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Groups allege black visitors to Parliament Hill were called ‘dark-skinned,’ asked to leave cafeteria

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The Parliamentary Protective Service has launched an internal investigation into an allegation that a member of its staff acted in a discriminatory way toward a group of black visitors to Parliament Hill earlier this week.

According to a statement released Thursday by a coalition of black, human rights, labour and youth groups, the incident occurred during a visit to Parliament Hill by 150 community members who were attending the Black Voices on the Hill day.

The visitors were in Ottawa for a series of meetings with eight federal cabinet ministers when they were asked to wait in the parliamentary cafeteria, the statement said.

The group claimed a government employee complained to the PPS about the visitors, taking their picture and referring to them as “dark-skinned people.”

The group alleges a member of the PPS who responded to the employee’s complaint used the term “dark-skinned” and told them to leave the cafeteria even though they had valid parliamentary passes that allowed them to be there.

“At the outset, we offer our apologies to the participants for the situation that they experienced on Monday,” said a statement from Joseph Law, chief of staff to the PPS, which provides security on Parliament Hill and is overseen by the RCMP.

“The Parliamentary Protective Service has zero tolerance for any type of discrimination. We took immediate action upon learning of this incident and launched an internal investigation into the matter.

“Once this process is completed, we will be advising the Speakers accordingly,” the statement said, referring to the Speakers of the House of Commons and the Senate.

‘Not isolated’

Nova Scotia Sen. Wanda Thomas Bernard, an African-Canadian parliamentarian, filed a complaint to the PPS on behalf of the group.

The visitors are asking for a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during which they hope to ask for an “end to racial profiling at the federal level.” The group also wants to meet with House of Commons Speaker Geoff Regan “to secure an official apology.”

“The incident, which violated the human rights of the victimized, is not isolated but part of a broader systemic problem,” the group said.

“It shows how at the highest levels of Canada’s public institutions, anti-black racism can flourish embedded within public institutions, how law enforcement can disproportionately criminalize black youth, and how there is an urgent need for more robust measures to eliminate all forms of discrimination from society.”

The coalition of groups that put out the statement also news conferences on Friday in Halifax, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa and Toronto.

Coalition member Peter Flagel, of the Michaëlle Jean Foundation, said that the group’s perception that its members are not welcome in the corridors of power was reinforced by the incident and will take time and effort to undo.

“There was quite a lot of sadness and quite a lot of hurt,” Flagel said at the Ottawa press conference Friday. “There were people that were crying. There was this general sense that they didn’t belong on Parliament Hill, that they didn’t have a place within democratic spaces.

“The whole point of inviting young people to the Hill was for them to be part of the democratic process, for them to have a direct dialogue with cabinet ministers, and so the message seems to have been the contrary.”

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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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