Ask Women Anything with Jenna and Kayla Spagnoli aka The Feminist Twins!

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In case your summer is a bit slower than you had expected, don’t worry – help is on the way!  Media Action Media is hosting another of our award-winning Ask Women Anything events on July 14th at 6:00 p.m. at Artissimo Cafe. We will be featuring the Feminist Twins, Jenna and Kayla!

Here’s what you need to know about Jenna and Kayla.

  • These ladies are fierce! They are all about helping others gain profile so that they can do more work and make a larger impact in the Ottawa community. They help organizations set up events. They don’t get paid for the events they help host and promote.
  • Jenna and Kayla were born and raised in Ottawa. They started volunteering at a young age.
  • These women focus on queer and feminist events and are interested in social justice and human rights.
  • Jenna is on the board for “Kind” previously known as Pink Triangle Services and she helps run an ACE/ARO support group which is open to people of all genders and orientations who identify or are questioning their identity as asexual, aromantic, demisexual, demiromantic, greysexual, or elsewhere within the spectrum.
  • Jenna’s a social work student.
  • Kayla runs a borderline personality disorder support group.
    • And one of them used to be a mortician!
  • Jenna and Kayla are 26 years old and are “actual twins”.
  • When they are not volunteering you can find them watching Law and Order.

Amazing, huh? Do  you have a question for them?  Then come down to Artissimo on July 14th at 6:00 pm.  Ask your questions, have some of Artissimo’s great iced teas, take part in a fun raffle to raise money for Media Action and spice up your summer!

Ask Women Anything with Peggy Taillon


Ask Women Anything with Peggy Taillon

Media Action Média has been hosting Ask Women Anything events for a little more than a year.  They are opportunities to chat with amazing women from the Ottawa community in an intimate atmosphere without a media filter.   They are always inspiring and fun and last night’s with Peggy Taillon was no different.

In spite of the heat, a small crowd gathered at Artissimo Coffee ‘n Tea to sip iced teas on comfy couches and listen to Peggy Taillon.  Peggy spoke very candidly about her journey, both literally and figuratively, that brought her to where she is now.  She spoke about being confronted with a choice when she was on a trip to Kenya and how the result of that choice made her an instant parent.  After this, Peggy’s eyes were opened and her entire approach to life and what she held as important entirely shifted.  The audience asked her about whether she was concerned about the racism directed toward black men in the U.S. and increasingly in Canada, whether she herself experienced criticism being the white mum of a black child, and how she fostered a connection to Kenya for both herself and her son.  Audience members also had a number of questions for Peggy on her motivation, her life’s philosophy and advice she would give others to make the world better.  It was remarkable to listen to Peggy’s honesty and passion while speaking about sometimes very difficult topics, in her efforts to inspire the audience to find their own passion and to make the world better.   At the end of the evening, the audience won raffle prizes from, Famous Players and the Public Policy Forum.  Our partner Wingd took the fabulous event photos!


This was such an inspiring evening for all of us.  Thanks so much Peggy!

Ask Women Anything: Peggy Taillon



Media Action is excited to present Peggy Taillon as our next speaker for the Ask Women anything series! As the CEO for the Canadian Council for Social Development (CCSD), Peggy is a vocal companion of diversity and social equality. Through CSSD, she advocates for the needs of all community members especially the marginalized and the voiceless.

Peggy’s passion for addressing issues of health and well-being is reflected in her outstanding record of accomplishments. As the former Senior Vice-President of the Ottawa Hospital and as an advisor to the Minister of Health and Long-term Care and the Premier, she has led a number of initiatives and projects including Ontario’s Mental Health Implementation Task Force, the Ontario Regional Health Authorities and Local Health Information Networks (LHIN).

Peggy is also the proud founder of HERA Mission of Canada, an organization that supports women and children in western Kenya. Her work with HERA as well as her efforts to help reform adoption laws in Kenya while adopting her son Devlin, earned her CTV’s Amazing People’s Award in 2012. Her story, “The Love of a Child” was featured on CTV’s W5 in 2014 and viewed by over a million people. In April 2015, Peggy was awarded the Leading Women Building Communities Award.

We are thrilled to have Peggy share her story with us! Join us on May 27 at 6 p.m. at Artissimo Coffee n’ Tea (179 George St. Unit 102), Ottawa for a night of insight and inspiration with Peggy Taillon. Come one, come all!

Please note the change in location!

Ask Women Anything With Jennifer Oades

All event pictures courtesy of Wingd

The Ask Women Anything series provides a platform for exceptional women in our community to share their stories and their views on everything from popular culture to politics and everything in between. On April 22, 2015, we were delighted to have former Correctional Service of Canada Deputy Commissioner for Women, Jennifer Oades as our featured guest. Jennifer’s career in corrections spanned 25 years, and informs her extensive knowledge and experience on the topic of female incarceration in Canada and around the world. The relaxed and cozy atmosphere of Planet Coffee provided the perfect ambience for the intimate and engaging conversation the audience had with Jennifer.

Jennifer started her career in the private sector before moving to Ottawa to take up a government position. At the time, she had young children at home and worked part-time at Corrections Canada but eventually secured a permanent position through a Management Training Program. At the height of her career, she was asked to become the Deputy Commissioner for Women. “It was challenging”, she says, “I was responsible for the leadership of program and policies for women”. She added that it was often difficult to get commitment for creating womencentered approaches within a correctional environment. Despite these challenges, she is proud of a number of achievements during her career, including 4 new minimum-security units that were built outside of the security fence. Jennifer also developed the initiative to allow mothers in prison communicate with their children via video technology.

Jennifer has been vocal about the lack of options for mentally ill female offenders in the correctional system. In the case of Ashley Smith, a young teenage girl suffering from mental illness and committed suicide under the watch of several guards, Jennifer says that there were many lessons learned, but noted that women with mental health concerns should not be sentenced to prison and that other alternatives need to be found. She advocates for a different policy suite for women offenders and the need for more psychologists specializing in corrections and mental health. She notes that as Canadians, we should be mindful of how much money is spent on correctional services when there are other more effective investments which would result in longer term public safety.

When asked about the input women bring to Corrections Services, Jennifer cautions against assuming that having more women in executive level positions will automatically change things. “It doesnt matter how many women are at the executive table” she says, “If you do not have a voice, it means nothing”. Female perspectives are important in the decision making process. She added that having the appropriate services and support for women offenders is of utmost importance in their successful integration back into society. As Jennifer so succinctly put it, “We send people to prison as punishment not for punishment.”

Ask Women Anything with Jennifer Oades


Just when you thought there was nothing great to look forward to in April, along comes this incredible AWA with Jennifer Oades on April 22 at 6 p.m.!

We are thrilled to have Jennifer kick off the next round of AWAs. Jennifer Oades spent 25 years in corrections, working with the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) and the then-Solicitor General of Canada, as well as the International Corrections and Prisons Association. She was appointed Deputy Commissioner for Women with the CSC on January 11, 2010, and retired from the public service in May 2014.

Jennifer, who has been outspoken about the Ashley Smith inquest, has publicly said that she found it difficult “supporting the government in terms of their criminal justice policy,” and believes the system needs to do more for the mentally ill and focus more on rehabilitation. Jennifer is a shining example of women making their voices heard, a huge part of Media Action’s mandate and one of the reasons that we do the Ask Women Anything series.

The Ask Women Anything series presents women who are experts, from the Ottawa community, without a media filter, in a warm environment so that they are accessible for community members to chat with.

Come down to Planet Coffee (24 York Street) on April 22 at 6 p.m. and ask Jennifer all of your questions. Admission is free!

Ask Women Anything With Rachel Decoste

All event pictures courtesy of Wingd

It was a cold winter night in Ottawa on January 21, but warm and cozy at The Wild Oat Bakery, where Media Action Média was excited  to be hosting its first “Ask Women Anything” event of 2015. The goal of these AWA events is to feature amazing women from our own community and allow them to present themselves and tell their stories however they choose, without the media constructing them in any way.  And this one was incredible from the get-go, featuring Rachel Decoste.


Rachel Decoste wears many hats. A software engineer by trade, she is also a motivational speaker, published poet, active community volunteer, mentor, and contributor to the Huffington Post Canada and HuffPo Québec where she has commented on race, ethnicity, diversity, multiculturalism and immigration in the Canadian context. She is a race relations expert, and has been named in Ottawa Life Magazine’s Top 50 Personalities edition. Needless to say, the audience was treated to an evening that was both inspiring and entertaining, as Rachel shared her story of growing up in Ottawa as the daughter of immigrant parents, being raised in a Francophone household, and her how her experiences led her in a circuitous route to finally find her voice.


Despite not having written an essay since high school, when Rachel felt that she wasn’t being represented in the media, she starting writing op eds, with her first piece being published by the Ottawa Citizen. From that day, she has been taking the media by storm, sharing her perspective and working to increase her audience’s ethnocultural knowledge.


Rachel explained to the audience that part of her motivation for speaking out is a deep love for her country, and that “having uncomfortable conversations” about race, immigration, and diversity is the only way that Canada is going to be able to change and grow as a country – comparing the lack of diversity in Canadian media and positions of power to when women didn’t have the right to vote.


The thoughtful and relevant questions from the audience event were proof of how inspiring and engaging Rachel’s words were for everyone in attendance.

Media Action Média would like to thank:

  •  Rachel Decoste, for telling us her story and encouraging us to take part in public discourse to help foster social change
  •   Our audience, who listened, asked fantastic questions, and took part in our raffle draw
  •   The Wild Oat Bakery for letting us host this event in their lovely café
  •   The hard-working volunteers who helped make this event so successful
  •   Our promoters and raffle sponsors


For more information, please contact Amanda Parriag or go to



Our award-winning series is starting this year with our first speaker, Rachel Décoste. Rachel has been interested in what makes people different and the same for a long long time. She has been a contributor to the Huffington Post Canada and HuffPo Québec for the past 3 years where she has commented on race, ethnicity, diversity, multiculturalism and immigration in the Canadian context. She is a race relations expert, and named in Ottawa Life Magazine’s Top 50 Personalities edition. The AWA guest was featured in an US Magazine 1997 article as “a pioneer” in online media. Two decades later, Décoste is still making waves.

On Wednesday, January 21st at 7pm at the Wild Oat, “Ask Women Anything” will give Rachel Décoste a mic and cede the floor to the audience. The intimate event is free to those who can grab seats in the cozy coffee shop. Come with your questions and chat with Rachel live and in person. Enter to win some raffle prizes too!

To read more about Rachel visit her website and twitter page. To read more about the Ask Women Anything series, take a look at our page!


We are very pleased to announce that the Ask Women Anything series was selected as a grant recipient by JustChange Ottawa, an organization that provides small grants to initiatives proposed by individuals or organizations that produce positive outcomes for the community whether from a social, environmental or economic (equity and equality) perspective.

We have a lot of ideas on how to use this money to make the Ask Women Anything series even better! Read all about it on JustChange’s blog post >

Big thank you to JustChange as well as all of our volunteers and previous AWA speakers for helping make our events a continuing success.

Ask Women Anything with Melanie Coulson

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The evening of November 18, 2014 was snowy and cold as guests piled into The Wild Oat Bakery to attend Media Action Média’s increasingly popular event, “Ask Women Anything”. AWA’s goal is to highlight amazing women from our own community and allow them to present themselves and tell their stories however they choose, without the media constructing them in any way.

When it comes to telling stories, our guest speaker Melanie Coulson is an expert. Melanie has been a storyteller since the age of two. This interest evolved into a successful career, as she has spent fifteen years in the journalism industry at the country’s top newsrooms, working at CBC, Global Mail, and the Ottawa Citizen. She is now the Director of Communications and Content at United Way and a journalism professor at Carleton University, both of which demonstrate her close attachment to storytelling.

Over the past year, Melanie has had the opportunity to travel to different venues and talk to many strangers about herself. She confessed that after telling other people’s stories for so long, learning to tell her own was a challenge. “It’s weird to talk about yourself, isn’t it?” she noted. Having learned a few things through telling her own story, she gave her audience advice on how they can tell theirs, touching on elements such as a strong hook – something that will stick in people’s heads – and great characters, stating, “If it wasn’t for the characters, you wouldn’t read the stories.”

Melanie then spoke about the setting of a story, focusing on the particular setting that she had been exposed to in the male-dominated news industry. At the time, Melanie had been one of the only women in her workplace, and she was able to recount multiple occasions when she was treated in a sexist manner. Running front page articles on women’s news had also been a challenge for her, since other (for example, hockey-related) stories would be prioritized instead. Melanie made a point of insisting that sexism is not limited to that line of work; she stated, “Sexism is everywhere, in every workplace.” Though her work experiences were immensely rewarding, they also presented challenges.  Melanie learned and gained so much through her experiences, including one aspect in particular: confidence.

Confidence is a very important element in telling your story, Melanie said. She felt that to be successful, you need to know what you want, and you need to take control of your life and do everything you can to achieve it – don’t wait for others to tell you what you can and cannot do. Melanie mentioned the large confidence gap between men and women, and identified the way in which men tend to be better at following the “fake it ‘til you make it” routine. As she learned through experience, you need to take risks sometimes and grab opportunities.

As the night went on, Melanie answered questions regarding how to deal with sexism in the workplace, sources of inspiration for writing, current events (the scandal involving Jian Ghomeshi, who was jokingly referred to as “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named”), and the evolution of news in social media. The event was attended by many and thoroughly enjoyed by all, and the entire audience took home many wise and powerful words from a woman who is an absolute expert in her field.

Media Action Média would like to thank:

·   Melanie Coulson, for telling us her story and giving us tips to help us tell our own

·   Our audience, who listened, asked fantastic questions, and took part in our raffle draw

·   The Wild Oat Bakery for letting us host this event in their lovely café

·   The hard-working volunteers who helped make this event so successful

·   Our promoters and raffle sponsors

For more information, please contact Amanda Parriag.



Our next Ask Women Anything event is taking place on November 18th, at The Wild Oat Bakery, Ottawa from 7:00 until 8:00 p.m. [Get directions] This evening’s guest will be the incredible Melanie Coulson.

Melanie Coulson has been telling stories since she was about two years old. She turned it into a profession, spending 15 years as a journalist at the country’s top newsrooms. She is now a communications professional and teaches digital journalism at Carleton University.

Melanie has a great perspective on being a woman journalist, how to tell your story well and how women can better ask for what they deserve. Come, hear some great stories from Melanie, ask her anything you want, and have something to eat in the cozy atmosphere of the Wild Oat!

To read more about Melanie, visit her blog and twitter pages. Click here to read more about Media Action’s Ask Women Anything series.


Big thanks to our sponsors and supporters:

  • Canadian Association of Journalists
  • Canadian Federation of University Women
  • Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women, OCTEVAW
  • The Wild Oat
  • SFUO Women’s Resource Centre
  • Women in Leadership Foundation, WILF Ottawa Chapter
  • Women’s Studies GSA Ottawa University
  • Cassey, Gloucester – donated raffle items
  • East Side Mario’s, Gloucester – donated raffle items
  • Roo Hoo Pots – donated raffle items
  • Vetta Osteria – donated raffle items

Women In Leadership Foundation, OttawaPrint