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Ottawa city council gives controversial Chateau Laurier addition go-ahead

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OTTAWA — A controversial addition to the historic Chateau Laurier was approved Wednesday, but Ottawa’s city council will meet again Thursday to vote on it one more time.

In a 14-9 split, councillors voted down a motion that would have voided a permit to build the addition to the century-old heritage building.

The years-long debate concerns a seven-storey, 147-room addition that would be built on the north side of the castle-like hotel next to Parliament Hill. The proposal quickly became a major point of contention in the capital, as critics said it would be an eyesore and clash with the style of the existing hotel.

Mathieu Fleury, the councillor sponsoring the motion to oppose the development, noted during Wednesday’s meeting that even many of the councillors who were voting in favour of the project had said they personally dislike it. And the response from citizens, he said, is obvious.

“We have a responsibility to the public, and the public has been very clear,” Fleury said.

The addition is designed by Toronto-based architectsAlliance, known for condominiums that have included towers in Toronto’s Distillery District. Heritage architecture principles say that a new addition to an old structure shouldn’t try to copy the existing building; the multiple designs the Chateau Laurier’s owners have submitted have all been distinctly modern, as a choice to live up to that with an addition that’s clearly of its own time.

The Chateau Laurier itself was a throwback to a much earlier French style when it was built. It’s different from the Gothic Parliament Buildings and the Beaux-Arts former train station across the street, which temporarily holds the Senate.

Critics have compared the design of the Chateau’s addition to a radiator and a shipping container.

Council previously voted in June 2018 that the development could proceed as long as certain changes were made to the design — and left the determination of whether the revisions were good enough to city planners and heritage experts. The opponents of the development argued the design did not meet the requirements set last year, though city staff say it has.

Watson also recently spoke to Amin Lalji, the head of the company that owns the Chateau Laurier, to see if they could meet to discuss a design that would be more acceptable to Ottawa residents, but the owner would not budge on further changes.

“We both agreed it would be a waste of time to sit down when he wasn’t going to move,” Watson told reporters Wednesday.

Watson said he understood the public outcry on the issue — and he was not fond of the design himself — but that there are rules to follow. One, he said, was that a city council can’t dictate esthetics to a private company.

“While the popular thing for me to do would be to play to the crowd and say whatever the loudest person shouts at me, that’s not leadership,” Watson said.

Immediately after the vote, an opposing city councillor requested the it be reconsidered, and Watson scheduled a new vote for Thursday afternoon.

Antagonists of the development had hoped to buy time to convince their colleagues to change their minds, according to Diane Deans, the councillor who requested reconsideration.

But Watson’s motion means the vote will be held right away, rather than the next regular meeting in late August.

As it stands, both Deans and the mayor believe council is likely to vote the same way tomorrow, and the project will get a green light to go forward.

The likely decision Thursday will hold off legal action from Larco Investments, the company that owns Chateau Laurier. Larco had threatened to take the city to court if councillors reversed their decision from 2018.

But it may spark legal action from those who oppose the renovation. Friends of the Chateau Laurier, a community advocacy group, retained a lawyer ahead of council’s vote, though it has not said it will go to court to stop the project from going ahead.

The Friends group includes several architecture professors, former federal Liberal minister David Collenette and retired business advocate Thomas d’Aquino. It’s backed by the city’s main heritage group.

“We all know that this will end up in court, there’s no question,” said Watson.

Christian Paas-Lang, The Canadian Press

Agriculture

151st Cowichan Exhibition includes new category: best home-grown pot

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VICTORIA — One of Canada’s oldest fall fairs is putting a new twist on its annual showcase of local livestock, produce and fruit by adding a new category for best home-grown marijuana.

The Cowichan Exhibition in Duncan, B.C., which dates back to 1868, has created a best cannabis category to embrace legalization and celebrate local pot growers, said exhibition vice-president Bud James.

The fair starts Friday and the cannabis entries will be on display in the main hall at the Cowichan Exhibition Grounds along with the region’s top vegetables, fruits and baked goods. First prize is $5, second is $3 and third place gets a ribbon.

“We just decided this year, because it’s an agricultural product, and it’s been grown in the valley for years, and now that it’s finally legally grown, we would allow people to win a ribbon for the best,” said James.

He said fair officials believe the Cowichan cannabis category is the first of its kind in Canada.

An official at the Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions, a non-profit organization representing rural and urban fairs, said she had not heard of any other cannabis judging contests prior to the Cowichan Exhibition, but couldn’t confirm it was the first.

A fall fair in Grand Forks, B.C., is also judging local cannabis, but the event starts Saturday, one day after Cowichan’s fair. Those who enter the competition in Grand Forks can compete for best indoor- and outdoor-grown cannabis.

James said fair organizers contacted the local council and RCMP prior to adding the cannabis category. The mayor and council did not oppose the contest and the RCMP referred organizers to B.C.’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, the agency monitoring retail sales of non-medical cannabis, he said.

Organizers decided to go ahead with the event after its plans were not rejected, James said.

“Our interpretation of the rules are you can’t make it attractive to people under 19 years and we are not making it attractive,” he said.

James said the cannabis entries will be placed in a glass display case and the individual entries will be sealed in clear zip lock plastic bags.

“It’s being judged to the same standard of judging garden and field produce,” he said. “It’s done by uniformity. You want all three buds to be the same size, same shape, same colour. It’s also the dryness, texture and smell. It’s exactly the same way you would judge apples or carrots or hay bales. It’s all done the same way.”

James said the contest doesn’t involve sampling the product.

Bree Tweet, the manager of a medical cannabis dispensary in nearby Ladysmith, will judge the marijuana entries, said James.

The exhibition received 18 cannabis entries and James said the contest created a buzz at the fair.

“The enthusiasm of the entrants, the people bringing their entry forms, they are so enthusiastic it’s unbelievable,” he said. “They are so thrilled that it’s happening, that we’re doing it because they’ve been waiting for years for legalization and now, they finally got it and now they have a chance to show what they can do.”

James, who has entered his prized Dahlia flowers at past fairs, said the addition of the cannabis category has exceeded expectations with the 18 entries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

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Education

School board defends book pictured on principal’s desk after online uproar

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A Toronto-area Catholic school board says an online firestorm that erupted after a book on how to teach black students was photographed on a principal’s desk stems from a misunderstanding over the book’s contents.

The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board says the book, titled “The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys,” has a provocative title but is actually a helpful resource on tackling racial and cultural oppression in education.

Michelle Coutinho, the board’s principal of equity and inclusive education, says such materials are a particularly useful reference given how diverse the student population is in the district and at that specific school.

The controversy emerged this week after a Brampton, Ont., high school, Cardinal Ambrozic Catholic Secondary School, posted a photo of its new principal on Twitter.

The photo, which shows the book on her desk, set off heated debate, with some suggesting it was a sign of racism or incompetence, or a prop meant to bolster the school’s image.

The image was also shared on instagram by 6ixBuzzTV, a popular account with roughly 1.2 million followers.

“LOOOOL. No principal should make it this far while subsequently needing a book like this,” one person wrote on Twitter. “She a bad principal,” wrote another.

Some defended the book, however, and the principal’s efforts to educate herself. “She’s making an effort to connect with her students, it’s more than most principals do,” another tweet read.

The board said it was surprised by the uproar and hoped people would look up the book before jumping to conclusions based on its title.

The principal intends to address the photo in a public announcement and invite any students with lingering questions to see her, said Bruce Campbell, the board’s spokesman.

The book, written by three researchers and published in 2017, aims to improve outcomes for black students by helping teachers create learning environments in which they feel nurtured and engaged. The title references the fact that white women make up the bulk of the teaching force in the U.S.

Coutinho said the book asks educators to challenge the biases they may bring into the classroom.

“We know that we’re steeped in a colonized kind of world view and how do we break out of that in our everyday practices?” she said, noting it has been used in the board’s anti-oppression training in the past.

Cardinal Ambrozic’s new principal was involved in a book study at several schools that delved deeply into the text last year, Coutinho said.

“If we’re going to make any changes to the education system, we have to start talking about these things and talking about them openly and honestly without shame or blame.”

 

 

 

 

 

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

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