Nunavut Senator Dennis Patterson said the more than week-long protests in Ottawa are causing significant harm to the city’s Inuit community.
The city of Ottawa has among the largest Inuit population outside of the North.
“They come here for school, for health reasons, for employment and there’s thousands living and working in Ottawa, including, you know, a number of, sadly, homeless folks who are in the downtown area,” Patterson said.
“I’ve had an outpouring of concern from, you know, parents of students and from homeless people who are obviously greatly inconvenienced. They hang out at the Rideau Mall quite extensively, which is now closed.”
Tungasuvvingat Inuit (TI), a Inuit-specific registered not-for-profit in Ontario, issued a news release detailing the impact the protest is having on its work in Ottawa.
“This demonstration has impeded TI’s ability to provide critical programming and services to urban Inuit,” the release said.
“In a period with recent extreme cold warnings, the ongoing health crisis, the emergency housing crisis and food security issues, the protest is negatively impacting those vulnerable members of our community.”
The protest in Ottawa started as a movement against the mandate for cross border commercial drivers to be vaccinated, but has since grown into a wider protest against public health measures.
Protesters gathered in Ottawa from across the country for a demonstration last weekend. But around 250 have stayed throughout the week, clogging up the downtown and terrorizing local residents with repeated honking at all hours of the day and night.
Patterson said he believes the protests have been taken over by “hooligans and dangerous extremists.”
“I’m very distressed about the lawlessness. I mean this, these trucks are parked in very close proximity to the heart of our democracy in Canada,” he said.
“The leadership in Ottawa has to unite in condemning this behaviour and working together to somehow find ways to make them go home.”
WATCH: Senator says he was ‘very distressed’ that Conservatives didn’t condemn Ottawa protest
Patterson resigned from the Conservative caucus on Friday, stating it was because of the party’s support for the ongoing protests.
Patterson, who spent 16 years as an MLA for the N.W.T. and served as its premier between 1987 and 1991, was appointed to the Senate in 2009 by former prime minister Stephen Harper.
A group of Indigenous senators, including the N.W.T.’s Margaret Dawn Anderson, issued a joint statement also condemning the protest.
Statement by Senators Dawn Anderson, <a href=”https://twitter.com/michele_audette?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@michele_audette</a> , <a href=”https://twitter.com/SenatorBoyer?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@SenatorBoyer</a> , <a href=”https://twitter.com/senatorbrazeau?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@senatorbrazeau</a> , <a href=”https://twitter.com/BrianFrancisPEI?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@BrianFrancisPEI</a>, <a href=”https://twitter.com/Mister_Regina?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@Mister_Regina</a>, <a href=”https://twitter.com/MetisSenatorPLB?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@MetisSenatorPLB</a> Sandra Lovelace Nicholas and Mary Jane McCallum regarding recent events in Ottawa. <a href=”https://twitter.com/SenateCA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@SenateCA</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/indigpoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#indigpoli</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/cdnpoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#cdnpoli</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/onpoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#onpoli</a> <a href=”https://t.co/G2GLZRU16Y”>pic.twitter.com/G2GLZRU16Y</a>
“We are extremely disturbed by the events that have unfolded in Ottawa over the past week. The display of racist, hateful symbols have prompted profound shock and outrage across the country as well as caused great hurt to our Indigenous brothers and sisters and members of other communities,” the statement reads.
“These behaviours and attitudes have no place in a modern and diverse democracy such as Canada. We find them utterly impossible to justify, nor do we understand how anyone in good conscience can openly support them.”