Police begin to remove checkpoints as Ottawa protest cleanup continues

Ottawa police are starting to remove some of the more than 100 checkpoints in the city, as cleanup efforts continue following police action that cleared protesters and vehicles from a large area around Parliament Hill. Police say businesses should feel safe to reopen now.

Businesses should feel safe to reopen now, police say

A man secures a camper before it gets hauled away in Ottawa on Sunday, after police cleared a trucker protest that began on Jan. 28 targeting COVID-19 public health measures. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press)

Steps away from where the Emergencies Act passed a vote in the House of Commons Monday night, Ottawa police continued to remove some of the more than 100 checkpoints in the city following police action that cleared protesters and vehicles, including transport trucks, from a large area around Parliament Hill.

By Monday afternoon, police had announced all checkpoints surrounding the ByWard Market had been removed. 

City transit is reopening many of its routes, and a sense of normalcy is starting to return after thousands of demonstrators rallying against COVID-19 public health measures occupied the streets for more than three weeks, terrorizing some residents.

Both the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board and Ottawa Catholic School Board say downtown schools will be open Tuesday, but warned there could be delays for kids getting to school because of the various checkpoints.

Ottawa police say businesses that closed during the protest, which began on Jan. 28, should now feel safe to reopen. It's expected many of the shops along Bank Street, as well as the CF Rideau Centre, will open as soon as Tuesday.

Mayor Jim Watson encouraged people to support local businesses in the downtown because they suffered not only from the occupation, but have also been struggling during the pandemic.

Some councillors plan to bring motions forward at Wednesday's city council meeting to assist those hardest hit by the demonstration. They include a tax deferral program for businesses, expanding free transit service in affected areas and free on-street parking and at city-owned parkades in affected areas for a month.

Some protesters gather outside Ottawa

While there is a sense of relief that the situation is returning to normal, Watson said it continues to be mixed with anxiety. 

"We still are not through this. We have to be prudent and cautious," he told CBC Monday, referring to reports some protesters have congregated in areas outside the city.

One of those locations is in Vankleek Hill, Ont., approximately 100 kilometres east of downtown Ottawa, while another group has been seen west of the city in Arnprior, Ont.

"We have to be cognisant of the fact that we're still not out of the woods," he said.

At a news conference Sunday afternoon, interim Ottawa police Chief Steve Bell said police would spend the next several days figuring out how to maintain a presence in the downtown core "to make sure that nobody returns to occupy our streets again."

On Monday morning, police sent out social media messages advising people that only parliamentary employees would be permitted north of Sparks Street, between Elgin and Bay streets. Wellington Street, once the focal point of the protest, is closed to all traffic.

Police say they are asking people at check stops to state their reasons for travelling within the area.

WATCH | Downtown Ottawa reopens up after weeks-long protest:

Downtown Ottawa reopens after weeks of protests

2 years ago
Duration 3:10
Featured VideoLife in downtown Ottawa largely returned to normal after police cleared convoy protesters out, but protective fences remain around Parliament Hill as the government warns the threat of more unrest has not entirely passed.

There has been speculation among city councillors about whether Wellington Street would ever reopen to vehicles. Over the weekend, police would not say when the road in front of Parliament Hill might reopen, but on Monday evening, Somerset ward Coun. Catherine McKenney said they plan to introduce a motion at Wednesday's council meeting to bar traffic from a section of the street.

By Sunday morning, officers had fenced off the area immediately surrounding the Parliamentary Precinct. That's where protesters had been entrenched since late January, before a series of police advances on Friday and Saturday pushed the crowd first west, then south, away from Parliament Hill.

Late last week, police set up a secure area stretching from Bronson Avenue to the Rideau Canal, and from the Queensway to Parliament Hill.

Police fences block off a section of downtown Ottawa on Sunday morning, the day after significant police action to clear the area of protesters and vehicles. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC)

Police warn of road closures

Police have opened up Rideau Street at Sussex Drive, but it remains closed westbound at Dalhousie Street. Mackenzie Avenue southbound, Sussex Drive northbound and Colonel By Drive are open to pedestrian and vehicle traffic, police said.

They also asked people on Sunday evening to avoid a small demonstration taking place near the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway and Booth Street, where children were in attendance.

A similar demonstration is planned for Monday.

Free bus routes, LRT service resumes 

Fifteen bus routes serving the downtown are now free of charge and will stay that way until 30 days after Ottawa's state of emergency is lifted, OC Transpo said on Sunday.

For now, however, bus routes serving the downtown remain on detour. The free rides also apply to Para Transpo trips to and from Rideau-Vanier and Somerset wards.

Starting Monday morning, LRT service resumed along the entire length of the Confederation Line.

The City of Ottawa is warning that any statements that appear to come from the city involving financial compensation for the convoy protests are not authentic. MPs debated in the House of Commons all weekend ahead of a vote on whether to ratify use of the Emergencies Act. Debate continued Monday morning, ahead of an evening vote. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended his government's use of the Act during a press conference Monday, saying the decision to do so was not one he and his government took lightly. 

Dozens of vehicles towed

As of Monday morning, police said they had made 196 arrests and charged 110 people with offences including obstructing or resisting a peace officer, assault, disobeying a court order, mischief, assaulting police and possessing a weapon.

Bell said Sunday that in one instance, a protester tried to take an officer's taser.

Police have also towed 115 vehicles related to the protest. The vehicles include heavy trucks, pickup trucks and cars.