Joel Harden faced with $490 noise infraction after attending pro-Palestine demonstration

Joel Harden is handed a ticket by a ByLaw officer. Others looks on in the distance.
Ottawa Centre MPP Joel Harden was handed a ticket after using a megaphone at a pro-Palestinian March held in downtown Ottawa on Dec. 30. Credit: Joel Harden X.

By Charlie Senack

Ottawa Centre MPP Joel Harden was among nine demonstrators to be handed a noise-violation ticket after attending a pro-Palestine march in downtown Ottawa on Dec. 30.

On the platform X, formally known as Twitter, Harden said he loves Ottawa, but is disappointed in his city today.

“Using a small megaphone to advocate for Palestinian human rights gets a $490 fine? This has to stop, Harden wrote with the hashtag #CeasfireNow.

It was the 12th weekend demonstrators called for a ceasefire amidst the Israel-Hamas conflict in the Middle East. Hundreds marched down Elgin street and through the Rideau Centre before arriving in the ByWard Market.

During the rally, Harden told the demonstrators that they “have the right to scream”, adding “Silencing Palestinian solidariry when genocide is happening is wrong.”

Harden has been a strong supporter of a ceasefire since the war began on Oct. 7.

He abruptly left Hanukkah celebrations held at Parkdale Park on Dec. 10. Harden, who was wearing a peace badge at the event, said he excused himself after organizers said the Israeli Defence Force’s “holy task” was to obliterate the enemy.

Speaking to KT during an interview in November, Harden said he was “on the side of international law and human rights.” He’s called for the release of both Palestinian and Israeli hostages.

“I believe what we have witnessed in Gaza and Israel for a longtime is war crimes on a scale where words are hard to come by,” he said. “Canada has a role to play in negotiation and solution. I’ve been urging the Prime Minister to demand a ceasefire and bring the parties to the table for equal rights. The disregard for human rights is disgusting. Canada should be a voice for peace.”

Organizers of this weekend’s pro-Palestinian rally said they plan to support anyone who chooses to contest the fines. The City said those who received tickets have 15 days to fight the infractions under the Provincial Offences Act.

In an Instagram post the Palestinian Youth Movement said $1,500 worth of fines were also distributed during last weekends rally.

“This is despite organizers having used the same sound system for the previous 10 weekends of protests with no prior issues,” the post read. “This was a clear undemocratic, racist, and politically motivated move by the city of Ottawa to attempt to suppress and silence pro-Palestinian organizing.”

A look at the blue-coloured ticket Harden was handed.
The $490 ticket Harden was handed. Credit: Joel Harden X.

Roger Chapman, director of Bylaw and Regulatory Services, said ByLaw was on hand to address nuisance-related issues that would disturb the community. 

“It’s important to note that enforcement during demonstrations is a result of escalated actions by the participants, which may pose nuisance and public safety issues,” Chapman wrote in a statement. “Since the beginning of the protests, BLRS has been working with organizers to educate them on the city’s bylaws. As the activities of protestors escalated and became more frequent, including the defacement of property, the use of sound reproduction devices, smoke bombs, fireworks, and threats towards our officers, BLRS took action to address these concerns.”

In cases like Hardens, Chapman said warnings were issued requesting the stoppage of using sound production devices. When they were not complied with, then the fines of $490 were issued. 

On social media, reaction was mixed. Ottawa lawyer Paul Champ, who specializes in employment, labour, and human rights, was against the tickets being distributed. 

“This is an affront to our deepest and most important democratic values: the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly,” he wrote on X. “A ticket for using a megaphone for a couple of hours on a public street to protest against a horrific war? Unacceptable.” 

Hintonburg resident and Horizon Ottawa member Sam Hersh, who is Jewish but in support of a ceasefire, encouraged concerned citizens to write their city councillors and the mayor to drop the fines.

On X, Nepean MPP Lisa MacLeod said Harden was a demonstrators who doesn’t support the rights of protesters who don’t share his views.

“You associate with antisemites,” MacLeod wrote in a tweet to Harden. “You pick and choose who has human rights. And clearly you decide who gets to protest loudly downtown and who doesn’t.”

MacLeod followed up with a post on X Sunday morning noting that nearly 100 leaders and community builders in Ottawa signed an open letter showing support to the local Jewish community.

“No matter the size of Joel Harden’s megaphone it will never compare to the calibre of the individuals who have made Ottawa a great welcoming city. We’re with you,” said MacLeod.

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