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Ottawa police chief resigns as Canadian protesters dig in

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By Reuters
Trudeau invokes emergency powers to starve protesting Canadian trucker of funds
Trudeau invokes emergency powers to starve protesting Canadian trucker of funds   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2022

By Steve Scherer and Nia Williams

OTTAWA/CALGARY, Alberta -Ottawa’s police chief has resigned after criticism that he did not do enough to stop COVID-19 protests that have paralyzed Canada’s capital city and forced Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to invoke emergency powers, a city official said on Tuesday.

A trucker-led movement calling on the government to lift vaccine mandates has occupied parts of downtown Ottawa since late January and blocked U.S. border crossings, including a key trade route that was cleared by police over the weekend.

With hundreds of trucks still parked outside Canada’s parliament and prime minister’s office, Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly has stepped down, Riley Brockington, an Ottawa city councillor, said on Twitter.

Sloly was expected to announce the decision later on Tuesday. Ottawa police did not respond to a request for comment, and Trudeau’s public safety minister said the government had no role in his decision to resign.

Critics alleged that Sloly and other police officers were too permissive in their approach to the protests, which have inspired copycat movements across the world and posed a major challenge to Trudeau’s government.

Sloly says his police force lacks resources to peacefully disperse the protesters and his defenders have voiced fears the use of force could stoke violence.

Seeking to beef up policing, Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act on Monday, empowering his government to cut off protesters’ funding and reinforce provincial and local law enforcement with federal officers.

OURRIGHT TO PROTEST

Protesters blocked the Ambassador Bridge, a vital trade corridor between Windsor, Ontario, and Detroit and a choke point for the region’s automakers, for six days before police dispersed them on Sunday.

Two other U.S. crossings reopened Tuesday after police cleared protesters from one and demonstrators voluntarily left the other, officials said, while a fourth crossing in Manitoba province remained blocked.

Protesters decided to leave the crossing in Coutts, Alberta, after the Royal Mounted Canadian Police seized weapons from a group that had aimed to cause harm if officers started clearing people, the town’s mayor, Jim Willett, said.

“The federal government will have to look at protecting borders very differently than they have in the past to stop this from happening again,” Willett said.

Trudeau’s emergency orders have done little to deter protesters in downtown Ottawa.

“It’s our right to protest. We’re not doing anything wrong,” said Gord, a trucker from Manitoba who is parked in front of parliament. He declined to give his last name. “We’re not leaving. We’ve dug in this long.”

EMERGENCYMEASURES, FINANCING

Trudeau activated the Emergency Act after concluding that law enforcement could not cope with the protesters, especially in Ottawa. He says the measures, which require parliamentary approval, will be limited and targeted.

“This illegal occupation needs to end … the measure of success will be, can we get our supply chains back? Can we end the disruption to livelihoods of people who rely on trade to the United States?” Trudeau told reporters.

The emergency measures bring crowdfunding platforms under terror-finance oversight and authorize Canadian banks to freeze accounts suspected of financing the protesters, who officials say have received about half their funds from U.S. supporters.

A U.S.-based website, GiveSendGo, became a prime conduit for money to the protesters after mainstream crowdfunding platform GoFundMe blocked donations to the group.

An Ontario court last week ordered GiveSendGo to freeze all funds supporting the blockade, but it said it would not comply.

The leak website Distributed Denial of Secrets (DDoS) has leaked GiveSendGo donor files relating to the Canadian protests, known as the “Freedom Convoy” campaign. DDoS said on Sunday the campaign had raised more than $2 million in donations.

DDoS leaked donor information related to a similar campaign on Tuesday.