Trucker Protest Over COVID Vaccines: Trudeau Declares National Emergency in Canada – CNET

Trucker Protest Over COVID Vaccines: Trudeau Declares National Emergency in Canada – CNET

Why are truckers blocking roads in Canada

Trucks in Canada’s capital, Ottawa.

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The Ambassador Bridge, which connects Windsor, Ontario, to Detroit, has been reopened after Canadian truckers protesting COVID-19 vaccine requirements blockaded the major international crossing for almost a week. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergency Act on Monday to strengthen support for law enforcement. 

“The blockades are harming our economy and endangering public safety,” he said at a news conference. “We cannot and will not allow illegal and dangerous activities to continue. The time to go home is now.”

Trudeau said the measures will allow the police to administer fines and imprison offenders, as well as secure critical places and infrastructure. This is the first time in half a century that the Canadian government has used the emergency powers

Calling themselves members of a “Freedom Convoy,” demonstrators across Canada set out in late January to protest the country’s vaccine requirements. Their presence in the country’s capital, Ottawa, has led to disturbances, including truck horns blaring night and day and alleged property damage and hate crimes

The protest hasn’t accomplished its goal of stopping vaccine requirements in the country, but it has put stress on supply lines between Canada and the US. It’s also inspired similar protests against pandemic restrictions in other countries around the world, including New Zealand, Australia and France. There are also plans for a demonstration in the US in March. 

COVID-19 vaccines are safe and highly effective at preventing hospitalization and death, and public health measures like masking and social distancing have helped slow the spread of the virus. The dangers of the illness are clear. To date, more than 900,000 people in the US have died of COVID-19, according to data from Johns Hopkins University

Both Canada and the US agreed to vaccination requirements last October for truckers going back and forth across the border. A vast majority of Canadian truck drivers have already been vaccinated, leaving a small but vocal minority of a few hundred truckers behind this convoy. They’ve been joined by people outside the industry who are opposed to vaccine requirements.

Here’s what you need to know. 

How did this protest start?

Last October, the Canadian and US governments established a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for truckers crossing the border between the two countries. It was set to take effect on Jan. 22 for the US and Jan. 15 for Canada. Drivers of commercial vehicles who didn’t show proof of vaccination would be barred entry. 

A group called Canada Unity protested the requirement and raised funds on the crowdfunding site GoFundMe for a cross-country convoy in mid-January. According to Sky News, the group’s founder is a “supporter of the QAnon conspiracy theory” and has called for Trudeau to be “put on trial for treason over his COVID policies.”

Protesters departed from Prince Rupert, British Columbia, on the west coast of Canada, with a plan to travel across the country to Ottawa. They have since demanded that the Canadian government stop the vaccine passport, contract tracing programs, vaccine mandates and divisive rhetoric. 

On Jan. 22, the Canadian Trucking Alliance came out against the protest, saying that interfering with public safety isn’t the way to demonstrate disagreement with government policies. 

“The Government of Canada and the United States have now made being vaccinated a requirement to cross the border. This regulation is not changing, so as an industry, we must adapt and comply with this mandate,” CTA president Stephen Laskowski said. “The only way to cross the border, in a commercial truck or any other vehicle, is to get vaccinated.”

The Canadian Trucking Alliance also said a vast majority of truckers were already vaccinated, and Trudeau has said almost 90% of truck drivers in the country are vaccinated, according to Global News. 

The convoy reached Ottawa on Jan. 29 with an estimated 300 to 400 trucks, along with hundreds more passenger vehicles and thousands of participants. Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly said Monday that 3,000 trucks entered the city.  

What happened when the convoy reached Ottawa? 

Protesters parked trucks across the city and set up encampments. While the number of protesters has decreased, as of Feb. 14 there are still vehicles in parts of the city. 

In the almost two weeks since they arrived in Ottawa, protesters have organized multiple demonstrations. Though some continue to be focused on the vaccine requirements, the protests have reportedly grown to include various far-right and anti-government causes. 

The CTA has said many of the protesters “have no connection to the trucking industry and have a separate agenda beyond a disagreement over cross border vaccine requirements,” according to M Live. 

There’s also a significant showing of adherents of QAnon, the right-wing conspiracy theory that believes the bogus notion that former US President Donald Trump led a secret war against a cabal of Satanist pedophiles within the Democratic Party and Hollywood. 

On Feb. 5, Ottawa’s police department said on Twitter that it’s received hundreds of calls for service since the demonstrations started, with more than 50 offenses being investigated, including hate crimes. 

Truckers blared their horns day and night during the demonstration. On Feb. 7, an Ontario Superior Court judge granted a 10-day injunction to stop the horns, after a proposed class-action lawsuit for $98 million was filed over the constant honking.

After the convoy reached Ottawa, other protests across the country kicked off, including blockades of bridges between the US and Canada. This caused automaker factories in and around Detroit to curtail operations due to lack of parts. US President Joe Biden’s administration has been in talks with the Canadian government to end these blockades.

On Friday, Ontario declared a state of emergency due to the trucker protest. And on Saturday, police began clearing truckers from the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ontario, that’s key to the automotive supply chain. The Alberta Royal Canadian Mounted Police reported Monday it found handguns, long guns and a large quantity of ammunition, resulting in 11 arrests at one of the blockades that was cleared. 

What was the controversy with GoFundMe?

As word spread about the trucker protest, its GoFundMe campaign grew substantially. The campaign had reached nearly $8 million when the crowdfunding site pulled the plug. 

A statement from GoFundMe on Feb. 4 explained the decision to stop the “Freedom Convoy 2020” crowdfunding campaign, citing multiple instances of crimes being committed. 

“We now have evidence from law enforcement that the previously peaceful demonstration has become an occupation, with police reports of violence and other unlawful activity,” the company said in its statement. 

GoFundMe said such activity goes against its terms of service, which prohibits the promotion of behavior that supports “hate, violence, harassment, bullying, discrimination, terrorism, or intolerance of any kind.”

Initially, GoFundMe said it would donate the funds from the campaign to charities approved by the campaign organizers, while providing a refund to people who requested one. Then on Feb. 5, it updated its statement, saying that due to donor feedback, it would automatically refund all donations made. 

Organizers of the protest moved their campaign to the Christian crowdfunding site GiveSendGo, which is reportedly a safe haven for far-right figures looking to raise money online. The trucker protest has since raised more than $8.6 million. 

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice granted a request Thursday to freeze the distribution of donations made through GiveSendGo. Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey submitted the application to the court to prohibit the distribution of funds, citing a section in the province’s criminal code. 

On Sunday, GiveSendGo was reportedly hacked and more than 92,000 donors’ information was leaked online. According to screenshots shared online, a hacker left a message on the front page of the site saying, “On behalf of sane people worldwide who wish to continue living in a democracy, I am telling you that GiveSendGo itself is frozen.” 

As of Monday, GiveSendGo is still down, saying it is conducting maintenance on the site. 

Is a trucker protest coming to the US? 

More protests could happen, though it isn’t yet clear exactly how they’d take shape. 

A memo from the US Department of Homeland Security sent Feb. 8 to law enforcement agencies warned of a possible convoy starting at the Super Bowl in Los Angeles on Sunday and making its way across the country to Washington, where Biden is scheduled to give the State of the Union address on March 1. 

On Monday, however, there were no reports of a similar protest happening in LA during the big game. 

On Thursday, Fox News host Tucker Carlson said on his show that there’s a plan for a cross-country convoy to happen in March. 

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