Canadian PM, family shifted to secret location amid protests: Reports
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family have been moved to a secret location from their home in capital Ottawa due to security concerns as a large-scale protest gathered on Parliament Hill on Saturday. The protest--dubbed "Freedom Convoy"--broke out opposing COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other public health restrictions, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported. Reportedly, the protesters were mostly truck drivers.
Why does it matter?
- Canada has one of the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the world.
- However, about 15% of truckers in Canada--which is about 16,000--are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to an estimate by Canadian Trucking Alliance.
- Meanwhile, Canada's Opposition Conservative lawmakers have supported the protest, saying the vaccine mandate has created a bottleneck for supply-chain, leaving store shelves empty in the country.
Trudeau is not at his home: Report
As per reports, Trudeau and his family are no longer at their home, Rideau Cottage. Notably, Trudeau's residence is roughly four kilometers from the epicenter of the protest. However, his itinerary, which lists the city where he is staying, confirmed that he's in the "national capital region." Trudeau is also in isolation after one of his children tested positive for COVID-19.
What do we know about the protests?
The protest was reportedly started against a vaccine requirement for cross-border truckers. However, it gradually grew into a large demonstration against the Trudeau government's coronavirus regulations. Protesters--including kids, elderly and disabled people--were seen carrying signs with aggressive and obscenity-laced rhetoric directed mostly at Trudeau. Protesters gathered on the grounds of the National War Memorial were also seen dancing on the Tomb of Unknown Soldier.
Canada's top soldier condemns dancing incident
"I am sickened to see protesters dance on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and desecrate the National War Memorial...Generations of Canadians have fought and died for our rights, including free speech, but not this," Canada's top soldier General Wayne Eyre said.
This behavior is beyond reprehensible: Defense Minister
Meanwhile, the dancing of protesters at the war memorial has also prompted a sharp reaction from Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand. Anand condemned the incident, saying this "behavior we're seeing today is beyond reprehensible." "The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and National War Memorial are sacred sites for our country. I urge all Canadians to treat them with solemnity," Anand added.
Police are on high alert
Police are on high alert for possible violence as protesters flooded into the parliamentary precinct, despite an extreme cold warning. Separately, organizers of the protest are also urging the crowd to be peaceful. Nearly 10,000 people were expected to be participating in the protest by day's end, police said. Reportedly, police did not have an official estimate of the crowd's size by Saturday evening.
Trudeau expressed apprehensions that protest might turn violent
On Friday, Prime Minister Trudeau also told the media that he was concerned the protest would turn violent. However, he added that the convoy represented a "small fringe minority" who "do not represent the views of Canadians."