Police officers in cruisers and on bicycles are patrolling downtown Ottawa and the Parliamentary Precinct today, as the city prepares for Canada Day festivities and possible protests against COVID-19 mandates and the federal government.
Tens of thousands of people are expected to visit downtown Ottawa and the LeBreton Flats area over the next few days to celebrate Canada’s 155th birthday. Canadian Forces veteran James Topp will also complete his cross-country march at the National War Memorial, as he protests the remaining COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
At LeBreton Flats, there was a very strong security presence Friday morning as preparations continued for the Canadian Heritage Canada Day festivities. The Canada Day daytime show begins at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, while the evening show begins at 7:30 p.m.
Ottawa police interim Chief Steve Bell says the increased police presence will remain in place through the weekend.
“We’ve talked for a number of days about all the planning and preparation we have and the expectation of people attending,” Bell told CTV News Ottawa. “I think what you’re seeing is those plans coming into action and us being out there and vigilant around who’s attending, and trying to make sure people that understand it’s a safe place on Canada Day and you should come down and enjoy the festivities.”
On Wednesday, officers stopped a small convoy of vehicles in the area of Pinecrest Road and Hwy. 417 and several tickets were issued. Bell defended the actions of officers to stop vehicles in the capital region.
“We actually have good legal grounds for the plans we’ve put in place. We make sure that we stay on legal grounds because that’s very important as a police service,” Bell said. “We’re comfortable with the posture we’re taking and the actions officers are taking, and it’s all in the name that we ensure public safety and we can have a good, festive Canada Day.”
JAMES TOPP ARRIVES IN OTTAWA
Canadian Forces veteran James Topp will finish his cross-country march to protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates this evening at the National War Memorial.
The final leg of his journey began at 1811 Robertson Road at 10 a.m. Topp is scheduled to arrive at Hog’s Back Park at 1:30 p.m. and finish his march at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider at 6 p.m.
“We have been in contact with Mr. Topp and his group and have plans in place to ensure that he can safely and lawfully move from the west end of the city down to the Parliament Hill buildings,” interim chief Bell said on Monday.
Speaking in Ottawa last week, Topp said a number of groups that formed out of the Freedom Convoy had come together to protest the federal government.
“What I would like to see with the establishment of C3 – the Canadian Citizens Coalition is for us to have further conversations about the way forward, about the way of the future, of what we see Canada being and becoming,” said Topp.
The Canadian Forces Snowbirds will not be taking part in Canada Day festivities in Ottawa.
The Royal Canadian Air Force announced the Snowbirds fly-past over Ottawa on Friday has been cancelled, following a problem with the aircraft’s emergency ejection parachute that grounded the fleet for nearly a week.
Visitors to Parliament Hill will need to pass through a security checkpoint, and be searched by a Parliamentary Protective Service officer.
A sign on the fence along Wellington Street says several items are restricted, including tables, speakers, barbecues, aerosols, weapons, fireworks and sporting equipment.
MOTOR VEHICLE CONTROL ZONE
A motor vehicle control zone remains in effect around the Parliamentary Precinct, downtown Ottawa and roads near LeBreton Flats.
The zone stretches from Colonel By Drive/Sussex Drive in the east, Booth Street in the west, Laurier Avenue in the south and Wellington Street in the north, along with the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway and Albert Street west of Booth Street.
The roads in the motor vehicle control zone are not closed today; however, motor vehicles taking part in any form of demonstration, event or protest will not be permitted in the area. There will be no on-street parking or stopping on roads in the control zone.
The city of Ottawa says a motor vehicle control zone will be in effect from Wednesday at 8 a.m. until July 4 at 6 a.m. (City of Ottawa/Twitter)
TICKETING AND TOWING VEHICLES
Ottawa Bylaw and Regulatory Services says officers are out ensuring all parking regulations are observed in the motor vehicle control zone.
“All vehicles found failing to observe the no-stopping zones will be ticketed and towed. Parking time limits and no parking zones outside the centre core will also be strictly enforced,” the city said.
Between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Ottawa Bylaw says 120 parking tickets were issued and 28 vehicles were towed in the vehicle control zone.
Ottawa Bylaw will also be focusing on the following bylaws to ensure residents and visitors obey the rules over the Canada Day weekend.
- No unnecessary motor-vehicle or other noise, including speakers or shouting
- No unnecessary motor-vehicle idling
- No encumbering a sidewalk or roadway by any means, including setting up tents or other illegal structures
- No public urination and defecation
- No open air fires
- No littering
- Discharging of fireworks – contravening any regulations under Fireworks By-Law.
Ottawa City Hall and the underground municipal parking facility will be closed all weekend.
City Hall and the parking structure will be closed from 5 p.m. Thursday until 6 a.m. on Monday.
A year after the fall of Kabul, Canadian veterans urge Ottawa not to abandon Afghans trying to flee – CBC News
It’s been one year since Kabul fell to the Taliban after American and allied troops — including Canadians — left the country.
Video footage showed Afghans streaming onto the tarmac at the Kabul airport, desperate to escape, as a U.S. air force plane took off. Some fell to their death trying to hold on.
“We watched that terrible situation unfold … we saw that tremendous catastrophe that happened in Kabul,” said Brian Macdonald.
A Canadian veteran who served in Afghanistan, Macdonald leads the non-profit Aman Lara, which is Pashto for “Sheltered Path.” The collective of Canadian veterans and former interpreters has been working over the last year to bring refugees to safety in Canada.
“When we were unable to get them out a year ago, it was devastating. But since then we’ve come together, we’ve doubled down and been able to get 3,000 people out,” he said.
But it’s been a slow and dangerous process when those refugees need to go through the Taliban to get a passport.
“These people that have helped Canada now have to stand up and go to an office that’s controlled by the Taliban and give their name and address and the dates of birth of their children,” Macdonald said.
“It’s a very dangerous thing to do.”
There was hope this June, when Pakistan agreed to temporarily allow Afghan refugees approved to come to Canada across its border, without a passport or visa.
But Macdonald says they’ve hit roadblocks bringing those refugees to Canada.
“We were hoping it would be thousands, and it ended up being dozens,” he said.
“We’re dealing with the Afghan-Pakistani border, and it’s a very wild place. And so messages aren’t always clearly communicated, but we believe the window may still be open.”
Ottawa promises to speed up application process
A spokesperson for Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said Canada has added more employees on the ground to process applications as quickly as possible, including in Pakistan.
The department did not say how many undocumented Afghans have successfully made it to Canada through the arrangement with Pakistan.
Canada initially said it would bring 40,000 Afghan refugees to Canada — focusing on Afghans who were employed by the Canadian government and military. The federal government says that, to date, it has welcomed 17,300, with more still to arrive “in the coming weeks and months.”
“We remain steadfast in our collective resolve to bring vulnerable Afghans to safety in Canada as quickly as possible,” says a joint statement released Monday by Fraser, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly and International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan.
The statement does not indicate when Ottawa expects to reach its target of resettling 40,000 Afghans.
In the statement, the ministers lamented what they called the “steady deterioration” of human and democratic rights in Afghanistan since the Taliban seized power last year, citing the reintroduction of severe restrictions on the ability of women and girls to go to school and to move freely within the country.
‘We can hold our heads high,’ says deputy PM about evacuation
But the federal government has been criticized for not doing more to help Afghans who assisted Canada in the NATO-led effort and are now at risk of being killed by the Taliban for their ties to Western nations.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said “we need to not think in the past tense” when asked if Canada could have done more a year ago.
“We can hold our heads up high when we think about our response compared to that of our allies. There is a lot more work to do,” Freeland said in Toronto on Thursday.
“We need to keep on working to bring more people from Afghanistan to Canada, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
Last month, Canada stopped accepting new applications to its special immigration program, a move that advocates say amounts to the abandoning of Afghans desperate to come to this country.
Macdonald hopes the federal government reconsiders its approach and commits to welcoming every Afghan who helped the government into Canada.
“A year ago, we were panicking to get as many people out as possible,” Macdonald said.
“We all thought — as veterans and other interpreters — that that window had closed, that the people we didn’t get out were stuck in Afghanistan.
“But what we’ve learned over the last year is we can still move them out. It’s at a snail’s pace. It’s not as many people as we’d like. But we are still grinding away every day, moving people out of Afghanistan. And we’re just going to keep doing that until we get as many people out as we possibly can.”
Maritime veterans working to bring Afghans to Canada – CTV News Atlantic
John Monaghan’s connection to Afghanistan has withstood the 13 years since his tour there.
The Nova Scotia man and his family keep in constant contact — daily — with a man he met there, who worked with the Canadian military. A man he refers to as “Mr. Jones,” to keep his identity hidden from the Taliban.
The Monaghan’s have been lobbying and fundraising to bring Mr. Jones, his wife, his four older siblings and their large families to Nova Scotia.
But he says, at this point, one year after the Taliban takeover of Kabul, they’re still in limbo.
“You can tell that he’s worried, he’s definitely worried about everything that’s going on,” Monaghan said. “It’s just really frustrating. They need to move these people out of danger and here to Canada, to safety.”
Aman Lara — Pashto for “Sheltered Path” — is an organization that was born after the takeover a year ago, to try and bring as many Afghan interpreters to Canada as possible.
Its executive director is New Brunswicker Brian Macdonald, who also served in Afghanistan. Macdonald says it’s become an urgent passion project for many veterans across the country.
“A year ago, we saw those terrible scenes of people getting crushed trying to leave Kabul. At that time, we thought the window had closed, we weren’t going to be able to get any more people out. But in that year, we’ve doubled down, and we’ve now got 3,000 people out of Afghanistan,” he said.
He says they’ve been working with teams in many different locations, but the bureaucracy in several countries — including Canada — is high.
Their focus is on securing the safety of another 3,000 people, and believe the work will take years to complete.
“There’s some people on our team who still haven’t gotten their families out. We work with these interpreters very closely, they’re here in Canada but their families are still stuck in Afghanistan. So there’s a lot left to do for sure,” he said.
Macdonald believes there are about 8,000 people in Afghanistan right now, who’ve been approved to travel to Canada. But there are thousands more who are eligible, but have yet to be accepted.
“For the Government of Canada, we want them to extend the special immigration measures program, and that will allow us to get everyone that served Canada out of Afghanistan,” he said. “So we don’t think there should be a cap on that in terms of numbers, and we don’t think there should be a timeline on that. Let’s take as long as it takes to get everyone who helped Canada out of Afghanistan.”
On Monday’s difficult anniversary, Monaghan hopes Canadians take a moment to think about the people of Afghanistan.
“Mostly, I would like people to think about how comfortable and happy and safe they are and then in comparison think about the lives that these families are living in Kabul, in terror, where they are afraid for their lives.”
Public hearings in Emergencies Act inquiry to start in September
OTTAWA — The inquiry into Ottawa’s unprecedented use of the Emergencies Act during protests in February will start its public hearings next month.
The Public Order Emergency Commission announced today that it expects the hearings to run from Sept. 19 until Oct. 28 at Library and Archives Canada in downtown Ottawa.
Commissioner Paul Rouleau said in a statement that he intends to hold the government to account and wants the inquiry to be as “open and transparent” as possible.
Hearings will be livestreamed online and members of the public will have opportunities to share their views, with a final report expected early next year.
Parties to the inquiry including “Freedom Convoy” organizers, police forces and all three levels of government are expected to testify and contribute documentary evidence on the invocation of the act in February.
The federal Liberals made the move amid border blockades and the occupation of downtown Ottawa by protesters demonstrating against COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 15, 2022.
The Canadian Press
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