OTTAWA — The latest developments on ongoing protests against COVID-19 restrictions and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government, both in Ottawa and various cities across Canada. All times eastern:
Starting at midnight tonight, Alberta says it will end its COVID-19 vaccine passport program for non-essential businesses and events.
And starting Monday, the province will lift its mask mandate for children 12 and under and for all students in schools.
All other restrictions, including indoor masking rules and gathering limits, are to be removed on March 1st.
Premier Jason Kenney says people need to live to learn with COVID-19.
He says we cannot remain at a heightened state of emergency forever and we have to begin to heal.
The Mounties say removing trucks and other vehicles from a protest blockade in southern Alberta is being hampered by a lack of help from towing companies.
RCMP Deputy Commissioner Curtis Zablocki says towing companies the force has contacted have been reluctant to help.
He says the operators worry about long-term damage to their businesses should they help police haul away protester vehicles.
The standoff at the Coutts border crossing is now in its 11th day, with traffic in both directions snarled and at times stopped altogether by protesters demanding an end to COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
Zablocki says the goal is to resolve the blockade peacefully while keeping traffic moving but says police will continue to investigate and lay charges even after the impasse is resolved.
Sonya Savage, Alberta’s acting justice minister, says the province has other tools it could use if necessary, including filing for a civil injunction and seizing vehicles and forfeiting them to the Crown.
Ottawa protest organizer Canada Unity is disavowing a memorandum of understanding that underpinned its fight against COVID-19 measures.
The memo once pushed by Canada Unity unlawfully demanded Gov. Gen. Mary Simon and the Senate force federal and provincial governments to lift all COVID-19 restrictions, including vaccine mandates.
It did not mention truckers, and was initially sent to the Senate and Simon on Dec. 11.
Canada Unity now says it is immediately withdrawing the memo, adding it firmly supports the Constitution and democratic processes.
Liberal MP Joël Lightbound says he has resigned as the party's Quebec caucus chairman.
Lightbound announced the move on Twitter this afternoon after he criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He says he will be happy to support his successor in the continuation of the work of the caucus.
Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman says he will seek a special meeting of city council Thursday to discuss the ongoing protest against COVID-19 restrictions in front of the Manitoba legislature.
Bowman says several laws have been broken during the five daylong demonstration, including noise bylaws and the blockage of a street.
Bowman says politicians cannot tell police what to do but the special meeting will allow everyone to air their thoughts.
More than a dozen large vehicles remain outside the main entrance to the legislature grounds, and people who work in the building have been urged to work from home this week.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki says the Biden administration has been in touch with federal officials about the ongoing trucker protests at the Canada-U.S. border.
Psaki says the White House is in touch with “Canadian counterparts” about the protests, which have sporadically shut down or slowed traffic at key border crossing points.
At the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ont., protesters blocked traffic Monday before cars and trucks began moving today on a limited basis.
The bridge is considered the busiest international commercial land border crossing in North America.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he understands people are tired of COVID-19 restrictions, but says vaccine mandates are a way to prevent lockdowns from recurring.
Trudeau was responding to public criticism from one of his Quebec MPs, Joël Lightbound, about mandates and the government’s tone.
The prime minister says his government has been focused every step of the way on following the best science, following the best public health advice to keep as many people safe as possible.
He says Canada has seen lower death rates and quicker economic recovery because Canadians stepped up to get vaccinated.
Ottawa police say they have made 22 arrests related to the ongoing protests downtown.
They have also issued more than 1,300 tickets and there are 79 ongoing criminal investigations related to the protest.
Deputy Chief Steve Bell says officers are focused on hardening the perimeter around downtown and preventing fuel from getting to the trucks parked there.
He says demonstrators have been trying to subvert those efforts, including in some cases by filling gas canisters with water to distract officers.
He says officers were swarmed Monday as they attempted to seize fuel from the demonstrators.
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino says Canadians are troubled by anyone who associates themselves with the "extreme statements" that have been made by the leaders of the anti-vaccine mandate convoy.
A self-declared spokesman for the protest said Monday that he wanted to form a coalition with the Conservatives, NDP and Bloc Québécois, while a memorandum of understanding has called for the Senate and Governor General to force governments to lift COVID-19 restrictions.
Speaking at an afternoon news conference, Mendicino says inciting the overthrow of the government with violence is simply inconsistent with the way democracy functions.
He warned that any politicians who are supporting the protesters are embarking on a "very troubling path."
He adds that most Canadians understand there is a difference between being tired of the pandemic and crossing a line into trying to set up a parallel structure of government.
Hundreds of workers helping with the renovation of Centre Block have been told to stay home because of the ongoing demonstration outside.
Public Services and Procurement Canada confirms the construction site was closed on Jan. 28 out of concerns for the safety and security of workers on Parliament Hill.
Centre Block was closed three years ago for a complete overhaul and workers are still in the demolition and abatement phase.
A recent report to the House of Commons said that 400 workers were on site daily, a number expected to swell to up to 1,500 once the project's work is at its peak.
Ottawa police say 25 per cent of the 418 trucks camped in Ottawa have children living in them.
Deputy Chief Steve Bell says they are concerned about the kids, because of the cold and their access to sanitation.
He says the children could also be at risk in a potential police operation.
Police are working with the Children’s Aid Society to ensure the children’s welfare and safety.
There are no plans to remove the children from the trucks.
Christian fundraising site GiveSendGo — which has provided a home for the so-called "freedom convoy" fundraising campaign after GoFundMe axed it — says it will not conflate individuals trying to incite violence with the movement as a whole.
GiveSendGo says in a statement it has been in contact with the campaign organizers and received "full assurance" funds will go to provide humanitarian aid and legal support for the "peaceful truckers and their families."
The fundraising site says that it does not condone "violence of any form."
The fundraising site was blocked by PayPal last year after its use to raise funds for those who attended the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
A data breach, reported by the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper, showed that GiveSendGo raised millions of dollars for far-right movements and groups such as the Proud Boys, who are designated a terrorist group in Canada.
Ottawa's city manager says all tow-truck companies on contract with the city have refused to haul away the big rigs that have gridlocked Ottawa's downtown for the second week in a row.
Steve Kanellakos says the consensus seems to be that many of the companies don't want to do the work because the heavy truck industry is such a large part of their livelihoods and they won't want to damage that part of their businesses.
He says the city is reviewing the contracts to see what recourse it has in this unprecedented situation.
In the meantime, Ottawa's mayor has reached out to other large Ontario cities to see if they can help, and the city is calling companies across Eastern Ontario.
Alberta RCMP say some vehicles are now able to drive through the U.S. border crossing in Southern Alberta after both lanes were blocked again last night by anti-vaccine mandate protesters.
Commercial and passenger vehicles travelling northbound from the U.S. are able to cross freely near Coutts, Alta., but Mounties say large commercial vehicles travelling south are being asked to find alternative routes to avoid delays.
Federal cabinet ministers and Ottawa's mayor met late Monday to find solutions to end the anti-vaccine mandate protest that has snarled the Canadian capital for over a week.
Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair said on Twitter today that he was joined by Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino in talks with Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and city officials.
The meeting came after Watson sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford on Monday.
The mayor asked for another 1,800 police officers in addition to his current contingent of 2,100 police and civilian members to "quell the insurrection" in Ottawa.
Quebec Liberal MP Joël Lightbound says it's time his government stops dividing Canadians on the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lightbound broke publicly with his political party today, telling reporters the government led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau continues to "demonize'' people who have legitimate criticisms of the way the pandemic is being managed.
He says the government must provide Canadians with a clear and measurable road map detailing when federal restrictions related to the pandemic will be lifted.
The MP for the Louis-Hebert riding in Quebec City spoke to reporters the same time as a Liberal party cabinet meeting was scheduled, a day after MPs held an emergency debate on the ongoing trucker protest outside Parliament Hill.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 8, 2022.
The Canadian Press