Demonstrators came out again in the nation’s capital on March 26 as a convoy of vehicles from Quebec protesting against COVID-19 mandates drove through downtown Ottawa.
Ottawa police said that it had designated a restricted route to expedite the passage of the convoy and that “multiple road closures with a strong police presence throughout the downtown core” were put in place to limit the vehicles’ movement. Following the convoy’s departure, police said “there are no incidents to report.”
The protest came after more than a month since the Freedom Convoy movement was cleared from downtown Ottawa following escalated police action.
In recent weeks, most provinces have lifted their COVID-19 vaccination mandates and various restrictions. However, the federal government continues to maintain its COVID-19 vaccination requirement, which impacts federal government employees as well as air and train travellers.
The Freedom Convoy movement began as a protest against the federal government’s mandate imposed in mid-January requiring all truck drivers crossing the Canada-U.S. border to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 or face a 14-day quarantine upon return to Canada.
As groups of trucks formed convoys to drive to Ottawa in late January to protest the measure, many supporters from across the country joined the cause, turning it into a national movement against all COVID-19 restrictions and mandates. At the time, many of the protesters said they would not leave Ottawa until all mandates are lifted.
Similar protest convoys formed at several border-crossings across the country, including at the Ambassador Bridge that connects Windsor, Ontario, and Detroit, Michigan.
The federal government invoked the Emergencies Act on Feb. 14 to authorize special temporary measures to clear the protests, using the legislation for the first time since its creation in 1988 as a replacement for the War Measures Act. By then, all but one border-crossing blockade, in Manitoba, had already been cleared.
Police, using batons and pepper spray in some cases to disperse the protesters, made close to 200 arrests in Ottawa. At least two protesters were knocked to the ground by mounted police officers who charged through the crowd, with one of the protesters sustaining injuries and requiring hospital care.
The Emergencies Act also authorized financial institutions to freeze the bank accounts of some of the protesters.
Besides the protest in Ottawa on March 26, several other demonstrations against COVID-19 mandates were held across the country, including in Toronto and Calgary.