Bed bug infestation forces partial closure of Gatineau government building
Joanne Schnurr, CTVNewsOttawa.ca Staff
Published Tuesday, October 8, 2019 12:31PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, October 8, 2019 11:05PM EDT
OTTAWA– Hundreds of government workers have been forced to work from home after bed bugs were discovered on all the floors in their building. The employees work for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) on the Quebec side. Almost the entire building has been shut down, all except several employees working on the sixth floor. They're working with sensitive information and say they can't take their work home with them. But they're certainly worried now about taking bed bugs home with them.
While the rest of the building remains virtually empty, several employees have to remain at work, trying to find a way to avoid being at their desks. Hamze Mansour has chosen a spot on a picnic table beside the building,
“We’re outside, trying to stay away from the bed bugs,” he says, “at least as much as we can.”
Because of the nature of their work, they say they can’t work from home but don’t want to be here.
“I’ve been standing up, walking around,” says IRCC employee Marisa Alberelli, “avoiding as much as possible.”
What we know is that bed bugs were discovered on one floor of this building last week. A canine unit was brought in over the weekend and the company found bed bugs on every single floor of the building at 70 Crémazie. That's when the government decided that most of the building would be shut down and employees were advised to telework or find alternate arrangements.
Public Services and Procurement Canada (SPAC) tells CTV Ottawa, it takes the health and safety of it's employees seriously.
"The presence of bed bugs had been a localised issue at 70 Crémazie until recently," said Stefanie Hamel, a spokesperson for SPAC.
"Despite implementing a pest management action plan and moving forward with treatments in specific areas of the building, attempts to address the situation have proven unsuccessful."
Hamel says the decision was then made to send employees home until the situation had been resolved.
"We are proceeding with a treatment of the entire building as well as PSPC employees' homes, as necessary."
“We all have concerns about taking them home,” says Mansour, “about what we would do if we did have them and trying to find a way to cope with it in the meantime.”
Jeff Bow is with Abell Pest Control. He says it’s becoming more common to find bed bugs in public buildings like libraries, hospitals, on public transit and in federal government buildings. They travel on pant legs and inside purses and backpacks.
“Generally, they’re about the size of an apple seed,” he says, trying to counter the myth that bed bugs aren’t visible to the naked eye. He advises employees to inspect their workstations and their homes. Catching bed bugs early is key to controlling them.
“It's extremely important to identify problem quickly,” Bow says, “A couple bedbugs can turn into a couple thousand within a few months.”
This is not the only building with bed bug issues. Last week, bed bugs and cockroaches were discovered at another government building at 350 King Edward Avenue in Ottawa.
“I trust they treated it and it's okay,” says employee Raouf Kadimi, “They sent us a couple emails. I have no concerns actually.”
CTV Ottawa has been contacted by federal employees at other buildings, too, about ongoing problems with mice; “daily sightings" one person wrote. "The working conditions are horrid and unacceptable,” this employee added.