No photos allowed at this year's Canadian Tulip Festival

The National Capital Commission (NCC) is telling Ottawa tulip admirers not to stop and take photos of flowers this year over fears it could cause crowds to form and put people at risk of spreading COVID-19.

The signs are up at tulip beds at Commissioners Park — but festival says use common sense

A no photography and no stopping sign, erected by the National Capital Commission, is seen in a tulip bed on Thursday, May 7, 2020. (Jean Delisle/CBC)


  • The NCC said late Friday that people can "feel free" to take photos of the tulips this year.
  • The signs prohibiting photography would also come down, the NCC added.

The National Capital Commission (NCC) is telling Ottawa tulip admirers not to stop and take photos of flowers this year over fears it could cause crowds to form and put people at risk of spreading COVID-19.

No stopping and no photography signs have sprouted up at the NCC's flower beds, just in time for the start of the Canadian Tulip Festival Friday.

Corey Larocque, a spokesperson for the NCC — which owns and maintains the tulips — said it's neither the stopping nor the photography that poses a risk in terms of COVID-19, but the gathering of people.

"The small signs are part of our effort to limit crowding or gathering around the tulip beds and to ensure that people getting to the park on foot or by bike can do so safely, with enough space for physical distancing," Larocque said in an email to CBC.


The signs appeared as both the City of Ottawa and the NCC announced they would resume allowing people to linger in greenspaces — to play catch or have a picnic, for instance.

Park amenities are still off limits, like benches and basketball courts, and Ontario bars groups of more than five people — but, aside from around tulip beds owned and maintained by the NCC, it's OK to stop and take photos. Health officials are still urging Canadians keep a two-metre distance between themselves and others they do not live with.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said he disagrees with the no-photo policy and hopes the NCC will reconsider.

"The whole purpose of going and seeing the tulips is not only to see the beauty in person but also to snap a quick picture," said Watson.

For its part, the Canadian Tulip Festival —which celebrates a gift of tulips given by the Dutch after the Second World War, honouring Canada's role in the liberation of the Netherlands — is also trying to encourage people to stay away from the flowers.

"What we have done is come up with every possible way of bringing the tulips to you," Jo Riding, the festival's general manager, told Ottawa Morning's Robyn Bresnahan Thursday.

"We're asking folks to stay home and stay safe and help us save lives."

The National Capital Commission is asking tulip admirers to go online to enjoy this year's Canadian Tulip Festival which runs May 8 to 18, 2020. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

The Canadian Tulip Festival is offering a range of virtual experiences this year, including aerial photography, musical performances, virtual gardens and a behind-the-scenes look at the festival with NCC's landscape architect Tina Liu.

Riding said people who live near the festival grounds at Commissioners Park and other NCC tulip gardens are welcome to walk through, but NCC conservation officers will be on hand to encourage people keep moving and keep their distance.

"There is signage basically everywhere, saying please do not stop, don't take photos, keep walking and join us online to celebrate," she said.

In Japan, authorities mowed down tens of thousands of tulips near Tokyo to ensure crowds stayed away. That's something Riding said the officials here don't want to do. 

That being said, Riding said people also need to exercise some discretion. 

"If you're there bright and early and if it is your local park, and you want to take a photo, and you're all by yourself, you know, use common sense," she said. 


Laura Glowacki is a reporter based in Ottawa. Previously, she worked as a reporter in Winnipeg and as an associate producer for CBC's Metro Morning in Toronto. Find her on Twitter @glowackiCBC and reach her by email at

with files from CBC's Ottawa Morning and CBC's Joanne Chianello

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