Response to by-law tickets at recent protests

I was surprised and frustrated to learn that by-law had begun issuing tickets for the use of megaphones during the Palestine solidarity rallies that have been happening weekly downtown. I have attended many other authorized and unauthorized rallies, virtually all of which used megaphones. 

It is an expected practice when organizing large groups of people. I also understand tickets have been issued during other protests but to the perspective of both the organizers and much of the general public the escalation in this situation was unexpected and antagonistic.

After learning of the tickets my office reached out to by-law to ask for more information and we were reassured that by-law was proactively engaged with the organizers and that the dialogue was going well. Recognizing that neither council nor councillors can direct the work of by-law as per the Provincial Offences Act – Conflict of Interest Policy, we were limited in our options. It was disappointing to see that optimistic report not reflected in the outcomes last Saturday.

I unequivocally support the right to protest and reject any comparison to the convoy in the winter of 2022. Equating peaceful, reoccurring, local protests on humanitarian issues with the invasive, destructive, incessant behaviour of the convoy minimizes the real and lasting harm done to downtown communities two years ago, as well as diminishes the work of the organizers of the current protests.

While I understand individuals still traumatized by the convoy can find protests triggering, I know the majority of residents downtown understand protests to be a part of life in the nation’s capital. If you are still struggling post-convoy our office will do our best to help connect you with services, while recognizing we cannot and should not attempt to prevent future peaceful protests downtown.

I am deeply disappointed in the actions taken by by-law in the last few weeks. Many in Ottawa are grieving the loss of loved ones in Israel and Palestine and the emotion and distress of these events should be approached with empathy and flexibility. I have worked with by-law and regulatory services on many other files since taking office and found them reasonable and collaborative, while these fines appear reactive and disproportional. Neither I or council have the authority to direct past or future enforcement activity, but I sincerely hope they will reconsider this approach. 

 

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