WEAR the MASK

Let’s be clear, I hate wearing a mask.

But equally as clear, what I hate even more is wearing a mask to protect those around me, only to be surrounded by most others who clearly don’t care about me or anyone else around me.

And for the life of me, it’s impossible to understand why Mayor Jim Watson hasn’t moved on this issue sooner. Worse yet, Watson tweeted recently he was going to move a motion at the July 15 council meeting to make masks mandatory. That just doesn’t make any sense. Why wait two weeks? Given that the majority of residents don’t seem at all interested in wearing a mask – and let’s keep in mind that this has been going on for months – why would the mayor wait two weeks for a life-saving vote? It’s abundantly obvious that masks help stop the spread of the virus.

The whole issue has certainly made me COVID crazy. I was in a store today, sweating in my mask (it might have been at the LCBO!) and faithfully following the floor stickers indicating proper social distancing. And then a group of about five or six female 20-somethings came up less than a foot behind me. And yes, this COVID cranky 61-year-old mask wearing woman not-so-politely pointed out where they should be standing.

They don’t just have a fear in the world, and that of course, just makes me crankier! 

It was the same thing recently at both Barrhaven’s Loblaws and Sobeys. Very few masks to be found. And of course, it’s only the very few wearing a mask who bother to social distance. Shameful.

It’s just incomprehensible so many are walking around without a care in the world – and maskless. It’s even more difficult to understand why our local government hasn’t moved on this months ago.

But as our medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches has repeated, the evidence showing masks prevent the spread of the virus, so don’t wait two weeks to don your mask. Take care of your friends, your family and your neighbours and wear the damn masks for goodness sake.

The parameters of wearing a mask are expected to be released Monday in a joint news conference by Etches and her counterparts from the four surrounding public health units in the Champlain region on Monday. 

Not In My Ward

Let the turf protecting begin.

A report released this morning outlines a series of potential options for changing the makeup of the city’s present 23 wards – both in terms of the number of wards and the existing boundaries.

If you’re attached to your neighbourhood, to your community, this might seem like dull reading material – but it’s an incredibly important issue for the healthy growth of this city.

The report reveals that public consultations revealed only one real truth. Finding a peaceful solution to some of the inequitable distribution of population and geography will be near impossible and will never please everyone. Some believe there are too many wards and therefore too many city councillors; others think there aren’t enough politicians to represent the city’s population; some think the urban core is unrepresented, while others think the suburbs need more representation, and still others yet question having three rural councillors for its smaller population base, though much bigger geographically.

After the report and its various options are received by council, a second round of consultations – which includes seeking input from the public, stakeholders and members of council. A planned council debate is expected in December.

There are five options outlined in the report. Of those, two options recommend maintaining the 23 wards, with tweaks, a third option suggests drastically reducing the number of wards from 23 to 17. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I’ll put my money on the table right now that cutting six wards is never going to happen. There is of course an inherent conflict of interest here. How many politicians are going to vote to axe their own jobs? Of the final two options, one recommends going to 24 wards, the final option suggests adding two overall councillors to 25.

In Option One, the number of wards would be increased from 23 to 25. Under that scenario, there would be an additional urban ward to increase voter parity, two more in the suburbs – one in Ottawa East and another in Ottawa South –  and one less in the rural areas. 

Option Two goes from 23 to 24 wards by increasing the number of suburban wards by two and redefining the rural wards much like option one. This option, according to the report, requires the least amount of boundary adjustments.

Option Three maintains the same number of wards, but according to the Options Report, requires the most change to the boundaries. Like options one and two, it suggests adding two suburban wards to increase voter parity. Again, it recommends reducing by one ward in the rural sector and also by one ward in the urban core.

Option Four also recommends maintaining the number of wards at 23. It adds one ward to the suburbs, one less in the urban core, but requires major rejigging of the existing boundaries.

Option Five will appeal to the hard core residents who believe the fewer politicians, the better – recommending the 23 wards be cut to 17 – a pretty drastic measure. This option suggests taking away a rural ward and major redistribution of the several other wards.

Going In Circles

And around and around and around it goes. And where the tax dollars land, no one knows.

This latest debacle is a questionable new roundabout in Barrhaven at Golflinks on Longfields which isn’t working for some vehicles any bigger than standard car! And that has Gloucester-South Nepean Coun. Carol Anne Meehan scratching her head.

As it turned out, I had just driven through the narrow roundabout when I read Meehan’s newsletter complaining about the project.

“The work began last fall and has dragged on because of winter and then the pandemic. Residents in the area have had to deal with a lot of noise, dust and vibration. This week I got an email that pointed out that the roundabout lanes looked too narrow to accommodate large vehicles. Crews just installed the curbs this week and already motorists are hitting them… the scrapes are an obvious sign. I immediately contacted a public works supervisor to have him take a look and Thursday morning we had a plough navigate the roundabout. No one at the site, the City Manager, Robinson Consulting who designed it, or Cavanagh, the builder, will admit there’s a problem with the roundabout even though they’ve marked where the curbs have to be removed and the lane widened.”


“They insist it will work well once all layers of asphalt are laid. Trucks they say will then be able to drive over the curbs, as they do in other roundabouts. All that may be true, but what bothers me is that it’s obvious we design critical infrastructure without conferring with other departments. Public works, responsible for dispatching ploughs, can’t ever remember being asked to give its input on the width necessary to clear roundabout lanes,” Meehan wrote in her newsletter.

According to Meehan, the issue is even bigger than a too-narrow roundabout. 

The single lane roundabout will be rebuilt in about nine years, maybe sooner. Yes, that’s right. 

“A larger roundabout is needed because of new growth, but because the city doesn’t have the money now for a two lane roundabout a single lane one is being installed. It means residents will have to endure the noise and mess of the roundabout being ripped up and two lanes being constructed, even closer to their homes.”

Does that really make sense to anyone?

“Makes me want to pull out my hair,” Meehan said.

Here’s what the city came up with for a response, via the city’s media relations office.

“The City is aware of the concerns at the roundabout at Longfields and Golflinks Drive and is investigating. The project is under construction and we are currently reviewing the design, the construction layout, and the temporary construction staging. Once the review is completed, we will be able to determine if any adjustments are required and if there are any anticipated costs associated to them.”

Oh, okay, lucky, I wasn’t actually counting on anything that might have explained how this could have happened.

JOIN THE CLUB

When it comes to Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, little is left to chance. Most every move is calculated.

So you have to wonder why Watson has been seen twice in recent days in Osgoode ward with the councillor for the area George Darouze.

The second visit was right around the time Darouze was served with court documents alleging he’d defamed two of his residents – Kristen and Reinhard Lechleitner.  The couple are seeking financial damages. Could Watson be trying to shore up the reputation of the beleaguered rural councillor by demonstrating his support? Just asking.

I would of course normally ask the two men in question (because that’s what reporters do) about the visits, but Darouze didn’t return my requests for an interview and Watson never speaks to me anymore – unless at a city hall scrum.

But I think it’s fair to say this is but one example of how Watson has built up his “Watson Club” – because one good turn always deserves another. And another. Darouze has been a loyal member of the club, and given the recent turn of events, suspect he’ll be an even bigger supporter of the mayor – if that’s at all possible.

Back in the fall of last year, Darouze was found guilty of contravening the councillor code of conduct by the city’s integrity commissioner – earning himself the dishonour of becoming the city’s first-ever politician to be found guilty of contravening the councillor code of conduct by the integrity commissioner since that office was created in 2012. Hey, everyone has to be good at something!

Here’s what an Marleau’s investigator determined:

“I find that (Darouze’s) reaction to the Facebook posts of the female complainant was unjustified and excessive. I find that in sending his September 21, 2018 email to the Chief of Police and identifying both complainants and revealing that the male complainant was an OPS officer he did so for the primary reason of silencing the female complainant and causing the male complainant grief in his workplace. The councillor’s exaggerated claims of fear and harm, his contradictory explanation and his aggressive response to legitimate public debate on the question of police deployment in rural Ottawa weakens his credibility in this case. Considering all of the circumstances and the councillor’s own evidence, this office finds that his explanation is not credible. On a balance of probabilities, I find that the major motivation of the councillor was to bully and intimidate the complainants and each of them in the hope that female complainant might cease her critical Facebook commentary of him,” the investigator wrote.

Really, simply shameful.

This all began when Kristen, the wife of an Ottawa Police officer went on Facebook and criticized some of what Darouze said at a 2018 all-candidates debate, like his efforts to improve local policing. Darouze didn’t take that well, suggesting she was “spreading fears” and “incorrect information.” Not only did Darouze criticize her on Facebook, but he then took the extraordinary action of writing to then Ottawa Chief Charles Bordeleau and actually asked the chief to get involved.

And let’s remember, nothing happens on the floor of city council that Watson doesn’t approve of. So it should be no surprise to anyone that while Marleau’s report went to council, there was no debate, no moral outrage, nothing. Absolutely no real public reprimand.

Seriously folks, you have to pay attention to what’s going on with your tax dollars.

City council accepted and approved the report from the city’s integrity commissioner, which found Darouze violated a section of council’s Code of Conduct, but did not actually ever publicly reprimand the councillor.

Watson said later council’s accepted the report was the reprimand. That’s a bit of a stretch.

Let’s compare that reaction from Watson calling for College Coun. Rick Chiarelli’s resignation following several of his former staffers alleging sexual impropriety.

Watson despises Chiarelli, who has the ability to get under his skin and irritate the hell out of the mayor. And Chiarelli has the same lack of respect for Watson. But while incredibly serious, the allegations against Chiarelli are not proven, and Darouze was found to actually have attempted to bully a woman.

And when Beacon Hill-Cyrville Coun. Tim Tierney was forced to apologize in court for making a “mistake” when he offered to make a charitable donation in exchange for his sole opponent dropping out of last fall’s municipal campaign – crickets from the mayor.

Corruption charges against Tierney were withdrawn, but Tierney had to forfeit two months salary.

The difference? Tierney and Darouze are part of the club, Chiarelli, not so much!

Hellish Outlook for Light Rail

Another winter of hell.

That’s where John Manconi, the general manager of OC Transpo, draws the line.

Manconi says he’s simply not willing to put this city through another Ottawa winter and a malfunctioning light rail system. Don’t blame him one bit. And certainly believe him to be sincere. But just one problem, seems he doesn’t have a lot of power to ensure this city doesn’t have to endure another hellish winter. Surely if Manconi had the power to make it so, he’d already have done that.

Even attempting to force the hands of RTG by withholding regularly scheduled payments hasn’t seemed to do anything to speed things up, and apparently the company still phones the city every other day looking for their money.

“For an organization that wants to be paid and only gets paid when I get the product, I don’t understand it,” Manconi said. “They call the city manager and myself every second day looking for money and we keep telling them, the easiest way that council will support us giving you money is if you give us the service.”

Manconi’s frustration is palatable – and understandable. Surely the city has to be working on a plan on how to break the contract with the company, something citizen transit commissioner Sarah Wright-Gilbert has frequently called for. But in a session with reporters after the meeting, the GM wouldn’t go there, saying while city councillors had an in-camera meeting – he wouldn’t talk publicly about what-ifs.

“I am not happy now. We need a service to be reliable and consistent,” he said.

Don’t blame him, but again, where does this get us? Taxpayers are understandably upset not just with the poor service but the price tag of the $2.1 billion rail system that doesn’t deliver. 

The entire picture is pretty ugly. OC Transpo had an $8 million deficit at the end of the first quarter, expenses are up and not surprising, revenues are down. Hard to make money when ridership has drastically dropped off. 

Another update on the failing system isn’t expected until July.
At the end of the meeting, hearing nothing but bad things about the failing system, citizen commissioner Anthony Carricato suggested having Transpo staff  start a procurement process for selling ads on LRT trains and in stations. Say what?

Is it just me, or does this seem like a colossal waste of staff’s time? The timing definitely seems a bit off. With a drastic drop in ridership due to COVID, and a system that still isn’t reliable, who’s going to rush to buy ads? 
That being said, the motion received unanimous approval by the commission.

Go figure.

MOFFATT’S ‘JOKE’ FALLS FLAT

It’s been a huge learning curve for those of us, myself included, who’ve been living in a blissful bubble absolutely ignorant of the realities of the world. And many of us, who were stupid enough to take our ignorance to social media, have been rightfully slammed for it.

As I’ve written on this blog previously, while I knew calling someone the N-word was abhorrent, I was totally unaware using the actual word (if not directed at someone) was considered incredibly hurtful.

Worse yet, when CTV reporter Stefan Keyes reached out to me to suggest I shouldn’t have used the word, I reacted not just with ignorance, but with arrogance – and that’s something I’m still struggling with. Why wouldn’t I take the word of a Black man only trying to educate me – and not in a mean or unkind fashion? The pit is still sitting in my stomach and I deserve it. 
Sadly, I’m not the only one unknowingly revealing my ignorance toward the realities of the non-white population.

Recently Rideau-Goulbourn Coun. Scott Moffatt, despite so many examples before him, thought he’d make a joke on twitter, which fell incredibly flat.

So…why?

“There was one black guy in Trump’s picture. It was predominantly white people. The one guy was on the far left and looked like Stefan Keyes. He was well dressed, like Stefan and had similar facial structure,” he responded to a question from On the City, From the Burbs

Similar facial structure? Looked like Keyes? Apparently Moffatt has better eyesight than I do. Or maybe he’s inadvertently revealing more about himself than he intended. “It wasn’t that funny, in the end, so I just deleted it. I do that from time to time. As you know, not all of my jokes/observations are funny,” he continued.

No, councillor, it wasn’t funny. And note your response doesn’t include an apology.

Ironically, I received the tweet, which I hadn’t seen, from a resident in Moffatt’s ward.

“Hi Sue,I’m writing to you as I know you have covered city politics for a long time, and still do now. I love how you are keeping the council and Mayor honest with your reporting. With that said, I wanted to share with you a tweet (see attached) that Scott Moffat posted a few nights ago and promptly deleted. As you can see, it definitely has a racial tone to it. And knowing Mr. Moffatt, he’ll say it was a joke and or mentioned we don’t have all the facts. You have a much bigger platform and hopefully you can bring light to this terrible tweet, especially during these recent events. Thank you for your time,” wrote the resident, asking if it would be okay not to use her name. It is.

I asked her what prompted her to send it, and she said while she doesn’t know him personally, she’s just “tired of his antics.” Join the club!
The resident is also apparently clairvoyant, because indeed Moffatt did indeed say he was making a joke.

Recently, CBC journalist Wendy Mesley did something which appears to be quite similar to my story. She too used an inappropriate word, which seemed to be in quoting someone. She’s since been relieved of her duties temporarily pending an investigation.  Mesley apologized, saying she felt ashamed. I feel that same shame – and of course – we both deserve to feel that way. 

To have lived our lives not seeing the totality of what non-whites have had to endure at the hands of the police, at the sometimes subtle and not-so-subtle signs from white people around them, of the systematic racism that has prevented them from fulfilling their real potential, again, shame on us.

The constant television coverage of countless black people being violently accosted by police, of being randomly pulled out of their cars and physically assaulted, of being shot, shot to death, we all need to wake up. And then of course, there’s George Floyd, who with absolutely no proof he’d done anything wrong at all, died crying out for his mother as a police officer killed him slowly, with his foot on Floyd’s neck.

I’ve been reading White Fragility, a book first recommended by Keyes – and then many others. (I told Keyes I didn’t need a book to tell me what I didn’t know.) I was so wrong, I clearly didn’t know what I didn’t know! It’s a painful read. I’m still reading it, but from what I’ve read so far, could very well have been written about me. 

And I’m doing what I can to change. Most of us need to do the same.

SOME LOVE, SOME DISSING and an ICONIC BELL

SAVED BY THE BELL: Seems the large sign outside of Nepean Sportsplex has reached the end of its life span. And that means, a new sign will be made. That caused concern from some diehard Nepeanites, myself included, that the iconic green Nepean Bell would be lost. But Knoxdale-Merivale Coun. Keith Egli says the green bell will have a role on the new sign. And that’s great news. 

“I’m working with staff to find a way to incorporate the Nepean bell on this sign again, the iconic bell of Nepean which we’re all so proud of , it will remain part of that sign,” Egli said. Good work councillor. As well, the bell on the old sign will find a new home at the Nepean Museum.

SENIORS MONTH: In a longheld tradition, Gloucester-Southgate Coun. Diane Deans has always moved the motion asking council to approve the declaration, With Deans still on sick leave, the honours were given Bay Coun. Theresa Kavanagh.

Of course, it passed unanimously. Glad to see no city councillor was game to voting against honouring seniors! (Not that I am one!) But what was really noticeable was the high regard Deans has on council, and how many on council has genuine affection for her. Good wishes were sent to Deans by Mayor Jim Watson, Bay Coun. Theresa Kavanagh and even Kanata Coun. Alan Hubley. Good to see.

BUS BUSINESS: Another bit of good news – the city and its bus union have approved a five-year contract – which means continued bus service for at least half a decade!

WORK FROM HOME, SAVE THE CITY: Now that we know how well things function with some of the city and federal government bureaucracy working from home, there are now discussions at both levels of government to see whether some of this practice can continue.

Think about it, less traffic, maybe fewer buses, less need for more office space, less need for parking, it’s an exciting concept. Mayor Jim Watson agreed it’s an “interesting proposition” adding the city has been in touch with the federal government. That being said, it did seem his response was a bit lukewarm. And even a city councillor who agrees with the idea’s potential suggested I was looking through rose-coloured glasses! Agree, but I do love the colour.

REV YOUR SCOOTERS: A pilot program for battery-powered scooters was approved by council, allowing on many roads in Ottawa, for at least a year. It wasn’t a particularly ringing endorsement of the idea, with several, including Mayor Jim Watson, approving the pilot but expressing concerns. Only Rideau-Goulbourn Coun. Moffatt and Gloucester-South Nepean Coun. Carol Ann Meehan voted against it. Under the approved motion, a maximum of 600 e-scooters will be allowed, with rental companies paying a 

MOST TASTELESS TWEET of the DAY: I’m just not a fan of any comment which pokes fun at the way someone looks, whether that’s the colour of their skin, their weight, their outfits, or their height.

So Mayor Jim Watson who should know better, wins the most tasteless tweet of the day when attempting, I presume, to joke why Rideau-Goulbourn Coun. Scott Moffatt voted against the e-scooter pilot program.
“Scott I believe didn’t meet the height requirements so he’s bitter,” tweeted Ottawa Mayor.

Marriage During COVID

In the middle of this wild pandemic world, where much of life has basically been put on hold, simply thrown aside or upside down, something really lovely and incredibly special occurred recently in Ottawa.

In the beautiful and grand St. Patrick Basilica –  a church which regularly holds hundreds of people – the union of two people committed to being together for the rest of their lives took place. And with a provincial restriction to allow public gatherings of no more than five people, they were joined only by the bride’s parents and the priest – Father Dennis Hayes.

Lucy Wallace, now Lucy Fitzpatrick, is the bride at the centre of this story. Her groom Simon played a supporting role! 

Lucy and Simon became engaged in November and immediately knew they weren’t interested in a long engagement, so a May 2 wedding was planned. Within a month, Lucy had her dress, they had their church and their wedding reception location confirmed. The church was chosen because the two devout Catholics had started their dating life attending Sunday mass there together.

Thankfully, Lucy isn’t a bride who was obsessed with the minutia of colour schemes or flower arrangements, and that certainly made her COVID wedding journey easier.

Her two sisters Hannah and Sophie were going to be her bridesmaids and they too had their dresses picked out. But as they got closer to the date, sometime in early April, as COVID isolation continued, they became increasingly concerned about their early May date.

Initially, the engaged couple bandied about other dates in May and chose a couple of them, but then came to the conclusion it couldn’t happen before September – and settled on a Fall date – again finalizing that with both their church and reception venue. But as the days went by, it became increasingly apparent there was no guarantee a September wedding would or could take place.

And so the couple – who really just wanted to be married and to be together – decided to have their wedding in late May – which meant just five people in the church, only two people in addition to the couple and the Priest.

With incredible love and generosity, Simon’s parents Ann and Dave Fitzpatrick, who’d already seen six of their seven children married, told Lucy’s parents Peter and Julie Wallace they could both attend the wedding.
Such a lovely, generous gesture.

“What David and I wanted most was for the marriage to take place for the sake of Lucy and Simon. They and their happiness was our focus, even if it meant that we could not be present. Lucy needed her father to walk her to the altar and of course, Julie had to be there as well, in order to attend to and share in the joy of the bride, her first daughter to be married. We were very happy to let them be the witnesses,” Ann Fitzpatrick said. 
But like many others, she watched the wedding via video from outside the church.

“It was pure joy. I was so elated for (my son) and for Lucy that they could finally start their life together,” she said.

I was one of the many watching, a passenger in a car on the way to a friend’s cottage, and I was able to connect with a live stream that showed the wedding from start to finish – from the moment her father Peter walked her down the aisle to the couple exiting the church to a crowd of friends and strangers cheering them on as the church bells were ringing.
And honestly, it was the most intimate wedding I’ve ever witnessed and I felt so fortunate to be able to watch it.

This isn’t to suggest the journey to a small wedding was easy during a pandemic.

When Lucy first realized her date had to be changed, and changed a couple of times after that – to realizing she would get married without even her two sisters there to share the experience, it was very difficult.

“I was a bit emotional, thinking, ‘Why me? What are the odds of this happening? I moved past it relatively quickly. For me, the most important thing is to be together, so let’s just focus on that,” she said, though at the time she didn’t realize there would just be five of them.

“And I do find with weddings, you can get so caught up with the smallest detail, and it can be so stressful, you have to keep bringing yourself back. We really wanted to be together, that was the most important thing.”
And it took a bit of convincing to get her family onside – hard for everyone because her sisters couldn’t be there.

That was also a concern to Lucy’s dad Peter.

“In the lead up we were all very concerned about Lucy’s sisters not being allowed inside the church for the ceremony. They were also Lucy’s attendants, but it all seemed to play out perfectly. The three of them had an amazing time getting ready together with music blasting and laughter. They helped get Lucy dressed and ready. They also were dressed in their bridesmaids dresses as if nothing was different. “They escorted Lucy to the front steps of the church and stayed there with friends and family to watch the live stream. They were right in the middle of all the action but in an incredibly intimate and personal way.” he said. 

With Lucy’s grandmother Cathy Wallace in a retirement home and also unable to attend, the last stop before the church was for the family to visit her  – all in their wedding attire.

“It was really overwhelming just to see my grandmother, sort of really bittersweet,” she said, “She was quite choked up, but she was very happy for me, we were there standing six feet apart with a fence between us, I couldn’t go into the other side, but it was still really special,” Lucy said.
(My parents, who passed away many years ago, were friends in Arnprior with Cathy Wallace and her husband Jack.)

“The day was perfect from start to finish I couldn’t have imagined it any other way, it was even better than I could have hoped,” she said.
Admittedly, walking down the long aisle of St. Patrick’s without anyone in the pews did seem a bit odd. But that was the only time she felt things were a bit out of sorts.

In the end, the intimate wedding, forced upon them by the pandemic, created a wedding – a union of two – few will forget, just as it should be. “It really just felt like such a blessing,” she said.

It really was.

Ottawa Adds Anti-racism Committee as Canada Debates Systemic Racism

When Rawlson King leaves his home, whether it’s for a quick errand or a long day at city hall, he always brings personal ID. It’s second nature to him.

Rawlson, the first black elected to Ottawa City Council, is now also the first head of the newly created council liaison for a secretariat for anti-racism and ethnocultural relations. And certainly, given the times, the creation of the new secretariat is desperately and obviously needed now more than ever.

But King’s increased city profile won’t change the practice of always having his ID with him.

“You wake up and you go about your day.  I’m a city councillor, but I’m going to take my wallet, that’s the thing, it’s natural, it’s not something new for me. It’s just a natural thing where race is such a factor in a society. You’re thinking about it. You think about your implications of your race everyday,” he told On the City, From the Burbs.

And he’s very aware that Ottawa isn’t immune from having black people stopped by the police.

“People who might have different perceptions. There’s a lot of psychology,  little micro aggressions affecting you, so if you’re on  the bus, you’re the last person someone will sit with you,” he said as one example.

And he knows not everyone values black lives like they do white lives, and he knows there is systemic racism that needs to be addressed in a more fulsome way. “We’re not going to get there quickly. But this is the thing, the majority of people want to have an understanding and that’s where we’re making progress,” he said.

But the issues are many and essentially effect every part  of our lives. 
“The experiences you’re having are unique to you and part of a pattern, but a continued battle. We don’t want to go backwards, and people don’t always get it, these are challenges, ensuring equal access to the services, that all people should receive, ” he continued. Earlier this week, the city’s finance committee, on the recommendation of Mayor JimWatson, approved the creation of the new secretariat with King as the liaison.

In a motion moved by Mayor Jim Watson, the new secretariat and King’s role were approved earlier this week. It will be rubber-stamped at next week’s council meeting.

“Racism is present in our midst. We must continue to stamp it out whenever it rears its ugly head, whether it’s in the community, at a police station, at City Hall or anywhere else. I am grateful that we live in a country where we have the courage to name things for what they are,” Watson said at the meeting.

The new secretariat will attempt to ensure all city policies will be looked at through a new lens. 

“We want to have a greater investment in our communities,” King said following the committee’s endorsement of him. “It’s about enhancing the quality of life.”

The first order of business will be addressing issues surround the COVID pandemic, he added.

King’s view of systemic racism in Canada, is however not shared by all Canadian politicians. Former Alberta politician Stockwell Day is out of gig with the CBC, Telus, and McMillan after he stepped into it with this recent quote.

“We have to recognize that our system is not perfect in Canada,” Day said during a panel on CBC. Yes, there’s a few idiot racists hanging around but Canada is not a racist country and most Canadians are not racist. And our system, that always needs to be improved, is not systemically racist.”

He took it a step further down the rabbit hole, equating racism in Canada to what is what like for him being bullied as a child for wearing glasses.

So here’s the good thing, though it’s too late for Stockwell.

More and more people just aren’t willing to put up with ignorance anymore, and much more sensitivity and understanding is being demanded of our politicians and reporters and the public at large.

It took less than 24 hours this week for Ontario Premier Doug Ford to realize there actually is a real racism problem in Ontario and Canada.

On Tuesday, here’s what he said:

“Thank God that we’re different than the United States and we don’t have the systemic, deep roots they have had for years,” Ford said. 

Fast forward to Wednesday, and he’d seen the light.

“Of course there’s systemic racism in Ontario, there’s systemic racism across this country,” Ford said.

Whiplash.

But it’s important to remember that neither Ford nor Stockwell flip-flopped because they saw the light, they heard the public.

And for the actual  progress, it is still being made far too slowly.

An Apology

Let me start this blog by offering a very sincere and heartfelt apology to CTV Ottawa anchor Stefan Keyes. Hope that doesn’t sound hollow or trite.

He did a fabulous and very telling interview with former Red Black football great Henry Burris, discussing the current climate of racism, in which Burris told Keyes one of his young sons had been called the “N-word.”

As a 61-year-old white woman who has lived in near oblivion to racism out here in the suburbs – save for what I read in the papers – I was just simply shocked. But of course, ignorance isn’t bliss. I tweeted my congratulations to Keyes, for what I saw as an eye-opening interview.

As a journalist, the truth always matters, so when I tweeted about the interview, after praising Keyes, I used the expanded version of the N-word. That’s what Burris’ son was called and as a journalist, there’s always a feeling of obligation to tell the truth. It was essentially a quote in my mind.

When Keyes suggested it was very wrong of me to use that word, I told him he was wrong. I believed at the time I wrote it, that people needed to know the kind of racist ignorance that’s out there, that if we don’t use the real words, people won’t see how horrible reality actually is right now. 

And I reacted badly to his criticism. 

But I was wrong, really wrong. Which leads me to an incredible heartfelt thanks to Rideau-Rockcliffe Coun. Rawlson King, who gave up a part of his day to help me understand, or at least start, my education.

King not only helped me understand the effect of using the word, but put up with me blubbering like the middle-aged white woman that I am.  I will never be able to convince him I’m a hard-assed reporter some believe me to be. For King to help me work my way through the truth and what I’d stepped in, it means a lot to me.

I have written in recent days of the ignorance that I’ve lived in, before this all transpired today. I grew up in a very white neighbourhood in Nepean, City View to be exact, for anyone who remembers that part of town. I can vividly remember the day a black family moved to the street behind me. Honestly, my friends and were all excited, I didn’t see a hint of racism, but it was so extraordinary, we were all talking about the news. That’s how white I am.

All to say, when people on Twitter started pouncing on me for using the full N-word, I was literally and absolutely taken aback. Whether you believe this or not, I seriously had no idea that the mere repeating of the word was insensitive and just wrong.

For starters King pointed out the obvious, that social media, especially Twitter with its limited space requirements, isn’t really the place for any thoughtful discussion.

Of course, but the truth is, while I’ve always understood as long as I can remember, the actual N-word should never, ever be directed at someone – and I never would have thought otherwise – I just didn’t know using the actual word itself was wrong, that it was hurtful just to be repeated.

“I understand the intent of what you were saying, it wasn’t to anger people,” King said. “You’re doing it to be accurate, to protect the idea of free press in this country, sort of in the sense you’re really recording (the conversation),” he said.”It’s about the nuance, the understanding, meanings are in flux, and the word, it’s offensive. It’s a term of dehumanizing, and remember, these terms are in flux, it’s about increasing sensitivity, especially with social media.

“I spent a lot of time in journalism school. I understand the marketplace of free ideas, about being unvarnished about the way we communicate.”
As King explained it to me, language is always changing, that for example, we don’t use the word Negro anymore, and that the use of the N-word, when spelled out, is hurtful to many.

And again, I apologize, I simply just didn’t know. “I’m not surprised that people would be upset seeing the word repeated, it’s really a term meant to dehumanize, to keep black people down, so people use the n-word, maybe sometimes using dashes, to represent parts of the word.”it’s understandable because of pain with that word, I used to think, it’s really a question of understanding people’s sensitivities, that’s why it’s impacting how people using the language used now, it’s a difficult concept,” he explained to me Sunday afternoon.

“The word can be seen as dispassionate, a grating reminder there are people who don’t value you as a human being,” King told me.
“Education is key, this is why things need to change.”

I need to stop hiding behind my ignorance, I get that. 

So to King, Keyes, Burris, I really do apologize. I have a lot to learn.