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No tickets issued during rally marking ‘Freedom Convoy’ anniversary, Ottawa Bylaw says

Bylaw Services officers issued no tickets during a rally in downtown Ottawa to mark the two-year anniversary of the so-called ‘Freedom Convoy,’ but officials say the investigation continues into the “illegal discharge of fireworks” in a parking lot Saturday night.

Hundreds of people gathered on Parliament Hill on Saturday, two years after police moved in to end the demonstration against COVID-19 mandates in February 2022.

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, Bylaw Services Director Roger Chapman says staff worked with organizers and participates before and during the demonstration to “educate them on the City’s bylaws and find resolutions to any issues that may arise.”

“During the protests that occurred this past weekend, BLRS did not issue any fines. However, an investigation into the illegal discharge of fireworks downtown remains open,” Chapman said. “As the investigation is still underway, the City cannot provide any additional information at this time.”

Witnesses reported seeing and hearing fireworks discharged from a parking lot at the intersection of Kent and Queen streets Saturday night. Ottawa’s fireworks bylaw only permits displays on Victoria Day and Canada Day and the day before and after those days, and it has strict rules about where fireworks can be set off.

An Ottawa police spokesperson told CTV News Ottawa that police and bylaw officers attended the scene on Saturday evening and no charges were laid by police.

“Demonstrators were warned and there were no further disturbances,” police said.

Somerset Coun. Ariel Troster said on Threads that “a number of residents” wrote to her over the weekend expressing concerns “about what seemed to them as an uneven enforcement of noise bylaws, particularly with the demonstrations associated with the two-year anniversary of the convoy.”

“Many pointed out that it seemed hypocritical that participants in recent anti-war and pro-LGBTQ rallies were given tickets, while it appeared that convoy folks were allowed to act with impunity,” Troster wrote.

A bylaw officer tells a motorist to move their vehicle as people attend the anniversary of the “Freedom Convoy” demonstrations on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024. Thousands of demonstrators took over streets around Parliament Hill in late January 2022, blocking roads with big-rig trucks and other vehicles and refusing to move. (Patrick Doyle/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

“The issue of who is getting ticketed and why is a hot issue amongst my council colleagues and something that we are actively investigating. We are looking for a solution — whether it is some sort of agreement around guidelines for enforcement, or a potential amendment to the bylaw to allow for some lower-volume amplified sound during political demonstrations.”

Troster says she had written to Ottawa Police Chief Eric Stubbs and Chapman to find out how many tickets were issued during the protest.

“Setting off illegal fireworks and leaning on air horns is disruptive to downtown residents and also triggering for people who lived through the convoy occupation,” Troster said.

Bylaw Services has said officers have issued several fines under the noise bylaw during pro-Palestinian rallies in downtown Ottawa in December and January.  During a demonstration on transgender rights on Wellington Street on Feb. 5, bylaw officers issued three charges for the use of a sound reproduction device on a highway, according to Chapman.

The fine for violating the bylaw is $490.

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