Region 'no place' for hate speech, says Karen Redman, as Waterloo braces for convoy protest

Waterloo Regional Police closed King Street in uptown Waterloo Saturday, ahead of an expected convoy this weekend. Meanwhile, Chair Karen Redman is saying there is "no place" for "personal attacks or hate speech in Waterloo region."

Police closed King Street in uptown Saturday, ahead of planned convoy

A woman holds a sign that says 'Freedom no mandates.' City and regional officials spent much of Friday planning for the possibility of a rally in Waterloo, inspired by what's happened this past week in Ottawa. (CBC)

Waterloo Regional Police have closed King Street South in uptown Waterloo, ahead of a planned convoy this weekend. 

Saturday morning, about an hour before the convoy was set to begin, the Waterloo Regional Police Service announced the street was closed between William and Erb streets. Road barriers, dump trucks and police vehicles have been used to block off King Street and nearby side streets. 

An online poster for the event has been circulating on social media. It is not clear who is organizing the "True North Strong and Free" convoy, and CBC Kitchener-Waterloo has not been able to make contact with anyone connected with the poster. 

The poster appears to show a convoy route map that would have circled uptown Waterloo, roughly the same area closed by police. The poster says "all vehicles welcome."

Road barriers, police vehicles and heavy trucks block off King Street and side streets in uptown Waterloo on Saturday, in advanced of a planned convoy protest in the city. (Joe Pavia/CBC)

Meanwhile, regional chair Karen Redman said there is "no place" for "personal attacks or hate speech in Waterloo region."

"I don't want to see what happened in Ottawa happen here," said Redman at a media briefing Friday morning. 

"I hope whoever participates in any activities over the weekend in the region respects the rule of law, private property and doesn't promote white supremacy, hate and racism as we have seen in other venues."

This comes as a convoy protest is also expected in Toronto this weekend, and demonstrations in Ottawa have continued for more than a week. While those demonstrations started out to protest the federally-imposed vaccine mandate for truckers crossing the U.S.-Canada border, organizers said Wednesday they would not leave until all COVID-related public health rules are repealed. 

Will transit, shops or skating be affected?

As of Friday, the shopping centre that anchors Waterloo Town Square, where the poster has encouraged people on foot to gather, had not updated its website to indicate if it would be closing on either Saturday or Sunday. A staff member said shoppers should check the mall's website for updates this weekend. 

Late Saturday morning, the City of Waterloo closed the skating rink in the uptown public square due to a gathering in the area. 

The City said the move was to "manage the number of people in the area," and that it planned to reopen the outdoor rink later in the day. A spokesperson said members of the public could get updates via the city's Twitter account.

When asked about changes to the Ion LRT route for the light-rail train that runs through uptown Waterloo past Waterloo Town Square, Region of Waterloo's chief administrative officer, Bruce Lauckner said staff would do whatever it could to minimize disruptions to Grand River Transit and other essential services — but that adjustments would be made as needed.

Premier supports police

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said in a release late Friday that he supports Toronto and Ottawa police as those two cities prepare for protest this weekend. "I reiterated to both Mayor Tory and Mayor Watson that the province stands ready to provide any additional resources they might require," he said.

"...The occupation in Ottawa is only hurting families and businesses that are trying to continue on with their lives. It's time for it to come to an end," he said.

"Public health measures are beginning to lift as the situation in our hospitals stabilizes. We're stronger as a province, and as a country, when we're all pulling in the same direction."