Canada’s Trudeau defends COVID restrictions amid truck blockages – NBC4 Washington
On Wednesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau opposed an easing of the country’s COVID-19 restrictions amid growing pressure from protesters using trucks to block the capital and US border crossings, including the economically vital bridge. to Detroit.
A growing number of Canadian provinces have moved to lift some of their precautions as the omicron surge stabilizes, but Trudeau defended the measures the federal government is responsible for, including one that has angered many truckers: a rule that came into effect on January 1. 15 requiring truckers entering Canada to be fully vaccinated.
“The reality is that vaccination mandates and the fact that Canadians have stepped up to get almost 90% vaccinated has meant that this pandemic has not hit as hard here in Canada as it has elsewhere in the world. Trudeau told Parliament in Ottawa.
The country has been beset in recent weeks by protests against COVID-19 restrictions and against Trudeau himself.
A blockade by people mostly in pickup trucks has entered its third day at the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ont. Traffic was blocked from entering Canada, while some US-bound traffic was still moving.
The bridge carries 25% of all trade between Canada and the United States, and Canadian lawmakers have expressed growing concern about the economic effects.
“They’re basically putting their foot down the throats of all Canadians,” said federal Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair. “They’re cutting essential supply lines.”
In addition, protesters have been blocking the border crossing in Coutts, Alta., for a week and a half, and about 50 trucks remained there on Wednesday. And more than 400 trucks paralyzed downtown Ottawa, Canada’s capital, during a protest that began late last month.
While protesters are calling for Trudeau to be removed, most of the restrictive measures across the country have been put in place by provincial governments. These include requiring people to show proof of vaccination “passports” to enter restaurants, gyms, cinemas and sporting events.
Alberta, Saskatchewan, Quebec and Prince Edward Island this week announced plans to roll back some or all of their precautions, with Alberta, Canada’s most conservative province, immediately dropping its vaccination passport and getting rid of masks at the end of the month.
Alberta Opposition Leader Rachel Notley has accused Alberta Premier Jason Kenney of allowing an “unlawful blockade to dictate public health measures.”
Despite Alberta’s plans to roll back public health measures, the protest continued.
“We’ve got guys here – they’ve lost everything to these warrants and they’re not giving up, and they’re ready to hold on and keep going until it’s done,” said protester John Vanreeuwyk, a feedlot operator from Coaldale, Alberta.
He added: “Until Trudeau moves, we don’t move”,
Regarding the Ambassador Bridge blockade, Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said police did not turn people away for fear of escalating the situation and causing a larger protest. But he added: “We are not going to let this happen for an extended period of time.”
Police said the demonstration involved 50 to 74 vehicles and around 100 protesters. Some of the protesters say they are ready to die for their cause, according to the mayor.
“I’ll be brutally honest: You try to have a rational conversation, and not everyone on the pitch is a rational actor,” Dilkens said. “Police are doing the right thing by taking a moderate approach, trying to reasonably work out this situation where everyone can walk away, no one gets hurt and the bridge can open.
At a press conference in Ottawa that excluded mainstream news outlets, Benjamin Dichter, one of the protest organizers, said: “I think the government and the media are grossly underestimating the determination and the patience of truckers.”
“Abandon warrants. Ditch the passports,” he said.
The ‘freedom truck convoy’ was promoted by Fox News personalities and drew support from many American Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, who called Trudeau a ‘far-left lunatic’ who “destroyed Canada with crazy Covid mandates”.
Pandemic restrictions have been much stricter in Canada than in the United States, but Canadians have largely supported them. Canada’s COVID-19 death rate is one-third that of the United States
About 90% of truckers in Canada are vaccinated, and trucking associations and many large truck operators have denounced the protests. The United States has the same vaccination rule for truckers entering the country, so it wouldn’t make a difference if Trudeau lifted the restriction.
Interim Conservative Leader Candice Bergen told parliament that countries around the world were removing restrictions and noted that Canadian provinces were doing so as well. She accused Trudeau of wanting to live in a “permanent pandemic”.
“A lot of the reasons used before to keep Canadians under restriction are disappearing before our eyes,” she said. “The Prime Minister must put his ego aside. He must do what is good for the country. He must terminate the mandates. He must end the restrictions.
Ontario, Canada’s largest province with nearly 40% of the country’s population, is sticking to what it calls a “very cautious” stance on the pandemic, and the deputy premier said that he had no plans to drop vaccination passports or mask requirements.
Garrett Buchanan drove 10 hours from High Prairie in northern Alberta to join the protest and said he would stay until their demands were met.
“Yeah – until the warrants are dropped, and if they can work to get (Trudeau) out, I would stay longer for that too,” he said.