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Flap over wooden fowl attracts art-loving flock after swan sculpture beheaded

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More than 2,800 people have signed a petition to protect endangered birds at Esquimalt Lagoon … although the feathered creatures are not actually real.

These fowl, made of driftwood, were created by Langford’s very own bird man.

Since the spring, artist Paul Lewis has crafted 50 of them.

Fowl or foul?

The former criminal-turned-artist has a passion for larger-than-life swans, ravens and owls. But he knows some find his fowl … well, foul.

Lewis admits the birds are not to everyone’s taste.

“But what kills me is every time someone smashes or breaks them, they think they are doing something negative to discourage me — it actually empowers,” he said.

He asked for public support on social media over the holidays after a bird was broken and admits he’s protective of his art.

He puts his personal phone number on each bird, so he can fix any problems.

This swan mysteriously lost its head in late December after artist Paul Lewis says he got a series of angry messages from a man who threatened to ruin the wooden art at Esquimalt Lagoon. A teen, not the author of the threatening messages, admitted to the damage and said it was an accident. (Paul Lewis/Facebook)

He does not want nails or bits of broken birds littering the beach.

How art transformed artist

And he said the birds are symbolic of how art helped lift him from a downward spiral 20 years ago.

Lewis once levelled a sawed-off shot gun at a clerk and it misfired grazing the man’s leg.

He was serving an eight-year sentence after a string of armed robberies he said were fuelled by cocaine addiction when he connected with inspiring First Nations artists through prison programs.

The Vancouver Island artist that fashions wooden beach birds found at Esquimalt Lagoon, like this hummingbird, turned his life around after prison. (Paul Lewis)

“I was in a bad place and time in my life,” he said. Lewis says art and prison programs were key to how he turned things around.

“It was huge,” he said.

Lewis went from simple pencil drawings to Robert Bateman-style photo-realistic paintings.

Once he’d served his time, he rebuilt his life as a carpenter, scaffolder and sometime oil field and shipyard worker.

But of late his passion — is beach birds.

He spends about five hours on each one.

He said that he was first inspired seeing artist Alex Whitcomb’s driftwood creatures in Colwood.

Birds like this have some people all aflutter. (Paul Lewis/Facebook)

The city gave Lewis a spot between garbage can #23 and #25, where his oversized wooden birds are allowed to stay.

But some birds have disappeared — perhaps stolen.

Others have been damaged since they began appearing last spring.

‘He wants to smash them apart’

When one man began texting him insults — calling the birds “eye pollution” and “crap” in December, he suspected the critic might be damaging his work and asked people for help to protect the birds.

Thousands signed a petition within days.

“He needs to get a life,” wrote Gord Little of Victoria.

Others talk about how the birds brighten their walk on the beach.

“My kids and I love seeing the birds when we go to the lagoon,” wrote Christina Pelletier.

So Lewis reached out the the critic attacking his faux fowl.

“[He said] they are disgusting and has said he wants to smash them apart with a bat and wants them gone,” Lewis said.

“He said they were like Grade 2 artwork and belonged in a flea market.”

The wooden birds made of driftwood and scattered about the beach area of Esquimalt Lagoon in Langford include ravens, a swan and an owl. (Facebook)

After that, Lewis noticed his swan had lost its head. But it turned out that damage was an accident.

Lewis said a teen came forward and apologized which Lewis lauded as very “stand up” of the young man who made a mistake.

The swan now has a new head.

Since then, Lewis also found his first creation — a bald eagle — destroyed by wind.

But he plans to keep making birds, buoyed by all the support.

“It blows me away. I call my Mom. I think it’s pretty cool.”

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List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa

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With Ontario now in Step 3 of 2021 three-step plan for reopening, museums and other indoor attractions are allowed to reopen with capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent capacity outdoors.

Here is a list of Ottawa attractions you can visit starting July 16th.

Do remember to wear masks and buy tickets in advance.

Parliament Hill

Parliament’s Centre Block and Peace Tower are closed for renovation.

You can join for tours of the Senate of Canada Building (2 Rideau Street), House of Commons at West Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill, and East Block at East Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill.

When: Grounds open; guided tours of Parliament are suspended through the summer of 2021.
Where: 111 Wellington Street, Downtown Ottawa

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Ottawa performer leapfrogs from gymnastics to Broadway to TV

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A new AppleTV+ series set in a magical town that’s stuck in a neverending 1940s musical includes a pair of Ottawa siblings in the cast. 

Warren Yang and his sister, Ericka Hunter, play two of the singing, dancing residents of the village portrayed in Schmigadoon!, a small-screen series that takes its cues from classic musicals like Brigadoon, Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music, and skewers them with the offbeat comedic mastery of Saturday Night Live. 

In fact, you’ll recognize many of the names from SNL, starting with executive producer Lorne Michaels, creator of the late-night, live-comedy sketch show. Schmigadoon! also stars SNL cast member Cecily Strong and comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who hosted SNL in May. They play a New York couple who get lost on a hike and stumble into a strange town where everyone sings and dances. 

For Yang, a relative newcomer to show-biz, the series marks his television debut. For Hunter, the younger of his two older sisters, it’s the latest in a career path that began with dance lessons as a child more than 30 years ago. She attended Canterbury High School, Ottawa’s arts-focused secondary school. 

“Her dream was always to perform,” said Yang, 34, in an interview. “But that was never the path I thought was an option for me.” 

While his sister studied dance, Yang did gymnastics. He was an elite gymnast throughout his youth, ultimately leaving Merivale High School at 16 to train in Montreal, finishing high school through correspondence courses. He was a member of the Canadian National Team and received a scholarship to study at Penn State, majoring in marketing. 

A few years after graduation, Yang was working at an advertising agency in Toronto when he got a call from a Manhattan number. To his astonishment, they asked if he would be interested in auditioning for a Broadway revival of Miss Saigon.

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COVID-19: uOttawa to require vaccination for students living in residence

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Vaccination will be mandatory for students who want to live in residence at the University of Ottawa this year, with proof of vaccination and at least one dose required before move-in, or within two weeks of doing so if they can’t secure a shot before arriving.

Those who can’t receive a vaccine for “health-related reasons or other grounds protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code” will be able to submit a request for accommodation through the university’s housing portal, according to information on the university’s website.

Students with one dose living in residence will also have to receive their second dose “within the timeframe recommended by Ottawa Public Health.”

People who haven’t been granted an exemption and don’t get vaccinated or submit proof of having done so by the deadlines set out by the school will have their residence agreements terminated, uOttawa warns.

“Medical and health professionals are clear that vaccination is the most (effective) means of protecting people and those around them,” reads a statement provided to this newspaper by uOttawa’s director of strategic communications, Patrick Charette.

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“It is precisely for this reason that the University of Ottawa is requiring all students living in residence for the 2021-2022 academic year to be fully vaccinated. The University recognizes that some students may require accommodations for a variety of reasons and will be treating exceptions appropriately.”

Faculty, staff and students are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, the statement notes.

“Ensuring a high vaccine coverage in all communities is critical to ensuring an ongoing decline in cases and ending the pandemic. This will be especially important with the return of students to post-secondary institutions in our region in the fall of 2021.”

Neither Carleton University nor Algonquin College is currently mandating vaccination for students living in residence, according to the websites for both schools. But uOttawa isn’t alone in its policy – Western University, Trent University, Durham College and Fanshawe College have all implemented similar requirements. Seneca College, in the GTA, is going even further, making vaccination mandatory for students and staff to come to campus, in-person, for the fall term.

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