150 years ago the British North America Act made Canada a self-governing Dominion. There was a big celebration in Ottawa in 1867, and there was a big celebration in Ottawa in 2017. By the Good Fates I was born in Canada. I didn’t earn the privilege, but I do what I can to live up to it. I have lived in England and in Ukraine, worked all over the United States, and visited 38 other countries. Canada … my Canada … is the greatest country in the world.
Doors Open in Ottawa gets bigger and more popular every year, and it’s a challenge to visit new buildings and not wrestle with big crowds and long queues. Parks Canada opened the doors of its storage facility on Sheffield Road, a warehouse filled with exhibits and reproductions from historic sites. Here’s a table with an interesting sample of items: a rejected version of the Canadian flag, a pair of skates, a jacket from the destroyer HMCS Haida, and memorabilia related to Dr. Norman Bethune.
The Canada Aviation and Space Museum is at the old RCAF Station Rockcliffe, and for Doors Open Ottawa the museum opened its reserve hangar. Inside are aircraft that are undergoing restoration or that just won’t fit into the limited space of the main exhibit hall. This is a MiG 21 fighter that was built in the Soviet Union and flown by the Czechoslovak Air Force. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, this airframe was acquired by the Canadian Armed Forces and came into the possession of the Aviation Museum.
Stadacona Hall in Sandy Hill was built in 1871 for lumber baron John A. Cameron. Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, lived here, and Lady Agnes Macdonald was famous for keeping peacocks on the grounds. Today, the mansion houses The High Commission of Brunei Darussalam in Canada.
The former Bank of Montreal building on the O’Connor Street block between Sparks Street and Wellington Street has been closed and under renovations for as long as I can remember. At last it’s open, as a House of Commons meeting or reception hall. First opened in 1932, the renovation kept the architectural features of the great banking hall.
The former Metropolitan Life Insurance Company building on the same block has also undergone extensive, years-long renovations. Built between 1924 and 1927 in the Beaux-Arts style, original features that were kept were the building’s facade and the entrance hall off of Wellington Street that has an elaborate mosaic in the vaulted ceiling. The praise of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company was over-the-top: speaking of the Great Metropolitan Mother the mosaic proclaims: “Death and Disease Give Way Before Her.” Wow.
This is me in the chair’s seat in a high-tech committee room. This can be said to be my proper and natural habitat. I’m not wearing a suit and tie, but I am wearing my Canada 150 t-shirt. 2017 is the sesquicentennial of the signing of the British North American Act and of Canada as a self-governing Dominion.
Finally, this is a view of the West Block of the Parliament Buildings, taken through a window of the Wellington Building. The Gothic Revival architecture of the Parliament Hill precinct in Canada’s capital is absolutely magnificent.
The Capital Grannies are the Ottawa branch of the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign, an initiative of the Stephen Lewis Foundation. They raise funds to support grandmothers in Africa, raising their grandchildren who are orphaned by the deadly epidemic of HIV/AIDS. Over 300 projects in sub-Saharan Africa get support, and they’re all of the ground-level, micro-finance kind.
The 10th annual golf tournament, with a dinner, was held at Metcalfe Golf Club today as a fundraising effort by the Capital Grannies. I went with my parents, who are long-time supporters of the Stephen Lewis Foundation. The photo is me at the tee on the 8th hole. It’s a par 3, and you’re looking at my follow-through on a nice drive that put me on the green. The golf was fun, the dinner was superb, and the Capital Grannies raised a sizable amount of money that will be spent in Africa in a way that will do some real good. Find out more about The Stephen Lewis Foundation.
Three years ago, the Maidan protests that became known as the Revolution of Dignity reached their conclusion in Ukraine. On February 20, 2014, snipers from Viktor Yanukovych’s security services (trained by Russian special forces) shot many Ukrainians who were exercising their rights of free assembly and free speech. By the time Yanukovych fled Kyiv, 130 people, mostly civilian protesters, had been killed. They became known as the Heavenly Hundred.
There have been several protests and memorials in Ottawa about these events. Yesterday, we gathered on Parliament Hill for a vigil to commemorate the third anniversary of the Heavenly Hundred and also the thousands of people who have been killed since in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in Crimea and Luhansk and Donetsk. Sadly, the Heavenly Hundred have been joined by over 10,000 killed and around 1.8 million made homeless in Putin’s war. The organizer spoke in measured but angry terms about Yanukovych’s crimes and Russia’s aggression. Ukraine’s ambassador to Canada spoke about people he knew who died on Maidan. He held the picture of a man who when he died had no identification; they called a friend on his phone and that’s how they found out who he was. We all held pictures of some of the men and women who were killed on Maidan. A priest delivered a prayer of remembrance. The mood was one of remorse, but also determination that they shall not have died in vain. Maidan may have started as a student protest in favour of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, but it evolved into much, much more. When it became the Revolution of Dignity and won, millions of Ukrainians had become activists for a normal life and a good life in their homeland.
The Ottawa Valley was hit with a couple of big snowstorms last week, and an above freezing Sunday provided the opportunity to begin digging out. The whole family was at Mont Cascades to celebrate my brother Robin’s birthday — belatedly, because a blizzard put off our plans last week. I was on call to prepare the traditional feast of pirohi, as usual, but first there was some snow shovelling to do. Handyman Chris and his sister Megan came by, and the three of us tackled the mountain of snow at the front of the house so people could at least get in and out of the door. As you can see, the weight of snow and ice sliding off the roof took off the eavestroughing in places. When it snows again I’ll cry, but until then I’ll take pride in the good work we did. Such is life in Canada.
The Scottish Diaspora Tapestry is a monumental work of over 300 embroidered panels, illustrating the influence that Scots have had on the world. It is touring the world, and this month it is in Ottawa, at the Ottawa Public Library. Inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry, the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry is the work of volunteer embroiderers from all over the world, many of them descendents of the the Scottish migrants whose achievements are chronicled in the panels. This panel shows Scottish Country dancing, which thrives in Ottawa and wherever Scots have settled.
Accompanying the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry around the world as Tour Director is the Scottish artist Jenny Bruce. She gave a talk about the Tapestry, before conducting a tour through the library where the panels were on display. Here she is holding up the Scottish Country dancing panel, to show and talk about it’s intricate construction. Online information about the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry is here, and there is even a downloadable app to use while viewing the exhibition.
My parents have been away on vacation, and for the duration my canine companion has been Finnegan, their parti poodle. I thought I would have the week “off-platform,” meaning not teaching in the classroom but working from home. An emergency came up, and I was a last-minute replacement for another instructor. I taught the course from the Ottawa office to the students remotely, using my company’s audio-visual virtual classroom. Finnegan was my supervisor in the classroom. Of course, he visited all my colleagues in the office, wagged his tail at them, and was an instant favourite.
Finnegan also was a careful supervisor at Robin & Colleen’s country place on the weekend. Robin was lucky to bring in Chris “the wood guy” to work with his chainsaw and splitter, and I spent the day helping and hauling firewood all over the forest. Work and play, we enjoyed a warm, sunny fall day.
The Governor-General of Canada gives a summer concert series at his official residence in Ottawa, Rideau Hall. An unusual offering this year was a performance by the Dominion Carillonneur, using a mobile carillon. Dr. Andrea McCrady is the Dominion Carillonneur, and normally she plays the bells that are in the Peace Tower of the Centre Block on Parliament Hill. She and her apprentice played a varied program for an intrigued audience on the grounds of Rideau Hall. We got a chance to see and hear a carillon up close. The how-to of this unusual form of music making was fascinating.
Took in a baseball game on the hottest day of the year in Ottawa: the Cuban National Team played the local team from the Can-Am League, the Ottawa Champions. The Cuban National Team was a solid side, but the Ottawa Champions had better hitting against their starting pitcher, and won the game 6 to 3. There were almost 6,000 fans in the 10,000 seat park, and the game had all the fun rituals of baseball: the 7th inning stretch, silly contests between innings, singing “Sweet Caroline.” Added to this there was a good contingent of Cuban fans down the 1st base line, playing music and dancing the whole game long. There will be more international baseball here soon, when the Ottawa Champions play the Shikoku Island All-Stars from Japan.
The Ottawa Stadium is a good one, and was built for a Triple-A team called the Ottawa Lynx. That team faded along with their major league affiliate, the Montreal Expos. A couple of minor league teams succeeded the Lynx, notably the Fat Cats, before the Champions came to town. Ottawa is enjoying a professional sports renaissance, with fun-to-watch teams in baseball (the Champions), in soccer (the Fury), in Canadian football (the RedBlacks) and in hockey (the Senators).
Doors Open Ottawa, 2016 edition, had some new buildings to check out. The naval reserve base on Dow’s Lake, HMCS Carleton, has been there since 1943, and they’ve had a shiny new building for less than a year. I should call it a ship, for naval reserve bases with the designation “HMCS” are considered to be “stone frigates.” The kitchen is a “galley,” the floor of the drill hall is the “deck,” walls are “bulkheads” and the toilet is the “head.” These uniforms and the engine order telegraph are from the Royal Canadian Navy during World War II. The RCN played a major part in the victory of the Battle of the Atlantic, and several thousand sailors were trained at HMCS Carleton.
The Ottawa Paramedic Service also has a big new facility, used for communications and logistics. I call this picture, “My tax dollars at work.” An ambulance costs $180,000 fully equipped, and it is a major endeavour to keep it provisioned, maintained, staffed, and dispatched. The Ottawa Paramedic Service has a full spectrum of equipment and vehicles, from a bus and command vehicle for major events to saddle bags for bicycle-riding paramedics. Canada Day (July 1) is their biggest day of the year — nobody gets that day off.
Also first-timers this year for Doors Open was the Rideau Valley Wildlife Sanctuary. This is a volunteer organization with facilities in North Gower, quite a ways south-west of downtown but still within the City of Ottawa. They’re a rescue centre for injured and orphaned animals. As this is springtime, there were a lot of babies to be fed, weaned, and hopefully released into the wild again. This little racoon was getting some Tender Loving Care from the volunteers, but she didn’t seem to appreciate it!
Ottawans are proud to show what they do for their job or as volunteers, and where they do it. The spirit of a generous community in Ottawa shows well with Doors Open.