Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has come out strongly condemning the behaviour displayed by some participants in the trucker convoy protests that continue in downtown Ottawa, saying he and the government will not be intimidated by them and indicating no plans to engage with the demonstrators.
“Over the past few days, Canadians were shocked and frankly, disgusted by the behavior displayed by some people protesting in our nation’s capital,” Trudeau said during a national address from the National Capital Region.
Downtown Ottawa remains beset by protesters, vehicles and transport trucks, as the “freedom convoy” demonstration presses on, now into its third full day.
“I want to be very clear, we are not intimidated by those who hurl insults and abuse at small business workers, and steal food from the homeless. We won’t give in to those who fly racist flags. We won’t cave to those who engage in vandalism or dishonor the memory of our veterans,” he said, referencing some of what’s transpired over the last few days.
“There is no place in our country for threats, violence, or hatred, so to those responsible for this behavior: it needs to stop,” Trudeau said.
Protesters have spent the weekend calling for the removal of COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other restrictions. Many participants have expressed outrage at the prime minster and a desire to see him removed from office.
While the protest has largely been non-violent, Ottawa Police said Sunday that they have seen “multiple cases of disruptive, inappropriate and threatening behaviour from demonstrators.” Police are also conducting “several” criminal investigations in relation to acts described by police as “desecration” to several monuments.
While Trudeau will be taking part virtually given he tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday, some members of Parliament have arrived to the House of Commons for the first sitting day of the year.
Business got underway in the chamber at 11 a.m. without incident, and with many MPs still participating virtually through the hybrid sitting format. The House of Commons made the decision Sunday that the start of the winter sitting would go ahead as planned despite the elevated security risk to MPs.
Trudeau thanked the security forces and police for their work this weekend, the health-care workers who are watching what’s gone on, and the nearly 90 per cent of truckers who are fully vaccinated.
“The behavior on display this weekend does not represent you,” he said.
The Sergeant-at-Arms sent MPs a memo late Sunday night detailing how those attending in-person can access the House of Commons precinct, recognizing that the ongoing demonstrations “could make it difficult.” MPs were given suggested routes, and told that there continues to be an increased presence of Ottawa police and the Parliamentary Protective Service in the area.
“There is a right to protest, there is a right to make your voices heard loudly and clearly. There is not a right to shut down our democracy, our democratic processes. There is not a right to abuse, intimidate and harass your fellow citizens who are trying to go about their business, trying to live their lives, and [are] not necessarily in agreement with what you are doing,” Trudeau said.