Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson has declared a state of emergency in the city amid the ongoing protests against COVID-19 vaccine mandates, the city administration said. The current wave of protests against COVID-19 measures in Canada started when thousands of demonstrators gathered in Ottawa expressing strong opposition to vaccine mandates for truckers crossing the US-Canada border.
“Declaring a state of emergency 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,” the City of Ottawa announced on Sunday. According to a press statement, the state of emergency is to provide “greater flexibility” within the city administration to maintain the work of essential services and help purchase the necessary equipment for first responders and frontline workers.
Earlier on Sunday, Watson said that the ongoing protests are “the height of irresponsibility and criminal behaviour”. He added that city residents and local businesses are suffering because of the major disruptions the truckers and protesters are causing. “The situation at this point is completely out of control,” the mayor said, slamming the “outrageous behaviour by these individuals who think this is a big party and a big joke.”
Meanwhile, on Saturday, the premier of Canada’s most populated province of Ontario, Doug Ford, called protests against COVID-19 restrictions in the Canadian capital the “occupation.” “Regarding Ottawa, the occupation, it is not a protest any more, it has become an occupation; it is only hurting families, it is ruining businesses, but these folks are supposed to be supporting…” Ford said during a Friday virtual conference with Canada’s premiers. Ford urged protesters to put an end to the rallies.
Ontario is “so close to getting back to normal,” the premier said when commenting on the situation with coronavirus restrictions. He added that rights for protests are guaranteed, but the “occupation” is “unacceptable.” “Any harassment or acts of hatred or acts of violence will have zero tolerance,” Ford said.
The ongoing “Freedom Convoy” protests have been generally peaceful. However, dozens of criminal investigations have been launched into a series of incidents and at least seven people have been arrested in the capital city. Large-scale protests against COVID-19 measures began in Ottawa on January 29. The demonstrators called for cancellation of all restrictions and vaccination. Police have launched several criminal investigations against protesters.