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.

Q: TELL ME HOW THIS PROJECT FIRST STARTED.

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.

Q: WHAT DO EACH OF YOU DO FOR THE PROJECT?

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.

Q:WHAT HAVE YOU ACHIEVED WITH THIS SO FAR?

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.

Q: HOW DO YOU TWO HOPE THE PROJECT WILL PROCEED FROM HERE?

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.

1. RUBBER

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.

2. WHEELS

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.”

3. BRAKES

“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.”

4. GEARS

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

5. FRAME

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.

Space Race

As the city’s first big-city sized towers begin to throw shadows across downtown Edmonton, ‘For Lease’ signs hang prominently in shop windows on 104 Street, on Jasper Avenue on 99 Street and within City Centre Mall. To an untrained eye, on some streets at least, it can appear that more spaces are empty than occupied. But is downtown’s retail scene actually struggling? Or is it, as some experts say, in a “holding pattern” as we wait for buildings and an expected increase in people coming to fill them?

First, let’s reflect on the changes to retail and business space in downtown and Oliver. When it comes to retail, several new developments have joined the market in the last couple of years, such as the Kelly Ramsey tower and the Brewery District. The big-box Brewery development alone brought 20,000 square-feet of retail space to Oliver in 2016, vacuuming up blue-chip tenants like TD Canada Trust from street-side retail spots on Jasper Avenue. Meanwhile, the Ice District will add a staggering 300,000-square-feet of fresh retail space when it comes online in January 2019 (for comparison, City Centre Mall, across the street, already with several empty retail bays, already offers more than 725,000 square feet). All the while, numerous new retail bays in the podium of the Fox Two tower and Kelly Ramsey are still up for lease. A few are taken, but definitely not all.

The story for office space is similar. With 18-million square-feet of total space downtown and a 16 percent vacancy rate, Edmonton now has almost 2.9-million square feet sitting empty and waiting for business tenants. That’s likely to mushroom when the Stantec Tower in the Ice District opens its doors and offers more than 20 floors to office tenants. Indeed, commercial real-estate brokerage Cushman & Wakefield estimates Edmonton’s office vacancy will hit 18 per cent by the end of 2018. For comparison, Edmonton’s office-vacancy rate is less than recession-struck Calgary’s, at 27 percent, but significantly higher than Toronto’s (four percent) or Vancouver’s (six percent).

Developments have appeared just as Alberta’s economy left for a vacation in the south. And space needs for offices are also shrinking as the years tick by. In 2017, for example, North American offices average 151-square-feet per employee, down from 225-square-feet in 2010, according to real estate data provider CoreNet Global. Meanwhile, online shopping and changes in consumer spending patterns are disrupting old-school retail.

But experts say, despite appearances, all is fine. And they point to what they say are two very different markets for retail and office space, which, they add, are in two very different states right now, as well as the future demand these new developments will incentivize.

Are they right?

Jamie Topham, a partner with Cushman & Wakefield, estimates downtown Edmonton currently has a 5.5 percent vacancy rate for retail space. That’s nearly two points higher than the city average, at about 3.8 percent, but Topham says downtown retail is not in trouble. “If there’s an exodus [from retail in the core], I sure haven’t seen it,” he says. Instead, Topham says, the core is in “a holding pattern” that isn’t permanent. “Downtown is going to be really shaped and reformed after the Ice District gets fully up and going,” he says. “You’re going to see more demand from specialty leases from local businesses after the Ice District, when it’s established and bringing annual traffic counts. I think it’s going to get stronger and healthier as the arena district comes to shape, and other developers and landlords around the arena district amend their plans, once they fully understand the traffc this new development is bringing.” Optimism aside, it’s still unclear who will fill the 300,000-square-feet in the retail portion of the Ice District. So far, Ice District has confirmed a Cineplex UltraAVX and VIP Cinemas as anchor tenants, along with a JW Marriott hotel, a food court in the Stantec Tower, a Rexall drugstore and the already-opened casino beside Rogers Place — as well as an as-yet-unnamed grocery store and fitness centre.

The situation at street level is mirrored above in the offices. Vacancy rates there have more than doubled over the past two years but many suggest that’s due to new supply and businesses closing, rather than tenants vacating for other locations. Karnie Vertz, a principal with Avison Young’s office leasing and sales team,
says it’s nonetheless a good time to be an office tenant. “We’re not seeing any significant growth [in demand] in the downtown market,” he says, “though I think you are seeing some professional companies and some growth in the IT sectors [and] artificial intelligence.”

And just as with retail, the first glances that suggest struggles may be wrong, according to experts. Indeed, some say downtown’s high vacancy rates might actually be good news, as the vacancies and new investment mean there’s an opportunity for employers who may have never considered the area previously to come downtown.

Jimmy Shewchuk is one of them. Shewchuk is a business development manager with Edmonton Economic Development Corporation, and says many new people are starting to “dip their toes” into downtown. As he says, the usual counter arguments – it’s too expensive, there’s no parking – don’t really hold up anymore. “You really see people’s eyes light up when you talk to them about talent retention and being downtown, and how much easier it is. If that’s the talent you’re looking for – young, energetic, smart talent – it’s much easier downtown as opposed to if you’re somewhere else.” Employees increasingly don’t want to work in an industrial park where it’s a 10-minute drive just to get a mediocre sandwich at lunch, he says.

The biggest shift is in car-commuting. “Really the biggest ‘Ah-ha’ moment that we have all the time is talking to [businesses] about parking,” Shewchuk says. He recalls a recent EEDC client who thought they needed well more than 30 parking stalls, based on a survey carried out several years earlier. But when they conducted the survey again recently, the number was actually 11. “It’s that point of clarity, of ‘Oh wait, our talent isn’t driving to work anymore — they’re taking public transit, they’re biking here, they’re walking to work because they live downtown now, so we don’t need that [parking] quite as much.’”

There have been some recent good-news stories to bolster the concreteness of this narrative, too. Chief among them is BioWare, Edmonton’s superstar videogame development company, which announced in November that it will relocate its more than 800 employees from its current south-side location on Calgary Trail to three floors of the Epcor Tower in late 2018 or early 2019, and occupy some 75,000 square feet of space. “We’re thrilled to be moving into a modern, state-of-the art facility and live in a space that empowers and inspires us to do our best work every day,” said BioWare General Manager Casey Hudson, in a news release.

Just a couple of weeks after this announcement, DynaLife announced it had signed a new lease for its current downtown location, in Manulife 2, which will keep its 700 health-lab workers in the core until 2022. Downtown champions celebrated this as welcome news. Still, shortly afterwards, the news was followed by an announcement that the provincial government is funding a new “superlab” location, at the University of Alberta’s south campus, meaning those DynaLife employees will relocate out of downtown in four years.

Another wrinkle complicating a clear answer on the state of things downtown is that 2018 should also see an increase in smaller businesses popping up — if even only for a few days, weeks or months at a time. That’s thanks to the city’s recent decision to join This Open Space, which EEDC recommended. The platform follows an Airbnb model, where prospective tenants can search for space downtown to occupy for shorter periods of time. The hope is that This Open Space will allow businesses to enter the downtown market to test ideas and products without the usual three- or five-year lease commitments.

PERHAPS THE HARDEST SIDE OF THE DOWNTOWN real-estate story for many to understand is building ownership. Experts suggest the reason there are so many aging, dated office buildings downtown — and why many storefronts and retail spaces sit empty within them — could be that the owners aren’t Edmontonians. In fact, they aren’t even people, really: many downtown buildings are owned by large institutional investors, like investment fund trusts or REITs.

“The guy that owns the office tower isn’t the person that lives in a cul-de-sac down the street,” Shewchuk says. “They’re not local owners.” Instead, the buildings and what’s in them are line numbers on a portfolio, he says. “So, it becomes, ‘Is it performing or is it not?’ No one’s walking by and saying, ‘There’s a couple of paint chips, we really need to fix that.’”

IN THE PAST, THIS MATTERED LITTLE AS LARGER (and often multinational) property owners such as REITs rode out lows rather than downgrade their pricing or invest in upkeep that appeared unnecessary. “We’ve had the luxury of being lazy for a long time,” Shewchuk says. “There’s a lot of space that hasn’t been upgraded because it hasn’t had to. I don’t necessarily blame those property owners for not, because it was full, or close to full for a long time.”

But now that things aren’t full, and new supply is arriving, some see opportunity rather than trouble. The arrival of new, highly desirable office and retail spaces on the downtown market is forcing some established landlords to change this indifferent approach. Experts say there has been a new emphasis put on quality, with increased investment in older buildings, more creative lease deals to entice businesses to set up shop.

And there has even been full overhauls of a building’s purpose, such as office conversions that transform old office space into something else, usually residential. EEDC has set up a task force to study these scenarios, which have already started to happen: in May of last year, Calgary firm Strategic Group announced that they will be converting Harley Court, a 1970s-era office tower located on 111 Street and 100 Avenue, to a mix of one- and two-bedroom residential suites.

It will be years before the effects of the Ice District can be measured by anything other than speculation. The company itself is bullish, however, boasting of nearly 2,000 new residents to its own 25-acre development and of 13,000 within a 10-minute walk, along with 75,000 daily employees.

BUT UNTIL THE STREETS ARE CRAWLING WITH PEOPLE and Edmonton is attracting new business investment outside of building office buildings, tenants who decide to stake a claim in the new downtown are in many ways hedging their bets that it’s sustainable to operate here over the long term.

To Shewchuk, homegrown growth potential is key. We may have failed to lure Amazon here to build its second headquarters, but we did lure BioWare, as well as Jobber, Yardstick and others. “Edmonton is a city that has always been built on entrepreneurship,” he says. “Opening the doors and making downtown very accessible to those two-, three-person companies that, one day, become 300, 400 person companies, would be great for us. We’ve never been a city that has done well chasing the whale. We need to focus on what’s always worked for us, and that’s creating the environment for a city that’s been built on entrepreneurship.”

How To Act When You See Others Harassed

One day last summer, a woman racially harassed Tracy Hyatt (The Yards Contributing Editor) in downtown Edmonton. The woman, who Hyatt says was a total stranger, approached her and some of her friends who were standing near the Grandin LRT station. And then she called Hyatt a slur. Hyatt was the only African-Canadian person in the group, so it was clear the slur was lobbed at her. But nobody called the stranger on her actions.

“I was quite surprised that, following the Make Something Awkward campaign, not one person said anything,” Hyatt says. “There were at least 10 people in the vicinity that saw and heard this go down.” Since no one came to her defense, Hyatt stood up for herself and said something to her harasser, who she says then backed down.

Experts say there are right and wrong ways to deal with harassment. Doing nothing, though the easiest play, is never the best option.

Harassment is a singular word for a range of behaviours, from the obvious (a verbal slur or physical touch) to the subtle (a vaguely threatening note, consistent belittling from a colleague). It can follow you anywhere, from the sidewalk to the bus, to your workplace, and even home. And it can be defined as aggression, pressure or intimidation. Victims often feel like they can’t speak up or defend themselves. But just as there are different types of harassment, there are also different techniques to handle it.

Here’s a quick guide to what experts say are the best responses are to different types of harassment.

Verbal Harassment

ACTION: INTERVENE

If you witness someone being verbally harassed, direct intervention is just one of the actions you can take, says Mary Jane James, executive director of Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton (SACE). Saying something along the lines of, ‘Hey, that’s not cool. That’s not okay, please stop,’ can work, she says. Other techniques include engaging with the person being harassed to de-escalate the situation, or asking someone else to help you intervene. It’s also important to report the behaviour to a bus driver, security guard or other authority figure where the harassment is taking place. And it’s vital you document what you witnessed, James says, and check in with the victim. “After the fact, it can be helpful to simply ask the person if they are okay, if there is anything that you can do.”

Workplace Harassment

ACTION: DOCUMENT

As the fallout of #MeToo illustrates, harassment often takes place among colleagues in a workplace environment. But people don’t always recognize negative behaviours like bullying, name-calling, belittling or intimidation, as harassment. It’s also something that can be challenging to speak up about, particularly if the behaviour is coming from someone in a senior position to the victim. In situations where someone is bullying a co-worker, having co-workers on your side can make a big difference. But both victims and bystanders often choose not to speak up for a number of reasons. “Self-preservation, not wanting to be seen as a troublemaker, fear of losing their job, fear of being ostracized by other employees, fear of losing friends, fear of not being considered for a promotion … the list is endless,” James says.

If you are the one being harassed, naming the behaviour is a good first step, James says. “Say what he’s done and be specific. Hold the person accountable for his actions,” she says. “Don’t make excuses. Don’t pretend it didn’t happen. Ask that the behaviour stop. One should also seriously consider filing of an internal complaint within their organization. Documenting the harassment is important.”

Physical Harassment

ACTION: DISTANCE AND TRAINING

The harassment that’s easiest to recognize is physical harassment. If you or someone near you is in physical danger from a harasser who appears to be violent there are ways to handle the situation without escalating things. One simple step is to create distance between yourself and the harasser, says Randy King, owner of KPR Combat, a gym in Oliver that offers self-defense classes. “Don’t be there. If someone is harassing you and you can leave, then do that,” he says. There are also ways you can build self-confidence and physical skills to prepare for dealing with a potentially violent situation. KPR offers Self-Defense 101, a crash course for those with little to no martial-arts experience. The gym also has a more advanced course, which offers a look at the psychological aspects of self-defense, as well as more physical scenarios.

King says people who come to KPR for self-defense training sometimes share “very personal stories” about their experiences with violence. He believes self-defense training can give individuals the confidence they need to deal with harassment, even though they will hopefully never have to use the skills they have learned. “Self-defense training is a lot like a spare tire: You may never need it but if you need it and don’t have it, you are in trouble,” he says.

Sexual Harassment

ACTION: DOCUMENT

Strangers, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, partners – basically anyone can sexually harass someone else. This makes sexual harassment one of the more pervasive types that both men and women face. The Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton is a not-for-profit organization that provides trauma-informed services and support to victims of all genders over the age of three. In 2017, they received more than 3,500 calls to their 24-hour hotline, and they had about 1,000 new clients who access counselling services. Approximately 80 per cent of their clients are female.

Like workplace harassment, documentation is an important step to take if you are being sexually harassed or witness someone else experiencing it, James says. Whether you report the harassment to SACE or the police, having a paper trail can prove valuable if the problem persists. Having someone to talk to is also an essential part of accepting what happened and moving on from it.

Preventative Measures

MEN AND HARASSMENT

Whether or not they have experienced harassment themselves, men play an important role in preventing it. That’s why SACE began offering an extensive program to several junior and senior high schools in areas that are more vulnerable and “at risk” about a year ago, James says. “Part of the program is teaching and mentoring these boys to be leaders, to be actively involved in the mentoring and education of their peers on issues of consent, healthy relationships.”

There are currently more than 100 boys involved in the program across the city, and James says she hopes SACE will receive the funding to continue the program in years to come.

Of course, men of all ages can contribute to a positive environment where no one feels harassed. Education often plays a role in diffusing situations where harassment can easily come into play, such as someone’s work environment – especially in male-dominated industries where women may feel more pressure not to speak up. In addition to other programming, SACE offers a comprehensive professional public education program on sexual harassment in the workplace, something many businesses in the city have participated in.

There isn’t a one-size fits all solution to dealing with harassment. That’s mainly because harassment can take place in many forms, in many different areas of someone’s life. The main thing to remember is to take action.

Preventing harassment means challenging the social and cultural attitudes that condone and facilitate it. Everyone has to take a stand, James says. “Calling people out on their behaviour is the first step to eliminating the pervasiveness of this issue.”

Snapshots from Fall Community Events

1 COMMUNITY LEAGUE DAY
Community League Day on Saturday, September 16 saw neighbours gather in Kitchener park to socialize while enjoying lawn games and a community BBQ.

2 DECL’S ANNUAL CORNFEST
Held on the site of Alex Decoteau Park on September 9 to help celebrate Downtown’s first new park in 30 years.

Around the Core: Winter 2017

Get Holly, Get Jolly

DECEMBER 1 Art-O-Rama

It’s a Bohemian art-o-rama sale to stock up on Christmas gifts, and it’s the first time the gallery is hosting it. So come out and enjoy the wine, and cheese, music, fun people and deals. Harcourt House, 10441 123 Street. 12 noon – 11pm. Free.

DECEMBER 2 Ginger SNAP

Celebrate art while eating ginger snap cookies. This year’s theme is retro, with shiny copper and black décor and lounge-y music. Local super-star Elm Catering supplies the eats. SNAP, 10123 Jasper Avenue. Doors 8pm. Contact SNAP for prices.

Build Your City

DECEMBER 6 10 Years of Local Good Fundraiser

Back in 2007, a group called E-SAGE (Edmonton Socially-Conscious Alternative Green Entrepreneurs) got together to support local sustainability. They (thankfully) re-named to the Local Good and now host fun, thoughtful events throughout the year — like this fund- raiser. Yellowhead Brewery, 10229 105 Street. 5pm – 7pm. Free, but please RSVP in advance.

JANUARY 12 Design Studies Alumni Show

Celebrate the design achievements and brilliance of some of MacEwan’s graduates. A great way to learn and engage with better design in the city. Allard Hall, 1110 104 Avenue. 7pm. Free.

JANUARY 20 March on Edmonton

More than 4,000 gathered at last year’s rally in the wake of that orange guy being elected president in the U.S. This year, Edmonton again joins in solidarity with cities around the world. Alberta Legislature. 1pm. Free.

FEBRUARY 28 Art, Culture and Community Engagement

What’s the future of arts engagement in our community? Using Oliver’s newly-opened arts-first facility, a moderator will lead a discussion that will end in a call to artists to serve the community. Allard Hall, 1110 104 Avenue. 7pm. Free.

For The Drama Seeker

DECEMBER 17 Canada’s Women’s Olympic team vs. Team USA

It’s the final game in a six-game series against our favourite (or least favourite?) rivals. The series a key step in Canada’s team’s preparations for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeonchang, South Korea. Rogers Place, 10214 104 Avenue. 5pm. Ticketmaster.

FEBRUARY 1 Theatre Lab Grand Opening

Oliver’s arts landscape takes a dramatic step forward with the opening of Theatre Lab. The first production: Love and Information. Allard Hall, 1110 104 Avenue. 7pm. Free.