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About 100 convoy trucks in downtown Ottawa have children living inside: police

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Ottawa police say about a quarter of vehicles parked in downtown Ottawa as part of the trucker protests have children living in them, and authorities are worried for their safety.

Deputy Chief Steve Bell told reporters Tuesday that 25 per cent of the more than 400 trucks occupying the downtown core have children living inside.

“It’s something that greatly concerns us,” he said. “From the risk of carbon monoxide and fumes, the noise levels … we’re concerned about cold, we’re concerned about access to sanitation, the ability to shower.”

Bell said it’s something police need to address, and they’re having discussions with the Children’s Aid Society about what steps to take.

“We’re not at the stage of looking to do any sort of enforcement activity around that,” Bell added. “We’ll rely on the Children’s Aid Society to give us guidance around that.

“We just think it’s an important factor that complicates and makes this an even more challenging operation that’s important people are aware of.”

The presence of children isn’t the only complicating factor as police grapple with an occupation that has stretched into its 12th day.

Ottawa police have arrested 23 people and issued more than 1,300 tickets in relation to the trucker protests downtown, Bell said.

According to a news release from police, criminal charges include mischief (in relation to the transportation of fuel), resisting police, fleeing police, drug possession, driving while disqualified, breach of probation, and menacing. Bylaw infractions include excessive noise, use of fireworks, and numerous driving and parking violations. Several vehicles were seized and towed, police said, including one stolen truck and an abandoned vehicle in a roadway.

Police said as of Monday there were 418 vehicles in the "red zone" and about 100 protesters on the Wellington Street corridor. 

"Hundreds of concrete and heavy equipment barricades remain in place throughout Centretown, Lowertown, ByWard Market, Sandy Hill and the Glebe," police said.

Protesters’ shifting tactics, including transporting jerry cans filled with water when police said they would crack down on people bringing gasoline into the red zone, are creating challenges.

“It identifies a level of sophistication and a level of ability of this group to try and subvert police efforts. That’s concerning to us,” Bell said.

Bell also said the force’s request for an additional 1,800 officers, which was sent to the provincial and federal governments on Monday, will be key to bringing the occupation to an end, including “hardening the area around the occupation,” which takes about 400 officers a day.

“We are absolutely committed to ending this. That’s why we’ve made the large ask we had, so that we can have the presence we need to successfully, expeditiously and quickly end this occupation.”

ENFORCING THE INJUNCTION ON HORNS

A court injunction was granted Monday to stop the constant honking of horns, a tactic Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said was "tantamount to psychological torture."

Ottawa police say if a person is believed to be using air horns or train horns, other than those on a motor vehicle of a municipal fire department; and is in the vicinity of downtown Ottawa, they may be arrested for contravening the Court Order or they may be arrested and/or charged under Section 127 of the Criminal Code.

If a person is arrested for contravening the Court Order and the person indicates, in writing, that they will obey and abide by the Court Order, they may be released, police said.

If a person is arrested for contravening the Court Order and they refuse to indicate in writing that they will obey and abide by the Court Order, they may be taken to the Superior Court for civil contempt proceedings and criminal contempt prosecutions. Penalties include up to two years imprisonment and/or another form of punishment as deemed appropriate at time of conviction. 

The injuction is in effect for 10 days. It was part of a class action lawsuit brough forward by 21-year-old Zexi Li, a resident of Centretown who said she'd had enough of the noise.

“This situation, quite frankly, really ruffled my feathers,” Zexi Li, the lead plaintiff in a proposed class-action lawsuit told CTV Morning Live on Tuesday. “I really, really felt that no matter what, I had to do something.”

'IF WE'RE DENIED FUEL, WE FREEZE': TRUCKERS

Some of the truckers who continue to refuel their trucks say they have no choice but to keep themselves topped up.

"This is our place of residence right now," said Andy Wing, who came to Ottawa from Denfield, Ont., near London. "We sleep in these trucks, we live in these trucks, so if we’re denied fuel then we freeze, and that’s a dangerous thing."

Wing told CTV News Ottawa he's been in the capital since the protest began and he has no intention of leaving.

"It’s not [that] we’re trying to do anything illegal here, we’re not, but we do have to keep warm," he said. "This is not the summer; it was minus 30 the other day. I get what they’re trying to do, force us out, but it’s not going to work, but we have to survive."

He says he does not resent the police for seizing fuel. "They’re doing their job," he says, but he says he refuses to give up on his protest.

"We’re going to have to go find fuel. We’re not leaving. I mean, we can’t give up. There are too many Canadians that are depending on us."

OFFICERS ARE TIRED

Bell said the ongoing demonstration and occupation has had a significant impact on the morale of rank and file officers within the Ottawa Police Service.

"Our members are tired. They are very tired," Bell said. "The morale is challenged through this. There is no other way to put it."

Bell said officers are working seven days straight in up to 18-hour days in the winter cold, with the risks associated with the protest. The additional officers that have been requested would help to give Ottawa officers a break.

"We asked for 1,800 officers, which is a big ask, because our members need that help and support in order to bring this to an end," he said. "This has been challenging for them and I'm proud of the work they do every single day."

POLL: NEARLY NINE IN 10 OTTAWA RESIDENTS WANT PROTESTERS TO LEAVE 

The truckers remain despite a poll showing nearly nine-in-10 Ottawans want the protest to pack up and leave, including more than two-fifths of people who support the convoy.

On Monday night, convoy leaders held an "emergency press conference" in which a spokesperson said the truckers would be "willing to sit at a table" with the Conservatives, NDP and Bloc to form a coalition government, as well as sit with the Governor General. They said they have booked a hotel room in Ottawa on Tuesday in an effort to meet with the prime minister.

Mayor Jim Watson said Tuesday morning the key to ending the demonstration is the 1,800 additional personnal Chief Peter Sloly requested in the city. Those requests went out to the premier and prime minister on Monday, he said.

"That’s our number one concern," Watson told Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Leslie Roberts. "We need to get more officers to help stabilize this situation, to give some of our officers a day off."

The request for 1,800 additional police breaks down to 1,000 regular officers, 600 public order officers, 100 investigative officers and 100 civilian staff. Watson said it will take some time for them to arrive.

"The large number of numbers that we're asking for, we're not going to get them tomorrow," he said. "We just put in the request yesterday. It's going to take some time. There's logistics of physically getting them here."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the House of Commons that he would be speaking with Watson Tuesday afternoon.

On Monday, Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly told CTV News protesters have been adapting their countermeasures to police enforcement, which is creating difficulty for officers in trying to enforce the law. He cited the example of refuelling.

Police on Sunday said anyone attempting to bring fuel or other supplies into the core to keep the protest trucks powered could be subject to arrest, but the protesters responded by filling the jerry cans with water, sometimes drinking from them in front of police to show they were not bringing fuel, while still managing to bring some fuel into the core to refill the trucks.

Sloly alleged that officers were swarmed at one point Monday afternoon when trying to stop someone with fuel, creating a "near-riot" situation. Deputy Police Chief Steve Bell told reporters that an investigation is underway, an arrest was made, and charges would be laid.

BUSINESSES STRUGGLING

The protest continues to impact businesses in the downtown core, with some telling CTV News that the past 10 or more days have been some of the worst for business since the pandemic began because customers are scared to come downtown out of fear of confrontation with demonstrators, amid reports of harassment and intimidation. The Rideau Centre mall, the Canadian History Museum, the Canadian Museum of Nature and the Canadian War Museum all say they will remain closed until further notice while the demonstration continues.

Protesters, meanwhile, continue to claim they are on their best behaviour, saying they have been picking up trash on the street. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to the issue in the House of Commons Monday evening, saying the protests have to stop.

“People of Ottawa don't deserve to be harassed in their own neighbourhoods, don’t deserve to be confronted with the inherent violence of a swastika flying on a street corner, or a confederate flag, or the insults and jeers just because they're wearing a mask. That's not who Canadians are,” the prime minister said.

Federal officials stressed they have no intention to end COVID-19 mandates at this time, and would not let an "angry crowd" sway policy.

“No matter how much a small minority may hold themselves above public health measures, they are not above the law,” a statement said.

The city of Ottawa remains under a state of emergency because of the ongoing demonstration and occupation.

--With files from CTV News Ottawa's Colton Praill, Tyler Fleming, and Leah Larocque. 

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