Law enforcement agencies in Canada are set to take “imminent” enforcement action against people who participated in the protests against the COVID-19 vaccination mandate. When the mandate came into effect in mid-January, the ‘Freedom Convoy’ protests pushed the entire country into chaos.
Notably, the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) will be assisted by Canada’s federal police force as well as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and others from Ontario and Quebec. The media briefing ended with interim police chief Steve Bell warning that the protesters’ time in the city “has come to an end” and that it is “time to go”.
On Friday, the police are planning to remove hundreds of truck drivers from Ottawa who have staged a three-week-long protest against the pandemic restrictions. The protests have crippled the capital city and prompted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to declare an emergency for the first time in more than 50 years, according to Reuters.
Thousands of protesters, including the truck drivers, have turned the streets surrounding the Parliament into a noisy party zone since the protesters first arrived on January 28, becoming one of Trudeau’s worst crises since he came to power. After authorities warned that action was imminent, cops arrested a handful of people, including Chris Barber, one of the main organisers of the protests arrested for mischief, who complied without resistance.
“We absolutely are committed to end this unlawful demonstration. We have the plan, we have the commitment, we have the resources,” the interim police chief told reporters on Thursday. He said that the police will set up a perimeter with 100 checkpoints around downtown to stop people without legitimate reason from entering. According to Bell, this weekend will be very different from the previous three. Residents were furious at what they perceived as police inaction this week, prompting former chief Peter Sloly to quit his post.
Initially, the truckers’ protests were against mandates for vaccinations for cross-border drivers, a measure also in place in the US. Over time, it spread across Canada and became an anti-government movement. Protesters blocked several land crossings with the United States, including the busy Ambassador Bridge linking Detroit and Canada, for six days, harming both economies.
Invoking emergency measures to end the unrest, Canadian PM Trudeau declared that the blockades were a threat to democracy. Officials from the government expressed concern that some extremists might take this opportunity to cause violence. The protesters on Parliament Hill told reporters that they would not leave until their demands are met.
The Canadian prime minister was under pressure to act swiftly due to the border blockades, after which US President Joe Biden urged him to use federal authority. As the Parliament began debating the Emergencies Act, which must be passed within seven days of the announcement, PM Trudeau told legislators on Thursday that illegal blockades and occupations have to end, and that the border has to remain open.
According to the main opposition in the Canadian parliament, the Conservative Party, the Emergencies Act is no longer necessary, especially given that the border blockades are over. Conservative Parliamentarian Jeremy Patzer said that people all over the world were alarmed that Trudeau used a sledgehammer to crush peaceful protesters.