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Ottawa police ‘accept and appreciate’ concerns of Transpo crash victim’s family

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Ottawa police continued to face questions Monday on how they handled notifying Bruce Thomlinson’s family of his death in January’s fatal OC Transpo bus crash at Westboro station.

In a damning letter published by this newspaper two weeks ago, Elaine Thomlinson detailed a harrowing story of how she was treated by various city officials after the crash. In the letter, she says police failed to notify her family of her husband’s death for 27 agonizing hours after the collision during which the family tried to get updates from both police and the hospital. Thomlinson’s family, still not having been told anything, for a time held out hope that he was still alive.

It was the police board that asked the service for the chance to query police brass Monday at the board’s monthly meeting (but during its in-camera session) about how they notify next of kin of loved ones’ deaths.

“We have procedures in place in terms of how we notify next of kin in incidents where there’s been a death and generally that process is done in co-ordination and in conjunction with the coroner’s office, so I think there’s some discussion that the board wants to have in terms of better understanding that process,” Deputy Chief Uday Jaswal said in an interview.

Speaking before the in-camera meeting, Jaswal could only assume that the discussion would involve the Westboro crash.

“I’m sure the board is alive to all those issues and the reporting of (Ms. Thomlinson’s) concerns and we’re happy to speak to those as well. We’ll wait for the board and they’ll obviously lead that discussion,” he said.

“Anytime there’s a concern expressed of that nature, we do a review of our own actions to make sure if there are areas for improvement,” Jaswal said. “At the end of the day, if the family feels that they haven’t got the best service from the Ottawa Police Service in that very traumatic and difficult time, I think it behooves us to look at ways that we can improve or, at least, clarify for ourselves if there’s things that we need to do differently.”

Jaswal said that review has been completed and that some changes have been made, fitting with an “ongoing” assessment of how police take on that difficult work.

Jaswal said the collision investigation unit, the section which handled the Westboro crash, conducts many next of kin notifications. Jaswal called its officers “very professional, very good at what they do” and said “they work with a great sense of care for victims families and loved ones.

“We’ve heard what Ms. Thomlinson’s had to say, we accept and appreciate the expression of that concern and that unhappiness in terms of the way that she felt we had managed those issues and we want to make sure that if we can improve that we do a better job the next time or at least provide greater clarity for the family in any future case.”

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‘Too soon to celebrate’ Ottawa’s low case count, says Etches

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Ottawa Public Health (OPH) logged just 11 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the lowest daily total since Sept. 1.

Because of the lag between testing and reporting, the low number could simply reflect low turnout at the city’s testing sites on weekends — all month, new case counts have been lower on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 

During a virtual news conference Tuesday, the city’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches said she doesn’t read too much into a single day’s report.

“I don’t think we can make too much of 11. Actually, it could be a lot higher tomorrow — I would expect that, on average,” she said. “It’s too soon to celebrate.”

Provincewide, public health officials reported 1, 249 new cases Tuesday.

OPH also declared 62 cases resolved Tuesday, lowering the number of known active cases in the city to 462. Two more people have died, both in care homes currently experiencing outbreaks, raising the city’s COVID-19 death toll to 361. 

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Santa Claus isn’t coming to Ottawa’s major malls this year

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Santa Claus may still be coming to town this Christmas, but he won’t be dropping by any of Ottawa’s major malls, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, Cadillac Fairview said Santa won’t be making an appearance at any of its 19 malls across Canada, including Rideau Centre in downtown Ottawa. On Tuesday, Bayshore and St. Laurent shopping centres confirmed they, too, are scrapping the annual tradition.

“Due to the evolution of the situation in regards to COVID-19, we have made the difficult decision to cancel our Santa Program and Gift Wrap Program this year,” Bayshore spokesperson Sara Macdonald wrote in an email to CBC.

Macdonald said parent company Ivanhoé Cambridge cancelled all holiday activities “due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the country.”

Macdonald said families that had already booked an appointment to visit Santa will receive an email with more information.  

Virtual visits with Santa

Rideau Centre said based on customer research and discussions with public health officials, its North Pole is going online this year.

“Children will be able to have a private chat with Santa,” said Craig Flannagan, vice-president of marketing for Cadillac Fairview. “You’ll also be able to join a 15-minute storytime with Santa over Facebook Live.” 

At Place d’Orléans Shopping Centre, visitors are invited to take a “selfie with Santa” — actually, a life-size cutout of Santa Pierre, the man who’s been playing Santa at the east end mall for years.

“We understand that this is not ideal, but in lieu of this tradition we will be doing what we can to maintain and encourage holiday cheer,” according to a statement on the mall’s Facebook page.

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Ottawa Bylaw breaks up two large parties in Ottawa over the weekend

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OTTAWA — Ottawa Bylaw is investigating social gatherings of more than 10 people in private homes across Ottawa last weekend.

Mayor Jim Watson tells Newstalk 580 CFRA that Ottawa Bylaw broke-up two house parties over the weekend, with 20 to 25 people at each party.

“That’s the kind of stupidity that angers me, that’s where the bulk of the transmissions are taking place, if we exclude the tragedy of the long-term care homes; it’s these house parties with unrelated people,” said Watson on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa at Work with Leslie Roberts.

“The message doesn’t seem to be getting through, particularly to some young people who think they’re invincible.”

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, Bylaw and Regulatory Services Director Roger Chapman says, “There are still ongoing investigations from this past weekend that could result in charges.”

Chapman says recent investigations led to two charges being issued for social gatherings of more than 10 people in a private residence in contravention of the Reopening Ontario Act.

“In one case, up to 30 individuals were observed attending a house party in Ward 18 on Oct. 24,” said Chapman.

“The second charge was issued following a house party in Ward 16 on Oct. 31, where up to 16 individuals were observed to be in attendance.”

The fine is $880 for hosting an illegal gathering.

Alta Vista is Ward 18, while Ward 16 is River Ward.

Ottawa Bylaw has issued 24 charges for illegal gatherings since the start of the pandemic.

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