A Decade of toilet talk


By Taylor Northwood and Bessa Whitmore

The GottaGo! Campaign celebrates its 10th year in 2023.

To mark this milestone, we are releasing the GottaGo Timeline Project. This project was created by Taylor Northwood and will be available on the GottaGo! Campaign website. Needing a place to “go” is an everyone issue and the availability of a network of clean, safe and accessible public toilets is a vital public health concern for all.

This infographic media collection showcases every milestone that the campaign has achieved since our humble beginnings in November 2013.

One of our milestones is the successful lobbying for public toilets in the Hurdman and Bayview LRT stations. Until that point, the plan had not included public toilets anywhere except the terminus stations, which was required by the province. With 10,000 people projected to use the LRT every hour, imagine the numbers needing to “go” along the way!

No toilets in splashpad or sports fields – really? Toddlers playing in water with no place to go – surely this is a public health problem. GottaGo funded a pilot project to put an accessible porta-potty at the splash pad in Harrold Place. Neighbours, parents and, of course, children welcomed the addition and have continued to support it. Since then, porta-potties have been placed in other splash pads across the city. But there needs to be one at every splash pad.

We need signs. Public toilets do exist in the city, but they are hidden, in that there are no street-level signs to help visitors and residents locate them. You can find these hidden toilets in our infographic on page 39. We ask the public to let us know when you find one and whether it is open, clean and accessible.

We have also resorted to sandwich board actions – and a bit of fun – to make our point. These events happen in the downtown core in collaboration with other local coalitions and community leaders who believe in this cause, such as former councillor Catherine McKenney.

COVID restrictions also helped us to get creative. We partnered with Art House Café and solicited art from local artists on the theme of public toilets. Our Ottawa Needs Public Toilets was funded by the Ottawa Community Foundation. We received lots of original pieces, visual, written and musical. See them on our website: www.gottago-ottawa.ca/.

Gotta Go has achieved widespread public support from community members, organizations and prominent community leaders – after all, everyone needs to go. Our mission has been primarily focused on Ottawa but has drawn inspiration nationally and internationally from like-minded organizations that also believe the presence of public toilets for all is a fundamental human right.


What’s next?

Initiating a pilot project in Rideau Vanier Ward to get businesses (large and small) to open their toilets to the public in exchange for a small subsidy. This has been done successfully in other countries (UK, Scotland, Germany), so why not here? It offers a real increase in the availability of toilets to the public, at the least cost.

Pop up Sandwich Board events in hidden toilet locations

Raising public awareness and support at events such as farmers’ markets.

We welcome volunteers to contribute your talents (e.g., tech savvy, artistic talent, etc.) for a limited time or task or to join the core team. For information, please contact Taylor Northwood (taylorreid4@cmail.carleton.ca) or Bessa Whitmore (gottagocampaign@gmail.com).


Taylor Northwood is a history and anthropology student at Carleton University and Bessa Whitmore is a long-time volunteer and organizer on the core team of the GottaGo campaign.


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