Trucker Protest: Commons passes Emergencies Act motion; Downtown cleanup continues; Small protest ongoing near SJAM Parkway; Rideau Centre to reopen Tuesday


The “Freedom Convoy” that converged in Ottawa on Jan. 28 began in response to the federal government’s move to require Canadian truck drivers crossing the U.S. border be fully vaccinated to avoid testing and quarantine requirements, but evolved into a protest against all public health measures aimed at fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizers said they would not end their protest until all measures are dropped. Police have since moved in on the protest and have begun clearing downtown streets and encampment areas. 

What you need to know

  • House of Commons passes Emergencies Act motion
  • Full O-Train Line 1 service will resume Monday morning, from Tunney’s Pasture to Blair stations. But all bus routes with service downtown remain on detour
  • Police shut down what remained of the logistics camp that Ottawa occupiers had built on Coventry Road
  • Rideau Centre to reopen on Tuesday
  • Checkpoints surrounding the Byward Market removed: police
  • Rideau Street is open at Sussex Drive but closed westbound at Dalhousie Street. Mackenzie Avenue southbound, Sussex Drive northbound and Colonel By Drive were open to pedestrian and vehicle traffic, though the “secured zone” downtown remains in place with checkpoints
  • Multiple convoy organizers and participants, including Tamara Lich and Patrick King, are expected in court Tuesday
  • As of Sunday, the Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa said it had not yet had to intervene with children or youth linked to the demonstration
  • SIU Ontario, the province’s police watchdog, said Sunday it is investigating “two police-involved incidents” that occurred during the day’s police action against protesters Saturday
  • At least 79 convoy vehicles have been towed. A total of 191 people had been arrested with 389 charges laid as of Sunday

8:31 p.m.

The House of Commons has passed a motion to approve the extraordinary and temporary measures in the Emergencies Act, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked last week in a bid to end blockades in Ottawa and at several border crossings.

The motion to confirm the declaration of emergency passed with the New Democrats voting in favour alongside the minority Liberal government.

The Canadian Press reports that New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh said earlier today his party would support the motion, but withdraw that support as soon as it decides the measures are no longer necessary.

The Conservatives and the Bloc Quebecois opposed it.

The vote to approve the measures will keep them in place until mid-March at the latest and the Senate must also vote on the government’s request.

At any point, the Senate, House or government could pull support and the extraordinary powers stemming from the emergencies law would be torn up.

Leading up to the vote, there were signs the government had decided to make it a confidence vote, meaning that if it failed, the minority Liberal government could have fallen, which would have triggered an election.

7 p.m.

The councillor representing downtown Ottawa is bringing forward a motion at Wednesday’s council meeting to close off parts of Wellington Street to vehicular traffic.

Coun. Catherine McKenny, whose Somerset ward includes most of the city’s core, including Centretown, made the announcement Monday night on Twitter.

They said the motion would be seconded by Jeff Leiper, who represents the neighbouring ward of Kitchissippi, which includes Mechanicsville and Westboro, among other neighbourhoods.

5:50 p.m.

OC Transpo Route 85 has resumed regular service to and from Gatineau.

Ottawa City Hall and the underground municipal parking lot will reopen on Tuesday.

5:45 p.m.

Police have reduced the “secured area” it’s been patrolling downtown after removing protesters, trucks and other vehicles from the streets surrounding Parliament Hill including Wellington, Bay, Kent, Lyon, Queen and Metcalfe.

The secured area was established late last week and covered Bronson Avenue to the Rideau Canal and the Queensway to the Hill with entry restricted to residents, shoppers and employees and dozens of checkpoints throughout.

The secured zone now borders Somerset Street West to Parliament Hill and Bronson to the Canal. The ByWard Market is also no longer considered part of the secured area.

Residents can expect an increased police presence to remain in place over the coming days, OPS said.

As of Monday morning, police have made 196 arrests. Of those, 110 were charged with various offences including disobeying a court order, obstructing/resisting a peace officer, assault, mischief, possession of a weapon and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle.

A total of 115 vehicles have been towed to date.

4:20 p.m.

Ottawa’s city council is preparing to vote on a series of supports for residents and businesses impacted by the protest at its next meeting on Wednesday.

Mayor Jim Watson said in a prepared statement that councillors will be “bringing forward a number of motions” at the meeting to “provide relief and assistance, as well as help attract customers back to downtown businesses and restaurants.”

Councillors Jan Harder and Rawlson King will move a motion for a “targeted property tax deferral program for eligible retail businesses and restaurants in the affected areas,” while council colleagues Eli El-Chantiry and Mathieu Fleury will look for support for funding to “help the most impacted business districts program and market their destinations,” according to the mayor’s statement.

Councillors Laura Dudas and Jeff Leiper will put forward a motion seeking support for the “Ottawa Music Industry Coalition to offer local musical performances in the impacted neighbourhoods,” and councillors Alan Hubley and Catherine McKenny are asking for support to get an “expansion of the no-fare transit service measure that will include all routes that bring customers to and from the affected areas, including Line 1.”

Tim Tierney and Glen Gower will put forward a motion for “no-charge parking for a month on-street and at City garages in the impacted areas.”

4:10 p.m.

On Kent Street, a nearby police checkpoint and some scattered trash were the only signs that three days earlier a line of vehicles and trailers had filled the street, their occupants sometimes setting off fireworks, playing music and honking their horns.

Two locals, Julie and John, carried coffees as they returned to their condo during Julie’s lunch break. Neither wanted to give their last name.

“Part of the reason we’re going for a walk now is we wouldn’t feel comfortable doing this prior, so we’re just taking advantage,” said John. The walk was a celebration of sorts, Julie added. The past three weeks had been difficult.

“For me it was hell,” she said. “My whole life got turned upside down.”

The honking, which gave them migraines and from which ear plugs offered no reprieve, tormented them, even when it largely stopped after a court injunction. “It just echoes,” John said. “You’re watching TV, you hear it over the TV. You’re listening to music, you hear it over the music. You can’t drown it out. It’s always there and eventually it just becomes a phantom, so no matter what you’re listening to you just hear it in the back of your head.”

Aside from the constant noise distracting them as they worked from home and leaving them mentally drained, the couple also said their personal lives had been disrupted by the occupation.

“We’re used to having people over,” John said. “We couldn’t do that because they’re not comfortable, there’s nowhere to park and there’s nowhere to stay. We didn’t find it was safe for them so we just ended up adjusting other plans.”

“We had to evacuate our home at one point because I didn’t really feel safe,” Julie added. “There were fireworks going off right in front of the window of our condo. We could see them going off, so I was like I don’t want to stay here. I couldn’t sleep that night. It was bad.”

3:35 p.m.

With downtown streets emptied of the trucks and protesters that had occupied Ottawa’s core for more than three weeks, a small group of holdovers gathered at the corner of Booth Street and the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway on Monday morning, where they waved Canadian flags and signs, and welcomed the approving bleats of the horns of numerous passing motorists.

“The game just started,” said Maninder Singh, a Brampton resident and one of the first two protesters to appear on Monday. “That,” he added, waving to the downtown core, “was only a trailer.”

“My heart told me to be here,” Singh noted, “so I just braved up and decided to be here and follow my heart. There is always a root cause to a problem, and the symptom is only a mandate. The root cause is the system, the whole cabal, and the way it is running.”

Singh, who has been in Ottawa since the convoy arrived at the end of January, said he didn’t know how long he would stay. “My heart told me to be here today. If my heart tells me tomorrow otherwise, I’ll be somewhere else.”

His job here will be done, he added, “when light overtakes darkness. How will I know that? When people love each other and people will live in harmony and symphony.”

Others were a little more concrete about their reasons and plans.

“I stayed up all night to keep this going,” said Matt Wellman. “I want to keep the door open while stuff is going on in the States — keep the livestreams going for the people in the States who are still watching us.”
Wellman, who carried a sign that read “No forced injection, pretty please,” hopes the protest will slow down the COVID-19 vaccine rollout — or “injection program,” as he calls it — and end vaccine mandates for truckers. “I’m against these vaccines and the way they’re being rolled out,” he said, noting that “we’re making a difference for the truckers.”

Matthew Vandervelde, his wife and two others also took part in Monday’s demonstration, a last opportunity to wave the flag before heading home to the Niagara region following three days in Ottawa.

“A lot of people here are against the mandates,” he said, “for masks, for vaccines.

“I want my freedoms back because I’ve done my own personal research and I want to make my own choices for my own personal body based on facts, and not based on what people tell you.”

While Vandervelde admits that “not much has happened” regarding mandates over recent weeks, he promises that the fight will continue.

“If nothing changes and mandates are still forced upon us and vaccines are still forced upon us, we will be back.

“Not in a violent manner at all. We just want our freedoms back.”

Another protester, meanwhile, carried her Canadian flag upside-down, as both a signal of distress and a statement of protest.

“We’re in distress,” said Karen Petryshen. “We need help.”

“I want my freedom,” the Athabasca, AB, resident added, noting that she lost her long-term-care job because she refused to be vaccinated. “I don’t want no mandates – just things to get back to normal.”

Petryshen said she only just arrived in Ottawa a couple of day ago, after being snowed in in Thunder Bay. She didn’t know how much longer she would stay.

“When the truckers are not here, people are feeling sad.”

2:40 p.m.

Ottawa police say all checkpoints surrounding the Byward Market have been removed.

The Ottawa Police Service made the announcement on its official Twitter account Monday afternoon.

“We encourage you to support local businesses impacted by the unlawful assembly,” the post read.

2:15 p.m.

The Rideau Centre is reopening on Tuesday after being closed for over three weeks due to the convoy protest.

As per the update from the Ottawa Police Service that it is now safe for downtown businesses to resume operations, we can confirm CF Rideau Centre will be open on Tuesday, February 22,” read a statement from Cadillac Fairview, the mall’s owner.

“We look forward to welcoming back our community of clients, shoppers and employees!”

The popular downtown mall closed early on Jan. 29 after maskless demonstrators filled the centre and harassed workers.

1:40 p.m.

Although Ottawa’s downtown has emptied out, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal government remains on guard to the possibility that trucks and protesters could return — whether to the nation’s capital or Canada’s ports of entry.

“Even though the blockades are lifted across border openings right now, even though things seem to be resolving very well in Ottawa, this state of emergency is not over,” Trudeau said at late morning press briefing.

Downtown Ottawa was eerily quiet Monday morning after weeks of overwhelming noise from honking horns, idling engines and large crowds protesting the the Liberal government, vaccine mandates and COVID-19 restrictions.

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said a number of people associated with the Ottawa protest were in the area Monday. Trudeau added that a convoy from Fort McMurray, Alta. en route to Ottawa was turned away at the Manitoba border a few days ago.

“The situation is still of people repositioning, people being out there indicating that they are ready to blockade, to continue their illegal occupation to disrupt Canadians’ lives,” Trudeau said.

Fences surrounded the parliamentary precinct and roughly 100 police checkpoints checkered a large swath of the core to prevent demonstrators from infiltrating the former protest zone.

As the prime minister spoke, parliamentarians debated whether to approve extraordinary powers granted to police to quell the Ottawa protest.

The House of Commons is set to vote on the use of the Emergencies Act Monday evening, and some Conservatives argue the powers are no longer needed because the blockades are over.

Among the measures is one that allows banks to freeze accounts of those linked to the funding of the protests in Ottawa and elsewhere.

The RCMP said it provided banks with a list of names of influencers in the Ottawa demonstration and people who did not want to move their vehicles out of the area, but not anyone who donated to the protest, the service said.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said anyone affected has an easy avenue to have their accounts unfrozen: “Stop being a part of the blockades,” she said.

with files from the Canadian Press

12:30 p.m.

Ottawa Public Library’s Rideau branch will return to regular service and hours Tuesday after it was closed due to the downtown occupation.

“We thank you for your patience during this period when access to the branch was not possible due to service and traffic disruptions caused by the convoy demonstration,” a release from the library said.  

Noon

About two dozen remaining protesters were at the intersection of the Sir John A. MacDonald Parkway and Booth Street Sunday morning.

Ottawa police said Saturday evening a protest was underway in that area, with a nearby traffic camera showing protesters waving Canadian flags on both sides of the parkway and on the median.

One protester who was at the site Sunday, Karen Petryshen of Athabasca, Alta., was holding an upside-down Canadian flag because “we’re in distress; we need help.”

Karen Petryshen from Athabasca, Alberta.
Karen Petryshen from Athabasca, Alberta. Photo by Bruce Deachman /POSTMEDIA

11:40 a.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said invoking the Emergencies Act was necessary for allowing police to shut down blockades and prevent foreign money from funding protesters.

Discussing the vote on the use of the Emergencies Act set to take place Monday night after weekend debates in the House of Commons, Trudeau encouraged MPs to “take action against illegal blockades and to stand up for public safety and for the freedom of Canadians.”

“We didn’t want to use the Emergencies Act. It’s never something to turn to without serious consideration, but after weeks of dangerous and unlawful activities, after weeks of people being harassed in their neighbourhoods and small businesses forced to closed… it became clear that local and provincial authorities needed more tools to restore order and keep people safe,” he said.

“Our government will always defend freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly. These values are at the core of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They’re at the core of who we are as Canadians.”

Trudeau said people can share their opinions, disagree with elected officials and even himself, but “you can’t harass your fellow citizens who disagree with you. You can’t hold a city hostage.”

“Anyone who votes no tonight (isn’t) doing anything other than indicating they don’t trust the government to make incredibly momentous and important decisions at a very difficult time.”

Trudeau said he is confident the majority of parliamentarians will vote in favour of the use of the Emergencies Act.

9:30 a.m.

Ottawa Centre MPP Joel Harden said on Twitter Sunday he’s asked the province’s integrity commissioner to investigate independent Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston MPP Randy Hillier “for counselling others to engage in vexatious 911 calls.”

Hillier has been quite active in voicing support for the “Freedom Convoy” efforts on social media. He’s also blamed governments and media for “inciting hatred and fear.”

Ottawa police sent out multiple notices over the course of the more than three-week protest about 911 and emergency lines being tied up due to convoy supporters calling to complain about police actions.

Hillier responded to one such tweet on Saturday, saying: “Keep calling in a democracy expressing yourself is a fundamental freedom.”

In a letter to Integrity Commissioner David Wake, Harden said attempts to endanger public safety are unacceptable, “and that is precisely what MPP Hillier has done in this instance. I shudder to think about the impact of a first responder diverted from an actual emergency by a vexatious 911 call.

8:45 a.m.

The “red zone” downtown has been largely cleared of debris since police gained back the ground from protesters over the weekend.

No vehicles except for those used by law enforcement or clean-up efforts are allowed in the zone. MPs and some Parliamentary employees are able to access Parliament Hill.

The Ottawa Police Service said on Twitter Sunday morning that Wellington Street remains closed to all traffic, including pedestrians and cyclists, and later in the morning said about 100 checkpoints are still in place.

The City of Ottawa has alerted people to fake texts posing as the city “regarding compensation for the convoy protests.”

“This is a scam. The City will never communicate about financial information through text message,” it said on Twitter.

The Coventry Road encampment, which grew to include parking for roughly 100 cars, pickup trucks and vans at any given time, plus a collection of RVs and big rigs, was shut down Sunday. Across from the parking lot were several large tents for meetings and barbecue meals, a trailer with heated toilets, and two saunas. Among the campers were families with pets.

Police said 20 vehicles were towed from that area and police would remain to make sure nobody returned to the site.

Sunday evening, a small demonstration was underway at the intersection of the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway and Booth Street, Ottawa police said.

A traffic camera showed protesters waving Canadian flags on both sides of the parkway and on the median.

“Children are present next to fast-moving traffic and measures are underway to ensure the safety of everyone present,” police said, asking people to avoid the area.

VIEW A GALLERY OF PHOTOS FROM DOWNTOWN OTTAWA ON SATURDAY, FEB. 20, 2022

READ MORE COVERAGE OF THE ANTI-VACCINE MANDATE PROTESTS IN OTTAWA:




Reference-ottawacitizen.com

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