The federal government has proposed cross-jurisdictional meetings to respond to the trucker protests while urging Ottawa police to take control of the occupation of the downtown core, which encompasses the Parliament buildings.
Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair and other ministers held a news conference Monday to say a “trilateral table” will be set up with the Ontario government and the City of Ottawa to co-ordinate actions to help re-establish order.
Mr. Blair said “it is well past the time to bring the protest to an end.” But he laid responsibility at the feet of the Ottawa Police Service.
“Let me clear: It is not the role of any government to direct law enforcement operations. It is the responsibility of the police of jurisdiction and in this case the Ottawa Police Service to maintain public order and uphold the rule of law.”
Mr. Blair, a former Toronto police chief, said Ottawa police have the resources to manage the siege, noting the RCMP and the Ontario Provincial Police have provided extra officers and money.
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The RCMP have provided 275 agents, and the OPP have sent 100 officers.
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra also suggested the Ontario government should suspend the commercial licences of truckers involved in the protests.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not make himself available for questions, but Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said Mr. Trudeau has been getting regular briefings.
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino and Mr. LeBlanc ducked questions about whether they would stop the foreign funding of the protests, as proposed by Mark Carney, a former governor of the Bank of Canada and the Bank on England. All Mr. Mendicino would say is that Canada has strong laws to prevent people from contributing to an effort to undermine public safety or national security.
“If some of the sources of those funds are beyond our borders, then obviously we would want to be looking at that very, very carefully,” he said.
In an opinion piece published in The Globe and Mail Monday, Mr. Carney, who is also seen as a Liberal leadership contender, deplored the way the authorities have handled the occupation.
“The goals of the leadership of the so-called freedom convoy were clear from the start: to remove from power the government that Canadians elected less than six months ago,” he wrote. “This is sedition. That’s a word I never thought I’d use in Canada. It means incitement of resistance to or insurrection against lawful authority.”
Mr. Carney said this “blatant treachery was dismissed as comic” and was not taken seriously by our public safety authorities, who allowed the convoy’s entry into the heart of our capital and watched as its “dangerous infrastructure has been steadily reinforced – a policy of engagement that has amounted to a reality of appeasement.”
The former banker said Ottawa must choke off the money that is financing the occupation.
“Canadian authorities should take every step within the law to identify and thoroughly punish them. The involvement of foreign governments and any officials connected to them should be identified, exposed, and addressed,” he wrote.
Some Conservative MPs are starting to condemn the protests even as the core of the party caucus defends the occupation by truckers and their supporters, whose demands include an end to all pandemic restrictions.
Over the weekend Alberta MP Greg McLean was the latest Tory to call for an end to the protests, after Quebec MP Pierre Paul-Hus condemned them late last week and Conservative Senator Dennis Patterson quit the caucus over its support for the demonstrations.
“I support law and order. These illegal blockades must end now,” Mr. McLean said on social media Sunday.
In a previous post, he called “shame” on what he said was unbalanced media coverage that focused on racist symbols at the protest. “Honestly, without the trucks lining the street and honking, it would be a winter carnaval [sic] kind of day,” he said in that post.
On Sunday he said he “did not intend to minimize the gravity of the situation by comparing aspects of it to a winter carnival. … This is a very serious matter.” He then called on the federal government to “show leadership” and outline a path forward.
Mr. Paul-Hus said last week that the streets should be cleared to “stop this occupation controlled by radicals and anarchist groups.”
But the party’s most prominent MPs continue to support the truckers. Interim Leader Candice Bergen described the protesters as “passionate, patriotic and peaceful” and called on Mr. Trudeau to extend an “olive branch” to the demonstrators.
In the House of Commons Monday, she accused Mr. Trudeau of hiding and urged the government to lift all federal vaccination mandates.
Government House Leader Mark Holland said Ottawa is following the advice of public-health experts and accused the Tories of playing incendiary politics. He pointed out that the U.S. also requires truckers crossing the border to be fully vaccinated.
Mr. Trudeau has not commented recently on the protests, which over the weekend became larger and more intense and include an allegation of attempted arson.
It is now Day 11 of the protests, which are blocking several streets in the downtown core. Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson described them as “out of control” and declared a state of emergency Sunday.
The Conservatives are “emboldening” the protesters and “clearly evoking” Trumpian language, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Monday as he called for an emergency debate in the House of Commons on the occupation and the possible next steps. Mr. Singh also accused Mr. Trudeau of being absent on the issue.
He said the protests are unprecedented, adding that the hundreds of other demonstrations Parliament Hill has seen have not been marked by “rampant examples of harassing of citizens, of verbal assaults, physical assaults, of charges being laid by the police.”
Ottawa-area Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre, who is running to become the party’s permanent leader, last week described the protesters as “bright, joyful and peaceful Canadians” who were “championing freedom over fear on Parliament Hill.”
Former Conservative leader and current MP Andrew Scheer has also come out in support of the protests.
On Saturday Alberta MP Rachael Thomas wrote an op-ed in the Toronto Sun explaining why she supports the demonstrations. “It is an honour and a joy to walk among and converse with those who have gathered on Parliament Hill from all corners of our country,” she wrote.
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