Bank Street O-Train Plans & Racist Code Words
“This kind of speech is offensive and ignorant” - Rev Dr. Anthony Bailey
Urban community voices in the Ottawa city core and Ottawa South areas such as Heron Gate and Billings Bridge have been advocating for an Ottawa Bank Street O-Train Tunnel running from Parliament Station to Billings Bridge Shopping Centre. Public voices have exposed what some are calling ‘classism’ and ‘community discrimination.’
Ottawa Radio & Podcast personality Krio Guan has made a series of podcasts and vlogs on the subject of a Bank Street O-Train. Online transit groups have taken to calling Guan and people in the community like him as sounding “drunk” and “high”. The problem with this language is that the last time Krio drank alcohol was 5 years ago and he doesn’t take drugs nor does he condone the use of drugs. Guan and others like him feel that O-Train discussions have been focused on wealthy neighbourhoods in the east, like Orleans and west, like Kanata. While the core of Ottawa and Ottawa South has been forgotten.
In response to Guan’s podcasts & vlog musings on the subject of a Bank Street O-Train, many of these online groups have gone so far as to say, ‘your demographic’ which is code words for Black people. The idea that people who live in the core and Ottawa South, ‘needs real solutions by real people not fantasy by….’ indicates some in Ottawa transit planning have race problems - at least those participating in online groups appear to have a problem when confronted by urban community voices such as Krio Guan and others like him.
Krio is a very thoughtful Ottawan, a proud Ottawan who is not happy that critics to a Bank Street O-Train are “referring to voices from particular communities as substance users, in this case, mine specifically, is not surprising in 2021. The reality is, there is public O-Train planning or lack thereof that directly impacts racially diverse communities. I can guarantee you that the longer this debate goes on - though it may be somewhat overlooked with the number of other issues going in the 2020/2021 time period - more voices from the community, especially the large number of those who rely on public transit, will echo a similar need for LRT transit consideration between Parliament Hill and Billings Bridge. Covert and overt insults from naysayers will never change that reality.”
Guan points out “there is classism in this city” and “the conversation devolves into calling a part of the city, (Ottawa South) they don’t like, ‘affluent’, people in Ottawa South predominately depend on public transit. The reality is the places where the Ottawa O-Train plans to expand currently are affluent - the suburbs.”
Rev Dr. Anthony Bailey of Parkdale United Church is a pillar of building community relationships in Ottawa. Rev Bailey was named to the 2020 Order of Ottawa. He believes in cooperation in relation to the full enjoyment of economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights by people of African Descent.
When asked to comment how minority voices in the downtown core and Ottawa south communities are being dismissed as ‘these people’ who are ‘living in fantasy’, and just ‘drunk’ and ‘high’, Rev Dr. Bailey responds quickly with “this kind of speech is offensive and ignorant” and he is very “familiar with racist responses.”
Rev Dr. Bailey is passionate about the city core and points out “not only does the city O-Train planning group need to engage underserved and diverse populations most impacted by these kinds of decisions, but indeed so do all levels of government.”
Rev Bailey wants the city to “enlist support from the Municipal Anti-Racism Secretariat” to help deal with these transit planning issues, and believes they “require meaningful consultation with those affected and likely to be affected by transit.”
According to Rev Dr. Bailey, “systemic racism is real and until there is a broad recognition of this, and a concerted effort to name and engage it, nothing will change.”
The racist code words being used by some in online O-Train discussions doesn’t come as a shock to Kevin Bourne. Kevin is the editor of Ottawa’s Shifter Magazine and a popular voice & face in Ottawa radio & television circles.
“I’m not surprised by it. There’s a lot of prejudice in Ottawa, whether from decision makers and average citizens. I’ve witnessed many conversations in Ottawa where people were oblivious to the fact what they were saying was prejudiced or racist.”
Kevin goes on to say, “it’s an organizations’ websites and marketing materials. Ottawa is still behind other major cities when it comes to being sensitive to other ethnicities and fully embracing them.”
The Bank Street O-Train Tunnel talk has exposed a divide between wealthy suburbs in the east & west, and those who live in the Ottawa core and Bank Street South.
Ottawa writer & thought leader Dwight Williams believes “classism and structural racism are absolutely real things. They affect people’s thinking on any number of issues.” When asked what his thoughts are in regards to Bank Street O-Train and the strange language being used by critics of the idea that sound like racist code words, he responds focusing on positive outcomes, “I see a benefit for people across this city, all demographics, from making this happen.” Dwight believes we “will become a richer city from this.”
Williams has spent many years thinking this issue of a Bank Street O-Train line and was one of the first to publicly write about these ideas 2 decades ago which has slowly spread throughout the downtown core and Bank Street South areas. He believes in equal opportunity and bringing the city together.
“The Rideau/Montreal and Bank Street ideas for further O-Train service expansion should absolutely be pursued.” Dwight finishes with a strong response about the racist code words being used “this ‘you people’ nonsense and dismissal of sensible ideas as ‘fantasy’ should be kicked to the curb.”
When we examine the Ottawa City Transit Committee meetings, it’s not a government body with much in the way of diversity. Perhaps creating a transit committee that was more representative of the city would be a good idea? Often the people who use transit in the urban core and Ottawa south communities are from diverse ethnic communities and different financial backgrounds. Having an Ottawa City Transit Committee that looked like the city, might in fact help get the Bank Street O-Train concept into the Transit Master Plan. A reformed Ottawa Transit Committee might also help deal with some of the issues of classism and discrimination.
Jon Willing subtly pointed out in the Ottawa Citizen, “There has been little consideration of ways to run LRT across
other inner-urban communities”
Jon’s statement might be the most important part of his entire story. The focus of Ottawa O-Train planning for whatever reason appears to be on predominately affluent white suburban neighbourhoods - is that by accident, or by design?
Clinton P. Desveaux is an accredited writer for Troy Media. For additional stories on Bank Street O-Train see links below:
Ottawa Community Leaders Support Bank Street O-Train Tunnel
Ottawa City Councillor Shawn Menard is part of a growing list of Ottawa community leaders who support the idea of a…
Bank Street O-Train Tunnel Linked to Food & Accommodation Security, Employment, and Being…
The 4.5 km Ottawa Bank Street O-Train Tunnel, a concept many in the city are discussing; would run from Parliament…
“Debate on Bank Street O-Train Needs to Continue”- Ottawa MPP Harden
If the city is going to have an electric Bank Street O-Train Tunnel, Joel says “I want to see it done in a proper and…
Former Ottawa Mayor Larry O’Brien Calls for O-Train Tunnel on Bank Street
With the recent announcement of the REM Extension in Montreal - former Ottawa Mayor, Larry O’Brien, who served from…
Bank Street O-Train: Talk of Ottawa
Meeting & Responding with Ottawans about the Bank Street Tunnel concept
Ottawans Favourable to Bank Street O-Train Tunnel
Kwesi Otoo is a local Ottawa radio & podcast personality and host of the MR7 podcast. Kwesi has done multiple episodes…
Bank St O-Train “keeps coming up”
“Watson basically screwed the downtown” Bernie Geiger former Director at Treasury Board of Canada