Police restrict access to Ottawa's core as occupation nears 4th weekend

Ottawa's interim police chief says officers are working to keep more protesters from getting close to Parliament Hill as they try to end the occupation of downtown streets.

'Only people with lawful reasons' to be there can enter, says interim police chief

Police increased their presence in downtown Ottawa on Thursday. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

The latest on Day 21 of the protest:

Ottawa's interim police chief says officers are working to keep more protesters from getting close to Parliament Hill as they try to end the occupation of downtown streets.

Steve Bell told the Ottawa Police Services Board early Thursday afternoon a major increase of police officers will be seen throughout the core.

"Only those with lawful reason to enter the core, such as residents, businesses and others with lawful reasons, will be allowed in the area," Ottawa police tweeted around the same time as his remarks.

"The unlawful protesters must leave the area and will not be provided access."

People set up fences in front of the temporary home of the Senate. The capital is under a winter storm warning, with morning rain yielding to evening snow. ( Sebastien St-Francois/Radio-Canada)

Fences were being set up that morning in front of government buildings including Parliament Hill and the Senate. Police vehicles were seen gathering at the EY Centre near the international airport to the south.

The response now includes an unspecified number of Quebec provincial police. According to Radio-Canada sources, members of the Sûreté du Québec's tactical intervention squad will work under the command of the OPP.

A group of police hand out notices warning protesters occupying downtown streets to leave at a supply camp on Coventry Road. (Raphael Tremblay/Radio-Canada)

The city's bylaw department also explained what would happen with animals if "enforcement actions" separate people from their pets.

Alongside any criminal repercussions, the class-action lawsuit launched by Ottawa residents against protesters in the city's downtown now includes an expanded area that loops in those living in the Sandy Hill and ByWard Market areas.

These latest warnings — posted online and handed out as flyers — gave protesters an updated list of rules that may apply to the occupation of some downtown streets and potential penalties under expanded federal and provincial powers.

Speaking to city council on Wednesday, interim police Chief Steve Bell said police now have the resources and a plan to safely end the protest.

He would not share a timeline for that 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." 

After the first of the two warnings, which directly told protesters that what they were doing no longer fell under a peaceful protest, spokespeople for the organizers said they needed more people to come to the core so police would be outnumbered.

Wednesday also brought comments from federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino that several of the individuals involved in the blockade at the border crossing in Coutts, Alta., have "strong ties to a far-right extreme organization with leaders who are in Ottawa."

School safety

Meanwhile, Ottawa's English public school board says police have informed its officials that schools are safe and will be ready to act if that changes.

The University of Ottawa has moved in-person classes online until Monday and is again increasing security on campus because of "ongoing developments near Parliament Hill," it said on its website early Wednesday evening.

Northern parts of the campus border some of the roads closed by the protest and the city maintains that people should avoid non-essential travel downtown.

More leadership changes

Following Tuesday's resignation of police chief Peter Sloly, there were more leadership changes when Ottawa city council voted to overhaul its police services board Wednesday during a long and unusually emotional meeting.

It included the ouster of chair Coun. Diane Deans and the resignation of some board members in protest.

The police services board voted Thursday to appoint veteran Coun. Eli El-Chantiry as its new chair. El-Chantiry also spent a dozen years as the chair of the police board until 2018.

WATCH | A timeline of key events in Ottawa's convoy crisis:

Heavy police presence on the streets of Ottawa

1 year ago
Duration 8:56
CBC News reporter Judy Trinh sets the scene in Ottawa as busloads of police officers arrived on Day 21 of protest in the city. New fencing is being erected on Parliament Hill and notices have been handed out, warning protesters to leave or face possible arrest.