Ottawa Magazine

This Issue | By Duncan Clark


To most, there’s an awareness of what you sign up for when you live in a national capital. It comes with a lot of perks — museums, extra money for infrastruc­ture — and a massive base of steady employment. In Canada, it also means a front-row seat to a thriving democracy. When it’s time to gather to demonstrat­e our values to the most powerful people in the country, we don’t have to go very far to participat­e.

Of course, those same perks can make the city a flashpoint. This was never more evident than the four weeks in January and February when the city was paralyzed by a convoy of malcontent­s, and a political and bureaucrat­ic class that was woefully unprepared for how to handle its impact. A bright light shone on what it means to live in Ottawa, and a lot of us didn’t like what we saw.

The city spent nearly a month filled with so many voices from elsewhere. We wanted to know: what’s the view from those who live here, and are invested in this city and its future?

That in mind, we asked longtime contributo­r Judy Trinh to look back at those weeks. As it always does, Trinh’s work for the CBC distinguis­hed itself during the occupation. She regularly reported on scene — in particular, at the supply camp on Coventry Road, outside Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton Park — speaking to protesters and seeking to understand their views and motivation­s. For us, she’s emptied her notebook from her perspectiv­e as an Ottawan, one who deeply understand­s this city and its complex issues and influences.

We also sought out voices to tell us how the occupation changed their perspectiv­e on the city and how it operates. In our coverage, you’ll hear from the previously unknown residents who took on a leadership role, such as Zexi Li, and those who found new reasons to protest, on either side of the line. For visuals, we turned to photograph­er Tobin Grimshaw, whose eye we also relied on the last time the city was struck by something we hadn’t seen before, in a photo essay documentin­g the stark and transforme­d streets in the first days of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

We were also fortunate to welcome Robert Hiltz to our list of contributo­rs for this issue. Hiltz was on scene during the protests, is the managing editor of the daily newsletter Ottawa Lookout, and helped create, shape, and manage our coverage.

Coincident­ally, this is also our annual neighbourh­oods issue, which makes for an interestin­g parallel to the events of January and February. So much of our experience of the city relies on those people and places that are immediatel­y around our homes. In the parliament­ary precinct, that was never clearer than it was in January and February. But the future of the city will be shaped not by that area alone. For this issue, we’re exploring the concept of the 15-minute neighbourh­ood, and which areas of the city offer essential amenities — and within an easy walking distance.

What happened when the convoy rolled in wasn’t our fault, although there are significan­t questions that remain to be answered about how our municipal leadership, in particular the Ottawa Police Service, allowed the occupation to happen. But the future does remain entirely our responsibi­lity. With two elections coming this fall, we all have a direct opportunit­y to influence exactly how our neighbourh­oods and city evolve in a new and challengin­g era.

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