PROFILE: The City’s Needle-exchange Van Prevents Infection, Crucial Link to Outside World



Photo: Tony Fouhse

Peter* meets us in front of the city’s public health clinic on Clarence Street. Sarah Archer, one of two nurses on duty tonight, slides open the side door of the van that serves as their medical centre and invites the big, bearded 26-year-old inside.

“Hi,” she says. “What can we do for you?”

“I need some 25-gauge syringes, please, and one-inch needle tips, please.”

“Sure, how many?”

“I’m not sure,” he says. “I’ll be injecting three times a week for nine months.”

Archer is one of those people who has a knack for sounding as if she empathizes with everything you say. The tall, athletic 32-year-old digs inside one of the van’s cupboards to get the box.

“What are you injecting?” she asks.


“Are you sure one inch is long enough? You need to make sure you get it into the muscle tissue, or you could cause an abscess.”

“I know I can use them on my thighs.”

Also in the van is Kira Mandryk, a petite 31-year-old public health nurse with a lip ring who has been working with Archer for about six years. She creates a client ID for Peter, using his gender, the first two letters of his mother’s first name, the first letter of his name, the month he was born, the year he was born, and the substance he’s using. That business attended to, the man wishes the nurses good night and leaves, a box of 100 needles and tips under his arm. No cookers, tourniquets, filters, or sterile water. He said he had the alcohol swabs.


The needle-exchange van. Photo: Tony Fouhse

Ottawa’s needle-exchange program began in 1991, six years before the province mandated that every city offer clean needles to injection drug users. The van is part of the Site Clean Needle Syringe Program, which includes the Clarence Steet walk-in office, a sexual-health clinic, and other outreach programs.

The goal of it all is to prevent the spread of infection among users. According to a 2012 report by University of Toronto and St. Michael’s Hospital, 10 percent of injection drug users in Ottawa have HIV infections, one of the highest in Ontario.

In addition, 2012 data from Ottawa Public Health show that Ottawa has one of the highest rates of hepatitis C infection among injection drug users, at 70 percent.

“Ottawa has had, since the mid-2000s if not before, a health crisis related to hep C and HIV among people who use drugs,” says Lisa Wright, a PhD candidate at Carleton University’s department of law and legal studies.

Wright, who is studying how policies and regulation affect marginalized people, says Ottawa is an interesting case. The Public Health Agency of Canada reports that the majority of new hepatitis C cases are caused by sharing needles or other drug paraphernalia, such as crack pipes.

Yet despite evidence that clean stems for crack pipes can lower rates of hepatitis, the city stopped offering safe inhalation services in 2007. The night I rode with the van, three people asked for “stems” and were given the phone number for the van run by the Somerset West Community Health Centre’s NESI program (Needle Exchange and Safer Inhalation), which is a similar needle program but includes pipes.

The evidence is overwhelming that harm-reduction strategies work, yet the programs face opposition at every level of government.

“Ottawa is known as a crack town,” Wright says, “so why doesn’t Ottawa Public Health have glass stems available?” The answer is politics.

The Needle-exchange van is staffed by nurses and social workers, who promise to treat clients with respect. Photo: Tony Fouhse

Jessica, a public health nurse, rides in the needle-exchange van, which is staffed by nurses and social workers who treat clients with respect. Photo: Tony Fouhse

In 2007, Ottawa Public Health was giving out crack stems as part of its overall harm-reduction policy. But after a short pilot study, city council abolished the safe-inhalation program, along with funding for a study on how to manage cocaine withdrawal. This went against the recommendations of the city’s Community and Protective Services Committee.

“Community and business organizations marched on city hall during the vote,” Wright says. “I do feel that if they could have cancelled all the harm-reduction policies, they would have.”

Wright says the ultimate harm-reduction strategy is decriminalization, with drug use treated as a health issue and not a crime. In the short term, a safe-injection facility similar to Vancouver’s Insite would help curb the spread of HIV and hepatitis C, not to mention the 40-some people who overdose every year.

“People inject in restaurant bathrooms,” Wright says, “because that’s the only place they can do it inside. They do it quickly so the staff doesn’t notice. And if they’ve overdosed, they either leave the place quickly and deal with it alone outside or they’re locked in a bathroom and it’s hard for them to get help.”

I meet Archer and her colleague Mandryk around five o’clock at a city vehicle depot at the south end of Clyde Road. Their grey 2009 Dodge Sprinter looks like any other City of Ottawa vehicle from the outside. Inside, it has been fitted with a fridge, two countertops, cupboards, a chair near the back for taking blood, and another chair behind the front passenger seat for clients to sit in while waiting for their needles and equipment. The service offers everything a client would get at the Clarence Street clinic, but on demand.

By the time I arrive, Archer and Mandryk have already had their first call: Alison*, a middle-aged woman who injects and smokes crack.

Clients can call to ask for the van to meet them anywhere within city limits, seven nights a week between 5 and 11:30 p.m. If they request a full STI (sexually transmitted infection) testing, their blood is taken in the van and they’re given a plastic cup for urine, which they take into the closest washroom to fill.

Jessica, a public health nurse, and outreach worker, Leandro, chat during their shift. Every night is different — some nights they have to turn people away, while other shifts see only one or two calls. Photo: Tony Fouhse

Jessica and outreach worker, Leandro, chat during their shift. Every night is different — some nights they have to turn people away, while other shifts see only one or two calls. Photo: Tony Fouhse

The van, which sees about 3,000 interactions and dispenses about 300,000 needles a year, is a bridge between two worlds. Many of the people who use its services inhabit the fringes of society and are wary of authority figures. The nurses are sometimes their only chance to speak with a health-care worker — or any person, for that matter. To maintain trust, core principles include anonymity and meetings free from judgment. As the first journalist to go for a ride-along, we agreed beforehand that I wasn’t to be undercover; every time clients call, they are given the option to have me dropped off before they enter the van.

“I have no idea what will happen tonight,” says Mandryk as we head out to meet Alison. “You could be standing on street corners or hanging out in coffee shops all night.”

The meeting with Alison begins at 5:20 p.m. and takes about 30 minutes. She declines to have me present, so I wait at a Tim Hortons on Merivale Road. Archer and Mandryk keep her story brief: Alison tested positive for hepatitis C antibodies a few years ago and wants a full battery of STI tests so that she can be admitted to the hepatitis clinic at Ottawa General Hospital.

Soon after I’m picked up, the phone rings.

“Site van, Kira speaking. Montreal Road and St-Laurent. The Beer Store. It’ll be about 20 minutes. Okay. I just wanted to let you know, we have a journalist with us working on a story about the van. If you’d like, we can drop him off before we meet you. It’s totally up to you.” She hangs up and, smiling, turns in her seat. “The client said he doesn’t care if you’re there.”

It’s about six o’clock — still light — when we arrive. “We try to park somewhere discreet when we can,” Archer says. “But in cases like this, we just park. We’ve had people think we’re a city water van or something, so it’s still pretty discreet.”

Brian* hurries across the parking lot. He’s 30, average height, wearing a blue sweatshirt, jeans, and a day’s worth of stubble. Brian is one of about 5,000 injection drug users in the city, one of about 1,000 the van will serve this year (given the anonymity of the filing system and that some clients forget or change their IDs, concrete statistics are not available).

“Can I have two one-cc syringes, please?” He’s polite but nervous. He says he has been injecting cocaine for 10 years and doesn’t smoke crack. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I wouldn’t be scared of this guy in a dark alley. As soon as he has finished giving his client information, he exits with a soft “Thank you.” The whole interaction lasts about two minutes.

“That’s typical of a first encounter,” Archer says. “They don’t know what to expect. We try to make it as painless as possible. It was obvious he wanted to leave — his hand never left the door handle — so I didn’t ask him about his general health or if he needed advice on how to inject safely. Hopefully he calls again and we can get to know him better.”

“That guy looked like he could be one of my friends,” I offer.

“That guy was pretty typical,” says Archer.

Two clients and 90 minutes later, it’s now dark and we’re in Kanata at a Subway for takeout. The long drive to the next client in Vanier gives us a chance to talk. That night, the interactions I witnessed in the van were so positive that it is difficult to connect the van, with its earnest nurses and social workers, with the ideological (or purely fiscal) stance of those who oppose it.

I asked Mandryk, when we first met a week before the ride-along, if Ottawa Public Health had any plans for a safe-injection facility. She said they see the value in it and would welcome the opportunity to work with anyone putting forward a proposal but that it’s only a part of a harm-reduction system.

It’s a political answer. Mayor Jim Watson and police Chief Charles Bordeleau have said they are not in favour of a safe-injection site — and Ottawa Public Health is, after all, a city department.

In any case, it’s worth noting that when the federal government passed Bill C-2, the Respect for Communities Act, in March, they effectively rendered the conversation moot.

Insite, North America’s only safe-injection site, was born in 2003 when the federal health minister made a temporary exemption to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. In 2008, Insite applied for an extension before its temporary exemption ran out; they were denied and took their case to the British Columbia Supreme Court. In 2011, the Supreme Court of Canada found that safe-injection sites have been proven to save lives and that not providing drug users with a safe place to inject was in violation of the drug users’ constitutional rights. Addiction is considered a disability under Canadian law, so closing Insite was found to be discriminatory under Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Legal experts and community-health advocates say that the requirements of Bill C-2 for opening a safe-injection site, including a letter of support from the local police chief and broad community consultation, have made it essentially impossible for a community to open another safe-injection site.

In May, Vancouver-based Pivot Legal Society, a group dedicated to using the law to help marginalized Canadians, submitted a review of Bill C-2 to the Senate, urging them to reject the bill because it goes against what the Supreme Court ruled in 2011 and so “invites an almost inevitable constitutional challenge.”

But until that challenge wends its way through the court system, Insite will likely remain the only safe-injection site in North America.

Nevertheless, studies continue to show that there is demand — and a financial reason — to open a safe-injection facility in Ottawa. The University of Toronto and St. Michael’s Hospital report shows that 75 percent of drug users in Ottawa would use a safe-injection facility. Further, a 2014 study by criminologist Ehsan Jozaghi of Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C., says two safe-injection sites in Ottawa, jointly costing $4 million to operate, would prevent an estimated nine HIV infections and 88 hepatitis C infections a year, resulting in health-care savings of at least $5 million annually. (The report notes that the savings would probably be higher, given a reduction in overdose deaths and other infections.)

We meet Scott*, the fifth client, near Haig and Russell, just past the Trainyards shopping centre. “I’ve been using for three years,” he says. “I got involved with this guy who’s much younger than me. People blame him for getting me hooked, but it’s not true. I begged him to inject me. It turned me on to see him shoot up.”

Scott is my only guaranteed interview for the night: Ottawa Public Health arranged for him, a regular Monday-night client, to speak to me. Other than a bout of serious alcoholism in his late teens (which ended when he was caught shoplifting Aqua Velva aftershave to drink), Scott had been sober until about the age of 50. He has thin chin-length grey hair, a short grey beard, and smudged glasses. In grey jeans and a jean jacket, he looks like an aging hipster. Scott has diabetes that he says gives him severe pain on the backs of his legs; it also gets him a morphine prescription of 168 pills a month. He injects it all or gives it away to other users.

Scott takes off a shoe and sock to show me the gangrene that’s starting in his big toe. It looks badly bruised.

Archer has known Scott since he started using. She asks if he has had it looked at. “No,” he says. “That’s the first thing to go when you’re diabetic. Anyway, I’m also battling — I don’t know if you say ‘battling’ anymore because they can’t do anything more — colon cancer.”

He has known about his cancer for two years. “It’s just gonna take its course. It’s just gonna get worse. But I’ve accepted it. Maybe it was my lifestyle,” he says with a shrug. He is comfortable in the van, teasing the nurses. “Sometimes I’ll just call the van to talk even though I don’t need anything. I’d fight tooth and nail for the van. I’m writing a letter to the mayor and councillors about how important the program is.”

Scott wishes us a good night and limps away with a box of 500 needles and other supplies for him and his partner. On the way to the next client, the van is silent — apart from the rattling shelves — for the first time in hours.

I spent only 20 minutes with Scott, but I was struck by his fragility. At the start of the night, Archer and Mandryk had explained that they became interested in community health and helping those people on the fringes of society while working in hospitals. I ask Archer, who has logged the most van hours of any of the nurses, how the work has affected her.

“I often wonder about how they’re doing,” she says. “Most clients are gentle souls, and we usually see them in crisis.”

Next we meet Steven*, a well-dressed 24-year-old. He returns exactly 300 needles in biohazard boxes that staff give out with needles. The nurses gently ask about his health, what he is injecting, if he knows how to use the needles safely. Cocaine now, he says; he has been injecting cocaine and opiates since he was 14.

“Can I say something about the van?” he asks me.


“It’s important. It gives people a chance, a way to get better. Otherwise, without a place to get needles and drop them off, you end up with HIV or hepatitis C.” We say good night, and he wanders off down a dark suburban street near the Lincoln Fields mall off Carling.

At 11:45 p.m., after giving Peter his needles and dropping off the samples and biohazard boxes at the office on Clarence, the phone is turned off. With that, the night is over. Seven and a half hours, 10 clients, 166 kilometres, more than 2,000 needles handed out, one full round of STI tests, and no time for a break. “There isn’t an average night on the van,” says Mandryk. “Some nights we have to say no to clients because we’re too busy, and other nights we only have one or two calls or flag-downs and sit around.”

We’re on our way back to the depot on Clyde, where the inside of the van will be cleaned with disinfectant. As Archer and Mandryk head home to unwind before the next day’s work, I think about the men and women I saw that night. Addiction is a disease. Ottawa’s addicts aren’t going to get better on their own. The city’s public health programs may not be a cure, but for a few minutes, the van offers addicts a chance, a place to be themselves — addiction and all — without shame.

That’s a powerful first step.

BY THE NUMBERS: Summer of ’54 – a road trip across Canada, some of America, with 4 ladies and a Plymouth



Day 20: Helen Salkeld and Audrey James enjoying the sunshine and a picnic lunch, near Cache Creek, British Columbia, August 19, 1954. Photo credit: Rosemary Gilliat Eaton

On July 31st, 1954, freelance photographer Rosemary Gilliat and her three girlfriends, Anna Brown, Audrey James and Helen Salkeld, left Ottawa in a Plymouth station wagon.

Day 1: Helen Salkeld, Audrey James, Anna Brown and Rosemary Gilliat (left to right) getting ready to leave for their Trans-Canada Highway trip, Ottawa, Ontario, July 31, 1954  Photo credit: Rosemary Gilliat Eaton

Day 1: Helen Salkeld, Audrey James, Anna Brown and Rosemary Gilliat (left to right) getting ready to leave for their Trans-Canada Highway trip, Ottawa, Ontario, July 31, 1954
Photo credit: Rosemary Gilliat Eaton

Bound for Vancouver, British Columbia, they travelled through Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Washington, Montana, North Dakota and Minnesota, and returned to Ottawa on September 6.

The trip was quite a feet at the time, as the Trans-Canada highway was not yet complete. Rosemary described the roads near Cochrane, Ontario as “dirt and rutted and huge bumps which could easily break a spring.” At the border of Manitoba and Saskatchewan “the average road turned into a downright bad road, dried mud, stones lying on the road, dips & holes.”

Somehow, the Plymouth suffered only a few cracks from flying rocks and remained intact until the women returned to Ottawa, when it was replaced.

Day 26: Anna Brown at Garibaldi Provincial Park, British Columbia, August 25, 1954 Photo credit: Rosemary Gilliat Eaton

Day 26: Anna Brown at Garibaldi Provincial Park, British Columbia, August 25, 1954. Photo credit: Rosemary Gilliat Eaton

The girls did not have a means to preserve food,  so part of their daily routine included picking up groceries and finding drinking water while getting gas for the car. They were not stereotypical women, or even conventional tourists, for their era. Despite possible amenities available along the way, such as motels and public camping grounds, the women preferred to have lunch and camp in wooded and secluded areas off the beaten path. As Rosemary put it, “one wonders at all the days of the year one spends in bed—when it is so perfect camping—every morning and every evening being a revelation.” They were seeking an authentic wilderness experience and were not discouraged by insects, rain or possible encounters with wildlife.

This Sunday will mark 61 years since the trip ended on Sept. 6, 1954. Rosemary kept a diary, logging the date and place she was in each night. You can visit this blog post for more details on their trip, but here’s a quick list on how their trip breaks down by the numbers:

The stats

1:  Plymouth station wagon

4: girlfriends

4: states

5: provinces

38: days of travelling

61: years ago

12,000: kilometres travelled

The packing list – this was not a luxury vacation… 

1: spade

1: axe

1: bucket

1: hunting knife

1: Coleman cooking stove and container for gas

1: frying pan

1: of each: knife, fork, spoon, mug (per person)

1: of each: ground sheet, air mattress, sleeping bag, blanket (per person)

2: tents

2: water containers

3: saucepans

And some other things: candles, matches, tent poles, jeans or slacks, windbreaker, Mac raincoat, shoes, sandals

On July 31, 2015, Library and Archives Canada launched Road trip—summer of ’54 on Facebook, featuring a selection of Rosemary Gilliat’s photos and diary excerpts. Visit Facebook daily to see where she and her friends travelled and who they met along their journey. At the end of each week, these photographs will be added to Flickr.



A list of all the towns they visited during the 38 day excursion. Photo credit: Library and Archives Canada



Rosemary usually wrote her diary in the evening and titled it the place where they camped or stayed. For July 31 (Day 1), that includes Ottawa and is labelled Timagami (Temagami). Photo credit: Library and Archives Canada



The original packing list. Photo credit: Library and Archives Canada


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REASON TO LOVE: Because taxi-driving troubadour William Hawkins taught the city how to rock n’ roar


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


William Hawkins. Photography: Bill Grimshaw

Call it a Cinderella story: poet and songster catches fame in the late 1960s thanks to involved lyrics, melodies that carried the freight, and poems that howled from lampposts.The city recognized William Hawkins as an Outstanding Young Man in 1965; the Ottawa Citizen likened him to Bob Dylan.

The latter distinction was more fitting (he reputedly used the city plaque to divide hashish). He dropped acid with Leonard Cohen and partied with Jimi Hendrix. Bruce Cockburn says Hawkins encouraged him with his songwriting.

“I learned how to play guitar from Bruce, so it wasn’t a one-way street,” says Hawkins, who turned 75 this year.


William Hawkins. Photography: Bill Grimshaw

Hawkins penned a hit single for The Esquires, recipients of the first RPM Award, the precursor to the Junos. He performed at Pierre Trudeau’s victory party in 1968 and published poetry at pace with the rising stars of Canadian letters. Then things fell apart. It was 1971. Details are hazy.

“There were too many balls in the air,” Hawkins says. “In that environment, you end up drinking a lot and taking all kinds of strange drugs. I ended up in the hospital.”

He gave up drinking and fame and started driving for Blue Line.

“I met a lot of wonderful people,” he says. Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson was a customer and friend, as was politician Roger Gallaway.

“Mainly Liberals. I don’t do so well with Conservatives,” Hawkins gibes.

Over 300 people were on hand when he stepped back into the spotlight in 2005 with Dancing Alone, a volume of selected poems. A tribute album of the same name followed in 2008, featuring, among others, Cockburn, Lynn Miles, and Murray McLaughlin.

This year marks yet another milestone: a definitive volume of his poems. The Collected Poems of William Hawkins has been generating a lot of interest for publisher Chaudiere Books and is making waves in Canadian literary circles.

“It’s surprising,” Hawkins says of the attention. “That’s one of the reasons I started writing songs. I didn’t think anyone was reading poetry.”


William Hawkins. Photography: Bill Grimshaw


THIS CITY: Catching up with professional tree climber Leilak Anderson

This article first appeared in the Summer 2015 issue of Ottawa Magazine. 

Wakefield’s Leilak Anderson lives and breathes trees. He also climbs them. Besides running his own tree business, the certified arborist competes at international climbing events. The five-time Quebec champion, who placed 30th at the International Tree Climbing Competition in Tampa, Florida this year, spoke with Stephen Dale about climbing competitively, his start as an arborist, and the evolving outlook of his profession.

Leilak Anderson. Photo by Matt Liteplo

Leilak Anderson. Photo by Matt Liteplo

You work all day with trees. Why do you spend your downtime at tree-climbing competitions?
It’s important for me to go to these competitions [in order] to be on the cutting edge, to see how they’re doing it in New Zealand or Hong Kong. Everyone is dissecting what they do to the point of perfection, and they want to share the information. In the climbing culture, safety is the most important thing.

Can you describe the various climbing events?
One of the events is foot-locking. It’s where you ascend a rope 50 feet and ring a bell at the top to see who’s fastest. In another, you climb a tree, rope-assisted, but never with spurs on. If you break a branch, you’re disqualified. Then there’s the aerial rescue, where you have five minutes to bring an injured climber — a mannequin, actually — down to the ground for transfer to the paramedics.

That’s extremely demanding stuff.  How long do you think you can you keep doing this?
I’m 32 and I’m only getting better. To be a master of my trade, I see another 10 years.

Read the rest of this story »

DAYTRIPPER: Rafting at Foresters Falls


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


Owl Rafting on the Ottawa River

To Play
Get far, far away from the sights, sounds, and pollution of the big city with a weekend at Owl Rafting, a resort on a quiet bay in the Ottawa River. Just a 1½-hour drive from Ottawa, Owl offers whitewater rafting for every level of thrill-seeker, from sedate family trips to serious whitewater adventures. Choose a big boat for stability or a small boat if you’re looking for a soaking. Owl is best enjoyed over two days: the first spent rafting, the second enjoying kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, canoes, volleyball, the beach, hot showers, and a sauna at Owl headquarters.


Rest a rustic retreat — Dwyer’s Farmhouse

To Rest
If you’ve purchased a two-day package, you can pitch a tent at Owl and enjoy a barbecue dinner and a hearty breakfast on-site. If you prefer something a little softer under your back and shoulders, you can rent a small on-site rustic cabin.
For those who choose a one-day rafting trip, there are plenty of interesting places to stay within a 30-minute drive of Owl HQ.

One is the Stuart Log Cabin, which comes complete with white-chinked walls and a family-style bedroom that sleeps four and offers a true country get-away-from-it-all experience on the shore of Mink Lake.  With an outdoor firepit and woodland walks just outside the front door, it offers a chance to reenact pioneer activities while enjoying the modern comforts of a 21st-century bathroom.

Or you can get your hands dirty by renting Dwyer’s Farmhouse. This century-old farmhouse has three bedrooms, sleeps six people, and offers the chance to feed the chickens, gather your breakfast eggs, and even offer a helping hand during haymaking in June and July.


Go spelunking inside Bonnechere Caves

To Eat
Founded in 2011, Whitewater Brewing Company recently opened a brew pub offering soup, rustic sandwiches, and gourmet pizzas with dough made from leftover beer grains. Wash it all down with a pint of Whitewater’s finest. What’s more, it’s just a stone’s throw from Owl Rafting, where the three founders first met.

To Distract
After a day of whitewater rafting, find thrills of the underground kind at nearby Bonnechere Caves.  Just a 30-minute drive from Owl, the caves were carved by nature through limestone deposited 500 million years ago and offer a fascinating peak at myriad different fossils. Take a flashlight to get the best close-up view.

MY LOOK: Bella Cat


This articles was originally published in the Summer 2015 print edition of
Ottawa Magazine.


Bella Cat is dressed in a vintage dress from a market in Paris, a Cheshire Cat ring and a Bhudda ring. She’s holding an Astatic D104 mike that dates back to the 1930s and is still used by audio enthusiasts. Photo: Jessica Deeks

On Wednesday, July 15,  you’ll be performing at this year’s Bluesfest. This comes from time spent developing a unique sound up in the Gatineau Hills, where you’re from. How did you start singing?

When I was 12, my mom picked me up from school and said, “I’ve put you in singing lessons.” I wasn’t that happy. After that, I just kept singing, and now I’m very grateful. My mom said I sang every day, so she thought, I’m just going to put her into singing lessons. It’s been the last two to three years I’ve been trying to do this professionally. In the last year and a half, it’s really taken off.

This will be your second summer performing at Bluesfest. How would you describe your sound?

It starts off bluesy. The base of our style is blues, but I think it’s more of a future soul. That’s what we like to call it.

I understand Bella Cat is not your real name. How did you dream up your
stage name?

I have a very close cousin who calls me Bella because of my beautiful spirit, but everyone else calls me Cat. So I like to think of it like “the beautiful cat,” as I am one with the universe and nature (although I’m allergic to cats).


Bella Cat is playing at Bluesfest on Wednesday, July 15 on the Monster Energy Stage at 6 p.m. Photo: Jessica Deeks

What’s your personal style like?

It’s very natural and hippie, kind of a rustic look. I really like to wear rings, jewellery, and feather earrings. There’s this woman, Natalie Lipson, whose earrings I love to wear. The company is called Pluma — very cool stuff. I also do a lot of vintage shopping and love Indian clothing, like paisleys, scarves, and long shirts. I love wearing patterns, and I like them all together — polka dots with a striped shirt is great. Normally, I’m a barefoot kind of girl unless I’ve got some comfortable heels. But I’m not a big heels person unless it’s like a big platform, like a Spice Girls platform — I’ll wear that.

Where do you like to shop?

I generally get my clothing abroad so that it’s a unique piece and nobody can get it. The dress I’m wearing is from Paris, from the Hippy Market. We went there to see Jim Morrison’s grave. Temple in Wakefield is a great place too. I love them there. When I went to Nashville, I got a lot of those vintage Nashville cowgirl dresses. Europe was great, and New York City is where I got my Bella Cat jacket. It’s leopard print with red trimming, and people love it. I wear it to my gigs.

Anything you like to wear specifically when performing?

I think it was Sharon Jones who told me “the best outfits on stage come with sequins and sparkles.” And I agree 100 percent. I also wear earth-tone colors, like sky blues, grass greens, pinks, and purples on a regular day, and then when I’m on stage, it’s more spicy and edgy.

You have a unique sound in music. Do you find that’s reflected in the way
you dress?

Yeah, I’d say so. I like to present myself as an easygoing, worry-free, love-all-around person. So when I wear my clothes, it’s either very flattering and pretty or just loosey-goosey and relaxed.

BY THE NUMBERS: Keeping Score on FIFA


This article was originally published in the Summer 2015 print edition of Ottawa Magazine. We’ve added some new data, below, courtesy of Lowest Rates Inc. who’ve also been crunching some of the numbers.


Team Canada’s Kaylyn Kyle. Photo: Ville Vuorinen

Right now, the world’s best female soccer players are facing off in the last stages of the FIFA Women’s World Cup.


Team Canada’s Robyn Gayle. Photo: Paul Giamou

When Canada hosted the inaugural FIFA under-19 women’s world championships in 2002, there was a hint of greatness in the air.  “That was where some of our Canadian superstars — players like Christine Sinclair, Erin McLeod, Carmelina Moscato — first stepped onto the world stage,” recalls Valerie Hughes, who got to travel with the team across the country as part of its organizing committee and is general manager for the Ottawa games this year.

When the Canadian women’s team won Olympic bronze in 2012, losing to the United States in the final match, the world took notice.

And despite some struggles — women’s team members continue to make less than their male counterparts, though they are currently ranked eighth in the world while the men sit at 114th — Hughes believes FIFA will be inspirational to girls starting out in the sport.

Below, a look at some of the data coming out of this event:


Team Canada. Photo: Bob Frid

Who to Watch For
#25 Alexandra Popp, striker with the powerful German team — Germany plays France on Friday, June 25.

#9 Eugenie Le Sommer, mid-fielder for the French team — France plays Germany on Friday, June 25

#1 Karen Bardsley, goalkeeper for the English team — they  square off against Canada on Saturday, June 26

#9 Josee Belanger, striker for Canada — the team faces England on Saturday, June 26

1971: Women’s teams in England allowed to play on the same pitches as men

1991: First FIFA Women’s World Cup held in China

1996: Women’s soccer becomes  an Olympic event

Who’s Watching
407 million: Television audience for the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany. Canada expects to surpass that, partly because there are 24 teams in this competition, up from 16 in 2011

Women versus Men

6: Approximate number of times women fake an injury during a game

11: Approximate number of times men fake an injury during a game

10 seconds: Extra time it takes men to get off the field for substitutions, compared with women

30 seconds: Extra time that men take to celebrate a goal — or writhe on the ground with a suspected injury — versus women

Who’s Working

1,176: Number of Ottawa volunteer applications

300: Volunteers selected for the Ottawa games

100: Volunteers who fluently speak a language other than English or French

84: Age of oldest volunteer

16: Age of youngest volunteer

20: Number of paid staff in the Ottawa office

$16 million: Estimated economic spinoff for Ottawa

Following information is courtesy of Lowest Rates Inc.



MY LOOK: Alexander Shelley

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

Alexander Shelley is wearing a Hugo Boss shirt, Armani pants, and a vest by The Kooples. His shoes are Tiger of Sweden, and his watch is a Rolex Datejust. Photo by Rémi Thériault

Alexander Shelley is wearing a Hugo Boss shirt, Armani pants, and a vest by The Kooples. His shoes are Tiger of Sweden, and his watch is a Rolex Datejust. Photo by Rémi Thériault


Your musical travels have taken you around Europe, as well as to North America and Asia. Does your exposure to so many cities and cultures play into your style at home?
Absolutely — it is one of the joys of my profession that I am able to travel so much and to revel in the diversity that makes our world so very rich and colourful. I love observing the subtly different trends and looks from country to country, sometimes even from city to city. Without doubt, they all have their influence on my own style.

You have been chief conductor of the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra since 2009. What style trends have you picked up on while in Germany?
Germans have a nice line in smart casual clothing — a little like the Scandinavians — which is a style that has always appealed to me. Hugo Boss and Armani are trusty go-tos for suits, I find.

You’ve been lauded for thinking outside the box in terms of initiatives to attract young adults to the concert hall. Does that connection to youth mean a more casual style on and off the stage?
At 35, I don’t yet feel that old myself, but it is true that my various projects have helped to keep me connected with youth culture. I have to be a little bit of a chameleon in professional life, as what we perform is so astonishingly diverse.

Tell me about your performance tuxes.
I have quite a few different options for concert attire, and which option I go for depends on the occasion and the climate. I have a few tuxedos: a couple from Hugo and a couple from The Kooples. I of course have a couple of pairs of tails (penguin suits!), and then I have a black high-collared suit from Shanghai Tang in Hong Kong.

How would you describe your personal style?
Although I love variety, I would say that my default is smart. I like a crisp shirt and nicely tailored trousers or suit.

What item of clothing can you not live without?
Even though they count as accessories and not clothing, I would have to say my watches — I have been collecting for a few years now and enjoy the finesse of a beautifully crafted timepiece. Something about conducting and keeping time, I guess.

What do you wear on a lazy Sunday morning, assuming you get those every once in a while?
Sweatpants, T-shirt, and some big comfy socks.

What’s your favourite city in which to people-watch?
Oh, gosh, there are so many possibilities … New York or Berlin for the sheer diversity of styles, Tokyo for something completely different, and perhaps Rome for pure elegance. Ultimately maybe it has to be my hometown of London, but then I’m biased!

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.

FOUND: Buried treasure uncovered at LeBreton Flats

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


The Lilias W. Fleck Fountain: the fountain stands 157 cm high, the bowl measures 106 cm in diameter, and the wall is 35 cm high. The lily spout and lily pad motif are in recognition of Lilias, whose name is related to the Latin word for lily. Photo: courtesy of the NCC

It’s not often that buried treasure is discovered in Ottawa. But the Lilias W. Fleck fountain, which once graced a small park at the north end of Bronson and provided drinking water for “man, horse, and dog,” was moved, then lost — perhaps even demolished by vandals. Rediscovered during soil work in advance of development in Lebreton Flats, the fountain is undergoing a makeover, and the NCC plans to reinstall it. This time, however, it may quench the thirst of man, woman, and Sens fan.

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