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Truckers are bracing for arrest in Ottawa as police close in

As police set up a hardened perimeter around Ottawa’s downtown core and organizers of the protest are arrested, some truckers tell Nation World News they will not leave the area willingly. They detailed how they hope to respond when police move in to clear the hundreds of trucks and vehicles from streets around Parliament Hill, and explained why they have left their families behind for what organizers call the Freedom Convoy.

Truck driver Jacobo Peters says he plans to lock himself in the cab of his semi and lay on the horn whenever police make their move. Peters, 35, from Leamington, Ont., says he won’t fight arrest, but police will have to smash the cab window and pull him out to remove him from the line he’s pledged to hold during the protest that has gridlocked the downtown for more than three weeks. “Who knows, I might go home with some broken bones or go to jail with some broken bones, depending on how much force they use,” Peters said. He has four children between the ages of nine and 18. “We just want our freedoms back, and we’ve been peaceful.”

Peters’s rig is one of three arranged in line next to an intersection near Ottawa’s Memorial Arch and the Canadian Phalanx monument. Peters, an owner-operator who regularly hauled freight over Canada and the US, said he’s slept a little over the past 24 hours, waiting and listening for police to make their move. “That’s where a lot of stress comes in. I’ve never been arrested. I’ve never committed a crime where I needed to be arrested,” he said. “If protesting is a crime, if cleaning garbage and feeding the homeless is a crime, then so be it, come and arrest me.”

Peters is unvaccinated and the cross-border vaccine mandate, imposed by Canada and the US, directly impacted his livelihood. “You are not going to force something into someone’s body that someone doesn’t want,” he said.

Peter Letkeman, 39, is an unvaccinated, cross-border trucker who hauls produce as far away as Texas and wears a People’s Party of Canada pin on his jacket. On Thursday, he distributed documents from convoy organizers that included the Canadian Charter Rights and Freedoms and steps on dealing with police enforcement. “This gives me an extra leg to stand on,” said Letkeman, also from Leamington. “Our intent is to be peaceful, to smile, to read the script.”

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Letkeman couldn’t bring his rig to Ottawa because it needs repairs. So he stays with a local couple four kilometers from Parliament Hill and drives in every morning in a car with the words “Pray for Canada” written on the side. “If they do arrest me, I’ve made arrangements,” he said.

WATCH | What could happen to children of arrested Ottawa protesters?:

Get Your Top Stories In A Quick Scan | Nation World News
Police make an arrest after a person interfered with a police operation in Ottawa on Thursday. Convoy protest organizers Tamara Lich and Chris Barber were among those arrested in the capital Thursday. Read the latest from Ottawa throughout the day by clicking the header above. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press/The Associated Press)

Another man who would only identify himself as GW says he plans to kneel on the ground with arms outstretched if police come to arrest him. He’s 41 and an owner-operator trucker who hauls steel across the border. “We’re all peaceful. If it comes down to it, we are going to go down peacefully. There will be no hand-raising,” said GW, who is also from Leamington and says he doesn’t trust the COVID-19 vaccines. “I put my faith in God, and I am just not worried.… I am here for my freedom.”

GW, who has six children between the ages of five months and 17, says he doesn’t fear for the loss of his truck. “Is my truck worth more than my family and my freedom? No,” he said. “It’s just a truck.” Read more on this story here.

In brief

Travel agencies say they’re having a hard time keeping up with requests after Ottawa said it will drop pre-arrival PCR tests for travelers at the end of the month. Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos announced Tuesday that travelers will still be required to take a pre-arrival test for COVID-19, but they can instead opt for an authorized rapid antigen test taken no more than one day before their scheduled flight or arrival at the land border. “I’m getting so many bookings, I’m not sure if I can handle all my clients,” said Katherine Velan, a travel agent with Direct Travel in Montreal. Shalene Dudley, owner of Latitude Concierge Travels based in Burlington, Ont., said her “email has blown up” with people wanting to travel for spring break within the last 24 hours. Both said Canada’s current travel rules, which require travelers entering Canada to show proof of a negative molecular test taken within 72 hours of their departing flight or planned arrival at the land border, have been a huge deterrent to Canadians wanting to travel. “Of all the measures, that one’s been the bane of our existence as travel agents,” said Velan. Read more about the travel rules here.

The pandemic has caused an immigration backlog of about 1.8 million applications. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) breaks that down into around 448,000 citizenship applications, 519,030 permanent residency applications and 848,598 temporary residency applications. It’s left people like Iranian Arian Ghobadi stuck in a holding pattern. He applied to come to Canada through the federal skilled worker program in 2019 and didn’t expect to wait long to get his visa — maybe six to nine months, as is usually the case. But nearly three years after he submitted his application, Ghobadi says he’s nowhere closer to coming to Canada. “Throughout [these] 32 months of wait, I’ve only been updated four times or so,” he told The Current’s Matt Galloway from Tehran. The backlog is due to a combination of greater influx of immigration applications and less supply, “as a direct result of the virus blocking our operations,” said Immigration Minister Sean Fraser. Read more about the backlog here.

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Warming oceans are threatening the Inuit way of life. According to a report by the Canadian government entitled Canada’s Oceans Now, 2020, all of Canada’s oceans are warming by about 1 C per century. However, some parts of the Arctic Ocean have warmed as much as 1 C per decade over the past 20 years. “Over the last 25 years, the species that typically thrives here, the numbers are going down,” said Hilu Tagoona, a Nunavut resident and a senior Arctic adviser for Oceans North, a charitable organization that supports marine conservation together with Indigenous and coastal communities . “This is culturally significant to us, the food that we have survived on for thousands of years, and the traditions that are associated with that, the ways of knowing and being that we have.” For example, she said, young children go out with their parents when they set out nets in the ice for char. That first catch is celebrated and then shared with the community. But studies have shown that with the warming oceans, four populations are at risk of decreasing. Read more about the threat to the Arctic here.

Canada’s men’s curling team has defeated the US to win bronze in Beijing. Brad Gushue and his Canadian rink defeated reigning Olympic champion John Shuster and the United States 8-5 today. Gushue, a 41-year-old from St. John’s, and third Mark Nichols won Olympic gold in Turin in 2006, and have since taken three Briers, one world championship and a dozen Grand Slam titles. Lead Geoff Walker, second Brett Gallant and fifth Marc Kennedy round out the squad in Beijing. “It’s been 16 years since we’ve got to stand on the podium,” Nichols said. “I know it’s not the color we wanted, but we worked so darn hard to get back up there today. This is special for all of us.” Read more about the victory Gushue called “the toughest game I think I’ve ever played” here. Follow CBC’s full Olympics coverage here.

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Now for some good news to start your Friday: Growing up in Amherst, NS, Jaxon Cooke loved learning about his family’s remarkable journey from slavery to celebrity. But he had one question: How exactly was he related to Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson. “I wanted to know about The Rock, because knowing he was related to me was great, but making the nine-generation connection with facts and photos was amazing,” Jaxon told CBC. “I wanted to know about the connection, as The Rock has set the bar high as the highest paid sports actor in the world….” His aunt, Darlene Strong, set out to address his question, and the answer became an exhibit at the Cumberland County Museum. Read about the family’s journey and Cooke’s connection to The Rock here. For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

Front Burner: Inside the Ottawa convoy protest

In this special edition of Front Burner, we take you to the center of the convoy protest that has been choking our national capital.

Jayme Poisson goes inside a key supply camp and accompanies Steve Day, former head of the Canadian Armed Forces’ JTF-2 special-operations task force, to other protest sites to examine the challenges law enforcement could face.

We also talk to protesters in about why they’re digging.

Get Your Top Stories In A Quick Scan | Nation World News

What could happen to children of arrested Ottawa protesters?

Child protection defense lawyer Deanna Paolucci discusses what could happen to the children of protesters in Ottawa who get arrested and how the process of reuniting those families might work. 2:18

Today in history: Feb. 17

1688: The Quaker community in Germantown, Pa., issues the first formal North American protest of slavery.

1915: Germany officially begins its submarine blockade of Britain during the First World War.

1930: Photographic evidence of Pluto is discovered by Clyde W. Tombaugh at Lowell Observatory in Arizona.

1980: Pierre Trudeau’s Liberals are re-elected with a majority government after nine months out of office. Only a few weeks earlier, Trudeau had announced he was retiring as Liberal leader. The Liberals ousted a minority Conservative government led by Joe Clark, Canada’s youngest prime minister. Trudeau remained in office until retiring in 1984.

2001: Seven-time NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt Sr. dies in a crash during the final lap of the Daytona 500. He was 49.

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