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Ottawa is Canada's capital city and seat of government. It is Canada's fourth largest city with a metro population of more than 1.1 million people. Ottawa is located in the Ottawa Valley in the eastern portion of the province of Ontario. The city was established as Bytown in 1850 but renamed Ottawa in 1855.

Jim Watson and Bob Chiarelli, both from the Ontario Liberal Party, have in recent years been playing musical chairs with the posts of Member of Provincial Parliament for Ottawa West—Nepean and mayor since 2000 when Watson was previously mayor.

Ottawa has a large activist community. The activist community in Ottawa gained momentum through several large protests being held in the capital between 2001 and 2006. There are many groups in the capital representing various political philosophies. These include NoWar-Paix, Under Pressure Collective and the Ottawa Panhandlers Union.

Major Political Events[edit]

Ottawa has always been the scene of political demonstrations since its earliest days as Canada's capital. Everything from the visit of US Presidents, meetings of economic groups, free trade agreements and foreign wars have been protested in Ottawa. What follows is a list of contemporary political protests in the capital which have changed it from being a quiet, mostly liberal city into a politically active metropolis.

G20 Protest (November 2001)

In September 2001, the meeting of the Group of Twenty (G20) and annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank was scheduled to be held in Washington, DC. Citing security concerns after September 11th, the meeting could no longer be held in Washington. Ottawa was selected as the host after then Canadian finance minister Paul Martin made the offer.

Several thousand people showed up to demonstrate the meeting and protestors were met with the first examples of state repression after September 11th. Peaceful protestors were beaten by police and arrested without provocation. Many members of the media were also targetted by the police. As a result of the actions by police, the city created the Major Events Liason Team (MELT).

Take The Capital (June 2002)

Canada was chair and host for the year 2002 in the Group of Eight (G8). Before 2001, Ottawa had been considered a host city, but after the violence which erupted in Genoa in July 2001, the events of September 11th and the events of the G20 protests, Canadian officials decided to hold the summit in Kananaskis, Alberta.

The Kananaskis site was only open to the leaders of the G8 nations, their personnel and some members of the media. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) formed a security zone in the park and protestors were not allowed in the park for the duration of the summit. The security zone was extensive and cost Canadian taxpayers upwards of 100 million dollars.

Protest organizers in Ottawa had already been planning for Ottawa as site of the G8 summit instead shifted their strategy to holding a direct action whereby they would shut down the city's downtown core. The motto of the protest was "Take The Capital!" ("Prenons le Capital!" in French) referring to activists shutting down the core of the city for two days in June.

The protest was held in on June 26th and June 27th, the same days as the summit was being held in Alberta, and was endorsed by many activist groups across Ontario and Quebec. Members of OCAP in Toronto as well as members of CLAC in Montreal were present during the protest. Similar protests were held in Calgary, which was the nearest city to the Kananaskis resort.

The June 26th actions featured a snake march through the city's streets. It also featured the creation of a squat in the city's core by a group of activists who were calling for a Seven Year Squat to assist those without housing to find it, or take it if necessary. The squat was violently shut down by police early on the morning of July 7th 2002.

The Take The Capital protests were important for the evolution of Ottawa's activist community. The protest helped showcase Ottawa as a city capable of hosting a major demonstration against the government. Ottawa Indymedia had high activity at the time of the protests. The protest also assisted with the development of several Ottawa groups including Anti-Capitalist Action which is now defunct.

George W. Bush Visit (November 2004)

On November 30th 2004, President George W. Bush made his first official to Canada. He had previously been in Canada for the FTAA leaders summit in Quebec City in April of 2001 and to the G8 Summit in Kananaskis, Alberta in 2002. Condoleeza Rice and many other American officials joined Bush for the visit. While in Ottawa, Bush met with then Prime Minister Paul Martin as well as several other Canadian officials. His visit lasted two days (until December 1st) with rumors being Bush stayed in the US embassy over night.

Bush's visit was met with thousands of protestors marching in the streets from a wide range of political groups from environmentalists and feminists, to Liberal Party supporters and church groups, to anarchists and communists. Protestors came from all across Ontario, Quebec and Eastern Canada. Some estimates put the crowd's number at more than 15,000 on Parliament Hill on November 30th [1]

Several anarchists and militant protestors gained attention by being featured live for several minutes on CNN when they broke through the barricades on Rideau Street and charged toward the Conference Centre in Ottawa where Bush was then speaking. The protestors met another line of riot police before they could get to the President.

Local Political Organizations[edit]


NoWar-Paix is a group of activists based in Ottawa. Their names is an acronym for: Network to Oppose War and Racism - Pacte contre l'Agression, l'Intolerance et la Xenophobie. Their goals are (1) To oppose terrorism in all its forms, the U.S. call to war, and Canada's participation therein. (2) To oppose racism, including anti-semitism, and the racist backlash against people of colour, including attacks on immigrant and refugee rights. (3) To oppose the erosion of civil liberties in the name of national security. They are mostly committed to pacifism and in the past have worked with the Major Events Liason Team in Ottawa.

Industrial Workers of the World - Ottawa-Outaouais Membership branch.

The history of the Industrial Workers of the World goes as far back as 1918. More recently the IWW has organized the Ottawa Panhandlers Union (see below) as well as participating in many campaigns including the national campaign to unionize Starbucks.

Ottawa Panhandlers Union

The Ottawa Panhandlers Union was formed in early 2003. It is a shop of the Industrial Workers of the World, Ottawa-Outaouis General Members Board. Andrew Nellis is the lead organizer of the union and its current IWW delegate and spokesperson.

The purpose of the union is intended to bring together panhandlers, street artsists, buskers and any other "street-affected" person to lobby city hall for individual rights and reverse the laws which the city of Ottawa has passed. The union has continually stressed that its aim is to create an "entrepreneurially spirit" which aims to have panhanders sell arts and crafts, books, compact discs or other donated material for money which they will use to support themselves. Main article: Ottawa Panhandlers Union

Under Pressure Collective
Under Pressure is a political group in the capital which fights for the rights of the poor and underprivileged. They have specifically aided people on Ontario Works (OW) and those on Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). They have been part of a 'Raise The Rates' campaign for people on ODSP/OW and have fought against the cuts to recepients of the 'Special Diet' allowance by the Ontario Liberals. More recently, Under Pressure has organized the Ottawa Bus Riders Union which opposes the hikes in fees to transit fares to Ottawa's OC Transpo. Ottawa currently has the highest transit fares in the country with one cash fare costing three dollars.