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More anti-vaccine mandate protests expected in Canadian cities

FILE PHOTO: Police officers stand in front of trucks as truckers and supporters continue to protest coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine mandates, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, February 4, 2022. REUTERS/Patrick Doyle

Protests against vaccine mandates are spreading from Ottawa, and cities across Canada, including Toronto, are ready for disturbances this weekend.

The news: The so-called “Freedom Convoy” originated as a protest against a vaccine requirement for cross-border truckers, but has since evolved into a rallying point against government health policies.

  • Protesters have been shutting down downtown Ottawa for the past eight days, with some displaying Confederate or Nazi flags and others claiming they want Canada’s government to be dissolved.
  • Due to anticipated protests, Toronto Police announced they will have a stronger presence in the city over the weekend. They shuttered a key downtown boulevard, which is home to multiple hospitals, on Friday, afraid that protestors would obstruct access. Only hospital employees, patients, family members, and those picking them up were allowed in.

What Mayor Tory said: “If anyone is planning to come here for a protest that is not peaceful and not respectful, I would urge you, on behalf of all Toronto residents and business, to please stay home,” Toronto Mayor John Tory said on Friday.

What’s going on: Healthcare workers were preparing their own march in downtown Toronto.

  • On Thursday evening, some protest trucks arrived in Quebec City for a planned Saturday protest, which would coincide with the city’s traditional winter carnival. On Friday, trucks snarled traffic near Manitoba’s provincial legislature in Winnipeg.
  • Some Ottawa residents, who have been exposed to near-constant honking, damaged windows, and harassment for wearing masks, chastised Ottawa Police for not doing more to stop the roadblock earlier this week.

What’s important: On Friday, Ottawa police warned of a crackdown on an “increasingly dangerous” protest, committing 150 officers to “patrolling and addressing unlawful and threatening conduct in the most impacted neighbourhoods.”

  • In view of the protest, several Toronto healthcare employees said they were advised by their hospitals not to wear hospital scrubs in public on Thursday. The police stated that this was not their recommendation.
  • “The notion that we have to somehow skunk around or be afraid of who we are and what we’re doing, I think, is offensive and regrettable and, I think, a sad commentary on our society,” emergency room doctor Raghu Venugopal told Reuters.
  • Venugopal said he agreed with people’s right to peacefully protest, but hoped police would clear the way for hospital personnel and patients.
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