In celebration of Canada’s 150th, Bruce Deachman of the Ottawa Citizen set out to tell the tale of 150 inspiring members of our local community. The stories are filled with hope, love, passion and of course, patriotism. Featured below are three stories that struck a chord with Zibi’s core values and offered a well-needed moment of inspiration.
The man who swam from Petawawa to Ottawa on the Ottawa River
David Merpaw is from Cornwall and lives part-time in Ottawa. As an avid swimmer and environmentalist, he set out to celebrate the Canadian milestone by doing what he does best, swim. “It’s our country, and we’ll never see another 150th. And it’s an honour to do this out of respect to the history of Canada,” said David.
With a goal of spreading awareness of the challenges the environment faces, he makes it his duty to promote the St. Lawrence River Institute of Environmental Studies, located in his hometown of Cornwall– an institute focused on environmental research while also promoting awareness.“Swimming rivers is tough, but it’s more of a challenge to convince people of the importance of the environmental issues we’re facing. It’s a tough sell, but I really think it takes small steps: one person and one message at a time.”
The seamstress who shares her Inuit culture with the youth
Six years ago, Oolooci Taukie an Inuit from a small town of 1600 people moved to Ottawa. Passionate of sewing, she came to making mitts in sealskin and leather and Silapak — a traditionally designed thin coat — by watching her mother sew caribou and sealskin growing up. She used to help by putting on her father’s boots and stomping the dried up skin until it was nice and smooth.
Oolooci is also involved in community work by teaching about her culture and language. She coordinates Inuktitut classes and does Cultural Club at Robert E. Wilson School and Rideau High School to expose all kinds of kids to her culture, “They’re very eager to learn, and every time I come out of the school I feel proud of my culture and my language, because little kids are asking me questions. It’s inspiring when you see little kids really willing to learn the language.” It’s all about sharing she mentions, “As Inuit, we share our food a lot. Everybody is welcome, but usually it’s the Inuit or First Nations or Métis that join. We try and make the students as welcome as possible.”
The fashion cyclist blogger with 8 bikes
Zara Ansar loves bikes. So much so she has eight of them, “I first got a bike because it’s easier to go across town on a bike, rather than driving. I don’t want to be sitting in traffic. It’s healthier for you and it’s just more fun. You have more freedom when you’re on a bike.”
Her blog XOVelo is a project documenting citizens dressed in style on their bikes in Ottawa and Toronto. She got the idea 5 years ago while talking with a friend and noticed the surge of cyclists dressing in normal clothes on their bikes–similar to Europeans who make it a habit of doing so while heading to work. Her blog mirrors that of Copenhagen Cycle Chic whose function is a guy taking photos of people riding on bikes without talking to them. Her twist? Actually conversing with cyclists and getting to know the reasoning behind their love of cycling in Ottawa, “One of the reasons I started this blog was to encourage more women to bike in the city. I know a lot of them who don’t because they don’t feel safe on some of the busier streets. But Ottawa is a good cycling city. It has tons of bike lanes and trails. It’s a pretty active city.”
Canada’s 150th anniversary is an opportunity for us to celebrate our progress and to honour standout citizens that help shape our country. We continue to be inspired by our diverse and talented population!