As Canada’s capital approaches Canada Day, the national holiday of July 1, which celebrates the 1867 anniversary of the Confederacy, Ottawa expects tens of thousands to participate in the festivities. This year, however, Canada Day celebrations are taking place in the context of potential trouble on the streets of Ottawa.
A self-proclaimed fringe activist movement with a wide range of grievances is planning several events in Ottawa to coincide with the celebration of Canada Day. There is a dark cloud of concern over the city as it continues to stagnate under the impact of the February occupation of Parliament Hill and the surrounding city center.
Unlike the debacle of the three-week-long occupation, preventive actions such as no tolerance for violations of ordinances related to street and sidewalk behavior and the establishment of motor vehicle exclusion zones try to stop any type of illegal occupation before it can begin.
The operational question is: Will preparedness efforts to avoid the disruption of previous protests be effective this time around?
How did we get here?
The onset of this ongoing crisis for Ottawa began on January 28, 2022, when a group of truck drivers belonging to the so-called “freedom convoy” arrived in the capital for a loud and noisy weekend protest against COVID-19 mandates. Historically, weekend protests at Parliament Hill would end at the end of the weekend, and protesters would leave.
Authorities were unprepared when several heavy goods vehicles did not leave. Instead, they remained in the occupation of Parliament Hill and served as a support infrastructure for a dedicated group of agitators. The protesters held their position until they were removed by police on the weekend of February 19th.
Read more: Ottawa occupation by ‘freedom convoy’ has the potential for an urban siege
For Parliament Hill and the surrounding neighborhoods in the city center, the blockades were very disruptive to the livelihoods of residents in the area. The Ottawa police response cost more than $ 37 million. The unprecedented use of extraordinary governmental powers under the protection of the Federal Government’s Emergency Act enabled the police actions that ended the occupation.
Ten weeks later, on the weekend of April 30, the Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally once again gathered people protesting against COVID-19’s public health mandate, amid a wide range of other grievances against the government. Improved police readiness contributed to the protesters leaving the city after the weekend rally.
Once again, the arrival of protesters encouraged by the February occupation, coupled with restrictions on movement imposed by authorities, disrupted everyday life in the city center. Police costs incurred were estimated at $ 2.5 million to $ 3 million.
From May onwards, small groups of dedicated protesters “held the line” by maintaining a small but symbolic presence on the sidewalks of Wellington St., directly in front of Parliament Hill.
As Canada Day approaches, Ottawa is once again tense, as protesters against COVID-19 protection, along with others who are generally opposed to the Trudeau Liberal government, have declared their intention to return to Ottawa in the spirit of the so-called “freedom”. convoy ”occupation.
A recurring disaster
The term recurring or recurring disaster is often used to describe natural hazards such as floods or hurricanes. In this case, the protests and occupations can be seen as a recurring social danger. It remains tempting for those with COVID-19 anti-mandate sentiments, or supporters of related causes, to return to Ottawa to effectively block and disrupt the capital again.
The expected Canada Day protest represents a recurring disaster for those living and working in the vicinity of Parliament Hill. The Ottawa Police Service’s inability to deal with the occupation, combined with the lack of action to remove occupiers, encouraged agitators.
Understand local impact
The full impact of the recurring disaster in Ottawa is just beginning to be understood. In addition to national inquiries about the blockades and the use of the Emergency Act, local residents make their own finding of facts and document their lived experiences.
Read more: Canada in crisis: Why Justin Trudeau enacted the Emergency Law to end truck protests
Organize an emerging grassroots community effort called the Ottawa People’s Commission on the Convoy Occupation to better understand the impact of the crisis at neighborhood level. Clearly, the threat to and impact on neighborhoods needs to be recognized to better understand how the so-called “freedom convoy” dangerously undermined community safety.
Extensive preparations to prevent trouble on the streets of Ottawa during the Canada Day festivities will hopefully prevent a repeat of the February occupation. However, the ingredients are in place for a summer of discontent, and the recurring catastrophe of protest-related disruptions could potentially affect Ottawa over and over again.