As anti-vaccine protests in Canada escalate even further, Ottawa-based High Commission of India has issued an advisory, as well as a helpline number, for Indian citizens who are in Canada or scheduled to visit the country.
The High Commission in its statement said, "The Canadian capital city of Ottawa and several other major cities, including Toronto, are currently witnessing protests with road blockages, demonstrations, large gatherings and general strikes. This has led to disruptions to traffic, transportation and shortages of essential items including food and water."
It added that owing to the prevailing situation a state of emergency has been declared.
Advisory for Indian Citizens in Canada or planning travel to Canada- Please take all precautions in light of the ongoing protests and public disturbance in Ottawa and other major Canadian cities.
Special #Helpline for distressed Indian citizens in Canada- ☎️ 6137443751 pic.twitter.com/jNLodQuphU
— India in Canada (@HCI_Ottawa) February 8, 2022
The High Commission said, "In view of the ongoing situation, Indian citizens in Canada and those planning to visit Canada are hereby advised to — Exercise a high degree of caution and remain alert, avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place, such as downtown Ottawa, follow the instructions of local authorities, including curfews, and monitor local media for information on ongoing demonstrations and the evolving situation.”
The High Commission has also set up a helpline for distressed Indian citizens in Canada — 6137443751.
According to the advisory, these are the steps that Indians need to follow:
• Exercise a high degree of caution and remain alert
• Avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place, such as downtown Ottawa
• Follow the instructions of local authorities, including curfews
• Monitor local media for information on ongoing demonstrations and the evolving situation
Reason for the protests
The so-called 'Freedom Convoy' began in January in western Canada — launched in anger at requirements that truckers either be vaccinated, or test and isolate, when crossing the US-Canadian border.
Having snowballed into an occupation of the Canadian capital, the protest has sparked solidarity rallies across the nation and abroad, and by Tuesday had forced the temporary closure of a key US border bridge, the busiest international land-border crossing in North America.
Amid a state of emergency in Ottawa, federal police have deployed among demonstrators waving Canadian flags and anti-Justin Trudeau placards in protests now in their second week and fast becoming a rallying cry for far-right and anti-vaccine groups.
From the original opposition to vaccine requirements, the trucker movement has morphed into a broader protest against COVID-related restrictions and Trudeau's Liberal government, and puts a spotlight on pandemic curbs around the world.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — who a day earlier issued a stern warning the protests "had to stop" — appeared to shift tone, saying he understood "how frustrated everyone is" and that "the time is coming when we will be able to relax."
"We're all sick and tired of restrictions, of mandates, of having to make sacrifices," Trudeau said, adding, however, that vaccine mandates were the "way to avoid further restrictions."
COVID restrictions being lifted
Meanwhile, the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan, Quebec, Alberta and Prince Edward Island announced plans to lift some or all COVID-19 restrictions, with Alberta removing its vaccine passport almost immediately. A week ago, Alberta's premier said the vaccine passport could be eliminated by the end of March.
Quebec's plan doesn’t include an end to mask mandates or the vaccine passport system.
Quebec premier Francois Legault said the demonstrators who descended on Quebec City last weekend calling for an end to health measures didn’t weigh on the government’s decision to offer Quebecers a reopening plan.
"Now, if they (demonstrators) want to take credit for this, and then they don’t come back in two weeks, I won’t object to that,″ Legault said.
With inputs from agencies