Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been accused of stoking division over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic — as he branded the Freedom Convoy protesters swastika wavers.
Trudeau took aim at the thousands of anti-vaccine mandate protesters who have staged demonstrations in Ottawa for the last two weeks, declaring on Monday night: “It has to stop.”
“This is a story of a country that got through this pandemic by being united — and a few people shouting and waving swastikas does not define who Canadians are,” Trudeau told lawmakers during an emergency debate.
Trudeau’s remarks appeared to dismiss concerns from conservative lawmakers who have warned the hundreds of trucks that have been blocking major thoroughfares in Ottawa shed light on how divided the country has become.
Trudeau added that the protesters were “trying to blockade our economy, our democracy, and our fellow citizens’ daily lives.”
The conservative lawmakers have accused Trudeau of fueling discontent amid the pandemic — and failing to give Canadians a timeline for when life may return to normal.
“We are at a crisis point, not just outside the doors and across the country, but the country overall,” Candice Bergen, the country’s conservative interim leader, said.
“And so much of it is because of the things he’s said and done.”
It came as the protests that initially started in Ottawa extended elsewhere on Monday as truckers blocked access to the Ambassador Bridge — the busiest bridge connecting Canada to the US, police said.
Ottawa’s mayor Jim Watson also declared a state of emergency for the city and pleaded for almost 2,000 extra cops to help quell the nightly demonstrations.
The protesters have vowed not to leave until all vaccine mandates and COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
The Freedom Convoy initially started as a protest against Trudeau’s vaccine mandate for cross-border truckers — but quickly grew into a mass demonstration against the government’s widespread COVID regulations.
High-profile figures including former President Donald Trump and Tesla founder Elon Musk have publicly backed the protestors amid the controversy.