Spring 2017

Brian Ouellette: Thoughts on Civics Boot Camp

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05 April 2018

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I moved to Ottawa from Dallas, Texas in June 2016 to get married. Having worked for 24+ years, it was difficult NOT working while waiting for my Work Permit. I saw and advertisement for Synapcity Civic Boot Camp and was intrigued by the idea of getting to know my new adopted city better so I applied for a spot in the Spring 2017 Civics Boot Camp. I was accepted as a participant and was excited and a bit anxious about what this was all about.

The Synapcity crew was welcoming and immediately made me feel like I belonged. As I met the other participants, I realized they were a great representation of the population of Ottawa. When it came time to select our “case study,” I was moved to join the Safe Injection Case Study, not
because I was interested in Safe Injection sites, but because I was uncomfortable with the idea. I wanted to challenge my preconceived notions of safe injection sites and the clients who utilize the resource. I was joined by four others who were deeply invested in researching and getting to know all they could about our case. I researched Safe Injection sites in Vancouver and Europe and read studies regarding the pros and cons of these sites. I immersed myself in getting to know everything I could about this topic so I could be better informed.

As the weeks progressed and our group met and discussed, I realized that my initial uncertainty surrounding Safe Injection sites was changing. I was becoming more compassionate to those who needed this type of service. I was realizing that the marginalized and invisible among us need to come out of the darkness and shadows of fear and unknowing into the light of compassion and understanding.

At the end of the boot camp, I had grown to accept that Safe Injection sites are a necessity and will save lives and provide a service to a group of individuals who, many through no fault of their own, are in inescapable situations. I still have some more growing to do, but am on the right path. I finally found a job working at a Church that provides social outreach to the marginalized in our community and it is not too far from the Safe Injection site location in Sandy Hill. Call it divine providence or fate, but the Civics Boot Camp gave me the courage to apply for positions that would bring me face to face with the marginalized. Thanks to my experience with Synapcity and the Civics Boot Camp, I have a better understanding of how government works and the importance of becoming involved in our local communities to enact positive change.

Thank you Synapcity for providing this amazing opportunity.