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 www.wisdominyou.ca.


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.

All about Miss Kate, the hottest cake decorator in town!

Come out, come out! No more hiding behind that cupcake, Miss Kate!

The bakery may be called Auntie Loo’s treats, but it’s the fabulous Miss Kate behind the scenes, decorating beautiful wedding and special occasion cakes with gorgeous sugar flowers and whatever your imagination can dream up. Miss Kate and Miss Loo have been working together as a team since the bakery opened, and Miss Kate’s cakes have wowed and inspired many.

We got the opportunity to talk to Miss Kate to learn more about her unlikely foray into cake decorating (she has a B.Sc. in Animal Behaviour!), and to get the inside scoop behind Ottawa’s most beloved bakery.

VegOttawa: Have you always wanted to be a cake decorator? How did you end up becoming one?

Miss Kate: Cake decorating was never on my radar as a potential career or hobby. I went to university and earned a Bachelor of Science in Animal Behaviour, and moved to England in 2008 to pursue my passion for animal rehabilitation and conservation. Unfortunately, several factors meant this was next to impossible. I lived in a tiny village in the country with no driver’s license, one bus stop that was a 40 minute walk away, all during the worst part of the UK’s recession.

Mack and Molly

After realizing I was not going to be able to get a paid position in any of the nearby animal sanctuaries, I took a job in town at a family-owned gift shop. While it wasn’t what I had envisioned myself doing, it was a solid job and I met some fantastic people. Unfortunately, in 2009 the recession claimed another victim, and the shop had to be closed down.

As I was no longer able to afford my rent, I moved in with my mum’s cousins, Joan and Dave, who were kind enough to take me in as a lodger. Joan had been attending sugar flower classes for many years, and encouraged me to join her. I went along for one class, and I was hooked. It was an informal gathering of the sweetest older ladies who used the weekly meet-up to gossip and as a form of therapy. Everybody had their own projects on the go, and the teacher, Sue, would help when needed.

Sue took me under her wing, and soon I was attending two or three classes a week to learn as much as possible. I started making flowers as gifts on a regular basis. Even at this point, I didn’t have much interest in the actual cake aspect of these sugar flowers.

When I moved home to Ottawa in May 2009, I packed up all of the tools and supplies I had gathered over the three months I spent learning the craft, and I realized I should learn more about cake decorating in order to make full use of these sugar flowers. I began to teach myself the basics, and would practice on family birthdays and anniversaries. It took very little time for me to get fully attached to the craft.

Kate (right) with Auntie Loo (centre) and Kelli from Westminster Pet Sanctuary.

Q: Tell us about the first time you met the legendary Auntie Loo.

A: In July, 2009, I began applying to several retail jobs to get back into the working world after my return from the UK. I was perusing Craigslist, and came across an ad for a “fondant chef.” I was intrigued, and after reading the position details, I decided to take a risk and send an e-mail.

A few hours later, I received a response requesting a meeting the next day, downtown at Bridgehead. I was informed to look for “the lady with the “leopard print scarf”… She had me before she even met me!

I stayed up all night printing out any pictures of the few cakes I had made, and all of the flowers that I’d made to date. I walked into Bridgehead, we sat down, and we hit it off right away. I showed her my tiny portfolio (I honestly still can’t believe I applied, given how very little experience I had), and we bonded over the fact that I had made a cake for my Grandad, and that we were both self/family-taught.

By the time I left the interview, I was genuinely more absorbed in her becoming successful in her business venture than I was in actually getting the job. I believe I even came home and wrote on my Facebook, “I just met the nicest person on the face of the planet.” That pretty much sums it up.

A Kate creation.

A few days later, she called to inform me that I got the job, and I was both ecstatic and completely panicked!

Q: What is an average day at the bakery like for you?

A: I spend the most time at the bakery when we have a wedding, and this is generally a two-day process. We bake everything to be as fresh as possible, so if the wedding is on Saturday, I’ll be baking everything early Friday morning.

Fridays are also spent making any decorations that need to be made in advance in order to make sure they are fully dry. Early Saturday morning, the cakes come out of the fridge to be brought to room temperature. When the cakes are ready, they are covered in fondant, and the fun part can begin!

Decorations are made and applied, and my two fantastic assistants (Kate 2.0 and Charlotte) are usually with me now to help out with some smaller details that can be incredibly time-consuming. Kate 2.0 started delivering cakes with me this summer, and her position mostly entails keeping me calm. She does a great job of it!

When the cake is ready, we pack it up separately, and head off to the venue. I always find the delivery to be stressful. That moment right before I open the trunk when we arrive at the venue always makes my stomach flip. Luckily, I haven’t opened the trunk to see a disaster yet! After we set-up the cake at the venue, we take our pictures, and head out. When the delivery is all over and done with, we head for a celebratory veggie burger and cold drink. A lovely end to a long day!

Four tier cake!

Q: What’s your favorite thing about working at Auntie Loo’s?

A: My first and foremost favourite thing about working at Auntie Loo’s is the people. We are a family, and we always look out for each other. The bakery has grown so much since it was just Mandi and I when we opened; we have been incredibly lucky to find the people who help us continue to grow. Every day at the bakery is a new experience, and is such a learning process. I am so fortunate to have a job that I love and am passionate about.

Q: What is the source of your creativity? Adorableness?

A: I try to bring something unique to any cake or confection that I create. I want to make cakes that are personalized to their recipient(s), and that have never been made before. This is why I don’t replicate cakes that other cake artists have made, or even that I have already made myself. Making cakes that are a bit quirky or cheeky is always my goal, even if it is in small details that will likely only be noticed by the myself and the couple.

For example, one of our grooms this summer is a big fan of the artist M.C. Escher; in order to incorporate this into the cake, I put Escher’s “interlocking birds” design on top, where it would only really be noticed upon closer inspection. These little details are what I think makes a cake truly unique!

...With a tiny bride and groom.

Q: What is the most challenging cake request you’ve had? Do you have some personal favorites you’re willing to share?

A: Sometimes the most challenging parts of a cake are not what you’d imagine. Cake toppers can make or break a cake, and when a couple provides a topper that does not fit with the theme of the cake, the challenge is then to figure out how to make it work. I’ve come across this a few times now, and luckily they consistently work in the end.

When we arrived at the venue for one of our cakes this summer, we were surprised to see the couple left these tiny toothpick bride and groom figures that were to be placed on the cake. This was a big, four-tier cake with bright flowers that filled the top of the cake and cascaded down the side. I had a moment where I thought, “What on Earth am I going to do with these?!”

After staring at the cake for about 10 minutes, I finally decided on placing the bride and groom on a lower tier, surrounded by some of the cascading flowers. When I stepped back, I was in love with them! It was a subtle detail that you would only notice on further inspection, and it worked so well.

Q: Do you have a favorite Auntie Loo treat?

A: I have a few favourite treats. When it comes to cupcakes, Earl Grey Lemon will always prevail for me. I love the Gluten-Free brownie for something rich, and the mixed berry oat bars if I need a morning treat. Our amazing baker Mattycakes has created a new treat that is being launched this week… Our smore-flavoured whoopie pies! I was forced to taste test it (I know it’s a hard life), and let me tell you, it’s divine…

Mack and Molly: Ridiculous BFFs.

We recently teamed up with a friend of our baker Charlotte, who is supplying us with Charmallows – vegan marshmallows! Matt used these to create a marshmallow frosting … trust me, it will become an instant Auntie Loo classic!

Q: Who the heck are Mack and Molly?

A: Mack and Molly are the two silliest cats that I have ever met. I have had Mack since I was 13, and he is my baby. He lives to eat, and doesn’t mind reminding us at 5AM that it’s time to be fed. He spends a lot of time searching for warm places to sleep (which, unfortunately, often means sleeping on the stove under the overhead lamp). He was referred to as a “garbage cat” when we got him, and his love for food has gotten him into all kinds of mischief. I’m constantly finding garbage cans knocked over around the house – evidently in hopes of finding some extra treats!

Molly is almost two years old, and is a total bully. She does love Mack, but she also loves to remind him that she’s twice his size and can boss him around at her leisure! She consistently tackles him, and if he is asleep, she will wake him up by steamrolling him. They chase each other around, and play quite a bit, which has been a blessing for Mack; it has been a long time since he has been so active!

Every once in a while, when they think nobody is looking, we’ll catch them curled up together and cleaning each other. Well, actually, Molly just makes Mack clean her (see photo above-right)…. what a lazy kitten!


For more information about Auntie Loo’s Treats (507 Bronson Avenue), visit the website.

It’s surprisingly hard to think of a serious blog title containing the word “beavers”

Some weeks ago, beavers Lily and Lucky moved into a floodwater pond in Stittsville.

NPS photo

The city claimed the beavers posed a serious flood risk and intended to kill them. A group of local activists called for the city to find a humane alternative.

I heard about the whole thing through the Ottawa Animal Defense League’s facebook page, and wrote my obligatory letters to Mayor Jim Watson and Councillor Shad Quadri. I received similar responses from both, basically saying “beavers = flood = dead beavers”.

A demonstration was set for yesterday. Even though I’m no longer much of one for protests, and even though I thought there was not a snowball’s chance in hell that this one would make any difference, I decided to go – mostly to support the activists who were trying so hard to save these beavers.

I got there late, and was stunned to discover that I’d just missed the Mayor and Councillor, who announced that plans to kill the beavers were on hold until more humane approaches could be investigated.

I am writing this blog post for a couple of reasons: First, to celebrate the beavers’ hopefully permanent reprieve; Second, to congratulate all the activists who helped make it happen; Third, to applaud our Mayor and Councillor for being responsive to their citizens; Fourth, to inspire everyone out there who does not believe civic engagement can make a difference.

In fact, I’ll note that this is the second time in the last few months that the apparently impenetrable bureaucracy has responded to “my” demands. The other was a call to reopen a fence that had been erected to block bikes and pedestrians from crossing the transitway.

Small things, some might say. But not to the beavers. And maybe not to people like me who keep voting, keep writing, keep hoping that their representatives will listen.

In closing, I invite everyone to write the Mayor (Jim.Watson@ottawa.ca) and Councillor (Shad.Quadri@ottawa.ca) and congratulate them for their wise and compassionate decision.

Nadia’s vegan story

By Nadia W.

People who knew me before I went vegan are always surprised to learn that I am vegan. After all, I grew up on a typical west Indian diet which consisted largely of oxtail, pig feet, pig legs and other animal parts. After I moved to Ottawa from Montreal for university, I remember going home on breaks and my request for a homemade meal would be oxtail with rice and beans. This was a favourite of mine before I went vegan, and before I really understood what I was consuming.

So, how does a person go from eating all parts of an animal—even the ones most people consider to be “gross”-and consuming their secretions, to never eating any animal ingredients at all?

My pathway to veganism began with yoga. Before I become vegan, and to this day, I practiced yoga on a regular basis. As you may know, one of the teachings of yoga is non-violence. As I continued to practice and then would go home to a meal of dead animal flesh, I became consumed with guilt.  I became acutely aware that the roasted chicken on my plate had been a living being, a being who wanted to live. My need—or rather, my desire—for flesh to satisfy my taste buds, played an important role in ending that life.

With my consciousness raised, I began researching and reading about vegetarianism, and eventually my research led me to veganism. I must admit that giving up dairy was not difficult for me. Once I was aware of the pain associated with diary, the decision to remove it from my diet was simple. No hand wrenching, no tears, no thinking, “I can’t do this.”

I realize some people find it more difficult than I did. I’m fortunate that the transition was easy for me, but it was easy in part because of the reality that faces dairy cows. The life of a dairy cow is tragic. She is forced to breed constantly to satisfy the taste buds of human beings, who steal something which she creates not for us, but for her unborn calf.

I wonder sometimes whether society would be willing to accept this if this practice was associated with dogs. Would we sit back and allows dogs to be milked over and over again to simply satisfy our desires? Or would we revolt and gather our placards and march on Parliament Hill and demand change?

My point is, there is no difference between a cow and a dog, at least not one that justifies the systemic abuse of one over another. Or any other animal. I refuse to buy into the attitude that we are the stronger species, and therefore animals exist for our use. I will never accept that the animals are put here for us to do as we please with them. After all, this was the same mentality which allowed for the enslavement of blacks for so many years.

Some people don’t understand why I am vegan, and why I feel so strongly about living a vegan lifestyle.  I’ve been accused of having a “superiority complex.” Being vegan has nothing to do with feeling superior, and everything to do with feeling compassion for these creatures. Knowing what I know, I simply feel that I have no other choice.

It saddens me that any female would be repeatedly forced to become pregnant, and endure the agony of losing her baby, her maternal instincts unfulfilled every time. Her daughter will become enslaved as a milking cow, and her son will be killed as a juvenile to become veal.  I’m not a mother, but I can’t imagine how that wouldn’t resonate with human mothers.

So I implore people, the next time you sit down to a meal, stop and think about what you’re eating. Your juicy steak is not just a steak, but is a cow who had his or her life ended to satisfy your taste buds. The next time you sit down to enjoy your ice cream think of the poor baby calf who had to go without his or her mother’s milk, because you love ice cream. Please, think.

And once you’ve thought about it, please consider going vegan.

NCVA experience inspires and motivates teenaged volunteer

Guest blogger Shannon O’Brien-Leblanc volunteered with the NCVA for the first time at the Eco Fair on Saturday.  She wanted to share her experience, so here it is!


As a relatively new member of the National Capital Vegetarian Association (NCVA), I was honoured when I was invited to volunteer to represent the NCVA at the Ottawa Eco Fair. The prospect of having the opportunity to represent the most well-known Vegetarian association in the greater Ottawa area seemed unreal, and exciting.

You see, I am 16-years-old, and live in a very rural community about an hour east of Ottawa.  I can pretty much say my sister Erika, my mom Kelli and I are the only vegans out here, and at times it can be isolating. That the President of the NCVA, Josh Flower, would be training us (my sister and I), would prove to be an experience I will never forget.

Shannon (in red) pictured with sister Erika (in purple), NCVA president Josh Flower (far left), and volunteers Kim and Lennox.

On Sept. 17 I walked into the Carleton University fieldhouse, where the Eco Fair was being held, not knowing what to expect. This was my first Eco Fair, despite being vegan for nearly five years and vegetarian before that, and to be honest, I wasn’t really sure what to do.

We had some extra time before our shift started so we gazed around at the other vendors and see what they had to offer. After exploring what the Eco Fair had to offer, I felt highly motivated and ready to start volunteering.

When I got to the NCVA booth, I was met by Josh Flower, the president of the NCVA. He greeted us with a warm smile and welcoming charm. This made me feel very welcomed and appreciated. He said that we could observe for a while to see what goes on. We had never done this type of volunteering before, so we wanted to watch to see how it was done by those who had plenty of prior experience. After a while, we joined in with the other volunteers.

As the day went on, we handed out brochures, educated people about veganism and of course distributed delicious free cookies that were baked by volunteers.  I was getting involved and speading awareness about veganism, which is something that I’ve always wanted to do. The only thing stopping me from doing so before was the fact that I had no support. But thanks to the NCVA’s support, I now feel inspired to spread awareness about veganism to everybody I know.

In addition, I was asked to play a role in developing an up and coming Youth program for the NCVA, intended to educate youth about the benefits of veganism, and offer support to those wanting to move towards a plant-based diet.  The idea is that as a teenager, I’m someone who (aspiring) vegetarian/vegan  youth can relate to. I would be honoured to do so.

By the end of the day, I was delighted by the new responsibilities I had taken on, and with my overall experience as a NCVA volunteer. I look forward to volunteering again and I look forward to my future role within the NCVA. I no longer feel like “we are the only ones,” and I am truly inspired.

Next on my check list, trying to initiate a Veg Club in our very “meat loving” High School (Rockland District). It may only be my sister Erika and I at the beginning, but we are hoping that we can change that. Afterall, if Texas can do it, I think we can too!


Shannon and Erika’s mother, Kelli, operates the Westminster Pet Sanctuary,  a registered charity which specializes in special needs animals. Because she is vegan, she refuses to hold fundraising BBQs or events that harm animals. For more information, or to make a donation, please visit the website.

NCVA response to Ottawa Citizen pictorial, “This Little Piggy”

On July 25, the Ottawa Citizen published a pictorial that followed one pig from its life on a small farm, through the process of being slaughtered, and then finally, to someone’s plate at a ritzy Ottawa restaurant. You can see it–and some of the photos–here.

Public response has been interesting. Some readers were appalled and upset, feeling that they shouldn’t be subjected to such inappropriateness. Boy, tell it to the pig.

Here’s the letter that NCVA President Josh Flower submitted to the Citizen for consideration, in response to the original pictorial, and the letter linked to above:

Response to Lost my appetite reading pig story
July 26, 2011

Volunteers with the National Capital Vegetarian Association (NCVA) definitely relate to the sentiments expressed by Francine Laurendreau in her letter to the Citizen. The photos in the pictorial This Little Piggy were indeed disturbing and upsetting. However, as president of the NCVA, I would disagree that the photos are “inappropriate.” They are an accurate reflection of the harsh end-of-life faced by farm animals worldwide and the practices behind feeding the human population’s addiction to meat and animal products. Anyone who chooses to consume these things owes it to themselves and the animals they’re eating to acknowledge and face this reality, and newspapers play an important role in raising people’s consciousness about important issues.

The pig in this article was even from an ironically-labeled “happy meat farm;” it’s possibly worse for the 95 per cent of “food animals” who are raised in factory farms. As the pictorial clearly demonstrates, there’s nothing happy about the transition between being a living and breathing creature and becoming meat on a plate.

Many vegetarians and vegans choose to eschew consuming animals for several reasons, including health benefits, to lighten the load on our fragile environment, and to spare animals such as the pig in the Citizen pictorial. There’s never been a better time to explore a plant-based lifestyle; Ottawa has a multitude of stores, services and restaurants that support it, and more people are moving in this direction than ever before.

The NCVA invites Ms. Laurendreau, and anyone troubled by the pictorial, to learn more about the vegan lifestyle and to visit its website, http://www.ncva.ca.

Josh Flower

Whole versus Processed Foods: A Reply to Joe Vegan

This is a response to a recent post on Joe Vegan’s Salad in a Steakhouse blog.

He asked readers to weigh in on the whole versus processed foods debate. I was going to just post a reply in his comments section, but I thought the issue was interesting enough that I should post it here too.

Here’s my response (do read his post first)….

Dear Joe:

I think there three things one must look at when assessing the healthiness of any particular food: Nutritional density, presence of bad stuff, and whether the nutrients used to “enrich” processed foods are as “good” as the nutirents that naturally ocur in whole foods.

Assuming a nutrient is a nutrient (e.g. the B12 added to soymilk is equivalent to the B12 naturally occurring in meat), then which of two foods is healthier depends how many nutrients each provides per calorie, versus how much/many “health detractors” they contain and how bad those health detractors are.

Whole foods tend to contain little bad stuff (though the pesticides etc. that coat alot of our delicate produce make me wonder at their advantage over an organic fruit roll-up) and tend to be pretty nutritionally dense. Processed foods tend to contain a lot of bad stuff (preservatives and the like) and less of the good stuff – though of course a lot of common processed foods are “enriched.”

Consequently, looking at things from a statistical point of view, one who eats a whole food diet is going to be eating healthier than one who eats a processed food diet. This does not necessarily mean, however, that every whole food is healthier than every processed food.

I actually find the same flawed logical leap by those who advocate vegan diets. Vegan food does tend to be more healthy, ergo following a vegan diet is more likely to promote health than the standard American diet is. It does not follow, however, that all meat is inherently unhealthy or that veganism is inherently healthy. A diet that is rich in whole foods but contains small amounts of meat is certainly healthier than a vegan diet that consists of potato chips and oreos.

The bottom line is, stop trying to draw artificial boundaries around your diet. Take the time to read the ingredient list and actually think about where your food comes from. And accept that all bread (even whole grain gluten free bla bla bla) should be consumed in moderation and there is no such thing as a healthy cupcake.

A couple of points to end on – First, there is a lot of debate over whether “artificial nutrients” in “enriched” foods are equivalent to “naturally occurring nutrients.” I would be interested in a collection of “hard facts” on this issue. Have many studies been done comparing the two types of nutrients?

Second, my statements above suggest that the “health argument” does not unequivocally support veganism. The moral argument, of course, does.

Meet NCVA Cupcake Challenge judge, Stu Mills of CBC Radio

In part 2 of our Meet Our Judges series we introduce CBC Radio’s own Stu Mills.

Stu Mills grew up in Haliburton Ontario.  At Simon Fraser University  he studied Communication and Philosophy.

He continued with his studies in those areas at Queen’s University. During this time he fell in love with radio’s ability to focus the mind on spoken ideas while working at CFRC 101.9 FM, the Queen’s University radio station.

He’s been reading the news at CBC Ottawa since 2005, was the Friday host for Ottawa Morning for much of last year, regularly fills in for Rita Celli on Ontario Today, and for Alan Neal on All in a Day  on CBC Radio One (91.5 FM).

Stu has a passion for the outdoors, especially mountain biking, and in all mechanical things.  He lives in Wakefield, Quebec.