Feb. 7, 2022
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson declared a state of emergency in the Canadian capital as trucker-led protests over COVID-19 pandemic safety measures spread across the nation.
Between 200 and 250 big trucks have been parked on the streets in downtown Ottawa near parliament for more than a week, blocking interactions and paralyzing the center of the city, The New York Timesreported. The so-called “Freedom Convoys” have spread to Quebec City, Toronto, Edmonton, Vancouver, and other cities.
“We’re in the midst of a serious emergency, the most serious emergency our city has ever faced,” Watson said in a Sunday interview on CTV. “And we need to get moving much more quickly and much more proactively to bring order back to the streets. Someone is going to get killed or seriously injured because of the irresponsible behavior of some of these people.”
The Times said the declaration is symbolic and gives authorities no expanded powers to move the trucks and vehicles off the street.
So far, no violence has broken out in Ottawa, The Times said, but the protests have forced businesses to shut down. Authorities and citizens have complained about noise, disruption, and public monuments being defaced. The protests have taken on a carnival atmosphere at times with bands performing, inflatable bouncy castles set up, and food canteens popping up where the truckers are found.
“This is a siege — it is something that is different in our democracy than I’ve ever experienced in my life,” Peter Sloly, the Ottawa police chief, said Saturday, according to The Times. “We do not have sufficient resources to adequately and effectively address this situation.”
The demonstrations began as an outcry against a Canadian rule that truckers needed to be vaccinated to cross into the United States. The protests quickly expanded into action against pandemic restrictions such as provincial mask and vaccine mandates as well as the leadership of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, The Times said.
The Times said the protests are basically leaderless but that some participants and organizers belong to groups on the political right. Public opinion polls have shown the large majority of Canadians support pandemic safety measures but a growing number of people would like to see some measures lifted.
The City of Ottawa says the mayor’s declaration of a state of emergency “reflects the serious danger and threat to the safety and security of residents posed by the ongoing demonstrations and highlights the need for support from other jurisdictions and levels of government.”