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Egan: ‘I could have died,’ mom says after bullet grazes her head

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Oni Joseph dodged a bullet Tuesday evening, and not in the poetic sense.

Better known as Oni The Haitian Sensation, the “slam poetry” champ was in her bedroom in the south end of Ottawa when a .45-calibre bullet flew by her head — so close, she said it left a powdered, “iridescent” residue on her forehead and grazed her son’s lower leg.

The bullet then deflected off a door frame, dented a piece of drywall and came to rest at the top of the carpeted stairs, below a map of Swaziland.

“I couldn’t believe it,” she said Wednesday, still shaken and tired from going without sleep all night. “It more than frightened me. It was really traumatic.”

Joseph, 45, said she was in her second-floor bedroom at about 10:45 p.m., looking for materials connected to an online course for her son, Toussaint, 20.

Just as he came in the room, she began to hear a series of “popping” sounds, then something much louder, like a window shattering, then air rushing by her face. Pretty soon, she was “half on the ground” and reaching for her phone to call 911.

She said police were there within a few minutes and began to put yellow tape around her side yard, which connects to a wooded area that leads to the rear of a couple of businesses on Bank Street, south of Albion Road.

They would stay for hours.


Oni Joseph talks to a police officer with her son, Toussaint, on Wednesday, July 4, 2018.

Julie Oliver /

Postmedia

Ottawa police confirm they had reports of multiple shots being fired from the 2500 block of Bank and “numerous” shell casings were found. At least two detectives are working the case, including one who has gathered video surveillance from nearby businesses.

So far, no arrests have been made. It was at least the 50th shooting of the year in Ottawa.

It sounds implausible that Joseph was the target of the shooting, as there is no window on the wall that took the bullet hole. It pierced the vinyl siding and left a gouge in the interior drywall, right by a work table that contained art paint brushes in a Cookie Monster jar.

However, she’s suspicious about the circumstances, saying there were rocks thrown at her unit last year and she’s had a dispute with her landlord that is resulting in her eviction at the end of the month.

“Had I been standing up, I could have died. My son could have died.”

Joseph, a single mother of three boys in their early 20s, said she was told by police that seven shots were fired. A neighbour a few doors away, in fact, discovered what looked like bullet tracks in her siding and soffit, with a near-perfect circle in the cladding.


A closeup of the bullet that came through the wall.

Julie Oliver /

Postmedia

Joseph and two other neighbours said the adjacent car wash, a 24-hour, self-serve operation called Splash & Dash, has been the source of noise and loitering complaints because it’s sometimes used as a late-night hangout.


A Bank Street car wash behind Oni Joseph’s home. Joseph and two neighbours said it has been the source of noise and loitering complaints.

Julie Oliver /

Postmedia

(A spokesman for Coun. Diane Deans said community police officers told the ward office the car wash has been on their radar. The operators of the car wash could not be reached Wednesday.)

Joseph has been in the public eye on several fronts during the last 20 years. She has competed in spoken poetry contests around the world, published written work, advocated for a number of social issues, engaged in human rights projects and run unsuccessfully as a city councillor, in Bay ward in 2010.

“I want this solved,” she said of the shooting. Her next priority — with an Aug. 1 deadline — is to find a new place to live in what she hopes is a tranquil neighbourhood.

To contact Kelly Egan, please call 613-726-5896 or email kegan@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/kellyegancolumn

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List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa

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With Ontario now in Step 3 of 2021 three-step plan for reopening, museums and other indoor attractions are allowed to reopen with capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent capacity outdoors.

Here is a list of Ottawa attractions you can visit starting July 16th.

Do remember to wear masks and buy tickets in advance.

Parliament Hill

Parliament’s Centre Block and Peace Tower are closed for renovation.

You can join for tours of the Senate of Canada Building (2 Rideau Street), House of Commons at West Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill, and East Block at East Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill.

When: Grounds open; guided tours of Parliament are suspended through the summer of 2021.
Where: 111 Wellington Street, Downtown Ottawa

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Ottawa performer leapfrogs from gymnastics to Broadway to TV

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A new AppleTV+ series set in a magical town that’s stuck in a neverending 1940s musical includes a pair of Ottawa siblings in the cast. 

Warren Yang and his sister, Ericka Hunter, play two of the singing, dancing residents of the village portrayed in Schmigadoon!, a small-screen series that takes its cues from classic musicals like Brigadoon, Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music, and skewers them with the offbeat comedic mastery of Saturday Night Live. 

In fact, you’ll recognize many of the names from SNL, starting with executive producer Lorne Michaels, creator of the late-night, live-comedy sketch show. Schmigadoon! also stars SNL cast member Cecily Strong and comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who hosted SNL in May. They play a New York couple who get lost on a hike and stumble into a strange town where everyone sings and dances. 

For Yang, a relative newcomer to show-biz, the series marks his television debut. For Hunter, the younger of his two older sisters, it’s the latest in a career path that began with dance lessons as a child more than 30 years ago. She attended Canterbury High School, Ottawa’s arts-focused secondary school. 

“Her dream was always to perform,” said Yang, 34, in an interview. “But that was never the path I thought was an option for me.” 

While his sister studied dance, Yang did gymnastics. He was an elite gymnast throughout his youth, ultimately leaving Merivale High School at 16 to train in Montreal, finishing high school through correspondence courses. He was a member of the Canadian National Team and received a scholarship to study at Penn State, majoring in marketing. 

A few years after graduation, Yang was working at an advertising agency in Toronto when he got a call from a Manhattan number. To his astonishment, they asked if he would be interested in auditioning for a Broadway revival of Miss Saigon.

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COVID-19: uOttawa to require vaccination for students living in residence

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Vaccination will be mandatory for students who want to live in residence at the University of Ottawa this year, with proof of vaccination and at least one dose required before move-in, or within two weeks of doing so if they can’t secure a shot before arriving.

Those who can’t receive a vaccine for “health-related reasons or other grounds protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code” will be able to submit a request for accommodation through the university’s housing portal, according to information on the university’s website.

Students with one dose living in residence will also have to receive their second dose “within the timeframe recommended by Ottawa Public Health.”

People who haven’t been granted an exemption and don’t get vaccinated or submit proof of having done so by the deadlines set out by the school will have their residence agreements terminated, uOttawa warns.

“Medical and health professionals are clear that vaccination is the most (effective) means of protecting people and those around them,” reads a statement provided to this newspaper by uOttawa’s director of strategic communications, Patrick Charette.

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“It is precisely for this reason that the University of Ottawa is requiring all students living in residence for the 2021-2022 academic year to be fully vaccinated. The University recognizes that some students may require accommodations for a variety of reasons and will be treating exceptions appropriately.”

Faculty, staff and students are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, the statement notes.

“Ensuring a high vaccine coverage in all communities is critical to ensuring an ongoing decline in cases and ending the pandemic. This will be especially important with the return of students to post-secondary institutions in our region in the fall of 2021.”

Neither Carleton University nor Algonquin College is currently mandating vaccination for students living in residence, according to the websites for both schools. But uOttawa isn’t alone in its policy – Western University, Trent University, Durham College and Fanshawe College have all implemented similar requirements. Seneca College, in the GTA, is going even further, making vaccination mandatory for students and staff to come to campus, in-person, for the fall term.

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