Ottawa has declared a state of emergency after a group of truckers descended on the city to protest against Canada’s lockdown measures. But how did a demonstration against pandemic restrictions lead to the shutdown of Canada’s capital? Here’s what you need to know.
Who are the protestors?
The “Freedom Convoy” is a group of truckers protesting against a nationwide mandate introduced on 15 January forcing all drivers to be vaccinated to cross the US-Canada border. Originally gathering near Parliament Hill, the protest has since morphed into a rallying cry against the governing Liberal Party and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Do they have any supporters?
Many of the convoy’s funding and backing is coming from the United States. Former president Donald Trump claims Trudeau has “destroyed Canada with insane Covid mandates”. Moreover, several US politicians have lent their support, including Texas senator Ted Cruz. However, an opinion poll by Abacus Data found that 68 per cent of Canadians felt they had “very little in common” with the protesters. Bruce Heyman, America’s former ambassador to Canada, has urged US officials to stop interfering with its neighbour’s domestic affairs.
How is it affecting the city of Ottawa?
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Demonstrators have been barricading roads, honking their horns and even setting off fireworks. Some have been carrying placards comparing Covid-19 restrictions to fascism. It has led to instances of harassment and violence between truckers and residents, with many businesses being forced to close their doors. The negative coverage has led to crowdfunding website GoFundMe removing a page in support of the movement which had raised Canadian $10 million. In a statement last Friday, the crowdfunding platform said: ‘GoFundMe supports peaceful protests and we believe that was the intention of the Freedom Convoy 2022 fundraiser when it was first created.’ However, GoFundMe added: ‘We now have evidence from law enforcement that the previously peaceful demonstration has become an occupation, with police reports of violence and other unlawful activity.’
What are officials doing in response?
Jim Watson, the mayor of Ottawa, has declared an official state of emergency, giving city authorities – including the police – additional powers around procurement so they purchase equipment required by frontline respondents. Additional officers are also being deployed to manage the situation. No one knows when the protests will de-escalate. In Quebec, officials are reinforcing security measures around its legislature should a city-wide shutdown occur.