Over the past few weeks, Ottawa has been involuntarily hosting truck protestors with the desire to remove the Covid-19 vaccine mandate and masks in the workplace; both provincially and federally. The protests, which originally started on January 22 in Ottawa, have escalated significantly over the past two weeks.
This protest was prompted by the indignation many truckers expressed toward Prime Minister Trudeau’s announcement on traveler sanctions. “As of January 15, 2022, certain categories of travelers, who are currently exempt from entry requirements, will only be allowed to enter the country if they are fully vaccinated with one of the vaccines approved for entry into Canada,” as stated on the government website.
“Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated foreign nationals will only be allowed to enter Canada [from the US] if they meet the criteria for limited exceptions.”
This initiated Canada’s Pacific supporters to launch a GoFundMe page in late January. Millions of dollars were fundraised online, however, the GoFundMe platform canceled their fundraising due to the increase of “violence and unlawful activity.”
Major roads and highways have been blocked, including the Ambassador Bridge to Detroit. After weeks of supporters peacefully protesting, the situation has quickly escalated and become violent. Since then, Prime Minister Trudeau has reviewed the Emergencies Act, which enables him and the RCMP to enforce the removal of people loitering on public property.
The Emergencies Act also allows the government to intervene in a situation that they cannot enforce through the law. National emergencies give additional power and authority to the government to protect and secure citizens within the country.
The Freedom Convoy, a name designated by Canadian protestors, has spread across Canada. As stated on the Ottawa Police Twitter account on February 18, more than 100 people were arrested with 21 towed vehicles. Two days later, police arrested another 191 people, had 79 cars towed, and had streets cleared for safe return.
The Freedom Convoy protests took their march into the city of Toronto in early February, where thousands have gathered, some exhibiting violent behavior. In a video from CBC News, one protester ignited a flare when police were pushing protestors away from the Parliament building. There was a burst of fire and smoke as police quickly took down the suspect.
Toronto Police have even reported a man throwing feces at another person. The protests are becoming increasingly violent and disruptive to community members in the downtown Toronto and Ottawa regions.
Evan Solomon, host of CTV Power-Play, shared a photo on his Twitter page of a child being brought to the protest. He says that the “family brought their baby to the front line and placed the kid at the foot of the riot guards.”
Several citizens have been putting their children in dangerous situations, in the front lines of police and “unlawful protests.” Ottawa Police states that “the children will be brought to a place of safety.”
Students at U of T have also been emailed by the university and warned of the harmful incidents that may occur. As stated in U of T Provost’s email, “The Toronto Police Service has closed Queen’s Park from College Street to Bloor Street until further notice.” Students were told to expect to see increased police presence in the area.
As of February 21, Toronto Police Operations declared that Queen’s Park Crescent will remain closed, however, University Avenue will remain open but restricted to one lane.
With the increase of incidents occurring in the Ottawa and Toronto regions, U of T considers the safety of its students during these challenging times. Students and residents of Ontario are encouraged to stay safe in these public settings.