Police and Bylaw Services officers maintained an increased presence in the Parliamentary Precinct on Sunday, as dozens of people gathered in downtown Ottawa to mark the one-year anniversary of the arrival of the ‘Freedom Convoy.’
Ottawa police vehicles monitored several intersections entering the downtown core, while Parliamentary Protective Service officers monitored people entering Parliament Hill ahead of a planned rally and dance party.
A small group of people gathered on Parliament Hill during a snowstorm Sunday afternoon. Signs at the rally said, “Proud member of the fringe minority with unacceptable views”, “Truck yah!”, “Canada is united”, and “Freedom”.
“It was a reunion to reunite everybody together,” organizer Mathieu Venne said Sunday afternoon. “We were here peacefully, honourably, clean.”
Protester Travis, who declined to give his last name, said this weekend’s events were to “celebrate the accomplishments of the convoy” last year.
“Our message is the same; we are against the mandates. Vaccine mandates aren’t completely gone; it’s up to company discretion, it hasn’t been abolished.”
Police say a “small convoy” entered Ottawa Sunday afternoon, but was “subsequently redirected out of the city”. One vehicle with an upside-down Canadian flag and a Quebec flag was seen driving around the downtown area Sunday morning.
In a statement on Twitter Saturday evening, Coun. Riley Brockington said Ottawa police told Council that “there is an indication that some individuals from the ‘Cornwall Convoy’ (25 vehicles) and Hamilton ‘Convoy’ (30 vehicles) may plan to attend Ottawa once those events conclude. This is being closely monitored.”
Police said there had been “no issues to report” as people gathered in downtown Ottawa and on Parliament Hill over the weekend, waving Canadian flags and chanting “Freedom.”
As of Sunday afternoon, police and Bylaw Services officers had issued 192 parking tickets for violating the Special Event No-Stopping Zone restrictions and 67 Provincial Offences Notices, while 23 vehicles had been towed from downtown streets.
Parliamentary Protective Service officers arrested two people for trespassing on Parliament Hill Saturday afternoon.
“I’m happy to say there was a number of tickets, a number of tows. For the most part, we didn’t see another convoy or occupation arrive in our city,” Coun. Ariel Troster said Sunday.
“We are never going to allow another situation again where people take up residence in our neighbourhoods and allow harassment of everyday people.”
Mayor Mark Sutcliffe told CTV News Ottawa on Saturday police had reported no issues.
“As long as the protests are peaceful and as long as they are not disturbing the public in any significant way, that they are not making noise that traumatizes or triggers residents of Centretown, they’re not blocking roads or bringing vehicles in illegally, then they are welcome to demonstrate and express their opinions,” Sutcliffe told CTV News Ottawa Saturday afternoon.
“It’s not a large number of people and it’s not causing a lot of disruption at the moment. I think a lot of things are normal, business as usual.”
Officers with the Parliamentary Protective Service monitor people entering Parliament Hill on Sunday. (Josh Pringle/CTV News Ottawa)
Ottawa Bylaw said on Twitter its officers were met with “aggression” while conducting enforcement duties in the downtown area Saturday afternoon.
“Interfering with investigations and aggression towards any law enforcement will not be tolerated,” Ottawa Bylaw said.
Ottawa police, with the support of the Ontario Provincial Police, RCMP and Parliamentary Protective Service, have maintained an enhanced presence through the downtown area all weekend in a bid to prevent a repeat of last year’s event that occupied downtown streets for more than three weeks.
On Saturday afternoon, a large group of people waving Canadian flags, U.S. flags and chanting “Freedom” gathered on Parliament Hill. Drivers reported seeing a few people holding Canadian flags on Hwy. 416 overpasses heading into Ottawa.
“For me, this weekend was more about a reunion,” protester Chris Dacey said while standing on Parliament Hill. “If you have a problem with government, you’re supposed to come here to talk to government today and tomorrow.”
“This is our voice, we’ve been suppressed, we’ve been censored, we’ve been shutdown basically,” said Howard, who declined to give his last name, while participating in the rally on Parliament Hill.
Coun. Brockington says police reported approximately 200 people in the Parliament Hill/Wellington Street area on Saturday.
Two events were scheduled for Parliament Hill on Saturday, including a “1-year anniversary trucker arrival celebration” at 12 p.m., followed by a dance party.
Just before 12 p.m., dozens of people had gathered on Wellington Street, waving Canadian flags while police looked on. One protest organizer encouraged the group to move to Parliament Hill, saying they had a permit to hold the rally on Parliament Hill.
Throughout the afternoon, a crowd gathered around the Centennial Flame, waving flags and chanting “Freedom”. Someone wrote ‘Freedom’ in the snow on the lawn of the hill.
“Let’s get rid of (Prime Minister Justin) Trudeau,” one person said.
The events were held one year to the day trucks began arriving in the Parliamentary Precinct to protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other public health measures. The ‘Freedom Convoy’ demonstration occupied downtown streets for more than three weeks, before police moved in to remove the trucks and end the protest.
Police and Bylaw Services promised there would be “increased enforcement” in the downtown core all weekend, and officers will be taking a zero-tolerance approach to parking, noise and fireworks violations.
Some Centretown residents admit the return of protesters in downtown Ottawa caused anxiety in the community.
“When the convoy first came, they parked right in front of our homes and they were kind of harassing the student population,” Chantal Nlouie said.
“It’s a little bit anxiety inducing that they’re back but it’s also not as extreme as it was back then.”
The Parliamentary Protective Service said it expected as many as 500 people to gather on Parliament Hill this weekend for events marking the one-year anniversary of the convoy, while Coun. Troster said demonstrators have a permit for a “dance party” on the hill.
Chief Eric Stubbs has said police have “resources, logistics, traffic, towing and staffing plans in place to address any type of scenario.”
Bylaw Services will also have additional officers in the core to enforce all parking regulations and to issue tickets to anyone violating other city of Ottawa Bylaws, including:
- Unnecessary vehicle or other noise, including speakers
- Construction or installation of structures on city property
- Public urination and defecation
- Open-air fires
- Lighting and discharging fireworks
Police, Bylaw Services issue dozens of tickets
Ottawa Police and Bylaw Services officers issued dozens of tickets throughout the weekend.
On Saturday, 117 parking tickets and 47 Provincial Offences Notices were issued for infractions in the Parliamentary Precinct.
As of 4:30 p.m. Sunday, 75 parking tickets and 20 Provincial Offences Notices had been issued.
Twenty-three vehicles have been towed from downtown Ottawa streets this weekend for violating the no-stopping zone rules.
Prime Minister Trudeau discusses the protests on Parliament Hill
Speaking to reporters in Ottawa on Saturday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he understands the anger and concerns protesters have.
“I understand that there are lots of Canadians who are hurting, and they will continue to lash out and be frustrated. They have, of course, every right to express themselves and protest,” Trudeau said.
“At the same time, I think leaders have a choice. What is responsible leadership? I think responsible leadership is acknowledging the concerns and anger that people are feeling and look to solve it, look to provide solutions, look to reassure people, not to amplify that anger.”
Parking restrictions in the downtown core
The city of Ottawa implemented special parking restrictions in the area of the Parliamentary Precinct this weekend to prevent cars from stopping and parking.
The Special Event No-Stopping Zone stretches from Wellington Street to Laurier Avenue and Bronson Avenue to Elgin Street.
Bylaw Services says enforcement will continue all weekend, and vehicles will be ticketed and towed for violating the No-Stopping Zone.
Restricted access to Parliament Hill
Access to Parliament Hill was restricted all weekend in preparation for any protests or rallies to mark the anniversary of the ‘Freedom Convoy’, and tours of the House of Commons and the Senate were cancelled.
The PPS says public access to Parliament Hill will be restricted to the Queen’s Gates and Metcalfe Gate, while the Bank Gate, O’Connor Gate, Elgin Gate, and Canal Gate will not be accessible to the public.
“All public tours are cancelled,” the PPS said, referencing all tours of the House of Commons and the Senate are cancelled for Saturday and Sunday.
On Jan. 28, 2022, thousands of vehicles and people rolled into downtown Ottawa as part of the protest against COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other public health measures. The protest occupied several streets in the Parliamentary Precinct for more than three weeks, and forced the closure of several businesses, including the Rideau Centre. The Liberal government invoked the Emergencies Act to end the protest.