Ottawa declares state of emergency over COVID protest for truck drivers

February 7, 2022

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson declared a state of emergency in the Canadian capital as trucker-led protests over COVID-19 pandemic security measures spread across the country.

For more than a week, between 200 and 250 large trucks have been parked on the streets of downtown Ottawa near parliament, blocking interactions and paralyzing the city center, The New York Times reported. The so-called “Freedom Convoys” have spread to Quebec City, Toronto, Edmonton, Vancouver and other cities.

“We are in the midst of a major emergency, the worst emergency our city has ever faced,” Watson said in a Sunday interview on CTV. “And we need to act much faster and much more proactively to restore order on the streets. Someone will be killed or seriously injured by the irresponsible behavior of some of these people.”

The Times said the statement is symbolic and does not give authorities extensive powers to take the trucks and vehicles off the streets.

So far, no violence has broken out in Ottawa, The Times said, but the protests have forced businesses to close their doors. Authorities and citizens have complained about noise, nuisance and public monuments being damaged. The protests have at times taken on a carnival atmosphere with bands performing, inflatable bouncy castles and canteens popping up where the truck drivers can be found.

“This is a siege — it’s something that in our democracy is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in my life,” Ottawa police chief Peter Sloly said Saturday, according to The Times. “We do not have sufficient resources to adequately and effectively address this situation.”

The demonstrations started in protest against a Canadian rule that truck drivers had to be vaccinated to enter the United States. The protests quickly expanded into action against pandemic restrictions such as provincial masks and vaccine mandates, as well as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s leadership, The Times said.

The Times said the protests are basically leaderless, but some participants and organizers belong to right-wing political groups. Opinion polls have shown that the vast majority of Canadians support the pandemic security measures, but a growing number of people would like some measures to be lifted.

The City of Ottawa says the mayor’s declaration of a state of emergency “reflects the grave danger and threat to residents’ safety and security posed by the ongoing demonstrations and emphasizes the need for support from other jurisdictions and levels of government.”

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