'You must leave the area now,' police warn remaining protesters

On Wednesday, Ottawa police began distributing written notices to remaining protesters telling them to leave the downtown area immediately.

Police distribute written warning on Day 20 of occupation

A police officer speaks with a trucker parked in Ottawa’s downtown core Feb. 16, 2022. Police were handing out paper notices that morning reminding people blocking streets is illegal, along with making sure they knew about recent new powers. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The latest developments for Day 20 of the protest:

As the pandemic protest closes in on a third full week in Ottawa, the injunction against honking loud horns in Ottawa has been extended and there are again warnings to protesters of the possible consequences of staying in or coming to the capital.

On Wednesday, Ottawa police began distributing written notices to remaining protesters.

"You must leave the area now. Anyone blocking streets, or assisting others in the blocking streets, are committing a criminal offence and you may be arrested," it said.

They also posted them online, in part because they had a message for people thinking of coming to Ottawa to protest under new federal powers.

"The Federal Emergencies Act allows for the regulation or prohibition of travel to, from or within any specified area. This means that anyone coming to Ottawa for the purpose of joining the ongoing demonstration is breaking the law."

The tactic is similar to a message one week ago, before the provincial and federal emergency declarations. The next day, Ottawa police said about six per cent of vehicles had left.

In a separate warning, the The Children's Aid Society of Ottawa told parents at the protest to arrange for their care should they be unable to provide it after police action. Some of the new powers ban people from bringing children to unlawful assemblies.

Honking injunction extended

A judge extended the injunction against anyone using air or train horns north of Highway 417 in Ottawa another 60 days on Thursday morning.

It now lasts until Easter weekend in mid-April.

"Hurting people by keeping them up all night, or destroying their peace in their own home is certainly not something that a peaceable country like Canada can put up with," said Justice Hugh McLean Thursday.

The injunction has cut back the constant drone of horns experienced for most of the day across some of the residential areas near the core in the first days of the protest, but has not entirely stopped it.

New decision-makers

On Tuesday, the city's police chief Peter Sloly resigned and was replaced by deputy chief Steve Bell acting in an interim capacity. 

During the police services board meeting announcing the change, chair Diane Deans told the interim chief she needed to see a difference in how the force responded to the protest with the additional resources it had begun receiving.

Former CSIS officer Jessica Davis of Insight Threat Intelligence breaks down emergency measures from the government aimed at cutting off funding for anti-mandate protesters.

Deans said on CBC's Power & Politics Tuesday that a new command structure is coming in the next few days at the Ottawa police, which is now managing the police response alongside the RCMP and Ontario Provincial Police.

    The new structure and extra resources are about all the board can legally do, Deans said.

    "I wanted to go up there and poke that hot tub myself and let the water flow out of it and unplug that damn bouncy castle because it's just a symbol of the frustration that's gone on."

    Speaking to city council on Wednesday, Bell said he knew the force's reputation has been "tarnished" by the police handling of the protest and residents felt "unsafe and abandoned."

    He said police now have the resources and a plan to safely end the protest. He would not share timing for the plan for operational reasons, but said police are prepared for several levels of "lawful" escalation, including "techniques [that] are not what we're used to seeing Ottawa." 

    "We're going to take back the entirety of the downtown core," Bell said. "We have a good, well-resourced plan to end the occupation."

    WATCH | The many challenges that remain, even with new powers:

    The complex challenge of ending the protests in Ottawa

    4 months ago
    Duration 3:02
    The federal Emergencies Act gives authorities more power to break up the Ottawa protest, but removing the trucks and protesters will be a complex, time-consuming and potentially dangerous process.

    While last week Mayor Jim Watson expressed support for the city's police, on Tuesday he called Sloly's resignation the right thing for the city. 

    He said his turning point was when the police made promises and the city didn't see results.

    City council also heard a motion to replace three members of the Police Services Board on Wednesday, including Deans as board chair. 

    Police estimated Tuesday there were 360 protest vehicles still in the city, down from about 420 one week before and 400 going into last weekend. Around 150 protesters are staying the night near Wellington Street.

    While many protesters have flocked to Ottawa to voice their opposition to vaccine mandates, others have said their goal is to force the dissolution of the elected federal government, or to create a logistical nightmare that forces the federal government to repeal all mandates.

    Fuel cans sit in front of a banner reading 'freedom' in downtown Ottawa on Feb. 11 during the ongoing occupation of some streets near Parliament Hill. (Jean-Francois Benoit/CBC)

    Happening today

    The COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the University of Ottawa is closed again after being open for one day amid the protest and its traffic problems.

    A twice-delayed city council meeting about the protest and occupation of streets near Parliament Hill is currently scheduled for 4 p.m. ET.

    While protesters have stayed in the city through extreme cold warnings, they're about to get a dump of mixed precipitation over the next few days. 

    Environment Canada is forecasting between 15 and 25 millimetres of rain to fall between Wednesday and Thursday afternoon, then 10 to 20 centimetres of snow expected by Friday morning.

    With files from Joanne Chianello and CBC's Power & Politics