Occupation Update

Dear neighbours,

I am writing to you with a heavy heart. Our city and residents in the core have endured a lot in these last several weeks in Ottawa, and that trauma will be with us for some time. Couple that with the ongoing pandemic, and the impacts of the changes to all of our lives in the past weeks, months and years can be immense.

As I write this, the illegal occupation has been, perhaps temporarily, suspended in the core. I say temporarily because we know that people continue to gather in rural areas outside of Ottawa and the future of this seems uncertain. I am still seeing convoy vehicles with flags being driven in Ottawa.

At this time, the perimeter for police checks has reduced:

You can expect to see police checkpoints where you will be asked your reason for travelling within the Secured Area.

Expect traffic delays in and around the Secured Area.

Increased Police Presence

Police presence in the area can be distressing to many in our community and we are working to ensure that residents and businesses can proceed with their daily activities with as little impact as possible.  

Reminder on Waste and Recycling Collection This Week

A reminder: Please note that this this week's collection is delayed by one day.

POSTPONED: Townhall on Developer Influence

Please note that due to the influx of actions that were required by our office during the occupation, we will be rescheduling this event to a later date. Residents will receive this information in the near future.

OC Transpo

We have also recently spoke with staff and have restored OC Transpo routes 6 and 7 on Bank Street to their previously detoured route, which better served residents in Capital Ward. The routes will still avoid downtown, taking the Queensway to connect between Bank (via Isabella) and Lowertown. All stops within Capital Ward have been restored.

Ottawa Public Library’s Main Branch Re-Opens

Ottawa Public Library’s Main branch (120 Metcalfe St.) will re-open today, Wednesday, February 23 at 10:00 am. A reminder that people are required to wear masks in the Library and to maintain a physical distance of at least two meters from others. Individuals who do not comply will be asked to leave the branch.  

Starting Wednesday, OPL’s Main branch will be open during the following hours:  

  • Monday: 10:00 am to 6:00 pm 
  • Tuesday: 1:00 pm to 8:00 pm  
  • Wednesday: 10:00 am to 6:00 pm 
  • Thursday: 1:00 pm to 8:00 pm   
  • Friday: 10:00 am to 6:00 pm 
  • Saturday: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm 
  • Sunday: 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm     

Holds items pick-up dates and due dates for items borrowed at the Main branch have been extended to March 2, 2022. 

OPL Homebound Services delivery to customers in the downtown will resume in the next few days. 

For more information about current services at OPL or hours and locations, please visit their website. And remember, you can enjoy a wide array of virtual programs, and digital collections anywhere, anytime through the OPL website. 

Community Mutual Aid

I know many people are looking for more information and for more ways to help. A local resident has put together a crowd-sourced website that provides a central place for information: equitableeducation.ca/2022/ottawa-occupation-database

This is the kind of mutual aid we were seeing during these last several weeks, when little action by authorities was taken:

Communities supporting each other is what helped get us through. Following these events, several inquiries will be launched that need to get to the bottom of how this was allowed to occur and the lack of basic enforcement we saw for a long time. I appreciate the community stepping up and first responders, including acting Chief Steve Bell, who recently helped to restore more peace in the core. I have heard from many of you that you would like to walk together in solidarity, support residents and shops which have endured the worst of this. I anticipate this will be organized in the coming days.

Financial Resources for Residents impacted by the Downtown Demonstrations

For residents who have been impacted by the demonstrations in the downtown core, if you need help with:

  • Food
  • Rent or rent arrears
  • Heat, hydro, water costs, insurance, or arrears
  • Cost of prescription medications & other health related expenses
  • Other basic needs

Please contact:

Employment and Social Services
Kelly Ford, Program Support Consultant
[email protected]
(613) 580-2424 ext. 15142
Monday to Friday: 8:30 am – 4:30 pm

Eligibility will be determined for the Ontario Works Financial Assistance, Ontario Works Emergency Assistance or Essential Health and Social Supports Program.

Employers, if you need help with:

  • Finding and hiring skilled employees
  • Information about financial hiring incentives
  • Other free employer services

Please contact:

City of Ottawa, Employment Ontario
Jay Clark—Employment Specialist
(613) 580-2424 x 26420
[email protected]  

Or

Employment Ontario Referral and Information Line: (613) 580-2424 ext. 14372, Monday to Friday: 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.

Employees, if you need help with:

  • Finding a job
  • Putting together a resume
  • Improving your interview techniques
  • Upgrading your skills
  • Access to job fairs, job postings, job matching and one-to-one coaching
  • A one-stop-shop for finding the job you are looking for

Please contact:

City of Ottawa, Employment Ontario
Jay Clark—Employment Specialist
(613) 580-2424 x 26420
[email protected]  

Or

Employment Ontario Referral and Information Line: (613) 580-2424 ext. 14372, Monday to Friday: 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.

For more information about:

Please have the following information available when you call:

  • Birth certificates, Social Insurance Number, Ontario Health Card and immigration documents for you and your family members.
  • Information about your current income
  • Information about your current assets (e.g., Bank account balances)
  • Your accommodation expenses (e.g., rent, heat, hydro, etc.)

Council Recap

Once we are through this illegal occupation, residents deserve more than an inquiry; they also deserve a political reckoning. We have already seen how the pressure of the occupation has eroded the governance at City Hall. Problems have existed for many years, which we have highlighted (including the LRT), but in a crisis, any façade of thoughtful, independent government working for the betterment of our city dropped away.

My view is that we deserve representatives who will push and fight for their residents at City Hall—that the independence of this office should not be co-opted by stacking committees or playing favourites in order to advance only one agenda. We are all sent here as equals on behalf of residents and should be enlisted to better our city with unique and varying skillsets. In crisis, especially, help should be offered to those communities who need it most. Unfortunately, that is not what we’ve seen in this situation as Councillor McKenney outlined in their comments.

This culminated in the most acrimonious council meeting this term of council. The meeting lasted over seven hours, extending late into the night. This was an emergency meeting called by the Mayor for Monday morning last week, and then delayed twice until being called to order at 4PM the following Wednesday. CBC has a summary of events here.

The bulk of the meeting was, unfortunately, spent deliberating over a last-minute proposed takeover of the Ottawa Police Services Board (OPSB). The proposal was to remove and replace the Chair, to remove and replace Councillor Meehan as a member, and to replace Member Smallwood (who had already resigned in protest upon hearing of who was being put forward as the new chair).

In protest, Councillor Rawlson King also resigned his seat on the board during debate of this takeover.

The intended outcome of the board takeover appeared to be couched in placing blame and highlighting the lack of accountability, but it served to bring back a previous, more politically-regressive, board; to replace members who—whatever their faults—have shown independence; and, most importantly, to change the channel on the failed backroom deal the Mayor had orchestrated with one of the people recently arrested and denied bail as part of the occupation (you can watch my comments on this here),

Many people have been pointing out the difference in posture of our police service towards this occupation when compared to others. With the resignation of our first Black police chief and our first Black city councillor from the OPSB, we should be carefully considering who we appoint to the board. We should be appointing people to the board who, at minimum, understand issues like systemic racism.

Instead, we saw an attempt to appoint someone to the OPSB who was just removed from all city committees and boards less than a year ago due to the city’s Integrity Commissioner finding her in a conflict of interest with developers, and who has made concerning comments in the past. I felt I had to speak out against this proposal (you can watch my comments here).

Thankfully, the majority of my colleagues agreed, and the councillor was narrowly prevented from replacing Councillor Meehan on the board. Despite her place on the board being preserved, however, Councillor Meehan tendered her resignation at the end of the meeting in solidarity with other resigned or removed members of the board. That seat remains vacant.

I have constructive criticisms of the previous police board, and I do want accountability for their handling of the occupation to date; yet the less-than-perfectly executed board takeover on Wednesday night not only does nothing to ensure that accountability, it jeopardizes the already slow movement toward reform we have seen within our police services this term of council. We must begin to invest in mental health service response for residents if we are going to help address long-standing issues.

Beyond the partially botched board takeover, members of council did eventually get to the more practical business of the city’s response to the occupation. A number of motions were passed that I hope will help our city move forward.

You can see the full record of motions, and how councillors voted on them here.

Political acrimony aside, we must focus on coming together as a community, and helping each other through the coming days, weeks and months. I am so grateful to the people of Capital Ward who have stepped up during this time to help neighbours or offered encouraging words of support. Thank you.

All my best,

Shawn

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