IN RESPONSE TO the ‘Freedom Convoy’ blockade in Ottawa, Ketty Nivyabandi, Amnesty International Canada’s Secretary General, said: “We are deeply troubled by the reports of violence, harassment, intimidation, and hate speech that have surfaced at the protests.
“Symbols of racism and hate such as Nazi and Confederate flags exhibited have no room in peaceful protests. Equally concerning is the affiliation of some of the convoy organisers with overtly racist and white supremacist groups.
“Authorities have an obligation to protect people from violence and harassment, and to respect the rights of all protesters to peaceful assembly and expression of their views. However, violence and harassment are not part of exercising the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.
“We express solidarity with the frontline organisations, including homeless and women’s shelters whose operations have been impacted by these protests, as well as LGBTQI+ and the minoritised community – particularly Jewish, Muslim, Black and Indigenous communities – who have been targeted by hate propaganda.
“We are calling on the authorities to take immediate and appropriate action to facilitate peaceful protests, while investigating and holding those perpetrating violence or inciting hate to account.”
The failure of law enforcement agencies to respond swiftly and appropriately to reports of violence and harassment demands a prompt, thorough, and impartial public inquiry.
The inquiry must also address instances of interference with residents’ rights to public health and social services delivery, as well as the harassment of healthcare workers, reporters, people living with disabilities, and racialised and other marginalised people.
Until a recent court injunction, residents have been subjected to almost continuous high-decibel noise levels – including honking, air horns, train whistles, street parties and fireworks – since the demonstration began at the end of January.
Frontline services have expressed concern about the impact of the ongoing demonstrations on their ability to provide for already vulnerable clients.
Journalists have experienced threats and harassment, both online and while reporting from the demonstration zone. In addition to this, more than 400 hate messages are under investigation by the Ottawa Police.
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, Algonquins of Pikwakanagan, the Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation Tribal Council and Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg have also expressed concerns about the misuse and appropriation of sacred, traditional objects and ceremonies.
* Source: Amnesty International