Ottawa·ELECTION 2018

Candidate's bravery award delay raises questions

The abrupt postponement of a bravery award for a man who performed CPR on a shooting victim is raising questions about whether politics are at play.

Fabien Kalala Cimankinda performed CPR on shooting victim

Fabien Kalala Cimankinda is running for city council in River ward. (Laura Osman/CBC)

The abrupt postponement of a bravery award for a man who performed CPR on a shooting victim is raising questions about whether politics are at play.

Fabien Kalala Cimankinda, who's running for the city council seat in River ward, should have received the award from the city's community and protective services committee in February, more than two months before the election campaign began.

Coun. Riley Brockington, vice-chair of the committee, is running for re-election in the same ward.

On the afternoon of Sept. 20, 2017, Cimankinda was visiting the Caldwell Avenue neighbourhood where he grew up when he heard gunshots ring out while his daughter played outside.

He rushed outside and performed CPR on the shooting victim until paramedics arrived, but the man later died. 

Cimankinda, already a well-known figure in the community for his stance against crime and gun violence, and his involvement in events such as Black History Month, received an email from the city on Feb. 12, informing him he'd receive a special commendation during the meeting of the community and protective services committee 10 days later.

Within a day, he received a second email informing him the award would have to be postponed because the meeting's agenda was already too heavy. CBC News has obtained both emails.

That meeting ran just one hour. The award of Cimankinda's commendation was never rescheduled

Cimankinda received another email in late June saying the award would be delayed until after the Oct. 22 election.

Candidate frustrated

Following an all-candidates debate over the Thanksgiving weekend, Cimankinda expressed his frustration.

"When they decided to give it to me, I wasn't a candidate. They wait [four] months to tell me I'm not going to receive it because I became a candidate."

Toward the end of the debate, a resident pressed the incumbent to explain what had happened.

"Did you talk, email, influence or interfere in any way in the delay of this bravery citation?" CBC Ottawa's Adrian Harewood, who moderated the debate, asked Brockington.

Brockington told the audience, many of whom were Cimankinda supporters, "the citation was warranted," but said Coun. Diane Deans, the committee's chair, had concerns about its timing because Cimankinda was widely rumoured to be planning a campaign.

"The advice she got from the city clerk was that the ceremony could take place, but it would happen after the election," Brockington said.

From left, River ward candidates Riley Brockington, Fabien Kalala Cimankinda, and Hassib Reda take part in a debate at the Carlington Recreation Centre on Oct. 6, 2018. (Kate Porter/CBC)

No politics, Deans says

But on Tuesday, Deans contradicted that version of events.

"This decision was made based on the anticipation of what was coming onto these agendas, and we believed them to be very heavy agendas," she said. 

She cited the third-party review of the city's long-term care homes and the city's homelessness plan, both on the committee's to-do list at the time.

Another resident's award was similarly postponed, Deans said.

Deans said Brockington never approached her about the matter, and said the decision had nothing to do with politics.

"Absolutely, this fellow is deserving of this award, and will be given an award," Deans said.