Category Archives: DataJournalism3_2016

The appeal of Ottawa’s old houses

About 100 years old, the house on 273 Bronson Ave. is one of more than 2000 houses in downtown Ottawa built before 1960. (Photo credit: Royal LePage)

Emma Cousins rented a 100-year-old home in August, and admits to being curious about the memories her Centretown residence holds.

“I love living in an older home,” she said. “It’s like buying a used book. It has more memories in it. You think about who lived here, who built the house, what did it look like before it was renovated.”

Emma Cousins lives in a house on Bronson Avenue that was built before the First World War.
Emma Cousins moved into a house on Bronson Avenue that was built before the First World War, in August. (Photo credit: Halima Sogbesan)

Cousins’ house is a solid brick, three-bedroom duplex standing on 273 Bronson Ave near the city’s downtown core. The interior has a narrow stairway that leads to a living room with a dangling chandelier, a ceiling  with faint renovation marks and an old-school fan.

Another stairway that Cousins described as having a “little turn at the bottom like an elbow,” leads to the attic where there are two rooms. The vent covers have intricate designs that are not common in more modern houses. These features remind Cousins that her house is old.


The stairways are Cousins's home are "winged to the elbow" in a way that is characteristic of old houses. (Photo credits: Halima Sogbesan)
The stairways in Cousins’s home have a “little turn at the bottom like an elbow” in a way that is characteristic of old houses. (Photo credits: Halima Sogbesan)

“Older homes tend to take more care on how little details look to make it more aesthetically appealing,” she said.

According to an analysis of Statistics Canada data from the 2011 National Household Survey, Cousins’s home is one of more than 2,000 residences scattered among the neighbourhoods in the Somerset ward that were built before 1960. The ward has the highest number of these old houses in Ottawa.

Number of pre-1960 residential houses in Ottawa by ward (click on the panel in the map to see the map’s legend)

Source: Statistics Canada, 2011 National Household Survey

“The city grew from inside out,” Robert Smythe, an urban historian said about the reason most of Ottawa’s oldest houses are in this part of the city.

He added that the downtown area was first to be partitioned into small building lots which were built upon by developers and contractors between the 1870s and 1900s.

In the northern half of the city, most of the old buildings  were demolished to create space for office buildings and parking lots, Smythe said. Even those buildings that survived have in some cases been transformed from single family dwellings to apartments.

But those that remain still hold a great appeal to people like Cousins.

“Today there is a premium on heritage, primarily because of their special character and central location,” Smythe said.

That special character inspired Jordan Sanders, an occupational psychologist from Vancouver, to buy a 68-year-old home in the Kitchissippi, the ward with almost 2,000 of these houses, the second highest in Ottawa.

Jordan Sanders bought a 68-year-old house on 365 Sherwood Dr. in August. (Photo credit: Jordan Sanders)

“When you walk into some of the rooms, it has really clear archways,” Sanders said about his home. “It has a rustic sort of style to it that I appreciate.”

Sander’s house, a 2,800 square feet property, was built by two brothers who owned a construction business. The brothers built the house in 1948 after deciding they wanted to live together. However, it has seen a drastic facelift since it was built.

Despite their appeal, some of these houses are not without problems.

“Older homes are harder to heat if it wasn’t insulated properly,” Cousins said. “Our bedrooms are upstairs in the attic so it gets really hot in the summer and really cold in the winter. There’s a heater up there. I have to keep the heat on constantly to keep it at a decent temperature.”

Cousins’s home has vent coverings with fine designs that are not common in modern houses. (Photo credit: Halima Sobesan)

“The floor slants down, it curves down in the middle so if you spill water it all runs into one spot and that’s such an older home thing,” she added.

The city encourages proper maintenance of these old houses, said local historian Smythe.

“Changes to houses in heritage districts are now regulated by the city’s heritage zoning and designation,” he said. “There are minor grants available to heritage properties, but their retention is largely dependent upon the dedication of their owners.”

(Click on the annotation to see the City of Ottawa article about how to identify and protect heritage properties)


Broadview teachers’ commitment to cycling reflect upon area

Jennifer Dunlop has committed to cycling to work as often as she can. Here, she stands in her classroom with her bike.
Jennifer Dunlop has committed to cycling to work as often as she can. Here, she stands in her classroom with her bike.

Looking up from the narrow grip of her bicycle’s handlebar, Jennifer Dunlop struggles to see the stretch of paved road ahead of her. As she turns on the mounted head light installed between her hands, the visibility improves, but the brisk two-degree temperature remains bitter.

This mid-November morning, Dunlop has arrived at the end of her everyday route that leads her to Broadview Public School. Some commuters may think she’s out of her mind cycling in this weather, but Dunlop is more concerned with the parent-teacher interviews she will be hosting over the next three hours.

In a 2013 survey, Ottawa commuters polled their habits when choosing modes of transportation. In the chart above, bike commuting is clearly the less popular choice. Source: City of Ottawa Commuter Attitudes Survey

“Meh, I put lights on my bike and I was good to go,” shrugs Dunlop as she points to the front of her Norco VR3 Forma, a 27-speed hybrid bike that contrasts its surroundings with a light-blue paint job. “I find driving in traffic can be a major builder in stress. This way, I’m less stressed and have had a good start to my day.”

Since the prior evening, the parents of Dunlop’s fourth and fifth grade French-immersion students having been visiting her classroom, located within one of eight compact portables on Broadview’s playground. While they themselves didn’t bike to the interview, many of these parents, who live within Westboro’s close proximity to the school, reside in one of Ottawa’s most concentrated cycling commuter regions.

Please zoom and click the colour-coded regions to see their bike commuting concentrations.
Source: Statistics Canada: NHS Profile 2011

Dunlop, 33, has been managing on two wheels since April, the same month in which she and her husband sold their second car. During that time, she surveyed a personal list of reasons that could entail a possible transportation change, one of which included the near 30 children whose heads perk up when she talks about health and climate change.

“When teaching kids, you often realize what you’re doing wrong when you’re trying to teach them what to do right,” admits Dunlop. “It opens up your eyes about the consequences of your own actions and about how we need to do more in little ways.”

As her students often see, Dunlop’s commitment reflects that of the surrounding neighbourhoods. Every day around 3:30 p.m., as students exit the school doors, parents, young adults and post-secondary students pass by on their commute home. But with winter weather within sight, many of these cyclists will opt for a safer, warmer way of getting around.

Jamie Sauder, a co-worker of Dunlop’s who has chosen to cycle for nearly all of the past 26 years is one of these cyclists. He says that the tremendous upside of riding his bike is canceled out as soon as snowfall becomes consistent.

“I’ve had many winter-cycling accidents back in the day, none fatal, but it’s not something I’m looking to repeat,” explains Sauder, who will choose public transit for the five months if snowfall persists and recommends others to do the same. “The risk potential grows to an uncomfortable point.”

Sauder, a grade-five French-immersion teacher that cycles in from Aylmer, Que. every day, is an experienced leader among Broadview’s collective staff who travel by bike, a group that has steadily grown since Ottawa’s Bike to Work Month took place in May.

“It was good for people that needed that last push,” says Sauder, who admits to seeing more people like Dunlop make the commitment.

With a handful of snow-less days left, Dunlop says she isn’t quite ready to put away her bike and hopes to get as much out of it as possible.

“For me, my time, health and green footprint topped my list of reasons,” says Dunlop. “If it makes sense for other people, then there are plenty of reasons that they can care about and commit to.”


Source attribution: Information outside of interviews was primarily obtained from Statistics Canada’s 2011 Census and the City of Ottawa. Software from Google Maps, ArcGIS, QGIS and DocumentCloud were used to present the embedded visuals.

Is biking safe in Ottawa ? It might depend on where you live…

Savannah de Boer (left) and Marina Cañellas (right) as they hesitate to ride their bike after the first snow fall of the year. (Photo : Chloé Fiancette)
Savannah de Boer (left) and Marina Cañellas (right) as they hesitate to ride their bike after the first snow fall of the year. (Photo : Chloé Fiancette)

More and more inhabitants of Ottawa use their bikes daily, while the number of accidents decreases. Ottawa slowly strengthens its biking culture, but not all wards are equal on creating a safe environment for cyclists.

When Marina Cañellas, 26, arrived in Ottawa in early September, she was delighted to find out that biking is relatively safe in Ottawa : “I think Ottawa is a great place to go by bike everywhere. I love it !”

Cañellas has not always been an avid cyclist. “I’m from Barcelona”, she explained. “I think it’s more dangerous to bike there, because there are too much cars and no bike lanes. ”

But after living for just a few weeks in her new home city, she decided to give biking a second chance. “The first time I tried, I was a little bit scared,” she said. “I was thinking about the cars, etc. But now, it’s totally normal for me.”

“In fact, I was a little bit surprised that it was so easy to bike here,” she said.

The young Spanish woman lives in the Capital ward, just a few steps away from the Rideau Canal. She follows the bike path along the Canal everyday to go to work at the University of Ottawa, where she started an internship in bio-informatics. An ideal trail, that saves her time without having to worry about encounters with drivers.

Her roommate Savannah de Boer, 21, follows the same bike path to go to the University, where she is an exchange student in psychology.

“The pathway helps us a lot,” the young Danish student said. “You feel safer and you can go faster and you know you would meet only other bikers and people walking.”

The bike path leads directly to the city center and the University of Ottawa, and can enable many people to safely reach their workplaces in a short time. It might be the very reason why the Capital ward is one of the areas with the highest number of people who list bicycle as their main transportation to work, according to the 2011 Household Survey.

Map : The highest concentration of people who go to work mainly by bike can be found in the Glebe and Old Ottawa East, near the Rideau Canal. Another high concentration can be found in the Kitchissipi ward, where there is another secure bike path along the Ottawa River.

Source : 2011 Household survey

De Boer realized that some areas of the town might be more safe for cyclists than others, as she went one day by bike to a danish shop on Clyde ave, in Nepean.

“Cars drive faster there, and if they don’t see you after a turn, they can hit you,” she said. “I rode on the sidewalk, and I was not the only one !”. She felt safer when she finally arrived on the familiar bike path near the Canal.

Recently, concerns about the safety of cyclists on busy streets of the city center made headlines. This September, a 24 year-old woman was killed after being hit by a truck on Laurier ave. Three collisions took place just a few days after the opening of a new bike lane on O’Connor St in October.

David Chernushenko is the Councillor of the Capital ward and has been an advocate for encouraging a biking culture in Ottawa. According to him, biking is not without risks, but the general situation improved in the city.

“It is safer, it is much safer than in my childhood and teenage years in Ottawa,” he said. “It is safe enough to attract thousands of people to ride now who wouldn’t have ten years ago.” He cites the creation of segregated bike lanes, foot and cycling bridges, better signalisation, as well as efforts in education about sharing the road, as reasons for these improved safety. 

Ottawa becomes more and more safe for cyclists. The number of bike trips increased by 40% between 2005 and 2011 in Ottawa, according to a survey directed by the TRANS committee. At the same time, there is a decrease in the number of collisions involving bikes over the last few years, according to the yearly road safety reports issued by the city of Ottawa.

Chernushenko said that the next projects for improved infrastructure will concentrate in the center, citing the example of the biking lane from Laurier to Parliament hill that will be finished in 2018. He explained that the accepted logic is too create a continuous network in the center before developing other wards’ bike paths.

In the meantime, cycling will not be as easy for everyone as for the two young exchange students. For the moment, the only thing that might dissuade them from riding their bike is the Canadian winter.

Need major repairs? Better hope you have a good landlord

Located at 235 Cooper St., the Manhattan building is just one of hundreds in Ottawa's Somerset Ward that tenants say need major repairs.
Located at 235 Cooper St., the Manhattan building is in Ottawa’s Somerset Ward, an area with a high number of buildings tenants say need major repairs. (Photo credit: Marc-André Cossette)

Note: The tenant featured in this story asked that his name not be included. A fictional name is used instead.

Justin Smith knew what he was getting into when he moved into the Manhattan building at 235 Cooper St.

“It’s old,” Smith said with a chuckle. “It was built in the 1930s with 1930s sensibilities in mind.”

The Manhattan is an attractive, four-storey apartment block, with a red brick façade, and Art Deco-inspired doors and columns.

Jonas Langille worries that the large cracks running across the floors and walls in his apartment building are signs of an underlying structural problem.
Justin Smith wonders whether the large cracks running across the floors and walls in his apartment building are signs of an underlying structural problem. (Photo credit: Marc-André Cossette)

A stone’s throw from the bustle of Elgin Street, it was just the kind of place Smith was looking for in April 2015 when he moved in.

“I like living here. It’s got a little character,” he said.

But like dozens of other buildings in Ottawa’s downtown core, the Manhattan is starting to show its age.

“They do a great job of gussing it all up and making it look pretty good,” Smith said. “But there are some structural things you notice that are always in the back of your mind.”

Like a crumbling, three-foot-wide ceiling patch in the lobby, with several layers exposed. Elsewhere in the building, obvious cracks stretch six feet across the tiled floor, while others run the entire length of the hall’s textured walls.

“I wonder if that’s the wall itself or just the veneer,” Smith asked himself. “Is this a sign of things to come? Is this a sign that perhaps this building is not structurally sound? I’m not sure.”

(Click the note above to read the City of Ottawa’s entire Property Standards By-Law.)

According to analysis of data from Statistics Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey, more than 2,000 homes or apartments across Somerset Ward were reported as needing major repairs.

Source: Statistics Canada (2011 National Household Survey).

In Smith’s immediate neighbourhood alone, near the eastern edge of the ward, there are 455 homes or units that reportedly need major repairs.

People responding to the survey were asked to assess the condition of their residence. The survey provided examples of problems that would need major repairs, including defective plumbing or faulty wiring, as well as structural problems affecting walls, floors or ceilings.

(Click the note above to read Statistics Canada’s entire Housing Reference Guide for the 2011 National Household Survey.)

And it’s not just issues with the walls or floors that Smith has had to deal with.

“These were all two-pronged outlets,” he said, pointing to the newly installed electrical outlets.

Smith had to ask his landlord to update all of the outlets and wiring in his apartment, a job that he said required “tremendous work.”

And while he credited his landlord for accepting to do the work, Smith said he had to insist on the upgrade. “‘Well, why don’t you just use an adapter plug?’” his landlord asked him.

Even with the new outlets, Smith worries they aren’t properly grounded. “I’ve gotten a few shocks,” he said, adding that he’s still concerned about the risk of an electrical fire.

Pascale Ouellette is a lawyer with the University of Ottawa Community Legal Clinic. She said the clinic handles the vast majority of tenancy-related cases across the city, especially those involving low-income residents.

“What we generally see are minor and regular maintenance issues,” said Ouellette, adding that they deal with these kinds of cases “all the time.”

To Jonas Langille, the damaged ceiling in the lobby of the Manhattan building where he lives at 235 Cooper St. is a worrying sign of other potential issues with the building.
To Justin Smith, the damaged ceiling in the lobby of his apartment building might be a  sign of other potential issues. (Photo credit: Marc-André Cossette)

Ouellette said she and her colleagues will occasionally also treat cases involving major repairs, usually after a major flood or once a building is condemned.

While some landlords are more accommodating than others, Ouellette said the clinic will always support whatever decision the tenant decides to take. This might involve contacting the City of Ottawa’s Property Standards By-Law officers in order to issue a warning or fine, or instead filing an application with the Landlord and Tenant Board.

Smith said he’s grateful he hasn’t had to go that far. And as much as he likes the building, he said he’s looking forward to moving out sometime in the new year.

Escaping the Office in Kitchissippi

Lisa Georges. Photo credit: Craig Munro

“I’m not really a big fan of the nine-to-five, I have a bit of a problem with confinements. I wanted flexibility, and I wanted to be around with my kids, and I knew that I was a very efficient worker, and I could do that from home.”

Lisa Georges lives in Kitchissippi, by the river in Ottawa. Twelve years ago, she decided the office just wasn’t the right place for her – her family was growing, and she needed the room to grow herself. When she asked her employers about the possibility of working at home, they told her no. “At the time it wasn’t really a thing, to have your employees work from home, and so they were like, I don’t think so.”

When her second child was born, the year of maternity leave gave her a chance to think. She took the opportunity to develop her own work up to the standard that she knew was necessary.

“I knew I had to work a certain amount of hours, and I needed a certain amount to sustain my current existence. So, that’s what I did.”

A newspaper vending machine selling the Kitchissippi Times, Lisa’s first client after deciding to work from home. Photo credit: Craig Munro

Using the clients that she had met in her previous office job, Lisa created her own publishing and marketing business at home. Her first big contract was with her local newspaper, the Kitchissippi Times, and her association with that business brought her more and more customers. Lisa, who couldn’t stand the office confines of bosses, work hours, and schedules, began to enjoy the freedom of working at home. She didn’t have to worry about pleasing the boss – she was the boss. She didn’t have to worry about work hours – she could work nine-to-five, ten-to-seven, or whenever else she wanted. She didn’t have to worry about schedules, either – she could arrange her own meetings with clients when they were necessary.

Kitchissippi is one of the most popular areas in Ottawa for people who work at home, as shown on the map below. Analysis of the 2011 Household Survey shows that 470 people in Kitchissippi gave “Home” as their place of work, the second highest number for a single ward in Ottawa. According to the same survey, 18.6% of people who worked at home in Ottawa worked, like Lisa, in the professional, scientific and technical services industry – by far the highest proportion.

Click on each ward for more information

Lisa, who moved to Kitchissippi from Quebec in 2001, has a theory about why the area sticks out from its surroundings in this way.

“This area’s known for art, so maybe that also draws in other disciplines. Graphic designers, writers, people who would naturally work from home. We’ve created an environment from that.”

Student Chloe Miller, who works at home with her photography business, explains. “It’s common for people in the creative industries to work at home, since renting a studio or office can be expensive.”

Late in 2014, in the wake of a decline in the newspaper business and some personal troubles, Lisa decided she needed to get grounded again. She found another nine-to-five job, and worked full-time.

In August of this year, though, she went back to working from her home office, with a new client who, again, she had met in her previous work. It’s a magazine that allows her to combine the creativity of the area around her with one of her passions: running. She’s pretty happy about how it’s turning out.

“I like working for myself, I love the flexibility. I’m not great with bosses. I’m good with clients, but I’m not great with bosses, cause I want to be boss!”



How One Kanata Resident Beats the Commute

Tony Lui, an Ottawa commuter, sits in his house in Bridlewood, Kanata.

When Tony Lui wakes up in the morning at his usual time of 5:15, he rarely does anything other than brush his teeth before he’s out the door. Fifteen minutes later, he’s arrived as his workplace near Hunt Club and Riverside and is ready to start his work day, working with software and doing programming jobs. It’s something he’s been doing for almost seven years. But he didn’t always have it so easy.

Lui lives in Ottawa’s Kanata South suburb, an area with median commuting times reaching up to 26 minutes one way, according to data collected in the 2011 National Household Survey. Most of Ottawa’s suburbs have median commuting times approaching 25 to 30 minutes, with Orléans, Barrhaven and Stittsville being the most noticeable (excluding the area the census tracts attribute to Ottawa east of Cumberland but do not actually fall inside Ottawa’s wards).

Lui used to have a similar commute time – during rush hours, the drive from his house to his workplace can take at least 30 minutes.

“When I first started [at my workplace], people started around 8:00, 8:30. Those times I started around that time, but we were living pretty close to work back then so it was okay. Then we moved here, and since we had to take my son to school sometimes I still left around 8:00, so the commute time back then was at least half an hour for sure,” said Lui.

Back then, Lui and his wife had recently moved to Kanata to find a good school for their only son. A large reason they choose Kanata, Lui said, was that he had worked in the area previously and was familiar with it. However, the move combined with the fact the Lui drove his son to school every day meant a long trip to work.

According to Margo Hilbrecht, former Associate Director of Research for the Canadian Index of Wellbeing, commuting times upwards of an hour can have noticeable health effects.

“We found that if you are commuting for longer than that, it tends to decrease the amount of time you spend in social activities, it decreases time for just about everything. If you look at time, and you have twenty-four hours in a day, there are going to be trade-offs,” said Hilbrecht.

According to a paper Hilbrecht co-authored on the issue, being stuck in heavy traffic can add even more problems.

It makes sense, then, that as soon as Lui had the chance he tried to alter his commute time. His workplace allows its employees to work flexible hours, and it was something Lui took full advantage of.

“I don’t like getting stuck in traffic,” said Lui, smiling. “So after we don’t have to take [my son] in anymore, I experimented a few times and decided there’s no such time as a good time. So the best time is to go early.”

But Lui’s solution doesn’t work for everbody. Some people are unable to work flexible hours, and have fixed start times and end times. Others, like Lui used to, have to drive their children to school and are forced to commute to work after, often during rush hours. For these people, Hilbrecht has a suggestion.

“If you can work some kind of physical activity into your day, it seems to lessen the negative effects of a long commute. Whether that means parking farther away from your office and walking there, or going to the gym during lunch time, try to somehow integrate it into your day. And it’s difficult, when you have less time because you have a longer commute. But people who were able to do that were better off than the people who weren’t.”

Still, it is no longer something Lui needs to worry about. After coming in at 5:30 a.m., he works 7 and a half hours before leaving work at 1:00 p.m. On the twenty minute drive back (on average, Lui said) he plays a game, analyzing other drivers and trying to guess where they are going. Then he is home – just in time for lunch.

Albion-Heatherington revitalization not realized yet, say residents


Since the neighbourhood of Albion-Heatherington gained the attention of city council — and city funds — improvements have been made to one of the lowest-income areas in Ottawa in the last year, say some residents.

But revitalizing a part of the city that has an individual low-income rate of 34 per cent, will take more than the attention of councillors.

“I’ve seen the difference over the past decade. I would say they have tried- I feel perfectly safe,” said resident Yolande McMillan. “But yes, there is some crime.”

The average low-income rate is about twelve per cent for all of Ottawa, according to data from the 2011 National Household Survey, compiled by Statistics Canada, meaning Heatherington’s is almost three times higher than average.

Over the past year, a lens has been placed on the neighbourhood as it’s one of three areas the City of Ottawa has picked for a revitalization project, titled Building Better Revitalized Neighbourhoods, approved in March.

The project specifically targets low-income neighbourhoods, including Carlington and Vanier South.

On Oct 19, the city announced Heatherington will be the subject of a revitalization study, one that will cost $250,000. It’s the result of the work of Diane Deans, councillor for Gloucester-Southgate, who called for the city to bring specific attention to Heatherington over the past year and a half.

Funding for the neighbourhood also came this year after Deans submitted a project proposal for federal funding- for a community kitchen to be added on to the Albion-Heatherington Recreation Centre.

The recreation centre boasts programs for youth and children with a basketball court inside. On any given night you can hear balls bouncing and shoes screeching on the court.

McMillan has lived in the neighbourhood for ten years and often walks her dog behind the centre. Nearby is a local park nestled between several apartments and housing units.

The primary reason for moving to the area was diversity of people- which may not be as present in other Ottawa neighbourhoods, she said.

She believes the city has made major improvements that benefit children in the area specifically.

“They are cleaning the parks on a weekly basis. They tore down the Herongate Mall and are putting up new housing on the other side of the street,” said McMillan.

In the summertime, you can often see children playing in the parks, and an ice rink is set up near the recreation centre in the winter, she said.

The Albion Heatherington Recreation Centre received funding for a community kitchen earlier this year. Photo by Olivia Bowden.
The Albion Heatherington Recreation Centre received funding for a community kitchen earlier this year. Photo by Olivia Bowden.

Some business owners and workers in the area continue to be wary of crime in the neighbourhood.

Yj Zhung works at the local Dollarpal near Heatherington Road, in Walkley Plaza. She said most of the customers at the store are low-income families in the area.

Zhung said she does feel uneasy sometimes-as fights sometimes occur in the plaza parking lot. “This area specifically is not very safe. The police come a lot,” she said.

She often sees teenagers roaming the neighbourhood- as not enough community activities seem to exist. More of these via the community centre, could help.

In the same plaza, Mo Ali works at Bullo Wireless and Exchange Ltd, a tech shop, as a part time owner. On one of the plaza walls is a community graffiti mural, with “community is a shared responsibility” written on it.

He said he likes working in the neighbourhood- but would not want his children to live here.

Crime remains a worry, say residents of the Albion-Heatherington neighbourhood. Photo by Olivia Bowden.
Crime remains a worry, say residents of the Albion-Heatherington neighbourhood. Photo by Olivia Bowden.

“If my kids were here, I’d feel uncomfortable,” he said. “They should have a better recreation centre, or another place where they can play basketball.”

Mentioning the new community kitchen, Ali agrees that this is a good use of resources. But it’s still not enough, he said.

Without enough of these public spaces, kids play on the street and witness drug deals that happen nearby, he said.

“They stand in the plaza sometimes, selling stuff,” said Ali. “The police need to do something about that.”
Earlier this month four were arrested for several swarmings involving robbery that occurred near the recreation centre. Ali said he is in favour of a heavier police presence in the neighbourhood.

Above is a map of Ottawa Census Tracts. Click on each shaded area to learn the percentage of low-income individuals in that neighbourhood. Darker shades indicate a higher percentage. It’s important to note that several low-income neighbourhoods are next to high-income neighbourhoods. All data is from the 2011 National Household survey compiled by Statistics Canada. 

A lifetime healing process

Here is a map showing the demographic of the residents of Ottawa who speak an aboriginal language, according to Statistics Canada's 2011 National Household Survey dataset. Considered to be a breakout in Canada’s hip hop scene, 24 years old Indigenous artist Cody Coyote is one of Ottawa's arboriginal language speakers. Here is his story.
Cody Coyote. Photo credit: Gabrièle Roy
24 years olf Ojibwa artist Cody Coyote. Photo credit: Gabrièle Roy

“Guess what saved me? My culture.”

24 years old Ojibwa artist Cody Coyote had to persevere through a lot growing up as an Indigenous youth in Ottawa. From drugs and gangs to abuse and domestic violence, it all started when his family moved to Orleans.

“We found new challenges that didn’t exists to us as young kids, he says speaking about him and his siblings. You run around the playground and it doesn’t matter which colour or nationalities you are: you love everyone.”

Going from a multi-nationalities neighbourhood to a more Cauacasian one, he says racial discrimination started during the first days at school. He recalls other children making fun of his long hair, calling him a stupid Indian, a bison rider, or even mocking him by doing the hand over the mouth gesture, typical behaviour of Hollywood movies on Indians and cowboys.

“There are times I could take it and there are times I simply couldn’t take it, and that is what moulded me and shaped me into who I am today.”

Cody writing a song called Warrior. Photo credit Gabrièle Roy

That’s when the pen and the notepad came along. Lyricism about his day-to-day activities and about deeper personal and intergenerational wounds, he started writing poetry, which quickly turned into songs, albums and concerts.

Music helped him in lonelier and darker times, but seeking help through centres for Aboriginals in Ottawa also changed the course of his life, according to him. With culture nights, gym hours, lunches, mother-daughters bounding activities and a number of other weekly events, there are a number of Indigenous children, teenagers and adults seeking help and stability through those centres.

“The Odawa centre gives them a safe place to be where they can understand one another. A lot of them go through similar struggles”, says Julianna Mayes, administrative support worker at the Odawa Native Friendship Centre.

The Odawa Native Friendship Centre in Ottawa.  A place where indigenous gather together and participate in different activities. Photo credit: Gabrièle Roy.

Having now moved to the Riverside neighbourhood of Ottawa, Cody Coyote says he spends time at the centre every day after work. “I like to see youth in that environment because it keeps them away from drugs, parties, and alcohol, and it shows them how beautiful life can be when you have a healthy lifestyle and a healthy surrounding”, he says.

Finding more about his culture meant finding more about himself, ultimately better understanding the discrimination and struggles he and other Indigenous have been going though for years.

“There are myself and other Indigenous leaders who are eager to learn, they are hungry. I was myself deprive of this (his culture) when I was young. Now, I want to know. I want to know where I come from. I want to know my language, because all of this gives me some closure for a lot of unanswered questions and frustrations that I have.”


While attending an event organized by different centres in Ottawa, he recently learned how to make a tepee, side by side with his father who was also learning for the first time.

Cody putting up the tepee, while his father is watching right behind him. Photo courtesy of Cody Coyote.

Adopted by a family in Ottawa at a young age, his father’s birth certificate indicates that their ancestors are from Matachewan First Nations. Him, his father and his brother have just returned from a trip to the reserve.

“We are now just finding out who are blood relatives are. My dad will be finding out who is biological mom and dad are, so I will be able to know what clan I come from, which we are all really thankful for because the clans pass down from a generation to another,” he says.

Cody Coyote and his brother on the left side made it to Matachewan First Nation with their father. Photo courtesy of Cody Coyote.

After sorting alcohols and drugs related problems, turning his life experiences into music earned him two nominations for Best Rap/Hip Hop CD and Single Of The Year at the 2015 Indigenous Music Awards.

Since then, his music gained a lot of attention among Indigenous communities, not only in Ontario but also across the country. He performed in Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Yukon and a number of other places.

His new song called Northern Lights will be released in a month and its video footage was filmed in the Yukon.

“The local people there were telling me that there is a good number of them that believe that when you look at those northern lights, you’re looking at your ancestors dancing in the sky, he says. The song is uplifting and it sends the message to the people there that despite any kind of situation, you can shine like a northern light, you can shine like your ancestors did.”

Getting out is hard to do for Carlington’s social housing residents


Carlington’s public housing complex is a place where people land if they need to get back on their feet. The problem is getting out of the highly concentrated social housing complex built in the 80s. You have two options: one you either manage to improve your socioeconomic status and move out of the area or you apply to transfer to another subsidized housing unit.

The wait times for social housing in Ottawa can be up to five years, and according to Ray Sullivan, executive director for Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation – a community-based non-profit housing corporation for low and moderate income people – 20 per cent of those requests are from people seeking transfers to other types of social housing.

Joanne*, 60, lived in one of the high-rise apartment buildings on Caldwell Avenue for 18 years with her daughter Sarah. She recently received a transfer to move to another subsidized housing unit after a domestic incident. Domestic violence and overcrowding are two circumstances that are given priority if you are on a waiting list.

“The reason why it’s hard is because once you’re in a community like this – low income – to put your name on a transfer list, it’s very hard to get out of here unless you have a valid reason. You can’t just up and go because you don’t like the area.”

Joanne says when they first moved to Caldwell it was fine until the social problems and issues with the living conditions began to emerge.

“Everything was okay until the alarms would start, but there was a drug-house right across from us, other problems in the building like drug dealers and prostitutes.”

“The fire alarms would go off any old time, sometimes that would be if it was for a fire, but very rarely, more because people were just pulling the alarms. As a lot of us knew sometimes it was being pulled by some drug person who was wanting to get in (the building).”

According to the Ottawa Neighbourhood Survey, the Carlington neighbourhood has five times more social and affordable housing units in the City of Ottawa at 1,200, compared to the average and is one of the least socio-economically advantaged neighbourhoods in the city.

Another long-term resident Andrea Terry is the first to admit the public housing complex has issues, but she wants people to see how vibrant the tight-knit community is.

“The biggest problem with areas like this is people just assume, they don’t know people’s situation. For the longest time I couldn’t tell you where I lived because of the stereotyping and because of the bad reputation this area has,” Terry said.

“Now I come out and say ‘yes I do live on Caldwell’, ‘yes I live on ODSP’…I am not embarrassed by any means, because you know what home is where the heart is.”

Map data sourced from 2011 National Household Survey

The crime and social ills are only one aspect of the neighbourhood which has a strong community presence united by a desire to support each other. Resources like the chaplaincy, foodbank, clothing depot, community centre and family centre are located inside the community. In the middle of the day residents descend on the family centre for a free big breakfast or take part in the language lessons that are offered next door.

Cst. Kevin Williams with the Ottawa Police Service is a community police officer who offers support to the Carlington community and occasionally helps out at the foodbank.

“I’ve sat on committees with Andrea and it’s awesome the dedication that they have and it’s great. It just makes you want to be involved and be a part of this. It’s refreshing to see that,” Williams said.

“It’s too bad because Carlington is a great place and sure there might be one or two incidents that might happen and it doesn’t reflect what this community is, it’s a great community.”

*Joanne declined to use her last name out of privacy.

Overcrowded housing commonplace in Heron Gate


A community located between Walkley Road and Heron Road have the highest number of overcrowded homes, according to an analysis of data obtained from Statistics Canada.

The National Household Survey, conducted in 2011 showed 575 households in the Heron Gate area were deemed “not suitable” according to National Occupancy Standards.

A home is considered suitable if it has enough bedrooms for the number of people living there. Age, sex and relationship between occupants also play a role.

The homes in this area account for just under 30 per cent of the total number of overcrowded homes in Ottawa recorded in the survey.

An area near Bayshore Park contained the second highest number of overcrowded homes, 560 of them not meeting the suitability standard.

Jean Cloutier, the councillor for Alta Vista ward said he’s aware of the issue.

“It is a community that has a bit of a vulnerable population. It has a lot of immigrants and new Canadians that live there,” he said.

“Some of the new arrivals to Canada are so large that I’m sure that translates into a statistic that would be called ‘not suitable’ in terms of the number of bedrooms for the number of people living there.”

Last year, Timbercreek Asset Management, delivered eviction notices to some residents in the area to build new rental units.

A member of Ottawa ACORN, a group that advocated to delay the evictions, said half of their members were evicted in the area.

“Now it’s just a blob of vacant land being developed for high end rentals,” they said in an email.

But residents in the Heron Gate community aren’t the only ones affected by overcrowding.

A map showing the census tracts with the highest number of overcrowded homes. Made using data from the 2011 National Household Survey. Dark blue areas indicate communities with a higher number of overcrowded homes.

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