Truckers in Canada are protesting over the mandatory vaccine requirement of the government. The protest, which began on Jan. 28, has severely affected the traffic situation in Ottawa. Over 200 trucks and other vehicles are said to be blocking the streets of central Ottawa, which many say is unprecedented. Protestors are reportedly planning to expand the demonstrations to cities like Quebec City and Toronto.
At a press briefing on Feb. 2, police chief Peter Sloly said that the protests have ceased to just be an issue for Ottawa and have become a “national issue.” Sloly expressed concerns that there is “no police solution” to the protests and estimated that he would need at least 50,000 police officers to even attempt to seal the city. At present, Ottawa only has around 1,480 officers.
The police chief also raised the possibility that the capital might request military aid to stop the protests. However, he said that introducing the military among the “highly volatile population” of protestors might escalate some risks while also mitigating other risks. Sloly admitted to knowing only two such military interventions in Canada’s past one hundred years, the first of which took place in 1970 and the other in 1990.
“I don’t have a singular mandate in this city, this province, or this country to negotiate the end to any demonstration… There always needs to be an element outside of the police for any truly successful end to any demonstration, particularly one of this size,” Sloly said.
In addition to military action, the police chief also pointed to possibilities like a political response, court injunction, forced removal, etc. to get protestors away from the roads. However, such actions also come with serious risks of rioting as well as public injuries and deaths. Sloly called the protests “intolerable” and “unprecedented,” accusing them of involving “illegal, dangerous, and unacceptable activities.”
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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has ruled out the use of military force. “One has to be very, very cautious before deploying the military in situations engaging Canadians… This is not something we’re looking at right now. There is no question of sending in the army,” Trudeau told reporters.
Some protestors are asking for an end to mandatory vaccinations while others demand Trudeau to be removed from office for exceeding his authority. In an interview with ABC, Tamara Lich, an organizer of the protest, said that demonstrations will continue until all COVID-19 mandates are removed. She insisted that common people have grown “tired of the mandates and restrictions” that seem to be creating “more harm than good.”
Mat, a protestor, noted that the demonstration is aimed at safeguarding the freedom of every Canadian citizen. “Whatever it is that you decide to do, we’re not anti-vax, we’re not anti-anything other than anti-mandate … The message is freedom for every Canadian… We’re in for the long haul, and we’re here until we achieve the goal. And that is to have our voices heard, number one, and number two, to have the freedoms restored that the citizens of this nation deserve,” Mat told Fox News.
Meanwhile, the fundraising page for the protests at GoFundMe has been blocked by the platform. It had racked up over $10 million in donations. In a notice, GoFundMe justified the temporary pause as a measure to make sure the fundraising is complying with the company’s terms of service as well as applicable regulations and laws. “Our team is working 24/7 and doing all we can to protect both organizers and donors. Thank you for your patience,” the notice stated.