February 25 Newsletter 2022

February 25, 2022 newsletter from Rawlson King, City Councillor for Rideau-Rockcliffe.

Statement on the Illegal Occupation 

Ottawa is only beginning to recover from countless disruptions that affected the downtown core over the past month.  All governments have ended states of emergency after the unprecedented police action undertaken this week to end the illegal occupation in the downtown core and multiple encampment sites. 

From the outset of the protest-cum-occupation, I strongly indicated that protestors needed to leave the City and not breach the peace.  I had heard many concerns regarding the hateful and racist acts and displays related to the occupation, and as a result I worked with both community groups and Council in my capacity as Council Liaison for Anti-Racism and Ethnocultural Relations Initiatives to denounce and condemn the unconscionable extremism, racism, intolerance, and xenophobia that was displayed during the illegal occupation.   

Working with municipal, provincial, and federal colleagues, I personally called upon both the Government of Ontario and the Government of Canada to provide all necessary financial and logistical supports required to bring the illegal occupation to an end and allow the City of Ottawa to return to normal.  

As residents may know, as a municipal elected official I have no powers to legally prevent demonstrations or give operational direction to the Police Service. Enforcement during the illegal protests was the sole responsibility of the Police Service.   

As your Ward Councillor however, I did work with business organizations and residents in our Ward to limit the negative impact of the encampment located on Coventry Road, which occurred due to the police decision to redirect overflow truck traffic to the site.  The efforts of the community, business groups, along with my office, helped provide enough intelligence for the Police Service to intervene several times at that encampment site and ultimately clear the location of illegal occupiers. 

As a previous member of Police Services Board, I and colleagues also worked tirelessly throughout the crisis to marshal additional resources from senior levels of government and encourage police action.  As a Police Board member, I pointedly asked the Police Command about the inadequate police response and about the potential of police complicity during the illegal protest.  I also asked multiple times for the Police Command to produce a plan to end the illegal occupation and emphasized the need for the immediate implementation of a plan.  I asked whether the Police Service had charged unlawful protestors with unlawful assembly.  I asked why the Police Service did not engage in basic policing functions, or "probative enforcement actions" that were concurrent with the resources it had available. I asked the Police Service when encampments and downtown intersections would be cleared. 

I asked questions concerning the Police's flawed legal opinions surrounding the establishment of roadblocks and keeping trucks out of the downtown core. Importantly, the Board asked for the necessary resources from senior levels of government so that the Police Service could undertake the type of joint operations with the OPP, RCMP and other police reinforcements from across the country which ultimately brought the illegal occupation to its conclusion. 

Because the Board was fulfilling its oversight duties and seeking the proper provision of resources as defined by the Police Service Act, I took the Mayor's allegation that the Ottawa Police Service Board had not been effective in its oversight function to be highly disingenuous and insulting to my colleagues, who had also been working tirelessly to attempt to end this occupation within our scope of responsibilities. 

As a Board, we undertook oversight in the strongest way: We held multiple public and in camera meetings where we encouraged the Police Command to utilize all its resources, its powers and duties to enforce the law.  As the Mayor knows, the responsibilities for operational matters are ultimately under the full authority of the Chief of Police. The Mayor also knows that the Police Service Board is accountable to the Province and not to City Council. With the resignation of the Chief, the Police Services Board moved quickly to fulfill its primarily responsibility under the Police Services Act, which was to rapidly hire a temporary Interim Chief to bolster a depleted Police Command, in order to end the crisis in an expeditious manner.  As we undertook our responsibilities, the Board verified its decisions with the Board's independent legal counsel, the Board's solicitor, and its advisor from the Ministry of the Solicitor General, to ensure it was acting in its proper line of authority. 

To allege that the Board did not exercise its proper authority, as a pretext to dismantle the Police Board at Council, demonstrated a high level of political cynicism by the Mayor and also demonstrated the Mayor's willingness to make public safety into a wedge issue, motivated by personal animus against political adversaries.   

It is ironic that while the Mayor was negotiating with illegal occupiers, the Board was working diligently to encourage police action, to affect arrests to bring the illegal occupation to a rapid conclusion, with a aim for the criminal justice system to bring charges, prosecutions, convictions, and punishment for those responsible. Due to the Mayor's cynical political view, as well as our divergent views on the rule of law, and innovative and progressive police governance (as he was not supportive of police reform I championed during the last budget process), I tendered my resignation from the Board.  

Despite my resignation from the Police Board, I acknowledge their will be much work that will need to be undertaken concerning the creation of new proactive measures to protect the City's residents from future harm and rebuild confidence in our democratic institutions.  As a consequence, I will continue to work with colleagues to improve governance structures as well as emergency response and preparedness at Council over the next several months.  

I will also continue to work on legislation at Council to respond the occupation and contribute to the City's social and economic recovery.  At Council I introduced a successful motion seeking permission from the Province to recover demonstration-related policing costs from any persons deemed responsible for such costs.  I also moved an additional successful motion asking the Province to revoke the use of the provincial Staycation Tax Credit so that so-called "protest tourists" do not take advantage of the tax break.   

As we recover, I worked with Council colleagues this week to consider deferring interim tax payments for businesses impacted by the occupation.  I also supported initiatives that would provide additional funds to downtown-area business improvement associations (BIAs), including the Vanier BIA which represents Beechwood Avenue, Montreal Road and McArthur Avenue, to jumpstart economic recovery. We know that over 40 percent of businesses in the affected areas by the protest closed due to concerns and obstructions arising during the protest, and over 75 percent of businesses lost revenue directly because of the illegal occupation.  The economic impact of the illegal occupation over the past four weeks is estimated at $200 million in Ottawa and the reputational damage due to the impact of the protest is incalculable.   

Due to the overwhelming challenges that businesses have been experiencing over the course of the pandemic, it is important that the City do everything within its power to reinvigorate these businesses.  That's why I encourage you to come together to support Ottawa’s small businesses, restaurants, tourism operators, and special events.   

It will also be important to provide residents with the appropriate community care and mental health supports to address the fallout of those who were terrorized by protestors weeks on end.  Therefore, I will be personally working with community members in Overbrook to connect residents who have been affected by both the protests and the pandemic to social and community care services. 

Despite these efforts, I am the first to acknowledge that government’s first obligation is to keep people safe and that over the past month our government failed.  I will work to ensure we successfully address shortcomings concerning public safety and emergency preparedness to protect communities and our most vulnerable residents. 

Council approves further actions to support downtown residents and businesses 

This week, Council passed several motions to support downtown residents and businesses affected by the demonstration. They included: 

  • Exploring deferral of interim 2022 property taxes for affected businesses in areas impacted by the demonstration. 
  • Providing a total of $450,000 to affected Business Improvement Areas, Business Associations and the Ottawa Markets Corporation to support business resumption, encourage customer visitation, and highlight main street vibrancy.  
  • Approving a funding contribution of $50,000 to the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition to deliver an expanded City Sounds outdoor concert series in 2022 to support ongoing economic recovery in the areas impacted by the demonstration. 
  • Expanding no-charge transit to include service on O-Train Line 1 as of Friday, February 25 and continuing until 30 days after the City’s State of Emergency ends. 
  • Approving free parking at City-owned lots at 210 Gloucester Street, 234-250 Slater Street, 422 Slater Street, 70 Clarence Street, 142 Clarence Street and 110 Laurier Avenue West. The free parking would be in effect from Friday, February 25 through Thursday, March 31. 
  • Requesting the provincial government match the federal government’s business relief program funding to cover fixed costs and sales shortfalls during the demonstration and urging both levels of government to cover lost income of employees during this period. 
  • Studying the feasibility and cost of implementing a temporary closure of Wellington Street between Bank and Elgin streets until the end of 2022 and discussing with the federal government the possibility of closing Wellington Street permanently to all vehicles except public transit and active transportation and transferring the street to federal ownership. Wellington Street will remain closed to vehicular traffic until the temporary closure study is considered at the Transportation Committee at the beginning of the next term of Council. Staff will also review the potential to close O’Connor and Metcalfe streets, north of Queen Street, to vehicular traffic. 
  • Declaring Monday, March 14 as a second Valentine's Day in Ottawa to promote downtown businesses. 

OC Transpo expands no-charge service to O-Train Line 1 and restores additional downtown bus service 

OC Transpo is offering O-Train Line 1 service at no-charge, for a limited time. Downtown bus service has also been restored to parts of Albert and Slater streets, the Mackenzie King Bridge, and only minor detours remain in effect.  

No-charge O-Train Line 1 service is in addition to the no-charge service in effect for 15 downtown bus routes, and for Para Transpo trips to and from Rideau-Vanier and Somerset wards. No-charge bus service includes routes 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 14, 15, 16, 18, 19, 55, 56, 85, and 114. 

This service is being offered to our customers in recognition of the significant disruption to transit travel in the downtown core due to recent road closures and detours. No-charge service will be in place for 30 days, with regular fares resuming on March 27.  

Customers can board O-Train Line 1 and the 15 no-charge downtown bus routes at any stop without paying a fare. Fare gates at all O-Train Line 1 stations will be open.  

When using these no-charge routes, do not tap your Presto card or pay a fare when boarding the bus – the Operator will let you on without requiring a fare. Customers boarding these routes will not receive a printed transfer. Fares and transfers will continue to be required for access to Line 2 buses and all other bus routes, and Société de transport de l'Outaouais (STO) buses. 

Para Transpo service is at no charge for all trips booked to or from addresses in Somerset and Rideau-Vanier wards. You can find out which ward you live in or are travelling to by entering the address here: https://ottawa.ca/en/city-hall/mayor-and-city-councillors. 

As more downtown roads reopen, we are on standby and ready to return buses to their regular routes. Stay up to date on the latest transit information by visiting octranspo.com/alerts or following OC Transpo’s Twitter accounts. 

FREE INCOME TAX CLINICS 

The Rideau-Rockcliffe Community Resource Centre is offering free income tax clinics from March 9 to May 13, 2022 by appointment. To book an appointment click here. 

Ottawa Black Mental Health Coalition Presents: Black Mental Health Week 2022 

Join the Ottawa Black Mental Health Coalition as they highlight leadership and innovation for Black mental health week from March 1 to 7. To register for any of the week’s events click here. 

Social Harvest Ottawa Seeking Volunteers 

Are you always trying to solve problems? Do you create models and prototypes? Are you interested in food security? Social Harvest Ottawa is currently looking for 3 to 6 volunteers to assist with the planning and execution of a growing structure project to bring fresh produce to the community of Ward13.  Social Harvest Ottawa, a social enterprise of the Rideau-Rockcliffe Community Resource Centre (815 St. Laurent Blvd), is part of a comprehensive food strategy aiming towards poverty reduction in Ottawa’s Ward13 and beyond. If you are interested in this volunteer opportunity and are available Monday – Friday 9:00AM - 12:00PM and 1:00-4:00PM please email s[email protected] or call (613)745-0073 ext. 132. For more info about Social Harvest Ottawa, please visit https://www.socialharvestottawa.ca/. 

Rideau Sports Centre Hiring for Two Positions 

The Rideau Sports Centre is currently receiving applications for two open positions, a facility maintenance manager and a bookkeeper. Both competitions are open as of today and close on March 11, 2022. Complete details on the positions and information on how to apply can be found here. 

Move For Mentoring; get active, have fun, and help to ignite the power and potential of young people in Ottawa! 

We need to keep moving, keep active and keep motivated.  Why not MOVE FOR MENTORING?!?!  This is a simple and fun way to make a difference in our community!  Participants will challenge themselves (and each other) to be active while raising pledges to support the young people here in Ottawa. Throughout the month of March, you complete your challenge based on the amount of money you raise.  For example, you will do one jumping jack for every dollar you raise (25 jumping jacks for $25 raised), 5 burpees for every $5 raised, or you will walk/run 1km for every $10 you raise.  You can record yourself completing your challenge or just after you finished your challenge letting everyone know you’re Moving For Mentoring to support Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ottawa – and why not challenge others to join you!  Participate as an individual or a team. 

SO LET’S GET A MOVE ON! JUST 5 EASY STEPS! 

  1. SIGN UP  
  2. SET YOUR GOAL 
  3. RAISE PLEDGES FOR A GREAT CAUSE 
  4. BRAG ABOUT IT! 
  5. DROP AND GIVE ME 100! 

Register Today at: https://www.bbbso.ca/events/move-for-mentoring/ 

Fundraiser: Grow For a Cause 

Social Harvest has partnered with uOttawa to help contribute to Relay for Life. 

Purchase a Micro-Harvest Growing Kit from February 24-26 to contribute to Relay for Life; 20% of the proceeds collected through sales will be donated. 

For over 20 years, Relay supporters have helped the Canadian Cancer Society provide hope to those with cancer in our communities. 

Not only will you be growing nutritious food right in your own home, but you'll also be Growing for a Cause! 

Money raised helps fund: 

  • Cancer research 
  • Advocate for healthy public policies 

Make your contribution at Market13.ca 

To learn more click here. 

Celebrating Black Excellence in Overbrook 

The Rideau-Rockcliffe Community Resource Centre in partnership with the Overbrook Community Association will be hosting a virtual event to celebrate Black History Month on Monday, February 28 from 6:00pm to 7:30pm. For more information and to register, please contact [email protected] or call 613-745-0073 ext. 210. 

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Address: 110 Laurier Ave W, Ottawa, ON K1P 1J1