Protest against vaccine mandates draws thousands to Canada’s capital

By Julio Cesar Rivas

Toronto, Jan 29 (EFE).- What began as a protest by truckers against a vaccine requirement to carry loads between Canada and the United States brought thousands of people to the Canadian capital on Saturday to denounce the entire range of public health measures aimed at containing Covid-19.

By early afternoon, streets in the center of Ottawa were impassable due to the presence of trucks, some from as far away as the west coast of the vast North American nation.

The “Freedom Convoy,” praised online by Elon Musk and Donald Trump Jr., was organized by drivers opposed to the vaccine mandate for cross-border truckers, announced last month by the US and Canada.

The truckers were joined Saturday on Ottawa’s Parliament Hill by a wide assortment of other critics of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s handling of the pandemic and by extremists of various stripe, such as anti-Semites, Islamophobes and white supremacists.

Despite a wind-chill of minus 21 C (minus 6 F), the crowd grew to fill the space in front of the main gate of Parliament.

None of the protesters had masks and social distancing was out of the question, though some did wear balaclavas because of the cold.

Ottawa’s police chief, Peter Sloly, said that Canada’s intelligence and security services were monitoring radical elements among the protesters, but the demonstration remained peaceful.

Public television network CBC reported that Trudeau and his family had been moved from the prime minister’s official residence, Ottawa Cottage, to a secure location in the city.

The government declined to comment on the report.

On Thursday, the head of security for Parliament said that people were trying to obtain the home addresses of lawmakers and he urged members to get out of the city for a few days.

The leader of the main opposition Conservative Party, Erin O’Toole, has scheduled a meeting with some of the organizers of the Freedom Convoy, but other parties – including those that don’t support Trudeau – have repudiated both the form and the substance of the protest.

Only 15 percent of Canadian truck drivers are unvaccinated, according to the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA), representing around 4,500 carriers, owner-operators and industry suppliers.

“We ask the Canadian public to be aware that many of the people you see and hear in media reports do not have a connection to the trucking industry,” the CTA said Saturday.

The organizers of the convoy have vowed to remain in Ottawa until their demands are met. EFE jcr/dr

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