Author Archive

CAPITAL PINT: The Ultimate Beer Run

This article was originally published in the May 2015 print edition of Ottawa Magazine

The region is frothing over with breweries. Jordan Duff sips his way through the city — and beyond — to gather all the info you need to map out a year’s worth of suds-driven tours

Kichesippi Beer Co. Photo by Sean Sisk

Kichesippi Beer Co. Photo by Sean Sisk

Just a few short years ago, Ottawa was home to a mere handful of breweries and brew pubs. Today we have more than two dozen, with still more on the horizon before the year is out. We’re living in the golden age, my friends! This is a fantastic time for craft beer nerds and casual beer fans alike. And if you can’t find a personal favourite brew at your regular watering hole, visit the source to stock up. Seeing the magic happen at the brewery and talking beer with the owners is always a good decision.

Beyond the Pale Brewing Co.       
Ottawa’s hippest brewery continues to churn out exciting experimental brews to complement their mainstays of Pink Fuzz, Rye Guy, and Darkness. I hope you’re thirsty, because their upcoming move to City Centre will include an increase in production from a 3½-barrel system to a 15-barrel system. Try it: If you’re lucky enough to visit the brewery when a barrel-aged treat is available, don’t hesitate! 5 Hamilton Ave. N., 613-695-2991.

Bicycle Craft Brewery  
Passionate owners Fariborz and Laura Behzadi are the creative force behind one of the city’s newest breweries, where they apply their combined skills of art and science to a wide variety of brews. Try it: Ask for Base Camp Oatmeal Porter if you’re wanting a medium-bodied dark delight — or be pleasantly surprised by their delicious one-offs. 850 Industrial Ave., 613-408-3326.

Big Rig Brewery      
Big Rig has recently become Bigger Rig, with a second brew pub opening in the east end at Gloucester Centre and a Kanata production facility in the works. The latter will collaborate with other small local breweries to create some liquid gold. Try it: Keep your head up while shopping at the LCBO — their award-winning Black IPA will soon be available. 2750 Iris St., 1980 Ogilvie Rd., 103 Schneider Rd.

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SHOP TALK: Garden Party Glam


This article was originally published in the May 2015 print edition of Ottawa Magazine


Photo: Marc Fowler/Metropolis Studio; Willow and Forsythia arrangement and vase courtesy of Scrim’s Florist

Twice the Fun
Animapop, a new Italian clothing line, has created the perfect reversible summer party dress. With a photographic floral print on one side and subtle polka dots on the other, this laser-cut neoprene short-sleeved dress is wrinkle-free and easy to wash and comes with its own travel bag. $245. Manhattan West, 322 Richmond Rd., 613-695-0517.

Channel Chanel
Add elegance to your outfit with this unique Chanel-style hat, which is made in Italy with straw, lace caging, and pearl details. Designed for Justine’s private label, this topper is sure to evoke Coco Chanel — and ensure that you are the belle of any garden party. $425. Justine, 17A York St., 613-562-4000.

Step Up
The Alli nude sandal with 3½-inch heel, by Donald J. Pliner, will be your go-to shoe for summer. The asymmetrical elastic bands and padded foot bed will transport you from day to evening in the utmost of comfort, and its neutral tone and gold details make this the perfect versatile sandal. $358. Wolf & Zed, 519 Sussex Dr., 613-860-7463.

Get Prepped
This linen blazer adds a preppy edge to a man’s outfit. The navy windowpane jacket is made by Sand ($695), a Danish company that produces all its goods in Europe. Pair it with L.B.M.’s garment-washed-cotton casual pant ($295), and you are set to accompany your partner in style. Morgante Menswear, 141 Sparks St., 613-234-2232.

Don’t Sweat It
Keep cool in the summer sun with Haupt’s 100% cotton summer-weight sport shirt ($140); its subtle diamond print with navy contrast trim pairs perfectly with a bold printed blazer. Cuff your pants and dare to go sockless with Allen Edmonds Strand oxford dress shoes in walnut ($450). Add an Italian silk Stenströms pocket square to finish off the look ($65).
E.R. Fisher Menswear, 199 Richmond Rd., 613-829-8313.

Looking for something a little different? Here’s an alternative look we shot for this May issue feature.

Photo by Marc Fowler/Metropolis Studio

Photo by Marc Fowler/Metropolis Studio

Alice & Olivia Kiro dress
$428 from Schad
Rich colour highlights the lush floral print on a fit-and-flare alice + olivia dress. A plunging V neckline cuts a flattering profile, and stretch mesh frames the exposed back zip. Sleeveless. Lined. Pockets. Strong liner underneath to define shape of fit and flare.

Checkered hat
$275 from Justine. Made in England, for Justine’s private label.
Black and white checkered cloth line the outer brim. Black nylon ribbon surrounds top with big statement bow. Straw structure.

Designers Remix – Bau Shoe
$418.00 from Wolf & Zed
Chunky wide heel, pointy toe, ankle boot. Patent beige leather with black elastic detail. 100% leather.

Mirto long-sleeve floral print sport shirt
$225 from E.R. Fisher Menswear
Egyptian Cotton, Made in Spain

L.B.M. garment-washed 100% cotton pant in red
$295 from Morgante Menswear

L.B.M. garment-washed, linen, window pane sport jacket in blue
$875 from Morgante Menswear

Hugo Boss Cennis double-monk strap in dark red
$475 from Morgante Menswear
Zig-zag stitching on front round toe, and on heel.

TIMELINE: Long May You Run, History of Canada’s Largest Marathon

This article was originally published in the May 2015 print edition of Ottawa Magazine


1975, courtesy of Run Ottawa

In 1975, 159 people laced up their sneakers and set off from the Carleton University campus on a gruelling 42-kilometre jog that eventually becomes the biggest sporting event in the city. It was then — and is now — the largest marathon in Canada. But it won’t hold the title during its entire 40-year history.

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FOUND: A Rainforest in Smiths Falls

This story first appeared in the May 2015 issue of Ottawa Magazine.


Judy Tennant at the Rainforest Aviary in Smiths Falls. Photo by Scott Adamson

Judy Tennant at the Rainforest Aviary in Smiths Falls. Photo by Scott Adamson

April, an African grey parrot, stares at you expectantly from the forearm of Judy Tennant, head trainer at the Rainforest Aviary in Smiths Falls, Ontario. You may now reward April with a juicy piece of green grape for greeting you in civil fashion. April is one of the exotic birds that now live at this sanctuary, founded in 2008 and open to the public for the past three years. The din, from birds perched along a jungle-like network of sturdy ropes above you, is impressive.

Photo by Scott Adamson

Photo by Scott Adamson

Flight Risk
Thinking of buying a parrot? Don’t. Not until you’ve visited this aviary and said hello to any of the parrots, cockatoos, macaws, and other exotic bird species that live there now that their owners have realized they were not equipped to care for the birds. After dogs and cats, exotic birds are the most often purchased pet. “We have 27 living here now,” says Tennant. “We could have hundreds.”

Avian Escape
Check the website for the aviary’s visiting hours, or make an appointment. Participate in bird training, rehabilitation, and socialization under the guidance of experts and volunteers. Feed the parrots grapes for good behaviour, or have the kids don a rain slicker and sou’wester and step into a steamy shower with friendly avian residents like Molly, a black-headed caique that loves to preen. In summer, families can picnic on the grounds of the Gallipeau Centre, the aviary’s current home, and take parrots for walks in a “bird buggy.” Good for the spirits of both birds and human visitors.

Party Animals
Meet Sammy, a 60-year-old cockatoo and Tikki, a macaw wearing a bright red sweater (before her rescue, she plucked off all her chest feathers, a stress reaction). Some parrots are party animals. You can arrange for a trainer to attend your event, bringing along birds that enjoy interacting with strangers. Let them groom you — for them, glasses, earrings, and buttons are “wind drag” they’d kindly try to remove. Bonus: “If you get pooped on, you get a prize,” says Tennant.

Photo by Scott Adamson

Photo by Scott Adamson

Bird Beliefs
Tennant’s mission is to rescue and rehabilitate these birds, educate the public, advocate for the well-being and survival of parrot species in the wild, and teach those wishing to adopt a bird how to provide the best home possible. She’s seeking corporate sponsorship to build a genuine rainforest-simulating aviary that will provide a home for the alarming numbers of birds in need. The aviary would also offer a space for humans to enjoy the company of these fascinating animals and gain a better understanding of what they need to live a good life.

MY LOOK: Tommie Amber Pirie

This article was originally published in the April 2015 print edition Ottawa Magazine

By Di Golding

Tommie Amber Pirie. Photo by Miv Fournier

Tommie Amber Pirie wears Value Village finds — a pair of vintage high-waisted Gap jean shorts and an orange top. Purse and belt, also form Value Village, are wardrobe staples. Figure skates replace a pair of Sorel leather Slimboots; on hanger, a green blazer from H&M. Photo by Miv Fournier

You live in Toronto now, but the CBC comedy Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays was filmed in Ottawa. Did you enjoy filming here?
Generally, it was pretty low-key. The hustle and bustle is a little bit less in Ottawa. That’s why I live in the Beaches district in Toronto. It’s calm and near nature, close to the water.

Your first time performing for people wasn’t on the stage. You were a competitive figure skater from the Minto Skating Club. Skaters are known for being flamboyant. Did that impact your style?
I was always the weirdo in high school wearing five different eyeliner colours at the same time and wearing mismatched tights with big sweaters. I don’t have any fear when it comes to style. That does come from skating. Being wrapped in spandex for 15 years of your life changes something in you.

You recently starred with two famous Zoes (Zoë Kravitz in Pretend We’re Kissing and Zoe Kazan in The F Word). Both have really distinct styles. Did you take anything away from them?
Kravitz is so eclectic, so bohemian! I love her style, especially the red carpet stuff that she’s been doing lately. Kazan is quirky and weird and amazing; she has some really awesome conservative pieces and funky pieces too. I want to be influenced by the people around me, but I want to find my own vibe. Everybody’s style is a version of somebody else’s style. So it’s about finding your uniqueness within that and bringing your part into it.

What are your style must-haves?
I have to have a blazer — a good fitted suit jacket. I like dressing androgynous. I love suits but in a modern way. I like a good pair of black boots that go with everything, like skirts and dress pants. I love baggy generic T-shirts. I always mix super-casual with super-dressy.

You play the witch Paige Winterbourne in the second season of the Space channel series Bitten. Was that a chance to relive your teenage goth years?
I didn’t really go through a goth period. Maybe a goth week or a vampire weekend. On Bitten, I was wearing these high, kick-ass-crazy John Fluevog boots all season. They felt about eight inches tall, and they were so sexy and bad-ass. I was running up hills and fighting people in these boots for 3½ months, so now I can tell John Fluevog that his boots are witch-proof.

Speaking of the supernatural, you were in The F Word with Harry Potter himself. What was it like working with Daniel Radcliffe?
It was one of those pinch-me moments. It was only about 10 years ago, and I wanted to be an actress. I’ve always wanted to be an actress, but I had closed the chapter with skating, so acting became my number one focus. Anyway, I had been watching Harry Potter movies in my living room in Ottawa. Dan’s so down-to-earth and willing to connect and talk like a cool, normal, average dude. All this, despite the fact that he’s walking around with three bodyguards. I learn from everyone I work with — from him, it was about humility and always reminding yourself where you came from.

PARTY PLANNERS’ GUIDE: Remember your loved ones with a service that reflects who they are


WITH PARTY PRO Elizabeth Young

This article was originally published in the April 2015 print edition of Ottawa Magazine


Tivoli Florist, Elizabeth Young. Photo: Jessica Deeks

Elizabeth Young is the new owner of Tivoli Florist, but she’s no rookie when it comes to flowers and events. Before taking over the 26-year-old Westboro shop last year, she operated Flowers Talk, completed the horticulture program at the University of Guelph, and ran her own event-planning company out of the Westin Hotel for three years.

She got into the business because she loves plants and has always had a keen interest in events. “I grew up with my fingers in the dirt,” she jokes. And while she enjoyed planning events, she eventually fell in love with flowers. “Flowers and events go hand in hand,” says Young. “They can literally transform a space. Flowers bring an event to another level — it’s almost regal.”

She specializes in weddings and other events. “From the first consult to the delivery, we are very detail-oriented.” In terms of style, Young describes her approach as “modern romantic” — not too fussy, not too much “stuff.” She keeps filler greenery to a minimum and chooses beautiful, high-quality flowers.

Her top tip when it comes to funeral arrangements is to approach your florist with personal information about the deceased. What flowers do they love — or hate? She adds, “Sympathy arrangements should be a reflection of the person’s personality.” Plus, memorial events feature lots of flowers, so if you want your contribution to be front and centre, better go big. On the other hand, if it is going to a memorial where an urn will be present, scale back in size.

Remembering Loved Ones

iStock_000002384861LargeThe Entertainment What is a modern funeral without a jazzy slideshow? “People like that perspective on a life lived,” says Mike Wood of Ottawa Special Events, the go-to technicians for Tubman Funeral Home. Their company provides technical help for audiovisual aspects of memorials and rents projectors, speakers, and televisions for all kinds of events. “If they don’t know how [to use equipment], we take the time to walk them through it,” says Wood, who lost his mother four years ago and says that experience made him even more tuned in to supporting people during the funeral process.

The Venue Before the last century, families and friends of the deceased carried out funeral rites. And just as home births are changing childbirth, so too are home funerals coming back into vogue. While still a fringe movement, “death midwifery” and “post-death care” offer an intimate experience. For those looking to help loved ones of the deceased (a.k.a. “death journeyers”), the Canadian Integrative Network for Death Education and Alternatives is the place to go for videos, DIY instructions, and testimonials. And this May, the Funeral Information Society of Ottawa is hosting a lecture by Cobourg-based thanadoula (death midwife) Barb Phillips to speak about her services — both practical and spiritual.


Photo courtesy of Beechwood Cemetery

The Spend In Canada, for years the cost of a traditional funeral has come in at between $8,000 and $10,000. But online competition, the popularity of cremation (because of the dwindling availability and rising cost of grave sites), and a general eschewing of bells-and-whistles ceremonies have encouraged alternative approaches to saying goodbye. In Ottawa, Basic Funerals offers packages starting at $1,500.

The Dress Black is a safe option, but if the ceremony is at an unconventional location such as a beach or backyard, think outside the box. More and more often, family and friends are looking to pay homage to departed loved ones in unique ways — and the all-black dress code is being questioned. So if the death notice says “no black,” do your best to abide. Why not honour the deceased by donning their favourite colour or an item of clothing that speaks to one of their passions? At the military funeral of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo last October, some onlookers wore red to salute the young soldier’s sacrifice for his country.

The Extras Why accept the standard urn? If it’s going to be the receptacle of treasured remains, make it personal. Better yet, spread those ashes among family members and friends by hiring local artist Janet Jensen to create glass beads that “tastefully and elegantly” suspend cremated ash in a customized, portable tribute to your dear departed. (She also works with Resting Paws Cemetery and Cremation Inc., the city’s first full-service pet funeral home.) Pretty and discreet, the beads warm to the touch and serve as a calming memento.



Dish Catering. Photo: Christian Lalonde, Photolux Studio

Expert Edibles from Dish Catering

Sustenance is comforting, especially if the food has a personal touch — the deceased’s family recipes, his love of fishing, or her practice of making preserves

  • French-Canadian tourtière. In hand-held sizes
  • Tea sandwiches. Smoked trout rillette; cucumber and whipped butter; pink beauty radish with brown butter and lemon.
  • Trifle. Blackberry preserves, lemon curd, whipped cream, and sponge toffee

DISH Catering, 119 Ross Ave., 613-761-1302,



WEEKEND LONG READ: Ottawa’s CoSA Works With High-Risk Sexual Offenders to Build Safer Communities

This article was originally published in the April 2015 print edition of Ottawa Magazine

Circles of Support and Accountability has a proven track record for assisting high-risk sexual offenders
with integrating into society and ensuring that they do not reoffend.
But its current funding crisis is raising alarm bells for those who study offence rates.
Brielle Morgan looks at the state of prison treatment programs, meets the people who volunteer
with CoSA, and talks to two men who are struggling to make past wrongs right

Illustration by Anothony Tremmaglia

Illustration by Anothony Tremmaglia

Heinous. Monstrous. Disgusting.

I stack these adjectives in my mind as I consider the stout man sitting next to me on the bench inside the Elgin Street church where we had agreed to meet. A convicted child molester, he has likely heard them before.

Sam (not his real name) unloads a stash of colourful candy from his coat pocket, piling it between us while announcing the name of each plastic-wrapped sweet: gumball, Skittles, Fizz, candy necklace, Fireball. Once a month, he splurges at local confectionery Sugar Mountain.

“Guy told me about that store,” Sam says. As if on cue, the door opens and Guy Dagenais comes in from the cold.

“Hey, Sam!” says the silver-haired man, his smile glaringly white against a deep tan.

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PARTY PLANNERS’ GUIDE: Celebrate life’s next chapter with the perfect retirement party

WITH PARTY PROS Ben Welland and Colleen Johnson

This article was originally published in the April 2015 print edition of Ottawa Magazine


Ben Welland and Colleen Johnson of Byfied-Pitman Photography. Photo: Jessica Deeks

Ben Welland and Colleen Johnson of Byfield-Pitman Photography channel the intimacy that comes from being a married couple in order to capture life’s best moments.

They got into the business because it gives them the opportunity to shoot in a documentary style and record fleeting moments that unfold at special gatherings.

They specialize in weddings, but they have also been hired for birthdays and anniversary celebrations. They always look for natural interactions among guests.
“We don’t ask people to look at our cameras,” says Welland. “After a while, people get used to this and relax, and that allows us to work,” adds Johnson. Plus, working as a married couple gives them an advantage. “Even though we’ll be shooting the same scene, we see different things. That enables us to get different angles,” explains Welland. “It speeds the process up. One can shoot wide-angle while the other captures close-ups.” Adds Johnson: “We’re very much in sync.”

Their top tip is to meet with the photographer(s) in person first. “If you trust them, that trust will transfer to your guests, and you’ll get better photos.” And while you might not want to think about Grandma and Grandpa passing on, Welland points out that it’s important to document the lives of elderly relatives. “Younger photographs at funerals don’t resonate as well with, say, grandchildren, who only remember Grandpa as an older man.”

iStock_ChampagneToastA New Chapter

The Drink One thing is certain when it comes to retirement parties: there will be plenty of toasts. Steve Benson of Ottawa Cocktails suggests a sparkling wine or champagne cocktail. “Retirement parties are different because they are half happy, half sad. So you want to do something fun that emphasizes the positive side of retirement.” Bubbly cocktails are also fairly unisex drinks, and Benson notes that they can easily be personalized. Keep it classy with a Kir Royale (crème de cassis and champagne), or toast the guest of honour with a drink crafted to his or her hobbies: how about something made with maple syrup for the guy with the sugar-bush dreams?

The Gift So if a watch is out, then what is in? As with weddings, taking that next step in life calls for cash, and plenty of financial planners suggest this gifting route. But personalization is key. So why not look to their future plans for inspiration? If they are hoping to spend more time at the cottage, some practical luxury might be in order. Or if the retiree in your life is making that dream trip a reality, give a gift certificate to a Michelin-starred restaurant in their port of call.


Andrew Carter; photo by Melissa McMahon Photography

The Entertainment DJ Andrew Carter, who has been in the business for 17 years and regularly plays at upscale venues like Social in the ByWard Market, suggests a playlist tailored to the guest of honour. “It’s really about doing your research. What genres or songs does the person love? That provides a blueprint.” Or plans for the next chapter in their life can serve as inspiration. Carter played the 2008 Snowsuit Fund Gala, which had a Marrakech theme. The organizer of the event, Karen Wood of Knock on Wood Communications & Events Inc., was over the moon about Carter’s ability to weave traditional Moroccan sounds with modern rhythms. No time to fiddle around on iTunes? Consider hiring Carter, who often makes CDs of playlists for guests to take home as a memento of the event.


Photo courtesy of LouLou Lounge

The Extras Paper plates for an anniversary or retirement party? They scream hotdogs and coleslaw, not tapas and hors d’oeuvres. Fine china complements both the food and the honoured guest’s achievements. But most of us do not have enough of the good stuff to outfit a big bash. That’s where rental dishware comes in. Two of Ottawa’s bigger players — Cody Party and Party Time Rental — can provide glassware, cutlery, and everything in between. Smaller companies, such as Groovy Linens, stock an abundance of table runners, backdrops, napkins, and chair covers in different colours, styles, and fabrics. If you’re looking to transform a space, check out LouLou Lounge. They rent stools, chairs, couches, tables, area rugs, and even throw pillows in a variety of styles. And don’t forget to put some flair into announcing the big day. Instead of simply emailing friends and colleagues, why not let the entire neighbourhood know that he or she is retiring? E & R Lawn-A-Grams puts a spin on the retro flamingo, filling lawns with armies of yellow T. Rexes. What a great way to let the one you love know he or she is now officially a dinosaur!



El Meson. Photo: Christian Lalonde, Photolux Studio

EXPERT EDIBLES from El Meson Catering

Retirement is often a chance to take that long-awaited voyage abroad. Spain, you say? Then tapas are sure to please.

  • Gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp). With white wine and herb sauce
  • Spicy chorizo. Soaked in hard cider, garnished with apple
  • Charred octopus. Perfectly tender, with smoked paprika

El Meson Ristorante, 94 Beechwood Ave., 613-744-8484,

SHOP TALK: Visit Victoire for modern, vintage-inspired wedding dresses from Birds of North America


Earlier this year, Victoire hosted a bridal event showcasing local wedding sources as well as the Birds of North America bridal collection. Fittings can be arranged at the Wellington location of Victoire

Earlier this year, Victoire hosted a bridal event showcasing local wedding sources as well as the Birds of North America bridal collection. Fittings can be arranged at the Wellington location of Victoire

In the April issue of Ottawa Magazine, we look at how we’ve celebrated milestones from past to present. And while weddings will forever be regarded as the bride’s big day, wedding styles and traditions have gone through many transformations over the years. Lately, we’ve witnessed a shift from the grandiose weddings to more personal and intimate affairs that prove to be just as enchanting.

At Victoire Boutique, owners Katie Frappier and Regine Paquette have seen an influx of brides who’ve gone a little simpler in their wedding planning but put a lot of care in adding more unique and heartfelt touches to their special day. Earlier this year, Victoire hosted A Modern Wedding Event for the vintage-loving brides with the collaboration of talented local businesses Auntie Loo’s Treats, Sparrow Floral Design, and Heart Deco Jewellery.

The event also marked the unveiling of the first bridal collection by Birds of North America, a Canadian design label that’s been a favourite to Victoire customers. Knee length cuts, bows, and the 1950/60’s aesthetics work beautifully in this collection for the bride who wants something old, something new.

The Birds of North America bridal line features knee-length dresses in simple silhouettes

The Birds of North America bridal line features knee-length dresses in simple silhouettes


Here, OTTAWA MAGAZINE talks to Birds of North America designer Hayley Gibson about the details behind her new bridal collection.

Read the rest of this entry »

Q&A — Hans Sinn: Peace Activist Says Acknowledging Armenian Genocide May Advance Mid-East Peace


This article was originally published in the April 2015 print edition of Ottawa Magazine


Hans Sinn. Photo: David Kawai

On April 24, when the world marks the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, which claimed over one million lives, Ottawa Valley peace activist Hans Sinn proposes that coming to terms with that grim episode may advance peace in the Middle East. Since leaving his native Germany after World War Two, and marrying an Armenian woman, Sinn has tirelessly advocated citizen-led peace initiatives. He is co-founder of Peace Brigades International, an organization that has protected endangered human-rights activists since 1981. Sinn spoke with Ottawa Magazine about the legacy of the Armenian Genocide and the potential for non-violent solutions in an increasingly barbaric world.

Why should people care about the Armenian Genocide?
The non-resolution of the Armenian Genocide is playing itself out in the role Turkey plays in current Middle East problems, which goes back to the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire. [The founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal] Atatürk and the “Young Turks” foresaw the nation state of Turkey occupying the motherland of the Armenians and the Kurds. So the elimination — the extermination and expulsion — of the Armenians and the Kurds was foreseen and planned. While Atatürk managed to rescue from the Ottoman Empire what became modern Turkey, the Armenians and the Kurds paid the price.

How does that impact the Middle East today?
The Kurds are now playing a major role fighting ISIS, but Turkey is worried about the Kurds’ objective of achieving a nation state. Hence, Turkey is easier on ISIS. Turkey continues to deny responsibility for the past. Settling the Armenian issue — which also would require settling the Kurdish issue with Turkey — would make the situation in the Middle East less complicated and enable more dialogue.

And you feel there is a political opening in Turkey that makes this possible?
Atatürk once said “peace at home, peace in the world.” I’m using that as an opening. Genocide is a matter for humanity as a whole. It’s not necessarily just between the Turks and the Armenians. If they [the leadership] can’t sort it out, I would favour truth-and-reconciliation bodies at the local level. Non-Turks and non-Armenians could also be participants, because genocide is a concern for all. And the work done by academics in the field of “the unspeakable” [it’s a crime to speak about the Armenian genocide in Turkey] will help bring those issues into public view.

As co-founder of Peace Brigades International (PBI), you have a long connection with this idea of citizens finding solutions to conflict.
PBI was founded at Grindstone Island, not far from Ottawa. It’s been successful because we limited ourselves to what is doable. Our first project was in Guatemala. The mothers of the disappeared appealed to us for an international presence. By looking for their children, who had been made to disappear, they came under threat too. They needed a link to the outside world — for protection and for international pressure to help improve the situation — and we provided that.


Hans Sinn. Photo: David Kawai

Tell me about PBI spin-offs.
The Guatemala Stove Project is a big thing for people in Perth. It helps people build stoves, which replace open wood fires that are health hazards, in particular for women, who traditionally cook.

Why should civilians be involved in global diplomacy?
My own experience is that civilians are well advised to look after their own security, because depending on governments and politicians is a precarious and historically unadvisable way to proceed.

I understand that you came to this realization as a 16-year-old boy in Germany.
In 1945, the youth of Hamburg were assembled for the last-ditch defence of Germany, and we were sent to various training camps. I picked Denmark because I thought the food would be better. It turned out to be an SS [Nazi paramilitary organization Schutzstaffel] camp, and I became a preliminary SS officer cadet. I experienced the end of the war there. I wasn’t sure if I was going to come back or if Hamburg would still be standing. That, for me, was year zero: as far as I was concerned, we had to rethink and start fresh. When I came to Canada, my agenda was to campaign for a reunified but disarmed, peaceful Germany.

In the current context, with all the sabre-rattling of the post-911 era, is it harder to promote pro-peace initiatives?
Yes and no. I see more potential than is being reflected by our government’s policies. They continue to polish up the war mythology, and at that level, we are going backwards. But I don’t think most young people buy it.