Canada Day: heavy security for protests, celebrations in downtown Ottawa

By The Canadian Press and CityNews Ottawa

Downtown Ottawa was once again awash in red and white and crowded with people draped in the Maple Leaf.

But the cries of “Freedom” that were the hallmark of anti-COVID-19 mandate protests that have been happening on and off since February were absent from the national capital Friday.

Ottawa was in a celebratory mood as Canada Day events got underway, although protesters were in town and planning a march from Parliament Hill later in the day.

Demonstration organizers cancelled one event, a picnic planned for Strathcona Park in the morning, citing a violent incident at the National War Memorial Thursday evening where a large crowd gathered to mark the end of an event dubbed the “March for Freedom.”

Ottawa police say four people were arrested after an altercation and allege one officer was choked.

Police from a number of forces are present throughout downtown Ottawa and in Gatineau, Québec, where a secondary event site is set up, and people attending are being screened with metal detectors and bag searches.

Officials have been warning there will be zero tolerance for “unusual noise,” blockading roads or setting off fireworks this weekend.

More traditional Canada Day festivities will also look different this year. The main celebrations are being moved off Parliament Hill for the first time in 50 years, according to Heritage Canada, citing the ongoing construction at Centre Block.

The main events in LeBreton Flats Park and at Place des Festivals Zibi in Gatineau include a daytime ceremony and evening performances, acrobatic shows and activities for families.

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds, however, will not fly over the capital as planned — a recent technical issue has been fixed but the team needs time for practice flights and maintenance before returning to the air next weekend.

A motor vehicle control zone is already in place, which spans from Booth Street in the west all the way to Sussex Drive and Colonel By Drive in the east.

The roads are not closed. Residential and business traffic, as well as pedestrians, cyclists and public transit are permitted to enter and exit the control zone.
Motor vehicles taking part in any form of demonstration, event, protest or rally will not be permitted.

Since 8 a.m. on June 29, by-law officials have issued 275 parking tickets and towed 72 vehicles located in the vehicle control zone in place for Canada Day events and demonstrations this weekend.

“With that red zone you aren’t allowed allowed to drive in to, and we have a lot of streets where we don’t have much parking,” said Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney on The Rob Snow Show on Friday, July 1. “If you want to come downtown, you either have to jump on a train or walk, so I believe that has kept any type of occupation out of downtown.”

People were gathering on Wellington Street in front of Parliament Hill and chanting to free Pat King and Tamara Lich, who were key organizers of the ‘Freedom Convoy’ in Ottawa earlier this year.

Ottawa by-law officers quickly shut down a table where anti-Trudeau badges were being handed out.

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