Ottawa police say they have arrested two men after investigations related to protest against public health restrictions in the capital city, while organizers of the convoy are threatening to stay “for as long as it takes” for governments across the country to end COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
Police say 37-year-old Andre Lacasse was charged on Sunday with carrying a weapon to a public meeting, while 29-year-old Matthew Dorken was charged Tuesday with mischief under $5,000.
Ottawa residents frustrated with the incessant blare of truck horns, traffic gridlock and harassment by some protesters have questioned how police have handled the demonstration.
Police and city officials have stressed the need to avoid inflaming the situation in a way that could prompt serious violence.
Canada Unity, the group behind the convoy, originated during the 2019 pro-pipeline convoy to Ottawa but morphed into an anti-COVID-19 restriction protest after the pandemic began.
In a statement released Wednesday, one of the convoy leaders said the responsibility for Ottawa’s hardships during the protest rests on politicians who “prefer to vilify and call us names” instead of engaging with them.
“The fastest way to get us out of the nation’s capital, is to call your elected representatives and end all (COVID-19) mandates,” wrote Chris Barber, described in the news release as a senior convoy leader.
Barber said the protesters’ interactions with police have been “mostly positive,” especially with front-line officers.
Tamara Lich, a spokesperson for the convoy, also said in the statement that organizers were surprised by the number of people who showed up in Ottawa.
She also said they plan to stay.
“It was a bit overwhelming at first from a logistical point of view, but we are now well organized and are settling in, until Canada is a free nation again,” she said in the written statement.
Police estimate they have spent roughly $800,000 per day to supervise the protest and respond to emergencies, and there are calls for some of the millions of dollars raised in support of the demonstration to make reparations for some of the actions of those involved.
Police Chief Peter Sloly is expected to provide a public briefing to the Ottawa city council and police services board on the situation Wednesday afternoon.
The Private Motor Truck Council of Canada cited the desecration of the National War Memorial and the Terry Fox statue downtown, as well as the harassment of servers and patrons of the Shepherds of Good Hope homeless shelter. The council suggests Canada Unity make a donation to the Terry Fox Foundation, the Royal Canadian Legion and the Shepherds of Good Hope.
On Tuesday, the House of Commons passed four unanimous consent motions introduced by the Liberals, including to condemn the use of Nazi and antisemitic symbols, anti-Muslim rhetoric and the waving of racist flags.
The fourth motion effectively called on the House to declare there is nothing peaceful about the protests that harass residents of Ottawa, particularly those who identify as LGBTQ.
—Laura Osman, The Canadian Press