Police, city 'better prepared' for Canada Day festivities, Ottawa's mayor says
Mayor Jim Watson says the city of Ottawa and Ottawa police were better prepared and had more resources to police the capital for the Canada Day long weekend, as a sense of normalcy returned to downtown Ottawa and the Parliamentary Precinct after Canada's 155th birthday.
And Watson says the city of Ottawa will submit the policing bill for the Canada Day festivities to the federal government.
Tourists and visitors enjoyed a sunny, warm Saturday by packing patios, stores and tourist attractions across Ottawa the day after Canada Day.
A motor vehicle control zone remains in effect in downtown Ottawa to prohibit vehicles taking part in protests and rallies, and police officers from Ottawa police, the RCMP, OPP and municipal police forces continue to patrol the area in cruisers, bicycles and on foot.
"I thought things went really, really well. Few arrests, obviously, over the course of the days, lots of parking tickets and tow aways, but people understood we're going to be serious," Watson told CTV News Ottawa Saturday afternoon. "We don't want to have a repeat of what happened a few months ago and I thank the people of Ottawa for being good hosts."
Tens of thousands of people visited downtown Ottawa and LeBreton Flats on Friday to celebrate Canada Day, with the main events shifted from Parliament Hill due to the construction on Centre Block.
Large numbers of officers were present throughout the downtown area to monitor Canada Day revellers, while several roads were closed to vehicles across the area.
"I think the police and the city reached a good balance. You don't want to turn the place into something where there's a checkpoint every two feet, but there was a very strong police presence," Watson said.
"I think things worked really well, we learned a lot of lessons from the few months ago and at the end of the day this is a celebration of our country, people should have that freedom to move back and forth. To those people who came to protest – they had their march, they got their message across and, to the best of my knowledge, they did not disrupt any of the formal proceedings which was smart on their part."
Hundreds of people marched from Parliament Hill through downtown Ottawa to the National War Memorial late Friday afternoon to protest COVID-19 vaccines and mandates, along with the federal government. Officers monitored the march as it worked its way through residential areas.
Downtown businesses say it was a busy Friday, but crowds were not as large as previous Canada Day events.
"Our numbers were a little bit lower, a bit softer than other Canada Days, but all and all I'd say it was a success," said Sarah Chown, managing partner at Metropolitan Brasserie.
Chown added that it helped that police watched for protests.
"People walking around protesting is not the same as parking your trucks on my doorstep, everyone has the right to protest," Chown said. "If this is just another one that's reoccurring that's fine with me as long as there's no disruptions to day-to-day business."
Joel Herback says he spent the day downtown to celebrate Canada Day, and he didn't notice any protests.
"Overall, quite positive," Herback said, describing the mood downtown. "It was a really great atmosphere, everybody seemed to be out for the same reason and it was really enjoyable."
Some residents walking through the downtown area on Saturday said they choose to stay away on Friday because of the risk of protests.
"During the whole protest my life was pretty much put on hold, so come Canada Day I assumed everything would be chaotic again," said Chanel Sosnoski, who lives in Centretown. "My boyfriend lives in Orleans; we decided to spend the weekend in Orleans. It was much more quiet."
Ottawa police have not provided an official update on the Canada Day operations. Police did say an Ottawa man is facing charges after pulling a knife on an RCMP officer.
Between 8 a.m. Wednesday and 8 a.m. Saturday, Ottawa Bylaw Services officers issued 327 parking tickets and had 91 vehicles vowed from the motor vehicle control zone.
Watson says the city and Ottawa police have learned lessons from the Freedom Convoy protest in January and February, which helped with the response this weekend.
"We were better prepared, we had more police officers at the right time we needed them from different police services and at the end of the day I think what we did was make sure there was a police presence but we also were very firm with applying the rules," Watson said.
The motor vehicle control zone is scheduled to remain in place around downtown Ottawa and the Parliamentary Precinct until Monday morning.
PRICE TAG FOR POLICING
The mayor says the city of Ottawa and Ottawa police don't know the full price tag for policing the capital over Canada Day, but he will seek assistance from the upper levels of government.
"People have the freedom to protest and to criticize any government they want to. It becomes very expensive, quite frankly, for the taxpayers of Ottawa," Watson said, acknowledging freedom groups have promised to hold protests all summer.
"We're going to be seeking support, obviously, for the last three days from the federal government. They were great providing the funding for the illegal truck occupation a couple of months ago.
"This was an expensive undertaking; our police are tired, they've been working on these kind of issues for the last six months and my hope is that it does not simply come for the sake of yelling and screaming and saying the same things."
With files from The Canadian Press