Ottawa’s CF Rideau Centre was forced to shut down early on Saturday after a significant number of people reportedly entered the shopping mall and flouted public health orders.
The multi-level shopping spot, which is located on Rideau Street, began shutting stores at around 3 p.m., although some shops remained closed all day on Saturday.
“The safety of our guests, tenants and employees is our priority and out of an abundance of caution, CF Rideau Centre will be closed for the remainder of the day,” Cadillac Fairview said in a statement, per CTV News.
Ottawa Police say they assisted with the mall’s closure.
The Rideau Centre remained shut into Sunday, as the Freedom Convoy protest continued just blocks away.
The mall has not shared any details about what will happen from Monday onwards, but police have warned that the demonstrations could continue for days longer.
Photos on social media showed dozens of shoppers flouting social distancing requirements and refusing to wear masks.
In Ontario, face coverings are mandatory in indoor public places, including in shopping malls.
Some were looking to warm up during the Freedom Convoy demonstration which was taking place around Parliament Hill, while others waited in line outside the LCBO, CTV reports.
The Ottawa Citizen says maskless protestors confronted employees who were wearing masks and defied public health orders by eating and drinking throughout the facility.
Some demonstrators reportedly shouted things like “freedom!” and chanted expletives about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The city’s mayor Jim Watson confirmed, “We’ve had people go in and disregard public health rules when it comes to getting something to eat; not wearing a mask, arguing with a 17-year-old minimum wage student who’s trying to make a living for university or college.”
“These kinds of behaviour by some people are completely unacceptable,” he added.
Those involved in the protests are speaking out against government-mandated vaccines and COVID-19 public health orders, including lockdowns.
Health Canada has a robust website with all the latest information on COVID-19 vaccines and can answer any questions you may have.