OTTAWA — Roughly 100 kids are living in the trucks idling on the streets of downtown Ottawa during the cold, noisy and prolonged protest that has grabbed hold of the capital, police say.
Police officers patrolling the core noticed families and children in the core during the early days of the protest, said Deputy Chief Steve Bell.
Almost 25 per cent of the 418 large vehicles still blockading Ottawa's streets are occupied by families with children, he said.
"It's something that greatly concerns us," Bell said at a briefing Tuesday.
Police have called in the Children's Aid Society of Ottawa to make sure the children are all right, he said.
Kids have been a fixture of the protest since it began more than two weeks ago. Demonstrators have bemoaned the impact of vaccine mandates and COVID-19 restrictions on their children and called for them to be lifted.
Childrens' drawings adorn one of the parked semi-trucks parked in front of Parliament Hill.
On Tuesday, young children insnowsuitswere seen playing in the street downtown. Two elementaryschool-agedchildren walked around Wellington St., and one wore a Canada flag as a cape.
Parents were seen coming out of a nearby camper hitched to a parked car with a toddler in a stroller.
Police are worried about some of the conditions children have been exposed to throughout the protest. The parliamentary precinct has been the epicentre of overwhelmingly loud honking from the trucks and big rigs parked along Wellington Street. The site also stinks of diesel fumes from the idling vehicles, smoke from barbecues and campfires lit by demonstrators, and marijuana.
"We're concerned about cold, we're concerned about access to sanitation — the ability to shower — there's a multitude of concerns," Bell said.
Bell said he is also worried the kids could be put at risk if they were to stage a police operation in the area.
The Children's Aid Society did not immediately respond to questions about what they will be looking for when they visit the site to check on the children.
The aid society plans to make a statement on Wednesday.
Police are not looking to remove the children, but rather will take advice from Children's Aid about whether any further steps are necessary.
"We just think it's an important factor that complicates and makes this an even more challenging operation," Bell said.
— With files from Jordan Press
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 8, 2022.
Laura Osman, The Canadian Press