Dear Kanata North residents,
I am writing today with information on what began as a protest in our city and has evolved into an occupation. Last week, our Ottawa Police Services approached the protest with the goal of maintaining the peace and with the expectation that the demonstration would take place over one weekend and would end, potentially with dialogue between protestors and the federal government representatives. As that dialogue is not taking place as of yet, protestors are now refusing to leave and are setting up more permanent ways of occupying the downtown core. The protest/occupation is costing the city $800,000 per day. Vehicles that are needed for snow removal can no longer be used to block off streets. The noise is incessant. And, most disturbingly, hateful messages and acts are threatening individuals and our collective sense of safety.
I have great faith in our police force. They are ticketing and arresting people. They have set up a hate crime hot line and are asking residents to call the police so that further arrests can be made. They will be following up on tickets regardless if the people being ticketed live out of province or out of country. They have video and photos of perpetrators and will be finding the people and prosecuting them to the full extent of the law. However, we also heard yesterday that some of the license plates they are seeing are from the United States, and more protestors are coming this weekend. Given all of that, I was glad to get an update from the Mayor last night.
Below is a section of the message Mayor Watson sent to City Councillors last night to share all that is going on behind the scenes. He wrote,
“As you know, I had a productive discussion with Prime Minister Trudeau on Monday. He assured me that the federal government would be there to provide resources and support the efforts of our OPS officers on the ground. This aligns with similar discussions that Chief Sloly has had with RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki, who has so far supplemented the federal authority’s presence as requested.
I have also had constructive discussions with provincial Minister of Finance Peter Bethlenfalvy, as well as the federal President of the Treasury Board Mona Fortier, regarding supports for our businesses and employees whose livelihoods are being severely impacted each and every day that this occupation continues. They have both been receptive to my plea and their teams are actively assessing what can be done to help.
In the last hour, I had a very good discussion with federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, where I reiterated our City’s call for additional resources to support our officers responding to this demonstration on the ground. He assured me that our request for assistance was being given the highest consideration by Commissioner Lucki, and he offered his ongoing support until we see an end to the occupation.”
I appreciated the Mayor’s update and look forward to the special City Council meeting to be held on Monday at 1 pm, where we will get further updates and see what else we can do at the municipal level. We have heard today that additional RCMP forces are now engaged to manage any additional protestors who may be coming this weekend. Regarding engaging the army, as Chief Sloly has told us, nothing is off the table. My understanding is that calling in the army, however, has only been done on two other occasions, the OKA and FLQ crises. It is not a decision to be taken lightly. I also understand that to call in the army it takes provincial and federal involvement. I understand that all of that is understood and is being contemplated. The Ottawa Police Services and all of us would like this to end without serious physical harm or death to anyone. I can understand the risks, but I also understand the incalculable damage that has already been done to individuals and to business owners and to our common sense of security in a city like Ottawa. I would encourage you to contact our provincial and federal representatives to ask for support of all kinds.
Personally, I would ask that the Prime Minister speak to the leaders of the demonstration and negotiate a peaceful end to this.
I would encourage anyone who needs support to please access the Ottawa Distress Center at 613-238-3311 or text 343-306-5550
If you see a crime in progress, call 911.
If you want to report a crime that has already taken place, call 613-236-1222 ext. 7300
If you have information or have information specifically regarding a hate crime, call 613-236-1222 ext. 5015.
Thank you all for your kind words of support and suggestions. We are reading all of your messages and I will do my best to represent all of the views expressed to me.