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Canada truckers head for Ottawa to protest vaccine mandate

MONTREAL (AFP) – Hundreds of Canadian truckers converged on Ottawa on Friday for a major demonstration against vaccine mandates to cross the Canada-United States (US) border.

Coming from as far as British Columbia on the Pacific coast, the ‘Freedom Convoy’, as the truckers have named it, has been growing and drawing more attention in recent days.

The meeting point for the weekend rally has been set for Parliament Hill, in the heart of the Canadian capital.

Since mid-January, Canada and the US have imposed a Covid-19 vaccine mandate for truck drivers crossing the border between the two countries, the longest in the world at nearly 9,000 kilometres.

The vaccine mandate has been denounced by some truckers, who received an endorsement from Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, who tweeted on Thursday “Canadian truckers rule”.

“These demonstrations are national in scope. They’re massive in scale. Unfortunately, they’re polarising in nature,” said Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly on Friday.

He was unable to say how many trucks or demonstrators would show up but warned of “major traffic safety issues” in the capital and asked people to stay off the roads whenever possible.

He said organisers of the protest told police it would be peaceful but warned that some people may join the movement to “incite hatred and violence”.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, currently in isolation after a Covid exposure, defended the vaccination mandate on Wednesday, noting that 90 per cent of drivers are already vaccinated.

He called the truckers headed for the city a “small fringe minority” whose “unacceptable views” do not represent the majority of Canadians.