The City of Ottawa declared a state of emergency on Sunday after over a week of trucker convoy demonstrations in the nation’s capital against COVID-19 restrictions.
Mayor Jim Watson made the announcement in a press release issued late Sunday afternoon.
“Declaring a state of emergency reflects the serious danger and threat to the safety and security of residents posed by the ongoing demonstrations,” the statement read.
“It highlights the need for support from other jurisdictions and levels of government.”
A state of emergency will provide “greater flexibility” for the City to deliver essential services to residents and to acquire equipment for frontline workers and first responders, according to the statement.
The trucker convoy arrived in Ottawa on Friday Jan. 28 from across the country. It has since parked itself in the downtown core in protest against government COVID-19 measures, including a vaccine mandate for cross-border truckers and the requirement to wear face masks inside businesses.
Over the past week, the demonstrations have been criticized for loud honking and harassment of residents, businesses as well as media covering the events. Global News has found connections between the organizers and extremist elements in Canada.
During the first weekend, protesters placed a sign and an upside-down Canadian flag on a statue of Terry Fox and were recorded jumping on a World War II memorial.
A $10 million lawsuit has been filed by a private citizen against the organizers of the rally and up to 60 truckers for the honking. The lawsuit claims it is “excruciatingly loud” and has been disruptive to residents.
Similar protests have popped up in cities across Canada, but police measures have resulted in them dissipating rather than staying in place as in Ottawa.
Protesters have called for the appearance of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is currently isolating after testing positive for COVID-19. They have stated their intention not to leave Ottawa until COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted.
Trudeau said Thursday that involving the military was “not in the cards” at the moment, while Defence Minister Anita Anand tweeted then that “the Canadian Forces are not a police force.”
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“As such, there are no plans for the Canadian Armed Forces to be involved in the current situation in Ottawa in a law enforcement capacity,” she said.
Organizers raised over $10 million from a GoFundMe campaign that has since been cancelled, with the funds returned to donors. The company said the protest is now an “occupation” and has violated its terms of service.
The chair of Ottawa’s police board Diane Deans and Ontario Premier Doug Ford echoed that description, with Deans going as far as saying that Ottawa is “under siege” and a “nation-wide insurrection” is occurring.
Ottawa Police began issuing more tickets related to the protest, saying Sunday that over 450 have been given since Saturday morning for offenses such as excessive noise, use of fireworks and other traffic violations.
Canada’s Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino told The West Block’s Mercedes Stephenson that there are elements of the demonstrations that “are concerning.”
“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,” he said.
“That’s why it’s really important that we see Ottawa Police Service step up the enforcement.”