~~~~~~ Learning a better world ~~~~ with Greg Macdougall

PINNED POST / 2013 —
Here’s me explaining what EquitableEducation.ca is about  (Note: the email list is presently offline)


This is my presentation to the special OCDSB meeting Aug. 24, 2021 about the upcoming school year and COVID-related safety and prevention measures.

Background notes, supporting evidence, references, images, and links are below the presentation text.


I appreciate the opportunity to address this meeting. I’m a former OCDSB student and teacher, and have also volunteered for class visits on media literacy, Indigenous solidarity, and sexual health education. My degree in mathematics affords a literacy of much of the COVID research.

1) Last school year, I was concerned and angered with many high-profile local health professionals’ statement in news media and on social media about how safe schools were.

In June, I published a mathematical analysis of Ottawa Public Health’s report on COVID in schools, illustrating that there were likely many more cases in schools, and much more in-school transmission, than OPH reported.

It is too long to get into here, but a large problem was a lack of robust testing to identify cases.

Research suggests that regular systematic ‘screening’ testing is most helpful.  Economic limitations may mean that systematic environmental testing – of air and surfaces – is the most viable option.

Identifying a greater proportion of cases, early, is an important strategy to figure out and implement.

2) I’ve provided a graphic based on the work of some COVID researchers, that depicts a full complement of school safety and prevention measures to implement  I hope that everyone in the board in a position to implement any of these measures, are made aware of them.

3) One particular measure I’d like to specifically address is ventilation. ‘Opening windows’ is almost treated as an afterthought in the provincial guidelines; however there is research suggesting it can be almost twice as effective as the air filtration systems. I hope this will be prioritized as much as possible.

4) And on mandatory vaccinations.

I think it is somewhat authoritarian to be forcing vaccinations on people.

There has been misleading public messaging – last week, Dr. Etches was in the news about how unvaccinated people are 20x as likely to get infected as fully-vaccinated.

But research posted by the US CDC suggests approximately 75% vaccine effectiveness against Delta infection, not Dr. Etches’ 95% (20x) but  4x.

And fully vaccinated people who get infected, are almost as infectious to others as unvaccinated people are.

Yesterday [August 23], the organizer of Sunday’s ‘#SafetyPalooza’ was on CBC radio promoting mandatory vaccinations: “What are [unvaccinated kids] to do if they go into a school and they have a teacher who’s not vaccinated, or if they get on a school bus and that school bus driver isn’t vaccinated?”

To me that sounds like talk about ‘the Big Bad Wolf’ or  bogeyman, and ignores the much larger risk of transmission from the other students, as well as the risky activities permitted in the provincial school guidelines.

 I note some unions have been speaking of protecting their members’ rights against such enforced vaccinations. I don’t think ‘majority-rule’ or popular opinion is the best way to decide such issues, nor is automatically de-legitimization of differing positions.

I very much recommend that no decision be made until the deciders are able to at least communicate an understanding of the major concerns around vaccine mandates – including people’s rights, longer-term thinking around antibodies, boosters, and variants, and other issues that I’m not an expert on.

I have posted the text draft of this presentation – along with supporting references and resources – at my website, EquitableEducation.ca


COVID spread in schools: Ottawa Public Health conclusions differ from data
My in-depth analysis of OPH report on COVID in schools, published in June.
The four main areas:

  • No systemic attempt to find asymptomatic cases – and youth are recognized to have higher asymptomatic rates than other ages;
  • Lack of knowledge on how effective the procedure to identify school outbreaks actually was;
  • A change in testing guidelines one month into the school year skewed the case counts – and were it not for Ottawa’s unique wastewater levels measurements, we wouldn’t know how much of a skew this was;
  • On top of all the above, OPH simply made the assumption that all school cases not traceable to another infected person, must have been contracted somewhere other than in school.

A highlight = the three graphs that illustrate how at the start of October, the amount of testing dropped in half, and the number of measured school outbreaks that had been rising since the start of the school year, went down … while the actual COVID rate locally (measured in the wastewater levels) shot up – and afterwards, the the two levels still roughly paralleled each other, but with way more distance between them. (You need to see it).

Importance of “rapid universal monitoring”
(systematic testing)

COVID-19 in schools: Mitigating classroom clusters in the context of variable transmission
Research article, 8 July 2021, by Paul Tupper and Caroline Colijn (PLOS Computational Biology)

Research excerpt: “Among the measures we modeled, only rapid universal monitoring (for example by regular, onsite, pooled testing) accomplished this prevention.”

Systematic Environmental Testing (of air and surfaces)

Covid virus spread can be combatted through environmental testing. Why aren’t we doing it?
“Environmental sampling is an unbiased and unambiguous approach to locating where the disease is spreading.” by Dr. Cyrus E. Kuschner, Zarina Brune, and Dr. Lance Becker | NBC, 4 Feb 2021

Recommendations for safer school re-opening (image and research paper):

Reopening schools without strict COVID-19 mitigation measures risks accelerating the pandemic
6 March 2021 | OSFpreprints | AUTHORS: Deepti Gurdasani, Nisreen Alwan, Trisha Greenhalgh, Zoë Hyde, Luke Johnson, Paul Roderick, Susan Michie, Martin McKee, Kimberly A. Prather, Sarah Rasmussen, Stephen Reicher, Hisham Ziauddeen
(Link to tweet of image)

Window ventilation can be more effective than the filters (read paper for details)

SARS-CoV-2 aerosol transmission in schools: the effectiveness of different interventions
20 August  2021 | medRxiv | AUTHORS: Jennifer Villers, Andre Henriques, Serafina Calarco, Markus Rognlien, Nicolas Mounet, James Devine, Gabriella Azzopardi, Philip Elson, Marco Andreini, Nicola Tarocco, Claudia Vassella, Olivia Keiser

False impressions about COVID infection, spread, and vaccination

Dr Etches last week says 20x as likely to get infection if unvaccinated…
but CDC collection of published research on Delta / vaccination effectiveness suggests 75% (aka 4x):

CBC audio for “#SafetyPalooza” coming soon… ((Unvaccinated are the bogeyman?))

Being fully vaccinated can = false sense of security

I went to a party with 14 other vaccinated people; 11 of us got COVID
By Allan Massie | The Baltimore Sun, 3 Aug. 2021
The experience and recommendations from an epidemiologist and biomedical researcher at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

This stuff isn’t all clear cut or simple – are people telling you it is?

.., will add the rest when I have the opportunity, aiming for by mid-Wednesday …


[a work in progress]

What to do if you read a Public Health COVID report in detail, and learn that what is being presented to the public isn’t what the actual numbers indicate?

What I did, was take my concerns to the Board of Health public meeting. While the 5 minutes they allocated wasn’t enough to cover the details, there wasn’t even any expression of concern about the introductory explanation of the situation I presented to them

This post will cover the details of what is in the special report by Ottawa Public Health on COVID in schools, how they don’t fit with a lot of the conclusions.

A quick summary of the analysis contained in this post – there are four aspects of the OPH data analysis to indicate the 15% of school cases they attribute to in-school spread, is a significant undercount:

  • No systemic attempt to find asymptomatic cases – and youth are recognized to have higher asymptomatic rates than other ages;
  • Lack of knowledge on how effective the procedure to identify school outbreaks actually was;
  • A change in testing guidelines one month into the school year skewed the case counts – and were it not for Ottawa’s unique wastewater levels measurements, we wouldn’t know how much of a skew this was;
  • On top of all the above, OPH simply made the assumption that all school cases not traceable to another infected person, must have been contracted somewhere other than in school.

I also explore comments made by the local Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Vera Etches, downplaying the significance of airborne transmission.

Disclaimer: In their published report, OPH does include disclaimers to somewhat cover three of the four points above . However, these disclaimers disappear from most of the simplified public messaging and media reports, and regardless, I think they understate the scope of the distortion.

In my five minute delegation (presentation) to the City of Ottawa Board of Health meeting April 19, I spoke first to the need for prioritizing vaccines to essential workers, and then about workplace safety in general and the at-the-time-upcoming April 28 Day of Mourning for work-related deaths and injuries.

* See the footnote section of this piece for more details and links from the meeting itself.

My analysis is from the OPH report published in February – Special Focus: COVID-19 in Schools – that covered the first three months of the 2020-2021 school year, i.e. September through November, 2020. There is ongoing school and community data posted on the OPH website, but it doesn’t contain some of the contextual details and comprehensive perspective compiled into the report.

The report stated that 85% of COVID cases in schools (inclusive of both students and staff) were contracted outside of school environments.

Its specific numbers were:

  • 888 tested-positive COVID cases were identified in school attendees;
  • 11,376 school attendees had to stop attending school and self-isolate for two weeks because of in-school contact with a positive case (it was unclear how many had to do this multiple times); and,
  • 134 school attendees who tested positive for COVID were identified as having contracted the case from someone else in their school.

Even if my analysis that follows, is again not picked up on by public officials or media, I do hope some people will take note. Particularly because of its relevance, I hope some teachers and students will take an interest, and that maybe it can even form the basis for a math lesson!?!

* I formerly taught math at some schools in both the OCDSB and OCCSB, mostly intern or occasional teacher positions, and through personal tutoring. I have learned the value of pedagogy that includes personally meaningful content!

Here are the four main sections examining the data:

DATA PROBLEM – Asymptomatic cases?

Almost all data on COVID is based on the results of testing results – and the OPH school report is not an exception.

But not everyone who has COVID gets tested, so those cases aren’t included in any data.

Specifically of relevance to the schools situation, ‘asymptomatic’ people – who have COVID but don’t have symptoms – often don’t get tested and don’t know they are infected. And a lot of evidence indicates children and youth have higher proportion of asymptomatic infection than the general population.

This would mean the counts that OPH has of COVID cases in schools is an undercount. The question to ask then is, how much of an undercount?

No systematic testing of children (or anyone) in Ottawa has been undertaken at any point, to identify all the cases that would otherwise be undetected. (The rotating ‘rapid testing’ clinics on weekends targeted to specific school-related populations, that began at the end of January, are a very different thing than systematic testing.)

OPH’s data on cases in schools, is almost* all people who went and got tested on their own initiative, and received a positive test result.
*: The semi-exceptions, explained in the next section, were amongst the high-risk school contact cohort of anyone learned to have tested positive.

OPH’s report does include a disclaimer, “Considering the high rate of asymptomatic infection, particularly among young people[6], it is possible that only a portion of cases in schools were diagnosed.” and then goes on to indicate that “Approximately one quarter of source cases [of outbreaks] … were asymptomatic.”

Their [6] footnote is to an Ontario Public Health report, that found children to be asymptomatic approximately twice as often as adults (26.1% vs 13.0%) and slightly more than seniors (26.1% vs 19.7%). But again, even this data was non-random – it is only amongst those who got tested and were positive, and the Ontario Public Health report alluded to their own data bias, stating “Children are more likely to have mild or asymptomatic infection than adults and may therefore not have presented for care/testing[2]“.

The only way to achieve an accurate measurement of how many children with COVID are asymptomatic, is to do randomized or systemic testing – but similar to the Ontario report data, most of the research cited on asymptomatic rates is based on results of existing COVID testing, that is, of people who ‘self-select’ to be tested because they have criteria or reasons to decide to get tested.

Sidenote: this concept is explained well in the article”We Can’t Get a Handle on the Coronavirus Pandemic Without Random Testing” by Emily Oster:

Most people agree that random or universal testing is the best approach. But it’s also very hard to execute. Identifying a random sample of people and testing them is much, much more challenging than testing what we’d call a “convenience sample”—people whom it is easy to find and access. …

Given how hard this is, you might be tempted to think: Well, some data is better than no data. I’ll do something easier—maybe set up a mobile testing site and encourage people to come—and at least I’ll learn *something*.

This thinking is really problematic. Put simply: If we do not understand the biases in our sampling, the resulting data is garbage. …

The term ‘bias’ is a ‘value-neutral’ description more than a perjorative, when used in statistical language.

I’m not sure what a legitimate measurement is of what percent of children and youth with COVID are asymptomatic, but I think it is higher than the 26.1% that Ottawa Public Health cites. One research article, using statistical models rather than random testing, estimated it might be up to 79%.

The difference between a 26% of cases being asymptomatic (which is around 1 in 4, or 1 asymptomatic for every 3 symptomatic) versus 79% (which is roughly 8 in 10, or 4 asymptomatic for every 1 symptomatic) is 12-fold; which is to say, *IF* the 80% is correct versus the ~ 25% that were identified, that would mean the existing count of 888 would actually be higher than 13000 cases!
(STUDENT NOTE – See if you can figure out the calculation to get 13000: where was the OPH data to indicate how many cases of the 888 were asymptomatic?)

That is a hypothetical number, but illustrates the potential magnitude of distortion .

Measuring outbreaks in Ottawa schools

Given there has been no systematic testing, OPH’s process for identifying or measuring outbreaks is important to understand. It is the only way they identify any cases beyond the ones that got tested on their own initiative, just like anyone else who goes to the testing clinics in the city.

OPH defined an outbreak as two or more cases amongst a group of students/teacher(s) in close contact.
(I assume this ‘group’ can generally be interpreted as a classroom, since the report said the average size of a close-contact group was 20 people.)

Finding an outbreak starts when one person in a school has a positive test result – which again, is only if when they have a reason to think they need to be tested and then they also follow through with that and get tested.

Then, the others at the school in their close-contact / high-risk group (on average, 20 people) are asked to quarantine at home and get tested.

However, getting tested was only a recommendation – and OPH did not keep track of how many of the people in each close-contact group actually did get tested, they only know how many positive test results there were.

Note that the city of Montreal’s policy to encourage testing for student case close contacts, was that households could stop quarantining as soon as their child got a negative test for a possible infection via school contact; whereas OPH’s policy as articulated in the report, was that the child needed to quarantine for two weeks regardless of test result (and, it was only early the next year that Ontario started to require other household members to also quarantine when a child was).

If on average, 10 of the 20 went and got tested, a lot less outbreaks would be discovered than if 18 of the 20 did. But this is a big unknown.

Also to note is OPH’s definition – as stated in the report – of, “A high-risk contact in the school is someone who was in close contact, usually within 2 metres for longer than 15 minutes, without adequate personal protective equipment.” I note this criteria because, to me this definition ignores the science about airborne transmission (see ‘airborne’ section further down), and thus many of the potential exposures may not have even been identified as high-risk and then recommended for quarantine and testing.

OPH reported having identified 55 outbreaks in school, with a total of 63 suspected ‘source cases’. This sounds like there were eight – or possibly up to 12 – cases where the original case wasn’t the first case identified. This could be interpreted to say something like 14% – 22% of outbreak source cases weren’t caught initially.
*Eight, since there are that many more suspected source cases than outbreaks (63 minus 55); or up to 12, since there were 12 identified outbreaks where all suspected source case(s) was/were asymptomatic.

That may all sound a bit complicated. If so, stick with the central idea: that is, they only found outbreaks if at least one infected person decided to get themselves tested with no special prompting* from the school, and then someone in their contact group also got tested and was positive. And all measurement of in-school spread was based on that process.
(*: Though one could consider the recommended daily symptom screening as a basis to encourage testing)

The total measured count of cases resulting from outbreaks was 134, out of the total 888 known cases in all the school populations, which calculates to 15%.

OPH reports this as the full amount of transmission that took place within schools, while I would put forward that it is much more accurate to say that at least this per cent of the identified cases were spread in schools. (See section 4 for more on this point).

Outbreaks went down because … of a change in testing guidelines?

Now to add on to the understanding of how outbreaks are discovered, and how there may be outbreaks that don’t get discovered…

From the OPH report, here is the timeline graph of the number of discovered outbreaks – note the trend over time.

The trend over time – a steady rise in outbreaks from the start of the school year until the beginning of October, when the number drops in half and then doesn’t ever get as high again – is noteworthy because something changed at the end of September/ start of October.

The report described it like this:

… provincial testing guidelines for school attendance changed in late September such that children with only one non-specific symptom (e.g., sore throat, runny nose, congestion, headache, nausea, fatigue) could return to school after 24 hours if their symptoms were improving and were not required to be tested prior to return.

This is similar to the asymptomatic infections issue – but, in this case, in Ottawa we are in a unique situation that provides us data to see a sense of how much data distortion it caused (wait for it…)

This next graph isn’t the unique part, but it contributes to it. It is also from the OPH report: the total number of tests per week for ages under 20, to see how many less tests the new guidelines resulted in. It also contains an orange line representing what per cent of tests were positive.

The number of youth tests peaked the week of September 22, with 9572 tests performed, and two weeks later had dropped to less than half that number, at 4381 tests, and decreased more after that.

The unique-to-Ottawa part is that there is daily wastewater monitoring of COVID levels. The graph’s orange line below indicates a more accurate measurement of how many people had COVID, that the number of positive tests did (the light blue part of the same graph).

The peak of identified outbreaks in schools, occurred just before the actual amount of the virus locally approximately doubled (taking into account the lag between the wastewater levels – that measures real-time volume of active virus – and the number of positive tests).

The overall, all-ages number of measured positive tests locally – the blue measurement on the graph – also peaked around then.

Then there was a large break from that point forward with the wastewater-levels measure – look at the ‘gap’, the amount of white space – between the two measurements.

Both the measured school outbreaks, and overall number of local positive tests, did afterwards continue to roughly parallel the wastewater measurements, but at a much reduced scale. This evidence demonstrates how many fewer positive test results were coming from the changed testing guidelines than before (and to note, ‘before’ wasn’t necessarily identifying 100% of people with COVID either).

The logical interpretation of this means that, after the change in testing guidelines, a greater percentage of the ‘actual’ outbreaks in schools were not being detected – not that the number of school outbreaks declined while COVID spread soared in the community. Only the measured number of outbreaks declined.

The unique ability to use the monitoring of wastewater COVID levels allows us to have some numerical measure of this discrepancy, rather than – as in the other sections here – only having an understanding of reasons that the case counts are lower than the actual levels, but not being able to confirm it.

You can see how this ‘drop’ or ‘peak’ in outbreaks was reported, unqualified, by some of the local news media.

It is also important to note how there may have been a compounding / combining effect for the changed testing on the measurement of outbreaks.
(Compounding, as in ‘compound interest’ type of effect; or, combining, as in the mathematical field ‘combinatorics’).

Not only would less outbreaks be discovered because the originating ‘source’ case didn’t get tested in the first place, and thus the group they were part of, didn’t get notice to quarantine and get tested – but in the groups that did have an initial positive test case, triggering the recommendation to quarantine and get tested, it is a likely assumption that a smaller percentage of those groups would go and get tested because of the stricter testing criteria, and thus less likely that a second case, and outbreak, would be discovered.

The simple math example is if you have two things that are both half of what they were, and multiply them together, you get a quarter of the original result. So the number of detected outbreaks may have decreased in greater proportion than the number of detected individual cases decreased, and thus the count of ‘in-school spread’ cases would be a reduced percentage of the count of total school cases.

I think it is a likely assumption, that a smaller proportion of close contacts would decide to get tested under the new testing guidelines, but we don’t know for sure.

An assumption that I think is less likely, is the fourth aspect of the report’s data that I think is a problem.

Can you report assumptions as conclustions?

All of the above analysis is about problems in measurement, that likely contributed to getting lower-than-actual numbers of spread in schools.

Now though, we look at a problem with taking the data that was collected – even if it was an undercount – and saying it means something different than what it says. This is the misinterpretation of data.

The numbers they did have, measured 15% of identified cases in schools that were traceable to another identified (source) case(s) in schools.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that all the rest (85%) weren’t from spread in schools – but that was the simplified message put out by the report and reported as fact by the media / in headlines.

The report didn’t provide tracing information for all the remaining 85% of identified cases. But it did provide it for some of them: the group of 63 cases that were suspected as ‘source’ cases for the known outbreaks.

(This is what is termed a ‘sample’ in statistical language. It is approximately 1/12 the size of the overall 85%. There isn’t any info provided to say whether this sample is representative of , or has different characteristics –  a ‘bias’ – from the overall.)

Here is the relevant excerpt:

Of the 63 cases, they were able to get information about 49 of them, and found 29 to be traceable to a case outside of schools.

29 out of of 49 is just over 60%, and 29 of 63 is slightly under 50%.

If we directly extrapolate from this to the full 85% that weren’t identified as in school-spread, it would be 40% or so traced to a source outside of schools, over 40% with no known origin, and 15% traced to in school spread.

More recent information reported by CBC (April 18, 2021) on overall (not only school) case tracing, stated:

According to OPH, between March 22 and April 5, only 23 per cent of cases were linked to a close contact, while 11 per cent had no known link, and 58 per cent had no information available. Fewer than eight per cent of cases were linked to travel or an outbreak.

That has a higher percentage of cases with ‘no information available’ (58%) than in the report on schools (63-49 = 14, or 21%) – remember that cases were spiking in early April and OPH tweeted midway through that period they could no longer keep up with contact tracing.

But of the cases with known risk factors, that weren’t from outbreaks or travel, the March 22 – April 5 general numbers (a different ‘sample’) had 23% with a link to close contact versus 11% with no known link, which for the cases with known info, is approximately a 2:1 ratio, or more specifically, 68% vs 32%. This compares fairly closely to the schools report ‘sample’ that, of the cases with known info, had 29 (61%) with a link to an infected close contact versus 20 (38%) with no known link to an identified case.

So that gives some confidence that those percentage numbers in the school sample aren’t too distorted for whatever reason.

And, if we ‘extrapolate’ (roughly apply this percentage to the overall 85% of school cases not traced to another in-school case), we get somewhere around 250 school cases with an unknown source of infection, versus 500 that were linked to a known outside-of-school case.

The OPH report doesn’t provide any reasoning for the assumption they made, but they took that whole group of identified school cases that had unidentified sources of infection, and said – for the purposes of their conclusion – that they all must have got infected outside of schools.

If we use the extrapolation numbers, that changes the conclusion from 500 community spread vs 134 school spread (and 250 unknown infection source), to 750 community spread vs 134 school spread. Which is to say, the reported conclusion of 85% vs 15% based on the assumption, becomes 57% vs 15%, with 23% unknown source, when only reporting what is known.

Those were the four points I’d looked at before speaking to the Board of Health at their April 19 meeting. And I only spoke to two of the four, in a rushed manner, in the short opportunity I had.

But at the meeting, another member of the public – a representative of child care workers – mentioned something that was then followed up on by the board chair asking Dr. Etches to clarify her/OPH’s position on ‘airborne spread.’

What she said, that it was her / OPH’s position that while airborne transmission was a risk, it was primarily through droplets that COVID is spreading, raises another problem.


With the discovery of an estimated 215 children buried at the Kamloops Indian Residential School, the CBC reported a story “Remains found at Kamloops residential school ‘not an isolated incident,’ Indigenous experts and leaders warn” with the subtitle, “Calls mount for protection of former sites in case more remains discovered“.

However, the article neglected to mention the Truth & Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action #75, from the 2015 TRC final report, that called for that very thing.


Titles have since been changed: see footnote.


The National Indian Residential School Crisis Line provides support, including emotional and crisis referral services,
for former Residential School students
and others affected:



As Khelsilem tweeted the same day the CBC article was published,

On Missing Children and Burial Information, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission had six Calls-to-Action which have not yet been completed. Here are the six:
75. We call upon the federal government to work with provincial, territorial, and municipal governments, churches, Aboriginal communities, former residential school students, and current landowners to develop and implement strategies and procedures for the ongoing identification, documentation, maintenance, commemoration, and protection of residential school cemeteries or other sites at which residential school children were buried.

The CBC’s story*, that doesn’t feature an author byline, has no mention of the TRC, as if it didn’t happen or is of no current relevance to this situation.
[*: link to archived story, as it appeared while writing this; also see footnote at bottom]

Not mentioning the relevant TRC Calls To Action, also means there is no segue to bring up how in the past six years, the calls were ignored by government.

The one actual quote about protecting the sites of potential graves, is this:

“We need to make sure they [residential school sites] are controlled and protected so full investigations can be done,” [Mary Ellen] Turpel-Lafond [director of the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre at the University of British Columbia] said.

The way that news media operates – ‘news’ is getting someone to say something and then quote them, but not to independently quote from a previous source document, even if that document represents years of work and input from a large collective of voices and experiences – can explain how this happened.

But observing this instance of how news media operates, provides a partial window on the function that establishment systems have in relation to the calls to action from The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, as well as those from the more recent (2016-2019) National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls*, the earlier (1991-1996) Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, and many lesser-known government undertakings purported to ‘finally address’ these issues, in allowing the recommendations to be so easily sidelined and ignored by governments.

[*: The MMIWG inquiry’s final report stated clearly, “Legally speaking, this genocide consists of a composite wrongful act… this breach [of international law] will persist as long as genocidal acts continue to occur and destructive policies are maintained. … It is time to call it as it is: Canada’s past and current colonial policies, actions and inactions towards Indigenous Peoples is genocide. And genocide, as per law binding on Canada, demands accountability.” – bold emphases added, for the issues being discussed here]

After the initial buzz around commission/inquiry reports has left the news cycle, they are no longer deemed important or relevant by the preponderance of society’s officially-sanctioned storytellers – they are no longer ‘news’ or ‘news-worthy’.

An organization like the Yellowhead Institute can release a special report – “Calls to Action Accountability: A 2020 Status Update on Reconciliation” – documenting how, five years later, only eight of the 94 Calls To Action have been implemented, and that may become ‘news’ for a few days… but otherwise, in general, the fact that these recommendations are not being followed through on is not as important (to the news media) as the countless other stories they breathlessly report upon day after day.

Context is not a strong suit for the type of content most encouraged and practiced by those paid to do the reporting. But what more suitable situation could there be, than what is happening now – with the further exposure to public view of the actual genocidal history of the country, and the corresponding public outpouring of emotion – to actually ‘connect the dots’ and ensure material changes are enacted?

As Gabrielle Fayant tweeted,

Imagine if survivors and Indigenous folks got together and explained in detail how Canadian governments and churches could work towards repairing the damage of residential schools?

Well, they did in 2015! There are 94 Calls to Action. Only 10 were completed, others were coopted

Government departments began using the word reconciliation for everything but yet none of the policies or funding programs they created were in response to the calls to action [Emoticon: Woman facepalming]

TRC 66 “multi-year funding for youth and grassroots” turned into micro grants..

Churches and feds still withholding evidence and even taking survivors to court! Their mission statement should be: Do anything not to be held accountable.

Meanwhile Indigenous people’s continue to be highly surveilled, alarming rates of police brutality and incarceration. Data unethically collected by institutions to keep track of us.


Clearly I’m upset, I’ve been upset for years.. And I see many settlers that are now upset too but I’m also like how did it take you so long? And can we get to work already???



The CBC article was revised since the writing of this piece. Compare the archived version (also linked above) with the current ‘live’ version. There is still nothing pertaining to the TRC or its Calls To Action. Note that I had first used the ‘Report typo or correction’ button on the article itself, and then later tweeted to CBC, asking them to mention what the TRC itself had recommended; they did correct the phrasing about the enrollment numbers at the school, that I had also suggested via the correction feedback button, but not (what I consider to be) the major issue.

Footnote 2:
It was relayed to me second-hand, that one of the interviewees featured in the article for a local CBC Ottawa article, did indeed mention to the reporter about the TRC and at least one of the relevant Calls To Action, but that wasn’t included in what was published.

Footnote 3:
The day after I published this, a front page article in the Globe & Mail focused on the same theme of calls to investigate other potential unmarked gravesites, and also did not mention any of the related TRC Calls To Action – but it did mention the TRC itself, through some quotes from the author of the TRC report, “Where are the Children Buried?”
A different Globe and Mail article reported on a message from Murray Sinclair, who was chair of the TRC, but didn’t mention the Calls To Action; a CBC article on Sinclair’s message, did say “The TRC released 94 calls to action six years ago following a lengthy investigation into residential schools. It made six recommendations regarding missing children and burial grounds” and included the details of one of those calls.

Footnote 4:
On Thursday, Sinclair spoke to a House of Commons committee, and, as reported by the Toronto Star/ Canadian Press:

Sinclair said the TRC urged the government in its calls to action numbers 71 to 75 to work with the churches and the Indigenous communities to locate burial sites and list the names of children who died.
“Nothing has been done by the government to follow that up,” he said. “We think that’s a sad commentary upon the commitment the government has or lack of commitment the government has to trying to close the story.”
He said the churches who ran residential schools have not yet shared their records of the deaths of Indigenous children with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

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please add anything you know of that isn’t already listed.

The following text introduces, explains, and provides instruction on how to use, the database.
The two tables of listings (as linked above) are then embedded at the bottom of this post.


This is database of organizations, campaigns, calls to action, collective statements and demands, media outlets, and other listings, responding to the urgent pandemic crisis in Ontario.

It is for both collective advocacy efforts, as well as supports offered to individuals – all with the purpose of connecting people to get involved, take action, support, and find support.

Ontario’s current crisis is political and it is up to people’s efforts to do what’s needed.

Hopefully it is apparent, the value and potential of a directory with dozens of cross-sector listings from across the province, all in one place – especially with upcoming April 28th Workers Day of Mourning and May 1st May Day coordinated actions.


The two ways to support the effectiveness of this directory are:

  • Add listings of any and all initiatives you know of, that aren’t already listed
    (i.e. crowd-sourcing works when people contribute)
  • Word-of-mouth sharing this directory: by social media, and methods like email for broader reach.
    * Especially ensure that relevant organizations and media outlets know about this directory.
    Remember – and communicate – that sharing is in solidarity with the variety of initiatives listed.


The full table is below.


To add a listing, please use this form.
Any organizer who’d like to update, add to, or correct their listing: use the form just as for a new listing.


You can use this image ^ in social media posts, or print flyers (PDF)



The listings are organized with the following categories:
*suggestions are welcome on the categorization scheme

  • Type of listing:
    Organization / Group ; Directory / Listing ; Media Outlet ; Call to Action / Event ; List of Demands / Collective Statement.
  • Type of Organizing:
    Collective Advocacy -and/or- Supports for Individuals.
  • Geography:
    Province-wide -or- Local (and if so, which locality).
  • Main area(s) of focus:
    General / Multi-issue ; Workers / Labour ; Schools / Child-care ; Tenants / Housing ; Homeless / Shelters ; Prisoners / Incarceration ; Policing / Legal ; Migrant Justice ; Racial Justice ; Gender Justice ; Disability Justice ; Health Care ; Long-Term Care ; Science ; Mutual Aid ; Other: __.

The other fields for each listing, are:
Website ; Short description (1-3 sentences); Social media links (Facebook/Twitter/Instagram) ; File attachment(s), for printing or otherwise ; Contact info (phone and/or email) ; Any additional link(s).


To scroll, you can click on any square and then use the keyboard arrows.
To see a full record, click on the blue arrows at the left of the table that appear when you hover over it.
To see full contents of a square that’s too long for the display, click the arrow box appearing in the square.
To sort or view the directory in a different way, click the arrow(s) at top-right of the desired column(s).


There are two tables: the first a calendar, the second with all other listings.



Panels from the pamphlet (2-page PDF)


The wording of the motion in August 1910 at the Second International Conference of Socialist Women, put forward by Clara Zetkin, Kate Duncker, and others, reads in part:

In agreement with the class-conscious political and trade organizations of the proletariat in their country the socialist women of all nationalities have to organize a special Women’s Day, which in first line has to promote Women Suffrage propaganda. This demand must be discussed in connection with the whole women’s question according to the socialist conception of social things.


This double-sided, folded pamphlet (2-page PDF) is intended especially for print distribution, beyond the virtual tower and the social media bubbles.


It includes that quote from the Women’s Day motion, alongside some context and further writing by Alexandra Kollantai from the years following, including:

On the 28th of February, 1909, the women socialists of the U.S.A. organized huge demonstrations and meetings all over the country demanding political rights for working women. This was the first “Woman’s Day”.


The 8th of March is a historic and memorable day for the workers and peasants, for all the Russian workers and for the workers of the whole world. In 1917, on this day [February 23 on the Julian Calendar], the great February revolution broke out. It was the working women of Petersburg who began this revolution; it was they who first decided to raise the banner of opposition to the Tsar and his associates.


Also included are illustrations from Stephanie McMillan (used with permission), providing colour, visual appeal, and a more immediate understanding and impact.


Here are the four panels of the pamphlet:

Please print, distribute, and share!



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Zibi development at sacred site poses questions of responsibility for all who attend events there

The Bluesfest drive-in promo logo beside a photo of the Zibi sign and island development

Article and multimedia by Greg Macdougall — updated August 13, 2020 — license: CC-BY-SA-ND

These first two August weekends, the RBC Bluesfest Ottawa drive-in concerts – livestreamed online with #CanadaPerforms, a federal program to support artists during the COVID pandemic – are being hosted at a venue that may raise eyebrows to anyone supporting the current protests against racism and monuments to a racist-colonial past.

The ‘Zibi’ development-in-construction is situated at a sacred site – the area at what is known in English as the Chaudière Falls, on the river between Ottawa and Gatineau, an area named Akikodjiwan or Asinabka in the Algonquin language Anishinabemowin.

This development of condominiums and commercial space has proceeded without the proper consent of the Algonquin Nation since being announced in 2013. This is in violation of principles included in rulings by the Supreme Court of Canada, and in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

Previously, some local organizations and events have taken action to honour the complexity of this issue:

  • Five years ago, in 2015, organizers of the local Arboretum music festival paused their plans when they learned about the problems with the island venue they’d booked. They did eventually go ahead with it there, but with the addition of two panel discussions of Algonquins speaking on the issues (though only one of the selected speakers was actively opposed to the development).
  • That same year, Ottawa Riverkeeper had their annual fundraising gala at the island site sponsored by the developers – but based on pressure at the time, have not returned since (though they do continue to accept the developers’ sponsorship funding, and a board member is married to one of the developers).
  • Ecology Ottawa chose to stop taking sponsorship money from the development company in 2015, to maintain a clear distance from the developer.

While different grassroots Algonquin, other Indigenous, and settler peoples took positions (and action) against the development earlier, it was in the second half of 2015 that the chiefs of the nine status Algonquin communities based in Quebec – representing the vast majority of the Algonquin Nation – backed formal resolutions against development of the sacred site (read the Assembly of First Nations resolution).

The resolutions asked all levels of government to protect the site by (A) stopping development, and (B) entering into discussions to return the area to Algonquin stewardship. They referred to the pre-existing Asinabka vision for the site that had been led by the late Algonquin Elder and leader William Commanda, that had widespread support before the developers put forward their plans.

However, governments at all levels ignored these requests, and development has proceeded.

Earlier in 2015, the developers did enter into a benefits agreement with one status Algonquin community, Pikwakanagan, and then with the associated “Algonquins of Ontario” (AOO) entity that consists of Pikwakanagan and nine non-status communities, that was formed in the 2000s to engage in the contested Eastern Ontario land claim process.

There is more complexity to the differing positions within the Algonquin Nation than the above description, but that is the 2-minute version that illustrates how:

  • There is not only one position from the Algonquin Nation on this situation.
  • There was strong Algonquin opposition to the development, and an Algonquin-led alternative proposed.
  • There has not been any comprehensive Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC), yet the development has proceeded regardless.

Since then:

  • The NCC (National Capital Commission), representing the federal government, began a series of meetings including the ten status chiefs (Pikwakanagan and the nine opposed) in 2016 – though this process has been publicly characterized by a number of the chiefs, including Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation Tribal Council Grand Chief Verna Polson, as inadequate for consultation purposes.
  • In late 2016, the Kitigan Zibi chief and council filed a site-specific land title claim for the area from Parliament Hill east to Lebreton Flats (coincidentally, the regular home of Bluesfest). This included the islands of Zibi development, but not the Quebec side: it is a legal challenge to the legitimacy of the Ontario land claim.
  • In spring 2017, two of the Quebec-based status communities under new leadership followed Pikwakanagan in entering into benefits agreements with the developers. This was only after construction was already underway in Gatineau, and the government had demonstrated lack of interest in honouring the Algonquin’s Indigenous rights.
  • For almost all of August 2017, the Gatineau Zibi site hosted Cirque de Soleil’s Volta performance, with more attendees than there are members of the Algonquin Nation. Along with contributing $300,000 to Zibi for the ‘Place des Festivals’ venue, Gatineau’s mayor said, “We have always viewed Zibi as a cultural and economic partner for our revitalized downtown – [this] cements this role.” The Algonquin opposition to the development was invisibilized.
  • In fall 2017, A Tribe Called Red withdrew their music from the sound and light show ‘Miwate’ at the falls (though this was not at Zibi, but at the Hydro Ottawa section of Chaudière Island, and ATCR said it was because they didn’t want to be part of a Canada150 event).
  • In late 2018 and early 2019, residents of the first Gatineau Zibi condominium building began to take occupancy. Residents have since also moved into the first building on the islands. The full development is still a number of years from being completed.

Public awareness and understanding of this situation – of the sacred site, the associated Indigenous rights, the development project, and the differing positions of the Algonquin people – is less than adequate.

The developer-friendly media, the company’s own PR, and divide-and-conquer dynamics have served to quiet or confuse and misinform many, and keep the issue from the prominence it deserves.

The two centuries of dispossession of the Algonquin and other Indigenous Nations who used the site – a sacred heart of one of the primary pre-colonial transportation corridors of the continent, with the waterfalls comparable in stature to Niagara Falls before being dammed – by historical figures like Philemon Wright, JR Booth, EB Eddy, and others, has also contributed to a diminished significance in the eyes of many. Otherwise, the Akikodjiwan-Asinabka-Chaudière Falls situation might be recognized by many more people in and outside of the region.

The danger of events like Bluesfest at Zibi, is that they can legitimize to the general population the re-colonization of the site that is happening, by pushing the issue out of consciousness and providing non-qualified endorsement of the development. In this instance it is to a national audience, with the government partnership of the National Arts Centre with #CanadaPerforms.

Acknowledging the full situation is necessary, and it goes beyond land acknowledgements.

The late Wolf Lake Chief Harry St. Denis referred to the problem with land acknowledgements in the face of this situation, in a 2017 presentation to committee at Parliament. He also speaks to the need for all Algonquin to have a say at this site, and problems with the larger land claim. Video 2min20s

Then-Chief of Kitigan Zibi, Gilbert Whiteduck, also spoke of the difference between ceremonial inclusion and material inclusion, in 2014 when the city of Ottawa decided to rezone the islands for development after ignoring Kitigan Zibi’s request to postpone the city council vote in order to have dialogue first. He also discusses Elder William Commanda’s vision for the site and approach to differing views, and more on the history of the area. Audio 3min40s

In this era where historical monuments to racism and colonialism are being contested and overthrown, we need to ask what responsibility non-Algonquin and non-Indigenous people have in proximity and potential participation with this place — with such a large ($1billion+), private-property, metal-glass-and-concrete monument to present-day corporate colonialism and the violation of Indigenous rights?


For a comphrehensive backgrounder on the site and development, please see this 2019 post:
Sacred Waterfalls Site in Ottawa – Annotated Resource Guide
(It includes references and source links to most of the information in this piece)

The August long weekend – the first Monday in August is a civic holiday in most of Canada – was when Grandfather William Commanda hosted annual gatherings at his place on Bitobi Lake in Kitigan Zibi, that grew to bring thousands together each year as a Circle of All Nations. The first gathering there was in 1969 and the last in 2011, just after he passed away (on August 3rd of that year). It was at the gathering a dozen or so years ago, that the author of this piece first learned about the Asinabka vision for the sacred site, and then since 2014 has been involved with Algonquin and other peoples to protect the site from the development.

(1) The Zibi development is on the Gatineau shoreline as well as on the islands closest to Chaudière Falls. Slightly downstream Victoria Island has been public space, a site of ceremony and gatherings in recent decades, while the other islands were occupied exclusively by industry.

(2) The nine non-status communities that are part of “Algonquins of Ontario” (AOO) have a large proportion of members with very tenuous connection to Algonquin ancestry; there are also other non-status Algonquin communities in Ontario that chose to not be part of AOO. There are nine status Algonquin communities based in Quebec, along with Pikwakanagan and also Wahgoshig in Ontario (Wahgoshig isn’t part of AOO). The Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation Tribal Council (AANTC) represents seven status Algonquin First Nations – Wahgoshig and six of the Quebec-based Algonquin communities – while the Algonquin Nation Tribal Council (/Algonquin Nation Secretariat) represents the other three Quebec-based communities.

(3) Windmill Development Group Ltd. is an Ottawa-based environmentally-focused developer company that created the ‘Zibi’ development. It later brought in a much larger partner, Toronto-based Dream Unlimited Corp, and also created a new spin-off company, Theia Partners, for its own interests in Zibi.

(4) In 2015, researchers Randy Boswell and Jean-Luc Pilon published archaeological studies focused on “Hull Landing” near the Canadian Museum of History, the downstream beginnings of the portage route around the falls, goig back more than 4500 years that “paint a picture of Ottawa-Gatineau as a profoundly important place for aboriginal people” (quote from the Ottawa Citizen newspaper).


Two short videos from Bluesfest first weekend:

Land acknowledgements:
The CEO of the National Arts Centre, the two Bluesfest concert co-hosts, and Samantha Tenasco (of Zibi’s Memengweshii council) acknowledging the Algonquin and other Indigenous peoples in Canada.

Haviah Mighty:
The 2019 Polaris Prize winner, performing Saturday August 1st, responds to a question from the audience about what message she might have for other artists about ‘the current situation’.

Two short videos from second weekend of Bluesfest:

Algonquin Nation message:
The second Saturday evening was opened with a recorded video from the Algonquin Nation and AANTC Grand Chief Verna Polson, followed by live jingle dress dance from Josee Bourgeois (member of Zibi’s Memengweshii council), Amanda Fox, Stephanie Sarazin, and Ember Sarazin.

Zaki Ibrahim
Amanda Rheaume:
Both of these artists, separately, had specific messages about the sacred site hosting the performances. As Ibrahim said, it’s important to come “to understand” these issues, what they mean.

Greetings of the solstice,

I’ve put together a summary of some of what I’ve been working on this year*.

If you’re interested to read through it but not right now, please bookmark or otherwise do something as a reminder.

Also please consider sharing this with peoples you know, if you think there’s something here that may interest them — One of the most helpful ways to support this kind of work is to help it reach appropriate (and appreciative) people. I’ve also made this summary available in print, if you want to give it on paper.

(( The Celtic year starts Oct 31 / Nov 1 (Samhain) at the start of winter season; thus, this summary also includes some pieces from the last months of 2018. ))

The summary below is in four parts:
Writings  —  Interviews  —  Recordings  —  Miscellaneous


Part A: Written articles

(Each is “long-form”, 2000+ words, with printable PDF versions)

  • Sacred Waterfalls Site in Ottawa – Annotated Resource Guide
    This is based on two walking tours I gave in May as part of Jane’s Walks Ottawa, of the Chaudiere Falls sacred site (Asinabka or Akikodjiwan in the Algonquin language). There have been efforts to protect the site since developers announced condo & commerce plans in 2013, that usurped a previous Algonquin vision for the site.
    IMHO I’ve put together the most accessible comprehensive guide to this issue I know of; it includes many links, videos, and exclusive audio segments, and a tribute to the late chief Harry St. Denis who was a leader in defending the site and passed away in fall of 2018.
  • The Indigenous Suicide Crisis in Canada is Worse Than We Thought
    In-depth exploration and analysis of a new Statistics Canada report with more detailed and accurate data than previously available.
    This is a followup to my 2018 article and multi-media on the Indigenous Suicide Crisis in Canada, featuring the work of authors Roland Chrisjohn and Shaunessy McKay (Dying To Please You: Indigenous Suicide in Contemporary Canada) and of the Indigenous youth organization We Matter’s national Hope Forum event.
  • Solidarity with the People and Social Movements of Brazil under Bolsonaro rule
    In-depth analysis of the election of, and the threats posed by, new fascist president Jair Bolsonaro. Includes three half-hour audios. This also provides understanding of fascism in general and how it comes to power.


Part B: Interviews

  • Slts’lani (Banchi Hanuse) Nuxalk Radio program manager
    The Nuxalk Nation is located in the area of Bella Coola, BC. They started the radio station in 2014 to help promote their language, nationhood, and stewardship of their homelands – to decolonize. Slts’lani also wrote, directed, and produced a documentary film Cry Rock about preserving the Nuxalkmc language.
  • Marcelo Sabuc of the CCDA, from Guatemala
    Understanding the situation in Guatemala with resistance to mining, hydroelectric dams, and agri-business, that had resulted in the killings of five members of CCDA, aka Highland Peasants (Small Farmers) Committee, and 21 human rights defenders overall in 2018.
    The CCDA’s coffee is sold as Café Justicia in Canada via solidarity activists, with net proceeds to support the CCDA’s work, as well as in one of the fair trade blends from the Just Us! Coffee Roasters Co-operative in the Maritimes.


Part C: Recordings

  • Joan Kuyek’s Unearthing Justice book launch (70-min)
    Subtitled “How To Protect Your Community From The Mining Industry”, Kuyek’s book is the first such comprehensive resource for Canada. She was founding director of MiningWatch Canada from 1999-2009; this launch was held alongside the organization’s 20th anniversary. Other speakers: Monique Manatch (Indigenous Culture & Media Innovations), Jamie Kneen (MiningWatch), Eriel Tchekwie Deranger (Indigenous Climate Action).
    Also see: My review of, and video interview with Kuyek for, her previous book Community Organizing: A Holistic Approach
  • December 6th Vigil (Ottawa) for the Montreal Massacre (10-min)
    Volunteers reading the names and short biographies of the 14 women killed in the 1989 Montreal Massacre, as well as of five women killed in the local area in 2018. This was from the 2018 vigil, published this year for the 30th anniversary.
  • Alt-Right Masculinities: A Talk by Dale Spencer of CarletonU (21-min)
    Analysis to understand the rise of the alt-right phenomenon, that includes the ChristChurch New Zealand mosque massacres and the Toronto ‘incel’ van attack, as well as the rise of Trump, 4chan, and more. This analysis is not widely-understood, but vitally important.
  • Algonquin-led canoe procession on the Rideau Canal (4-min)
    A short compiled video of part of the opening of the inaugural National Arts Centre’s Indigenous Theatre program.


Part D: Miscellaneous

  • Intervention at the NCC for the Sacred Site
    Video of my question about Algonquin Nation consultation for the sacred Chaudiere Falls site development, at the National Capital Commission board of directors public meeting – and their response.
  • Groundwire Radio News contributions
    Find the segments I helped produce for this community radio syndicated half-hour bi-weekly radio magazine, at: http://www.groundwirenews.ca
  • UPDATED – Extending the Conversation: MMIMB
    Added videos of two February walks honouring Missing and Murdered Indigenous Men and Boys, to this article (which was one of the most visited on my site, probably because there’s very little out there about MMIMB and also because of the public interest with the MMIWG inquiry)
  • Handout listing Print Items available online
    I created a half-page handout that lists the various PDF files available on my website, that can be printed off and given to someone who might be interested in the offerings.
    The idea behind it was when I was tabling at the Canzine: Festival of Zines and Underground Culture event in Ottawa, having this flyer available to give people as they (often rapidly) walk by allows them to ‘browse’ all the content and maybe come back later – to the table, or afterwards, to the website.
    It is one way to make things more accessible (as is this 2019 summary post) and it has also been of use in other situations.
    PRINT: Single-page PDF version, or double-side two-per-page PDF version