Canada convoy: Police chief says ‘all options on the table’ to end Ottawa vaccine mandate protest

‘No matter where you live, no matter where your vehicle’s registered, if you’ve come here and committed a crime ... you will be investigated’

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Tuesday 01 February 2022 15:24 GMT
Related video: Ottawa businesses, residents frustrated by ongoing disruption of protests
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The police chief in Ottawa has said “all options are on the table” to put an end to the “Freedom Convoy” truckers’ protest in the Canadian Capital.

Chief Peter Sloly said on Monday that while the authorities have seen a noticeable decline in the number of truckers and protesters demonstrating against Covid-19 vaccine mandates and pandemic restrictions, the protests have still been “fluid, ever-changing and increasingly more difficult to manage”.

The protests have led to gridlock in central Ottawa, frustrating residents and business owners in the area.

But Mr Sloly said on Monday that it could have been even worse.

“It could have led to significant and severe injuries, and it could have led to the loss of life,” he said, according to CTV News. “None of that has occurred over the last four days.”

“No riots, no injuries, no deaths. That is a measure of success for any jurisdiction in Canada, and quite frankly anywhere in the world,” he added.

The chief said authorities are carrying on negotiations with the organisers in an effort to bring an end to the protest.

“All options are on the table, from negotiation through to enforcement,” Mr Sloly said, adding that the estimated number of people in the downtown area of the city for the protest range from 5,000 to 18,000.

Police said hundreds of vehicles had left the downtown area by Monday afternoon. Law enforcement has also stated that they have 12 investigations underway for offences such as bribery, threats, dangerous driving, and assault.

Mr Sloly said that police are creating a hotline for hate incidents and he promised that those committing crimes would be held accountable.

“No matter where you live, no matter where your vehicle’s registered, if you’ve come here and committed a crime, if you have committed a hate crime, you will be investigated,” Mr Sloly said, according to CTV News. “We will look for you, we will charge you, if necessary we will arrest you, and we will pursue prosecutions against you.”

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson has said that the city is “doing everything possible to bring this to an end peacefully”.

“You’ve had your moment, your 15 minutes,” he told the protesters. “Time to move on, give back our city to our residents and you go on your way to your community.”

“I get a lot of emails and tweets, why don’t you just send in the tow trucks, send in the parking control people?” he added. “We’re not interested in inflaming the situation.”

“The last thing we need is to have some behaviour that creates a mini-riot. We don’t want that to happen. We don’t want to see bloodshed,” he said.

“Over the past few days, Canadians were shocked and frankly, disgusted by the behavior displayed by some people protesting in our nation’s capital,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Monday.

“I want to be very clear, we are not intimidated by those who hurl insults and abuse at small business workers, and steal food from the homeless,” he added. “We won’t give in to those who fly racist flags. We won’t cave to those who engage in vandalism or dishonor the memory of our veterans.”

Mr Watson told CTV News that “you see the despicable behaviour of some of these thugs that go down to the Shepherds of Good Hope and demand free meals, taking meals away from the homeless. So, their credibility is shot”.

“All of these areas have been impacted because some idiots decided to park their big diesel trucks, spewing diesel all night, honking their horns, their kids can’t get to bed – how would you, as a trucker, like this to happen in your neighbourhood? You’d be outraged,” he added.

“In all my briefings, it’s been very clear that there are contingency plans, that this thing is not going to go on for weeks. My hope is that we start to see significant return of these vehicles to their hometowns in a couple of days,” Mr Watson said.

“It should have ended a long time ago. They’ve made their point. They had their rally. They embarrassed themselves with some of the actions of some of the people in the crowd, but it’s now time for them to go home and allow our community to regroup and rebuild, particularly given the fact that we’re still in the midst of a pandemic,” he added.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he was “extremely disturbed” to see protesters “desecrate our most sacred monuments and wave swastikas and other symbols of hate and intolerance this weekend”.

“That has no place in Ontario or Canada. Not now. Not ever,” he added.

The Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries, Lisa MacLeod, wrote on Twitter that “the residents and families of Ottawa need to return to work and school”.

“To the protesters remaining – you’ve been heard – please go home,” she added.

The so-called “Freedom Convoy” started to arrive in the city on Friday following a cross-country caravan protest against vaccine requirements to cross the US-Canada border and other public health measures.

People have been seen carrying signs with slogans such as “Make Canada Free Again!”, “No More Vax Pass”, “We Support Truckers”, “Freedom to Choose”, “Freedom Not Fear”, and “Freedom for All”.

Others were seen carrying flags with a swastika, yet other flags said “F**k Trudeau”, and some wore or carried signs featuring a yellow star.

“We have seen multiple cases of disruptive, inappropriate and threatening behaviour from demonstrators,” police said on Sunday.

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