Organizers of the protest against COVID-19 mandates and restrictions in Ottawa say their role is no longer needed, as the organic movement has now gained momentum, not just in Canada but around the world.
“What started in Western Canada, gathered support across the country, and finally converged in Ottawa, was the first flick of the dominos. The political discourse has now changed and so many groups are sprouting-up all over the country and across the world advocating for the return of freedoms.”
Dubbed the “Freedom Convoy,” trucks began arriving in Ottawa on Jan. 28 and 29 to stage a protest against federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates for truckers travelling between Canada and the United States. It turned into a much larger movement during their cross-country trek after many Canadians from across the country began joining in or voicing their support for ending the various COVID-19 mandates and restrictions.
Following Canada’s lead, trucker-inspired protests began taking place in the Netherlands, Austria, the United States, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.
“We are very grateful to the truckers and volunteers who made this demonstration possible,” said Pawlak and Ditcher. “Without their sacrifice, the public’s voice would continue to be silenced. The Freedom convoy has inspired people around the world to stand up and make their voices heard against senseless government tyranny enabled through the sowing of fear and division.”
On Feb. 14, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act to clear away the protesters who had set up camps and parked trucks and other vehicles in downtown Ottawa. Trudeau said at the time that the move was “about keeping Canadians safe, protecting people’s jobs, and restoring confidence in our institutions.”
“The police will be given more tools to restore order in places where public assemblies can constitute illegal and dangerous activities such as blockades and occupations as seen in Ottawa, Ambassador Bridge, and elsewhere,” he said.
On Feb. 18, law enforcement escalated its operation against the protesters in Ottawa, using riot police who wielded batons and peppy spray. Some police officers were heavily armed, including with anti-riot guns and what appeared to be rubber bullet launchers. Mounted police and officers on foot advanced on demonstrators, with horses knocking down protesters in some instances, while some smashed truck windows to remove truckers from their vehicles.
By mid-morning on Feb. 20, police had made close to 200 arrests and had nearly 60 vehicles towed away. Later the same day, the number of vehicles towed went up to nearly 80.
The Emergencies Act also gave financial institutions the authority to freeze the accounts of protesters and supporters of the Freedom Convoy without a court order.
Attempts to Establish Dialogue Refused
At a press conference on Feb. 19, spokesperson Tom Marazzo said convoy organizers had been trying to establish a dialogue with the federal government since day one when the convoy arrived in Ottawa, but without success.
“Never in my life would I believe anyone if they told me that our prime minister would refuse dialogue and choose violence against peaceful protesters,” he said.
In their press release, Pawlak and Ditcher said invocation of the Emergencies Act against the protesters was “unnecessary” and “will not be forgotten.”
“We expressly condemn the forceful escalation by law enforcement and their evasive tactics used to avoid accountability. The police were not equipped with badge numbers, name tags or body cameras, which are standard in Canadian policing,” they said.
While Ottawa police has continued to call the protest “unlawful,” Pawlak and Ditcher commended the uniformed professionals who stood by them during the protest in Ottawa.
“We continue to be honoured to have so many first-responders and military veterans who make their conscionable stand with us. We further thank the police officers, who, for most of the time we demonstrated in Ottawa, were supportive and kind.”
Lawsuits Against Ottawa
Several lawsuits against the federal government are making their way through the courts. On Feb. 23 following Trudeau’s announcement to revoke the Emergencies Act, both the Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF) and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), which had said on Feb. 17 that they intended to launch legal challenges against the Liberal government, proceeded with the lawsuits.
The reason is that “[Trudeau] still needs to answer in court for his illegal and unconstitutional decision to invoke the Emergencies Act,” CCF litigation director Christine Van Geyn said on Twitter on Feb. 23.
In a press release on Feb. 23, Abby Deshman, director of criminal justice for the CCLA, said the association continues to believe that the Trudeau government did not have sufficient legal basis to invoke the act.
“We also continue to believe that it is important for the courts to consider the legal threshold and constitutional issues so as to guide the actions of future governments,” she said.
Deshman stressed that even though the orders are no longer in force, “Canadians are left with the precedent that the government’s actions have set.”
“We will be consulting with our counsel over the next few days to determine what the next steps are in our litigation, but at this time we will continue our case,” she said.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney also intends to proceed with a court challenge against the Liberal government’s decision to invoke the Emergencies Act (EA).
“Alberta intends to proceed with an application for judicial review of the EA invocation to address this abuse of power,” Kenney tweeted on Feb. 23. “The judiciary must be asked to establish limits on such arbitrary use of extraordinary police powers for the future.”
In addition, former Newfoundland premier Brian Peckford has launched a court challenge to overturn what he believes is the infringement of Canadians’ charter rights. Peckford, the last surviving architect of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, filed a lawsuit against the federal government on Jan. 26 to challenge the constitutional merits of its mandates restricting travel for Canadians without a COVID-19 vaccination.
“This is a culmination of my work to oppose, what I believe is the potential destruction of a very large part of our democracy,” he previously told The Epoch Times. “This is a crucial, historic moment for everybody, to determine whether the Charter of Rights and Freedoms really mean something.”
Pawlak and Ditcher said Freedom Convoy 2022 will always support peaceful activists pursuing the same goals as those of their organization.
“For each new organization that peacefully and lawfully protests for their civil liberties, we extend our full moral support and blessings,” they said.
The spokespersons noted that investigation into the authorities’ actions in Ottawa “will reveal the bad faith and unlawful force used against peaceful assembly.”
They added that what the protest has accomplished will only strengthen the resolve of freedom activists around the globe.
“We ignited a flame that has lit a fire in everyone’s heart, that will never be extinguished,” they said.
“The fight to regain our sacrosanct freedoms continues.”
Andrew Chen contributed to this report.