Review of special event by-laws

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Whether for celebration, recreation, or expression, special events bring us together.

Ottawa hosts a great variety of festivals, charity runs, and cultural and community events throughout the year.

As Canada’s capital and host to both the federal government and 128 diplomatic missions, we are also a place for political expression.

These activities are regulated through the Special Events on Private and Public Property By-law (No. 2013-232) and Special Events on City Streets By-law (No.2001-260). The City of Ottawa is currently reviewing these by-laws to ensure that they effectively support festival and event organizers, and ensure that all participants can have a safe, enjoyable experience.

During these reviews, the City will consider the unique nature of festivals and major events, community events and parades and demonstrations.

Key questions to be addressed in this review include:

  • Are application processes for special events permits efficient?
  • Do permit requirements and existing regulations effectively support the diverse array of special events hosted in the City?
  • Do regulations help ensure the safety and security of event patrons, staff, and volunteers?
  • Do regulations effectively manage community nuisance for neighbouring residents and businesses?
  • How can the City help organizers minimize the environmental footprint and reduce waste of their events?
  • How can the City foster equity, diversity, and inclusion with special event regulations?
  • Can regulations support continuing growth in the number of special events held annually?

Festivals and outdoor events with more than 500 people

City staff will be consulting with Ottawa Tourism, the Ottawa Festival Network, event organizers, suppliers, workers and the public to explore opportunities to improve application processes and permit requirements, review user fees, and otherwise improve support for these community building activities.

Economic and environmental sustainability will also be key considerations as part of these by-law reviews.

Outdoor events with less than 500 people

The current Special Events on Private and Public Property By-law (No. 2013-232) only applies to events with more than 500 participants. However, the Special Events on City Streets By-law (No.2001-260) applies to events of any size, if they use City rights-of-way (streets and sidewalks). Many community organizations have also come to rely on the City to support more than 500 smaller community events each year. This by-law review will consider if a permit should be required for certain smaller events, and what that system might look like.

Events on City Streets

The Special Events on City Streets By-law (No.2001-260) regulates parades, races, sidewalks sales, block parties , and other events that occur, in whole or in part, on City Rights-of-Way (streets and/or sidewalks). This by-law will be reviewed in concert with the review of the Special Events on Private and Public Property By-law (No. 2013-232) to enable staff from both departments to coordinate stakeholder and public engagement, research and other activities more efficiently and will further provide the opportunity to consider a comprehensive and integrated solution to managing large gatherings.

Stay informed

Register with the Stay Tuned feature to be notified about project updates and consultation opportunities.

Get engaged

If you represent an organization or business and would like to register as a stakeholder for this review, please email bylawreviews@ottawa.ca. Please note that by registering as a stakeholder, your name and contact information will be collected and used by City staff for the purposes of this by-law review project, including contacting you providing regular updates, in accordance with the Municipal Freedom of Information Act. Any questions regarding this collection of information can be addressed to Bylawreviews@ottawa.ca, or (613) 580-2424, ext. 29529.



Whether for celebration, recreation, or expression, special events bring us together.

Ottawa hosts a great variety of festivals, charity runs, and cultural and community events throughout the year.

As Canada’s capital and host to both the federal government and 128 diplomatic missions, we are also a place for political expression.

These activities are regulated through the Special Events on Private and Public Property By-law (No. 2013-232) and Special Events on City Streets By-law (No.2001-260). The City of Ottawa is currently reviewing these by-laws to ensure that they effectively support festival and event organizers, and ensure that all participants can have a safe, enjoyable experience.

During these reviews, the City will consider the unique nature of festivals and major events, community events and parades and demonstrations.

Key questions to be addressed in this review include:

  • Are application processes for special events permits efficient?
  • Do permit requirements and existing regulations effectively support the diverse array of special events hosted in the City?
  • Do regulations help ensure the safety and security of event patrons, staff, and volunteers?
  • Do regulations effectively manage community nuisance for neighbouring residents and businesses?
  • How can the City help organizers minimize the environmental footprint and reduce waste of their events?
  • How can the City foster equity, diversity, and inclusion with special event regulations?
  • Can regulations support continuing growth in the number of special events held annually?

Festivals and outdoor events with more than 500 people

City staff will be consulting with Ottawa Tourism, the Ottawa Festival Network, event organizers, suppliers, workers and the public to explore opportunities to improve application processes and permit requirements, review user fees, and otherwise improve support for these community building activities.

Economic and environmental sustainability will also be key considerations as part of these by-law reviews.

Outdoor events with less than 500 people

The current Special Events on Private and Public Property By-law (No. 2013-232) only applies to events with more than 500 participants. However, the Special Events on City Streets By-law (No.2001-260) applies to events of any size, if they use City rights-of-way (streets and sidewalks). Many community organizations have also come to rely on the City to support more than 500 smaller community events each year. This by-law review will consider if a permit should be required for certain smaller events, and what that system might look like.

Events on City Streets

The Special Events on City Streets By-law (No.2001-260) regulates parades, races, sidewalks sales, block parties , and other events that occur, in whole or in part, on City Rights-of-Way (streets and/or sidewalks). This by-law will be reviewed in concert with the review of the Special Events on Private and Public Property By-law (No. 2013-232) to enable staff from both departments to coordinate stakeholder and public engagement, research and other activities more efficiently and will further provide the opportunity to consider a comprehensive and integrated solution to managing large gatherings.

Stay informed

Register with the Stay Tuned feature to be notified about project updates and consultation opportunities.

Get engaged

If you represent an organization or business and would like to register as a stakeholder for this review, please email bylawreviews@ottawa.ca. Please note that by registering as a stakeholder, your name and contact information will be collected and used by City staff for the purposes of this by-law review project, including contacting you providing regular updates, in accordance with the Municipal Freedom of Information Act. Any questions regarding this collection of information can be addressed to Bylawreviews@ottawa.ca, or (613) 580-2424, ext. 29529.



  • Survey 4: Events on City streets

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    The fourth survey concerning the Review of Special Event By-laws is now open.

    This survey asks questions about outdoor events on City streets, including parades, demonstrations, block parties, and sidewalk sales.

    Have your say before June 27, 2024.

    Go to Survey

  • Survey 3 is now closed

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    Our third survey, which explored solid waste reduction and environmental protection, has now closed. Results from this survey will be reported on this site once we have reviewed all submissions. Please check back or follow this project to see the survey results once all submissions have been reviewed and analyzed.

    Our next survey on events on City streets will launch Thursday, June 6, 2024.

  • Survey 1 Results: Our first impressions

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    In March, we asked residents to share their thoughts about how special events are currently regulated in Ottawa. Our goal with this first survey was to assess how we are doing overall and to identify possible areas for improvement of existing regulations.


    Residents and tourists welcome Spring with the annual Tulip Festival.
    Residents and tourists welcome Spring with the annual Tulip Festival.

    Our first impressions

    Our initial assessment of the data collected indicates that residents are generally happy with the state of special event regulations in Ottawa. There may be opportunities for improvement in areas of accessibility and transportation, communications, and environmental protection, and in encouraging greater geographic diversity of events. However, responses show that residents appreciate the diversity of current event offerings and have strong support for the City’s role in facilitating events.

    The issues that were of most concern to respondents included:

    • Protecting staff and participants from harassment (90 per cent)
    • Supporting local artists and musicians (82 per cent)
    • Protecting the environment (82 per cent)

    The issues where most respondents had no concerns included:

    • Providing volunteer and engagement opportunities for youth (30 per cent)
    • Minimizing traffic and transit detours or delays (30 per cent)
    • Reducing noise (52 per cent)

    Concerning demonstrations, the majority of respondents (68 per cent) indicated that they have not been negatively impacted by demonstrations in the previous 12 months. Of the 28 per cent of respondents that reported negative consequences, their primary concerns were:

    • Restricting mobility (75 per cent)
    • Exposure to offensive views or language (60 per cent)
    • Noise (53 per cent)

    Postal code data provided by respondents indicates that residents most likely to report negative consequences from demonstrations reside in the urban area (65 per cent) compared to rural (12 per cent) or suburban areas (8 per cent).

    Background

    The survey was posted on Engage Ottawa from March 4 to March 30, 2024, and was it was promoted through a public service announcement, social media posts, and paid promotion on Facebook running from March 23 to 31, 2024.

    In total, 192 residents responded to the survey. The total number of responses for each question is reported beside the question. For convenience, individual responses are reported as both a total and a percentage.

    Responses to open-ended questions have been reported in summary format. Individual responses have been cataloged and made anonymous for sharing with the project team and other City departments where appropriate.

    Next steps

    A detailed analysis of survey results will occur over the coming months. This will include analysis through an equity, diversity, and inclusion lens that will utilize demographic data collected through the survey’s “Tell us about yourself” section. Full analysis will be provided when the project team reports to Committee and Council in early 2025.

    Inquiries

    If you have questions or comments about the survey results, please contact By-law Reviews at bylawreviews@ottawa.ca or 613-580-2424 ext. 29529.


    Survey results

    Q1. In a typical year, what types of special events do you participate in? (192 responses)

    • Food events: 135 respondents or 70 per cent
    • Community events: 126 respondents or 66 per cent
    • Music events: 123 respondents or 64 per cent
    • Fairs: 100 respondents or 52 per cent
    • Ethno-cultural events: 70 respondents or 36 per cent
    • Parades: 66 respondents or 34 per cent
    • Block Parties: 61 respondents or 32 per cent
    • Running or cycling events: 55 respondents or 29 per cent
    • Events at City beaches: 55 respondents or 29 per cent
    • Other: 16 respondents, or 8 per cent, indicated attendance at farmer’s markets, art and film festivals, fireworks shows, golf tournaments and events at Lansdowne Park


    Q2. Please indicate how much you agree with the following statements: (191 responses)


    Ottawa has a variety of events for individuals of all interests and backgrounds.

    • Definitely Agree: 81 respondents or 42 per cent
    • Somewhat Agree: 79 respondents or 41 per cent
    • Neither agree nor disagree: 14 respondents or 7 per cent
    • Somewhat disagree: 11 respondents or 6 per cent
    • Definitely disagree: 6 respondents or 3 per cent


    I feel safe when attending special events.

    • Definitely Agree: 95 respondents or 50 per cent
    • Somewhat Agree: 70 respondents or 37 per cent
    • Somewhat disagree: 13 respondents or 7 per cent
    • Neither agree nor disagree: 10 respondents or 5 per cent
    • Definitely disagree: 3 respondents or 2 per cent


    Festivals and other special events are important for quality of life.

    • Definitely Agree: 140 respondents or 73 per cent
    • Somewhat Agree: 28 respondents or 15 per cent
    • Neither agree nor disagree: 14 respondents or 7 per cent
    • Somewhat disagree: 5 respondents or 3 per cent
    • Definitely disagree: 0 respondents


    Investing in festivals and events should be a priority for the City.

    • Definitely Agree: 111 respondents or 58 per cent
    • Somewhat Agree: 44 respondents or 23 per cent
    • Somewhat disagree: 15 respondents or 8 per cent
    • Neither agree nor disagree: 12 or 6 per cent
    • Definitely disagree: 5 respondents or 3 per cent


    Events I attend make recycling and composting easy.

    • Somewhat Agree: 64 respondents or 34 per cent
    • Neither agree nor disagree: 54 respondents or 28 per cent
    • Somewhat disagree: 28 respondents or 15 per cent
    • Definitely Agree: 26 respondents or 14 per cent
    • Definitely disagree: 19 respondents or 10 per cent


    I have opportunities to participate in special events in my neighbourhood.

    • Somewhat Agree: 70 respondents or 37 per cent
    • Definitely Agree: 49 respondents or 26 per cent
    • Neither agree nor disagree: 40 respondents or 21 per cent
    • Somewhat disagree: 22 respondents or 12 per cent
    • Definitely disagree: 9 respondents or 5 per cent


    I am well informed about upcoming special events.

    • Somewhat Agree: 82 respondents or 43 per cent
    • Somewhat disagree: 39 respondents or 20 per cent
    • Neither agree nor disagree: 31 respondents or 16 per cent
    • Definitely Agree: 25 respondents or 13 per cent
    • Definitely disagree: 14 respondents or 7 per cent


    Events organizers try to minimize disruption for the surrounding community.

    • Somewhat Agree: 81 respondents or 43 per cent
    • Somewhat disagree: 40 respondents or 21 per cent
    • Neither agree nor disagree: 30 respondents or 16 per cent
    • Definitely Agree: 26 respondents or 14 per cent
    • Definitely disagree: 17 respondents or 9 per cent


    Q3. Please rank your preferred transportation choices when attending special events, where “1” is the most preferred and “5” is the least preferred. (190 responses)

    • Walking or using a mobility device is the most preferred transportation option, with an average score of 2.31.
    • Transit had an average score of 2.76.
    • Driving had an average score of 2.79.
    • Cycling had an average score of 3.34.
    • Taxi or private transportation companies had an average score of 3.47.


    Q4. How concerned are you about the following issues related to special events: (191 responses)


    Reducing noise

    • Not concerned: 99 respondents or 52 per cent
    • Very concerned: 51 respondents or 27 per cent
    • Somewhat concerned: 37 respondents or 19 per cent
    • No opinion: 4 respondents or 2 per cent


    Providing volunteer and engagement opportunities for youth

    • Somewhat concerned: 76 respondents or 40 per cent
    • Not concerned: 58 respondents or 30 per cent
    • Very concerned: 42 respondents or 22 per cent
    • No opinion:4 respondents or 2 per cent


    Minimizing traffic and transit detours or delays

    • Not concerned: 56 respondents or 29 per cent
    • Somewhat concerned: 76 respondents or 40 per cent
    • Very concerned: 56 respondents or 29 per cent
    • No opinion: 2 respondents or 1 per cent


    Supporting local artists and musicians

    • Very concerned: 98 respondents or 51 per cent
    • Somewhat concerned: 60 respondents or 31 per cent
    • Not concerned: 25 respondents or 13 per cent
    • No opinion: 7 respondents or 4 per cent


    Preventing fighting and other disturbances

    • Very concerned: 105 respondents or 55 per cent
    • Somewhat concerned: 45 respondents or 24 per cent
    • Not concerned: 38 respondents or 20 per cent
    • No opinion: 3 respondents or 2 per cent


    Encouraging economic development and employment

    • Very concerned: 91 respondents or 48 per cent
    • Somewhat concerned: 62 respondents or 32 per cent
    • Not concerned: 31 respondents or 16 per cent
    • No opinion: 7 respondents or 4 per cent


    Protecting staff and participants from harassment

    • Very concerned: 114 respondents or 60 per cent
    • Somewhat concerned: 57 respondents or 30 per cent
    • Not concerned: 16 respondents or 08 per cent
    • No opinion: 4 respondents or 2 per cent


    Improving tourism and nightlife activity

    • Very concerned: 81 respondents or 42 per cent
    • Somewhat concerned: 48 respondents or 25 per cent
    • Not concerned: 30 respondents or 16 per cent
    • No opinion: 8 respondents or 4 per cent


    Preventing harm due to public intoxication

    • Very concerned: 77 respondents or 40 per cent
    • Somewhat concerned: 60 respondents or 31 per cent
    • Not concerned: 45 respondents or 24 per cent
    • No opinion: 5 respondents or 3 per cent


    Providing spaces for cultural sharing and celebration

    • Not concerned: 39 respondents or 20 per cent
    • Somewhat concerned: 54 respondents or 28 per cent
    • Very concerned: 90 respondents or 47 per cent
    • No opinion: 7 respondents or 4 per cent


    Protecting the environment

    • Very concerned: 97 respondents or 51 per cent
    • Somewhat concerned: 60 respondents or 31 per cent
    • Not concerned: 28 respondents or 15 per cent
    • No opinion: 5 respondents or 4 per cent


    Q5. What do you like the most about special events in the City of Ottawa? (144 responses)

    Appreciation for the frequency and variety of special events was a dominant theme in the responses to this question. “They add flavour and excitement to the City”, as one respondent put it. The opportunity to learn and have new experiences and to build a sense of community were also frequent comments. Respondents highlighted the importance of accessible and free events as well as family friendly events and noted the importance of special events for supporting small business and local artists.


    Q6. What do you dislike the most about special events in the City of Ottawa? (151 responses)

    The concentration of events in the urban area was a frequent comment, with respondents highlighting the challenges created for transportation and parking and the higher frequency of disruptions in urban communities, as well as the lack of programming for suburban and rural communities. Responses indicated that the community is divided in respect to the amount of regulation surrounding special events. Twenty-six responses indicated that events were over regulated, particularly in regards to noise mitigation and other permit requirements, compared to twelve responses that indicated a need for more restrictive regulations in these areas. Promotion of special events and improved information about detours and other impacts were also highlighted as an opportunity for improvement. Finally, eight respondents indicated a need for special events to be more environmentally friendly.


    Q7. Have you organized a demonstration or protest march in the previous 12 months? (190 responses)

    No 186 responses or 98 percent

    Yes 4 responses or 2 percent

    Respondents that answered “Yes” to question 7 were also asked:


    Q8. Did you apply for an Events on City Streets Permit before your protest? (2 responses)

    Yes 2 responses or 100 per cent.

    No 0 responses


    Q9. Please indicate how much you agree with the following statements: (2 responses)

    City staff were responsive to our needs.

    1 respondent “Definitely agreed” and 1 respondent “Somewhat agreed”

    The permit process helped improve safety for participants.

    1 respondent “Definitely agreed” and 1 respondent “Somewhat agreed”

    I was treated with respect.

    1 respondent “Definitely agreed” and 1 respondent “Somewhat agreed”

    The permit process helped to improve communication with emergency services.

    1 respondent “Definitely agreed” and 1 respondent “Somewhat agreed”

    The permit process helped us manage traffic around our event.

    1 respondent “Definitely agreed” and 1 respondent “Somewhat agreed”

    The permit process helped to identify City resources and supports available to our event.

    1 respondent “Definitely agreed” and 1 respondent “Somewhat agreed”

    The permit process helped to reduce unintended impacts on the surrounding public.

    Both respondents indicated they “Definitely agreed”

    Getting a permit was not a barrier to holding the demonstration.

    Both respondents indicated they “Definitely agreed”

    Respondents that answered “No” to question 7 were also asked:


    Q10. Please detail why you chose not to apply for an Event on City Streets Permit before your demonstration:

    No respondents answered “no” to question 7.


    Q 11. Have you participated in a demonstration or protest march in the previous 12 months? (191 responses)

    No 149 respondents or 78 per cent

    Yes 37 respondents or 19 per cent

    I don’t recall / Prefer not to say 5 respondents or 3 per cent

    Respondents that answered “Yes” to question 11 were also asked:


    Q12. Please indicate how much you agree with the following statements: (35 responses)


    I felt safe participating in the demonstration.

    • Somewhat agree: 15 respondents or 43 per cent
    • Definitely agree: 11 respondents or 31 per cent
    • Somewhat disagree: 5 respondents or 14 per cent
    • Neither agree nor disagree: 3 respondents or 9 per cent
    • Definitely disagree: 1 respondent or 3 per cent


    City staff were professional when interacting with our group.

    • Neither agree nor disagree: 9 respondents or 26 per cent
    • Definitely agree: 7 respondents or 20 per cent
    • Somewhat disagree: 7 respondents or 20 per cent
    • Somewhat agree: 6 respondents or 17 per cent
    • Definitely disagree: 6 respondents or 17 per cent


    I had the opportunity to express my views.

    • Definitely agree: 15 respondents or 43 per cent
    • Somewhat agree: 9 respondents or 26 per cent
    • Somewhat disagree: 5 respondents or 14 per cent
    • Neither agree nor disagree: 3 respondents or 9 per cent
    • Definitely disagree: 1 respondents or 3 per cent


    Q13. Have you been negatively impacted by a demonstration or protest march in the previous 12 months? (191 responses)

    No 130 respondents or 68 per cent

    Yes 54 respondents or 28 per cent

    I don’t recall 7 respondents or 4 per cent

    Respondents that answered “Yes” to question 13 were also asked:


    Q14. In what ways have demonstrations or protest marches negatively impacted you? (54 responses)

    Noise 31

    Restricting mobility 40

    Harassment or discrimination 20

    Violence or threats of violence 15

    Offensive views 32

    Loss of income 3

    Physical well-being 13

    Mental well-being 28

    Other: 2 responses indicated that protest activity prevents them from going to the Parliamentary precent or other amenities, 1 indicated anti-social behaviour as a bad influence and 1 indicated negative impacts on other planned events


    Q15. Do you have any additional comments to share with the special events review team? (79 responses)

    Respondents provided 36 comments related to special events, 24 comments related to demonstrations and 18 comments that were not related to the issues under review.

    Of the comments related to special events, the prevailing sentiment was that respondents wanted to see more special events, with greater variety and in all parts of the City. There were eight responses expressing desire for less regulation and three responses seeking greater regulation or enforcement of community nuisance issues.

    Of the comments related to demonstrations, eight comments expressed negative views concerning the impact of demonstration activities in the downtown core and four comments supported demonstrations. There were seven comments critical of enforcement practices related to demonstrations, with concern for the fair and consistent application of regulations as the dominant theme.

  • New survey topic: Special events and the environment

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    The City has just launched its third survey related to the Review of Special Event By-laws. This survey addresses solid waste reduction and environmental protection. The survey is available here until May 31, 2024.

    The first survey for special events, held during March, asked general questions about special events and demonstrations, to gauge public opinion about how well the City manages these events.

    The second survey, which just concluded, asked specific questions about accessibility, safety and inclusivity at special events.

    Planned future surveys for this project include:

    • Special Events on City Streets (June)
    • Demonstrations (June/July)
    • Future regulations (November)

    Resident input is important to the City’s by-law review process. We invite you to complete this survey on special events and the environment, and to follow this project to keep informed of future surveys and to review survey data and analysis as it becomes available.

    Go to the survey

  • Survey 2: Safe and Inclusive Events

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    The second survey concerning the Review of Special Event By-laws is now open.

    This survey asks questions about how to ensure special events are safe and inclusive. The survey covers a range of issues, including accessibility, harassment, sexual harassment, drugs and alcohol, smoking and vaping, and extreme weather events.

    Have your say before April 29, 2024.

  • Survey 1 has closed

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    Our first survey, with general questions about special event regulations, has now closed. Results from this survey will be reported on this site once we have reviewed your submissions. Please check back, or follow this project, to see the results when they become available.

  • Survey 1: How are we doing?

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    Please take a moment to share your opinions and insights about how special events are currently regulated in Ottawa.

    Future surveys will focus on specific issues, or possible options for changes to regulations and services. Follow this project ensure you don’t miss out on these additional consultation opportunities.

    With your input, together we can improve special event services and regulations to help grow our economy, enrich our culture, and protect our community and environment.

    This survey has now closed.

Page last updated: 10 Jun 2024, 10:48 AM