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Trudeau tests positive for COVID-19, condemns ‘hateful’ convoy

Trudeau tests positive for COVID-19, condemns 'hateful' convoy-Milenio Stadium-Canada
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa on Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday he has tested positive for COVID-19 and, so far, he’s feeling “fine.”

Trudeau has been in isolation since one of his children tested positive for the virus late last week. A second Trudeau child has now tested positive for COVID-19. Trudeau said he would stay in quarantine and work remotely while he recovers.

“It’s a big challenge that my family and I are facing but there’s nothing unusual or special about it. It’s a challenge too many Canadians and people around the world know all too well,” Trudeau told a press conference.

Trudeau got his first two COVID-19 shots last year and received a booster dose at an Ottawa pharmacy earlier this month.

Trudeau urged all Canadians to get vaccinated and boosted as cases of the Omicron variant hit high levels in many parts of the country. The prime minister’s wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, contracted COVID-19 in the early days of the pandemic in March 2020.

The prime minister and his family were moved over the weekend from their residence at Rideau Cottage after a convoy of anti-vaccine-mandate protesters converged on Parliament Hill.

The sound of loud honking and cheering filled the city over the weekend as thousands of protesters voiced their opposition to various vaccine mandates.

Sporadic honking resumed in the early hours of Monday and vehicles continue to block streets in the downtown core.

Truckers protest Ottawa-Milenio Stadium-Canada
A person leads a group in the saying of the Rosary during a rally against COVID-19 restrictions on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Jan. 30, which began as a cross-country convoy protesting a federal vaccine mandate for truckers. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

The protest was focused initially on the federal government’s vaccine mandate for cross-border truckers. It has since expanded into a movement against broader public health measures to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Swastikas spotted

Ottawa police described the protests as mainly peaceful but said Sunday they’re investigating a number of incidents, citing reports of threatening behaviour, public mischief and dangerous operation of a vehicle.

Police said several incidents on Saturday that were roundly condemned — protesters jumping on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and adorning a statue of Terry Fox with anti-vaccine material and an upside-down Canadian flag — are under review.

Trudeau said Monday Canadians are “shocked” and “disgusted” with the actions of some of the protesters.

Pointing to the presence of swastikas and Confederate flags in the protest, the desecration of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and acts of hooliganism at a local homeless shelter, Trudeau said his government “won’t cave to those who engage in vandalism or dishonour the memory of our veterans.”

While the crowds began to dissipate Sunday night, some — including the organizers behind a GoFundMe page that has amassed more than $9 million to support the convoy — said the goal is to create a logistical nightmare for the government and force it to repeal vaccine mandates.

Trudeau won’t meet with protesters

One organizing group, Canada Unity, is demanding that government leaders either repeal the mandates or “RESIGN their lawful positions of authority immediately.”

Asked if he would meet with some of the protesters now camped out in the parliamentary precinct — demonstrators who have vowed not to leave until all pandemic-related restrictions come to an end — Trudeau said he had no interest in going “anywhere near protests that have expressed hateful rhetoric and violence towards their fellow citizens.”

“So to those responsible for this behaviour — it needs to stop,” Trudeau said. “Canadians at home are watching in disgust and disbelief at this behaviour, wondering how this could have happened in our nation’s capital.”

Trudeau said that while Canadians have the right to protest, no one has a right “to abuse, intimidate and harass … fellow citizens.” He vowed to press ahead with pandemic measures despite “intimidation” from some members of the convoy.

Trudeau also accused some Conservative politicians of encouraging a movement composed of hateful elements with questionable motives.

He said some politicians have been “exploiting people’s fears” in a way that could lead to “hard consequences” for the country. He said the convoy does not represent most truckers, 90 per cent of whom are already vaccinated.

While vocally rejecting bigotry and hate, Conservative Leader O’Toole has said Canadians frustrated with two years of COVID-19 restrictions should be heard by elected officials.

O’Toole met with some of the truckers in the convoy away from Parliament Hill on Friday. Over the weekend, O’Toole condemned the actions directed at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Terry Fox statue.

A number of Conservative MPs have said they stand with truckers and other groups opposed to the federal vaccine mandates.

Trudeau said Monday that Canadians have not seen “responsible” leadership from O’Toole or People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier — who has made opposition to COVID-19 restrictions the cornerstone of his political movement since the pandemic began nearly two years ago.

“We have seen over the past many, many months Conservative politicians sharing disinformation about vaccines, encouraging conspiracy theories online,” he said. “And I think Erin O’Toole is going to need to reflect very carefully on how he’s walking a path that supports these people who do not represent truckers, let alone the vast majority of Canadians.”

MPs return as police warn against downtown travel

Ottawa police are again urging people to avoid travelling to the city’s downtown core.

“For those who choose to remain, we’ll make that assessment once we understand who is still here, what purposes and what public safety risks are associated to that,” said Chief Peter Sloly.

MPs are set to return to question period Monday. Government House leader Mark Holland said some are likely to do so virtually.

“We have important work to accomplish for Canadians in Parliament, and we’re looking forward to getting this done and delivering results,” reads a statement from his office Sunday.

“We’ve already passed a motion that gives MPs the flexibility to work in a Hybrid House in this sitting — which remains in effect until June. Some MPs will be in the chamber on Monday and beyond, and others will participate virtually.”

Ahead of the protest, Parliament’s sergeant-at-arms — the person responsible for the safety and security of the parliamentary precinct and its occupants — warned that protesters could show up at politicians’ homes.

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