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All speech to be monitored and approved by police in Ottawa

Keean Bexte

June 29, 2022

Ottawa police have sworn to monitor speech and gestures on Canada Day, adding that they will “actively respond to” anything deemed offensive.

Ottawa police plan to monitor speech
Ottawa police plan to monitor speech

While speaking at a Canada Day planning update meeting, interim OPS chief Steve Bell responded to a question regarding potentially offensive speech (speech deemed homophobic, misogynistic, or potentially racist), saying that no such speech would be tolerated.

“I think the easiest way to answer that is just with a no,” said Bell, adding that Ottawa police will “actively respond to” and investigate hate or bias crime incidents, intimidation or threats, reports the Ottawa Citizen.

In an email to the Ottawa Citizen, Police Service spokesperson Cst. Mike Cudrasov wrote, “Communicating (words spoken or written, gestures or signs) homophobic, misogynistic, and/or racist messages in a public place will be investigated and can lead to various criminal charges including public incitement of hatred Sec 319(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada.”

“These will NOT be tolerated.”

Potentially offensive speech isn’t the only thing that police say they’ll be looking out for, though. Camping is also a hot topic this year.

“Camping and the placement of structures in City Parks are not permitted unless the authority to do so has been granted through a permit. Enforcement will be on a zero-tolerance basis.,” Ottawa By-law tweeted.

Leading up to Canada Day, police promised that they would have an “unprecedented and unique” response to any protests planned. Just five days ago, they revealed what that response would entail.

On June 24, the City of Ottawa announced several restrictions for Canada Day, including a barricaded motor vehicle control zone with police checkpoints to ban protesters’ vehicles.

“Getting around downtown on Canada Day will be more complicated than usual this year,” a City of Ottawa news release reads.

As per the news release, all vehicles belonging to people taking part in any form of demonstration, event, protest, or rally are outright banned from going near Parliament Hill, while local and business traffic, pedestrians, cyclists, and public transit will be permitted to move through the control zone freely.

Moreover, those who do not comply with the protester vehicle ban will face ticketing, and “barricades, heavy equipment, or police officers and vehicles will be at various access points surrounding the control zone, to filter lawful traffic onto those streets.”

It isn’t clear how a demonstrator’s vehicle will be distinguished from someone just looking to go to a shop, other than obvious freedom signs.

Signage will also be posted in the motor vehicle control zone that prohibits street parking and stopping.

Journalist Rupa Subramanya recently checked out Parliament Hill following the announcements and said she “Can’t recall anything like this since 9/11 if even then. This is peak tourist season, and a few days before Canada Day, and the area around Parliament is sterile and desolate.”

Additionally, while authorities plan to lift the control zone on July 4 that has already left Parliament Hill “sterile and desolate,” they say they have no problem extending the control zone “should conditions warrant it.”

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