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Trucks, crowds at Canada anti-vaccination protest exaggerated

January 31, 2022 GMT

CLAIM: Law enforcement officials in Canada report over 100,000 trucks and millions of people showed up last weekend in Ottawa for a vaccine mandate protest.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. No such estimates have been provided by the law enforcement agencies named in posts circulating on social media — the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Ontario Provincial Police, representatives said.

THE FACTS: As thousands of protesters gathered in Ottawa over the weekend to rally against vaccine mandates, false claims spread on social media citing exaggerated numbers wrongly attributed to Canadian law enforcement.

Posts circulating Saturday and Sunday stated: “The OPP have reported over 100,000 trucks in Ottawa, an estimated 2.3 million on foot and an ‘abudance’ of trucks parked in fields just outside of the city. RCMP reports over 130,000 trucks in the city and more than 20,000 parked in fields outside of the city.”

But the claims are false, spokespersons for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Ontario Provincial Police told The Associated Press. No such estimates were provided by the agencies.

“We are able to confirm that the RCMP did not issue any numbers publicly in relation to this,” Stéphanie Dumoulin, a spokesperson for the agency, wrote in an email to the AP.

“These numbers did not come from the Ontario Provincial Police,” Bill Dickson, a spokesperson for the department, confirmed in a separate email to the AP. “We have not released any numbers.”

Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly estimated there were about 8,000 people at the protest in the city on Saturday, according to Amy Gagnon, a spokesperson for the agency.

Some protesters parked on the grounds of the National War Memorial and danced on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Others carried signs and flags with swastikas and some used the statue of Canadian hero Terry Fox to display an anti-vaccine statement, the AP reported.

Ottawa Police have said that they are investigating potential criminal charges.

Some of the demonstrators were protesting a new rule that went into effect on Jan. 15 requiring truckers entering Canada to be fully immunized against the coronavirus. The U.S. has mandated the same requirement on truckers entering the country.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance said a large number of the protesters had no connection to the trucking industry, adding they have a separate agenda to push. The alliance notes the vast majority of drivers are vaccinated, according to the AP.

The AP previously reported on false claims circulating on social media that allegedly showed footage of trucks traveling from South Carolina to Ottawa to protest COVID-19 mandates. The video was actually recorded in 2021.

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.