By Julio Cesar Rivas
Toronto, Canada, Feb 15 (EFE).- Ottawa’s police chief resigned on Tuesday, hours after the Canadian government invoked special emergency powers to crack down on anti-vaccine mandate protests that have brought the capital to a standstill and wreaked havoc at border crossings.
“It is with a heavy heart that I am announcing I have stepped down as Chief of the Ottawa Police Service,” Peter Sloly said in a statement posted on his Twitter account. “It has been a difficult journey but I am incredibly proud of what we have accomplished.”
“Since the onset of the demonstrations, I have done everything possible to keep this city safe and put an end to this unprecedented and unforeseeable crisis. We have acquired new resources and enforcement tools, and stood up the new Integrated Command Centre. I am confident that the Ottawa Police Service is now better positioned to end this occupation,” he added
Sloly has been facing criticism over the Ottawa police service’s inability to control the protesters who arrived in the capital on Jan. 29 in the so-called “Freedom Convoy” and occupied the center of the city.
Since then, some 400 trucks and hundreds of people have gathered around the parliament building, in theory one of the most heavily guarded areas in the country, blocking access to it.
The occupation of downtown Ottawa led to actions of solidarity across the country, including a blockade of several border crossings with the United States and the attempted occupation of downtown Toronto and Quebec City, resulting in economic losses.
The chaos unleashed by the truckers’ protests, which are being exploited by radical far-right groups, forced Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to invoke the Emergencies Act on Monday.
This gives the government special emergency powers in times of national crisis and marks the first time the government has invoked it since it was passed in 1988.
Minister of Public Security Marco Mendicino said on Tuesday that the chaos into which the Canadian capital has plunged will end soon after the adoption of the Emergencies Act.
He said that the government will be banning protesters from certain areas of Ottawa. Violation of the ban will be punishable by imprisonment.
The authorities will also put up concrete barriers to prevent the arrival of more vehicles in the occupied zone.
Meanwhile, banks and other financial institutions will stop providing funds to the organizers of the protest and may block the accounts of truckers participating in the “illegal” occupation of downtown Ottawa.
Mendicino hinted that the authorities could act in Ottawa as they have done in recent hours at the border crossings in Windsor and Coutts and evict the hundreds of people blocking Wellington St, which runs in front of parliament and the prime minister’s office.
On Sunday, the police cleared the blockade that groups of protesters had maintained for a week on Ambassador Bridge, which connects Windsor in Canada with Detroit in the US.
Windsor police said they have arrested 46 people in connection with the blockade of the bridge, a major border crossing between Canada and the US through which $400 million worth of goods pass each day.
Despite the clearing of the border crossing, Windsor has declared a state of emergency and has heavy police deployment around the Ambassador Bridge to ensure it is not blocked again by protesters.
In recent hours, protesters who had occupied the border crossing at Coutts in western Canada for more than two weeks abandoned their protest hours after police arrested 13 people for possession of weapons.
Videos posted on social media by supporters of the protests, involving anti-vaccine mandate truckers and those opposed to Covid-19 restrictions, show the protesters hugging Royal Canadian Mounted Police officials after leaving the blockade.
Meanwhile, traffic through the border crossing connecting Emerson, in the central Canadian province of Manitoba, to the American state of North Dakota, was moving slowly on Tuesday due to groups of truckers and farmers. EFE