Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is vowing to do “whatever it takes” to shut down the Freedom Convoy protesters who are blocking Ottawa streets and transportation arteries across the U.S.-Canada border.
The prime minister held a series of meetings with opposition leaders, cabinet officials and senior members of government about the ongoing protests that have effectively shut down the capital city’s downtown core, the Ambassador Bridge and several other border crossings connecting the United States and Canada.
In a statement late Thursday evening, the prime minister’s office announced that Trudeau is considering every option to break the protest — points that he reiterated in a press conference on Friday afternoon.
“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau convened the Incident Response Group on the ongoing illegal blockades taking place across the country that are threatening trade, jobs, the economy and our communities. He was joined by ministers and senior officials who are actively engaged and working closely with provincial and municipal governments, and who are assessing the requirements and deploying all federal resources necessary to help them get the situation under control,” the statement said.
“The group committed to continue providing federal resources to support enforcement efforts in Ottawa where the occupation has significantly disrupted local residents’ lives, impacting businesses and families with harassment, threats of violence, and vandalism. They reiterated that the federal government has and will continue to respond to all requests for appropriate support and resources,” it continued.
“The prime minister and ministers will continue to work closely with all orders of government and local authorities to respond with whatever it takes to help provinces and municipalities end the blockades and bring the situation under control. The government’s top priority remains keeping people and communities safe, and defending jobs, trade, and our economy,” it concluded.
Speaking at a press conference Friday afternoon, Trudeau repeated his denouncements of the truck drivers, stating that their views do not represent most Canadian truck drivers, 90% of whom he says are fully vaccinated.
“The illegal blockades are hurting Canadians,” said Trudeau. “They’re endangering jobs, they’re a threat to our economy and to public safety. The blockades are hurting small businesses and neighbourhoods.”
“At the border they’re impacting trade, supply chains and manufacturing. The people these blockades are hurting are everyday families, auto assembly workers, truckers, and blue-collar Canadians,” he continued.
“The blockades … have to end for the good of all Canadians.”
During the conference, Trudeau deflected suggestions by journalists to use military force against the Freedom Convoy, at least for the time being. Trudeau said that military options are not in consideration “right now,” but that the government is planning for any eventuality.
"We have to be ready for any eventuality, but it's not something we are seriously contemplating at this time,” he said.
Trudeau slammed the Freedom Convoy for not being grateful to the Canadian government, which he says “protected them” from COVID-19.
"Work we are doing to support Canadians,” he reiterated several times during the conference.
Trudeau placed the blame for the protests on Americans, saying that the blockades were receiving support from across the border, and that “everything is on the table” to end the demonstrations.
"If you joined the protests because you are tired of COVID, you are now breaking the law,” he stated, adding that the border “cannot and will not remain closed.”
“We’re fighting a virus, we’re not fighting each other. It’s never the time to hurt our economy and fellow Canadians with illegal blockades, but especially not now after all we’ve sacrificed together, after all we’ve done to get back to the things we love and reopen our lives,” he said.