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29 Jan, 2022 17:07

Canada prepares for anti-Covid-mandate trucker protest

National security forces and intelligence professionals have been roped in to augment police ranks as the Freedom Convoy reaches Ottawa
Canada prepares for anti-Covid-mandate trucker protest

The Canadian government has mobilized police and national security forces to bolster the police presence in Ottawa as ‘Freedom Convoy’ truckers protesting vaccine mandates make their way into the national capital. Around 50,000 truckers are thought to be part of the group, which will organize demonstrations over the weekend.

Claiming signs of “flagrant extremism” were being displayed by some protesters, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino told CBC News on Friday that various law enforcement bodies and members of the “intelligence community” were readying themselves to deal with potential threats.

He told the public broadcaster that “boundaries” would be drawn between free speech and risks to public safety, adding that the convoy was “not about freedom” and “certainly not about truckers.” Among the signs of extremism Mendicino pointed to were protesters allegedly equating vaccine mandates with Nazi policies, displaying US Confederate flags, and inciting the violent overthrow of the government. 

Meanwhile, the Ottawa Police Service revealed that its ranks would be augmented with officers from the Toronto, London, York and Durham regions, and from the Ontario Provincial Police. On Friday, Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly described the situation as “unique, fluid, risky, and significant,” and added that violence would not be tolerated.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – against whom a lot of the anger is apparently personally directed – echoed the concerns about the potential for violence, telling the Canadian Press that a “small group of people ... are posing a threat to themselves, to each other, to Canadians.”

However, convoy organizers have warned participants that the “movement is a peaceful protest” and does “not condone any acts of violence.” According to the CBC, one of those listed as a protest leader, B.J. Dicher, has warned demonstrators not to go into government buildings, show disrespect to police, make “any type of threat,” or escalate the tense situation. 

One of the key figures in the convoy, Tamara Lich, has reportedly stated in Facebook videos that the protesters will not leave Ottawa until their demands are met. However, she has also called on demonstrators and supporters to obey the law and not make trouble.

The Freedom Convoy’s primary objective was to pressurize the Trudeau government into dropping rules requiring truck drivers to be vaccinated so as to avoid a 14-day quarantine after crossing the border from the US. The protest has apparently since expanded to cover other public health policies as well.