Politics Briefing: Ottawa police preparing for protests at Canada Day celebrations
Ottawa police say they are preparing for protests at this week’s Canada Day celebrations, and planning to balance the rights of protestors and those celebrating the holiday.
“We will not, however, accept unlawful behaviour,” Steve Bell, the interim Ottawa police chief, told a news conference on Monday.
Mr. Bell said the police are rallying public-order units, traffic teams and tow trucks and will take “decisive and lawful action” to deal with threats, occupation attempts and other unlawful action.
The city has been the scene of several large demonstrations since supporters of the self-described freedom convoy occupied the downtown core for three weeks in January and February. Now there are concerns about new anti-government protests during Canada Day.
Celebrations in the national capital have been moved from the lawn of Parliament Hill due to reconstruction work on the House of Commons and will be held at LeBreton Flats, west of the downtown core.
“We expect there to be demonstrations. This is a right of all Canadians and it will be protected. We will not, however, accept unlawful behaviour and we will not allow vehicle-based demonstration in the motor vehicle control zone,” said Mr. Bell.
The zone refers to an area of downtown Ottawa being established over the Canada Day weekend to prevent the movement of vehicle protests in the area.
”Visitors and community members will see a significant police posture and presence throughout the city,” said the interim chief.
Mr. Bell said officers from the Ottawa police have met with affected community groups in the city affected by the “illegal occupation of our streets,” and take the harm and trauma residents suffered very seriously, and have considered it in planning for Canada Day.
Police liaison officers have also tried to reach out to protest organizers about expectations for appropriate, lawful protest, he said.
Mayor Jim Watson offered a warning to prospective protesters. “There are not going to be warnings and second chances. If the law is broken, regardless of who breaks it, there will be consequences,” he told the news conference.
In late April, the Ottawa Police Services Board approved a request from Mr. Bell to appoint up to 831 RCMP officers to help with the Rolling Thunder motorcycle events, and made those appointments valid until July 4.
Meanwhile, a community group called the Ottawa People’s Commission on the Convoy Occupation officially launched Monday with the appointment of three commissioners to hold public hearings on the convoy occupation of the city earlier this year.
The commission, according to a statement, has secured the support of the Centretown Community Health Centre as its anchor agency and fundraising portal and it will deliver a final report within a year. The OPC will be funded by donations from the public, foundations, businesses, unions and local agencies.
“We need this independent, non-partisan inquiry to hear from ordinary citizens, advocacy organizations and social agencies, business owners, workers and others whose lives were turned upside down during the occupation,” said commission spokesman Ken Rubin.
With a file from The Canadian Press.
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THIS AND THAT
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