The “freedom convoy” of truckers and their supporters are protesting COVID-19 vaccine mandates on Parliament Hill on Saturday.
Follow along for live updates from our reporters on the ground in Ottawa.
We are ending our live updates on the “freedom convoy” for Saturday.
The latest from the rally in Ottawa is available on CTVNews.ca and coverage will continue as the story develops.
10:36 p.m. EST
Shepherds of Good Hope, an organization that offers support to people experience homelessness in Ottawa, tweeted Saturday night that some members of their staff and volunteers experienced harassment from convoy protesters seeking meals from their soup kitchen earlier in the day.
“The individuals were given meals to diffuse the conflict,” the organization said in a tweet. “Management was then informed of the issue and no further meals were given to protesters. … This weekend’s events have caused significant strain to our operations at an already difficult time.”
10:00 p.m. EST
At a rally on Saturday night, former U.S. President Donald Trump gave a shoutout to the truckers’ convoy in Ottawa protesting COVID-19 health measures.
Trump praised the convoy participants for “doing more to defend American freedom than our own leaders by far.”
“We want those great Canadian truckers to know that we are with them all the way,” he told a crowd of supporters in Conroe, Texas.
Trump also slammed U.S. President Joe Biden for his administration’s vaccine mandates affecting federal contractors, large businesses, health workers and the military.
8:08 p.m. EST
Ottawa Police say crowds in the downtown core are dispersing, “but traffic issues continue and a large presence of police remains in place.”
Police said there were no incidents of violence or injuries reported.
Meanwhile, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole on Saturday called out the “disrespect” of some at the rally in downtown Ottawa, saying “the individuals desecrating these memorials should be ashamed and their behaviour undermines the brave Canadians who have sacrificed for our country.”
“Our country was built by Canadians who sacrificed and inspired for their generation and for generations to come,” O’Toole said. “These individuals include Terry Fox, who ran across our country to raise awareness of cancer, and Nathan Cirillo who paid the ultimate sacrifice.”
7:45 p.m. EST
The Royal Canadian Legion issued a statement Saturday evening condemning the actions of some protesters at the National War Memorial.
“They jumped on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and parked vehicles on the surrounding grounds. This sacred memorial site commemorates those who fought and fell for the very freedoms that allow people in Canada the right to protest peacefully. We are dismayed and saddened by this overt lack of respect,” the statement said.
6:52 p.m. EST
CTV News’ Mackenzie Gray says protesters have started a small fire for warmth in the middle of Wellington Street.
Meanwhile, CTV News Ottawa’s Josh Pringle reports fireworks are being set off on Wellington Street as the demonstration continues.
6:35 p.m. EST
CTVNews.ca’s Rachel Aiello reports the GoFundMe page for the “Freedom Convoy” has been updated to include an itinerary for Sunday that lists a prayer service in the morning on Parliament Hill and a press conference in the afternoon at an “undisclosed” location.
5:52 p.m. EST
In an interview with CTV News Channel, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said the people gathering in the city’s downtown core have “made their point” but said it is time for them to return to their own communities.
Watson said some in the rally lit fireworks, which “is not always the safest or smartest thing to do in a crowd.” He said other disruptions included businesses having to shut down, people putting anti-vaccine signs on a statue of Terry Fox, people dancing on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and cars being towed from the National War Memorial.
“This kind of behaviour sets back any positive movement or support that this rally might have,” he said.
Canada’s Chief of the Defence Staff said in a tweet he is “sickened to see protesters dance on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and desecrate the National War Memorial.”
“Generations of Canadians have fought and died for our rights, including free speech, but not this. Those involved should hang their heads in shame,” Gen. Wayne Eyre said.
4:26 p.m. EST
CTV News Ottawa reporter Jeremie Charron says city officials are making preparations in case the weekend protests spill into next week.
Reporting on the ground in Ottawa, he says the demonstrators show no sign of stopping anytime soon with the atmosphere becoming more rowdy.
4:15 p.m. EST
Officials say items and signage placed on the Terry Fox statue near Parliament Hill have been taken down.
Brad West, mayor of Port Coquitlam, B.C., which is Fox’s hometown, took to Twitter to express disapproval of protesters “appropriating” Fox for their messaging.
“He’s our city’s hero, national inspiration and an unifier. Whatever your cause, you don’t get to appropriate his legacy and you don’t touch his statue. Ever,” West tweeted, urging Ottawa to remove the items.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson responded to West’s tweet, saying a removal request was made and city staff had taken off the items placed on the statue. However, soon after, CTV News footage showed protesters re-placing signs and flags on the statue.
3:55 p.m. EST
Canada Unity organizer Patrick King riled up the crowd on Parliament Hill Saturday, saying politicians would have to listen to their concerns as he delivered comments from a truck flatbed.
“You guys are the ones that drove these boys here,” said King, who has been called out in the past for supporting and sharing COVID-19 misinformation.
“To finally see you guys stand up and say, ‘no,’ is the most amazing thing I’ve seen yet,” he added.
The memo being pushed by Canada Unity, the group that mainly planned the convoy, unlawfully demands Gov. Gen. Mary Simon and the Senate force the federal and provincial governments to lift all COVID-19 restrictions, including vaccine mandates.
The memo does not mention truckers, and was initially sent to the Senate and Simon on Dec. 11.
3:21 p.m. EST
CTV News’ Mackenzie Gray reports that protesters have entered the Rideau Centre, a three-level shopping mall near Parliament Hill, not wearing masks.
Stores in the centre have closed and employees have been evacuated.
“The safety of our guests, tenants and employees is our priority and out of an abundance of caution, CF Rideau Centre will be closed for the remainder of the day,” said Cadillac Fairview in a statement to CTV News Ottawa.
Police say they are assisting and there is no threat to public safety.
Given that many truck drivers and supporters are still making their way downtown, he says the demonstrations are expected to continue well into the evening.
2:57 p.m. EST
CTVNews.ca’s Rachel Aiello reports that some protesters have taken to singing ‘O Canada’ on Parliament Hill.
Speeches are also taking place on truck flatbeds along Wellington Street, with supporters talking of standing their ground for as long as it takes to achieve their goals.
Some demonstrators are dancing with Canadian flags draped around their shoulders amid sporadic chants of “freedom.” Others are carrying copies of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Flares and firecrackers are going off periodically.
Aiello reports that the surrounding crowds are getting more “invigorated” by the atmosphere.
Across the country in Alberta, Edmonton police say trucking convoys in support of the national protest in Ottawa may soon arrive at the ground of the provincial legislature there.
2:30 p.m. EST
Ottawa officials say streets in the downtown core are now closed to traffic due to gridlock caused by the protest.
“There is no more room for vehicles, other than first responders. Please avoid the area,” the City of Ottawa said in a tweet.
It is unclear how long the streets will be closed for.
Police say vehicles are being redirected away from the core even as more trucks are trying to make their way downtown.
The Ontario Provincial Police, who are responsible for Hwy. 417, the main east-west artery through Ottawa, are telling drivers to avoid the westbound lanes because of traffic backlogs linked to the demonstration.
2:25 p.m. EST
CTV’s Evan Solomon reports that a variety of people have shown up to demonstrate in Ottawa, and their reasons for attending go beyond COVID-19 vaccine mandates for cross-border truckers.
A lot of groups who don’t align with the truckers have since joined the demonstrations, expressing anger towards the media and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
While the rally has been peaceful, with no reports of arrests, he says that there’s a lot of “tough language” from protesters who are frustrated with ongoing pandemic restrictions.
This includes a rented helicopter flying above Parliament Hill featuring an anti-Trudeau expletive on its underside.
He said it is difficult to get a sense of how big the protest is as the area around Parliament Hill is enclosed, and demonstrators have been dispersed around the downtown core.
To help maintain safety, security officers have been stationed on nearby roofs and RCMP drones are flying above Parliament Hill.
2 p.m. EST
Protesters from the western route of the convoy that stayed overnight in nearby Arnprior are starting to reach Ottawa city limits to join those already in the capital.
Supporters have lined the overpasses into the city to greet them. Hundreds more vehicles from Quebec and the Atlantic provinces are expected to arrive in the next few hours.
On the ground in Ottawa, a heavy police presence remains as more people continue to gather. Roads around Parliament Hill remain blocked off, and those arriving have to walk to join other protesters.
1:45 p.m. EST
In a statement posted to Twitter on Saturday, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe thanked truckers for their continued work getting goods between Canada and the U.S. amid the COVID-19 pandemic and expressed his support for those protesting on Parliament Hill.
Moe said the current federal border policy for truckers “makes no sense,” adding that he believes an unvaccinated trucker doesn’t pose any greater risk of transmission than one who is fully vaccinated.
While this has become a common refrain among those who are hesitant, experts say vaccines provide the best protection against infection, noting that if someone isn’t infected with COVID-19, they can’t spread the virus.
Moe’s statement goes on to say that he believes the policy poses a risk to the economy and Saskatchewan’s supply chain that will increase the cost of living.
Experts have previously told CTVNews.ca that empty shelves recently spotted in some grocery stores are due to ongoing supply chain issues that began at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, not because of the federal government’s vaccine mandate for truckers.
1:30 p.m. EST
In a statement to CTV News, the Prime Minister’s Office said Trudeau is continuing to isolate in the “National Capital Region and work remotely” amid the protests on Parliament Hill.
“We’ve consulted Ottawa Public Health on appropriate protocols. As always, we do not comment on security matters,” the PMO said.
Demonstrators are marching up and down Wellington Street, which runs right in front of Parliament Hill and the Prime Minister’s Office, flying flags, carrying signs and cheering.
Sidewalks in front of Parliament Hill have become jammed as protesters weave between the semis parked for blocks in Ottawa’s downtown core.
Officers are keeping emergency lanes open and plan to continue to tow vehicles obstructing those lanes and any other places police need to keep clear for public safety. Some vehicles that have been towed for parking in front of the National War Memorial.
Outside of Ottawa, people have lined pedestrian overpasses, including one in the suburb of Kanata over Highway 417 that has people cheering as big rigs pass underneath on their way downtown.
12:52 p.m. EST
The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) said in a statement it appears a number of protestors in Ottawa have “no connection” to the trucking industry and are pushing a “separate agenda beyond a disagreement over cross border vaccine requirements.”
In the statement issued Saturday, the organization said many of those currently protesting on Parliament Hill “do not speak for the industry or represent truckers as a whole.”
The CTA asks those from the trucking industry who have chosen to participate in the protests continue to do so peacefully.
“Please remember this important responsibility you bear today in delivering your message responsibly but also the impact your actions will have on the image of the majority of your colleagues from coast-to-coast who do not share your opinion but share your passion for the industry and country,” the statement read in part.
12:30 p.m. EST
While face masks are not required outdoors, coverings are still required in all surrounding restaurants in Ottawa.
CTV News’ Creeson Agecoutay reports that despite this, some demonstrators have been spotted inside businesses not wearing masks.
12:21 p.m. EST
CTV News’ Colton Praill reports the crowd on Parliament Hill has “significantly” grown, but remains peaceful for the most part.
However, with more expletive-laden signs and decals targeting Trudeau becoming a dominant theme around downtown, concerns remain about safety. The large convoys from surrounding areas are expected to descend on Ottawa at soon.
Holding a sign reading “small fringe minority,” a reference to comments Trudeau made in describing the convoy, Montreal resident Chris Eid said many people disagree with what is happening in the country.
“And that’s why we’re here. We’re fighting for our freedom and liberty,” he told CTVNews.ca. “I just want Justin Trudeau to come talk to the people, to his people. He’s supposed to unite us and he’s been doing the opposite, unfortunately.”
Praill reported that many protesters say they are supportive of vaccines, but not mandating them, such as through the use of vaccine passports and other public health measures.
While the federal government has imposed a vaccine mandate for federally-regulated workers and at the border, almost all COVID-19 restrictions fall to provincial jurisdiction. That includes mask mandates, business and school closures, and other public and private gathering limits.
11:48 a.m. EST
Mike Millian, president of the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada (PMTC), told CTV News Channel on Saturday that the organization supports vaccines, but is against vaccine mandates.
Millian said he is happy to see that demonstrations in Ottawa have largely remained peaceful and says the PMTC does not condone any hate speech or calls for violence made by some participants.
“They have to be disassociated from this convoy, from the trucking industry because it’s not what the industry stands for,” he said.
Millian says vaccine mandates remain a “polarizing topic” and noted that not all truckers are in support of the “freedom convoy.”
11:25 a.m. EST
The number of protesters on Parliament Hill continues to grow.
CTVNews.ca’s Rachel Aiello reports that she spoke with participants who said they lost their jobs because they were unvaccinated and hoped the day would remain peaceful. She says others were less open to speaking with the media.
It’s unclear how long protesters intend to stay on Parliament Hill. Some protesters have said they won’t leave until public-health restrictions and vaccine mandates are lifted, or Trudeau is forced out as prime minister.
Ottawa police said officers will remain downtown until crowds disperse.
11:10 a.m. EST
Organizers say they have cancelled a planned in-person vigil in Ottawa to mark the fifth anniversary of the Quebec City mosque shooting that left six men dead and five others wounded.
Canadians United Against Hate had organized a candlelight vigil for Saturday night at a human rights monument near Ottawa City Hall, a few blocks south of Parliament Hill.
The group now says it will be holding a virtual vigil because of the truckers’ protest and threats of violence coming from some attendees.
10:45 a.m. EST
CTV News Ottawa’s Natalie van Rooy spoke with Antrim Truck Stop owner Tom Orr this morning on the convoy coming from Arnprior. Orr estimates there are more than 700 vehicles in total that have begun to leave for Parliament Hill.
Orr also said the majority of the people at his truck stop have been respectful and peaceful.
CTV News’ Mackenzie Gray says the situation on the ground in Ottawa remains “fairly under control,” and police have not made any arrests.
Some vehicles had parked in front of the National War Memorial, but Ottawa police said in a tweet that they moved when asked.
10:05 a.m. EST
Protesters from the western route of the convoy stayed overnight at a large truck stop in Arnprior, just west of Ottawa, and are expected to arrive by noon local time.
CTV News’ Mackenzie Gray reports that the crowd on Parliament Hill is continuing to grow steadily in size and noise, as the police presence also increases. He says the overall atmosphere is more aggressive than Friday’s demonstrations, but remains peaceful so far.
Police are not allowing trucks to park in front of the Prime Minister’s Office due to security concerns.
Officers from multiple Ontario police forces, including Toronto, York Region, Durham, London and the Ontario Provincial Police, are assisting Ottawa police and the RCMP.
Some Conservative MPs, as well as People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier, are expected to arrive on Parliament Hill later Saturday to speak and show their support for the protesters.
Organizers of the group that mainly planned the convoy, Canada Unity, are also expected to address the crowds Saturday.
9:30 a.m. EST
Protesters began streaming into the grounds early Saturday morning, honking horns and setting off fireworks, with thousands more expected to continue the weekend-long rally opposed to COVID-19 restrictions.
The Parliamentary Protective Service expects as many as 10,000 protesters to be in attendance.
CTV News’ Mackenzie Gray reports that some truckers slept in their trucks outside of Parliament Hill Friday night on Wellington Street.
The first hundreds of protesters arrived on Parliament Hill Friday, waving flags, some Canadian flags and others promoting anti-Trudeau messaging. Confederate flags have also been spotted.
Ottawa police say they are in the area and are on alert, having warned about the potential for violence. They’re advising residents to stay clear of the downtown core and in particular, and are anticipating “significant traffic delays and disruptions” along several streets.
Blockades have been set up at various points in the city and, as a result, many people will have to park elsewhere and walk to Parliament Hill.
With files from The Canadian Press