Ottawa mayor declares state of emergency amid ‘Freedom Convoy’ protest

Mayor Jim Watson has declared a state of emergency for the city of Ottawa as the “Freedom Convoy” demonstration against COVID-19 rules continues to occupy the downtown core.

The mayor declared the state of emergency just hours after Ottawa police said new enforcement is underway to cut off the supply of fuel and materials to protesters on Wellington Street and streets near Parliament Hill.

“Declaring a state of emergency reflects the serious danger and threat to the safety and security of residents posed by the ongoing demonstrations and highlights the need for support from other jurisdictions and levels of government,” said a statement from the city.

“It also provides greater flexibility within the municipal administration to enable the City of Ottawa to manage business continuity for essential services for its residents and enables a more flexible procurement process, which could help purchase equipment required by frontline workers and first responders.”

Ottawa Police Services Board chair Diane Deans asked the city solicitor during Saturday’s special Ottawa Police Services Board meeting if declaring a state of emergency would have “any immediate, positive impacts” on the situation in Ottawa.

“From the standpoint of a legal authority, the declaration of an emergency under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act does little,” said Solicitor David White, adding there would be no additional authority to the city or police.

“It may provide some relief from some of the strictures that we operate under from a procurement standpoint, but it does not imbue the mayor or the city with any additional legal authority.”

On Sunday morning, an estimated 500 trucks and vehicles remained in the so-called ‘red zone’ in downtown Ottawa, with hundreds of people remaining in the area to protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

Senior police officials told CTV News Ottawa more enforcement is coming to the downtown core. In a tweet, police said, “Anyone attempting to bring material supports to the demonstrators could be subject to arrest.”

Speaking on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s CFRA Live with Andrew Pinsent Sunday morning, Watson said the downtown area is “out of control”, with protesters taking over the downtown core.

“The situation at this point is completely out of control because the individuals with the protest are calling the shots,” Watson said. “They have far more people than we have police officers and I’ve indicated to the chief that we have to be much more nimble and proactive when it comes to these activities.”

Watson mentioned the wooden structure protesters built at Confederation Park, which has become a “community kitchen.” He said more should have been done to stop that sooner.

“Now, it’s become a rallying point, where there’s so many people there. How do we go in and enforce the laws and the NCC’s property rights?”  

Residents reported hearing fireworks, loud music and truck horns late Saturday night and early Sunday morning through the downtown core.

“Overnight, demonstrators exhibited extremely disruptive and unlawful behaviour, which presented risks to public safety and unacceptable distress for Ottawa residents,” said police in a statement Sunday afternoon.

Police and Bylaw Services officers issued more than 450 tickets since Saturday morning, including for excessive noise and fireworks.

On Saturday, Ottawa’s police chief admitted the force doesn’t have enough resources to address the situation.

“We do not have sufficient resources to adequately and effectively address this situation while adequately and effectively providing policing in this city,” said Chief Peter Sloly during a special Ottawa Police Services Board meeting.

On Saturday, an estimated 5,000 people and 1,000 tractor trailers and personal vehicles filled downtown Ottawa to join the protest.  Hundreds of people attended a counter-protest at Ottawa City Hall, calling for an end to the demonstration. 

“This is a siege. It is a something that is different in our democracy than something I’ve ever experienced in my life,” said Sloly.

“It’s not a demonstration, it’s not an occupation, it’s something and we don’t have a Police Act that can adequately or effectively address this circumstance.”

Organizers of the demonstration said they would hold a press conference this afternoon, but they later told CTV News it was not invited.

In a statement, organizers said they would not be honking their truck horns Sunday morning.

“Out of respect for the Lord’s Day, for members of our military who have sacrificed and who continue to sacrifice so much for our freedom, for the men and women in blue who are doing such a superb job protecting us, and as a gesture of goodwill, members of our Convoy will desist from the blowing of Horns tomorrow, Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Ottawa time,” a news release said.

However, horns could still be heard downtown. 

 

Centretown Community Association

The Centretown Community Association says there has been an “appalling failure to protect and support” residents, businesses, churches and other organizations by Ottawa Police and the city of Ottawa during the “Freedom Convoy” demonstration.

Association President Mary Huang released an open letter to Mayor Jim Watson and Chief Peter Sloly on day 10 of the demonstrations.

“This is not a peaceful protest,” said Huang. “It is an illegal occupation. These occupiers have used their vehicles to blockade downtown streets since arriving last week. They have displayed obvious symbols of hate, including Swastikas and Confederate Flags. They have defecated on a local residence bearing an LGBTQ pride flag.”

The letter says that since the demonstration began, “the police and city have failed to enforce the law against occupiers, allowing them to engage in significant unlawful activity without penalty.

“Despite a reported $800,000 per day for extra resources, there is still an ongoing failure of the police to fulfill its mission to ‘protect the safety and security of communities.'”

The Centretown Community Association calls on police and the city to take immediate action, including:

  • Enforce all applicable bylaws on the “occupiers”
  • Obtain court injunctions where required to clear residential areas and allow residents to safely access homes, workplaces, and amenities in the community
  • Engage in efforts to contain the protests to a strictly limited area
  • Impose deadlines and strict fines on “occupiers for not moving” to a designated zone
  • Apologize to residents for “grossly mishandling the situation and failure in the mission to protest the safety and security of communities,” said the letter.

Confederation Park

Protesters who built a wooden shed in a downtown Ottawa park moved it to the Ottawa Baseball Stadium five kilometres away, along with all the supplies.

People were packing up the “community kitchen” wooden shed and other supplies in Confederation Park Sunday morning under the watchful eye of Ottawa Police and NCC conservation officers.

The park located less than a kilometre from the “Freedom Convoy” demonstration on Parliament Hill had turned into a supply and staging area, with dozens of vehicles parked in the area and barbecues and supply tents set up.  Last Thursday, demonstrators began building a wooden structure, saying it was a community kitchen for anyone to get food or drinks.

ENFORCEMENT

Ottawa police provided an update on the situation Sunday morning.

“Overnight, demonstrators exhibited extremely disruptive and unlawful behaviour, which presented risks to public safety and unacceptable distress for Ottawa residents,” said police.

Police and Bylaw Services officers issued more than 450 tickets since Saturday morning, including for excessive noise and fireworks.

Ninety-seven criminal investigations have been launched since the start of the “Freedom Convoy” demonstration in downtown Ottawa.

ROADS

Concrete barriers and heavy equipment barricades remain in place throughout Centretown, Lowertown, ByWard Market, Sandy Hill and the Glebe.

Several roads in the downtown core are closed from Rideau Street to Bay Street and Wellington Street to Albert Street.

Police warn the following off-ramps on Highway 417 may be temporarily closed:

  • Nicholas / Mann (Westbound & Eastbound)
  • Metcalfe (Westbound & Eastbound)
  • Bronson (Westbound)
  • Parkdale (Westbound & Eastbound)
  • Island Park (Westbound)
  • Kent (Eastbound)
  • Vanier (Eastbound)
  • St. Laurent (Eastbound)
  • Pinecrest Road (Eastbound)
  • Montreal Road (Eastbound & Westbound)
  • Woodroffe Avenue (Eastbound & Westbound)
  • Aviation Parkway (Westbound)
  • Walkley Road (Westbound)

Ottawa road closures

Mayor, councillor call on the federal government to step in

As the protest continues for a second weekend, Mayor Jim Watson is looking to the federal government for more help to end the protest.

“The federal government has an important role,” said Watson during an interview on CTV News at Six. “They’re going to have to sit down and have some kind of a discussion, some kind of mediation to get this situation resolved because it’s now spreading across the country.”

Watson says he spoke with Premier Doug Ford on Friday and Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino on Thursday to secure additional OPP and RCMP officers to assist Ottawa police.

The mayor also commented on the bouncy castles and saunas being set up in downtown Ottawa and at the Ottawa Baseball Stadium.

“It’s disturbing when you see the protest turning into what looks like some kind of fun carnival, where they’ve got bouncy castles and hot tubs and saunas,” said Watson. “A complete insult to the people who are putting up with this nonsense for the last seven days and it shows a great deal of insensitivity.”

Councillor Catherine McKenney, who represents part of the area affected by the demonstration, called on the prime minister to intervene.

“Dear Justin Trudeau please do something. You have a responsibility to protect your Capital. We are under siege. Day 9,” they tweeted, while quoting a video of fireworks going off amid densely packed buildings in the downtown core.

In addition to the horns, demonstrators have been lighting off fireworks at night, prompting concern from some residents about the proximity to residential high-rises, as well as the fuel cannisters strewn about the area.

Last week, McKenney wrote a letter to the prime minister, calling on the federal government and the RCMP to assume full operational control of Parliament Hill and the Parliamentary Precinct.

RCGT Park

CTV News Ottawa’s Jeremie Charron reported Saturday that the Ottawa Baseball Stadium now looks like a command centre for the “Freedom Convoy” demonstration. Several large tents are set up in the parking lot on Coventry Road, and approximately 100 vehicles were parked there on Saturday.

“The initial plan was to keep those trucks there because they couldn’t fit into the downtown,” said Watson.

“What is an error is we should have had some control at the gate. They shouldn’t be bringing in hot tubs, they shouldn’t be bringing in bouncy castles – that’s just ridiculous.”

Saunas were set up at RCGT Park this week.

Coun. Rawlson King said during Saturday’s special Ottawa Police Services Board meeting that the initial plan was to divert trucks away from the core, but it has now turned into a “staging area.”  King asked police what the plan was to deal with the park.

“We have been working with people at that site, and I say with people at that site they have been to a point cooperative, but we do recognize that has now become a staging area and a refuelling area for them,” said Acting Deputy Chief Ferguson.

“So we are looking at addressing.”

Ferguson said police are working with Ottawa Fire to see “what avenues are available to us to enforce the laws and to make sure that’s rendered safe.”

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