Words on the Street

Natalie remembers the day she finally broke into tears.

It was hot out, June or July, and the 27-year-old was headed back to her apartment in Edmonton’s newly minted Ice District after a dip to cool off at Oliver pool. She’d thrown a simple summer dress over her bikini for the journey. Natalie says she can’t remember exactly what the man yelled as he sped past her in a car while she waited for the light to change on 104 Street near 104 Avenue, but it was something about that dress, how it revealed her body, how it was, in his opinion, too short. It wasn’t the exact words that got to her anyway. It was the fact that they just wouldn’t stop.

Constant sexual harassment wasn’t what Natalie expected to encounter when she moved into Square 104, across from the Mercer Warehouse, in August 2016. She was excited to be part of downtown’s revitalization. And she was exactly the kind of young, urban professional the city and developers say they’re hoping to attract to the area, engineered around Rogers Place. But after the $600-million-plus facility opened in September 2016, both Natalie and her roommate, Brittany Davey, noticed the change. Their neighbourhood became a hostile place.

They first noticed the trash. On mornings after events at the arena, the streets were papered with fliers for a nearby strip bar. And then they noticed they were increasingly targeted by groups of often drunk men who flocked to the area. “Every single time I would leave the apartment I would get catcalled, or someone would yell at me or approach me and just, like, make me so uncomfortable,” Natalie says. “It got to the point where if I was just getting approached by a random person asking for directions or for money, I would jump.”

The hostility extended into their home. Davey says she was catcalled while on her balcony overlooking 104 Avenue. “I was definitely yelled at a few times,” she says. “Something like ‘Show me your tits,’ which is really nice when you’re trying to enjoy your home.”

Whether it was due to the type of crowds heading to events at the arena, or just that more people were coming to the neighbourhood, the women can’t say, but their response was to retreat. They started staying home on game nights, keeping off the balcony and altering the routes they took through the neighbourhood. Natalie even changed how she dressed. “I would put on what I wanted to wear and look in the mirror and be like, ‘Is this going to encourage someone to approach me?’ If the answer was ‘Yes’ I’d change,” she says. “I hated that. I hated that so much.”

When Davey moved to Ontario this past fall to go to school, Natalie chose to move out of the area, too. “I haven’t been back since.”


We don’t often associate street harassment with the egregious examples of sexual misconduct that have brought powerful men to their knees in the era of #MeToo, but it’s all part of a sexual violence continuum that pervades our culture, says Mary Jane James, executive director of the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton (SACE). The degradation, humiliation and fear women face while on city streets — particularly in hyper-masculine ecosystems fueled by alcohol and sports, where women are regarded as props for the evening —makes many women feel unwelcome and unsafe in their own communities. And yet, too often, we don’t take it seriously. “People do not think of street harassment — catcalling and all of those things — as sexual violence because it’s been allowed to be normalized,” James says. “It’s been going on since time began and women were just taught to just suck it up and move on.”

The prompt closure of The Needle Vinyl Tavern in November, after allegations of sexual assault and harassment surfaced, shows that Edmonton — like the rest of North America — seems to have drawn
a line in the sand around workplace sexual harassment. Since The Needle closed, demand for a pilot program SACE has offered with the U of A Sexual Assault Centre since February 2017, to make bars and clubs safer for women, has skyrocketed. However, once people leave those bars, women are often still seen as prey, James says. Compounding the problem, many men who would never see themselves in the same category as Harvey Weinstein, or even Aziz Ansari, think nothing of a drunken catcall on a night out with the boys.

“I really don’t think that a lot of men who engage in street harassment view this as harmful, as a part of sexual violence,” James says. “But it starts there. Rape culture is what’s allowed this issue to be present in our lives for so long, because it’s surrounded in silence.”

“Right now in Edmonton there are no consequences for street harassment. At what point do men start to realize that this is damaging and hurtful, and there are consequences for this behaviour?”


How best to break that silence, however, is a puzzle. Groups like Hollaback Alberta have surfaced in recent years to support women in reporting street harassment, collecting their stories and tracking harassment hotspots in the city. A 2015 report from the group examined more than 1,000 reported incidents of street harassment in Edmonton, with the vast majority occurring on city streets, in malls and on transit. Jasper Avenue and Whyte Avenue were two of the top areas identified by respondents. Edmonton Police Service spokeswoman Cheryl Sheppard, meanwhile, explained that while isolated catcalls are not technically a crime, women can and should call police when they feel they are being harassed. Collecting data on where harassment occurs can help create long-term strategies to improve police presence, lighting or correct other environmental factors that put women at risk, Sheppard says. But the fact remains that faced with harassment in the moment, most women feel powerless.

Marielle TerHart isn’t used to keeping quiet. The 28-year-old social media consultant, comedian and downtown loft resident says frequent street harassment is her “number one problem with living downtown,” a community she otherwise loves. To deal with her humiliation and anger in a healthy way — and to try to educate men on its effects — she often makes harassment part of her standup comedy routines. With her propensity for outspokenness it’s frustrating that in the moments harassment happens — say that time she was asked for her underwear while walking downtown — she feels silenced. “Yelling back doesn’t seem to help and it’s almost always when I’m alone, so in those situations I’m not in a position of power and I don’t feel safe,” she says. “It’s also often shouted at me from cars, that seems to be a real trend.”

Equally frustrating for TerHart is that she doesn’t feel street harassment is a central concern for those with direct interest in the health of downtown. TerHart said she recently met with Coun. Scott McKeen to discuss street harassment but felt nothing happened as a result. (McKeen, on the other hand, says he plans to follow up with TerHart and discuss hosting an anti-harassment event downtown and that women who face harassment downtown should contact him.) TerHart also says sexual harassment and assault were absent from the safety section of a recent survey conducted by the Downtown Business Association; homelessness, meanwhile, was mentioned three different ways.

TerHart says she uses her privilege and the channels available to her as a white, educated woman to advocate for herself and other women in the neighbourhood — she’s cognizant of the fact sexualized violence disproportionately affects homeless, marginalized and Indigenous women. Still, she says she’d like to see at least some of the responsibility placed on the perpetrators. “Right now in Edmonton there are no consequences for street harassment. At what point do men start to realize that this is damaging and hurtful, and there are consequences for this behaviour?”


That’s exactly what Zanette Frost, supervisor of programs and initiatives at the City of Edmonton, says the city is working to encourage through its Gender-Based Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention Initiative. Convened in 2015, the council initiative has been working with groups like Hollaback Alberta, SACE and Men Edmonton, a group that aims to promote healthy masculinity, to educate the public, particularly men, on what gender-based violence is. They also aim to encourage bystanders to safely step in when they see it happen.

So far, projects have taken place in pockets. For instance, the council conducts lunch-and-learns with corporate or religious organizations and has partnered up to present public screenings of the documentary, The Mask You Live In, which explores how our narrow definition of masculinity affects men and boys. An interactive art exhibit, This Is What It Feels Like, made a mini-tour on the U of A and MacEwan campuses just before Christmas, giving men a chance to step inside a booth where they were subjected to harassing comments that women had reported receiving on the streets of Edmonton.

While art installations and documentaries might seem like a soft response to what is a serious social problem, Frost says getting men to realize how they are complicit in or contribute to sexualized violence is the first step toward shifting a culture that promotes it. “My thinking has always been that if it prompts a couple of questions then there’s something changing. That’s what we hope for,” she says.

In 2018, the City of Edmonton will roll out a widespread awareness campaign dubbed “It’s Time” (to end gender-based violence) with a website, video and coasters distributed at bars and restaurants.
The council has also partnered with the Edmonton Eskimos, the Edmonton Sports Council, 630 CHED and other organizations, with the aim of bringing the campaign to sports events, festivals and other public events. According to Frost, the city hasn’t yet reached out to the Oilers Entertainment Group to join the initiative due to limited staff, but it may do so in “phase two” of the project.

This spring, the city is also due to complete an exhaustive scoping study of how and where gender-based violence takes place in Edmonton. It started this as part of the United Nations Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces program, which it joined in 2016. Results of the study will inform policies and initiatives to combat violence against women going forward. “We’re really working to end all that violence within a generation,” Frost says.

All of that’s hopeful, but it’s still a Band-Aid solution for the arena district, says Kyle Whitfield, an associate professor in planning at the University of Alberta who specializes in planning for vulnerable communities. She describes the area as one that seems to have been planned around hyper-masculine industries without regard for the experience of women. She also notes that planning is still a male dominated field, and, as a result, the design of public spaces seldom looks at the needs of women — even as accessibility for other groups, such as those with disabilities or seniors, are now routinely taken into account. “It seems kind of old order to say we need to plan about issues related to women,” Whit eld says. “This is 2018, you’d think we’d be way beyond that, but we’re not.”

The city has recently adopted a policy to apply gender-based analysis to all of its decision-making, from budgeting to planning, Frost says, but that wasn’t in place when the arena district was developed. It’s unclear whether the tool will be applied to the remaining phases of the development.

In cases where vulnerable populations haven’t been included in the planning process, inviting them to assess the space afterwards can be crucial in correcting elements that make them feel excluded or unsafe, Whit eld says. “If we got a group of 50 women and we said, ‘Come and assess the Ice District in general and tell us how this suits your needs and how it doesn’t,’ I think there’s some value in doing that.”

Susan Darrington, executive vice president and general manager for Rogers Place, says her organization held two years of consultations with community stakeholders, including community leagues, the Downtown Business Association and social agencies such as Boyle Street Community Services, prior to the arena opening. While the issue of community safety was a frequent topic of discussion, she says women facing street harassment was never identified as a specific area of concern. Going forward, however, Darrington says the Oilers Entertainment Group would consider partnering with the city on a gender-based assessment of the Ice District or a public education campaign. “We’d be open to having a meeting with them on anything they’re taking a look at,” she says, noting half the arena’s patrons are women and that her organization takes their safety seriously. “Our safety and security plan is for all patrons as well as people who are living and working in the downtown core.”

Angela Larson has a simple suggestion for making downtown feel safer: provide more reasons for different types of people to be out on the streets. Larson is the owner of Swish Vintage, located in Manulife Place, and says she’s perceived a marked decrease in street activity since she got her first job downtown at the age of 13. Over the decade she’s been in business at her current location, she says she feels downtown’s mall-like areas have started emptying out as well, a reflection of changing shopping habits and a challenging retail environment. Swish is now one of the only street-facing retailers left on 102 Street and increasingly, the only people Larson sees outside her door are either marginalized or “up to no good.” Men frequently come into her shop and verbally assault her. Compared to when she was younger and catcalls were more suggestive in nature, Larson says at 52 the comments she gets now are more aggressive — “women-as-bitches kind of thing.” She even had one guy grab her phone and start to make a drug deal. As a result, Larson, like many other retailers in Manulife Place, doesn’t stay open in the evenings. During the day, a security guard is supposed to check on her once an hour, “to make sure I’m alive.”

“If we got a group of 50 women and we said, ‘Come and assess the Ice District in general and tell us how this suits your needs and how it doesn’t,’ I think there’s some value in doing that.” – KYLE WHITFIELD

While the arena promised to breathe new life into downtown, Larson says she’s seen little evidence of it. Thousands of people now live in new condos in the area, but there’s nothing drawing them out onto the street. Rents along 104 Street are too expensive for small retailers, she says, and retailers don’t stand to benefit from evening crowds heading to the arena. “If I’m going to a concert, I’m not going to go shopping first and bringing my bags with me,” she says.

Getting the right mix of businesses and more life on the street downtown is an ongoing challenge, says Downtown Business Association Executive Director Ian O’Donnell. Bars and restaurants are often the only businesses that can afford the higher rents on 104 Street, although smaller retailers are starting to populate more peripheral areas such as Jasper Avenue or Rice Howard Way. While O’Donnell confirmed the DBA didn’t ask directly about street harassment in their 2017 survey, the issue did surface in the results — some people wrote it in under “other.” “Certainly that topic was brought to our attention through that, but not at a significant level,” he says. According to the survey, general perceptions of safety downtown have increased since the last one was conducted in 2010, with the arena drawing more interest to the area and boosting the police presence by 50 per cent.

Still, O’Donnell acknowledges that if women are feeling unsafe in the area, at any time of day, that’s going to have a detrimental impact. “The arena has certainly brought a lot of people a lot of money, and it’s helped the downtown from an awareness and an exposure standpoint,” he says. “But if there are negative impacts and incidents, then that’s going to slow that. So we certainly want to make sure that we’re a part of that solution.”

Just what that solution is may be not be clear just yet, but dedicated residents like Larson and TerHart are game to be a part of it.

“There’s a lot of big positives to living downtown,” says TerHart. “One community needs to make the effort to bring these changes.”

Women Say We Need Change

These are important times for women. Strong women are finding their voice, having been silenced for so long. Women everywhere are being empowered to share their stories. The issues we’re seeing come forth on television, in Hollywood are now happening in our own downtown streets.

Our spring issue is dedicated to the women of Central Edmonton, the women in our lives that do so much and are the lifeblood of our families, friends and community. Even today these women face challenges, prejudice and other injustices that make us collectively shake our heads in disbelief.

The Yards decided to tackle these tough topics, like the abrupt closing of The Needle Vinyl Tavern, and the rumours that surrounded it. The Needle was a wildly successful bar that supported LGBTQ events and was host of local bands. The news of alleged inappropriate behaviour came as a shock. Little did we know that the opening of Rogers Place would also see women residents raise intimidation and safety concerns. Many visitors don’t see downtown as a neighbourhood where people live, let alone women.

We also wanted to celebrate the many achievements of women who contribute to creating a safe, welcoming and vibrant downtown neighbourhood. And we wanted to highlight the stories of those who work in downtown’s culinary scene who have gone above and beyond to show us how the hospitality industry can show leadership by addressing some of the issues women face.

One such program that helps women feel safer in bars is the Best Bar None program by Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission. The program “demonstrates a continuing commitment to providing top-notch service in well-managed and safe environments.” In February 2017, the voluntary program expanded to include a written policy that covers sexual harassment. At their eighth-annual awards night in November, several downtown bars, including Central Social Hall and Kelly’s Pub, were recognized for their efforts.

What recent events have shown us is that these policies are not enough to ensure people feel safe working in, living in and coming downtown. We must admit we have a problem and all take steps to work collectively to ensure our communities are safe for all people.

Chris Buyze

President, Downtown Community League

Design Can Limit Safety

IN FEBRUARY 2014, I TORE TWO ligaments, my meniscus and tendons while skiing. I would two require surgeries. I spent six weeks on crutches in 2014, as well as five weeks in 2015 and four weeks in 2016, all during winter months. The injury allowed me, if only for a short time, to see our city through the eyes of a woman with a disability.

It wasn’t until our board started discussing concepts for this issue of The Yards that I recognized how vulnerable I was while I recovered. I couldn’t put weight on my right leg so I couldn’t run. Being an able-bodied woman, I had always taken comfort knowing I could at least sprint if I had to escape an unsafe situation — a tactic I’ve had to use in the past. But on crutches, if someone had followed me home or tried to hurt me, I would have had little defense. Given that it was winter, I was often traveling in the dark, too.

Perhaps naïvely, I did not reflect on my safety at these times. Still, it became apparent Edmonton is not disability friendly. My only modes of transportation were walking (or more accurately, crutching) and public transit. And Edmonton’s design flaws became apparent: Ramps from the sidewalk to the crosswalk often deposited me right onto the roadway, if a ramp existed at all. Pedestrian-triggered crossing lights often had “beg buttons,” and these were placed so inconveniently that it was difficult for me to flick the button and cross the street in time. Streets coated in ice and snow made my movements treacherous and risky. Even door power-assist buttons were awkwardly placed, resulting in me being hit by a door more than once.

Many argue city designers should adopt a limited-mobility lens in order to accommodate not only those with disabilities, but seniors, children, parents with strollers, and people with carts and walkers. Doing so, some argue, will see cities create pedestrian bump outs, ramps at every crossing, shorter crossing distances on roads and the accommodation of pedestrians through construction zones.

I agree with this view. From improved sidewalk lighting to land-use planning policies that increase the number of people on the street, there are numerous way to make our cities safer — for all. We’ve all been young and, hopefully, we’ll all be old. Our mobility will eventually be limited. That’s why inclusive design and policies must include each and every one of us.

Lisa Brown

President, Oliver Community League

Around the Core: Spring 2018

Edmonton the Big City

Crashed Ice | MARCH 9

This is the series finale for a Red Bull-sponsored extreme sport that feels right at home in Edmonton: ice cross downhill. For this time around, following the first event in 2015, the course location has yet (as of press time) be confirmed but those in the know predict a spot near downtown in Rossdale with a hang-out zone at the Shaw. The last time Crashed Ice came, more than 70,000 people came downtown for it. Expect crowds.

We Like to Party

La Traviata | MARCH 1,2,3 & 8,9,10

Go back to the pleasure-crazed 1920s through a Verdi classic opera staged in the most unlikely, and yet, most perfectly suited of downtown venues — Chez Pierre Cabaret. Don your jazz age clothing and prepare to escape into a Paris of another era. Doors, 6pm; show 7pm sharp. Chez Pierre Cabaret, 10040 105 Street.

3rd Annual GLOW Festival | MARCH 22-24

Everyone loves a parade. This one is right on the edge of the core, in The Quarters, and it’s a night parade of animated lanterns that have been made by community members. This is a great way to celebrate the equinox and the coming of summer’s long, late nights of twilight. 6pm – 8pm (March 22 & 23); 7:30pm – 11:30pm (24), Boyle Street Plaza, 9538 103A Avenue.

Edmonton Beer Fest | APRIL 13-14

If you love beer, and learning about beer, and sampling beer, and talking beer snobbery,
and generally anything else about beer, this is probably your version of heaven. Five-hundred beers to try, entertainment — and one imagines very long lines to the washrooms at peak periods. Go thirsty! 4pm – 10pm each day, Shaw Conference Centre, 9797 Jasper Avenue.

Let’s Build Community

Drop-In Basketball | BEGINS MARCH 9

Enjoy a pickup game or just shoot some hoops at this regular drop-in basketball event open to the whole Oliver community. 7–9pm, Grace Lutheran Church, 9907 114 Street.

We Believe: Let’s Move Forward Together | MAY 16

The fifth annual fundraising and awareness gala for the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton will feature Tarana Burke, a co-creator of the international #MeToo movement. 5pm – 9pm, Shaw Conference Centre,
9797 Jasper Avenue.

City Market Downtown | MAY 19

It comes outside again on May 19. 9am – 3pm, 104 Street/102 Avenue.

What I Wish I Knew

NAVIGATING THE DOWNTOWN WORKPLACE isn’t easy, especially when you’re a young woman professional who can still face a glass ceiling. In response, Lesley Vaage and Jodi Goebel — both professionals who work downtown for the City — have created What I Wish I Knew, a group that aims to help young (and older) working women of all stripes share advice and help each other. The group works to shift trends, including those demonstrating that young women can still be held back in their careers by traditional professional structures.


GOEBEL: As many career folks do, Lesley and I often found ourselves chatting about work, and some days were frustrating. We started discussing how to share some of the things we wish we’d known five or 10 years ago. For young women, there are lots of easy fixes to things that seem really challenging.

VAAGE: I always tell the story of a friend of mine who’s in her mid-twenties. She was talking to me and explaining how she had frozen in the middle of a meeting with her boss and some other managers. I kind of know what to do in that situation. There are actually ways to get through this.


VAAGE: We really worked in all of the minute details for the first event: finding a space, getting the speakers organized. Now we’re looking towards a model in which the volunteers can get onto that, and Jodi and I can start to focus on some of the larger pieces.

GOEBEL: For the first event (in September of last year), it was just all hands on deck. From there, we worked together to put some structure around the organizing committee and engage some new volunteers. Someone usually tries to keep a closer eye on how the event is getting up and running.


VAAGE: We found a need for this type of support work for young professionals. What we’re really doing is building a community for young professionals in Edmonton, to help them and to train them on the skills you don’t necessarily get when you’re at school.

GOEBEL: We’ve been blessed with a lot of good anecdotes. I ran into a young woman at coffee last week who said she’d actually changed careers as a result of our second event (in October). And it doesn’t matter if you’re 21, at your first job, or you’re 41, on your second contract renewal. It’s sort of staggering how rare it is to have a conversation about the day-to-day things we can make easier for each other.


VAAGE: We have a few events in the calendar that we haven’t announced yet, but we’re really excited about the themes we’re exploring.

GOEBEL: We had to regroup really quickly in the fall last year to say, “Okay, you know, there is a demand for this, so how are we going to meet it?” Our ultimate vision is to be able to say that with these grassroots conversations, we’re actually driving more equitable workplaces in Edmonton.

Cooked to the Core

WOMEN ARE INTEGRAL PARTS of making Edmonton’s downtown scene as rich and vibrant as it is. But the contributions of women like Lynsae Moon and Mai Nguyen in the establishments that provide our third spaces, as well as our nourishment and entertainment, are often under-sung. Here’s a needed celebration.

Lynsae Moon

Lynsae Moon, co-owner of The Nook Café, says the way she is perceived depends on what people are expecting.

“Being a woman in hospitality is pretty palatable and common,” she says. People accept her in a servile role,
she says, but less so in a business role. She says many who go to The Nook on business still tend to look for a male manager.

Moon first started working in a café when she was 16, and soon developed a deep connection to the industry. “It’s an extension of who I am,” she says.

Establishing a café of her own was something that was “brewing” in her for a long time. About a year ago, she asked her mother, Marnie Suitor, to co-own the business with her. Suitor, a businesswoman by trade, handles overarching business affairs for The Nook; Moon deals with “day-to-day operations.”

Moon says one thing she sees as a unique detriment to her experience as a woman in the hospitality industry is social media. While she does see valid criticisms of her work online, she has also faced personal attacks. She says these kinds of attacks would not be happening if she were a man.

Nevertheless, Moon persists. All of The Nook’s staff are marginalized in some regard, many because they are women. That kind of intersectionality and inclusion is something Moon considers integral to her business model. She cites the café’s reputed suspended coffee program — which allows people to buy coffee in advance for someone who needs one — as being a part of that.

Going forward, Moon says she hopes to grow The Nook and the core that it’s located in. “I’m excited to be a part of that.”

Mai Mguyen

When Mai Nguyen attended Gold Medal Plates, a high-level culinary competition, in 2017, the lack of women caught her attention.

“I remember this one MC on the stage saying he was so proud of the diversity on the stage,” she says, “but I was just like, ‘You don’t have a single woman on there.’”

Nguyen, who was a contestant on season four of Masterchef Canada, on CTV, says Edmonton’s downtown food scene thankfully does not suffer the same problem. Many of the area’s restaurants have many women in senior positions, she says.

Nguyen started out studying general sciences, with no inclination toward food. When that didn’t work out, she pursued a double major in food technology and nutrition. The jobs in the field weren’t creative enough for her, though, so she changed paths.

Upon receiving a health and safety diploma from NAIT and working in that domain for a year, Nguyen applied for season four of Masterchef Canada. That’s where she found her true culinary calling.

“I had such a blast on the show; I decided to basically change my life,” she says. She came in fourth place on the show and into a new vocation in life.

Coming back to Edmonton, she looked for any restaurant who would take a chance on a relative newbie. Arden Tse decided his Prairie Noodle Shop could take that chance. Nguyen’s dumplings have proven to be a hit at the restaurant.

Nguyen recently incorporated her own food company, Gourmai. She also blogs and hopes to one day become a private chef making canapés. For now, though, she’s doing some time as a line cook. “Just learning the trade, for me, is really important,” she says. “You just want some credibility.”

OCL Spring Events

Civics Committee| MARCH 12, APRIL 9, MAY 14

Join this fully engaged committee that meets on the second Monday of the month to discuss developments in Oliver. 7pm, Grace Lutheran Church, 9907 114 Street.


Events and Programs Committee | MARCH 21, APRIL 18, MAY 16 

If you like event planning, this is the committee for you. 6pm, Nosh Café, 10235 124 Street.


Annual General Meeting | APRIL 18

Review financials, vote in new directors, learn more about OCL and what we’re up to. Mix and mingle with neighbours. Registration starts at 6pm, program at 7pm, Grace Lutheran Church, 9907 114 Street.


Balcony Gardening Workshop | APRIL 22, 29

Bring your balcony or small outdoor space to life! Learn space planning and design, choosing appropriate plants, creating productive balconies, and more! A small $5 fee goes towards our garden Capital Fund, and donations are always greatly appreciated. Location To Be Announced


“May the Fourth Be With You” Potluck | MAY 4

Join the Oliver Community League and Grace Lutheran Church for a spring potluck. Bring your favourite dish to share with friends and neighbours. 6pm, Grace Lutheran Church, 9907 114 Street.

DECL Spring Events

Urban Kids Playgroup | FRIDAYS, 10:30AM – 12:30PM 

Our playgroup has returned on Fridays! Parents (and their tots, ages 0 to 5) can join us for coffee, snacks and a chance to get to know other families living downtown.


Urban Kids Family Night | MARCH 16, APRIL 20, MAY 18, 6-8PM.

Our monthly family night continues for kids and parents. Join us for games, talent shows and more.


DECL Noon-Hour Yoga | THURSDAYS, 12:10PM – 12:50PM

Free noon-hour yoga at DECL! Take a break to breathe and relax your mind with Irma and Jessica, enjoy some flow and Hatha practices at lunch! All levels welcome and beginner friendly! Space is limited, please register at declyoga@yahoo.com.


Spring Clean-Up | MAY 6, 10AM

Our annual Downtown clean-up coincides with the River Valley Cleanup. Meet at DECL at 10am with work clothes, we will supply the coffee and tools!


Annual General Meeting | APRIL 24, 6:30PM REGISTRATION, 7PM MEETING

Join us for updates on the business of the league, as well as special guest presentation by Friends of the Royal Alberta Museum and more! Want to join our board? Contact us at info@decl.org to find out more.

5 Ways to Wake Your Bike From Winter Slumber

Unless you’ve been sleeping beneath a rock, you’ve seen the downtown bike grid. And while an increasing number of us are cycling year-round now, thanks to this necessary infrastructure, a lot of us still keep the cycling to spring, summer and fall. So, if you’re in that camp and you’re now eager to get your hibernating steel horse back out on the urban grid, we’ve got you covered. Brahm Ollivierre, the mustachioed roving bike mechanic behind Troubadour Cycles, gave us his top five tips for spring bike rejuvenation.


First things first, Ollivierre says: Check your tires and tubes. “A bike that can’t roll isn’t much of a bike after all,” he says. “Be sure to check the side of your tires for the ideal pressure range (usually indicated in psi), and then inflate. If the tire won’t hold air, or goes soft over a 24-hour period, it’s time for new tubes. Once inflated, check the tire itself for cracks or worn out spots, which would indicate the tire needs replacing.


Ollivierre says the next check needed is your wheels. Lift up your bike and give each wheel a spin. “Check to see if the rim seems to wobble side to side or dip away from the brake pads at all,” he says. “If so, give each spoke a wiggle by hand to see if there are loose or broken spokes.” If there are loose spokes, take the wheel to a trained bike mechanic, immediately, Ollivierre says. “Wheels that are out of true only get worse and more expensive to fix if ridden on, so it’s best to repair them early.”


“Just as your bike needs to roll, it also needs to stop,” Ollivierre says. What to do? “Check to make sure your brake pads are tight and hitting the rim or disc rotor properly, not rubbing on the tire or dropping below the side of the rim.” Next, test ride the bike to see if it stops quickly. “If your bike won’t stop satisfactorily, the brakes need adjusting, and possibly brake-pad or cable replacement.”


Take a test ride and shift your gears, Ollivierre says. “If there is any hesitation in shifting, loud clicking or grinding noises, a slipping feeling in the pedals, or sagging in your chain, have a bike mechanic take a look at your bike.” If you’d like it to be Ollivierre, he’s at troubadourcycles.com


Next, it’s time to clean your velo, Ollivierre says. Grab a rag, a bucket of water with diluted cleaner (he recommends Simple Green) and wash away.“It is probably best to stay away from the temptation of a pressure washer for this job, which can push water into places it shouldn’t be,” Ollivierre says. “While you’re cleaning the bike, keep an eye out for loose bolts or components, as well as any damage to the bike.” Finish the cleaning with one drop of chain lube on each link of your chain, he says.

Safe riding.

Creative Awareness

ON THE STREET, MEN HAVE YELLED AT me, touched me, trapped me to talk to me and tried to get me into their cars. My stories are upsetting but common. Street harassment is the reality for women, non-binary, Trans, and queer people in the core.

Indeed, downtown Edmonton has a street-harassment problem. I live here, and it’s impossible to go through a summer week without someone yelling at me or invading my personal space to try to force an interaction. And while this isn’t a new phenomenon, the way downtown is being developed means it’s growing. New developments are drawing more people downtown, and shifting some of the party culture away from Strathcona and into the core.

What we need to do now is to get creative to find ways to increase awareness around how common this all is. Thankfully, we are starting to do just that.

Locally, small efforts have been made, like the Transit safety campaign, which displays ads encouraging riders to look out for one another. But my favourite project so far is the This is What it Feels Like exhibit, at MacEwan University, which invited participants to step inside a dimly-lit booth while comments women hear yelled at them are played back to them.

Sitting in the booth, you’ll hear: “You’re pretty — for a native girl,” and “You’re beautiful — smile for me.”

And every once in a while, on some downtown construction board or a light post, I spot a stencil from artist Tatyana Fazlalizadah, wheat-pasted to a street light or construction barrier. It will feature a woman of colour looking regal and serious above the words, “Stop telling women to smile” or “Respect women.”

These kinds of projects give me hope. They let people know about the issue. Art is uniquely able to help us experience what it’s like to walk in another person’s shoes.

Still, moments experiencing street-harassment can limit a woman’s life. They can dictate what we wear, where we go. It used to be that you had to expect this: Men are awful, we’re told, and it’s our responsibility as women to deal with that. Cover up. Don’t go out at night. Be a good girl.

We have to do better than that for future generations. We have to because street harassment is more than just words, and it will take more than the government to solve our problems.

When I tell men my stories of street harassment, the common refrain is that they have never seen anyone being harassed. Sometimes they have their own stories of dealing with drunk and boorish men and women. Sometimes, they say, they wish people would also yell ‘compliments’ at them the way I apparently get them. Sometimes, they ask what I was wearing.

It is tough to have your experiences dismissed. That needs to change. It’s up to people to change their culture. Women are speaking out in historic numbers about sexual violence. It is up to all of us to listen.