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Talkative homebuyers beware, the seller might be listening





Homebuyers should watch what they say during home viewings, according to an Ontario real estate agent who says two of her clients recently used cameras and microphones to eavesdrop on potential buyers.

Juliana Webster says the rules should be changed to force sellers to say if homes are under surveillance. 

“When you go into a private home you don’t naturally expect [surveillance],” said Webster, who works in Hamilton. 

The wrong sort of comment, she warns, “could be used against the buyer, like, if they said, ‘Oh, we would totally pay much more for the house.'”

Webster said she was unaware of the surveillance until her clients mentioned it. One offered to help a potential buyer who had been observed trying to use an appliance in the home. The other heard something that assured them the sale would go through.

You don’t want to use it, but it could be tempting for some people.– Juliana Webster, real estate agent

Neither seller had installed the surveillance devices specifically to monitor potential buyers, said Webster, and it’s not clear if they were hidden, or had simply gone unnoticed. 

The sellers did not use the information to their advantage in negotiations. But Webster says it could be “tempting.” 

“You can see how somebody could listen in and get some very interesting information. And then, when it’s in your lap, you don’t want to use it, but it could be tempting for some people. It could be tempting for anybody.”

“If your comments and their comments were being recorded certainly that puts the ball in the other person’s court doesn’t it?”

Webster has been a real estate agent since the 1980s. She likens the possibility of surveillance to a previous issue in the industry, when, unlike today, it was common for sellers to be in the home during viewings.  

The question… is whether people looking at the house have a reasonable expectation of privacy.– Kirsten Thompson, lawyer

“Once upon a time, when I started in real estate, the sellers were always there in the house and people were much more careful about what they said,” she said.

She wants listing agreements to say if there’s audio or video surveillance onsite, and for a warning sign to be posted on the site. 

In Ontario, the ministry of government and consumer services set the rules for the industry, which are enforced by the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO). 

In a statement, the minister’s press secretary David Woolley said realtors are subject to federal privacy law and could not use this sort of surveillance material “for commercial purposes… without the consent of an individual involved in the transaction.” 

The council agrees buyers and brokers should be cautious. 

“Because recording devices are becoming more and more popular, we advise salespeople and brokers to caution the homebuyers… that there may be a recording device in the home,” said deputy registrar of regulatory compliance Kelvin Kucey, in a statement. 

Real estate agent Juliana Webster says the rules should be changed to force sellers to say if their homes are under surveillance. (Alex Choi)

Complicated issue

Privacy lawyer Kirsten Thompson acknowledged the laws around this issue are complicated and may differ from a “common sense perspective.”

Ontario’s privacy legislation applies to commercial activities, and generally not private individuals, she says. 

“So the question becomes whether or not selling a home is a commercial activity. If it isn’t then the homeowner wouldn’t have any obligations under privacy laws,” Thompson said.

She says the law is less murky regarding the seller’s real estate agent, who would be more clearly acting in a commercial capacity.

“It gets a little stickier when you start looking at the common law and that’s whether… or not somebody has a reasonable expectation of privacy,” said Thompson. 

“So the question there is whether people looking at the house have a reasonable expectation of privacy in somebody else’s house.”

Thompson likes the idea of a sign warning of video surveillance as a good-faith gesture, but argues, legally, it would probably not be required. 

Opening one’s home for a viewing creates a situation similar to an amusement park or shopping mall, she says. 

“It’s sort of a private space… into which you are inviting the public. And so that changes the playing field in terms of the strength and quality of rights you may or may not have.”

“If we’re looking at the common law that would likely reduce the reasonable expectation of privacy.”

To further complicate matters, Thompson said there’s a difference between audio and video surveillance. Audio could fall under wiretap provisions of the Criminal Code, which in Canada typically requires one person in a conversation to consent to the recording.

Even though Webster believes a surveillance heads-up should be required, she’s changed the way she operates entering any home.

“I do caution buyers… ‘You can make comments but keep them neutral because gushing means to pay anything.'”


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List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa





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





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





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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