A former US ambassador has hit out at groups from the United States for interfering in protests in Canada over vaccine mandates and COVID restrictions.
Demonstrations by Canadian truckers started in Ottawa, in what many have described as a week-long occupation of the capital, and have since spread across the country.
Bruce Heyman, who was the ambassador to Canada under Barack Obama, said groups in the United States should stop getting involved in “disruptive activities in Canada”.
“Under no circumstances should any group in the USA fund disruptive activities in Canada. Period. Full stop,” he wrote on Twitter.
It comes as GoFundMe closed a fundraising page set up by groups in the US to help support the truckers’ protests in Canada.
The page raised millions of dollars for the demonstrators before the page was pulled and GoFundMe said it would issue refunds or redirect the donations to other charities.
Under no circumstances should any group in the USA fund disruptive activities in Canada. Period. Full stop.
— Bruce A. Heyman (@BruceAHeyman) February 6, 2022
The move drew criticism from US Republicans, including Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, who tweeted that it is “fraud for @gofundme to commandeer $9m in donations sent to support truckers and give it to causes of their own choosing”.
It is a fraud for @gofundme to commandeer $9M in donations sent to support truckers and give it to causes of their own choosing.
I will work with @AGAshleyMoody to investigate these deceptive practices — these donors should be given a refund.
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) February 5, 2022
The protest has attracted support from from US president Donald Trump, who said in a statement on Friday that “the Freedom Convoy is peacefully protesting the harsh policies of far-left lunatic Justin Trudeau who has destroyed Canada with insane COVID mandates”.
Why are truckers protesting?
The organisers of the convoy had been calling for the suspension of COVID-19 restrictions and an end to the vaccine mandate for cross-border truckers.
After a week-long drive across Canada, thousands of truckers rolled into the capital Ottawa on 29 January, which quickly turned into a larger demonstration against government overreach during the pandemic.
The truck drivers parked on the grounds of the National War Memorial, while some danced of the Tomb of Unknown Soldier and others carried signs and flags with swastikas.
A statue of Canadian hero Terry Fox – who lost a leg to bone cancer and then trekked across the country in 1980 – was draped in an upside-down Canadian flag calling to “mandate freedom”.
In Toronto, several hundred healthcare workers and supporters marched from the University of Toronto to Hospital Row just south of the legislature.
They held placards reading “free-dumb” and “N95 masks for all.”
Demonstrators also gathered in Quebec City, Fredericton and Winnipeg, with rallies planned for Regina, Edmonton, Vancouver, Victoria and the US border crossing at Coutts.
Trudeau ‘disgusted’ by protesters
The protests have drawn widespread condemnation, including from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
On 31 January, he tweeted that, while he understands that “this pandemic is frustrating”, Canadians have been “disgusted by the behaviour displayed by some people protesting in our nation’s capital”.
There is no place in Canada for this behaviour. So, to those responsible: It needs to stop. And to those who joined the convoy but are uncomfortable with the symbols of hatred and division on display: Be courageous and speak out. Do not stand for, or with, intolerance and hate.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) January 31, 2022
He also retweeted a statement from the Terry Fox Foundation that said: “Terry believed in science and gave his life to help others.”
Canada’s Defence Staff Chief General Wayne Eyre said those involved in the demonstration “should hang their heads in shame”, tweeting: “I am sickened to see protesters dance on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and desecrate the National War Memorial.”
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Canada has one of the highest vaccination rates globally and the premier of the province of Quebec is proposing to tax the unvaccinated.