street urinals in Guelph?

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street urinals in Guelph?


remind remind's picture

alrighty then


I see the point (.)

remind remind's picture

Maybe she said "piss on the rest of it"? ;)


Don't knock 'em until you've tried them.


Recently, Guelph municipal council passed a motion to allow public urinals on a major downtown street to try to prevent bar patrons from befouling business storefronts etc after the bars close. This has been contentious for a couple of reasons. First, these contraptions can only be used by men -- they will consist of basically a tall blue plastic recepticle, sloping out at the bottom, with waist-height holes on four sides. There is no provision being made for similar facilities for women. Secondly, this practice will allow for and in fact require men to whip out their genitals (part of them, anyway) on the street. Both of those factors are highly problematic for women, in my view. The alternative of permanent washroom facilities or even port-a-potties was kaiboshed by police because this will make their job more difficult. Bar owners have refused to keep their own facilities open longer, or move last call earlier, and local restaurants all remove their tables and barricade their washrooms for evening service.

The motion as passed requires the business owners to ante up for the purchase of these units. Previously, per a city staff recommendation, the city was going to pay for them on a trial basis. The city will still be involved in cleaning and maintaining these facilities. This is particularly disgusting to me because I think that government should be setting a higher standard for sensitivity to human rights.

I have written a couple of letters to the papers here and emailed my councillors about these views. This prompted some discussion about human rights liability, but the proposal still went through. My next step today will be to contact the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal to see if this could be grounds for a complaint and if so, how to go about that.

What do folks here think about this issue?


And how would I do that?


I can understand why you would feel slighted as a woman regarding this issue, but i believe the urinals are being implemented as a solution to a problem, which is bar patrons urinating on property. In my experience it's not females who are usually the ones perpetuating this behaviour.

In response to your point mentioning the 'whipping out of genitals' I agree this could potentially create some undesirable situations.

remind remind's picture

Well apparntly men are already whipping out their genitals, or there would not be a problem with store fronts, eh?

Who is to say these will work even? Seems to me men will take a pit stop where they want.



They have public urinals in London's Soho. They work very well and are a blessing after a few pints Wink


boomerbsg wrote:

They have public urinals in London's Soho. They work very well and are a blessing after a few pints Wink


Do you happen to know who funded that project? was it a City initiative or a local business decision? maybe a combination?


Most places here don't have them (although I understand Calgary does)

Yeah, in Calgary they're called "bus shelters".


I agree that they may not even solve the problem they are intended to address. This is also the opinion of one of our downtown councillors, who opposes them.

The problem re exposure is in legalizing the behavior. Anyone who does it now is at least looking for a somewhat private area -- they will usually go around the corner and check who else is in the vicinity, or potentially be subject to a fine. There were a couple of hundred tickets written on this last year. Now we will have this behavior occurring in plain view of anyone else trying to use the street, even during the daytime, when visibility is greater and alternate facilities are available.

Believe it or not women have the same digestive systems as men and worse comes to worst, we will continue to have to use the bushes, where we -- unlike men, now -- would be subject to harassment and fines by police.

I have also seen these things in Europe, and they stink. That's their issue and their established practice. Most places here don't have them (although I understand Calgary does) and I don't think they're appropriate or necessary. Absolutely there should be adequate facilities provided, whether by the bars (who currently lock their doors immediately after last call, rather than allow patrons to return to them what they bought) or by the municipality. But how can a public body, in this country, in this century, possibly consider providing a service that can only be used by one sex?

So, I called the Human Rights Tribunal and they directed me to their legal support centre. The centre advised that there would be a potiential breach of the Ontario Human Rights Code, but it would be difficult to proceed with a complaint until the facilities are in place. They suggested speaking to our MPP and also writing a letter to the City Solicitor, which I will do.

Snert Snert's picture

Maybe it would be cheaper to print up some helpful pamphlets entitled "How to Hold It Like A Grownup".


I just got one question - who in their right mind would receive any kind of payment to clean these things? Public restrooms for drunks are not pretty and public street restrooms would be diabolic in their levels of filth. If there ever was a clear case of worker-exploitation it is the poor people that would have to clean up these disgusting street urinals. 


The issue of facilitating both sexes is a tough one to solve because of the need for pretty much full toilet services once women's needs are incorperated.

The problems associated with the men exposing themselves while using the urinals i think could be solved with an intelligent design of the facility, a design that supports discretion coupled with function.

sachinseth sachinseth's picture

This probably won't solve the problem. It's hard to hit the target when you're drunk, anyway. 


Can the idea of street urinals.  Instead arrest and heavily fine the whiz kids, or with habitual offenders, deprive them of their liberty for awhile, both for urinating in public and for indecent public exposure.  Fine the establishments that permit this behaviour to 'spill' out from their businesses onto adjacent sidewalks in front of the public, and threaten to remove the licences from those bars that do not make every attempt to discourage it by cutting off access to patrons who do this.  The problem should be solved in a matter of weeks.  Why cater to gross indecency on the part of drunken men who insist on using the public thoroughfares as a toilet.

Sven Sven's picture

fiidel_castro wrote:

If there ever was a clear case of worker-exploitation it is the poor people that would have to clean up these disgusting street urinals. 

As though that would be a whole lot different that cleaning up after drunks who have used a toilet in a bar (like when they - literally - shit on the floor)?


Eleutherophobics of the World...Unite!!!

Sven Sven's picture

Oh, and what's with the bars barracading the doors to restrooms during the evening hours?  I've never been in a bar in my life that has done that.

That's just weird.


Eleutherophobics of the World...Unite!!!

Sven Sven's picture

Here's the simplest and most effective solution (mentioned by another poster as well): Fine the guys who are doing the deed out in public.

This is not that difficult of a problem.


Eleutherophobics of the World...Unite!!!

remind remind's picture

Triciamarie said restaurants block their washrooms, not bars  but even so I do not understand that either, if as slumberjck suggest the city gets tough with those who do such a thing then they would have to stop, and why hasn't the city?

And why would people go to a restaurant that blocks access to their bathrooms in the first place?

Sven Sven's picture

If I was sitting in a restaurant in the evening and a server or manager told me that they closed their restrooms during the evening hours, I'd say, "What the fuck are you talking about?" and I'd never eat there again.

That makes about as much sense as not providing patrons with utensils to eat their food with.

In other words, the claim of closed restaurant bathrooms everywhere sounds incredible to me.


Eleutherophobics of the World...Unite!!!

remind remind's picture

Ya, I know me too, I just cannot get my head around it, never heard of it before.  A place like that in BC would be closed really fast!


...And why would people go to a restaurant that blocks access to their bathrooms in the first place?

Here in the centre of homelessness in Canada (Toronto) most restaurants have signs on their washrooms that say, "Customers only," and to gain access you have to ask at the counter for a key. Maybe that's what is meant.



I found the article:

Already, two hours before that inevitable rush, staff have transformed the sit-down restaurants into strictly takeout establishments, piling the tables and chairs in or near the washrooms normally reserved for customers. Prohibiting food consumption on the premises gets the eateries around the provincial regulations requiring restaurants to provide public lavatories. At Pita Pit on Macdonell Street, a metallic "Office" sign is stuck over a similar one reading "Washroom" to dissuade bargoers from asking to use the facilities. It doesn't work.


Sorry, I should have clarified that this is for our famous bar crowd. After the supper crowd ends, most of the restaurants close for a couple of hours. They pick up all the tables and chairs off the floor and pile them in front of the washrooms. Then when they reopen later, they no longer allow food to be eaten on their premises, and that way they get around the legal requirement to provide washroom facilities while still getting to sell their food. Meanwhile, Chinese food and falafel and poutine packaging is spread out across the downtown every weekend morning after all these drunk people sat on the curbs to eat.

The Guelph Mercury interviewed one such restaurant owner a couple weeks ago and he said he used to leave his washrooms open until his sink got ripped out of the wall a couple years ago, a very expensive repair. Now he does the same as everyone else.

The background is that Guelph and Guelph U. have long had a reputation as a place to party, and our downtown is vastly oversupplied in booze barns (many under a single owner) serving the students of three or four universities, a number of colleges as well as other yahoos from the whole district. We have over 10,000 capacity in the downtown bars within a couple square blocks, in a city of, what, 120,000 people. The situation is exacerbated by well-intended local bylaws that at least until recently made it nearly impossible to get a liquor license in the whole southern half of the city. And to make the problem even worse, there is minimal late-night transit, and the police also control taxi licenses (ie as well as banning port-a-potties) so there are not enough of those either. It is not uncommon for it to take several hours for the downtown to clear out after last call -- even in winter. There is hooliganism. There are fights. There is noise. There is urine, and much worse; my kids have known from the time they could toddle that we have to watch our step carefully on the way to the ballet studio on Saturday mornings. It's a terrible problem for the people and businesses down there.

Maysie Maysie's picture

Yikes. Just yikes.

I'm guessing Guelph doesn't have a huge tourist industry?


I grew up outside of Guelph and went to high school and university there. I thought the whole town was a toilet.


I have also seen these things in Europe, and they stink. That's their issue and their established practice. 


Yeah, OK, but I found that they were a welcome sight (Smell? Whatever, I had bigger issues.) while wandering around a city on foot without any other sort of public area to relieve oneself.


You do have a point about the lack of female facilities though. Maybe women avail themselves of the excellent European public transport systems and go home to pee.


Yes, and they probably have other alternatives too.

OK so yesterday I called the MPP's office and discussed it with her staff. They are going to bring it up with her and see if she wants to be involved.

Today I wrote a letter to the city solicitor, cc the mayor and MPP, and sent this off by email. Thanks very much for all the comments and suggestions in this thread. I kept all these ideas in mind in identifying the problems with the urinals and some suggestions for alternative solutions.

I have also bcc'd the editors of the local papers on an FYI basis.

I may or may not copy the relevant city councillors since they never bother to respond to me, although one of them did bring up my prior message to him at city council during their last discussion on this, which (hilariously) prompted one of my compatriot malcontents on the right to write a big long opinion piece in the paper about how one citizen's objection seems to be given more weight than all the official stakeholders who worked so hard in commitee to bring forward this (disgusting) proposal. I thought that was a good point too, so in my letter I am also suggesting that all committees as well as all city staff (since they endorsed this) be given mandatory human rights training to eliminate any similar discriminatory proposals making it this far forward in future. It's interesting that our Human Rights Tribunal does have the ability to enforce this kind of a remedy, or any other reasonable solution that a complainant might propose. Of course this is not a formal complaint at this stage but there is always a chance that city legal staff will be alive to that possibility and they may go ahead and start some form of training before their hand is forced.


The MPP's office called back (Liz Sandals, Lib.) and said (a) the letter looks good, (b) they discussed it with Liz and this is currently a municipal matter so this is the appropriate and necessary first step, (c) if it does get to the stage of the urinals being implemented I should take it up with the Tribunal.

I think that's fine for now. I may go back to them again for support later if there is no movement by the City. In that case I might consider collecting some signatures on a petition first although that would probably be a lot of work.

remind remind's picture

In thinking about this change from a it down restaurant to take out, perhaps ine could start a local group to lobby City Hall to change business licensing rules to make it so you are either a sit down or a take out, but you cannot be both.



That's a good angle to investigate. I'm going to check and see if I can find anything in the by-laws etc. about this, or if not, how it could be introduced. I had also been thinking about looking into any decisions about health regulations as they apply to restaurants that offer table service at least some of the time.

Unfortunately my timing appears to be very poor around approaching the Mayor on this issue. The last time I emailed her directly, she had just received the news that a high-school girl was crushed by a falling wall at a public washroom facility in one of our parks. Now today I am hearing lots of sirens, and some of the streets right around here have been blocked off, so I wouldn't be surprised to find out that there has been another fatality of some sort. Really puts this whole thing in a somewhat different perspective.

remind remind's picture

Ya, I had thought about health regulations too, but then I suspected that the restaurants would know the angle on this.

Another avenue would be to start a group that advocates city hall  for actions geared towards charging the take out food restaurants for the litter that comes fom their establishment. As by changing their designation from sit down to take out, means a lot more garbage hits the streets and why should others in the community pay for their profit margin clean up?

Or there could even be a by law that states no take out food, by pick up, can be sold after such a time, that comes in packaging of any type and that would get rid of the litter and perhaps encourage them to have sit down service late.

You could even draw up a series of by law proposals that cut off their loop holes to do this, and as it is impacting other businesses, you could go to them with your ideas for by laws that would benefit their businesses.



Snert Snert's picture

As by changing their designation from sit down to take out, means a lot more garbage hits the streets and why should others in the community pay for their profit margin clean up?


Why not lobby for something more sensible, like more trash receptacles?


Thing is, if you buy a pizza slice on a paper plate with a napkin, you now own that paper plate too, and the napkin as well. I'm not sure how much sense it would make to try to hold the pizza place responsible for what a customer does or doesn't do with what's now their paper plate and napkin.


And I guess I don't believe that most people would prefer to litter if there are plenty of trash cans around.

remind remind's picture

Well...that would be a case of wishful thinking, not being reality. If people are going to piss on the storefronts out in public, I do not think trash can usage is high on their list of things to use.


Snert Snert's picture

I dunno about that.  They may be hanging ten on the nearest door for the same reason they're tossing their garbage on the ground.

Above I said I don't believe most people would prefer to litter if there are trashcans nearby, but to be fair, I'm not sure the same could be said of guys and whizzing though.  ;)

remind remind's picture

Fair should look at how many trash cans there are and for placement bulding a plan to stop littering and indeed urinating, as it seems  urinating is partly, at least, because people loiter to eat after the bar closes and take outplaces have their bathrooms blocked.

Now if additonal trah cans, or better placed ones, do not halt the littering which I strongly suspect it won't, then making changes in take out business rules would be the only avenue to fix both problems.

Refuge Refuge's picture

remind wrote:

Or there could even be a by law that states no take out food, by pick up, can be sold after such a time, 

I think this would unfairly target businesses that are a take out only establishment. 

When I used to frequent Durham there were several take out pita and pizza places that never had sit down service.  They used to stay open late for the bar crowd to come and eat before heading home.  I think it is a useful service that allows people to wait an hour or so after  the bar closes before going home rather than going almost right from the bar to their car.  Plus if you have met someone at the bar it is a nice place to go eat and talk with someone in public before deciding to hand over your number.

It shouldn't be only sit down resteraunts can operate after hours as in most of Durham Region I can only recall a couple of sit downs per town being open after the bars closed, and they were major pizza resteraunts. 

I don't think targeting take out only places is the way to go here because of the side benefits of such places.


A while back there was a similar controversey in Winnipeg. A local businessman rented some port-a-potties so that homeless people in the area could do their business. The smell of urine that had been so prominent disappeared. The City, however, decided that they were inappropriate.


I wonder what the City of Winnipeg's objections were? Maybe they didn't want to 'encourage' homeless people, by providing them with amenities -- which come to think of it might also be one of the underlying issues in our police force's preference for outdoor urinals. Police here have said that closed-door facilities lead to crime. That unsupported statement has effectively trumped every other consideration that would favour an inclusive solution.

I heard back last night from the Mayor's Office, in the form of a lengthy email from one of our councillors -- not of the downtown ward -- who says the Mayor asked him to respond to my letter. Councillor Findlay is I believe on the business improvement task force that is pushing for urinals. Most of his response was a cut-and-paste of a recent post in his own blog about how outdoor urination by young males is offensive to everyone, it is a public health issue and Calgary collected 500 gallons of urine that he suggests would otherwise be "contaminating" public areas, in a similar unit to those proposed for here. Yuck! You know, I wonder how they know that all that the men contributing to that volume were otherwise saving it up for public contamination? Did they interview them, mid-stream? I doubt it.

He added that along with the urinals there will also be increased enforcement and education, and he points out that there are plans for full public washroom facilities to be built in 2010 and thereafter. This response is not entirely forthright. Of the three sets of washrooms that he mentions, only one, in a parkade, will even potentially be open during bar hours. Furthermore there is every possibility that unless and until police can be made to see the light of day, they will either require the parkade doors to be closed for late nights due to safety reasons, which is what happened with our other private parkade down the street, or they will insist on closing the washrooms for the same reason, as per their continuous and vocal objections to date.

He had no response to my concerns that outdoor public urinals outdoors effectively require women to walk through a men's washroom, with all the reasonably foreseeable problems, in order to use the street and that it is disgusting, offensive, discriminatory, and inappropriate for any level of government to subject women to this type of abuse.

He did not address the question of equal access for women, not to mention those with disabilities (contrary to a new law in Ontario) or children, or access at all for the interim unless and until they get these other things built.

And while construing this issue as a public health matter, Councillor Findlay overlooks the obvious health problems introduced by this type of facility -- which does not offer hand-washing facilities, and where urine will accumulate, inside the unit as well as on the exterior, at times in the hot sun, and bacteria and germs will proliferate. He doesn't address the health consequences for women or anyone else without access to proper washroom facilities.

He did not respond to the problem of the disgusting stench that will eminate from these contraptions, which will interfere with others' use and enjoyment of the downtown.

Therefore I have indicated that his email does not appear to address the concerns that were raised in my letter and I look forward to receiving the City's response.

Gary Shaul Gary Shaul's picture

I remember on a trip to Mexico many years ago going to a bar in a small town for a few beer and tequila. Those sitting/standing at the bar had a urinal right there, running the length of the bar. They didn't have to go anywhere. Just pee into a trough that went somewhere. Not that I'm suggesting this for Guelph or anything. 


I'm reminded of a charming BBC comedy production of some years ago, 'Clochemerle' which concerned the intense politicking around the installation of a urinal in the square of a small French town.

And I find an element of the comic here, in the rather precious sensibilities of those who are so concerned about men whipping out their whatsits. Most men - ok, ALL men of my acquaintance are rather sheepish about displaying their privates - hence the term - even under the influence of drink and would die of shame were they to be spotted midstream by a passerby. The notion that installing public urinals will foster a whole new generation of exhibitionists is vulgar nonsense! Here in Europe the discrete evacuation of a too-full bladder in some tucked away spot is standard practice and not worth, if you will, a second look. That women aren't afforded quite the same convenience is a matter of nature's design and social more and I do not see why men should be penalized for this. Presumably women are compensated for this anatomical oversight in other ways.

But I have on many occasions in my travels found myself squatting in plain sight of similarly situated women, their hanging skirts preserving their modesty as they attended to this natural act and there was never any fuss; and this in far, far more modest and oldfashioned cultures than our own. Or so I thought.

It seems to me that the situation might better be addressed by finetuning the circumstances in which the student population of this university town do their drinking, to minimize disturbance of the drier citizenry. But to work oneself into a tizzy about urination?


Just to clarify one fundamental point that seems to have escaped you, Merowe, this is not a question of physiology, it's a question of androcentric design. We're not talking about a trough here; this is a hole halfway up a tall plastic cylinder, and I don't care how long your skirt is or how many of them you have on, there is no way that a woman is going to be able to reliably hit that mark. There are other readily available designs that do permit use by women -- even women wearing pants! as is our "more" on this side of the pond -- as well as children and men, including those who are mobility- and vision-impaired. We call these things toilets, or port-a-potties.

So you see, there is no intention to "penalize" men.

In reference to your suggestion that I am oversensitive to the prospect of viewing strangers' penises, and that this concern is vulgar and overstated, I will point out another fact that you appear to have missed, which is that these urinals will be placed not in any discreet corner but right out in the open, where their users can hardly be missed. And there is no need to grow a new generation of exhibitionists -- it's the ones we have already that I am worried about; not so much for myself, I would add, as for my pre-teen girls. I can guarantee you that I will not be using any street where these devices have been placed, when I have them with me.

It's nice for you though that you find this so amusing.

The Bish

triciamarie wrote:
The background is that Guelph and Guelph U. have long had a reputation as a place to party, and our downtown is vastly oversupplied in booze barns (many under a single owner) serving the students of three or four universities, a number of colleges as well as other yahoos from the whole district.

As someone who did their undergraduate degree at Guelph and has been to multiple other universities in Ontario, I think I can pretty safely say that Guelph is not viewed as a party school any more than any other university around here.  Windsor and Western are the first places that come to mind when someone mentions party universities in Southern Ontario, not Guelph.

Here's something I'm curious about, though.  There have been a lot of people willing to fight for the right of women to be allowed to breastfeed in public.  The reasoning is generally that it's a perfectly natural, necessary behaviour and that people who complain about the public nudity are just over-sensitive.  I completely agree with that.  So what, specifically, is the difference between that and what is being proposed for downtown Guelph?  Urinating is also a natural, necessary activity, isn't it?


Well, I made the journey to Guelph as an undergrad years and years ago, I have met lots of other people who say the only time they have ever been here was as an undergrad to drink, and my nephew who is in his first year at Brock in St. Catharines has already made the expedition. Anyway, the numbers in Guelph speak for themselves; we have a problem that is way out of proportion to the size of the city. This is what makes things so difficult in terms of late-night transit, which we don't have the population to support, and taxis, which if we add more they may be underutilized the whole rest of the week.

With breastfeeding there is very little exposure most of the time, but if you went to school here, you should also be aware that it was residents of Guelph who overturned the Canadian law against women going topless in public, even when they are not feeding a baby.

No one was fighting for the right to flash their genitals. In its typical form this is exclusively a male practice, intended as intimidation and sexual abuse. I have been on the receiving end of it, and worse along the same spectrum.

That is the difference.


triciamarie wrote:
I wonder what the City of Winnipeg's objections were?

The reasons given had to do with "permits" and "esthetics."

bush is gone ha...

now people are back to pissing under the higgins and main street underpass.  My bicycle tires splash through urine puddles all the time. If I gotta go late at night, i'm gonna hold it a couple of blocks and take a leak in the city hall courtyard.


Okay, really?  Breastfeeding is the same as pissing in public?



I ran into one of our councillors for the downtown ward yesterday, standing in line for the bus to the Hillside festival. He is opposed to the urinals.

The issue is going back to Council tonight for city funding and he thinks it will pass.

Other than the urinals, the two other planks of the campaing will be increased enforcement including a higher fine, and posters, both of which we agree are positive changes. The downtown business community has raised just over $4K but most of that will be going to the poster campaign. Councillor Bell wants the posters to say something like "Go before you leave, because you will get a $500 fine if they catch you doing it outside" but instead they will be designing one that says "Don't urinate on your neighbour's door". He doesn't think that will be very effective for the target audience.

He asked if the Human Rights Tribunal could issue an injunction. I told him I don't think so -- the impression I got from talking to their Legal Support Centre was that they will only deal with this after the urinals are already in place. They do have an expedited process for some cases though so when the time comes I will see if that is available.

He said there already are a number of public washrooms in the downtown area. I didn't know about them because they are not open after hours, due to security concerns by police. I explained my problem with the police force driving this whole process. He took my point that police should respond, not dictate.

I commended the excellent work that council has done this term. I said it would be a shame if any of them were defeated next year over a pissy little thing like this. He said the budget is going to council today too, and it may be overshadowed by this issue. (I suppose that could be considered an advantage, depending on what they are intending to put through, but I don't think there's anything earth-shattering there. I could be wrong.)

There was an article in one of the papers last week that finally made specific mention of the fact that, not only can these urinals not be used by women, they are also unavailable to men in wheelchairs. An editorial in the other paper a couple weeks ago actually suggested that urinals are not discriminatory because the Chief of Police had stated that they would not charge any woman who tried to use them; his words: "If women want to use them, God love 'em". I sent a rant to the editorial page editor explaining what adverse effect discrimination is, and a few days ago he wrote something else on another issue that actually promoted that perspective. So that is a general improvement.