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COVID-19

Soldier charged for criticizing vaccine mandates arrives in Ottawa amid protest fears

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By Lee Berthiaume in Ottawa

A Canadian soldier charged for speaking out against COVID-19 vaccine requirements will march through Ottawa on Thursday, kicking off what organizers are promising — and residents fear — will be a new wave of protests throughout the summer.

Army reservist James Topp was charged in February with two counts of conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline for comments made while wearing his uniform, and has since been leading a four-month march to the capital from Vancouver.

His march has been supported by many of the same figures involved in the “Freedom Convoy” that snarled downtown Ottawa for weeks until police used force to end what they and the government described as an illegal occupation.

His arrival in the capital and promises of a new round of protests starting Canada Day have set residents on edge. Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and the city’s interim police chief, Steve Bell, have promised to crack down on any illegal activity.

More than two dozen Conservative MPs hosted Topp and other leading figures in the Freedom Convoy on Parliament Hill last week, posing for pictures, promising their support and listening to a lecture on the purported dangers of COVID-19 vaccines.

Health Canada says only vaccines that meet strict safety, efficacy and quality standards are approved for use in the country, and the benefits of COVID-19 vaccines continue to outweigh the risks of the disease. About 85 per cent of Canadians have received at least one dose.

Topp told the MPs that he was marching in part to get all vaccine mandates repealed, as well as to demand the reinstatement of anyone who lost their job because of such a requirement and compensation for wages lost.

At the same time, he and the others raised the spectre of civil war in describing the state of the country.

The charges against Topp relate to two videos posted online in the winter in which the army reservist appears in uniform criticizing vaccine requirements for military personnel and other federal employees.

Canadian Armed Forces members are severely restricted in the comments they can make while in uniform, particularly when it comes to criticizing government policies, in large part to protect the military from any perception of politicization.

His lawyer has argued such restrictions should not apply to policies that affect Armed Forces members personally.

Topp has said he has no plans to lead an occupation of the capital, and invited Ottawa police to work with him to facilitate his planned march through the city to the National War Memorial.

However, an organizer for a group calling itself Veterans 4 Freedom said in a recent video posted to YouTube that it plans to set up a semi-permanent camp east of Ottawa called “Camp Eagle” and hold events in the city all summer.

While police have since managed to prevent similar protests from taking over the city, stopping planned demonstrations from getting out of hand during Canada Day is likely to be complicated by the presence of thousands of people celebrating the holiday.

“We won’t be intimidated by any group that plans to disrupt the celebrations,” Mayor Jim Watson said during a briefing earlier this week. “We’re prepared and we will not tolerate any illegal activity by anyone.”

Bell said police are prepared for a number of different scenarios, and will respond quickly to any illegal activity, including efforts to set up structures such as stages.

In late April, the Ottawa Police Services Board approved a request from Bell to appoint up to 831 RCMP officers to help with the Rolling Thunder motorcycle events, and made those appointments valid until July 4.

The city is warning that vehicles will be ticketed and towed if they’re found violating no-stopping zones, although the full extent of the areas that will be off limits has not been determined.

Many Ottawa residents remain angry at how the city and police handled the “Freedom Convoy” protests, with several community groups banding together to launch a citizens’ inquiry into how that protest was handled.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 30, 2022.

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COVID-19

Public hearings in Emergencies Act inquiry to start in September

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OTTAWA — The inquiry into Ottawa’s unprecedented use of the Emergencies Act during protests in February will start its public hearings next month.

The Public Order Emergency Commission announced today that it expects the hearings to run from Sept. 19 until Oct. 28 at Library and Archives Canada in downtown Ottawa.

Commissioner Paul Rouleau said in a statement that he intends to hold the government to account and wants the inquiry to be as “open and transparent” as possible.

Hearings will be livestreamed online and members of the public will have opportunities to share their views, with a final report expected early next year.

Parties to the inquiry including “Freedom Convoy” organizers, police forces and all three levels of government are expected to testify and contribute documentary evidence on the invocation of the act in February.

The federal Liberals made the move amid border blockades and the occupation of downtown Ottawa by protesters demonstrating against COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 15, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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COVID-19

Convoy Lawyer details how trucks were moving BEFORE PM Trudeau invoked Emergency Measures Act

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CBC news is reporting that court documents indicate “On the night before Justin Trudeau took the historic step of invoking the Emergencies Act during last February’s Freedom Convoy occupation of Ottawa, the prime minister’s national security and intelligence adviser told cabinet there was “potential for a breakthrough,” “

This has come to light thanks to court challenges from civil liberties groups who claim the federal government went too far by invoking the Emergencies Measures Act.

Various media outlets are reporting it was unclear whether the truckers would hold up their end of the deal negotiated with the City of Ottawa.  However an interview by commentator Viva Frei with Keith Wilson, lead lawyer for the Freedom Convoy makes it clear, trucks were already moving before the act was invoked.

The link above will take you to the youtube page of Viva Frei for a fascinating full length interview with Keith Wilson who talks about his 19 days in downtown Ottawa during the Freedom Convoy where he lead a team of lawyers representing the leaders of the trucker convoy in their dealings with the police, and the City of Ottawa.

Below is an 18 minute segment of that interview which focusses on the days immediately prior to the invocation of the Emergencies Measures Act.  Wilson details how when tensions were building, he tapped former Newfoundland Premier Brian Peckford who helped to make a critical link to the office of the Mayor of Ottawa.  He goes on to share how the early meetings lead to an agreement to move all the trucks out of the downtown core to Wellington (in front of Parliament Hill), another road nearby, or a couple of areas on the outskirts of Ottawa.  The truckers would then have been bussed daily to Parliament Hill where they could join the ongoing demonstration.

As you’ll see in this video, the trucks were already moving before PM Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergency Measures Act.

 

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