Toronto Star reporters Raisa Patel and Alex Ballingall were harassed and threatened by a protester in Ottawa who got angry when he learned they were reporters from the Star.
“(They) said we should get out of there, said we had X’s on our backs for some of the reporting the Star had done …,” Patel told J-Source. “He just said, ‘You’ve been spewing lies throughout the pandemic.’”
This incident took place during the nearly month-long protest in January and February 2022, which began in Western Canada as an “On to Ottawa” demonstration of truck drivers opposed to vaccination requirements for crossing the Canada-U.S. border. The convoy gathered support from others as protesters drove across the country, arriving in Ottawa on Jan. 28, where police allowed large trucks to occupy the streets around Parliament Hill. Concurrently there were copycat blockade protests at the land border crossings to the U.S. in Windsor, Ont., Emerson, Man., Coutts, Alta. and Vancouver and Surrey, B.C.
Many reporters covering these events were harassed and assaulted by protesters who yelled obscenities, threatened them and accused them of being liars peddling “fake news,” replicating many of the slogans and chants associated with supporters of Donald Trump in the United States. Far-right groups said they hoped the convoy would be “Canada’s Jan. 6,” the 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.
Surrey RCMP said they have begun an investigation into the harassment of the media by conducting interviews with journalists and collecting video about “acts of aggression and intimidation” at a local protest.
After the federal government invoked the Emergencies Act on Feb. 14, large numbers of police broke up the Ottawa occupation between Feb. 18 and 21, arresting 196 protesters and removing 115 vehicles from the streets near Parliament Hill. Police also broke up blockades across the country during the same period of time.