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Vaccine mandate opponents across Canada met by counter-protesters, heavy police presence


People opposed to COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other public health measures are demonstrating across Canada on Saturday, with some organizers saying protesters will remain there until the federal government lifts all pandemic restrictions.

Municipal officials and police, meanwhile, say they have worked to ensure the protests remain peaceful and away from legislative buildings and hospitals.

Protesters in a convoy of trucks and cars have paralyzed Ottawa’s downtown core and rattled nerves with constant blaring of horns since they arrived in the capital about a week ago.

Since learning of plans to escalate the protest, police forces have developed strategies designed to maintain order, public safety and access to critical buildings.

Here’s what’s happening across Canada on Saturday:

Ontario

A major intersection in downtown Toronto was blocked by trucks as part of the demonstration in the provincial capital.

Protesters also gathered a couple of blocks away on the north lawn of Queen’s Park, which is at the back of the provincial legislature building. Police had closed other roads in the downtown to most traffic to ensure access to hospitals near Queen’s Park.

WATCH | Trucks block major Toronto intersection: 

Vaccine mandate opponents across Canada met by counter-protesters, heavy police presence

Trucks block downtown Toronto intersection amid protests

Thousands of people in Toronto protested on Saturday against COVID-19 measures and vaccine mandates amid a significant police presence. 2:52

A 22-year-old man was arrested and charged on the north side of Queen’s Park, near the Ontario Legislature, with assault with a weapon, administering a noxious substance — a smoke bomb — and public mischief.

Some trucks were met by counter-protesters, who tried to hold up their progress. 

Additionally, a couple of hundred health-care workers and their supporters marched from the University of Toronto to what’s known as Hospital Row, just south of Queen’s Park.

Vaccine mandate opponents across Canada met by counter-protesters, heavy police presence
Demonstrators hold up signs in support of health-care workers at a rally outside the Toronto General Hospital. (Chris Helgren/Reuters)

In Ottawa, the crowd downtown has grown by thousands heading into Saturday.

Some protesters appear to have settled in, with bouncy castles, barbecues, wooden shacks and piles of food and fuel appearing in downtown streets and nearby parks. An encampment has gone up at Confederation Park, including a wooden shack, a large stockpile of wood and a tent.

Despite warnings by police, a crowd of counter-protesters gathered in front of Ottawa city hall, with people carrying signs with such slogans as, “Bullies Go Home” and “We are not Afraid.”

WATCH | Ottawa protesters set up structures as demonstrations continue: 

Vaccine mandate opponents across Canada met by counter-protesters, heavy police presence

Ottawa protesters set up saunas, bouncy castles as demonstration continues

Protests against COVID-19 measures continued in Ottawa on Saturday, even as demonstrations faced financial uncertainty and increasing frustration from local residents. 5:11

Elsewhere, dozens gathered in downtown Thunder Bay. Organizers stated their opposition to vaccine mandates and told participants that racism or other hatred would not be tolerated, saying it was “a family event.” 

In Waterloo, authorities closed roads and set up barriers with dump trucks and police vehicles ahead of a planned protest. An online poster for the event circulating on social media appears to show a convoy route map that would have circled uptown Waterloo, roughly the same area closed by police.

In Sudbury, protesters did a slow roll of cars and trucks through the city on Saturday. The event, which featured about 150 vehicles, was peaceful.

In London, a procession of vehicles made its way to city hall. The convoy clogged traffic and filled the city with loud honking.

Alberta

An ongoing blockade impeding travel to the United States border entered its eighth day on Saturday.

Protesters at the border town of Coutts are staying put, after a plan made earlier this week to vacate the site and head north to a protest in Edmonton was scrapped.

On Saturday, RCMP issued a statement on Twitter saying it appreciated those individuals at the border protests who are having their voices heard in a “lawful way,” while adding it had “several open investigations underway.”

Elsewhere, Calgary police said around 1,500 protesters gathered at Central Memorial Park. There is also a large police presence in the area.

The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees said extra security was in place near the Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre in anticipation of that protest. Protesters previously blocked the ambulance bay, and harassed workers and patients accessing the centre, said union vice-president Bobby-Joe Borodey.

Calgary police were also monitoring a convoy of vehicles making its way around the city’s roadways, adding there were around 80 vehicles participating.

Vaccine mandate opponents across Canada met by counter-protesters, heavy police presence
A number of vehicles drove in a convoy around Calgary roadways on Saturday as part of protests against Canada against COVID-19 vaccine and public health mandates. (Helen Pike/CBC)

In Edmonton, blaring truck horns echoed throughout downtown for a second consecutive weekend and several hundred people of all ages gathered on the Alberta Legislature Grounds.

A tent there was set up with a sound system that, at one point before speeches began, was playing an anti-COVID-19 song. But many other demonstrators — some coming from the blockade in Coutts, Alta. — set up on 109th Street.

Traffic was clogged for blocks in both directions, while people cheered from the sidewalks, waving signs and flags.

Vaccine mandate opponents across Canada met by counter-protesters, heavy police presence
People wave flags as trucks pass in Edmonton on Saturday. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Alberta Sheriffs, the agency responsible for safety and security on the Alberta Legislature Grounds, are there at all times and will work with partner agencies to respond accordingly to the protest and calls for service, a spokesperson for Alberta Justice and Solicitor General told CBC News.

Some law enforcement vehicles were already stationed at certain junctions, including near the Legislature.

Quebec

Trucks and smaller vehicles poured into Quebec City from across the province to take part in the protest, joining others who have been rolling in since Thursday evening. 

Rows of vehicles drove by the National Assembly on Saturday honking their horns. Many of them were flying Canadian and Quebec flags.

A crowd of protesters also converged in front of and around the National Assembly. The crowd, which included some families with children, cheered and waved signs calling for the end of public health restrictions. 

Vaccine mandate opponents across Canada met by counter-protesters, heavy police presence
Demonstrators converge at the Quebec National Assembly in Quebec City on Saturday. (Mathieu Belanger/Reuters)

Quebec City police (SPVQ) expanded the range of off-limit areas throughout the day as crowds grew. The SPVQ had emphasized that nobody is allowed to camp or take shelter — including staying in campers or trailers — near the National Assembly or other public places. 

A small group of counter-protesters was also was in the area around the National Assembly, some of them encouraging drivers to honk if they have been vaccinated.

British Columbia

Vancouver police made five arrests Saturday as thousands took to the streets to protest pandemic mandates and restrictions, and counter-protesters tried to block their movements.

The Vancouver Police Department said Saturday morning that counter-protesters met the anti-mandate convoy on Terminal Avenue and traffic was at a standstill as of 11 a.m. PT. As a result, the convoy split into multiple routes through the city and did not thin out until around 6 p.m. PT, according to police.

Vaccine mandate opponents across Canada met by counter-protesters, heavy police presence
A counter-protester blocks a convoy of trucks in Vancouver on Saturday. (Jennifer Gauthier/Reuters)

Vancouver police said in a release Saturday evening that, “while most protesters were peaceful, some had to be arrested for violent behaviour and unlawful conduct.”

Five arrests, for mischief, were related to either the main protest or the counter-protest after police responded to rocks and eggs being thrown, cars being kicked, and nails being strewn on roadways.

There was a similar protest in Victoria outside the B.C. Legislative Assembly, and Victoria police asked people to avoid the area until about 5 p.m. PT.

Manitoba

Protests continued Saturday with police saying traffic on Broadway, near the Manitoba Legislature in Winnipeg, was now down to one lane in either direction.

Earlier, police said they arrested and charged a man accused of hitting four men with his SUV before speeding away on Friday night. The men were participating in a protest against pandemic restrictions.

A man driving a white Jeep heading west plowed through a group of protesters on the legislative grounds, hitting four men at about 9:50 p.m. CT, Const. Rob Carver said at a news conference on Saturday.

WATCH | WARNING: Video of hit-and-run contains graphic footage: 

Vaccine mandate opponents across Canada met by counter-protesters, heavy police presence

Winnipeg hit-and-run caught on camera

Caution: This video may be distressing to some viewers. Video posted to Twitter by @aaroniscloser. 0:46

Saskatchewan

People from two opposing protests converged outside the Saskatchewan legislative building in Regina on Saturday afternoon — one group calling for an end to COVID-19 public health measures and the other saying they should remain in place.

At about 1:30 p.m. CT, hundreds of demonstrators rallied at the building, and organizers say they plan to stay in the area until all public health restrictions in Saskatchewan are lifted — something Premier Scott Moe has already committed to doing.

At the same time, a second protest called Take Action Against COVID is calling for the province to do the opposite and maintain the public health measures. So far, the conflicting protests appear to be peaceful.

Vaccine mandate opponents across Canada met by counter-protesters, heavy police presence
An organizer, who wished to remain anonymous, fires up the crowd during a rally near the Legislative Building in Regina on Saturday. (Michael Bell/The Canadian Press)

New Brunswick

About three dozen people gathered in front of the New Brunswick Legislature in Fredericton.

Supporters driving by honked horns as the people waved signs that read “Mandate Freedom” and “True North Strong and Free.”

A notice on social media said the group would later travel to Quispamsis and protest outside the home of Premier Blaine Higgs, but none of the people gathered said they would make that trip.





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