Demonstrators plan to march from Parliament Hill through Ottawa streets to honour black lives lost at the hands of police, with several other protests and rallies taking place across the country this weekend to bring attention to police treatment of black people.
A similarly themed Toronto march is proceeding south from the Bloor-Yonge subway station on Friday, headed to city hall.
Several businesses on downtown Toronto’s Yonge Street and surrounding areas boarded up their windows in anticipation of the protest. The Eaton Centre said it would be closed until Monday as a precaution.
The flurry of activity comes after rallies of a similar theme have taken place already this week in Saskatoon, Sydney, N.S., Burlington, Ont., and Calgary, among other locations.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in Ottawa on Friday he saluted those who are “standing up to speak out clearly” about systemic discrimination.
“We have thousands of people stepping forward to highlight the challenges and to show that they want to be allies,” he said.
WATCH | Trudeau welcomes peaceful protests:
Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark said the video of George Floyd’s death in police custody in Minneapolis late last month has spurred people to action and now they’re making their voices heard.
“It can’t help but move people to say, ‘That’s not acceptable,’ and that’s one act of violence. But we know the frustration that’s coming out is also because of persistent inequality and people living in two societies too often in Canada and North America,” he said Thursday.
Clark acknowledged these issues are faced by Saskatoon’s Indigenous and newcomer populations and said it’s inspiring to see so many people speak out against racism and inequality.
On Friday, the focus in the province switches to Regina, where a march takes place from Royal Saskatchewan Museum to the Saskatchewan Legislative Building.
Regina Police Service released a statement earlier this week calling the actions of the officers who have now been charged in Floyd’s death “inexcusable and unacceptable.”
In B.C., an estimated 3,500 people turned out at the Vancouver Art Gallery on May 31 in an event inspired by the Floyd killing.
On Friday, a protest is being held at 4 p.m. PT at Jack Poole Plaza in downtown Vancouver, this time focusing specifically on the Canadian context.
“We need to magnify this,” said Jacob Callender-Presad, who has organized both events. “We need to talk about this because racism in Canada does exist.”
Chants of “no justice, no peace” and “Black lives matter” <a href=”https://t.co/t3UhxFOKa3″>pic.twitter.com/t3UhxFOKa3</a>
Organizers are taking COVID-19 precautions, he said.
Those measures include supplying hand sanitizer, masks and gloves at the event, Callender-Presad said, with physical distancing to be encouraged.
The Ottawa event is being organized by the group No Peace Until Justice.
The group says its goal is to bring together black activists and organizations and allies to stand in solidarity against police brutality and societal racism.
The event has touched off some online controversy about who is welcome to attend.
The Ottawa police were not invited, at the request of the No Peace Until Justice organizers.
After Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson noted his intention to be there, the group said he was invited via Twitter by unaffiliated individuals. “The No Peace Until Justice organizers did not reach out to him or his office.”
The group says it opposes all streaming and the taking of videos or photos of the demonstration to protect the identity and safety of those attending.
WATCH l Calling for police reform in Canada:
For their part, the Ottawa police say public safety is a shared responsibility.
“We are working with organizers and all stakeholders to enable a safe, healthy and positive event,” the police service said Thursday.
“You have a right to be heard. And we will support that right by ensuring your safety.”
“If you are behind our BLM movement you are apart of every community that’s with this movement including LGBT+ and they can’t be separated” – Olivia Iheme a 25-year-old from Toronto. Holding a BLM sign with rainbow imagery for LGBT+ people. <a href=”https://twitter.com/CBCToronto?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@cbctoronto</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/CBCNews?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@cbcnews</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/marchforchange?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#marchforchange</a> <a href=”https://t.co/J6rCJ7jY5V”>pic.twitter.com/J6rCJ7jY5V</a>
Similarly, Toronto’s police chief said officers would be on hand to make sure any protests stay peaceful.
“There is a lot of passion, there is a lot of anger and there is a lot of hope and I hope that as Torontonians we continue to do that,” Mark Saunders said on Thursday.
Events are also scheduled Friday on the legislature grounds in Edmonton and Winnipeg, at Parade Square in Halifax and in Repentigny, Que.