Covid-19 live updates: mask requirements, reopening and more
Canadians woke up Monday with their capital Ottawa in a state of emergency as protesting truckers continued to occupy the country’s political powerhouse and calls from some quarters for more drastic government action to end the crisis.
With demonstrations disrupting traffic and disrupting business and residential neighborhoods, the Ottawa City Council was due to meet Monday to try to find a way out of the upheaval.
The demonstrations, in which some protesters have desecrated national monuments and threatened local residents, have rocked a country known worldwide as a model of humanism, peace and serenity.
On Sunday afternoon, Ottawa’s mayor declared a state of emergency after 11 days of unrest that began with protests by truckers against vaccination requirements imposed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government. The protests have since escalated into an occupation of Canada’s capital and broader demonstrations against pandemic restrictions that have spread well beyond the capital.
“Someone will be killed or seriously injured as a result of the irresponsible behavior of some of these people,” Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson warned Sunday. City officials and the police chief said they were “under siege.”
One councilwoman, Catherine McKenney, wrote to Mr Trudeau and the Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Brenda Lucki, last week, asking that Canada’s national police force and the federal government take operational control of Parliament Hill and the Parliamentary Precinct from the local police force Ottawa is refocusing on keeping the peace in the neighborhood.
Thousands protested in Toronto and Quebec City over the weekend. Truck convoys gathered near provincial legislatures in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and British Columbia. Downtown Ottawa, seat of the country’s parliament, became paralyzed as truckers parked their vehicles at intersections and across busy thoroughfares.
It was 14 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny early Monday morning in Ottawa, and the thousands of weekend protesters were gone. The streets near Parliament were quiet without the honking of the weekend. But trucks still clogged the roads towards Parliament Hill and had become part of the snowy landscape with an overnight snowfall. Most had Ontario or Quebec license plates, a few from Alberta in the western part of the country. Many were adorned with Canadian flags. Several carried placards and signs against Covid restrictions.
Late Sunday night, heavily armed police seized a tanker truck containing more than 3,000 liters of diesel fuel from a collection point used by the truckers and arrested people in downtown Ottawa for transporting fuel.
Near Parliament, one of the protesters said the group was prepared in case police seized more diesel fuel or their trucks were towed away.
“What we’re doing is within the law,” said Eric, a protester from the Niagara region of Ontario, who declined to give his full name. He was in a large van with a poppy painted on the side. Eric said he couldn’t say exactly what he wanted from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau but that he had to be “a man of the people”.
Throughout the pandemic, Canadians have lived under various restrictions to combat the coronavirus. Though polls show most Canadians support the measures, the protests are an expression of frustration as the pandemic enters its third year.
The demonstrations were initially sparked by Mr Trudeau’s decision to require Covid vaccinations for truckers returning from the US. But they have evolved into a broader protest against pandemic rules such as vaccination requirements, shutdowns and rules requiring mask-wearing, as well as Mr Trudeau’s leadership of the country.
As the convoy rolled on, it was joined by supporters traveling in pickup trucks and cars, and eventually outnumbered. The group – loosely organized and without a single, clear leader – also expanded their demands, urging Mr Trudeau to end all Covid rules and restrictions in Canada, including those set by provinces and local governments.
Well before the first trucks rolled into Ottawa on Jan. 28, Mr. Trudeau said he would not reverse the vaccination mandate. He has refused to meet with members of what he described as a “fringe minority”.