Read­ers have their say

High­lights from feed­back we re­ceived about our April and May is­sues

Ottawa Magazine - - Comments -

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

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