Hundreds of truck drivers from Ottawa are set to be ejected on Friday after staging a three-week protest against pandemic restrictions that have paralysed the capital and caused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to declare an emergency for the first time in more than 50 years.
The news: Since their arrival on Jan. 28, the drivers have converted the streets around Parliament into a noisy party zone, joined by thousands of demonstrators and 400 vehicles, in what has become one of Trudeau’s worst problems since taking power in 2015.
- After authorities suggested action was coming, police made a handful of arrests Thursday evening, including Chris Barber, one of the major fundraisers and organisers. Barber surrendered without a fight after police informed him that he was being arrested for criminal mischief.
What’s going on: The truckers’ protests began in response to cross-border driver vaccination laws, which are also in effect in the United States. But it grew into an anti-government movement as it expanded across Canada. For six days, protesters shut down key land crossings with the United States, including the busiest, the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit and Toronto.
- Trudeau declared an emergency on Monday, granting his government temporary powers to halt the blockades, which he described as a threat to democracy. Officials from the government expressed concern about extremists inciting violence.
- On Parliament Hill, many demonstrators stated that they would not leave until their demands were met.
What they’re saying: “End the mandates, give us our rights and this is over,” said Chris Dacey on Thursday. “We’ll all go back to our families.”
- The border blockades put pressure on Trudeau to act quickly, prompting US President Joe Biden to request that he employ federal powers.
- “The illegal blockades and occupations have to stop and the borders have to remain open,” Trudeau told legislators on Thursday as Parliament started debate on the Emergencies Act, which needs to be passed within seven days of an announcement.
- The official opposition Conservative Party, on the other hand, claims that the Emergencies Act was unnecessary, especially now that the border blockades have ended. People around the world were frightened to see Trudeau “come down on peaceful protesters with a sledgehammer,” Conservative Parliamentarian Jeremy Patzer said in the House of Commons on Thursday.
- “It is absolutely shameful,” he added.