Sunday, March 3, 2024
Opinion/ColumnTaxi industry newsTrucking

Ottawa experiences with robbery, drug dealers, murder: I’d feel safer with more Truck drivers

Ottawa Police knocked on my door at 2am to tell me that my vehicle was a murder scene as one drug dealer murdered another. Photo: Ottawa Police/Twitter

Rita Smith

Listening to Chrystia Freeland and her friends testifying at the recent Public Order Emergency Commission (PEOC) hearings, you might take away the impression that Ottawa was a bucolic ‘burb, a sleepy, peaceful village free of crime and danger before the horn-honking Freedom Convoy Truckers arrived on January 29th, 2022.

Actually, even some of the nicer parts of Ottawa (the Glebe, Parliament Hill, the Byward Market) can be cesspools of drug dealing, crime and violence. I have no doubt the reports that crime actually dropped after the Truckers arrived are true.

I moved to Ottawa from Toronto in 2006. I lived at Bank and Gilmour, a nice walk from Parliament. I parked my Chevy Venture in a paid lot at the corner of Kent and Gilmour.

The first Monday I walked to my parked van, I realized in dismay that my driver’s side window had been shattered and everything stolen. Mostly this was music CDs and some loose change, hardly worth shattering a window that cost $400 to replace.

Welcome to Ottawa.

I grew accustomed to watching vacant-eyed residents let their dogs crap on the busy Bank Street sidewalk and simply leave it there. In Toronto, someone would accost such an owner and guilt him into picking up after his dog. In Ottawa, no one dared.

Once as I walked to the corner store, I watched a particularly evil-looking drug dealer walking up Bank with a Boston Terrier. The dog was snorting, snarling, foaming at the mouth, and listing precariously as it walked; perhaps it had ingested something. It began yapping at me as the dealer approached.

“Keep your dog away from me,” I warned.

“Touch my dog and I will drop you,” the dealer shot back. I was relieved to get to the corner store; inside, I hoped to find a safer place.

I hosted family members for some great visits when I lived in Ottawa; but the tourist spots and Parliament Hill tours do not tell the whole story of the drug and crime present in Ottawa neighbourhoods. I believe the reports that crime statistics actually dropped during the Freedom Convoy protests; I doubt the drug dealers wanted to mess with the Truckers. Photo: Rita Smith

That wasn’t to be – the dealer and his crazy dog followed me inside and around the aisles as I shopped. I assumed the store owner would inform the dealer that dogs were not allowed in the store, but no. Ottawa store owners know better than to confront drug dealers.

My ultimate Ottawa story was the night I was woken up by my roommate, who advised me, “Rita, the police are here. They want to speak with you.”

At the front door stood two uniformed Ottawa officers.

“Mrs. Smith, do you own a blue Chevy Venture parked on the street?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“A man has died leaning against your van. Your vehicle is now a crime scene; you cannot access it until we are finished investigating.”

We learned later that a drug deal had been taking inside the vestibule doors of our lovely condo building; the deal went wrong and one man stabbed the other. The stabbed man staggered toward the street and made it as far as my parked Venture; he was leaning on it, bleeding, when a cop car cruised by and saw him. Police sent him to hospital in an ambulance, but it was too late.

In Ottawa’s first murder of 2007, the victim died leaning against my car.

I won’t even touch on the many assaults, robberies or even murders that take place in other areas of our capital. I can only imagine a few dozen transport trucks parked along the streets where drug dealers normally ply their trade and restaurant patrons worry about robberies would have been a nice break for some Ottawa residents.

As Ottawa’s Acting Police Chief Steve Bell noted in his October 25th POEC testimony, the Trucker’s Convoy wasn’t actually violent; it only “felt violent.” I would have liked to see a few of those trucks parked along Bank Street when I lived there; I’m sure I would have felt safer.