'Freedom movement' rallies planned to run in Ottawa all summer: organizer
OTTAWA -- Events are set to take place in Ottawa in late June through Canada Day and the rest of the summer for what organizers say are to protest remaining COVID-19 pandemic-era restrictions.
Andrew MacGillivray, steering committee member for Veterans for Freedom, said in an interview posted on YouTube that it will hold a three-day conference in Ottawa next week, from Wednesday to Friday.
Veterans for Freedom describes itself on its website as a group made up of Canadian veterans working to "restore fundamental freedoms for all Canadians" and "uphold Canadian laws."
The organization has partnered with other groups that oppose pandemic mandates, including those calling themselves Police on Guard and Canadian Frontline Nurses.
The "Freedom Convoy" protest, which occupied downtown streets for three weeks earlier this year, is still in recent memory for many Ottawa citizens.
The members of the Veterans for Freedom steering committee all have ties to the earlier protests, including one person who was among the convoy's spokespeople. Others appeared in YouTube videos supporting convoy demonstrators.
MacGillivray said the group's aim is to have the federal government repeal remaining mandates, reinstate federal workers who lost their jobs related to mandates and pay those workers for lost wages.
He said his group plans to hold a meeting with up to 17 MPs on Wednesday, who are "mostly Conservative," and the next two days will be town hall events with key people in the "freedom movement."
On June 30, Veterans for Freedom is co-ordinating a route for James Topp and his supporters to walk through parts of Ottawa to the National War Memorial. The route has received a police escort, said MacGillivray.
Topp is a Canadian soldier who was charged by the Department of National Defence in May after publicly speaking out against federal vaccine requirements while in uniform.
He left Vancouver in February to walk to Ottawa in protest of pandemic mandates, according to the Canada Marches website.
In the interview on YouTube, MacGillivray shared plans for Canada Day celebrations, set to take place on the lawn in front of the Supreme Court of Canada, which will include a march to City Hall, and a dance party on Parliament Hill that evening.
Heritage Canada said this year's Canada Day celebrations will largely take place in LeBreton Flats Park in the city.
When asked about all the planned "freedom"-related events, Ottawa police said it would be sharing information Friday afternoon in partnership with Heritage Canada on its security approach to Canada Day.
MacGillivray said it will also set up a semi-permanent camp east of Ottawa called "Camp Eagle" and will be holding events all summer. The camp sits about 40 minutes outside the city on private property.
"Basically, we're going to stay there the entire summer. We're going to implement our strategy and our plan to lean on the government through education, information, et cetera."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 16, 2022.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.