Thousands of Canadians protesting their government’s COVID-19 policies took over the streets of Ottawa over the weekend, and they’re pledging to stay until their demands are met.
Close to 3,000 trucks were expected by authorities to arrive in the capital, and thousands more protesters joined the truckers to effectively shut down parts of Ottawa near Canada’s parliament Saturday. The self-proclaimed “Freedom Convoy” began on the nation’s west coast in Vancouver as a protest against Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for truckers.
Both the United States and Canada instituted cross-border vaccine mandates for truckers in January. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused the opposition Conservative Party of “fear mongering” about supply chain issues as his country experiences inflation and goods shortages.
Canadian officials have stressed that 90% of truckers crossing the American border are fully vaccinated and that the U.S. policy effectively means that a dropping of the mandate by Ottawa wouldn’t change anything. (RELATED: Could Omicron Finally ‘Shut Down The Virus?’ These Experts Say Yes)
That didn’t stop protesters from remaining around the capital Sunday and Monday, blocking traffic and promising to remain until all coronavirus mandates are gone, not just the trucking border requirement. “It’s not just about the vaccines. It’s about stopping the public health mandates altogether,” said Valley Flatbed & Transportation owner Daniel Bazinet of Nova Scotia, according to the New York Post.
The protest was reportedly entirely peaceful, with no arrests made. Police are investigating several incidents, including an alleged desecration of Canada’s tomb of the unknown soldier and the harassment of a soup kitchen by demanding free meals. Those incidents, as well as calls for violence, have been condemned by the convoy’s organizers. No cases of violence have been reported.
Reaction to the demonstration has been mixed. Trudeau called the protesters a “fringe minority,” and they were condemned by a Canadian trucking trade group, the Canadian Trucking Alliance.
But in the United States, former President Donald Trump praised the demonstrators during a rally Saturday. Tesla co-founder Elon Musk tweeted “Canadian truckers rule.”
Canadian truckers rule
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 27, 2022
The truckers may not have Canadian public opinion on their side, though. A substantial majority of Canadians said they want the government to impose more restrictions on the unvaccinated in one January poll, and a narrow majority said the unvaccinated should be subjected to increased taxation. (RELATED: Unvaccinated Must Be ‘Accompanied At All Times’ While Shopping At Big Box Stores, Canadian Health Ministry Says)
This morning, I tested positive for COVID-19. I’m feeling fine – and I’ll continue to work remotely this week while following public health guidelines. Everyone, please get vaccinated and get boosted.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) January 31, 2022
Meanwhile, Trudeau announced Monday he has tested positive for COVID-19 and is working in isolation. He had been moved to a secret location around Ottawa as the protesters descended onto the city Saturday.