The Adventures of Cliff Caporale, Ottawa’s Con-Man Extraordinaire!

May 15, 2016 3:56 am

All photos by Andre Gagne

The son of European immigrants, Cliff Caporale was just your average kid living in the suburbs of Montreal when he was struck by an electro-charged decade called the 1980’s. Suddenly, he began to notice changes. He became obsessed with cartoons and comics! As one of the only kids in the neighbourhood, he recalls, Saturday morning cartoons and superheros was a way to unite with other children growing up. Not being able to afford all the toys a kid of the ’80’s would want, he turned to his imagination. He’d find a way. Soon he was making transforming robots out of common pieces of paper and reusing his old toys to make new action figures characters from his favorite television show, The X-Files. The pop-culture world had opened up for him and he dived in.

That kid had some pretty big dreams and he carried them with him along the way. There’s some grey in his hair these days but some things haven’t changed. He still admits to reading comics before bedtime.

Caporale wasn’t satisfied, though, geeking out within the confines of his own home. He knew there were others like him out there. Some called them nerds but, to Cliff, they were kindred and their culture was only getting bigger. If only he could bring them all together.

Insert one light-bulb dinging sound effect here.

With a little help from a super team of friends in Montreal, The Ottawa Comiccon was born in 2012. Five years later, the event just keeps expanding.

“There’s no question that Comicon is growing,” said Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson at the convention’s May 13 press conference in City Hall. “When I go I’m amazed at the enthusiasm and the excitement that fans really get in seeing there real life idols and heroes, how they dress the part, how they act the part.”

Conventions like these have exploded with a Death Star like immensity in recent years. This year 40,000, more than doubled from the first year, are expected to attend the three-day event and they bring with them multiple fan bases that seemingly include every conceivable colourful creation your mind could fathom. When the EY Centre doors opened Friday night in walked the Steampunks, elves, ponies, heroes and villains. Marvel Avengers, DC caped crusaders, zombies, dragons and princesses from a galaxy far, far away, they were all there.  In their hands they clutched wands, sonic screwdrivers, axes, and swords of light. It looked like all of them were smiling.

“Conventions like this one reach all kinds of people and so many generations that you normally wouldn’t reach,” actor Billy Dee Williams of Star Wars fame and Comiccon guest told Ottawa Life.

For Caporale, Programming Director of the convention, this has to be the world’s biggest toy box. Not to shabby for a guy who used to make his own Transforms out of paper. Over the weekend the cavalcade of costumed creativity will scoop up vintage toys, show off imaginative outfits that cost some of them hundreds to make, roll dice, tell stories, share mutual loves, avoid Daleks, listen to a 50 piece orchestra and sit in for Q&A panels with time travelers, Hulks, Changelings, space pilots, vampire slayers and Hobbits.

But what were the origins of this marvel of pop culture? How does it get put together each year? And why do they keep coming?

Join us,  as we follow Cliff Caporale, Ottawa’s Con-Man Extraordinaire –also known as Programming Director– on his now five year mission to bring the geek culture multi-verse to the masses.

Allons-y! comic templte1bcomic templteh
Ottawa Life: So, obviously you’re a fan of comics and a slew of things related to geek culture. What were some of the things in your youth you deviated to that would later shape your interest in the Con/Geek culture scene that’s exploded in recent years?

Caporale: As a child of the 80’s, I was very much into cartoons and toys, so I watched quite a bit of the superhero shows like Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, Superfriends, and more, like Transformers. I had picked up comics from friends here and there, but it really wasn’t until the first Transformers comic from Marvel that I became a fan. That led to me picking up several X-Men titles, like Uncanny X-Men, X-Factor, New Mutants, and eventually Excalibur. The outsider themes in the X-Men books really spoke to me, being one of very few immigrants’ kids in the suburbs of Montreal.  Wanting to know more about the X-people’s adventures, a neighbour of mine took me to my first comic book convention to find some missing issues. I was hooked.

You had a lot to geek out to as an ’80’s kid. What’s been one of your biggest geek out moments as an adult?

This past April, I found out Prince was heading to Montreal. I’ve been a fan of his since I was a tweener, with my first album ever being Purple Rain (on cassette!). I never had the chance to see him play live; as a kid it was unattainable to see a concert, and as an adult I would always miss the opportunity to buy tickets. When tickets were released for his most recent concert, I jumped at the chance. It was just him on piano, signing and charming the crowd. It was exquisite. I teared up several times, sometimes because of the power of the music, other times because I would realize where I was. It was an experience I will never forget. With his passing a few weeks after that, it showed me that you can’t pass-up certain experiences.comic templtebcomic templtefSUDDENLYc
When I was a kid I can recall being teased for wearing a Ninja Turtles shirt or playing fantasy games. Now, it’s almost like its uncool not to be geeky over something. Why do you feel this culture has blown up so much in recent years and permeated so much so that city’s like Ottawa can have multiple events like Comiccon each year?

I think there are several factors that led to this. First, you have two generations that grew up watching shows with characters such as Batman, Spider-Man, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers, Pokémon, and more. Add to that the rise of video games, the box office and critical successes of several comics franchises. These are products that aren’t only cool looking, but also bring universal themes and morals that a slew of people identify with. Now, contrary to sports, where fans can gather weekly to watch their favourite team, geeks didn’t have a place where they can gather in the thousands. We only had our living rooms to watch our show or a nice chair to read our books. For us, conventions are where we go to have that group experience.

What was the genesis –or origin, if you will– of the first Ottawa Con?

Back in 2011, the original organizers of Montreal Comiccon, Alex La Prova and Oscar Yazedjian, saw that Ottawa did not have a similar event. They did their research, added new partners, and noticed that there was indeed a thriving geek community. They took a chance and booked the EY Centre for May 2012, to see what would happen. After the initial bookings with exhibitors and guests, we were hoping for, at best, 8,000 fans. Over two days, we had 22,000 fans come to the first Ottawa Comiccon.comic templte3fBut Then
What goes into planning one of these each year? Do you pretty well start the day after the other ends?

There’s a lot of planning that goes into each year’s event. We’re a very small core team that work on Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City all year round, and we tend to wear different hats, depending on what needs to be done. Planning will sometimes start as early as 18 months before, to be sure we’ve secured key assets, and started discussing certain technical contracts. The important thing is to remain fluid, with certain guidelines, as what we started planning isn’t always the end product.

Each year the guest list seems to expand with more and more faces. What goes into bringing them to the city and how are they chosen?

The first step, is gauging interest. Which guests are folks in Ottawa interested in? What are they reading? What are they watching? We gather information from different resources, like social media, local comic book store and comments fans share. From there, we see who from that list is attainable (not everyone does conventions) and who is available. We try to create themes for a given year, but based on guest availability, things are always changing.comic templte3bcomic templte3eAcross town
What has been your experience having to deal with a bunch of celebs from many different walks of life over the years? It seems, at least in front of the scenes, everything has been pretty laid back and welcoming.

Yes, I have to say that it’s been nothing but positive experiences with our guests. We are very happy that we get to create an opportunity for fans to meet people they look up to. They get to interact and see that they are human, too.

The Con has the staggering task of trying to cater to many different fan bases with new ones cropping up all the time. How do you find ways to meet the need to have as much fan bases represented as possible?

What we aim is to be as diverse as possible with our offerings. We’re big on themes, like Doctor Who this year, but we try not to have it dominate the guest list. One of our goals is to introduce new elements, but also keep some familiar ones. We basically keep our ear to the ground and hope that we’ve got the recipe right, and try to improve on it the following year.comic templte3dMeanwhile_lettering_b
Was there a moment either when booking somebody or, as you often do, on stage with a guest where you have had your geek out moment of “I can’t believe…”?

Oh, big time! Last year, I couldn’t believe I was on stage with Billie Piper from Doctor Who. She is such a lovely person. Most of the time, I get the feeling after, though. Like having a short backstage conversation with Gillian Anderson or Levar Burton, and then only it sinking in several days after the con.

Some Cons have started bringing in sports icons and wrestlers to the event. Any future plans to expand that way?

We’re not opposed to it. Though we did try to bring in wrestlers at Pop Expo (our Fall event) with a middling response. As the con grows, we hope that the building will be able to as well, and we’ll be able to test the waters with new elements.

What are you excited for in relation to this year’s Con?

One of the things I am most excited about is the OVMF Concert on Friday night. That’s 50 musicians on stage playing music from Star Wars, Doctor Who, Game of Thrones and more. That will be the juice that will keep me going for the whole weekend and beyond. Also, being a comics fan, meeting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle co-creator Kevin Eastman will be pretty gnarly, dude!comic templte3ccomic templtegBut the story doesn’t end there!

Break out you masks and capes because there’s still and entire day left of Comiccon 2016 with workshops, panels and celebrity Q&As. Sunday tickets are available online.

A super, turbo-charged, wibbly-wobbly, warp speed thanks to: Cliff Caporale, Billy Dee Williams, Lou Ferrigno, Kory Thielemann, Ryan Mathieson and The Final Frontier beer, Kevin Eastman, SV Bell at Black Flag TV, Catherine Burt at Peekaboo Cosplay, and Mike Sullivan (aka: Bus Superman) for some fantastic interviews. Also a thanks to The League of Super Heroes, Anja Takea, Tabula Rasa Cosplay, Mike Grell, the Doctor Who Society of Canada (Ottawa Chapter), Christian Richard Brousseau, China Doll, Open Shutter Photo, Dave Ross and Modulicious as well as the fine folks at the Old Fashioned Fudge booth (congrats on 40 years!). A big shout out to all the volunteers and staff at Ottawa Comiccon 2016 for being so helpful and, of course, to all the Cosplayers who graciously posed for pictures. Your creativity and imagination continues to astound. Excelsior!

Five Unique Ways to Enjoy Ottawa’s Nightlife

May 2, 2016 1:04 pm

Clubbing and bars not your thing? Fortunately, Ottawa has so much more going on once the sun goes down. From fantastic quick food to quirky stops downtown, there’s always a way to turn your evening into a blast. We have a list of five off-the-wall things you can try in the city this weekend, no pints required.

roulette-1253626_1280 (1)1. Go Gaming

If you’re looking for something with higher stakes than the average night out, both Ottawa and Gatineau have great gaming options. If you head south you’ll find the Rideau Carleton Entertainment Centre, and just across the river is the swanky Casino Lac Leamy.
If an exciting night in is more your speed though, where the food, the drinks and the vibe are all up to you, then is your best gaming option. Just follow the rainbow and get welcome bonus for your first try.

House of Targ-8

Photo by Andre Gagne.

2. Play Pinball at House of Targ

House of Targ isn’t for everyone, but those who dig it are fans for life. Settled into a basement just beside bank street, Targ is always full of the sound of pinball machines, old-school arcade games and perogies sizzling. The atmosphere is a great combination of chill and fun, and every few minutes one of the staff uses a microphone to call out that the next person’s order of perogies are ready. The wait for your own name to be called is intense.
So grab a drink, find a game and make sure to bring some change.


Photo by Erin Noseworthy.

3. Go out for Tacos

Ottawa is being recognized more and more as a city that offers some fantastic snacks, and no quick-bite is shining brighter than tacos. Some of the biggest buzz has been surrounding the tacos from El Camino on Elgin Street. You can order them with a bigger meal or just grab them at the takeout window, but either way, these tacos will surprise you. There are a ton of choices, including the basics like pork or chicken and some out of this world options like Japanese eggplant and Ox tongue.

Sidedoor Contemporary Kitchen has slightly more upscale tacos, which cost about $9.50 for two pieces. They’re worth the cost though, as each one comes in a deliciously soft shell and inside you’ll find a constellation of interesting flavours. The Bajan crispy-fish are a must try.

If you’re looking for classic tacos that are a little more economical, Corazon De Maiz in the market or Nacho Cartel in Sandy Hill won’t leave you disappointed.


Photo by Eric Murphy.

4. Do a Haunted Walk

Do ghosts get your heart racing? Ottawa has downtown tours that go in and around some of the city’s spookiest locales. The Haunted Walk of Ottawa has experienced guides that will take you from Sparks Street through the heart of the ByWard Market and even into the Ottawa Jail Hostel. Once called the Carleton County Jail, the hostel is the site of three executions and is often considered one of the most haunted buildings in North America.

5. Play Some Board Games

Many locals don’t know that Ottawa has not one but two fantastic board game cafes downtown.

You can find Monopolatte on Somerset Street just on the edge of China town. Inside is a quirky and colourful café with just about every board game you can imagine stacked on the shelves. The servers are friendly and have an encyclopedic knowledge of how to play each game they offer.

A more casual alternative to Monopolatte is The Loft, a board game lounge just outside of the University of Ottawa. The décor alone is a good enough reason to visit. The Loft has a gorgeous hardwood floor set beneath gigantic wooden beams that crisscross the ceiling. The old stone walls are only interrupted by an enormous mural and floor-to-ceiling shelves that hold up their massive collection of games. So if your weekend goal is to cozy up to a fireplace and get your scrabble on, this is the place to visit.

Get Your Geek On!

April 9, 2016 9:01 pm

All photos by Andre Gagne.

Lock up your Tardis and park your DeLorean because there’s still time to get your geek on this weekend at the 2016 Ottawa Geek Market and Capital Gaming Expo at the Nepean Sportsplex. Where else are you going to see the Hulk hobnobbing with Hobbits, Chewbacca exchanging grooming tips with Dumbledore or Batman sharing a java with Papa Smurf?

Stacey Young, Co-Founder and Lead Organizer of the Geek Market, had been playing board games for as long as she could remember when she got the idea to turn it into a hobby. She started making jewellery out of the game pieces to sell at a few local events but soon realized that there should be more areas that catered to the type of pop-culture merchandise she enjoyed crafting.

The wheels where turning faster than the Millennium Flacon jumping to light speed. Young, who is disabled and unable to actually be out much due to severe chemical sensitivities and fragrance allergies, needed some help. Who you gonna’ call? No, not the Ghostbusters but your friendly neighborhood Lego dealer, Karen Fraser. The two put their heads together and the Geek Market started to take shape.

Catherine Burt of Peekaboo Cosplay

Catherine Burt of Peekaboo Cosplay

“It’s surprising just how much work goes into organizing an event. Everything takes longer than you expect and there are a lot of logistics to consider,” explains Young. “Each facility that we’ve held our event at has very different rules and requirements. Each floor plan needs to be carefully considered to make sure that the flow of traffic is right, that the right exhibitors are mixed in together, and that it visually looks good.”

Young wanted to ensure the Geek Market was something different than some of the other events of this nature that come to the city. Where conventions like ComicCon and Pop Expo bring in big name celebrities for Q&A’s, photo ops and autograph sessions, Young wanted the market to focus mainly on shopping while simultaneously allowing an affordable place for the cosplaying, gaming and local fandom groups to converge.

This year cosplay is taking centre stage with various events devoted to the ever-expanding culture. After you’ve filled your shopping bag full of T-shirts, comics, games and collectibles you can take in a panel on cosplay basics, see the various creations at the market’s formal masquerade or meet one of the cosplay guests.

“I fell in love with the workmanship of it,” says one such guest, Catherine Burt of Peekaboo Cosplay, on why she started cosplaying. She’s created stunning renditions of the wicked Maleficent as well as the wholesome Glinda of Oz, to name a few. “For a lot of people it’s about becoming the character. They see a character and fall in love with the movie or show and they want to be able to become that. It started out that way for me but now I enjoy the challenge of actually creating these things.”

When it comes to cosplay some might wonder just where to begin within a culture that seems to have limitless avenues to pursue. Whether you’re are an enthusiast, masquerade master or simply just cos-curious, Comic Girl Cosplay was ready with a few tips at her workshop.

“Makeup is not only for female cosplayers,” she told the crowd that had gathered also suggesting they do a lot of research, embrace costume creation failures, not underestimate the finds to be discovered at thrift stores and consider the amount of time and finance they want to put into their creations. The right pose, she adds, is also important. “Even potatoes can look great in photos with the right posing. Just look at French fries!”


Some of the items available at the 2016 Ottawa Geek Market.

Across the hall patrons can visit the Capital Gaming Expo where everything from video games, board games, tabletop RPGs and LARPing are represented.  No longer just inside the pages of a Harry Potter book, here you can also find out how to join a local Quidditch team.

“We play Muggle Quidditch so we don’t use magic,” explains Alex Naftel of the Carleton Ravens. “We’ve had to adapt a lot of the original things from the Harry Potter sport so we could play it.”


Visit the Market, you must.

The Geek Market has included a charitable element from the beginning having raised funds for the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre at past events. It also offers the Ottawa Geek Market Arts Scholarships.

“At the last event we supported visual arts and gave out three $1,000 scholarships. One for cosplay, one for sculpture, and one for drawing”, Young says. “This event we’re supporting the written word and have three categories again: horror, sci-fi, and fantasy.”

With a constant flow of panels and games, a green screen photo booth, the wide assortment of different merchandise tables and a Geek Quest Scavenger Hunt, there’s really something for the whole family to enjoy and this year admission is $2 less on Sunday if you come in costume. Looking around the Nepean Sportsplex this weekend you can see Ottawans have no problem donning some capes, tights, faux fur, masks and makeup.

“Ottawans have always been geeky,” says Young. “It’s just becoming more accepted and mainstream. I’ve considered myself a geek most of my life and I’m happy to see so many others embrace this part of who they are.”

The Geek Market opens up again Sunday morning April 10 from 10-5. Admission is free for children under the age of 12.

Weekend What’s Up – April 8th to 10th

April 8, 2016 12:49 pm
Weekend Roundup-01

Here at Ottawa Life, we are always looking out for great things to do on a weekend! Check out some of the events that are happening right here in our city.

St. Joseph’s Church, Ottawa University Orchestra, Friday April 8th (8:00 p.m.) 

Orch Brass

Go out to support our local talent by attending the uOttawa Orchestra event. Alain Trudel conducts the well-practiced students as they showcase their abilities as individuals and as a group. Enjoy the show!

2452 Yorks Corners Road, Stanley’s Olde Maple Lane, Friday April 8th to Sunday April 10th (9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.) 

downloadDon’t miss out while the pancakes are still hot! This is the last weekend to take in the amazing outdoor experience full of Canadian culture and family fun! The Sugar Bush is the best way to spend a spring weekend. Enjoy a pancake breakfast, sleigh rides through the forest and delicious maple treats in this beautiful setting. But don’t forget the biggest part! You can learn about and be a part of the sap to syrup making process! See you there.

Greely Community Centre, Beauty and the Beast, Friday April 8 to Sunday April 10 (Assorted times)Nice and Nasty

You’ve watched it, you’ve loved it, and now it’s time to see it all over again in a whole new light. The academy award winning Disney animation is being put on by the Greely Players. The production stars Violet Wyche as Belle and Evan Haydon-Selkirk as The Beast. Be their guest as you watch a fun show that will bring a smile to any Disney-lover’s face.

Bronson Centre Theatre, The Dandy Warhols, Saturday April 9 (8:00 p.m.)

Get ready to rock out with The Dandy Warhols this weekend. The band was formed in 1994 in ever-quirky Portland, Oregon and is made up of Courtney Taylor-Taylor, Peter Hölmstrom, Zia McCabe, and Brent DeBoer. Rock on and rock out at the Bronson Centre Theatre this Saturday night!

12802974_905607352894168_3495795490639184554_nHorticulture Lansdowne, PROMdemonium, Saturday April 9 (8:00 p.m. – midnight)

This will be the craziest prom you have ever been to, or maybe even your first one yet. PROMdemonium promises to be a funky, upbeat, fishnet stocking-filled night; what more could you ask for? So go on and dig out that old prom dress and crazy tie you know you have in the back of the closet. Plus when you purchase a ticket, you are supporting local causes such as Ningoshkoz and Roots

Centrepointe Theatre, Just For Laughs Road Show, Sunday April 10 (8:00 p.m.)Hi 300 x100

Get ready to laugh until your stomach hurts. This is Just For Laughs’ 13th year touring Ontario, and there’s a reason they keep coming back. This year the show will be hosted by comedian Ivan Decker and will feature some laugh-out-loud stand up comedy by Graham Chittenden, Gina Brillon, and Jon Reep.

EY Centre, The Cottage and Backyard Show, Friday April 8th to Sunday April 10th (Assorted Times) 


Get yourself into the outdoor mindset, even if the weather won’t co-operate. The show is a great opportunity to get inspiration for your outdoor life this upcoming season. The show has the latest and best trends to make your cottage and/or backyard the best it can be. But that’s not all, celebrity speakers such as HGTV host of four different television series, Paul Lafrance, and host of Cottage Life TV’s Reno my Reno, Dave Depencier, will be discussing their years of renovation experience to help kick-start the renovation season. Don’t miss out on all of the amazing deals and opportunities to revamp your outdoor living lifestyle!

Nepean Sportsplex, Capital Gaming Expo, Friday April 8th to Sunday April 10th (Assorted Times)

Don’t miss out on the chance to experience Canada’s largest gaming expo! Almost any kind of game you can imagine will be featured and you can share it all with game lovers just like you. They have everything from video games, board games, collectible card games to LARPing games.  Not only can you see and buy a whole bunch of awesome games, you can also participate in workshops, tournaments and a formal masquerade!


Smells like Pancakes: Russian Community Celebrates Maslenitsa in Ottawa

March 29, 2016 10:04 am
2 Irina Shiraeva

Head Sister Irina Shiraeva poses with dancers from Ottawa’s School of Modern Dance and their teacher, Anna Kamsha. All photos by Damira Davletyarova.

A little parish on 412 Booth St. smells like blini. You might call them pancakes or crêpes.

It’s getting hotter in the kitchen. Flour particles disperse in the air. Spilled milk dots the floor. Sounds of breaking eggs correspond with intensive clanging of dishware. From dawn that morning, the team of nine female parish members rolled up their sleeves to bake blini to celebrate Maslenitsa.

They have ended up baking almost 1,000 pancakes, serving them with caviar, jam and lots of butter. On the side – two shots of vodka, of course.

The Sisterhood of Ottawa’s of Parish of Our Lady of Kazan and the Protection of the Mother of God was in charge of the Maslenitsa. It’s a carnival with pagan and Christian roots that marks the arrival of the spring and the feast before the Great Lent – a seven-week fast ahead of Orthodox Easter.

The parish has also put on a great show, organized a craft sale and served some traditional Russian food. The children choir has sung Russian folk songs. Dance teams have performed different cultural dances to the public.

Nearly 200 people attended the celebration. Most of them were parish members and Russians from small towns near Ottawa. Unlike other festivals like Mardi Gras or Oktoberfest, Maslenitsa is barely known to Ottawa. Only a few Canadians could be seen among the public.

1 Kevin Slocombe

Kevin Slocombe holds up a plate of blini and two shots of vodka at Maslenitsa festival.

Kevin Slocombe was one of them. A software engineer at Vailtech, Slocombe was busy buying another plate of blini when I found him. “Delicious!” he says. “I like all Russian food!”

It is Slocombe’s first time attending Maslenitsa. He would have never come, he says, if not for his Russian wife’s community connection. In fact, Slocombe has just returned from Russia, where he had a chance to immerse himself into Russian culture and better understand what is different about Russia.

“I saw the long-term culture, because Canada is kind of a new country. Traditions are not as old, so it’s very interesting for me to see old traditions being celebrated. And I am glad it keeps going, making Ottawa interesting,” Slocombe says.

Cold and long winter days unite Canada and Russia. Warm food and hot drinks make them friends. The arrival of warmer sunny days is a celebration for both. Round, buttered pancakes melt away the winter fatigue. People who come to the festivity usually find friendship, diversity and a great show, says Irina Shiraeva, the head sister of the sisterhood, who was in charge of the celebration.

“It’s a chance for Canadians to know more about Russian culture, traditions and community, to listen to Russian music and see wonderful Russian dancing,” Shiraeva says.

4 Dance

The dance team from the School of Modern Dance performing a Russian folk dance.

The preparation for the event has taken more than two months. The parish has celebrated Maslenitsa for several years. This year is different though, says Shiraeva. Before, she says, it was a mere preparation to make it a bigger carnival that would include more people. This day has come: More visitors have joined the parish for Maslenitsa celebration than in any previous years.

“Everybody, who came here, are happy. They are smiling, they are laughing, and they are eating and singing, and dancing and saying thank you. It’s nice,” she says.

That’s what the parish’s community members wanted to see. Women worked hard baking blini, preparing pelmeni – the Russian dumplings with meat, and putting pies and sweets on the table.

“Everybody is happy to be together, to work together, to act together, to have fun and see new people. It is wonderful,” Shiraeva says.

3 Olga Waugh

Olga Waugh at the Maslenitsa craft sale, showing a necklace that she says represents Maslenitsa: the spring and the Sun.

Olga Waugh shows a round, yellow necklace. Waugh was among few who brought their craft, jewelry and knitting, to the Maslenitsa craft sale.

“This necklace will remind people of the bright sun and coming of the spring,” says Waugh. “It means beginning of the spring, something new and exciting. It’s a chance to have fun, after a long winter.”

Waugh has been living with her family in Canada for 12 years. Over these years, unfortunately, she met only some Canadians who knew about the Pancake festival.

“I think, it is fun that we have this diversity, and people can come and see what it is, and compare. It’s fun to meet people of other cultures,” Waugh says. “Come on! I know, many Canadians, they really like Russian food: caviar, mayonnaise… And music too.”

If you are tired of long winter, then join Maslenitsa for some blini. In fact, why not make it an annual event? The blini week will definitely make Canada a warmer and yummier place to live.

Local Musicians Pay Tribute to Photographer with Ming Break

March 28, 2016 12:06 pm
Derek Atkinson of Loon Choir

All photos by Andre Gagne

Ask yourself how many concerts you’ve attended in the last couple of years. Can you count them on your fingers? Perhaps they are in the higher double digits? Are you approaching triple? Now, if a few of those were in Ottawa chances are you’ve seen Ming Wu. He averages about 300 shows a year.

“I usually go out three times a week,” Wu says on his staggering dedication to the local music scene. “On weekends I go to more than one show.”

Wu, who graduated from Algonquin’s photography program in 2007, took an interest in going to see local Canadian bands from listening to CBC Radio 3. From there he started attending shows, a lot of them, and his camera went with him both creating an encyclopedic document of Ottawa’s music scene over the last decade. Since 2010, he’s parlayed the work into PhotogMusic, a blog where Wu has the uncanny ability to spotlight bands early that soon get noticed by the mainstream press.

Ming Break-30w

Ming Wu thanks the crowd

On March 25 at the Black Sheep Inn it was time to give a little back.

“Ottawa is a music city and Ming encapsulates the spirit of it every single week,” says Kelly Symes, organizer of Ming Break, a night of music and festivities dedicated to Wu.  “I haven’t met anyone else in the city that sees more live music on a weekly basis than he does.  He is a beacon of light that has illuminated the scene for years.  Without the exposure he’s given to so many bands, some of them may never have gotten propelled. He’s an important person to have at your show.”

This isn’t the first tribute in Wu’s name. Back in 2014 the Black Sheep hosted a weekend festival called WuFest that Ming helped program. Wu, himself, finds it all very humbling.

A party bus departed the Museum of Nature for an event that encouraged people to ignore the snow on the ground and break out their Spring Break wear. To a chorus of “Happy Ming Break”, Wu thanked all for coming as the bus rocketed Ming Breakers on a bumpy ride to the Black Sheep where music, cheap Palm Bay and a BBQ where a couple dozen hotdogs would be served in the parking lot awaited.

Ming Break-25w

Some enthusiastic Ming Breakers

While Wakefield isn’t exactly Fort Lauderdale, the inn added to the theme and decorated accordingly with a few palm trees. Decked out in Hawaiian skirts, chef hats, huge sunglasses, colourful shirts and even a lumberjack outfit, by the time Wu arrived on the scene it was clear the people were ready for a party beach or no beach.

“Some of the best shows I’ve ever been to were at the Black Sheep,” says Travis Kinnear of Fire Antlers, the first band to take the stage. It was a good choice because any band with a beat pulsating robot that classifies itself as sci-folk is sure to be a good time. “It’s no surprise to me that the Sheep has drawn big names and has been around for such a long time. Its location on the water is amazing, the sound is perfect, and the space just seems to bring out good vibes and get everyone dancing.”

Dance they did to the funky soul sounds of Slack Bridges, a new band to the scene performing only their second show. You couldn’t tell. The sound was as tight as parking in the Market on a Saturday with some killer sax solos by Julian Selody whose fiery hair could very well have been that Spring Break sun. Bassist Garett Barr has floated around a couple of bands in the city over the years and is thankful for Wu’s unique perspective and coverage.

“He wants to find events that are exciting, weird, interesting and light a fire under the crowd which means there’s a bit of pressure to plan those types of events,” Barr says. “I think a lot of other people covering the scene have had to up their game.”

Ming Break-20w

Ming Breakers

“The Ottawa music scene is lucky to have a guy like Ming on its team,” says Brad Sheffield of Loon Choir adding that he doesn’t quite understand how Wu manages to be in so many places seemingly at once.

The 7 piece indie-rock/art-pop band headlined the event and, by that time, a beach ball had finally managed to make its way off stage and around the crowd as singer Derek Atkinson belted it out into the mic. Before they hit the stage, Wu addressed the crowd gathered with much thanks and selected winners for the evening’s costume contest. However, even at an event where his likeness is on the poster art he couldn’t resist breaking out the camera and firing off some shots.

It’s easy to imagine a few Ming clones doing the exact same thing at other shows in the city that night. Wu doesn’t’ plan on taking a real Ming break anytime soon and says his favourite shows are far too numerous to mention. When you have a track record like his that’s pretty understandable.

“I do other events that aren’t music related,” Wu ensures noting he likes to shoot art openings, and “any other type of gathering where interesting and creative people are getting together. I also take a lot of photos of my friends at VIP Karaoke.”

Ultimately, with Wu, it all comes back to the music.

Souljazz Shakedown!

March 26, 2016 1:20 pm
Souljazz Shakedown (8)

All photos by Andre Gagne

The crowd outside Babylon Nightclub was ready for a shakedown. The clock struck ten and they began to hunt. They rushed through security, eyes scanning every inch of the club. Some flicked on phone flashlights and started scanning the ceiling. Others pushed by them to peek behind speakers, under tables and behind the bar. The soundtrack for the search was sweet soul spun by a DJ perhaps wondering how long it would take before the stage would be pounced upon by the hunters. They spared him, instead turning towards the furniture to lift cushions, move chairs, and open drawers when suddenly somebody let out a cry of: “We got one!”

Under usual circumstances this would be cause for alarm, an opportunity for you to discover just why they are called “bouncers” and a rapid rediscovery of the sidewalk outside of the nightclub. However, this wasn’t a regular night in Babylon. This was an Easter Weekend Shakedown, a playful idea drummed (and sax’ed) up by one of Ottawa’s premiere party bands, The Souljazz Orchestra.

“We wanted to add something else, something Easter-themed, and we thought why not an egg hunt?” laughs Pierre Chrétien, the group’s bandleader and vintage keyboard player, before taking the stage to a very enthusiastic crowd.

Fans, after scouring the club for eggs, could trade them in for vinyl releases or CDs and with such incentive the hunt was over quickly. With every egg discovered the crowd was ready to move and groove to a band that’s live shows have become legendary.

The March 24 Easter weekend kick-off show was a welcome return for the band. Before earth quakin’, soul shakin’ shows in the US and UK, the Juno nominations and critical acclaim the band was unleashing their funky blend of Soul, Afro, Latin, Jazz and Caribbean style onto hot crowds at Babylon every Thursday night.

“As they started to grow in popularity outside of Ottawa and tour more, the weekly event became unfeasible,” says club owner Adam Kronick. “We have always stayed in touch aiming to host usually two to three shows a year for the local fans. They are such a terrific band with so much talent. We always welcome the opportunity to have them play the club.”

Souljazz Shakedown (6)

The mood for the evening was set by DJ Magnificent who spun some classic up-temp soul 45s to a crowd that filled the floor early in anticipation of the thunder about to strike the stage. Magnificent, also known as Alex Edwards, is grooving towards year seven with his Double Barrel vinyl only funk, reggae and soul shows. Edwards spun at Mugshots before the place closed down in controversial style last year but you can now boogie with him to the beats Friday nights at the Mercury Lounge.

‘The great thing about DJ Magnificent is that his style meshes in so well with ours,” says Chrétien of their first collaboration with Edwards that night. “We don’t touch exactly on the same styles but it’s complimentary. It’s all about the groove.”

Related:  Westfest Spreads Some Homemade Jam

The band previewed a few new tracks mixed in with some old favourites that had the boisterous crowd singing and fist pumping as they danced. It’s not a Souljazz show until you’re dripping sweat and your feet are on fire. Winter wear did not stay coated to skin long. With the energy the band provided you have to wonder if the venue was harnessing that to channel into the lights. You feel this music in you wrapping around your muscles as it grips hold pit bull strong and defies you to stay still. The horns are infectious, the vocals inject you with sweet soul sickness and the only cure is to dance it all out. If you find yourself still moving when you’re in bed after the show, don’t worry. Those are just aftershocks.

The band heads on over to Africa in May, their first time playing there, but they’ll be back to headline Westfest in June. You can keep the party going at Babylon while you wait with shows by DJ A-Track (March 29) and Detroit post-punk band Protomartyr (May 4) as well as  he club’s usual Sabbath Sundays and a monthly  Electric Pow Wow with A Tribe Called Red.

Westfest All-Star Fundraiser Packs Orange Gallery With Music, Art and Support

March 10, 2016 1:58 pm
Westfest All-Star Fundraiser Packs Orange Gallery With Music, Art and Support - Image  (13)

All photos by Andre Gagne

“Don’t make me cry now,” said Elaina Martin, founder and producer of Westfest, as she took the stage in the Orange Gallery to thunderous applause from those gathered Sunday evening at what was touted as an All-Star Fundraiser for the summer festival.

A sold out crowd made up of artists, fans, volunteers and musicians came to show support to a festival that, only months ago, sparked worry over whether it would continue at all. This night, however, the statement was clear: Westfest wasn’t going anywhere except maybe to its new green digs down the road in Laroche Park.

“Thank you Elaina,” said Caroline Addison of local blues trio River City Junction during their electric set that brought the crowd to their feet to dance anywhere they could find room to in the packed gallery. “Without support from people like you we’d be nowhere. We’d be in our basement.”

It was a sentiment echoed throughout the evening by many for Martin and a festival that has always promoted a community based atmosphere with diverse programming for all. Westfest began in 2004 with Jane Siberry headlining and one year later expanded into a two-day event, then a three and then five incorporating aspects of a block party that expanded down Richmond Road to include vendors, smaller stages and family entertainment. Steven Page, Biff Naked, Kathleen Edwards and folk icon Buffy Sainte-Marie have all graced the main stage over the years along with dozens of local artists that attracted crowds of well over 100, 000 to the Westboro area. However, in a surprising move last year, the Westboro BIA voted to utilize an opt-out clause in a two year contract with the festival siting a want to follow “other initiatives”. Effectively, this removed a subsidy of $125,000 and, some feared, cut the legs out from a festival that costs near half a million to produce.

“We were shocked by the news,” said Martin. “It honestly took me a couple weeks to awaken from that nightmare. But then I did, pulled my big girl pants up and found our new home at Laroche Park. I found new sponsors and a new focus for our festival which is remaining true to our mandate like never before: more inclusive, more diverse, working hard to ensure that everyone feels equal and that the festival remains free.”

Frantic to find a new space to house the festival, Martin was helped out by Jeff Leiper, councillor for the Kitchissippi Ward,  who secured the park in Mechanicsville. Though the street party element may not be present, Martin ensures the atmosphere of the fest will remain the same, if not better. She highlights the positive aspect of not being on pavement all day and sees patrons relaxing with lawn chairs, blankets and pets on the festival’s new green grounds. Along with the planned over 150 artists, community and youth acts appearing on the new Thom Fountain Team Main Stage, this year’s festival will also include an Indigenous Pavilion, a Food Truck Zone, an extended Kid Zone and an Artisan and Business Park with more than 40 local businesses taking part.

With the hitch in needing a new venue solved, Martin turned towards finding a way to make up for the loss of funding. She decided to try something she’d never done before and turned toward the community the festival helps foster and a little help from her friends.

“I’ve never asked anyone in 14 years for a cent, not for me, not for Westfest. Now we need it so it made sense that now I should ask for help,” she says. “I sent out an email to 20 artists and within an hour they had all gotten back to me with a resounding yes!”

The line-up of All Stars was hosted by Leiper and included sets by local musicians John Allaire, Cody Coyote, Lynne Hanson and Juno winner Lynn Miles.

“I played Westfest when it was besides the Mac’s Milk back in the 50s,” joked Miles. “Before you had Westfest nobody went there. I think it raised the property values.”

The 5-hour event which also included an art auction sold out early and it didn’t take long for the performers to energize the crowd. Ojibwe Hip-Hop artists Cody Coyote’s set included a charged Frazer Lee Whiteduck in full First Nations regalia performing traditional dance from the crowd.

“When I say justice you say freedom,” shouted Coyote extending his microphone out to those gathered to a resounding cry of “Freedom!” from the crowd.

Juno winning singer-songwriter Holly McNarland continued to fuel the vibe in the gallery with a stunning, stripped down version of her 1997 hit “Numb”. The lyric “heal what you have” took on a new meaning on a day about celebrating change and looking towards the future.

Mi’kmaq artist, actor and musician Thomas “Starwalker” Clair may have ignited the biggest frenzy of the night. Also in full regalia, Clair stormed into the room in a blur of color to dance with a crowd up out of their seats again amidst hoots, hollers, applause and stamping feet. He then took the stage to snarl out blues that shook the gallery causing one patron to exclaim that the event should go on all night long.

Martin herself took to the stage to thank all those who not only helped make the event a success but also helped support the festival. Though she dropped no hints on who might be headlining come the summer -the official announcement will take place on the 24th– she ensured 2016’s festival, running from June 3-5 and, as always, free, would be one not to miss.

“It’s going to be a Westfest to remember this year!”

Tomlinson Pledges $1 Million over the Next Five Years at Opening of New Outdoor Rink in Kanata

February 24, 2016 10:00 am

Kanata, ON – Freezing cold temperatures couldn’t keep residents of the Bridlewood community in Kanata inside last Sunday. Locals came out to sip some hot chocolate, sample sweet maple taffy and enjoy horse-drawn carriage rides at the grand opening of the Meadowbreeze Park public skating rink, hosted by Tomlinson.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and Councillors Allan Hubley and Shad Qadri joined Cindy Tomlinson-Keon, Corporate Counsel/Director at Tomlinson as the company unveiled the park’s new outdoor rink.

“Tomlinson is thrilled to launch this important revitalization project,” said Tomlinson-Keon. “We are proud to be a part of this great city, not only as contributors to its core infrastructure, but also as residents who live, work, play and most importantly—raise families here.”

Untitled 2Staff volunteers from Tomlinson as well as the Centurion Conference & Event Centre were also on hand to serve hot coffee and hand out hockey pucks. As guests laced up their skates, grabbed a stick of maple taffy and enjoyed some festive winter fun, Tomlinson-Keon revealed that the Meadowbreeze Park rink is the just the first in a series of Ottawa community park initiatives sponsored by the company.

“Over the next five years, the Tomlinson family has committed to provide $1 million worth of park renewal and upgrades within the City of Ottawa,” she said, followed by applause.

Tomlinson is a leader in transportation infrastructure and environmental services throughout Eastern Canada. The company provides a comprehensive range of products and services in quarrying, construction, trucking and environmental industries.

The company also has a history of involvement in different projects that enhance the Ottawa community. In recent years, Tomlinson’s team of cyclists—the Tomlinson Red Army—has raised over $600,000 for The Ottawa Hospital Foundation’s cancer research. The company has also provided funding for mental health research at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre and been a strong supporter of several other community initiatives, including Ottawa’s Lunchbox program.

Mayor Jim Watson expressed his gratitude to the Tomlinson family as well as all of the volunteers who helped make the rink—and the day’s events—possible.

“Thank you to Tomlinson for this wonderful addition to Meadowbreeze Park, just in time for Family Day. I also thank you for your pledge to enhance the City of Ottawa’s parks in the next five years,” he said. “We are certain that this rink will be enjoyed for years to come.”

A VERSe For Every Ear

February 19, 2016 12:54 pm

2 Dope Boys in a Cadillac, Johnny MacRae and shayne avec i grec. All photos by Pearl Pirie.

VERSeFest, Ottawa’s International Poetry Festival, is back.

VERSeFest_Sue Goyette_credit Pearl Pirie

Poet Sue Goyette.

Returning for its sixth annual edition, VERSefest will run from Tuesday, March 15th until March 20th, and it will host more than 60 local, Canadian and international poets. The festival bridges written poetry and spoken word alongside emerging and celebrated poets speaking in both official languages.

Governor General (GG) Award winner Elise Turcotte will be taking the stage on opening night, along with an exciting mix of poets including Goblin Fruit editor and poet Amal El Mohtar, Griffin Poetry Prize winner Jane Munro and New York University professor Yusef Komunyakaa.

Expected programming also includes experimental poet Christian Bök, a slam poetry event, and readings from George Elliot Clarke, Canada’s newly appointed Parliamentary Poet Laureate, along with recent GG winner Robyn Sarah.

VERSeFest_Moe Clark_credit Pearl Pirie

Spoken word poet Moe Clark.

VERSeFest will be hosting poets from far and wide, although approximately a quarter of the poets are from the Ottawa-Gatineau region. Some out-of-town poets include performance artist Caroline Bergvall from Norway and Icelandic poet Gerdur Kristny.

Festival director Monty Reid is thrilled for this year’s festival.

“We’ve got a great program lined up again!” says Reid. “For anyone in Ottawa who cares about poetry, this is the event of the year!”

VERSefest takes place at Knox Presbyterian Church at 120 Lisgar Street. Tickets are $15 for an evening pass (two events) or $50 for a festival pass. You can buy tickets here or at the door. For additional listings and times, visit

Supporting Local Musicians Sounds Simple in Hintonberg Concert Series

February 18, 2016 4:02 pm

All photos by Andre Gagne,

“Home is where I want to be / pick me up and turn me round,” the Moonfruits sang in a folky rendition of the Talking Heads hit to those gathered last Thursday night at the Wellington Eatery (1008 Wellington Street West). The husband/wife duo of Alex Milaire and Kaitlin Milroy mean it too, having just returned from honeymooning around Europe.

“You work and work for years and years always on the go,” they sing in “Enjoy Yourself” from their 2014 release Début. As they recall it, they were on the go quite a bit, busking the songs around Europe before a return to some shows in the area, a wedding last August and then off once more to the UK and back again.

At the Eatery that night some friends cheer loudly, clink their plates where the remnants of fries lounge around pools of ketchup. The two musicians give each other a loving look, smile and meld together gorgeous harmonies that give a passing couple outside a cause to pause and gaze through the window, the fog of their breath in the frigid air not enough to conceal smiles of their own. For the Moonfruits, who have been playing together since 2012, it was a fine return.

The group was part of RedLeaf Music’s Sounds Simple series that will bring 13 shows to the Wellington Eatery on Thursday nights. RedLeaf strives to help artists achieve their goals by offering more than just support but also an outlet to showcase their talents by setting up shows like this around town. It’s a real family orientated atmosphere.

OLM sat down with RedLeaf’s Artist Manager/ Presenter and Sounds Simple curator Trish Murray to talk more about series, the interesting choice of venue and future shows.

Ottawa Life:  Can you give me a bit of background on the Sounds Simple series and how it all came together?

Trish Murray: The original inspiration came from conversations I was having with the artists I work with through my artist management business. A few of them were looking for the chance to play solo acoustic shows locally, similar to house concerts. The Sounds Simple series was created to bring people in our community together around music in a fun, relaxed and social way. It’s set up to be welcoming and accessible, connecting music lovers and musicians and involving new venues for music.

How were the artists chosen for the shows?

I curate the series, working with artists who are part of our Redleaf family or artists I’ve gotten to know by being involved in the local music community.  I also welcome touring artists I’ve gotten to know through the music festivals and conferences I attend elsewhere.

This is the second series. How did last year’s series go?

The response to the first series was immediate and positive. The venue, A Thing for Chocolate, has its own charm and of course chocolate is appealing all on its own. It was a great place to launch the series, begin to get the word out and start building those connections I love to nurture. The series is designed to move around, exploring new places for music that listeners return to time and again.

What were some of the highlights of the first series?

It was really heart-warming to see the support the series got from community members, through their attendance and the way the word spread so that soon friends of friends were coming too. It was also very touching to hear how much the artists enjoyed playing the series. While some of the artists perform regularly, others are early in their careers or aren’t used to performing solo. This series gives them a safe and supportive place to spread their musical wings and try something new or different.

Speaking of different, the Wellington Eatery is certainly a unique venue for a concert series. How did it come about that this venue was chosen?

We look for venues that are eager to welcome the music community, that have space that feels welcoming and comfortable and that are in locations that are easy for people to get to no matter how they travel. The Wellington Eatery is a really great space for music for all of those reasons.

What are some of the ranges in styles of music we can expect throughout the series? Were you trying for an eclectic range?

Building on the success of the first series, which featured solo singer-songwriters, with the extra space at the Wellington Eatery we continue to feature solo musicians but also include some smaller acoustic groups. The series isn’t limited to a particular style of music and that makes it more fun for everyone. People can attend regularly and hear something a little different each time.

How has the response been so far?

The response has been really positive. We always have a great group of people who come out to the shows. Some come every week and others are discovering it for the first time. It’s a listening room environment so the people attending get to really hear the music and the artist gets to play to those listening ears without competing with sports games on TV or the chatter of other people talking and laughing at the bar.

Red Leaf continues to support local artists. Anything you can tell us that is on the horizon?

I’m excited to have a new monthly series starting up. I live in Vanier and I’ve been looking for a place to bring this same experience there. The Second Sunday series starts Feb. 14th with Ron Mills in concert at Maison Baguettes, 381 Montreal Rd. It’s a small and cozy café offering homemade soups, sandwiches and baked goods. It definitely has that house concert feeling because it’s in a converted house.

The series runs until April 14th with shows by local melody seamstress Amanda Cottreau, the rootsy twang of Jack Pine, the acoustic styles of Leonard Youngfoot and one of Toronto’s rising indie songwriters Angela Saini to name a few. You can go to and sign up for the newsletter to stay in the loop.

Spray-Net Visits the Den

February 4, 2016 10:56 am

Photo courtesy of CBC.

At the age of 19, Canadian franchise entrepreneur Carmelo Marsala started his own company, Spray-Net. This Wednesday, Marsala took his award-winning outdoor painting company to the Dragons.

The Dragons in CBC’s Dragons’ Den, that is.

Marsala boosted his business by developing an exceptional exterior paint formula and technology for spray-applied painting. His creation produces permanent, fast, and factory-finish results, transforming the look of a home in a day. Unlike typical painting, which requires latex paint and a brush and roller, Marsala created something different: a cost-effective exterior renovation solution that serves as an alternative to replacing a home’s siding, doors and windows. Spray-Net’s work is even backed by a 15-year warranty.

Marsala quickly saw an opportunity to develop Spray-Net as a franchise business, and the rest is history. Franchisees began to sell out in Marsala’s home province, Quebec, and are close to selling out in Ontario. Currently, the company is casting its net and expanding across Canada.

It was only a matter of time before the Den would come a’callin’, and Marsala was, at first, a little nervous about bringing his business to the Dragons.

“At first we didn’t want to do it. We didn’t want to give up any (percentage) of our business. We didn’t want to look like one of those companies that just go on (the show) for exposure. And then, after that, we won the Air Miles Small Business Achievement Award and I had a mentorship with (startup expert) Sean Wise,” Marsala explains. “He said that a lot of entrepreneurs make the mistake of not wanting to give up any of their business…At the same time, one of the producers of Dragons’ Den sent me an email, so I said, you know what, this is a sign, let’s go. It was a fantastic experience, it was quite fun.”

Marsala ended up leaving the Den with a partnership with business giant and venture capitalist Jim Treliving. Marsala wasn’t shy about setting his sights on partnering with Treliving, either.

“I was actually quite transparent about the fact that the person I was there for was Jim. All of the Dragons, at the same time, said that Jim has never done a deal under 25 percent, and I was asking for 5 percent. I said, ‘How about we have Jim decide that?’ And we did the deal.”

Overall, Marsala is very pleased with his experience on the show. “It’s very flattering that those kinds of people recognize what we’ve been doing as something that’s good,” Marsala laughs.

Spray-Net offers painting services across Ottawa. You can learn more about Spray-Net by visiting their website.

Winterlude Opens with Fire and Colour

February 1, 2016 1:13 pm
Winterlude Launch - Image 2

While expectations for ice quality weren’t high Friday night, everyone who went out to see the Winterlude launch knew it would be a great show. As per usual, they didn’t disappoint. Our slideshow features some fire, great face paint, plenty of purple and, of course, an Ice hog.

All photos by Andre Gagne.

Before the National Inquiry: Countering Stereotypes Through Education, Employment and Art

January 13, 2016 2:07 pm

Aboriginal community members at the annual Sisters In Spirit Candlelight Vigil in Ottawa in October. Photo by Damira Davletyarova.

“I embrace you my sisters; and myself too
We will go forward with strength anew
Our friendships will travel with us down the road
Fortified by the stories we now hold…”

Excerpt from We Retreat by Bape Ande Kwe, Laughing Crow Woman – Lynda Stewart

The national public inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women will bring much needed attention to the most ignored issue in Canada. It should also bring some answers and healing to indigenous families, whose grand-daughters, daughters and mothers one day simply vanished from their lives. Aboriginal communities across Canada more than ever hope the newly-elected Liberal government will stop the ongoing calamity.


Candles are lit to honour missing and murdered women from the community. The RCMP reports nearly 1,200 missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada. Photo by Damira Davletyarova.

Meanwhile, indigenous leaders say, Canadians and Aboriginal people shouldn’t wait passively for the results. There is something everyone can do now to speed healing.

In fact, Claudette Dumont‑Smith, the executive director of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), says that the federal government shouldn’t be given all of the responsibility moving forward, Aboriginal women should be included as well.

“Aboriginal women are disempowered because of the way the things are right now. But I think, if they were involved in the development of policies and programs, given the financial assistance to deliver those programs, Aboriginal women could help themselves,” Dumont‑Smith says.

It’s the history, reminds Dumont-Smith. The history of colonialism, residential schools, abuse and racism are all added up to the tragedy of missing Aboriginal women. The resulting negative stereotypes are unfair and often inaccurate, and unfortunately, according to Allan Ryan, they can’t be erased.


The Worn, The Tired, The Desperate. Painting by George Littlechild, a modern native artist and a child of residential school survivor, who paints colourful female pictures to bring light and inspiration.

Ryan is an expert in Aboriginal affairs and art at Carleton University. He says that although labels can’t be destroyed they can be replaced with new knowledge and awareness. Hope lies in art, Ryan says, where native people express their voice and inner soul.

“Those stereotypes are never going to go away, that is disheartening. But we can counter them,” Ryan says.

As a teacher, performer and advocate of Aboriginal people and culture, Ryan has been doing this for the past four decades. 15 years ago, he launched the New Sun Conference, where native and non-native people are invited to express their voice and identity through poems, music and paintings. Today, the conference has become a festival, where Aboriginal people are working in collaboration with non-native people.

Much has changed in the past years, and the art reflects the shift in attitude. Modern aboriginal art became more positive and hopeful. Ryan speaks of George Littlechild, a modern native artist and the child of a residential school survivor, who in the journey of reconnection with his community paints colourful female pictures to bring light and inspiration.

Ryan and his Inuit students have also traveled to China, where they exhibited Aboriginal self-portraits and screened films by Aboriginal filmmakers. The Chinese public was impressed. They wanted to know more about Canada and Aboriginal people.

“Those people knew nothing about Canada. There were no stereotypes to reverse. I was introducing them to Canada through the art of Aboriginal people,” Ryan says.

Tracey Lindberg's debut novel, Birdie.

Tracey Lindberg’s debut novel, Birdie.

Unfortunately, engrained negative beliefs arouse less interest and attention at home. Both Dumont-Smith and Ryan think the national public inquiry into Canada’s missing and murdered women will change this. The inquiry will raise the profile of the issue. The findings would impress Canadians, and open the eyes to the crisis the indigenous women face.

“[The] inquiry will say to the rest of the country: This is not acceptable. This is not who we are as Canadians. We really need to look at those root causes. There are men out there who do not value the lives of Aboriginal women,” Ryan says.

Aboriginal communities across Canada are more than ever inspired by changes in the government. They are preparing and holding many events, exhibitions and shows hoping for you to attend them and hear their stories.

In one of the upcoming events, Tracey Lindberg will be presenting her novel Birdie. It is a story of a Cree woman who is looking for a place in life and understanding. The reading and discussion will be held at 7 p.m. on January 19 at the Octopus Bookstore, 251 Bank St. 2nd floor.

Ottawa Native Barbara Ann Scott is a Legend Among Champions

January 12, 2016 9:58 am

For many Ottawans, January puts a focus on setting personal goals and maintaining new-found commitments. Whether the plan involves a new diet and exercise regime or an increased dedication to your job, the aim of any New Years Resolution is to improve day-to-day living.

IMG_1241The question for many is where to begin. Change can be demanding and is often no easy feat. Given the hard choices involved, a great way to start is by looking at the achievements of inspiring people.

Take, for example, Ottawa’s Barbara Ann Scott.
When it comes to Canadian legends, this Olympian’s status is beyond Gold. During her outstanding career she was chosen time after time as Canada’s greatest outstanding National athlete and she even ranked above the prime minister as the most newsworthy Canadian of the 1940’s. Barbara Ann Scott is now a symbol of National Pride, an icon for upcoming champions, and a chosen name for municipally established community centers, exhibits, and arenas.

“The most important thing about skating is that it teaches you to do the things you SHOULD do before you do the things you WANT to do.”

Barbara Ann Scott

Located at 110 Laurier Avenue, An Ottawa City Hall exhibit displays Scott’s journey to fame; outlining the story of a young girl dedicated to pursuing her dreams with nothing more than a pair of figure skates, a small arena and a desire to conquer her goals. The beauty behind her success rests in her consistent dedication towards achieving a ‘personal best.’ During her prime years, Scott considered excellence “more important than show business,” and so she pursued excellence, practicing for hours everyday.IMG_1244

Ottawa City Hall also presents a showcase of her iconic Canadian achievements and awards. Bringing home numerous Gold metal wins for Canada, including the North American, European, and World Figure Skating championships, Barbara Ann Scott is now amongst the list of those awarded the Key to the City.

“The remarkable accomplishments of Olympic figure skating champion Barbara Ann Scott are showcased through historic photographs, trophies and her champion gold medal,” said a city spokesperson in a release describing the exhibit.

Barbara Ann Scott passed away in 2012 at the age of 84, leaving behind a pristinely captured legend of perseverance, dedication and success.

Her story compels us to follow Scott’s example. Set a goal and make it happen.

The no-cost exhibit is open to anyone and is wheelchair accessible.

Mike’s 2015 Photo Roundup

December 23, 2015 1:16 pm
Allie X, RBC Ottawa Bluesfest, July 2015 - ©

Allie X, RBC Ottawa Bluesfest, July 2015 – ©

Ottawa music photographer Michael Wing from MIKE’S MEDIA saw everyone from Ed Sheeran to Rob Zombie onstage this year. His 2015 slideshow will make you feel like you’re standing right on the stage, no earplugs required.

Ottawa Life’s Top 10 Activities to Get You Into the Holiday Spirit

December 2, 2015 2:07 pm
Parliament Lights

Holiday lights are twinkling and the first snow of the season has fallen, so we declare the holiday season officially begun! Ottawa is brimming with great holiday activities this month, from theatre and music to shopping, food and outdoor adventures, there is something for everyone. We’ve put together a list of our top 10 things to get you in a festive mood this holiday season, so get out there and enjoy!

1. Christmas Lights Across Canada

What better way to get you into the holiday spirit than 400,000 brightly coloured Christmas lights illuminating the National Capital Region? Launched in 1985, the Christmas Lights Across Canada program celebrates the beauty of the season by lighting provincial and territorial capital cities across Canada (and of course the Nation’s Capital), in a dazzling cross-country lighting display. Here in Ottawa, watch for landmarks across the National Capital Region to be lit up December 2 to January 7. The official illumination ceremony takes place in on Parliament Hill at 7pm on Wednesday December 2nd, so grab a peppermint latte and head out to see the city light up.

When: December 2 – January 7.

Cost: Free!

Find out more at

Alight at night

Photo courtesy of Upper Canada Village.

2. Alight at Night Festival at Upper Canada Village

Each December, Upper Canada Village transforms into a Christmas wonderland for the Alight at Night festival. About an hour’s drive away from Ottawa, just outside of the village of Morrisburg, the Alight at Night festival is a picture perfect holiday setting. Hop onboard a life-sized toy train, book a romantic carriage ride under the softly falling snow, or just soak up the Christmas carols, festive dining and great holiday shopping. Alight at Night runs from December 4-20 Thursday-Sunday nights. Want to meet Santa on your visit? Then don’t miss “Fun and Lunch with Santa” in the Harvest Barn on Saturday December 12.

When: December 4-20, nightly Thursday-Sunday.

Cost: Adults $14, Seniors $12, Youth $10, Children 5 and under Free.

Find out more at alight-at-night.


Photo by Bomba Rosa.

3. Canada’s Royal Ballet presents The Nutcracker

The Royal Winnipeg ballet performs the timeless classic The Nutcracker this holiday season at the National Arts Centre. This production oozes holiday pizzazz, energetic dancing mice, the always beautiful Sugar Plum Fairy, stunning costumes and mesmerizing choreography. Daily performances run from December 2-6, including a Saturday and Sunday Matinee making it a perfect outing for the family. Pre-performance “Sugar Plum Parties” one hour before show time give that little ballerina in your life the opportunity to participate in colouring activities, dress up, and even a chance to show off their dance moves with the school of dance. Tickets are going quick so be sure to get yours before it sells out.

When: December 2-6.

Cost: Tickets start at $25.

Find out more at

4. Fairmont Chateau Laurier – Brunch with Santa  

For food lovers and those wanting a festive way to celebrate with the family, be sure to check out Brunch with Santa at the elegant Fairmont Chateau Laurier. The beautiful Wilfred’s Restaurant in this iconic downtown hotel hosts this Saturday brunch on December 19. Come hungry as the menu is filled with mouth-watering items including a make your own crepe station, traditional roast carving station and baked holiday treats galore. It’s one of Santa’s favourite places to visit on his pre-Christmas tour, and one of ours too! The hotel is decked out in its holiday best so it’s also a great place to get some family holiday photos. Reservations are recommended.

When: December 19.

Cost: Kids 6-12yrs $35, Adults $65.

Find out more at


The Tallis Scholars, photo by Eric Richmond.

5. The Tallis Scholars – Ottawa Chamberfest

Celebrate the season with the world-renowned Tallis scholars in an evening of Christmas music presented inside the beautiful Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica.  This performance of sacred vocal Renaissance music by an award-winning UK group will feature Thomas Tallis’ masterpiece Puer natus est nobis, performed with festive motets by John Sheppard. Don’t miss this show, as it’s only one of the group’s two Canadian stops as they cross Europe and North America this holiday season.

When: December 7.

Cost: Tickets start at $35.

Find out more at

Christmas Shopping

Photo courtesy of The Original Ottawa Christmas Craft Sale.

6. Original Ottawa Christmas Craft Sale

Get your holiday shopping started (or finished if you’re an early bird), at the Original Ottawa Christmas Craft Sale from December 10-20. This 10 day shopping event takes place at EY Centre (near the airport), and features over 180 artisans selling unique Canadian handmade items. From pottery and glassware to baked treats and fashion accessories, you’re sure to cross names off your Christmas list!

When: December 10-20.

Cost: $7 Admission for adults, $5 if you’re 65yrs+ or between 13-17yrs.

Find out more at

7. Trailer Park Boys, the Dear Santa Claus Tour

For those wanting some untraditional holiday entertainment, the Trailer park boys Dear Santa Claus tour comes to the National Arts Centre December 7. Watch as Bubbles tries to spread the true meaning of Christmas to the world before his plans are botched by Julian wanting to cash in on the Festive season and Ricky relentlessly trying to meet the real Santa. If untraditional holiday fun is your style, or you need a break from holiday planning, relax and unwind with this inevitably entertaining show. Tickets start at $55, with $1 from each ticket going to the Ottawa Literacy foundation. *NOTE: be sure to leave the kids at home for this one!

When: December 7.

Cost: Tickets start at $55.

Find out more at

Holiday show (1)

Things you can find at the OAG Art and Parcel sale. Works by Becca Wallace, Allyson Green, Maya Hum, Littlest Bird Workshop, Erin Wallace, Of the Town, Shirley Liu, Teresa Wingar and Gwen Best.

8. OAG Art Sale – Art and Parcel a Holiday Art Sale

Running from November 5 to January 25, the Art and Parcel Holiday Art Sale at the OAG is the place to get those one-of-a-kind items for the art lover on your Christmas list. From original photographs, paintings, drawings, jewelry and textiles, there is something for everyone, maybe even you! If you’re a member of the OAG, you’ll save an extra 15% off your purchases.

When: November 5- January 25.

Cost: Free to shop, admission to the Gallery if you want to look around (which we suggest) is on a pay what you can basis.

Find out more at

9. A Christmas Story – Presented by the Ottawa little theatre

Looking for a Christmas play with a little comedic flare? The Ottawa Little Theatre presents A Christmas Story, a holiday comedy sure to bring giggles out of the whole family. Playwright Philip Grecian brings together the talented actors of the Ottawa Little Theatre in this cult classic based on the hit movie. Shows run nightly December 2-19, with a Sunday afternoon performance on December 13 and a Saturday afternoon performance on December 19.

When: December 2-19.

Cost: $25 for adults, $22 for seniors and $12 for youth. Family packages and holiday bundles available.

Find out more at


Photo courtesy of Stanley’s Christmas Village.

10. Stanley’s Christmas Village

Just a short drive out of the city, Edwards Ontario is home to a holiday oasis called Stanley’s Christmas Village. Enjoy an old fashioned sleigh ride through the winter landscape, visit the wrapping warehouse, the reindeer stable, and even find out where the coal comes from for the naughty kids on Santa’s list! Hot chocolate, candy canes and a gift are included for the kids. The village is open Saturdays and Sunday from late November through to December 20 and it’s a perfect way to jump into the holiday festivities.

When: November 22- December 20, Saturdays and Sundays.

Cost: $12.50 for adults and kids.

Find out more at

Recent Posts