29 Jan 2022, 09:26

Canada truckers head for Ottawa to protest vaccine mandate

MONTREAL, Jan 29, 2022 (BSS/AFP) - Hundreds of Canadian truckers converged
on Ottawa Friday for a major demonstration against vaccine mandates to cross
the Canada-US border.

  Coming from as far as British Columbia on the Pacific coast, the "Freedom
Convoy", as the truckers have named it, has been growing and drawing more
attention in recent days.

  The meeting point for the weekend rally has been set for Parliament Hill,
in the heart of the Canadian capital.

  Since mid-January, Canada and the United States have imposed a Covid-19
vaccine mandate for truck drivers crossing the border between the two
countries, the longest in the world at nearly 5,500 miles (9,000 kilometers).

  The vaccine mandate has been denounced by some truckers, who received an
endorsement from Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, who tweeted on Thursday
"Canadian truckers rule."

  "These demonstrations are national in scope. They're massive in scale.
Unfortunately, they're polarizing in nature," said Ottawa police chief Peter
Sloly Friday.

  He was unable say how many trucks or demonstrators would show up but warned
of "major traffic safety issues" in the capital and asked people to stay off
the roads whenever possible.

  He said organizers of the protest had told police it would be peaceful but
warned that some people may join the movement to "incite hatred and

  Some businesses have already shut their doors for the weekend, local media
said, broadcasting footage of the first trucks arriving near parliament amid
a loud honking of horns. Politicians in the federal capital could also be
targeted, the police chief said.

  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, currently in isolation after a Covid
exposure, defended the vaccination mandate on Wednesday, noting that 90
percent of drivers are already vaccinated.

  He called the truckers headed for the city a "small fringe minority" whose
"unacceptable views" do not represent the majority of Canadians.

  The leader of the Conservative opposition, Erin O'Toole, said Thursday that
he would meet with some of the truckers.

  Some members of far-right groups have made threatening remarks on social
media and urged demonstrators to copy the January 6 assault on the US Capitol
in Washington.

  Canadian police fear that the mobilization of truckers will continue beyond
the weekend.

  The Canadian Trucking Alliance, a major association in the haulage
industry, said the vast majority of Canadian truck drivers are vaccinate and
said it "strongly disapproved" of the gathering in Ottawa.


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