Canada: Ottawa declares state of emergency amid COVID-19 protests | News | DW | 07.02.2022

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Canada: Ottawa declares state of emergency amid COVID-19 protests

Thousands of protesters opposed to COVID restrictions descended on the Canadian capital over the weekend. Ottawa's mayor has said the situation is "completely out of control."

A protester with a Canadian flag stands on a barricade as trucks block Ottawa's downtown

Thousands descended on Ottawa over the weekend

The mayor of Canadian capital Ottawa declared a state of emergency on Sunday amid trucker protests against COVID-19 restrictions.

Thousands of protesters descended on Ottawa on the weekend, joining a hundred who remained from last weekend.

The demonstrations began as truckers protested against vaccine requirements when crossing the border between the US and Canada, and later turned into a broader protest against COVID-19 restrictions and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government.

Last week, crowdfunding site GoFundMe pulled funds for the protests.

What did Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson say?

Mayor Jim Watson said that the declaration highlights the need for support from other jurisdictions and levels of government.

The declaration gives the city additional powers around procurement and how it delivers services, and may also help the city purchase equipment required by front-line workers and first responders.

Earlier in the day, Watson had described the situation as "completely out of control."

"Clearly, we are outnumbered and we are losing this battle," Watson told local radio station CFRA.

Watson also called the truckers "insensitive," criticizing the noise produced by the protests. According to Watson, protesters have continued "blaring horns and sirens and fireworks, and turning it into a party."

Meanwhile, police announced new measures to stop people from helping the protesters.

"Anyone attempting to bring material support (gas, etc.) to the demonstrators could be subject to arrest," Ottawa's police force tweeted.

Police also said that they had issued more than 450 tickets since Saturday.

'A nationwide insurrection'

Similar demonstrations hit Toronto, Quebec City and Winnipeg on Saturday.

Police in Quebec City said some 30 big trucks were blocking a major artery and had been warned they would face fines if not moving soon.

Three trucks with Canadian flags draped over the front

The "Freedom Convoy" protests saw hundreds of truckers drive their vehicles into downtown Ottawa

City council member Diane Deans said that the protests are "bigger than just a city of Ottawa problem, this is a nationwide insurrection."

On Saturday, Ottawa police chief Peter Sloly called the demonstrations a "siege" and asked for reinforcements.

The federal Canadian Mounted police are due to send reinforcements of 250 officers to Ottawa. 

Ottawa declares state of emergency over COVID-19 protest

US Republican support for the protests

The trucker protests have drawn support from members of the US Republican Party, including former President Donald Trump. Trump called Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a "far-left lunatic" who has "destroyed Canada with insane COVID mandates."

On Sunday, a former US ambassador to Canada denounced such statements, saying the US should stop interfering in the domestic affairs of its neighbor.

"Canada-US relations used to be mainly about solving technical issues," Hayman tweeted.

"Today Canada is unfortunately experiencing radical US politicians involving themselves in Canadian domestic issues," he added.

"Trump and his followers are a threat not just to the US but to all democracies."

sdi/aw (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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