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Allégations d’ingérence : un appel du greffier du Conseil privé à l’ex-ministre Wilson-Raybould intrigue

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S’exprimant après le ministre de la Justice, David Lametti, Michael Wernick a expliqué au comité qu’il voulait informer Mme Wilson-Raybould des conséquences qu’une poursuite judiciaire pourrait avoir sur l’avenir de la firme de génie-conseil québécoise, comme le rapportait à l’époque la presse financière.

Ces conversations se sont déroulées « à l’intérieur des limites de ce qui est légal et approprié », a-t-il assuré. « J’informais la ministre sur le contexte. Elle a pu avoir un autre point de vue sur la conversation, mais c’est quelque chose que le commissaire à l’éthique pourra éclaircir », a-t-il lâché.

Au moment de la conversation, le Service des poursuites pénales du Canada avait déjà informé SNC-Lavalin qu’elle n’allait pas lui offrir un accord de réparation. Ce mécanisme, récemment introduit dans le Code criminel, permet à une entreprise poursuivie pour corruption de payer une amende pour ne pas être poursuivie.

SNC-Lavalin ne cache pas qu’elle souhaite conclure un tel accord. Une condamnation judiciaire l’empêcherait de soumissionner sur des contrats publics sur une période de 10 ans, compromettant son avenir.

Les partis d’opposition n’ont pas tardé à s’emparer de l’affaire, de sorte que M. Wernick a été bombardé de questions par la presse parlementaire après son témoignage. « C’est mon interprétation de la conversation qu’il n’y avait aucune pression sur elle », a-t-il réitéré.

La décision de poursuivre SNC-Lavalin pouvait avoir « des conséquences sur 9000 Canadiens, en plus des fournisseurs, des retraités, et des communautés où elle est présente. C’est une décision qui a des conséquences », a expliqué le greffier du Conseil privé.

L’essence de ma conversation avec elle [ Jody Wilson-Raybould, était de dire] : parce que c’est une décision qui est pleine de conséquences […] était-elle convaincue d’avoir pris tous les conseils et les avis qu’elle pouvait?

Michael Wernick, greffier du Conseil privé

« Je n’espérais pas un dénouement en particulier. Je voulais connaître, en planifiant pour janvier et février, quelle était sa pensée sur ce dossier », a-t-il encore dit.

Lorsqu’on lui a demandé pourquoi il avait jugé bon de faire cet appel, il a répondu : « parce que la décision n’avait pas encore été prise. Elle continuait d’exercer son autorité en vertu de la loi », en réitérant que le tout était « légal » et « approprié », en vertu de la doctrine Shawcross.

Cette doctrine, issue du droit anglais, stipule qu’un procureur général « peut parler avec ses collègues du Cabinet d’un ensemble de considérations qui peuvent être pertinentes à une décision », mais qu’il doit ultimement prendre cette décision seul, avait expliqué avant lui le ministre Lametti.

À titre de greffier du Conseil privé, qui est le ministère du premier ministre, Michael Wernick est à la fois sous-ministre du premier ministre, secrétaire du Cabinet et chef de la fonction publique fédérale.

Michael Wernick n’a pu dire si Mme Wilson-Rayboul a pu percevoir cet appel comme une pression indue. « C’est une question à poser à elle. L’intention n’était pas de mettre de la pression inappropriée. Comment elle l’a reçu ou interprété, c’est à elle » de le dire, a-t-il ajouté.

L’opposition s’empare du témoignage

« Si on n’appelle pas ça de l’interférence, on appelle ça comment? » a commenté le député conservateur Pierre Paul-Hus, qui est membre du comité. « On a M. Wernick […] qui dit à Mme Raybould : “écoute, faudrait que tu comprennes” ». Donc quelqu’un lui a passé la commande. Ce n’est pas son travail de faire ça ».

Je trouve que c’est une forme d’intimidation, carrément. Quand on dit : “tu ne comprends pas? Je vais te faire comprendre!” Ça c’est de l’intimidation.

Pierre Paul-Hus, député conservateur

« Plus que ça avance, plus on a des témoignages, plus on voit qu’il y a une opération coordonnée pour faire tomber Mme Raybould », a ajouté le député Paul-Hus.

La députée conservatrice Lisa Raitt, également membre du comité, a enfoncé le même clou. « Il prend sur lui d’expliquer : “tant de gens vont avoir tellement de problèmes”. C’est inapproprié. C’est de l’ingérence politique. C’est dire à la procureure générale quoi faire », a-t-elle affirmé.

Le député néo-démocrate Murray Rankin, qui a aussi assisté au témoignage de M. Wernick, s’est aussi montré préoccupé par cette information. « Il y a eu un effort, après que la décision [de ne pas offrir d’accord de réparation] a été prise par le procureur public, le 4 septembre, pour qu’elle renverse ça », a-t-il commenté.

M. Rankin a répété qu’il souhaite que Mme Wilson-Raybould puisse dire « sa vérité » devant le comité la semaine prochaine, comme elle en a exprimé le souhait, mercredi. à la Chambre des communes. Cela est toutefois incertain puisqu’elle est liée jusqu’à nouvel ordre par le secret professionnel entourant les discussions entre un avocat et son client.

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Clark: Preserve Ottawa’s Kilmorie house as a heritage and cultural hub

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On Thursday, Nov. 14 at 9:30 a.m., the City of Ottawa’s planning committee votes on an application to approve a subdivision for a unique property at 21 Withrow Ave.

Kilmorie, a unique historic property, is situated in the middle of the city, a block off busy Merivale Road. This piece of land is the last remaining evidence of the early settlement of Nepean. It is a landmark for the City View and Nepean community dating back to the 1840s. It is one of the area’s most cherished heritage properties.

Kilmorie house is the second-oldest stone house in Ottawa. The property still contains more than 100 mature trees in a variety of species. To enter this property is a touch of magic in a whirlwind of traffic just a block away.

In 1915, the house was bought by William Wilfred Campbell. Campbell was known as one of Canada’s renowned Confederation Poets. Some famous poems of Campbell’s that were studied in our school days and continue to be enjoyed today are: “Down the Merivale Road,” “Indian Summer” and “The Woods at Kilmorie.” “The Mother,” acclaimed internationally, was read out loud in Parliament. Campbell himself, related to the Royal Family, wrote poetry in these gardens, entertained future prime ministers and coached the young militia preparing to serve in the First World War. He was a fervent Canadian patriot and a renowned artist.

Kilmorie house is the second-oldest stone house in Ottawa. The property still contains more than 100 mature trees in a variety of species.

The City View Community Association and the Kilmorie Heritage Society have been working to save this property as a community hub and an arts and cultural centre. Other educational undertakings could be held in the gardens of heritage flowers and where citizens are welcome to sit to enjoy the surrounding natural beauty.

What does the City of Ottawa think of this idea? It thinks that a subdivision of élite homes that would sell for close to $1 million each, located on a private road, would be better use of this land. And what will happen to the Kilmorie heritage house?  It would be tucked away on a private road, where only this small group of élite homeowners would see it. This house has been a focal point of this area for almost 200 years. Are we just going to let it be hidden forever?

Joan Clark is shown at the estate on Withrow Avenue in 2016. Wayne Cuddington / Postmedia

There are many people who support the preservation of this heritage site. Is the administration of the City of Ottawa acting in a short-sighted manner? Is City Hall more concerned about profit and the taxes to be gleaned from a few more high-priced houses? Has it lost its vision of the future for our young people, who are promoters of green spaces and ecological settings?

Our councillor is currently not active. Who will advocate for us? As citizens of Ottawa, we currently have no representation at City Hall. Councillors have been assigned to help us but do not have the background needed. Our councillor, MP and MPP are all supportive. Many people at City Hall are quietly supportive. We know that they see the merit in what we are trying to accomplish on behalf of our community and our city. Do we really need another subdivision with 14 detached dwellings shoehorned into a unique plot of land that has the potential to be a special setting which values our historic heritage?

Let’s keep Kilmorie in its whole and natural setting.

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Ottawa specialty bakery grows beyond owner’s dreams

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Much like baking, business can be a lot of trial and error before you get it right.

Six years and many sweets later, Jacqui Okum, owner of Strawberry Blonde Bakery, continues to tinker, even though the concept remains much the same.

More than a decade ago, the new vegan had been working in television in Toronto, however, she quickly ran into a problem: when it came to baked goods, she was left to make her own, as vegan-friendly options at that point were few and far between.

“I found myself making stuff at home because I still wanted to eat everything, but I couldn’t really find it,” Okum said in an interview with OttawaMatters.com.

Wanting to make a change from TV and with her new acumen for baking, Okum decided to enroll in a pastry program at George Brown College, one that included a focus on entrepreneurship.

Okum’s husband then got a job at the University of Ottawa, so she moved to the city and began to make offerings to the public, mostly through market stands like the ones at Lansdowne Park.

While her vegan offerings were popular, she began to get feedback about other products customers were looking for, including gluten-free and nut-free products.

The wheels slowly started turning.

After getting a job at Rainbow Natural Foods, Okum met her original business partner who was baking similar things, and the two decided to “go for it.”

At first, Rainbow allowed the two to bake out of its kitchen for a reasonable rate, but within six months the pair had already outgrown it, with orders surpassing space.

In 2013, the two opened their first shop on Grange Avenue in Hintonburg, which would include vegan-friendly, nut-free and gluten-free products to accommodate all dietary needs — something important to Okum.

“Being vegan myself, I knew what it was like to go somewhere and not have anything, or to have one option and it’s a sad looking option, or a piece of fruit,” Okum said.

“I’m still the person who wants the delicious cupcake or whatever it may be, so I really empathize with people who are celiac or maybe have a nut allergy. I took it really seriously.”

The challenge of making everything “just as good” as other offerings also drove Okum and she takes great pride when someone enjoys something from the bakery and doesn’t realize the limited ingredients.

“There’s nothing better. We get customers all the time where say they’re husband and wife and the wife comes in because she doesn’t want to eat gluten and the husband’s like ‘I don’t want it,’” she said. “And then he comes back and says, ‘My wife forced me to try this,’ but now he wants to come back because it’s so good. That’s the whole point of this business, is to make sure things look and taste similar to conventional bake goods.”

The passion and work to build up the offerings at the bakery has taken on a life of its own since the opening of the Grange Avenue location, which moved to Richmond Road as of two weeks ago, to include a coffee and sitting space. The business has now extended to the suburbs as well, with a Kanata location that opened this past June, with possible lunch offerings on the docket for 2020.

Okum said she couldn’t have dreamed that the venture would have been successful as it’s been so far almost seven years on.

“We have 40 employees, which is crazy to me and to think it was just me and business partner six years ago. It’s been a huge learning curve.”

When it comes to running a business, Okum offered to those looking to go down the same path to keep their minds open and to be flexible.

“What you think might happen isn’t what actually is going to happen but don’t be rigid,” she said, noting the original thought was that the bakery would mostly for wholesale use.

“Be kind to yourself, you’re going to make mistakes,” she said.

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How Ottawa’s Nordic Lab is creating new opportunities for Northern art

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For creators living in under-served Northern communities, geographic isolation and a lack of resources present a barrier to success. But the Nordic Lab — a new initiative at the SAW Gallery in downtown Ottawa — is hoping to empower these artists by offering them a mainstage platform to showcase their craft.

The newly expanded space in downtown Ottawa now hosts artists in residence, showcases Nordic art and provides educational programs geared toward Inuit youth — all the while promoting cultural exchanges between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in Canada, Norway and other circumpolar nations.

The SAW Gallery’s curator, Jason St-Laurent, says the Nordic Lab is both a program and a set of physical spaces, though the public will have to wait until the spring of 2020 to view it. St-Laurent says the physical spaces will consist of “screen printing spaces and an artist residency space, which we’re naming after Annie Pootoogook,” the legendary Inuk artist who passed away in 2016.

“We’re all about being the social lubricant of the art world,” says St-Laurent. “We’re not your grandmother’s art institution.”

Tam-Ca Vo-Van stands in her bright, document-arrayed office during our interview. (Joshua Soucie)

Tam-Ca Vo-Van, the SAW Gallery’s director, says the Nordic Lab has been a long time in the making: “We have collaborated often with different Nordic embassies on special presentations. Things just came together, and our curator, Jason St-Laurent, thought of putting in place this Nordic Lab, which would bring together artists from Nordic countries and the North of Canada, and also from Ottawa, in a sort of triangular zone of collaboration.”

“We were involved, for about two years, in major renovations — an expansion of our space,” says Vo-Van, referring to the tripling of the gallery’s space to its current 15,000 square foot home in Arts Court. “We didn’t have our programming spaces for about two years, so we relaunched our facilities at the end of July, but the Nordic Lab wasn’t ready at that time, so we delayed the opening.”

The director describes the Nordic Lab as a research and production space that SAW is making available to its visiting artists. The program is also an educational space that the gallery hopes will invite artists-in-residence to get involved with the local community through initiatives such as community art projects or workshops.

The gallery’s curator and director allowed us to get a shot of the Nordic Lab’s contemporary artist-in-residence studio space while it is still under construction. (Joshua Soucie)

“At the moment, we’re working on a collaboration with an Inuit children’s centre as well as the City of Ottawa, more specifically the Community Arts and Social Engagement program, to put together workshops [for various age groups] that are coming up in November,” says Vo-Van. “With the Nordic Lab, we really wanted to involve the local Inuit community. The Nordic Lab initiative has an artistic mandate but also an educational one. We want to involve youth in artmaking. We really want to contribute to the well-being of the community in which we live, and we really believe the transfer of traditional knowledge is beneficial, especially for youth that are marginalized.”

For its Nordic Lab, the SAW Gallery will be installing semi-automated screen printing presses, which St-Laurent describes as “octopus presses” because their many arms make it simple to accomplish large-scale editions of projects, such as the simultaneous production of T-shirts, bags or prints: “Normally, when you’re hand-making it, it can take forever, but with this semi-automated press, you can do 500 no problem.”

“We’re launching a project called the SAW Art and Protest Initiative,” says St-Laurent, explaining that the project will help elevate the visual impact of political actions or protests by pairing organized social movements with artists to devise visual campaigns through merchandise that will be funded and produced by the SAW Gallery. “SAW, in its beginnings in ’73, was a bunch of activists, feminists and queers coming together to create something where people can see themselves reflected all across the gallery. We kind of wanted to go back to our activist roots, and normally, we can’t apply for funding for political anything, so now we’re using the profits from the bar to invest in our projects.”

SAW Gallery curator Jason St-Laurent. (Joshua Soucie)

The bar to which St-Laurent is referring is known as Club SAW, where gallery-goers are invited to grab a drink to sip on as they view the pieces laid out throughout the gallery. 

Despite the delay in the launch of the Nordic Lab’s physical spaces, the program is well underway. In the fall of 2018, they welcomed their first artist-in-residence, Sobey Art Award-shortlisted artist Joi T. Arcand. Club SAW therefore features a neon sign that was commissioned by the gallery over the course of Arcand’s residency. 

During her residency, Arcand took on a hybrid role with the gallery, becoming the Nordic Lab’s first program director. Arcand says she looks forward to seeing some of the international partnerships she has helped foster come to life as she moves on to her next residency at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre.

Joi Arcand’s neon signs hang on the wall of Club SAW. (Joshua Soucie)

On November 7, SAW will be hosting an afterparty in collaboration with the National Gallery of Canada for the launch of the Àbadakone | Continuous Fire | Feu continuel exhibition, which will be showcasing the works of over 70 Indigenous artists from around the world. At their afterparty, the Nordic Lab’s second artist-in-residence, Norwegian Sámi artist Elle Márjá Eira, will be performing Joiks, which the artist describes as Europe’s oldest singing tradition.

“Joik is still a living art, and I always say that Joik is my heart language,” says Márjá Eira. “I will perform a Joik, a piece from the Norwegian feature film The 12th Man,directed by Harald Zwart. I composed that piece together with film music composer Christophe Beck. […] I hope that the audience is able to capture my feelings and stories, and that they somehow come into my world. My universe is completely different from yours.”

With its emphasis on community building and spotlight on Northern art, the Nordic Lab’s programming is sure to give its event participants chills.

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