By Limin Zhou and Andrew Chen
OTTAWA—Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson has declared a state of emergency due to the trucker protest that continues in the city’s downtown core.
In a brief statement, the city said the decision 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,” the city said in its statement.
Protest organizers say their demonstration is peaceful.
The protest started as a demonstration by truckers against the federal government’s requirement for cross-border truck drivers to be vaccinated, but has since evolved into a large movement joined by people from across Canada to oppose different COVID-19 mandates and restrictions. Vehicle convoys came to Ottawa on Jan. 29, and many have stayed in the city, with trucks and other vehicles parked by Parliament Hill. Many protesters say they will remain until the mandates are lifted.
Sounds of honking horns can be heard throughout the day in the Parliament Hill area, which residents are complaining about.
Protest organizer Benjamin Dichter says people who are unhappy about the honking should be contacting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and ask him to lift COVID-19 mandates.
“To anybody who is annoyed, we apologize. Please call Justin Trudeau, his office, and get these mandates lifted, and we’re out of here,” Dichter said at a press conference in Ottawa on Feb. 6.
Trudeau has refused to meet with the protesters.
Tom Quiggin, who is helping the organizers with “protective intelligence,” said many people across Canada have lost their jobs, homes, and businesses as a result of COVID-19 mandates and restrictions, and they have grievances too, which is why they are protesting in the nation’s capital.
“Let’s remember most of Ottawa is government, huge number of civil servants here. They haven’t missed a paycheque. They’ve got pay raises, some of them have got back pay, most of them are working from home. Some of them who can’t work from home are just doing nothing and still getting paid,” Quiggin said at the press conference.
“So yes, it’s unfortunate that they feel bad about the horns, yes, it’s unfortunate they feel bad about the disruption, but the rest of the country is hurting.”
Daniel Bulford, a former RCMP officer who quit the force because of its vaccine mandate and is now helping the protest organizers, said his children don’t want to play hockey anymore because of the position his family has taken on vaccine issues, as they feel “isolated and alienated.”
“The people dealing with the honking, they’re not the only ones that are dealing with the impact of all these mandates,” Bulford said at the press conference.