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Prime Minister Trudeau comments on whether military could be called over convoy protest

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says calling in the military to end the trucker convoy standoff in Ottawa is “not in the cards right now,” nor does he have any plans to engage with the few hundred protesters remaining camped out on city streets.

“There were questions a couple of years ago around military when it came to other protests that were blocking critical infrastructure. My answer then is consistent with my answer now: That one has to be very, very cautious before deploying military in situations engaging Canadians,” Trudeau told reporters on Thursday.

“It is not something that anyone should enter in[to] lightly, but as of now, there have been no requests, and that is not in the cards right now.”

With protesters now parked on Wellington Street for almost a full week, calls have revved up for the federal government to intervene in recent days.

From suggestions the RCMP should be playing a more prominent role, to whether specific federal financial aid could be offered to businesses that have had to shut their doors due to the risks associated with the demonstration, city officials have been putting pressure on Trudeau to do more.

Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly said Wednesday that all options “for the resolution of this demonstration” are on the table, from a court injunction to potentially calling in the Canadian Armed Forces, a move that’s rarely been taken in the history of civilian demonstrations in this country.

In response to this suggestion, a spokesperson for the minister of national defence said in a statement that “the Canadian Armed Forces are not involved in this situation, and there are no plans for such CAF involvement.”

Trudeau said Thursday that the government will respond to any formal requests from either the city or the province, but at this point the government’s focus is on supporting the Ottawa residents who have had their lives upended by the incessant honking and reported instances of harassment.

“As a federal government there are constitutional requirements on how we intervene in local jurisdictions, and that's why we are there to provide support as necessary,” he said.

New interim Conservative Leader Candice Bergen has also been leading calls from the Official Opposition benches for Trudeau to listen to the protesters’ wide-ranging list of grievances to make them “feel like they’ve been heard.”

Many participants in the ongoing protest have expressed a clear hatred for the prime minister and a desire to see him removed from office, both in what they’ve said during the demonstrations and through the signs lining the fence in front of Parliament Hill.

A group called “Canada Unity” has been involved with organizing support for the convoy. The group has prompted a “memorandum of understanding” suggesting the formation of a committee involving members of the Senate and the Governor General that could, they incorrectly say, go over elected officials at various levels to unilaterally revoke pandemic policies.

On Thursday, Trudeau gave no indication his position has changed when it comes to meeting or negotiating with any convoy participants in order to have them leave.

He said that Canadians had their voices heard on vaccine mandates during the last federal election, and his government has no intention of reversing course now.

“Having a group of people who disagree with the outcome of an election who want to go a different way and bring in an alternative government is a non-starter in a responsible democracy,” he said.

Trudeau—who remains in isolation given he tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday—was also asked whether if he was able to, he’d feel safe travelling up to Parliament Hill. The prime minister said his main preoccupation is the safety of local residents.

“This is protesting people going about their daily lives, harassing people who dare wear masks or follow public health rules, expressing hateful approaches… The people of Ottawa deserve to have their lives back,” Trudeau said. “This is a time for responsible leadership as well, for all politicians from all parties to tell these protesters, as I have… It's time to give them their neighbourhoods back.”

All week, city Coun. Catherine McKenney has been calling for the federal government to step in and have the RCMP take the lead in securing the downtown core so that local police can focus on addressing the “terrorizing” going on in city neighbourhoods.

On Wednesday, McKenney said that residents have been “abandoned during a national crisis and an occupation of our city.”

In a press release issued Wednesday morning, organizers of the trucker convoy said that while they regret that locals are “bearing this inconvenience,” their message is to take it up with their elected officials because the politicians are the ones responsible, as they have not yielded to their demands.

During a press conference at a downtown Ottawa hotel, organizers doubled down on this message, taking issue with the fact that the federal government has not engaged directly with them.

“Let me assure the people of Ottawa that we have no intent to stay one day longer than necessary. Our departure will be based on the prime minister doing what is right, ending all mandates, and restrictions on our freedoms,” said organizer Tamara Lich.

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