Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will do “whatever it takes” to crack down on protesters blocking streets in Ottawa and passages along the U.S.-Canada border.
Trudeau held a series of meetings with opposition leaders, cabinet officials, and others about ongoing “Freedom Convoy” protests that have effectively shut down Ottawa’s downtown as well as the Ambassador Bridge, a key international trade route connecting Michigan and Canada. Trudeau’s office released a statement Thursday evening announcing that the prime minister is considering all options to break the protests.
“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau convened the Incident Response Group on the ongoing illegal blockades taking place across the country that are threatening trade, jobs, the economy, and our communities. He was joined by ministers and senior officials who are actively engaged and working closely with provincial and municipal governments, and who are assessing the requirements and deploying all federal resources necessary to help them get the situation under control,” the statement said.
“The group committed to continue providing federal resources to support enforcement efforts in Ottawa where the occupation has significantly disrupted local residents’ lives, impacting businesses and families with harassment, threats of violence, and vandalism. They reiterated that the federal government has and will continue to respond to all requests for appropriate support and resources,” it continued.
“The Prime Minister and ministers will continue to work closely with all orders of government and local authorities to respond with whatever it takes to help provinces and municipalities end the blockades and bring the situation under control. The government’s top priority remains keeping people and communities safe, and defending jobs, trade, and our economy,” the statement concluded.
Freedom Convoy protesters have demonstrated and blocked streets in downtown Ottawa in defiance of Trudeau’s vaccine mandates and other COVID-19 restrictions. The protesters have called for restrictions to be eased and Trudeau himself to step down. The protest has continued for roughly two weeks while Trudeau has publicly denounced the protesters and refused to meet with any protest leaders.
Trudeau has taken backlash from within his own party in recent days over the Canadian government’s handling of COVID-19. At least two Liberal MPs have hit Trudeau and called for a plan to loosen restrictions and put Canada on the path back to normality after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think there lies the frustration. They feel there is no appetite from our government to adapt so as to reflect the changing data and the changing reality of the pandemic of the world,” Liberal MP Joel Lightbound said in a press conference Tuesday. “They’re worried that measures which ought to be exceptional and limited in time are being normalized with no end in sight, like vaccine passports, mandates and requirements for travelers.”
“I think it’s time to stop dividing Canadians, to stop pitting one part of the population against another. I can’t help but notice with regret that both tone and the policies of my government changed drastically on the eve and during the last election campaign,” he said. “From a positive and unifying approach, a decision was made to wedge to divide and to stigmatize. I fear that this politicization (of) the pandemic risks undermining the public’s trust in public-health institutions. This is not a risk we ought to be taking lightly.”
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