25 November 2019

Ottawa Historical Society Lunchtime Lectures

For November's monthly meeting, on Wednesday 26 27 November, in the Auditorium of the Ottawa Public Library (Main), there's a rare double bill.

Ottawa's Urban Forest, by Joanna Dean (at 1.00pm)

Why tell stories about trees that cause trouble? Why talk about the elm trees that tangled with electrical wires in Centretown; the dying birch trees that prompted debate in the House of Commons; the looming Lombardy poplar that led a Glebe matron to threaten legal action against the Federal District Commission; the centennial crab apple that turned Ottawa pink; and the 156-year-old bur oak that got in the way of an infill project? Because nature is troublesome, and until we understand the history of our urban forest and acknowledge the unruliness, as well as the beauty, of the trees around us, we will not know how to adequately accommodate them in the city.

The lecture will situate these troublesome trees in the wider history of Ottawa’s urban forest. Drawing upon a rich set of historical aerial photographs offering a birds-eye view of the city and the opportunity for quantitative analysis, it will explain how, and why, Ottawa’s urban forest canopy has changed over time.

Joanna Dean is an associate professor in the history department at Carleton University where she teaches courses in Canadian environmental history, animal history and climate history. She is interested in the history of human relations with the nonhuman world, and writes about such things as city trees and working horses.
She is currently on sabbatical, writing a book on Ottawa’s urban forest. Over the last 15 years she has published a series of articles on the unruliness of city trees, the origins of the term “urban forest,” inequities in forest cover, and the use of geospatial analysis of historical aerial photographs to measure physical changes in urban forest. In 2012 she curated an exhibit, “Six Moments in the History of an Urban Forest,” at the Bytown Museum. Formerly an Ottawa resident, and chair of the Ottawa Forests and Greenspace Advisory Committee, she now lives among maple, beech, and hemlock trees in the Gatineau Hills. For further information, see https://carleton.ca/history/people/joanna-e-dean/.

Supreme Court Justice, Patrick Kerwin, by Stephen McKenna (at 2.00pm)

Chief Justice Patrick Kerwin (1889-1963) was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) in 1935 as one of only seven Justices on the Court at that time. This is a man who overcame tough times in his hometown of Sarnia ON and managed to afford law school in Toronto while playing piano for silent movies to pay for his education between classes. From there, he became a leading lawyer in Guelph ON, then was appointed to the Ontario Court of Appeal. This is a man who was known to have absolutely no bias and often said, “Justice delayed is justice denied”.

Stephen G. McKenna is an Ottawa-born author and musician who enjoys history, traveling and music, to name but a few things in this life to enjoy. The book, ‘Grace and Wisdom’, about Chief Justice Patrick Kerwin of the Supreme Court of Canada, was written to ensure his grandfather’s life was captured for posterity.

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