From 2011 to 2016 people gathered on Britannia Pier on Jan 1st for the “Sear’s Great Canadian Chill”, a charity event to raise funds for children’s cancer research.
Then on Dec 30, 2016 this notice was published in the Ottawa Citizen.
Organizers of The Sears Great Canadian Chill — a New Year’s Day polar bear dip at Britannia Beach to help raise money to fight childhood cancer — released a statement on their website and Facebook page last month to confirm both the Ottawa and Toronto events will be cancelled this year because the title sponsor Sears has pulled out.
Ottawa Citizen December 30, 2016
At the time the organizers were saying that the event was merely on hold until a new sponsor could be found. However, now it is a year later and there is still no word. Sears itself is permanently gone, so they’re not coming back as a sponsor.
Further, both of the official websites http://searsgreatcanadianchill.ca/ and http://canadianchill.ca/ have disappeared, and the CHEO website still lists the details for the 2016 dip (ie not even updated to the abortive 2017 event), so it seems likely that this event is permanently gone.
I was unable to find much coverage of just how many people participated or how much money it raised. Pictures of the Britannia event look like it was dozens at most, and perhaps not even that.
Certainly year to year varied from actual holes cut in substantial ice with ladders and ropes (eg the video), to 2016 when there was no ice to speak of on the river at all (above) and it was just another day at the beach ;-).
Some of the news coverage suggests that the Chill has been a “tradition for over a decade”, or even going back to the mid-90s, but these seem to have confused the Sears Great Canadian Chill with other, similar fundraisers. Most sources cite 2012 as the Second Annual, 2013 the Third, and so on.
Certainly the first Sear’s Great Canadian Chill Dip at Britannia Pier was Jan 1, 2011, and the last Jan 1, 2016. The Blog MegaPixel Travel has some great photos and a video of that first event; they are here, here and here.