Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday February 1, 2022
Vulnerable downtown residents hit breaking point as convoy enters 5th day
Ottawa resident Jo O’Connor says she’s been living a nightmare in her home just minutes away from Parliament Hill where a convoy of trucks and protesters remain for a fifth day in a row.
Constant honking and noise outside her building, as well as the smell of diesel fuel, has left her sleepless.
“It makes me so depressed and so sad that these people care so little about people like me, or people who are disabled, people who are immunocompromised,” said O’Connor.
Jo isn’t her first name. CBC has agreed not to use her first name for fear of reprisals from protesters, some of whom are still in Ottawa.
Thousands of protesters and convoys of transport trucks have clogged downtown Ottawa streets in what began as opposition to mandatory vaccination for cross-border truckers — and has since evolved to include a range of opposition to COVID-19 public health measures.
The protest, which police estimate ranged from 5,000 to 18,000 people on Saturday, has dwindled, but those who linger for a fifth day continue to blare their horns over neighbourhoods where tens of thousands of people live.
O’Connor is one of many downtown residents who has written to or spoken with CBC News explaining their struggles with sleep, anxiety and their mental health due to the disruption from the protest.
“They just have no idea how awful it is that if people like me who have a chronic illness can’t sleep, our bodies can’t repair ourselves,” said O’Connor, who needed to take the day off work Monday to try to recover from the weekend of stress and lack of sleep.
“To have this going on three nights, I am exhausted. I am finding it hard to breathe … and who is helping us?”
Coun. Catherine McKenney, whose Somerset ward covers the protest area, calls the actions of protesters unprecedented.
“People who live here are feeling under siege,” McKenney said. “They’re frightened. I have never, in the seven years that I represented the downtown, I had never once received concern from anybody about a protest … that they were frightened by protesters in the city.
“I’m hearing that from hundreds if not thousands at this point. It’s hard to keep up.”
The councillor said residents feel abandoned and they need to be protected, while the convoy has “created an atmosphere of fear.”
On Monday, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson relayed what he’s heard from downtown residents.
“They’re sick and tired of the diesel fuel, honking of horns, kids can’t get to sleep,” Watson said.
“Many small businesses in the downtown are afraid to open. That shouldn’t be the case in a civil society like ours.” (CBC)