The relentless blare of trucker horns has faded, and calm is finally returning to the streets of Ottawa after a police crackdown on Canada’s “Freedom Convoy” which has unleashed three weeks of chaos on the capital.

Canadian authorities launched the biggest police operation in the country’s history over the weekend to crack down on the remaining protesters, making 191 arrests and towing away 79 vehicles. Authorities have even gone so far as to freeze the bank accounts of at least 206 truckers after they refused to move from the streets, using a power granted to them in a rare national emergencies act invoked by Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, last week. 

The protest movement was sparked by a vaccine mandate requiring Canadian cross-border truckers to be vaccinated against Covid along with other restrictions. However, the protestors have come to symbolise a more general frustration at the harshness of pandemic measures over the past two years. 

The last remaining die-hard protesters – who had vowed to stay on Parliament Hill for as long as it took for Trudeau to reverse his mandate – were forced to flee on Sunday, after police in riot gear chased them down with pepper spray and stun grenades. 

And so the trucker protests, which wreaked havoc on the capital, spread to several other cities across Canada,  and culminated in a blockade of the largest US-Canada border trade route, appears to be drawing to a close. 

The Freedom Convoy is ending. But the issues fuelling the unrest will certainly not disappear overnight. 

How will the past few weeks affect Trudeau’s popularity?

While Trudeau hasn’t been forced to concede to the Convoy’s demands, the time it took to regain control – and the aggressive methods used to do so – has shaken Canada’s reputation for civility. 

What’s more, there are many across the political spectrum who feel sympathetic towards the trucker cause. Or at least, there was widespread sympathy for those who were genuinely there to protest against how a vaccine mandate would affect their livelihoods. The so-called Liberal party’s authoritarian crackdown on these truckers has left many feeling uncomfortable about the harshness of the operation and the emergency measures introduced to do so. 

The unrest has exposed deep divisions within Canadian society. What began as a protest against vaccine mandates, and Covid policies, morphed into a wider display of anti-government discontent.

Many of those who have been protesting in the capital are thought to have no connection to the haulage industry and critics say far-right groups have helped to organise the Convoy. While Trudeau may have been too quick to dismiss all those demonstrating as just a bunch of raging “right-wing lunatics”, it’s true that Neo-Nazi and QAnon symbols, as well as the US Confederate flag, have been spotted at the rallies.

For this reason, Pierre Poilievre, who is running to become the next leader of the Conservative party, has taken a gamble by backing the trucker protests. 

Opposing a vaccine mandate – which raises very legitimate civil liberties issues – could have been a politically smart move. But if this backing is interpreted as Canada’s mainstream Conservative party affiliating itself with far-right fringe groups involved in the protests, it could alienate more moderate voters. 

For now, it seems the only clear political winner from the trucker protests is the People’s Party of Canada – the far-right group intent on building a populist movement within the country.