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The latest on protests against COVID-19 measures in Ottawa and beyond

An Ontario Provincial Police vehicle is parked at the ongoing trucker blockade protest in Ottawa, Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

The latest developments on ongoing protests against COVID-19 restrictions and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government, in Ottawa and various locations across Canada, on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022. All times eastern:

11:35 p.m.

Freedom Convoy 2022 says on Twitter that Ottawa protest organizer Chris Barber faces three charges following his arrest earlier Thursday.

The charges include counselling to commit mischief, obstruction, and counselling to commit obstruction.

Earlier Thursday night another protest organizer, Tamara Lich, was arrested and charged with one count of counselling to commit mischief.

Her lawyer said she was being held in custody.


10:40 p.m.

Police in Ottawa have set up checkpoints throughout the downtown area to prevent protesters from entering the core of the capital. 

Officers stationed throughout downtown can be seen peering into vehicle windows with their flashlights to ask travellers where they’re headed. 

Interim police Chief Steve Bell says only people who aren’t protesting will be able to get downtown this weekend. 

The police also appear to have shut down highway exits and light rail stops downtown. 

Meanwhile, a lawyer for Tamara Lich, one of the protest organizers, says she has been charged with one count of counselling mischief and was still in custody following her arrest earlier tonight.


9:30 p.m.

The lawyer representing the so-called Freedom Convoy has confirmed that Tamara Lich, one of the main organizers of the protest, has been arrested in Ottawa. 

Keith Wilson also says Chris Barber, another organizer, had been arrested earlier. 

Their arrests were among several Thursday after police and political leaders spent the day warning protesters to go home.

Police have established a perimeter with about 100 checkpoints covering Ottawa's downtown to keep out anyone intent on joining the protest.

The move is to contain the convoy demonstration that has swollen with large crowds each weekend since late January. 


7 p.m.

One of the key protest organizers has been seen taken away in handcuffs as police began to make arrests outside Parliament Hill.

Fellow organizer Pat King has identified the man as Chris Barber and says he has been arrested for mischief.

The Ottawa Police Service says it does not confirm the names of anyone arrested until charges are laid.

In a video posted to social media, King says he expects Barber and other protesters to be told they must leave Ottawa as a condition of release. 

King says he has consulted lawyers who will be helping Barber. He adds that he's advising protesters who are arrested to write the Latin phrase "non assumpsit" on the paperwork, a legal term denying making a promise.


6:45 p.m.

The Vancouver Police Department has confirmed that it will send officers to help Ottawa police clear a demonstration outside Parliament Hill.

The police will join officers from Quebec and elsewhere in Ontario who are also helping the Ottawa police.

VPD spokeswoman Const. Tania Visintin declined to provide further details including how many officers would be provided or when they would arrive.

Police have begun making arrests in downtown Ottawa.


5:50 p.m.

Police made several arrests late today as hundreds of anti-government demonstrators continued to ignore demands they leave the ongoing blockade in Ottawa.

Reporters on the ground witnessed several people arrested on Parliament Hill including one man who was told he was being arrested because of an outstanding warrant. 

A few blocks from Parliament Hill, one of the convoy organizers was seen in handcuffs between two police officers.


5:30 p.m.

The owner of Load Safe says he risked losing his entire freight company because an independent owner-operator he employed joined the Ottawa truckers. 

Rich Russell says his insurance company told him this morning it had been notified by the government that his fleet’s insurance could be suspended and company bank accounts frozen.

Russell says like many owner-drivers, the one who joined the protest had affordable insurance through a fleet policy which meant his truck had to be plated and registered to Load Safe.

Because of this, Russell says he risks losing the company he has spent 45 years building, even though he has nothing to do with the protest and the driver was protesting on his own time.

After the truck with his company logo was filmed parked near Parliament Hill, Russell says the firm received threatening emails, even though he had nothing to do with the protest.

Russell says he pleaded with the driver many times to leave before he finally drove away from his parking spot outside a hotel near the House of Commons today. 


4:30 p.m.

A large semi-truck that has spent much of the protest parked in front of the Chateau Laurier on Parliament Hill has left.

The driver said simply that he needed to leave when asked why he was departing.

A crowd gathered nearby cheered as he drove and at least 10 police officers were there.

It comes after more police descend on Parliament Hill and have sent out repeated warnings for protesters to leave or face the risk of arrest and financial consequences.

Many protesters are expecting a large crowd again this weekend, but Ottawa’s interim police chief Steve Bell is promising the downtown will be cleared and the days ahead won't look like the previous ones.


4:20 p.m.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is seeking a judicial review of the government's decision to invoke the Emergencies Act to quell anti-government protests in downtown Ottawa and elsewhere.

The group says it does not want to minimize the impacts that the protests are having across the country, but it is unclear that the demonstrations endanger the lives, health or safety of Canadians so seriously that they constitute a national emergency.

It says police deal with complex law-enforcement issues every day and have cleared multiple border blockades across the country without emergency powers.

The group's criminal justice director Abby Deshman says the Emergencies Act orders do not apply only in Ottawa and affect the rights of every Canadian.

She says the group believes the measures are clearly unconstitutional and it will be asking the courts to step in to defend the rule of law and the constitutional rights of all people across the country.


3:45 p.m.

Steve Bell, interim chief of the Ottawa police, says enforcement against protesters camped outside Parliament Hill and along downtown streets is "imminent."

Bell tells a news conference police from different parts of Ontario and Quebec have joined Ottawa officers and they are absolutely committed to ending this unlawful demonstration.

He says there will be a secure area with over 100 checkpoints to make sure only people working and living in the downtown area will be allowed in, along with people with a lawful reason to be there such as a medical appointment.

He says that if protesters want to leave on their own terms, now is the time to do it.


3:30 p.m.

Liberal House leader Mark Holland says the parties in the House of Commons have agreed to debate the use of the Emergencies Act through the weekend with a vote coming Monday evening.

The motion declaring the government's decision to invoke the act was introduced Wednesday evening and debate began today.

Holland says the debate will run 7 a.m. to midnight today, Friday, Saturday and Sunday and from 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Monday.

The vote on the motion will take place Monday evening at 8 p.m.


3:10 p.m.

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner has written to the privacy commissioner asking him to investigate the disclosure of protesters’ personal financial details to the police and security services, as well as information about donors.

The MP for Calgary Nose Hill wants the privacy commissioner to delve into the privacy implications of the Emergencies Act, which has never been used before. 

The Tory MP wants the privacy commissioner to explore if other laws on rights and freedoms will mitigate the use of the emergency powers. 

She says the privacy watchdog could play a critical role in determining the scope of the unprecedented emergency powers.


2:45 p.m.

Jagmeet Singh says the entire NDP caucus is united behind his decision to support the use of the Emergencies Act, allowing Justin Trudeau to push the measures through the House of Commons. 

The NDP leader, who was sharply criticized by Tory MPs for backing the prime minister, says the move is justified to deal with a national crisis without precedent.

Singh says the Emergencies Act will help cut off funding to the so-called freedom convoy, which he says aims to attack democracy and is organized by people with extremist views. 

He is to meet with Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet, who opposes the measures, later today.


2:40 p.m.

The incoming interim chief of Ottawa's police service is walking away from the offer, after his hiring led to the ousting of most members of the city's police board.

The former chief, Peter Sloly, resigned earlier this week as criticism grew over his handling of the demonstrations in downtown Ottawa.

The police board moved to replace him on an interim basis with Matt Torigian, former chief of the Waterloo Regional Police Service.

City councillors balked at the idea of a new interim chief appointed without consultation, and removed Coun. Diane Deans as chair of the police board. Several other members resigned as a result.

Torigian has withdrawn from the offer, and says he won't be seeking any compensation.


2:30 p.m.

Tamara Lich, one of the spokespeople for the convoy in Ottawa, says her personal bank account has been frozen and it may be inevitable that she's going to prison.

In an interview today, she says the Emergencies Act and extra forces downtown make her feel like police action could be imminent.

She says she doesn't feel anxious because she is on "the right side."


2 p.m.

Families continue to arrive at the parliamentary precinct today, despite stern warnings from police.

The Emergencies Act invoked by the government makes it illegal to bring children into the area to protest.

Still, children mixed with crowds of protesters, some pushed in strollers by their parents, as truck horns blared outside of Parliament Hill.

One protester says he wants his two children to see "history in the making" in Ottawa.


1:30 p.m. 

Steve Bell, Ottawa's interim police chief, says his officers along with the Ontario Provincial Police and RCMP prepare to remove all illegal protesters and return the city's streets back to residents. 

Bell says he will be providing an operational update with his OPP and RCMP command counterparts later today so the public can understand how they will take back control of every unlawfully occupied space in the city.

Bell says access to the downtown core will be limited those with "lawful reasons" to enter such as residents, businesses and others. 

He says residents' safety is the priority of police and though the increased police presence downtown might be distressing to some, officers are there to keep everyone safe and complete their mission.

He made the comments at a police services board meeting this afternoon. It followed an acrimonious city council meeting on Wednesday night that saw the ousting of the board's chair and other members.

Ottawa Coun. Eli El-Chantiry was sworn in at today's meeting as the new chair of the police board.


12:30 p.m.

The City of Ottawa has released a list of motions that came out of a long, acrimonious council meeting on Wednesday night.

They include a call for Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson to issue a formal apology to the council and all Ottawa residents, particularly those in the downtown core, for failing to provide safety and security during the long occupation of the Canadian capital by angry protesters.

Watson was also instructed to write to the provincial government to ask that individuals who take part in the illegal occupation not use the Ontario staycation tax credit to do so.

Councillors also voted to provide free transit for a month to workers and residents who take routes that typically travel through the downtown. 

The meeting led to major changes in the Ottawa police services board with the removal of its chair and some other members.

The board is to meet today at 1 p.m. to vote on the changes.


11:35 a.m.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says the RCMP has shared the names of individuals, businesses and crypto wallets associated with the protest convoy with banks and accounts have been frozen.

She is not saying how many accounts have been frozen, citing the ongoing operation and not wanting to jeopardize law enforcement's work.

Freeland adds those details will be disclosed later.

She says she wants people participating in blockades to know the measures are real, they are having an impact, and there is a really easy way to avoid being affected: go home.


11:20 a.m.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says law enforcement is sharing information with financial service providers and banks have already taken action based on that information.

She tells a news conference the emergency measures brought in under the Emergencies Act are being used, they are having an impact and will have a growing impact in the days to come.

She says in the coming days she will be laying out details about broadening the scope of rules against money laundering and terrorist financing to apply to crowdfunding websites.

Freeland says those websites will be able to report suspicious activity to Fintrac, Canada's financial intelligence agency.

She says she's spoken directly with the heads of major banks and the director of Fintrac, her cabinet colleagues are meeting very regularly, and their focus is ending these illegal blockades and occupation.

She says it gives her no pleasure to impose these measures, and in fact, the government does so with "great sorrow," but she says no one should doubt its determination to act to restore peace, order and good government.


11:15 a.m.

A class-action lawsuit on behalf of Ottawa residents has been expanded to a claim for $306 million not only from truckers but donors to the so-called freedom convoy, including from abroad.  

Paul Champ, a lawyer representing downtown Ottawa residents and businesses including Happy Goat Coffee Company, says he has hired private investigators to identify individual truckers in the Ottawa demonstration and has collected lists of licence plates.

Champ says damages will be sought from donors to the convoy through GiveSendGo and GoFundMe, demonstrators, a Bitcoin expert who has assisted the demonstrators, as well as protest organizers including Patrick King and Tamara Lich.


10:50 a.m.

Conservative interim leader Candice Bergen says the prime minister did nothing to attempt to de-escalate the situation outside Parliament Hill before invoking the Emergencies Act.

Bergen spoke in the House of Commons about her party's opposition to the use of the act. 

She says the Conservatives are the "party of law and order," and they believe the trucks should move or be moved, but they will keep standing up for protesters.

She describes the invocation of the act as a "power grab" by the prime minister and accuses him of doing it to save his own political skin at the cost of the rights and freedoms of Canadians.


10:45 a.m.

A spokesman for Quebec Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault confirms that Quebec provincial police officers are heading to Gatineau, just across the provincial border from Ottawa.

Louis-Julien Dufresne says provincial police were sent to western Quebec and will be there if needed.

For its part, Quebec provincial police referred all questions to the Ottawa police.

There is an enhanced police presence at the protest in Ottawa this morning and fencing has been set up around Parliament Hill and downtown streets.


10:30 a.m.

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino says in the House of Commons that the so-called freedom convoy has had a profound, negative and detrimental impact to public safety across the country.

Mendicino is speaking in a debate on motions he tabled Wednesday on invoking the Emergencies Act and the specific measures in the act.

He says blockades at border crossings in Coutts, Alta., Emerson, Man., and Windsor, Ont., cost the Canadian economy hundreds of millions of dollars a day and hurt families and workers trying to get by.

Mendicino acknowledged that progress has been made to reopen those border crossings, thanks to the efforts of law enforcement, but this progress is not a given and the government needs to continue to guarantee it.

He says he has heard some members on the opposition side try to minimize and generalize what is happening at an ongoing protest in downtown Ottawa as legitimate. 

He says it's not legitimate or about freedom — it's illegal, and residents have been "terrorized," including those at an apartment building that was the site of an attempted arson.


10:15 a.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is speaking in the House of Commons about why his government invoked the Emergencies Act to quell protests that have seized downtown Ottawa.

He says he wants to reassure Canadians that when the act is invoked, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms continues to protect their individual rights.

He says the government is not limiting freedom of expression or the right to peaceful protest but in fact reinforcing values and institutions that keep Canadians safe.

He says the blockades are illegal and a threat to Canada's economy and public safety.


9 a.m.

The police presence in downtown Ottawa is growing as efforts to begin clearing a three-week long occupation around Parliament Hill appear imminent but the antigovernment demonstrators aren't buckling.

With rain and sleet falling on the nation's capital, workers began erecting fencing around Parliament Hill and several other buildings downtown, including the Senate, around 8 a.m. 

Larger numbers of police in bright yellow vests are present in the downtown core, most of them moving in groups, handing out more leaflets and warning those present to leave or they could be arrested.

The warnings appeared to be having little effect on people who remained, with one woman operating two barbecues yelling out the national anthem in French while police stood nearby. 

On Wellington Street as police tried to give leaflets to some demonstrators, they were swarmed and police backed off quickly.

The police are warning with leaflets or verbally that people must leave or they might be arrested and criminally charged, their vehicles and other property seized, their driver's licence suspended, commercial vehicle registration cancelled, and personal or business bank accounts frozen.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 17, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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