I went, I saw, I was amazed at the beauty and the simplicity that is Ottawa’s Winterlude. I have heard of Ottawa’s skating rink on the Rideau Canal, but had never seen it up and close with children and adults alike skating on it. Some were clearly skating to work while others were young and old lovers holding hands, one helping the other in a scene stolen out of a New York movie, but the children showing off their skating talents for their parents or just trying to improve their skills were just a joy to behold.
I was of course in Ottawa to see the Ice Sculpting Exhibit, but when I parked the van I came out on the Rideau Canal. I always have my video camera and my camera on hand and so I will be sharing my pictures that I took of how such an effort to get children and adults out of the house and out of the office to enjoy quality time in the outdoors together can create for them some lasting memories and help strengthen the family bond. No deadlines, no computers, no cellphones in use that I could see, just youngsters and adults and families enjoying life as it was meant to be and creating fun memories that will never be forgotten and passed on to the children of these children forever. I saw mothers pushing their young babies while skating in special sleighs I guess you would call them and I thought to myself what a wonderful way to spend an hour or two for mother and child. You can rent skates on the canal, buy food and drinks, treats like Beaver Tails and taffy all without having to leave the ice. I was hard-pressed to leave this wonderful scene, but if I was to get to the ice exhibit in Centennial Park I had to go and so I climbed back up the stairs and up to street level only stopping to take picture of the parliament buildings visible from there with their flags flapping in the wind.
Of course I had no idea where Centennial Park was so in the traditional way that I find things I flipped a coin and headed in the direction that won out and as usual I was walking in the wrong direction. The direction that I was heading was towards Parliament Hill and from what I could see from the many busses parked and the many police cars and police presence there was a big protest going on somewhere close and the closer I got the louder the chanting got and it became clear to me that Archemdis would be getting to the ice exhibit a little later than originally planned. My video camera was out of my pocket and I was taking video footage of the protest before I got close to the protesters. The camera I travel with has a 70 times viewing capability and so it is possible to take pictures and videos from far away and get a real sense of the protest and not the put on version you get when people know they are being filmed. The chanting was in only French, the signs were in French only and there were a lot of letters that meant something to those familiar with the cause, but shed no light on what the protest was about for people passing by who only spoke English, or were not familiar with the letter form of the group. The sign that stood out the most was RAPSIM and since I returned home I have looked them up, but could find no indication in the press that they even had a rally, or protest in front of the building that houses the Prime Minister’s office, across the street from Parliament Hill.
I know the protest was covered because I saw the professionals out there with their cameras and in my video you can hear a female reporter talking but drowned out by the loud chanting, but this protest was breaking up and as I got close they were all but gone. The date was Valentines Day this year and the time was about 10:30 in the morning. I am still trying to figure out exactly what the protest was about, so if there was a lot of people who did not speak French I would say that this protest did not do all that it could do to inform, or reach all of the people it could have. If anyone out there can shed a light on this for me I would be grateful I will be posting pictures and a video link to this protest that the media chose to ignore as far as I can see. I have discovered that this is a group dedicated to helping the lonely and the homeless from their site to which I will post a link and a short description they provide of what is that they do. The Network for the lonely and homeless of Montreal ( RAPSIM ) defends the rights of homeless people in Montreal and the interests of its members .
As I crossed the street and enter the grounds to the Parliament building I noticed a man standing near the Confederation Flame with a sign hanging from his neck encouraging the passer-by to take his picture and of the signs placed around him. He asked me to put the pictures on YouTube, because he wanted all the exposure to his fight against abortion that he could get. I did not realise at that time that he was a single advanced protester of what was to be a major protest scheduled for later in the afternoon on Parliament Hill. I took pictures and promised to give his cause coverage on the internet even though I do not agree with him and feel that abortion should be the women’s choice and I did not care for what seems to be a slam on gays on one of the signs surrounding him. I do however think it is equally important to give both sides a chance to be heard and for women to have all of the information possible from all points of view so that they can make a well informed decision when and if the time comes, or that somehow knowing all they can that this decision can be avoided altogether by altering their sexual practices, or at least knowing other alternatives to abortion.
Looking closer to the buildings I could see a gentleman and some ladies standing on the steps talking to a crowd of people in front of them and their were placards with pictures on them. As I zoomed in from where I was standing I recognised one of the young ladies in the picture to be a missing aboriginal girl from Kahnawake on the South Shore of Montreal. I stood there in the cold listening to the speakers with the sound of the bells ringing as they prayed for an end to violence against women and asked that their men support the end to violence against their women. I listened as they admonished a non caring government and police force who did and do little to help investigate when their children like the young women in the pictures on the placards go missing. Having children and grandchildren I could relate to the pain if something should happen to any of my children and grandchildren and I thought that the system could care less and I could prove it in their actions and I was saddened.
I felt ashamed for the government and ashamed as a Canadian that I did not even know that this protest happened every year at this time on the hill. I took pictures and video footage that I will share with you, because I feel that this must be addressed and we must start to take these types of issues seriously and get involved. In short we must start to get involved in a meaningful way. As I turned away I heard brothers of the missing girls voicing their anger and frustration imploring and then demanding that someone in any political party on this Hill do something to help find their missing sisters and all of the other missing aboriginal girls from all over Canada.
As I walk off of the Hill I again looked at the Confederation Flame and I wondered what was happening in Canada and if this great country was in need of a new way of thinking. In less than an hour I had seen three different protests against this government accusing it of not caring about the people it is supposed to be governing and taking care of. As I moved off to get some lunch and then go find Centennial Park and the ice sculptures I thought how sad that visitors to our capital get to see first hand just how heartless, insensitive and out of touch with its people this government led by Stephen Harper truly is. I applaud all who took the time to participate in one of these protests, because it is people like you who brave the elements and the possibility of legal ramification who will affect change.
I ate a quick-lunch in a nearby restaurant and ask directions to Centennial Park and smiled to myself on hearing that if I had turned the other way when I came up from the Rideau Canal I would have walked right into the exhibit. Many of the first sculptures I came to were covered in insulated wrapping and so I could not see them, but as I walked deeper into the exhibit it became obvious just how beautiful these crystal works of art etched out of ice were and how much work goes into making one of these sculptures and just how talented these artists are. How it is possible to pick a winner I do not know and am glad it is not my task. You can buy refreshments and other things, but when I was there very few of the stalls were open. I took pictures and will let them speak for themselves. I did note however with some pride that an artist from the city of Verdun Quebec won first prize.
I went to see the Winterlude with its ice sculptures and the Rideau Canal skating rink and ended up seeing so much more and learning a great deal about what is not being done by this government and what needs to be done by Canadian people. I enjoyed my day in Ottawa and learned a great deal. There is definitely something for everyone in Ottawa and never a dull moment.
The video link below shows footage I took of the three protests or rallies if you prefer happening near or right on Parliament Hill and the skating on the Rideau Canal. It was just a wonderful day and a great learning experience. As always well worth the trip and never a dull moment.