Accessible Washroom in Victoria Hall

At Monday’s Committee of the Whole (CoW) meeting, the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee recommended that the Accessible Washroom in Victoria Hall be left open.  Currently, it is locked but a key is available upon request.  It seems the EDI committee felt that it was asking a lot of potential users to go ask for the key.  Brent Larmer explained that it was locked to minimize an abuse of it – there have been cases where someone would lock themselves in and stay for an excessive amount of time thereby denying access to others.  Since it has been locked, usage has actually increased. However, despite this, Councillor Beatty moved that the EDI Committee’s recommendation be followed and that the washroom be left open.

Nicole Beatty - File photo
Nicole Beatty – File photo

Brian Darling said that leaving it open was a “Health and Safety” issue since someone could be using drugs and no-one would know.  Or they could be just lying down and denying access to others.  His position was supported by Suzanne Séguin – she noted that there are other places where a key is required.  Councillor Emily Chorley said that improvements were needed in this washroom.  Councillor Beatty was unmoved and said that an open washroom was a basic human right.

The vote to remove the requirement for a key was passed 4-3 with Councillors Nicole Beatty, Emily Chorley, Aaron Burchat and Adam Bureau in favour.  Mayor Henderson, Deputy Mayor Suzanne Séguin and Councillor Brian Darling supported Staff’s recommendation to continue to require a request for a key.

Councillor Darling then asked staff to keep track of incidents where being unlocked caused a problem.

CAO Tracey Vaughan agreed with Councillor Chorley and commented that the facility needs to be reviewed and implied there would likely be Capital required.

Update

At the regular Council meeting on 22 August, Councillors voted the same way except for Mayor Henderson who changed to now want the washroom unlocked.  So the motion was confirmed 5-2.

Print Article: 

 

37 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Rob
19 August 2022 10:22 am

Good to see in the twilight of their elected terms that Council is tackling important Human Rights issues. I’m sure that more than two years of Covid-19 derailed some political aspirations of a few Council members but having fulsome debates over whether to lock a bathroom is nonsensical; let alone to vote in opposition to the operational recommendation of staff. Perhaps the first incident where NARCAN is administered in the unlocked bathroom with persuade Council to overturn the decision. To suggest that an unlocked bathroom is a human right, only sullies the definition of what true human rights are.

Pete M
Reply to  Rob
21 August 2022 8:12 am

Hear Hear Rob.
There is no way this matter should be coming before council.
Whats next a vote on 2 ply or 3 ply toilet paper? What scents should we go with? Lavender or Tropical Breeze? i prefer the Tropical Breeze.

This council spends an inordinate amount of time on washrooms a peoples bodily functions. Remember the Porta potties debate.

One might say this is representative of much this Town is in the toilet, or maybe just council. Time for a flush???

Ms Beatty states this is a human right. Really?
The Town put a policy in place to control access and ensure everyone’s safety–a policy to minimize self harm. Something other business do with their washrooms in high drug use areas.

Remember this Cobourg when its time to go to polls–Ms Beatty struggles with saying no when common sense says you should.

Cobo
Reply to  Pete M
22 August 2022 12:18 am

It’s really quite simple. Under the OHRC, this falls under the services section where ‘you have the right to be free from discrimination when you receive goods or services, or use facilities’.

This includes the use of public washrooms. Victoria Hall is a public building that Cobourg tax payers fund.

The issue here is that there are normal bathrooms and a universal accessible washroom. Disabled persons are being denied access in a indignant way by having to first ask for a key to use the washroom – i.e permission.

This shouldn’t even be a discussion it’s terrible. No there shouldn’t be a barrier to something that’s supposed to be barrier free.

To give an example, myself, I have an unfortunate disability in which I have 0 control over my bowels or bladder. I don’t have time to ask for a key, because I can actually get a stroke if I can’t make it quick enough to the bathroom. On top of things, I don’t have the hand dexterity to use a key!

I hope this opens some eyes as to how terrible some disabilities can be and why there are laws like the OHRC and OADA (not to mention the Town’s Accessibility Policy) to prevent decisions like locking accessible bathrooms against the most vulnerable in society 🙁

So thank you Adam, Nicole, Emily and Aaron.

Last edited 1 month ago by Cobo
Informed
Reply to  Cobo
22 August 2022 12:12 pm

Did you first try the one that was unlocked? This is a huge stretch for this to fall under discrimination. I believe the safety issue now faced with this bathroom being unlocked is more of an issue and has more detrimental consequences.

Cobo
Reply to  Informed
22 August 2022 12:40 pm

The unlocked one wouldn’t support the turning radius of an electric wheelchair. If the town wants to be fair and equal, then lock both the AODA/OBC compliant bathroom and the other bathrooms (although this isn’t their jurisdiction). It’s discrimination because disabled persons are not being treated the same as abled bodied persons. Neither should need keys or both should need keys. It’s ableism. This is hogwash though, this type of issue falls under provincial legislation and is not a municipal concern for the aforementioned reasons. As a town staff member, mayor or deputy mayor I would have been ashamed to recommend, or to vote in favour of locking accessible bathrooms. They lost my vote in the upcoming elections, and I hope every other disabled Cobourg taxpayer. One can really only understand these issues if you’re disabled yourself, or have cared or lived for someone with a severe disability. One day all the people that downvoted my comments will be feeble and decrepit and only then understand this discussion. I’m a little at awe as it appears the town’s Accessibility Committee wasn’t consulted in this regard and hadn’t made any recommendations. The previous decision to lock accessible bathrooms was so outlandish and backwards that even the Toronto Star picked up the story: https://www.thestar.com/local-northumberland/news/2022/07/26/cobourg-victoria-hall-accessible-washroom-to-remain-locked-with-key-available-to-public.html Mr. Darling, after losing out on the vote, asked staff to keep track of ‘misuse’ of the accessible bathroom. Since the staff first recommended locking it in the first place, then any tracking should be considered bias. But, had the town been fair and equal, then they might have fathomed that abusers of the accessible bathroom would simply migrate to the unlocked bathrooms (after all, although not as private, the public unlocked bathroom stalls offer enough square footage to snort cocaine, shoot heroin, or whatever else is considered… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Cobo
Bryan
Reply to  Cobo
22 August 2022 1:27 pm

Cobo,

You noted in a prior comment “… Under the OHRC, this falls under the services section where ‘you have the right to be free from discrimination when you receive goods or services, or use facilities’…..”

I read the OHRC documentation and have to agree with you regarding its application in this case..

The failure (due diligence) then is Staff’s, in that their recommendation did not adhere to the OHRC directive. Staff is supposed to be familiar with relevant legislation and directives and be able to advise council as needed..

Further, reference to the OHRC requirement should have been included in Staff’s recommendation (setting aside for the moment that this is an operational decision and should not have come to council in the first place).

The danger here is that someone would have insisted on engaging a consultant to render a report on the matter.

Cobo
Reply to  Bryan
22 August 2022 2:08 pm

Thank you Bryan. FWIW, I don’t think it was the town’s or individual councillors’ intention to discriminate against PWDs, however, that is unfortunately what it indirectly becomes/became when there isn’t the outside perspective as commented on above.

Last edited 1 month ago by Cobo
cornbread
19 August 2022 10:17 am

USER PAYS – They do it this way in some European cities…Get a custodian who collects the “Fee”, cleans & controls the washroom. A Toonie should do it !!

Concerned Cobourg Resident
Reply to  cornbread
19 August 2022 2:42 pm

Great idea! User pay is always better than tax payer pay. Cobourg council take note!!

marya
Reply to  Concerned Cobourg Resident
23 August 2022 1:31 pm

Perhaps “user pay” if EDI Benefits were on a par with everyone else’s.

Cobo
Reply to  cornbread
22 August 2022 12:25 am

Europe also has the Euro WC key for people with disabilities… It’s an ingenious idea, that is, if you’re not disabled enough that you can’t operate a key…

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euro_key

cornbread
19 August 2022 9:19 am

Ever heard of User Pays…Works in Europe. Get a custodian to $ collect, monitor & clean the washroom. A toonie should do it.

Kathleen
19 August 2022 8:30 am

I’m just suprised that a decision was made without hiring a consultant. Poopgate. I like that. Smile for the day.

Concerned Cobourg Resident
19 August 2022 8:28 am

Access to a washroom structure is *not* a human right. A human right is something that no one can vest upon you, it is natural. Since a washroom does not naturally exist in nature, it is not a human right. Take responsibility for your bowels folks. If you need to use the washroom, plan ahead and use a private washroom. Society and the collective should not be repsonsible to manage your bowel movements. Only you, as an individual should manage your own bowels. This way of thinking is why our property taxes are at $5000 a year and continue to rise. Whats next… let me guess, a free cell phone is a human right too???

Last edited 1 month ago by Concerned Cobourg Resident
Sandpiper
Reply to  Concerned Cobourg Resident
19 August 2022 9:49 am

Its a Handi Cap wash room may be they have no Control
as to Whats next expect to see $8ooo.– to $10,ooo.– +++
a year tax rates like many of us have to Pay
Cobourg has Huge debt and Taxes Rates to support it

Liz
Reply to  Concerned Cobourg Resident
19 August 2022 1:35 pm

This must be a comment voiced by a male individual, young enough that he has no need of age related issues. Public washrooms, at Victoria Hall, are a luxury to seniors who would have to be housebound otherwise. The ageing population, of Cobourg, warrant this privilege.

Concerned Cobourg Resident
Reply to  Liz
19 August 2022 1:53 pm

Good use of the ad hominem fallacy. It doesnt matter what I am. What matters is people are responsible for themselves irregardless of their age, sex, gender, or any other inalienable physical charisteristic. It should never be the responsibility of the collective. This type of thinking that “mother government” will take care of you and create a utopia, is exactly why we are in this predicament today. Life is about overcoming challenges and being strong. Be strong for everyone elses sake please! The strong and responsible are tired of taking care of the irresponsible by forcing altruism in the form of endless taxes.

Liz
Reply to  Concerned Cobourg Resident
19 August 2022 7:58 pm

I sure would not want to be your caregiver in your old age!

Rob
Reply to  Liz
19 August 2022 2:26 pm

Liz – I feel that most contributors on this blog wouldn’t necessarily disagree with controlled washroom access…I mean, when you gotta go, you gotta go.

Sandpiper
19 August 2022 8:26 am

Hire some cleaners ?? we already have lots on the Payroll
Just try and find one . If you have to go you have to go
who has time to hunt down a key . This now leads to what hours
will a key be available Evening shows ?? Weekends ?? etc

Besides what / where is the security guard at the front Door they know who the offenders are

Just remove the dam lock and put a large sliding sign up Available or Occupied

Eastender
19 August 2022 7:46 am

Could we get back to the issue of accessing washrooms and not discussing disfunctional staff, council, etc. and ad hominem attacks on Councillors.
Access to washrooms is indeed a human right. Anyone ever need a washroom and none? Or found them locked? Darling needs to take a course in Human Rights. And any discussion of “capital required” is ridiculous. Of course it will
cost money to keep washrooms clean. Hire some cleaners for gods sake!

Concerned
Reply to  Eastender
19 August 2022 8:36 am

They arent talking about keeping them clean in regards to capital, they are talking about those disabled folks who may be in wheel chairs etc and the washroom isn’t easy to navigate inside if you are in a wheel chair. They feel adjustments are needed to help those folks that’s all that the capital discussion was about.

Last edited 1 month ago by Concerned
Gerald Childs
19 August 2022 7:11 am

I should tell them it is a fundamental human right to have unlocked washrooms at Petro Canada. Yet, theirs is always locked, and nobody seems to gripe about it.

Informed
Reply to  Gerald Childs
19 August 2022 10:45 am

Nobody complained here either. Could have be addressed with a simple ” no”

Gerald
Reply to  Informed
19 August 2022 6:27 pm

Gripe:complain. You don’t see any complaints on this thread?

Informed
Reply to  Gerald
20 August 2022 8:59 am

The public never complained about a locked bathroom to begin with.

Cobourg citizen
18 August 2022 8:20 pm

“Poopgate”???? PC culture has truly lost its mind.

Informed
18 August 2022 2:21 pm

Debating on whether a bathroom needs to be locked or not. My God.

Kyle
Reply to  Informed
18 August 2022 3:39 pm

OMG…and we pay for this!

Bryan
Reply to  Kyle
18 August 2022 4:05 pm

Informed & Kyle,

On a previous thread I commented that staff pushed operational decisions to council, thereby avoiding responsibility and accountability.

This is a perfect example. Purely operational, not policy.

Bryan
Reply to  John Draper
18 August 2022 6:41 pm

JD,

Point taken. Thank you for the clarification.

I maintain that this was (is) an operational issue and should have been dealt with by Staff.

Several things should have been handled differently, IMO:

The CAO and Mayor make the agenda. They should have recognized that the EDI Committee’s issue was operational, not included it in the agenda and directed the EDI Committee to take the issue up with Staff.

The issue being on the agenda, Mayor Henderson, as head of Council and Chair, could have indicated that it was an operational issue and either withdrawn the issue from the agenda or directed it to Staff.

Council has to stop micromanaging the affairs of the Town. Learn to say NO

Councilor Beatty was grandstanding: playing politics. Using the issue to make herself look good. IMO

Informed
Reply to  Bryan
18 August 2022 4:23 pm

Im not so sure everything is necessarily pushed to council. I believe there is some micromanaging going on and some council members believing they are employees of the Town when they are elected officials.I also believe that a barhroom is accessible whether there is a key or not. Ever hear of any problems at the Frink bathroom? Just watch. Political correctness and this silliness can stop anytime as far as im concerned.

Last edited 1 month ago by Informed
Bob
Reply to  Informed
19 August 2022 11:22 am

When someone needs to have a “toilet break”, and they are downtown, there are few options open to them. When you are using a wheelchair, or walker, or maybe two canes, and the urge to go is upon you, having to find where the key is located, and go there to retrieve it, is just an another obstacle put in place by people who are able bodied and have no consideration for disabled folks.
My 5 cents worth!

Informed
Reply to  Bob
19 August 2022 4:00 pm

I dont believe its an obstacle at all. Maybe a minor inconvenience for a few people on the odd occasion. I believe there is now a safety issue that has been created when none existed before. My guess is that the bathroom will act as a warmng station….a place to do drugs…a place to overdose..a place to rest….a place to change etc.I hope I’m wrong.

Linda
Reply to  Informed
19 August 2022 9:50 pm

These situations can happen whether a key is needed or not.

Informed
Reply to  Linda
20 August 2022 4:54 pm

They aren’t happening now

Last edited 1 month ago by Informed