Canadian celebrity comedian Tom Green drew in the crowds at a sunset picnic in Ottawa on Saturday– in the shadow of the Château Laurier and its looming controversial addition.
Green didn't want to call the picnic a protest but said it was a peaceful gathering at Major's Hill Park. Nevertheless, the Ottawa-born comedian, who has achieved international fame, didn't avoid the issue that has enraged many.
"It's an incredible place," Green told reporters. "It is a world class place. You can't recreate that. That's something that we have that shouldn't be messed around with."
Green has been a late public supporter of the cause to protect the Château Laurier. He appeared at a July meeting, two weeks ago, when Ottawa city council voted against rescinding its approval of the extension to the historic hotel.
Larco Investments, owner of the historic hotel, first proposed a modern addition to the building three years ago. It has modified the proposal five times, reducing the height from 11 storeys to seven.
But opponents have not been appeased and have described the design as "grotesque" and a "desecration."
Mayor Jim Watson has said, if he owned the Château Laurier, he would preserve the unique characteristics of the building. But the building is privately-owned and the owners, Watson said, have a right to do what they want.
The National Capital Commission has also said it has little control over the addition but will work with Château Laurier's owners to oversee access to the hotel from nearby federally owned lands. The NCC said it will manage the impact of shadows and any nighttime illumination on the surrounding area.
A number of federal politicians, including Senator Jim Munson and local Ottawa MPs Mona Fortier and Catherine McKenna, attended Saturday's picnic.
McKenna said she has reached out to Larco Investments to find a compromise. She said she supports people speaking out.
"We should celebrate the Château Laurier, but also work to do better," McKenna told CBC. "My goal is to get a win-win. That's the outcome I am looking for."
But many were there on Saturday to send a message that they will not accept defeat silently.
"I have no clue what it will do," Terrie Meehan, a resident, said. "But I figure it doesn't hurt to come out here and add my voice and presence."
Steve Szakowski, another resident, hoped Green's public support will draw more attention to the issue.
"His presence here is going to be huge," Szakowski said. "Everyone knows who Tom Green is."