The latest protest developments:
With residents demanding action, and protesters on the streets using tactics police say are meant to stymie them, Ottawa city council made moves of its own during a special Monday meeting about the ongoing anti-pandemic rule demonstration.
The biggest, most immediate request came first from Ottawa Police Service (OPS) Chief Peter Sloly. He asked for 1,800 more officers and civilian experts to come to the city’s aid from across the country.
Council wants to increase fines to $1,000 for various violations, including noise, blocking roads, open fires, and idling vehicles throughout the state of emergency — and do away with the rule that allows a vehicle to idle when it’s cold outside.
The Council officially condemned the racism and discrimination experienced by many groups, asked for financial help for struggling businesses and social services and voted to try to pin costs to the city on people responsible for incurring them.
Mayor Jim Watson has even suggested calling in a mediator.
The city can’t take some of the steps above on its own. A spokesperson for Ontario’s Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said she has received the request for extra police and is considering it.
A fine increase would have to be approved by the Ontario Court of Justice and the premier would have to approve that cost recouping idea.
In the House of Commons Monday evening, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government would “be there” with whatever resources Ontario and the City of Ottawa needed.
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino told CBC’s Power and Politics “If the past is any precedent, I can assure you there will continue to be a very high degree of co-operation and support, and that is our commitment.”
WATCH | Ottawa will receive extra help:
Officers swarmed, hit with vehicle
Protesters drove their large vehicles into downtown Ottawa Jan. 28 and 29 and hundreds have been parked on city streets ever since, harassing residents with noise and road and service closures to try to force governments to end COVID-19 rules.
Residents have reported physical and verbal abuse from people in the city to protest. Honking horns are the target of an ongoing injunction to try to stop them.
Queen & Kent downtown #Ottawa after judge grants honking injunction related to class suit launched by citizens. Am told city could have done same earlier https://t.co/SHtpRFVRA4 pic.twitter.com/APtTUt0HKL
Sloly had admitted to council it was “unlikely” Ottawa police would get all 1,800 requested officers and civilians pulled from various parts of the country.
He made the case the force needs investigators to look at social media and truck licensing, as well as plenty of “boots on the ground” to help with enforcement in neighborhoods as protesters prank call police and fill gas cans with water to carry into the demonstration zone.
“That is our challenge. Where we take one can of gas away and have success, countermeasures come back almost immediately,” said Sloly.
WATCH | A look at protester tactics:
The police described other more serious incidents.
One officer was swarmed on Monday while trying to prevent fuel going into the demonstration area and needed a team to get him out of the crowd, said Deputy Chief Steve Bell.
“Another one of our officers was involved in a minor collision where a vehicle rammed them at a checkpoint,” he said.
Bell also said the force has dealt with two instances of swatting — where emergency services are called to an address when there isn’t a victim — including one call that originated in the United States.
WATCH | Threats, ‘swatting’ calls tying up police resources:
“With sufficient resources, we might be able to start to overwhelm that level of sophistication and capability and get back in control of this,” Sloly said. “We’re getting more control, we’re getting winds, we’re changing their behaviour.”
An influx of officers could cost the force between $1.8 and $2.2 million dollars per day.
Even more decisions
Council also agreed to a motion by Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney to ask the federal government to take over security in the parliamentary precinct.
Kanata South Coun. Allan Hubley, meanwhile, received approval to have the city commission an independent report into how the cities of Ottawa and Gatineau, Que., the National Capital Commission, Parliamentary Protective Service, federal and provincial governments collaborated on demonstrations.
He asked that an evaluation be done before Canada Day.
Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper asked that some city business be put off, especially a planning committee meeting on a garage for the future site of the Civic campus of The Ottawa Hospital at Dows Lake.
“Help us create a little bit of breathing space, so each of us can best represent our constituents,” he urged colleagues.
Watson, however, said that would be the wrong signal to protesters and Leiper’s motion failed 14 to 10.
“This group that’s terrorizing our city, they’ve shut down our streets. They really want to shut down Parliament. It would almost be an added bonus if they’re able to shut down Ottawa city council business,” said Watson.
While it keeps its legislative agenda on track, the city council did agree that staff should also organize daily media briefings with police and bylaw services for as long as the protests continue.