Canada pushes back on GOP support for COVID protests

OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) — Canada’s public safety minister said Monday that U.S. officials should stay out of his country’s internal affairs, joining other Canadian leaders in pushing back against prominent Republicans who offered their support for protests against COVID-19 restrictions that have beleaguered downtown Ottawa for more than a week.

A day after the city declared a state of emergency, the mayor pleaded for nearly 2,000 additional police officers to help quell noisy nighttime protests organized by the so-called Freedom Truck Convoy, which used hundreds of trucks parked to cripple business in the Canadian capital. piece. The protests have also infuriated downtown residents, including neighborhoods near Parliament Hill, the seat of the federal government.

Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly called the protest “unprecedented demonstration never seen in Canada” and acknowledged that authorities had not expected it to last longer than three days.

Many GOP members have made comments supporting the protests, including former President Donald Trump, who called Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a “far-left madman” who “destroyed Canada with insane COVID mandates “.

Protesters said they would not leave until all vaccination mandates and restrictions related to COVID-19 are lifted. They also called for the removal of the Trudeau government, despite being responsible for some of the restrictive measures, most of which were put in place by provincial governments.

Prominent Republicans, including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, have complained after crowdfunding site GoFundMe said it would refund the vast majority of millions of dollars raised by protesters.

The site said it cut funding to protest organizers after determining their efforts violated the site’s terms of service by engaging in illegal activity. Ontario Premier Doug Ford called the protest an occupation.

In response, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton tweeted, “Patriotic Texans have donated to the worthy cause of Canadian truckers. Texas Senator Ted Cruz said on Fox News that “the government has no right to force you to comply with their arbitrary mandates.”

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino fired back, “It is certainly not the Texas Attorney General’s concern how we in Canada conduct our daily lives in accordance with the rule of law.”

“We must be alert to possible foreign interference… Whatever statements may have been made by a foreign official, they are neither here nor there. We are Canadian. We have our own set of laws. We will follow them,” Mendicino said.

In a letter to Trudeau and the Minister of Public Safety, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said “what was initially described as a peaceful protest has now turned into a siege of our downtown” with 400 to 500 trucks. He asked for 1,800 additional police. This would nearly double the existing resources of the entire Ottawa Police Service, which has 2,100 officers and civilians.

Dominic LeBlanc, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, blamed GOP interference for inciting disorderly conduct and helping fund entities that do not follow Canadian law. Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair said Paxton was wrong to comment on this.

Bruce Heyman, former US ambassador to Canada, said groups in the US must stop funding and interfering in the US neighbor’s internal affairs.

On the street in front of Parliament Hill, there were thousands of signs ranging from “more terms” and “freedom of choice” to “truck you Trudeau” and “the pandemic has destroyed our freedoms”.

Trudeau called the protesters a “fringe”, but he faces calls from the opposition Conservative Party to extend an “olive branch” to them. Some conservative lawmakers, including a candidate for the party’s leadership, met and posted photos with them.

Sloly said his police force needed more resources. Police decided to cut off fuel supplies to protesters on Sunday evening.

“We turn up the heat any way we can,” Sloly said.

Blair said Ottawa police have received resources and are ready to help further.

“It is way over time to end this protest,” Blair said.

LeBlanc said the premier had made it clear that it was the responsibility of civilian police. Trudeau ruled out sending in the army last week.

Meanwhile, Ottawa police were investigating a fire at an apartment building that was allegedly started by protesters. Matias Munoz said residents of the building south of Parliament Hill were already on edge on Saturday night as the noise of the protest echoed through their homes for the ninth night in a row.

When he came downstairs Sunday morning, Monoz said the carpet and floor were charred and there were blackened fire starter bricks strewn about the lobby.

Surveillance video showed two men lighting a pack of bricks in the lobby and taping or tying the front door handles together before exiting a side door before dawn. The video also showed another man entering the building and extinguishing the fire shortly afterwards, Munoz said.

“Someone is trying to do something as insidious as taping the door shut so people can’t leave if there’s a fire in the main hall – it’s terror, that’s what it is.” is,” Munoz said.

Ottawa police declined to release details, citing the ongoing investigation.

In other developments, Ontario Superior Court Judge Hugh McLean granted a 10-day injunction to stop truckers parked on downtown Ottawa streets from honking their horns incessantly.


Gillies reported from Toronto.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Comments are closed.