Ottawa stalemate as protesters settle, police tense and politicians seek solutions
An ongoing protest in Ottawa reached an uneasy stalemate over the weekend, as protesters take root in the city’s downtown, police say they don’t have the resources to remove them and a political solution remains elusive.
More than a week after the start of a demonstration that began as a protest against a COVID-19 vaccination mandate for truck drivers and turned into a demonstration against all public health measures, protesters have put in place temporary structures in downtown Ottawa to distribute food and continue to transport fuel to the protest site.
Politicians have increasingly denounced the protest, with Ontario Premier Doug Ford and others calling it an “occupation” and the head of the Ottawa Police Services Board calling it an “insurgency.” .
Ford said Sunday that his government is supporting Ottawa in every way possible.
Although we cannot direct the police, we have provided the City of Ottawa with everything they have requested and will continue to provide all the support they request.
Ottawa police, already bolstered by officers from other forces, say they don’t have the resources to remedy the situation or get the protesters out.
“We don’t have enough resources to adequately and effectively deal with this situation while still providing adequate and effective policing in this city,” Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly, at an emergency police services board meeting.
Local, state and federal politicians condemned the protesters’ actions and called for a solution. But what that solution might be remains unclear.
“This group is emboldened by the lack of law enforcement at all levels of government,” said Diane Deans, city councilor and chair of the police services board.
“We signal to everyone who comes to town that it’s every man for himself,” the councilman said. said Carol Anne Meehan.
More than 650 calls have been made to police since the protest began, resulting in 97 criminal investigations, police said on Sunday. The force said earlier in the week it had opened 11 hate crime investigations and four people had been charged.
Some protest organizers have indicated they are willing to make concessions on noise levels. When discussing a horn injunction on Saturday, Keith Wilson, a lawyer representing the organizers, said the convoy might be willing to stop horn use overnight from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. .
On Sunday morning, the group Freedom Convoy, which organized the main protest, issued a statement saying that protesters would refrain from honking their horns until 1 p.m., “as a sign of goodwill”.
The group is facing a proposed class action lawsuit led by Ottawa human rights lawyer Paul Champ, who released a video statement on Saturday saying the truckers could be excluded from the lawsuit if they left town by Monday morning.
Response from the government in question
Protest organizers have said they intend to stay in the city until the federal government lifts all restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, even though most of those restrictions have been introduced. by the provinces.
Interim Conservative leader Candice Bergen this week called on the government to find a solution to the problem. On Saturday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also urged the government to seek a solution, but he did not provide a clear plan.
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said in an interview broadcast Sunday that he had heard people wondering if the federal government would meet with protesters.
“We engaged Canadians throughout the pandemic. We put the issue of vaccines and vaccine mandates on the ballot, and Canadians had the right to cast their vote freely in the last election,” said he told CBC Chief Political Correspondent Rosemary Barton on Rosemary Barton live on Sunday.
“We have to make sure the laws are enforced at the end of the day. We are a country built on the rule of law,” Mendicino said. He also hinted that support could come from the federal government for the city or for local businesses that had to close last week due to security concerns.
“I think we’re working closely with the city to consider providing support for those who have been affected. I know stores and businesses have been closed, and I know those discussions are ongoing,” a- he declared.
The protests have also received major rhetorical endorsements from politicians south of the border, including former US President Donald Trump. Ottawa police say they are also aware of US funding for the protests.
“This is not a place for Americans to get involved in this kind of activity,” former US ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman told CBC News on Sunday.
Finances in motion
On Friday, crowdfunding platform GoFundMe said it would stop payments through the convoy’s main fundraising page, which had by then received more than $10 million in donations.
The company removed the fundraising page from its website, saying the protest violates a rule in its terms of service that prohibits the promotion of violence and harassment.
Along with the disruption caused by blockages and noise, protesters displayed symbols of hate, including the Confederate flag and swastikas.
Convoy organizers instead steered potential donors towards the Christian side of GiveSendGo fundraising. As of Sunday morning, organizers had received more than US$2.5 million in donations on this site.