Security concerns loom as ‘Freedom Convoy’ protesters discuss Canada Day rally: Officials
Posted May 6, 2022 8:41 am.
Last Updated May 6, 2022 11:05 am.
Some individuals who took part in the ‘Freedom Convoy’ that took over downtown Ottawa streets for multiple weeks earlier this year are apparently in talks to hold another demonstration on Canada Day.
CityNews has learned that federal and local officials are monitoring the potential rally with in-person July 1 festivities set to return to the nation’s capital for the first time since the start of COVID-19 pandemic two years ago.
“It makes sense, Canada Day would be a very symbolic day and a day that they would want to make some kind of gesture,” says Stephanie Carvin, a former national security analyst.
There does not appear to be a formal event organized at the moment, but government officials say they are aware of the conversations being had by participants in the January convoy and more recent Rolling Thunder protests.
Ottawa City Councillor Cathy Curry, who sits on the Police Services Board, says the potential disruptions are on their radar. She says the Canada Day event in Ottawa normally requires significant policing and this year may require another level of security given recent events.
The Ottawa Police Service says planning around Canada Day is already underway and they will be issuing updates closer to the event. Curry says the city also plans to discuss the issue further in the coming weeks.
A federal government source with knowledge of Canada Day planning tells CityNews that officials are ready to work with different levels of security to limit disruptions.
Many Ottawa residents have expressed frustration with the previous downtown occupations and some worry further demonstrations could lead to more controntations. Carvin says adding fuel to the fire is far-right groups who have latched on to the convoy protests.
“This includes neo-nazi accelerationists’ as well as other far-right actors who may have more violent intention,” she says.
The Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill typically attract thousands of visitors each year.
Last week, Toronto police similarly advised the public they were preparing for multiple protests and demonstrations in the downtown core as weather improved through the spring and summer months.
Though vague on specific details, Toronto Police Chief James Ramer said officers would be working to minimize disruptions to the community and to facilitate peaceful and lawful demonstration. He noted that protests are allowed under the Charters of Right and Freedoms, but law enforcement will be proactive in shutting down hate speech or other unlawful behaviour.
The ‘Freedom Convoy’ began as a protest of truckers against federal border restrictions surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine. The rally took over the area around Parliament Hill in Ottawa for three straight weeks in February, and grew to become a general protest against all COVID-19 restrictions and the Liberal government.
The occupation disrupted traffic, forced businesses to close, and sparked complaints of intimidation, harassment and hateful conduct.
On behalf of Ottawa residents and businesses, a lawsuit is looking for more than $300 million in damages from truckers and donors to the cause. Several key organizers of the protests in Ottawa, including Pat King and Tamara Lich, were arrested and charged.
The demonstration, which also disrupted several border crossings with the United States, ended after the federal Liberal government invoked the Emergencies Act, and police moved in to detain and arrest dozens of people.
Ottawa police found themselves once again patrolling streets this past weekend as the “Rolling Thunder” protest descended upon Ottawa. Police made a handful of arrests over the course of the weekend, including three during the main demonstrations on Saturday.
With files from The Canadian Press