CANADA POLITICS Freedom Convoy members set to return to Ottawa for...

Freedom Convoy members set to return to Ottawa for Canada Day and stay until summer

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Ottawa police say they expect more protests and larger-than-usual crowds during Canada Day celebrations in the capital this July as groups linked to the Freedom Convoy continue to plan protests.

The Ottawa Police Service (OPS) said in a statement that it is “working with Canada Day organizers and our police partners to implement a public safety plan that will allow all Canadians and visitors to enjoy the capital freely and safely during this celebration.”

Significant road closures and an increased police presence are expected. The police say they are mobilizing additional resources from other services.

Several groups, most formed from the Freedom Convoy, are planning protests in Ottawa during the summer, including many of the key figures and prominent streamers involved in the ongoing Freedom Movement.

The cohort, which includes many of the groups that participated in the protests earlier this year, as well as some groups that have emerged since then, is coordinating activities throughout the summer.

Massive protests in the city are expected to kick off on June 30 when James Topp, a veteran marching across Canada to protest remaining vaccination mandates, plans to end his tour of the country at the National War Memorial in downtown Ottawa.

James Topp began going to Ottawa in February, inspired by the Liberty Convoy and worried, he says, about government overreach. (SHS)

Topp began going to Ottawa in February, inspired by convoy protests and concerned, he said, about government abuse of people who chose not to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“At the moment, I haven’t been offered a job yet,” he said. “The purpose of this entire march was to serve as a protest. I felt it was a violation for several reasons.”

Topp said that when he started the protest, there was no talk of canceling vaccination mandates. He intends to meet with MPs upon his arrival in Ottawa.

“I felt compelled to reach out to these MPs and have a conversation that didn’t happen earlier this year with other protesters who went to Ottawa, so this is my protest on my way,” he said.

Which of the deputies agreed to talk with Topp is unknown.

The Rolling Thunder rally took place on the last weekend of April but pales in comparison to the scale of the convoy protests a few months earlier. (Michael Charles Cole/CBC)

Protest base planned outside Ottawa

Topp’s march is supported by Veterans 4 Freedom, one of the main groups responsible for organizing the Rolling Thunder protests that took place in April.

The group’s steering committee includes Tom Marazzo, who also rose to prominence during convoy protests in Ottawa, at times acting as a spokesperson for the protesters. He also competed in the Peterborough-Cawarth race for the Ontario Party.

Prominent streamer Andrew McGillivray, co-founder of Veterans 4 Freedom, says the group was in contact with Ottawa police about Topp’s arrival.

He also noted that the activities will continue on Canada Day. The route of Topp’s march into the city is circulating on the internet, and plans are in the works for a weekend camping in the city center near Parliament Hill.

McGillivray said the group wants to have “the least impact on the citizens of Ottawa in their daily lives.”

Ottawa police say residents have reached out with questions about the possibility of a protest around the July 1 national holiday, which will not take place on Parliament Hill this year.

“We will not allow a repeat of the conditions that led to the illegal protests in February. We are applying the lessons learned from the illegal protest, as well as the Thunderclap and related protests, to build our plan,” the statement said.

“We will continue to take the approach of banning protests using vehicles in areas in and around places of national importance.”

McGillivray said construction has begun on a permanent building for protesters near Ottawa that will serve as a base throughout the summer.

“We are going to implement our strategy and plan to rely on the government through information, education, etc.,” he said, adding that they plan to leave on Labor Day weekend.

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