Canadian Trucker Protests and US Border Blockade: Live Updates

Credit…André Pichette/EPA, via Shutterstock

Standing in front of several trucks near Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Emily Martin wore a black winter hat emblazoned with the words “fringe minor” in white. It was a reference to a statement Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used to downplay the scope and scale of the protests.

Ms. Martin, who arrived in Ottawa from her farm near Niagara Falls, about seven hours away, said she was hardly on the fringes of Canadian society. She is more of a mother, who was channeling the anger of many Canadians across the country, tired and exhausted by the pandemic restrictions that have taken their toll on their lives.

“It feels like you’re in prison,” said Ms Martin, 31, whose family produces honey.

Ms Martin said she wanted her two young children, aged 4 and 14 months, to be able to play soccer and visit their 99-year-old great-grandmother, who lives in a care home. She herself has not seen the older woman since before Christmas, due to pandemic restrictions.

With the protests in their second week, the feeling in the streets outside Parliament on Monday was celebratory, as freezing temperatures eased somewhat to somewhere just below freezing. A group of people danced to loud music from the bed of a huge truck. Handmade panels decorated the iron fences surrounding the Parliament grounds.

“We’re not bad people to have questions,” one said. “To cowards, freedom is always extremist,” said another.

Rodica Stricescu, 64, a nursing home caregiver, came to Ottawa with her daughter from Windsor, Ont., about eight hours away. Ms Stricescu, who moved to Canada from Romania in 1995 following the fall of communism, said her protest was about asserting freedom, not the niceties of vaccination mandates.

“I fled communism to be here – I don’t want the same thing to happen here,” she said. She said she felt pressured to get vaccinated because of her workplace and was not happy about it.

Many protesters have also framed their quest as a matter of personal freedom.

“It’s been many years here. I saw a lot of government excess,” said William Swinimer, 29, a trucker from Halifax, Nova Scotia, who said he was attending a protest for the first time. “I don’t think we should give up on our Canadian way of life.

Nicole Vandelaar, 31, a hairdresser who says she is not vaccinated, came to the protest with her father, a dairy farmer. She said the shutdowns and other restrictions were creating a mental health crisis — and high rates of depression — in Canada.

“This is the real pandemic,” Ms Vandelaar said.

On the other side of the debate are furious Ottawa residents, furious at the occupation of their city by protesters, some of whom have honked their horns, scolded traffic, desecrated national war memorials and threatened residents.

Zully Alvarado, a volunteer hairstylist at a homeless shelter, walked through the protest grounds with a mask under her chin – a symbol of defiance against protesters, she said, as she does not normally wear a mask outside.

“It’s incredibly selfish,” she said, referring to the disruption of daily life in the capital. “I find it so disrespectful.”

Leah McInnes-Eustace, 54, a communications consultant in the nonprofit sector who lives about two miles from the Parliament Building, said the unruly protests had exacerbated her existing mental health issues. “I just found myself with kind of constant, high anxiety,” she said. “I can feel it in my body.”

Dwayne Winseck, a professor of communication and media studies at Carleton University in Ottawa, said his wife was harassed by protesters as she walked their poodle through the neighborhood. He also faced abusive comments online for expressing his thoughts on the protest.

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