Thousands protest vaccine mandates in Canada, further fraying nerves



2022-02-06 17:57:00

A protest in opposition to vaccine mandates close to Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada, on Feb 6, 2022. — AFP/FILE
  • A number of Canadians protest in Toronto in opposition to vaccine mandates unfold from Ottawa.
  •  “Freedom Convoy” started as a motion in opposition to Canadian vaccine requirement for cross-border truckers.
  • It has become a rallying level in opposition to public well being measures and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s authorities.

TORONTO/OTTAWA: Thousands of individuals demonstrated in Canadian cities, together with the monetary hub Toronto, on Saturday as largely peaceable however noisy protests in opposition to vaccine mandates unfold from Ottawa, the capital.

The “Freedom Convoy” started as a motion in opposition to a Canadian vaccine requirement for cross-border truckers, however has become a rallying level in opposition to public well being measures and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s authorities.

“We’re all sick and tired of the mandates, of the intimidation, of living in one big prison,” mentioned Robert, a Toronto protester who didn’t give his final title. “We just want to go back to normal without having to take into our veins the poison which they call vaccines.”

Protesters have shut down downtown Ottawa for the past eight days, with some participants waving Confederate or Nazi flags and some saying they wanted to dissolve Canada’s government.

“The protesters in Ottawa have made their level. All the nation heard their level,” said Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, who urged protesters to “go house and have interaction elected officers.”

Ottawa police said hate crime charges were laid against four people and they were investigating threats against public figures jointly with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The well-organised blockade, which police say has relied partly on funding from sympathizers in the United States, saw protesters bring in portable saunas on Saturday to combat frigid temperatures.

One man rode through the area on horseback, carrying a Trump flag, social media videos showed. Former US President Donald Trump has spoken out in support of the truckers against “the cruel insurance policies of far-left lunatic Justin Trudeau who has destroyed Canada with insane COVID-19 mandates.”

GoFundMe took down the Freedom Convoy’s donation page on Friday, saying it violated the platform’s terms of service due to unlawful activity. The group had raised about C$10.1 million.

The website originally said it would give refunds for any requests made by February 19 and would remaining funds to verified charities, but on Saturday GoFundMe said it would refund all donations automatically.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who has previously criticized vaccine mandates, called GoFundMe “skilled thieves.” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and other Republican state lawmakers vowed to investigate the California-based company over the move. 

About 5,000 people demonstrated in Ottawa, police said, while hundreds more gathered in Toronto, Canada’s biggest city, and Quebec City, coinciding with the city’s annual winter carnival. Four people were injured in Manitoba after a pick-up truck drove into a crowd late Friday, police said.

In Toronto, about 500 healthcare workers and supporters rallied downtown in opposition to the trucker convoy, according to a Reuters witness.

Several Toronto healthcare workers said they received advice from their hospitals to not wear hospital scrubs in public in light of the protest.

“The notion that we’ve to one way or the other skunk round or be afraid of who we’re and what had been doing, I feel, is offensive and regrettable, and I feel, a tragic commentary on our society,” emergency room doctor Raghu Venugopal told Reuters.

Some Ottawa residents, who have endured near-incessant honking, smashed windows and harassment for wearing masks themselves, criticized Ottawa Police earlier this week for not doing more to end the blockade. One resident filed a class-action lawsuit against convoy organizers, seeking up to $10 million in damages and an injunction to end the protests.

Ottawa police, which warned on Friday of a crackdown on the protest and dedicated more officers, do not have enough resources to end the protests, the city’s police chief said on Saturday. Trudeau ruled out the use of troops against truckers in the capital earlier this week.

“This can be a metropolis below siege, this can be a risk to democracy, this can be a nationwide revolt, that is insanity,” Chief Peter Sloly said at a police services’ board meeting. “We now have completed our perfect.”

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