Justin Trudeau condemns Canada’s Trucker protests in Ottawa

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada on Monday attacked protests against pandemic restrictions over the weekend in Ottawa, punishing protesters for insulting war memorials, using signs Nazi statues and stealing food from the homeless. The protests culminated when a group of Canadian truck drivers and their supporters drove from Western Canada to Ottawa to challenge government demands for a vaccine.

Speaking from self-isolation after he and his two children tested positive for coronavirusMr. Trudeau said he understood the frustrations of Canadians, angered by a pandemic that has taken a toll. But he criticized protesters who hoisted “racist flags,” abused small business owners, spread misinformation and in one case, went to a homeless shelter in downtown. downtown Ottawa and demanded food.

“There is no place in our country for threats, violence or hatred,” he said, adding that the convoy did not represent the majority of truckers, 90% of whom had been vaccinated. Vaccine.

An Ottawa law enforcement spokesman on Monday said police had begun several criminal investigations following the desecration of monuments and other acts of intimidation during a weekend protest in the Canadian capital. .

Initially, a “Free Convoy” was loosely organized as a response to a regulation requiring truckers returning from the United States to present proof of vaccination. But the rally has turned into a more general one by opponents of the pandemic restrictions and Mr. Trudeau.

During the weekend protests, the House of Representatives was not in session and many lawmakers were not in town. Some have said they plan to continue protesting when Parliament resumes on Monday, even as the number of protesters is dwindling.

The protests dominate social media in Canada and receive extensive media coverage. Ottawa police on Monday said 8,000 protesters were in downtown Ottawa on Saturday, a fraction of the number claimed by some convoy participants and organizers. Before the protests, Mr. Trudeau dismissed the protesters as “a small minority” and said they would not lead his government to reverse vaccine regulation.

Like much of the rest of the world, Canadians are suffering the exhaustion of the pandemic after months of suffering with shortened lives, illness and death, closures of homes, restaurants, homes. Church and gym closed. But in a country that values ​​scientific authority and a lauded universal health care system, opinion polls have consistently shown strong support for public health measures to purpose of preventing coronavirus. More than 77 percent of Canadians are fully immunized.

Prof. Andrew McDougall, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Toronto, said the convoy had caused public frustration with the restrictions of the pandemic but did not represent a meaningful political shift in the country. a country where the majority is in favor of vaccination against coronavirus.

While the convoy failed to become a national movement, organizers raised about 9.2 million Canadian dollars, or $7.2 million, on GoFundMe during the group’s cross-country trip.

Professor McDougall said: “To the extent that the convoy is objectionable and unscientific, it is on the fringes of Canadian society. “It’s not the start of a movement but the most extreme expression we’ve ever seen of frustration over pandemic restrictions.”

A key organizer of the “Liberal Convoy” was Tamara Lich, secretary of the relatively new Maverick Party, a right-wing centre-right group that was started to promote the separation of Canada’s three western Steppe provinces from the rest of Canada. rest of the country.

Scott Moe, the prime minister of Saskatchewan who leads the far-right Saskatchewan Party, referenced comments Mr Trudeau made last week that showed he had misdefined the scope of disagreement against parliamentary restrictions. Translate. Grandfather wrote on Twitter, quoted Mr. Trudeau.

Candice Bergen, deputy leader of the Conservative Party, wrote on Twitter that Canadians are fed up with lockdowns that are “worth listening to”.

While the protests have sometimes been unruly, the majority of protesters have been peaceful. However, streaks of urine were seen in the snow covering the National War Memorial on Sunday morning. Police towed the cars that protesters parked on the memorial and Jim Watson, the mayor of Ottawa, said the protesters had disrespected the country’s dead war.

Many Canadians reacted with outrage after images on social media showed anti-vaccination signs placed on a statue of Terry Fox, a national hero who lost a leg to cancer. and died in 1981 at the age of 22 after running halfway across the country to raise money. cancer research. Protesters were also seen dancing over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Shepherd of Good Hope, a homeless shelter in downtown Ottawa, says its staff members were harassed by protesters who arrived on Saturday and demanded that the shelter feed them.

“Guys, 24 hours is tough,” reads a post on the organization Twitter account. “Staff harassed during meals. A service user and security guard were assaulted. Through that, you have donated and filled our hearts with gratitude. ”

Rideau Center, a large shopping mall, was closed on Saturday after a large number of protesters without face masks flooded the mall, shouting and screaming and store workers and security guards -We try to enforce public health measures.

Residents of downtown Ottawa said online and on radio chats that truckers honking their horns around the clock, idling smoke and aggressive behavior by some had making them prisoners in their own homes.

Some protesters carried the Canadian flag upside down; At least one flag has a swastika on it.

Some, who may not have joined the convoy itself, have called for an attack on Parliament similar to January 6, 2021, storming the US Capitol. But such calls for violence have been criticized by the convoy organizers, as well as by many street protesters.

David Hofmann, an associate professor of sociology at the University of New Brunswick who studies far-right groups, said the convoy was seized by far-right members as a means of recruitment and mobilization.

“This is a small minority of far-right individuals who have joined this larger rally to gain visibility, to agitate and to recruit,” he said. “This is a standard tactic used by the far right in Canada.”

Ian Austen contributed reporting from Ottawa. Justin Trudeau condemns Canada’s Trucker protests in Ottawa

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