'There won't be occupiers': City of Ottawa, police prepared for Canada Day protests
City of Ottawa staff and the Ottawa Police Service are ensuring residents that planned protests on Canada Day will not devolve into the kind of occupation that residents endured this past winter.
Interim Ottawa police chief Steve Bell told the Ottawa Police Services Board on Monday afternoon that the OPS plan is geared toward preventing a repeat of the three-week occupation of downtown Ottawa last January and February.
“There won’t be occupiers because all of our planning is established around ensuring that people do not occupy our streets, that people do not take over areas of Ottawa,” Bell said. “We’ve set very deliberate plans and we’ve resourced those plans so that occupation does not again occur.”
Bell said the plan includes the ability to be mobile and react to anything outside of the established vehicle exclusion zone downtown. He also said police have made plans to ensure public safety for all Canada Day events, as well as the events downtown.
Ottawa police Supt. Rob Bernier, the event commander for Canada Day, told the board that this year’s Canada Day would be an unprecedented event for Ottawa and for the Ottawa Police Service, in part because the main event is being held at LeBreton Flats, making Ottawa police the police of jurisdiction, rather than the Parliamentary Protective Service.
“Our footprint in the downtown core will be spread approximately across three kilometres, from LeBreton Flats, through the Wellington corridor, and into the ByWard Market,” he said.
Police are anticipating hundreds of thousands of people downtown for Canada Day this year, given that it is the first in-person Canada Day celebration since 2019, which includes some anti-mandate and anti-government demonstrators.
“We’re anticipating some freedom movement demonstrations and activities,” Bernier said. “We do know that there are various groups that are talking on open source that they’re intending to come to Ottawa and demonstrate. We’re monitoring those very closely and preparing accordingly.”
Bernier said the Ottawa Police Service is preparing for a variety of outcomes, including people setting up tents. Bell said that OPS is working with the municipal and federal governments on how best to respond to camping protests on city or federal property. People who set up on private property face trespassing charges if the property owner does not want them there.
Bell urges everyone to reach out to police if they have an issue related to illegal or hateful activity.
“If people are experiencing that, they need to contact us. They need to call the police and we will have a response established.”
‘NO WARNINGS, NO SECOND CHANCES,’ SAYS MAYOR
Ottawa's mayor is warning the city will not tolerate any illegal activity downtown during Canada Day festivities.
"Those people who are coming here to disrupt those wonderful celebrations will be dealt with," Watson said. "There are not going to be warnings or second chances. If the law is broken, regardless of who breaks it, there will be consequences.
"This is a time to celebrate our great country."
Watson, Bell and city staff gave an update Monday morning on the city's plans for Canada Day this year.
Officials are encouraging people who want to celebrate Canada Day to come downtown. However, Bell said police have a comprehensive public safety plan preparing for multiple scenarios.
"This is expected to be a unique Canada Day, with larger crowds and a larger event footprint," Bell said. "We have the people, skills and the equipment to ensure these events are safe and peaceful."
Police say residents should expect significant road closures and a major increase in police presence. A five-day motor vehicle countrol zone will cover the Parliamentary Precinct and part of downtown Ottawa, similar to the approach police took during the 'Rolling Thunder' motorcycle convoy in April.
Ottawa police are calling in reinforcements from the RCMP and municipal police services.
While police have not said how many additional officers will be brought in from other police forces, a report for the Ottawa Police Services Board asks for nearly 500 RCMP officers to receive special constable status to work in Ottawa over the next week.
"Freedom movement" rallies are expected to be held in Ottawa throughout the summer, including over the Canada Day weekend. Veteran James Topp is scheduled to complete his walk across Canada to protest the remaining COVID-19 vaccine mandates on Thursday at the National War Memorial.
The Canadian Press reported Veterans 4 Freedom is planning to hold Canada Day events on Parliament Hill and at the Supreme Court of Canada. Veterans 4 Freedom's website says the group's mission is to rally Canadian Armed Forces veterans by "mobilizing and sustaining lawful civic action in order to restore the fundamental rights and freedoms of Canadians."
Bell acknowledged that some residents remain scarred from the 'Freedom Convoy' occupation that took over downtown Ottawa earlier this year.
"We are very aware of the lingering trauma and the concern about what they are hearing about these events," he said. "We are prepared to take decisive and lawful action to deal with threats, occupation attempts and other unlawful behaviour that we observe."
Ottawa police say their ultimate focus is not to overshadow the celebrations, but to ensure they can proceed peacefully.
Watson reminded people that public transit is the best way to get downtown for celebrations. OC Transpo is free on Canada Day.
MOTOR VEHICLE CONTROL ZONE
A motor vehicle control zone will be in effect from Wednesday at 8 a.m. until Monday, July 4 at 6 a.m. The city says the roads will not be closed; however, any vehicles taking part in any form of demonstration, event, protest or rally will not be permitted to enter the area.
The motor vehicle control zone stretches from Wellington Street in the north to Laurier Avenue in the south, Booth Street to the west and Sussex/Colonel By Drive in the east, and includes the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway, Albert Street, Rideau Street, the Chaudiere Crossing and Portage Bridge.
There will be no on-street parking or stopping on roads in the control zone.
The city is warning motorists to expect traffic delays in the control zone and on surrounding streets.
FENCES PUT UP AROUND SUPREME COURT
Fencing went up Monday around the Supreme Court of Canada.
Some demonstrators had announced plans to hold events on the lawn of the SCC.
As CTV's Mackenzie Gray reports, the fencing doesn't surround the entire lawn, but there are signs advising that camping on the site is prohibited.
CANADA DAY ROAD CLOSURES
Heritage Canada announced several streets will be closed in the city of Ottawa from 6 a.m. on Friday until 2 a.m. on Saturday. The follow streets will be closed to all vehicle traffic:
- Wellington Street between Bank Street and Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway
- Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway between Parkdale Avenue and Wellington Street
- Sparks Street between Lyon Street North and Bronson Avenue
- Queen Street between Bank Street and Bronson Avenue
- Bank Street between Wellington Street and Queen Street
- Kent Street between Wellington Street and Albert Street
- Lyon Street between Wellington Street and Albert Street
- Bay Street between Wellington Street and Albert Street
- Bronson Avenue between Sparks Street and Albert Street
- Commissioner Street between Wellington Street and Albert Street
- Booth Street between Chaudière Crossing and Albert Street
- Vimy Place between Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway and Booth Street
- Fleet Street between Booth Street and Lett Street
- Lloyd Street between Fleet Street and Lett Street
- Lett Street between Lloyd Street and Wellington Street
- Onigam Street between Lemieux Island and Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway