Montreal

Quebec City convoy ordered to leave the National Assembly

Quebec City police say those protesting in front of the National Assembly must move their parked vehicles, including at least two dozen heavy trucks, or face potential fines and towing.

'We were asked to demonstrate peacefully, that's what we did,' organizer says

Protest signs in English and French were either carried by protesters or left on display in front of Quebec's National Assembly on Friday. (Audrey Paris/Radio-Canada)

Large trucks and cars were seen honking and driving away from the National Assembly after Quebec City police ordered them to leave the area by 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Earlier in the morning, police told those parked in front of the Quebec National Assembly that if they didn't move, they could face fines and towing. At least two dozen heavy trucks were still there by Sunday afternoon, as the protest in the provincial capital rolled into its fourth day.

Protesters, many carrying signs or waving flags, began gathering in the morning. Most had left the area by 5:30 p.m.

The previous night, drivers had been honking loudly until 10 p.m., when police ordered them to stop.

"The way this weekend rolled out is magnificent. Unique. Quebec has stood up," said Bernard Gauthier, a protest organizer, speaking to the crowd on Sunday.

The last truck leaves the area near the Quebec National Assembly on Sunday evening. ( Sarah Leavitt)

"We were asked to demonstrate peacefully, that's what we did."

He and other organizers spoke into a microphone from a makeshift stage as police quietly watched, wearing reflective yellow vests and masks while standing guard in front of the National Assembly.

The crowd cheered and chanted "liberté" (freedom) while horns blared and music blasted from the speakers.

Quebec City protest leaders Keven Bilodeau and Bernard Gauthier, right, address the crowd on Sunday near the National Assembly. (Radio-Canada)

Gauthier said they plan to return soon for another protest in the city.

Sunday's demonstration was smaller than the protest on Saturday, which stretched about a kilometre in length at its peak, but Mayor Bruno Marchand said it has been peaceful so far.

"As long as it goes like this, there is no problem," he told reporters in the afternoon while attending the popular Quebec Winter Carnival — an annual event that involves blocking several streets from vehicle traffic.

Donna Willett, a business owner in the city, was not pleased.

She owns a grocery store and another business on Saint-Jean Street and lives near the National Assembly. She says she was substantially delayed by traffic snarls on Saturday.

"I had to go run errands, the police wouldn't even let me go down Saint-Jean Street. I was stuck in traffic for three hours to get to my parking lot," she said, calling the incessant noise "disrespectful."

Similar to the protest in Ottawa that began last weekend, convoys of trucks and other vehicles rolled into Quebec City on Thursday evening with horns sounding and lights flashing.

People also gathered on foot near the National Assembly, waving flags and holding up signs that called for an end to mask mandates and other health restrictions designed to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Police issue traffic tickets, make 1 arrest

The SPVQ issued warnings on Sunday morning to trucks parked on René-Lévesque Boulevard, saying the vehicles will be towed if they aren't moved.

The police service said officers handed out 15 tickets for Highway Safety Code violations and 17 parking tickets  overnight. It's not clear how many of those tickets are related to the protest.

The protesters, including some families with children, cheer and wave signs calling for the end of vaccine passports and other COVID-19 public health restrictions. (Justin Hayward/CBC)

At about 8 p.m. on Saturday, officers arrested a 31-year-old man for blocking traffic with his vehicle, which was then towed to clear the lane. 

The SPVQ handed out more than 50 tickets during smaller demonstrations on Thursday and Friday evening, mostly for road safety violations.

Quebec Premier François Legault "will no longer have the choice to back down," Keven Bilodeau, a protest organizer, said on Sunday.

Quebec scaling back restrictions

Dr. Luc Boileau, the interim director of Quebec Public Health, said earlier in the week that relaxing public health restrictions may lead to "more contagion, with the risk in particular of seeing more hospitalizations."

Regardless, the provincial government is pushing forward with its plan to scale back measures.

As of Monday, performance halls and cinemas can open at 50 per cent capacity, to a maximum of 500  people.

Places of worship can also open up to 50 per cent, with a maximum of 250 people, while up to 50 people can now attend funerals.

Next week, gyms and spas will be allowed to open at half capacity. Gyms and other fitness centres have been closed in the province since late December, when they were shuttered in order to limit the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

With files from Sarah Leavitt, La Presse canadienne and Radio-Canada

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