Ottawa’s police chief resigned on Tuesday amid criticism over his department’s inaction in the face of trucker protests that have paralyzed Canada’s capital for more than two weeks, a federal government official said.
Hundreds of truckers’ shock demonstration against the nation’s COVID-19 restrictions — and Police Chief Peter Sloly’s failure to break the siege early on — has infuriated many Ottawa residents.
The government official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked extraordinary emergency powers to try to end the occupation there and across the country. Across Canada and beyond, the question for the next few days will be whether this will work.
Canada’s Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said it’s time the police started using their broad powers under Canada’s Emergencies Act, which allows the government to ban blockades and to start towing the trucks.
“We need law enforcement to take the reins, use the emergency law and enforce it,” he said Monday night after Trudeau announced he was invoking the law. “We have given new powers to the police and we need them to do the job now.”
Government leaders have not indicated when or where the crackdown on the so-called Freedom Convoy will begin. Mendicino said they are still working out the final details on where no-go areas will be.
The government will be able to prohibit blockades at border crossings, airports and Ottawa; freezing truckers’ personal and corporate bank accounts and suspending their licenses; and targeting crowdfunding sites that are used to support blockages.
It can also force tow trucks to move large machinery out of intersections and neighborhoods. So far, some towing companies have been reluctant to cooperate because of their support for truckers or fear of violence.
Since late January, protesters in trucks and other vehicles have blocked the capital’s streets and obstructed border crossings, denouncing vaccination mandates for truckers and other COVID-19 precautions and condemning the government. Trudeau Liberal.
Trudeau’s decision came amid growing frustration with government inaction and a day after Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrested 11 people at the blocked border crossing in Coutts, Alberta, across from Montana, and seized a cache of firearms and ammunition.
“What the operation revealed is that you have a very small, hard core and ideologically driven core,” Mendicino said.
The Minister of Public Security said the nation could no longer tolerate disruptions and threats.
“We have been lucky so far, there has been no mass violence,” he said.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford, whose province includes Ottawa and Windsor, the site of a now-dissolved blockade at the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit, said: “Hopefully the police in the next few days, hopefully more early, will be able to move.
Ford said the siege in Ottawa is complicated by the presence of children in the protest. “They have kids there. We don’t want anything to happen to the kids. Bring your kids home,” he said.
The busiest and most important border crossing, the Ambassador Bridge, was reopened on Sunday after police arrested dozens of protesters. The nearly week-long siege that had disrupted car production in both countries.
Authorities also said traffic was moving again at the Pacific Highway border crossing south of Vancouver. RCMP said officers ordered protesters out on Monday night and several were arrested.
One of the organizers of the protest in the capital vowed on Monday not to back down in the face of government pressure. “There are no threats that will scare us. We will hold the line,” Tamara Lich said.
The protests drew support from right-wing extremists in Canada and were cheered on in the United States by Fox News figures and conservatives like Donald Trump.
In recent weeks, authorities have been reluctant to act against protesters, in some cases citing understaffing and fears of violence.
The protests have inspired similar convoys in France, New Zealand and the Netherlands. US authorities have said truck convoys may be in preparation in the United States.
Gillies reported from Toronto. Associated Press writer Ted Shaffrey in Ottawa, Ont., contributed to this report.