Senior Canadian officials hit back Monday at high-profile U.S. Republicans who have voiced support for the self-described “Freedom Convoy,” as the group continued to block traffic in downtown Ottawa in protest of vaccine rules for cross-border truckers.
Responding to some of those critics Monday, Canada’s public safety minister, Marco Mendicino, said: “We’re Canadian. We have our own set of laws. We will follow them.”
The demonstrations began in late January after Canada and the United States imposed a new rule requiring cross-border truck drivers to be fully vaccinated to enter their respective countries. Since then, the protests have grown into a broader condemnation both of pandemic-related measures and the government of recently reelected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as far-right extremists, conspiracy theorists and anti-government activists have joined their ranks.
In what Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly characterized as a “siege” of the downtown areas, protesters have used big rigs and cars to block crucial traffic arteries, with horns blaring throughout the day. Ottawa police said they have launched 60 criminal investigations, issued hundreds of tickets, towed vehicles and made at least 20 arrests since Friday. National monuments have been desecrated and businesses forced shut over security concerns. A state of emergency was announced for the city Sunday.
Calling Trudeau a “far left lunatic,” Trump said in a statement Friday that “insane covid mandates” are destroying Canada and urged the convoy to come to Washington to protest the United States’ public health measures.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, both Republicans, tweeted over the weekend that their states would investigate GoFundMe after the fundraising platform said it was removing the fundraiser, citing information from law enforcement that "that the previously peaceful demonstration has become an occupation, with police reports of violence and other unlawful activity.”
ButMendicino shot back Monday, saying: “It is certainly not the concern of the Texas attorney general as to how we in Canada go about our daily lives in accordance with the rule of law.”
“We need to be vigilant about potential foreign interference. … Whatever statements may have been made by some foreign official are neither here nor there,” Mendicino said during a news briefing.
Similarly, Canada’s emergency preparedness minister, Bill Blair, said Monday: “We’re all entitled to an opinion, and in my opinion, [Paxton] is wrong.”
Trudeau, whose government has become the convoy’s target, wrote on Twitter that Canadians have the right to protest. “But let’s be clear: They don’t have the right to blockade our economy, or our democracy, or our fellow citizens’ daily lives,” he said. “It has to stop.”
The anti-public health sentiments expressed by the Freedom Convoy participants in Ottawa are being amplified in other parts of the world. For example, participants of the “Convoy to Canberra” spent last week demonstrating against Australia’s vaccine mandates. Police in the capital warned residents Monday that protest activities may increase this week and disrupt traffic and public spaces.
A similarly inspired convoy of cars and campervans blocked streets around the New Zealand Parliament on Tuesday. And rallies are being organized in Europe, as opponents to public health measures rush to plan in various Telegram channels.
In Alaska on Sunday, more than 100 truck drivers gathered in Anchorage and rallied to show support for the Ottawa protesters, according to the Anchorage Daily News. The city’s Republican mayor, Dave Bronson, and U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) reportedly attended the event.