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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.”
May we have the envelope, please? This is our third birthday, and our third time trying to define what makes Edmonton’s core sweet. As always the hardest part is eliminating great stuff that doesn’t fit.
Many of us love the bizarre, aquamarine pedway linking the legislature to Grandin LRT station, for example. Or that snake and woman airbrushed on the fence at 102 Avenue and 117 Street. But are these familiar, lovable oddities really the best of what the core has to offer?
To get to the best, we asked writers and residents to argue out their favourites. And we pushed whacky new categories at them, too. The Best WTF? to celebrate the strange. The Best Growth From Stall to Shop to celebrate businesses emerging from farmers’ markets and food trucks. And beyond that, we zeroed in on four core characters who made the core a better place in 2017. So let’s tear open those envelopes. Please.
WINNER: Compound House in Oliver
Oliver’s Compound House (and we’re giving it this name) is a big WTF. Stretching an entire neighbourhood block, the house is what looks like should be trendy, expensive lofts, but the building is rumoured to be owned by just one reclusive person. The urban tales are rife as a result. One (con rmed) rumour has it that this massive compound used to be the Beth Israel Synagogue. Well, they moved out 18 years ago. 10205 119 Street.
RUNNER UP: Freemasons’ Hall
Don’t lie: Every time you walk by this gothic temple you wonder about the secret club inside. The Central Masonic Temple was built in 1930 and it’s still a gathering spot for Edmonton’s oldest fraternity. 10318 100 Avenue.
RUNNER UP: Shaw Conference Centre Funicular
Looking for a cheap thrill on a Sunday? This indoor funicular (think elevator on a hill) gives an excellent view of the river valley and costs nothing for a ride down to the river bank. 9797 Jasper Avenue. – BN
Best Urban Jumble
Serenity is density done well for Edmonton.
At 12 storeys, its human scale makes good use of a prominent Jasper Avenue corner. Residents get a high-rise feeling connected to Oliver while below pedestrians get an inviting facade and accent materials — and retail tenants at street level. Those disliking towers or fearing infill should look here for a good example of things done well. 10055 118 Street.
RUNNER UP: Mayfair
This sleek mixed-use building, completed in 2016 and inspired by active design principles, is setting a new bar for mid-rise rental downtown. The key to its goodness is Mayfair’s multiple uses. 10823 Jasper Avenue.
RUNNER UP: Central Court
This is a modest, older, affordable six-storey rental building that re ects — and adds to — its ‘hood. Steps from the 102 Avenue bike lane, retail is in the podium and amenities are a short walk away. 11212 102 Avenue. – DR
Best Place to Run Away
WINNER: Victoria Park
Be Alice and dive down the looking glass behind Le Marchand Mansion (100 Avenue at 116 Street), where a staircase leads to a magical trail. Whether you crave a peaceful walk or some seasonal Saskatoon berries to pick, escape is on offer here, as is access to Victoria Park, Ezio Faraone Park and Hawrelak Park. A great view to seek out is in Ezio Faraone Park, looking south, where you get the best glimpse of the High Level Bridge anywhere. 11523 100 Avenue.
RUNNER UP: Grant Notley Park
No stairs? No problem. This small park (named after a former MLA who fathered our current premier, Rachel Notley) offers a welcoming place to sit and take in the picturesque view of the river valley. In the summer, you can also feast on a food-truck lunch here. 116 Street and 100 Avenue.
RUNNER UP: Oliver Peace Garden Park
One of the best seedy nds on a neighbourhood stroll is this serene community garden. The inspirational space tended to by its users will have you wondering why there aren’t more gardens in the core. 10289 120 Street. – CS
Best Not-A-Main Street
WINNER: 104 Street
Edmonton has about nine designated main streets, but its best core streets are often smaller scale. The 4th Street Promenade, as few actually call it, links back to the city’s mercantile history in the early 1900s. On 104, you can spot the best and worst of Edmonton — from oversized parkades and for-lease signs to bustling subway entrances, a neon sign museum, a warehouse full of startup companies (and hipster haircuts) and a farmers’ market many cities would kill for.
RUNNER UP: 108 Street
Talk about waiting: Back in 1997, the city designated 108 Street as central to downtown revitalization. Construction began in 2011 and new street art arrived this year. The potential is still bigger than the result, of course, but the funky El Mirador apartments, food trucks, Federal Plaza fountains, Monument coffee shop, LRT access and pedestrian-first design make this a winner in, well, waiting.
RUNNER UP: 121 Street
This one is all about the experience — a street graced with the remaining treed-boulevard left behind by the former street trolley. The coming Oliver Mercantile Exchange, revamped Paul Kane Park and connections to the river valley and Brewery District make 121 an increasingly important street to walk. – TQ
Best in Business
WINNER: Grandma Pizza
Jakub and Jolanta Kulig moved to Edmonton from Greece 25 years ago and opened Grandma Pizza in the bottom of a residential tower. A few years ago, when the City of Edmonton came knocking and threatened closure, due to zoning regulations, neighbours rallied to keep the couple’s little pizzeria open. Customers love the family, the pizza and the location, which is a short walk from much of Grandin. 9837 113 Street.
RUNNER UP: Can Man Convenience
Looking for a quick light bowl of refreshing vermicelli for lunch? Or perhaps something a little toastier, like, say, bahn mi? Get it here for less than $10. And fast. 10240 124 Street.
RUNNER UP: Habitat Etc
Perfect for a little pick-me-up or a gift in a pinch, this artisanal YEG-centric gift shop is sure to have that something you’re looking for. 10187 104 Street. – BN
Best Growth from Stall to Shop
WINNER: Prairie Noodle
In 2014, five partners started perfecting ramen mixed with Alberta flavours in a series of pop-up restaurants. After a year of feedback they settled on the menu and a permanent location, and opened their doors. The space is intimate. You’re sure to interact with other patrons and at least three staff, most likely to discuss the remarkable ramen bowls — an ambiance those five partners worked to create. 10350 124 Street.
RUNNER UP: Arno’s
Macarons, meringues and other treats await you at this delightful, intimate retreat. Master pastry chef Arnaud Valade fills the place with baked goodness. Valade got his Edmonton start at our farmers’ markets, including City Market Downtown. 10038 116 Street.
RUNNER UP: Woodwork
One-of-a-kind libations like the House Sour and a menu of succulent eats (Brassica Salad, anyone?), mean nothing beats this intimate lounge — which got its start as the Nomad food truck. 10132 100 Street. – CS
Best in Threads
WINNER: Arturo Denim
This small but mighty team is slowly revitalizing Edmonton’s strong roots in denim manufacturing, which stretch back more than 100 years. Specializing in the best damn quality denim Japan has to offer, Arturo jeans are made to last. And they’ll repair ‘em like new if you damage them. 10443 124 Street.
RUNNER UP: Alberta Tailoring Company
With staff here paying special attention to how each garment should wear you’re sure to find the best fit. 10025 Jasper Avenue.
RUNNER UP: Swish Vintage
A time-capsule treasure, this hole in the wall holds some of the best memories in fashion from around Edmonton. 10180 101 Street. – BN
Best Regular Haunt
WINNER: Tzin Wine and Tapas
Regulars quickly get to know every inch of this intimate, seven-table space. Chef Corey McGuire’s crispy pork crostini, with maple balsamic apple compote and apple mayonnaise — called, simply, “Bacon” — is one of the best pork dishes in the city, period. The Patatas Bravas — fried potatoes with “angry” aioli — is also a favourite. Tip: Hit Tzin and say “Feed me!” The staff will understand. 10115 104 Street.
RUNNER UP: Red Star
This dimly-lit, subterranean, neighbourhood gastro pub is known for its friendly service, tasty food and its Cheers-like re-creation of that downtown place where everybody knows your name. 10534 Jasper Avenue.
RUNNER UP: Remedy Café 124
There are many Remedy Cafés in Edmonton, where the original recipe chai and Indian fusion wraps delight patrons. But the warmest staff (and spot with the best patio) are in Oliver. 10310 124 Street. – LH
Best Mouth Burner
“Mom,” as Vipha Mounma is called at Viphalay, uses chilies for almost every dish in her Thai cuisine. To heat up, spice addicts should try the Gaeng Ped (red curry with chicken or beef) or the Nua Na Lok (also known as Hell’s Beef). Water will not cool this burn. 10523 99 Avenue.
RUNNER UP: Khazana
Almost everything at Khazana is concocted with bold and aromatic spices — but you’ll truly meet the four-alarm heat within an order of hot beef vindaloo curry. 10177 107 Street.
RUNNER UP: Noodle Bar by Nomiya
Those in search of hot stuff should slurp up some spicy miso ramen noodle soup at Noodle Bar by Nomiya. This miso is a flavourful kick to the traditional miso (soybean and pork broth) bowl for heat seekers. 11238 104 Avenue. – LH
Best Fam Jam
WINNER: Festival of Trees
Glitter glee galore. For more than 30 years, the Festival of Trees has started the holiday season with whimsy. It raises money for a good cause, but mostly the festival raises everyone’s warmth, with a stand of Christmas trees and scenes, and of course, the endless decorated cakes, ginger-bread structures and kids activities.
RUNNER UP: Cariwest
It’s Carnival but in Edmonton, and Cariwest has brought the vibrant sounds and colourful costumes of the Caribbean community to our city for 30 years. The parade is off the hook.
RUNNER UP: All is Bright
This festival is lit. Residents of the core love to keep the winter streets filled with life. All is bright lights up the night and warms up 124 Street with family- friendly activities, music and food.
Best Parks and Rec
WINNER: Oliver Community Pool
Admission was free this past summer (thanks, Canada 150), so many jumped in at one of the area’s best kept secrets. The facility, opened in 1924, is clean, and its excellent lifeguarding make it ideal for a family outing. But many others love it, too — from Capital City Athletics, which uses the pool for post-workout cool-downs, and even area dogs, who jump in at season’s end. 10315 119 Street.
RUNNER UP: Don Wheaton YMCA
A staple of the downtown community since 1908, though in its current building since 2007, “the Y” offers free swims for DECL members on Sundays, 1pm-6:45pm. 10211 102 Avenue.
RUNNER UP: Alex Decoteau Park
The off-leash dog run at Alex Decoteau Park, named after an Indigenous war and local hero from Edmonton, is perfect to help furry area residents get needed exercise. 10200 105 Street. – MHC
Best Art to the People
WINNER: Harcourt House
Harcourt is one of only three artist-run public galleries in Edmonton and offers some of its best contemporary-art exhibits. It also offers classes and workshops, where instructors can help you tap your creative side. The community of artists are friendly and welcoming to all. 10215 112 Street.
RUNNER UP: iHuman Youth Society
Little wonder some of Edmonton’s most promising art talent is coming out of a place devoted to using art to build up youth. 9635 102A Avenue.
RUNNER UP: SNAP
This non-profit printmaking powerhouse offers courses and exhibitions for a wide array of people, ranging from professional artists to at-risk youth. The parties are also great. 10123 121 Street. – MHC
Best Way to Move
WINNER: Downtown bike network
Now every day is your leg day, or just a great day. Stopping at Bodega Tapas & Wine Bar (103 Street/102 Avenue) for an after-work drink is now as easy as removing your helmet. The city imagined these lanes a decade ago, but heroes within and without (Stantec) pushed the 7.8-kilometre grid into reality. To be clear, that current grid is puny compared to the 500 kilometres imagined in 2009. Still, the future promises more lanes, when the Valley Line LRT is finished, and a connection to the river valley, via the Mechanized Access.
RUNNER UP: Railtown Park
A lush corridor haven that gives you urban nature atop your feet or a bike. People are always here walking dogs, commuting or lounging. Use this to link MacEwan University’s new Allard Hall to the legislature.
RUNNER UP: Pogo CarShare
Instead of walking (a long distance) to a transit stop, and then … waiting … we can now hike our neighbourhood, find a Pogo, drive it downtown, park for free and walk to whatever festival we desire. Same exercise without the same loss of time. – CS
In January, Riza Kasikcioglu saw fire and ran toward it. It was evening and Kasikcioglu was working at Maximo’s Pizza & Donair, on Jasper Avenue and 117 Street, which he co-owns with his wife, Yeter. Suddenly, he saw the orange flames spill out of an upper-floor apartment in the 17-storey Oliver Place building across the street. He called 911. And then 47-year-old Kasikcioglu, who was in the military in Turkey, where he immigrated to Canada from, ran across Jasper Avenue, bounded up Oliver Place’s stairs and screamed at residents inside to get out.
Kasikcioglu says he knew he could lose his own life but believed in that moment the lives of others were more important. “Everywhere, I was hearing children screaming for help,” he says. “As a Muslim, I can’t allow any children or innocents to lose their life.” Eventually he came across a woman in a wheelchair who was trapped because the elevators were not running. He carried her down the stairs on his back.
Kasikcioglu says he’s heartbroken one person died that night. But without his quick response, many others would have remained in harm’s way. Today, you can still find Kasikcioglu at his Oliver pizza shop, welcoming his regulars warmly.
Walking through downtown Edmonton is brighter, thanks to Annaliza Toledo. Walls formerly bare, dirty or depressing are now alive with colour. The reason is that Toledo, along with her partner, Trevor Peters, created a festival to liven up the grey. Toledo and Peters are both artists, and in 2016 created the Rust Magic Festival to make our daily walks a little more Instagram-worthy.
Rust Magic brings graffiti and mural artists from around the world to Edmonton each summer. Once here, these artists paint spaces in highly walkable neighbourhoods – Oliver, downtown, Strathcona. All told, since 2016, Rust Magic has added 35 new works of street.
Toledo says the results are obvious. “It adds so much to everyone’s day to have something beautiful appear in front of you, large-scale, on your walk to work or your walk home,” she says. “Something like that makes such a difference in people’s lives. You are a product of your environment, so why not surround yourself with beautiful, artistic things?”
Next summer, keep your eyes peeled for more from Rust Magic. “I think we’ll do more quality murals and not concentrate on the number of the murals,” Toledo says. “We hope people will appreciate it like they have in the past.”
The next time you ride your bicycle downtown, send Olga Messinis a silent thank you. Messinis is the project manager behind the downtown bike network and has worked to make the 7.8-kilometre system a reality since August, 2016. Behind the scenes, in boardrooms, Messinis has fought the hard fight.
The lanes, opened this past summer, help improve equity on the road among Edmontonians, Messinis says. They will also improve quality of life for residents in downtown and Oliver – neighbourhoods where many already commute by bike.
And, Messinis says, the lanes incentivize change. Having them “encourages people who are trying to reduce their carbon footprint and make healthier choices,” Messinis says. “Some people who have never chosen to commute by bike tell us that they are commuting by bike for the first time. One commuter, in her early 70s — a really well-dressed woman on a bicycle — told me that she loved them and this is the first time she ever thought she could ride a bike within downtown. That was a great feeling.”
Messinis bikes to her downtown office from across the river in Strathcona. If you see her out there, maybe don’t be so silent. Ding your bell in thanks.
Jordan Reiniger is helping people at the margins by changing the job market in their favour.
Many pushed to the streets in Edmonton’s downtown core are rejected by traditional employers. That’s where Reiniger comes in. He’s the director of development at Boyle Street Community Services. And over the last two-and-a-half years, he’s created social enterprise programs to create jobs.
Through Boyle Street Community Ventures, Reiniger has founded several companies, including a moving company, a cleaning company and a junk removal company. All told, these outfits employ about 25 people. The best part is that downtown and Oliver residents support the companies, with many calling on the moving company in particular. “It’s a really good service and a good way for people to participate in social change,” Reiniger says. “They’re spending money on something they would have spent money on anyways, but they are choosing to do so in a socially conscious way. There is a sense of community and the sense that we are in this together.”
Reiniger’s next step? Four Directions Financial, a community bank where people are not turned away from opening an account due to a lack of I.D., the most common barrier for people at the margins.
Best in the Core Awards by: Sydnee Bryant, Mary-Helen Clark, Linda Hoang, Brittany Nugent, Tim Querengesser, Dan Rose and Chris Sikkenga
“How are you, brother?” John Roberts replies, to each of the many men who greet him along the line.
Roberts is 50 and spends much of his time spreading needed kindness at the Boyle Street Co-Op. Today, he’s outside, walking along what he calls his community’s main street. To anyone not from Roberts’ side of downtown, this is an alley you dare not walk. But to hundreds of others, this line is their Jasper Avenue or 124 Street. Along this line are daily stops for many in the community: Boyle Street, Quasar Bottle Depot, Bissell Centre, and several other services to the east of the core. It’s also the place to connect, say hi, have a laugh.
The line extends 105 Avenue eastward, in the form of a multi-use pathway from where the paved avenue essentially ends, at 101 Street, to where it resumes again at 96 Street. And back here, life is bustling. Several men huddle near vents that blow heat from within the Epcor building’s massive parkade. Nearby, a few couples tend to waist-high piles of belongings and supplies outside their tents. The view is standard downtown Edmonton but with bleak additions. To the south are downtown’s glittering towers, but there’s also a deep, open pit behind the CN Tower. Nearby is a cold, doorless, north-facing back wall at the new Royal Alberta Museum.
Also here is what Roberts describes as a message that’s wrought in steel. It’s a multi-layer wall of chain-link fencing topped with barbed wire, and it stretches six blocks, often on two sides. Here, where the train tracks once split the city, colder, sharper steel now divides.
Roberts says the line is a recent demarcation between the street community he’s come to call his own and the people who are coming — developers and gentrifiers, working to take this space and make it palatable, unthreatening and commercial.
The line is invisible from downtown, but it’s all you see, walking along this community’s main street. “It looks like a prison back here,” Roberts says.
“From a business point of view it’s a gouging to push those people out. We have to admit and there’s no hiding it: Poor people do not bring much to a city. There’s places in the ‘States where they forbid helping homeless people. But hopefully we don’t ever lose our willingness to help others out. Once you put a culture like that with a culture like the one at Boyle Street, it doesn’t look good. And it doesn’t look good for us at all. It’s got a prison like effect. We’re a province that’s supposed to be rich. But we don’t look after our own very well. This shouldn’t be happening.”
“You can get a fine for leaving your dog in the car. But to line up 250 men while it’s blowing at their ears at 35 below, it seems people think, ‘Let’s just push that aside — let’s just build some fences around so those people don’t get in. Let’s put up cameras so others don’t have to see it.’ You have to look at it from the people who are investing in their business. People are protecting their investments. But they set themselves up, in my view, by putting a culture into something that doesn’t work with it.”
“Things here have changed drastically for us. The result [of new developments downtown backing onto Boyle Street] is the police are picking out my Aboriginal friends because they drink and they have problems. They’re carding them, asking them questions, harassing them. If they carry a backpack they want to see in the backpack. They have no reason or rhyme. It’s just another way to make their life miserable so they’ll hopefully move away. I used to cast these people off — ‘You can do something with your life.’ But when you get educated about the Native people and the schools we ran, we created a tidal wave impact into the culture.”
In 1990, a group calling itself simply ‘The Road Doctors’ painted Edmonton’s first guerrilla bike lane. Soon after, the city removed this lane and repainted it, creating the first ever official, on-road bike lane in Edmonton. To this day, nobody knows exactly who The Road Doctors actually were. But 27 years after the fact, one is breaking his silence.
Back in 1990, David Boroditsky—who’s now a business owner—was an avid environmentalist and active in Edmonton’s cycling community. As Boroditsky tells it, some “enterprising” city bylaw officers had been giving students tickets that summer for riding the wrong way down 88 Avenue (between 109 Street and the University of Alberta, 88 Avenue is an eastbound one-way). The tickets irked a lot of people. “It seemed like monetary injustice, preying on poor, defenceless university students, and the road was amply wide to enable cars, parking and bikes,” he says.
So he and two friends decided to act. “With paint rollers, duct tape and hockey sticks—and we had some stencils for ‘bike lane’ and ‘bikes not cars’—we took a trip down there on a Saturday night,” Boroditsky says.
Unfortunately, there were a lot of people out that night, so the trio hit—what else?—a frat party, where they drank beer and recruited a fourth member. Then, later that night, “we went back and laid down a line,” he says.
Later, Boroditsky anonymously wrote a press release from The Road Doctors about the lane. “We apologise (sic) for the wigglyness of the line,” it read, “but owing to our budget of $7.42, we were unable to employ state of the art straight line application technology.”
Boroditsky also gave a local radio station an anonymous interview, from a phone booth.
And then, magic. “There was a nasty editorial in The Sun, an article in The Journal and the city scraped the paint off, and threatened us with an $800 cleaning bill,” Boroditsky says. “But then they came back a few days after and actually put in a proper bike lane.”
MICHAEL PHAIR PULLED ON THE BUILDING’S ugly tin cladding and saw red brick underneath. This building was worth saving. “No one knew — including me — that it had any architectural value at all, until a couple of people working there dragged me over,” Phair says. “I pulled back a little bit and I was like, ‘Oh my God, look at that — that’s brick.’”
It was 1999. Phair was peering at bricks of the Phillips Building, on 104 Street in downtown Edmonton. Midco Equities Ltd., owned by Bill Comrie of The Brick, had purchased the building and adjacent parking lot in 1981. It first wanted to erect a 25-storey of office tower, but the economic crash of the early ’80s erased those plans. By the mid-’90s, Midco next wanted to demolish Phillips Building and replace it with a surface parking lot.
Local residents wanted the building to remain. So they contacted Phair, who was a city councillor at the time, and asked for his help to save it. And he did. Preventing developers from demolishing the Phillips Building became one of Phair’s first major YIMBY wins. He’s had dozens more since.
What’s YIMBY? The acronym stands for ‘Yes in My Backyard’ and it’s the opposite of the far more well known NIMBY (Not in My Backyard). Proponents of YIMBY actively seek to obtain or keep things in their neighbourhoods instead of trying to keep them out. From tangible YIMBY successes like the Icon and Fox tower developments on 104 Street, to the new downtown bike grid, to less obvious achievements like establishing the AIDS Network of Edmonton, Phair has made a career out of saying ‘Yes.’
One cheery July afternoon, Phair sat in his eponymous park on 104 Street to reflect on what the street was like before he and other YIMBYs got involved — and how people who want to become YIMBYs can learn from his approach.
“Most people forget that this was all empty here,” he says, gesturing at the high rises surrounding us. “There were no buildings here at all, except on the corner.” That corner, on Jasper Avenue, was occupied by the ruin of the Cecil Hotel. Running north from the Cecil were empty lots, derelict properties and a few historic structures, such as the Birks, Metals, Phillips and Great West Saddlery buildings. Some had businesses but many were empty or partially vacant.
Saving the Phillips Building — Worthington Properties bought it in 2000 and converted it into loft apartments — was an early victory for 104 Street and also Edmonton in a broader sense. It marked a slow shift in local thinking and proved that a small group of dedicated citizens could shape the future of their neighbourhood.
After the Phillips Lofts were completed, in 2002, developers next proposed several high rise towers on 104 Street — the Century first, then the Icon towers, and later the Fox towers. But the original plans for these towers looked a lot different than what developers eventually built. That’s thanks, again, to the YIMBYs.
“There were a number of people living in the area who met with me and formed a kind of coalition group to push the city and developers that high rises were fie, but we don’t want ugly buildings — this is a historical area,” Phair says. “And, we don’t want this parking that you see everywhere. And we want podiums — which was not in the plans.”
But Phair knew fighting for improvements on individual projects was always going to be a losing battle. The key was zoning. Phair recognized changes were needed to prevent developers from proposing to build whatever they wanted on 104 Street. “The importance of the zoning, in the end, is probably what ensures that you are getting kind of what you’d hoped and wanted,” he says. Eventually, Phair and others got city council to change 104 Street’s zoning, in 2004.
But because council makes zoning decisions, Phair says, YIMBY groups seeking influence over what needs to be added to development proposals will need to make their case before that body. “It’s important that you have connections with the local councillors or MLAs, depending what the situation is, so they know what’s happening,” he says. “Even if they don’t agree or don’t push for anything, it’s always better if they know – but hopefully you can make allies out of them. Many members of council — hate to be blindsided. I’ve been that way a little bit, too.”
To become an effective YIMBY, then, Phair says you’ll need to get in touch with city administration to discuss zoning options in your neighbourhood, inform your local councillor and then meet with developers, property owners and other stakeholders about any proposed development. Developers usually aren’t keen to make changes to their plans, Phair says, especially ones that cost more money. This is why he says it’s critical to gain allies with positive voices — you can always find someone to oppose something, and often that negative voice is the loudest.
Phair says compromise is also key.
The zoning changes council made on 104 Street — which requires towers to have podiums for retail and commercial space, design elements reflecting the area’s historic nature, and parking set backs — doesn’t have everything residents asked for, Phair says, but it was a good compromise. “Quite frankly, 104 Street would not be what it is today if that hadn’t happened,” he says. “It made just this huge difference.” But sometimes YIMBY voices can’t make compromise actually happen. Chris vander Hoek, a former board member of the Oliver Community League (OCL) and intern architect with NEXT Architecture, says the Brewery District, in Oliver, is a good example of that. Vander Hoek was on the OCL board in 2013 when First Capital Realty and Sun Life Investment presented its initial proposal for the site. He says he remembers feeling alarmed when he saw it.
“Everything was internally oriented around the parking lot,” vander Hoek says. In response, the OCL worked to amplify the community voice. It hosted open houses and charrette sessions so residents could provide feedback to the developer. Initially the tone was optimistic, vander Hoek recalls, but that changed after the OCL met with the developers. “It became evident that they weren’t interested in compromising at all,” he says. “Their whole attitude was simply, ‘Let’s just build it now. Let’s build this hybrid suburban model and then when the LRT comes and when it becomes more urban, then we’ll just knock it down and build a new version that’s more urban.’”
Today, vander Hoek says Brewery District is not a walkable space, as Oliver asked it to be, because nobody likes walking across parking lots or among blank façades, “We saw that in the plans early on,” he says. But the YIMBY voice could not change it.
It should go without saying, then, that effective YIMBY campaigns require patience — often, a lot of it. Phair says Edmonton’s bike lanes are a perfect example of a project that required not just compromise and political support, but also heaps of patience.
“I live on 102 Avenue and we’ve been wanting a bike lane and arguing and yelling at the city for years to get that,” he says.
Phair chaired a working group on the downtown bike lane project that the OCL established five years ago. Things got bogged down due to the costs involved, and then delayed by the 2013 civic election. Phair remembers endless meetings with city administration trying to push them to take action, to no avail.
Meanwhile, though, the number of people working on bike lanes continued to grow. Paths for People, a nonprofit advocating for better cycling and walking infrastructure in Edmonton, formed in 2015; Phair is on the board.
The process seemed permanently stalled, Phair remembers, until a couple things happened. First, almost all of the senior management team at the city’s transportation department either retired or was let go. Second, Stantec offered to cover half the cost to trial downtown bike lanes.
“All of a sudden, very positively, it’s all happening,” Phair says. “We are busy now putting together some information for candidates running for city council and for the school board members, because there needs to be some work done on schools, encouraging bikes.”
The thing about YIMBY projects is that they can be about more than just buildings and bike lanes. They can be about building community supports for things that some in the community may even be fearful of. Phair has done that YIMBY work, too. In the early 1980s, he helped establish the first version of the Edmonton Pride Parade, as well as the AIDS Network of Edmonton (later renamed HIV Edmonton).
When the AIDS crisis hit Edmonton—the first case was identified on July 1, 1984 — no one was working on the issue locally. Phair formed the AIDS Network in response. The group worked out of his house at first, because no one would rent them office space. At the time, sexual orientation wasn’t protected under the Alberta Human Rights Act.
“There was a great deal of hatred —‘You deserve it; this is God’s scourge’ — every Bible verse that you could use, twisted,” Phair remembers. “We called ourselves the AIDS Network. We chose that name because we were clear that it needed to be more than just members of the gay and lesbian community. There needed to be other players. I think that was critical, knowing that in order to get what you want, and when you’re dealing with a situation that’s negative or difficult, is you look for others that need to be part of it.”
Some of those other players included local unions and churches, who were friendly to the cause, as well as contacts with the police and media. Savviness with media is critical to YIMBY, Phair says, especially when the issue at stake is contentious.
“Any major story about AIDS, we always got called for the local angle, and learned that you need to respond,” he says. “It’s an opportunity to put forward what we would think as the best foot, to put forward how we saw it and what we were doing — which then got through the media, got out that there were local people that had AIDS, there were local groups that were working on it to try to do things. We tried to sound reasonable.”
Sandeep Agrawal sees the YIMBY and NIMBY conversations through a planning lens. Agrawal is a professor and inaugural director at the University of Alberta’s Urban and Regional Planning Programs, where he focuses on the inclusion of human rights in urban planning. He is pushing Edmonton planners to look not only at planning legislation, bylaws and policy, but also to consider the Charter and human rights legislation, when dealing with NIMBY/YIMBY issues, like safe injection sites, supportive housing and potentially even adults-only buildings.
“Eventually, something that’s intangible becomes quite tangible in the form of use of land and a building and such — and then it becomes a planning issue,” Agrawal says. “Frankly, so far planners have yet to understand how these things affect their thinking, their practice and obviously their policies.”
The University of Alberta doesn’t have a course on NIMBYism specifically, but Agrawal teaches a course on land-use planning and policy that discusses it. “Land-use planning is all about uses of land and zoning, and when it comes to any kind of development, you have to deal with NIMBYism,” he says.
Awareness and education are ultimately what overcome NIMBYism, Agrawal says, since it’s often a knee-jerk, emotional reaction to change. Once people become aware of an issue and are exposed to it, more people come to accept it. Consider how absurd it seems today that someone could be denied office space based on their sexual orientation. This will undoubtedly hold true for everything from safe injection sites to bike lanes – it just might take a while.
Phair agrees. “I think in another eight or nine years, having bike routes will be so commonplace that they’ll just automatically happen, but it’s still going to take that time,” he says. Until your YIMBY victory has become permanent, he says, you just have to keep working on shifting the narrative.
“I can’t tell you how important I think it is to find some either positive voices or at least positive compromising voices,” he says. “As opposed to those that just don’t want it, period – and let them run the show and be seen as what everybody thinks and wants.
“Easier said than done,” he adds, with a laugh. “I wish it was that simple.”
SOCIAL MEDIA AND PRINT MEDIA: Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook can help you nd and connect with people interested in working together, as well as to make you aware of what others are working on already. Consider physical newsletters, posters on bulletin boards in local businesses and ads in community newsletters, and local newspapers to reach community members who aren’t online.
CROWDFUNDING SITES:Kickstarter, GoFundMe, Indiegogo and other crowdfunding sites can help grassroots organizations and startup dollars and help cover costs associated with public outreach and consultation.
CITY OF EDMONTON ZONING RESOURCES: There are zoning resources and information on the City of Edmonton website. Contact the planner who works on your area of the city for detailed information.
EDMONTON FEDERATION OF COMMUNITY LEAGUES: The EFCL can put you in touch with local community leagues and other associations and organizations who may be interested in working on YIMBY projects in their area. The EFCL also hosts seminars and work- shops on community issues.
YIMBY asks for DECL and OCL
MORE DENSITY DONE RIGHT: The design of developments is more important than just density or height. Still, increased density can bring more people to live downtown, and more amenities, which will make the area more sustainable in the long-term.
BIKE LANES: If built correctly, bike lanes can benefit all people. It’s all about offering more mobility options to engage a younger population who doesn’t want to own vehicles, and this can be augmented by car-share and ride-share.
MORE GREEN SPACE, LESS PARKING: Surface parking lots don’t make for the vibrant downtown we want. Some empty lots should be reserved for open green space and parks. Parks are people’s living rooms when they don’t have their own yard.
BETTER STREETSCAPING: Well-considered streetscaping is critical to the success of downtown for people as well as local pedestrian-oriented businesses.
REC AND COMMUNITY FACILITIES: Oliver has the population of a small town, yet many don’t drive, so we need recreation facilities close by. The Stanley Milner library in central downtown is out of reach for many Oliver residents, as are downtown rec facilities like the Don Wheaton YMCA.
SUPPORTIVE, AFFORDABLE AND FAMILY HOUSING: Oliver needs greater housing diversity to support inclusive, long-term human investment through socially responsible development.
FAMILY INFRASTRUCTURE: The downtown core lacks physical supports as well as services for families, like all-ages buildings, appropriate recreation facilities, affordable child care and even public washrooms.
Coun. Andrew Knack is at a grey bungalow in Crestwood saying nothing much at all. Knack is campaigning for re-election in Ward 1 but tonight, the older female homeowner he has summoned with his knock to her door is not a supporter. Knack stands wordlessly absorbing views on subsidized housing (does not belong in Crestwood, she says) and property taxes (too high, she says) while, nearby, three boys play catch beside a white BMW. Crestwood’s average household income is $165,668, or nearly double Edmonton’s average, and it will be a central door-knocking target for Ward 1 candidates. Finally, after 15 minutes, Knack bids the woman goodnight. “I kind of make a terrible politician because I listen, even if I know, like her, they aren’t going to vote for me”, he says, once at the sidewalk.
Knocking on doors can win an election. In 2016, an unpopular Ted Cruz beat a popular Donald Trump in the Iowa Republican Party leadership primaries by hitting more front doors. For municipal politicians, who lack the political parties that help voters navigate toward or away from candidates and platforms, door-knocking is doubly-important. Fittingly, Knack is door-knocking tonight primarily to re-win his seat. It is serious business. As we walk, Knack opens Canvasser, an iPhone app he pays $100 a month for to organize his plan to knock on all 18,000 or so single-family, row-house and duplex doors in his ward, and crosses the woman’s house off the list. But Knack says there’s more to it. Door-knocking gives him a too-rare chance to hear peoples’ concerns face to face. It is a democracy moment with the purity of apple pie. “I care whether you can vote or whether you can’t—I talk with permanent residents who can’t vote, and I care equally as much about their opinion as someone who can go vote,” he says.
Let’s assume Knack is right, and that door-knocking is essential for potential city councillors to hear the concerns of residents. What does it mean, then, that up to half the doors in our city will likely not get a knock? According to Statistics Canada, about 49.3 per cent of Edmonton’s housing is multi-unit, from condo towers to low-rise apartments to mid-rise rental buildings. But these doors and the people who live behind them are effectively terra nullius during a campaign. According to Knack and several other council candidates I spoke to, it is hard to get inside multi-unit buildings to meet people. Once in, many residents—leery of marketers—do not want you there. And what is worse, Alberta’s election rules only allow you there for a short period, anyway.
Add these factors up and you understand why one candidate who is aggressively targeting multi-unit housing puts his odds at getting inside buildings at less than one in three. Knack, who lives in a multi-unit condo himself, says he has not had a candidate knock on his door during any election campaign. And as he walks toward his next door to knock on, he says his 18,000-door tally does not include multi-unit doors and that the pattern concerns him. “It’s a struggle. You actually technically can’t access [a multi-unit] building until nomination day [on September 18]. Think about that. I’ll be lucky, having started door-knocking at the beginning of July, to hit every door once—and that’s just every single-family house door. You add in all of the multi-unit dwellings and the ability to try and hit every door in four weeks, it’s impossible. You won’t connect with everyone.”
For candidates to come first, Knack has sketched out why those living in multi-unit housing in downtown, Oliver and throughout Edmonton could be coming last. Given so many of us live in buildings with multiple doors, how can it change?
Back in August, on another door-knocking night, Knack says he came to see what disengagement really looks like. He was in the Canora neighbourhood, where the average household income $59,976 and where many rent, often in multi-unit housing. At the doors, he says three individual people living in rental housing shared that they feel invisible. Knack says one resident told him, “as a renter,” she was “not allowed to vote”— (“I have no idea where she was taught that,” he says)— while two others told him their opinion did not count. “They said, ‘I just rent, so I don’t want to waste your time.’”
Knack has a compelling theory for why. To win elections, politicians door-knock and engage voters predominantly in areas with a history of high voter turnout. Those high turnouts are, traditionally, clustered in the high-income areas of wards where the doors are easily reached. And to Knack that embeds the cycle. “It’s almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy,” he says. “The spots where we have, by far, the largest voter turnout are some of the wealthiest communities with some of the highest percentages of detached-home ownership. And so if you’re a candidate, it’s not that you want to ignore areas [with multi-unit renters and owners] but you’d better go to where the highest voter turnout is first.”
Next, add the time-crunch created by rules that limit legal protection from being told to leave multi-unit buildings until a month before the vote. That amplifies things, he says. “If you’re short on time, something’s not going to get done, and often times it’s those areas that have low home ownership or low voter-turnout. Because nobody engages them, very few people go out and vote, which means the turnout is low, which means the next crop of candidates see that and say, ‘Well, why would I go there first?’”
“They said, ‘I just rent, so I don’t want to waste your time.'”
Edmonton historian Shirley Lowe says there are other amplifications of the pattern and that they link to historic election laws. Lowe points to Jack K. Masson and Edward C. LeSage’s book, Alberta’s Local Governments, where the authors write: “Election rules are seldom neutral; they operate to the advantage of some people and the disadvantage of others.” In Alberta municipal elections, the authors argue advantages have been created by laws such as one that allowed British citizens living in Canada to vote in municipal elections even if they were not Canadian citizens. Another, dashed only in 1983, discriminated against non incumbents by allowing a candidate’s occupation to be shown. Incumbents would simply write, “Mayor,” or “alderman,” as their job and look far more electable on the ballot as a result. It made incumbency then—and arguably now—an iron-like qualification for Edmonton City Council.
But it’s rules around property ownership that Lowe points to as we talk about the multi-unit engagement gap. Up until 1977, a bylaw explicitly favoured people who owned property over those who did not by allowing only them to vote on council candidates and fiscal rule changes. While the rule now only requires a voter to be a resident of your municipality on election day, and to have lived in Alberta at least six months prior to it, some of the property sentiments linger. And they disadvantage people in multi-unit housing. “It’s systemic,” Lowe says. “The City of Edmonton still sends out notices about developments, but they don’t do it for renters. That means even a temporary land owner, like a developer, has more rights than someone who’s lived around that property for a long time.” As a result, she adds, renters have long been “second class citizens.”
That feeling, directly expressed to Knack on the doorstep in Ward 1, is something being thought about in wards across the city as politicians campaign. That includes Ward 6, which covers downtown and Oliver.
The ward’s incumbent, Coun. Scott McKeen, says he’s run up against the barriers to door-knocking in multi-unit condo buildings similar to the one he lives in. In 2013, he says, he had volunteers inside a multi-unit building knocking on doors when they were challenged in the halls. “The resident told them they had to leave, but it turned out one of the volunteers was a former city hall lawyer,” he says. “He knew the legislation and explained it. The resident grudgingly let the volunteers continue.”
“If people are not voting, you’re caught in this silo of making decisions based o a very select group of individuals”.
Is this unexpected? No, McKeen says. “I don’t think this [reaction] is unusual. Most buildings don’t allow people in to canvas door to door. The election rules allowing entry are not widely known and so people can be upset with the intrusion. I live in a condo building and it’s weird to have someone knock on your door. As someone once said, the door to your apartment is unlike the door to a house. It’s more like opening your bedroom door to a stranger. You feel more vulnerable.”
One of McKeen’s main challengers in Ward 6, Tish Prouse, says he has encountered anger from people while trying to engage residents in multi-unit buildings and has resorted to different techniques as a result—from simple social media discussions to a series of barbecues near the larger buildings that people can come to and meet him at. He says that he recognizes candidates over-emphasize door-knocking on single-family homes and that it skews their take on what matters to their ward. “You want to have proper representation of a demographic,” Prouse says.
Voter turnout in Edmonton is low compared to the Canadian average, at less than 37 per cent in both the 2010 and 2013 municipal elections. And the least likely age block to vote is the 18 to 29 bracket. Matthew Redfern, who is running for council in Ward 7, has a term for that group. “Those are what I associate with the rental years,” he says.
For some in Edmonton, the rental years are transitional, while for others they are a lifestyle choice. Regardless, for a city where the median age is just 35, renters are a significant number of voters. Indeed, according to Edmonton’s 2016 census, 49 per cent of residents own their housing while 29 per cent rent it (though, a whopping 21 per cent provided no response to that census question). For context, the 2011 federal census put the owner-renter spread in Edmonton at 65 per cent and 35 per cent, respectively.
Redfern feels connected to the people living as renters in multi-unit voters. He identifies as Dutch and Cree (his mother, a residential school survivor, was born on a trapline near Moosonee, Ontario) and for much of his 20s and 30s lived as a renter in multi-unit apartment buildings. And this meant that he never interacted at his door with a municipal politician, he says. “It didn’t enhance my engagement in democracy and local politics.”
So, like many in the 2017 campaign, Redfern is trying to work around the traditional engagement gaps. His approach is to venture into Beverly Heights, the lowest income portion of Ward 7, to knock on doors and meet people. Many of the people living in the neighbourhood live in older detached housing, which they rent, though there are some low-rise apartments, too. The average household income in Beverly Heights is $68,749.
Redfern says the feedback can be stark. “I haven’t met a single person yet that told me they’ve had someone knock on their door [in Beverly Heights],” he says. “I’m the first candidate they’ve seen in any election— municipal, provincial or federal. In Beverly, it’s a lot of rental houses, a lot of…”— here, his voice changes and he grins—“…indigenous type people. They don’t get much attention. We’ll find out if it works. Those are home owners, renters and definitely voters.”
How can the engagement gap for Edmonton residents living in multi-unit housing change?
McKeen says it is “critical” to door-knock in multi-unit housing. “Though some buildings do a terrific job at creating a sense of community, apartment living can be isolating. So it’s important that candidates take on the challenge of getting in those buildings, knocking on doors and meeting people where they live.”
His solution is simply perseverance.
Redfern is actively seeking to engage a voting group that others have ignored, but is not sure it will lead him to victory. He admits he is doing it out of principle. “We’re missing their voice, a whole different perspective—people who are living a different life than your detached home homeowner,” he says. “Not everybody has a house and a dog and a wife and 1.8 children, whatever is ‘normal’ now. Most people in their renting years don’t vote, which is a shame because they use a lot of city services.”
He also says there is a need for more open venues for voters to engage with candidates, and laments that some community leagues have stopped offering candidate forums.“Maybe the elections office could hold forums,” he says. Knack says he has also thought about how to fix the situation but has not hit on the magic bullet. “There’s several things” to try, he says. “Could we open up the rules to allow candidates to get in [to multi-unit buildings] earlier?” But, do that, he says, and “you would run up against the issue of people just not feeling comfortable answering the door.”
Still, as he walks to knock on doors in Crestwood, Knack says he hopes to work to change the situation. “How do you start to break through it,” he asks. Canora, he notes, has a voter turnout below 20 per cent, which could mean as little as 10 per cent of households (some have more than one resident) are reaching the ballot box. Voter turnout in Crestwood, on the other hand, where he has just gotten an earful from a resident about taxes, is way higher.“You have to be careful to expand who you’re hearing from,”he says. “If people are not voting, you’re caught in this silo of making decisions based on a very select group of individuals.”
Supervised injection sites are set to arrive downtown by the end of 2017 as the province, the city and health agencies all dig in to battle an opioid crisis that claimed 343 lives in Alberta in 2016 alone, and 80 in Edmonton in the first six months of 2017.
But are they safe? Yes, experts say— because they are safer than the alternatives.
“The main reason that we started looking into this was the health and safety of people,” said Marliss Taylor, program manager of Streetworks Needle Exchange, a roving injection-supervision service that operates primarily in the Boyle Street area. “Health and safety were our two big drivers. When people are injecting these substances outside, and it’s just poisonous out there, overdose is a huge risk factor.”
Community agencies including Streetworks and Moms Stop the Harm, along with researchers from the University of Alberta and the Edmonton Police Service, have all endorsed adopting supervised injection sites in Edmonton. But rather than a single location, as other cities have used, by the end of 2017 Edmonton will see multiple supervised injection sites within or close to downtown, including the Boyle McCauley Health Centre, Boyle Street Community Services, the George Spady Society and the Royal Alexandria Hospital (for inpatient treatment only).
Why multiple sites? Taylor said many potential users of the new sites told researchers they would only be willing to travel between four and 10 blocks to use them, meaning multiple locations were needed.
Unsurprisingly, some worry that the locations will draw people in from elsewhere—but it’s not the case, said one expert. “I know a lot of people are convinced we are going to be bombarded with people, but [research shows people will travel only] four to 10 blocks,” said Rosemary Fayant, a peer specialist at George Spacy Society. “You’re not going to go downtown, use a safe consumption site, and take a bus home— if that’s how you get around. You would do it in the comfort of your own home. But in the downtown area, there’s so much homelessness, that they don’t have that luxury.”
The locations also have other services in place, offering discretion for people wanting supervised injection. Taylor said 80 per cent of those surveyed said they were already injecting in public near the future sites as it is.
The model for Edmonton’s supervised sites is the layout of Dr. Peter Centre in Vancouver, a HIV day-health facility and 24-hour nursing care residence.
The Dr. Peter Centre and Insite, the first supervised injection site in North America, have both helped reduce the spread of HIV in Vancouver, with only 30 new cases reported last year (compared to 2,100 in 1996), as reported Insite’s website. They also state that users of the facility are 30 per cent more likely to receive treatment for addiction.
In Edmonton, the supervised injection sites will consist of three rooms: An intake, where a nurse obtains information about the person; a series of booths and a resident nurse, where the user injects; and a third room, where Taylor said, “the magic happens.”
Magic? Because the community member will be lucid and not going through withdrawal, the third room is where social workers will engage with them. If they are open to seeking treatment, Taylor said this is where trust will be built to facilitate those services.
During a presentation at DECL about the sites, Ann Galbradt, project coordinator with Access to Medically Supervised Injection Sites Edmonton, said community information nights have shown most downtown residents area are either supportive or neutral about the sites.
She said some are concerned the inner city will be bombarded with addicts, and that the risk of violence will increase.
But Taylor said a person injecting in a safe, sterile and calm environment versus in an alley, where they are scared, is comparable to enjoying drinks with friends versus having drinks at a tense family dinner. “When you’re injecting in a back alley, and you’re frightened, and it’s dark, and you’re just hoping to inject fast, you would have a very different reaction to the drug then if you are in a place where you feel safe and secure,” she said. “Our anticipation is that by the time they’re in the third room, they’ll be in a much better headspace, and the reaction to the drug will be different.”
During the meeting, Milap Petigara, DECL treasurer, said he worried the sites would give people another option to inject while also seeing them inject outside in an unsafe manner. He also expressed concern that this was further entrenching the homeless community into overburdened areas like downtown, as well as attracting traffickers who prey on addicts.
But Taylor pointed out that these people are already in the community, injecting near fences and behind dumpsters. This would allow them to inject safely to prevent skin infections, disease and death.
“That’s been the concern, we get a lot of ‘Oh my gosh, you’re going to be releasing people that are out of their minds in our neighbourhoods?’ But that’s kind of what’s already happening right now.”
Other cities in Canada have discussed safe injection sites, including:
VANCOUVER: Currently home to the only two operational supervised injection sites in Canada. Since 2010, there have been more than 1.5 million visits.
TORONTO: After nearly 200 drug-related deaths in the first half of 2016, the city received funding for three safe injection sites that will be opened within the year. Three-quarters of residents who inject drugs said they would use it.
VICTORIA: There are three proposed sites in the city after 622 reported fentanyl-related deaths in 2016. A pop up location built in late 2016 reached capacity in a matter of days.
The size of the crisis: Edmonton and fentanyl
By Kevin Pennyfeather
In the first six months of 2017, Alberta Health recorded 241 deaths caused by fentanyl overdoses — and 80 happened in Edmonton.
Elaine Hyshka is an assistant professor at the University of Alberta’s school of public health, and has devoted her career to tackling the opioid crisis. We caught up with her to chat about Edmonton and fentanyl.
Q: Is fentanyl a dominant street drug in Edmonton?
A: Yes, essentially we have a variety of opioids available on the illicit market, and the majority of them do tend to test positive for fentanyl. That implies that a lot of the opioids that are circulating right now are clandestinely manufactured and that they’re being produced with fentanyl. Sometimes they’re made to look like Oxycontin or Oxy 80 pills, or they’re these golden powders — and those powders are either identified as fentanyl or being sold as heroin.
Q: Why would substance users intentionally use fentanyl?
A: If it’s the only drug or opioid that’s the easiest to access, then people who have opioid use disorder, are going to use fentanyl because that’s all that’s available to them, or potentially all that they can afford — even though there may be knowledge that fentanyl is a risky substance.
Q: What misconceptions exist about the kind of people dying from opioid overdoses?
A: It’s pretty clear that overdose deaths are affecting people from across the socioeconomic spectrum and from all walks of life. If you look at the recent overdose report [released in August], it gives you a sense of the diversity of people who are dying. The easiest way to think about this is everybody is affected by overdoses — but if you are low income, you are particularly at risk.
Whereas before the quote was around 80 per cent are dying outside Edmonton’s core, now it’s 59 per cent. That’s significant, and I think it speaks to the need to provide overdose prevention services in the core, as well as in other parts of the city.