Readers have their say
Highlights from feedback we received about our April and May issues
In April, Denis Calnan waded into the bilingualism debate that is simmering in Ottawa in his City column (“Parlez-vous English?” page 21). The article included interviews with advocates for making the city officially bilingual, as well as those against the idea. When we asked our Facebook followers for their feedback, we got: “Spare me. There are far more important issues that require taxpayers’ money.” Brad Yetts was a bit more forthcoming: “The City of Ottawa does a very good job in providing services and programs in English and French … Instead of forcing the city to make it official, which would cost a lot of money … we should be commending and celebrating the city’s efforts for doing such a good job in making the city bilingual. Not everything has to be official.” The May 2015 issue featured our annual real estate roundup (“Where to Buy Now,” page 39). We explored various neighbourhoods by average house price and days on the market, highlighted recent listings for each (one-bedroom condo or six-bedroom detached?), and included a “What’s There” sidebar that shone a spotlight on such amenities as parks, schools, recreation centres, and restaurants that might nudge potential homebuyers toward purchasing in that ’ hood. When the issue hit newsstands, residents of Sandy Hill, for example, cheered when their section of the city made the list. But our description of Overbrook managed to raise the ire of some Vanier locals.
“How very maddening!” wrote Lucie Marleau. “In its Overbrook article, it states: ‘... the neighbourhood’s image has always (unfairly) taken a bit of a hit because of its proximity to Vanier, but the vibe is quite different ...’ While I’m happy that our neighbour Overbrook is getting this endorsement, well, good grief, what will it take for media outlets to realize how wrong they are about our beloved Vanier? I — and dozens upon dozens of other proud residents — would welcome the opportunity to prove you wrong.”
Kari Benninghaus offered the following heartwarming description of the area: “Vanier is a great quirky neighbourhood that encompasses, accepts, and warmly welcomes a multitude of cultures (francophone, anglophone, Aboriginal, Caribbean, Chinese, Vietnamese, and South American just to name a few nearby grocery stores). With the entire neighbourhood easily bikeable, easily accessible, and highly affordable, it is the best-kept secret of Ottawa … yes, Vanier is weird; yes, it is a kaleidoscope of people and cultures; and yes, Vanier will accept you as you are, and love you for it.”
In a similar vein, Claire Carriere wrote: “How unfortunate that a magazine which is supposed to be pro- Ottawa misrepresents facts and takes the opportunity to take a cheap shot at a neighbouring Ottawa neighbourhood … Many of us work hard in the community to make it vibrant, active, and a wonderful place to live. I suggest a retraction and correction to your misleading statements.”
While this page doesn’t include a retraction, I hope it is evidence that we value the feedback. In response to the letters from proud Vanier residents who pointed out that two of the Overbrook amenities mentioned are located within Vanier, as well as other concerns, see “The Author Replies” below.
But before we turn the page on Vanier, here’s a different take. After hearing about the uproar our brief mention of Vanier had caused — and the resulting call to action on a community Facebook page — one letter writer wrote in to offer an alternative view. David Bateman, a former Vanier Community Association board member, told us he was “moving out of the area due to the many problems we have had.” Bateman went on to say that “Vanier still has many problems, and by all the signs that we have seen, there is no change coming any time soon… We lived here for four years and came to realize about six months ago that we needed to move out of the area when my wife witnessed two drug addicts shooting up in broad daylight one morning on Montreal Road while walking our dog and infant daughter. We’ve had our tire slashed by the drug addict illegally living across the street from us, and my wife has been stared down by dealers while walking our dog … This is a short list, but you get the idea.” In closing, Bateman said he “wanted to let you know that while many people in this area have their heads in the sand, Vanier is still not a place that is in any way, shape, or form a good place to be moving into at this stage. And if anything, I only see it getting worse over the next five years as Overbrook improves.” The Author Replies: For a few neighbourhoods, particularly smaller ones and newer ones, I did mention nearby amenities in the “What’s There” section that are outside the area’s defined boundaries, since they are within easy reach of residents. I should have explained that approach more clearly in the text.
Regarding Vanier, I agree with reader David Bateman that the area still has issues to address. However, I’ve also been impressed by Vanier’s hard work to turn its image around — work that has been paying off in concrete ways, such as the revitalization of Montreal Road. My comments could have been more nuanced in reflecting Vanier’s current state of evolution.
— Laura Byrne Paquet