Ontario declares state of emergency over trucker protest

Doug Ford’s order comes as anti-mandate protesters cut off US-Canada traffic along a key bridge

Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency for the Canadian province on Friday, giving police the power to fine or imprison protesters demonstrating against vaccine mandates in the city of Ottawa and elsewhere in the region.

Announcing his order, Ford said that his edict will “make crystal clear it is illegal and punishable to block and impede the movement of goods, people and services along critical infrastructure.” He warned of fines rising to $100,000 and up to a year imprisonment for those who don’t comply.

The “critical infrastructure” in question is the Ambassador Bridge, which links Detroit, in the US state of Michigan, with Windsor, Ontario. This bridge, which accounts for about a quarter of all US-Canada trade, has been blockaded by truckers since Monday, with automakers in Ontario winding down production as a result.

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Protests against the vaccine mandates in Ottawa, Canada, February 10, 2022. © Dave Chan/AFP
US tells Canada to stop trucker protests at border

In the Canadian capital of Ottawa, hundreds of trucks remain parked in the city center on Friday, having arrived two weeks ago to protest a vaccine mandate requiring them to get jabbed to re-enter the country from the US. The protest has since expanded, with many truckers calling for the immediate lifting of all coronavirus-related restrictions, and some demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Ford called the protest a “siege,” echoing Trudeau’s description of it as an “illegal occupation.” Neither has offered to meet with the truckers to discuss their concerns. Instead Ford on Friday threatened the demonstrators with “severe consequences,” including taking away the commercial licenses of participating drivers.

Truckers have also closed down US-Canada border crossings in Coutts, Alberta, and Emerson in Manitoba. Alberta announced a relaxation of its Covid restrictions shortly after the blockade began, while the neighboring province of Saskatchewan also lifted its coronavirus rules. However, Trudeau has shown no indication that he intends to back down on the nationwide mandate, and the truckers have refused to call off their protests until he does.

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