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Showdown in Ottawa: “How did we get here?  »


About 170 arrests have been made since police first responded to protesters on Friday, Acting Ottawa Police Chief Steve Bell said Saturday afternoon.

He told reporters that pepper spray was used “to disperse illegal protesters who were resisting police orders.”

Children continue to be brought to the front lines of police operations, Bell said. “It’s dangerous and puts young children at risk.”

Bell warned that those who stick around in defiance of emergency measures are breaking the law – and should know what to expect. The investigations are far from over, he said.

“If you are involved in his protest, we will actively seek to identify you and send you financial penalties and criminal charges,” he said. “We will hold people accountable for taking over our streets.”

Those who remained in the streets cried out for freedom. They took selfies, sang “O Canada” and live-streamed their closeness to the action. Although unprecedented emergency measures signed into law this week by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau make it clear that it is illegal to bring anyone under the age of 18 to an unlawful assembly, some have still brought children.

At the intersection of Sparks and Bank streets in downtown Ottawa, two adults led two children, bundled up in their snowsuits and holding hand-drawn signs in support of the protest, through the crowd to take photos in the police context.

In the past 24 hours, police have taken significant action, reclaiming sections of Wellington Street, where the House of Commons and Senate are located, which had been occupied by large platforms and a disruptive ad hoc encampment for three weeks.

As the police operation continued, MPs were in the House of Commons to debate the use of the Emergencies Act.

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino took part in a Saturday morning press conference in which he defended the use of emergency measures that allow the federal government to temporarily expand police services and give broad financial powers to punish offenders.

“We will only use the Emergency Measures Act for as long as necessary,” he said.

Medicino said the measures allowed authorities to freeze at least 76 accounts associated with the illegal blockages, worth around C$3.2 million.

He did not respond when asked what would happen to the frozen accounts after the emergency orders expire or are revoked. It would be “inappropriate” to comment due to the “operational sensitivity” of a situation that continues to unfold in real time, Mendicino said.

“I want to assure you and anyone watching that this is a tool that is used effectively, to bring about the conclusion of illegal blockades peacefully, quickly, but within the parameters of the charter” , Mendicino said.

In the House of Commons, the Conservatives railed against the government, calling the emergency orders a Liberal takeover and a blatant excess that flouts the rights of Canadians.

“History will not be kind to those who approve of this illiberal power grab,” Tory MP Michael Barrett said during Saturday’s House debate. “That’s not who we are as Canadians.

Beginning of the End: What Took So Long?

A battalion of police – backed by horses, drones, armored vehicles and heavily armed tactical officers – began their push into protesters’ territory early Friday.

Saturday’s clashes between the most determined protesters and police kicked things up a notch from the day before, when both sides generally showed more restraint.

But there were still tense moments in the early hours of the operation.

In one example, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrested a man after he forced his way into an RV being driven by an officer with a shield in one hand and a pistol drawn in the other.

Many people refused to leave their vehicles.

The first wave of police targeted trucks and occupants on the edge of the area. Dozens were arrested and more than 20 vehicles were towed. The police cordon moved methodically through the city center.

The massive, multi-layered push to clear the heart of the capital of hundreds of heavy trucks and protesters produced results almost immediately.

The streets around Parliament Hill had been congested since Jan. 28 with tractor-trailers, recreational vehicles and pickup trucks.

The demonstrators, many of whom had brought their children with them, had turned the parliamentary precinct into a camp. Mess tents were pitched in the middle of downtown streets where protesters served soup, snacks and grilled meat.

For three consecutive weekends, supporters have flocked to the city to join the most dedicated protesters living in parked vehicles.

The crowd sometimes reached thousands around a soundstage set up outside the Prime Minister’s Office. They trucked in portable potties, inflated bouncy castles and even managed to heat up an inflatable hot tub amid freezing temperatures.

While it may have been a non-stop party for protesters, citizens and businesses in downtown Ottawa were moved and outraged: stores and restaurants closed and downtown residents -town were subjected to non-stop truck horns and diesel fumes.

“For 22 days, members of my community have been held hostage by an illegal occupation,” Ottawa Center MP Yasir Naqvi said Saturday morning. “They were harassed, subjected to hurtful and racist symbols and assaults were reported.”

The federal government announced on Saturday that C$20 million will be earmarked to help businesses affected by the illegal lockdowns.

As the massive police operation finally takes over the neighborhoods, residents ask the obvious: “What took so long?”

This is the first of a long list of questions that leaders at all levels will be called upon to answer. And at the top of that pecking order is Trudeau., whose decision to invoke emergency measures adds to a storm of criticism that accuses him of politicizing the pandemic.

Saturday in the House: ‘How did we get here?’

While Trudeau’s orders have been in effect since Tuesday, under the Emergencies Act, debate must be held “without interruption” in both the House of Commons and the Senate.

This procedural quirk under the law allows MPs and senators to debate and possibly change the measures. Parliament has the ability to defeat the government’s motion declaring a public order emergency – an outcome that would effectively revoke Ottawa’s temporary extraordinary powers.

In the House of Commons, centre-left New Democratic Party MP Charlie Angus became existential on Saturday morning during the parliamentary debate on the use of the Emergencies Act.

“How did we get here?” he asked before reading a long list of culprits in the parliamentary file.

It started with the Ottawa Police, Mayor Jim Watson, Canada’s Security Establishment and Facebook. “I blame the prime minister, I blame his failure to stand up and deliver a vision when we needed a vision,” he continued. “I pity [Ontario Premier] Doug Ford who was not on a snowmobile and missed key safety briefings every time.

He accused the federal conservative party of opportunism and condemned its support for leaders of the so-called Freedom Convoy, three of whom were arrested shortly after police intervened Thursday night. “Chris Barber is a vicious racist who likes truckers as long as they’re white. Tamara Lich is a woman who wants to break up our country,” Angus said. country.”

The perimeter doors of the Parliament Hill buildings were locked on Saturday and anyone inside was advised not to leave while the police operation unfolded.

In the House, the debate continued with Conservative MPs accusing the Liberal government of going too far and blaming Trudeau for the deadlock in the streets below.

The Conservatives said from the outset that they would vote against the measure and used every opportunity in the debate to accuse Trudeau of being at the root of the crisis.

“Earlier in 2021, before the protests even started, the Prime Minister branded people who opposed compulsory vaccinations as racists and misogynists, among other epithets,” Tory MP Dane Lloyd said on Thursday at the launch of the debate.

Conservative House Leader John Brassard was outspoken, saying on Saturday the unrest was fueled by a prime minister who engages in identity politics, “cornering, stigmatizing, dividing, calling people racist, misogynists, extremists and asking if we should tolerate these people.”

The minority Liberal government appears to have the support it needs thanks to the NDP, which says the measures are justified in the face of threats posed by the convoy protest.

“They were cheeky about it,” NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said of convoy organizers last week. “They came here to overthrow a democratically elected government. It is a movement funded by foreign influence and it thrives on disinformation. His goal is to disrupt our democracy.

He said the crisis highlights the urgent need for a review of policing in Canada. “Occupiers receive hugs from police while Indigenous and racialized protesters are greeted with the barrel of a gun,” Singh said.

On Saturday, Tory MP Adam Chambers told the House that MPs did not even have enough information to know whether the measures were justified.

“There was no briefing. No secret information was shared,” he said. “Ministers held press conferences and conducted interviews suggesting that terrorists were on the steps of Parliament, but gave no evidence to the House.”

Debate on the Emergencies Act will continue from morning till night until a vote scheduled for 8 p.m. Monday.

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