Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has slammed protests in the capital city against Covid-19 vaccine mandates as “an insult to memory and truth”.
Protestors are demonstrating for a third consecutive day over a cross-border vaccine mandate for truckers imposed by the Liberal government.
Ottawa police asked the public to avoid the downtown area on Monday, citing “traffic, noise and safety issues”.
Some downtown stores, including a shopping mall, will also be closed.
Demonstrators at the so-called Freedom Convoy have been mostly peaceful but the behaviour of some members of the crowd has been strongly criticised.
Police have opened investigations into several reported incidents, including footage of a woman dancing on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the National War Memorial.
Mr Trudeau said: “Freedom of expression, assembly and association are cornerstones of democracy, but Nazi symbolism, racist imagery and desecration of war memorials are not.”
The prime minister refused to meet protestors.
“This is not the story of our pandemic, our country, our people,” he said. “My focus is standing with Canadians and getting through this pandemic.”
The convoy began as a call to end a vaccine mandate imposed by the federal government on 15 January that would require unvaccinated Canadian truckers returning from across the US border to quarantine once they return home.
But it has since grown into a push to end all vaccine mandates nationwide and what supporters see as government overreach of Covid-19 restrictions.
Around 90% of Canada’s 120,000 cross-border truckers are vaccinated, in line with the country’s adult population.
Reports on social media indicate that truckers in the US may be planning a similar demonstration that would see them drive from California in the West to the country’s capital in Washington DC.