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Trudeau says there are no plans to call in military to end Freedom Convoy protest

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Arindam Shivaani/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters Thursday that there are no plans to deploy the Canadian military to end anti-vaccine mandate protest in Ottawa.

“One has to be very, very cautious before deploying military in situations engaging Canadians,” said Trudeau, who has fiercely criticized the protesters as a "small fringe minority."

"This is not something we're looking at right now. There is no question of sending in the army," he emphasized.

The prime minister said that the Canadian government will take seriously formal requests to have the military step in to end the protest but added that so far no such requests have been made.

“As of now there have been no requests, and that is not in the cards right now," he said.

According to Reuters, more than 200 trucks and other vehicles have formed a blockade in Ottawa's downtown area since last Friday, when a "Freedom Convoy" descended on the Canadian capital to demand an end to COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

Thousands have protested peacefully, with some calling for Trudeau to step down from power.

Trudeau has condemned the protests, accusing some of the demonstrators of promoting hatred and racism.

“Over the past few days, Canadians were shocked and frankly disgusted by the behaviour displayed by some people protesting in our nation’s capital,” the prime minister said Monday at a news conference.

“I want to be very clear: We are not intimidated by those who hurl insults and abuse at small business workers and steal food from the homeless. We won’t give in to those who fly racist flags. We won’t cave to those who engage in vandalism or dishonour the memory of our veterans.”

News coverage of the protests in Canadian media has referred to the gridlock in Ottawa as an "occupation." There are also claims that "far-right activists" have joined the demonstrators and espoused hateful views toward Muslims, Jews, and other people groups.

Images circulating on social media show some demonstrators with flags depicting a Swastika and other hate symbols.

Ottawa police are also investigating after the National War Memorial was desecrated by some of the demonstrators.

The vast majority of protesters who have spoken to the media say they are not racist, sexist, or otherwise hateful and are simply there to protest for their freedom.

“To anyone who joined the convoy but is rightly uncomfortable with the symbols of hatred and division on display: join with your fellow Canadians, be courageous and speak out – do not stand for or with intolerance and hate,” Trudeau said on Monday.

Although there have been allegations of some protesters acting violently, Ottawa police say they've mostly issued traffic tickets and only one person has been criminally charged as of Wednesday, CTV News reported.

Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly has said the city is looking at "every single option" to end the demonstration, which has disrupted city life downtown.

"I am increasingly concerned there is no policing solution to this," Sloly said Wednesday. "And that other solutions are going to have to be considered well beyond my ability to dictate."

He named a court injunction or forced removal of the protesters, negotiations, and military assistance as possible means by which to end the protest.

The leaders of the "Freedom Convoy" insist that the protest will continue for "as long as it takes" for the government to end all COVID-19-related mandates. In a statement, they said they had "empathy" for Ottawa citizens who are "bearing this inconvenience" of the protest.

"The responsibility for your inconvenience lies squarely on the shoulders of politicians who have prefer to vilify and call us names rather than engage in respectful, serious dialogue," Chris Barber said.

"The fastest way to get us out of the nation's Capital, is to call your elected representatives and end all C-19 mandates."

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