Health

Thousands stage peaceful protest in Ottawa against Canada’s vaccine mandates

The so-called “Freedom Convoy”
started out as a rally of truckers against a vaccine requirement for
cross-border drivers, but turned into a demonstration against government
overreach during the pandemic with a strong anti-vaccination streak.

“I’m not able to work no more
because I can’t cross the border,” said Csava Vizi, a trucker from Windsor
who noted he was the family’s sole breadwinner.

“I refuse the vaccine,” he
said, calling it dangerous. He spoke from inside his truck in front of
parliament.

“It’s not just about the vaccines.
It’s about stopping the public health mandates altogether,” said Daniel
Bazinet, owner of Valley Flatbed & Transportation in Nova Scotia on the
Atlantic coast. Bazinet is unvaccinated, but operates domestically and so is
not affected by the cross-border mandate.

“Myself and a lot of other people
are here because we’re just sick of the vaccine mandates and the
lockdowns,” said Brendon from Ottawa, who declined to give his last name.
He was carrying a sign reading: “Justin Trudeau makes me ashamed to be a
Canadian”.

The rally started early and built
through the afternoon. Some handed out bag lunches to the truckers, who
convoyed to Ottawa from the east and west coasts and places in between.

Few wore masks, but many were in
balaclavas as the temperature with windchill was minus 21 Celsius (minus 6
Fahrenheit). A downtown mall closed because demonstrators refused to wear masks
inside, CTV reported.

The violent rhetoric used by some of the
promoters on social media in the run-up to the protest had worried police, who
were out in force, but mostly the protest felt like a very cold street party,
punctuated by blaring truck horns.

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Due to security concerns, Trudeau and
his family left their downtown Ottawa home due to security concerns, the CBC
reported. His office said it does not comment on security matters.

Earlier this week Trudeau said the
convoy represented a “small fringe minority” who do not represent the
views of Canadians. About 90% of Canada’s cross-border truckers and 77% of the
population have had two COVID vaccination shots.

Trudeau announced a vaccine mandate for
federal workers on the eve of the October election, then last month Canada and
the United States imposed one for cross-border truckers.

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole opposes
vaccine mandates and expressed support for the protest after holding talks with
some of the truckers on Friday.

“I support their right to be heard,
and I call on Justin Trudeau to meet with these hard-working Canadians to hear
their concerns,” O’Toole said after the meeting.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance, which
represents some 4,500 carriers, owner-operators and industry suppliers, has
opposed the demonstration.

“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 on Saturday.

The CTA urged the truckers who
participated to do so peacefully and then leave Ottawa. The protest organisers
had said they would stay in Ottawa until the government abandons the mandates.
Downtown streets could be clogged for days.

“If I have to stay here two months,
I’m going be here,” said Vizi.

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