With the trucks and protesters gone, what’s next for Ottawa?
With protesters who blocked their roads and disrupted life in Ottawa for three weeks and the Russian invasion of Ukraine was underway, attention was drawn to the blockade of the Canadian capital by truck drivers and other protesters who fought the pandemic. measures were rejected. But by the time the protests are over, its impact remains city to city and much remains to be resolved in the aftermath.
As the snow fell on Friday morning, two police posts were still present in the city. The first line, about four blocks south of Parliament Hill, was for the most part open to traffic and pedestrians. But the police officers, who were mostly from the Ontario Provincial Police, were seated in the cruiser, apparently standing when the situation changed. All roads into Wellington Street, the street which was the focal point of the protest, are blocked by long, steel fences, creating a barrier between the rest of the city and the parliamentary district, which includes the National War Memorial.
Although the fence will be removed at some point, it increasingly appears that traffic may never make its way along Wellington Street again. The Ottawa City Council voted this week to ask employees to shut down cars and trucks until at least the end of the year, while the mayor and councilor both proposed the closure, saying it could be permanent. . The city’s mayor Jim Watson also wants the federal government to take control of the street, which is lined with only its own buildings, with the exception of a church. Such a move would simultaneously make policing and security a problem for the federal government, rather than the responsibility of the local police.
Even as many shops and restaurants have reopened after being closed for three weeks, a less than inviting atmosphere, parking restrictions and constant transit disruptions mean very few people are around to patronize them. Were.
Even before the successful police crackdown last weekend, the federal government pledged 20 million Canadian dollars to businesses that had closed or lost business during the protests. But there’s an important catch: Claims are limited to $10,000.
Sarah Chaunce, managing partner of Metropolitan Brasserie, a large restaurant near Parliament, said the blockade was putting her business at risk when I interviewed her at the height of the protests. She now anticipates that federal relief will only cover her electricity and insurance bills for the period. It said on Friday that it hoped the province of Ontario would also step in to assist.
Those who lost wages during the blockade, including an estimated 1,500 workers at the Rideau Center shopping mall, cannot find anything close to what they lost. The main event they qualify for only provides up to 300 Canadian dollars for each week they are forced to stay at home.
In addition to adding bills related to its blockade to present to the federal and provincial governments for reimbursement, the city of Ottawa will also have to figure out who will lead its police force after resigning – mid-protest – as chief. Peter Slowley. Although the reason for his departure was never made clear during the police crisis, it followed a growing resentment among many in Ottawa for what they perceived as an overly slow and bland response to the situation. His successor is to be selected by the Police Services Board, which on 16 February left or removed many of its members by the council.
Federal politicians will also focus on the police campaign that ended the occupation as they review Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision on February 14, an unprecedented move in Canadian history. Among other things, the announcement allowed the government to allow banks and other financial institutions to freeze accounts linked to protest organizers and protesters, who jammed the streets with their trucks, cars and pickups. Those accounts began reopening at the beginning of the week, except for accounts blocked by specific court orders.
[Read: Canada Ends Its Freeze on Hundreds of Accounts Tied to Protests]
Although the House of Commons approved Mr Trudeau’s decision after an emergency debate, the Senate was in the middle of its deliberations about the declaration when the prime minister declared that the need for emergency powers had ceased. Members of the Conservative caucus, many of whom were at least initially prominent supporters of the protesters, are likely to continue to criticize Trudeau’s decision to introduce special measures, which they argue was an unnecessary redundancy during the parliamentary postmortem. . emergency law. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is also challenging the move in court.
At all of this, of course, there is the question of whether more protesters in trucks will again join Ottawa or other communities where they appeared this month and whether the blockade was the start of a larger political movement.
Tamara Licht and Pat King, two of the most prominent organizers of the protest, were denied bail this week. When I visited one of the small groups of trucks and protesters east of Ottawa earlier in the week, the mood was mainly subdued. A man who said he was an organizer declined to discuss the group’s plans before ordering me and a photographer to go.
Along with my Mexico City-based colleague Natalie Kittroeff, who came to Ottawa to help our team cover the protest, I wrote a story looking at what the protest could be like. The consensus of the experts we spoke with is that the protesters, which show many Canadians to be isolated, had failed to convert the energy built up in three weeks into a clear political force.
Many of the large populations of people with Ukrainian heritage in Canada, a demographic that I include, are watching the Russian invasion carefully. Dan Bilyfsky wrote of a particularly close relationship with Ukraine’s Chrystia Freeland, deputy prime minister and one of the most vehement critics of Russian President Vladimir V. Putin.
Diana Beresford-Kroger, a medical biochemist who lives in Merrickville, Ontario, and an activist against climate change, fighting for what remains of the world’s great forests and what is already cut down is rebuilding. Cara Buckley writes that her efforts “included cultivating a plantation of rare and hardy specimens of Noah’s Ark that could best withstand a hot planet.”
Inspired by protests in Ottawa, another demonstration has been dug up in New Zealand, some 9,000 miles away.
Emil Francis, once known as “The Cat”, was a goalkeeper from North Battleford, Saskatchewan who rebuilt the New York Rangers as coach and general manager during the 1960s and ’70s. He died at the age of 95.
A native of Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has reported about Canada for The New York Times for the past 16 years. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrausten.
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