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November 14 @ 7:00 pm10:00 pm


Join CPAWS Ottawa Valley and special guests James Raffan and Chuck Commanda for an evening of art, story telling and music to celebrate the wilderness of the Ottawa Valley and beyond!

Our third annual fall Soiree promises to be an inspiring evening of learning from our two special guests and mingling with friends and other CPAWS supporters. James Raffan and Chuck Commanda will share the stage for a keynote address featuring stories, songs and even a canoe! James and Chuck will share their experiences and travels across Canada and beyond to inspire us in our work to protect irreplaceable wild places – including local areas like the Noire, Coulonge and Dumoine Rivers.

Art lovers take note! The evening will feature a display of artwork created during our 2018 Dumoine River Art for Wilderness retreat. All of the artwork will be available for sale by silent auction during the event. Artwork by established and emerging artists will be available, including pieces by Aleta Karstad, Phil Chadwick and many others. To learn more about the artwork available for auction, please click here (

Tickets are $50.00 per person. A cash bar and some nibbles will be available. While the event starts at 7:00 PM (doors open at 6:45 PM), your ticket gets you access to the new Ottawa Art Gallery’s many exhibits of local, Canadian and international art. Why not arrive early and explore this new arts facility in our community!

The event takes place in the Alma Duncan Salon at the Ottawa Art Gallery located at 50 Mackenzie-King Bridge in downtown Ottawa (between the Rideau Centre and the University of Ottawa). We recommend parking at the Rideau Centre or on the street in Sandy Hill and walking. This event is not a seated event, but rather a mingling and social event with some speaking. A limited number of seats are available. If you have mobility issues or would feel more comfortable seated, please contact us to reserve a seat.



A master birchbark canoe builder from the community of Kitigan Zibi, Chuck has been building canoes since he was a child, under the guidance of his highly respected grandparents, Mary and William Commanda. He has spent the past ten years making canoes in the traditional Algonquin style as well as teaching canoe building, birch bark basket-making and snowshoe-making workshops to Indigenous and non-Indigenous children, youth, and adults. Mr Commanda’s work not only produces beautiful pieces of art of incredible cultural, functional and artistic value; but also embodies the use of cultural practices to transmit Indigenous knowledge among peoples and between generations in the spirit of reconciliation and Indigenous community revitalisation.


There’s a rumour afoot that James Raffan was born in a canoe on the Speed River in in southwestern Ontario. As much as James would like to believe that, his mother has trouble with some of those details. Truth be told James, a first generation Canadian, son of a midwife and artist from the North of Scotland and a Yorkshire physician, was born in St. Joseph’s Hospital in Guelph, Ontario and was reborn in a canoe on the mighty Speed River, in the sense that his worldview changed the first time he paddled a real canoe, near his home on the edge of Riverside Park in Guelph. And from that moment on, the light of his lamp has been lit by self-propelled motion to discover and comprehend the length and breadth of the country that his parents chose over Australia and South Africa as a place to emigrate and start afresh following WWII.

A boyhood of loving and learning about natural history wherever wild things might be found led to studies in Biology at Queen’s University. Leadership training at the Guelph YMCA and through Boy Scouts and summer camp led to interests in teaching and canoe trip leading that in turn led to expeditions of greater scope, work for Black Feather Wilderness Adventures as a guide throughout Northern Canada, and eventually, for a few years, to an honest to goodness job as a high school teacher of science, math, geography and music. Particular interest in outdoor and experiential education led him back to graduate study at Queen’s University which, in turn, led to nearly 20 years as a member and eventually head of the Outdoor & Experiential Education Unit at Queen’s Faculty of Education.

In the spring of 1999, James resigned from his university teaching position and since then has been working as an independent writer and scholar from his home in the Rideau Lakes north of Kingston, Ontario. He continues to organize and participate in a variety of annual expeditions and adventures related to his writing and research interests but also to keep his hand in as a teacher and expedition leader. Along the way, James has spoken across Canada and around the world and published a number of bestselling books, including Summer North of Sixty, Rendezvous with the Wild, Tumblehome, Fire in the Bones and Emperor of the North. He has also written for National Geographic, Canadian Geographic, Up Here, Explore and the Globe and Mail and produced radio and television documentaries for CBC Radio and the Discovery Channel.

You can learn more about James at


November 14
7:00 pm – 10:00 pm
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