Category Archives: Commentary

Top 12 frequently asked questions about Veg Fest

We are now less than three days until Veg Fest gets underway, so we thought we would take the opportunity to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about the event.

Firstly, to summarize, Ottawa Veg Fest is organized by the National Capital Vegetarian Association (NCVA- that’s us!) and sponsored by The Table Vegetarian Restaurant. It will be held on April 29 between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. at the Glebe Community Centre and Corpus Christi School. It will feature exhibitors, guest speakers, cooking demos, a silent auction, and Ottawa’s Next Top Vegan 31-Day Challenge.  Admission is free.

Q: What is the NCVA, and how does it organize Veg Fest?

Veg Fest is 100% volunteer driven

A: The NCVA is a small volunteer-run organization committed to promoting the vegan lifestyle for its many benefits, and helping to develop the social infrastructure to support it.  The NCVA has no paid staff.  The Veg Fest organizing group is a small core of volunteers who commit many hundreds of hours to bringing  the event to life.

Q: Do I have to be a vegetarian or vegan to come to Veg Fest?

A: Heck no! Everyone is welcome at Veg Fest, and we mean everyone. And no, not in the same way a vegan is “welcome” at a grilling contest. We want people from all walks of life to come and enjoy delicious vegan food, and learn more about this way of living, in a no-pressure environment.  Drop by the NCVA table to say hello!

Q:  Who are the speakers at Veg Fest? How do I know when they will be speaking?

A: That info is available on our website.  (They are Jo-Anne McArthur, Jack Norris RD and James McWillians PhD.)  If you want more detailed info about each speaker, scroll back a page or two on this blog. We have done extensive Q & A’s with each of them.

One thing to note is that the presentations will be occurring at Corpus Christi school this year, which is across from the Glebe Community Centre. Watch for the costumed carrot, cow, pea and planet earth to help guide you there.

Q: What is this Veg Challenge panel happening at 4 p.m.  Is that just for people who have signed up for the 31-Day Vegan Challenge?

A:  The panel includes NCVA President Josh Flower, Wellness Warrior Coaching‘s Deb Gleason, and Credible Edible‘s Judi Varga-Toth. They will be answering questions plant-based diets. We encourage Veg Challenge participants to come to this event to have their questions and concerns addressed, but we welcome anyone who wants to learn more to come and ask a question.

Q:  Why isn’t _______ an exhibitor at Veg Fest? Who are the exhibitors?

A: There could be many reasons. It is possible they weren’t interested in being an exhibitor. It is also possible that they were interested, but tried to register too late. Veg Fest  exhibitor space fills up quickly every year, usually about six weeks before the event. We only have room for about 32 exhibitors, which also means we have to be a bit selective about who participates.

As for who the exhitibitors are, you can see a list here.

Q: Why doesn’t Veg Fest have _______?

A: There could be many reasons for that too. It could be that we didn’t think of it. It could also be that we did think of it but researched it and realized it wasn’t feasible. It is also possible that we really wanted to do it, but didn’t have enough volunteer power. We invite you to make suggestions for how we can improve the event, but even more, we invite you to become part of organizing future events.  Just email us at ncva.avcn at gmail dot come if you would like to get involved.

Q: What happened to the cupcake contest?

A: Nothing happened to it, we just decided to do the 31-Day Vegan Challenge instead, to try something new.  The venue isn’t big enough to hold lots of different off-shoots of the event. We are considering holding the cupcake contest as a stand-alone event sometime in the coming months, but it will really depend on our volunteer resources.

Q: How do I get to Veg Fest? Is there parking?

A: The great thing about the Glebe is there are lots of ways to get there. There is parking available throughout the Glebe, and some limited off-street parking available in the immediate vicinity of the community centre.  For a map, see here.

Q: Where do funds raised for the silent auction go?

A: The silent action is the single fund raising event that the NCVA does to raise money for itself. The silent auction money is used to support NCVA operations, including things like paying to exhibit at other events, normal operating costs, printing etc.  On other occasions where the NCVA has raised money (i.e. Veg Ball, the Glebe Garage Sale) the NCVA donated the money to other charities. The NCVA receives no grant money; it is just a very leanly operated organization.

Q:  Why does Veg Fest only have vegan food and products when your association has vegetarian in the name?

A:  The NCVA promotes plant-based diets, and wants to show people all of the amazing plant-based foods that are available.  Cheese, dairy, eggs and so on are all readily available everywhere, and are not plant-based, so the NCVA sees no need to include them at Veg Fest. Having a vegan-only policy also ensures that people at all points on the veg spectrum can enjoy the offerings at Veg Fest without the normal struggle of constant label reading. This includes NCVA volunteers, the majority of whom are vegan.  Veg Fest strives to be a safe place for those who wish to keep animals and animal products off their plates.

Q: Can you guarantee me that everything at Veg Fest is 100% vegan?

A: The only way that anyone can guarantee that is to make their own food all of the time.  The NCVA requires its exhibitors to sign an agreement which statess that they understand the Veg Fest rules and regulations, which includes that all products being sold and promoted at Veg Fest be vegan. We clearly explain the definition of vegan, and we try to screen the exhibitors the best we can to ensure that their products/services are suitable for vegans.  We do our very best, but cannot be held liable if there is a rogue exhibitor. If it is brought to our attention, we will address the issue as quickly as possible.

Q: So how do I show my appreciation to this fabulous organization that is doing so much to advance the veg cause in the Ottawa Community? 😉

A: That’s easy! For one thing, come to Veg Fest.  Once you’re there, become a NCVA member. It is $20 for the year and has some awesome discounts at restaurants like Cafe My House, ZenKitchen, and The Table. Plus, you are supporting a small volunteer organization to make a difference.  And if you are totally inspired, then consider joining us as a volunteer. We could always use more enthusiastic people on our team.

Special Veg Fest guest Lucy Van Oldenbarneveld to offer support to vegan challenge takers

For the month of March, CBC News: Ottawa co-hosts Lucy Van Oldenbarneveld and Adrian Harewood each embarked on new diets as part of the CBC’s Food for Thought project. Adrian tested out a meat-rich Paleo diet, while Lucy spent the month of March as a vegan.  Both anchors received advice from experts and celebrities who practice the respective diets. In Lucy’s case, many of Ottawa’s vegan who’s who pitched in, including Chef Caroline Ishii of ZenKitchen and Wellness Warrior’s Deb Gleason.

Lucy and Adrian: Fierce competitors.

At the end of her month, Lucy decided to continue on the vegan path, and she’s now going to put her newfound expertise to good use as a mentor to the 31-Day Vegan Challenge participants undertaking a vegan diet during the month of May. (We are up to 30 challenge takers, to-date.)

Lucy will be at Veg Fest on April 29 between noon and 3 p.m. and will speak about her experience, and answer people’s questions about going vegan.

We asked Lucy a few questions ahead of time about her experience.

NCVA: How was being vegan different from (or similar to) what you were expecting? What WERE you expecting?

Lucy: I think the month really did meet my expectations. I expected to feel more energetic, and to eat healthier food.  Although, I don’t feel nearly as ‘deprived’ as I thought I would. With great desserts from Auntie Loo and gourmet cuisine from ZenKitchen, you won’t feel too much like you’re missing out on delicious food.

Q: What were your favourite things about being vegan for a month? Any scary moments?

A: My favourite thing by far was how great I felt. After the initial ‘detox’ feeling, headache-y and nausea (three to four days) things have felt terrific. One ‘scary’ moment during the month was getting half-way through a ‘vegan’ meal at a friend’s place and have her say, “oh, we used chicken broth in that.” In the grand scheme of things not a big deal, you do the best you can!

Lucy weighs in.

Q: Tell us about the support you received from the veg community.

A: Immediately people began tweeting me recipes, advice and tips. It has been terrific.

Q: What is your personal plan going forward?

A: I plan to stick with it without becoming too fundamentalist. What I mean is, there may come a time where healthy vegan food isn’t available and it’s a choice between peanut butter sandwiches on white bread or fresh fish… or something….so I don’t want to box myself in. My plan is to stay as vegan as possible! And so far, so good.

Q: Time to impart your wisdom; what advice do you have for people embarking on the NCVA’s 31-day Vegan Challenge?

A: The first four days are grim and there are times when it feels like all you’re doing is chopping and cooking, but this will pass. You’ll start to feel better soon and you will get more efficient as meal prep and freezing stuff.

Meet rising vegan star Dr. James McWilliams at Ottawa Veg Fest

Dr. James McWilliams

James E. McWilliams, PhD, is the author of Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly, and an associate professor of history at Texas State University.  In Just Food, McWilliams argues that there is one thing everyone can do to shrink the carbon footprint of their dinner: Take meat off their plates.

He specializes in American history, and in the environmental history of the United States. He writes for the The Texas Observer and the History News Service, has a regular column in The Atlantic, and has published op-eds on food in the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, and USA Today.

He will make his presentation, An Alternative to the Alternatives — Why Sustainable Animal Agriculture Is No Answer to Industrial Agriculturefrom 2:30-3:45 p.m. on April 29 at Veg Fest.

NCVA volunter Dee Campbell-Giura grilled him recently with some questions so we can all get to know him a bit better.


Dee: When did you become a vegan? Was it a process from omni to veg, or were you raised vegan?

Dr. James McWilliams: I became a vegetarian in 2007, largely for ecological reasons, while doing research on animal agriculture for my last book Just Food. I became a vegan a year later, largely for ethical reasons this time, after reading Gary Francione’s Animals as Persons, Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation, and watching a video of how a mother cow reacts after her calf is taken from her. The interesting thing about both of these choices is that, momentous as they were in life, I made them with little reflection. The truth of the matter seemed immediately obvious. There was little deliberation (which is highly out of character for me). I simply trusted my instinct and am glad that I did.

Dee: What do you say to people who worry that going vegan will be too hard?

McWilliams: I get a little annoyed when vegans say going vegan is easy. That’s like an accomplished athlete saying that what she does is easy. Every worthwhile decision comes with a learning curve. Every confrontation of the status quo comes with challenges. Making responsible ethical and environmental choices comes with challenges. All that said, eating a plant-based diet, when done properly, provides so many benefits–tangible and intangible– that these challenges eventually fade. Many non-vegans think of veganism as making a sacrifice. But most committed vegans who center their diets on a broad diversity of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes experience a brave new world of unexplored flavors. New culinary possibilities open. I currently eat a far wider range of foods than I did when I ate meat and dairy.

Naturally, traveling, social events, and holidays can pose unique challenges–they always will. There’s no formula for dealing with them. What I have found, though, is that these challenges provide useful opportunities to reify why you eat the way you eat. They inspire reflection and reinforce the intentionality of eating. They can, regrettably, also inspire unsupportive reactions from people who don’t understand, or don’t want to understand, your commitment to avoiding animal products. I deeply believe, however, that one should never compromise his or her belief system for the sole purpose of avoiding conflict. Still, the vast majority of my experiences as a vegan in a non-vegan world have been overwhelming affirmative of the basic goodness of humanity. I know that sounds a little overblown, but it’s true.

Many potential vegans think that they’ll become weak, tired, and malnourished. It is for this reason that I am especially happy to note that I’m a marathoner and ultra-marathoner, and that my times and my workouts have improved dramatically since becoming a vegan. Hell, forget me–look at Scott Jurek, the world’s best ultra-runner!

Dee: Which of your achievement(s) makes you feel the most proud?

McWilliams: Honestly, none. I’m my harshest critic, which is saying a lot if you consider the criticism sent my way by advocates of animal agriculture. One aspect of my work that I am a little pleased about, though, is the fact that I was able to bring a serious consideration of animal ethics to a venue as mainstream as the Atlantic. In this case, though, I’m more proud of the Atlantic than myself.

Photo by Jo-Anne McArthur

Dee: You have said that as long as we live in a society that believes it’s okay to eat meat, we’re always going to have factory farming. Give us hope, or a reality check: is the tide turning?

McWilliams: I’m afraid it’ll have to be a reality check. It’s natural to seek hope when you’re deeply engaged in a cause. However, when it comes to animal agriculture, which is growing exponentially in the developing world, I see little hope. (If you doubt this, take a road trip across the United States.) As you suggest in your question, the major voices in agricultural reform today are so ideologically wedded to the implausible notion of small scale, environmentally sound, and welfare-oriented animal farms that they refuse to confront the underlying ethics of what these farms are doing.

Many of these writers and filmmakers think that they’re exploring the ethical foundation of their actions, but they aren’t. They’re under the burden of justifying the unnecessary suffering of sentient beings, and they refuse to make that justification (probably because it cannot be done). I believe this point more than anything I’ve ever written:until eating animals is stigmatized, factory farms will dominate the production of animals. I don’t even think small, welfare-oriented systems are a step in the right direction. After all, they ultimately reify the act that’s at the core of factory farming: eating animals.

Rip Esselstyn

Dee: If you could produce a TV ad to promote vegan advocacy, who would you cast?

McWilliams: Rip Esselstyn, of The Engine 2 Diet. He “works” as an advocate of veganism not only because he’s an articulate and compassionate guy, but because, well, he’s a guy. And he’s a fireman guy. And he a big muscles guy. Not to sound flip or shallow, but we are talking about a TV ad after all, and the hardest demographic to reach with veganism includes men who think eating animals (and sometimes killing them themselves) in integral to manhood. Rip oozes masculinity, and reminds us that real men (whatever that means!) can be vegans.

Dee: You specialize in American history. How and when did you merge your interest in American history with food sustainability?

McWilliams: I’ve spent my career writing and researching the history of American agriculture. Very little about this history is pleasant. Very little. It’s marked by human and animal suffering, disease, ceaseless exploitation, and environmental degradation. So, about ten years ago, when advocates of small scale agriculture started saying we needed to return to pre-industrial agricultural models, I decided it was time to step out of the ivory tower and start shouting. When I wrote a piece critical of the locavore movement in the New York Times in 2007, a number of opportunities rolled my way. Protected by academic tenure, I decided to embrace them. In time, I become a rarity: an academic activist. It’s a role I’m still warming to, and juggling with the normal rounds of academic responsibilities (like, uh, teaching).

Dee: You recently posted PETA’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad History of Killing Animals on The Atlantic, and it sure is getting attention! What other button-pushing topics are in the hopper?

McWilliams: The list is endless. 😉

Dee: As a new vegan, I often meet resistance and derision by family and friends. I’d love to hear how you respond(ed?) to this in your own life. Yes, I know Dr McWilliams isn’t a self-help columnist, but most vegans experience this and well, it saves me asking him on April 29.

McWilliams: I touched on that in my answer to question #2, but what I would add is this: be empathic of others’ intolerance, never apologize, stick to your values, remember that animals need your voice to be strong, and, most important, maintain a sense of humor. Really, a sense of humor goes a long way.

Dee: Can you give us a glimpse at what you’ll be talking about at Ottawa Veg Fest?

McWilliams: I’ll be speaking about the environmental, economic, and ethical problems with the alternatives that have been proposed to industrial animal agriculture. Many consumers believe that if they source their animal products from small-scale, organic, pasture-based farms then they are making a genuine choice against factory farming. I will argue that this opinion is wrong, thereby reiterating that the most powerful choice we can make to oppose industrial animal agriculture is to go vegan.


Think you’d like to try a vegan diet, but not ready to commit? Try the Ottawa 31-Day Vegan Challenge. The NCVA will support you along the way, with recipes, tips, resources, movie nights, meet-ups and more!

NCVA to participate as an exhibitor in National Women’s Show

By Raphaël Morin

My name is Raphaël; I’ve been volunteering with the NCVA for more than a year and I love it!

I’m particularly excited about tabling on behalf of the NCVA at the National Women’s Show next month because nearly 20,000 people visited this exhibition last year. According to the organizers, it’s The Ultimate Girl’s Day Out!

NCVA volunteers Michelle and Raphaël at Veg Fest in 2011

This is excellent opportunity for each one of us to connect with others to share information about plant-based lifestyles, but also to tell everyone all about Ottawa Veg Fest ’12.

The Women’s Show will occur on Saturday April 14 and Sunday April 15, at the Ottawa Convention Centre. More info is available here:

I would like to invite you to volunteer with the NCVA at this show.  This is the biggest show that the NCVA has ever been a part of, and an incredible outreach opportunity.  We need several volunteers to be at the NCVA table at all times, to ensure we can talk to as many people as possible!

Our awesome supporters Credible Edibles, Simply Raw Express, Auntie Loo’s Treats, and Café My House will be providing samples for us to share with show visitors.

Come and join me, and the NCVA’s wonderful volunteers, in our biggest outreach effort next to Veg Fest! If you can offer a few hours of your time, please email with your expression of interest.

Let’s hear it for Veg Fest sponsors, including a new addition!

Every year, a lot of blood, sweat and tears goes into creating Veg Fest. As you may know, Veg Fest is 100 per cent volunteer organized, and it takes many hundreds of volunteer hours to bring it to life.

But one thing we have not had to worry about is having the cash to pay for expenses, and that is thanks to our wonderful event sponsors.  Without their support, we would need to spend even more time fundraising, scrounging up money, and penny pinching.

It is to their credit that we do not.  Simon Saab of  The Table Vegetarian Restaurant in particular has been an avid and constant NCVA supporter, and we could not have reached our current level of success without his support. Once again, for the fourth year running The Table Vegetarian Restaurant is the title sponsor for Ottawa Veg Fest.

Just when you thought Natasha Kyssa couldn’t get any faster, she goes all express on us.

This year, we have a new silver level sponsor joining the ranks, SimplyRaw Express. You may be wondering, SimplyRaw Express… is that like, SimplyRaw on speed?

The answer is a resounding NO.  SimplyRaw Express is Ottawa’s unique fresh juice bar and takeaway, which will be opening in late April at 989 Wellington St. West in Hintonburg. That’s right, around the same time as Veg Fest! Good timing, huh?

It will offer organic juices and smoothies, raw vegan dishes, quinoa bowls, delicious desserts as well as culinary workshops, detoxification and nutritional programs. Its food will be completely vegan, as well as soy and gluten-free.

“Ottawa Veg Fest has played an important role in raising awareness of and promoting the vegan lifestyle in the Ottawa community. As dedicated raw vegans, Mark and I are thrilled that SimplyRaw Express is a silver level sponsor for the fourth Ottawa Veg Fest. We always enjoy this fun, well-organized and high energy event, and becoming a sponsor is an excellent fit!” Natasha told us.

Introducing the silver level sponsors for this year’s Ottawa Veg Fest:

Twenty-four hours of vegan decadence in Montreal

I was feeling a bit of cabin fever and a desire for waffles, so I suggested a last-minute overnighter to Montreal to my husband. He never says no to that.

As my friends know, I am a bit of a creature of habit.  In terms of the big picture stuff, I am quite comfortable making quick and far-reaching decisions, but for the day-to-day things, I don’t stray far outside of my norm. The staff at most of my local haunts know what I am going to order, I go to bed at roughly the same time every night, I like the laundry done a certain way.  That sort of thing.

So I was thrown for a loop when I learned that Chu Chai, where I stop for dinner every time I go to Montreal is temporarily closed. I was alarmed. Where would I eat? That’s where I always go!  Deciding what company to hire to replace my home’s roof? No problem.  Finding a replacement restaurant for dinner?  Panic-inciting.

I took to to see what was new in Montreal, and I came across Su Shian Yuang, a relatively new Taiwanese veg restaurant.  It was just down the street from Chu Chai, which offered some comfort. We would give it a try.

But first, a stop at Viva Vegan, the all-vegan store a few blocks over on St-Laurent Blvd.  I wanted to buy some pastries for the morning. Sadly, I learned that their woman who was supplying their almondine and chocolate croissants is no longer doing so, but on the plus side, they had cinnamon rolls.  Sold!  I also grabbed an assortment of vegan candy bars, two gluten-free cupcakes (which were actually phenomenal) and several types of buillion, since I have been on a soup making craze.

General Tao Tofu

Then it was on to Su Shian Yuang.  It wasn’t much to look at from the outside, or the inside, although there were cute wall decals and the lights were dimmed just enough. The service was gracious, and the server seemed to genuinely be thrilled to receive thanks and appreciation.


We ordered two appetizers– crispy Imperial rolls and avocado sushi. Appetizers were inexpensive, in the $4-5 range.  The Imperial rolls were good, although not quite at the level that they were at Sacred Garden (RIP).  But the sushi was excellent.  Considering I make avocado sushi at home regularly, I was not expecting to be amazed and impressed, but I was.  Yves complained for the rest of dinner that he wanted more, and I have to admit, so did I.

Mixed veg stir-fry

Next came the main courses. I couldn’t decide between two, so I ordered both (I should note that I had one of the four Imperial rolls and one of the six sushi pieces).  I selected the General Tao Tofu, and a mixed veg stir-fry, not because it sounded particularly interesting, but because I wanted to make sure I ate enough vegetables for the day. Yves chose the bibimbop.

The mixed vegetables were fine; they were cooked exactly the right amount, and the sauce was non-descript. Pieces of what I believe was wheat gluten were interspersed. Nothing spectacular, but a good vegetable conduit, and the type of dish you could safely recommend to a frightened omni with no sense of taste adventure.

The General Tao Tofu was, on the other hand, excellent. The tofu was fried to a perfect consistency, and the sauce was tangy, and had just the right amount of spicyness.  It came tossed with peppers and bok choy, helping it pretend to be healthy I suppose.   As for Yves’ bibimbop, he liked it perfectly fine, but has been spoiled by two years of Cafe My House’s signature bibimbop.  He said this one was good, but less interesting than Cafe My House’s rendition, and that he would have preferred more sushi.

Waffles with cashew cream, maple syrup and fruit.

The next morning we headed to Aux Vivres for brunch, another Montreal ritual for us.  But I was conflicted. I had been craving waffles for about a week, thanks to Julia Cropley and Dee Campbell-Giura’s brunch musings on the NCVA Facebook page.  On the other hand, I adore their polenta dish, which happens to come with more vegetables.  My solution: I had Yves order one extra waffle for me (for $4), and ordered the polenta for myself.

La polenta

And of course, both were utterly delicious.  The waffles were  delightfully chewy, and sopped up their sides wonderfully.  The polenta was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, and made an excellent utensil for the black beans, guac, and pico de gallo. I enjoyed every bite.  Both brunch items come with your choice of coffee or chai tea. I chose coffee, noting the cute little frothed soy milk side that they bring with it.

Raw lasagne

Before we hit the road, we decided to stop at Crudessence for some take out.  It had been a while since we had been there, but I had spent much of my car ride to Montreal talking to Natasha Kyssa of Simply Raw so I could practically feel her frowning at me for the fried tofu and cinnamon buns.  I know that she knows that I know better. This would be my way of making it up to her.

At Crudessence, I ordered what I had eaten the past two times I went there, their raw lasagne.  Super thin layers of zucchini, enrobed in tangy sun-dried tomato sauce and accented with nut-based raw cheezes.  It was, as I had recalled, delicious.  It came with a side “caesar” salad, including carrots and sprouts. I ate it all, out of respect for Natasha.

Om burger

Yves chose the Om Burger, which is mushroom based. He often chooses mushroom-y things when we eat out, because I loathe them and never use them at home.  Its bun was a mash of dehydrated seeds and vegetables, which he was not keen on, but other than that, he was pretty pleased.

Before heading out, we stopped at Paradis Vegetarien, where you can find almost any type of faux meat imagineable.  Erin and Neil had some requirements, and I was happy to oblige. I chatted with Jimmy, the owner, about Veg Fest. He will be coming, by the way.

Montreal is a great place for vegans to visit for even just for a day or two, because it packs a lot of punch.  The area bordered by Sherbrooke, Saint Joseph, St-Laurent and St-Denis is practically a vegan paradise, with lots of little independent shops to boot. Go there.

Nobody wants sewage in the river that they swim in

On occasion, the NCVA will support like-minded organizations to draw attention to an issue du jour.

So when José Dimayuga from Ecology Ottawa contacted the NCVA, looking to get a bit of exposure for an Action Alert that organization is undertaking, we thought this should be one of those times.  Raise your hand if you are in FAVOUR of dumping sewage into the Ottawa River! Didn’t think so.

If you’ve ever been disappointed by a beach closure due to E. coli, or perturbed by the wafting scent of sewage on a warm summer day while strolling along the Ottawa River, this is an Action Alert that will resonate with you. 

Read on for the latest.  The following was provided by Ecology Ottawa.



What no beach-goer wants to see.ACTION ALERT!

Every year, the City of Ottawa dumps hundreds of millions of litres of untreated sewage directly into the Ottawa River. Now you have an opportunity to help stop this travesty once and for all. The province and the City of Ottawa have developed a plan, and both both agreed to put up their fair share of the money. All we need is federal funding in the upcoming 2012 federal budget. Click here to let Ottawa area members of parliament know that you want action to clean up the river!

The city has developed the Ottawa River Action Plan to address this issue and the plan is already delivering results. In June, the city announced that recent infrastructure upgrades have cut the untreated sewage going into the river by more than half compared to measurements of four years ago. However, in 2011, the city still discharged 417-million litres of combined sewage and rainwater into the river—that is the equivalent of almost 166 Olympic-sized swimming pools full of sewage!

City council would like to move forward with the next phase of the Ottawa River Action Plan—the construction of major combined sewage overflow (CSO) storage facilities. CSO storage facilities will lower the amount of contaminants released to the Ottawa River, improving the water quality and possibly reducing the number of beach closures.

According to Ottawa Riverkeeper Meredith Brown, who has endorsed this letter-writing campaign, it is imperative that the city moves ahead with the Ottawa River Action Plan, with or without federal support. “But,” says Brown, “the Ottawa River is a key feature of the National Capital Region. The federal government should be doing everything it can to stop the dumping of untreated sewage in the river that runs through the nation’s capital.”

The province has indicated its willingness to contribute one-third of the cost, but the federal government has not yet made a similar commitment. We want to urge the federal government to commit to its third of the funding in the federal 2012 Budget. This is why we set-up an online letter writing campaign and we are asking you to go the website and write to your local Member of Parliament today:

Please send a quick letter now to all Ottawa area MPs urging them to ensure that funding for the Ottawa River Action Plan is included in the federal 2012 Budget.  The health of our rivers depends on you demanding action from our elected officials today.

For more information, contact us at:

Phone: 613-860-5353

You can view the Ottawa River Action Plan here:

Dr. Amanda Chan’s three secrets to long-lasting health

This guest  blog post is by Dr. Amanda Chan D.C., a long-time vegetarian, trained chiropractor, and Network Spinal Analysis practitioner.   Dr. Chan has a special offer just for NCVA members: A free initial Network Spinal Analysis consultation with her, valued at $70.00. Contact info is below the post 

By Dr. Amanda Chan, D.C.

You exercise regularly, you eat a well-balanced plant-based diet and you meditate frequently…you do “everything” to be “healthy” and yet something is still missing.  It just isn’t enough. You know that your body has the capacity to function at a higher level, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.  So, how to do you from where you are now to where you ultimately want to be?  Continue reading to discover my Three Secrets to Long-Lasting Health.

Dr. Amanda Chan

Secret #1: A Change in Perspective

Albert Einstein once said “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” This is true of your pain, stress and symptoms.  If you want to end your pain and what you’ve been doing so far hasn’t been working for you, the first thing you’re going to have to do is open your mind to changing how you think about your pain!

This could be similar to when you made the switch to a plant-based ifestyle.  If you were like me, you used to eat meat at some point, then there was a change in perspective that caused you to switch.

Pain can mean different things to different people.  For some, pain is seen as an annoyance.  For others, it is something to be scared of and when they’re in pain, they feel powerless or like a victim.  Some people believe they have nothing to do with the pain at all and that their life was going along “just fine” until the pain showed up to ruin their life!  There are others who gain a sense of significance because when they are in pain, they get more love and attention.  So, how did you think about your pain?

Secret #2: The Body and Mind Connection

Dr. Candance Pert’s research found that the brain, nervous, endocrine, and immune system all function as a unit sending messages back and forth.  That is to say, your mind and your body depend on each other to work together.

So, when you open your mind to a new perspective, your body also becomes more receptive to “feeling” the parts of you that have been ignored, avoided or blamed.

Secret #3: Network Spinal Analysis (NSA)

This is an extremely unorthodox yet highly effective non-invasive method for ending pain, increasing energy and building body awareness.

NSA is a body-centered method that helps people predictably transform their lives.  It’s practiced by chiropractors but there’s no cracking or popping.  NSA is a discipline that uses gentle contacts, not much more pressure than you would put on your closed eyelid, along the spine to create higher brain awareness of the tension that builds in your body due to stresses in your life.  A Network session helps you connect to this tension and release it.

Even if you eat a well-balanced plant based diet, workout regularly and meditate, your body can still be reacting to past physical, emotional and mental stress that you can’t seem to shake.  NSA shifts people’s bodies and minds out of “stress mode” so they are more receptive to change, less reactive and more open to possibility.

Dr. Amanda Chan is trained as a chiropractor and now practices Network Spinal Analysis exclusively. She holds workshops each month on various topics related to stress, personal and spiritual growth.  Please check the workshop schedule at


If you are a NCVA member and interested in a complimentary initial consultation with Dr. Chan, contact her office at the coordinates below. Make an appointment specifically with Dr. Chan, and please mention that you are a member of the NCVA to receive the member benefit.  Be prepared to show your valid member card.


Hampton Wellness Centre
1419 Carling Ave, Suite 209
Ottawa, ON  K1Z 7L6
T- 613-761-1600
Cell- 613-858-8588

Eating well, eating out: Are both possible?

Yes, but the NCVA needs your help to make it happen!

By Edelweiss

Being vegan at home is easy once you’ve have worked out how to make your favourite foods without animal products, know what brands of foods to get and have a routine for getting them.

Eating out, however, is a different story. How many times have you gone to lunch with coworkers and quietly asked the waitress what they have in the line of vegan options, and she pauses with furrowed brow, as though trying to figure out a complicated calculus question in her head, and then smiles, at which point you feel hopeful, and she says, brightly, “We have salad!” and your heart sinks.

I’ve suffered through salad meals, or those consisting of a stirfry with none of the good stuff (ginger, garlic, thai basil, and so on), or pale, boiled celery and carrots and unappetizing plain rice, or pita with hummus, and forked over good money for it.

The National Capital Vegetarian Association (NCVA) wants to let restaurant managers and cooks know that preparing vegan dishes can be easy, and that people will buy them if they put them on the menu. So, to get an idea of what you’d like, and what would sell well, how about throwing some ideas for awesome vegan restaurant food out there?

I am compiling recipes on behalf of the NCVA to share with local restaurants, as well as to eventually have an online resource for anyone looking for the best vegan recipes on offer. This initiative can only be as useful and dynamic as its contributions, so let your voice be heard!

I personally would like to see on a menu vegan fast food (pizza, burgers), ethnic dishes (stirfries without hidden fish sauce, curries), interesting wraps (loaded with sauteed eggplant, grilled red pepper and other tasty fillings), ice cream, breakfast food (pancakes, french toast, waffles) and even croissants! I lived in France for four months and loooooooved croissants, especially pain au chocolat. Here’s a link to a pain au chocolat recipe. I haven’t tried it but just knowing it exists makes me happy.

So, what would you love to eat when you eat out? And do you have any recipes online you’d like to recommend? Just put your thoughts and links to recipes, if you have some, into the comments below.  Be a part of getting this off the ground!

NCVA top 10 picks for awesome local and vegan holiday gifts

The holidays can present a minefield of issues for vegans, including vegan unfriendly events and parties, receiving unvegan gifts from well-intentioned friends and family, and finding gifts to purchase for others that fit within the vegan ethical framework.

The amount of money that is spent every year on useless and unwanted gifts is astounding, and much of it lines the pockets of big box stores rather than the local establishments, owned by community members who contribute to a sense of community.

With that in mind, I decided to create a list of some of the best vegan-friendly holiday gifts, the purchase of which supports local, ethical businesses. When you purchase the gifts listed here, you can rest easy knowing that the money you spend will stay within the community, will support local business owners, and will be in accordance with vegan ethics.

1. Hand made gifts by Tweal

A yoga bag by Tweal.

Local artisan Judy Panke is the creative force behind Tweal, a small online business that sells eco fashions, quilts, bags and accessories, all handmade with love using re-purposed re-used, recycled and upcycled fabrics.

All items are one-of-a-kind and made without a traditional pattern, so you’re guaranteed to be the only person with any exact item! All pieces are individually sized with exact measurements given in inches. To check out Tweal’s creations, visit Judy in person at the Craftalicious sale on December 10, at 217 First Avenue, or visit and order through the online store.


2. Organic vegetables for the whole family

This suggestion may be best for the patient people on your list, but is one of those gifts that just keeps on giving. Local vegan farmers Jim and Gen of Our Little Farm offer Community Supported Agriculture baskets of the freshest, organic, and began vegetables around, available at two convenient pick up spots. This is a great way to not only give the gift of healthy produce, but it also supports a farmer and their family living within the community.

For more information visit their website.


3. New American Vegan

Don’t let the name fool you; New American Vegan is the work of Ottawa vegan Vincent Guihan. Ottawa-born and bred he is not however; Guihan grew up near Chicago, and was fed American comfort food until he went vegetarian, and later vegan, as a teenager.

This cookbook is a nod to that upbringing, but which incorporates kale, collards and other greens into a substantial number of recipes. If you are considering a cookbook for anyone on your list, New American Vegan would be a great option.

Order it through Amazon, or Chapters.


4. Cooking classes with Credible Edibles

Credible Edibles offers a range of informative, interactive cooking classes, including sensational soups, holiday cooking, kids kreative cooking, Full of Beans, and Forks Over Knives. If there is someone on your list who is interested in taking a cooking class, this is an ideal gift.

Credible Edibles sells gift certificates for the classes, in any denomination. They are redeemable for any class of the person’s choice. Owner Judi Varga-Torth is aiming to have the January-February schedule ready by end of this month so that it can accompany gift certificates for the holidays. Check out the website for more details about the types of classes that are offered.


5. Dr. Michael Greger’s vast wealth of knowledge

Dr. Greger is not from Ottawa, but he was a speaker at Veg Fest 2010, wowing the audience with his interactive presentation and vast wealth of facts and information.

Whether you want to get healthy for Hanukkah, feel less crummy for Christmas, or get trimmer for 2012 — or just want to spread the word to everyone on your gift list — Dr. Greger has just posted a new holiday DVD sale on his website.

For a limited time only, you can order a set of all six volumes of his Latest in Nutrition DVDs (which includes eight disks) for $75. He is even willing to include a personalized gift note, if you ask nicely. As always all proceeds are donated to charity.


My husband and I's foster squirrels, Terror and Erebus, from the Rideau Valley Wildlife Sanctuary.

6. A Charitable Donation

There are a number of worthy local charities dedicated to helping animals, most of which are entirely volunteer-run, and all of which need support. Some are even run by vegans. When people ask me what I want for Christmas, donating to charity is my response, because the animals need the help more than I do.

A few examples of local animal-helping charities doing great work, and who are in need of support include Westminster Pet Sanctuary, Teja’s Animal Rescue, Rideau Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, Wild Bird Care Center and New Moon Rabbit Rescue.


7. A NCVA Membership

This is another gift that gives all year long! Only $20, a NCVA membership entitles card holders to discounts at many local restaurants and services, including The Table, Green Earth, ZenKitchen, Cafe My House, Lieutenant’s Pump, and many more.

Order them online through Paypal, and just be sure to note that it is a gift membership, who it is for, and where it should be sent. We will take care of the rest, including a festive card that informs the recipient of your gift.

Order an NCVA membership by clicking here.


8. Simply Raw Detox Program

Natasha Kyssa

The 28-day SimplyRaw Detox Program is a natural approach to improved health that will help you to both cleanse and nourish your body with nutritious fresh plant food by making gradual week-by-week changes, encouraging the consumption of natural whole plant foods, rich in antioxidants, and eliminating processed, acid-forming foods.

Natasha Kyssa, who runs the program, has been a pillar of the Ottawa veg community for years, and brings a wealth of knowledge and endless encouragement to those participating in the program. The next group class starts Jan. 8, 2012, and meetings are held on Sundays from 6 pm – 7 pm.

If you have someone on your list who is more of a do-it-yourselfer, consider giving them Natasha’s book, the Simply Raw Detox Manual, available on Amazon.


9. Purple Urchin Soaps

For those on your Christmas list who like smelly bath products, consider Purple Urchin. I first met the proprietors of Purple Urchin a couple of years ago at a Christmas craft sale. They were new to Ottawa, and selling mostly (although not all) vegan soap products that are handmade from scratch. Purple Urchin makes 100 per cent natural products, which are either unscented or scented with essential oils, and 97 per cent natural products, which are scented with high-quality fragrance oils.

I recently learned that they have opened a small shop in Ottawa’s Chinatown neighbourhood, selling their handmade soaps and other goodies like soy candles. Why pick up a chemical-laden soap basket at the drug store when you can have the all-natural goodness of Purple Urchin, AND support a local business in the process? (Read the ingredients though- not everything is vegan.)


10. A Gift Certificate for someplace new

As a vegan, it is very important to me to introduce people to vegan culinary delights; to show non-vegans that there is great food to be had, and it aint at Swiss Chalet.

So next time you need to go the gift certificate route for someone on your list, consider giving them a gift certificate for ZenKitchen…or Café My House…or Auntie Loo’s Treats… or any of the wonderful vegan or vegan-friendly that we patronize, that make eating out enjoyable for us year-round. There is no reason why our omnivorous friends and family wouldn’t enjoy a meal there, but they may never give it a shot without the added incentive.

So, don’t be afraid to support our local businesses this way; it is an important step towards normalizing our lifestyle to the masses.