May the spirit of “56 Sparks Street” guide us to a better place!

“And if they didn’t leave, would it be out of the question to imagine Lotta fearlessly starting her own private protest, right there in the middle of all those big rigs and burly protesters?”

Yesterday, after a massive 3-week protest and occupation in downtown Ottawa, an equally massive police operation cleared Wellington Street of protesters and vehicles.

In addition, protesters were moved out of the Sparks Street pedestrian mall. Yes, that same pedestrian mall housing perhaps Canada’s most famous address: 56 Sparks Street. Made famous by Canadian humanitarian Lotta Hitschmanova.

Lotta was a WWII refugee to Canada who literally changed the social landscape of her adopted homeland.

She helped make Canada a more caring society:

“Charity begins at home and then it goes on to embrace next door neighbours and all those who need help. Please give generously to the USC, 56 Sparks Street, Ottawa 4.”

Through her work with the Unitarian Service Committee (USC) and her famous radio and television PSAs:

she single-handedly put Ottawa on the map, not merely as a seat of national government and political debate, but as a centre of Canadian concern and compassion for people in need in around the world.

When she wasn’t travelling across Canada or abroad, Lotta spent over 40 years living and working in downtown Ottawa. She was known as the “Soldier of Peace,” and it is tempting to ponder what she might have thought of the events of this past month.

Would she have hidden away in her apartment on Cooper Street or hunkered down in her office at 56 Sparks? Definitely not. Lotta had vast experience working in war and conflict zones around the world.

I think she would have courageously gone out there amongst the protesters, dressed in her unique uniform. She would have talked to them, listened to them, for sure (and maybe asked them for some donations too!).

That said, she would definitely have told them, in no uncertain terms, to respect the rights of those living and working downtown, and to leave them in peace.

And if they didn’t leave, would it be out of the question to imagine Lotta fearlessly starting her own private protest, right there in the middle of all those big rigs and burly protesters?

One remarkable byproduct of the past 24 hours relates to this blog itself. Since it was created in 2016, there has been a daily average of 12 visits to the website.

In the past 24 hours, there have been over 500 visits!

Perhaps Canadians of all stripes are looking to change the current channel, looking for a more compassionate, caring society, that transcends partisan politics and social divisions.

If so, perhaps we could all take a moment to revisit that special spirit of “56 Sparks Street” and see where it might lead us.

David Rain

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