The federal Minister of Transport hopes that protesters participating in the convoy of truckers supposed to arrive in Ottawa on Saturday will respect the laws. He says he is “sure” that this will be the case.
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“People have the right to protest. It must be peaceful and respectful,” Omar Alghabra said on the sidelines of a virtual press briefing on Wednesday.
“I am sure that the protesters will respect our laws. After all, they stand for law and order, so I expect protesters to obey the law.”
In a press conference later in the day, Justin Trudeau reiterated that his government would not change its mind on the issue.
“Canadians are concerned about their freedom, their rights, yes, and they know that the best way to protect their rights and their freedom is to end this pandemic,” he said. That’s why as a government, as a leader, I remain focused on defending Canadians who have made so many sacrifices over the past few years.”
Opponents of mandatory vaccinations in the trucking industry have created a protest movement that has grown rapidly over the past week.
A fundraiser on the GoFundMe platform linked to the protest has raised nearly $4.5 million, while a Facebook group relaying posts from the convoy of anti-vaccine truckers and their supporters surpassed 630,000 members as of Wednesday .
Since Saturday, January 15, truckers who are not adequately vaccinated must go into quarantine at home upon their return to the country. And since last Saturday, the United States has also been asking for proof of vaccination before crossing the border.
“We recognize the delicate work that truckers are doing” in the context of the pandemic, said Mr. Alghabra.
The Canadian Trucking Association (CCA) denounced the protest earlier this week. She estimates that there would remain about 10% of truckers who have still not received a dose of vaccine against COVID-19.
Several media outlets in Canada noted disturbing rhetoric online from some supporters of the convoy, as some far-right groups reportedly intend to use the massive protest to push their ideas.
Mr. Trudeau deplored this. “The comments made by some of the people associated with this convoy are unacceptable and are unacceptable to the vast majority of Canadians,” he said.
Elect Randy Hillier, a former Conservative who ran with the People’s Party of Canada (PPC) in the last election, called Minister Alghabra a “terrorist” in a recent tweet.
“Unfortunately, I am no stranger to personal attacks which are perhaps linked to my origins. I try to avoid commenting on this, but I want to say that there are millions of Canadians of Muslim, Jewish and other visible minorities who face attacks every day, some more subtle than others. This is unacceptable”, commented Mr. Alghabra.
One of the organizers of the convoy to Ottawa, Tamara Lich, said in a video on the Facebook group that violence and intimidation are not part of the message that the demonstration wants to convey.
“If you see any participants on your way behaving badly, acting aggressively or inciting violence or hatred, please write down the truck and license plate number so that we can forward them to the police,” she told the camera.
Randy Hillier also claims that the mandatory vaccination of truckers would lead to stockouts in grocery stores, an idea promoted by many Conservative MPs.
Mr Alghabra called the claim “irresponsible”. “They are trying to instill fear and panic in Canadians,” he said.
Stéphane Lacasse, director of public affairs and government relations for the Quebec Food Retailers Association (ADAQ), explained in an interview that grocery stores in Quebec have not yet seen a visible impact from Ottawa’s policy. at member grocery stores.
However, he does not exclude that it could happen.
“Perhaps in the coming weeks, if there is a shortage of truckers to go to the United States, it is sure that it can have medium-term impacts. […] For the moment, we see it less,” said Mr. Lacasse.