Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called for an end to the disruptive demonstrations in Ottawa after trucks blocked roads to protest vaccine mandates – but acknowledged that “everyone is fed up of this pandemic”.
Protesters have caused traffic chaos by paralysing the downtown streets of the Canadian capital – while the daily lives of residents’ have been disrupted with reports of incessant beeping and harassment.
Returning to a heated session of parliament on Tuesday after isolating due to COVID, the Canadian prime minister denounced the protesters’ tactics.
“Just a short time ago, we had an election in this country where we asked Canadians how they wanted to keep fighting this pandemic,” Mr Trudeau said.
Everyone is fed up with this pandemic. Especially our workers on the front lines. We owe it to them to keep listening to science and supporting each other. pic.twitter.com/cgzmGpsEEh
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) February 9, 2022
“Their answer was clear. Canadians chose vaccines. They chose science. They chose to protect one another. Canadians know that is how we get back to the things we love.”
The Liberal Party leader added that the people of Ottawa “deserve to have their safety respected and deserve to get their lives back”.
He said that the blockade and protestors “are not the story of this pandemic” and that most Canadians had “stepped up to be there for one another” in sticking to the rules.
Mr Trudeau also called on the Conservative party to “be consistent and in here and out there call to an end of these protests”.
However, interim Conservative leader Candice Bergen urged him to end pandemic restrictions instead of the rallies over vaccine mandates for cross-border truck drivers.
She said: “Conservatives believe that living with COVID means opening up and ending the mandates, and I believe there are some liberals who believe the same thing. So will the prime minister follow the science, end the lockdowns and let Canada once again be the true north strong and free?”
Her comments come as other Canadian politicians have raised concerns about the economic effects of the protests after the busiest border crossing between the US and Canada became partially blocked.
Public safety minister Marco Mendicino said the blockade at the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, prevented traffic from entering the country while some US-bound traffic was still moving.
He called the bridge “one of the most important border crossings in the world” as it carries 25% of all trade between Canada and the US.
Mr Mendicino added: “Most Canadians understand there is a difference between being tired and fatigued with the pandemic and crossing into some other universe.”
Meanwhile, Canadian transport minister Omar Alghabra said such blockades will have serious implications on the country’s economy and supply chains.
“I’ve already heard from automakers and food grocers. This is really a serious cause for concern,” he said.
Despite the crossing delays, auto parts and other goods were still flowing across the border on Tuesday evening.
However, trucks were forced to travel almost 70 miles north to the Blue Water Bridge connecting Sarnia, Ontario, to Port Huron, Michigan, with reports of a nearly three-hour delay for trucks to cross.
Protesters also closed another important US-Canada border crossing in Coutts, Alberta.
Centred in Ottawa, the daily protests staged by the Freedom Truck Convoy have used hundreds of parked trucks to shut down parts of the capital for more than 10 days.
Demonstrators have said they will not leave until all vaccine mandates and coronavirus restrictions are lifted.
One member of Mr Trudeau’s Liberal Party, Joel Lightbound, criticised his leader for dividing the nation and said his government needs to create a road map for when COVID measures should be lifted.
“It is time we stopped dividing people, to stop pitting one part of the population against each other,” Mr Lightbound said on Tuesday.
Mr Trudeau acknowledged that everyone is “tired” of COVID-19 and that the restrictions will not last forever. He also noted that Canada has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world.
“This government has been focused every step of the way on following the best science, the best public health advice, to keep as many people as safe as possible. Frankly, it’s worked,” he said.