Freedom Convoy protesters set to return to Ottawa for Canada Day, stay through summer
Police say they're aware of upcoming protests and are 'planning accordingly'
Ottawa police say they expect more protests and larger than usual crowds during Canada Day celebrations in the capital this July as groups related to the Freedom Convoy continue to plan protests.
In a statement, the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) said it is "working with Canada Day organizers and our policing partners to implement a public safety plan that allows all Canadians and visitors to freely and safely enjoy the capital during this celebration."
Significant road closures and an increased police presence are expected. Police say additional resources from other services are being brought in.
Several groups — most formed out of the Freedom Convoy — are planning protests in Ottawa throughout the summer, including many of the key figures and prominent streamers involved in the ongoing "Freedom Movement."
A cohort that includes many of the groups involved in protests earlier this year, as well as some that have emerged since, is co-ordinating events throughout the summer.
Protests are expected to take place on a mass scale in the city starting June 30 when James Topp, a veteran marching across Canada in protest of the remaining vaccine mandates, plans to end his cross-country journey at the National War Memorial in downtown Ottawa.
Topp began walking to Ottawa in February, inspired by the convoy protests and disturbed, he said, by government overreach affecting people who have chosen not to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
"As it stands right now, I have not been invited back to work as of yet," he said. "This entire march, the purpose of it was to serve as a protest. I felt it was a violation in several different ways."
Topp said there was no talk of dropping vaccine mandates when he started the protest. He intends on meeting with MPs once he arrives in Ottawa.
"I felt compelled to appeal to these Members of Parliament and have a conversation that wasn't had earlier this year with the other protesters that had gone to Ottawa, so this is my protest in my way," he said.
It's not known which MPs have agreed to speak with Topp.
Protest base planned for outside Ottawa
Topp's march is supported by Veterans 4 Freedom, one of the main groups responsible for organizing the Rolling Thunder protests that took place in April.
The group's steering committee includes Tom Marazzo, who also gained prominence during the convoy protests in Ottawa, at times acting as an official spokesperson for protesters. He also ran in the Peterborough-Kawartha riding for the Ontario Party during the recent provincial election.
Andrew MacGillivray, who co-founded Veterans 4 Freedom, says the group has been liaising with Ottawa police about Topp's arrival.
He also noted events will continue into Canada Day. A route of Topp's march into the city is circulating online, and plans for a weekend of camping downtown near Parliament Hill are in the works.
MacGillivray said the group wants to have the "least impact on citizens of Ottawa with their everyday life."
Ottawa police say residents have reached out with questions about the potential for protest around the national celebration on July 1, which won't take place on Parliament Hill this year.
"We will not allow for conditions that led to the unlawful protests in February to reoccur. We are applying lessons learned from the unlawful protest as well as the Rolling Thunder and associated protests to build our plan," the statement said.
"We will continue an approach that prohibits vehicle-based protests in areas in and around places of national significance."
MacGillivray said construction has begun on a permanent structure for protesters just outside Ottawa, which will act as a base throughout the summer.
"We're going to implement our strategy and plan to lean on the government through information, education, etc.," he said, adding they plan to leave around Labour Day weekend.