The trucker protest that grew to it shut down a few Canada-U.S. border post and closed key parts of the capital for several weeks, could echo for many years in Canadian politics, and possibly even south of the border.
The protest was initially aimed at cross-border truckers with a COVID-19 mandate but also included fury over the COVID-19 restrictions and hate of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. It reflected disinformation in Canada as well as simmering populist anger and right-wing anger.
Mark Suitor, a Hamilton-based protester aged 33, said that he believed they had started something. He spoke as police retook control over the streets surrounding Parliament. Protesters had been occupying the streets for three weeks now, embarrassing Trudeau as well as energizing Canada’s far right. Suitor believes that the protests will cause division in the country. This is something he welcomes.
He said, "This is going be a very large division in our country." "I don’t believe that this is the end."
Although most analysts don't believe the protests will be a watershed moment in Canadian politics, they have shaken Canada's major parties.
Nelson Wiseman from the University of Toronto, a political science professor, said that the protest had given both the Liberals' and Conservatives a bad omen. Trudeau's Liberals are bad for allowing protesters incite chaos in the capital, he stated, while the Conservatives are bad for supporting protesters, many of whom come from the far right.
According to Daniel Beland, a McGill University political science professor, the conservatives must be careful to not alienate more moderate voters who are less sympathetic to protesters and right-wing populism.
Canada's reputation as civilized was shaken by the Freedom Convoy, which inspired convoys in France and New Zealand, and disrupted trade. This caused economic damage on both ends of the border. The streets surrounding Parliament were occupied by hundreds of trucks, which was part protest and part parade.
Although authorities quickly reopened the border posts, Ottawa police did not issue any warnings for the past few days. Hundreds and sometimes thousands of protestors blocked the streets and besieged Parliament Hill.
Truckers ignored warnings they could be arrested and had their rigs and bank accounts frozen by Trudeau's new emergency powers. Truckers parked in the streets around Parliament and blared their horns, defying a court injunction against the use of honking. This was issued after residents complained that the noise made the area unlivable.
Trudeau, who was speaking only a few hundred metres from the protests, declared that it was high time for illegal and dangerous activities to stop in Parliament on a few days ago.
Authorities launched the largest ever police operation in Canadian history on Friday. They arrested a number of Ottawa protesters, and increased the pressure on Saturday, until the streets in front Parliament were clear. Police eventually arrested at least 191 persons and tow away 79 vehicles. As the pressure grew, many protestors retreated.
Sunday's Ottawa protests, the last stronghold of the movement, appeared to have been largely ended. Police checkpoints and fencing remained.
Steve Bell, Ottawa interim Police Chief, stated that "the number of unlawful protesters have dramatically decreased in the past 24 hours."
Authorities claimed that 206 bank accounts were also frozen by the federal emergency act.
Marco Mendicino, Public Safety Minister, said that although there has been progress, the end of the blockades may not be reached. He stated that police used targeted measures in the emergency act to make Ottawa's downtown core a no-go area. This tool was extremely effective.
"For the first three weeks, the streets have been calm and quiet for the first time in three years. All of this was achieved by invoking the emergency act," Mendicino stated in an interview with The Associated Press. "We won't use it for one minute longer than necessary."
Mendicino stated that the act will not affect the financial accounts of anyone who refuses to leave, but that it would be up to the police to determine which accounts are frozen. Although the powers are in place, Parliament is expected Monday to ratify them.
COVID-19 became as political a topic in Canada as it was in the United States.
Coronavirus health restrictions were a political thorn in the side of Canada's far right who accused Trudeau, a Canadian politician, of authoritarianism. The restrictions clearly benefited the People's Party of Canada's far-right, but things are more complicated for the Conservative Party.
Some Conservative leaders have only recently embraced the opposition to vaccine mandates or coronavirus restrictions.
Despite this, protests could open the door for populism similar to that of former President Donald Trump.
Pierre Poilievre is running for the Conservative party's next leader. He has supported the protesters and bet that the voters will support him. It is not clear if that will propel him to the top or if he and Trudeau, the next Liberal party leader, would be a good or bad thing.
Beland stated that Poilievre was clearly following the populist playbook at the moment. If he is elected Conservative leader, the party could shift to Trump-style populism. It's not clear if enough Canadians will support this vision, so it might not appeal to the rest of the party's base.
Protests were cheered in the U.S.A by Fox News personalities and conservatives such as Trump. Donations totalling millions of dollars have crossed the border to support the protesters.
According to an Associated Press analysis, nearly $44 million in donations to support protesters came from U.S. donors. The protesters have been praised by prominent Republican politicians.
Experts say that the U.S.'s support for the Canadian protesters is actually aimed at invigorating conservative politics in America, where midterm elections are imminent. k.
Despite the fact that Ottawa seemed to be in an end, there were still signs that the protests are not over.
Late Saturday afternoon, the Canadian border agency advised that operations at a truck crossing from Canada to the United States were being slowed down by protesters. They recommended that travelers seek out a new route.