Local MPP proposes requiring in-building emergency backup generators for essentials
OTTAWA – Chandra Pasma, MPP for Ottawa West--Nepean, has introduced a bill to require backup generators in apartment buildings to provide emergency power so that no one has to go days without water and elevator access as some Ottawa residents did after the derecho struck in May 2022.
Pasma’s Protecting Human Rights in an Emergency Act would ensure that tenants of buildings are protected in the event of emergencies like storms, by mandating that the back-up generators generate enough power to run at least one elevator, power hallway lights and ensure water access within units. The bill would prohibit landlords from passing on the cost of installation and upgrades to generators to their tenants via the use of an above-guideline rent increase.
“When the derecho struck Ottawa in May 2022, far too many tenants in Ottawa did not have access to water, and were forced to go without elevator access for over a week,” said Pasma. “For people like Lynn Ashdown, who uses a wheelchair and was trapped in her 11th floor apartment for 10 days without water or access to a working elevator, the experience was both traumatic and incredibly dangerous.”
Pasma stressed how essential it is for buildings to guarantee elevator access for people who live with disabilities, who are elderly and who have very young children -- all of whom depend on a functioning elevator to maintain their health, safety, and dignity.
“As the climate crisis worsens and the frequency of violent weather events increase, this bill will ensure that tenants’ basic human rights, such as access to clean drinking water and accessible ways to enter and exit one’s apartment, are protected during emergencies,” Pasma said.
Jerry Fiori, Ottawa Disability Coalition:
"During this past prolonged power outage, many persons with disabilities, particularly those with wheelchairs, scooters, walkers or vision loss, were trapped in their apartments or condos, some without access to water, food, oxygen or medication. The elevators that they, or those providing them support, needed to leave or return to their unit had no or insufficient backup power. There was also no power in their unit to meet their needs for daily living. Their physical health and safety were at risk. Many were traumatized. It is absolutely essential that sufficient back-up power systems be installed in all multi-unit residential buildings to prevent this from happening in the future."
Lynn Ashdown, Ottawa resident:
"When the derecho storm in May of 2022 devastated Ottawa, I could not have predicted the horrific experience that I was about to endure. I have complex medical issues and am a wheelchair user, living on the 11th floor of an apartment building, a building that does not have a backup generator to keep the elevators going during power outages. I was trapped in my small unit without electricity for nearly 10 days, a prisoner, alone, in the dark without basic necessities, no way out, no reprieve, or any means to access any of the resources the city had set up for its residents. My medical conditions worsened, as did my mental health. It was a nightmare that I hope nobody has to go through, and from this, I set out to ensure nobody has to live through the trauma that I did. Hence the introduction of the Protecting Human Rights in an Emergency Act. The irony of my experience is that a simple solution exists: mandatory generators for multi-unit residential buildings to keep elevators moving during power outages. While this bill was inspired by my experience, the narrative is far greater than me.”
Norma-Jean Quibell, ACORN Ottawa:
"This bill is essential in securing tenants' right to housing by ensuring that during times of emergency we are able to access basic services like power and water. The alternative is that low-income tenants and people with disabilities will be disproportionately impacted by natural disasters by, for example, being trapped in their apartments because of out-of-service elevators, unable to get groceries, pick up medications, or go to important medical appointments."
Luke Anderson, StopGap:
“Having peace of mind and a sense of trust in being able to safely and equitably exit one’s home in an emergency situation is something everyone should experience. On behalf of StopGap Foundation and our community of supporters working together to raise awareness about the importance of an inclusive society, we support this important piece of legislation.”