Advocacy groups returned to city hall Wednesday to once again demand change to Ottawa’s noise bylaw. 

The “Defend the Right to Dissent” coalition, led by the municipal watchdog group Horizon Ottawa, aims to amend Bylaw 2017-255 limiting the use of noise amplification devices, such as megaphones and speakers, in public. 

Horizon says more than 50 tickets for noise bylaw violations have been issued in the past four months, with fines totalling more $23,000.

Between bursts of rain, community group and union leaders spoke to supporters at Marion Dewar Plaza, seeking to have the city drop those recent fines and amend the noise bylaw to exempt protestors from being subject to fines. 

“We are here because police overreach, police repression and the weaponization of obscure bylaws that we’ve seen in Ottawa in recent months is a direct threat to the basis of our power as unions,” said Masha Davidovic, with the Canadian Association of Professional Employees.

In a statement to Capital Current, Roger Chapman, director of Bylaw and Regulatory services said: “The City of Ottawa respects individuals’ right to peacefully demonstrate and acknowledges the importance for demonstrations to be conducted in a peaceful and respectful manner. Bylaw and Regulatory Services’ (BLRS) role regarding demonstrations is to, where feasible and reasonable, address nuisance-related issues that disturb the community while ensuring public safety and well-being of the community.”

The statement also says that between this past October and January, 18 tickets were issued during pro-Palestine protests. 

“(Bylaw and Regulatory Services) continues to monitor all types of protests. In recent months, charges have not been deemed necessary as individuals participating in protests have complied with officer requests and all municipal regulations, including the Noise By-law. The fines issued range up to $490, including the Victim Surcharge,” said Chapman.

As part of the rally, organizers organized a what’s known as a “phone zap.” Rally participants were given a sheet of paper with a script for a voicemail and the office numbers of councillors on the Emergency Preparedness and Protective Services Committee. At one point in the rally, the speakers went quiet and on the spot, many of those attending the rally called the councillors to leave voicemails urging the city to drop the fines and amend the bylaw. 

Horizon Ottawa told Capital Current that a number of those ticketed during pro-Palestine protests now have court dates in June to challenge ticketing.