Webinars for community—the alternative to Zoom and Netflix

Judy Rinfret

During the last twenty years, it has been discouraging to “fight city hall.” Time, effort, and money seem to have effected very little. Nevertheless our neighbour to the south, (Old) Ottawa East, is promoting community values.

Recently Ottawa East successfully challenged the new ward boundaries, which would have added the University of Ottawa’s Lees Avenue campus and all the apartment blocks and park near the transitway to our Rideau Vanier ward. After years of expectation, the Flora footbridge has been built. Though somewhat compromised, the development of the Oblates property on Main Street has been prescribed by the community’s plan.

During 2021, Ottawa East’s newspaper, The Mainstreeter, the Community Activities Group of Old Ottawa East, and the Mauril-Bélanger Social Innovation Workshop are presenting a series of webinars to inspire all communities.

Community Advocacy was the fourth of the six webinars. Four panelists amplified the theme: John Dance and Heather Jarrett, long time residents and activists in Ottawa East; Angela Keller Herzog, executive director of CAFES (Community Associations for Environmental Sustainability); and Councillor Shawn Menard.

The discussion was lively and pertinent. John Dance explained the realization of the Flora footbridge across the canal (between Clegg and Fifth Avenues). One hundred and twelve years ago Ottawa East was promised a bridge to join the city of Ottawa! The community’s vision, research, and advocacy were enhanced by the crucial support of other potential user groups, the ward councillor, MPP, and MP.

Heather Jarrett described Ottawa East’s diligence, expertise, and creativity to uphold the community design plan for the former Oblate property next to St. Paul’s University.

Angela Keller Herzog spoke about the huge commitment and work involved to analyze and prepare a position paper (The People’s Official Plan or POP) for Ottawa’s proposed Official Plan, particularly focusing on the aspect of 15-minute neighbourhoods which will only be a concept without intense community effort.

Councillor Menard expressed appreciation to these panelists for the support and assistance community groups offer to his work at City Hall.

All panelists agreed that grassroots efforts, whether successful or not, also help create strong, vibrant communities, getting from NIMBY to YIMBY.

Future sessions

There are two more sessions: Living Safely in the Community – Wednesday, September 15 at 7:30 p.m. (Register at: and Old Ottawa East 2040 – Wednesday, November 17 at 7:30 p.m. (Register at:

Previous webinars – Food Security & COVID-19; Sustaining Biodiversity in Old Ottawa East; Affordable Housing & Healthy, Diverse Communities; and Community Advocacy — may be viewed at: