OTTAWA, Ontario — Ottawa’s police chief resigned Tuesday amid criticism of his department’s inaction against the trucker protests that have paralyzed Canada’s capital for over two weeks, a federal government official said.
The peaceful demonstration by hundreds of truck drivers against the country’s extreme COVID-19 restrictions — and the failure of Police Chief Peter Sloly to break the siege early on — have infuriated some Ottawa residents.
The government official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked extraordinary emergency powers to try to end the occupation there and elsewhere around the country. Across Canada and beyond, the question in the coming days will be whether it will work.
Canadian Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said it is time for police to begin using their broad authority conferred under Canada’s Emergencies Act, which allows the government to ban the blockades and begin towing away trucks.
“We need law enforcement to take the reins, to utilize the Emergencies Act and to enforce,” he said late Monday after Trudeau announced he was invoking the law. “We have given new powers to police and we need them to do the job now.”
Government leaders have not indicated when or where the crackdowns on the self-styled Freedom Convoy would begin. Mendicino said they were still working out the final details on where the prohibited zones will be.
The government will be able to ban blockades at border crossings, airports and in Ottawa; freeze truckers’ personal and corporate bank accounts and suspend their licenses; and target crowd-funding sites that are being used to support the blockades.
It also can force tow trucks to move the big rigs out of intersections and neighborhoods. Up to now, some towing companies have been reluctant to cooperate because of their support for the truckers or fears of violence.
Since late January, protesters in trucks and other vehicles have jammed the streets of the capital and obstructed border crossings, decrying vaccine mandates for truckers and other COVID-19 restrictions and condemning Trudeau’s Liberal government.