Yasir Naqvi

Yasir Naqvi grew up in a family firmly committed to the ideals of democracy and social justice, so it’s really no surprise that he would choose a career which allowed him to serve the public as an elected official. Naqvi, who is MPP for Ottawa Centre and Attorney General for the Province of Ontario, arrived in Canada in 1988 after his father was imprisoned in Pakistan for leading a pro-democracy march, and he has dedicated himself to building a strong, sustainable Ottawa since he came to the city to attend law school.

Naqvi, who is raising two young children with his wife, Christine, wants to ensure that Ottawa is an inclusive, innovative city which looks towards the future as it continues to grow and evolve. For this, Yasir Naqvi is one of #150GreatPeople in Ottawa, and here, he answers the questionnaire:

What makes Ottawa special to you?

Easy answer: the people. Ottawa is more than a city and the national capital — it is a tight-knit and generous community. From the moment I moved here as a student, I knew this city was my home. Ottawans have a generous spirit and deep pride in our community that I don’t think can be matched anywhere else.

What do you love most about living and working in Ottawa?

Ottawa is an intersection of a bunch of worlds, and it has the best of all of them. What’s the saying, “big city with a small town vibe”? As the nation’s capital we have amazing arts and culture, visiting and local talent, great and expanding infrastructure, to name a few. Ottawa has a rich history but is also constantly recreating itself. It is a wonderful place to live and work, and I count myself extremely fortunate and humbled to represent part of this community.

But more simply: Ottawa is a liveable city for me and my family. It is a community that focuses on making sure its people have the best quality of life — and I hope my work and that of my colleagues contributes to that goal.

The work that you do helps to make Ottawa a better place — why is this important to you?

As an immigrant to Canada, Ottawa welcomed me in and made me feel like I belonged. I found support, a sense of community, and a home here. And I want to make sure that everyone who chooses Ottawa has the same opportunities and experiences.

Ottawa is home for me and my family, and I couldn’t think of a better job than working to give back to the community that has given me so much.

You give back to the Ottawa community in various ways — is there one Ottawa-related achievement of which you are most proud?

I want to point out that everything I’ve been able to do is because of the support, advocacy, and hard work of the community I represent. I tell all my colleagues at Queen’s Park that Ottawa boasts the most engaged constituents anywhere in the province — you are truly a huge part of the work we do. So, I am proud of everything we have accomplished together, like:

• A new LRT — zero emission public transit system
• Hundreds of new affordable housing units in our community
• New and renovated schools in the downtown core
• World-class health care services at the Ottawa Heart Institute and Regional Cancer Care Centre at The Ottawa Hospital

But it’s the work we do on a daily basis — the work that doesn’t get media headlines — helping constituents with some of their most difficult challenges that, perhaps, makes me most proud.

What do you hope for Ottawa in the future?

The wrap up of the 150th anniversary of Canada’s Confederation has given me a lot of pause to think about our next 50 years — which I believe are the most important yet.

We already lead the world in many ways, but two things for me rise above the rest in urgency and necessity — addressing climate change and reconciliation with Canada’s First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities. I want Ottawa to lead the way in a meaningful journey of reconciliation with the Indigenous peoples, and become a resilient community that is a beacon for a sustainable future.

Lastly, I hope that the 150 people on this list inspire all of us to get more motivated and engaged. I encourage you to act on whatever drives you, in whatever way you can — it doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. I am constantly awestruck by the quiet leadership of our community — the volunteers, the advocates, the community builders. I hope we continue working together to create a better, more compassionate, sustainable Ottawa.

Chris Knight

Chris Knight is passionate about a lot of things: television, food, lifestyle, media, arts, culture and community. The Gusto Worldwide Media President and CEO is also extremely passionate about Ottawa. In fact, he loves the city so much that he deliberately chose to base his highly successful media production company here rather than in any number of other global cities with well-established production infrastructure. In so doing, he’s helping to expand the ways in which Ottawa is becoming known around the world as a vibrant, unique place to live and grow a business.

Chris is also committed to helping Ottawa continue its long tradition of lending a helping hand to those in need. As a founder of Operation Big Turkey, he set in motion an annual program which sees hundreds of volunteers prepare a fresh dinner for 1500 Ottawa residents to enjoy on Christmas eve at multiple locations across the city. For his vision, his passion and his big heart, Chris Knight is one of #150GreatPeople in Ottawa, and here he answers the questionnaire:

What makes Ottawa special to you?

Ottawa is my home. I was born in Glasgow and we moved here when I was very young. My accent is more Ottawa Valley than Scottish Highlands. I’ve lived here pretty much all my life and though I have a job that allows me to travel the world, it’s the warm feeling I get when the wheels hit the tarmac at YOW that tells me I’m home. Sure, it would be a lot easier to do that voodoo that we do in NYC or Toronto or LA but we’ve made a go of it here. All the things that I am are informed by my life here, first in the suburbs then closer closer closer to the core with old houses and big trees and stores and schools you can walk to. When I got here I knew only English but now my brain works in French half the time (whether I want it to or not). I am Dunrobin and Ossington and Lisgar and Cooper and 4th Ave, The Ex, Camp Fortune, sugar bush, that girl I dated in high school from the deepest darkest Nepean, the #1 bus, and the heady days of campaigning in Ottawa Centre when I thought I could make a difference. Also, Ottawa is the last western outpost in these colonies for excellent bagels and croissant.

What do you love most about living and working in Ottawa?

Not going to lie, it’s a challenge being in the television business here as we don’t have Montreal or Toronto infrastructure. We have a BIG announcement to make this fall that I hope will contribute to furthering the industry here at home (please stand by). BUT when I’m in Toronto (centre of the English language TV universe in Canada) and people ask me why don’t you move here I just smile tell them I can skate to work (OK, I don’t BUT I could if I wanted to) and I can be at the cottage or standing on top of a ski hill in the time it takes you to get past Bloor; and I can only think of 2 restaurants here where I get indifferent hipster service; and here, people look you in the eye; and, by the way something really bad happening here is a horrific exception and not a daily occurrence. In Ottawa people Do things instead of watching people Do things. We savour our summers and throw ourselves into our winters (a survival strategy to be sure). This is a glorious place to raise kids and expectations.

The work that you do helps to make Ottawa a better place – why is this important to you?

I’ll leave it to others to decide whether our work makes Ottawa a better place. I do think it makes Ottawa a funner place! Making TV shows is like recess for grownups: it’s highly creative make-believe. Of course by TV, we mean multiple platforms from video-on-demand to live streaming. It’s an exciting time to be in our business and I’m proud to say that our work attracts smart creative people from other parts of Canada who move to Ottawa to be part of our adventure as we build Gusto into a global brand.

You give back to the Ottawa community in various ways – is there one Ottawa-related achievement of which you are most proud?

I’m one of the founders of Operation Big Turkey. Every Christmas some 200 volunteers come together to prep, cook and serve a made-from-scratch turkey dinner with all the fixings. The food is prepared at Algonquin College and on Christmas Eve over 1500 guests are served at 5 different community centres around Ottawa. This will be out 13th Christmas. OBT has grown over the years and I dare say we now do it as much for our volunteers as for our guests. Big Turkey isn’t charity, it’s a pure selfless expression of love. It’s a giant communal hug where helping ones neighbor is reward in itself.

What do you hope for Ottawa in the future?

I hope for local government with vision and compassion. A long time ago, some bunch of mindless bureaucrats allowed the construction of Place de Ville a few blocks from Parliament Hill. It’s an eyesore that blocks out the sun. It and the other heartless boxes that have sprouted up around it suck the soul out of what should be one of the great world capital cities. Now with the re-do at the NAC and some life coming to Sparks Street and smart sexy convention centre (seriously, that could have been one ugly box) and the facelift on The Hill, I hope we elect leaders over the next few decades that will help build upon our recent good works. And for God’s sakes can someone please come up with a better use of the canal! As for compassion I am mindful that as we build our nifty LRT, Shepherds of Good Hope serve some 2000 meals a day. Every day. Day in and day out. I think the true measure of a society is in how we treat those less fortunate than us (culturally it’s how we treat our artists). I might be getting grey around the temples, but I’m still optimistic enough to think we can continue to build a world class city without forgetting those who live in its darkest corners.

Lucy van Oldenbarneveld

Lucy van Oldenbarneveld is one of those people whom you may never have met, but you nonetheless feel like you’ve known your entire life. Part of this stems from her high-profile role as an evening news anchor for CBC TV. The rest is purely personality-driven. Lucy is warm, genuine, committed to her job, and even more deeply committed to her community.

Lucy makes everyone she speaks with feel comfortable – a rare gift – which helps to elicit stories from her guests which change the way people think about an issue, and that trust goes both ways. When she received a cancer diagnosis a few years ago, Lucy was willing to publicly share her own journey, hoping that her openness would give others battling similar health issues added strength. For all these things, and for helping us to better understand our world and our community, Lucy is one of Ottawa’s #150GreatPeople, and here she answers the questionnaire:

What makes Ottawa special to you?

One of the ways Ottawa is special is because of its physical beauty. The trails and pathways and proximity to Gatineau park for skiing will keep me here forever. Then there is this huge caring community that welcomes Vietnamese boat people, Syrian refugees and also wrapped its arms around me when I was going through cancer treatment. Wow!

What do you love most about living and working in Ottawa?

I love that I have access to such great theatre and music. My job also allows me to meet very interesting people who contribute to our city all the time. I also really love walking to work.

The work that you do helps to make Ottawa a better place – why is this important to you?

It’s important to me because it satisfies a small piece of that big existential question “what’s it all about?”. If my work can be about trying to make my community a little better or give attention to people who are making Ottawa a better place… I’m very lucky to be able to do it.

You give back to the Ottawa community in various ways – is there one Ottawa-related achievement of which you are most proud?

I am very proud of a public forum we did a couple of years ago called “Bias and Belonging”. It was when Islamophobia was really being talked about a lot and Muslims in Ottawa felt targeted. CBC did a public forum which was sold out and we were really able to have a meaningful discussion about how to make this City welcoming to everyone. We also talked honestly about misperceptions and bias’ that needed to be understood.

What do you hope for Ottawa in the future?

We are building some amazing infrastructure (LRT) right now that will no doubt make us one of the most liveable cities anywhere, when it’s done. Then we have a brand new library in the works. I know being excited about infrastructure isn’t that glam… but I really am!!