| 6 October 2022, Thursday |

Anti-vaccine protesters say they will block Ottawa for as long as necessary

On Wednesday, truck drivers who had been blocking downtown Ottawa for six days said they had no plans to leave unless the government repealed COVID-19 vaccination regulations.

Despite growing complaints from neighbours about noise, pollution, and violent behavior by some truckers, Ottawa police have refused to call an end to the demonstration, citing the risk of escalating tensions.

The protest began as an attempt to persuade Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal administration to abandon a vaccination mandate for cross-border truckers. Since then, it has evolved into a more populist anti-Trudeau movement.

“We understand your frustration … but the responsibility for your inconvenience lies squarely on the shoulders of politicians,” protest leader Chris Barber said in a statement to Ottawa residents.

“We are here and we are not going anywhere until we achieve our objective, to see an end of all COVID-19 mandates and with that a restoration of freedoms of all Canadians,” he said.

Trudeau on Monday said Canadians were disgusted by the behavior of some protesters and vowed not to be intimidated.

The inaction of the police in Ottawa – some of whom have posed for selfies with demonstrators – contrasts with more robust action by authorities in the western province of Alberta.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police on Tuesday moved in on truckers blockading the U.S. border at the town of Coutts but pulled back after clashes with some drivers.

As well as paralyzing Ottawa, the protests are also threatening the future of the official opposition Conservative Party, the Liberals’ main rival.

Party leader Erin O’Toole faces a confidence vote on Wednesday from legislators unhappy that he did not support the protests more enthusiastically at first. He is also under pressure for leading the party to defeat in last September’s federal election.

  • Reuters