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Truckers and supporters protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates, in Ottawa, on Feb. 4.LARS HAGBERG/Reuters

Protests in Ottawa aimed at ending pandemic restrictions are forcing national museums and other arts institutions to extend closures and cancel shows.

The National Gallery of Canada, the Canadian Museum of Nature, the Canadian Museum of History and the Canadian War Museum all announced Monday they will remain closed until further notice.

“The decision is due to the continuing demonstrations in downtown Ottawa and the City of Ottawa’s advice to the public to avoid the area at this time,” the Museum of Nature said in a news release posted to its website. The National Gallery cited the City of Ottawa’s decision to declare a state of emergency in its reasoning.

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Museums covered by Ontario guidelines, which were forced to close Jan. 5, could have reopened Jan. 31, but several had quietly pushed off their reopening by a week because of the protests and were aiming instead for this Wednesday.

The Canadian Museum of History, which is located in Gatineau, Que., directly across the Ottawa River from Parliament Hill, had closed Dec. 23 because of cases of COVID-19 among staff. (Unlike Ontario, Quebec never ordered museums to close in this round of restrictions.)

“Ongoing protests in the region continue to have a significant impact on traffic circulation in downtown Ottawa, Gatineau and across the interprovincial bridges, making access to our sites extremely difficult,” the Museum of History, which is also responsible for the War Museum, said in its announcement.

The protests in Ottawa, which have blockaded Parliament Hill and a large section of downtown near where the museums are located, have caused huge disruption to businesses in the area including the Rideau Centre shopping mall, which closed Jan. 29.

The nearby National Arts Centre is evaluating the situation on a daily basis, and has currently cancelled performances up to and including Feb. 13.

“With continued protests in downtown Ottawa and the uncertainty ahead, the National Arts Centre will remain closed until conditions are safe for us to reopen for our employees, artists and audiences,” NAC representative Mary Gordon said. “We feel the deep emotional impact of the protests on our Ottawa community. We hope our audiences will find solace in the arts once we can welcome them back.”

The Ottawa Art Gallery, a civic gallery located near the Rideau Centre, has also decided to remain closed until further notice.

Were visitors able to see it, the Museum of History’s topical new exhibition would ask them to reflect on “the difficult balance between national security and individual liberties in times of crisis.” Lost Liberties: The War Measures Act looks at the impact of the act during the First World War, Second World War and the October Crisis of 1970.

When the museum reopens, that exhibition will be on display to Sept. 22. In the meantime, all the museums point visitors to interactive materials on their websites.

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