Trudeau: No plans for military response to COVID protests
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says a military response to the ongoing Ottawa protest against COVID-19 measures is "not in the cards right now."
Trudeau says one must be "very, very cautious" about deploying troops on Canadian soil, adding there has been no such request.
Ottawa police Chief Peter Sloly had said this week that all options are on the table, including calling in the military, to end the ongoing demonstration that was being called an "occupation" by some on the city council.
Thousands of protesters railing against vaccine mandates and other restrictions descended on the capital over the weekend, deliberately blocking traffic around Parliament Hill. Police estimate about 250 remain as of Thursday.
Ottawa residents have complained that police haven’t ended the demonstration, with some telling media outlets that the continuous barrage of horn noise in residential areas is unbearable. Sloly said Wednesday, "There is likely no policing solution to this."
Sloly also said that there is a "significant element" of the protest’s funding and organization coming from the United States.
GoFundMe has suspended a page that raised more than $10 million Canadian to cover the cost of fuel, food, and lodging for truckers participating in the event. GoFundMe says the fundraiser is under review.
A police update on Thursday morning said officers are actively patrolling residential areas to address traffic issues and would use automated licese plate readers to identify infractions such as stolen license plates and suspended or unlicensed drivers.
Police have filed criminal charges against three people, including one accused of making threats on social media. They have also issued traffic charges for unnecessary noise by honking of horns, transporting insecure fuel cans, and other traffic offenses.
Police have asked the public to help identify a woman seen dancing on the Tomb of the Unkown Soldier during the protests and say they are also investigating incidents of protesters urinating on the National War Memorial and allegedly demanding meals from a soup kitchen.
The protest originally began to show opposition to a requirement that truckers crossing the border be vaccinated. The U.S. has the same requirement.
The demonstrators have found little sympathy in a country where more than 80% are vaccinated. Trucking industry groups, who have distanced themselves from the protests, have estimated that 85% or more of truckers are vaccinated.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called the protesters a "fringe minority" and said they reflect the proliferation of conspiracy theories and misinformation. The issue of how to handle the protest has also split the Conservative Party, which ousted its leader Wednesday.