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16 Feb, 2022 04:57

Canada says ‘Freedom Convoy’ seeks regime change

Emergency action is required to prevent anti-vaccine-mandate protesters from overthrowing the government in Ottawa, public safety chief says
Canada says ‘Freedom Convoy’ seeks regime change

A senior Canadian security official has said the anti-vaccine-mandate ‘Freedom Convoy’ protest is driven by a desire to overthrow the government, disputing demonstrators who insist they are fed up with the country’s pandemic restrictions.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino questioned the protesters’ motives, suggesting that outrage over ongoing vaccine mandates is merely cover for a more sinister agenda.

“There have been those who have tried to characterize these illegal blockades about vaccines and mandates and fatigue with the pandemic,” he said. “That is not what is driving this movement right now.”

What is driving this movement is a very small, organized group that is driven by an ideology to overthrow the government.

While thousands of protesters have descended on the capital city of Ottawa and elsewhere to peacefully demand an end to the mandates, Mendicino cited a group of 11 demonstrators at a border crossing in Coutts, Alberta who were found to be carrying firearms and ammunition, calling the incident a “cautionary tale.” 

“The seizure of a significant number of illegal firearms by a group that is very committed to the cause is something that we need to be very sober about,” said Mendicino, an ex-federal prosecutor. 

The 11 individuals were reportedly taken into custody and charged with weapons offenses on Monday.

The minister’s warning of coup plotters comes one day after the federal government invoked the Emergencies Act for the first time in its history to crack down on the “illegal” protest, which some officials have described as a “blockade.” The Act grants authorities a number of temporary powers, including to compel tow-truck companies to remove the large numbers of semi-trucks now parked across the Canadian capital. To date, some firms have refused to haul away the vehicles. 

The emergency powers also allow for stiffer penalties for those found to be breaching the peace amid the demonstrations, including fines up to CAN$5,000 (US$3,930) and maximum prison terms of up to five years. 

The ‘Freedom Convoy’ has remained in Ottawa for some three weeks, while smaller contingents of protesters have blocked off multiple border crossings, including in Coutts and the Ambassador Bridge that links Ontario and Michigan. Though police have repeatedly declared the gatherings illegal, officers have had little success in dispersing them.