The Parliamentary Protective Service said Friday it expects around 500 people to gather this weekend on Parliament Hill to mark one year since the so-called “Freedom Convoy” rolled into downtown Ottawa.
The PPS, which provides security for the parliamentary precinct, said it will curtail some access to Parliament Hill over the weekend as a precaution. The public can still use the central and east gates to access the lawns of Parliament Hill, but not the gates closest to the West Block, which is home to the House of Commons while Centre Block is undergoing renovations.
Public tours have been cancelled and Ottawa police have said the force will be enforcing the ongoing closure of Wellington Street to vehicle traffic.
Ottawa police said, “illegal activity or obstructing or impeding the flow of traffic with vehicles on any roadway will not be tolerated and will be met with swift and immediate action.”
The demonstration that began on Jan. 28, 2022, saw thousands of protesters with large vehicles parked en mass in Ottawa’s downtown, honking loud horns day and night.
The federal government invoked the Emergencies Act on Feb. 14 – for the first time in Canada’s history – in response to border blockades and demonstrations across the country. The Act let the federal government extend special powers to police and financial institutions, including freezing bank accounts associated with the participants and organizers, until it was revoked a week later.
Large trucks occupied Wellington Street, which runs adjacent to Parliament Hill, for weeks during that demonstration, and were only removed after the Emergencies Act was invoked.
An Ottawa municipal committee voted Thursday to reopen Wellington Street, which is in front of Parliament Hill and has been closed since the demonstrations, no earlier than March 1.
City council will vote on the decision in early February.
Ottawa police chief Eric Stubbs had said earlier in the week that resources, tow trucks and staffing plans are in place for the weekend.
“Residents and businesses will see an increased police presence in the downtown core and its surrounding areas. Although there is the potential for some level of protest, we are prepared,” Stubbs said in a statement.
“For this weekend and all through February, we have a scalable operational plan with external agencies supporting us. We will have resources, logistics, traffic, towing and staffing plans in place to address any type of scenario and will not allow the conditions to occur that resulted in the February 2022 convoy.”
Ottawa city Coun. Ariel Troster said in a statement Friday the anniversary could potentially be “upsetting” to constituents in her ward of Somerset, which is in downtown Ottawa and was among the hardest-hit neighbourhoods during the demonstration.
“While we expect this weekend to be managed smoothly, we know that this anniversary could be upsetting to many residents and business owners in Somerset Ward,” she said, citing a list of support resources constituents can contact if needed.
“I am confident that the city’s experience with the smaller protests we have seen throughout the last year has improved coordination between stakeholders and there is every reason to be hopeful that this weekend will pass us by without significant disruptions.”
— with files from Global News’ Eric Stober