The ‘Freedom Convoy’ that began as a protest against a COVID vaccination mandate for cross-border truckers has expanded into a huge protest against the Canadian government. After a massive demonstration descended on Parliament Hill on Saturday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family left their residence in the country’s capital and relocated to a secret location, according to media sources.
According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, tens of thousands of truckers and other demonstrators gathered in Ottawa on Saturday to demand an end to COVID-19 vaccination requirements and other public health restrictions. The truckers are opposing the Canadian government’s requirement that cross-border truckers such as those travelling between the United States and Canada be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Freedom Convoy has become an anti-vaccination rally against the government’s alleged infringement during the pandemic. Backed by hundreds of activists, the convoy brought Ottawa to a standstill for a second day. Meanwhile, a border roadway entering the United States of America was blocked by supportive truckers. Some children with their parents, and elderly and differently-abled adults were among those present. Some statements by protesters included threats of violence and a call to overthrow Trudeau’s government.
According to the Globe and Mail, some protesters even carried posters with hostile and obscenity-laced comments aimed primarily at Canada’s prime minister. Members of Canada’s parliament may be at risk, according to reports released on Thursday, since demonstrators may target their residences. Protesters were photographed dancing on a famous war memorial, provoking criticism from Canada’s top soldier General Wayne Eyre and Canadian Defence Minister Anita Anand.
“I am sickened to see protesters dance on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and desecrate the National War Memorial. Generations of Canadians have fought and died for our rights, including free speech, but not this. Those involved should hang their heads in shame,” tweeted General Eyre.
Despite an extreme cold warning, hundreds of demonstrators streamed into the legislative area, putting the police on high alert for probable violence. By the end of the day, police estimated approximately 10,000 people to be on the scene. However, according to media reports, the police force did not have an official estimate of the crowd number as of Saturday evening. Trudeau told the media on Friday that he was worried the demonstration might turn violent but that the convoy represented a “small fringe minority” that “do not represent the views of Canadians”.
Reaction In India
‘Karma strikes’, said Indian social media users, who attacked Trudeau for backing the year long farmer protests in India. Trudeau had come out in favour of the farmers’ demonstrations in December 2020. According to the Print, India had called it “ill-informed” and “unwarranted” at the time. His action, according to Indian social media users, was made to entice the Sikh vote. Sikh truck drivers, who are considered a main impetus in the North American transportation business, have joined the anti-COVID vaccination protests, much to Trudeau’s chagrin. However, not all Sikh leaders in Canada, including Jagmeet Singh, are in favour of the rally that has been “hijacked” by anti-Trudeau “radical white truckers” for reasons other than vaccine concerns.
Similar to how highways leading to Delhi were stopped owing to long-running farmer demonstrations on its borders from November 2020 to December 2021, Ottawa has been suffering extended traffic jams, with a major retail centre in the city shut down due to maskless protesters accessing the grounds.
Commenting on the events of the highway blocking in India and often-violent farm protests, Trudeau had said, “The situation is concerning… And we are all worried about family and friends. Canada will always be there to defend the right of peaceful protest. We believe in the importance of dialogue.”
Trudeau has often been accused of being a serial offender and providing safe haven and catering to Khalistani radicals. He is also said to have a number of colleagues in his ministry who support Khalistan. In 2018, Canada gave in to domestic pressure and removed all references to Sikh and Khalistani radicalism from its terrorism danger assessment. The “enhanced” edition of the ‘2018 Public Report on the Terrorist Threat to Canada‘ was issued just 24 hours before Trudeau planned to attend a Baisakhi march in Vancouver organised by the Khalsa Diwan Society, where he would be joined by Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, believed to be a Khalistan sympathiser. Capt. Amarinder Singh, the Chief Minister of Punjab at the time, declined to meet Sajjan on his tour to India.
Trudeau was in Toronto for a Khalistan Day ceremony that featured Khalistani flags and a photo of convicted Khalistani terrorist Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. In 2017, the Ontario Assembly, which is headed by Trudeau’s Liberal Party, approved a motion denouncing the 1984 Sikh genocide in India. After a former CRPF officer was denied admission at Vancouver airport, Canada’s High Commissioner to India had to apologise. The Indian veteran had been accused of serving a regime that engaged in “terrorism, systematic or severe human rights abuses, or genocide”, according to media sources. Trudeau’s involvement in India’s domestic affairs has been termed pompous and sanctimonious, with India’s social media echoing with comments on the Canadian PM and his government’s hypocrisy.