Ottawa declares state of emergency over 'serious danger' posed by anti-mandate protest

Police in Ottawa.
(Image credit: Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson declared a state of emergency on Sunday in response to the anti–vaccine mandate protest roiling Canada's capital, saying this declaration "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."

Watson told CBC News that the state of emergency "gives our staff and our city a few extra tools to speed things up like procurement. We're in the midst of a serious emergency, the most serious emergency our city has ever faced, and we need to cut the red tape to get these supplies available to our police officers and to our public works staff."

The protest was organized by a group calling itself the Freedom Convoy, and is against the requirement that cross-border truck drivers receive COVID-19 vaccinations. The demonstration began 10 days ago, and Ottawa residents have complained of truck horns blaring at all hours and verbal and physical altercations with protesters. Ottawa police said there are 97 criminal investigations now underway, and 11 are related to hate crimes. So far, four people have been charged.

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Diane Deans, a city councilor and chair of the Ottawa Police Services Board, said on Saturday that "this group is emboldened by the lack of enforcement by every level of government." Ottawa police later announced that anyone bringing "material aid" to demonstrators, like fuel, could be arrested.

In addition to being against the vaccine mandate for drivers, many of the demonstrators are also protesting public health measures put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19 and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. CBC News reports that the protesters still in Ottawa say they won't leave until all COVID-19 restrictions are lifted; most of the policies were introduced by provinces.

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