It is the height of the day in the downtown core, but you wouldn’t know it. The streets are bare except for the odd person, wrapping whatever they can around their face to try and filter out the yellow haze filling the space between the darkened buildings. The sun casts a sick glow on anything it touches as health experts advise people to stay indoors.
This isn’t the trailer for a new science fiction dystopia film – this was Edmonton twice in the last year as smoke from forest fires elsewhere blew over the city.
Heavy smoke and heat waves are two weather phenomena experts are trying to re-align the city to face as climate change progresses.
“Forestry experts tell us the forests are drying from climate change,” said Alberta Capital Airshed executive director Gary Redmond. “They anticipate a lot more burning. So I think we can expect more smoke in the air than we’re used to.”
Redmond emphasized smoke isn’t the only significant air pollution problem facing Edmonton. Cold air in the wintertime can keep pollution closer to the ground and lead to air quality warnings, though ash and carbon particles from forest fires are several orders of magnitude worse.
A non-profit air quality monitoring group, part of the Airshed’s work is to bring stakeholders together to identify potential problems and brainstorm solutions.
Redmond advises people in good health to keep physical activity indoors during smoky days, where the Air Quality Index is at least seven. People with health issues should take precautions if it’s as low as three. Covering your face with a scarf may actually do more harm than good, because it pulls particulate matter in your airway.
One solution Redmond advocates is Community Clean Air Shelters, retrofitting public spaces with air filtration systems to give people safe places to breathe, which have been effective at improving people’s health.
Working from the other end is Shafraaz Kaba, principal architect of Ask for a Better World and Energy Efficiency Alberta board director. Kaba has ambitious ideas for dealing with air quality and other problems facing the Edmonton downtown.
“Why don’t we build in air filtration in homes?” he asks while looking gloomily out at yet another stormy day in Edmonton. “Or ways to mitigate the effects of massive amounts of rain?”
Preparing for a hotter downtown
Kaba is keenly aware of the challenges Edmonton is facing. As part of the Energy Transition Advisory Committee, he helped develop the “Climate Resilient Edmonton: Adaptation Strategy and Action Plan,” an examination of environmental, health and economic issues and strategies. It was presented to city council in November 2018.
Well past arguing whether climate change is real or not, Kaba says the real questions are how is it affecting us and what are we doing about it? The solution is to both develop resiliency against Mother Nature’s wrath while simultaneously reducing the city’s carbon footprint to placate the elements.
Kaba explains this requires a more holistic way of thinking about building structures, ranging from things like the thickness and insulation of the walls, the glazing and size of windows and even simple things like the material used around them all contribute to the amount of heat a building can hold on to.
“[Forestry experts] anticipate a lot more burning. So I think we can expect more smoke in the air than we’re used to.”
Gary Redmond, Executive Director, Alberta Capital Airshed
“An example is thermal bridging, where heat transfer happens,” he says as he motions to the aluminum trimming of his 10-foot tall window. “The aluminum frame that holds the glass is a massive conductor of heat, from the inside to the outside in the winter and vice-versa in the summer.”
A more extreme example is skyscrapers, which effectively act as giant greenhouses, even in the wintertime. While not the best holders of heat, they pull enough in over a cold winter day that many commercial buildings use much of their power cooling the inside of the building in spite of below-freezing temperatures outside.
“We basically took in a global mechanical system and said ‘We’re going to do that too,’” said Kaba. “We need to design buildings that say, ‘Okay, it’s sunny and –30 C out. How do we have a mechanical system that warms cold air instead of using air conditioning?’”
Better heat efficiency not only reduces the carbon footprint of buildings, it also helps to minimize the Urban Heat Island effect – concrete and other materials like aluminum hold heat and downtown Edmonton has a lot of concrete.
This makes heat waves of particular concern. People with health complications may not be able to cool off quickly enough. This happened in Europe in 2003 where eight consecutive days of over 40 C highs killed over 50,000 people across the southern part of the continent. Sixteen years later, the United Nations now says weather events like heat waves, smoke, flooding and/or either too much or not enough rain are happening once a week on average.
“There’s a bit of a reckoning coming,” said Kaba.
A huge variety in designs of buildings makes things even more complicated, each requiring their own solutions. Smaller buildings are better suited for solar panels because they have more surface area exposed to the sun, whereas a taller building only has one good side at best for solar generation.
“In a tall building, you have a lot more wall surface area and very little roof,” explained Kaba. “So you’re forced to consider how much of that wall you need for windows to let in daylight versus if you’re going to make them thick, insulated walls to prevent heat loss.”
Regardless of the challenges, he said the goal should be to have every building generating at least some of its power – and potentially even food – to offset the costs of building and maintaining the structure.
“It’s not if or should – it’s a must,” he said. “Every client I have, I can show them it’s a no-brainer to add solar modules to be able generate power because it’s also a risk mitigating system.
“As we decarbonize our grid, we will need any amount of electricity that’s green fed into our grid. Installing renewables now in a new building or a retrofit is far cheaper than ripping out what you put in 10 years from now to put in solar.”
“Why don’t we build in air filtration in homes?”
Gary Redmond, Executive Director, Alberta Capital Airshed
Redmond agrees pointing out that adverse health effects from excessive heat and poor air quality can have far-reaching economic implications.
“If someone works in an office building and they’re having trouble breathing, that affects the business of that building,” he said. “Air quality is going to become a business necessity.”
Kaba notes the plan to develop a central park out of four vacant parking lots downtown is a good start for offsetting both pollution and the concrete jungle heat. The next step is finding ways to establish more indoor green spaces, since winter is still going to be with us for a long time.
“Plants are a natural pollutant scrubber. The challenge in our climate is we can’t incorporate greenery into the façade of our buildings because in the winter they will freeze and die,” he said, adding that exception did not include green roofs. “You can create a green roof out of grasses and other things that survive the winter, absorb water and reduce heat.”
Another hurdle is regulatory. To pave the way for green roofs on top more efficient structures and more renewables built into them requires legal definitions, which are the purview of the provincial and federal governments.
For its part, Ottawa has been busy. Changes to the National Building Code are expected to roll out in 2020 by standardizing durability guidelines to reflect climate change trends.
Kaba maintains it makes sense for Edmonton’s downtown be ahead of the green wave and said the construction industry should lead the way.
“Buildings contribute almost a third to the energy we consume as a society and 40 per cent of our landfills are construction waste,” he said. “As an architect, I need to design something and show people how to build it without that much waste.”
“We have better ideas. Now we just have to start using them.”
There’s an app for that
Homeowners hoping to keep the smoke out will soon have a new tool at their disposal. Kaba has just finished a project with All Sky One Foundation to be officially launched in September. The Climate Resilient Virtual home will allow people to see how their home stacks up in terms of both energy efficiency and its capacity to withstand a changing climate in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region.
“We have a website that will ask what kind of environment you are in, if it’s a new or old home, and what kind of climate issues you are concerned about,” he said. “Then it will give you a model with all the things you should think about for your house in terms of structure, roofing, walls, landscape design… Everything down to making sure you anchor things in your yard, otherwise a high wind could blow it away.
“It’s giving people the tools and ideas to start thinking big picture.”
There are many avenues to access health care in central Edmonton, the key is deciding what’s right for you.
Alberta Health Services says most family doctors are part of a Primary Care Network. PCNs have an online tool to help in finding a family doctor – Alberta Find A Doctor. You can also call Healthlink at 811 if that tool doesn’t work for you. There were more than a dozen physicians accepting new patients in July this year.
Healthlink also offers nurse advice and general health information which can be accessed by calling 811. This option is often criticized because of a perception that the go-to response is to tell the caller to contact a doctor or go to the emergency room.
There are also two emergency wards nearby, at Royal Alexandra and University hospitals. These are the places to go when facing life-threatening emergencies. AHS provides a handy tool listing emergency ward wait times here. Click on the Edmonton tab for local waits.
The Edmonton Oliver Primary Care Network offers a list of family physicians in the Oliver vicinity who are accepting people into care including those practising at the Allin Clinic at 10155 – 120 Street, West Oliver Medical Centre at 10538 – 124 Street, and Generations Family Physicians at 12220 Stony Plain Road.
They also offer some excellent health prevention services including a series of free nutrition classes including Healthy Meal Planning and Cooking For One. Their fitness support includes a free weekly exercise program offering 90 minute river valley walk accompanied by a family physician and a kinesiologist, and you can request a Prescription to Get Active which is a one-month fitness pass to GoodLife Fitness in the Brewery District, the MacEwan University Sport and Wellness Centre, or the Don Wheaton YMCA.
Medical clinics and medicentres are an option for those without a family doctor. There are several in Oliver along Jasper Avenue, and there is one downtown. These clinics accept walk-ins but don’t do medical emergencies. The first thing their recorded messages tells callers is to phone 911 if the call is an emergency. Downtown east of 109 Street has been known as a bit of a health desert but there are a few new options that have opened up in recent years – notably the innovative SAGE seniors centre. SAGE, the Seniors Association of Greater Edmonton at 15 Sir Winston Churchill Square, offers comprehensive health services, mostly provided by nurse practitioners, who can do much of what doctors do. SAGE medical office assistant Shay Brooks says they can do wound care, foot care, and much more. They can also do home visits in the central area from Westmount to Gretzky Drive. And their care is not strictly limited to seniors, anyone over 50 is welcome. There is also a bus program available.
Alberta Health Services says most family doctors are part of a Primary Care Network.
On the east and north edges of downtown, there is the Boyle McCauley Health Centre at 10408 95 Street and a number of clinics north of downtown along 107 Avenue, including those which provide services in languages other than English including Arabic.
MacEwan University students at the downtown campus can avail themselves of a collaboration with the Faculty of Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Alberta. The MacEwan University Medical Centre is touted as a clinical teaching space that trains doctors, medical students and residents, as well as nurses and medical assistants. Students are assigned a family doctor on first visit staff try to book subsequent visits with this physician. Trainees are supervised by this doctor. And there are mental health professionals on site.
Prenatal Care is available by referral at the Mom Care Docs Low Risk Obstetrics Clinic at the Allin Clinic. A shortage of midwives means midwifery care is hard-to-come-by in Edmonton, and it’s even harder to come by in the core as all of the midwifery clinics have moved to the ‘burbs, but you can fill out a request for care at the central intake registry at Alberta Midwives. And if you know one of the approximately 100 pregnant women in Edmonton experiencing homelessness, you can connect her to the Pregnancy Pathways Program at the Boyle McCauley Health Centre, 780-249-7002. Newcomers needing culturally responsive perinatal care and referrals can contact the Multicultural Health Brokers at 9538 – 107 Avenue, 780-423-1973.
If you think you may have contracted a sexually transmitted infection, there’s a clinic for that, at 11111 Jasper Avenue open during office hours. You can also call 811. There is a separate STI clinic for gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men with drop-ins Tuesday and Thursday afternoons at 11745 Jasper Avenue (Bath House; Entrance in back alley, downstairs; Outreach Office in the Steamworks Building). The STI clinics do not offer birth control services but teens and young adults experiencing barriers to sexual health and birth control services can access free birth control and other care at the Birth Control Centre at 405 North Tower, 10030 107 Street, 780-735-0010. Sexual health and wellness services including education for community groups around sexual health, healthy sexual relationships, and consent; support for individuals around sexual health, STIs, pregnancy testing, and reproductive rights; and multicultural community outreach are available at the YWCA at #400, 10080 Jasper Ave, 780-429-3342. YWCA of Edmonton
Mental Health information is available from the Canadian Mental Health Association.
Their downtown office is at 10010 105 St NW #300. There is 24-hour help available at 780-482-HELP (4357).
After seeing a physician or nurse practitioner laboratory services are often called for. Dynalife has locations downtown at 250,10405 Jasper Avenue – and in Oliver, 11936 104 Ave. There is also a lab located at the Boyle McCauley Health Centre at 10408 95 Street.
If you need urgent care but aren’t able to get into a medicentre and aren’t sure you need the ER, you may want to contact a prescribing pharmacist. They can renew, adapt or modify prescriptions, and can provide prescriptions in an emergency. Oliver Place, Standard Life and Jasper/117 Shoppers and Rexall Ice District and Jasper 118 all offer the service. Hours vary, but the late-night pharmacy on Jasper Avenue and 117 Street is open until midnight.
You’ve heard of the countless things to do in Edmonton, especially in our long but fleeting summer. But where do you start? And for those in the core, add the question: how do you get there?
While the weather outside is delightful, rather than frightful, we’ve got a dare. We dare you to explore the heart of your city in one (or all!) of the following ways. Get out there.
WE DARE YOU TO: BUY ICE CREAM
Craving a cone? Finding an ice-cream truck or storefront is tricky in the core, never mind chasing one down. But places offer grab—and—go ice creams and other frozen treats, if you know where to look.
The Canterra Centre on 109 Street and Jasper Avenue is the core’s ice-cream oasis. Marble Slab Creamery offers standard fare, while nearby, La Carraia Gelato in the Mayfair has authentic Italian gelato. For ice cream with an Asian flair, head to ZenQ, Tsujuri or Snowy Village Dessert Café (all three are also within the 109 Street area) for shaved ice and other eye-catching dessert bowls. There are a handful of other places offering Asian shaved ice downtown, including Ono Poke on 104 Street and Dream Tea in Oliver Square.
And no matter where you are in the core, you’re probably not far from a place offering Pinocchio ice cream— Edmonton’s homegrown maker of ice cream, gelato and sorbet. Pinocchio doesn’t have a retail storefront itself, but hundreds of cafes and restaurants— including many downtown, like Care-it Urban Deli and Planet Organic—have a freezer filled with their products. Pinocchio’s website has a map showing all the locations that supply their stuff, so you can tailor your own Edmonton ice cream odyssey.
WHERE: 109 Street and Jasper Avenue.
GET THERE: Walk or bike, with connections to the protected bike grid using Railtown Park.
WE DARE YOU TO: ENDURE DOWNTOWN CONSTRUCTION
You should be forgiven for thinking everything feels closed. A number of our flagship cultural attractions are shuttered for renovations, including Fort Edmonton Park and the Muttart Conservatory. Both the City Hall wading pool and one of the pools at the Legislature are closed for repairs; they’re slated to open this summer (fingers crossed). Louise McKinney Park technically isn’t closed but large parts of its trails are, thanks to LRT construction. The funicular is closed fairly regularly (and randomly) and it’s almost impossible to keep track of the closures and detours along LRT lines. LRT construction extends throughout downtown, is leading to rolling road closures and, coupled with other development projects can make walking down the street a dangerous challenge. Make sure to tell 311.
But many things remain open. Though its ultimate fate is still unknown at this point, Oliver Pool is happy to welcome you this summer. If the pool is too busy when you and the kids need to cool off, head to the splash pad in nearby Kitchener Park. Or visit Paul Kane Park, where upgrades just over a year ago can remind you that even though construction sucks, the end result is often well worth it. Or check out Alex Decoteau Park downtown, which has a mini garden and a dog run. Or head just south of downtown for Queen Elizabeth Pool.
WHERE: The core.
GET THERE: However you need to, but bring a towel.
WE DARE YOU TO: BIKE A MOUNTAIN
Edmonton’s ribbon of green is a mountain-bike paradise. The city’s extensive network of singletrack routes provide (almost) continuous routes along trails that form hundreds of kilometres of access to ravines and river valleys. The trails are mapped on Trailforks, a crowd-sourced database which counts 678 different mountain-bike trails in Edmonton and more than 40 user- created routes.
There are several trailheads from downtown to the network of valley trails. For one of the best views, head to the 100 Street Funicular, beside the Hotel Macdonald, and ride it down to the Low Level Bridge. This gives you quick access to trails to the southeast in Cloverdale and Forest Heights, to the west and to the direct south, including Mill Creek Ravine.
Another trailhead is the High Level Bridge, which connects to the trails by the University of Alberta. From there follow the trails west through Emily Murphy Park and into Hawrelak Park. MacKinnon Ravine extends out from the west side of downtown, just north of Hawrelak.
Normally Groat Road Bridge provides a quick connection to either side, but check your route before heading that way: construction has caused various detours and path closures.
If you’re looking for fellow mountain bikers in town, there are several groups and clubs. There is the Oliver Bike Club, which meets Wednesday’s at 6pm, though that’s less about mountain biking. If you’re looking for terrain, the Edmonton Road and Track Club hosts weekly rides, including some for women only. The Edmonton Mountain Bike Alliance is another good resource that offers reports on trail conditions and events including Trail Care Days where volunteers help spruce up the local trails.
WHERE: Trailheads at the 100 Street Funicular and Ezio Faraone Park.
GET THERE: Biking to the funicular requires a bit of courage, so consider walking your bike along the sidewalk you’re forced onto. For Ezio Faraone, use the Railtown multi-use path.
WE DARE YOU TO: TAKE A TOUR
Okay, let’s say you’re not motivated to
create a self-guided tour but still want to
explore. Don’t worry, there are plenty of
guided tours available. Pretending you’re
a tourist in town is a great way to see the
city through new eyes.
The Downtown Business Association’s
Core Crew hosts free historical walking
tours throughout the summer (look
for their red T-shirts leading groups
around town). There are also free tours
at the Alberta Legislature and City Hall
throughout the summer.
For something faster-paced, the River
Valley Adventure Co., based in Louise
McKinney Park, offers a number of
popular Segway and cycling tours that
will take you into and around the river
WHERE: Louise McKinney, downtown, City Hall, Alberta Legislature.
GET THERE: On foot.
WE DARE YOU TO: DISCOVER #YEGHISTORY AND #YEGART
There is the Canada Permanent Building, or the Churchill Wire Centre, or Oliver Exchange. There is the public art, both held at institutions like the Art Gallery of Alberta, or just storefronts, like at the window of art outside Jobber, at Jasper and 105 Street.
Regardless of where you go, as you stroll the core look for historical markers, statues, monuments and murals; you may be surprised just how many you find. (Hint: Many of these are also stops in the Pokémon Go phone game, which is a great way to get kids involved. Go for a walk to catch Pokémon, but stop to learn about local history and art, too.)
If you’re looking for something more structured, download the City of Edmonton’s brochures for self-guided historical walking/biking tours, which include tours of historical buildings throughout downtown and Oliver. If art is more your jam, check out ArtTourYEG, which is a series of three self-guided tours of public art downtown.
If you just can’t get enough #yeghistory, check out the Edmonton Heritage Network which features dozens of local historical tours, events, museums and archives.
WHERE: The core.
GET THERE: On foot.
WE DARE YOU TO: SPLASH IN THE RIVER
It’s unclear if Cloverdale’s Accidental Beach, a short walk from the core, is here to stay. But there are other ways to get out and enjoy the river.
River Valley Adventure Co., based in Louise McKinney, offers stand-up paddle- board rentals and classes, as well as rafting adventures. Canoe Heads hosts various canoe trips, from beginner day to trips to more advanced overnight tours. Haskin Canoe also does regular canoe trips as well as kayak trips, in Edmonton and out at Elk Island Park.
Black Gold River Tours offers tours of the river by speed boat, if you’re looking for something high-powered instead of human-powered. And of course there’s always the venerable Edmonton Riverboat, formerly known as the Edmonton Queen. The Riverboat has recently been renovated and is now taking regular river trips. Like the trip for Accidental Beach, head to the funicular, cross the Low Level Bridge, walk about a block east to Rafters Landing and you’re there.
And one overlooked way to enjoy the North Saskatchewan is to test your luck at a fishing hole. (Note: Alberta sport fishing regulations apply, except on the City’s free fishing weekends.)
WHERE: At the river.
GET THERE: Countless options, the best of which are human-powered.
WE DARE YOU TO: EAT OUT AFTER MIDNIGHT
The late-night twilight in high-latitude Edmonton means we’re often up late and looking for somewhere to eat, and sometimes we want something other than a greasy pizza joint or 24-hour breakfast place. Downtown Edmonton has more late-night dining options than ever before. If you’re coming from an event at Rexall, head down 104 Street to Drunken Ox, Sober Cat (DOSC) for upscale steakhouse fare (kitchen open until 1am on weekends).
Central Social Hall on 109 Street is another late-night spot. The kitchen stays open until 2am on weekends and offers a range of casual fare, from flatbreads and burgers to classic comfort food like chicken and waffles.
But when you’re up *really* late, Chinatown is the place to go—some places stay open until the very wee hours of the morning. For classic Chinese food, there’s no beating All Happy Family Restaurant, which is open until 4am and offers standards like green onion cakes, fried rice and dozens of different noodle dishes. Sai Woo Garden (open until 3am) is another good choice; get the deep- fried calamari. If you’re in no hurry to get to bed, hunker down over a cauldron of bubbling soup at Asian Express HotPot (open until 2:30am).
WHERE: If it’s late, Chinatown, my friend.
GET THERE: Safely.
Read the full Summer 2019 issue of The Yards here.
It’s easy to give up. Just yesterday, as the driver delivered Marc Workman’s groceries at his Oliver apartment, Workman got an unsubtle reminder he’s different.
He’d sent a note in advance, like he usually does, which gave the driver a friendly heads up to avoid an awkward interaction—like offering a pen and Workman not noticing. He never knows how these quotidian interactions will go, and he’s met all kinds of people in Oliver—some judgmental, some clueless, some concerned, some compassionate. Who will it be today?
The driver handed him his groceries. “You do okay for yourself,” he said to Workman, as he turned to leave, before adding: “Considering you’re blind.”
Workman is used to these comments— that’s why giving up can seem appealing. At 37, he’s slender and clean shaven, and smiles frequently below his friendly cheekbones. It’d be easy not to notice he’s blind, unless you met him walking with his cane or with his Labrador Retriever guide dog, Bella. He sits on the Oliver Community League board and chairs its social advocacy committee. He used to work as manager of advocacy for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, a job he moved to Oliver for in 2013, and he joined the board of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians when he was 27. He’s also been involved with Barrier-Free Canada, which advocates for federal disability legislation, and he was part of the push to get Edmonton Transit System buses equipped with automated stop announcements, in 2015. Now he works as a policy analyst with the Alberta government. All that to say: Comments like “You do okay for yourself” don’t surprise Workman anymore, because he’s spent his life thinking about why they occur.
“Common among all minorities is the fact that you have to work harder to be seen as competent,” Workman says. “He was saying, ‘I’m impressed by you only in the sense that I expected less, and you exceeded that.’ I’ve heard it many, many times.”
It’s complicated, though, because Workman is doing okay for himself. In Canada, he says, a blind person living independently is rare, and in many cultures it’s unheard of. Workman, in contrast, lives on his own. He subscribes to a visual-assistant app called Aira, and uses his iPhone’s screen-reader, called VoiceOver, to navigate his smartphone. He has a sister he’s close with who helps him with tasks, like updating his wardrobe. Around 70 per cent of blind people are unemployed, and half live on less than $20,000 a year. Workman is different.
Still, although he has a career, it took more than 100 applications and 22 interviews. “I don’t want to say that I could have gotten every single one of
“These things aren’t inevitable. That’s why we have to change our environment to make them less likely. That’s evidence for why we need to act.”
those jobs,” he says, “but it’s equally ridiculous to say blindness played no role in any of those decisions.” In 2015, he was denied service at a restaurant in Red Deer, which is illegal under Alberta’s Service Dogs Act. (He happened to be with the CNIB’s director of public affairs; they filed a complaint with the Red Deer RCMP and called the Red Deer Advocate.) Even as he lives independently, the world insists on seeing him a certain way.
Workman has a genetic condition called retinitis pigmentosa, or RP, and it progressed quickly. He was five years old when he was diagnosed. He figures he was legally blind by age 10. (“Legally blind” means he had 20/200 vision; he could see at 20 feet what someone with 20/20 could see from 200 feet.) Although he has light perception in his right eye, he has no vision at all in his left.
While blindness has been a part of him almost his entire life, it wasn’t until university that he thought about it philosophically. It started with a course on equality and social justice. “There was nothing about disability in there,” he says, “but it felt familiar.” He Googled “philosophy+blind.” The U.S. National Federation of the Blind (NFB) came up. Before, he’d seen disability as something unfortunate that happens to people. “The NFB talked about how the problem isn’t the inability to see—it’s the attitudes, social situations and environments that make it harder for someone who’s blind.” With a master’s degree in political science already in his quiver, Workman pursued a PhD in philosophy. But soon he learned he’d rather be advocating in the non-academic world. He wanted to see his community change—so he set out to do it.
It’s two and a half blocks from Workman’s apartment to the Grandin LRT station – north a few steps, then along 99 Avenue past Grandin Elementary School, where children almost always shout “Doggy!” at Bella. He recently started a new position with the government, where he’s worked for almost four years, so he can walk to his job now. But the train is still vital for getting anywhere else in the city. He has a few strategies for walking: He remembers if the last number of an address is even, the building will be north of the avenue. The grid setup downtown
“For the visually impaired, the giant parking lots can be dangerous and disorienting”
helps him navigate, just like numbered streets. When he feels he’s about 20 feet from the intersection, he begins listening for cues that tell him when to cross, like which direction traffic is moving in, or the beep of audible signals. Not all intersections have them, of course, so he’ll pay attention to stationary vehicles, too. If this idling vehicle had the opportunity to turn right and didn’t, he thinks, it must be turning left or driving straight through.
But every walk has its obstacles – often the kind with four wheels and an engine. According to the City of Edmonton, a pedestrian’s chances of survival are only 45 per cent if hit by a vehicle moving at 50 kilometres per hour, so he has to be especially vigilant. Quiet vehicles are a problem, too: According to the Guardian, compared to conventional vehicles, quiet-running electric cars are about 40 per cent likelier to hit a pedestrian, and 93 per cent of blind and partially sighted people have had issues with them. Still, Oliver is more accessible than most neighbourhoods in Edmonton, Workman says, but it’s missing things like the yellow tactical strips so prominent in San Francisco, or the prevalence of audio signals at intersections in Vancouver. “I’ve probably had a few close calls, but I wouldn’t necessarily know,” he says, chuckling. “There have been a couple times where I ended up on a totally different corner than I intended to.”
Even the train he’s arriving for can be challenging. In August 2012, a blind woman named Zaidee Jensen, whom Workman went to university with, died after she fell from the ledge of University station. The station’s platform didn’t have the same kind of bumps, which warn people who are visually impaired, as other stations did. The warning strips were upgraded about a year later, but there are still impediments. Edmonton’s LRT has two kinds of trains, and the buttons on each one are located in different spots. And neither of the two train types have doors that open automatically. To decipher which one is approaching, Workman has learned to differentiate them by an almost imperceptible difference in pitch. “I don’t get it 100 per cent of the time,” he says. Workman has inquired about making the doors open automatically but the City rebuffed him. The next step would have
“While much of Oliver is fairly accessible, Oliver Square and the Brewery District are outliers”
been to take the issue to city council, and he knows there would have been resistance. “That’s one I considered fighting more for,” he says, “but I kind of let it go.”
Pick your battles, he learned.
While much of Oliver is fairly accessible, Oliver Square and the Brewery District are outliers. For the visually impaired, the giant parking lots can be dangerous and disorienting. It’s difficult to tell which direction vehicles are moving in, and slower driving makes them hard to hear. Workman avoids these spaces altogether.
This gets to something fundamental about how we build our neighbourhoods. Whether it’s the noiseless electric vehicles or oceanic parking lots, there’s a continuous rivalry between drivers and pedestrians, between making our communities more walkable and encouraging urban activity, or making them more drivable and easier to park in. The issue of accessibility highlights this opposition, because people with disabilities are adversely affected. When build more parking lots, when we favour cars over pedestrians, we should ask: Who benefits, and whose lives are we risking?
Workman, with Bella at his left, heads to his tailor’s. Rather than turning off Jasper Avenue at the stairs, the pair walk to the end of the block and turn around so he can count the steps. A man across the street yells at no one in particular and Workman turns his head. A piece of sidewalk sticks out skyward, threatening to trip someone who’s distracted or, for that matter, visually impaired. Here, by 112 Street, with five lanes of traffic whirling by, it can be disorienting for anyone.
But Jasper is actually easier for Workman to navigate. Downtown cores usually are. The traffic signals are more accessible, and he has a better sense for which direction vehicles are moving in. More than that, though, is how dense the avenue is, and how different that is from areas like Oliver Square and the Brewery District. It’s easier to find stores, which are right along the avenue and unencumbered by parking lots.
“A community that makes it harder for blind people to interact will naturally create blind people who feel more isolated”
Jasper Avenue represents our city in full. The cacophony isn’t a bug but a feature. The density, walkability, abundance of businesses, the fact that 20,000 people residents share the space is what makes our neighbourhood livable. That’s part of why Workman moved here, but it’s also part of what brings thousands of us here from other cities, or from rural and suburban communities. Downtown, we’re connected by what we have in common; what makes it livable for Workman makes it livable for the rest of us, too.
Of course, cities can be lonely, too— and more so for people with disabilities. People who are blind are more than three times as likely to experience depression. A community that makes it harder for blind people to interact will naturally create blind people who feel more isolated. “But these things aren’t inevitable,” Workman says. “That’s why we have to change our environment to make them less likely. That’s evidence for why we need to act.”
It’s difficult to build better communities, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be as simple as automatic doors and tactical strips, or not assuming someone with a disability is less capable. Oliver, the centre of a flourishing, young, multicultural city, is more than just a neighbourhood: It’s a promise to be inclusive and respect each other while living in close quarters. Someone saying “Considering you’re blind” breaks that promise. When Workman advocates for a more accessible neighbourhood, or when he responds to a crass comment, he’s not asking anyone to bend over backwards to accommodate him. He’s reminding us that every citizen, without fail, has a right to these streets, these services, this community, and the dignity that comes with it—and that once we realize we’ve broken that promise, we have two choices. We can give up, but it’s easy to give up. Why not live up to it instead?
Carl* stepped on top of the 100,000-barrel tank at the oilsands site in Fort McMurray. It was toward the end of his shift. As the head of a work crew, he went on the tank to check that his grunts were off the site and that he could head home. Carl looked from his perch, nearly 15 metres in the air, and confirmed his guys were gone. Quitting time. He walked to the edge of the tank, where scaffolding was rigged to its edge, and stepped onto it.
*Carl’s full name has not been used to protect his identity
“The next thing you know – I didn’t realize they were taking the north side of the scaffolding apart – it just tumbled,” Carl says. “I came down with it. Four storeys.” Carl’s next memory from that day is being in a helicopter, struggling to breathe. Memory two is coming to in a hospital bed, feeling tubes in his mouth. He tugged at them. Number three is his doctor, who stood at his bedside and told him he was lucky to be alive. Then came the news. “He said, ‘I’m sorry but I have inform you, you’re paralyzed from the waist down,’” Carl says. “That was a shocker.” After his fall, which happened about two years ago, Carl fought to walk again. One day, he says he suddenly felt one of his toes. Later, friends put him on a treadmill, almost willing him to walk. Three months later, he says he walked out of the University of Alberta hospital, shakily, but on his own two feet. But from there, life didn’t much return. He couldn’t walk well or work. The pain from his injuries was overpowering. He was still mourning his wife, who had died a few years earlier. He treated his pain, in part, with a doctor-prescribed supply of hydromorphone, a powerful opioid. But challenges overwhelmed him. Recently, he ended up on the street. And since March 2018, when Boyle Street’s supervised consumption site opened, Carl has been a regular client. At last count, nurses at the site have resuscitated Carl five times.
A man rings a doorbell and staff inside beckon him through the door. When Erica Schoen, director of supervised consumption services at Boyle Street, sees him, she scrambles across the room. “We’ve been worried about you,” Schoen says.
“At last count, nurses at the site have resuscitated Carl five times”
“We didn’t know what was happening. How are you?” says another nurse, on her way over. The man keeps his eyes low. He’s white, wears a black coat and jeans, and a woman is with him. The woman says nothing but keeps looking at the man, as if she’s worried. “I’m okay,” he says, to everyone, not making eye contact. He just needs to use today. And some food. The man has walked into a controversial space. On the right side of the hallway at Boyle Street Community Services is an unlabeled white door without a window. One must ring a doorbell and be beckoned through this door to enter. Like a faberge egg, what you find on the other side is the first of three inner rooms that form one of Edmonton’s four supervised consumption sites.
Here, in room one, nurses ask questions, like: What are ways we can identify you? What are you consuming today? What drugs have you used in the last 12 hours? Have you had any lapses in use recently? Do you need any other supports, like mental health, shelter, first aid? How are you feeling? And also, more warmly, what’s new?
Deaths linked to opioids climbed from 443 in 2015 to 714 in 2017. It took years of these numbers increasing, and outrage from advocates, for this space to exist. In 2018, harm-reduction proponents in Alberta successfully pushed the federal government to allow agencies to apply for an exemption to the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, for one year. Four have been granted this exemption in Edmonton. This means nurses can legally sit beside someone injecting drugs and keep them alive if they overdose. Advocates say the four sites – at Boyle Street, the George Spady Centre, the Royal Alexandra Hospital and, as of November, the Boyle McCauley Health Centre – lead to fewer deaths and fewer needles on the ground.
But critics say much the opposite. They say the sites are increasing needle debris as well as crime. In Calgary, crime statistics show that a site there has, in fact, been linked with a spike in criminal activity in its vicinity. This led the Alberta government, in January, to hastily commit $200,000 toward crime deterrence. Meanwhile, in Edmonton, a national columnist has argued the downtown sites are leading to increased needle debris in his neighbourhood, while the Chinatown Business Association, part of a community that hosts several of the sites, has taken its opposition to the sites to the courts (see sidebar).
Within this push and pull is a larger truth: the sites save lives. Between March 23, 2018 to January 31, 2019, Elliott Tanti, spokesperson for Boyle Street, says visits at the three community sites (the fourth, at the Royal Alex hospital, is run by Alberta Health Services) in Edmonton totalled 34,990. At the Boyle Street site and the Boyle McCauley Health Centre sites, nurses saw 1,257 unique individuals, referred them to other services 13,416 times and, staggeringly, reversed 221 overdoses. Back in the site, and after answering questions in room one, a client is next welcomed into room two: the consumption room. This is the area few people are allowed to see while clients actually use it. Today, I’ve been allowed.
I stand at the cusp, just outside the door, to give the two clients currently inside some privacy. To my right is a cart with metal trays filled with blue and red elastic straps, plastic-wrapped syringes, cotton filters, hand wipes and other tools to work with opioids.
One of the people inside, a lean, white man, wearing steel-toed work boots and a blue coat with reflective tape, works away in one of five booths, which have sharps container and a mirror. He’s grinding pills he’s brought, preparing to inject them. This make a loud “crunchcrunch” sound. To his right, a 20-something white woman is several steps ahead in the process. She releases the elastic around her arm. Moments later, she transitions from chatting with a nearby nurse to resting her head in her arms. The nurse sits on a chair at an arm’s length, checking in to confirm she’s okay. She is.
Schoen, who has stayed back to let me observe, next shows me room three, the monitoring room, where clients are asked to stay for at least 15 minutes after using, so staff can continue keeping tabs. This is an important spot. It’s also here, Schoen says, where referrals are often made. Mental health supports are a big one, as is housing. One client, who staff had helped find housing – which in turn led to the woman reducing the amount of drugs she uses to a trickle – also has an upcoming operation at the hospital for a long-standing injury. One of Schoen’s staff is going to go with her, like a friend would.
It’s this part of the consumption site – the relationships, empathy and knowledge of the healthcare system – that’s lost in the debate about whether they should exist or not. And it’s the part that Schoen says is powerful. “We instill hope for people,” she says. “If you want everyone to go to detox or treatment and for them to make all these changes, and at the same time we’re kicking them while they’re down, how will people have the motivation to do this? Sleeping in the shelters is difficult. Living on the street is extremely difficult. These people are dealing with so much stuff and then, on top of things, we’re going to blame them for trying to treat mental health, emotional and physical pain? I think we could be doing a better job of supporting people with that.”
Consumption sites were never about solving the opioid crisis, Schoen says. Instead, they’re just one of many tools. “There are many other things we could be doing, including decriminalization, providing people safe drugs, giving people alternatives to having to buy poison off the street,” she says.
Outside the focus on the drugs and consumption, these tools lead to shifts, she says. “I do believe someone who has a sense of purpose is less likely to use drugs. If they have something better to do, or they get tired of the chase, it’s not necessarily because they did what we wanted, go to detox and go to treatment. There are people who have gone to treatment 30 times and it hasn’t worked for them. And then there’s people who have been housed and say, ‘Oh Erica, I have my own space now and I don’t feel so hopeless and I’m decorating and now maybe I want to do something else.’”
But fentanyl, the poison Schoen refers to, is a powerful force. When the Boyle Street site first opened, she says it was common to “hit” a person who had overdosed once or twice with naloxone. But recently, they’ve had to hit people with up to eight doses to bring them back, she says. “The overdoses have got worse since we opened.” I ask Schoen why she showed so much concern for the man who appeared at the door earlier. The stigmatization of drug use creates barriers for people like him to get help, even though the underlying issue is mental-health related, she says. “We’ve just been very concerned with his mental health. If we build those relationships, people feel welcome and they keep coming back and they know they can trust us. I’ve seen him in the hallway before, and he’s like ‘Do you have any food?’ and I’m like, ‘Come on in, I’ll try to find you some.’ He knows our faces and trusts us.”
People like him often fall through the cracks, she says, because drugs create barriers to addressing what’s really leading to drug use. “Regardless of what the behaviour is, regardless of what’s happening with them, if they’re walking out into traffic, people think it’s because of the drugs. If they are barefoot in minus 35, it’s because of the drugs.”
It’s an easy scapegoat, she says, and a barrier to making real change.
Carl sits in the office at Boyle Street Community Services. He’s white, in his 60s, wears a beige puffy parka, an orange baseball hat that says ‘Netherlands’ and dark blue jogging pants. He walks deliberately with a walker, and grunts and clenches with pain whenever he sits. His face can look somewhat ragged, intimidating, but that’s only if he doesn’t know you. If he does, and he likes you, Carl shifts dramatically. His eyes can almost smile. If Carl likes you, it’s hard not to like Carl back.
The thing you need to know about Carl is that he used heroin, daily, for nearly 40 years. He’s proud of this record. He suggests it shows how deliberate he has been, how he scrutinized suppliers, injected test shots, lived with deep respect for his drug’s potency despite his strong tolerance for it. This approach, he says, allowed him to maintain a marriage, raise his kids and run a wildly lucrative construction business while also using.
“In all my years, from 1982 to 2017, I never dropped once,” he says. What took Carl down was fentanyl. After falling from the oil tank, fighting through his paralysis, and after fentanyl came to push heroin out of the drug supply in western Canada over the past few years, Carl found himself forced to use it, as an additive to his prescription opioids – which was either not strong enough or something he sold for his pre ferred fix, heroin. His addiction requires he feed his body lots of opioids, daily. If he doesn’t, he says withdrawal can be so powerful it could eventually kill him. And so in recent years, Carl couldn’t find heroin and had to use fentanyl. He did this at the consumption site close to where he spends his time on the streets. “I came here, and you can ask the staff – I think in one day I dropped five times with fentanyl. I wasn’t used to it,” he says. “I can do heroin all day long. They had to give me the oxygen mask, NARCAN. Unbelievable.”
Few things about drugs really scare Carl. What does is a situation he describes as an epidemic, with meth flooding the streets on top of the existing opioid crisis. “Until you realize that and start dealing with the problem, it’s going to be worse and worse,” he says. “It’s already in middle-class suburbia and the schools. I’ve seen people from schools come down and buy from people off the streets here. So it’s here, it’s here to stay, and as far as us having injection sites, it’s important. More crystal meth users are
“Until you realize that and start dealing with the problem it’s going to be worse and worse”
coming in, but in turn that pushes opioid users out. And there lies your dilemma. We have four sites that are here within the city now and all four are to maximum capacity. It has to be enlarged. You’ll start turning people away. And when you turn people away then it engrains in them not to even go near it. And they’ll just go out and use in back alleys and public places and bathrooms.”
But Carl is most concerned with Edmonton itself. He says it’s a place with a drug problem that doesn’t want to look at it very often or work to fix it. Having lived in Vancouver, eastern Canada and spent time with users in different parts of the country, he has some wisdom about the situation. “I say this sincerely,” he says. “I’ve been to a lot of cities, and I’ve never seen it like it is here in Edmonton.”
1. EXPLORE Fall in love at delicious date digs (pg 14), audition to be a regular (pg 14), bring along your kids to a boozy brunch (pg 17), skate underneath magical light (pg 20), or just go stare at a wall (pg 20).
2. KEEP SECRETS Fetch some terrines at this super hushhush hookup (pg 15), descend into a Persian-influenced nook (pg 16), get your pants hemmed by a stitch magician (pg 16), or just go dance on a boat (pg 17).
3. GET MOVING Ride an autobahn built for bikes (pg 20), walk your dog in a pool (pg 20), hover around a hive mind (pg 19), sweat it out on some stairs (pg 19), or just snap a selfie in a great spot (pg 19).
4. FATTEN UP Sip espresso at a great family-biz (pg 16), eat a meal while you meet a senior (pg 15), eat a coddled egg (pg 14), or just go eat and drink for cheap at happy hour (pg 18).
5. STAY UP PAST BEDTIME Sing your heart out at karaoke night at a multiple-award winning gem (pg 17), move past salsa as something for your chips (pg 14), debate between scarfing pizza or shawarma to lull you to sleep (pg 18), or just go listen to loud guitars at a live-music institution (pg 17).
Best Guesses at 2019 Best in the Core Categories: Best in Cannabis, Best Tower over 75 storeys, Best New Dog Park, Best Vape Lounge, Best Grocery Store
Best in Business
Best Date Digs
WINNER: Bar Clementine
Keep your love flame burning bright long after the kitchen closes inside these intimate digs. The cocktail menu is fresh and the curated wine menu has big flavours from small vineyards. Share an assortment of adventurous dishes from the constantly changing food menu and admire the 20th-century French Art Nouveau. You might even be inspired to take a lovers’ getaway to France. 11957 Jasper Avenue barclementine.ca
RUNNER UP: On the Rocks Salsa Night
Suss out your date’s moves with a night of passion … on the OTR dance floor. Thursday night salsa at OTR is an Oliver institution. Chacha-cha. 11740 Jasper Avenue ontherocksedmonton.com
RUNNER UP: Bru Coffee + Beer House
You want coffee. He wants beer. You both want a nice bite as you inspect one another on your IRL date. Get the best here for a buzzworthy meetup. 11965 Jasper Avenue brucoffeeandbeerhouse.com
A Love Recipe by Bar Clementine “The setting was intimate and my partner and I enjoyed a romantic evening, despite our 30-plus years together,” says Lianne McTavish, of a recent date at Bar Clementine. Indeed, McTavish, who lives in Oliver, has a perfect birthday recipe: Take one quick walk to the nearby bar that’s ranked ninth-best in Canada. Add one friendly waiter, who delivers one Simone cocktail with notes of lavender and rhubarb. Stir in several small plates, such as the sourdough-rye pancake with Jambon de Paris, fromage blanc, smoked clover honey, sambal and Swiss chard. Finish with a hearty spoonful of romance. Feeds two.”
Best Place to Be a Regular
WINNER: Bar Bricco
Bricco’s low light and chic atmosphere invite everyone to be a regular. Relax with a glass of wine and marvellous spuntini, or explore a new pairing – the staff are experts on the wine list. Or attempt to try all the salumi and formaggi, which you’ll need to come back several times to experience. The best tip a regular could offer? Get the egg yolk ravioli – which is smothered in burnt butter and a pile of Parmigiano Reggiano – every damn time. 10347 Jasper Avenue barbricco.com
RUNNER UP: District Café & Bakery
A bright open space makes this an ideal spot to work during the week (though make sure your laptop’s fully charged, as there’s a lack of plugins). Stop in often enough and the attentive staff will memorize your coffee order, and you’ll be able to snag the delicious pastries before the other customers. 10011 109 Street districtcafe.ca
RUNNER UP: Tres Carnales
Regulars know to stop in before the lunch and dinner rush so they don’t have to wait long for some authentic Mexican tacos, fresh guac and chips and ambrosial Sangria. 10119 100A Street (AKA Rice Howard Way) trescarnales.com
WINNER: RGE RD
For only three days a month, the Butchery at RGE RD offers freshly prepared terrines, rillettes, sausages and cured meats – along with breads baked in a wood-burning oven – to vigilant and/or lucky customers. You can phone ahead to reserve a large order, but be sure to sign up for their event updates to stay on top of this pop-up paradise of finely crafted breads and meats. 10643 123 Street rgerd.ca
RUNNER UP: Yellowhead Brewery
Take home the fun of that event you just attended at this picturesque downtown craft brewery, but in a bottle. Yellowhead’s traditional lager is available in bottles or refillable growlers. You’ll be pleased when you come in from work and remember you have refreshing beer waiting in the fridge. 10229 105 Street yellowheadbeer.com
RUNNER UP: Careit Deli
Need to please a crowd at a long staff meeting? You’ll want to order in a delicious and healthy lunch from here with hot soups, seasonal fruit trays, and a variety of sandwiches and wraps. You can even do a festive lunch with turkey, stuffing and all the fixings in December. 10226 104 Street careit.ca
Best Place for Something Fresh
WINNER: Hideout Distro
Owner Tory Culen moved her cute, oddball general store out of the basement in the Mercer Building into a full-sized bay just off 124 Street. Find the coolest prints, ceramics, clothes, jewellery, music and books from local artists, designers and makers. Culen personally curates. Her tastes go beyond unique goods, as she has also crafted a space that feels hips and begs you to hang out a while on its long, green comfy couch. 12407 108 Avenue hideoutdistro.com
RUNNER UP: Hawkeye’s Too
With its authentic retro feel, this unpretentious pub serves up some tasty pizza, makes you feel at home with friendly staff and invites you to get a little (okay, a lot) wild on its epic karaoke nights. 10048 102 Street
RUNNER UP: Beaver Hills House Park
Retreat from the urban jungle by moving your lunch break to this beautiful park where the public art – including Destiny Swiderski’s Amiskwacîw Wâskâyhkan Ihâtwin of beautifully sculpted waxwings – will relax you. 10404 Jasper Avenue
– Matthew Stepanic
Best in Public Service
The Seniors’ Association of Greater Edmonton is here to help if you’re a senior or caring for one. Their most remarkable endeavour? The Seniors Safe House, which provides at least two months’ housing and support for abused seniors. SAGE also offers free therapy sessions, help with income taxes and a hoarding-control program – among other services. And if SAGE alone can’t help you with your situation, they’ll find you someone who can. 15 Sir Winston Churchill Square mysage.ca
RUNNER UP: Passport Canada
One neat thing about living in the core is how simple it is to keep your travel documents up to date. We dream of jetting off to who-knows where, just like everyone else, but those who live in the core can walk to the office and get the little blue book that lets us do it. Others, from far and wide? Not so much. How neat is that for a public service? 9700 Jasper Avenue
RUNNER UP: STI Clinic
While nobody much wants to go to the STI Clinic it’s a smoothly run, compassionate and efficient operation geared toward providing some needed answers. It also makes use of the Edmonton General, a woefully overlooked historical building. 1111 Jasper Avenue
Best in Threads
WINNER: Red Ribbon
High Street wouldn’t be the same without this subterranean clothing goody store. The clothes range from mountainy hipster to super bougie to everything in between. The staff are super attentive and the selection offers treats you don’t find elsewhere. 12505 102 Avenue redribbon.ca
WINNER: The Helm
Bank accounts owned by men with refined tastes for Italian blazers fear The Helm. Owner Chad Helm has made it his personal mission to offer Edmonton some more class. He’s succeeding. 10124 104 Street thehelmclothing.com
WINNER: Arturo Denim
Edmonton has a long history of making denim thanks to the former GWG factory. Well Arturo is bringing it back. And aside from the new (and ethical) jeans and clothes they sell, they’ll fix your damaged jeans, too. 10443 124 Street arturodenim.ca
WINNER: Alberta Tailoring Company
A place with a well-earned reputation for being good at the craft of stitching, fitting, hemming, resizing and reworking your expensive clothing. Need a dress re-fitted? Go here. 10025 Jasper Avenue
– Tim Querengesser
Best Family Biz
A love for Edmonton’s artsy vibe drove the Linden family to open the first Credo location, on 104 Street, in 2009. Credo’s website says the shop’s mission is to be “a place to connect, to relax, to discuss, and to feel at home.” The growing chain of local shops have been eminently successful in this. Cozy is the word that comes to mind to describe the locations, from the original 104 Street spot to the newest in the Kelly Ramsey building. All are located in the core and all have great patios, too. A lovely place to be. 10134 104 Street; 10350 124 Street; 10162 100A Street credocoffee.ca
RUNNER UP: Kunitz Shoes
If repairing your shoes with goo doesn’t appeal, you can get your footwear fixed here. The Kunitz family’s love of tailor-made shoes and, yes, also of fish tanks (just check out the store), makes their business a true stand-out. 10846 Jasper Avenue kunitzshoes.ca
RUNNER UP: The Colombian Mountain Coffee Company
With roots in Colombia, the Lopez-Panylyk family moved past tragedy (the murder of owner Santiago Lopez’s grandmother) to beauty in Edmonton. This local shop will ship their directly-sourced beans right to you. 10340 134 Street the-colombian-mountain-coffee.myshopify.com/
– Ana Holleman
Best Buried Treasure
WINNER: Cafe Lavi
If you seek hidden, here is hidden. You first notice the lights, artfully hung against the exterior brick, beckoning you down into a delightful café with Persian undertones. The interior is equally charming, with minimalistic décor in soothing white tones. If curiosity brought you here, the organic lunch items like Persian ash soup, chicken Caesar salad and sliders will make you stay. And the direct-trade coffee and sweet treats will bring you back. 9947 104 Street facebook.com/cafelavi
RUNNER UP: Chicken For Lunch
Tasty chicken dishes down in the pedway, served quickly by Amy Quon of The Quon Dynasty show – we don’t mind if you use that bit of TV trivia at your next party. 10060 Jasper Avenue facebook.com/CFLEdmonton
RUNNER UP: The Sunshine Cafe (at SAGE)
Hidden near City Hall. Come here for the Salisbury steak and live piano music. Stay for the wise words from seniors. 15 Sir Winston Churchill Square mysage.ca/at-sage/food-services/the-sunshine-cafe
– Sydnee Bryant
Best Bar for Responsible Parents
Whether your game is bocce ball, ping pong or shuffle board, you can pass on your skills knowledge to your kids while enjoying a beer on the patio. Bond over the family-friendly entertainment, then chow down on grilled chicken tacos – something kids and adults always agree on. Local’s brunch game is on point, too, meaning you can gulp mimosas while your brood plays outside. They might
even make new friends. 11228 Jasper Avenue localjasperave.com
RUNNER UP: Craft Beer Market
One of the few bars with a kids’ menu – with mac ‘n’ cheese that puts yours to shame. 10013 101A Avenue (AKA Rice Howard Way). craftbeermarket.ca/edmonton
RUNNER UP: Urban Tavern
Load up on brunch poutine at a spot that serves tater tots and mimosas. 11606 Jasper Avenue urban-tavern.com
– Sydnee Bryant
Best Live Music
WINNER: The Starlite Room
The Starlite Room is under new management but remains one of Edmonton’s premier live music venues, hosting 20 different events in November 2018 alone. Big-name acts and underground groups alike play the haunt, which opened as the Bronx in the late ‘70s. Not only does that mean the place is a major player in the local (and national and international) music scene, but it means there’s something for everyone, too. 10030 102 Street starliteroom.ca
The perfect live show, as explained by Starlite Room’s Tyson Boyd
What goes into a perfect show at the Starlite Room? “It really depends,” says manager Tyson Boyd. The venue, which was originally a Salvation Army Citadel, built in 1925, hosts all types of performances: electronica, hip-hop, punk and metal shows. To help accommodate that diversity, Boyd says the Starlite Room talks with tour managers to assess each performer’s technical needs. Some events are what Boyd calls “throw-and-go” shows – the performers basically bring their equipment, throw it on stage and go. Other artists require more time for stage plotting and, for instance, instrument fine-tuning. “Every show is different,” Boyd says.
RUNNER UP: On The Rocks
Do alcohol and salsa dancing mix? Find out at On The Rocks. But if it’s live music, the live bands every weekend might satisfy. Or you can provide your own on Wednesday karaoke
nights. 11740 Jasper Ave ontherocksedmonton.com
RUNNER UP: The Edmonton Riverboat
Three-and-a-half months of local live musical talent on the North Saskatchewan River. Beautiful. Also, that view – both inside and out. 9734 98 Avenue edmontonriverboat.ca
– Ana Holleman
Best Late-Night Eats
WINNER: Hawkeyes Too
Oh Hawkeyes Too, you’re so good. There’s no feeling quite like the camaraderie when a crew of us share an extra-large pizza, a pitcher and some wings under your tri-colour LEDs – all while being serenaded by Jungle Jim. You’re a safe haven for karaoke aficionados on Fridays and Saturdays. You’re a place that’s just dimly-lit enough for tired eyes. Your half-circle booths always have a spot for one more person. Your servers are sweethearts. Your bathrooms are weird but clean. Your pizza has never let me down. Ever. When I want a cheezy mushroom pizza fix, You’re my go to. I don’t know when your kitchen closes; all I know is that you’ve always been there for me. 10048 102 Street
– Sydney Gross
WINNER: La Shish
I don’t preach about much but selecting the best place to break bread after a night out strikes a religious fervour in me. At La Shish there’s a ritual to it: I always get a combo plate and a Coke because the sugared acidity tenderizes the meat as you feast. If you’re feeling temptation, you can’t go wrong with the baklava: its sweet-snacky crunch is a thing of bliss. This isn’t some dimly-lit dive for you to hide your shame in; it’s a temple of sensory experience. Gleaming white columns. Bright lights. A beacon in the night. I live downtown now but I used to live across the street from La Shish and it still holds a sacred place in my late-night heart. I always leave feeling full, happy and ready for slumber. Do yourself a kindness – when you’re seeking latenight salivation, go to La Shish. 10106 118 Street lashishshawarma.com
– Tim Schneider
Best Hour of Happy
For its happy-hour specials, Baijiu expands off its high-class cocktail menu and offers themed drinks and food, which you won’t experience any other night. On Wakiki Wednesdays, tiki drinks are on the menu, such as the “I Only Smoke on Vacation” – Reposado Tequila, Mezcal, Green Chartreuse and honey. Bao Tuesdays allow you to enjoy a soft bao stuffed with non-traditional toppings such as donair or Montreal smoked meat. So be happy. 10363 104 Street baijiuyeg.com
RUNNER UP: Grandin Fish & Chips
This happy hour is the catch of any day with the chef’s choice of fish and chips, on special for only $12 from 2 pm – 5 pm. Plus you can enjoy a pint for only $5. A tasty and cheap meal for those early enough to hook it. 9902 109 Street grandinfish.ca
RUNNER UP: Earls
From 3 pm – 6 pm, and 9 pm to close, every day, the mix of low-price food and drinks here will please every friend (think street chicken tacos, garlic fries, and that Millennial favourite, avocado toast). Wash it down with the poison of your choosing. 11830 Jasper Avenue earls.ca
Best New Social Enterprise
WINNER: Boyle Street Eats
There’s no need to count calories when they’re all for a good cause. Launched this past spring, the new Boyle Streets Eats food truck serves up more than burgers and fries – it’s staffed by members of the Boyle Street community experiencing homelessness or poverty. And it provides them a living wage, valuable training and work experience. All overboylestreetventures.com
RUNNER UP: Hallway Café + Takeaway
A revitalized version of the Kids in the Hall Bistro, this new café in City Hall focuses on sustainability in its scratch-made foods created by at-risk youth – including freshbaked breads, braised meats and soups. It also focuses on food security by donating leftovers each day to the Women’s Emergency Accommodation Centre. 1 Sir Winston Churchill Square (in City Hall) hallway.cafe
RUNNER UP: Indian Fusion
Owner and chef Parkash Chhibber not only serves his flavourful curries to the customers inside his restaurant, but also serves those in need who knock on his back door. A sign there directs hungry friends to knock for a free meal or coffee, anytime. Chhibber donates nearly 1,600 meals a month. 10322 111 Street indianfusionrestaurant.ca
– Matthew Stepanic
Best Bee Buzz
WINNER: Manasc Isaac
Edmonton changed its bylaws in 2015 to allow urban beekeeping and the city’s been buzzing since. Bees make honey but also increase pollination, making them key to urban agriculture. Growing food in the core promotes sustainability, which is why the hives at Manasc Isaac Architects are so important. If this architecture firm is leading on buildings and bees, others will surely follow. 10225 100 Avenue manascisaac.com
RUNNER UP: MacEwan University
Not only do the bee hotels help create a sustainable campus but they also provide an opportunity to educate students and the community about the crucial pollinators. 10700 104 Avenue macewan.ca
RUNNER UP: The Fairmont Hotel Macdonald
The bees provide honey to the hotel’s kitchen. And they help maintain the fabulous gardens behind the hotel. 10065 100 Street fairmont.com/macdonald-edmonton
– Chris Sikkenga
Best Selfie Spot
WINNER: Happy Wall
Wooden pixels: 1,040. Potential word combinations: Millions. Selfies taken: Priceless. The Happy Wall is 17-metres of selfie heaven, laid out in Churchill Square for everyone to enjoy. Made from reclaimed wood, the Happy Wall can do anything – promote your event, propose to your partner, proclaim your undying love of … well, anything. What more could a selfie connoisseur want? Churchill Square thomasdambo.com/happy-wall
RUNNER UP: River Valley
Show off your rustic, natural side with a scenic selfie during Magic Hour. Along the North Saskatchewan River
RUNNER UP: PichiAvo Mural
At four storeys tall and 36 metres wide, Edmonton’s largest mural is a splendid selfie backdrop. 106 Street and 103 Avenue facebook.com/rustmagic
– Sydnee Bryant
Best Hidden Heritage
WINNER: Mountifield Residence
Built in 1905 and designed by architect James E. Wize, the Mountifield Residence is one of only two buildings of the Second Empire architectural style that remain in Edmonton (the other is the Gariepy Residence, at the southern end of 104 Street downtown). The house was built for Henry Mountifield, whose daughter, Eleanor, captained the famous Edmonton Grads basketball team. Extensive renovations have returned the house to its original splendour. It was designated a Municipal Historic Resource in 2015. 9850 112 Street
RUNNER UP: Canada Permanent Building
This Edwardian Baroque building from 1910 is pure Accidental Wes Anderson. It will also, hopefully, find new life soon. 10126 100 Street
RUNNER UP: Derwas Court Apartment Building
Escape to New York City, or maybe Montreal, with this old-school walkup. Its exterior of red brick and its staircases makes this a unique gem. 10146 121 Street
Best Sweat During Your Workday
WINNER: Legislature grounds
The 800-metre loop on the south side of the grounds is the ideal distance for your lunch break – just more than 1,000 steps, or one-tenth of the way to crushing your daily Fitbit goal. Walk briskly and you’ll be done in less than 10 minutes. Or, take your time and enjoy the view and you’ll still be back in time to grab a quick bite before getting back to the grind. 10800 97 Avenue assembly.ab.ca/Visitor/index.html
RUNNER UP: Funicular Stairs
The funicular may stop sometimes, okay, a lot of the times, but that shouldn’t stop you from mastering 201 steps of sweat and glory. The hours are a tad ridiculous though, stopping at 9PM. Still one of the best views in all of Edmonton. 10065 100 Street
RUNNER UP: The Victoria Stair Circuit
Earn that after-work beer by climbing the hundreds of stairs here in one of the prettiest parts of the city. 11004 97 Avenue
WINNER: Copious Sidewalk Closures
Construction crews in Edmonton are more safety conscious than helicopter parents with their first child. All over the core these crews block both sides of the street, forcing people to travel a block out of their way, or just walk on the street. “Sidewalk Closed” signs often go up before any construction starts and remain up long after the work is done. It’s especially frustrating when the sidewalk is used by contractors as parking.
RUNNER UP: Crosswalk Inconsistency
After a detour around closed sidewalks, it’s time to hit Edmonton’s city version of the slots! Press the crosswalk button (known, unflatteringly, as the beg button) and gamble with your time. Your child will potentially graduate grammar school before you cross.
RUNNER UP: Missing Rec Facilities
After all the extra steps, do some jumping jacks as you wait at the crosswalk. Who needs a rec centre downtown? The community centre is now every intersection!
Best Excuse to Stare at a Wall
WINNER: Rust Magic
The International Street Mural Festival allows Edmonton to not only embrace artistry but to become art itself. These unique murals, many of them downtown, bring colour and vibrancy to the brutal architecture of the city. Rather than constructing new art projects, Rust Magic celebrates creativity by re-imagining what walls and public spaces can be. Stare much? All over the core rustmagic.ca
RUNNER UP: Vignettes
Why simply embrace art when you can even be a part of it in Vignettes? The Instagram-friendly exhibitions that activate oft unused or under-used spaces in the core allow you to not only view interesting creative works but create some of your own. vignettesyeg.ca
RUNNER UP: SNAP
Creative spaces like SNAP have an energy that can be felt in your bones. See the art and see behind the scenes. Or attend one of the arty parties and talk to the artists. 10123 121 Street snapartists.com
Best Outdoor Tradition
WINNER: Victoria Park Iceway
Like many great things in Edmonton, the Victoria Park Iceway was created amid controversy – including allegations by the student designer that the city stole it. Here’s what you need to know: The Freezeway, err … Iceway … may not be the urban skate-to-work brilliance it was supposed to be, but an hour on your skates at night in the warm glow of Dylan Toymaker’s lanterns, peering up at downtown’s twinkling skyline, is still like stepping into a Dickensian winter village. Make it a tradition. 11004 12004 River Valley Road
RUNNER UP: Dog Day at Oliver Pool
The poor souls who have to clean the filters after this feast of beasts in chlorine in September are, well, they are heroes. The idea is a lovely nod to Oliver’s plethora of urban fur babies, who enrich our lives. It is also likely a smelly thing for anyone without a dog. 10315 119 Street
RUNNER UP: Wintering It On a Downtown/Oliver Patio
There’s something about the warmth of street vibrance that makes patio drinking well into the winter months more possible. So get to one of 104 Street’s many patio establishments – Tzin, Kelly’s, Cask and Barrel, The Station and The Great Canadian Ice House – and order a bevvy. Your city needs you out there.
Best ‘Hood Recreation
WINNER: The Oliverbahn
Riders of the Oliverbahn have no fear. They don’t fear popular opinion, since bike lanes have been contentious in Edmonton, yet Oliverbahners keep riding. They don’t fear bylaw enforcement, either, since a look at #Oliverbahn on Twitter shows the handiwork of a person (or people) dedicated to affixing the ‘Oliverbahn’ name to city signs along the beloved, protected bike route, which runs from Connaught Drive to 111 Street. Oliverbahners fear nothing, except maybe a lack of more routes like this being built.
RUNNER UP: Royal Lawn Bowling Club
Everything about this club, from the very idea of a lawn-bowling club’s ongoing existence to the early-’00s-style website, is remarkably quaint. Camaraderie-building rules that stipulate you must “compliment your opponent as well as your teammate on a good shot,” make it even better. Regal, even. 9515 107 Street royalbowls.ca
RUNNER UP: Victoria Park Cross-Country Skiing
Cross-country skiing in Victoria Park blends Edmonton’s urbanity and naturalism splendidly. There has been and will be snow in Edmonton this year (and next), no matter what. So why not use it
for something beautiful? 12030 River Valley Road
On May 12, 1922, Lulu Anderson tried to buy a ticket to ‘The Lion and The Mouse’ at the former Metropolitan Theatre on Jasper Avenue. Lulu was 36 and a member of the Black community. She enjoyed the theatre and had visited the Metropolitan many times with her friends. But May 12 was different. The theatre staff denied Lulu entry. Worse, they “assaulted” her, according to a column in the Edmonton Journal.
Lulu decided to stand up.
Few Edmonton residents know Lulu’s story. And to understand what happened to her downtown that night, in 1922, we need to back up a bit. For starters, despite many who still believe the opposite, Alberta was home to anti-black racism. Minstrel shows were extremely common in theatres; indeed, actors of the era routinely performed in blackface. In 1920, a minstrel parade was even held downtown. Segregation was also common across the city. From 1910 to 1950, Black Edmontonians were denied entry into theatres, swimming pools, bars and even hospitals. One more well-known example is from 1938, when a Black nurse was denied entry into nursing training at the Royal Alexandra Hospital.
Lulu’s story has long intrigued me. I first came across small scraps of it in a headline I found in archives of the Edmonton Bulletin: “Colored Woman Sued Theatre.” It was a story I’d never heard before. The article was sparse on details, so I kept digging. Next, I found references to Lulu elsewhere, such as a Bulletin article noting her place in a choir performance for Nellie McClung, as well as a story noting she’d sold 100 tickets for her church choir
“Colored Woman Sued Theatre.” It was a story I’d never heard before.
I grew up in Edmonton. As a young Black child, all of my schooling was here, and during all those years at school, I was never taught about someone like Lulu or our city’s Black history. I grew up thinking Black people were relatively new here. Schools taught me the white version of history. But reading Lulu’s story and learning about Black history made me realize that people like me helped build this province.
It became my goal to find out more about Lulu. Her actions are unbelievably courageous. She stood up for racial justice 40 years before the civil rights movement hit its peak, at a time when lynching and violence were common. Her bravery is one reason I became determined to learn about her life. My journey took me to the Provincial Archives of Alberta, the City of Edmonton Archives and the legal archives at the Provincial Court of Alberta.
My first quest was to find Lulu’s original case file. This, I believed, would help for a couple reasons. First, it would give me access to her examination, where I would be able to read what happened in her own words. Second, it would have important details about her life, such as other family members and her past occupations, and these would give me more leads to follow-up on. But no luck. An archivist informed me that all case files for the period of 1921 to 1949 were destroyed in 1971.
Confused, I decided to reach out to Edmonton’s historian laureate, Marlena Wyman, to find out why. “These decisions were not made by archivists,” she told me. “Rather, it was government that decided when documents would be destroyed.” Wyman added that Alberta didn’t have the same resources devoted to archivists back then as it does now. “For example, we now have a master’s program for archivists, but back then we didn’t.”
Nevertheless, I believed a copy of Lulu’s lawsuit case must exist somewhere. My next stop was the Law Courts, to see if the case was reported in legal publications at the time. Again, I had limited luck. I discovered the docket sheet for Lulu’s case and found it
“These decisions were not made by archivists. Rather, it was government that decided when documents would be destroyed.”
lasted from May 26 to November 3, 1922, when Judge Lucien Dubuc made his decision. Thankfully, the decision was summarized in the Edmonton Bulletin. Dubuc ruled against Lulu, arguing the theatre was justified removing her. “[M]anagement could refuse admission to anyone upon the refunding the price of the ticket,” he reportedly said in his ruling.
I was not surprised by this ruling thanks to my work learning about Black history in Edmonton. During Lulu’s time, Black Edmontonians were well used to discrimination. And many stood up to fight it. In 1924, a group of Black mothers protested segregation at the Borden Park swimming pool by lobbying City Hall. Another group of Black Edmontonians formed civil rights organizations, like the Alberta Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (AAACP). And of course, on May 26, 1922, Lulu sued the Metropolitan Theatre for barring her entry for being Black.
Emmanuel African Methodist Church congregation, early 1920s, Edmonton. Glenbow Archives ND-3-1199
This protest was part of a tradition that spans the whole province. Examples include Charles Daniels, who in 1914 was similarly denied entry into the Sherman Grand Theatre, in Calgary, due to the colour of his skin. The unique thing about the Daniels’ case is that he won—eight years prior to Lulu, in 1914. There was also Ted King, who was the president of the AAACP and sued a Calgary motel for refusing Black patrons.
But back to Lulu. The Edmonton Journal reported she hired lawyer Samuel Wallace for her lawsuit. Wallace belonged to the law firm Joseph A. Clarke and Company, and Clarke would later go on to become mayor of Edmonton. Interestingly, the firm’s office was on the second floor of the McLeod building. This means Lulu must have visited this building to prepare her case—a building that was one block away from the Ku Klux Klan’s future headquarters, which was behind the current Westin Hotel.
The name of the case was Lulu Anderson vs. The Brown Investment Company (which owned the Metropolitan Theatre). Despite the frustrations at the Law Courts, my search for Lulu continued. Perhaps the most personal and one of the most important pieces of information I found was from a column in the Edmonton Journal, called “Our Negro Citizens.” The column was written by Black Edmontonians and provided “stories of interest” for the city’s Black community. After spending hours scanning the columns, I was able to confirm Lulu was active in the Black community and a member of the Emmanuel A.M.E. Church— one of the two all-Black churches in Edmonton, the other being the Shiloh Baptist Church.
“[M]anagement could refuse admission to anyone upon the refunding the price of the ticket.” – Judge Lucien Dubuc, as reported in the Edmonton Bulletin.
Lulu was an active member of the church choir with numerous articles specifically noting her when reporting on concerts. As already noted, Lulu performed for Nellie McClung—a member of the Famous Five and an Alberta MLA. In addition, it seems Lulu was friends with Mrs. Poston who, in 1923, challenged segregation at the Borden Park pool.
The most important document I came across on ancestry.ca was an immigration slip from one of her visits to the United States. From this slip I determined Lulu was born in Atlanta City, New Jersey, in 1885. At some point, the immigration slip suggests, she came into Canada and settled in Edmonton. She lived at 9609 105 Avenue, near what is today the Bissell Centre. She was 36 years old at the time of the court case and had a sister named Bernice White, who lived in Los Angeles. She was also married to Cornwallis Anderson. It’s unclear if they had children.
Aside from this, I wasn’t able to find anything else about Lulu’s life. But I was determined to find a photo of her.
Civil rights cases in Canada are often void of a personal connection. We rarely have images that show Canada’s segregation in images and those who fought against it. Contrast this with the United States, where we have vivid photos of segregation and intimate profiles of those who stood to fight against it. Finding a photo of Lulu was deeply important.
Thankfully, her connection to the Emmanuel A.M.E. Church provided me with my first lead. I looked for all possible references to the church in the city and provincial archives but came up with nothing. But I came across a photo when reading an article by Jennifer Kelly – a Black University of Alberta professor. At the top of the article was a photo of a congregation, with a description that read, “Emmanuel African Methodist Church Congregation, early 1920s, Edmonton.”
The bottom right of the photo has the tag, “McDermid Studios.” My hope was the original photo would have a more specific description, so I went through the McDermid collections at the Glenbow Museum. I found that the photograph was taken in 1921. Lulu was active in the church in 1921.
I was left with one conclusion: Lulu was in this photo.
I don’t remember how long I stared at the photograph but it was a long time. I scanned every face, looking at the emotions and weight each expression carried. I couldn’t help but become emotional. Until now, I only read about the experiences of these Black Edmontonians. But for now I was seeing their faces for the first time and felt a more personal connection. These were the Black Edmontonians who came before me and paved the way for my own civil rights. These were people who, for now, history has forgotten and whose stories deserve to be told.
“I don’t remember how long I stared at the photograph but it was a long time. I scanned every face, looking at the emotions and weight each expression carried.”
Unfortunately, the photo included no detailed information. I was unable to find where Lulu was. It’s a strange feeling, having gotten this close. Lulu is someone I spent days researching. I ended with this photo. She is there but I don’t know exactly where.
Still, knowing she is somewhere in the photo is humbling. I look around the group and, even though I don’t know who exactly she is, I know she is there, surrounded by community. Every face in that photo represents a friend who she sang with or who stood by her when she fought against racial discrimination. In many ways the photo represents her case. She fought against racial discrimination with others. Lulu may have been one person but had a community behind her.
Lulu lost her case but her stand was significant. She stood for racial justice 20 years before Viola Desmond stood up, after similarly being denied entry into a theatre in Halifax. Viola is now being honoured on our $10 bill. And Lulu stood up 30 years before Rosa Parks, who fought against segregated buses in the United States. Today we know about Viola and Rosa. But still little about Lulu.
It saddens me there are no memorials to Edmonton’s heroes in this fight, or that their history is not taught in our classrooms. I believe this is all part of the consistent whitewashing of Edmonton’s history. A sign on the wall of the Gibson Block building downtown, which said, ‘White Help Only,’ was literally painted over at some point with white paint. And Frank Oliver, who aggressively worked against black immigration, is nevertheless honoured with a neighbourhood named after him.
Perhaps we can use Lulu’s case as an example to challenge or begin undoing this white washing. Perhaps we can take action as downtown residents and celebrate our very own hero in Lulu Anderson.
She should be a major historical figure in Edmonton. I’m glad I finally found her.
BASHIR MOHAMED works for the provincial government. In his free time he researches and writes at www.bashirmohamed.com/blog
It’s here, Edmonton: summer. And this year, you’re going to make the most of it. No more missing an event because you didn’t hear about it. No more sitting at home when you could be out there, soaking it in and adding yourself to the community spirit. But how do you maximize it all? Well, we’ve got you covered. We approached the question of how best to experience summer from a multitude of angles. How do you summer if you’re a family in the core? If you’re hoping to move about? If you’re a newcomer? If you’re looking to network? And we interspersed this how-to advice with an events listing tailored to life in the core.
So get out there, dear reader. Go get that summer.
How to Summer for Newcomers
Rolling Out the Welcome Mat
Edmonton is a fun city with a lot of things to do in the summer,” said Oliver resident Laura Vega. “But the hard part is finding people to do them with.”
The city has a history of attracting enterprising souls in search of jobs or dreaming of commercial opportunities. And whether those opportunities are real or perceived, the 2017 Canadian census reported that immigration to Edmonton is on the rise. But, as Vega says, the life of a newcomer can be isolating, and full of unexpected challenges, making social connection especially important.
Vega came to Edmonton from Costa Rica two years ago to pursue a master’s degree at the University of Alberta. She found activities easier than making connections. “You can go to the farmers’ market or explore the neighbourhood, but you just kind of, get your stuff and you go home. Finding people to hang out with can be tough when you’re not connected to anyone.”
She has made friends, however, through her classes and her job at the U of A, but found it challenging. Vega tried volunteering to build community connection, which has also had mixed results.
“I once decided to volunteer to help clean up garbage in the river valley, but then they sent out a notice that we should bring a friend in case we all got separated, so that wasn’t very helpful,” she said, laughing.
As an animal lover, volunteering at the Edmonton Humane society has been a positive experience for Vega. She recently adopted a dog, which she says has been a great way to connect to the community.
“When I take her for walks, way more people are likely to stop and say hello. She’s just so cute and everyone loves her.”
The question is, who is responsible for welcoming new residents to overcome the challenges of social isolation? According to Coun. Scott McKeen, the answer is not a simple one.
“I suspect gaps exist in our systems to welcome and engage newcomers,” he said. “Numerous agencies, such as the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers, Catholic Social Services, and Action for Healthy Communities work in the ward and across the city in settlement, language training, employment, etcetera.”
When it comes to support and connection to overcome social isolation, McKeen said the City of Edmonton has various programs to help newcomers access recreation facilities and transit. They partner with numerous agencies around everything from arts to anti-racism, but informal social ties seem to be the most effective.
“The City is also studying the concept of access without fear, to allow newcomers with expired or disputed status to remain active and involved with City facilities and services,” McKeen said. “In Oliver, the obvious access point would be the outdoor pool.”
The infrastructure to support new Edmontonians has yet to catch up to the need, making it challenging for people to get settled, said Marco Luciano, director of Migrante Alberta (pronounced me-grunt-ay), a chapter of an international organization that supports foreign workers across Canada. Alberta is seeing a growing number of agricultural workers from the Caribbean, Mexico and Guatemala, so there is a great need for advocacy work, migrant services and settlement, Luciano says.
In the meantime, Luciano encourages the community to get curious about their neighbours.
“I think it’s important for all residents of Edmonton to look beyond their backyards to see that there’s a lot of really good people out there that can contribute our community,” he said. “I think in these times of uncertainty a community composed of different folks, regardless of their status, is an awesome thing to have.”
By Kirsten Bauer
How to Summer: Get Networked
Summer is Social, so Here’s How to Do It
Summer is a time to get outside, enjoy the sunshine and meet your neighbours. We’ve chosen three of the best (and active) ways to network in the core.
The November Project
Originating in Boston, the November Project is a free fitness movement for all ages and abilities. Since 2013, former Oilers defenceman Andrew Ference and his sister, Jen, spearheaded the now dedicated group of Edmontonians who meet at 6 a.m. every Monday at various locations, Wednesday at the Royal Glenora Stairs and Friday at Walterdale Hill for a 30-minute workout. It’s about kickstarting your day rain or shine, even through those cold, winter months. The best way to learn more about the November Project and its members is to follow them on social media and just show up.
“November Project has become a huge part of my life and I rarely miss a workout,” said Lisa Brown, president of OCL and dedicated November Project-er. “Having a group of people caring that you are getting out there every Monday, Wednesday, Friday reminds you that what you do counts, and it’s only a matter of time before you’re making great connections.”
WEB: november-project.com/edmonton-ab-canada/ WHERE: Monday – Various locations,
Wednesday – Royal Glenora Stairs,
Friday – Walterdale Hill WHAT YOU’LL NEED: Comfortable clothes, runners and a water bottle
Alex Decoteau Community Garden
If stairs aren’t your thing, maybe gardening is. Alex Decoteau Park officially opened in September 2017 and is the first new park in downtown Edmonton in 30 years. Named after the first Indigenous police officer in Canada, the park features a fenced off-leash dog park, a community garden with raised garden plots and green grass turf that adds a bit of colour to the neutral concrete of the surrounding area. Community gardens promote community building and healthy recreation, and with 33 gardeners and 25 names on the waitlist, Alex Decoteau Park’s community garden is the perfect space to connect with others.
“Our intention is to host community events for the public,” said Erin Bayus, DECL’s garden director. “We have a community bed for people who wish to partake in plantings for food donation and we encourage folks to volunteer with our garden committee and site maintenance.”
WEB: www.facebook.com/ADCGyeg/ or email email@example.com WHERE: Corner of 105 Street and 102 Avenue WHAT YOU’LL NEED: Seed donations (carrot, beet, peas and beans)
Coffee Outside Coffee Outside began as a group of bike enthusiasts who exchanged stories on Twitter of cycling in Edmonton. Well-known enthusiast Darren Markland decided to continue the discussion in person, and add coffee, and it has now become a weekly meet-up at Constable Ezio Faraone Park. Everyone is welcome. Just bring a cup and join the conversation.
“Bicycles are easy to stop and they frame conversation. So, we stop once a week on Friday mornings in all weathers to say hello and share stories of pedalling in the city,” said Glenn Kubish, who has been attending Coffee Outside since it began over three years ago. “I think the movement will keep growing. Being on our bikes puts us closer to people we can support in different ways.”
WEB: twitter.com/coffee_outside WHERE: Roughly 97 Avenue and 110 Street WHAT YOU’LL NEED: A bicycle
By Jasmin Joe
Edmonton Pride Festival June 8-17
Celebrate diversity and identities along the LGBTQ spectrum by catching events throughout the city. The top drag performers and queer artists will perform at parties at Evolution Wonderlounge (10220-103 Street), and there will be more events to meet other queer people at mix and mingles, literary events, and other celebrations. Various venues, edmontonpride.ca
Nuova Opera & Music Theatre Festival Through June 30
In honour of their Nuova Opera’s 20th anniversary, this special festival will offer a free lunchtime concert every Monday at 12:30 p.m., featuring three singers and a pianist. These concerts will showcase the accessibility and enjoyment of opera and add an inspiring break to your work day. City Hall, 1 Sir Winston Churchill Square, operanuova.ca
How to Summer: Party Time
Gather Your Friends and Get Grilling at These Bookable Hot Spots
Pining for a yard this summer while living your closed-in, downtown condominium life? Well, stop: You don’t have to live in the suburbs to stretch out on the grass – grilled burger and fresh lemonade in hand — and soak up the sun and vibes of a BBQ. Several beautiful parks in the downtown area have bookable sites for outdoor parties, or you can round up your neighbours and
host a block party on your street or alley (though, do be prepared for a lot of paperwork and door-knocking on that last idea).
Here’s our guide to find out where and how to host your outdoor event. All you’ll need to bring are the beef and veggies for grilling and a cooler filled with chilled drinks (alcohol-free).
Idea: Party in the Park
Many downtown parks have shelters and BBQ pits you can rent for an afternoon or evening with your friends. Or you can choose a drop-in location for an impromptu party that’s inspired by a shopping trip at one of the several farmers’ markets within a walk, bike or otherwise to the core. Some of these spots even allow you to bring a bouncy castle to get the party jumping!
View the details on the various parks near the downtown core below. All sites are available until 10 p.m., and you can discover how to book them on the City of Edmonton’s website here: edmonton.ca/activities_parks_recreation/picnic-sites.aspx
Emily Murphy Park 11904 Emily Murphy Park Road
Nestled in the beautiful river valley on the south bank of the North Saskatchewan River, this park is named after the well-known women’s rights activist.
Bookable sites: 2 (includes a canopy shelter)
Drop-in tables: 24
Inflatable play equipment: Yes (on site #1)
Government House Park 9938 Groat Road
With the river as your party’s backdrop, this park offers plenty of green space to explore.
Bookable sites: 1 (includes a BBQ pit)
Drop-in tables: 8
Inflatable play equipment: No
Grant Notley Park 116 Street and 100 Avenue
This small and quaint park features a rentable gazebo that overlooks the river valley. It’s the perfect spot to mark a special occasion or toast an achievement.
Louise McKinney Park 9999 Grierson Hill Road
The Chinese Garden Gazebo here is open to public bookings. You’ll want to plan far ahead though, as its close proximity to the large flower garden makes it a very popular destination.
Victoria Park 12130 River Valley Road
This wide-open park offers plenty of space for lawn games such as bowling, cricket and horseshoes.
Bookable sites: 6 (includes canopy shelter)
Drop-in tables: 54
Inflatable play equipment: Yes (on sites #2–6)
Note: Liquor is not permitted in any public areas.
Fire Bans: Before lighting a fire anywhere, visit www.albertafirebans.ca or call 311 to find out if there’s a fire ban within the City of Edmonton.
Idea: Host a Block Party
A great way to build a sense of community and connect with your neighbours is to host a block party. Permits must be submitted a minimum of 14 days before the party, and your celebration needs the support of all the residents affected by the street or alley you’ll be closing. So get to work.
Tips and tricks on the best ways to go about informing your neighbours and collecting their signatures can be found on the City of Edmonton’s website. Learn more of the rules and find the application form here: edmonton.ca/residential_neighbourhoods/neighbourhoods/block-parties.aspx
Idea: Where to Stock Up
What’s a party without delicious food? Here’s where to get some of the best.
The Cavern 10160 104 Street
This exquisite wine bar offers many of its gourmet cheese to go — perfect for picnics. thecavern.ca
Chocorrant Patisserie & Café 10328 124 Street
Pick up fine French pastries, including savoury and sweet croissants, to add some fancy flair to your party. choccorant.com
Italian Centre Shop 10878 95 Street
While outside the core, with its wide range of imported European meats, cheeses and antipasti, this is definitely a one-stop shop for all your BBQ needs. italiancentre.ca
Arno’s Fine French Pastry 10038 116 Street
Pastry chef Arnaud Valade uses the culinary skills he learnt in Lyon, France, to craft chocolate croissants, sweet macarons and fluffy quiches. facebook.com/ArnosPastry
Lucky 97 Supermarket 10725 97 Street
With a large variety of imported foods, this Asian grocery also makes for a great place to pick up Vietnamese subs, sweet red bean buns and fresh veggies. luckysupermarket.ca
By Matthew Stepanic
Improvaganza June 13-23
One of Canada’s largest improv and sketch comedy festivals will bring in actors from across the country to compete in Theatresports matches, host innovative workshops, and have the audience rolling in the aisles with laughter! The opening night gala on June 14 will feature Canadian legends and Whose Line Is It Anyway alum Ryan Stiles and Colin Mochrie. Citadel Theatre, 9829 101A Avenue, rapidfiretheatre.com
Make Music Edmonton June 21
The business fronts of 124 Street will be transformed into sidewalk stages at this family-friendly music extravaganza, with more than 40 live performances. Emerging to established musicians will celebrate the diversity of music, including a showcase of Indigenous musicians to celebrate and acknowledge National Indigenous Peoples Day. 124 Street, makemusic-edmonton.ca
Works Art & Design Festival June 21-July 3
Take some time out of your work day or evening on a tour of more than 50 art exhibits in the downtown core. Every year, this festival unleashes art and design, creating a giant outdoor gallery, and the Works Street Stage will feature live performances from noon to 9:30pm every day. Federal Building Plaza, 108 Street and 99 Avenue, theworks.ab.ca
Jazz Festival June 22-July 1
This annual festival explores a variety of musical genres from bluegrass to zydeco, with some of the hottest jazz acts from around the world. Experience a jazzed-up evening with the smooth and
sharp sounds in performances from Sheila Jordan & Cameron Brown, Snarky Puppy, Johnny O’Neal and more. Various venues, edmontonjazz.com
House of Hush Burlesque June 22, July 13
At these speakeasy-style burlesque shows, you’ll travel back in time to an era of luxurious outfits and cocktails, where some of the top burlesque performers from Alberta will perform an intimate and extravagant show. Sip a craft cocktail while you take in the glitter and glamour of gin-soaked revelry. Crash Hotel, 10266 103 Street, houseofhushburlesque.com
Taste of Edmonton July 18-29
Savour sample-sized treats from some of the city’s best restaurants in the Taste Piazza at this popular festival —it’s the perfect way to turn your lunch or dinner into a culinary adventure. Relax a while in the expanded seating area and catch some evening entertainment of live music. Runs from 11am to 11pm. Capital Plaza, 108 Street and 99 Avenue, tasteofedm.ca
Looking for the Edmonton Street Performers Festival?
This thrill-filled fest will take place in Dr. Wilbert McIntyre Park (Gazebo Park) from July 10 – 15. edmontonstreetfest.com
How to Summer: Family Edition
The Core is a Playground for Kids and Parents Hoping to Make Connections
A few years ago, Rachel Jones started approaching strangers with children in downtown coffee shops and grocery stores. She had a good reason. Jones noticed that, just like her, the people were new
Jones is 30 and lives in a downtown loft with her husband, Mark, and three-year-old son, Alex. When Alex was a baby, like many new parents, Jones said she felt isolated. So, when she talked to other new parents who lived in the community, she suggested they connect on social media. This turned into a Facebook community, which also turned into a blog for new parents who live
in downtown Edmonton. It’s called edmomton.com.
On the blog, Jones and others write about resources available to new parents in the core, list kid-friendly business and explain different family-geared summer activities.
For example, there’s the “downtown mom hack,” as Candace Rogers Haughian, 32, describes it. (Conveniently, it works for parents of all genders.)
Haughian lives in Westmount and takes her two-year-old son to parks and playgrounds all around the core — and grabs a coffee along the way. What’s the hack, then? Pairing the parks with the pots (of coffee).
“There are a couple pretty awesome combos,” Haughian said. Duchess Bakery (on 107 Avenue) and the playground on 126 Street between 106 and 107 Avenue. There’s also Elm Café (on 117 Street), or The Art of Cake in the Brewery District, and Kitchener Park (at 114 Street and 102 Avenue). Or there’s the Barking Buffalo (on 124 Street) and Edmonton Grads Park (on 121 Street), or the 104 Street farmers’ market and Alex Decoteau Park (105 Street at 102 Avenue).
Parks are important for families who live centrally. And in the summer, with most parks come pools. The general consensus is Oliver Pool (which will be free again this summer) is better for older kids, while splash parks like the ones at Kitchener Park, Glenora Park, Alex Decoteau Park and Queen Mary Park are great for younger kids. The Alberta Legislature pools and grounds are also very popular with families on a hot summer day.
For those who grew up in Edmonton, the Green Shack program is also a familiar summer activity for families. Rose Pink is 41 and lives in Westmount. She and her family take advantage of the
shack in the park around the corner from their house all summer, when they’re not biking around Oliver, downtown and the river valley trails.
“The staff are there for a good chunk of the day and they get to know all the kids’ names while they do planned activities and crafts and things,” Pink said. “We lived in Halifax before and they didn’t have things like that there. It’s wonderful that they have these programs for kids to encourage them to be outside.”
What exactly is the Green Shack program, though?
Dee Dee Carr, supervisor of neighbourhood recreation experiences at the City of Edmonton, said the program continues to exist after more than 50 years. Green Shacks provide crafts and activities for kids during the summer in neighbourhood parks across the city, including a new program called Flying Eagle, which teaches kids aboutIndigenous history and culture.
“The program is great for everyone, and lately it’s been very important to newcomer families. It’s a great way for kids to play with a variety of children that they might not have the opportunity to meet otherwise, even at school,” Carr said. “A lot of the staff that come on with us participated in the program growing up.”
The Green Shack program runs through July and August in the mornings or afternoons in most locations, although a few locations have programming all day long. To find a Green Shack close to you, visit edmonton.ca and search for “green shack” to find the drop-in guide. Guides are also available to pick up at City of Edmonton facilities.
But what is there to do when it’s not so nice outside? Jones said she and her family like to walk the halls of MacEwan University and visit Rogers Place when it’s raining. “We wander around the different levels, take Alex for ice cream. There’s tons of other little siblings of kids who play hockey and they always play with our little guy,” she said.
And then there’s always laughter. Matt Schuurman, 33, his partner and 13-month-old daughter live close to downtown. Schuurman is the artistic director of Rapid Fire Theatre, and their show, Kidprovisers is great for families, he said. The last show of the season is at the Citadel Theatre on June 17 — Father’s Day.
“It’s a show starring kids as young as six, so it’s great for families to both watch and participate in,” he said.
Improvaganza, Rapid Fire Theatre’s international improv theatre festival, runs June 13-23 at the Citadel and is good for older kids. It’s a great date-night option — and for Jones, that’s important for downtown families, too.
“Our hidden secret is our lovely 82-year-old neighbor, Donna. She babysits for us, and in exchange, we help her with chores. We don’t want to move just because she’s there.”
By Lana Cuthbertson
Yellowhead Market: Afterhours July 20
This adults-only event mixes together a craft market with a twisted party, featuring electronic DJs, pole dancers, drag queens and more. Splurge on some late-night purchases from local vendors, and
then get ready to party. The $5 entry includes a free pint of beer. Runs from 7pm to 2am. Yellowhead Brewery, 10229 105 Street, yellowheadbrewery.com
Cariwest August 10-12
This three-day arts festival celebrates the colourful and vibrant music, costumes and cuisine of Caribbean culture. A Saturday parade will fill the streets with the sounds of carnival, and Mas Bands and other entertainment will keep the joy going all weekend in the Caribbean village. Various venues, cariwest.ca
How to Summer: Get Moving
Walk, Bike or Drive – Or Do As These People Do and Get Moving
Do you just travel through Edmonton’s core from one spot to the next? Or are you moved by your travels? I spoke to four people who do the latter. Each takes pleasure in moving about the core and does so in interesting ways. So, as you consider how to move about this summer in the core, consider their stories as an inspiration for what’s possible.
I met 67-year-old Shawn Loates just off Jasper Avenue as he was chatting with his neighbour while holding his unicycle. Loates spun tales about his career on the unicycle: he once performed in the circus, as well as stage shows, festivals and movies. To explain his passion for the unicycle, which he rides about Oliver, the retired entertainer insisted I mount the big wheel myself. “Don’t worry,
I’ve got you,” he said, as he held me upright. “Now, close your eyes. Do you feel it? With your eyes closed you can find your balance instantly. That’s the feeling I love.”
Each summer morning, Suzane Couture rides her inflatable, standup paddleboard down the North Saskatchewan River before working the evening shift at Mountain Equipment Co-Op in Oliver. Living in the core allows Couture, 53, to drop into the river, ride the current northeast to Hermitage Park, then deflate the paddleboard and take transit back into town. Or she will travel to Fort Edmonton on the bus and float home to the core. “If you can take a backpack on the bus, you can take a standup board on the bus and that’s what I do,” she said. Being on the water is “peaceful,
majestic, and occasionally unpredictable,” Couture said. “Sometimes I jump in the river, float down for a bit, and then walk back up and do it all over again.”
Chef Eric Hanson of Prairie Noodle Shop said he enjoyed the thrill as he competed in longboard races as a young man. He learned his board craft in Mexico, Thailand, Australia and other countries, where the longboard was his transportation. Now, the Edmonton Gold Medal Plates winner finds riding his longboard to the Oliver restaurant he works at a more mindful practice. “It’s a feeling. You get to take your line, take your long slow curve, and if you’re listening to a song and it all comes together you’re transported,” he said. “I just get a smile on my face. It doesn’t matter how bad my day is, everything is better.”
Jenna Hoff spoke with me using augmentative communication device from her power wheelchair. She has been living with a severe form of chronic pain for 19 years. “For two years now, I’ve had to negotiate with someone every time I wanted to go somewhere,” she said. That’s changed with her wheelchair, which she has named Sophie. “To have freedom again, to take Sophie downtown and meet my husband on his lunch hour is truly exciting,” Hoff said. Instead of being housebound by chronic illness, Hoff said, “Riding Sophie is freedom and joy.”
By Chris Sikkenga
Dragon Boat Festival August 17-19
Begin this weekend of inspiring athletic ability with the traditional Blessing of the Boats by the docks on the Friday evening at 6:30pm. The dragon boat races kick off Saturday morning, with an opening ceremony featuring cultural entertainment. Hang around after the last race in the beverage gardens to party with the paddlers. Louise McKinney Park, edmontondragonboatfestival.ca
Natalie remembers the day she finally broke into tears.
It was hot out, June or July, and the 27-year-old was headed back to her apartment in Edmonton’s newly minted Ice District after a dip to cool off at Oliver pool. She’d thrown a simple summer dress over her bikini for the journey. Natalie says she can’t remember exactly what the man yelled as he sped past her in a car while she waited for the light to change on 104 Street near 104 Avenue, but it was something about that dress, how it revealed her body, how it was, in his opinion, too short. It wasn’t the exact words that got to her anyway. It was the fact that they just wouldn’t stop.
Constant sexual harassment wasn’t what Natalie expected to encounter when she moved into Square 104, across from the Mercer Warehouse, in August 2016. She was excited to be part of downtown’s revitalization. And she was exactly the kind of young, urban professional the city and developers say they’re hoping to attract to the area, engineered around Rogers Place. But after the $600-million-plus facility opened in September 2016, both Natalie and her roommate, Brittany Davey, noticed the change. Their neighbourhood became a hostile place.
They first noticed the trash. On mornings after events at the arena, the streets were papered with fliers for a nearby strip bar. And then they noticed they were increasingly targeted by groups of often drunk men who flocked to the area. “Every single time I would leave the apartment I would get catcalled, or someone would yell at me or approach me and just, like, make me so uncomfortable,” Natalie says. “It got to the point where if I was just getting approached by a random person asking for directions or for money, I would jump.”
The hostility extended into their home. Davey says she was catcalled while on her balcony overlooking 104 Avenue. “I was definitely yelled at a few times,” she says. “Something like ‘Show me your tits,’ which is really nice when you’re trying to enjoy your home.”
Whether it was due to the type of crowds heading to events at the arena, or just that more people were coming to the neighbourhood, the women can’t say, but their response was to retreat. They started staying home on game nights, keeping off the balcony and altering the routes they took through the neighbourhood. Natalie even changed how she dressed. “I would put on what I wanted to wear and look in the mirror and be like, ‘Is this going to encourage someone to approach me?’ If the answer was ‘Yes’ I’d change,” she says. “I hated that. I hated that so much.”
When Davey moved to Ontario this past fall to go to school, Natalie chose to move out of the area, too. “I haven’t been back since.”
BURDEN OF SILENCE
We don’t often associate street harassment with the egregious examples of sexual misconduct that have brought powerful men to their knees in the era of #MeToo, but it’s all part of a sexual violence continuum that pervades our culture, says Mary Jane James, executive director of the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton (SACE). The degradation, humiliation and fear women face while on city streets — particularly in hyper-masculine ecosystems fueled by alcohol and sports, where women are regarded as props for the evening —makes many women feel unwelcome and unsafe in their own communities. And yet, too often, we don’t take it seriously. “People do not think of street harassment — catcalling and all of those things — as sexual violence because it’s been allowed to be normalized,” James says. “It’s been going on since time began and women were just taught to just suck it up and move on.”
The prompt closure of The Needle Vinyl Tavern in November, after allegations of sexual assault and harassment surfaced, shows that Edmonton — like the rest of North America — seems to have drawn
a line in the sand around workplace sexual harassment. Since The Needle closed, demand for a pilot program SACE has offered with the U of A Sexual Assault Centre since February 2017, to make bars and clubs safer for women, has skyrocketed. However, once people leave those bars, women are often still seen as prey, James says. Compounding the problem, many men who would never see themselves in the same category as Harvey Weinstein, or even Aziz Ansari, think nothing of a drunken catcall on a night out with the boys.
“I really don’t think that a lot of men who engage in street harassment view this as harmful, as a part of sexual violence,” James says. “But it starts there. Rape culture is what’s allowed this issue to be present in our lives for so long, because it’s surrounded in silence.”
“Right now in Edmonton there are no consequences for street harassment. At what point do men start to realize that this is damaging and hurtful, and there are consequences for this behaviour?”
– MARIELLE TERHART
How best to break that silence, however, is a puzzle. Groups like Hollaback Alberta have surfaced in recent years to support women in reporting street harassment, collecting their stories and tracking harassment hotspots in the city. A 2015 report from the group examined more than 1,000 reported incidents of street harassment in Edmonton, with the vast majority occurring on city streets, in malls and on transit. Jasper Avenue and Whyte Avenue were two of the top areas identified by respondents. Edmonton Police Service spokeswoman Cheryl Sheppard, meanwhile, explained that while isolated catcalls are not technically a crime, women can and should call police when they feel they are being harassed. Collecting data on where harassment occurs can help create long-term strategies to improve police presence, lighting or correct other environmental factors that put women at risk, Sheppard says. But the fact remains that faced with harassment in the moment, most women feel powerless.
Marielle TerHart isn’t used to keeping quiet. The 28-year-old social media consultant, comedian and downtown loft resident says frequent street harassment is her “number one problem with living downtown,” a community she otherwise loves. To deal with her humiliation and anger in a healthy way — and to try to educate men on its effects — she often makes harassment part of her standup comedy routines. With her propensity for outspokenness it’s frustrating that in the moments harassment happens — say that time she was asked for her underwear while walking downtown — she feels silenced. “Yelling back doesn’t seem to help and it’s almost always when I’m alone, so in those situations I’m not in a position of power and I don’t feel safe,” she says. “It’s also often shouted at me from cars, that seems to be a real trend.”
Equally frustrating for TerHart is that she doesn’t feel street harassment is a central concern for those with direct interest in the health of downtown. TerHart said she recently met with Coun. Scott McKeen to discuss street harassment but felt nothing happened as a result. (McKeen, on the other hand, says he plans to follow up with TerHart and discuss hosting an anti-harassment event downtown and that women who face harassment downtown should contact him.) TerHart also says sexual harassment and assault were absent from the safety section of a recent survey conducted by the Downtown Business Association; homelessness, meanwhile, was mentioned three different ways.
TerHart says she uses her privilege and the channels available to her as a white, educated woman to advocate for herself and other women in the neighbourhood — she’s cognizant of the fact sexualized violence disproportionately affects homeless, marginalized and Indigenous women. Still, she says she’d like to see at least some of the responsibility placed on the perpetrators. “Right now in Edmonton there are no consequences for street harassment. At what point do men start to realize that this is damaging and hurtful, and there are consequences for this behaviour?”
LEARNING WHAT IT FEELS LIKE
That’s exactly what Zanette Frost, supervisor of programs and initiatives at the City of Edmonton, says the city is working to encourage through its Gender-Based Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention Initiative. Convened in 2015, the council initiative has been working with groups like Hollaback Alberta, SACE and Men Edmonton, a group that aims to promote healthy masculinity, to educate the public, particularly men, on what gender-based violence is. They also aim to encourage bystanders to safely step in when they see it happen.
So far, projects have taken place in pockets. For instance, the council conducts lunch-and-learns with corporate or religious organizations and has partnered up to present public screenings of the documentary, The Mask You Live In, which explores how our narrow definition of masculinity affects men and boys. An interactive art exhibit, This Is What It Feels Like, made a mini-tour on the U of A and MacEwan campuses just before Christmas, giving men a chance to step inside a booth where they were subjected to harassing comments that women had reported receiving on the streets of Edmonton.
While art installations and documentaries might seem like a soft response to what is a serious social problem, Frost says getting men to realize how they are complicit in or contribute to sexualized violence is the first step toward shifting a culture that promotes it. “My thinking has always been that if it prompts a couple of questions then there’s something changing. That’s what we hope for,” she says.
In 2018, the City of Edmonton will roll out a widespread awareness campaign dubbed “It’s Time” (to end gender-based violence) with a website, video and coasters distributed at bars and restaurants.
The council has also partnered with the Edmonton Eskimos, the Edmonton Sports Council, 630 CHED and other organizations, with the aim of bringing the campaign to sports events, festivals and other public events. According to Frost, the city hasn’t yet reached out to the Oilers Entertainment Group to join the initiative due to limited staff, but it may do so in “phase two” of the project.
This spring, the city is also due to complete an exhaustive scoping study of how and where gender-based violence takes place in Edmonton. It started this as part of the United Nations Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces program, which it joined in 2016. Results of the study will inform policies and initiatives to combat violence against women going forward. “We’re really working to end all that violence within a generation,” Frost says.
All of that’s hopeful, but it’s still a Band-Aid solution for the arena district, says Kyle Whitfield, an associate professor in planning at the University of Alberta who specializes in planning for vulnerable communities. She describes the area as one that seems to have been planned around hyper-masculine industries without regard for the experience of women. She also notes that planning is still a male dominated field, and, as a result, the design of public spaces seldom looks at the needs of women — even as accessibility for other groups, such as those with disabilities or seniors, are now routinely taken into account. “It seems kind of old order to say we need to plan about issues related to women,” Whit eld says. “This is 2018, you’d think we’d be way beyond that, but we’re not.”
The city has recently adopted a policy to apply gender-based analysis to all of its decision-making, from budgeting to planning, Frost says, but that wasn’t in place when the arena district was developed. It’s unclear whether the tool will be applied to the remaining phases of the development.
In cases where vulnerable populations haven’t been included in the planning process, inviting them to assess the space afterwards can be crucial in correcting elements that make them feel excluded or unsafe, Whit eld says. “If we got a group of 50 women and we said, ‘Come and assess the Ice District in general and tell us how this suits your needs and how it doesn’t,’ I think there’s some value in doing that.”
Susan Darrington, executive vice president and general manager for Rogers Place, says her organization held two years of consultations with community stakeholders, including community leagues, the Downtown Business Association and social agencies such as Boyle Street Community Services, prior to the arena opening. While the issue of community safety was a frequent topic of discussion, she says women facing street harassment was never identified as a specific area of concern. Going forward, however, Darrington says the Oilers Entertainment Group would consider partnering with the city on a gender-based assessment of the Ice District or a public education campaign. “We’d be open to having a meeting with them on anything they’re taking a look at,” she says, noting half the arena’s patrons are women and that her organization takes their safety seriously. “Our safety and security plan is for all patrons as well as people who are living and working in the downtown core.”
Angela Larson has a simple suggestion for making downtown feel safer: provide more reasons for different types of people to be out on the streets. Larson is the owner of Swish Vintage, located in Manulife Place, and says she’s perceived a marked decrease in street activity since she got her first job downtown at the age of 13. Over the decade she’s been in business at her current location, she says she feels downtown’s mall-like areas have started emptying out as well, a reflection of changing shopping habits and a challenging retail environment. Swish is now one of the only street-facing retailers left on 102 Street and increasingly, the only people Larson sees outside her door are either marginalized or “up to no good.” Men frequently come into her shop and verbally assault her. Compared to when she was younger and catcalls were more suggestive in nature, Larson says at 52 the comments she gets now are more aggressive — “women-as-bitches kind of thing.” She even had one guy grab her phone and start to make a drug deal. As a result, Larson, like many other retailers in Manulife Place, doesn’t stay open in the evenings. During the day, a security guard is supposed to check on her once an hour, “to make sure I’m alive.”
“If we got a group of 50 women and we said, ‘Come and assess the Ice District in general and tell us how this suits your needs and how it doesn’t,’ I think there’s some value in doing that.” – KYLE WHITFIELD
While the arena promised to breathe new life into downtown, Larson says she’s seen little evidence of it. Thousands of people now live in new condos in the area, but there’s nothing drawing them out onto the street. Rents along 104 Street are too expensive for small retailers, she says, and retailers don’t stand to benefit from evening crowds heading to the arena. “If I’m going to a concert, I’m not going to go shopping first and bringing my bags with me,” she says.
Getting the right mix of businesses and more life on the street downtown is an ongoing challenge, says Downtown Business Association Executive Director Ian O’Donnell. Bars and restaurants are often the only businesses that can afford the higher rents on 104 Street, although smaller retailers are starting to populate more peripheral areas such as Jasper Avenue or Rice Howard Way. While O’Donnell confirmed the DBA didn’t ask directly about street harassment in their 2017 survey, the issue did surface in the results — some people wrote it in under “other.” “Certainly that topic was brought to our attention through that, but not at a significant level,” he says. According to the survey, general perceptions of safety downtown have increased since the last one was conducted in 2010, with the arena drawing more interest to the area and boosting the police presence by 50 per cent.
Still, O’Donnell acknowledges that if women are feeling unsafe in the area, at any time of day, that’s going to have a detrimental impact. “The arena has certainly brought a lot of people a lot of money, and it’s helped the downtown from an awareness and an exposure standpoint,” he says. “But if there are negative impacts and incidents, then that’s going to slow that. So we certainly want to make sure that we’re a part of that solution.”
Just what that solution is may be not be clear just yet, but dedicated residents like Larson and TerHart are game to be a part of it.
“There’s a lot of big positives to living downtown,” says TerHart. “One community needs to make the effort to bring these changes.”
One day last summer, a woman racially harassed Tracy Hyatt (The Yards Contributing Editor) in downtown Edmonton. The woman, who Hyatt says was a total stranger, approached her and some of her friends who were standing near the Grandin LRT station. And then she called Hyatt a slur. Hyatt was the only African-Canadian person in the group, so it was clear the slur was lobbed at her. But nobody called the stranger on her actions.
“I was quite surprised that, following the Make Something Awkward campaign, not one person said anything,” Hyatt says. “There were at least 10 people in the vicinity that saw and heard this go down.” Since no one came to her defense, Hyatt stood up for herself and said something to her harasser, who she says then backed down.
Experts say there are right and wrong ways to deal with harassment. Doing nothing, though the easiest play, is never the best option.
Harassment is a singular word for a range of behaviours, from the obvious (a verbal slur or physical touch) to the subtle (a vaguely threatening note, consistent belittling from a colleague). It can follow you anywhere, from the sidewalk to the bus, to your workplace, and even home. And it can be defined as aggression, pressure or intimidation. Victims often feel like they can’t speak up or defend themselves. But just as there are different types of harassment, there are also different techniques to handle it.
Here’s a quick guide to what experts say are the best responses are to different types of harassment.
If you witness someone being verbally harassed, direct intervention is just one of the actions you can take, says Mary Jane James, executive director of Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton (SACE). Saying something along the lines of, ‘Hey, that’s not cool. That’s not okay, please stop,’ can work, she says. Other techniques include engaging with the person being harassed to de-escalate the situation, or asking someone else to help you intervene. It’s also important to report the behaviour to a bus driver, security guard or other authority figure where the harassment is taking place. And it’s vital you document what you witnessed, James says, and check in with the victim. “After the fact, it can be helpful to simply ask the person if they are okay, if there is anything that you can do.”
As the fallout of #MeToo illustrates, harassment often takes place among colleagues in a workplace environment. But people don’t always recognize negative behaviours like bullying, name-calling, belittling or intimidation, as harassment. It’s also something that can be challenging to speak up about, particularly if the behaviour is coming from someone in a senior position to the victim. In situations where someone is bullying a co-worker, having co-workers on your side can make a big difference. But both victims and bystanders often choose not to speak up for a number of reasons. “Self-preservation, not wanting to be seen as a troublemaker, fear of losing their job, fear of being ostracized by other employees, fear of losing friends, fear of not being considered for a promotion … the list is endless,” James says.
If you are the one being harassed, naming the behaviour is a good first step, James says. “Say what he’s done and be specific. Hold the person accountable for his actions,” she says. “Don’t make excuses. Don’t pretend it didn’t happen. Ask that the behaviour stop. One should also seriously consider filing of an internal complaint within their organization. Documenting the harassment is important.”
ACTION: DISTANCE AND TRAINING
The harassment that’s easiest to recognize is physical harassment. If you or someone near you is in physical danger from a harasser who appears to be violent there are ways to handle the situation without escalating things. One simple step is to create distance between yourself and the harasser, says Randy King, owner of KPR Combat, a gym in Oliver that offers self-defense classes. “Don’t be there. If someone is harassing you and you can leave, then do that,” he says. There are also ways you can build self-confidence and physical skills to prepare for dealing with a potentially violent situation. KPR offers Self-Defense 101, a crash course for those with little to no martial-arts experience. The gym also has a more advanced course, which offers a look at the psychological aspects of self-defense, as well as more physical scenarios.
King says people who come to KPR for self-defense training sometimes share “very personal stories” about their experiences with violence. He believes self-defense training can give individuals the confidence they need to deal with harassment, even though they will hopefully never have to use the skills they have learned. “Self-defense training is a lot like a spare tire: You may never need it but if you need it and don’t have it, you are in trouble,” he says.
Strangers, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, partners – basically anyone can sexually harass someone else. This makes sexual harassment one of the more pervasive types that both men and women face. The Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton is a not-for-profit organization that provides trauma-informed services and support to victims of all genders over the age of three. In 2017, they received more than 3,500 calls to their 24-hour hotline, and they had about 1,000 new clients who access counselling services. Approximately 80 per cent of their clients are female.
Like workplace harassment, documentation is an important step to take if you are being sexually harassed or witness someone else experiencing it, James says. Whether you report the harassment to SACE or the police, having a paper trail can prove valuable if the problem persists. Having someone to talk to is also an essential part of accepting what happened and moving on from it.
MEN AND HARASSMENT
Whether or not they have experienced harassment themselves, men play an important role in preventing it. That’s why SACE began offering an extensive program to several junior and senior high schools in areas that are more vulnerable and “at risk” about a year ago, James says. “Part of the program is teaching and mentoring these boys to be leaders, to be actively involved in the mentoring and education of their peers on issues of consent, healthy relationships.”
There are currently more than 100 boys involved in the program across the city, and James says she hopes SACE will receive the funding to continue the program in years to come.
Of course, men of all ages can contribute to a positive environment where no one feels harassed. Education often plays a role in diffusing situations where harassment can easily come into play, such as someone’s work environment – especially in male-dominated industries where women may feel more pressure not to speak up. In addition to other programming, SACE offers a comprehensive professional public education program on sexual harassment in the workplace, something many businesses in the city have participated in.
There isn’t a one-size fits all solution to dealing with harassment. That’s mainly because harassment can take place in many forms, in many different areas of someone’s life. The main thing to remember is to take action.
Preventing harassment means challenging the social and cultural attitudes that condone and facilitate it. Everyone has to take a stand, James says. “Calling people out on their behaviour is the first step to eliminating the pervasiveness of this issue.”