Downtown Ottawa is once again awash in red and white and crowded with people draped in the Maple Leaf.
But the cries of “Freedom” that were the hallmark of anti-COVID-19 mandate protests that have been happening on and off since February are so far absent from the national capital today.
Ottawa is in a celebratory mood as Canada Day events get under way, although protesters are in town and planning a march from Parliament Hill later in the day.
Demonstration organizers cancelled one event, a picnic planned for Strathcona Park in the morning, citing a violent incident at the National War Memorial Thursday evening where a large crowd gathered to mark the end of an event dubbed the “March for Freedom.”
Ottawa police say four people were arrested after an altercation and allege one officer was choked.
Police from a number of forces are present throughout downtown Ottawa and in Gatineau, Que., where a secondary event site is set up, and people attending are being screened with metal detectors and bag searches.
Officials have been warning there will be zero tolerance for “unusual noise,” blockading roads or setting off fireworks this weekend.
Ottawa’s bylaw service says it has issued 275 parking tickets and towed 72 vehicles since Wednesday.
More traditional Canada Day festivities will also look different this year. The main celebrations are being moved off Parliament Hill for the first time in 50 years, according to Heritage Canada, citing the ongoing construction at Centre Block.
The main events in LeBreton Flats Park and at Place des Festivals Zibi in Gatineau include a daytime ceremony and evening performances, acrobatic shows and activities for families.
The Canadian Forces Snowbirds, however, will not fly over the capital as planned – a recent technical issue has been fixed but the team needs time for practice flights and maintenance before returning to the air next weekend.
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