FIRE ON BANK
A fire at the corner of Bank and Somerset blew out windows and caused extensive smoke damage in the early hours of Sep 15. Early estimates peg damage at $4 million.
The mixed office and retail building which houses Gabriel’s Pizza and the Ottawa Women’s Credit Union is across the street from the controversial Somerset House, where a fight between the owner and city officials kept the intersection closed for two months at Christmas.
Bank St from Somerset to Laurier has already been hard hit by construction and traffic diversions, expected to last from the beginning of June to Nov 30.
The intersection is at the corner of Ottawa’s fledgling gay village, a stone’s throw from Centretown Pub, the AIDS Committee of Ottawa and other gay businesses and organizations.
MARION DEWAR DIES
The flags at city hall were flying at half-staff Sep 15, after ex-Ottawa mayor Marion Dewar passed away in a Toronto hospital. She was 80.
Beloved in progressive circles, Dewar is also a former president of the New Democratic Party and a member of the Order of Canada. Her son, Paul, is embroiled in a heated election, where he is the incumbent in Ottawa Centre.
Known as a feisty defender of women’s issues, remembrances began rolling in immediately after the news was made public. As we go to press, there has been no word on a public memorial service.
ELECTION & IMMIGRATION
Canada’s new immigration rules will be an election issue for gays and lesbian, says Helen Kennedy for Egale, the national gay and lesbian lobby group.
It will be part of a basket of issues that includes the gay blood donor ban, the end of the Court Challenges Program and funding for AIDS service organizations.
In April, the Tories passed a bill that grants the minister of immigration — Diane Finley in the Harper government — the power to unilaterally decide which groups or individual refugee claimants will be allowed into the country. Gay and lesbian activists warn that such discretionary powers could be used against queer immigrants.
“Diane Finley, she’s someone we’re keeping an eye on,” says Kennedy. “Harper’s seeking to politicize the immigration system and allow for discriminatory decisions.”
Kennedy says Egale, through a Freedom of Information request to the Immigration and Refugee Board, has noticed a negative trend towards queer claimants, especially bisexual people.
The Hill Times released its list of swing ridings ahead of the Oct 14 federal election — a list that included nearby Pontiac County in Western Quebec. In 2006, Conservative Lawrence Cannon topped both his Bloc Quebecois and Liberal rivals by 3,000 votes. The race is considered a three-way contest and too close to call.
After his win, Cannon was quickly made a cabinet minister and has remained one of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s chief Quebec lieutenants.
The Quebec riding, which includes Alymer and Chelsea and sprawls north into the Gatineau Hills, is popular with civil servants and gays.
The Hill Times also identified Ottawa-Orleans as a riding to watch. There, Conservative backbencher Royal Galipeau is the incumbent.
THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME
It was a chilly night, but that didn’t stop 250 people from coming out to a street social and barbecue to raise funds for rainbow flags on Bank St. While organizers were forced to make a last-minute change of venue — thanks to complaints to the city by the Bank St Business Improvement Area — they kept the mood fun and frivolous with an interactive screening of the Wizard of Oz.
About 20 participants arrived in costume, including AIDS Committee of Ottawa’s Craig Hinman (above). Glenn Crawford from the Village initiative raised $1400 from hotdog sales and donations.