Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Iqaluit November 10, 2017 - 9:15 am

Nunavut Tim Hortons’ decrepit bathrooms finally getting a makeover

Disrepair, uncleanliness cited by Iqaluit health inspectors eight months ago

The Tim Hortons bathroom in downtown Iqaluit, before it got gutted for repairs. (PHOTO BY LISA GREGOIRE)
The Tim Hortons bathroom in downtown Iqaluit, before it got gutted for repairs. (PHOTO BY LISA GREGOIRE)
The bathrooms at the Northmart Tim Horton's in downtown Iqaluit are now undergoing a long-overdue renovation. (PHOTO BY STEVE DUCHARME)
The bathrooms at the Northmart Tim Horton's in downtown Iqaluit are now undergoing a long-overdue renovation. (PHOTO BY STEVE DUCHARME)

Tim Hortons coffee might be “always fresh,” but until this week, that couldn’t be said for their bathrooms.

The restrooms at the popular coffee-and-doughnut spot attached to Iqaluit’s Northmart have been deteriorating for months with holes in the flooring, inoperable toilets, doors that don’t lock and stained walls scrawled with profane graffiti.

The Government of Nunavut’s environmental health inspectors noted in reports as early as this past March that the bathrooms needed to be “thoroughly cleaned” on a regular basis, and ordered “repairs/replacement for the floors and walls, as discussed.”

Environmental health inspectors did several re-inspections to ensure the cleaning was done.

According to those reports, Northmart, which owns the franchise, told inspectors that “public washrooms are to be totally renovated in the coming year.”

Nunatsiaq News made inquiries this week and received a brief email from Derek Reimer, director of business development at North West Co.’s head office in Winnipeg.

“We are addressing the concerns you have raised and apologize to our customers for the condition of the washroom facilities in Iqaluit. Renovation plans were already underway prior to your inquiry,” Reimer wrote Nov. 7.

“We thank our customers for their patience as we work to resolve the situation.”

Two days later, on Nov. 9, it appears those renovations have begun.

Northmart also received a written letter from an environmental health officer on July 5, 2017, citing contraventions to Public Health Act regulations which require that equipment is kept in a “clean and sanitary condition.”

The inspector noted problems with the cleanliness of sinks, countertops, floors and freezers and added that floors and other surfaces that had deteriorated cannot be cleaned properly and, as a result, can accumulate food particles and lead to microbial growth.

Greg Thibault, a veteran environmental health officer with Nunavut’s health department, said this week that under the Public Health Act, officers are tasked with checking everything, including restrooms, when they inspect restaurants in Iqaluit and other communities.

But health inspectors are foremost concerned with aspects of a restaurant that pose a health risk if not done properly, such as food handling and temperature control.

Dishwashing, food storage and restrooms—so-called “support operations”—are the second priority, he said.

“Most of our focus is going to be on those items that have the highest risk or highest possibility of making somebody sick,” Thibault said.

“Very often if we see infractions, if they’re deemed to be serious or a problem, or sometimes … there may be an indication that something in the operation has changed, that’s when we’ll kick in a re-inspection.”

Inspectors use a series of remedies to fix problems from ordering food to be immediately discarded to issuing public health citations and work orders. Generally speaking, restaurant owners comply with those orders as swiftly as they can, given local contractor capacity and sealift schedules, he said.

Because restaurant operations in Iqaluit might only be checked two to four times per year, inspectors have to look at the inspection history to see if there’s a pattern of behaviour.

“We’ll give them a time, based on the risk involved. So in terms of the bathrooms, we’ll say, ‘OK, these are really bad, we’re going to come by and do an inspection somewhere in the next two weeks,’” Thibault said.

Right now, Nunavut is governed by an aging Public Health Act whose regulations are in the process of being upgraded, Thibault said.

But even after it’s amended and modernized, the legislation will likely still contain ambiguous language to describe the desired state of facilities, such as “clean and sanitary,” “in good repair,” and “in proper maintenance.”

In other words, some things are black and white when it comes to an environmental inspection and some things are open to interpretation.

The Iqaluit Northmart Tim Hortons, which serves a brisk take-out clientele, is also a hang-out for youth and for homeless people who sometimes use it as a place to rest or warm up during the colder months.

Thibault said Northmart was considering instituting a locked-door policy where only paying customers would be permitted to borrow the key to unlock the doors, once the restroom renovations are completed.

We asked Reimer to confirm this, and estimate how long it would take to renovate the washrooms, but he did not respond to our inquiries by our publication time.

We contacted Tim Hortons’ media relations to find out if there is a certain standard of care and maintenance that franchise owners must uphold. They did not respond to our request for information.

Thibault encouraged members of the public to speak to a manager or supervisor if they ever notice unsanitary or potentially unsafe conditions at restaurants and food vendors in their community.

If complainants are unsatisfied with the response they get, they should contact Nunavut environmental health.

Since public service email addresses can become out of date, he encouraged people to pick up the phone. Numbers are available at the GN’s environmental health branch here.

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(17) Comments:

#1. Posted by L'ill Bill on November 10, 2017

There’s been discussion this past while about cleanliness at a club in the city and now it’s the Tim Hortons.  Where were the inspectors when the Arctic Hotel was open. We went there a couple of times, no soap, no hand towels and the place smelled. What was scary about this the restaurant staff was using the same restrooms. Then we have the Navigator, where you have to wipe your feet when you come out of the washroom. The staff also use these washrooms, so you kind of wonder about food handling. I wouldn’t be surprised when they close the Nav at the end of the year and if it’s torn down that the area under the washrooms won’t be declared an environmental hazard.  Lol. But seriously in the past with any of the establishments they should put some sort of power in the hands of the liquor inspectors. They seem to be pretty vigilant.

#2. Posted by Whole Package on November 10, 2017

This is the #1 hangout for the homeless people of Iqaluit and majority of drug dealers.  Northmart is swarmed with drug dealers the time it opens and shortly before it closes its’ doors for the night.  They’re in your face all the time, whether you’re going to Timmys or the store, “Qatsinni?” - “How many grams you want to buy?”  I used to dread that but after a time, you just expect it and they just become part of the whole package.

#3. Posted by EESUMAGEEGOK on November 10, 2017

in the south the food is behind the counter and the workers use gloves.  here it is a free for all with free for all for GERMS. What did the health folk say about that?

#4. Posted by muff diver on November 10, 2017

Sounds to me like you need to hire a bathroom attendant. That will stop the vandals and slobs from ruining the restroom.

#5. Posted by Timmie Poo on November 10, 2017

Good than you now have a functional bathroom. The Northern Store in Rankin only has a single toilet that never flushes and the pot is always full of some one else’s turd; such a disgusting place

#6. Posted by Coffee Drinker on November 10, 2017

The Tim Horton’s is basically a daytime shelter for the homeless and dealers.

I give it a week before it returns back to the way it was before renovations.

#7. Posted by Customer on November 10, 2017

The bathroom was not a Tim Hortons bathroom. It was a bathroom for northmart. It has been there since Mean Jeans.
Its about time that they are being made to upgrade the bathrooms.

#8. Posted by Native on November 10, 2017

Some business upgrading there bathroom is news worthy???

#9. Posted by Sam on November 10, 2017

This is news?  Really?  Their job there can’t be that easy with all of the crap they deal with.  Give them a break.

#10. Posted by Family man on November 10, 2017

It would be nice for the RCMP to watch out for these drug dealers outside Northmart and Arctic Ventures. Sometimes you can even smell the drugs when going inside the stores. I don’t want my kids to see or smell this crap.

How hard is it to catch the dealers selling right in front of the store?

#11. Posted by Evelyn Thordarson on November 10, 2017

Do like they do in the South have self flushing toilets. The other thing if your not buying anything then you will have to leave. If you are just coming in to use the bathroom then unless your a paying customer you can’t use the facilities. It’s not rocket science a separate bathroom for the staff is a necessity if not a norm.And all workers on food service have to wear sandwich gloves and replace often. And clean uniforms with their names on them so we know who should and shouldn’t be behind the counter. Trucker friends of mine would say they would check the bathroom first if the bathroom was clean they would eat there if it wasn’t then no trucker ever ate there.

#12. Posted by good old pragmatism on November 11, 2017

Seriously, is there any police in Iqaluit? Drug dealers doing business under the “no loitering” signs, smoking cigarettes that I get to breathe in every time I enter or leave the store. Sometimes there are so many of them, it actually feels unsafe to be there. Can the RCMP not even do a few walking patrols and clear them out now and then? I mean, who runs this city? Does no one care?

#13. Posted by Wow!!. on November 11, 2017

That tim’s should move somewhere else away from Northern Store of it’s own location. Far from Northern store. If,I was MLA worker, I would make sure it is done that way. We all know that store is haven for the homeless and drug dealers and is nice and warm. The way it sounds now, it must be awful to see or come into the store. If, that is not done, people have power to gather protest for it’s closer to the eye sore in that place.

#14. Posted by Northguy on November 12, 2017

Shame on Northmart and the Northern store management. It is YOUR responsibility to provide a safe and cleanly store for your customers and safe work environment for your staff. This is not acceptable.

It appears that if you have no regard for health and safety, then where does it leave your customers and staff?

#15. Posted by Paul Murphy on November 12, 2017

“The inspector noted problems with the cleanliness of sinks, countertops, floors and freezers and added that floors and other surfaces that had deteriorated cannot be cleaned properly and, as a result, can accumulate food particles and lead to microbial growth”. 

Health inspectors may want to visit every food serving establishment in town to see how many staff handling food are wearing gloves and hairnets.  They may also wish to check health centers throughout the territory for the condition of chairs and table tops. The waiting room in Kugluktuk has bench seats in atrocious condition with pealing covers and just waiting for any bug to habitate. and spread germs to anyone (children) sitting on them.

This has nothing to do with staff at the HC they are exceptional considering the workload placed on them. This concern is purely the condition of the equipment and facility that only the Department of Health can fix.

#16. Posted by WOW on November 12, 2017

OMG this is how small you think?  Sure, i love clean bathrooms but how about the homeless for Pete’s sake!!!  A Shelter that kicks out people at 8:30 in the morning to no particular place in the coldest environment in the world, people with mental disorders and no education or job training?  Are you kidding?  Then we chatter away (because that’s all we bother to do) but gloss over who is crowded in there trying to stay warm Boy, we are hilarious aren’t we?  We are embarrassing in our middle class blindness to need and suffering.

#17. Posted by BOW WOW on November 12, 2017

#16 WOW nailed it!

Census Canada tells us, of those they surveyed, household incomes in Iqaluit in 2015:

under $5,000/yr   - 20 households
$5,000 - $9,999   - 45 households
$10,000 - $14,999 - 35 households
$15,000 - $19,999 - 40 households
$20,000 - $24,999 - 40 households
$25,000 - $29,999 - 30 households
$30,000 - $34,999 - 35 households
$35,000 - $39,999 - 35 households

That’s 280 households, or 1/8 of all the households in Iqaluit.

Of course, 1/4 of all households in Iqaluit earned over $200,000 in 2015.  So who’s complaining about what?

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