The City of Ottawa has reached an agreement with one of the leaders of the week-long protest that could see hundreds of trucks and other vehicles exit downtown residential areas over the next 24 hours.
Some of the vehicles will not leave town, but may be moved to Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway, where many trucks have already been parked since day one.
In a letter sent Saturday to Tamara Lich, one of the organizers of Freedom Convoy 2022, Mayor Jim Watson expressed concern about the continued occupation of downtown.
“My overriding concern is for the safety and security of our downtown residents, business owners and workers, who are innocent collateral damage to this unprecedented national and international protest,” he wrote.
“Our residents are exhausted and nervous, and our small businesses impacted by your lockdowns are on the verge of permanent closure.”
Relocation may take 72 hours
Hundreds of heavy trucks have been parked on city streets for more than two weeks since a truck convoy entered the nation’s capital to protest various COVID-19 public health mandates.
Watson told organizers to remove the trucks from various residential areas by noon on Monday. They include the residential streets south of Wellington Street and Parliament Hill, the ByWard Market and a baseball stadium car park on Coventry Road, where a large contingent of protesters set up camp early on.
Protesters have now been asked to limit trucks to Wellington Street between Elgin Street and Sir John A. Macdonald Drive.
Given that there are around 400 trucks downtown, Watson acknowledged it could take up to 72 hours to move them.
He also asked organizers to stop asking other protesters to join the protest to ensure the trucks move.
The organizer is trying to get truckers to join
It is not known exactly who participated in the negotiation of this agreement.
Ottawa police have said they have been in contact with several of the convoy leaders in the past, even before the protesters arrived in the city more than two weeks ago. Police also admitted that the protest representatives they spoke with do not represent all protesters.
In a letter to Watson the same day, Lich said the convoy never intended to disturb residents and businesses and that, with the help of authorities, the trucks should start moving on Monday.
“The Freedom Convoy Board agrees with your request to reduce pressure on residents and businesses in the City of Ottawa. We have developed a plan to consolidate our protest efforts around Parliament Hill,” she wrote.
“We will work hard over the next 24 hours to get truckers on board.”
Watson said he would also be open to meeting Lich once the trucks are moved.
Reaction from a downtown councillor, trucker
Tyler Armstrong was sitting in the cab of a truck on Sunday when news of the deal broke, but told Radio-Canada he had heard nothing about it.
“If it’s to advance what we’re doing and get things done, then I’m all for it,” he said.
“People know we’re here to stay, so they know we’re not going to leave. One hundred percent I won’t move. I won’t leave until we get what we want, and I think a lot of the public knows that.”
Somerset County Catherine McKenney, who represents the downtown area now overrun by protesters, said moving vehicles off residential streets would be positive.
“I always say I measure success by whether people can get groceries, they can safely take the LRT, they can live on their streets without diesel fumes or toxic fumes” , McKenney said.
“That’s the measure of success, so whatever happens, we have to wait and see. I want to see exactly what happens and how it happens.”