OTTAWA – Conservative leader Erin O’Toole said on Thursday he would meet with truck drivers on their way to Ottawa to protest against vaccination mandates – but not at their planned rally this weekend on Parliament Hill.
The convoy passed through the CTA on Thursday en route to the country’s capital, where truck drivers plan to protest against new requirements to be vaccinated against COVID-19 for cross-border travel.
At a news conference Thursday night, O’Toole accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of inciting their anger, saying the government’s failure to plan adequately for the current wave of the pandemic fueled divisions and sparked a national debate on vaccination mandates.
“This convoy is really about Mr Trudeau and the fact that people are tired,” O’Toole said.
“There is fatigue in this country, there is division and there are millions of people who feel that they are no longer heard.”
The protest was fueled by new requirements in Canada and the US that truck drivers should be fully vaccinated to avoid quarantines when crossing the border.
The Canadian Trucking Alliance, which denounced the convoy protest, says more than 85 percent of the 120,000 Canadian truck drivers who regularly travel across the Canada-US border have been vaccinated, but that as many as 16,000 could be set aside. due to the new restriction.
Several industry and business groups have worked against the new rules, including the country’s largest association of small and medium-sized enterprises, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
They argue that the vaccination requirements will make existing problems in Canada’s supply chain even worse.
The Conservatives have taken up the truck drivers’ case, but that view has been scrutinized in recent days as some groups joining the convoy have been identified as also linked to extremist ideologies.
One online video features a man expressing hope that the rally in the Canadian equivalent of the riot on January 6, 2021 at the US Capitol by former President Donald Trump will change.
MPs were warned on Thursday that their offices and homes in the national capital could become the targets of protesters in the coming days.
A memo from the head of security for the House of Commons warned that requests were circulating online for the home addresses of members of Parliament, saying they should be extra careful when in town.
“As a reminder, any individual or group of individuals who does not obstruct vehicle traffic or trespass on your property has the right to demonstrate,” the memo reads.
“However, should the situation escalate, the police will act.”
O’Toole said he was looking for meetings with representatives of the truck groups, and a safe place to talk to them so they knew people were listening to their concerns, but he also condemned groups trying to hijack their case.
“People who are frustrated, who work Canadian, who just want to be heard, I will make sure we are always there to listen,” he said.
“People who are advancing terrible agendas, I will make sure I call out that behavior and try to gather the better angels of the Canadian kind in a time when our country is divided.”
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