Meet Your Neighbour—Chantal Hurtubise

By Manor Park Chronicle

Chantal Hurtubise is an active volunteer, especially for Ottawa Community Housing. Last year, with Community Gardening Network funding, Chantal designed a raised bed community vegetable garden for the exclusive use of the tenants of 500 St Laurent Blvd. (See pages 6 and 7 for more on that garden.) Photo: Sharleen Tattersfield

Who are you?

I’m Chantal Hurtubise, and I live in the 500 St. Laurent Blvd. apartment building.

Where were you born?

I was born in Ottawa – in Vanier actually – and was baptized at Notre Dame de Lourdes Parish just down the street (435 Montreal Rd.).

Why did you choose your occupation? Did you ever consider another occupation?

I’m an active volunteer and I chose this as I didn’t want to sit around and watch TV! I’ve been continually active in Ottawa Community Housing (OCH) for the last 15 years, here in this apartment building and at 725 Bernard St., where I’ve facilitated programs to identify and coach tenant leaders, build a community garden and run a community kitchen. I am currently involved with Ottawa’s Community Development Framework to help bring together tenants, community groups, and city services.

I started volunteering when I was 17 at the Montfort Hospital, when I wanted to find out what nursing was all about. I was too old to be a candy striper, so I shadowed a nurse in the maternity ward. I knew then that nursing was in my blood., Unfortunately, after training to be a nurse, I had to leave the profession due to an injury.

I’ve also worked as a summer camp counsellor at Camp de l’amitié near Montreal and with Centre Notre-Dame de la Rouge since 1986.

What is the most important thing in your life right now?

My health, as I have a busy schedule to keep up. In addition to my current volunteer activities, I work 12 hours a week as a Peer Support Worker with Options Bytown, a non-profit housing corporation, and with City for All Women Initiative (CAWI).

Activism is so important to me, and it means so much to be able to help build leaders in other OCH buildings.

If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would it be and why?

I’d live in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico. I fell in love with that village when I was there in 2000. It’s a city of artisans, potters, metal workers and it’s close to a lake. It almost resembles Canada, and I’d love to build a small home there.

What is the last book that you read?

I just read The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon. I read the whole series and really enjoyed it. It’s fantasy, with a woman hero, and the main story follows different characters and their development.

What has been one of your biggest challenges?

The injury I suffered at 26.

If you could have dinner with any three people alive or dead, who would you choose? What would you serve?

The Dalai Lama, Algonquin Elder Grandfather William Commanda, and Morgan Freeman. I want to know what’s going to come out of that discussion–East meets Turtle Island meets Africa. I think it would be very cool. I’m a good cook so I’d serve them osso buco, and it would be part of a five-course meal that would take three or four hours so they could take their time to talk.

Who would you cast to play you in a movie about your life?

Sally Field, because she can be serious, dramatic, and funny. I really liked her in The Flying Nun.

If I won the lottery, I would spend my winnings on…

I’d build a small cabin in nature, close to water. I’d also give money to the Centre Notre-Dame de la Rouge camp, as they are so good to the kids.

What is your favourite childhood memory?

Summer at my grandfather’s cottage at Lac Vert, Québec.

My favourite thing about Ottawa is…?

In Ottawa, nature meets city. We are so lucky to have 350 km of bike paths, and rivers converging. Culturally, it’s also a place of convergence. It’s a strategic position at the confluence of three major river systems that were vital transportation and trade routes for Indigenous peoples.

My least favourite thing about Ottawa is…?

The poverty and drugs [addictions]. COVID-19 has been hard for people, and I think many are suffering mentally and financially. Sometimes I don’t feel safe. But there is generosity out there, and a sense of community.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years, I’ll be 61. I hope to have new knees, money, a car, a boyfriend, and I want to walk the Camino trail in Spain!

What do you wish to teach children about the world?

The Seven Grandfather Teachings: humility, bravery, honesty, wisdom, truth, respect and love.

When all is said and done …

Learn from your lessons.