Civics Boot Camp: Meet the Citizens of Ottawa
And the First Session Begins!
Citizens Academy held the first session of its spring Civics Boot Camp on Wednesday, April 8 at Ottawa City Hall.
The boot camp is a six week program that aims to teach citizens of Ottawa about municipal governance and how to get involved with the city.
The first session saw the participants interacting and getting to know each other.
More than 45 people showed up from almost every neighbourhood in Ottawa.
Listen below as a few participants shout out their neighbourhoods.
Citizens raised their hands and named their neighbourhood.
Who's being represented?
The participants were hand picked from a larger group to match the diversity of Ottawa.
The group represented Ottawa both ethnically and geographically, with people from many neighbourhoods, races, and ages being present.
Citizens Academy tries to ensure all areas of the city are represented at each session.
So who are these participants?
Some came with specific goals for what they want to learn, while others just came to learn about the city in general.
Here are some of their stories:
From Sudan to Ottawa
Rose moved to Ottawa from Sudan in 2008 and decided to come to Civics Boot Camp to learn more about the city.
Although she's only been here for seven years, she says she feels as if she's been here her whole life.
"I love this city," says Rose.
She would like to see more improvements to the city's social services.
"It's not just only me, a lot of people really need those services but when the services get cut back, where are they going to go?"
Rose from Centretown would like to see more improvements to the city's social services
Need for city integration
Rhiana Chinapen, a resident of Centretown, says she feels the city is difficult to explore due to its huge distance and the lack of transportation connecting each neighbourhood.
"I feel the city could be better integrated," says Chinapen. "I rarely go out of Centretown."
Chinapen tries to hang with her friend in Kanata, but this can sometimes be a challenge due to the lack of unification of each neighbourhood in the city.
She says it can sometimes take hours for her to get to Kanata by bus and due to the minimal amount of parking downtown, her friend avoids coming to her house in Centretown.
"There's services but they don't necessarily combine as efficiently as they could to help us be a city together," says Chinapen.
Chinapen chose to come out to Civics Boot Camp to therefore try to find a way to improve the city's transportation.
She is also out to just learn more about the city and become more aware of her community.
"I want to be involved in my community, I believe in community but I know next to nothing about how the decisions are made in the municipality of Ottawa or what opportunities I might have as a citizen."
Rhiana Chinapen is a filmmaker and photographer in Ottawa's Centretown neighbourhood.
Just here to learn
Earl is coming out to Civics Boot Camp to just learn about how the city works.
"It just seemed interesting and I thought I'd see what I could get out of out so I came here with a open mind."
Earl says he would also like to see improvements to the city's social housing after the Shawenjeagamik Drop-in Centre at 510 Rideau recently had to close it's doors due to funding cuts from the federal government.
The Native drop-in centre used to provide three hot meals a day and was equipped with computers, laundry facilities and a warm area during the day for anyone in the community.
Earl came from Nepean to learn more about how the city works
Ready to help the homeless
Heather from Nepean says she is coming out to learn how to make a bigger mark in the city.
She says her main goal is to help alleviate the amount of people who are homeless in Ottawa.
"I would like Ottawa to be a more equitable community where people are given different opportunities and representation is a lot more equal for people with different economic and socio-economic backgrounds," says Heather.
She says the first session of Civics Boot Camp was a success.
"It was awesome but really challenging," says Heather while laughing.
Heather says hopes Ottawa could be a more equitable community.
What happens next?
In the five remaining weeks, the participants will be spilt into six different groups.
Each group will work together towards a final project called a practicum.
Groups will focus on issues ranging from social services, the environment, to land use planning.
The rest of the weeks will explain governance structures in Ottawa, community and public engagement, municipal budgeting, and environmental development.
Stay posted for more!
Citizens Academy staff Catherine Laska and Danielle Allard
One of the many notes the participants placed on the walls
Group members getting to know each other