Public school commissioners decide to follow provincial guidelines ending student masking and teacher mandates
OTTAWA – Pressure is mounting on both sides of the border and across the political aisle in Canada, for protesters blocking key crossings with the United States and others camped near the Hill of parliament to go home, or for officials to push them away.
Late Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called on all MPs of all parties to speak out against the “unlawful blockades and occupations taking place across the country.”
Trudeau said he briefed the leaders of all opposition parties on the latest developments and urged them to call for an end to the lockdowns. There are blockages at border crossings near Coutts, Alberta, Emerson, Manitoba, and the busy Windsor-Detroit Ambassador Bridge.
“They hurt the communities in which they take place — and they hurt our country’s jobs, businesses and economy,” Trudeau said in a series of Twitter posts.
“We will continue to work closely with municipal and provincial governments to end these blockades and ensure they have the resources they need.
Trudeau said he also spoke with Mayor Drew Dilkens about the blockade of the Ambassador Bridge that connects Windsor, Ont., to Detroit.
“We are determined to help the mayor and the province get this situation under control, as it is causing real harm to workers and economies on both sides of the border.
Interim Conservative Leader Candice Bergen made a brief statement about the meeting.
“Thank you Prime Minister for tonight’s briefing,” she said on Twitter. “I continue to call on him to take action to end this peacefully and quickly.”
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called on Trudeau to act urgently to end protests and blockades, noting that the occupations hurt families, small businesses and workers.
“Canadians have lacked national leadership during this crisis. They are tired of jurisdictional excuses, they just want it to stop,” Singh said in a statement.
“We owe it to them to use every tool available to end these occupations that harm Canadian workers and their families, and to work on a plan to end it.
The Bloc Québécois has said that it continues to advocate a peaceful solution and wants the occupants and demonstrators to leave voluntarily and quickly.
According to the Bloc Québécois, the Prime Minister and the leaders of the opposition have agreed to keep the details of the meeting confidential for security reasons.
“We cannot tolerate these dangerous situations for health and safety, as well as their impact on the social climate and the perception of Canada and Quebec internationally,” the party said in a press release.
Trudeau also met with the government’s incident response group on Thursday about the blockades and protests.
A reading of the meeting said they discussed their work with the Ontario government to restore access to the Ambassador Bridge and other entry points and the Premier’s recent conversation with the Premier Minister Doug Ford.
“The group is committed to continuing to provide federal resources to support law enforcement efforts in Ottawa, where the occupation has significantly disrupted the lives of local residents, affecting businesses and families through harassment, threats of violence and vandalism,” the report said.
“They reiterated that the federal government has responded and will continue to respond to all requests for appropriate support and resources.”
The Canadian Trucking Alliance said Thursday the industry will pay a heavy price for the actions at the border. He called on governments to end the current blockades and provide a plan to prevent them from happening again.
That evening, Teamsters General Chairman Jim Hoffa called on protesters to end their protest.
Political support for the protesters also appeared to evaporate as the interim Conservative leader, who suggested two weeks ago that her party would do anything to make the protests the Prime Minister’s problem, backtracked and cut the support of his party.
Addressing the House of Commons earlier, Bergen called on protesters to go home and end activities that she said were hurting the country’s economic rebound from COVID-19.
“Remove all blockages. Protest peacefully and legally, but it’s time to remove the barricades and the trucks for the sake of the economy,” Bergen said.
South of the border, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer in a written statement urged federal, provincial and local officials across Canada to immediately end blockades that threaten her state’s economy. She did so hours before Michigan congresswoman Elissa Slotkin warned of similar protests in the future the longer Canadian authorities would allow the situation to persist.
There was no briefing at the White House on Thursday, but officials said senior staff and cabinet members, including Homeland Security Sec. Alejandro Mayorkas and Transport Sec. Pete Buttigieg is in regular contact with his Ottawa counterparts.
They were “engaged around the clock to end this quickly,” said an official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal conversations.
“The president is regularly informed of the situation.”
Homeland Security Adviser Liz Sherwood Randall was also due to speak later Thursday with Jody Thomas, the Prime Minister’s newly appointed national security and intelligence adviser.
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said the RCMP was sending reinforcements to Ottawa and Windsor.
The latter city was granted intervenor status Thursday in an application for an injunction that would prevent protesters from blocking traffic bound for Canada at the Ambassador Bridge crossing. An Ontario Superior Court judge was scheduled to hear the submissions on Friday.
The same court on Thursday granted a request by the Ontario government to freeze protesters’ access to the millions of donations raised on the GiveSendGo fundraising platform.
Earlier Thursday, Trudeau said his government was working with municipal and provincial leaders to end barricades that were “harming communities across the country.”
“We will continue to do what is necessary to put an end to these barricades,” Trudeau told reporters on his way to the House of Commons.
But the protests have shown no signs of letting up.
Addressing a crowd gathered near Parliament Hill, protester Bethan Nodwell, who is involved in one of the fundraising sites targeted by the Ford government, urged protesters to hold the line downtown until reinforcements arrive this weekend.
“We are blocking airports. We block the borders. We block everything. We are not going to retreat,” she said into the microphone.
The situation in Ottawa, which has prompted similar actions domestically and abroad, has continued to dominate the debate even as political fissures have formed within the Liberal caucus and official opposition over event management and public health measures.
The so-called Freedom Convoy arrived in Ottawa two weeks ago, apparently to protest federal vaccination mandates for truckers. He also demanded an end to all COVID-19 related restrictions and some members of the group called for the dissolution of the government.
Ottawa police said Thursday that a dozen trucks left an area outside downtown after negotiations with protesters who used the parking lot there as a staging and logistics ground.
Ten more trucks left the streets near Parliament Hill and another vehicle was towed away for obstructing traffic as police sought to reduce the footprint of protesters’ occupation of downtown Ottawa.
There are now around 400 vehicles left in the core.
Protesters with large trucks have been warned by police that if they block streets they could be charged with mischief to property, or have their vehicles and other property seized and possibly confiscated. Police have also warned that charges or convictions could mean a travel ban to the United States.
On Thursday afternoon, police said they made three more arrests since Tuesday, bringing the total number of arrests to 25. An investigation is also underway after protesters refused to stop for an officer and rammed into a police car near downtown, although police did not report anyone. was injured.
Speaking to reporters Thursday afternoon, Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly called the protest sophisticated and well-organized. He warned anyone planning to come to the capital at the weekend to think twice before entering the city and said they would be greeted by an increased police presence.
Sloly also said he expected an imminent announcement from higher levels of government regarding the city’s request for 1,800 additional officers to bolster the local force.
“As they arrive, they will continue to advance our efforts to end this protest as quickly and safely as possible,” Sloly said.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on February 10, 2022.
— With files from Mike Blanchfield, Jim Bronskill, Stephanie Taylor, Mia Rabson and Justin Tang in Ottawa and Nicole Thompson in Toronto
Jordan Press and Laura Osman, The Canadian Press