Federal ministers blast Ottawa protesters seeking to join opposition ‘coalition’ 

By Mike Blanchfield and Jim Bronskill

THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA- Most Canadians may be frustrated with COVID-19 but they don’t share the extreme views of the anti-vaccine mandate protesters who have choked the Canadian capital for over a week, federal cabinet ministers said Tuesday.

“Canadians would be troubled with anyone that associates or attributes themselves to the extreme statements that have been made by the purported leaders of this convoy that would seek to incite the overthrow of the government through violence,” Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said.

“Most Canadians understand that there is a difference between being tired and fatigued with the pandemic, and then crossing into some other universe in which you’re trying to set up a parallel structure.”

Mendicino and Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair said at a news conference they acknowledge the frustrations of the vast majority of Canadians with the pandemic and its many restrictions.

But Blair said that broader frustration is not the same as the “threats of violence, the intimidation, the symbols of hatred and intolerance that have been on display, even quite frankly some of the delusional pontifications of people who think that they are perhaps more fit to take over the government.”

Mendicino and Blair were responding to the comments from a self-declared spokesman for the anti-vaccine mandate protest clogging Ottawa who said late Monday night he wants to form a “coalition” with the Conservatives, NDP and Bloc Quebecois.

The declaration by Tom Marazzo came at an event at an Ottawa hotel that was streamed online and widely shared on social media.

Marazzo did not explain how an unelected person could sit with elected lawmakers and form a democratic government.

Marazzo said he had “an ample amount of support and a lot of people that seem to want me here, and I’m not going home until the job is done,” and that he was not advocating violence. But he added, in comments apparently aimed at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: “He’s got a 22-calibre mind and a 357 world.”

The remarks follow a memo pushed by organizing group Canada Unity that unlawfully demands Gov. Gen. Mary Simon and the Senate force federal and provincial governments to lift all COVID-19 restrictions, including vaccine mandates. It was initially sent to the Senate and Simon on Dec. 11 and did not mention truckers, despite the protest ostensibly being about a vaccine mandate for cross-border truck drivers.

Mendicino also offered what appeared to be a thinly veiled warning at some Conservative politicians who have expressed support for the protesters.

“I sincerely hope that we’re all watching very carefully, those within our politics, who are embarking upon that because it is a very troubling path, one that I would discourage all of my colleagues to really  embrace,” he said.

“What began as an interruption is now an occupation: flagrant expressions of hate or harassment, and even violence towards the residents of Ottawa.”

Mendicino and Blair were giving an update following a late Monday meeting between federal and Ontario ministers with Ottawa’s mayor to find solutions to end the standoff.

They were joined by Ontario government officials, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and city officials.

The meeting came after Watson sent a letter to Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford on Monday asking for another 1,800 police officers in addition to his current contingent of 2,100 police and civilian members to “quell the insurrection” in Ottawa.

“We need to see a fast and peaceful resolution to the convoy, and we will continue to keep open lines of communication, working with the city, working within all levels of government to get that done,” said Mendicino.

Demonstrations in the central core are costing Ottawa about $1.8 million to $2.2 million per day for police alone. Watson has said the city is keeping a tally of all extraordinary costs associated with the protest and will seek compensation from higher levels of government when the protest finally ends.

Ottawa’s city council voted Monday to formally petition the federal government to assume responsibility for public safety in the parliamentary precinct to free up Ottawa officers to return to protect residential neighbourhoods.

The letter to the federal and provincial governments came as an Ontario judge granted a 10-day injunction to prevent protesting truckers from honking their horns incessantly, which residents have argued is causing irreparable harm.

Meanwhile, a Liberal MP called broke ranks with his government on Tuesday for what he says is its divisive management of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Joel Lightbound told reporters that federal COVID-19 measures need to be re-evaluated and the public needs a clear road map for when restrictions will be fully lifted. He said that includes vaccination mandates for travellers and civil servants,

Lightbound said he is worried the Liberal government under Trudeau has set a tone and policies that are divisive and risk undermining public trust.

Blair, Mendicino and Liberal whip Steven MacKinnon declined to comment directly on the comments made by Lightbound, saying they wanted to speak with him first.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 8, 2022.

 

Add Your Voice

Is there more to this story? We'd like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Contribute your voice on our contribute page.