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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Canada police seen getting tough as trucker protests continue

The "Freedom Convoy" consisting largely of truckers began as a movement against a Canadian vaccine requirement for cross-border drivers. But it has since evolved into a rallying point against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's strict measures to fight the pandemic.

By: Reuters | Ottawa |
Updated: February 7, 2022 9:30:36 pm
Trucks sit in a staging area east of downtown after police raided the truckers' stockpile of fuel, as truckers and their supporters continue to protest against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine mandates, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, February 6, 2022. (REUTERS Photo)

As the protest against the Canadian government’s health measures and vaccine mandates entered an eleventh day on Monday, police have threatened to clamp down after facing criticism for lack of action that has crippled the national capital.

The “Freedom Convoy” consisting largely of truckers began as a movement against a Canadian vaccine requirement for cross-border drivers. But it has since evolved into a rallying point against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s strict measures to fight the pandemic.

Canada’s capital city Ottawa awoke to its second week of what its political and policing leaders now describe as a siege as its chief of police claims the occupation has gone beyond anything he can adequately deal with.

​A short stretch of Metcalfe Street in downtown Ottawa, home to Canada’s parliament, central bank, and buildings including Trudeau’s office, smelled of campfire on Monday morning. A clustering of trucks, cars and tractors without trailers bore signs deriding everything from vaccines and mandates to Canada’s carbon tax.

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One bore a poster of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees rights including that of life, liberty and security of the person – subject to “reasonable limits.”

Packets of water bottles, briquettes and diapers were piled high beside open-sided white tents with tables of food.

There was also evidence of pushback from residents. Small signs in the ground-floor windows of an apartment building a few blocks away said “GO HOME MORONS” and “VACCINES SAVE LIVES.”

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Late night honking and occasional fireworks have disrupted the normally quiet life of the residents in downtown Ottawa.

An Ottawa court will hear an application for an injunction to end the loud honking downtown residents say has become incessant and unbearable.

Lawyer Paul Champ, who represents the plaintiffs, told Reuters on Sunday he expects the police to enforce “to some extent” an injunction if the court grants it.

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“The Ottawa Police actually contacted us to get input on the draft order that we wanted,” he said.

On Sunday night, police began removing gas and fuel supplies at a logistics encampment set up by protesters, after the city’s mayor declared a state of emergency on Sunday.

A well-organized supply chain — including portable saunas, a community kitchen and bouncy castles for children — has sustained the protesters. It has relied partly on funding from sympathizers in the United States, police said.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump and Tesla (TSLA.O) CEO Elon Musk have praised the truckers.

The Canadian government has refused to back down on the issue. Trudeau, who is isolating after testing positive for COVID-19, has ruled out using the military to disband the protest.

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Trudeau and his family left their downtown home after truckers started arriving in Ottawa and his location has not been disclosed due to security concerns.

Over the weekend, protests spilled over into other large Canadian cities, including the financial capital Toronto, and were met with counter demonstrations. The protests, including in Ottawa, have been largely peaceful.

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Canadians have largely followed government’s health measures and nearly 79% of the eligible population has taken double dose of the vaccine. But recent polls have shown frustrations against restrictions are growing.

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First published on: 07-02-2022 at 09:29:55 pm
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