Sunday, June 23, 2024

DND moving 1,000 employees out of Ottawa office building due to safety concerns

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The Department of National Defence (DND) is moving approximately 1,000 employees out of an office building in Ottawa’s Lowertown neighbourhood, citing safety concerns for its employees.

The DND building is at 400 Cumberland St., at Rideau Street, and just steps from the ByWard Market.

A spokesperson for DND confirms to CTV News Ottawa employees will be moved to the Major-General George R. Pearkes Building, the DND headquarters, on Colonel By Drive.

“The Department of National Defence (DND) is aware of safety concerns raised by employees working out of our 400 Cumberland St. offices,” DND said in a statement.

“As a result of recent incidents where the safety of personnel was compromised, employees requested mitigating solutions to remedy ongoing incidents affecting staff.  This matter is taken seriously, and we remain committed to ensuring everyone’s safety by looking into all necessary measures.”

The department will begin moving employees out of 400 Cumberland St. in June, with the relocation finished by October.

“Once the relocation is complete, the property will be returned to Public Service and Procurement Canada (PSPC),” DND said, adding no other staff are being relocated due to safety concerns.

The Department of National Defence says it’s moving staff out of the Lowertown building at a time when the federal government will be requiring federal employees to spend more time in the office. As of September, all federal employees will need to be in the office for at least three days a week.

A DND employee who spoke to CTV News Ottawa but declined to give his name said he’s changed buildings a few times. 

“I have no opinions, I just follow what I’m told to do,” he said. “I’m low on the chain of command.” 

He said the move will add to his commute. “But it’s okay,” he said. “Nothing really problematic.”

Rideau-Vanier Coun. Stéphanie Plante said the downtown area has had its challenges, but she’s hopeful some new initiatives can help make a difference.

“It’s not a secret that it’s been quite challenging for the last couple of years and we’re hoping some of the new initiatives that we are launching at the city, such as our 10-year housing and homelessness plan, such as the Neighborhood Resource Operation Centre, we’re hoping things like that can really turn the page because the ByWard Market is getting 50,000 unique visitors a week and we really want it to be a welcoming place for everyone,” she said.

However, she raised the fact that some people are able to leave the downtown, while others aren’t.

“You know, I tell people all the time that there’s affluent people who have the luxury to leave when they don’t like what’s happening around their work or their home spaces,” she said. “And then in my ward, I have a lot of people who live in motels and live in Ottawa Public housing who don’t have that option. And so the advocacy I do is especially around that latter piece.”

–With files from CTV News Ottawa’s Natalie van Rooy

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