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Fifth Issue of Our Literary Journal Foment

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Why Not? : An evening with Scaachi Koul

“Usually when I write something I don’t think about how it will feel to read it in front of 180 people,” says Scaachi Koul before launching into an essay on oral sex and body hair from her debut book of personal essays One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter. But she feigns no shyness, recounting aloud the events that led to her first knuckle-shaving attempt at age eleven (a boy from her class who was a “Hollister t-shirt personified” asked why she was so hairy) and reflecting on the politics of female body hair in 2017 (when Lena Dunham does it, it’s a rebellion, but when a woman of colour does it, it’s a mutiny). The reading set the tone for the evening - equal parts discomfort, vulnerability, and hilarity – kicking off one of the most rousing literary events I have personally ever attended.


Koul is known for her wit and her outspokenness, usually online and usually on matters of race and feminism. Depending on who you are, this makes her either a hero or a villain. In person, she’s as admirably antagonistic, smart, and clever as she is online, giving CBC’s Lucy van Oldenbarneveld a run for her money when it came to the interview portion of the evening. When Oldenbarneveld asked her how she made her book relatable to a wide audience, for instance, Koul was quick to point out that this question is typically only asked of non-white people and women. She also admitted that she had not given relatability much thought when writing, that her book was primarily for “brown girls”, and that if other people liked it too, that was fine. While some interviewers may have gotten defensive at a moment like this, Oldenbarneveld was as good humoured as ever. She retorted, “Well I mean, I read this book and liked it and I’m not young and cool like you,” to which Koul laughed, “I’m not cool. This is my bedtime.”


Though Oldenbarneveld and Koul covered a wide range of topics, the theme of the night seemed to be anger. Take Scaachi’s relationship with her parents (“I get my anger from my dad…the immigrant experience creates pathways of anxiety”), or her writing process (“this book was written on rage”), or even her online persona (“there’s this sense of women having less of a right to be angry about men”). Naturally, this led to a discussion of the one major time in Koul’s life that anger wasn’t enough to protect her. She made headlines last year when, as Buzzfeed Canada’s senior editor, she tweeted a request for pitches from only women of colour, drawing the ire of online trolls led by Ezra Levant, Milo Yiannopolous, and Ottawa’s own Scott Gilmour (who accused Koul of committing a human rights violation). When the trolls finally went as far as to threaten her life and her family, she removed herself from social media for a period of two weeks. Speaking emotionally to Oldenbarneveld, she said the experience felt like a loss of safety and access: “I can’t play on the Internet like I used to.” She says now she never posts pictures of her family online, never has location services turned on, and only picks fights that “seem fun.”


Ultimately the evening was fun and full of laughs, but Koul and Oldenbarneveld also did an exemplary job of discussing uncomfortable topics like race, gender, and sex openly and honestly in public. There was a refreshing, no bullsh*t air about the entire event that more literary panels and journalists, especially in Canada, would do well to take note of.

A Woman's Work Is Never Done

The spring edition of the Ottawa International Writers Festival kicked off on Thursday night, ushering the city s beloved   celebration of storytelling into its twentieth year. Despite its popularity, the festival s anniversary huddles in the shadow of a more vexing historical milestone: that is, one-hundred-and-fifty years of Canadian confederacy. In her introductory remarks to the evening s first panel, A Woman s Work, director of media and communications for the Nobel Women s Initiative, Rachel Vincent,   commented on the role our public intellectuals play in ensuring that the Canadian future [is] better than the Canadian present. How fitting, then, to open the festival with a glimpse at the risks and possibilities that arise when those touted as the bearers of national futurity refuse to reproduce its dominant narratives.

Indeed, while the panelists offered very different reflections on their relationship with Canadian-ness,   each woman testified to the profound influence of private familial histories on her public advocacy. Sandra Perron, a self-professed army brat, grew up in a military family before joining the Canadian Infantry s 22nd Regiment as its first female officer. Her new book, Out Standing in the Field , details her twenty-five year journey to speak out against the unrelenting sexual harassment and abuse that she suffered within the armed forces: an institution for which she still feels much love and loyalty. In lieu of addressing her memoir s more uncomfortable truths about white-masculinist supremacy and nation-building, Perron delivered an optimistic message of   solidarity that imagined no contradiction in the pursuit of both military advancement and gender equity. Notwithstanding her efforts to amplify those voices that have been smothered by patriarchal violence, Perron s talk left one audience member wondering, “W here, exactly, is the place for anger?


Offering one partial, provisional answer was Monia Mazigh, a local author born and raised in a politically active Tunisian household. Mazigh s name first entered public consciousness in 2002, when her husband Maher Arar was detained in Syria based on   unsubstantiated RCMP evidence of terrorist ties. Her passionate campaigns for her husband s release are narrativized in her first book Hope and Despair ; however, in her new novel, Hope Has Two Daughters, Mazigh explores the legacy of two revolutionary women:   Nadia, a member of Tunisia s increasingly poor middle class who flees to Canada during the 1984 Bread Riots, and her daughter Lila, who, when sent to Tunis to explore her maternal history, gets caught up in the furor of the Arab Spring. As Mazigh pointed out, the English title of her book comes from a quote by St. Augustine: Hope has two daughters: one is anger, and the other is courage. Well acquainted with the dangers of   being the angry Muslim woman in a society that hears about Muslim women rather than from them, Mazigh nonetheless testified to the importance of anger and dissent in forwarding more equitable futures. While Western nations are know for exoticizing the struggles of those they have colonized, Mazigh noted, there is nothing so fragrant or delicate about the pursuit of political freedom.

Riayah Patel, a seventh-grade student at Hadley-Philemon Wright High School and activist for indigenous rights, rounded out the panel. During her impassioned speech on the plight of indigenous children s education, Patel acknowledged that she was schooled in the ethical necessity of activist work from an early age. Her father, a survivor of South African apartheid, and her mother, an immigrant from Lebanon, encouraged their daughter to heed the words of African American abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who argued that power concedes nothing without a demand.   Though much of the evening s conversation was directed towards Mazigh and Perron, Patel spoke eloquently on the Canadian government s amnesiac approach to indigenous children s welfare and on her own indebtedness to the legacy of Shannen Koostachin, a fifteen-year-old activist from Attawapiskat First Nation who died tragically in a car accident in 2010. Patel s self-deprecating jokes about her social media obsession aside, hers was a crucial commentary on the privilege of ignorance and the   responsibilities that the young bear for their ancestors traumatic and violent histories.

As the festivities of July 1st, 2017 approach,   the stories of Perron, Mazigh, and Patel challenge us to move beyond empty ceremony. Diversity in national narratives and in the politics of everyday life is more than just a buzzword: it is an enduring labour. And, like a woman s work, it is never quite finished.

5 Festival Pairings for Date Night

No matter who you are taking out – a friend, family member, partner or someone new – date night calls for tasty food, a good drink, and conversation that brings you together. With delicious dinners served up by Mike Beck of Dash Mobile Cookery , local beers from Bicycle Brewery, delicious wines, Bridgehead snacks, and more, our festival is the perfect place for your next evening out. Want to treat yourself? Forget about taking a book with you – you are sure to make a new friend in our Festival Café. Here are five festival pairings to help you plan your next date night out in Ottawa.

4. Spice Up Your Monday with the Art of Seduction

Does your date consider tantric sex research? Are you exploring polyamory for the first time? Bisexuality? Curious? Let award winning novelist Karen Connelly seduce you with The Changeroom and the personal and sexual exploration that went on behind writing this titillating new novel. Too hot under the collar? Don’t worry – Elise Levine’s watery caves and Lori McNulty’s keen eye for human interaction will balance the evening and add a few laughs. If you are planning on joining us for dinner, well then we have to recommend the grilled vegetable pasta salad with artichoke dressing, and a bottle of Steam Whistle or a glass of our light white wine so that you and your date (or just yourself) are ready to go home and unwind.

5. Tuesday Night Politics Punch Close to Home

Does your date follow Question Period daily? Are they consumed by the NDP and Conservative leadership races? Can’t get them to stop talking about Macron and Le Pen? We take a look at the rise of the radical right in Canada with Conservative Party insider, and former Mulroney Cabinet Minister, Tom McMillan with the aim of answering the question: Can it happen here? It will take more than a spoonful of sugar to wash down these truths that hit a bit too close to home, so we recommend our favourite local brew, Bicycle Brewery’s Velocipede IPA, and a mouthful of Dash Mobile’s signature Walnut Flax Burger. To take the edge-off escape with some fiction as Steven Heighton , Andrew Westoll and Susan Perly take us around the world through the beautiful and the absurd.

So grab a different date for every night of our festival, or bring yourself and come meet someone new. Treat yourself with some good food and a new book at the our festival from April 27 - May 2. Our Festival Café is open at 5PM every day and our events are always serving up something new.

Past Date Ideas

1. Thursday Night: Smash the Patriarchy with White Wine and a Rueben

Your date was part of the Women’s March earlier this year, attended The Ghomeshi Effect in January, or keeps talking about feminism. If this sounds like the one you want to take out on Thursday night then you have two fierce memoirs to choose from. At 6:30PM we host Canada’s first female infantry officer Sandra Perron whose stark and honest memoir details her experiences and the reality of many women in the military. From verbal abuse, to physical harassment and sexual assault, Perron exposes the threads of one of our most patriarchal systems. During the break grab a hearty veggie Reuben sandwich with sauerkraut, swiss and special sauce, then order a glass of Angel’s Gate Riesling and get ready to smash the patriarchy with Scaachi Koul. With wit, sarcasm and irony, Koul’s essays cut close the bone as she discusses everything from family to friendship, racism to feminism, Indian weddings to Twitter trolls, because one day we’ll all be dead and none of this will matter – but these issues matter to us all today.

2. A Saturday Swim through Science and Conciousness

Do discussions about the universe, conciousness and our existence fill your time together? Come with open hearts, minds and bellies on Saturday night as science and philosophy collide when we sit down with theoretical physicist Sean Carroll to talk about the origins and meaning of the universe and life itself(!). An event that is sure to leave you craving sustenance, grab a Chickpea and rice burrito with curry crema and coleslaw, and a glass of our Malivoire before the event or chow down in the cafe once it'd over.

3. Sunday: Snack on Some Food for Thought

For those who prefer a mid-afternoon date and are eternally curious, Sunday is for you. Canadian science writer and Discovery Channel host Jay Ingram is back in Ottawa exploring The Science of Why. This event is for people of all ages who want to learn more about the natural – from cats to campfire smoke – and unnatural worlds – including subliminal messaging and bigfoot. Grab a coffee and some fresh tasty treats from Bridgehead or samosas from Rinag, and stick around for a conversation about theatre from the Jewish and Palestinian diasporas with Stephen Orlov and Samah Sabawi.

Check out our full festival schedule for more great date ideas.

Earth Day in the Capital

“We should give more than we take.”

These words, spoken by award-winning Nishnaabeg storyteller Leanne Betasamosake Simpson Saturday night, illustrated one of the evening’s themes. In observance of Earth Day, the Ottawa International Writer’s Festival brought Betasamosake Simpson together with Ian Hanington and David Suzuki for an evening of storytelling, reflection, and calls to action.

It can often seem difficult in the bustle of modern living to appreciate the impact of our species on our planet, and many people struggle with connecting to the natural world.  The stories shared by Betasamosake Simpson reflected upon the fundamental relationship between humanity and this sphere we call home, and the responsibility we have to ourselves, our ancestors, and our descendants to become actively engaged in protecting and improving it. Her reading—a mix of modern legend, traditional stories, and insightful commentary—held the audience in thrall.  She used an understated yet direct approach, skilfully using her storytelling to deliver a compelling message about the responsibility of individuals to take action.

For people seeking solutions to the environmental crises facing our planet, it can be overwhelming to consider their complexity and discover ways to make a difference.  Ian Hanington and David Suzuki co-wrote Just Cool It! in an effort to describe not only the current state of climate science, but also the actions that can still make a difference.  When Hanington described the early days of the book, he said the goal was to make it, “at least two-thirds about solutions.”  His discussion of the book, and the importance of becoming scientifically informed and taking part in the movement which is demanding change, provided a backdrop for Suzuki’s insight and passion.

It goes without saying, David Suzuki is a powerful speaker.  His depth of knowledge was readily apparent, and his scientific approach, very convincing. Suzuki, too, understands the power of storytelling to motivate people to action.  His stories, about meeting with business people and politicians from the other side of the divide, shed light into one of the major obstacles to the environmental movement: the force of the economy.  His stance begins with fundamentals.  He says that the cleanliness of the air, water, and soil along with the biodiversity that keeps food chains and natural cycles intact are the highest priorities of humanity.  Yet the economy has no measure for the value of these things, and this is a crucial problem.  He said, “We’re constantly asking nature to fit our constructs - to feed our economies.  It’s the other way around.”  His call to action involves making it clear to elected representatives that the environment is a priority, “we have to inform the leaders what we expect them to do.”

Reciprocity, action, hope: the themes of the night were cohesive and focused.  In a panel that followed, Betasamosake Simpson, Hanington, and Suzuki delved into the importance of deepening our connection to the earth, of sharing that connection with children, and of “being eco-warriors on their behalf,” according to Hanington.  These experts are aware of the overwhelm and even hopelessness that surrounds the environmental issues of the day, but responded instead with a clear message.  “You have to have hope,” said Suzuki, before describing the surprising rebound of the sockeye salmon population in British Columbia’s rivers.   “Nature surprised us, but we have to pull back and give her a chance.  We don’t know enough to say it’s too late.”

Great Canadian Fiction

For the second half of our festival we are showcasing some our country's best writer and bringing them together for conversations about the power of fiction to change the way we see the world and how we relate to those around us.

April 30 • 8:30PM: The Illegal with Lawrence Hill
Winner of the Governor General's Award for History and 2016 Canada Reads Champion Lawrence Hill is coming to our festival to discuss his most recent novel: The Illegal. Here Hill is at his best writing a depiction of life on the borderlands of society that urges us to consider the plight of the unseen and the forgotten who live among us. Hosted by CBC Ottawa's Joanne Chianello. Learn more and get tickets.

May 1 • 8:30PM: What You Want with Karen Connelly, Lori McNulty & Karen Connelly
Governor General Award winning author Karen Connelly returns with a seductive new novel that questions the lives and sexual identities we have built. Acclaimed short story writer Elise Levine takes readers underwater in her debut novel. Lori McNulty's debut collection of short stories Life on Mars examines our humanity here on planet Earth. With local writer Rhonda Douglas as our host, these great Canadian authors will get us to take a closer look at the lives we live. Learn more and get tickets.

May 2• 8:30PM: The Only Journey with Steven Heighton, Susan Perly & Andrew Westoll
The Amazon, an abandoned Cyprus holiday resort, the front lines in Afghanistan, we will travel around the world and through time with three new novels that question our reality and fantasy, our perceptions of the world and those who are in control. With host Peter Schneider of the Canada Council, Steven Heighton, Susan Perly and Andrew Westoll will take us around the world and to the furthest reaches of our imagination. Learn more and get tickets.

You might also like:
150 Years of Great Canadian Storytelles with Douglas Gibson
At Home in the World with Heather O'Neill & Mary Walsh 
The Bond Between Us with Barbara Gowdy and Claire Cameron  

Coming in June 2017: Louise Penny, Ivan Coyote 

Stories of the Diaspora

This spring writers from Ottawa, across Canada and around the world will be at our festival to talk about our personal and cultural identities, and how storytelling can foster inclusion on a local and international scale.

April 30 • 2PM: Bridging the Disapora: Jewish and Palestinian Plays with Samah Sabawi 
Writing and performance can be some of the best ways to break down the barriers between culture. In their new collection of plays by Israeli and Palestinian writers from around the world,  Stephen Orlov  and  Samah Sabawi  capture a range of perspectives about what it means to be Jewish, Israeli, Palestinian, and Muslim. Thye will talk with GCTC's Arthur Milner about this groundbreaking new anthology Learn more and get tickets.

April 30 • 4PM: Book Launch: the Muslimah Who Fell to Earth personal essays by Canadian Muslim Women  
In the  Muslimah Who Fell to Earth  editor  Saima S. Hussain  gathers twenty-one personal stories told by women, all challenging conventions and stereotypes, and united by two ideas—Islam (or the Quran) and nationality (Canadian). Join us for the launch of this important collection featuring contributors and writers from Ottawa Learn more and get tickets.

May 1 • 6:30PM: One on One with Anita Desai  
Born in India before partition to a German mother and Bengali father, Anita Desai grew up in a household always on the edge of difference and change. In school she would learn English, which she would go on to write in for the rest of her life. The author of 17 novels, novellas and children's books, she has been nominated for the Man Booker Prize three times: in 1980 for  Clear Light of Day , in 1984 for  In Custody  and in 1999 for  Fasting, Feasting . Learn more and get tickets.

April 27 • 6:30PM: Monia Mazigh Confrton Revolution in Hope Has Two Daughters
Having missed the riots of the Arab Spring in her home country of Tunisia,  Monia Mazigh  turned to writing as a way to reconnect with her homeland. Drawing on her own experiences from the Tunisian Bread Riots, Mazigh's novel explores the relationships of mothers and daughters, and the forces that push us both to speak up as activists and to keep our heads down.  Mazigh will be part of opening night with  Raiyah Patel  and  Sandra Perron . Learn more and get tickets.

You might also like:
One Day this Will Matter with Scaachi Koul
Children's Literature from Ireland

4 Writers on Shaking Up the Status Quo

The moments and people who stand out in history and in day-to-day life are often those who shake up the system. They present the world with a new point of view, force us to look behind the curtain and more clsoely at ourselves, and sometimes they change the order of the world.

April 27 • 8:30PM: One Day this Will Matter with Scaachi Koul 
BuzzFeed writer and cultural critic Scaachi Koul  will be talk about her witty and moving book of personal essays that covers everything from social anxiety to family squabbles, body shaming to racism. Her book made us laugh, cry and scream in frustration, and we can't wait for Koul to talk with CBC Ottawa's Lucy van Oldenbarneveld Learn more and get tickets.

April 29 • 8:30PM: This is an Uprising with Mark Engler
#BlackLivesMatter, the Women's March and protests in favour of santuary cities are just a few of the most visibile social movements we have seen in the last year. Though these demonstrations seem to erupt on their own, large social movements that produce change require some serious planning. In This is an Uprising Mark Engler takes a closer look at some what goes into making an effective uprising, from Gandhi to Martin Luther King Jr., Gene Sharp to Frances Fox Piven. Learn more and get tickets.

April 30 • 6:30PM: Vimy - The Battle and the Legend with Tim Cook
In 1917 the Canadian Military fought and won a decisive battle at Vimy Ridge. Though a battle like any other, its significance, for World War I and Canada, became a legend which still holds symbolic significance today. But what events led to that day? Which parts are real and which are myth? What can it tell us about our involvement in wars on foreign soil? Award-winning historian Tim Cook will take us back to the day 100 years after the battle was won. Learn more and get tickets.

May 2 • 6:30PM: Rise of the Radical Right with Tom McMillan
The Conservative Party Leadership race is well underway and the divide between candidates is ideologically vast - driven by divisive social policies, celebrity and propaganda. How did the Conservative Party get here? What legacy will the next leader inherit? Does the party risk alienating the rest of Canada? Former Federal Cabinet Minister  Tom McMillan  explores the evolution - or devolution - of Canada's Conservative Party, how back­room party politics operates, and political leaders succeed or fail. Learn more and get tickets.

You might also like:
Bridging the Disapora: Jewish and Palestinian Plays with Samah Sabawi 
Book Launch: the Muslimah Who Fell to Earth personal essays by Canadian Muslim Women 
One on One with Anita Desai 

Women Making Waves

This spring we are dedicating opening night to outspoken women who know what it is like to live and work in the changing landscape of our country, and celebrating Canadian women novelists on night two. The personal has never been more political, and the women writers coming to our festival from April 27 - May 2 know this to be true.

April 27 6:30PM: A Woman's Work: Advocate, Soldier, Revolutionary
The evening will bridge the age gap as student activist Raiyah Patel, speaking as part of the Nobel Women’s Initiative, joins Sandra Perron, one of Canada’s first infantry soldiers, and Ottawa author Monia Mazigh to talk about the important role women play in advocating for change and human rights.

April 27 • 8:30PM: One Day this Will Matter with Scaachi Koul
BuzzFeed writer and cultural critic Scaachi Koul  will be talk about her witty and moving book of personal essays that covers everything from social anxiety to family squabbles, body shaming to racism. Her book made us laugh, cry and scream in frustration, and we can't wait for Koul to talk with CBC Ottawa's Lucy van Oldenbarneveld.

April 28 • 6:30PM: The Bond Between Us
Barbara Gowdy and Claire Cameron return to Ottawa each with new novels that explore our complex relationships with family, history and the ones we love. Get tickets and read more about Gowdy's Little Sister and Cameron's The Last Neanderthal here.

April 28 8:30PM: At Home in the World
In one of our best pairings yet, we’ll get a taste of humour and talent from Montreal’s  Heather O’Neill and debut novelist (but experienced comedian) Mary Walsh. O'Neill's new novel blurs the lines of childhood and adulthood, fantasy and reality, in one of her best stories yet, while Walsh takes us into the intimate lives of residents in 1960s Newfoundland. Get tickets and read more here.

You might also like:
Bridging the Disapora: Jewish and Palestinian Plays with Samah Sabawi
Book Launch: the Muslimah Who Fell to Earth personal essays by Canadian Muslim Women
One on One with Anita Desai

Spring Edition Brings the World to Ottawa

(Ottawa, April 12, 2017) In it’s most eclectic edition to date the Ottawa International Writers Festival celebrates writers, books and ideas against a backdrop of rising world populism, Islamophobia, and a growing democratic deficit. From April 27 to May 2, forty acclaimed writers from across Canada and around the world will engage the Nation’s Capital in conversations about our cultural differences and similarities, our political and artistic leanings, and most of all our personal histories and public personas.

“This spring we are dedicating opening night to outspoken women who know what it is like to live and work in the changing landscape of our country. The personal has never been more political,” says Artistic Director Sean Wilson. The evening will bridge the age gap as student activist Raiyah Patel, speaking as part of the Nobel Women’s Initiative, joins Sandra Perron, one of Canada’s first infantry soldiers, and Ottawa author Monia Mazigh to talk about the important role women play in advocating for change and human rights. Following this trifecta of inspiring women, BuzzFeed writer and cultural critic Scaachi Koul will be talking about her witty and moving book of personal essays that cover everything from social anxiety to family squabbles, body shaming to racism.

Women will also own the stage the festival stage on the second evening with a focus on fiction. “We’re really looking forward to having Barbara Gowdy and Claire Cameron return to Ottawa with new novels that explore our complex relationships with family, history and the ones we love. Then in one of our best pairings yet, we’ll get a taste of humour and talent with Montreal’s Heather O’Neill and debut novelist (but experienced comedian) Mary Walsh .”

Throughout the festival, the writers will cover a range of genres and themes.

Seeing into Science

Peer into the origins of the universe on Saturday April 29 with theoretical physicist Sean Carroll, whose book The Big Picture explores the complexities of how the world functions at the quantum, cosmic and human level. The exploration of science will continue with popular science journalist Jay Ingram whose new book The Science of Why , get to the scientific reasons for every day occurrences.

Identity and Inclusion

“We are really excited to have writers from Ottawa, across Canada and around the world coming to our city to talk about our personal and cultural identities and how storytelling can foster inclusion on a local and international scale,” says Wilson.

On April 30, the festival will shine a light on the Jewish and Palestinian diaspora as playwrights Samah Sabawi and Peter Orlov sit down with GCTC’s Arthur Milner to talk about their groundbreaking collection of plays. Following this discussion, the festival will host the launch of The Muslimah Who Fell to Earth , a collection of essays about the experience of Muslim women in Canada, featuring readings by Ottawa contributors. In the evening award winning author Lawrence Hill and CBC host Joanne Chianello look at how fiction can build understanding around refugees in his acclaimed novel The Illegal. The following day, three time Booker Prize nominated author and 2017 Blue Metropolis Grand Prix Award winner Anita Desai will discuss her decades spanning career and what it means for her fiction to resonate from India across the globe.

The festival will also hear from veteran storyteller and gay rights advocate Jan Andrews whose new performance about coming out late in life explore the different experiences of coming out and acceptance for gay and transgendered individuals of yesterday and today. Earlier in the weekend, three Irish writers whose YA fiction explores consent in personal relationships suggest once again that the imagination is our most precious natural resource.

History, Politics and Protest

“Looking back is one of the surest ways to move forward,” says Wilson, “and this spring our non-fiction writers will give readers an opportunity to reflect on where we have come from and where we are going.”

To mark Canada’s 150th, storyteller Douglas Gibson will cover 150 years of storytellers, English, French and Indigenous, on April 30th. That evening, social activist and organiser Mark Engler will look at the history of protest around the world and offer tips for the activists of today and tomorrow.

Marking another significant anniversary, Carleton University professor and award winning historian Tim Cook will take us back to Vimy Ridge to better understand the facts of the day and why it stands out as a significant moment in Canadian history. The festival will then look at the politics dominating headlines today with Tom McMillan and host John Geddes, of Maclean’s Magazine, as they look at the history of the Conservative Party of Canada and the rise of the radical right in Canada and abroad.

Good Stories and Good Food

As always, the festival will feature some of the best canadian fiction writers of the day including Governor General Award Winner Karen Connelly on May 1, Steven Heighton and Andrew Westoll on May 2, and a free fiction event featuring Ray Robertson at The Manx on April 30th.

“At its heart the festival is about more than books, it is about bringing people together and sparking conversation and debate, and food is a sure way to bring people together,” says Wilson. Now in its second year, the Writers Festival Cafe will offer local beer by Bicycle Brewery, coffee and snacks from Bridgehead, as well as wine and nonalcoholic beverages which guest can pair with a home cooked meal from Dash Mobile Cookery .

The Ottawa International Writers Festival runs from April 22 - May 2 with most events taking place at Christ Church Cathedral. For details, dates and the complete line-up please go to .


Media Enquiries - Sean Wilson, Artistic Director:

The Harper Factor: Objective or Objectionable?

While the pursuit of objectivity is famously thought to be difficult, history reveals it remains an essential virtue in advancing our sum of knowledge in both the physical and social sciences. Raising a standard of objectivity can guide us through emotional thickets and tangled issues that otherwise block a clear view.

If you've lived in Canada in the last decade you'll know there has been no more polarizing political figure than former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a man so partial that only the most brave (or foolhardy?) thinkers would subject him to dispassionate analysis. Yet this is exactly the feat undertaken within the new book The Harper Factor. Co-editors Jennifer Ditchburn and Graham Fox recently addressed audiences at Carleton University and explained that understanding the past is essential to directing our future. They asserted that, love him or hate him, Harper's tenure oversaw an important chapter in Canada's ongoing story and within the larger context of world history. Canadians now have a fresh opportunity to understand the impact of a man who held the nation's highest office for nearly ten years.
Uniquely suited to this task is Jennifer Ditchburn, an award-winning parliamentary correspondent and Editor-in-Chief of Policy Options magazine. Co-editor Graham Fox is currently president and CEO of the Institute for Research on Public Policy. Together they have assembled an impressive list of cross-partisan contributors that survey and analyze the effects Harper had on policy to reveal "the good, bad and ugly in almost every policy area." 
Impartiality is inconvenient for those of us who like our fish battered on one side. And let's face it, Harper left few voters indifferent. But set aside the personality of the man and the way he conducted himself in public; what then remains is the effect he left for future generations. Unfortunately, as stated in The Harper Factor , "There have been precious few analyses of [Harper's] actual impact on public policy." Ditchburn and Fox appear to be among a rare breed who demand that public policy be appraised by evidence more than partisanship. 
Ditchburn and Fox invited an impressive list of well-credentialed contributors from academia, government, business, media and the non-profit sector to answer the question: What impact did Stephen Harper have on public policy now and for future generations? Each chapter discusses the lasting effect Harper had on national defence; health care; international policy; immigration; law and order; and journalism, to list some topics. 
Following Ditchburn and Fox's reading, many of these issues were taken up by a panel discussion hosted by Professor Susan Harada, Associate Director of the School of Journalism at Carleton. The co-editors were joined on stage by contributing author Paul Wilson, Harper's former policy director, and Derek Antoine, PhD candidate and Instructor in Carleton's School of Journalism and Communication.   
The panel displayed a charming array of informed agreement and civil dissent, much to the audience's amusement. During one notable moment, Fox mused that it was difficult to discern a signature achievement of Harper worthy of future celebration. Wilson's ensuing chuckle was joined by the audience after he countered: "Well, we may indeed celebrate a balanced budget."
Ditchburn and Fox freely admitted that bias is nearly impossible to weed out of any intellectual endeavour, however they stringently demanded that their authors views be based on analysis, evidence, and research. To this, Professor Susan Harada remarked that, in her opinion, "That's what gives the book its heft."
Overall, some chapters of The Harper Factor are critical, others are more complementary of his record. While some of its authors disagree, one consensus remains: "Stephen Harper's record is decidedly more nuanced than both his admirers and his detractors will concede. [This book] is aimed at those who are genuinely curious about his impact on public policy in Canada. To echo the title, what has been the Harper Factor?"