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People arrested at Gidimt’en anti-pipeline camp allege inappropriate use of force

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The agreement reached Thursday between Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and RCMP over the enforcement of a injunction was spurred by concerns over the Mounties’ use of force on people when entering the Gidimt’en camp on Monday. 

“We are adamantly opposed to this proposed project and that will never change, but we are here to ensure the safety of our people,” said Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief Na’Moks Thursday after the agreement was finalized.

Wet’suwet’en members had set up checkpoints on a remote stretch of forest service road and a bridge preventing people working on a pipeline project from accessing their traditional territory, which sits about 300 kilometres west of Prince George, B.C.

The Coastal GasLink project is run by TransCanada Corp., now officially known as TC Energy, and is meant to move natural gas from northeastern B.C. to the coast, where a liquefied natural gas project is scheduled for construction.

A court injunction, granted in December, ordered people to stop preventing Coastal GasLink from gaining access to the road and bridge. RCMP began enforcing the injunction on Monday.

As part of their enforcement action, RCMP established an exclusion zone, preventing access to the area by the public and media. RCMP have denied they jammed communications, preventing media and public from providing information about the situation at the camp on Monday afternoon.

‘They didn’t care’

Molly Wickham, Gidimt’en member and spokesperson for the camp, told CBC the enforcement action RCMP’s Aboriginal liaison team had described to them earlier Monday was not what happened that afternoon.

“They painted a picture that was extremely opposite of what happened,” she said.

Members of B.C. RCMP’s Division Liaison Team approach the barricade at the Gidimt’en camp in northern B.C. on Monday. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

As at least one helicopter circled overhead, armed RCMP officers, including members of the Tactical and Emergency Response Teams, approached the gate “in force” said Wickham.

Some of the people at the checkpoint had locked their arms to the gate. Wickham said RCMP began pulling the gate backwards and the people attached were in danger of being injured.

“They had no regard. We were pleading to them to stop what they were doing, that if they continued they would break people’s arms, that people were in grave danger. And they didn’t listen. They didn’t care. They just looked right at us as if we weren’t saying anything.”

She said police were cutting off the barbed wire topping the gate and “it was flying in peoples’ faces. People were trying to cover themselves.”

Police cut barbed wire at the Gidimt’en gate. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

“They’re likely to say people were resisting or being aggressive and we were trying to desperately save those peoples’ limbs.”

She said police climbed over the gate and began pulling people from the gate and pinning them down, multiple officers for each individual.

RCMP officers climb over a barricade and start making arrests to enforce the Coastal GasLink injunction at the Gidimt’en camp in northern B.C. on Jan. 7, 2019. 1:42

She said they used more force with the men. She said she saw one man thrown down from the gate and he appeared to be unconscious. 

“I was screaming for him to answer me. I was screaming for someone to check on him,” she said. “He was just laying limp on the snow.”

She describes it as “chaos happening all around.”

She was not injured. She was arrested and moved out of the way, but said she and other women kept challenging the RCMP with words, asking them “Are you going to continue the violence against Indigenous women on their own territories?”

Wickham said she feels they got through to some of the officers as they wouldn’t look them in the eye.

“They knew they were in the wrong,” she said. 

Rebecca Moore, a Mi’kmaw Indigenous rights advocate and a member of Pictou Landing First Nation in Nova Scotia, was also among those arrested at the gate.

Rebecca Moore holds an eagle feather as RCMP officers enter the Gidimt’en checkpoint Monday. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

“They pushed me from the gate down to the ground and I almost fell off of the bridge into the river,” she said.

“Thankfully somebody grabbed me and picked me up because there was a lot of people around. I thought that I was either going to get stomped or that I was going to fall into the creek.” 

Moore said she recalls seeing a handcuffed man lying on the ground who appeared to be unconscious, more than one person with arm injuries, and three officers restraining a man on the ground, pushing his face into the snow.

Officers enforcing the injunction at Gidimt’en included members of the Tactical and Emergency Response Teams. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

“We were not inflicting violence. We were being very peaceful and they were coming at us,” she said.

“They were pushing us all around.”

Moore said officers told her she was being arrested because she was breaking “Canadian law,” and that in response, she told them they were breaking Wet’suwet’en law.

Both Wickham and Moore say they feel RCMP members used excessive force.

RCMP say ‘situation was challenging’

In a statement to CBC, an RCMP spokesperson said the 14 individuals were arrested and processed through “standard protocols,” and that under the law RCMP may use force reasonable to the circumstances to implement the court’s order.

“The situation was challenging for our members and despite their best efforts to resolve the situation peacefully, arrests did take place,” the statement reads.

Police inforcing the injunction at the Gidimt’en checkpoint on Monday. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

“One of those arrested did complain of a minor injury and was examined by EHS and was returned to the custody of the RCMP. One of our officers also had a minor injury after being hit with a stick.”

In the statement, the RCMP said the officers’ engagement of the camp was documented through numerous video sources and that some of the video content that can be found on social media “clearly opposes” allegations.

Police presence continues

Following RCMP enforcement of the injunction at the Gidimt’en camp Monday, the hereditary chiefs were concerned about the safety of those staying at the Unistot’en camp and healing centre, where there was another fortified checkpoint.

“That will never happen to our people again,” Na’Moks said of Monday’s enforcement actions at the Gidimt’en checkpoint.

After three days of talks with the RCMP, the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs reached an agreement over the enforcement of the injunction.

They have agreed to allow the company access to do pre-construction work as specified in the interim injunction for the time being.

In a statement, Coastal GasLink president Rick Gateman said the company “is thankful that a peaceful resolution has been achieved and agreement reached that will enable us to proceed with pre-construction and construction activities on our right of way.

“I want to personally express my gratitude to those who have supported us through this project process, as well as those who’ve worked together to achieve a mutually agreeable solution. This is a demonstration that positive dialogue – based on common values of safety, collaboration, and integrity – can create constructive outcomes for local communities and First Nations.”

B.C. RCMP said the temporary exclusion zone would be removed Friday once access to the bridge was established. But there will be continued police presence conducting roving patrols of the forest service road “to ensure the safety of the individuals at the Healing Centre and of CGL employees.”

A temporary RCMP detachment will also be placed in the Morice West Forest Service Road corridor. The RCMP said officers there will undergo cultural awareness training on Wet’suwet’en traditions and will have enhanced training in conflict resolution.

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Future of Ottawa: Chefs with Kathryn Ferries

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This week in the Future of Ottawa series, we’re taking a deep dive into the bar and restaurant industry—what it’s like now and where it’s headed. Read on for a guest post from Kat Ferries on the future of chefs, or read posts from Quinn Taylor on bars or Justin Champagne on fine dining.

Kat Ferries is Sous-Chef at Stofa Restaurant and a 2020 San Pellegrino North American Young Chef Social Responsibility Award Winner.

Apt613: What is the current landscape for chefs in Ottawa?

Kat Ferries: There is such great talent in Ottawa with so many chefs either being from here originally or have returned after traveling and have since opened some incredible restaurants. Many chefs have focused menus that really highlight their strengths, their heritage, and their passion for food. Dominique Dufour of Gray Jay, Marc Doiron of Town/Citizen, Steve Wall of Supply & Demand, Daniela Manrique Lucca of The Soca Kitchen, and so many more are all cooking up beautiful and delicious food in this city.

If you care to make a prediction… Where is the food industry in Ottawa going for chefs in 2021?

The industry right now is, unfortunately, in a really tough spot. The pandemic has been so devastating on mental, physical and emotional levels for so many and I know that many of my friends in this industry are burning out. There are many discussions happening on work/life balance and what is healthy for everyone. Some may never return to the long, hard hours we are expected to put in day after day and instead opt for a more flexible schedule or hire more staff to lighten the load on everyone, with some even leaving the industry indefinitely. Some may throw themselves back into this industry 10x as hard and create some of the best restaurants and concepts we’ve yet to see. I think all that will happen after the pandemic though.

For this year, it’s mostly about survival and finding happiness in creating what we can in the spaces we have while following all the laws and guidelines from public health officials. I think we will see more chefs creating experiences for guests that we otherwise wouldn’t have: think pop-ups, virtual dinner clubs, cocktail seminars, collabs, etc.

Where in your wildest dreams could the Ottawa culinary community grow in your lifetime?

I would love to see the Ottawa community support more small, local restaurants so our streets are bustling late into the nights like they are in Montreal, New York, or Europe. Having a local restaurant to frequent should be so much more commonplace, where you can enjoy a night out more often than just Friday or Saturday night. I would also love to see many more of our local chefs highlighted for the amazing food they create!

What is the best innovation to take place in your industry since the pandemic started affecting Ottawa?

Turning all our restaurants into mini-markets for customers to enjoy the food and wine of their favourite places at home. We have bottle shops for all your wine, beer and cocktail needs as well as menus that reflect what each restaurant does best. Some have even pivoted to a point where they are 100% a store and have paused any type of “service-style” dining.

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Future of Ottawa: Fine Dining with Justin Champagne

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This week in the Future of Ottawa series, we’re taking a deep dive into the bar and restaurant industry—what it’s like now and where it’s headed. Read on for a guest post from Justin Champagne on the future of fine dining, or read posts from Kathryn Ferries on chefs or Quinn Taylor on bars.

Justin Champagne went to culinary school at Northwest Culinary Academy of Vancouver. He got his start in fine dining restaurants at C Restaurant under Chef Robert Clark, then at Hawksworth Restaurant under Chef Eligh. He staged at three-Michelin-starred Atelier Crenn under Chef Dominque Crenn before moving to Ottawa and spending five years at Atelier, working his way up to Sous-Chef. He’s now the Head Chef of Bar Lupulus.

Apt613: What is the current landscape of fine dining restaurants in Ottawa?

Justin Champagne: Ottawa punches well above its weight class when it comes to quality restaurants in general. Fine dining is no exception to that—we have some amazing chefs here that are doing really great things. We also have some phenomenal sommeliers in town that are a huge factor when it comes to a guest’s experience in a fine dining restaurant. While there are some fantastic fine dining restaurants in town I do believe there’s room for more, and definitely room for more creativity and unique styles of cooking! I think we’ll see more small fine dining restaurants opening up, “micro-restaurants” where there’s maybe 20 seats. This will be over the next few weeks as the industry did take a big hit financially with COVID-19, but we still have a lot of great young chefs who have the fire inside of them to open their own location!

If you care to make a prediction… Where is fine dining going in Ottawa in 2021?

I’m not sure it’ll be 2021 or 2022 with the way the vaccine rollout and stay-at-home order is going, but I do expect there to be a wave of people looking to go out to fine dining restaurants. We’ve been cooped up cooking for ourselves or ordering takeout for over a year now. People are getting antsy and ready to go out and have fantastic meals again with exceptional wine and not have to worry about doing all the dishes afterwards!

Where in your wildest dreams could fine dining go in Ottawa in your lifetime?

That’s the fun part about “fine dining,” it can go anywhere and it can mean many things. Fine dining is about amazing service and well thought out, unique food that the kitchen spent hours fussing over, being meticulous in execution. Outside of that, you can have a lot of fun and be creative in different ways. My wildest dream I guess is that fine dinning restaurants begin to thrive and are able to charge without backlash the kind of prices that they need to charge in order to keep the lights on and pay their staff a proper living wage!!

What is the best innovation to take place in your industry since the pandemic started affecting Ottawa?

I’m not sure if I would really say there’s been a best “innovation” in my industry during the pandemic, but I will say that seeing the “adaptability” by all the restaurants in Ottawa has been incredibly inspiring. Ottawa’s food scene has always been a tight-knit community, “everyone helping everyone” kind of mentality. And this pandemic has really helped show that—restaurants helping restaurants through all of this!

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Ottawa’s Giant Tiger chain celebrating 60 years in business

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OTTAWA — An Ottawa staple, along with what might be the most famous cat in Canada, are celebrating a milestone Monday.

Giant Tiger is 60 years old.

“It all started with a very simple idea,” says Alison Scarlett, associate VP of communications at Giant Tiger. “Help Canadians save money every single day. Bring them products that they want and need. When you focus on those core principals, it really is quite simple to succeed.”

In 1961, Gordon Reid opened the first Giant Tiger in Ottawa’s ByWard Market. The company now has more than 260 locations across Canada and employs roughly 10,000 people.

“If you were at our store on opening day 60 years ago, the in store experience would be a little bit different from your local Giant Tiger store today. So that’s changed. A lot of our products and offerings have changed or expanded as Canadian consumers wants and needs have changed or expanded,” says Scarlett.

The homegrown department store continues to be a favourite for many shoppers looking to for the best deals on everyday products.

Helen Binda has been shopping here for decades.

“Many years. I can’t remember when. I’ve always loved Giant Tiger. It’s always been a good store for me.”

“I think its amazing and I think that we need more department stores,” says shopper Fay Ball. “And if it’s Canadian, all the better.”

The Canadian-owned family discount store carries everything from clothing to groceries, as well as everyday household needs. They’ve also expanded their online store and like most retailers provide curbside pickup during the pandemic.

“Doing what is right for our customers, associates, and communities. That has enabled us to be so successful for all of these years,” says Scarlett.

To celebrate, Giant Tiger is hosting a virtual birthday party at 7 p.m. Monday with live musical performances from some iconic Canadian artists.

You can visit their Facebook page to tune in. 

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