Ottawa

Canada Day celebrations and downtown safety precautions get mixed reviews

Downtown Ottawa saw nothing close to the numbers of revellers it usually sees during Canada Day celebrations, according to businesses in the area. 

Some felt police response to prevent another downtown occupation was overdone, while others called it success

Several people, including a man in a costume, walk through a security checkpoint.
A person dressed as Captain Canada checks their shield before walking through a security checkpoint as they arrive for Canada Day celebrations at LeBreton Flats in Ottawa on July 1. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Downtown Ottawa saw nothing close to the numbers of revellers it usually sees during Canada Day celebrations, according to businesses in the area. 

Sam Elsaadi, owner of Crêperie Rim on Sparks Street, said there was almost "nobody around" and some tourists he spoke with were unaware the event had been moved to LeBreton Flats due to ongoing construction on Parliament Hill.

"It is disappointing. I have my workers here, I was telling them, 'Expect Canada Day's going to be busy, busy,' and they were just making fun a little bit, like, 'Where is the people?' They say last Saturday we're more busy than [Canada Day] morning because of the traffic," Elsaadi said. 

He thinks road closures "scared people" from coming downtown, and that holding the event off Parliament Hill impacted businesses in the ByWard Market and Bank Street. 

"What's the big deal? It's another demonstration," he said. "It's sad when we hear the event was far away."

Elsaadi said that when customers did come into the shop on Friday evening, they questioned why celebrations weren't being held on the Hill.

Jason Komendat, owner of Retro Rides on Sparks Street, said Canada Day was busy enough but nowhere near what the shop usually sees on July 1. (CBC)

Police presence 'overdone'

Jason Komendat, owner of Retro Rides on Sparks Street, said Canada Day was busy enough but not as busy as normal. He questioned the level of police enforcement set up to prevent demonstrators associated with the Freedom Convoy movement from setting up another occupation of downtown streets.

"I felt really frustrated, the way the whole thing was handled. I realize there needed to be some presence but I think it was way overdone," he said. Police created a red zone of enforcement that "created fear" and kept locals away, Komendat added.

"What we're experiencing as a small business on Sparks Street is a slow death. We are going to be lucky to make it to the end of this season," he said. "We've got property taxes, back rent that's really going to be impossible to pay."

Bogdan Wozniak has been selling hot dogs in Ottawa every Canada Day since 1988.

He said he's had busier years, but he still sold more than 200 hot dogs — a sellout for him — by 6:30 p.m.

"My point of view, it was very well organized. And was very peaceful, very pleasant Canada Day," he said. 

Bogdan Wozniak sells hot dogs at every Canada Day in Ottawa, and has since 1988. (CBC)

Residents give mixed reviews

Franklin McKay lived downtown during the Freedom Convoy protest earlier this year. He said he and his wife decided to spend their first in-person Canada Day celebrations in Montreal for a quieter weekend and less drama.

"At the end of the day, based on [what happened in] February, we figured it would be a little bit of a safer bet to venture to Montreal. So maybe next year [we'll stay in Ottawa]," he said.

Abdou Diallo also used to live downtown, but he returned for Canada Day.

"It was actually not too bad. We're used to it. Every Canada Day is pretty much the same so honestly it was pretty much just like every other Canada Day," he said.

"It was just a little smaller but everything went well. Thank God."

Councillor calls police enforcement 'a balancing act'

The city councillor representing downtown Ottawa described the Canada Day weekend as a success. 

Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney pointed to the planning and co-ordination as some reasons why Freedom Convoy-adjacent protesters who came to the city were unable — and largely unwilling — to gain a foothold in downtown Ottawa. 

"I think the key thing is just not allowing any occupation to take root, not allowing any large or any type of vehicle to come in and to stay," they said.

"There was an increased police presence. It's unfortunate that we have to have that; a lot of people also expressed concern about that. It's a real balancing game that you have to play to ensure that police are there to respond to any violence, disturbance, but at the same time it's not something we want to see in our city, we really would like to see it go back to normal."

Between June 29 and July 4, officers issued 527 parking tickets and towed 125 vehicles, the city's bylaw department announced on Monday. Provincial offence notices were also issued for encumbering a highway, piling material on a highway, and more.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story incorrectly named a business on Sparks Street. It is Crêperie Rim, not Creperium. The story also used a wrong pronoun to identify Coun. Catherine McKenney. The correct pronoun is they, not she.
    Jul 05, 2022 7:55 AM ET

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