Brews n’ Tunes [In Memoriam]

As I returned to school this year to study Radio Broadcasting, I’ve been forced to introduce myself a lot. With that, comes the inevitable recollection of my experience and why I want to be here.

A huge part of my experience with audio, came from my third year of University. I met someone who became super influential in my life, who became my partner in crime on the air and helped guide me through my on-air-adolescence.

His name was Noah, and with him -and a couple of other incredible gentlemen- I started Brews n’ Tunes, a podcast that combined my two major loves, music and beer. Focusing on our Ottawa community, we interviewed independent musicians and asked them to review a local craft beer. Matching musicians to beverages, we created the ideal environment to talk to cool people and get them to answer our questions.

It was one of the most fun projects I’ve ever done, and my first real introduction to podcasting. Though it only lasted about a year, it was an exciting creative outlet that introduced me to a passion that has taken over my life.

The episodes are still all up on iTunes. Listen and embrace the learning curve that comes with baby podcasters, and my first full interview on our Episode with Finding Chuck.

Click the picture below to hear more. And my recommended pairing? Is an ice cold beer.



Canadian Folk Music Awards 2014

Originally Published on Centretown News online.

Folk music fans filled the Bronson Centre on Nov. 29 to celebrate the country’s best performers in the genre. The 10th annual Canadian Folk Music Awards showcased traditional and innovative Canadian folk musicians.

The Centretown venue was packed to the rafters in a ceremony that was live streamed and broadcast across Canada.

Gerri Trimble, program officer for the music section of the Canada Council for the Arts, has watched the development of the diverse community and says how unique the Canadian folk music scene really is.

“It’s a huge field,” she says. “I think (folk is) a broad word, which is of course is blessing. It’s the greatness of it, the bounty of the whole thing.”

The Canada Council supports musicians financially to help them broaden their reach and develop their craft and was a sponsor of this year’s CFMAs.

“Little grants here and there, whether it’s a travel grant or a grant to compose music, make a difference and it makes a contribution to the vitality of the folk scene,” says Trimble.

In recent years, the Canadian folk music scene has expanded, with new festivals appearing every year.

“I think it wandered in the wilderness for a while,” says Ottawa-born David Newland, Canadian folk musician and poet.

Newland was working behind the scenes at this year’s awards, running the live stream and interviewing winners.

“There has always been a weird dance between folk music and technology,” he says. “People didn’t know what to do.”

In 2009, Newland co-founded Roots Music Canada, a multimedia blog following Canadian folk musicians. It’s an example of how technology is enabling modern artists to share their music more effectively than ever.

Various online platforms give musicians the means to control their own careers. They can record and produce independently, sharing and spreading their work online, he says.

The ability for musicians to control their own career and be their own label is a serious help for emerging folk artists, but not the only option.

True North Records, Canada’s oldest independent record label, has championed folk music since 1969. The Juno Award-winning label works with industry greats Bruce Cockburn and Gordon Lightfoot and newcomers such as East Coast artist Matt Andersen and Winnipeg’s Del Barber.
“All of us came up for the awards,” says David MacMillan, marketing director at True North. “We were the ones making all the noise.”

True North Records had 15 artist nominations at this year’s CFMAs. Group The High Bar Gang won vocal group of the year, while Matt Anderson took home contemporary singer of the year.

The company helps bring Canadian folk music to national and international audiences. Though the industry can be difficult to break into, MacMillan doesn’t think this should discourage artists from trying.

“From booking gigs to a car breaking down on you, there’s a million kinds of challenges,“ he says. “If you can get out there and promote it, then play it.”

Lynn Miles, an Ottawa-based musician, is signed to True North Records. A performer at the show this year, Miles enjoys the awards for the community aspect.

“Everybody’s always on the road, so when you cross paths with people, its always fun to talk and just laugh about how ridiculous it all is,” she says.

Miles’ career has spanned 40 years and about a dozen albums.

“Because of things like these awards and CBC and other radio stations that actually play our music, (the industry is) supported a little bit more now,” she says.

But she’s full of advice for young Canadian folk musicians hoping for a big break.

“I always say follow your heart, follow the art — the money will either arrive or it won’t,” she says.

Beyond that, her message is one of dental wisdom.

“If you’re a musician, you don’t have a dental plan,” Miles says, “so start flossing now.”

Kurdish Culture Takes the Spotlight

(Edited and condensed before publishing on Centretown News Friday November 28, below find my original feature-length piece)

By Clare Bonnyman

It’s a story for the ages: a young Canadian travels to Turkey, falls in love, and finds herself married to a Kurdish freedom fighter.

That is the story of Laurie Fraser, an Ottawa-based writer whose novel The Words Not Spoken – based off her real life – was featured in a recent celebration of Kurdish culture at the Main branch of the Ottawa Public Library.

It was Laurie’s marriage to a member of a Kurdish militant organization in 1994 that moved her to the small Turkish village of Gorema.

Fraser was on hand to share her story on Nov. 15 at the library’s first ”Words and Kurds” cultural event.

“Hopefully the lines between my actual experiences and pure fiction are seamless,” says Fraser. “The fiction is believable, and the truth is sometimes outrageous.”


The afternoon featured Fraser alongside Carleton University professor Jaffer Sheyholislami, sharing literature inspired by the culture of Kurdistan, an area that straddles Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran, with a population of approximately 28 million.

Since 1983, continued acts of political violence overrun Kurdistan.

Kurdish nationalist organizations seek to establish an independent nation state of Kurdistan, while other groups campaign for Kurdish autonomy.

“We said we should look at the lighter side of things and shed some light on what else Kurds do,” says Sheyholislami. “Like any other people they live, they have music, they have poetry.”

The event was designed to open a “dialogue on current issues, and to share past experiences,” says event organizer and master of ceremonies Jeghir Jahangir, of the Kurdish Youth Association of Canada.

The KYAC coordinates events to celebrate Kurdish identity and freedom. While most events take a political stance, this event was designed to celebrate and share Kurdish culture.

“It’s not about news, it’s not about politics,” says Fraser. “Let’s just share stories.”


But the political struggle of the Kurdish people was recognized throughout the afternoon.

Sheyholislami introduced his poetry readings with a nod to the current Kobane resistance, where “sons and fathers, daughters and mothers, side by side have been defending their town against the onslaught of ISIS for the past two months.”

The event was held only a day after news broke that Michael Zehaf-Bibeau – the gunman involved in the Ottawa shootings on October 22 – was surfing the Web in the same Metcalfe Street library branch in the days leading up to his attack on Parliament.

The Canadian government has claimed that Zehaf-Bibeau’s actions were ideologically motivated, and that he was inspired by ISIS. Recent reports state that he was radicalized as far back as 2009.

But the crowd looked to the future when Sardar Saadi — a University of Toronto PhD student — tuned in via Skype to share information about the Rojava Media Project.


The project aims at assisting youth in the Rojava region of Kurdish Syria, empowering them in a “multi-religious, multi-ethnic region that has been exploited by so many powers,” said Saadi.

The event closed with footage from Saadi’s visit to Rojava this past August. He spent two weeks with nine students, training and equipping them to produce documentaries.

For many, it was their first time holding a camera.

Saadi hopes to return to Rojava, but in the meantime is sharing his work at Kurdish events across Canada, working closely with organizations like the KYAC and activists like Jahangir.

“While there is a political resistance side,” says Jahangir, “there is also a cultural resistance side.”

Tobacco sales banned on post-secondary campuses

(Originally posted on November 18, 2014)

By Clare Bonnyman

New provincial anti-smoking regulations ban the sale of tobacco products on post-secondary campuses. The legislation comes into effect in January, removing tobacco products from the shelves of campus retailers across Ontario.

For most Ottawa institutions, the regulation won’t change anything. Algonquin College and University of Ottawa removed tobacco products from campus retailers’ years ago, meanwhile Carleton University has not.

Of the Carleton retailers, no vendor overseen directly by the university sells tobacco products. However, retailers run by the student groups the Carleton University Student Association and Rideau River Residence Association, do.

“This is something that’s been coming for quite some time,” said CUSA Business Operations Manager Rod Castro. “We just never really knew what the time frame was.”

Castro oversees Henry’s convenience store on the Carleton University campus, a centrally located spot for students to pick up a snack, and where they used to be able to buy cigarettes.

Castro said that they are not the stores top-selling item, as “cigarettes are more of a traffic creating item, sort of like gas is at a gas station.”

However the legislation will have a significant financial effect.

“Cigarette sales is probably 20-25% of our total sales, and there really is no replacement for that type of revenue” said Castro.

“Literally I expect a drop in sales of about 20 or 25 percent, instantly.”

CUSA’s cigarette sales for the 2014-2015 school year were estimated at $53,000 in profit. As the legislation is only in effect for one of the three semesters, a profit-loss of approximately a third, or $17,666, could be predicted for CUSA.

Students forced to search off campus for a pack of smokes. 

New provincial legislation is going to make buying a package of cigarettes more different for students at Carleton University.
New provincial legislation is going to make buying a package of cigarettes more different for students at Carleton University.

Other institutions in Ontario have already implemented bans on the sale of tobacco products and even smoking on campuses, some leading up to the expected regulations.

“We’ve definitely been preparing for it,” said CUSA President Folarin Odunayo. “There were discussions when we first heard about the law coming about, and other situations on campuses across the country.”

But unlike other campuses, Odunayo and CUSA chose not to make a decision for the Carleton community.

“We can certainly encourage students to not smoke and inform and educate students about the health hazards of smoking, but I don’t really think it is in our position to ban things from the campus,” said Odunayo.

He said CUSA “can only provide the information, students are mature enough to make decisions on their own.”

CUSA welcomes initiatives onto campus to educate students about the hazards of smoking, like Leave The Pack Behind, a youth-oriented tobacco control program that has had a presence on campus throughout the fall.

International student Ivana Kolkovic came to Carleton from Serbia, and as a smoker says she is against the new regulations.

“I just feel that there are so many other things that are as dangerous as smoking,” said Kolkovic.

She says it is a personal choice whether or not to smoke.

“There are many issues around it,” she said. “People think that you smoke because you cannot cope with your problems and things like that, but I think that things are more complex.”

Odunayo says that unlike other Ottawa campuses that have more strict rules around smoking, CUSA didn’t feel that it was in any position to restrict students.

“You’ve got to ask yourself, is CUSA in the position to ban anything from campus?” he said. “We only have to provide a safe environment.”

Cassandra Leblonde, a second year English major who lives off campus, said she doesn’t know if she’d walk from campus to Bank Street to pick up a pack.

“Depends how much I wanted some smokes,” she said. “It’s a pretty big addiction.”


Facts and Figures about Tobacco on campus.
Facts and Figures about Tobacco on campus.

facts sourced from:

A 2004 study by Physicians for a Smoke Free Canada and a 2006 report by the University of Waterloo.

Voter turnout continues to fall: My piece in Centretown News

View the original story published on the Centretown News website here.

Friday November 14.

Somerset Ward’s voter turnout rate continued its decline in the October election, a problem forcing newly elected Catherine McKenney to confront the ward’s growing transient population.

The wide-open election race featured 11 candidates, with mainstay Diane Holmes retiring after years in municipal politics.

Average voter turnout this year was 39.82 per cent, putting Centretown just below the city average. Voter turnout across Ottawa has been in rapid decline since 2006, with rates plunging from 54 per cent to 40 and dropping.

Somerset Ward fell from 50 to 43 per cent from 2006 to 2010 and now to under 40 per cent in 2014.

Somerset was one of only two of the city’s 23 wards with 11 candidates, the highest number in this year’s election.

The diversity of urban Centretown are one explanation for declining voter turnout.

Carleton University political sciencist Conrad Winn suggests voter turnout is directly related to how “consequential” an election seems. When individuals feel that all the options on the ballot offer them the same thing, they are not as likely to vote than if candidates vary in platforms, he says.

“There aren’t a lot of radical things that politicians at any level of government can do,” says Winn. “When you look at where turnout is high, it’s because the election is consequential. Voter turnout is lowest at the local level because the consequences are smallest.”

Somerset’s young population, 40 per cent of which is between the ages of 15 and 29, may also explain the result.

Winn says low voter turnout is a result of the growing “social youth” demographic, a group finding less motivation to engage in municipal politics.

“People are staying young longer and longer. They’re getting married really late, they’re having children really late,” he says. “They don’t have the same pressing reasons to follow municipal politics and vote.”

These pressing reasons, Winn suggests, can include having a child, owning property or land, or having a long-term job. The “social youth” demographic is waiting longer before settling down and in doing so prolongs their period of non-committal involvement with local politics.

“People aren’t going to vote when they don’t understand what’s happening,” he says. “Municipal and ward politics are hard to understand unless you have lived in that ward for a long time.”

The Simple Solution to Sexual Assault.

Anne-Marie Roy, president of the University of Ottawa’s Student Federation (SFUO), is sending out a clear message to students:

“Don’t rape”.

As post-secondary students head back to school, safety becomes a top priority. A growing concern regarding safety is the ‘epidemic of rape culture’ on campus.

Roy, a leader in the SFUO since 2013, has seen the school through multiple cases of sexual assault. Roy herself was a victim of sexual harassment last year, when a leaked Facebook message revealed sexual threats from male students.

In February of 2014 two University of Ottawa men’s hockey players were accused of sexually assaulting a young woman in Thunder Bay while away for a game. The two men are set to face charges in court, and the male hockey team is suspended for the 2014-2015 school year.

The controversial suspension is a serious move on the part of the university to stand against sexual violence, but “there is more work that needs to be done,” says Roy.

“University and college campuses are a reflection of what our society actually is. I think that the University of Ottawa, and all other universities, do need to show a bit more leadership in terms of tackling this issue,” she says.

A problem with the modern response to rape culture is the tendency to ‘victim-blame’; when services and programs to prevent sexual assault focus on arming potential victims with self-defense and preventative skills.

“We all know that, despite all of our efforts,” says Roy, “unfortunately it still happens.”

Roy wants to move forward with a message of responsibility and awareness, moving away from ‘victim-blaming’ towards “teaching what I think is a very good lesson – Don’t rape,” she says.

There is no one program or service in place to fight campus rape culture across Canada. But Roy stresses the importance of working with each community.

“I think that having a uniform approach in fighting rape culture is not effective,” she says. “The challenges that we see are not the same for students engaging in different activities across campus.”

For the SFUO this resulted in the formation of a task force against rape culture on campus, established in early 2014.

The aim is to ask, “what is the culture within particular spaces on campus, to come up with a tailored approach to tackle rape culture in each of these spaces” Roy explains.

In the meantime, her message to incoming and returning students about sexual violence is very simple.

“Just don’t do it,” she says.

You gotta love books.

John Wyatt spends his days surrounded by thousands of books in the organized chaos of his second-hand bookshop, Book Bazaar.

The Book Bazaar is an Ottawa landmark. Started in 1974 by Beryl McLeod, the shop on the corner of Bank and Frank streets is filled with wall-to-wall bookshelves carrying everything from used best sellers to rare books.

“It’s changed a lot over time,” said Wyatt, “we get readers, and we get collectors. You get a real cross-section. You can sell a six dollar book or a $600 book in the same day. The $600 book is obviously a collectible and a six dollar book is just a reading, hobby book.”

Born in Montreal, Wyatt attended Queen’s University in Kingston. He worked as a lawyer for almost 30 years, settling in Ottawa in 1971. Wyatt made the switch from law to second-hand books in 1994, taking over the then 20 year old Book Bazaar.

“I’ve been involved with books since I was eight,” said Wyatt, “reading them, collecting them. I’ve been involved in the business for a long time.”

His interest in different kinds of books is reflected in the eclectic mix found on the Bazaar’s shelves, including an extensive sheet music collection.

“You’re either a reader or a writer generally, because if you’re a writer you’ve got to spend all your time writing, and as a reader I’ve spent most of my time reading and collecting,” said Wyatt.

Wyatt picks up his books from a range of places.

“University sales, church sales, all over the place. I do what’s called book calls, where I go to people’s houses to buy their books. Often it’s because they’re moving, or downsizing or it’s an estate. People come into the store also, quite often. On a typical Saturday I’ll get eight to 10 people coming in and trying to sell me books.”

With so many sources for his books, Wyatt has a refined selection process.

“I know what I can use. They’ll come in with three boxes and I might only take six books, cause I know which six I need. It’s 50 years of experience,” said Wyatt, “and knowing what people are asking for. I know what’s in demand and what’s not, so I know what we can sell and what we can’t sell.”

Wyatt has used the Internet since 1998 to sell his books to an international audience. He now has an online database with over 50,000 books.

As an early adopter of the Internet the Book Bazaar has seen changes in competition over the years, says Wyatt. “When we first went on the Internet in 1998 there weren’t many other sellers on, so we were averaging about 2,000 orders a year.” The number of online orders has gone down since then, but the value of books sold online has increased.

The Book Bazaar’s clientele is international, Wyatt says. “There’s not a country I haven’t probably shipped a book to. It’s absolutely international. There are 200 million people on the Internet. If you’re sitting in Turkey and you want a book, and you go online and there’s the book in Ottawa you go ahead and order it.”

A current client in Japan has ordered a 1965 edition of Songs of the Newfoundland Outports, a three-volume edition by Kenneth Peacock.

Many international clients are not just collectors, said Wyatt, “Libraries buy from us quite a lot too.” Many Libraries turn to the Book Bazaar to complete collections and diversify their inventory.

In a business driven by collectors, prices for rare books or first editions can be steep.

“I don’t sell them, but some of the most expensive books range from a $50,000 to $250,000,” said Wyatt. “It’s an interesting business, and there’s serious collectors.”

Looking at some of the thick, older volumes in the store, it’s not all that hard to believe.

As for the highest price Wyatt’s ever sold a book for, he simply laughs, “It’s a lot.”