Truck drivers in Canada are using their trucks to protest the country’s Covid-19 rules by blocking the main streets in several cities. The largest protest is in the capital, Ottawa, where the mayor has declared a state of emergency.
The organizers call their protest the “Freedom Convoy“. The truckers began coming to Ottawa in late January from all parts of the country. For over a week, they have been blocking streets in the capital, demanding that government leaders meet with them.
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At first, the truckers were protesting a government rule requiring truckers crossing the border into Canada to be vaccinated against Covid-19 or show a recent test. But the protesters have increased their demands. They say they won’t end the protest until the government drops almost all health rules designed to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
The protests raise a difficult question that has come up often during the coronavirus pandemic: how to balance individual freedoms with rules designed to protect everyone.
Though the protests have gotten a lot of attention, the protesters represent a small fraction of Canadians. About 90% of Canada’s truck drivers are already vaccinated, and Canada has one of the highest rates of vaccination in the world. A recent survey reports that about 72% of Canadians support the government’s position on vaccination for truckers crossing the border.
But, as in many countries around the world, a number of Canadians are upset about the rules the national and local governments have made to control the coronavirus. These include rules requiring vaccinations for people in some jobs, or requiring people to wear masks in certain situations.
Other people, also unhappy about coronavirus rules, have joined the protesters. Over the weekend, the truckers’ protest spread to other large Canadian cities, including Toronto and Quebec City. In Alberta, a border crossing into the US is being blocked.
At first, the government allowed the protest to go ahead. But as the protests have continued, and caused bigger problems, the government has struggled to respond. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has refused to meet with the protesters. Still, he says the government won’t use soldiers to force the truckers out.
On Sunday, Ottawa mayor Jim Watson declared a state of emergency, saying the situation was “completely out of control”.
In addition to blocking city streets, protesters are making lots of noise with horns, sirens, and fireworks. In some cases, protesters have threatened local people and shown a lack of respect for important monuments in the area.
Police have had hundreds of complaints about the behavior of the protesters. Many local shops have been forced to close. In the shops that remain open, the owners are having trouble making sure mask rules are being followed.
Ottawa police are now enforcing the laws more strictly in an effort to get the protests under control. But they say they need help to deal with the situation. The police department says it’s spending about $630,000 ($800,000 Canadian) a day to deal with the protest.
Did You Know…?
A group representing the truckers raised about $7.8 million ($10 million Canadian) in donations on a website called GoFundMe. But after paying out about $780,000 ($1 million Canadian), GoFundMe stopped payments to the group. GoFundMe says it can only give money to peaceful protests, and that the truckers’ protest is no longer considered peaceful.
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