Quebec provincial police deployed to Ottawa to help clear protesters

Quebec provincial police are sending reinforcements to the nation's capital to help clear a three-week long occupation that's paralyzed the city's downtown core, a spokesperson for Quebec Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault confirmed Thursday.

Officers standing by in case protests get out of hand, says Quebec Public Security Ministry

Police hand out a notice to protesters on the 21st day of a protest against COVID-19 measures that has grown into a broader anti-government protest, in Ottawa, on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Quebec provincial police are sending reinforcements to Canada's capital to help clear a three-week-long occupation that's paralyzed the city's downtown core, a spokesperson for Quebec Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault confirmed Thursday.

Louis-Julien Dufresne says Sûreté du Québec (SQ) officers are heading to Ottawa "in case [the protests] get out of hand."

On Thursday morning, officers carrying large bags piled onto white buses, which were seen leaving SQ headquarters in Montreal. Groups of officers were also seen conducting intervention training exercises. 

Protests against COVID-19 health measures and vaccination mandates have been going on in downtown Ottawa for 21 days now — frustrating local residents, forcing many businesses to close shop and triggering the federal government to invoke Canada's Emergencies Act for the first time since it was passed in 1988. 

Although some vehicles and protesters have now left the scene of the demonstrations, there are still hundreds refusing to depart, and police, now present in larger numbers, have been warning them they will be removed shortly. 

According to Radio-Canada's sources, members of the SQ's tactical intervention squad are working under the command of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP). 

Sources say the SQ also plans to establish a command centre in Gatineau, on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River.

Dufresne would not say how many officers are headed to the National Capital region, nor how long the operation is expected to last.

The sources, however, say this is a large deployment, estimating SQ officers trained in crowd control will be more numerous in Ottawa than in Quebec City, where another demonstration against COVID-19 measures is planned for this weekend. 

Meanwhile, municipal officials in Quebec City yesterday announced the city is giving police more power to control traffic, parking and street closures ahead of the weekend protest. It has also reinstated a ban on outdoor cooking and on consuming alcohol in parks and other public spaces.

Crowds of protesters converged in front of Quebec's National Assembly on Feb. 5 and 6 in solidarity with the Ottawa demonstrators. Quebec City police maintained a heavy presence, and demonstrators cleared out by Sunday evening.

Based on reporting by Pascal Robidas, with files from Kate McKenna