Acting on prime minister's Emergencies Act, cops tow trucks, arrest protesters.
Police in Ottawa began arresting participants in the weeks-long protest in Canada’s capital, while tow truck companies, commandeered by authorities under an emergency declaration, began removing trucks that had blocked the city’s streets.
Protests began in late January against COVID-19 vaccine mandates required of truckers hauling goods across the Canada-U.S. border. Another rally blocked the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor, Ontario, and Detroit, which car manufacturers rely on for auto parts. Detroit automakers were forced to slow down operations.
As the protests and blockades continued, demands went beyond halting the mandates to dropping many of the COVID safety measures that authorities have imposed.
But the economic damage, as well as normal daily life for residents of Ottawa, who had to endure the incessant noise of truck horns and the inconveniences of road blocks, led to a harsher government crackdown. This week, Justin Trudeau became the first Canadian prime minister to invoke the Emergencies Act, which allows his government to bar gatherings in certain locations, tow away vehicles, suspend drivers licenses and freeze bank accounts.
“Police made their first move to end the occupation late Thursday with the arrest of two key protest leaders,” the Associated Press reported Friday. “They also sealed off much of the downtown area to outsiders to prevent them from coming to the aid of the protesters.”
In the meantime, sympathetic groups in France and elsewhere attempted to form their own protests.
In the midst of the public unrest, the Catholic Archdiocese of Ottawa spoke out for calm. Archbishop Marcel Damphousse said he would continue encouraging people to get vaccinated but not mandate the shots for people to attend Mass, for example.
“We all want to return to life that resembles our pre-pandemic existence and we want the best for each other,” Fr. Geoff Kerslake, a spokesman for the archbishop told The Pillar February 11. “There are disagreements about the best means to achieve that goal and we need to be patient with one another, really listening to each other’s experience, fear, anxieties and hopes, praying with and for each other, asking for healing, strength and hope from God as we move together through this challenging time.”
According to the website, pastors and parishioners have been split over the protests, with some attending or supporting them, distributing rosaries to protestors, and others opposing them.