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Council votes to rename Greenboro Community Centre after former councillor Diane Deans

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Ottawa city councillors voted to rename the Greenboro Community Centre in honour of former councillor Diane Deans on Wednesday.

In an emotional city council meeting, Coun. Jessica Bradley moved to rename the recreation facility at 363 Lorry Greenberg Dr. in Deans's honour, after she passed away Tuesday at the age of 65 following a five-year battle with ovarian cancer.

A new plaque will also be installed displaying Deans's name and a brief history of her contributions to the city of Ottawa.

"The news of Diane's passing was a devastating blow for me, for the residents of Groucester-Southgate and to the city," an emotional Bradley said in council.

Bradley, who serves as the councillor for Gloucester-Southgate and was Deans's former executive assistant, said Deans was a "fighter" in her battle with cancer and "an amazing councillor, mentor, friend, partner and mother."

"This tribute to rename the Greenboro Community Centre in her honour means a lot to Diane, her family and the community that she proudly served. I am grateful to all my colleagues for their support," Bradley said.

Coun. Theresa Kavanagh said she was an inspiration to women in politics and remembered her as a mentor and as a friend.

"When I first decided to run in 2018, I was looking for advice and inspiration and Diane was there for me," she said.

"She was so well spoken. She looked at things very carefully and knew the importance of them."

Ottawa city councillor Diane Deans at city hall on Aug. 26, 2019.Kavanagh remembered her most of all as a "tenacious" and a fighter.

"Diane was never on council to take up a seat, but to make a difference. She fought hard every day," Kavanagh said.

"She broke down barriers, stood her ground, used her voice and paved the path for many women, including myself, to have the strength the do that same."

Bradley's motion was unanimously carried by councillors.

A name change must normally go through a commemorative street naming process, which includes staff vetting requests and a 30-day public consultation period, but councillors voted to exempt the motion from that process.

Deans was first elected to the former Southgate ward in 1994 and represented the post-amalgamation Gloucester-Southgate ward until 2022. She was one of the city's longest serving councillors.

Her 28-year career in municipal politics included chairing several important boards and committees, including becoming the first woman to chair the Ottawa Police Services Board.

Deans was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2019 and took an extended leave from her duties for treatment before returning to her council chair one year later.

In 2022, Deans was ousted from her role as police board chair by councillors, who raised concerns about the slow response by the Ottawa Police Service to the Freedom Convoy protest, adding that the municipal police service was "not prepared" for a national occupation.

Deans had announced a plan to run for mayor, but later said she would not seek the job.

Colleagues and constituents remember trailblazer

Tributes continue to pour in for Diane Deans, including from former colleagues.

"I was fortunate to be able to call Diane a friend," said Catherine McKenney, a former councillor. "In the end, she was somebody that I cared a lot about, not just learn from, but enjoyed being around.

"When I think about Diane, I will always think about somebody who was courageous, who was smart, and who put herself out there."

McKenney said she visited Deans while she was in palliative care, and says her spirits were high. "It was the Diane that we all knew and loved and cared about. She was celebrating her life and in control of how she wanted to spend her last few days. So I felt really honored to be able to go in and have that visit with her for sure."

Both McKenney and Deans were councillors during some of the city's toughest times, including the launch of the LRT Stage 1, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Freedom Convoy.

"Diane was a councillor who was not afraid to understand the issues and to speak up. I think Diane's legacy will be around transparency and accountability. She did not leave any stone unturned. And that's important," McKenney said. "It's important for democracy. It's important for residents to have faith in their city. And I really do feel that Diane made that happen and made it happen on a lot of occasions."

McKenney also said that Deans was a trailblazer for women in politics. "Diane fought for women and (for a) gender diverse liaison because she understood what was needed around the council table so that we had a diversity of voices that were making better decisions. And she knew that we could always make better decisions."

Those who live in Deans' ward of Gloucester-Southgate say their former councillor was always available and approachable.

"She was excellent. You would sometimes meet her in Tim Hortons in a coffee shop, and you could sit and have a coffee. She was very approachable," said Lynne Walter.

Walter said Deans wanted to make the community better in many ways, including making sure there was lots of green space in the ward. "Making sure that it stayed the beautiful place that it is. And just out and involved with local people; very friendly, very approachable, willing to listen to whatever issues."

Michel Simard has lived in the ward since 1990. He said, "She was good in her job. She was very representative of the area, and she looked after us. And I know a few times I've come in with issues and so on, and she always took care of my concerns and so on. Yeah, I'll miss her."

Nicole Courchesne works with the community Alliance Co-op and said it was a pleasure to work with Deans. "I think she was always there and her staff was excellent. And when you called, there was always an answer or she found the answer. And as neighborhood watch coordinator for 20 years, she was supportive." 

A celebration of life will take place on May 25, beginning at 2 p.m. at the Infinity Convention Centre, followed by a reception.

The celebration is open to anyone who wishes to attend and celebrate her life.

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