CANADA: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called trucker protests across the country “unacceptable.”
In a speech to parliament in Ottawa, he defended the COVID-19 restrictions that have caused truckers to congregate in the nation’s capital.
Meanwhile, Ottawa police has warned protesters that they could be arrested and that a conviction could cost them their jobs.
Protests have been taking place in Ottawa and at two border crossings between Canada and the United States for the past two weeks.
“Blockages, illegal demonstrations are unacceptable, and are negatively impacting businesses and manufacturers,” Mr. Trudeau said on Wednesday.
“We must do everything to bring them to an end.”
Mr. Trudeau returned to parliament on Monday after a week-long quarantine due to COVID-19 infection.
Protests in Canada
Drivers have been obstructing the world’s largest international suspension bridge since Monday, at a border crossing that accounts for roughly a quarter of US-Canada trade.
Trade groups have condemned the closure of the Ambassador Bridge by approximately 100 protesters in their large rigs. The bridge links Windsor, Ontario, and Detroit, Michigan.
Car manufacturers in the region say they have had to reduce production and shift hours due to part shortages caused by the ongoing blockade. According to industry experts, it could result in company layoffs and higher vehicle prices for consumers.
Toyota, the world’s largest manufacturer, has halted production at three Ontario factories, stating that no more vehicles will be produced there this week.
After arriving late last month, approximately 400 trucks are still in central Ottawa. According to police, the protesters could face charges of “mischief to property” because they were interfering with local residents’ “lawful use, enjoyment, and operation of their property.”
“Anyone blocking streets or assisting others in blocking streets may be committing a criminal offence,” according to Ottawa police.
They also stated that if they were convicted of a crime, their vehicles would be seized and they would be unable to enter the United States. In addition, the city’s police force increased penalties for noise, engine idling, and other infractions to C$1,000 ($790, £585) per offence.
The truckers are protesting a rule that requires truckers entering Canada to be completely immunised against coronavirus. Protesters have also spoken out against the COVID-19 passport and mask mandates.
Mr. Trudeau has refused to back down on federal COVID-19 measures, even as provinces begin to ease restrictions.
Alberta, Saskatchewan, Quebec, and Prince Edward Island have all announced plans to remove the majority of mitigation measures this month. Some restrictions are also being eased in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
Mr. Trudeau has faced criticism from within his own party for how he handled the protests, which have occurred as infections from the Omicron variant have decreased significantly.
The Freedom Convoy’s organisers said at a news conference on Wednesday that protesters were “upbeat.” They went on to say that the truckers were resting in order to be “re-energized” for the weekend protests, which they compared to a “festival.”
As of Wednesday, the protesters had raised $7.8 million on the website GiveSendGo after GoFundMe cancelled their fundraiser and began refunding some $10 million in donations.
Republican officials in at least two US states, Texas and Missouri, have launched investigations into GoFundMe in response to the decision.
Protests in Canada have sparked similar demonstrations in countries ranging from Australia and New Zealand to France. A trucker protest in Washington, DC is gaining steam online.