With crackdowns against Occupy protesters in New York, Vancouver and other Canadian cities in recent days, we knew this moment of force and madness would come to Canada’s capital. Today, on its 38th day of a peaceful occupation of Confederation Park, the Occupy Ottawa movement received the eviction notice from the National Capital Commission (NCC), the federal government body responsible for the park.
Six mindboggling things about Occupy Ottawa’s eviction:
- It seems that the NCC has been waiting for today’s court decision on Occupy Toronto’s occupation of St. James Park before acting against Occupy Ottawa. Earlier this afternoon, a Superior Court judge ruled the Occupy Toronto protesters must pack up their tents and leave. The NCC’s notice followed within the hour. A friend tells me the notice even resembles the Toronto one.
- There’s a disturbing lack of honesty on the NCC’s part. In the last three weeks, the NCC has repeatedly hinted – only hinted – that the protesters will be evicted. In a democracy, you communicate. Canada’s is supposed to be a deliberative democracy.
- For the reason, the NCC says it needs the park to make way for Winterlude, Ottawa’s main winter festival. Ridiculous. Although the festival is in February, preparations start in December. Occupy Ottawa and the NCC could easily share the park. Occupy Ottawa currently uses a tenth of the park.
- The eviction comes despite the fact that, during the 38-day occupation, Occupy Ottawa complied with all of the National Capital Commission’s health, safety and related concerns.
- The NCC did not even consider the Occupiers offer to partner with it on Winterlude. Oh, maybe they gave it all away when they suggested that they’d create an ice sculpture of the disenfranchised 99%.
- The eviction notice does not mention Occupy Ottawa by name. Not even once.
If the events in Toronto aren’t the catalyst for the NCC’s action, what is? Is it possible that this leaderless movement had begun to get too political? Last Thursday, it held simultaneous marches before four key Ottawa landmarks: the Canadian Human Rights Monument, US embassy, Novotel hotel and the Sparks Street Mall. On Saturday, Occupiers held a teach-in on the Conservative party’s omnibus crime bill C-10. A major protest against the bill is planned for November 26.
Where does Occupy Ottawa go from here?
Forward, that’s where. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the Movement’s right to assembly and expression. But my friend and fellow activist, Taylor Howarth, is more eloquent about the future:
“This physical occupation is the catalyst that will manifest various means and methods of change,” she argues. “No matter what sort of situations the next few weeks may hold, I am confident that this is just the first flame of a long burning candle. This movement is too big to fail.”
And, of course, as Occupy Ottawa says in this statement, you can’t evict an idea whose time has come.