Ads Top

Ottawa, other cities act to rein in escalating protests against COVID-19 measures


Protesters opposed to vaccine mandates and other COVID-19 restrictions held rallies in cities across Canada on Saturday in a show of solidarity with a week-long demonstration in the national capital, while the effort to end the newly re-energized demonstration in Ottawa prepared to shift to the legal arena.


 An Ottawa lawyer was to appear before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to argue a class-action lawsuit on behalf of thousands of city residents seeking millions of dollars in damages and an injunction “prohibiting the continuation of the nuisance.”

Officials in Ottawa and numerous provincial capitals, meanwhile, worked to ensure that escalating protests against pandemic-related public health measures remained peaceful Saturday, even as hundreds of participants gathered or were poised to congregate at rallies in cities ranging from Fredericton to Vancouver.


Police in Ottawa said they were expecting as many as 400 more trucks and up to 2,000 people travelling on foot to arrive this weekend to join the protest that has been rebranded by critics, including a lot of frustrated downtown residents, as an occupation.


By midday Saturday, thousands of demonstrators mingled near open fires on the snow-plastered lawn in front of West Block, home to the House of Commons. Participants roasted hotdogs and doled out baked goods under tarps warmed by portable heaters, while two men on horseback traipsed through the town, one carrying a flag in support of former U.S. president Donald Trump.


Ottawa police said more than 20 highway ramps and roads would be shut down throughout the day, as horns blared along streets clogged with banner-flying trucks and flag-festooned cars below Parliament Hill, following a week of blocked roads and racial taunts from aggressive participants.


A group of counter-protesters were set to mobilize in downtown Ottawa near where the initial contingent of demonstrators have settled in.


“Everyone expects it to be a nice safe event. However, there still is that underlying danger for any visible minorities, any people in the LGBTQ community,” Ottawa resident and counter-protest organizer Mackenzie Demers said in an interview Saturday.


“These occupiers, they are dangerous. They have trucks. There are rumors that there are guns.”


In Toronto, several hundred protesters gathered on the south side of the Ontario legislature, chanting “liberte” overtop reggae issuing from loudspeakers and sporting signs that stated, “Freedom no mandates” and “let love guide you, not fear.”



Nearby, a couple hundred health-care workers and supporters marched from the University of Toronto to hospital row just south of the legislature. They held placards reading, “free-dumb” and “N95 masks for all.”


Demonstrators also gathered in Quebec City, Fredericton and Winnipeg, with rallies also planned for Regina, Edmonton, Vancouver, Victoria and the U.S. border crossing in Coutts, Alta.


Police forces in those cities say they have learned lessons from Ottawa’s predicament and have developed strategies designed to protect key infrastructure, such as vital traffic corridors and hospitals, and also prevent possible violence.


Those strategies have involved significantly boosting the presence of police officers at protest sites, blocking off key access routes and stepping up enforcement of traffic regulations and bylaws regarding excessive noise and other applicable issues.


Police in Winnipeg laid charges against a 42-year-old Manitoba man who allegedly drove his vehicle into the group of “freedom convoy” protesters gathered in that city.



They said the incident took place just before 10 p.m. Friday evening and resulted in three men being treated at the scene for minor injuries, while a fourth man was taken to hospital and released. The accused is facing multiple charges including assault with a weapon and dangerous operation of a conveyance.


Back in Ottawa, lawyer Paul Champ has filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of thousands of residents seeking millions of dollars in damages and an injunction “prohibiting the continuation of the nuisance.” The statement of claim names protest organizers Tamara Lich, Patrick King, Chris Barber and others as defendants.


Champ was expected to appear Saturday in an online court hearing on behalf of the proposed members of the action — all people who reside in Ottawa from Bay Street to Elgin Street and Lisgar Street to Wellington Street.


A former Canadian justice minister has also urged the city of Ottawa to turn to the courts to seek an injunction against the protesting truckers for the excessive noise they have endured over the course of the week.


Allan Rock, who served for a decade in cabinet under Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien, said a court order could empower police to remove the protesters.


“The penalty for disobeying a court order, of course, could be contempt of court. So, I think it’s a much more powerful remedy for the police and for the authorities,” Rock said in an interview.


“If you disobey that court order, then it’s up to the court to decide whether that amounts to contempt. And that could result in a range of penalties, including going to jail.”



Source:  Toronto Sun 

Powered by Blogger.