Ottawa Police, City Must Stop Harassing Panhandlers



May 1, 2013

Ottawa—The Ottawa Panhandlers Union of the Industrial Workers of the World is calling on the Ottawa Police Service and the politicians at City Hall to stop harassing and intimidating panhandlers.

It is time for Ottawans to stand up for this city’s panhandlers. The police continue to use the Safe Streets Act as a tool to sweep the streets, making it more difficult for panhandlers who are trying to simply get by, day by day.

We are urging our members and the public to watch out for police officers who are pulling the following tricks:

Threatening Tickets Citing Irrelevant Bylaws

Police officers are telling panhandlers in the Market area that they are going to issue them tickets using Byward Market Bylaw 2008-449. We’ve read the bylaw and it only applies to vendors; not panhandlers who do not sell anything.

Pressuring business staff and owners to complain about panhandlers

Police are entering businesses in order to solicit complaints from owners and staff about panhandlers on the street nearby. Fortunately, many business owners and staff resist the police pressure to file a complaint. We thank them for their efforts. Police should stop this tactic immediately; it’s not their job to make up complaints so they can harass our members and people on the street.

The Ottawa Panhandlers Union finds these tactics of misinformation and harassment unacceptable. The police should know better.

We urge Ottawans to write their city councillors and the Ottawa Police Service to let them know what they think of this behaviour.


The Ottawa Panhandlers Union was formed in 2004 as a way for people on the street to unite, help each other and defend against police, municipal and provincial attacks. For more information or to get involved with the Ottawa Panhandlers Union, email

Ottawa Panhandlers Union Street Artists at Can-Con 2012

Ottawa Panhandlers Union Street Artists at Can-Con 2012

Check out the street artists of the IWW Ottawa Panhandlers Union at this year’s Conference on Canadian Content in Speculative Arts and Literature (

Laws and bylaws preventing artists from selling their work on the curbside are just another problem facing Ottawa’s artistic community.

Sept. 21 – 23, 2012
Best Western Plus Ottawa/Kanata Hotel & Conference Centre
1876 Robertson Road, Ottawa, ON
Entrance fee is $45 for Saturday and $15 for Sunday.

For more information about the Ottawa Panhandlers Union, visit or email

Ottawa Panhandlers Union Artists at Can-Con 2011

Check out the art of the IWW Ottawa Panhandlers Union at this year’s Conference on Canadian Content in Speculative Arts and Literature (

Ontario’s Safe Streets Act may prevent street artists from making a living selling their art on the curbside, but they are welcome as part of Ottawa’s creative community.

Sept. 9-11, 2011

Travelodge Ottawa Hotel & Conference Centre

1376 Carling Avenue

Ottawa, ON K1Z 7L5

Entrance fee is $45 for Saturday and $15 for Sunday.

For more information about the Ottawa Panhandlers Union, visit or email


The Hotel is located just west of Westgate Mall, on the south side of Carling Avenue between Merivale Rd and Kirkwood Ave. OC Transpo Routes 85 and 101 will stop at or near the Hotel, while routes 151 and 176 will stop at Westgate Mall across the street. Routes 14 and 86 pass nearby, but will require a transfer at Carling and Holland/Fisher or a long walk down the hill from there. Taking the O-Train to Carling Station also can help you connect with Route 85 or 101 for a quick trip to the Hotel site.

CALL OUT: May Day Rally & Street Art Auction

May Day – May 1st – is International Workers’ Day, a day established to commemorate labour struggles by workers around the world since the mid-19th century, when the fight for the 8-hour day cost the lives of many of those active in their labour movements.

Join us May 1st on Parliament Hill at 1pm as we take to the streets with United Steelworkers – Local 1005 from Hamilton, many of whom are currently locked out from their workplace. The attack on Local 1005 members by the employer, U.S. Steel, is part of a larger global attack on all workers around the world across all industries. These attacks include union-busting, cuts to wages, benefits, and pensions and affect all workers.

An injury to one is an injury to all.

Whether you work in a unionized shop or not, an attack on workers is an attack on you. These attacks are lowering the standards of employment and raising profits for employers not being properly held accountable for the effects their practices are having on society and the world.

Later, the Ottawa Panhandlers’ Union will be hosting a Street Art Auction, 6-8pm, 2nd floor of the Jack Purcell Community Centre (off Elgin, near Gilmour). Come out and support your local street artists at a time when Ottawa’s business and political interests side with wiping out the city’s street culture.

GDC: Panhandler Piper Defies Community Service Order

A panhandler piper who cut the wires of a competing music speaker in an Ottawa underpass in 2009 is continuing his fight against the city and a welfare system that he says is an institution of modern slavery.

The judge convicted him and sentenced him to 20 hours of community service with the Salvation Army, which he refused. He had filed an appeal, but a misunderstanding over the date in November 2010, meant he missed it. The judge dismissed the appeal due to his absence.

“They gave me a piece of paper with a Salvation Army logo on it for 20 hours and I said, ‘I’m not working for those guys’,” said Loomer, who objects to community service as a form of slavery. He said that obligatory community service enforced by the courts and police is nothing like volunteering and actually working in the community. The Salvation Army and other agencies like it are “religious extensions of the government” that benefit and depend on the free labour given them by such sentences.

Loomer’s refusal to do community service led to a breach of conditions hearing on Jan. 5, 2010, which was then postponed to Jan. 26, pending him getting a lawyer to represent him.

“The Salvation Army has taken on the role of Pharaoh and it’s our part to cross the Red Sea to freedom.”

Loomer is aiming to challenge Ontario’s social welfare system and its requirement that people are destitute and property-less before they can receive help from the government. This system resembles more the ‘poor house’ model of 19th Century England, than one in the present day.

Loomer is not the only one challenging Ontario’s social assistance system. The Social Assistance Review Council declared it as having “outdated models of social assistance” and recommended a total income security review that included Ontario Works, Ontario Disability Support Program, Employment Insurance, the Canada Pension Plan, disability benefits, Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, federal and provincial child benefits, among other tax break and income programs run by the two levels of government. The report said that everyone in the system, from recipients to service providers to recipients think the system is broken, but there is no consensus on how to change it.

The Ontario government responded by announcing a “Social Assistance Review” on November 30, 2010, leaving the victims of the system trapped in a cycle of poverty for another year-and-a-half.

GDC: Ottawa Busker Appeals Conviction

When the City of Ottawa installed speakers and started broadcasting muzak in busker Raymond Loomer’s favourite underpass, he cut the speaker wires one day in May 2009. He then taped the wire on the door of the office door of the Downtown Rideau Business Improvement Area, a business lobby group that has waged a campaign to remove street people and performers from the city centre.

As a tin flute player, he was one of several buskers who relied on the unique acoustics of the downtown Ottawa underpass near the Rideau Centre shopping centre to make a living. Loomer is a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). He did not take kindly to having his live music replaced by a machine.

“They were playing music to interfere with our industry,” he said.

City police arrested Loomer and charged him with two counts of mischief under $5,000. He was convicted on May 25, 2010 with a sentence of 12 months probation and 20 hours community service. Loomer represented himself and has appealed, saying the city failed to provide bylaw information he could have used in his defense and that he has rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to make a living and freedom of expression. He objected to the community service as “the slave style practices of government” for appropriating his labour power.

Loomer’s appeal will be heard on November 12, 2010 at the city courthouse.

Ottawa had introduced restrictive bylaws requiring street performers to get a license and perform in designated spots chosen by the city. Ontario’s Safe Streets Act, brought in to target squeegee kids, buskers and other street people making a living on the province’s streets, has set the stage for tighter controls on informal workers.

For more information, visit

Pictures from OPU MayDay Rally

The Ottawa Panhandlers’ Union kicked off their Black Ribbon campaign on MayDay where they marched downtown against the ongoing attack on public space as well as against the city’s anti-poor mayor, Larry O’Brien.


Why are we paying to keep panhandlers in jail cells? Why have street artists, novelty vendors, and buskers vanished from city streets? Why are we allowing business in this city to use the police department as their PRIVATE security on PUBLIC streets?

It’s time to take back OUR STREETS!

Join the Ottawa Panhandlers’ Union on Friday, May 1st as we kick off our Black Ribbon campaign to reclaim public space for ALL of us, not just the ones wearing suits and ties.

4 PM
Friday, May 1st
Human Rights Monument (Elgin and Lisgar)

For more information, please contact the Ottawa Panhandlers’ Union at 613-748-0460

Ottawa Drops Charges Against Panhandler Organizer

From the Industrial Worker

Shortly before midnight on April 30, 2008, police arrested Ottawa IWW Panhandlers’ Union organizer Andrew Nellis and searched his bag. Inside the bag, they found several packaged locks and a lock cutter. They charged him with mischief under $5,000 and possession of break and enter tools, the latter a felony charge.

Police alleged that he planned to cut the lock off of a recently constructed fence built in the underpass on Rideau and Sussex streets in downtown Ottawa to prevent the homeless from taking shelter, socializing, and panhandling there. The underpass was the site of previous panhandler protests and meetings.

Nellis told the Industrial Worker that he wanted to replace the city’s lock with a panhandlers’ lock and then distribute key copies to Ottawa’s homeless at the May Day rally the next day.

Prosecutors have since dropped all of the charges.
Nellis’ attorney had pushed for a jury trial and said he would file a constitutional challenge to the City of Ottawa’s right to strip access to shelter on public property from its homeless population. The city had previously fenced off spots under the Mackenzie bridge near a mall and the Rideau Street-Colonel By Drive underpass.

Nellis said he was “disappointed” that the city had dropped the charges against him. He is now planning to sue the City of Ottawa for “vexatious harassment” and false arrest. Nellis spent five days at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre on Innes Road, a prison well known for its poor conditions. Nellis organized the prisoners to protest their “inhumane” conditions, resulting in citywide and national media coverage. The combined inside-outside pressure resulted in immediate improvements for prisoners.

He has petitioned the IWW General Defence Committee Local 6, based in Ottawa, for support in raising funds for his legal fees. To donate, send a cheque or money order to GDC Local 6, PO Box 52003, 298 Dalhousie St., Ottawa, Ontario K1N 1S0, Canada.

MayDay ’08

From the Industrial Worker

“Capitalism cannot be reformed” reads the French banner of the Ottawa-
Outaouais IWW branch which came out to support the IWW Ottawa Panhandlers Union on May 1. A tea party and march to impeach the anti-panhandler Ottawa Mayor Larry O’Brien proceeded, despite the early morning arrest of organizer, Andrew Nellis. Protesters were thrown out of the court building before Nellis’ bail hearing. Nellis was released with minimal bail conditions.