Armed with chalk, Ottawa women take on Canada's spy agencies — over parking

Danielle Sullivan and Diane Day say the residential parking situation near CSIS and CSE headquarters in east Ottawa has become "unbearable."

Danielle Sullivan and Diane Day patrol the streets around CSIS, CSE headquarters

Diane Day, left, and Danielle Sullivan, right, stand next to a car they've marked with chalk. The two women patrol the streets around Ottawa's CSIS and CSE headquarters, keeping an eye out for drivers who've overstayed their welcome. (Hillary Johnstone/CBC)

Two women living in Ottawa's east end say they're upset their neighbourhood's been taken over by employees of Canada's intelligence agencies — and they're fighting back with pieces of chalk.

Retired nurses Danielle Sullivan and Diane Day have been patrolling the residential streets that border the headquarters of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), outlining parked cars and trucks with chalk and carefully marking down the time the vehicles arrived.

They do it because the drivers of those vehicles, they say, tend to overstay their welcome.

"It's an ongoing issue. We've had this for three years. And it's just unbearable," said Sullivan, who lives on Leigh Crescent, near the two agencies.

3-hour limit

On most of the residential streets around CSIS and CSE headquarters, vehicles are allowed to park for a maximum of three hours.

Sullivan said drivers often arrive early in the morning, well before the posted restrictions kick in, and leave their vehicles in their spots for longer than the posted limit — or they move their car just up the block before it gets ticketed.

The resulting glut of vehicles makes life difficult for residents who want to do renovations, the pair said, while also hampering snowplows, buses, and other city vehicles.

"In the wintertime, the street gets even more narrow than what it is now," said Day. "Driving down the street, it's inches between mirrors. I actually guided the plow through one day because he got stuck."

'Verbally abusive'

Using chalk, the pair outline the vehicles and mark the precise time they arrived, so that bylaw officers know which ones have violated the three-hour limit.

They say they know the vehicles belong to employees of the agencies — as they've watched the drivers enter the buildings.

"They don't like being noticed," Day said. "They get verbally abusive — especially if I catch them when they're leaving and tell them, or ask them, 'Do you know the parking rules and regulations?'"

City officials say that more than 2,000 parking tickets have been issued on these six streets near CSIS and CSE headquarters since 2015. (Google Maps)

In a statement to CBC News, CSIS noted that while there are "limited number of parking spaces" at its headquarters, the agency works to ensure that employees are obeying municipal and private parking restrictions.

CSIS employees are also "encouraged to consider alternative transportation methods" like public transit, the agency said.

CSE issued a similar statement, noting that they also offer an "internal ride sharing tool" for employees looking for a ride to work.

Beacon Hill-Cyrville Coun. Tim Tierney, whose ward includes the neighbourhood, says he's heard a similar message from the two agencies, but the situation doesn't seem to be improving.

More than 2,000 tickets since 2015

"They have told us that they have tried to communicate with their staff, enforcing the fact that there will be ticketing in the community, that they should take public transportation," Tierney said.

"But even being hit in the pocketbook doesn't seem to be doing anything."

In 2015 parking control officers issued 1,656 parking tickets to vehicles on six streets neighbouring the agencies' headquarters, and have handed out 553 tickets so far in 2016, according to data from the city.

Despite those numbers, Sullivan and Day say they have no plans to stop their patrols unless CSIS and CSE rein in their employees.

"We want them to step up, get their parking!" said Sullivan. "Get parking for their cars, and give us our street back."