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‘You get a lot of hugs’: Looking for a match at Ottawa’s last stop for lost and stolen stuff

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If you happen to be missing a framed landscape painting, a set of golf clubs, a banjo or a bike — especially a bike — it might be waiting for you to reclaim it at the Ottawa Police Service’s massive warehouse for lost and stolen stuff in the city’s east end.

“We have everything from big toolboxes down to little CDs. Everything you can think of is here in the general warehouse, and there’s even bigger stuff in this building. We do have cars,” said Bill Keeler, manager of the evidence control centre for the Ottawa police.

Are these yours? Evidence control centre manager Bill Keeler shows of tires on rims at the Ottawa police warehouse. (Christine Maki/CBC)

The Swansea Crescent warehouse contains approximately 100,000 items that were either collected at crime scenes or reported abandoned on the street. If an item is considered evidence, it’s kept separate and is not returned to its owner.

For most other items, police will cross-reference a description with robbery reports. If they find a potential match, they’ll make two attempts to contact the owner. If the owner can provide a detailed description and other identifying information such as a serial number, they can come to collect their item.

The warehouse also holds items left behind on OC Transpo buses, and is a final destination for unclaimed luggage from the Ottawa International Airport. Most items are kept for 90 days — or 30 days for bikes.

Recovered bikes get their own room at the warehouse. (Christine Maki/CBC)

Bicycles are among the most commonly recovered items, earning them their own room at the warehouse.

“We get just an insane amount of bikes,” said Jon Rowan, evidence control supervisor at the warehouse. “We’re picking up on average maybe five to six per day.”

Rowan is hopeful a new program called Garage 529, indicated by these yellow stickers, will help reunite more owners with their stolen bikes. (Christine Maki/CBC)

Despite the high number of recovered bikes, police say only around four per cent are ever reunited with their rightful owners because most bike theft victims never bother to fill out a report. Police are hoping a new program called Garage 529, which registers bicycle serial numbers with police and notifies owners if a match is found, will help boost that statistic.

“It’s a great tool. We’ve had a lot of success with it and there’s been great buy-in by the public. It’s something we believe that is here to stay,” Rowan said.

A very costly mistake

Over the years, police have picked up a number of unusual items. On the day CBC visited the warehouse, its inventory included: a banjo, multiple guitars, computers, a large bag of volleyballs, miscellaneous power tools, tires with rims and garden tools. The warehouse also has a special area where guns are kept.

Everything from golf clubs to power tools to banjos line the shelves. (Christine Maki/CBC)

One of the most unusual items was a tombstone from the 1800s, the name engraved on it only partly decipherable. Despite calling local cemeteries, police were never able to find it a final resting place.

They did once return a comforter that was accidentally donated to charity with $10,000 stuffed inside, thanks to identifying receipts that were with the cash.

“So [the owner] was doing some cleaning up and brought it in for donation and didn’t realize until after he left the money in there. Luckily, the people at the charity turned it over to the police and we were able to get it back to the rightful owner. So everybody was very happy on that one,” Keeler said.

Stolen and recovered guns are kept in a secure area of the warehouse, either waiting to be returned to an owner with proper paperwork, or waiting to be destroyed. (Christine Maki/CBC)

Even if an item has no clear financial value, police will still hold onto it for 90 days.

“It could be something that the grandmother had, or a great-grandmother, and they’ve lost it either in a move or something happens, and they want that back,” Keeler said.

Items that aren’t claimed within that window are put up for auction through the Government of Canada’s auction site, GCSurplus, and local company Rideau Auctions.

Jon Rowan says the number of bikes that come through the warehouse is ‘just insane.’ (Christine Maki/CBC)

Many happy returns

Reuniting lost or stolen items with their owners is mostly a positive experience, Rowan said, especially as many never expected to see their things again.

“[I see] all the emotions ranging from joy to tears. I’ve had people tear up getting an older bike that belonged to their mother,” he said.

“People are generally very happy to get their property back, and that’s what we’re trying to do here every day. You get a lot of hugs.”

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Ottawa Book Expo 2020 – Authors, Publishers look forward to a top-notch Canadian book fair

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Diversity has always been a complex issue, no matter where you look.Case in point, world-famous writer, Stephen King, has recently come under criticism for his views on diversity. The best-selling author had stated, “I would never consider diversity in matters of art, only quality. It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong.” Many criticized the novelist as being out of touch and “ignorant,” but one cannot deny that King’s opinions on diversity, mirror the thoughts of a whole lot of people in the creative industry.

The Toronto Book Expo is coming back in 2020, with a multi-cultural concept that aims to include marginalized authors.  The Expo intends to celebrate literary works of diverse cultural backgrounds, and the entire literary community in Canada is expectant. Book-lovers and writers alike, are invited to three days of uninhibited literary celebration where diverse cultural works will be prioritized. At the event, authors will be allowed to share their culture with a broad audience. The audience will be there specifically to purchase multi-cultural works.

Multicultural literary expos do not come every day. In Canada, there is a noticeable lack of literary events celebrating other cultures. This leads to a significantly lower amount of cultural diversity in the industry. The Toronto Book Expo would aim at giving more recognition to these marginalized voices. Understandably, more recognizable work will be prioritized.

The Toronto Book Expo is making a statement that diversity is needed in the literary community. The statement is truly motivating, especially if you consider the fact that this could mean more culturally diverse works of literature.

There is a lot of noticeable cultural ignorance in literature. This is an issue that needs to be addressed and books are one of the best means of improving multi-cultural diversity in literature. The Toronto Book Expo is going to fully utilize books to fight ignorance in the literary industry.

Real progress cannot be made if there is a substantial amount of ignorant people in the industry. In spite of advancements made in education in recent years, there is still a considerable percentage of adults who remain unable to read and write.The Toronto Book Expo aims to bring awareness to social literacy issues such as illiteracy.

It is important to uphold high literacy levels in the community and to support those who are uneducated. A thriving society cannot be achieved if the community is not able to read their civil liberties and write down their grievances.

The major foundation of a working and dynamic society is entrenched in literature. Literature offers us an understandingof the changes being made to our community.

The event would go on for three days at three different venues. Day 1 would hold at the York University Student & Convention Centre at 15 Library Lane on March 19. Day 2 would be held at the Bram and BlumaAppel Salon Facility on the second floor of the main Toronto Reference Library near Yonge and Bloor Streets in downtown Toronto on March 21 and day 3 of the expo would take place at the internationally famous Roy Thomson Hall.

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A Week In Ottawa, ON, On A $75,300 Salary

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Welcome to Money Diaries, where we’re tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We’re asking millennials how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we’re tracking every last dollar.Attention, Canadians! We’re featuring Money Diaries from across Canada on a regular basis, and we want to hear from you. Submit your Money Diary here.Today: a biologist working in government who makes $75,300 per year and spends some of her money this week on a bathing suit. Occupation: Biologist
Industry: Government
Age: 27
Location: Ottawa, ON
Salary: $75,300
Paycheque Amount (2x/month): $1,930
Gender Identity: Woman

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Ottawa doctor pens nursery rhyme to teach proper handwashing

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An Ottawa doctor has turned to song to teach kids — and adults, for that matter — how to wash their hands to prevent the spread of germs.

Dr. Nisha Thampi, an infectious disease physician at CHEO, the area’s children’s hospital, created a video set to the tune of Frère Jacques and featuring the six-step handwashing method recommended by the World Health Organization.

Thampi’s 25-second rendition, which was co-authored by her daughter and Dr. Yves Longtin, an infectious disease specialist at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, is featured in the December issue of The BMJ, or British Medical Journal. 

Thampi said as an infectious disease physician and a mother of two, she thinks a lot about germs at home and school.

“I was trying to find a fun way to remember the stuff,” she said. “There are six steps that have been codified by the World Health Organization, but they’re complex and hard to remember.” 

Thampi said she came up with the idea to rewrite the lyrics to the nursery rhyme on World Hand Hygiene Day in May, when she was thinking about how to help people remember the technique. 

She said studies have shown that handwashing is effective in reducing the risk of diarrhea-related illnesses and respiratory diseases. 

“So I’d say it’s one of the most important and easiest things we can do.”

The video includes such often-overlooked steps as “wash the back,” “twirl the tips around” and “thumb attack,” which pays special attention to the first digit.

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