On Friday, police in Ottawa increased their crackdown on civil disobedience against Covid-related restrictions in the country, arresting nearly a hundred protesters, even as the country’s leading civil liberties organization filed a federal court application seeking to have Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s emergency declared quashed.
As riot police with batons and armed and mounted forces clashed with truckers who have been demonstrating in the city for the previous three weeks, Canada’s capital resembled a war zone.
Although the clash was mostly peaceful, Ottawa police accused several protesters of “assaulting officers” and attempting to “remove officers’ weapons,” while protesters accused mounted police horses of trampling some of them, with videos of mounted police charging at protesters going viral on social media.
“Anyone who fell got up and moved away,” the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) said in response to the accusation. There haven’t been any injuries that we’re aware of.”
Despite the fact that hundreds of police officers and specialized units invaded the city’s downtown center, with reinforcements arriving late into the evening, the OPS repeatedly advised demonstrators to leave, saying that “anyone within the unlawful protest site may be arrested.” Some demonstrators dispersed on their own as a result of this.
Considering the government’s vitriol towards the protestors, the charges leveled against two of the protest’s main organizers on Thursday were unexpectedly light. Chris Barber was charged with mischief, disobedience of a court order, and obstruction of police after being released on bail on the condition that he leave Ottawa and the province of Ontario. Mischief was also filed against Tamara Lich.
B J Dichter, another organizer, said he had left Ottawa and that “de-escalation is necessary & to convey it to law enforcement” in a tweet. I don’t want any of my buddies to end up in jail, and I don’t want any other drivers to get hurt.”
In a statement about the incident respond group meeting, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office said it was “briefed on the comments made this afternoon by the Acting Chief of OPS who stated that the federal Emergencies Act, along with provincial and city emergencies declarations, gave police the tools to properly deal with the demonstration and ultimately bring it to an end.”
Meanwhile, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association is challenging the Emergencies Act, which was triggered on Monday (CCLA). An application for “judicial review” in a federal court has been filed, it stated, “requesting an order quashing the Emergency Proclamation, the Emergency Measures Regulations, and the Emergency Economic Measures Order.”
Despite sitting for many days during the protests, the House of Commons’ session on Friday was canceled even as the emergency declaration was being debated.
As Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland warned reporters, Canada’s economy and democracy were “under a significant and foreign-funded danger.”
“We must not allow these illegal blockades and occupations to usurp the authority of democratically elected governments,” Freeland added.
Candice Bergen, the head of the opposition, said she was “disturbed” and “saddened” by what she saw in Ottawa. “The Prime Minister’s intention to divide Canadians created this crisis. “It’s time for MPs to return to the House tomorrow to put an end to this government’s overreach and restore unity, wholeness, and hope to our country,” she wrote on Twitter.
However, the House of Commons is unlikely to meet again until Monday, according to Trudeau’s office. “The situation in Ottawa led in the extraordinary cancellation of today’s House of Commons sitting and the extending of the Senate of Canada’s adjournment period until February 21 owing to ongoing enforcement actions,” the group said.