the revamped Hull, after expropriations, construction of major boulevards and erection of government complexes, is now trying to get back on its feet after withstanding a serious make-over. “The goal of this night is to restore a positive image of the Old-Hull,” said Marie-Ève Gratton, communication coordinator for the event. The whole night was also a collective effort to charm the delegates from Bienvenue Québec in town this week, to have Le Vieux-Hull become a recognized Québec tourist destination.

Marie-Ève Gratton enjoying a smooth cigarette

The representatives of Bienvenue Québec witnessed Hull’s transformation as residents disguised themselves in costumes of the era wearing top hats, long coats and suspenders. “The theme of the night was also to celebrate the working class culture of the area and its rich history,” said Gratton. A slideshow of old black and white picture’s in Place Aubry gave you an idea of what life resembled in the interwar period. You also had an idea of the prices of the time with signs advertising  5¢ shoe-shines and 25¢ haircuts, unfortunately beer remained at regular price.

All the bars and bistro’s in the area organized activities for the night. Pêle Mêle showcased an old black and white hockey game, the Troquet screened the Kino and Robe summer Slam free Jazz movie, 4 jeudis welcomed Hammerhead, a funk-rock band while the Petit Chicago hosted a Blues night. As for the Où…Quoi! Lounge Urbain it hosted the L’Omnium du Rock competition. There was also a 1920’s Halloween theme night at the Bistro and a cabaret theme night at the Bop Lounge. “I’m really happy that and all the bars collaborated with the event,” said Gratton. The bars were as busy as speakeasy’s and racked in a decent amount of money on a night which wouldn’t see as much cash and beer flow. Hopefully, the money will be re-invested into the community to see the return of the good old days in Little Chicago.



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