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OLF targets the Pontiac Journal

May 27th, 2015

By Arnaud de la Salle and Allyson Beauregard

As editors of the French, English, and bilingual sections of the Pontiac Journal, we are deeply shocked that the Office québécois de la langue française (OLF) has enforced regulatory practices similar to those of the Middle Ages in their application of archaic language laws, without any understanding of the linguistic characteristics of the Pontiac area.

The OLF has been harassing the team at the Journal regarding the paper’s bilingual layout without delivering clear, written reasons nor any recommendations or specifications for complying with their rules and regulations. The Journal has been forced to make significant changes to its layout of advertising and news several times over the last couple of years.

As Quebecers and Canadians, we are offended to see bilingualism treated in this manner and are convinced that a love and appreciation for the French language is not created through suppressing the English language. The survival and protection of the French language and culture is not served well by these tactics. Here in the Outaouais, and particularly in the Pontiac, bilingualism defines us, enriches us, and is an important part of our daily lives and identity, even if it displeases some people.

The OLF’s policies will ultimately give rise to prejudices towards the French language, Francophones, and all those who enjoy the current bilingual layout of our paper. In reality, this is an attack on freedom of expression and forces us to create a clear division between the two languages. The threat of the Journal being heavily fined if we continue to deliver our news in our current format demonstrates the extent of the injustices being imposed and the severity of the consequences for not complying; we feel forced to give up our freedoms and independence.

We at the Journal are justly proud of the hard work and effort we invest to promote harmony between the two languages in our communities; we are deeply saddened and outraged that this ‘mission’ is being called into question, without being allowed to defend ourselves.

At the Journal, we strive to keep Francophone and Anglophone populations informed in the fairest way possible; this is done taking into account the economic realities that govern a free community newspaper. Division breeds dissent. Respecting our different languages, heritages, and cultures is a better path to creating a Quebec in which we will all feel welcomed and proud to live. This, in turn, will strengthen the French language, because everyone will be willing – and proud – to learn it.

We invite readers to show their support by telling the OLF that you oppose this limitation on our freedom of expression.

Arnaud de la Salle and Allyson Beauregard are editors at the Pontiac Journal

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Some free tree advice

May 20th, 2015

By Chris Judd

When I was a kid, I was taught that every living thing had a purpose on this earth. Yet, after more than six decades of enjoying life on this planet, I still wonder why we were blessed with poison ivy, mosquitoes, and Manitoba maples.

Anyone who has ruined a tire with hawthorns does a lot of head scratching trying to justify its existence. Even after enjoying some haw jelly and watching birds gorge themselves with the small red apple-like fruit in the fall, I still have doubts. If we check closely around some older farmhouses, we can find other kinds of thorny bushes or trees. I remember having great respect for them at a very early age. It is only in the last few years that I learned that blackthorn was used extensively to build hedges in most of the British Isles. These hedges were both animal and people-proof when maintained. There are people that are in the profession of hedge maintenance, going from farm to farm, pruning and ‘knitting’ the hedges so tightly that even a rabbit cannot get through.

Each year, there are hedge-building competitions in Wales, where winning earns you star status. In areas where theft is a problem, some police forces encourage citizens to ring their property with a thorny hedge to discourage thieves. Anyone with an authentic Irish cane or Shillelagh knows that it is made from blackthorn.

Hardwoods lose their leaves in fall and they can clog eaves troughs. Manitoba maples and even silver maples can get out of hand, sprouting up through the lawn and flower beds up to 30 feet away from the tree. Anyone who has tried to get rid of a Manitoba maple will tell you that it is a very tough job; even leaving one root will result in the tree growing back.

One of the worst trees to have on your property is the Balm of Gilead poplar. It is a weak tree and branches are forever breaking off, and the tree ‘weeps’ a tar-like substance. The branches never dry out and, if a block is left for a year, a new tree will grow from each end of the stick.

Oak, red maple, and hard maple are slow growing but strong and clean trees. Every home and barn should have some apple trees close by. Cherry trees and pear trees also grow in our climate. Anyone who has tasted Saskatoon berry jam or pie might like to plant a Saskatoon berry tree on an air-drained slope.

Go plant a tree and take your kids or grandkids with you. They’ll remember you long after you’re gone.

Chris Judd is a farmer in Clarendon

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Coming together for Wakefield

May 13th, 2015

By Bruce Stockfish

Wakefield and its surrounding area is special: we have the river, the hills, the history; music, festivals, the arts; and many recreational activities. We have dynamic, engaged, community-oriented people. Many get involved in community activities, but it sometimes seems that we mostly talk about what needs to be done to make Wakefield a better place to live, work, and visit. Some of us want less talk and more action. And so, we are forming a new community organization: the Wakefield-La Pêche Chamber of Commerce, Tourism, Arts and Community, or Wakefield-La Pêche Chamber for short.

The new Wakefield-La Pêche Chamber will act as a combined chamber of commerce and community association that will incorporate the community and cultural objectives of Wakefield Ensemble with the existing business and tourism objectives of Commerce Wakefield. By joining forces, we will be better able to serve community interests.

This is an especially crucial time for Wakefield. We face opportunities that we may miss out on and threats that may adversely affect us if we don’t act now. Businesses are either established but disconnected, or new and don’t know where to turn for help – we need to better connect and support them to help us all prosper. The new highway will bring development – we need to make sure it is the right kind. Tourism is key to the Wakefield and area economy. The fate of the steam train is looking grim – we need to develop a vibrant tourism scene that respects and supports the arts, nature, environment, and heritage. Our buildings and infrastructure are failing. Wakefield village looks tired and neglected – we need to act together as a community to make it shine.

The Wakefield-La Pêche Chamber intends to be the vehicle to make things happen. And since Wakefield is a hub for the region, we can have a positive impact in the rest of La Pêche. Some of the things we intend to take on: provide support, discounts, and benefits for business; work with and advocate to the municipality on issues to ensure we have a well-developed community; improve the appearance and infrastructure of our community; promote responsible tourism development; make available a community website and other sources of information for the benefit of residents and visitors; encourage a more vibrant local cultural, civic, educational, and recreational scene.

Members can be businesses of any size, non-profit community or social associations, families, or individuals. There will be a special meeting of the new chamber on May 25, 2015 at the Wakefield Centre to launch the new organization. The board, along with guest speakers, will share information on the chamber and its plans. All are welcome.

Bruce Stockfish is the president of the Board of Directors for the Wakefield-La Pêche Chamber of Commerce, Tourism, Arts and Community

 

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This is goodbye.

May 6th, 2015

Though not forever, obviously. This part of the country has a unique allure, and I fully intend to be back.

I grew up lucky enough to spend most of my weekends outside the city, either in the mountains, or at my grandparents’ place on the edge of a lake. In the territory of Low Down nation, I see many of the same qualities that I love about home.

It makes it all that much harder to turn off my recorder, fold up my notebook, toss my pens and camera into a bag, and head back to journalism in the city. The pace of life is different; the pace of reporting is different.

I’ve learned a great deal about journalism out here. Not just from my colleagues, but from interacting with all of you. One of the great lessons of journalism is to try to find the reader, to be writing for the person who’s reading, and for that person to know that they’re reading about themselves, their community, their friends and family. In La Pêche and elsewhere, residents have taught me a great deal about how to do that, and demonstrate just how important local issues and local politics are.

The things that enflame passions – highway signage and development, for example – are the issues that animate people locally. It has been quite a profound experience to cover the minutiae of daily life in the Outaouais, and to talk to people about what matters to them. It’s far different in the city, especially in a place such as Ottawa, so overshadowed by the federal government.

Does anyone really care about government policy? Sometimes it’s hard to tell, so busy are people talking past one another.

Out here, at council meetings, at public information sessions, everyone was animated by what was happening in their neighbourhoods. It was refreshing and enlightening.

This, in other words, is a community that cares. I’m grateful that, even if it was for only a little while, everyone here welcomed me into the fold.

David Carr, until he died a titan of modern journalism from his post at the New York Times, once said that journalism is “a grand, grand caper,” because it “beats working.” He was quite right. It has been an unbelievable privilege to be invited into homes, to speak to people (sometimes at the expense of several hours that perhaps should’ve been put towards filing copy) and then to tell their stories.

The people who sent me emails about all of that work – you don’t know just how much it means.

In journalism in the city, it often feels like nobody reads what you write. Out here, it seems like practically everyone reads the paper cover to cover each week. Random people on the patio at the Kaffé or at events mentioned that they’d seen my work.

How flattering – and intimidating.

To everyone who has been a part of the last several months: thank you.

Until next time.

 

Tyler Dawson was a reporter for the Low Down until the big city beckoned. Adieu to a rarity in the world of words.

 

 

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Reconsider the new name for Valley Drive

April 29th, 2015

By Bob Leblanc

As a resident of Valley Drive, I read with dismay the ‘Sayonara, Valley Drive’ piece in the April 15 issue of the Low Down. I know our councillor, Claude Giroux, is very happy about this and expresses the hope that the citizens are, too.

Well, this ‘citizen’ is very unhappy and is convinced that the option to rename ‘Valley Drive’ to ‘Chemin de la Vallée-de-Wakefield’ is a mistake, not only for the residents of Valley Drive, but also for the citizens at large. As I drive north along the new Hwy 5 from Ottawa, I see the exit for ‘Ch. Cross Loop’ and long to see the next exit (28) named ‘Chemin Vallée Wakefield’ or, better yet, just ‘Chemin Wakefield’ – these are much simpler and easier, GPS-friendly names than the unwieldy one proposed.

The reason given for not using one of the latter, more logical names is that there is already a street named ‘Wakefield Heights’ and having another street with the name ‘Wakefield’ in it will confuse the medical and police services. I tenuously grant that this might be a valid reason. The solution, then, is to change the ‘Wakefield Heights’ street name to something else so that the word ‘Wakefield’ can be freed up for the Valley Drive name change. It’s been said that the reason for not doing this is that it would inconvenience the 200 homes on ‘Wakefield Heights’. This number is totally incorrect – I took a count of the homes on ‘Wakefield Heights’ and they total only 40 homes, about five of which are only used in the summer. Valley Drive has 28 homes, so the argument of inconveniencing 200 homes is quite misleading. The ‘Wakefield Heights’ street name could be changed to something more appropriate (there are no ‘Heights’ along that road). Something like ‘Chemin Pont Couvert’ or ‘Chemin Vue sur la Rivière’. Even though the Municipality could legally impose this name change, I’m confident that, for the sake of a clear highway sign and for the visibility of our village, the 40 or so residents on ‘Wakefield Heights’ would agree that this is a better option.

A secondary inconvenience, albeit only for the Valley Drive residents, is that the new suggested long name doesn’t even fit on many forms, both online and in paper, let alone on the actual street sign itself. I’ve tried to enter the name into an online passport application and it won’t take all those letters, especially if ‘Chemin’ is spelled out. Also, my wife’s insurance company’s online form will not accept it nor will many account/bank loan/credit card application forms.

Please, Mr. Giroux, re-consider this ill thought out decision!

Bob LeBlanc is a resident on Valley Drive in Wakefield

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Ignore the din in favour of stopping to listen

April 22nd, 2015

By Tyler Dawson

It’s hard to understand what it’s like to be a family member of a missing or murdered indigenous woman. It’s harder still for most of us to know what it’s like to be a First Nations person in this country.

Those in the Hills must remember that while the names Tina Fontaine or Cindy Gladue play across the headlines, just up the road in Kitigan Zibi, women have gone missing. It is not a topic of abstract discussion.

In trying to understand this facet of our politics – in 2015 it should be what defines our national dialogue – part of the challenge is not to drown out indigenous voices and ideas about politics and history. The search for truth about violence affecting indigenous people has covered the pages of our newspapers. Much of that discussion has put us in a troubling spot, in part because of where it lays blame: information that came recently from the RCMP noted that in most solved cases where First Nations women were murdered, the perpetrators were themselves Aboriginal.

This meshes with another grim figure: Aboriginal men are disproportionately the victims of violence themselves. Both Aboriginal men and women are overrepresented in Canadian prisons.

And so, when white people go about discussing the legacy of colonialism and violence, in the context of Aboriginal inmates, missing and murdered indigenous women, violence against both men and women, we must be careful not to play into the narratives that derail – or highjack – the discussion.

But this runs up against a separate issue: competing narratives define the national discussion about what to do. Is there one that’s true? Is there one to which we should pay the most attention? If so, which one?

The hard facts lend themselves to a variety of interpretations. One is that there must be a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women; another is that violence against Aboriginals as a group must be addressed; another is that the issue of domestic violence must be addressed, and so on.

A couple of weeks ago, Theland Kicknosway ran from Ottawa to Kitigan Zibi to raise awareness for the families that missing and murdered indigenous women leave behind – an issue that’s received scant attention.

Theland’s the kind of guy who should be listened to. It’s probably time we – ‘we’ being settlers – stopped talking and did some listening. It’s also important that non-Aboriginal Canadians set aside our politics, at least in the sense of approaching understanding with the goal of making policy.

The consensus in Ottawa seems to be one of sticking with the status quo. That’s bad – change needs to be made. But without taking some time, individually and as communities, to understand what our neighbours are saying, the status quo actually persists.

Change a policy in Ottawa, sure. Does that change how we think or act in Wakefield or Chelsea or Low? Not really. Does that change how neighbours relate to each other? No.

So get out and listen. There are ample opportunities. Ignore the din. Instead, try to absorb what thoughtful people are saying.

Tyler Dawson is a reporter at the Low Down to Hull & Back News.

 

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A letter to Stéphanie Vallée

April 15th, 2015

Letter to Stéphanie Vallée, Députée de Gatineau, Ministre de la Justice, Ministre de la Condition Féminine, Ministre Resonsable de la région de L’Outaouais, Leader Parlementaire adjointe du Gouvernement

We are writing to add our voices to the many family doctors who have grave concerns about the proposed Bill 20, which we believe will have significant negative consequences for the health care system. We believe that Minister Barrette’s analysis of the problem is based on a vision of medical practice that is alarmingly divorced from reality.

Over the past many years, the nature of our practices has changed due to a lack of family doctors. We have patients with multiple, complex problems that require longer visits. We have succeeded in providing timely access to vulnerable patients despite our limited resources and demands to work outside the office. We are concerned that pressure to meet certain arbitrary productivity targets will make it more difficult to meet the needs of patients.

Dr. Barrette’s contention is that there are sufficient doctors in Quebec. He proposes that if only family doctors would work harder, the problem of access would be solved. The statistics he provides to support this hypothesis do not give an accurate picture of the situation. Policy that is based on bad information will likely be bad policy. The idea that the problem with access to family doctors in Quebec is merely a function of the 8,000 or so doctors just being too lazy is as ludicrous as it sounds. GPs provide care in hospitals, emergency departments, obstetrical units, intensive care units, long-term care units, homes, hospices, public health units, and CLSCs, in addition to fulfilling administrative duties.

The Outaouais already has fewer GPs per capita than the rest of Quebec. Doctors who will be financially punished by Bill 20 will look to move across the border to Ontario. This will make recruitment difficult as young doctors evaluate their options.

Doctors who work less already get paid less, which is normal. Working less is not a crime. Doctors, like everyone else, have personal lives. People sometimes need to restrict their works hours due to personal health issues, family obligations, and other perfectly legitimate reasons. Women with young families will be particularly affected by the measures outlined in Bill 20. What happened to the principal of equal pay for equal work?

Ms. Vallée, you have always been a strong supporter of health care services. We hope that you can use your influence to encourage Minister Barrette to abandon this proposed legislation and to work constructively with the FMOQ to find realistic ways to improve access to family doctors.

Dr. Gary Satenstein

Dr. Maggie Odell

Dr. Curtis Folkerson

Dr. Diane Lemay

Dr. Michell Lajzerowicz

Dr. Tania Lemelin

Dr. Mark Saul

Dr. Sylvie Del Bianco

Dr. Pascale St Amour

Dr. Jacque Menard

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Outdoorsiness inspiring

April 8th, 2015

By Tyler Dawson

One of the great joys of working in the Hills is that you’re surrounded by people who take pleasure in being outdoors.

Growing up in Edmonton, being outside was just what you did. On Fridays, the exodus from the city was apparent as people fled for more beautiful parts. RVs lined up at gas stations, trucks pulling ATVs and dirt bikes and boats growled along the streets.

That’s not to say these things don’t happen in Ottawa, but I don’t run much in circles like that anymore. An Ottawa weekend, at least among the downtown crowd, consists of sodden elbows resting on the bar-rail until the wee hours of the morning.

But in Wakefield, practically everyone seems to be into something outdoorsy. Before going to a party a few weeks ago, a friend noted she was about to go for a cross-country ski in the dark – something I’d never even heard of before.

As a reporter, I’ll stop by someone’s house for an interview and they’d be wearing their spandex, getting ready for an afternoon ski. Or, leaving a message on an answering machine, I’d hear back in an hour or two, once the subject had returned from their preferred calisthenics.

Even if I haven’t gotten around to reforming my ways (in my first weeks here, I was told that I needed to give up “gravity” skiing and take up cross-country) it’s possible to live vicariously through others. Now that spring is around the corner, that pleasure is even more acute. Families out with their dogs, kids out for the first bike ride of the season – the joy is contagious.

The range of things out here is incredible. There’s downhill skiing, cross-country trails, bike paths, places to walk dogs, and rivers to canoe on. There’s world-class cross-country skiing rivalled only by the Nordic centres in the Rocky Mountains. And all of this just outside a city that seems determined to define itself by its degree of drudgery.

It’s worth acknowledging that – even when it all feels normal – for those of us who aren’t lucky enough to live out here, it’s pretty amazing. On the other side of the country, in, say, Banff, locals chuckle at the tourists who pile out of buses to gawk at the most mundane of things.

There are plans underway to enhance all of these opportunities, but while these projects are nominally about tourism, they’re also about making this area a better place to live.

So, sure, I can live vicariously through everyone – hale and healthy – who pedals on by. But at least I can say that, as I sidle up to the bar rail, I feel darn guilty about not taking advantage of the outdoors.

Maybe I’ll try to change that.

Tyler Dawson is a reporter at the Low Down, and a begrudging resident of Ottawa.

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A final goodbye from the Des Collines health board

April 1st, 2015

At the time of its creation, the CSSS des Collines (CSSSC) served a population of 25,000. The Wakefield Hospital’s ER was built to accommodate 12,000 per year. The population has grown has grown to 40,000 and the ER receives over 21,000 patients annually.

Five years ago, the CSSC’s board of directors made it its mission to develop a level of care and services to properly serve the territory’s growing population, deal with the increased visits to emergency, and meet the growing demands of the population, both young and old.

Despite the efforts of the board and administration to reach out to the Agence de santé de l’Outaouais, the Gatineau MNA, and the three health ministers, the CSSC did not succeed in developing the services so badly needed by its citizens.

Defying logic, the CSSC and its board had to battle chronic underfunding, then new cuts of more than $2 million imposed by the Quebec government.

Successes

The CSSC maintained a professional staff and very competent administration. Against all odds, it responded to the challenges imposed by a constant lack of resources.

Most recently, the CSSC succeeded in designating safe spaces in the hospital’s ER. It managed to relocate administration offices, thereby creating additional rooms in the hospital for medical services.

Three of the four CLSCs managed to stay open five days a week. The Chelsea CLSC, created in 2003, was forced to close last year. People requiring health services now have to go to Cantley or Masham.

The recurring overload at the hospital’s ER forced the board to redirect supplementary funds to maintain services, thereby creating an annual average deficit of $700,000 for three years. As of March 31, 2015, the CSSC’s deficit is more than $1 million. It was only last month that the Agence came up with a budget to provide radiology services 24 hours a day at the hospital for a period of three months. Previously, this service wasn’t available at night due to lack of funds.

Challenges ahead

The Centre intégré des services sociaux et de santé de l’Outaouais (CISSSO) that will regroup the five CSSSs will have to consider the demographics of the des Collines territory when it comes to allocating funds.

The CISSSO will have to recognize the recurring overload at the hospital’s ER and the urgent need for technology that can respond to the diagnostic needs of an ever-increasing patient load.

The CISSSO will have to respond to the increasing demand for places in CHSLD nursing homes. The ministry recognized in 2013 the need for 80 new CHSLD spots.

It is unacceptable that the Chelsea CLSC is closed. The CISSSO will have to recognize that Chelsea citizens have the right to the same health services provided in other municipalities.

We hope the CISSSO recognizes the legitimacy of the des Collines territory as a key player when it comes to responding to the needs of the Outaouais population.

Michel Lafrenière is the president of the CSSS des Collines board of directors

 

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To walk in peace and safety

March 25th, 2015

By Kate Aley

Sometimes I leave THE EQUITY office quite late. It’s often dark and sometimes cold and the streets are generally deserted. I worry about the stories I have yet to write and I worry about my car not starting, but I never worry about being abducted. Never

Tragically this is not the case for women in many Canadian towns – and for indigenous woman in particular. A new report into missing and murdered indigenous women in B.C. has rekindled the fight for a public inquiry. The report, conducted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, includes the findings that the highest numbers of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in B.C. are concentrated in Prince George and the Downtown Eastside. The report also notes that the police have “failed to adequately prevent and protect indigenous women and girls from killings and disappearances”, adding that multiple policing jurisdictions in B.C. have resulted in confusion between the RCMP and Vancouver police.

The group strongly supports the creation of a national-level action plan or a nationwide inquiry into the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. Last year, the government committed to a five-year plan to address violence against Aboriginal women and girls. Yet, when reacting to the 2014 murder of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine, Prime Minister Stephen Harper still insisted that the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women was not part of a sociological phenomenon, but a crime to be dealt with accordingly.

The government continues to say it is interested in taking action, yet continues to refuse calls for a national public inquiry. One thing is clear: actions taken so far have obviously not halted the brutal and systemic violence being committed against indigenous women. For the 1,200 families that still seek justice for their missing and murdered family members, an inquiry may help them feel some solace. For indigenous women actually at risk right now, understanding how these crimes continue to be perpetrated may be what stands between them and a horrible fate.

Lawyer Christa Big Canoe is Anishinaabekwe and a member of the Georgina Island First Nation. Melina Laboucan-Massimo is a member of the Lubicon Cree First Nation with a master’s degree in indigenous governance. Their quote from a CBC article succinctly sums up the heart of this urgent matter: “An inquiry needs to be called that is accountable to those it affects the most. Public awareness needs to be increased, but most importantly, indigenous women and girls need to be able to walk in peace and safety”.

Kate Aley is an editor at the Shawville Equity

 

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