February 14, 2017

Fortress Ottawa, a post-War of 1812 alternative use for Parliament Hill

Filed under: Cancon, History, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Colby Cosh linked to this Ottawa Citizen article by Andrew King:

Mapped out with defensive moats, trenches and cannon placements, Bytown’s sprawling stone fortification on the hill was a typical 19th century “star fort,” similar to Fort George in Halifax, also known as Citadel Hill, and the Citadelle de Québec in Quebec City. The “star fort” layout style evolved during the era of gunpowder and cannons and was perfected by Sebastien Le Prestre de Vauban, a French engineer who studied 16th century forts designed by the Knights of Malta. A star fort built by the order with trenches and angled walls withstood a month-long siege by the Ottoman Empire. This layout remained the standard in fort design until the 20th century.

Ottawa’s planned fortress would have also integrated a water-filled moat trench to the south, where Laurier Street is now, to impede an attack. On the northern side, the natural limestone cliffs along the Ottawa River would have served as a defensive measure. Access and resupply points were at the canal near the Sappers Bridge, and a zigzagging trench with six-metre-high stone walls would have run parallel to Queen Street. Parliament Hill, with its gently sloping banks to the south, was called a “glacis” positioned in front of the main trench so that the walls were almost totally hidden from horizontal artillery attack, preventing point-blank enemy fire.

Conceptual image by Andrew King of the “alternate reality” where Fortress Ottawa came to be.

After the rebellions were quashed and the threat of an attack from the United States fizzled out by the mid-1850s, Canada abandoned plans to fortify Bytown.

In 1856, the Rideau Canal system was relinquished to civilian control, and three years later Bytown was selected as the capital of the Province of Canada. The grand plans for Ottawa’s massive stone fortress were shelved and the area that would have been Citadel Hill became the scene of a different kind of battle, that of politics.

June 24, 2015

Ceremonial Guard 2015 Season

Filed under: Cancon, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 22 Jun 2015

The Ceremonial Guard is one of Canada’s most recognizable military units. For over 50 years, the Changing of the Guard has been a top Ottawa attraction, having thrilled thousands of visitors on Parliament Hill, at Rideau Hall and at the National War Memorial. The Changing the Guard Ceremony will take place daily at 10 a.m. on Parliament Hill from June 28 to August 22, 2015.

October 26, 2014

Canadians’ ambivalent views on the Canadian Armed Forces

Filed under: Cancon, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 00:03

In Maclean’s, Jonathon Gatehouse reflects on the reaction of bystanders just after Corporal Nathan Cirillo was shot while standing guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ottawa, and how Canadians are still uneasy about the role of the military in Canadian society:

They came together with haste and purpose. Three civilians and two members of Canadian Forces, all working frantically to save the life of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo.

In the first minutes after the Hamilton reservist was shot twice at Canada’s National War Memorial on Oct. 22, it was passersby who joined in the challenge of trying to staunch the bleeding and keep his heart beating. Photos captured their desperation. A red-headed woman, her legs stretched out across the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, administering artificial respiration while a uniformed man performs CPR. A man in a dark business suit helping to keep the blood where it was needed by holding the kilted Cirillo’s bare legs in the air. And two more — a grey-haired lady and a man in an army beret — applying pressure to his wounds. All of them as anonymous as the fallen combatant inside the granite sarcophagus that the soldier was guarding.

A discarded backpack leans against the tomb, next to a Thermos mug of morning coffee. A black attaché case has been tossed to the flagstones. Right beside that lie the two military assault rifles—one belonging to Cirillo, the other his regimental partner—perfectly stacked, stocks tucked tight against the brass foot of the monument. By the book, even though they were never loaded, per standard honour detail practice.


The Canadian public and its military have been out of sync over duties and mission for more than a decade. It is a gap that doesn’t make much sense. In the aftermath of 9/11, we have come to venerate first-responders — those who run toward danger — as local police, the RCMP and Parliament Hill security did in their shoot-out with Zehaf-Bibeau. But we remain slightly suspicious of the motives of people who volunteer to serve in the army, navy and air force, as if there is something nobler — and more Canadian — in playing defence than being on the offensive.

The events of the past week illustrate that we live in an age where such distinctions have been rendered meaningless. First the murder of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, run down by ersatz jihadi Martin Couture-Rouleau in a shopping mall parking lot in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que. And now the death of Cpl. Cirillo at the hands of another “self-radicalized” fellow citizen. Like it or not, Canada is in this fight, abroad and at home. Facing enemies who don’t give credit for past good deeds, and have few, if any scruples about whom they target.

There’s a tradition that has sprung up in Ottawa over the past years. After the conclusion of the official Remembrance Day ceremony, members of the public approach the War Memorial, remove the poppy from their lapels, and lay them on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It’s a small act of respect, and an attempt to connect with our fading, black and white past.

This year will be different. Not just because Nathan Cirillo died at that very spot, but because of what happened in his final moments. When a red-headed lawyer, a grey-haired nurse and a suit-clad government bureaucrat joined with a colonel and a corporal to try and save a soldier’s life, a page turned. The sacrifice, in full colour and public view, can’t be ignored. Everyone has become a witness. It is part of our present, and our uncomfortable future too.

March 25, 2014

Understatement of the day: “dumb things happen when you’ve been drinking”

Filed under: Cancon, Law — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:10

It’s hard to guess just which parts of his little violent criminal spree might be downgraded to mere “dumb things”:

Cpl. Jonathan Laporte shot up his own home and two of his neighbours’ cars before arming himself with a shotgun and handgun and blasting his way through the showroom of a high-end car dealership on Feb. 9, 2011.

The rampage came less than an hour after he was charged and released by police for physically assaulting three men at a Hunt Club Road hotel.

The 25-year-old soldier had met a man at the Days Inn after replying to an online ad for consensual, “no strings attached” gay sex. But the encounter turned violent after Laporte became heavily intoxicated and grabbed his partner by the neck and started squeezing after warning the man not to tell anyone about their hook-up.

The man eventually escaped wearing nothing more than his underwear and a T-shirt, but returned to the room to recover his wallet and cellphone. Once inside, Laporte closed the door and resumed the attack, punching the man repeatedly in the face as he screamed for help.

August 21, 2013

Ottawa deploys drone to … chase away geese

Filed under: Business, Cancon, Technology — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 08:48

Not every drone carries missiles:

Fed up with geese fouling the grass and water at its Petrie Island beaches, the city government is calling in drone strikes.

It’s proving amazingly effective, said Orléans Coun. Bob Monette. The place used to be haunted by as many as 140 geese, which can eat several pounds of grass in a day and poop out nearly as much in waste.

“Now we’re down to anywhere from 15 to 20 on a daily basis,” Monette said. The weapon the city’s deployed is a “hexcopter,” a remote-controlled chopper with rotors that can hover, soar, circle and — most importantly — scoot along just above the ground, scaring the bejesus out of dozing geese. It’s operated by contractor Steve Wambolt, a former IT worker who launched his own business after one too many layoffs.

“When he takes it out, they put their backs up straight and they’re watching,” Monette said. “When he starts it and it goes up off the ground, they sort of walk into a formation, and as soon as it starts moving, they all take off and they don’t come back until the next day.”

Wambolt starts buzzing the geese at about 4 a.m. The drone also works on seagulls, though they’re a bit braver and have to be harassed almost constantly to keep them away. Both sorts of birds can be territorial and nasty to beachgoers. Their droppings also feed bacteria in the water, which can make swimming dangerous.

Update: Reason.tv attended a recent gathering of civilian drone manufacturers and users:

When you hear the word drone you may immediately think of bombs being dropped in the Middle East or the surveillance of citizens here in the United States, but engineers and aviation geeks have wondered for decades if unmanned flight might solve a few of our world’s problems or just make our lives a little easier.

Over 30 years ago, science magazines wondered if drones would “sniff out pollution,” or, “make pilots obsolete,” and engineers are saying that those ideas may be possible now.

“The technology has reached a point where it can be very inexpensive to buy [unmanned aerial system technology],” says John Villasenor, an engineer at UCLA and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Villasenor says that advances in GPS, airframe design, and flight control methods have made unmanned flight available to pretty much anyone.

As a part of the FAA’s re-authorization of funds in February 2012, Congress passed a bill that included the integration of unmanned aircraft into U.S. airspace. First for public entities like law enforcement or fire fighters and second for civilians like farmers or filmmakers with full integration by 2015. In July, the FAA approved two drones for commercial use which could fly as early as 2013.

January 19, 2013

Infighting among the factions of the Assembly of First Nations

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:57

In the Toronto Star, Tim Harper recounts the behind-the-scenes battles currently going in the Assembly of First Nations:

As he rode to a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper last Friday, Shawn Atleo’s Blackberry buzzed.

“Since you have decided to betray me, all I ask of you now is to help carry my cold dead body off this island,” the text message said.

It was sent in the name of Chief Theresa Spence, but those who saw the text believe it came from someone else in her circle on Victoria Island.

But they were certain about one thing — the timing, moments before he went into one of the most important meetings of his life, was meant to destabilize the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations and undermine his efforts at a meeting which many in his organization fiercely opposed.

The missive distilled two vicious strains coursing through the internal fighting at the AFN — the threats and intimidation under which its leadership is functioning, and the growing sense from some that the Attawapiskat chief, now entering day 38 of a liquid diet with the temperature dipping to -27C here, is being used as a pawn in an internal political struggle.

To attend last week’s meeting Atleo already had to leave his Ottawa office from a back door to get out of a building with angry chiefs trying to blockade him inside.

He would have to enter the Langevin Block for the meeting through a back door for the same reason.

There have been no shortage of charges, countercharges and denials within the organization over the past weeks and the truth in this saga is often elusive.

January 14, 2013

Inside Ottawa: NDP edition

Filed under: Cancon, Humour, Politics — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 17:12

I found this rather amusing:

January 12, 2013

Is the fact that a meeting took place a victory?

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 00:08

Andrew Coyne on Friday’s comic opera performance by the Prime Minister and the Assembly of First Nations:

It’s not yet clear precisely what the Prime Minister and Assembly of First Nations chiefs accomplished at their meeting Friday, but the fact that they met at all, after the tumult and confusion of the preceding 24 hours, must be counted as achievement enough.

Rarely has the penchant of native leaders for what a former prime minister’s chief of staff, Derek Burney, has called “theology” been on such open display. The whole future of the country seemed to hang on whether ministers and chiefs met in a hotel or in a government building, or whether the Prime Minister and the Governor-General attended at the same time or in sequence.

In the process, it became more evident than ever just how divided the AFN has become: among the other unresolved matters as I write are the future of AFN chief Shawn Atleo and, one has to think, the AFN itself, with much of the organization now in open revolt against his leadership. The proxy issue may have been whether to attend the meeting, but the broader conflict is foundational.

By their decision to participate, Atleo and his supporters were not just staring down the demands of what I’ve called the fundamentalists, many of whom have taken up the flag of the Idle No More movement. They were casting their lot with a more pragmatic, forward-looking vision of natives’ future. By no means were they signing onto the whole of the present government’s reform agenda, but they were signalling a willingness to work with it. That took enormous courage, and it is vitally important that the government respond in kind.

December 28, 2012

Colby Cosh: the hunger strike

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:49

In Maclean’s, Colby Cosh explains how hunger strikes should be run and why there are some serious concerns about the ongoing hunger strike in Ottawa:

For a hunger striker to appeal for personal funds — in this case, for contributions to a bank account that has her boyfriend’s name on it — distorts the perceived integrity of the enterprise and throws its basis into doubt. Supporters of the hunger strike are placed in the position of mere financial promoters, no matter how intensely they leer at the striking individual. To make matters worse, we’ve been confronted with a visible disagreement between two spokesmen for Chief Spence. The only source of personal statements from the chief is her Twitter feed, and she does not even appear to have complete control of that. Does she have a single designated spokesperson to exercise authority in the event she falls unconscious or becomes otherwise unable to communicate? Who is it? Is she taking the advice of a physician and having her health monitored? This is an important issue if she intends to forestall permanent physical harm in the hope that her demands will actually be met at some point.

Of course, if the demands aren’t in earnest and the whole thing is no more than a publicity ploy, there is no danger to the Chief and we can ignore the theatrics. In the meantime, give till it hurts, I guess?

June 15, 2012

The Canadian War Museum’s 1812 exhibit

Filed under: Britain, Cancon, History, Military, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 08:14

Maclean’s finds the Canadian War Museum’s War of 1812 exhibit lacking in the triumphal chest-beating one might expect:

“If you’re a Canadian, the Americans invaded, and we pushed them back, and we evolved into an independent country. So as far as we’re concerned, it’s hardly worth saying that Canada won,” says exhibition curator Peter MacLeod, the museum’s pre-Confederation historian. “But the Americans have their own take on it. They went to war with the British Empire, the most powerful empire in the world. And they fought them to a draw. They forced them to respect American independence and American sovereignty. So as far as the Americans are concerned, it’s just as obvious that they won.”

To the British, says MacLeod, the conflict in North America was a sideshow to the more important war against Napoleon in Europe. They invested the weapons and men they could spare, and the Royal Navy blockaded American ports, but defending Canada was of secondary importance.

For Native Americans, it was an existential fight. “Here is a chance presented to us,” the Shawnee leader Tecumseh said, “a chance such as will never occur again, for us Indians of North America to form ourselves into a great combination and cast our lot with the British in this war.”

Tecumseh’s coalition of Native American tribes believed that by aligning themselves with the British, they might stop American expansionism. “This is the last war where they have a serious chance to roll back the American frontier,” says MacLeod. “And it’s the last war where they have a European ally on their side. After this they’re facing the United States on their own, and the Americans basically roll straight to the Pacific.”

May 25, 2012

Ottawa assault and robbery victim spent 75 days behind bars after 911 call

Filed under: Cancon, Law — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 08:57

The Ottawa police have promised an investigation into this weird miscarriage of justice:

Ottawa police are investigating how an elderly victim of a vicious attack in his home ended up spending 75 days in jail after calling 911 for help.

Marian Andrzejewski, 74, called 911 after two men broke into his Ottawa apartment in October 2010, robbed him and punched him repeatedly.

But instead of getting help, Andrzejewski was scolded by the dispatcher when he struggled to communicate in broken English and ended up in handcuffs himself when police finally arrived.

H/T to Mike Brock for the link.

March 1, 2012

A “Confederation theme park”? The jokes write themselves

Filed under: Cancon, Government, History, Humour — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:59

In the National Post, Lorne Gunter has a bit of fun with the notion of what kind of attractions to put in a theme park celebrating Confederation:

“It’s easy to mock Preston Manning’s idea for a Confederation Theme Park … for starters, it’s somewhat odd to see the pro-small-government, West-wants-in Reform Party founder to be proposing a large government expenditure on a historically slanted amusement park to be located, of all places, in Ottawa.”

So said the Ottawa Citizen’s Mark Sutcliffe — two years ago!

It’s still easy to mock.

Although ultimately endorsing Mr. Manning’s idea (in his own altered form), Sutcliffe called the project “Epcot Centre on the Ottawa River,” a dig at the multinational exposition at Disney World in Orlando, Fla. (The one lasting impression I have of Epcot is that every pavilion was tedious and getting from one to the other required a lot of uncomfortable, fruitless walking. Hey, maybe that would be a good blueprint for a celebration of Confederation after all.)

Sutcliffe had his own satirical ideas of what rides a Confederation Park might offer. There could be “Universal (Health Care) Studios” and the “Sovereignty Movement Roller Coaster” that soared to the same dizzying highs and plunged to the same gut-turning lows as Quebec nationalism has experienced over the past 40 years. Patrons could also “board the Avro Arrow as it sits on the runway and never takes off!”

[. . .]

Imagine the joy on tots faces when Mom and Dad tell them that instead of going to central Florida for Pirates of the Caribbean, It’s a Small World (gad, I still have that cloying song stuck in my head), Space Mountain, Splash Mountain and Typhoon Lagoon, they’ll be heading to Ottawa in February to watch an animatronic debate between robot John A. Macdonald and robot Joseph Howe over the British North America Act’s division of federal and provincial powers at the authentic recreation of Charlottetown’s Founders’ Hall at the PEI display.

Then there’ll be a ride on the Drop of Western Alienation Doom; the Endless Trip to the Sovereignty-Association Dentist (sponsored by “money and the ethnic vote”); the Constitutional Reform Merry-go-round (also dubbed the Canada Round); topped off by the Centre-of-the-Universe Centrifuge where riders strap themselves into cars resembling Canada’s regions and the entire contraption revolves around Toronto.

December 10, 2011

“It was not, all in all, Canada’s finest hour. Perhaps that’s why we still don’t talk about it much.”

Filed under: Books, Cancon, History, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:48

Robert Fulford on the event in Ottawa that started the Cold War:

For just one moment in history, Canada found itself at the dangerous centre of global politics. That was in 1945, when Igor Gouzenko left the Russian embassy in Ottawa with documents proving the Soviet Union was spying on Canada with the help of Canadian communists.

Gouzenko’s revelations were the opening shot in the Cold War. A new book, Stalin’s Man in Canada: Fred Rose and Soviet Espionage by David Levy, takes a rambling, anecdotal approach to a major figure in the story, the only Canadian member of Parliament ever convicted of conducting espionage for a foreign state.

Official Ottawa reacted badly to the news that there were spies in its midst. The government arrested the suspects and locked them up for weeks, without access to lawyers or families. They were paraded before a secret royal commission and persuaded to incriminate themselves. Gouzenko was given a new identity to protect him from Soviet assassins but the Mounties leaked nasty stories about him. For decades journalists treated him as a money-grubbing clown rather than the hero that he was.

Today the case remains largely unexplored and poorly remembered. Among those involved, only Gouzenko described his experience in a book, This Was My Choice, a rather thin and hasty account. Twentieth Century Fox produced a forgettable adaptation, The Iron Curtain, with Dana Andrews as Gouzenko.

December 2, 2010

Smug, but nursing that inferiority complex: urban Canada in a nutshell

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:28

John Geddes seems puzzled by the apparent contradiction:

Can we settle on the putdown of preference when it comes to right-wingers expressing their disdain for Canada?

They often resort to either of two seemingly contradictory, but equally condescending, lines about Canadians: we are insufferable in our sense of moral superiority, or we exhibit an equally tiresome inferiority complex.

Now, I’m willing to take my lumps, but do they have to come from both directions at once? Can’t you decide if my national ego is obnoxiously over-developed or pathetically under-developed?

I can only assume that Mr. Geddes hasn’t attended too many parties in Toronto or Ottawa. Both psychological maladies are often displayed by the same people . . . sometimes in the same conversation. Torontonians in particular are capable of sneering at vulgar Americans in one moment, then fretting that they don’t pay enough attention to our “world class” city in the next. Short of finding a way of expressing both thoughts simultaneously, I’d say that was a strong indication that urban Canadians can hold both thoughts without an overwhelming sense of contradiction.

June 23, 2010

Shake, rattle and roll

Filed under: Cancon, Environment — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 14:37

At about quarter to two this afternoon, my house shook for several seconds as an earthquake measuring 5.5 struck just north of Ottawa:

H/T to Colby Cosh for the graphic link.

Update: More information from the National Post:

A moderate earthquake was felt in parts of Southern Ontario and as far as Ottawa and Montreal. The U.S. Geological Survey has reported that an earthquake measuring 5.5 struck Southern Ontario, Quebec and a large part of the Eastern U.S. According to the USGS the quake was centered around 49 km from Cumberland, Ont.

According to reports a few tremors can still be felt after minutes after the initial quake but so far there are no reports of damage.

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