Ottawa police continue to investigate after two people – a journalist and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh – were confronted by a protester camping out in the area of the National War Memorial, according to the police chief.
Chief Peter Sloly said the service is working with the RCMP and Parliamentary Protective Services to investigate those incidents, but is also working to deal with the encampment.
Watson asked Sloly at Monday’s police board meeting to explain what needs to be done to “bring some semblance of order” to the site memorializing the country’s war dead. He called “what’s gone on there for many, many months” both “inexcusable and disrespectful.”
Watson said he sees the encampment every day on his way to work and has had the issue brought up by many citizens. Watson asked Sloly to explain why the Ottawa police can’t move the encampment on it’s own.
“There are a lot of people extremely upset with what’s going on there. This is not only a national tribute to the men and women who lost their lives in various wars but it’s also a burial ground because the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with the remains of a WWI veteran have been interred on the grounds.”
Watson said that as he walked by the area on Monday, he saw someone “chipping a golf ball” with a golf club. “There’s cooking and eating and I’m sure some kind of propane tank. It’s not only, I believe, illegal to be camping there but it’s also dangerous.”
The property is federal property that is operated by public works and overseen by RCMP, who have policing jurisdiction over that federal property. The national force is awaiting a decision from public works “in regards to the Trespass to Property Act,” Sloly said.
“We have been working with the RCMP and other agents in anticipation that at some point there may be a decision around trespassing these persons from the property and removing the encampment, so while that decision is in the hands of the federal government, we’ve been working in preparation should that decision be made,” he said.
The protesters at the National War Memorial have been on the site since Canada Day, in a small encampment on a grassy area, northwest of the cenotaph directly opposite the Office of the Prime Minister, the former Langevin Block.
Their motivation is a potpourri of causes, ranging from claims that climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic are hoaxes to the dangers of “one-world governance” and general allegations of government corruption.
Last week, one of the camp’s residents was arrested after allegedly harassing a Radio Canada reporter as he walked on Sparks Street, allegedly mistaking him for a Member of Parliament.
After a few hours of cleanup, the park reopened to the public. The protesters’ belongings were taken to an NCC warehouse where they could be reclaimed.
One of the protesters filed a Charter challenge to her trespassing fine, arguing that it was an “unreasonable” infringement of her rights. Justice of the Peace R. Brian Mackey, dismissed the challenge.
“Although the location may have been opportune for the protesters, the occupation interrupted the lawful use of the property by downtown workers, local residents, tourists to the city and any other park user,” Mackey wrote in his decision. “Such a use is not only important to the park authority, it is very important to citizens and visitors to the nation’s capital in the very core of the city.”
Videos posted online show the same protester confronting NDP leader Jagmeet Singh as he walked past the encampment on Wellington Street.
The National War Memorial is under the jurisdiction of Public Procurement and Services Canada, the legal name of the department of public works, which did not comment before deadline Monday.
In an emailed statement, the Royal Canadian Legion said it didn’t object to the presence of the encampment but would want the site clear in time for Remembrance Day.
“We respect the right of Canadians to peacefully protest. It is one of the freedoms we are granted as a result of the sacrifices of our veterans,” the statement said.
“If required, we would work with all involved groups including our national partners to ensure the site is clear and the sanctity of the site is respected for the Remembrance Day ceremony on November 11.”
The war memorial encampment is reminiscent of the 2011 Occupy Ottawa movement, whose members spent 38 days in tents in Confederation Park as part of a global movement protesting inequalities in wealth.
Confederation Park, opposite Ottawa City Hall, is administered by the National Capital Commission, which negotiated with the protesters during that encampment to ensure they didn’t damage tress or facilities or interfere with people using the park. The NCC even brought in portable toilets for the protesters.
But behind the scenes, the NCC was meeting with Ottawa police to figure out what to do about the encampment. On Nov. 21, the NCC issued an eviction notice and Ottawa police moved in at about 2 a.m. the next morning. The operation wasn’t dramatic, as many of the protesters had already left as the weather got colder, but eight people were arrested and fined $65 for trespassing.