Anglophones and Francophones in Old Ottawa East Forge Links to Identify and Resolve Community Issues

JOCELYNE CALOZ & ÉLISABETH BRUINS

Building Bridges, a unique series of bilingual ideation online workshops, was staged successfully during November and December, bringing together diverse communities of Old Ottawa East that have not had frequent opportunities to work together in the past.

The three Building Bridges sessions, conducted as weekly Zoom meetings, were the brainchild of the Mauril-Bélanger Social Innovation Workshop (the “Atelier”), with the support of the Association des communautés francophones d’Ottawa’s Bilingual Ottawa funding program.

Organizers of the series developed three workshops, held between November 18 and December 3, to allow members of OOE’s Anglophone and Francophone communities to address issues they cared about related to 1) environment and sustainability; 2) urban transformation; and 3) community equity. Working together, session participants from the community were able to begin collectively developing bilingual projects that might resolve the issues. Participants were invited to express themselves in the language of their choice.

The online workshops allowed Building Bridges participants to find ways to connect various local actors and advocates with one another and with the Atelier.

During the sessions, several common highlights emerged: find ways to communicate (especially during the pandemic); create a platform to pool existing resources and projects; create a vision for success; ensure a clear message in communications, i.e., what needs to be accomplished; when dealing with the government, in addition to the clarity of message, address the appropriate level of government (municipal, provincial, federal); find ways to engage people who are not already connected to activist groups; and identify commonalitiesor intersections to bring together people working on different issues that would allow for cross-functioning.

In addition, during the discussion on environment and sustainability, the need to map the OOE ecosystem and the importance of benchmarking was reinforced. The efforts undertaken by several neighbourhood residents were highlighted, particularly the efforts of the Sustainable Living Ottawa East group which promotes green and sustainable initiatives, among them the elimination of invasive species such as burdock along the Rideau River.

During the discussion on urban transformation, some participants noted that densification results in the loss of green space, light increases noise pollution, and heightens a lack of affordable housing. Nevertheless, others pointed out that the city offers great social amenities on the ground, as evidenced by the growth of stores on Main Street. They concluded that urban density must be balanced between losses and sensitive implementation.

Discussions on community equity indicated the importance of fostering deep listening and the need to empower citizens to take responsibility for the future of their community.

Organizers and participants agreed that Building Bridges was successful in initiating links between the Atelier and community residents and in encouraging bilingualism. Many have indicated that they would like to continue the collaboration in 2021!

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