The majority of protesters from across Canada arrived on Saturday, Jan. 29. Photo credit: Liam Fox

The truckers “Freedom Convoy” protesting COVID-19 mandates in Canada arrived in Ottawa this past weekend, causing gridlocks and disruptions in the city.

Ottawans living and working in the downtown core have withstood continual noise from large truck horns and intimidation from some protesters.

Protesters from across Canada started to converge at Parliament Hill on Thursday, Jan. 27, although the majority of the convoy arrived on Saturday, Jan. 29.

Although the protest has been largely peaceful, there have been incidents of harassment and vandalism coming from the protesters, including the desecration of the National War Memorial and Terry Fox statue.

“Several criminal investigations are underway in relation to the desecration of the National War Memorial/Terry Fox statue, threatening/illegal/intimidating behaviour to police/city workers and other individuals and damage to a city vehicle,” said Ottawa Police in a statement on Twitter.

Police have also advised Ottawans to avoid the city’s downtown core.

Micheal McMahon, a second-year Algonquin College community and justice services student, attended the protest at Parliament Hill as a counter-protester on Saturday, Jan. 29, in an effort to bring attention to the hate tied to the protests.

At the protest, McMahon said he was verbally harassed. “A guy told me and my friends that we should’ve been aborted and to jump off the Rideau bridge,” he said.

Cortny Jardine, a first-year veterinary technician student, said she supports peaceful protesting of vaccine mandates but does not support protesters vandalizing property and spreading hate.

Jardine drives two hours from Gatineau to get to Algonquin College and said the gridlocks downtown have slowed down her commute.

Interprovincial bridges connecting Gatineau and Ottawa including the Alexandra Bridge, Chaudiere Crossing and Portage Bridge have seen closures due to the protest. Many streets in the downtown core have also been shut down by the crowd of large trucks and people in the area. Bridge and road closures in the city could continue into Monday, Feb. 7.

Hudson Hind, a first-year film and media production student, attended the protest in Ottawa to see the size of the protest. Hind said he is neither for nor against the protesting of vaccine mandates, but admired the protestors getting together to support their cause.

“I found it beautiful that everyone could come together and have one communal voice and have that portrayed,” said Hind.

Ahmad Teymouri, a professor in the supply chain and operations management program at Algonquin College, said it will take months for Canada’s supply chain to feel the impact left from labour shortages in the trucking industry due to the protests.

The absence of truckers at work will have a “butterfly effect” on Canada’s supply chain for both essential grocers and retailers in Canada if the truckers’ convoy protests continue, according to Teymouri.

Teymouri also said he thinks truckers should prioritize the public’s safety and follow health guidelines. “It is not about freedom, it is about healthcare,” he said.

Demonstrators from the freedom protests still crowd Ottawa’s downtown core. Many have said they will stay in Ottawa until there is a change to Canada’s COVID-19 mandates and health guidelines.