Ottawa’s public toilets given a ‘C’ grade

Ottawa Citizen
Bruce Deachman
November 14, 2018

In advance of next Monday’s World Toilet Day — an official United Nations international day of observance to help address sanitation issues worldwide — Ottawa’s GottaGo! Campaign has released a report on the city’s public toilets and given it a grade of C for its piddling efforts.

The report assesses public toilet accessibility at different venues throughout the city, as well as such issues as signage, and access for people with disabilities and the homeless.

Ottawa’s transit system fares poorly. While the city will soon be flush with 13 LRT stations on the Confederation Line, only four of those stations will have public toilets. None of the 13 OC Transpo Park-and-Ride locations has public toilets.

According to GottaGo!, maps produced by Ottawa Tourism indicate there are at least 17 downtown public toilets in such buildings as the National Gallery of Canada, the National Arts Centre and city hall, yet none of those locations is marked with street-level signs, adding, “Ottawa-Gatineau has 10 million visitors every year — how do they easily find a public toilet?”

And while Montreal, the report adds, is building a dozen public toilets along high-traffic sidewalks, Ottawa boasts no such initiative for pedestrians. The report also cites research by Carleton University students in 2016 that indicates that roughly half of the 200 toilets listed by the city are closed at any given time.

(Indeed, the city’s listing of 174 public toilets includes 62 that are only open during the late spring to early fall, and lord help those who have to empty their bladders on the Sabbath during the off-peak season: of the remaining 112 toilets, 48 are closed Sundays, while many others are open only certain hours.)

Many older buildings, the report also notes, fail to accommodate wheelchairs, while transgendered people risk harassment when using their preferred toilet. Additionally, apart from the recently renovated National Arts Centre, little progress has been made in addressing women’s needs for larger washrooms.

In awarding Ottawa a C, the report concedes: “Some progress made on the LRT and welcome progress by many coffee shops. Small advances with porta-potties. Many outstanding needs for more signs, more sidewalk public toilets, and more park-and-ride porta-potties.

“We are looking to the new city council to take the need for public toilets more seriously.”


106: Of the 174 public toilets on the City of Ottawa’s listing that will be open on World Toilet Day.

892 million: People worldwide who practise open defecation.

4.5 billion: People worldwide who lack access to a safe toilet.

$5: Daily cost of operating a porta-potty in Ottawa this past summer, including twice-weekly cleaning.

2030: Year by which World Toilet Day organizers hope to attain worldwide availability and sustainable management of sanitation and water.

93: Percentage of Ethiopia’s population lacking access to a basic toilet, ranking it lowest in the world.

355 million: Women in India without access to basic sanitation, a lineup that would stretch four times around the world.

Sources: The City of Ottawa; World Toilet Day; WaterAid; GottaGo! Campaign.

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