Ottawa declares state of emergency over COVID-19 mandate protests

People gather in protest against COVID-19 mandates in Ottawa, Canada
People gather in protest against COVID-19 mandates and in support of a protest against COVID-19 restrictions taking place in Ottawa, Canada on Feb. 5, 2022.
(Jason Franson / Associated Press)

The mayor of Canada’s capital declared a state of emergency Sunday, as protesters opposed to COVID-19 restrictions continued to paralyze Ottawa’s downtown. Meanwhile, a former U.S. ambassador to Canada said groups in the U.S. must stop interfering in the domestic affairs of their neighbor.

Mayor Jim Watson said the declaration highlights the need for support from other jurisdictions and levels of government. It gives the city some additional powers around procurement and how it delivers services, which could help purchase equipment required by front-line workers and first responders.

Thousands of protesters descended on Ottawa over the weekend, joining some 100 who remained since last weekend. Residents are furious at the blaring of horns, traffic disruption and harassment and fear no end is in sight after the police chief called the protest a “siege” he could not manage.

The “freedom truck convoy” has attracted support from many U.S. Republicans, including former President Trump, who called Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a “far-left lunatic” who has “destroyed Canada with insane COVID mandates.”


“Canada U.S. relations used to be mainly about solving technical issues,” Bruce Heyman, who was a U.S. ambassador under President Obama, tweeted. “Today Canada is unfortunately experiencing radical U.S. politicians involving themselves in Canadian domestic issues. Trump and his followers are a threat not just to the U.S. but to all democracies.”

Heyman added that “under no circumstances should any group in the U.S.A. fund disruptive activities in Canada. Period. Full stop.”

After the crowdfunding site GoFundMe said it would refund or redirect to charities the vast majority of the millions of dollars raised by protesters in Ottowa, prominent U.S. Republicans like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis complained.

The anti-vax crowd has moved to physical intimidation to support their viewpoint.

GoFundMe said it cut off funding for the organizers because it had determined that the effort violated the site’s terms of service due to unlawful activity.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has described the protest as an occupation.

“For some senior American politicians, patriotism means renting a mob to put a G-7 capital under siege,” tweeted Gerald Butts, a former senior adviser to Trudeau.

In Toronto, police controlled and ended a smaller protest by setting up road blocks near the provincial legislature. Police also cleared a key intersection in the city.

Many Canadians have been outraged over the behavior of the demonstrators. Some protesters set off fireworks late Friday on the grounds of the National War Memorial. Some carried signs and flags with swastikas last weekend and compared vaccine mandates to fascism.

Protesters have said they won’t leave until all pandemic mandates and restrictions are removed. They are also calling for the removal of Trudeau’s government, though it is responsible for few of the measures, most of which were put in place by provincial governments.