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Parliament resuming as Ottawa marks ‘Freedom Convoy’ anniversary

Members of Parliament are making their way back to Ottawa ahead of resuming sitting on Monday, as the city prepares to mark the one-year anniversary of the arrival of “Freedom Convoy” protesters.

Liberal and Conservative MPs gathered on Parliament Hill Friday for respective caucus meetings, plotting out their priorities for the 2023 sitting of the House of Commons, which kicks off on Jan. 30.

Among the top issues facing federal politicians this winter are the ongoing cost-of-living crunch and risk of a recession; the state of Canada’s health-care systems and the prospect of massive new funding deals with the provinces; as well as the government’s ability to deliver services amid the recent increased reliance on private consultants.

In widely differing but similarly-rousing speeches to their caucuses, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre previewed the lines of attack that are sure to be repeated in question period, both centred around an ongoing debate the two leaders are having over whether Canada is “broken.”

“Everything feels broken,” Poilievre said in a speech that questioned what is happening in this country, from the rates of drug overdoses to violent crime.”[Trudeau] gets very angry when I talk about these problems. He thinks that if we don’t speak about them out loud that Canadians will forget that they exist.” 

“You told us that better was always possible, and yet everything is worse, and you blame everyone else,” he said. 

Responding to the claims from his Official Opposition counterpart, Trudeau shot back that Poilievre has “chosen to amplify people’s real anger, and instead of offering them solutions, to offer them more anger.”

In his caucus address, Trudeau spoke about how the Liberal “positive vision” for the future “could not be more different than Mr. Poilievre’s version.”

The New Democrats gathered on Parliament Hill last week for their pre-House strategy session. In a statement on Friday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said that his caucus plans to leverage its supply-and-confidence deal with the minority Liberals to “to fight for relief from the crushing cost of living, and rebuilding and protecting public universal free health care.” 


MPs’ return to Ottawa falls on the one-year anniversary of the first weekend of “Freedom Convoy” protests.

On Jan. 28, 2022, thousands of vehicles and people rolled into downtown Ottawa as part of what many in charge thought would be a weekend of protests against COVID-19 restrictions and the government. 

After entrenching itself on Wellington Street, the “Freedom Convoy” protest quickly evolved into a weeks-long occupation of the downtown core of the Nation’s capital, and the blockading of key Canada-U.S. border crossings.

After weeks of business closures, cross-border strains, incessant horn honking, cheering-on by conservative politicians, and concerns about threats or acts of “serious violence… for the purpose of achieving a political or ideological objective,” Trudeau took the unprecedented step on Feb. 14 of invoking the Emergencies Act for the first time since it became law in 1988. The national inquiry into this chapter in Canadian history, and how those responsible handled the protest and the powers to end it, is due to be presented next month.

Reflecting on the anniversary on his way into the Conservative caucus meeting, Ontario MP and former leadership hopeful Scott Aitchison said he thinks “the convoy probably never should have had to happen, but people are frustrated in this country, and they have every reason to be.”

That frustration—largely directed at the federal Liberals—played out on the streets of Hamilton, Ont., earlier this week while he and his cabinet were in town for meetings. There, Trudeau—protected by officers—was swarmed by a small group of protesters calling for his resignation. Many of the protesters carried Canadian flags. 

Meanwhile, a debate is brewing about what to do with Wellington Street, which has remained closed to vehicle traffic—bookended with cement barricades—since police moved in to clear out the convoy last February.

A Parliamentary Protective Services officer drives past a pedestrian on Wellington Street below Parliament Hill in Ottawa, which remains closed to regular traffic after the Freedom Convoy took place there a year ago, on Friday, Jan. 27, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

While the City of Ottawa is making moves towards reopening the street in front of Parliament Hill to vehicle traffic in March, federal politicians have recommended keeping the street closed permanently and extending the vehicle-free zone one block farther west.

Ottawa Centre Liberal MP Yasir Naqvi—who backed Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe in his bid for the city’s top job—told reporters Friday that on this issue, the two politicians differ.

“I think we need to find ways to reimagine Wellington Street. I don’t think reopening really helps accomplish that. What we should do in the short term is look for ways to animate the street, make it more attractive for people as the federal government and the City of Ottawa work closely to determine the long-term outcome for Wellington Street,” he said.

Asked how he’s feeling on the eve of the anniversary of the convoy rolling into town, Naqvi said that while people have the right to protest in a peaceful and lawful manner, it’s “important that we don’t see a repeat of the kind of occupation we saw a year ago.

“I know there’s a lot of preparation and coordination that has gone to ensure and maintain safety and security for everyone,” he said.


In terms of preparations underway, access to Parliament Hill is being limited, and police are promising any illegal activity or road blocks will be dealt with quickly, while there will be zero tolerance for any noise, parking, or fireworks violations.

An increased police presence and parking restrictions are in effect in the Parliamentary Precinct, and public tours of the Hill are cancelled.

While local police have not said how many protesters they are expecting downtown this weekend, the Parliamentary Protective Service issued a “notice of demonstration on Parliament Hill” Friday afternoon stating it is expecting 500 demonstrators.

Asked how it determined that hundreds of people could come into the core to protest given few official indications from past organizers or high-profile participants about their intent to return at this time, PPS told that its planning is “intelligence-led.”

The force responsible for policing on the Hill says it is “working in close collaboration with our security and law enforcement partners” and is “closely monitoring the situation as it relates to the anniversary event. We will adjust our security posture on Parliament Hill and within the Parliamentary Precinct as required.”

“We encourage everyone to remain vigilant and to be aware of their surroundings at all times,” said the protective service in its notice.  

With files from CTV News Toronto’s Katherine DeClerq and CTV News Ottawa’s Josh Pringle

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