Michael Wolfson makes a good case for the reopening of the Dominion Observatory.
I tried to look up an article from a recent science journal at my local library. Apparently, they dropped their subscription to this journal, although older copies were available at their central site.
A major book store seems to have an ever-shrinking collection of science texts, although the size of the pseudo-science texts is expanding.
Then I read that what used to be the largest telescope in the world is in storage, and the observatory building is ill-used. I am troubled with what appears to be anti-science thinking developing on this planet.
Carl Sagan referred to science as a “candle in the dark” in his book, The Demon-Haunted World. So, I second Prof. Wolfson’s suggestion: Do set in motion activity to re-open the observatory and re-install the telescope. Think about the new hospital design so as to not make the observatory non-functional. Use the place as a teaching tool. Show visitors the universe around us, and how our observatory has helped us understand that universe.
Let’s hope the powers that be are listening, and willing to act to light that candle.
Hugh Chatfield, BSc-Hon. Physics, President, CyberSpace Industries 2000 Inc., Ottawa
Recognize the value of the Dominion Observatory
I strongly commend Michael Wolfson for his inspiring recognition of the importance of preserving and recognizing the value of the old Dominion Observatory.
His suggestions for the revitalization of the Observatory provide a wonderful opportunity for the public to appreciate the contribution of Canadian scientists to measurements in astronomy and geology, leading to better understanding of our world.
I would suggest one correction: The time signal on CBC radio states: “The beginning of the long dash indicates exactly one p.m. EDT.”
Margaret Back, Ottawa
Hospital takes heritage seriously
The article on the Dominion Observatory raised questions about the impact of The Ottawa Hospital’s new campus development on the neighbouring Dominion Observatory. These questions echo those heard by the hospital at a series of information sessions across the city in Fall 2017.
The impact of the new campus on neighbouring heritage sites is something we take seriously, and is one of the elements that will be addressed as part of the hospital’s upcoming work with both the municipal and federal governments. As well as appreciating the observatory’s extraordinary presence and heritage status, we have a deep respect for its important scientific role.
Throughout each stage of the project, the hospital will continue to work closely with our government partners and the community on key questions like this one. Together, we will create a health-care facility to serve our region for generations to come.
Bernie Etzinger, Chief Communications and Outreach Officer, The Ottawa Hospital.
Whitton was gentle, kind – and yes, feisty
I’m writing to thank you for the splendid piece on Charlotte Whitton.
I can add a piece of information that was sensational at the time. It was an article she wrote in Liberty magazine as “Babies for Export.” In it, Charlotte accused the government of Alberta of virtually selling adoptive children to the United States. The government sued her and she was in Edmonton before the court for a very long time.
She won the case, of course. But the Alberta government and non-government officials never forgot it. Years later, in the 1960s and ’70s when I was working at the Canadian Council on Social Development as editor of Canadian Welfare magazine, people still talked about THAT WOMAN! I found this out particularly when I was writing an editorial at the time of her death and was calling people for reminiscences about her many years of work in social welfare and social policy generally.
I interviewed Charlotte, with my tape recorder, when she was in her hospital bed during her last days. She was forthcoming and helpful, and we had a long and loving talk. I kept that tape and loaned it to two young women who were going to do a film about her. They never made the film and I never saw the tape again.
It would have shown a different Charlotte. I first met her when I was working for the YMCA in the 1950s and we invited her to give the address at our annual meeting. I met her car, and was astonished to see this petite, attractive woman, in a beautiful dress, who spoke to me gently and kindly. She delivered a wonderful and eloquent address – all about the need to carry on the fine work the Y was doing with the less fortunate. As you know, she was a good writer and speaker. I wish I had kept a copy of that speech.
I attended Charlotte’s funeral at St. Alban’s Anglican Church with a colleague, as representatives of the Canadian Council on Social Development which Charlotte had founded in the 1920s and 30s as the Canadian Council on Child Welfare, then the Canadian Council on Child and Family Welfare, then as the Canadian Welfare Council. We expected to hear the Bishop (or the Vicar, I forget) say something about her groundbreaking work for these organizations during the Depression, crisscrossing the country by train, gathering information and writing reports about the suffering of poor families and children. The officiant said not a word about all this, and I wrote to him angrily about it.
That’s my Charlotte. But I remember the feisty one, too. And Bruce Deachman brought this truly great woman to life.
Norman Dahl, Gatineau
Whitton’s story had its lighter side
I enjoyed this article but you didn’t mention the funny bits. I remember Charlotte Whitton’s campaign theme song one year was “I’m gonna wash that man right out of my hair.” And the time she fell getting down from stage and injured her ankle. She was photographed with it bandaged. Carleton University students then superimposed that photo with her horizontal on a four-poster bed on front cover of The Carleton newspaper. Unfortunately, the newspaper publisher was concerned and alerted Charlotte’s PR person. Then all, or almost all, copies had to be burned in a bonfire at Carleton.
Laragh Neelin, BJ 1965, Ottawa
Whitton deserved better than this portrayal
“Whatever women do, they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult.” This is a quote from Charlotte Whitton.
Although the male who wrote your article called her Canada’s first female mayor, she was not. She was the first female to become mayor of a major Canadian city.
To call her opinionated, “bitchy” (slang for acerbic) and uncompromising is a perfect example of the misogynistic remarks women get labelled with. During her Queen’s university period, she was the first female editor of the Queen’s Journal. Was this mentioned? No. She was the founding director of the Canadian Council on Child Welfare and helped bring about a wide range of new legislation to help children. To say “her aggressiveness was immediately clear” when she became deputy mayor is insulting.
The criticisms of her being anti-Semitic are based on gossip, attributed to remarks that remain unproven. In 1938, she attended a launch in Ottawa of the Canadian National Committee on Refugees and was subsequently accused of being opposed to Jews as refugees. This statement was countered by the official record, which included notes from her presentation including suggesting lobbying the government to institute a long-term refugee program and stating her interest in protecting all those at risk, “particularly Hebrews in the Reich and Italy.” I was embarrassed when the City of Ottawa caved in 2011 and refused to name the Archives building in her honour.
As a woman who was a teenager when she was mayor, I am very proud of this woman and consider her a role model. I particularly loved the above quote about men, which I remembered throughout my life. During my career, whenever I had to listen to how women were not capable of rational decision-making and couldn’t make it in the world of men, this quote put everything into perspective.
Linda Story, Ottawa
How did things get so warped?
How could a world-class consortium of no less than 15 Canadian and international companies comprising the Rideau Transit Group err so badly in its bid to preserve some 160,000 board feet of Ottawa-felled ash tees for use in the ceiling designs of LTR stations?
Ash is one of the more popular hard woods that can be moulded or bent in various shapes by first soaking it in water, a technique long known and practised by northern Indigenous people for snowshoe frames and canoe ribs. Aqueous fire retardant spray is also effective, although slower for outcome, but the effective agent is water.
In the case of the LRT, what kind of fire retardant chemical was used? The proprietary product Dricon, developed in 1981, is applied to plywood, etc. during manufacture, and in the early1960s-70s inorganic salts were found to be hygroscopic and to lead to acidic hydrolysis and failure of metal fasteners, etc.
It is surprising that SERECA Fire Consulting Ltd., a fire protection specialist in the field of fire science and fire engineering, and one of the 15-member Rideau Transit Group, did not intervene on the use of the fire retardant spray. But then, there are at least a half-dozen other consulting, design, and supervisory engineering parties to the RTG.
Could it be that RTG is too big in administration? And what about city administration?
George A. Neville, Ottawa
Numbers tell real tale of vehicle safety
Your story offers some quite remarkable facts: “In the 10 years between 2008 and 2017, 114 motorists died on the streets of Ottawa, along with 60 passengers … What’s more, 67 pedestrians, 30 motorcycle riders and 21 cyclists died on local roads during that same time period.”
While the article does not elaborate, it is likely that most of these pedestrians and cyclists (89 persons) were killed in a collision with a motor vehicle, as were probably a significant number of the motorcyclists. So, along with the 114 motor vehicle drivers killed, there were another 60 passengers + 67 pedestrians + 30 cyclists + 21 motorcyclists = 178 persons, for a total of 292 deaths on the roads in our city over that 10-year period, suffered by people who were not riding a bus.
There were nine people who died riding a bus, tragically killed in the only two fatal accidents involving buses in that period — bizarre and unlikely accidents that occurred six years apart.
We need to investigate the safety standards and practices of OC Transpo, of course. But in the light of the stark data on the extent of vehicular accidents and road deaths in the city, we also need to scrutinize our expectation that mass public transit such as buses and trains can ever come with a promise of perfect safety and security — a promise which, when it fails, is cause for outrage, blame-seeking and public retribution.
We will only approach that security when we demonstrate as much concern and action about road and vehicular safety in general as we do when faced with a dramatic catastrophe as that which has recently shocked our city.
Brian Murphy, Ottawa
Time to examine OC Transpo governance
Kelly Egan, like most observers of OC Transpo’s safety record, addresses the nuts and bolts. He notes that the collision with a train in 2013 and with a building in 2019 both involved double-decker buses. The Ottawa Police Service, with the support of the Transportation Safety Board, will no doubt competently address the technical aspects of the recent collision and the performance of the operator.
There is another factor common to these two collisions, a human dimension: the management culture of OC Transpo. The culture of a corporation is ultimately determined by its board of directors. The board in this case is a committee of City Council, eight councillors and the mayor ex officio, plus four citizens. They are all fine people, no doubt, but do they collectively possess what it takes to run a public transit corporation that in 2016 (most recent annual report) spent on operations and capital expenditures about $1 billion?
Compare city-owned Hydro Ottawa, another billion-dollar corporation, whose board has just two sitting city councillors and nine other directors who possess a vast range of experience in corporate governance. It is time to examine not just the technical issues in the recent collision, but the business model of public transit in Ottawa.