OTTAWA—Federal Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra is asking provinces to use their powers to suspend the commercial licenses or insurance of trucks used in protest convoy blockades in different parts of Canada.
“The provinces have extensive regulatory powers over commercial trucking and road transportation to help end this unlawful occupation and disruptions of commercial trucks, blockading the streets and highways,” Aghabra said at a press conference on Feb. 7.
Alghabra’s remarks were among other pointed comments made by federal cabinet ministers during the press conference focused on the protests in Ottawa and other parts of Canada against COVID-19 mandates and restrictions.
Bill Blair, minister of emergency preparedness, said the federal government is proposing to convene a “trilateral table” with municipal and provincial governments to deal with the protesters.
The press conference came a day after Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson declared a state of emergency in his city on Feb. 6.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau didn’t attend the press conference.
Trudeau went into isolation after testing positive for COVID-19 on Jan. 31. It has been eight days since then, longer than the five-day required isolation period, but the prime minister hasn’t attended Parliament and hasn’t taken questions from reporters virtually on the developing situation in Ottawa.
In a press conference on Jan. 31, Trudeau strongly denounced the protesters, linking them with racism and hatred and saying he wouldn’t meet with them.
Protest organizers say the protests are peaceful. They say they are willing to meet with government representatives, but no one has contacted them so far.
“The first thing they’ve got to do is call us. … We’re sitting here, we’re waiting by the phone,” protest organizer Benjamin Dichter said in a press conference in Ottawa on Feb. 6.
The protest was started by truckers opposed to COVID-19 vaccination mandates for cross-border travel, but has since evolved into a major movement against all COVID-19 mandates and restrictions. Many protesters say they will remain in Ottawa until the mandates are lifted.
During the Feb. 7 press conference, cabinet ministers used strong words against the protesters, linking the demonstration with violence. Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said Ottawa residents “have been effectively held hostage in their own city, blockaded by an angry, loud, intolerant, and violent crowd.”
Liberal MP Yasir Naqvi, who represents Ottawa Centre, even cited an alleged attempted arson incident in an Ottawa building and linked it to the protest, although there is no proof protesters were involved. The case involves many peculiarities, including that the police responded to it only after someone made a social media post about it.
Epoch Times journalists on the ground since the start of the protest say they haven’t seen any visible signs of violence or hatred, and instead have observed scenes of people providing free food, listening to speeches, dancing to music, singing the national anthem, and smiling to passersby.
Protest organizers said during the Feb. 6 press conference that they realize many Ottawa residents are having to endure continuous honking, but said Ottawa is also the nation’s capital, and the lives of many have been ravaged by the pandemic mandates and restrictions, including job loss for those who choose not to be vaccinated.
“The people dealing with the honking, they’re not the only ones that are dealing with the impact of all these mandates,” Daniel Bulford, a former RCMP officer who quit the force because of its vaccine mandate, said at the press conference.