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Freedom Convoy Protest on Vaccine Mandate Puts Ottawa in Emergency

Freedom convoy Ottawa vaccine mandate
Canadian truckers continue to block the streets of the nation’s capital, Ottawa, in a protest against nationwide vaccine mandates for the drivers. Credit: Mosbo6/CC BY-SA 4.0

The protest by the “Freedom Convoy” against a vaccine mandate has forced Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson to declare declared a state of emergency on Sunday.

The protest by the Freedom convoy has blocked much of the center of the Canadian capital. The protesters, who first reached the capital on January 29, have parked their trucks on city streets and put up tents and temporary shacks, paralyzing the capital.

“(This) reflects the serious danger and threat to the safety and security of residents posed by the ongoing demonstrations and highlights the need for support from other jurisdictions and levels of government,” Watson said in a statement on Sunday.

Freedom convoy protest in Ottawa against vaccine mandate

The protests began by truck drivers angry with the vaccine mandate for crossing the US-Canada border but have evolved into broader protests against COVID-19 health restrictions and the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Ottawa police warned on Sunday that anyone attempting to bring material support to the demonstrators would be subject to arrest.

Canadian Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said on Sunday that the government would not back down on the issue.

“We put the question of vaccines and vaccine mandates on the ballot … in the [2021] election and we’re simply carrying out the promise that we made with the support of the vast majority of Canadians,” he said on CBC television.

“This group [the Freedom convoy] is a threat to our democracy,” City Council Member Diane Deans said of the protesters on Saturday. “What we’re seeing is bigger than just a City of Ottawa problem, this is a nationwide insurrection. This is madness.”

The Freedom convoy’s protest has attracted support from many Republicans south of the border, including former President Donald Trump, and found financial support through GoFundMe.

“Canada-US relations used to be mainly about solving technical issues. Today Canada is, unfortunately, experiencing radical US politicians involving themselves in Canadian domestic issues. Trump and his followers are a threat not just to the US but to all democracies,” Bruce Heyman, a former ambassador to Canada under President Barack Obama, tweeted.

Heyman said: “Under no circumstances should any group in the USA fund disruptive activities in Canada. Period. Full stop.”

There have been similar demonstrations against the vaccine mandate in the cities of Toronto, Quebec City, and Winnipeg.

Austria imposes strict Covid-19 vaccine mandate

Austria became on Saturday the first western democracy to impose a strict Covid-19 vaccine mandate for almost all its population.

According to the new measure, Austrians over the age of 18 must be vaccinated against Covid-19 or face the possibility of a heavy fine.

The new measure, adopted on January 20 by Parliament, was signed into law by President Alexander Van der Bellen on Friday, the culmination of a process that began in November in the face of the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

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