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June 25, 2020

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Sometimes thankless task is an essential city service

June 12, 2020

STAR STAFF – Being a bylaw officer is arguably one of the most thankless jobs in the City of Ottawa. The only time most of us ever interact with a bylaw officer is when we’re getting a parking ticket or a neighbour has lodged a complaint about how loud our music is

But the job of being a bylaw officer is even more thankless when you’re trying to enforce state of emergency orders dur-ing the current pandemic.

Ahmed Khalil is a bylaw officer with the City of Ottawa. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Ahed Khalil has been with Bylaw Enforcement since 2014. His jurisdiction is in the east end from Bank Street all the way out to Vars.

Ever since the province declared a state of emergency on March 17, Khalil and his fellow bylaw officers have been enforcing physical distancing orders and the limits placed on physical gatherings.

Despite the headlines you read about people getting a ticket for sitting on a park bench, Khalil and the other bylaw officers have been instructed to give a warning on the first infraction. It’s only when a problem persists or an individual or a group of individuals gather at the same location more than once that they will hand out a ticket.

Needless to say, Khalil and his fellow bylaw officers have been very busy lately, especially after the weather started warming up.

“The calls are constant,” says Khalil. “The other day I had to respond to 20 calls.”

Many of the calls are for groups of teenagers playing basketball or soccer, or just gathering in a park, although his also responded to calls for people using the playstructures when they’ve been closed as part of the state of emergency directive.

When he’s interacting with the subjects in question, his first course of action is to try and educate them on why it is important to limit the number of people who gather in one place.

“I always bring up safety. I try to explain to them that although they might not have the virus, they could pick it up from someone in their group and then pass it on to someone in their family who might be in a high-risk group without even knowing it,” says Khalil “So we need to work as a community together to prevent the transmission of the virus."

Besides staying busy enforcing the state of emergency directives, Khalil must also enforce the city’s noise bylaws and parking regulations and sometimes the two are combined.

One of the most flagrant cases Khalil has had to deal during the pandemic was a noise complaint against an apartment unit. We he arrived, he found 13 people partying together in the small apartment.

In that case, he had to issue the host a ticket when the people at the party ignored his initial warning and order to disperse.

When he’s not enforcing the state of emergency directives, Khalil is at home where he helps take care of his children, which is where his work life can sometimes crossover into his family life as he’s often trying to tell them why they can’t go out and play with their friends.

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)




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