Skip to main content

Ottawa police expect 'Freedom Convoy' protest to grow this weekend


Ottawa police say they're anticipating the "Freedom Convoy" protest that has snarled traffic and filled downtown Ottawa with relentless noise to grow again this weekend as more demonstrators return and that policing may not bring the protest to an end.

"The intelligence that we’re seeing currently is that we will continue to see the convoy attempt to hold what they have," said deputy chief Steve Bell at a technical briefing on Wednesday. "Expect to see increased vehicular traffic Saturday and through weekend, decreasing Monday."

Bell called the demonstration something "between a demonstration and a long-term plan to occupy our streets." Acting deputy chief Trish Ferguson said that most of the demonstrators who were in the city over the weekend have left and what remains is "a highly-determined and highly-dedicated group of unlawful individuals."

However, with more on the way, Ferguson said police have the resources to respond.

'No policing solution': Sloly

Ottawa police chief Peter Sloly suggested that a solution could lie outside the police force’s hands.

"There may not be a policing solution to this demonstration," he said.

Speaking to reporters, Sloly elaborated to say that the police service is looking at all options on the table.

"From negotiation, through to court injunction, through to an enforced removal, all of the options that are available to us," he said.

He compared the demonstration in Ottawa to other demonstrations around Canada, such as the blocking of the Canada-U.S. border in Alberta, saying that the protest in Ottawa is part of a larger movement.

"We are not as confident as we have been that police alone will resolve this situation substantially, nevermind in totality," he said. "There is likely no policing solution to this, but in combination with other efforts, there may be other opportunities to substantially reduce, if not end this demonstration."

When asked whether the Prime Minister needs to step in, Sloly said that's up for him to decide.

"That's a question for politicians to decide. That's a question for the Prime Minister's Office," he said. "I have a responsibility under the police act to look after the safety of this city and that's exactly what I've been doing and will continue to do so, but there needs to be other elements brought in to finding a safe, swift, and sustainable end to this demonstration that's happening here and across the country."

Sloly again emphasized that, to date, there have been no serious injuries, no deaths, and no riots as a result of police enforcement. He stressed that there will be consequences for criminal activity, even if it isn't immediate.

"To unlawful demonstrators: there are consequences for your behaviour. There have been arrests made. There have been charges laid. There are more coming. They will be announced even today," he said. "We will find those who committed criminal acts, we will lay charges, and they will face the possibility of jail."

He made the same promises to those who have caused traffic problems and anyone who may have spread hatred and bigotry, and to those who desecrated the National War Memorial.

"To residents of Ottawa, we know you're hurting. We know you want more action," Sloly continued. "We are escalating our actions, including enforcement. We are doing so without escalating public safety risks. We do not want riots; we cannot accept deaths, but all options on the table."

Mayor Jim Watson told the technical briefing that residents are frustrated, frightened, and angry. He said he's spoken with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to ask for resources from the RCMP. He also says he spoke with Treasury Board President Mona Fortier and Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy about possible financial supports for people impacted by business closures related to the demonstration.

Military aid an option, but not without risk, chief says

Sloly said all options are on the table, including the military.

"We're looking at every single option, including military aid to civil power," Sloly said. "I've had those discussions with the mayor, council members, the board. There is a process. It's extremely well-established, extremely well-governed and extremely rare. The only two occasions I'm aware of in the last 100 years was in the Oka crisis and in the FLQ crisis."

Sloly said bringing in Canadian Armed Forces members creates a different set of risks.

"There are some amazing capabilities that come with it and there are some incredible risks that go with it as well. It is not a decision to be taken lightly," he said.

"Military are war-fighters and peacemakers. They are not peacekeepers and they are not police officers. They have a different training and equipment and mindset when it comes to assessing threats, and they have a whole different toolset and training set to effect the mitigation if not the end of that threat," Sloly added. "Mixing them into the population in the downtown core, in a highly volatile situation without any much more than days in advance warning may mitigate some risks and may create and escalate a whole bunch of other risks."

Sloly also said that preventing protesters from driving into the city is not an option. He said it would violate the right to freedom of movement under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and even if it didn't, it would be nearly impossible and very damaging to effectively "seal off" the city.

Some arrests made

Ottawa police have made a third arrest in relation to the 'Freedom Convoy' protests that have shut down parts of Ottawa since Friday.

Police said Wednesday morning they have charged a 48-year-old Quebec man for making threats and comments on social media while he was in Ottawa.

Police did not release the man's name, but siad he is facing charges of uttering threats and counselling to commit an indictable offence.

Sloly said Wednesday there are 18 active investigations into events linked to the demonstration. 

Trucks remain on Wellington Street in downtown Ottawa, although the number of demonstrators is dwindling. Police said Tuesday night about 250 remained on and around Parliament Hill. Organizers of the protest say they plan to stay "as long as it takes for freedom to be restored."

In a news release issued Wednesday morning, organizers said they plan to remain in Ottawa until governments across Canada "end all mandates associated with COVID-19."

"The number of participants who have travelled from every region of Canada to be in Ottawa was a surprise even to us," spokesperson Tamara Lich said in the release. "It was a bit overwhelming at first from a logistical point of view, but we are now well organized and are settling in."

The protest, which began on Friday but saw the largest group of demonstrators on Saturday, has caused disruption for downtown residents and forced the continued closure of local businesses, including the Rideau Centre mall.

Last night, police said a 29-year-old Ottawa man was arrested Tuesday and charged with mischief under $5000 in connection with an incident on Saturday and a 37-year-old Ottawa man was arrested on Sunday and charged with carrying a weapon to a public meeting. The weapon was revealed to be a long gun, which was seized.

The Ottawa Police Service has set up a dedicated hotline to report any criminal activity related to the demonstration. Hate-motivated incidents can be reported to 613-236-1222 ext. 5015. Other crimes can be reported to 613-236-1222 ext. 7300.

Police said Tuesday that eight complaints have been made to the hotline, three of which are being investigated by hate crime investigators. Police also said "some progression" has been made in the investigation into the desecration of the National War Memorial.

"We want to be very clear, both for the current demonstrations and any planned demonstrations: Illegal activity will not be tolerated," a media release said.

'We actually respect the city of Ottawa'

Area residents have complained of sleepless night because of the noise from the downtown core since the weekend. But one member of the convoy said that the demonstrators are staying within Ottawa noise bylaws.

"The horns have not been honking all night long the past few nights. They actually stick within the Ottawa bylaw. There are no horns honking between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.," Jeff Gaudry, who came from Vernon, B.C., told CTV Morning Live on Wednesday.

“The weekend when everyone was here, there was quite a bit of a celebration going on," he added. "But the people that are here right now, we actually respect the city of Ottawa. The streets have never been cleaner."

In their news release, convoy leaders said they regret that Ottawa residents are "bearing this inconvenience."

""Our message to the citizens of Ottawa is one of empathy. We understand your frustration and genuinely wish there was another way for us to get our message across," organizer Chris Barber said in the release.

A GoFundMe campaign in support of the truckers reached more than $10 million raised on Wednesday.

Watson said the organizers' words about having empathy for the city "ring hollow" as the issues related with the protest drag on.

"People's nerves are frayed. They haven't been able to sleep for five nights in a row. People are being harassed on the street, being attacked in coffee shops," Watson said. "The organizers of this protest aren't hurting the government, they're hurting the people of Ottawa. And I think it's time they show some leadership, show some backbone, and get out in front of this and say, 'Folks, we've made our point. We're doing more harm than good by parking and honking all hours in residential neighbourhoods. It's time to move on.'" Top Stories

Stay Connected