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Judge grants interim injunction against loud honking at Ottawa protest

Person from Ohio arrested in connection with a threat against Ottawa police headquarters
A wooden structure built by protesters is seen beside Confederation Park as a protest against COVID-19 restrictions that has been marked by gridlock and the sound of truck horns continues into its second week, in Ottawa, on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

An Ontario judge has granted a 10-day injunction to prevent protesting truckers in downtown Ottawa from honking their horns incessantly as the national capital’s mayor asked for a near doubling of his police force.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said in a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford that the city needed 1,800 more officers, in addition to his current contingent of 2,100 police and civilian members, to “quell the insurrection” the local police cannot contain.

Steve Bell, the city’s deputy police chief, said a person from Ohio was arrested in connection with a threat against Ottawa police headquarters in downtown Ottawa. He said threats are coming in from across North America, and they are very taxing on already stretched resources.

Watson said the city is keeping a tally of all extraordinary costs associated with the demonstrations and will seek compensation from higher levels of government when the protest finally ends. Ottawa police now say the demonstrations in the central core are costing the city $1.8 million to $2.2 million per day for police alone.

Ottawa’s request for more policing help came as Ontario Superior Court Justice Hugh McLean granted a temporary injunction that could bring an end to the cacophony of horns heard in streets for more than a week. McLean said his order was temporary because he needs to hear more evidence, but that he heard enough to make this ruling as a protest against COVID-19 pandemic measures continues to paralyze neighbourhoods around Parliament Hill.

Paul Champ, a lawyer representing central Ottawa residents in a proposed multimillion-dollar class-action lawsuit, argued the loud and prolonged honking is causing irreparable harm.

Keith Wilson, representing three of the respondents in the case, had told McLean the ruling on the injunction would carry national importance.

McLean said he heard enough evidence that the continual blaring of horns was having an effect on residents that their right for “quiet, if we can use that term,” trumped the honking truckers’ right to protest.

But McLean said the injunction was temporary because a “myriad of people” may still wish to come before the court to be heard.

Champ, Wilson and an Ottawa police lawyer were attempting to work out the specific details on how the injunction would be worded and properly disseminated to truckers so they can comply. An injunction is a court order that a person cease certain behaviour. If they don’t comply, they can be charged with contempt of court.

As for how the injunction might be enforced, Ottawa police Chief Peter Sloly told a special Ottawa council meeting it will depend on the details still to be hashed out in court.

Watson said the loud honking that has reverberated through downtown Ottawa for the last nine days is “tantamount to psychological warfare.”

Amid blaring truck horns, the demonstration has included open fires, makeshift feeding stations, encampments and numerous — sometimes profane — anti-government signs.

In his letter for more police resources, Watson wrote: “We need your help to end this siege in the heart of our nation’s capital and in our residential neighbourhoods, and to regain control of our city.”

Ford said Sunday the province has given Ottawa everything the municipality has requested, and will continue to do so.

Federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said Monday the provinces have “extensive regulatory powers” they can use to go after companies who are allowing their equipment to be used for the illegal occupation in Ottawa and near the U.S. border in southern Alberta.

He said provinces can use their highway safety laws to suspend the commercial licences and insurance of the owners of commercial trucks “blockading the streets, days on end, in a city or on a highway.”

“It’s clear blockades of streets and bridges is against the law and should bring serious consequences for the owners,” Alghabra said during a federal update on the ongoing events that included several cabinet ministers.

Alghabra urged the Ontario government to learn lessons from how convoys of anti-COVID-19 protesters were managed successfully in other provinces over the weekend.

In Quebec City, a protest wrapped up Sunday evening with police handing out 170 tickets for noise complaints, parking and highway safety code violations.

About a dozen large trucks and farm vehicles continued Monday to sit by the main entrance to the Manitoba legislature.

Federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said an “angry crowd” should not be allowed to dictate policies to fight COVID-19, and that protesters have “crossed the line of acceptable conduct” toward fellow Canadians in their bid to pressure the government.

“We believe in peace, order and good government in Canada,” he said. “Canadians deserve to feel safe in their communities and no one is above the law.”

Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair said it is not the role of any government to direct law-enforcement operations but he announced that a trilateral table of federal, provincial and municipal partners would help oversee the response.

There have been numerous calls for the federal government to manage the protest response.

Some local politicians have called on Trudeau to take a more active role in the situation. Trudeau’s itinerary said he was having private meetings Monday somewhere in the national capital region.

New federal Conservative Leader Candice Bergen wrote to request a meeting with the prime minister and other party leaders to discuss the ongoing protest in Ottawa.

She charged the prime minister with being “largely absent” since dismissing protesters as a “fringe” with “unacceptable views” last week.

Bergen wrote she hopes the leaders can talk about how to “take the temperature down” and find solutions that would allow the people of Ottawa to get back to normal life.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh accused Trudeau of a lack of leadership, saying the prime minister “needs to be present” to deal with the protest, but had “not been visible” so far.

Singh called for an emergency debate in the House of Commons and blamed the Liberals for using the protest as “a wedge issue.”

—Mike Blanchfield and Laura Osman, The Canadian Press

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