Ottawa Writers spring festival features John Ralston Saul, Beverley McLachlin, Omar El Akkad, Cherie Dimaline

A thoughtful conversation with John Ralston Saul opens the spring festival.

The spring edition of the Ottawa International Writers festival features philosophers and poets along with stories of immigration, identity, the latest in fiction from Canada and abroad and a crime novel by the former Supreme Court chief justice Beverley McLachlin.

Kicking off the event on April 26 is Canada’s public intellectual John Ralston Saul who will be talking about a new way to consider Canadian history, one that considers the contributions and growing role of Indigenous peoples, with the backdrop of the book The Comeback. That same evening Indigenous writers Shannon Webb-Campbell and Lee Maracle will be “decolonizing the dialogue” in a discussion of the issues confronting reconciliation in Canada.

The festival will also feature writers whose work is making a mark in this year’s CBC Canada Reads contest. Omar El Akkad (American War) and Cherie Dimaline (The Marrow Thieves) will join novelist Timothy Taylor (The Rule of Stephens) on April 27.

Newfoundlander Sharon Bala, who is also up for Canada Reads with The Boat People, will be on a panel with Ottawa sh0rt story writer Djamila Ibrahim (Things Are Good Now) and Arif Anwar (The Storm) on April 28.

There will be some science on view with appearances by journalist and athlete Alex Hutchison with his book Endure: Mind, Body and the Limits of Human Performance, Alanna Mitchell, whose latest is about the importance of Earth’s magnetic field and the potential for disaster. It’s called The Spinning Magnet. CBC personality and real doctor Brian Goldman appears for a conversation about The Power of Kindness in medicine and life.

The festival closes on May 1 with a literary luncheon and reading by Beverley McLachlan whose first novel Full Disclosure, featuring the young female lawyer Jilly Truitt, isa thriller in the territory of Scott Turow and Michael Connelly’s Lincoln Lawyer. That same day, the Montreal’s stellar novelist Heather O’Neill is back at the festival with a memoir of her father, a charmer who told her stories about how crime can pay.

Here is the lineup so far.
All events take place at Christ Church Cathedral unless indicated. For information and tickets, please see
April 26
12 Ways to Honesty in Canada with John Ralston Saul, 6:30 p.m.
Decolonizing the Dialogue with Shannon Webb-Campbell and Lee Maracle, 8:30 p.m.
April 27
The Power of Kindness with Dr. Brian Goldman. Hosted by CHEO’s Alex Munter, 6:30 p.m.
Imagining Truths with Omar El Akkad, Cherie Dimaline and Timothy Taylor, 8:30 p.m.
April 28
Carpe Diem with Ruth Marshall and Kate Harris, noon.  
Endure: Mind, Body, and the Limits of Human Performance with Alex Hutchinson, 2 p.m.
The Spinning Magnet with Alanna Mitchell, 4 p.m.
Plan 99: Spotlight on Biblioasis with Amanda Jernigan, Rachel Lebowitz, Richard Sanger and Paige Cooper, Manx Pub, 5 p.m.
The Wonder Years with Carrianne Leung, Robert Everett-Green and Kerri Sakamoto, 6:30 p.m.
Borders and Belonging with Djamila Ibrahim, Arif Anwar and Sharon Bala, 8:30 p.m.
April 29
Man Up: Understanding Masculinity with Rachel Giese and Daemon Fairless, 2 p.m.
The Lives of Women and Girls with Elizabeth Renzetti, 4 p.m.
Plan 99 Stevie Howell, Canisa Lubrin and Gillian Sze, Manx Pub, 5 p.m.
This is Us with Casey Plett, Amber Dawn and Joshua Whitehead, 6:30 p.m.
April 30 
Europa: Spotlight on European Fiction with Jānis Joņevs, Viveca Sten and Dirk Kurbjuweit, 6 30 p.m.
Race, Repression and Resilience with Robyn Maynard and Chelene Knight, 8:30 p.m.
May 1
Literary Luncheon with Beverley McLachlin, noon
Full Disclosure with Beverley McLachlin, 6:30 p.m. 
Invaluable Lessons from My Father with Heather O’Neill, 8:30 p.m.
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Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.