'Exceptional circumstance': City won't enforce gathering limit during Friday anti-racism march
OTTAWA -- The City of Ottawa says it will not be handing out tickets to the people who attend an anti-racism demonstration on Friday outside the U.S. embassy, despite a provincial limit on public gatherings.
The current state of emergency in Ontario prohibits gatherings of more than five people unless they are from the same household, yet Friday's event could draw thousands.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Ottawa's general manager of community and protective services Anthony di Monte said police would be monitoring the event in order to ensure public safety, but would not be handing out tickets.
"The City is not permitting or sanctioning the event, per se," Di Monte said. "We're in a state of emergency and groups of [more than] five are not permitted. That said, there's a balance. We live in a democracy. Groups of people are expressing themselves and they're allowed to do that. Police won't be issuing tickets. Our simple role will be to ensure public safety."
Di Monte said police will close roads to help make physical distancing easier during the event.
Friday's march comes on the heels of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, at the hands of police. It is one of many demonstrations denouncing racism and police brutality taking place across North America since Floyd's killing.
"Our objective here is to ensure public safety, so they can express themselves in a democratic way, and there's no intervention that will be done in regards to stopping it, but we're not either authorizing or sanctioning the event," Di Monte said.
He asked demonstrators to consider the fact that a pandemic is still going on.
"I think this is a very exceptional circumstance. We're hearing from our public health officials that there is some risk to this, so I would encourage people that this not become the norm and every weekend we have these types of marches. I would encourage people not to do this on a regular basis until we resolve this COVID threat that we have."
Ottawa Public Health's associate medical officer of health, Dr. Brent Moloughney, told reporters he is encouraging anyone who wants to attend Friday's demonstration to practice pandemic control measures thoroughly.
"We understand that people want to gather to march and express themselves. If you are planning on joining the march this week, please do so responsibly, by taking steps to keep yourself and others as safe as possible," Dr. Moloughney said.
- RELATED:Mayor urges participants to practice physical distancing during Friday's march at U.S. Embassy
He recommends anyone attending Friday's march practice physical distancing as much as possible.
"Ideally two metres, but one metre is better than no metres," he said.
Wear a cloth mask, bring and use hand sanitizer, and consider other methods of making noise.
"Consider alternatives to yelling and shouting, to avoid spreading droplets. Use signs or drums," he suggests.
Anyone who attends the march is strongly encouraged to monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 in the days following. Should any present themselves, participants are urged to go for testing right away.
"Ultimately, because this is such an important issue, it's up to individuals as to whether they decide to attend, or participate in another way, say virtually," Dr. Moloughney said. "We are hoping that the instructions that we're providing people will be followed and will keep the participants as safe as possible."
Friday's demonstration begins at 3 p.m. at the U.S. embassy on Sussex Drive. Participants will gather and then march to Parliament Hill.
A direct quote from Anthony di Monte said "groups of five are not permitted." We have added a note to say that the provincial prohibition is on groups of more than five.