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Ottawa declares state of emergency as Freedom Convoy protests disrupt capital

Ottawa police say they will arrest people who aid protesters

Freedom Convoy protesters in Ottawa. (Photo by Nate Tabak/FreightWaves)

The Freedom Convoy protests initiated by truck drivers in Canada’s capital have led Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson to declare a state of emergency for the city.

Watson made the announcement Sunday after the weeklong protests continued to disrupt Ottawa’s central area.

The statement released by the mayor’s office said: “Declaring a state of emergency 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. 

“It also provides greater flexibility within the municipal administration to enable the city of Ottawa to manage business continuity for essential services for its residents and enables a more flexible procurement process, which could help purchase equipment required by frontline workers and first responders.”

How much impact the declaration makes remains to be seen.

A New York Times report indicated that the measure “is largely symbolic. It did not give the city’s police any additional power to move several hundred trucks and personal vehicles off the streets near Parliament, and provincial regulations limit the city to acting within its current laws when dealing with the demonstration.”

But a tweet by the Ottawa police on Sunday declared that those attempting to help the protesters extend their stay with gas and other materials will be subject to arrest.

Ottawa police said Sunday night that it has made multiple arrests and seized vehicles as the demonstration continues. More than 60 criminal investigations have been initiated to investigate allegations of mischief, theft, hate crimes and property damage. 

The Freedom Convoy movement that began in late January against a Canadian vaccine requirement for cross-border truckers has evolved into a protest against public health measures and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government.

But as the movement spilled onto different cities, the reasons for the protests changed. In a FreightWaves article last week, truck drivers complained that their initial message has been drowned out by protesters focused on other issues, such as grievances against the Canadian government over health care cuts.

Reuters reported that Trudeau, isolating after testing positive for COVID-19 last week, “has ruled out using the military to disband the protest. Due to security concerns, Trudeau and his family left their downtown home last weekend and his location has not been disclosed.”


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Joanna Marsh

Joanna is a Washington, DC-based writer covering the freight railroad industry. She has worked for Argus Media as a contributing reporter for Argus Rail Business and as a market reporter for Argus Coal Daily.