Downtown Ottawa celebrates Canada Day with protesters in attendance

Sarah Ritchie and Marie Woolf, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — A few hundred people demonstrated against health measures and the federal government in downtown Ottawa on Friday, which did not prevent the city from hosting the usual Canada Day festivities.

The nation’s capital was once again awash in red and white and crowded with people draped in the maple leaf, but unlike last February’s rally, the majority of those present were engaged in official business.

There was a festive, if low-key, vibe in the capital, where the main festivities were moved from Parliament Hill to LeBreton Flats Park and Zibi Festival Place across the Ottawa River, in Gatineau.

A large number of police officers were present throughout downtown Ottawa. Festival-goers hoping to enter the Hill had to submit to checks by metal detectors and bag searches.

These security measures also frustrated several people, who refused to submit to them and chose to leave the premises.

At the end of the afternoon, police officers framed the march during which hundreds of demonstrators sang, shouted slogans and demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The marchers then gathered around the National War Memorial, where they sang the national anthem, « O Canada. »

Authorities had warned there would be no tolerance for ‘unusual noise’, road blockages or the lighting of fireworks this weekend.

Brief disruption

In the afternoon, a woman, who declined to be named, told the crowd: “Everything they do is a violation of our rights. It is a violation of the Criminal Code. Do your job, go to the Hill and take down the people who created tyranny.”

No one took her at her word. Protesters dispersed soon after. In all, the disruption lasted about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of people in the city center were there to enjoy the hot day, as the sun came out in the late afternoon. Families strolled the closed streets eating ice cream, taking photos and watching street performances.

Ottawa’s By-Law Department says it has issued 275 tickets and towed 72 vehicles since Wednesday.

Protest organizers canceled an event, a planned picnic at Strathcona Park in the morning, due to a violent incident Thursday evening at the National War Memorial, where a large crowd had gathered to mark the end of an event called « March for freedom ».

Ottawa police say four people were arrested after an altercation and allege an officer was strangled.

Canadian Heritage reports that for the first time in 50 years, Ottawa’s main celebrations are being moved off Parliament Hill, as there is construction work on the Center Block.

However, Canadian Armed Forces Snowbirds aircraft did not fly over the capital region as planned. A recent technical glitch has been fixed, but the team needs time for training and maintenance flights before returning to the air next weekend.

Fines will be higher for violating certain bylaws, including those for unusual noise, urination or defecation on streets and sidewalks, blocking a street and slowing traffic.

Fines are now $1,000 for those violations, and the City says its zero-tolerance approach will also apply to fires, fireworks and littering.

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