Feb 1, 2022 - World

Canadian police set up hate crime hotline over pandemic protest violence

A supporter carries a US Confederate flag during the Freedom Convoy protesting Covid-19 vaccine mandates and restrictions in front of Parliament on January 29, 2022 in Ottawa, Canada.
A protester carries a U.S. Confederate flag with a truck emblazoned on it during a demonstration against COVID-19 vaccine mandates and restrictions in front of Parliament in Ottawa, Canada, on Saturday. Photo: Dave Chan/AFP via Getty Images

Ottawa Police are launching a hate crime hotline Tuesday for reporting offenses committed during pandemic demonstrations following reports of violence, racist abuse, harassment and the displaying of Nazi imagery at the protests in Canada's capital.

Driving the news: Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly told a Monday briefing that intelligence and investigative officers were being deployed in response to unruly behavior at the protests, which began as a rally last week against a U.S. vaccine requirement for cross-border truck drivers.

  • Sloly said police had "several active criminal investigations undergoing from bribery to threats to assault to the dangerous operation of vehicles."
  • Demonstrators' harassment targets included a homeless shelter guard who was racially abused and a couple with a Pride flag — who were verbally abused and fled their home to stay with friends after someone "defecated outside their door," CBC News reports.
  • Ottawa Police said over the weekend that they were investigating the "desecration of the National War Memorial" after receiving reports that protesters had urinated on it and also the targeting of a statue of Canadian hero Terry Fox with anti-vaccine messages.

Meanwhile, some protesters have been seen waving Confederate flags and swastikas. Some have been wearing yellow stars, which Jewish groups condemned for trivializing the Holocaust.

What they're saying: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke from isolation after testing positive for COVID-19 to denounce protesters for behavior including abusing small business owners, stealing food from a homeless shelter and flying "racist flags."

  • "There is no place in our country for threats, violence or hatred," Trudeau said.
  • He noted that the protesters were a "small fringe minority," with 90% of truck drivers in Canada vaccinated against the coronavirus.

What to expect: Sloly said the hotline will respond to any "criminal offenses, threats, assaults, hate-related crimes and mischiefs" at the demonstrations.

  • "There will be an immediate and continuous investigation until we have resolved it through charge and prosecution," he added.
"No matter where you live, no matter where your vehicle's registered, if you've come here and committed a crime, if you have committed a hate crime, you will be investigated. We will look for you, we will charge you. If necessary, we'll arrest you, and we will pursue prosecutions against you."
Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly
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