Meet the 21-year-old Ottawa woman who stopped the horns
In the end, it wasn’t the might of the city bureaucracy or law enforcement who got the constant blaring of truck horns to stop after more than week of terrorizing downtown Ottawa residents.
It was a 21-year-old resident of Centretown who had simply had enough.
“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 that something is to be a voice and be a face—and even be even a target—for people to understand what really is going on here, I was more than willing to do so.”
An Ontario Superior Court judge granted a 10-day injunction on Monday ordering an end to the incessant honking by truckers parked on downtown streets. Anyone who violates the injunction could be found in contempt, which brings stiffer penalties than regular bylaw charges.
“It’s a big win, but it’s also a baby step,” Li said. “We really did deserve some peace and we’re glad to have some, at least for the next 10 days.”
Li said she has found the noise of the convoy protesters “unbearable.”
“I don’t even have the worst of it,” she said. “There are so many people that live in my neighbourhood that can’t live here anymore, that have to have escape their own home, and that quite frankly is completely unacceptable.”
Christine Johnson, a lawyer with Champ and Associates and co-counsel in the matter, told CTV’s Power Play that Li has suffered online abuse because of the lawsuit.
“While we’ve had an outpouring of support from many in the community, across the country, both towards our law firm and our very brave client we represent, she’s had also received a lot of vile hatred both directed at her,” Johnson said.
“It takes a lot of courage, as you can imagine, for a young woman to stand up on behalf of her neighbours … It’s been stressful. It’s been overwhelming and I think she felt as though it was the right thing to do.”
Li said she is also receiving a lot of messages of support from people who sympathetic to what Centretown residents are going through.
Asked how she thinks the trucker protest should be brought to an end, Li said she is surprised the situation has reached the point where her opinion on that is being sought.
“I think it’s very interesting that my opinion is asked. Because while I do understand it, at the end of the day, I am a 21-year-old, I am just barely an adult. I can’t believe that it’s come to this point where people are asking me how I think it should end.”
Li did say she agrees with the course Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has taken in not meeting with the convoy leaders.
“I fully agree that these people cannot be negotiated with,” she said.
The proposed class-action lawsuit is seeking $9.8 million in damages on behalf of Centretown residents. The next hearing, on whether the injunction will be extended, is set for Feb. 16.
“I can only hope that some kind of reparations will be seen for people in my community, and that at the very least people recognize the severity of what’s going on here and what has happened to us,” Li said.
“A lot of people have trauma because of this now, and it’s trauma that I personally don’t think should have ever happened to them.”
Ottawa police say people using horns in violation of the court order may be arrested and charged for contravening it. Possible penalties include up to two years imprisonment.