Today’s letters: Flush away this high-tech toilet, Ottawa

Saturday, July 24: On public toilets, chopping down old trees, COVID passports and more. You can write to us at

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Citizen letters

Installation crews finish their work as the first of eight automated free public toilets opens in Vancouver in 2007.
Installation crews finish their work as the first of eight automated free public toilets opens in Vancouver in 2007. Photo by Gerry Kahrmann /PROVINCE

Self-cleaning public toilets won’t fix our problem


Re: Officials announce $1.69 million for ByWard Market infrastructure including self-cleaning public washroom, July 20.

We are writing to express our concern about the plan to install a self-cleaning public washroom in the ByWard Market. While we fully support a public toilet in that area, our research indicates that a self-cleaning toilet is likely to be excessively expensive, both to install and, importantly, to maintain.

Canadian experience with these toilets in Montreal and Vancouver reveals significant problems. Not only are they initially very expensive, they are technically complicated and thus costly to maintain. Vancouver, for example, has experienced frequent mechanical issues and, at one point, had to import a technician from France to do the work.


Montreal’s self-cleaning toilets have also had mixed reviews.

A public toilet with a contractor hired to clean and monitor it seems a better choice. Not only does it assure regular cleaning and maintenance, it also provides greater safety and some flexibility. As just one example, a 2020 pilot project done in Edmonton (Whyte Avenue Public Toilet) found that the benefits included reduced police presence, reduced number of illegal incidents, and overall increased usage by the public.

We urge the city to reconsider the plan for a self-cleaning public toilet.

Bessa Whitmore, GottaGo campaign (, Ottawa

Stop cutting down trees for parking

Re: Cutting down mature Ottawa trees is a truly dumb idea, July 20.


How right on, Brigitte Pellerin. Living around Westboro, it made me cry to see trees chopped down along the parkway and on Richmond Road in order to make way for the Stage 2 LRT. Was it all necessary? I do not know, but at least the reason is to build a system to keep cars off the roads.

Parking garages do the  exact opposite. A parking garage for the Civic campus of the Ottawa Hospital at the Central Experimental Farm is removing hundreds of trees. To me, that is insanity.

Wildfires are increasing; please, global warming is real. What “inheritance” do we leave for our next generations? We must quash this car culture in order to survive.

Building the new hospital at Tunney’s Pasture, right next to the LRT, is the sane way to go. Shuttle buses can drop off patients, staff and visitors right from the train to the required building.


Ria Heynen, Ottawa

Tree-cutting is OK sometimes, it seems

Brigitte Pellerin condescendingly explains why urban trees should not be cut down. It seems the trees cut down for her home, the Rideau Centre where she shops, the roads she travels, and all the other locations she frequents were exactly the right number of trees to remove, and any more are a violation of nature.

I’ve rarely seen the “drawbridge mentality” so blithely expressed.

John Carkner, Arnprior

Stop all this NIMBY whining

So does Brigitte Pellerin think it was OK to cut down trees to build the Rideau Centre? Or her own bougie neighbourhood? The fact it was done 150 years ago makes it OK, but not now?

Oh, there are studies that say trees are good. That absolutely overrides the basic pillars of western civilization such as respect for private property rights, which are the only reason anyone has the idle time to worry about if we have enough urban trees.


What exactly makes people think they have the right to pull up the drawbridge and say “Nope, this is enough development, the rest of you who want to come here or do anything, piss right off?” It’s transparently self-serving. And this newspaper has become 75-per-cent tedious NIMBY whining of this sort. Good grief.

James Carruthers, Crysler

Ottawa doesn’t value its green space

Re: Parks, the glue that holds us together, July 10.

Mark Wessel cites the finding that Canadians put great value on open spaces. This echoes the article a few years ago by Emilie Coyle, that once green spaces are gone, no amount of tax revenue can make up for this loss. Brigitte Pellerin’s article on chopping down old trees makes the same point about the value of trees and parks.


Ottawa council has a dismal record when it comes to valuing green space. When asked what value was put on Connaught Park in lieu of losing it to a Stage 2 LRT route, the lead LRT engineer had no answer. The zero-value game is what Ottawa Council will likely use in the current Civic hospital debate about “de-purposing” park space.

David Sharpe, Ottawa

Capital is setting a bad example

Regarding the new Civic hospital campus site, MPP Joel Harden recently reported that the current heated debate is not about the quality of the facility or health care. Instead, it’s about cars and parking. “Tons of parking,” according to Harden.

The original plan was to include an underground parking lot, given the hospital’s location next to a UNESCO World Heritage Site: Dow’s Lake and the Rideau Canal. The current plan is to uproot hundreds of trees for an above-ground parking garage, similar in size to the Ottawa airport parking lot. Ottawa’s contribution to climate change! It’s ironic that there won’t be a link to the infamous LRT (costing  billions), even though the Civic campus site will be a major employment centre.


All this, despite a 200–page report prepared by the National Capital Commission and concerned community members. Once again, local developers (focused on profit) have the upper hand. Ottawa may be our nation’s capital, but it’s not setting an example for the rest of Canada.

Kathryn Balica, Ottawa

Composers not immune to cultural superiority

Re: Rembrandt masterpiece shares space with Monkman’s Miss Chief, July 16.

If galleries are presenting works that challenge us to reflect on “the influence of religion, race, gender and the sense of cultural superiority that has driven generations of white, male artists” as stated by Lynn Saxberg, should concert halls present works that challenge such influences on white, male composers?


Many composers wrote at a time when their nations were involved in imperialist expansion against non-European peoples. I don’t think they were any more immune to a sense of cultural superiority and other biases than their colleagues in the visual arts. We need more works that satirize Western music history. At a minimum, Richard Wagner should be challenged for being too Germanic.

Bruce Couchman, Ottawa

Racist remarks simple unacceptable

Re: Letter, Racism lives amid national reckoning, July 16.

It is with dismay that I read the letter from Larry Hill reporting the racist incident with his First Nation Algonquin wife.

Verbal and behavioural abuse is unacceptable in all situations in our society.  Everyone should know that we treat others with respect and common courtesy. In this time when so much “matters,”  words matter too.


James Sonley, Nepean

No one should be a target of verbal hatred

I was sickened to read of the racist and cowardly attack on Larry Hill’s wife. No one deserves to be the victim of such hatred, but even less so someone who has given tirelessly of herself in the service of truth-telling and reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. It is another sad example of how far we have yet to go in humbly acknowledging our past and respectfully building right relations.

(Rev.) James Scott, Chelsea

How to handle proof of vaccination

Re: Ottawa Board of Trade supports vaccination passports as a boon for businesses, July 16.

Very few people have a legitimate medical reason to eschew vaccination. They should be accommodated. Anti-vaxxers should not.


Basically, if you refuse to show evidence of having been vaccinated, you

have removed all doubt; you have not been vaccinated, case closed. I

don’t want to be near you in a crowd or on a bus, and I don’t want you

grunting next to me in a gym, and I don’t want you serving me, and I

don’t want your hands (and breath) on me, in a physio-/massage-therapy situation.

So, the only ways I can exercise my right to choose is if the employer or service provider lets me know that you are anti-vax. But really, I don’t need your employer to tell me who has or has not been vaccinated;

I just need them to indicate who refuses to show evidence. They could

easily avoid repercussions:

“Welcome to our establishment. All our personnel wear name tags. Staff

members Ghislaine, Hakim, and Pat are proudly verified as fully

vaccinated. We are pleased to honour your (informed) choice about who

takes care of you, today.”


No doubt, all the anti-vaxxer customers could flock to anti-vaxxer staff-member Blake.

Kevin McLauchlan, Ottawa

Get vaccinated; then we can help others

It boggles my mind that the pace of COVID vaccinations is slowing down, not due to supply but due to vaccine hesitancy on the part of Ontarians, All we have to do is look at England’s example of a resurgence of COVID due to a premature reopening and an insufficient level of vaccination, to remind all Canadians to do their part. The very people who are hesitating to get vaccinated will be the first to loudly complain when Premier Doug Ford has to lock down the province yet again.

Also, the sooner we  all get vaccinated the sooner we can start helping less fortunate countries. On a final note, I for one would like our government to provide me with a vaccine passport. I am sure that many other Ontarians would like one as well.


Bob Erwin, Ottawa

The doctor is right: go slow

Re: Too soon to lift COVID restrictions, doctor says, July 21.

I agree with Dr. Kumanan Wilson that we must err on the side of caution. Now is not the right time to lift key pandemic restrictions in Ontario while the variants of concern, especially the delta variant, could still be a significant threat.

Dono Bandoro, Ottawa

Canada needs a national immunization service

Re: Policy specialists calling for Canadian immunization service, July 19.

Kudos to University of Ottawa professor Dr. Kumanan Wilson; Queen’s University’s Dr. Jane Philpott, former federal health minister; and Canadian Blood Services CEO Dr. Graham Sher for advocating the establishment of a national immunization service to co-ordinate vaccine procurement distribution and research.


Under their proposal an independent, not-for-profit corporation funded by participating jurisdictions, and possibly the federal government, would be responsible for managing the country’s immunization services and supply chain, collecting consistent data and buying vaccines in bulk.

Its monitoring of vaccine safety should also include safety concerns of excipients and adjuvants comprising vaccine formulation. If such an independent body should be modelled on the Canadian Blood Services, one hopes it would be better constituted and have learned from the pitfalls of the CBS.

If a country like Cuba with all the limitations on its resources can produce its Abdala COVID vaccine with high efficacy with three doses, there is no reason Canada should not produce its own vaccines domestically.


The Bureau of Drug Research was set up under Health Canada about a decade after the Thalidomide crisis of 1961/62; however, it was terminated at the end of July 1997, essentially for political reasons. The COVID pandemic has shown that the nation needs to have a national, independent, and not-for-profit health resource such as advocated by these experts.

George Neville (retired Research Scientist of Health Canada’s former Bureau of Drug Research), Ottawa

Government creates a needless flag flap

Re: Glavin: Canada can’t solve its burning issues with empty gestures, July 21.

Many Canadians will agree with Terry Glavin’s comments as they relate to the lowering of the Canadian flag.

While the flag is normally lowered for a specific period of time, the notice issued by the Department of Canadian Heritage stating that flags at all federal buildings and establishments across Canada would be lowered “until further notice” was without explanation.


From my perspective, the government made a mistake by not identifying a specific period of time for the flag half-masting as without a predetermined end-date, it places them in an awkward position of deciding when to raise it back. Considering the current political climate, with a possible election in the coming months, the government can also be criticized for using the flag for re-election purposes. Right now, and all by their own choosing, they are between a rock and a hard place.

F. Dale Boire, Ottawa

Sending rich people into space is useless

Re: Successful space flight for Bezos, July 21.

Aren’t Jeff Bezos and his team putting the cart before the horse by promoting space tourism before further space exploration and the eventual establishment of space colonies? Shouldn’t the building and establishment of a tourist destination come before you invite and capitalize on the tourist, not the other way around?


Sending rich people into space for relatively short ego-driven joy rides will not only eclipse true space exploration, but will inevitably produce more unnecessary space garbage orbiting our precious Earth. Build it and they will come, not the reverse. Crass tourism is the bane of modern civilization.

Douglas Cornish, Ottawa

We need our scientist to focus on the planet

I am distressed seeing Sir Richard Branson and the other billionaires in his cute club divert intellectual capital toward flights of fancy while obvious, urgent and frankly more deadly earth-bound issues go unsolved, such as global warming and environmental degradation. Don’t give me the “pure science” or “technical advancements” arguments. There is urgent work to do, and we need every brain possible working on it.

Thomas Brawn, Orléans

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