About the anti-vax truckers’ protests in Canada

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About the anti-vax truckers’ protests in Canada

  • Canada PM invoked rarely-used emergency powers to crack down on protests inspired from movement against vaccine mandates

Beginning of the protest

  • From January 28 onward, truckers under banner of “Freedom Convoy 2022” began driving into Ottawa.
  • Another group blockaded major highway at Coutts border crossing in Canada’s Alberta province.
  • Protesters in pick-ups blocked international Ambassador Bridge across Detroit river disrupting supply chains and forcing production cuts at major automobile manufacturing units in Detroit.
  • Presently, number of vehicles in downtown Ottawa was down to 360 from about 4,000
  • So-called tailgate party had lost some of its intensity, and other blockades along Canada’s border with the US had been lifted.
  • Chief of Ottawa’s police has warned of arrests and forced evictions, and vowed to “take back every occupied space” in the “coming days”

Changing demands

  • Initial demand: rollback of vaccine mandate was dismissed by critics as pointless because of small numbers of impacted group.
  • Less than 10% of Canadian truckers are unvaccinated
  • Public in Canada supports the government’s measures.
  • Besides, US too has imposed similar vaccination mandate for border crossings.
  • Soon, protests in Ottawa and Alberta started to attract many non-truckers, including those whose businesses had been destroyed by the pandemic, and others who were charged hefty fines for contravening Covid-19 shutdown rules.

Far right presence

  • Some extremist elements started to show up: besides aggressive anti-vaxxers, there were members of far right groups, and Nazi sympathisers.
  • There was violence, and unmasked protesters were reported to have urinated on the city’s National War Memorial and defaced other monuments.
  • They flew Nazi and Confederate flags, harassed local businesses and residents, and raised derogatory slogans against Trudeau.
  • Police recovered numerous firearms and a lot of ammunition from blockade sites in Alberta and Ottawa.
  • Support and funds came from American rightwing groups and conservative politicians.

Echoes elsewhere

  • More than 79% of Canada’s eligible population is fully vaccinated and around 42% have taken booster shots.
  • An opinion poll found that over 54% of the country felt that demands of those participating in protests were wrong and undeserving of sympathy.
  • And yet, protests are spreading.
  • Inspired by Canadian Freedom Convoy, anti-vaccine protesters in several developed nations, including France, New Zealand, the US, Australia, and Germany, have set up their own “convoys”.