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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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Record one million job losses in March: StatCan

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OTTAWA — More than one million Canadians lost their jobs in the month of March, Statistics Canada is reporting. The unemployment rate has also climbed to 7.8 per cent, up from 2.2 percentage points since February.

Canada’s national statistics agency released its monthly Labour Force Survey on Thursday, using March 15 to 21 as the sample week – a time when the government began enforcing strict guidelines around social gatherings and called on non-essential businesses to close up shop.

The first snapshot of job loss since COVID-19 began taking a toll on the Canadian economy shows 1.1 million out of work since the prior sample period and a consequent decrease in the employment rate – the lowest since April 1997. The most job losses occurred in the private sector and among people aged 15-24.

The number of people who were unemployed increased by 413,000, resulting in the largest one-month increase in Canada’s unemployment rate on record and takes the economy back to a state last seen in October, 2010.

“Almost all of the increase in unemployment was due to temporary layoffs, meaning that workers expected to return to their job within six months,” reads the findings.

The agency included three new indicators, on top of the usual criteria, to better reflect the impact of COVID-19 on employment across the country.

The survey, for example, excludes the more commonly observed reasons for absent workers — such as vacation, weather, parental leave or a strike or lockout — to better isolate the pandemic’s effect.

They looked at: people who are employed but were out of a job during the reference week, people who are employed but worked less than half their usual hours, and people who are unemployed but would like a job.

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Employee at Ottawa’s Amazon Fulfillment Centre tests positive for COVID-19

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OTTAWA — An employee who works at Amazon’s fulfillment centre on Boundary Road in Ottawa’s east-end has tested positive for COVID-19.

Amazon says it learned on April 3 that an associate tested positive for novel coronavirus and is currently in isolation. The employee last worked at the fulfillment centre on March 19.

Two employees told CTV News Ottawa that management informed all employees about the positive test in a text message over the weekend.

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, Amazon spokesperson Jen Crowcroft wrote “we are supporting the individual who is recovering. We are following guidelines from health officials and medical experts, and are taking extreme measures to ensure the safety of employees at our site.”

The statement also says that Amazon has taken steps to further protect their employees.

“We have also implemented proactive measures at our facilities to protect employees including increased cleaning at all facilities, maintaining social distance in the FC.”

CTV News Ottawa asked Amazon about the timeline between when the company found out about the positive COVID-19 case and when employees were notified.

In a separate email to CTV News Ottawa, Crowcroft said “all associates of our Boundary Road fulfillment centre in Ottawa were notified within 24 hours of learning of the positive COVID-19 case.”

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Ottawa facing silent spring as festivals, events cancelled

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This is shaping up to be Ottawa’s silent spring — and summer’s sounding pretty bleak, too — as more and more concerts, festivals and other annual events are cancelled in the wake of measures meant to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The province has already banned gatherings of more than five people, and on Monday officials announced city parks, facilities and services will remain shut down until the end of June, nor will any event permits be issued until at least that time.

“This leaves us with no choice but to cancel the festival this year,” Ottawa Jazz Festival artistic director Petr Cancura confirmed Monday.

This was to be the festival’s 40th anniversary, and organizers announced the lineup for the June 19-July 1 event the day after Ottawa’s first confirmed case of COVID-19. 

The Toronto and Montreal jazz festivals had already pulled the plug because of similar restrictions in their cities, so Cancura said the writing was on the wall.

“We have a few contingency plans to keep connecting with our audience and working with our artists,” Cancura said.

People holding tickets to the 2020 festival can ask for a refund or exchange for a 2021 pass.

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