Hundreds of truckers have shut down the middle of the Canadian capital for eight days, demanding an end to COVID-19 vaccine regulations, and Ottawa police have promised to crackdown on the “increasingly violent” protest.
The news: By Canadian standards, the well-organised roadblock, which police believe was aided in part by sympathisers in the United States, is unprecedented. Hundreds more were expected to arrive in Ottawa this weekend, according to Ottawa police chief Peter Sloly.
- “This remains … an increasingly volatile and increasingly dangerous demonstration,” he told reporters.
- Protesters in the downtown core “remain highly organised, well-funded, extremely committed to resisting all attempts to end the demonstration safely,” he added.
What’s going on: Some want the federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate for cross-border truckers repealed, while others want Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau removed on the grounds that he overstepped his powers in imposing pandemic-fighting limitations.
- On Friday, GoFundMe removed the Freedom Convoy’s fundraising website, citing a breach of its terms of service.
- “We now have evidence from law enforcement that the previously peaceful demonstration has become an occupation, with police reports of violence and other unlawful activity,” the website said in a statement.
- Donors had until Feb 19 to request a complete refund, after which it will work with organisers to distribute all remaining monies to trustworthy and established charity vetted by GoFundMe.
What they’re saying: Premier Jason Kenney of Alberta, where truckers are blocking a major border crossing with the United States in a similar protest, said ministers will meet early next week to begin removing restrictions.
- “We can, and must, get on with our lives, restore our freedoms, and live with joy, not fear,” he wrote on Twitter.
- Sloly compared the violence to the Jan 6, 2021, incident in Washington, when hundreds of supporters of former President Donald Trump rushed the US Capitol in an attempt to reverse Joe Biden’s election triumph.
- “Peacefully protesting the harsh policies of far-left lunatic Justin Trudeau, who has destroyed Canada with insane Covid mandates,” Trump said of the truckers.
- Sloly said police would put in place a “surge and contain” strategy, including reinforcements of 150 officers deployed downtown, to restore order.
- “The hatred, the violence, the illegal acts that Ottawa residences and businesses have endured over the last week are unacceptable,” he said. Blockades are also expected in Quebec City and Toronto, where officials have blocked entry to the city cores.
- “We all want to do everything we can to avoid the situation we are seeing in Ottawa,” said Toronto mayor John Tory.
- The protest has splintered the official opposition Conservative Party, which this week fired its leader over allegations that he did not support the truckers enough. In an email obtained by the Globe and Mail, interim Conservative leader Candice Bergen wrote on Monday that “we need to turn this into the PM’s problem” and that there was no need to urge the truckers to leave.
- On Friday, Bergen issued a statement encouraging Trudeau to present a concrete strategy to remove the impasse and urging truck drivers to remain calm.
- Pierre Paul-Hus, the party’s public safety spokesman, tweeted on Friday that the roadblock had to be lifted. Dean Allison, a fellow legislator, later tweeted that Paul-Hus was incorrect.