Police increase presence in downtown Ottawa

Fences being installed around downtown government buildings

People set up fences in front of the temporary home of the Senate in Ottawa Feb. 17, 2022. The city is under a winter storm warning, with morning rain yielding to evening snow. PHOTO: RADIO-CANADA / SÉBASTIEN ST-FRANCOIS

Two formal warnings went out to protesters in Ottawa on Wednesday as the city’s interim police chief said a safe end to the occupation is a matter of when, not if.

The latest on Day 21 of the protest:

  • Ottawa’s bylaw department warns pet owners at the protest.
  • The University of Ottawa has suspended in-person classes.
  • City council votes to overhaul its police oversight board and will choose a new chair today.

Now the city waits.

The warnings — posted online and handed out as flyers — gave protesters an updated list of rules that may apply to the occupation of some downtown streets and potential penalties under expanded federal and provincial powers.

On Thursday, the city’s bylaw department explained what would happen with animals  if enforcement actions separate people from their pets.

Speaking to city council on Wednesday, interim police Chief Steve Bell said police now have the resources and a plan to safely end the protest.

He would not share a timeline for that plan for operational reasons, but said police are prepared for several levels of lawful escalation, including techniques [that] are not what we’re used to seeing Ottawa.

On Thursday morning, fences were being set up in front of government buildings including Parliament Hill and the Senate.

After the first of the two warnings, which directly told protesters that what they were doing no longer fell under a peaceful protest, spokespeople for the organizers said they needed more people to come to the core so police would be outnumbered.

Wednesday also brought comments from federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino that several of the individuals involved in the blockade at the border crossing in Coutts, Alta., have “strong ties to a far-right extreme organization with leaders who are in Ottawa.” 

Following Tuesday’s resignation of police chief Peter Sloly, there were more leadership changes when Ottawa city council voted to overhaul its police services board Wednesday during a long and unusually emotional meeting.

It included the ouster of chair Councilor Diane Deans and the resignation of some board members in protest.

The police services board is set to meet Thursday to elect a new chair.

Meanwhile, the University of Ottawa has moved in-person classes online until Monday and is again increasing security on campus because of ongoing developments near Parliament Hill, it said on its website  early Wednesday evening.

Northern parts of the campus border some of the roads closed by the protest and the city maintains that people should avoid non-essential travel downtown.