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OTTAWA, Canada — Ottawa's police chief has resigned after criticism that he did not do enough to stop COVID-19 protests that have paralyzed Canada's capital city and forced Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to invoke emergency powers, a city official said on Tuesday.
A trucker-led movement calling on the government to lift vaccine mandates and other restrictions has occupied parts of downtown Ottawa since late January. It had also blocked a major U.S. border crossing until being cleared over the weekend.
With protesters still standing their ground outside Canada's parliament and prime minister's office, Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly has stepped down, Riley Brockington, an Ottawa city councilor, said on Twitter.
Sloly will publicly announce his decision later on Tuesday, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported. Ottawa police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Critics alleged that Sloly and other police officers were too permissive in their approach to the protests, which have inspired copycat movements across the world and posed a major challenge to Trudeau's government.
Trudeau became only the second Canadian leader to invoke the Emergencies Act in peacetime, giving authorities broad powers including the ability to cut off protesters' funding and reinforce provincial and local law enforcement with federal police.
I suspect following the money and then turning the money off is probably a good strategy and not one that's easily done.
–Jack Lindsay, Brandon University
'We're not leaving'
Protesters blockaded the Ambassador Bridge, a vital trade route between Windsor, Ontario, and Detroit, for six days before police cleared them out on Sunday. They have also shut down smaller crossings in Alberta, Manitoba and British Columbia.
A border crossing in Manitoba remained blocked on Tuesday, and protesters in downtown Ottawa vowed to defy Trudeau's emergency orders.
"We're not leaving. We've dug in this long," said Gord, a cross-border truck driver from Manitoba who declined to give his last name. The use of emergency powers "is just another scare tactic," he said while parked in front of parliament.
Danny Digenova, a protester from Montreal who stood near the entrance to parliament, said he was not concerned about the emergency powers and he would stay until restrictions are lifted.
Trudeau acted after concluding that law enforcement could not cope with the protesters, especially in Ottawa.
"This illegal occupation needs to end ... the measure of success will be, can we get our supply chains back? Can we end the disruption to livelihoods of people who rely on trade to the United States?" Trudeau told reporters.
Protesters in Coutts, Alberta, planned to end their protest on Tuesday morning, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp reported, after 13 people were arrested on Monday with a cache of weapons, ammunition and bullet-proof vests.
As part of the Emergencies Act, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland announced measures to choke off the protest movement's funding, saying they could lose their commercial licenses, insurance and access to bank accounts.
"I suspect following the money and then turning the money off is probably a good strategy and not one that's easily done ... temporary short-term measures that wouldn't normally be acceptable can be put in place," Jack Lindsay, department chair for applied disaster and emergency studies at Brandon University in Manitoba.
Contributing: Nichola Saminather and Anna Mehler-Paperny