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 Living Lightly

  EnviroCentre Edition - Spring 2016

Scroll down for highlights!
Catherine Mageau-Walker (SustainLowertown Coordinator), Annie Mercier (LCRC Community Developper), Mathieu Fleury and Angela Palma Herriot at a Good Food Market in Lowertown Credit: Photo courtesy of SustainLowertown

Catherine Mageau-Walker (SustainLowertown Coordinator), Annie Mercier (LCRC Community Developper), Mathieu Fleury and Angela Palma Herriot at a Good Food Market in Lowertown.
Photo courtesy of SustainLowertown

Ottawa to Washington by Canoe


A group of determined paddlers, with support from environmental groups, have achieved their goal of travelling 1800 kilometres by voyageur canoe from Ottawa to Washington, D.C. The 42-day Capital to Capitol by Canoe trip aimed to raise awareness of the need to protect and restore the health of waterways.

Max Finkelstein, an Ottawa resident and long-distance canoeist, had the idea to canoe between the two national capitals, but the initiative grew as friends, fellow paddlers and organizations came on board. Launched September 5 and finishing October 17, the journey engaged hundreds of people on both sides of the border. 

The Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF) offered materials and other support, and the Ottawa Riverkeeper provided contacts with Waterkeepers along the route. Both organizations worked with Finkelstein and his team to plan the trip and promote the message. 

"The purpose of the trip was really to strengthen connections among environmental groups whose purpose is to take care of our waters, because we realized that rivers have no boundaries," explains Finkelstein.

Dot Bonnenfant, one of the trip organizers, says that in Canada and the U.S. "there are so many groups doing amazing work in the face of sometimes devastating challenges to the watersheds. There is hope and there's really a need for people to work together on all levels." 

 The 36-foot voyageur canoe was just one of the factors that made the trip unusual. The route was not straightforward, and the paddlers followed rivers, canals and lakes, even passing through New York City. Five of the paddlers made the entire trip, but the canoe required at least eight, so others from Ottawa and the U.S. joined along the way. "We had to juggle paddlers," says Finkelstein. "But that's also been the strength of it; we had some wonderful people join us, some quite spontaneously."

Paddlers Clive Doucet, Max Finkelstein, and Christine Kelly unveil the Capital to Capital by Canoe flag at the Ottawa launch. Photo: Denise Deby. 

Finkelstein says the physical demands of the trip and the close relationships required for the paddlers to work as a team made the trip intense. "It's been a hard trip, physically and mentally. The distances are long, the winds were usually in our face, some of the water bodies are extremely large, and there's a lot of uncertainty." Still, the paddlers say they found inspiration, fun and good humour along the way, mainly in the people they met.

For Finkelstein and fellow paddler Clive Doucet, the trip was an extension of what they've been trying to achieve for many years, Finkelstein in river conservation and Doucet as a municipal politician. Doucet says, "the only way we're going to get a sustainable world is to have a really large cultural change, a change in the way people think about what's important. And what better way than to start thinking about water, because we all depend on water."

Ottawa Riverkeeper's Meredith Brown, says the trip underscores the cultural and historical significance of the Ottawa River, as well as the need to protect its health. "If we're connected by these waterways, we're all impacting each other. We're all downstream. And everybody has to do a little bit of something. You don't have to be anybody special. You just have to have a little bit of knowledge and understanding."

Capital to Capital by Canoe starts its first leg on the Ottawa River, 20 September. Photo: Denise Deby.

Christine Kelly, CWF's Education Development Manager, says, "The hope is that one day you'll be able to swim in these waterways, fish in them, drink from them."

Capital to Capitol by Canoe plans to continue the effort through speaking engagements, possible future trips, and a campaign to establish a program of sister rivers to strengthen connections between groups. Doucet says people can help out by writing to the City of Ottawa to ask for a sister river program, starting with the Ottawa and Potomac Rivers. People can also get involved with the Ottawa Riverkeeper and CWF, and encourage municipal and federal governments to protect river health.


For more information: 

Capital to Capitol by Canoe:


Ottawa Riverkeeper:


Denise Deby writes on environmental and social justice issues.


In this issue..

Growing Food and Community in Lowertown East

Catherine Mageau-Walker, Program Coordinator, Sustain Lowertown

Sustain Your Community Logo

Any gardener or farmer can tell you that there is a healing and nourishing quality in growing your own food – an intimate connection that sprouts between you and the earth, a connection that only deepens, when you plant those seeds with others. A pride and thrill flourishes in working together to cultivate and watch something go from seed to something that appears on your plate. And that connection continues to grow when you can sit down together to share in that bounty.


Building raised beds for the Beausoleil Community Garden. Photo courtesy of SustainLowertown

From a seed, a community can grow.

And that growth is happening in the community of Lowertown with three separate gardening projects underway:

  1. The Beausoleil Community Garden, funded by EnviroCentre’s Sustain Your Community project with support from Ottawa Community Housing (OCH), Lowertown Community Resource Centre (LCRC) and volunteers from the community, is located in the greenspace behind 25 OCH townhomes. With a goal of shared learning and access to healthy fresh food, five raised beds were created last fall so that residents would be able to plant, tend and harvest food together.

Lowertown_Beausoleil garden
Beausoleil Community Garden. Photo courtesy of SustainLowertown

  1. The Angel Square Community Garden grew out of an increased demand within the community for more raised beds after the Lowertown Community Garden had reached capacity. Built in the Fall of 2014 through the support of Just Food Community Garden Fund, LCRC and community volunteers, the garden is now self-sustaining with an active volunteer Steering Committee and is a part of the Community Garden Network of Ottawa, an information and resource-sharing network that supports the sustainable development of community gardens within the City. With 12 raised beds for growing vegetables, berries and edible flowers, the garden is an accessible, multicultural community garden that the residents of Lowertown East can enjoy.

Lowertown_Angel Square Garden
Angel Square Community Garden. Photo courtesy of SustainLowertown

  1. The Container Gardening Project, originally funded through the Ontario Trillium Foundation, was started with a goal of providing residents with the tools, skills and support to grow their own fresh produce regardless of their income, living space or agricultural knowledge. Each season starts with a workshop where participants assemble their buckets, fill them and chose their seedlings. Depending on their living space they can take their containers home to grow on balconies or porches, or they can leave them around the Lowertown Community Resource Centre’s community garden plots, where the project is run. Last year 90 buckets were distributed to families and individuals in the community.

All of these projects came from a seed – an idea of bringing not only food to a community but to build it at the same time. The Angel Square Garden and the Container Gardening Project, for example, are now managed by their own independent community-run steering committees. They are planning a joint seed swapping activity this spring and collaborating at work bees and when you walk by Angel Square, there are people conversing or sitting on the bench.

Building raised beds for the Beausoleil Community Garden. Photo courtesy of SustainLowertown

As one volunteer-action committee member states, “Community Gardens are important because they bring together all types of people. Growers, planers, kids, recent immigrants, seniors etc… Angel Square has become a bit of a meeting place and the kind of open, functional and beautiful place where neighbors cross paths, chit-chat and help one another”.

From a seed, a community continues to grow….

Lowertown_Steve Nansekivell his garden
Steve Nansekivell putting his garden to rest after a productive season (Angel Square Garden). Photo courtesy of SustainLowertown

Although there has been a lot of work done on each of these three projects with many successes along the way, there is still a lot of work to be done – not just on these projects, but future ones, such as the search for a suitable space for another community garden in Lowertown West.

To learn more, to get involved or to be connected to the right person for the right project, please contact

PEN Spring 2016 Simple

Want more PEN?

Look for the full print edition at community centres and select retailers throughout the Ottawa area.

The PERC site features highlights from the current edition. PDF versions of the full PEN will be available in the archives after the current edition is off the stands.


The PERC thanks the above organizations for their support.

Thank you to Sustainable Eastern Ontario, the Community Foundation of Ottawa, and the Ontario Trillium Foundation for sponsoring the Winter 2015-2016 edition of the PEN.


Related Items

Viewpoints expressed should not be taken to represent the opinions of the Ottawa Peace and Environment Resource Centre, the Peace and Environment News, or our supporters. The PEN does not recommend, approve or endorse any of the advertisers, products or services printed in the PEN or referred to on the PERC website. Health-related information printed in the PEN or online is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified and licensed health care provider. The PERC and PEN are not responsible for the content on any external website links.