The Springbank dam: How it has negatively affected London

The Springbank dam: How it has negatively affected London

i Apr 29th No Comments by

In 1929 the construction of a dam, funded by the city of London, takes place. It was built on the Thames River, at Springbank Park, to slow the river for recreational purposes. This should have been an easy (yet costly) project that benefitted the city. However, it has ended up as a complete waste of taxpayer dollars. There is one thing that we have learned from this debacle and that is how damaged the government of London’s priorities are.

The dam was damaged 70 years later by a flood. It was shut down for repairs by Hatch ltd in 2006 for the hefty sum of 6.8 million dollars. In 2008 during testing on the northern gate, disaster strikes. The bolts that attached the hinges to the concrete base snapped off. This made the dam unable to operate. The city of London did not, as many would hope, negotiate with the contractors of Hatch ltd to resolve the fault and immediately get the dam operational. Instead the City began a 5 million dollar lawsuit against them. The court system is no fast business, and so the case of the Springbank dam was delayed until 2015.

That brings us up to date. Now let me give a quick summary, the City of London builds a dam, it is damaged, they hire Hatch ltd to fix it, it is in fact, not fixed, and the City of London sues Hatch ltd. Alright, now let’s put all this in terms of cost; The city of London halts a 57 million dollar project for a 5 million dollar lawsuit, and City itself may not even be blameless. That alone is ridiculous, but not the worst of it. The lawsuit was delayed for 7 years, and what has the city of London done in those 7 years? They have done nothing. They had seven years to continue the repairs on the dam while the suit was being processed, yet they did not budge.

The London Rowing team and the London Canoeing team used to practice on the section of the Thames in question, but due to the circumstances, have been forced to relocate. There used to be steam boats that traveled there too, families with their motor boats, and kayakers out for a ride. But since the Springbank dam has become non-operational, they have all disappeared. The City of London funded a project in 1929 for recreational purposes, but all they have left us with is the forlorn sight of what could have been.

Who is to blame? Is it Hatch ltd who was responsible for fixing the dam, or the Government of The City of London? Though both blame each other for the broken dam, I believe who is to blame is irrelevant. No matter who wins the suit, London will never see the 57 million dollars spent for this dam ever again. Recovering 5 million dollars (before paying lawyers) won’t solve the problem of the un-operational dam.

Repairing the dam will provide jobs, activities, and promote tourism. To add to that, mending the dam is what Londoners want. There are countless articles, and a Facebook page outlining that people are fed up with the lack of movement on the dam. The city of London has to take action, because the Springbank dam has the potential to greatly benefit London. Through this tiresome process that began in 2008, it would seem The City’s priorities do not match those living within it. Change needs to happen, and I for one am not willing to wait another 7 years for it.

-Maia Harris.

My name is Maia Harris, I am currently 15 years old and attending Oakridge Secondary School. I am running for the 2015 London Youth Advisory Council (LYAC) for ward 9, and I can be contacted using this social media link:

or check out my website at:

You can vote for me between May 3rd and May 9th at:

and feel free to shoot me an email if you have any questions! (

Local Food Systems in Ward 11 & London

i Apr 24th No Comments by

London is a city surrounded by some of the best arable land in the world. Unfortunately a lot of the food grown in surrounding areas is sent off to the Toronto Food Terminal, to be packaged and processed then sent abroad (or sometimes back to London grocery stores). Globalization greatly reduced the resilience of rural communities to survive on small scale farms, and outsourced a great many jobs. It is important for our society to recognize the value of urban agriculture, and strive to create more resilient communities through the production of food.The globalization of our food system was a heavy blow to self sufficiency and small farmers, but presents an opportunity for London.

Something I work on almost daily is improving London’s ability to produce urban agriculture. I’m part of a group called Food Not Lawns London Canada, that seeks to turn unproductive urban land (like lawns) into edible gardens. Food Not Lawns London Canada organizes many events and workshops throughout the year, teaching fellow Londoners how to keep bees, forage for wild edibles and create ecological garden designs. On May 8th & 9th we will be hosting our annual Mother’s Day Plant Sale at the London Food Co-operative to sell edible plants, fruit trees, pollinator friendly plants and perennials, so come by and say hi to me (I’ll be there Friday evening). This fundraiser is an easy way for people to get involved, even if they buy some herbs for a kitchen window they are engaging in a healthier food system.

I live in an apartment and am continually surprised at the amount of projects I can do to produce my own food and reduce waste. I have a bin of vermi-composting worms that gobble up my food waste bits. I have seedlings growing in my south facing window, getting ready to be transplanted into pots on my balcony. I recently learned how to lacto-ferment vegetables, and hope to continue preserving the harvest that way. There are so many little things people can do to contribute to our local food system, and I would love to connect people to these resources.

Ward 11 is already pretty green, it has many mature trees and front lawn gardens. I hope to continue this work throughout my term, encouraging and supporting more people to convert sections of their property into edible or pollinator friendly areas. Through my work at ReForest London, I hope to also encourage more residents to plant trees on their property and register them at I would love to see Ward 11 become the first ward in London that has pollinator friendly plants on every street (imagine in every yard!), and help create an urban pollinator oasis.  There are two London Community Resource Centre managed community gardens in Ward 11, Berkshire Gardens and the Thames Garden and they offer a great space for those without land to plant at a low cost. I would like to refer residents to those opportunities, and facilitate conversations about community gardens. During my campaign, I will be offering residents seeds for edible and pollinator friendly plants in hopes that they will plant them and create this oasis.

Like I said above, London has an opportunity. We are uniquely positioned to create a vibrant and sustainable food system that would create more jobs and access to affordable, local and high quality food. Whether its more urban farmers producing the food or more businesses processing local food, there are economic opportunities throughout the entire production line if we relocalise our food system. Through my work with Food Not Lawns London Canada, ReForest London and Agricultural Advisory Committee, I am uniquely positioned to collaborate with our community and its members to create a stronger urban food system. I would like to hear more from Londoners about our local food system and other issues they are passionate about. If you support my vision for Ward 11 and London, feel free to vote for me May 3rd to May 9th online at

Skylar Franke
Ward 11 Candidate for LYAC
Community Engagement Coordinator at ReForest London

Voting in the London Youth Advisory Council Elections

Who can vote?

  • Anyone 10 years old or older, including adults. They have to be residents of London.

When can they vote?

  • From 12 am on May 3rd to 11:59pm on May 9th.

Where can they vote?

  • Online at If they need access to a computer, they can use the library computers to vote or use one of the designated LYAC laptops at these seven locations: N’Amerind Centre, the Youth Cafe at Youth Opportunities Unlimited, Carling Family Thames Centre, Glen Cairn Community Centre, Youth for Christ, Islamic Centre and Muslim Mosque. The libraries and these community centres all know about LYAC and can help visitors vote.

Which ward can I vote in?

  • You can vote in the ward you either live in or go to school in. You will be able to determine which ward you’re located in with our ballot, or you can do so now at

More information is at

Why London needs a gender lens

As part of the City of London’s 2015-2019 strategic plan, Council made the decision to include a gender lens within the document. Specifically, the Strategic Plan says that the city must “consider a gender lens during the development and execution of new policies”.

We applaud all the City Councillors who voted in favour of including the gender lens. We would also like to recognize our women City Councillors who spoke up eloquently about the need for a gender perspective at city hall.

What is a gender lens?

Many people often assume that when we talk about a gender lens, we are talking exclusively about women. In reality we are examining how people of all genders and gender expressions are affected by policy, programs or decisions, and how we can make our city more inclusive and accessible for everyone.

The gender lens is also a framework that  naturally lends itself well to intersectionality. When we are exploring the needs of our community based on a gender, we can easily dive into cross sections of the population that include racialized, Aboriginal, newcomer, low-income, queer, disabled and elder men and women.

Why is the gender lens important?

Women are often not as included in decision making processes that affect them. Women are statistically underrepresented in municipal government and women who carry any combination of an intersectional identity (a woman who also identifies as Aboriginal or having a disability) are even more underrepresented.

Using a gender lens is a commitment to looking at the ways that diverse men and women use and are impacted by policies and practices of our city. It’s a great tool to ensure our city is accessible to everyone, and again, intersectionality is a critical component to that lens.

The gender lens does not assume that all women or all men experience their cities in the same way. It does not privilege one kind of user over another. Instead, it uses data and statistics to explore how different people use services such as park space, transit, recreation facilities and the downtown area differently. It asks that the city engage and accommodate people and groups who aren’t always easily included, so that we can ensure our City’s decisions work as well as they can for everyone.

The gender lens in action: improving transit

Recently, Women and Politics partnered with the City of London’s SHIFT initiative to host an event on how women use transit. We invited women from the community to come out and hear more about the city’s rapid transit initiative, while also sharing their perspectives on barriers to accessing and using transit. We heard a variety of issues ranging from mobility concerns for those with unseen and seen disabilities, sexual and physical harassment on buses, women feeling unsafe at transit stops, challenges using transit with kids and difficulty getting to jobs, particularly in outlying areas of the city.

What was apparent by the end of the night was that women’s experiences on transit are diverse and often dependent on other aspects of their identities (race, age, mobility, sexual orientation, income, and parenting.)

There are specific issues that women are more likely to face when using transit, compared to men. This doesn’t mean rapid transit should be designed only with women’s needs in mind, but it does mean that women’s needs have to be heard and identified; otherwise they go unnoticed and unmet.

Looking at transit from a gender lens means that we acknowledge that men are more likely to go from point A to point B when taking transit, while women multi-trip (meaning they make multiple stops along the way). Rapid transit should reflect both of these forms of use and using a gender lens allows us to see these differences and address them.

Making positive change

We know from looking at many decades of social equity research and work in the community, that social change happens when we are courageous enough to acknowledge that we aren’t there yet and bold enough to take steps to change the system. Inequities exist. Women, particularly marginalized women, still experience higher levels of violence, income insecurity and have more precarious health. They are more likely to take transit, avoid cycling, and access child care.

Much of this occurs because systems and institutions (governments, businesses, education systems) don’t acknowledge that inequities and gender differences exist. These institutions also don’t acknowledge the vital role they have in the creation and sustainability of gender based inequities. By acknowledging that there are differences, the city can work to systematically change these issues.

The addition of a gender lens to the London Plan is the City’s acknowledgement that differences do exist and is the first step towards positive change. It also reflects the City’s commitment to an overall diversity and inclusion strategy – one that will make London a better, safer, more inclusive place for everyone.



Women & Transit Event | Livestream and Recap

i Apr 9th No Comments by

Did you miss the Women & Transit event we held with SHIFT London? Catch up with the Livestream and Storify below!

Election Priorities Survey

i Apr 9th No Comments by

As you are likely aware a federal election will be occurring this year. In anticipation of this, Women and Politics London would like to hear from you what your priority issues are for this upcoming election.

On May 11th we will be hosting an Issues Forum where speakers will explore the priority issues you have identified, and you can discuss the impact of these issues on women in London.

Following the Forum we will be sending a survey to all registered candidates for the upcoming federal election to ask them to outline their position on these issues. We will then communicate these positions to all of you to help you determine who you will vote for in the election.  If the candidates are successful in being elected we can then hold them to account going forward, on these important issues.

Please complete our online survey here! This survey is only has 2 questions, and should only take you approximately 1 minute to complete. 

Thank you for sharing your opinions with us!