As Toronto braces for another possible convoy protest this weekend, police are taking steps to make sure protesters don’t overrun the downtown core as they tried to do last weekend.
Police have closed several major streets to keep trucks away from Queen’s Park and the hospitals that line University Avenue south of College Street.
The move comes as Ontario declared a state of emergency in a bid to quell the convoy protests against public health measures meant to curb the spread of COVID. Premier Doug Ford made the announcement Friday morning while protesters continued to shut down parts of Ottawa’s city core and blockades cut off portions of Windsor’s Ambassador Bridge — one of the country’s busiest border crossings.
Here’s what you need to know.
Queen’s Park Circle from College to Bloor Street West, and College Street from Bay Street to Yonge Street have both been closed, police say.
Early Saturday, police announced that they have closed Church Street to the east, Spadina Avenue to the west, Queen Street to the south and Dupont Street to the north.
The streets are closed to vehicles only and will still be accessible to public transit and pedestrians. Police said their priorities include keeping emergency routes clear and protecting key infrastructure.
Police have also set up a perimeter around the provincial legislature by closing Queens Park Circle to the north, Dundas Street West to the south, Bay Street to the east, and University Avenue to the west.
All east to west traffic will be diverted, except TTC vehicles, police said in a tweet Friday night, adding that people should expect delays and consider alternate routes.
The road closures are in response to “several social media posts announcing a possible demonstration involving a large number of vehicles,” police said.
Last Saturday a major intersection in downtown Toronto was blocked by trucks as part of a demonstration against COVID-19 measures and vaccine mandates. That protest led to the arrest of two people.
On Friday, interim Chief James Ramer said police had intelligence beyond social media posts that protests were planned for this weekend, although he didn’t reveal how police gathered their information.
“Our intelligence is actually quite robust,” Ramer said at a news conference.
He said people can expect a large police presence in and around the downtown core this weekend. Police said in a tweet that the public should avoid the Queen’s Park area “unless absolutely necessary.”
Use public transit, councillor says
Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam, who represents Ward 13,Toronto Centre, said people should use public transit if they’re visiting the downtown area this weekend.
Also, the Hospital For Sick Children said patients and families who are travelling to and from SickKids this weekend should anticipate delays and consider taking transit in case there’s traffic congestion.
“There are police checkpoints in the area around SickKids. Patients and families can identify themselves as a SickKids patient and/or family member of a SickKids patient to pass through any checkpoints,” the hospital said.
All patient care will go ahead, UHN says
Meanwhile, the University Health Network said it’s confident police will continue to make access to hospitals for patients and staff a priority, as they did last weekend.
“All care for patients at UHN will go ahead as planned this weekend,” a statement from UHN said.
“Staff in the hospitals are aware that traffic congestion will potentially [affect] the commute to and from the hospitals and we are ensuring that staff are aware of the road closures.”
According to UHN, the preparations last weekend have helped all hospitals as the prepare for another potential weekend protest in the downtown core.
Planned counter-protest cancelled
Health-care workers who organized last Saturday’s counter-protest had planned another one this weekend.
But late Friday the organizing team called off the rally, saying: “With a state of emergency, the situation is too unpredictable and uncertain to proceed.”
Ford signed the state of emergency order Friday evening. It has to be ratified by cabinet within 72 hours and will be in effect for 14 days.
Late Friday an Ontario Superior Court judge granted an injunction aimed at ending the blockade by protesters at the Ambassador Bridge.
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