Dozens of trucks and other vehicles have jammed up central Ottawa since Friday and thousands descended upon Parliament Hill to complain about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
Parliament reconvenes on Monday after a six-week winter break and Trudeau was set to address reporters at 11.15 am Eastern Time (1615 GMT). He announced he had contracted COVID-19 but was feeling fine and would be working from home.
“Demonstrations are expected to become smaller after today. However, it will take some time to clear vehicles from the downtown core,” Ottawa city council said late on Sunday.
Canada Unity, one of the groups involved, said it wanted to gather 1,000 people to go into a mall and shop without masks. The Rideau Centre, a large nearby mall, said it would be shut for a second day on Monday.
Local residents have said they are fed up with the non-stop blaring of truck horns and demonstrators using the streets as an open-air toilet. Staff at three Ottawa hospitals said they had had trouble getting to and from work.
Both former US President Donald Trump and Tesla CEO Elon Musk have praised the protests.
The demonstration had started as a protest against a vaccine requirement for cross-border drivers, but then developed into a demonstration against the Trudeau government with a strong anti-vaccination streak. Some participants have appeared at the protest brandishing Nazi and US Confederate flags.
Marian Tudor, who lives in Chilliwack, British Columbia, is an owner-operator of his truck and can no longer haul goods across the border because he is unvaccinated. He was parked on the street in front of parliament with a trailer full of food, suggesting he planned a long stay.
Tudor, 61, was willing to stay “as long as it takes, until we get these mandates removed for everybody, not only for the truckers,” he said.
The Trudeau government is using “fake science,” he said. Trudeau “better stop his draconian measures, because he stands on the wrong side of the history”, Tudor said.
Police said on Friday they would start towing trucks on Monday if necessary. But by late on Sunday it said they had avoided ticketing and towing vehicles to avoid provoking confrontations with demonstrators.