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Press Release

Ottawa Royal Swan Coalition

For Immediate Release


OTTAWA, ON, September 11, 2006: The Coalition that was formed to protest the appalling living conditions that Ottawa’s Royal Swans have been kept locked up in for almost a year is claiming a victory.  “It is unfortunate that the swans have lost the seven months they would normally have spent on the river this year, but we are pleased that the City has finally come to its senses with respect to this controversy”, said Ann Coffey of the Canadian Biodiversity Institute and a member of the Coalition.

The Coalition has been informed that the City has agreed to release the Royal Swans next spring or, if staff recommends otherwise, that the issue will go to Council for a vote, something that the public has been urging all along. The City also agreed that the facility in which the swans are being kept will be replaced next year. In fact, the swans should be back gracing the City’s waterways next spring before being returned to a new facility in the Fall for the winter months.

Councillor Rick Chiarelli first brought the matter to the public’s attention, saying that the staff’s decision not to release the swans this year because of avian flu “was based on faulty information”.

City staff had maintained that their decision was ‘based on guidelines developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada’. However, Councillor Chiarelli’s office learned that this agency had issued a clarification to city staff in early June, stating this guideline was not meant to apply to captive birds. Health Minister, Tony Clement’s office further stressed this in an email, saying “The guidelines were meant to apply to wild birds, and not birds in captivity. Certainly not to the Royal Swans. There is no reason that the swans should be kept indoors this summer”.

Many of the more than 200 members of the public who voiced their concern about the swans were equally upset that staff had withheld information and that councillors were misled.  “This issue is as much about who is running City Hall these days, and whether councillors are relying on staff rather than listening to the public that elected them, as it is about the swans”, said Donna DuBreuil of the Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre.

As for the new facility that is to be built next year, “We do not want to see the City overbuild. The Stratford Ontario Swan facility should serve as a cost-effective model with its modest shelter and free access to a large compound and pond where the swans can exercise and socialize in a natural way”, said Chris Roberts of the Ontario Wildlife Coalition.

There has been criticism about the secrecy and military-type security surrounding the Royal Swans in Ottawa. “We have much to learn from Stratford where the swans are celebrated and led by a pipe band to the river each year with people lining the street to cheer them on”, said Ann Coffey.

“The City of Ottawa has been fortunate to have had the generous support of Cognos for the Royal Swan program over the years. Now it’s time for the City to do its share within this partnership, and in so doing, honour the role the Royal Swans play in Ottawa’s history”, said Ms. Roberts.


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