People participating in the trucker convoy that dug into downtown Ottawa over the past week — in what some municipal leaders are calling a “siege” — are not above the law, says the country’s public safety minister.
In an interview with The West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino did not say whether he believes the activities have crossed the line into an occupation.
“This is a convoy about vaccines. Ninety percent of Canadians have gotten vaccinated, including truckers. The convoy can disagree, but they’re not above the law and there should be a peaceful resolution to this as soon as possible,” he said.
Stephenson asked: “Do you think that this is an occupation or do you think it’s still a protest in Ottawa?”
“I think that there are elements that are concerning,” Mendicino said. “Where you see people who are bringing in propane jerry cans, when you hear about people who have been threatened, harassed and assaulted, and where there isn’t law enforcement, then they don’t feel safe.”
“That’s why it’s really important that we see Ottawa Police Service step up the enforcement.”
Ottawa city councillors on the police services board held a special meeting on Saturday evening, when they hammered Chief Peter Sloly over his handling of the situation during the past nine days.
Truckers have been allowed to thrust themselves into the downtown core, setting up infrastructure in Confederation Park, as well as along Wellington Street across from Parliament Hill. Local residents have shared countless accounts on social media about what they describe as assault, harassment, intimidation and death or rape threats from individuals associated with the convoy.
And the noise, throughout the day and night, is deafening.
“We are on day eight of this occupation. Our city is under siege. This group is emboldened by the lack of enforcement by every level of government,” said Diane Deans, chair of the police board.
“This group is a threat to our democracy. What we’re seeing is bigger than just a City of Ottawa problem. This is a nation-wide insurrection. This is madness. We need a concrete plan to put an end to this.”
Deans called the activities of the convoy “terrorism.” City councillors on the board agreed. Then the meeting went in camera to discuss how best to pursue additional federal and provincial resources, including measures in the Emergencies Act or the National Defence Act, and a curfew.
Sloly, who announced on Friday that the police were launching a “surge and contain” strategy with the goal of ending the demonstration, said he could not provide a timeline for an end to it. He said the police service does not have adequate resources do the job.
“We do not have sufficient resources to adequately and effectively address this situation,” he said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Defence Minister Anita Anand have said resorting to the military is “not in the cards” as it is “not a police force.”
Mendicino said there are specific processes in place that the police should use if they feel they alone are not able to enforce the law.
“The military and its purpose are not designed to keep the peace locally in our communities. So it’s obviously a last resort. In the meantime, it’s important that Ottawa police do their jobs on the ground.”