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Canada will not use troops against truckers' blockade, more protests planned

Canada will not use troops against truckers' blockade, more protests planned

FILE PHOTO: Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference about Canada's military support for Ukraine, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, January 26, 2022. REUTERS/Blair Gable/File Photo

OTTAWA: The Canadian government will not use troops against truckers whose nearly week-long protest of vaccine mandates has brought traffic in central Ottawa to a halt, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday (Feb 3).

More than 200 trucks and other vehicles have been blockading downtown roads in the nation's capital since last Friday in what is an unprecedented protest by Canadian standards.

Organisers say drivers plan to hold similar protests in Toronto and Quebec City later this week.

Ottawa residents are angry that local police are largely watching the demonstrations rather than moving in to break them up. The city's police chief on Wednesday indicated guns were being smuggled into the protest and said using the military was an option, but Trudeau dismissed the idea.

"There is no question of sending in the army," he said.

Some demonstrators want an end to a federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate for cross-border truckers while others insist Trudeau be removed from power on the grounds he exceeded his authority.

A few people on Ottawa streets have brandished Nazi flags, harassed minorities and threatened reporters.

"That is unacceptable. It's time for these people to go home," Trudeau told reporters.

Ottawa police, who have made just three arrests so far, issued 30 traffic tickets on Wednesday.

The truckers are planning protests later this week in Toronto, Canada's largest city, and Quebec City amid growing frustration about almost two years of restrictions imposed to fight COVID-19.

Quebec premier Francois Legault said authorities would not tolerate any mayhem. Quebec mayor Bruno Marchand told a radio station that "there are lessons to be learned from Ottawa".

Trudeau's Liberals look set to benefit politically from the protests, which have split the official opposition Conservative Party. Legislators ousted leader Erin O'Toole on Wednesday, citing his poor performance in an election defeat last September and his initial, lukewarm support for the protests.

Former Conservative leader Andrew Scheer and other Parliamentarians later posed with truckers, a move Ottawa mayor Jim Watson branded "an absolute disgrace".

Former Conservative cabinet minister Chris Alexander said he was ashamed by the "disgraceful and inexcusable" acts by some legislators.

Trudeau dismissed the idea he be ousted a few months after winning a third consecutive election against the Conservatives.

"Having a group of people who disagree with the outcome of an election who want to ... bring in an alternative government is a non-starter in a responsible democracy," he said.

Source: Reuters/ec

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