GottaGo! celebrates World Toilet Day
By Joan Kuyek
On World Toilet Day, November 19, GottaGo! will be one year old. In that year, our entirely volunteer organization has managed to garner significant support for a network of safe, clean, open public toilets that are accessible to people of all abilities in Ottawa. A great capital city has great public toilets. It is time we joined London, Paris, Seoul, Tokyo, Oslo, Christchurch and other capitals in recognizing that the provision of good public toilets is a civic responsibility.
The municipal election results make GottaGo! optimistic. Returning Councillor David Chenushenko and a number of other new and old councillors have declared themselves to be keen supporters of the campaign. GottaGo! has a suite of proposals to deal with the obvious need for this network:
– Provide signage and an interactive map for existing toilets indicating when they are open and what services they provide.
– Increase the hours and improve the design of existing toilets in parks and other public spaces to improve safety, security and accessibility.
– Create new toilets where required, and make them part of all community design plans.
Since May, the GottaGo! team has been focused on toilets in the proposed LRT stations. At present, there will only be toilets at Tunney’s and Blair stations, the ends of the line. There are no plans for public toilets in the Park & Rides, no toilets on the O-Train route and no plan for toilets at major transit stations.
Since thousands of people will be using these stations and needing washroom facilities, it is a significant missed opportunity that they are not part of the design. Ignoring the need for open, accessible, easy-to-find public toilets is a foolish policy decision. It means fewer people will use transit. It means that those people caught short will be humiliated. It means that the need to find a place to “go” in emergencies will lead to filth and public health issues.
With an aging population and increasing use of non-car transportation options, the needs will only increase with time. Over 7,000 people in Ottawa suffer from Crohn’s disease and colitis. For anyone (pregnant women, children or people with medical problems) the urgent need to use a toilet is not an option. On September 23, GottaGo! submitted a petition with over 1,000 signatures to the mayor and city councillors demanding that public toilets be installed at all LRT stations and also released “Talking Toilets,” a research study highlighting the private and public problems created when public toilets are not available.
In a few short months, GottaGo! has formed working partnerships with Crohns and Colitis Canada, 1125@Carleton, and Somerset West Community Health Centre. 1125@ Carleton is working with GottaGo! “to create a team of academics, researchers and students who, together with business, the public sector and community partners, will find innovative solutions to the safety, security and cost barriers that currently impede the development of the public toilet network.” Somerset West CHC has partnered with GottaGo! in an application to the Community Foundation of Ottawa.
GottaGo! has also received endorsements for its campaign objectives from many community leaders and agencies including:
Crime Prevention Unit of the Ottawa Police
Dundonald Park Working Group
Alliance to End Homelessness
Social Planning Council of Ottawa
Pedestrian Safety Committee of the Council on Aging
Shepherds of Good Hope
Lowertown Community Association
Vanier Community Association
Ottawa Food Policy Council
You can find background information on GottaGo! on our website at www.ottawapublictoilets.ca.
Joan Kuyek is chair of the GottaGo! campaign.