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Three Sears stores in Ottawa to liquidate, 323 out of jobs

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More than 300 Ottawans will be out of jobs from three local Sears stores after the company announced all its Canadian locations would close shop.

Sears Canada is seeking approval to liquidate its roughly 130 remaining stores and put 12,000 employees out of work across the country, including retail and distribution jobs. 

The embattled department store retailer, which sought protection from its creditors in June, said Tuesday it had failed to find a buyer that would allow it to continue operating.

Ottawa’s locations include Sears at Carlingwood Mall, which has 133 employees, Sears Home Store at Pinecrest Mall, which has 36 employees, and a third location at St. Laurent Shopping Centre, which has 154 employees.

The liquidation sales would likely begin Oct. 19 and last 10 to 14 weeks, said a spokesman.

Outside the Carlingwood Sears on Wednesday, reaction to the store’s pending closure was mixed.

“It’s pretty sad,” said Maureen McCann, who was shopping at the store with her sister Peggy. “It was around for all our years growing up, and it was always a place where I shopped.”

“We had accounts with Sears since we were teenagers,” added Peggy, “and we bought everything here — furniture and appliances — and it is kind of sad. We’re kind of surprised that it’s Sears closing and not The Bay, which is a little more pricey. But in the last few years, the service (at Sears) did go down.

“They used to stand behind their products all the time, and then we started having trouble. That must have been a sign.”

Another customer, Veronica Sumeg-Ang, was also saddened by the news.

“I feel bad, number one, for the employees who are affected. And I love the products from Sears. And it’s close to where I live in Westboro, and there were always sales, for the clothes, for the shoes, and it was very affordable.”

Carleton Place resident Sandy Roesler, a housecleaner, was at Sears on Wednesday to scoop up bags for her Kenmore vacuum cleaners and to find out where she’d be able to purchase them in the future. Kenmore is Sears’s store brand for appliances.

“I grew up with this store and I really like their products,” she said. “It’s sad that so many people are losing their jobs, but also what Sears has done for the community, like the children’s hospital and other places they donate to in the city.”

Others were less disheartened by the news of Sears’s closing.

“I’m sorry to hear about the people losing their jobs,” said Matt Attinello, 24, “but I don’t shop here. I went with my parents when I was a kid, but I don’t see the appeal. Anything I need I’d find somewhere else, either online or in stores I know. I never think of going here.”

Heather Hopewell, who worked in the cosmetics department of the Carlingwood Sears for two years, after eight years at the Rideau Centre location until it closed in 2012, said she’s not surprised by the news. “As a (former) employee, I can tell you that the customer service was awful. As a customer, if you need help, you can’t find anybody.

“But it’s sad. My mother-in-law used to live up in Yellowknife and she’d order stuff out of the catalogue for us for Christmas. I have four kids between three and 10, and they’d go through the Sears catalogue. So how are they going to pick out their toys now, because Toys R Us is also closing?

“So, yes, it’s kind of sad, but it’s not unexpected, whatsoever.”

Barry Nabatian, a market research analyst, said the jobs lost in Ottawa will likely be absorbed by competing stores such as Marshalls, Walmart, and Loblaws.

“Those stores will do more business, so they will be hiring some (former Sears employees), but not all,” said Nabatian.

So why couldn’t Sears Canada stay afloat?

Nabatian argued the store was too slow to adapt to the modern demands of shoppers, who insist not just on an attractive retail space but a seamless online shopping experience.

“(Sears Canada) woke up to the reality of the changing retail environment too late and they were not able to do things fast enough to make the necessary changes,” said Nabatian.

“It was basically a store for your grandparents to go shopping, and the millennials — and even some older people — they like to go to places like H&M and Forever 21 and those kinds of stores … it (Sears) just didn’t have that ‘attractiveness factor’ that new places have.” 

The court overseeing Sears Canada’s operations is set to hear a motion Friday seeking approval for the liquidation and winding down of the business.

“The company deeply regrets this pending outcome and the resulting loss of jobs and store closures,” Sears Canada said in a statement on Tuesday.

— With files from Postmedia News

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Ottawa education workers still teaching special-ed students at schools want safety checks

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Some Ottawa educators say they are concerned about the safety of classrooms that remain open in schools for special-education students.

Ontario elementary and secondary students have been sent home to study virtually because of the dangers posed by rising rates of COVID-19. However, special-education classes are still operating at many bricks-and-mortar schools.

The special-education classes include students with physical and developmental disabilities, autism and behaviour problems. Some don’t wear masks and require close physical care.

Two unions representing teachers and educational assistants at the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board have sent letters to Ottawa Public Health expressing their concerns.

It’s urgent that public health officials inspect classrooms to assess the safety of the special-ed classes, said a letter from the Ottawa branch of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, which also represents the educational assistants who work with special-needs children.

“In the absence of reasons based on medical evidence to keep specialized systems classes open, we are unsure as to the safety of staff and students in these programs,” said the letter signed by president Stephanie Kirkey and other union executives.

The letter said staff agreed that students in specialized classes had difficulty with remote education and benefited most from in-person instruction.

“Our members care deeply about the students they work with and are not only concerned about their own health and safety, but also about that of their students, as they are often unable to abide by COVID safety protocols that include masking, physical distancing and hand hygiene, thus making it more likely that they could transmit the virus to one another,” the letter said.

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board has 1,286 elementary and secondary students in special-education classes attending in person at 87 schools, said spokesperson Darcy Knoll.

While final numbers were not available, Knoll said the board believed a large number of the special-education students were back in class on Friday at schools.

In-person classes for other elementary and secondary students are scheduled to resume Jan. 25.

The school boards provide PPE for educators in special-education classes as required, including surgical masks, face shields, gloves and gowns.

Several educators interviewed said they don’t understand why it has been deemed unsafe for students in mainstream classes to attend class, but not special-ed students.

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Ottawa sets record of 210 new COVID-19 cases following lag in data reporting

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Ottawa has now broken its daily record for new COVID-19 cases twice in 2021, with 210 new cases added on Friday amid a lag in data reports from earlier in the week.

The nation’s capital has now seen 10,960 cases of the novel coronavirus.

Ottawa Public Health’s COVID-19 dashboard reports 977 active cases of the virus in Ottawa, a jump of more than 100 over Thursday’s figures.

One additional person has died in relation to COVID-19 in Ottawa, raising the city’s death toll in the pandemic to 395.

The record-setting case count comes a day after Ottawa reported a relatively low increase of 68 cases. Ontario’s COVID-19 system had meanwhile reported 164 new cases on Thursday.

OPH said Thursday that due to a large number of case reports coming in late Wednesday, the local system did not account for a large portion of cases. The health unit said it expects the discrepancy to be filled in the subsequent days.

Taken together, Thursday and Friday’s reports add 278 cases to Ottawa’s total, a daily average of 139 cases.

The new single-day record surpasses a benchmark set this past Sunday, when the city recorded 184 new cases.

Ontario also reported a new record of 4,249 cases on Friday, with roughly 450 of those cases added due to a lag in reporting in Toronto.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 also continues to climb in Ottawa. OPH’s dashboard shows there are currently 24 people in hospital with COVID-19, seven of whom are in the intensive care unit.

Three new coronavirus outbreaks were added to OPH’s dashboard on Friday. One outbreak affects a local shelter where one resident has tested positive for the virus, while the other two are traced to workplaces and private settings in the community.

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Ottawa family dealing with mould issue in apartment grateful for support

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OTTAWA — An Ottawa family, who has been dealing with mould in their south Ottawa apartment, is grateful for the support they have received from the community.

“I would like to say big very mighty, big thank you to everyone,” says Nofisat Adeniyi.

Adeniyi lives with her three sons in a South Keys apartment. Her son Desmond turned to social media on Sunday to seek help for the family, saying they’ve been dealing with mould in their unit and it has taken too long to fix.

“I see my mom go through a struggle everyday; with three kids, it’s not easy,” says 16-year-old Desmond Adeniyi.

He setup a GoFundMe page to help the family raise money to move out. After gaining online attention and the story, which originally aired CTV News Ottawa on Tuesday, they have been able to raise over $30,000.

“Yes! I was surprised, a big surprise!” says Nofisat Adeniyi, “We are free from the mess that we’ve been going through.”

The family was so touched, they decided to pay it forward and donated $5,000 to another family in need, “A lady my son told me about,” says Nofisat Adeniyi.

The recipient wants to remain anonymous, but when she found out from Adeniyi, “She was crying, she has three kids; I remember when I was, I can feel what she’s feeling – because I was once in those shoes.”

CTV News Ottawa did reach out to the property management company for an update on the mould. In a statement on Wednesday, a spokesperson for COGIR Realty wrote:

“We respect the privacy of our residents and are unable to disclose any specific information regarding any of our residents. We can, however, let you know that we are working with the residents and are making every effort to resolve this matter as soon as possible,” said Cogir Real Estate

The giving did not stop at just cash donations. “When I saw the segment, the thing that struck me the most was how easily the situation can be resolved,” says mould removal expert Charlie Leduc with Mold Busters in Ottawa.

Leduc is not involved in the case, but appeared in the original story, and after seeing the mould on TV wanted to help.

“This isn’t something that we typically do, but given the circumstance and given the fact that this has gone on way too long, our company is willing to go in and do this work for free,” said Leduc.

The Adeniyi family may now have some options, and are grateful to the community for the support.

“Yes, It’s great news — you can see me smiling,” says Nofisat.

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