A Different Meeting

by Linzi Redekop

En anglais seulement.

One of our supporters, Linzi, is « very passionate about protecting the land zones currently in place and discouraging urban sprawl ». As part of one of her assignments for her environmental justice class at Carleton, she was tasked to write a story linking to environmental justice theory. She chose to write hers based on the Hold the Line campaign. Enjoy!

Orioles, Robins, Finches and Thatchers alike swam through the branches of a young poplar forest just steps away from the shoreline of the Ottawa River like kids playing tag. They whistled and fluttered around, dodging each other’s reach.

“Are you going to keep playing or would you like to join us?” said Wind, gathered by her siblings. The birds shot eyes here and there and decided to fly off deeper inland instead. “Okay then, say hi to the pines for me”. Wind turned back to her brother, Rocks, and her sister, Water. They were recollecting their memories as they brushed up on their english, “It’s been a while since I’ve heard you speak english, Wind” said Water. Wind continued “Yes, it has been a while since I’ve been asked to speak it”. Rocks stepped in: “Do you think they will be able to hear us this time?”. “I do hope so. It’s been a while since they have listened.  Perhaps now that they have given us a seat at their table, things will be different”. Water held herself high “Well, we have to give it a try. I don’t have many tears left to weap… I guess it’s about time then. Let’s head over”. “Indeed. You know how sensitive they are with time” Rocks added. The others nodded in agreement and they set off to City Hall.

Meanwhile, the Mayor was readying himself in his office in the big building of brick people called City Hall in the heart of the hustling and bustling city of Ottawa. He sifted through papers, finding those he would need for the City Council meeting and picked them out to go into his pocket folder. He went through paper after paper after paper. His work was interrupted by a knock at his open door, Councilor Rawlson  King peered in: “Mr. Watson, the Council members have all arrived and people are taking their seats”. Awakening from his sorting, he lit up “And my guests, are they here yet?”. “Yes, of course. They were the first ones here”. The Mayor looked at Mr. King with great intent and surprise “Good. This will be a different meeting then, won’t it?” He gathered his papers and buttoned up his blazer. “Let’s not keep them waiting then. Could you please lock up my office?” he said as he followed Mr. King to the council room, leaving his keys with the receptionist.

Mayor Watson took his seat at the head of the meeting table where Water, Rocks and Wind had already taken their seats. Citizens of the city continued to fill in the auditorium. He turned to each of his guests, giving them firm handshakes as he welcomed them, “I wasn’t sure if you folks would make it. It’s great to finally see you. I hope the commute wasn’t too bad.” Water spoke “Likewise. We try to make it out to all of your meetings” Rocks interjected, “Yes, we haven’t missed a single one”. “-Since the dawn of time” Wind added. “Right. Of course… looks like it’s about time then”.

He shifted in his seat and addressed the full house of people:

“Good morning! Thank you to everyone who has come here today for our meeting this Friday, March 20, 2020 to discuss Ottawa’s New Official Plan version 2.3, last updated March 11, 2020. I would like to begin by welcoming three esteemed members of the community: Water, Wind and Rocks. They will be joining in our debate for the Official Plan, in particular, sharing their thoughts on the Land Use Designation in Section 3.12. If there are any appeals or amendments to bring to the attention of the council, please save your written comments for your ward’s City Councilor. Let’s get started then.”

“In Section 3.12 of the New Official Plan proposal, it states: throughout the course of the term, the current zoning for the City of Ottawa will include 60% intensification and 40% greenfield development. Development will encourage the growth of Ottawa’s urban core, creating new space for economic and residential growth. This will be in effect from 2021 until 2041 when the Plan will be revisited and consolidated. Water, you have the floor.”

She lifted herself up in her chair and looked at the Mayor. “Thank you.” She turned to the audience: “It has been a while since you people have invited us to a meeting like this. I’m glad you are finally seeing me with your own eyes and hearing me with your own ears. I remember nurturing each and every one of you and your mothers and your ancestors from the moment you all were conceived.

On my way here this morning I watered the vegetables, I fed the soil, I carried the womb of thousands of mothers, I moved millions of grains across the riverbed. Just as I have been doing every second of every day. That is my responsibility. That is my duty. You people used to leave my freedom undisturbed so that I may do my job. You heard me, you listened to me. It’s been awhile since your past generations have heard me. I have sent floods of messages, yet you haven’t listened to them.

Now, if you choose to destroy and uproot the greenfield to replace it with concrete, you will take away my freedom. You say ‘develop’, I say ‘destroy’. If you do this, my veins will not stretch as far and as wide. If you do this, I will not be able to water those vegetables or feed the soil.

My water drops are living, they want to give life. I cannot give life to the concrete. I cannot water the roads. I cannot give life to the green fields if they are destroyed. My water is everywhere. You carry me with you in every time you swallow, in every thing you eat. Why would you cut my veins?”

“Rocks, you may address the house”

“I didn’t think I’d see the day when you people wanted to hear us again. You haven’t heard our voices in a long time. Thank you all for opening your ears enough to include us: to see us as living beings worthy of listening to.

I have happily supported your weight since time immemorial. I can hold my own and withstand great pressure. I was fine with your little chips and scratches on my surface and I will always be glad to help your bones go back into the soil. That is what I am here for. I am here to give ground and house the little beings you call Lichen. If you melt me down and cement me on top of my brothers and sisters, I will not be as strong. I will not be as grounded. I will be shaky. I have sent earthquakes of messages, yet you haven’t listened to them.

Let me do my job. We want to fulfill our duties to sustain all of Creation- including people- for generations to come.”

“Wind, you’re up.”

Wind let out a deep breath and faced her audience. “My brother and sister are kind to share their thoughts with you. I can feel that you people are different than those who have come before. I see it in the faces of your children, I see it in the way they breathe. They enter into a world of stress and despair, yet they have compassion and hope. I have held myself enough so that they can still play outside, so that the animals can breathe freely, so that I-”

Wind’s lungs let out a big cough and continued with a raspy voice “Pardon me, it’s been harder and harder to breathe these days. I’m sure you already knew that though. As I was saying, I am doing my best to hold up for you and all living beings. I have to. I have to for Water. I have to for Rocks. I have to for Trees. I do not want to keep spreading poison to my brothers and sisters. I do not blame your children. But you are your parents’ children. You know better. I have sent tornadoes of messages, yet you haven’t listened to them.”

The room went stark silent. You could hear the Mayor gulp. He cleared his throat and took the stage with his mic, “Well. Thank you all for sharing your take on our Land Use Designation proposal. We will consider your side of things and do the best we can to ensure the best course of action for the livelihood of all parties involved.”

The meeting continued to discuss other municipal issues and each ward’s initiatives, actions, progressions, policies.

As people gathered their things and put on their coats, the Mayor gave one final goodbye to Wind, Water and Rocks. “Thank you all again for coming. It’s important that we include all voices in this discourse.” The three siblings agreed and they headed out of the big building of brick they called City Hall.

“Do you think they heard us?” asked Water to her brother and sister. “I hope so” Wind added. Rocks echoed the feeling “I hope we won’t have to speak english for a while now- hopefully they will just listen to our messages”.

The next morning, tall stacks of paper with written comments pooled on Mayor Watson’s desk. Tens of thousands of papers from all wards, from all across the city, urging the City of Ottawa to eliminate green field development from the New Official Plan.

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