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Trudeau: Ottawa residents need their ‘lives back,’ won’t commit to negotiate with truckers

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the people living in Ottawa deserve to get their lives back, as the so-called “freedom convoy” continues to occupy downtown streets — but he won’t say whether he’s willing to negotiate with the group leading the demonstration.

Trudeau made the comment during a Thursday press conference, as questions arise about what’s next for the protest.

“This is protesting people going about their daily lives, harassing people who dare wear masks or follow public health rules. Expressing hateful approaches, showing hateful symbols of genocide, of racism. These are things that are absolutely unacceptable,” Trudeau said.

“And the people of Ottawa deserve to have their lives back, deserve to have their neighbourhoods back.”
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The protest initially sprung up in response to a federal rule that all Canadian truckers seeking to cross the border from the United States would need to be vaccinated in order to avoid a 14-day quarantine. That mandate went into effect on Jan. 15 — and the United States’ own vaccine mandate for truckers was imposed a week later.

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But as the trucks rolled towards Ottawa, their message became increasingly muddied. Organizers were found to have made hateful comments and one had ties to a hate group. Some participants extended the goal to an end to all public health mandates. Some have called for Trudeau to resign.
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Since the convoy arrived in Ottawa last weekend, some participants have also been accused of harassing residents, bothering Ottawa businesses, and displaying Nazi and Confederate flags.

When pressed on whether he planned to negotiate with these protesters, Trudeau wouldn’t provide a definitive answer — but he did say the idea of bringing in “an alternative government,” which the group Canada Unity suggested in a petition with hundreds of thousands of signatures, is a “nonstarter.”

“The commitment that we made as a government, if we got re-elected, is we would stand by science,” he added.

“We would continue to do what it takes to protect people through this pandemic.”
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Read more: Trucker convoy — Trudeau says protest ‘becoming illegal’ as demands for action grow

Meanwhile, as the protesters continue to blockade downtown city streets, Ottawa police Chief Peter Sloly said Wednesday in a briefing with city council that the prospect of asking for support from the military is not off the table.

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“We’re looking at every single option, including military aid to civil power. I’ve had those discussions with mayor, council members, the board. There is a process extremely well established, extremely well covered, and extremely rare,” he said.

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Trudeau, however, said sending in the Armed Forces is “not in the cards right now.”

“One has to be very, very cautious before deploying military in that situation,” he said.

With a pathway forward unclear, Trudeau said his concern remains focused on one group: the citizens of Ottawa.

“We are there to provide support as necessary with the RCMP, with intelligence services,” he said.

“We know that the people of Ottawa deserve to have their lives back.”

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— with files from Global News’ Craig Lord

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