Canada’s ‘Freedom Convoy’: Blockades at border crossings come to an end, but protests persist in Ottawa

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police announced on Tuesday that it had “worked to peacefully resolve the situation” with protesters during the last major blockade remaining in Emerson, Manitoba, and expects them to leave on Wednesday.

“We are now confident that a solution has been found and protesters will soon leave the area and full access to the Emerson entry point will be restored,” RCMP Chief Superintendent Rob Hill said. , in a press release.
The protests – in which trucks and vehicles were used to block roads, in some places for more than two weeks – left many residents frustrated, local businesses hampered and the Canadian federal government enacted powers to unprecedented urgency.

But progress has been made in removing border blockages.

A bridge linking Windsor, Ont., and Detroit, vital to international transportation and trade, reopened late Sunday after arrests and the departure of protesters. Highway traffic is also once again crossing the Coutts checkpoint on the Alberta-Montana border, where police say at least 11 people were arrested and several firearms were seized.
But truckers protesting in the nation’s capital remain defiant, calling for the “freedom convoy” to persist until vaccination mandates and other Covid-19 measures are reversed.
The presence of the protesters — who this week agreed to leave residential areas and stay on the streets directly in front of Canada’s National Parliament — has been a constant source of frustration among Ottawans and city officials, who said Tuesday that Chief of Police Peter Sloly was leaving his post.
In his departure declarationSloly shared his appreciation for residents and other law enforcement and described the situation as a “difficult journey.”

“Since the start of this protest, I have done everything possible to keep this city safe and to end this unprecedented and unpredictable crisis,” he said.

Sloly previously noted that enforcement during the protest has been complex and tricky in part because families are embedded with protesters. The leader had repeated several times that he did not have enough resources to deal with such a large demonstration.

American truckers are frustrated with more than Covid-19

While Ottawa Police Services Board Chair Diane Deans thanked the former chief for his service, she opened a board meeting on Tuesday saying authorities have so far been unable to reach the peace in the city.

“The OPS (Ottawa Police Service) has been unable to adequately enforce our laws and our residents continue to be terrorized, that’s not enough,” Deans said, adding that “I watched in disbelief as this carnival of chaos allowed to continue.”

Residents told CNN they were appalled by the leader’s lack of enforcement on the streets of their city. City officials said some protesters had threatened and harassed residents, including committing racist and homophobic acts, and a hotline had been set up to better alert authorities to such behavior. Police say they have opened dozens of investigations amid reports of hate crimes, rock-throwing and property damage.
Trucks and protesters block downtown streets near the Parliament Buildings as a protest continues Wednesday in Ottawa, Ont.

Some measures are easing while others remain

Stemming from truckers who arrived in Ottawa on Jan. 29 to show their disapproval of a new mandate requiring them to be fully vaccinated when crossing the Canada-U.S. border or face a two-week quarantine, the protest turned for some protesters into a larger grievance. against all Covid-19 measures, including mask and vaccination requirements.
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Four out of five Canadians are fully vaccinated and nearly 90% of Canadian truck drivers are fully vaccinated and cleared to cross the border, the government said.

Although there is no indication that the truckers’ vaccine mandate will be dropped, some changes to Covid-19 safety measures were announced this week – although officials were quick to note that the changes are not due to the protests but to decrease in Covid-19 cases. and high vaccination figures.

From February 28, the country will no longer require PCR tests for fully vaccinated travelers and will accept rapid tests, Canada’s health minister announced on Tuesday. Unvaccinated travelers will still be subject to testing and a 14-day quarantine.

“I am happy to announce these changes today, as I know many of us are looking forward to living with fewer restrictions. However, we must continue to exercise caution,” said the Federal Minister of Health. Health, Jean-Yves Duclos. “Let’s be clear: our fight against the virus is not over.”

Canada relaxes Covid-19 testing rules for vaccinated travelers

In British Columbia, restaurants, nightclubs, fitness centers, movie theaters and other venues will return to full capacity by Thursday, according to the provincial government.

Ontario plans to drop its vaccine passport requirements and indoor capacity limits on March 1 if the province’s Covid-19 hospitalization rates continue to improve, the premier announced Monday. Doug Ford. The masking requirements will remain in effect “just a little longer”, he said.

“Let me be very clear, we’re going this way because it’s safe to do so,” Ford said. “Today’s announcement is not because of what is happening in Ottawa or Windsor, but despite it.”

Canada and US coordinate after protests

Disruptions at border crossings have had repercussions in Canada and the United States, and the two countries are coordinating closely on the cross-border movement of people who may try to participate in blockades, said Canada’s Minister of Security. Public Safety, Marco Mendicino, to CNN.

“The United States is carefully monitoring blockades in Canada and what we agreed was that we could continue to share information and advance the very close collaboration that exists between our CBSA and Customs and Border Patrol, so that we can identify any potential individuals who may be trying to cross the border to advance illegal blockades in Canada,” Mendicino said.

There have also been measurable financial ramifications.

Canadian government invokes Emergencies Act over lockdowns and protests over Covid-19 measures
The blockade at the Ambassador Bridge has impacted trade by about $390 million a day, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said Monday, and the combined impact of blockades at border crossings, including those in Alberta and Manitoba, was $500 million a day.
On Monday, Canadian officials moved to allow financial institutions to freeze personal or business accounts they believe are being used to fund illegal protests, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau saying he was invoking the emergency measures.

The law, passed in 1988, can temporarily suspend citizens’ rights to freedom of movement or assembly, although Trudeau warned at a press conference: “We are not preventing people from exercising their right to demonstrate legally”. The law provides for the use of the military, but Trudeau said he would not take that step.

“This is about keeping Canadians safe, protecting people’s jobs and restoring trust in our institutions,” Trudeau said, adding that the law will be limited geographically and in scope.

CNN’s Paula Newton, Jenn Selva, Kelly McCleary, Holly Yan, Paradise Afshar, Priscilla Alvarez, Raja Razek and Abby Bustin contributed to this report.


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