Anti-Vaccine Protest In Canada Spurs Outrage

(AP) — In a scene at odds with Canadians’ reputation for niceness and rule-following, thousands of protesters railing against vaccine mandates and other COVID-19 restrictions descended on the capital over the weekend, deliberately blocking traffic around Parliament Hill.

Some urinated and parked on the National War Memorial. One danced on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. A number carried signs and flags with swastikas.

In the aftermath of Canada’s biggest pandemic protest to date, the demonstrators have found little sympathy in a country where more than 80 percent are vaccinated. Many people were outraged by some of the crude behaviour.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the Ottawa protesters a “fringe minority” and said they reflected the proliferation of “disinformation and misinformation online, conspiracy theorists, about microchips, about God knows what else that go with the tinfoil hats.”

Trudeau and his family were moved to an undisclosed location during the protest. (Two of his children tested positive for COVID-19, and a test Monday revealed he, too, was infected. He said he is fine and working remotely.)

A smaller but still significant number of protesters remained on the streets on Tuesday, saying they won’t leave until all vaccine mandates and other restrictions are gone. They are also calling for the removal of Trudeau’s government, though it is responsible for few of the measures, most of which were put in place by provincial governments.

Many of the demonstrators refused to wear masks in hotels, malls and grocery stores. One homeless shelter reported protesters had demanded it feed them.

Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly said several investigations are underway and a tip line for hate crimes, threats and assaults related to the demonstration has been set up. Sloly said one person had been arrested in connection with the protest.

The most visible contingent of protesters were truck drivers who parked their big rigs on Parliament Hill. Some of them were protesting a rule that took effect January 15 requiring truckers entering Canada to be fully immunised against the coronavirus.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance has estimated that 85 percent of truckers in Canada are vaccinated.

Meanwhile, police on Tuesday moved to end a protest convoy of trucks and other vehicles that had been blocking a major US border crossing in Coutts, Alberta, since Saturday.

A surge of the highly contagious omicron variant has led to record cases and lockdowns in Ontario and Quebec, Canada’s most populous provinces. Vaccine mandates imposed by the provincial governments remain in place.