Category Archives: DataJournlism4_2016

Should Ottawa citizens give zero waste a chance ?

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When it seems difficult for Ottawa citizens to significantly decrease their waste production, a Gatineau mom has the solution : buy as little wrapping as possible, and a lot of organization.

Jodi Wilson in front of her car before going to do the groceries. She lives a "zero waste" lifestyle and has always reusable bags and jars in the back of her car.
Jodi Wilson in front of her car before going to do the groceries. She lives a “zero waste” lifestyle and has always reusable bags and jars in the back of her car.

Jodi Wilson is a stay at home mom and co-owns the soap shop A Dream Lived Greener. She is also “zero waste” : two years ago, she decided that she would drastically reduce her garbage production.

“I just don’t want to contribute to the pollution to sending everything to landfills and the greenhouse gas it generates,” she said.

Wilson buys her groceries in bulk and uses her own reusable bags and jars. She makes her soap, toothpaste and deodorant herself. She washes the family house using only vinegar and baking soda. 

A work that requires an important organisation, but it pays off. Wilson estimates that she saves money by buying large quantities in bulk and resisting compulsive buying of goods wrapped in paper and plastic.

But more importantly, she realized that her waste of the past month can be contained in a small jar.

“It’s really good to see,” she said. Being zero waste made her realized how much waste she produced before, and how much goods are packaged in plastic in the supermarkets. 

In comparison, an Ottawa citizen produces 30kg of waste per month (360kg a year), according to the City of Ottawa 2011 waste plan data.

Wilson’s radical lifestyle transformation is not representative of the general trend that applies to the population of Ottawa.

Over the past five years, the waste generation remained stable, while the population is expected to increase, a study of the open data from the City of Ottawa website shows.

This should not be enough to avoid the implementation of a new landfill in Ottawa. Indeed, the Trail Road landfill is schedule to close in 2044, and the closure deadline depends on the amount of waste produced each year by households and companies.

The City has not come up with a solution on the matter and declined to comment on the subject.

In the meantime, the accent was put on waste diversion to resolve Ottawa’s waste problem.

“The more we can divert, the better,” said Mayor Jim Watson after the waste management company Plasco went bankrupt two years ago. “It’s in our collective interest and the fiscally responsible thing to do to continue to put as much as we can in the blue, black and green bins.”

The introduction of the green bin program in 2010 permitted to divert a great deal of waste from the landfills. But even here, the dynamic is now faltering. In 2014, the waste diversion rate was slightly lower than in 2013.

Note : This graphic shows a decrease in garbage sent to landfills per year after the start of the green bin program in 2010. The organic bin enabled to increase the diversion rates. However, the trend seem to change in 2014, as less people seem to have use their green bin.

Can the situation be solved thanks to changes in lifestyle ? Wilson seems to think so. But she insists that being zero waste requires a lot of organization, especially with children.

“It makes it difficult because you have to go to multiple places to shop,” she said.

For her, it is not necessary to be completely zero waste to help make a change, but participate by doing little things, like refusing disposable bags.

“The more the people do the little things, I think it would change maybe how businesses think and it might make changes in the future,” she said.

Hunters rid Ottawa of an increasing number of needles

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Needle hunters and city staff picked 18,280 needles off the streets of Ottawa in 2015. Photo credit: Guilhem Vellut (Flickr)
Needle hunters and city staff picked 18,280 needles off the streets of Ottawa in 2015. Photo credit: Guilhem Vellut (Flickr)

Every day, Bill Ross sends out 40 front-line workers to scavenge the streets of Ottawa for used needles, crack pipes, condoms and sometimes, broken glass.

These women and men are needle hunters who work with the Causeway Work Centre, a not-for-profit agency. Their finds vary each month. Ross said they picked about 2,600 needles off the street in October.

“A lot of these people used to be drug addicts and they feel like they are giving something back by going out and cleaning these areas up,” he said.

According to analysis of data from the City of Ottawa, needle hunters picked more than 17,000 needles off the streets in 2015, a 32 per cent increase from the 2014 total, and more than fifteen times the number retrieved by city staff.

Since 2013, Causeway’s needle hunters have picked an increasing number of improperly disposed drug paraphernalia off the streets, every year.

“They are really responses to the transient nature of needle hotspots,” Dan Osterer, the spokesperson for the health hazard unit at Ottawa Public Health said about why the numbers keep increasing.

Ottawa Public Health and Causeway regularly work together to fine tune needle hunting routes, which results in higher finds,  said Osterer.

When Ross started managing the program at Causeway in 2007, he said the hunting routes were not very organized. His organization had fewer hunters who worked only morning shifts.

“When we added the afternoon shifts and we added more people downtown, that meant that we were hitting every park, every school yard, every play ground twice a day,” Ross said.

During one recent exercise, Ross said hunters found about 900 needles stashed at a building downtown.

(Play the Soundclod file to hear Don Ross talk about Causeway’s needle hunting program)

The hunters clean up 10 routes during the summer, scouting the Byward market area, Vanier, Carlington and Centretown in the mornings and late afternoons.

“Spots come and go and we just keep adding or taking away. Some places just die out,” Ross said about routes with the highest number of needles..

The city introduced a winter route in 2012. There’s only one active hunting route for the winter.

“The first couple years had moderate returns but we fine-tuned the way that the winter route functions and that has also led to increase in the finds,” Osterer said.

876,763 objects were dropped in Needle boxes across the city in 2015, a seven percent decrease in the numbers retrieved in 2014.

20161208_131421
This needle drop box stands beside  Causeway’s parking lot. There are 78 of these boxes in Ottawa where needles, syringes and glass stems can be disposed. Photo credit: Halima Sogbesan.

“It is an estimated number,” Osterer said about the decrease. “We do endeavor to put drop boxes in areas that we think would balance both public safety and encourage usage to ensure public safety.”

There are 78 needle drop boxes across the city where needles and other related paraphernalia can be disposed.

(Click on the icons in the map to see the location of the needle drop boxes in Ottawa. You can also click on the ‘+’ and ‘-‘ buttons under the map to zoom in and out) 

Source: City of Ottawa

Osterer guessed that this year’s collection numbers would return to average, but the final number aren’t out yet.

Regarding the risk of needle hunting, Ross said his message is always clear to his hunters.

“I’ve always put forward that their safety comes first,” he said. “If there’s a problem, if there’s somebody back in that alley that’s yelling and screaming, don’t go in.”

(Click on the annotated image to see the City of Ottawa document on what to do with used needles and crack pipes)



 

Ontario energy assistance fails to reach most vulnerable customers

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After more than a year, less than one-third of eligible customers have successfully enrolled in the Ontario Electricity Support Program, according to data obtained from the Ontario Energy Board.

An estimated 570,000 low-income customers are eligible for the province’s flagship energy assistance fund – a program the government has spent more than $12 million advertising – but only 163,000 of these customers were registered as of Nov. 30.

“We continue to receive approximately 3,000 applications per week,” said Karen Evans, a spokesperson for the OEB. “Once the completed application and signed consent form has been received from the applicant, it typically takes less than four weeks to confirm eligibility.”

But with only 258,000 total applications processed, it could take as long as two years before all eligible customers are registered – and that’s assuming everyone who applies is accepted.

“If everyone truly had the best interest of low-income customers at heart, they’d be working with community agencies to find a way to get the resource – the OESP grant – to the people who need it most,” said Francesca Dobbyn, executive director of the United Way of Bruce-Grey County.

“With no computer, Internet or printer, applicants rely on social agencies to assist them in applying, which can be difficult in rural communities with no transportation systems.”

Dobbyn says the application process itself can also be a barrier. For example, the Canada Revenue Agency, which assists the OEB in verifying an applicant’s income, requires all consent forms be completed by hand – meaning nothing can be faxed or emailed.

“The CRA requires a ‘wet’ signature,” said Dobbyn. “They [the OEB] tried to get around it, but the CRA insisted.”

Assistance hard to come by

Mel Kemp and Peter Burnette lived without electricity for more than three months after Hydro One cut off their power in August.

Following unusually heavy rains at the end of summer, the couple’s basement was flooded – thanks largely to having no electricity.

“With no working sump pump, the insurance won’t cover any of the water damage,” said Kemp, a 57-year-old school bus driver. “There are some agencies out there that are willing to help a bit, but you have to keep phoning around and finding other agencies because none of them will help totally.”

Despite having only one part-time job between the two of them, Kemp and Burnette are not currently registered with the OESP.

“Finding out about [assistance programs] was a challenge to begin with,” said Kemp. “It’s almost like too little too late. You know, like, with your bills they’ll give you $20 or $30 off.”

Less than 5% of disconnected customers registered

Nancy Taylor, vice president of Kingston Hydro, says less than five per cent of all customers disconnected by the utility provider last year are currently registered with the OESP.

“Of the about 600 disconnects that have taken place in 2015, only 31 accounts are on the Ontario Electricity Support Program,” said Taylor. “So it’s quite likely there are customers that could be eligible for that plan that haven’t signed up for it yet.”

For a municipally-owned and operated utility provider, disconnecting customers is an absolute last resort, said Taylor. That’s why programs like the OESP are so important.

“They’re our friends, neighbours and families, so we’re very conscious of the impact high electricity prices are having and we’re very empathetic.”

Unfortunately, Taylor, like Dobbyn, is not entirely confident in the OESP’s capacity to help those who require it most.

“The current process may not be getting the assistance to the people who really need it,” said Taylor, adding that of the utility’s roughly 24,000 residential customers, only one thousand are currently registered with the OESP.

Still, Taylor says her company is working hard to keep customers connected and address the broader needs of the community as a whole.

“When you’re in a situation where you have low ncome, often it’s associated with other thing as well,” said Taylor. “Mental illness, learning disabilities, addictions – and so it’s a much more complicated problem than we understand.”

Legal battle boils in Quebec over maple syrup production

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Future cloudy for syrup seller vs. “maple mafia”

Christine Generoux is not a fan of over-regulation. The outspoken Byward Market standholder started a petition against the city’s outdoor smoking bylaw in 2012, and spoke out publicly against another bylaw in 2014 that required all food sold in a market stall to be at least 51 per cent pure. When it comes to the so-called “maple mafia” in Quebec though – The Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers (FPAQ) – her feelings are mixed.

Continue reading Legal battle boils in Quebec over maple syrup production

Corrections Canada struggles to meet needs of aging prison population

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Photo Credit: Megan McPhaden Karol Frimmel Jr., 60, sits on his bed at Maison Crossroads, a federal halfway house that offers services targeted to older offenders.
Photo Credit: Megan McPhaden
Karol Frimmel Jr. sits on his bed at Maison Crossroads, a federal halfway house that offers services targeted to older offenders.

The percentage of inmates over the age of 50 in federal penitentiaries is growing at an alarming rate and Correctional Service of Canada is struggling to keep up with the healthcare and mobility needs for aging offenders.

Known as the “grey wave”, every year older offenders are making up a larger share of the incarcerated population according to Offender Profile data from Correctional Service Canada. The percentage of inmates over the age of 50 has nearly doubled since the early 2000s from 13 per cent to 25 per cent today, according to statistics from the CSC watchdog.

Michel Gagnon, executive director for Maison Crossroads — a men’s halfway house in Montreal that provides services targeted for older offenders, says the explanation for this phenomenon can be partially explained by the abolishment of the death penalty in 1976.

“People who had committed a crime or murder before the 70s would usually be sent to prison for 10 to 12 years.” After the death penalty ended that changed. “Suddenly a life sentence could go from 15 to 25 years in jail,” Gagnon said.

A report by David Hooey, director of policy and research with the CSC watchdog gives a few reasons for the increase. Longer sentences have resulted in a “stacking effect” of long-term offenders who are aging behind bars. One out of four inmates in federal penitentiaries are serving indeterminate or life sentences which carry on average a 15 or 25-year punishment.


“What we know about these (older) offenders is they are more likely to be a vulnerable population. More likely to be: exploited by other inmates, bullied, forced to hand over their food or medication; they have serious chronic health conditions,” Ivan Zinger said, executive director and general counsel for the Correctional Service Investigator.

“The system is not very good in terms of providing routine and regime that are responsive to their life status.” Zinger adds that CSC has a lot of work to do in order to improve the infrastructure and programming for aging offenders.

In the Correctional Service Investigator’s annual report for 2015-2016 the top two complaints from offenders were healthcare related and conditions of confinement.

“Suddenly we are asking personnel in the prison to have some sort of geriatric expertise,” Gagnon said.

60-year-old Karol Frimmel Jr., a recent parolee, recalled assisting elderly inmates with showering and dressing while he was in prison in Quebec.

Gagnon is hoping to work with Corrections Services Canada towards an intervention model that would allow for a faster release of inmates who are suffering from health issues that are aggravated by imprisonment, and no longer pose a threat to the community.

Terminally ill and other inmates suffering from poor health have only two real mechanisms for seeking release: either they apply for a parole by exception (based on certain criteria) or a Royal Prerogative of Mercy. Neither has proven to be effective for releasing inmates requiring palliative care.

In the Correctional Investigator’s annual report for 2014-2015 none of the 28 requests for the Royal Prerogative of Mercy were granted. Zinger examined a sample of 94 in-custody deaths and found nearly 60 per cent of the inmates had been receiving palliative care inside CSC facilities. Of those cases, there were only four instances where parole by exception was granted between 2011 and 2014.

Source: 2015-2016 Correctional Investigator’s Annual Report

“There are no issues around risk when people are in palliative care under last breath and I think there is a significant case to be made in terms of human dignity,” Zinger said.

“It serves very little purpose to have someone in prison if there is no risk, instead of in the community, hopefully surrounded with family and some sort of support.”

High education levels in Somerset ward

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By: Brenna Mackay

Each weekday morning, Amanda Paisley wakes up, packs her lunch and runs to catch the bus to work. Living downtown and working in Bell Corners in Kanata isn’t convenient, she admits, but it’s a price to pay to live on bustling Elgin Street.

Paisley, 25, is a recent graduate from Carleton University, receiving her BA in law in 2015. She’s one of many university educated citizens who have chosen to reside in the Somerset ward. According to the 2011 National Household Survey, the Somerset ward is home to the largest population of university graduates in the city, with 13,425 residents, aged 25-64 having a university degree at the Bachelors level or higher.

Map of Residents with a University Degree, created with data from 2011 National Household Survey

This is equal to roughly 33 per cent of the population, based on City of Ottawa population and household estimates by ward. Not far behind, the Kitchissippi and Capital wards see high numbers of university educated citizens too.

Paisley says she chose to live in the Somerset ward following graduation because she appreciates the convenience of her location.

“Everything you really need is like, two blocks to get to,” she explains. Easy access to amenities such grocery stores, drug stores and the transit way were a huge selling point when trying to determine where she would live.

However, she admits that her living choice is by no means the cheaper option, especially for a recent graduate.

“You understand that you’re paying for your location more than you’re paying for your actual apartment and you just have to deal with that.”

Catherine McKenney, Councillor of the Somerset ward, says that she is proud to know that well-educated individuals are choosing to make Somerset their home.

“The city works hard to provide support and job opportunities for university graduates,” she shares. “We realize they play an important role in shaping our community.”

However, Paisley argues that the city should do more to provide resources for recent grads to get on their feet. She says she found her apartment and job through Kijiji, separate from any university or government program.

“To jump through those hoops can get really time consuming,” she explains. “My job nor my apartment had anything to do with the city. The government hasn’t really made it easier to deal with.”

Amanda Paisley, recent graduate, says that city should be doing more to support youth in finding work and housing. Picture: Brenna Mackay
Amanda Paisley, recent graduate, says that city should be doing more to support youth in finding work and housing.
Picture: Brenna Mackay

McKenney explains there is a job board that lists careers within the City of Ottawa as well as a housing website that offers resources for finding affordable lodging.
“These resources are largely directed towards those who are less advantage and need that extra support,” she admits.

Paisley suggests that having a localized site for renters and apartments that have been deemed acceptable by the city would be a great resource for apartment-hunters. Additionally, providing workplaces with incentives to hire a recent graduates would be a way to motivate companies to give young workers a chance to get their foot in the door.

“That would make it more likely to hire new grad, rather than no hiring at all, which is often the case,” she explains.

Looking forward, Paisley says she could definitely see herself living in Somerset ward as she gets more established in her career. However, she admits she would be hesitant to raise a family in such a busy and compact neighbourhood.

“There isn’t really space to spread out unless you have the money for it,” she explains.
“You’re usually confined to about two or three rooms and that could get complicated with a kids and family.”

She envisions a future with a backyard where she can sit outdoors and barbecue.

Marijuana Trafficking Arrests Decreasing Despite Recent Raids

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WeeMedical Dispensary was one of seven dispensaries raided by Ottawa Police in early November
WeeMedical Dispensary was one of seven dispensaries raided by Ottawa Police in early November. Photo by Darren Major

Ben started selling marijuana when he was a teenager. He was 17 when he was charged with possession of under 28 grams of marijuana.

“I didn’t tell my parents at the time and dealt with it purely on my own, which is a lot for a 17 year old to take on,” he says.

His encounter with the law did not stop him from selling marijuana. Because of this Ben asked to remain anonymous. Ironically his brush with the law had almost the exact opposite effect. Ben was given a conditional discharge fro making a thousand dollar donation to charity.

“I don’t think it did anything to make me not want to sell weed,” he says. In fact it motivate him.

“I thought, ‘I have this fat fine to pay, I better sell more weed.'” he says.

Ben may be a poster boy for how prohibition has not had its intended effects. With the federal government poised to introduce legislation in the spring that would legalize cannabis, numbers are indicating that the legal system is preparing to adapt to legalization.

According to incident based crime numbers from Statistics Canada, possession and trafficking arrests have decreased significantly since 2011. While arrests for possession have dropped by a quarter nationwide, trafficking arrests have ben nearly cut in half. In Ottawa, trafficking arrests have dropped by an astounding 57 per cent.


Eugene Oscapella is a drug reform policy expert and advisor. His company, Oscapella and Associates Consulting, has been researching drug policy since 1985. He says that it is difficult to pin the decrease in arrest numbers on any one cause, but that it is likely a combination of police and prosecutors not wanting to of after small possession and trafficking cases. Particularly given that cannabis is likely going to be legalized within the next few years.

“I doubt very much that it is because of decreased use or decreased activity,” he says.

Despite the drop in trafficking arrests, Ottwa Police cracked down on seven local dispensaries last month. While Oscapella is in favour of legalization, he says there is a difference between small trafficking cases and dispensaries because they appear somewhat legitimate.  “These dispensaries are essentially trafficking,” he says.

Source: Ottawa Police Press Release

Oscapella says that because of the lack of quality controls and regulations, dispensaries could be selling product that is of poor health quality. “All you’ve got are the promises of the people running these dispensaries,” he says.

“This is basically a wild west environment,” Oscapella says.

It is not clear whether the regulatory system introduced by the government would allow for private dispensaries. For now it appears that they are taking advantage of the public mood, assuming enforcement will be minimal and make money. “Its what capitalists do,” Oscapella says.

Like Ben, with his first brush with the law, some dispensaries do not appear moved by the recent raids. Some, such as WeeMedical Dispensary on St. Laurent Boulevard have already reopened. However Ben believes they might suffer some loss of business. “At this point I think they are more sketchy than coming to me right now, because of the raids,” he says.

Ben says that dispensaries are attractive in part because they have an air of legitimacy with an office, as opposed to his small apartment, complete with his personal smoking devices. “They hand out cards but they don’t really mean anything,” he says.

“If it would mean getting people to come here I would make a card. You could get  stamp every time you come.”

However Ben sees dispensaries as a glimpse into what legalization may look like, even though dispensaries may not be included in the new system.

“I think once its legalized people are going to step up their game and leave us street dealers behind,” he says. “But that could be a good thing.”

Language courses more critical than ever for refugees to Canada

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Asam Aldori narrows his eyes and knits his bushy brow.

He’s choosing his words carefully.

“This country protected me — helped me, saved me and my family,” he says in broken English. “That means I must know the culture and must connect with the people: do something for this country.”

Fifty years old, Aldori lives with his three children in a modest apartment in Ottawa’s Vanier neighbourhood.

It’s a world away from their native Baghdad: a city they had to flee in 2007, after al-Qaeda threatened to kill Aldori for his work with a prominent Iraqi politician.

The family escaped to the Syrian capital of Damascus. Four years later, war found them again.

When they arrived in Ottawa as government-assisted refugees in June 2015, the Aldoris faced a challenge shared by a growing number of refugees who call Canada home: learning English or French.

According to analysis of data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, 54 per cent of refugees who arrived in Canada in 2014 didn’t know either English or French. It was the first time since 2002 that more than half of refugees arriving in Canada weren’t familiar with either of the country’s official languages.

Though learning a new language can be a daunting challenge — especially later in life — it’s one Aldori is determined to overcome.

“Language is very important here. Because if I want to work, I must talk. If I go out shopping, I must talk,” he says.

“I don’t sit in my home and talk only Arabic. No,” he adds, shaking his head. “I go out and talk — with anyone.”

Speaking to the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights last May, federal Immigration Minister John McCallum said language training is a “top priority” when it comes to refugees.

It’s a priority that Emilie Coyle knows well.

“It’s paramount,” she says. “It’s the first thing you have work on — that and getting gainful employment.”

Coyle is the senior director of newcomer services with the YMCA-YWCA of the National Capital Region. Her team includes Ottawa’s Language Assessment and Referral Centre, which determines newcomers’ ability to read, write, speak, and listen in either English or French.

Coyle and her colleagues are seeing more and more refugees with little to no knowledge of English or French. Of all the Syrian refugees assessed by the centre since April, 84 per cent were found to be illiterate in their own language, never mind English or French.

That shouldn’t be surprising, she adds, because the government purposefully resettled the most vulnerable of refugees.

With so many refugees having received little in the way of formal schooling, Coyle says language schools are trying to develop new approaches to allow students to learn outside the classroom — and maybe even find work, too.

“It’s really unrealistic for us to think that they can be spending all this time sitting in a chair in a classroom,” she says. “Contrary to what some people believe, refugees are not here to live off the system.”

Refugees in Canada - Arrivals vs. Language Course Participation

Source: Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (Facts and Figures 2014). (Graphic credit: Marc-André Cossette)

For now, Aldori is more than happy to be attending ESL courses five days a week, between 9 a.m. and noon from Monday to Friday. He started only two months after he first arrived, and he’s progressed two levels.

But it’s his children’s own progress that he is most proud of. None of his three kids spoke English when they came to Canada, but Aldori says two of them are already at the top of their class in school.

“It’s a good life and a safe life,” he says. “I and my family are very lucky.”

Originally from Baghdad, Asam Aldori and his three children arrived in Ottawa as refugees in June 2015. Aldori attends ESL courses five days a week to learn English. (Photo credit: Marc-André Cossette)
Originally from Baghdad, Asam Aldori and his three children arrived in Ottawa as refugees in June 2015. Aldori attends ESL courses five days a week to learn English. (Photo credit: Marc-André Cossette)

Suicide rates remain stagnant for youth in Ottawa

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Trying to help someone with mental health issues only when they show signs of self-harm isn’t proactive — it’s reactive.

Counsellor Nathaniel Jewitt equates this problem to a focus on preventing suicide —but only when a person is at the edge of a cliff.

“If somebody is starting to acknowledge that they’re suicidal, there’s already been a lot of pain and suffering and that’s been going on for a while,” said Jewitt, counsellor for Carleton’s Health and Counselling Services.

More has to be done for those facing mental health issues before they reach a point where self-harm and suicide is a thought, said Jewitt, who is one of three counsellors specifically allocated to Carleton’s residences.

“Counselling isn’t the only solution for all of that. It’s how we build communities, how we teach people to make decisions and coach themselves and others through their lives,” he said.

Nathaniel Jewitt, a counsellor for Carleton's Health and Counselling services helps students in residence who might be dealing with anxiety and depression. He's pictured here in his office. Photo by Olivia Bowden.
Nathaniel Jewitt, a counsellor for Carleton’s Health and Counselling services helps students in residence who might be dealing with anxiety and depression. He’s pictured here in his office. Photo by Olivia Bowden.

While services like counselling and crisis hotlines work to prevent suicide, the suicide rate in Canada has remained relatively stagnant since 2000 with suicides making up about 1.5 per cent of all deaths, according to data from the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey compiled by Statistics Canada.

Tableau Graph

The above data was compiled via the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey published by Statistics Canada. Click here to view the graph in full. 

For those aged 15 to 24 the average is similar and has also remained fairly stagnant.

For Ottawans in that demographic, the average rate between 2005 and 2009 was six per 100,000 for men and four for women, according to Ontario Mortality Data extracted by the City of Ottawa.

According to Ottawa Public Health Data, about 600 women per 100,000 aged 15 to 24 were admitted to emergency rooms for self harm in 2012, with the rate being about 195 for men.

As a counsellor for students in residence specifically, Jewitt’s office is in Renfrew House on the first floor. Posters in the offices advertise for Tuesday afternoon therapy dog visits and it’s not far from where students live on the floor above. He’s one of three counsellors allocated for that office.

He said common issues among students include depression and anxiety, often related to being away from home for the first time or navigating new social environments.

Interacting with others and reminding each other that it’s normal to be imperfect tends to reduce anxiety, he said.

He said the key to preventing someone from reaching a crisis point with their mental health is to first reduce stigma surrounding valuing emotional well-being.

“It’s about taking emotional needs seriously, but also learning how to manage expectations and deal with hard times,” he said.

The above graphic was compiled using data from the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey published by Statistics Canada and The State of Ottawa’s Health 2014 report published by the City of Ottawa. 

Finding resources to help develop those abilities and navigate challenging environments can be difficult-especially for youth, said Charissa Feres.

Feres is an undergraduate student at Carleton University and Vice-President of Student Issues at the Student Alliance for Mental Health (SAMH).

Dealing with her own experiences with mental illness and trouble accessing services caused her to get involved with SAMH to help others going through similar concerns.

Recognizing that a discussion can be had about self-harm without rushing to call 9-1-1 is important, she said.

“There’s different levels to suicidality. A large amount of people who are suicidal aren’t necessarily at that level of intent,” she said.

Charissa Feres
Charissa Feres from Carleton’s Student Alliance for Mental Health says suicide prevention needs to be more proactive. Photo by Olivia Bowden

Spaces where there isn’t fear of being sent to an emergency room are important —unless there is an imminent threat to that person’s life, and then 9-1-1 is necessary, she said.

Recognizing the core reasons for someone reaching a stage where self-harm is considered is crucial, she added.

There can be issues of secure housing, financial instability and multiple oppressions and discrimination that cannot be ignored.

“It’s not always about restricted means,” she said.

“When we talk about suicide prevention, often we are talking too late in the spectrum. We need to talk about preventing suicidal thoughts to begin with.”

Scroll over photos for captions. 

Struggling Italian bakery sets sights on brighter future

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Massimo Marti, 43, and Ottavio Formica, 44, work from dusk until dawn making all assortments of bread. Source: Peter Rukavina
Massimo Marti, 43, and Ottavio Formica, 44, work from dusk until dawn making all assortments of bread.
Source: Peter Rukavina

Throughout its six years of trials and triumphs, Little Italy Bakery is bouncing back after a temporary closure earlier this year, adding to a lengthy list of painstaking struggles that has rid the confined bakery of its desired potential.

Located in the heart of Preston St., the authentic Italian kitchen has long spent its days and nights hand making the bread of its customer’s desires. Whether it’s for the city’s craving restaurants and banquet halls, loyal walk-ins or an in-need individual during the holidays, the orders that come in have been met regardless of the business’ circumstances.

Many have walked through the doors of Little Italy Bakery, including health and food inspectors that often flag the business as being in violation. Source: Peter Rukavina
Many have walked through the doors of Little Italy Bakery, including health and food inspectors that often flag the business as being in violation.
Source: Peter Rukavina

“If you’re closed for a week, you’re finished, you’re dead,” admits Ottavio Formica, who has been with the bakery since it’s opening in 2011. “I mean [customers] might wait a day, but they need the bread then and there so if they have to go somewhere else they will.”

Although it was not the first time, such circumstances nearly plagued the bakery in the early months of 2016. On March 9, after an inspector from Ottawa Public Health deemed their sanitation and food protection to be unacceptable, they were shut down. On March 11, after a frantic two-day effort to comply with the city’s regulations was made, Little Italy Bakery reopened with a sigh of relief.

Massimo Marti, owner of Little Italy Bakery, says it was a setback that they could barely afford. “We have no choice but to work hard,” says Marti, who emigrated from Calabria, Italy in 2008. “Tomorrow is supposed to be freezing rain and ten centimetres [of snow], but if you ordered the bread, the bread is coming.”

Evidently, this workhorse attitude of Marti, Formica and the bakery’s three other employees has been its saving grace. According to the City of Ottawa’s inspections data, Little Italy Bakery has been subject to the most non-complacent run-ins with city health and food inspectors since 2013.

In addition to these issues, the bakery has suffered mightily throughout Marti’s contention with the government. Throughout trials of his family’s deportation, the working permits of he and his wife, Vittoria Toscano, and his pending permanent residency, Marti has been, at times, forcibly absent from his high-demand bakery, leaving Formica and others to work for unwavering stretches of time. Working 24 shifts with a quick rest in between, they continued to make good on the bakery’s deliveries until Marti’s work permit was granted.

“It’s a very loyal friendship,” smiles Marti as he cradles his right hand, which has been frozen with carpal tunnel after an intensive work week. “We’re friends, I’m not an employer, he’s my friend.”

Along with Toscano, Marti and Formica have been working the Preston St. locale since the start. Having purchased the vicinity from past bakers, their compact kitchen, which stretches no more than 15 feet wide, has been serving bread for nearly six decades.

“Everyone gets inspected under the same regulations so of course older buildings don’t appear as great, however, that’s not an excuse,” says Toni D’Ettorre, an inspector supervisor from Ottawa Public Health that notes older buildings like Marti’s can slow down attempts to comply with food regulations. “Sometimes these types of establishments take more time to get a resolution than others.”

Marti's closure resulted from an Ottawa Public Health report that claims food protection (sec. 26), garbage removal (sec. 57) and sanitation (sec. 59, 68, 81) were not in compliance. Source: Government of Ontario

According to Marti, his hope for a bigger bakery that can handle more orders is currently on the backburner. Without a permanent residency, his future of working in Canada, along with the future of the bakery, is cloudy.

“I’m sorry. I’m still fixing my families situation. When I’m okay, the business will be more focused on.”

Little Italy Bakery from Peter Rukavina on Vimeo.

In the video above, Marti and Formica discuss their bakery, the techniques they use and, of course, their bread.
Source: Peter Rukavina