The Ottawa Police Service (OPS) won’t allow a repeat of the Freedom Convoy protest that jammed the city’s downtown with thousands of noisy trucks for three weeks last winter, according to its new chief.
In a letter addressed to the mayor and chair of the city’s police services board on Monday, Eric Stubbs said he and his command team have briefed the board about the “potential” return of protesters in the new year.
“The Ottawa Police Service will not allow for the conditions that led to the unlawful protests seen in February 2022,” Stubbs assured city leaders.
“Vehicle-based protests will not be allowed to enter the downtown core or in areas of national significance and we will take appropriate action to preserve public safety within our community,” he wrote.
“There is zero tolerance for disturbances and/or criminal behaviour or for individuals who attempt to disrupt our communities with vehicles.”
Working with OPP, RCMP
James Bauder, founder of Canada Unity, one of the groups involved in last winter’s convoy protest, has posted a call on social media for “Freedom Convoy 2.0” in Ottawa from Feb. 17-21, 2023.
Bauder was behind a bizarre and ultimately fruitless plan last winter to overthrow Canada’s democratically elected government. Other convoy organizers eventually distanced themselves from him.
He’s also been involved in previous, less successful attempts to disrupt the capital. Bauder, who testified last month during the Public Order Emergency Commission, calls his demonstrations “bear hugs.”
He was arrested in Ottawa in February and faces several charges. His bail conditions prevent him from returning to the capital.
Stubbs said police nevertheless started making plans as soon as they became aware of a possible return, and said the OPS is working with Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), RCMP and police chiefs across the province.
Police are in contact with protest organizers, Stubbs said, “to understand their intent, ensure they are informed of our city’s expectations as it relates to lawful assembly.”
Stubbs noted the OPS has changed its approach to policing demonstrations since February, and has successfully employed new tactics during subsequent demonstrations in downtown Ottawa.
He said council and the public will be briefed on the situation again in the new year.