Canadian truckers have been protesting against a mandate that requires them to be vaccinated or quarantined for two weeks when they return home from the United States. This mandate was passed in mid-January.
On January 22, the U.S. passed a mandate requiring any non-citizen crossing the border into the U.S. to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Almost 90 percent of Canadian truckers are fully vaccinated, according to the Canadian government. Therefore, Justin Trudeau reports that the protests only represent a small fraction of truckers. He added that he did not anticipate the mandate to impact supply chains.
How the ‘Freedom Convoy’ Began
In January, the Freedom Convoy of truckers began their protest in the western provinces, hoping to reach Ottawa and continue protesting until the mandate was lifted. As the Freedom Convoy traveled across Canada, they have garnered more support. They have even received encouragement from those who are fully vaccinated, who want all COVID preventative measures dropped, including mask mandates, lockdowns, and restrictions on gatherings.
On January 29, the Freedom Convoy of trucks, cars, and other vehicles, arrived in Ottawa, and they are wreaking havoc. They have deterred general Ottawa traffic and disrupted others at the Ottawa International Airport by circling arrival and departure terminals.
Protests Spill Into February
During the first weekend of February, several more protestors came alive, and rallies took place in Toronto, Quebec City, Vancouver, and Winnipeg. Additionally, Friday was the fifth day protestors blocked the busiest international crossing in North America — the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit, Michigan, and Windsor, Ontario. That is not all, a mix of semi-trucks and farm equipment shut down the border crossing between Emerson, Manitoba, and Pembina, North Dakota. The Coutts access point between Alberta and Montana has also been blocked by protestors, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Manitoba.
Trudeau made a public appearance on Monday. He had been quarantined because some of his family members contracted COVID. He stated “Individuals are trying to blockade our economy, our democracy, and our fellow citizens’ daily lives. It has to stop.”
The Prime Minister agrees that the protestors have the right to speak their minds, however, they do not have the right to harass people in their own neighborhoods. Although he asserts Canadians are tired of COVID health restrictions.
This pandemic has sucked for all Canadians, but Canadians know the way to get through it is continuing to listen to science, continuing to lean on each other, continuing to be there for each other.
That was Monday. By Thursday, Trudeau wrote a series of tweets calling the illegal blockades occupations and tweeting that they are “harming the communities they’re taking place in — and they’re hurting jobs, businesses, and our country’s economy.”
At all levels, Canada has enforced the most strict measures against COVID in the world. These measures include widespread mask mandates and restrictions on the size of gatherings at large events, restaurants, and private homes.
Some provinces are allowing for the re-opening of restaurants, cinemas, gyms, and theaters with capacity restrictions. Federal mandates require anyone traveling by plane to be vaccinated. Additionally, as a condition of employment, all federal public service workers must be vaccinated. Provinces determine any other mandates individually.
Three Weeks Later
It has been three weeks and police on the Ontario end of the Ambassador Bridge stated on Saturday that they had “commenced enforcement.” They proved it. By late morning they were pushing people and vehicles back away from the bridge.
As a wall of police officers began to push, some protestors packed up their tents and grills, others stood to the side shouting “Freedom!” Vehicles were willingly moved out of the way or tow trucks hauled those who were not. Demonstrators were previously warned that if they did not leave the area, they would be arrested. Thus far, no arrests have been made.
By Saturday afternoon, new protestors had replaced the morning ones and they seemingly outnumbered the officers, according to Canada’s public broadcasters.
On Friday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the bridge blockade was a “siege” and declared a state of emergency. Ford warned protestors that if they did not leave the area they could face fines up to $78,500 and prison time.
A court order was issued requiring all protestors at the Ambassador Bridge to leave the area by 7 p.m. Friday.
The bridge has been shut down for three weeks. This has had an impact on five vehicle manufacturing plants in Canada and the U.S. These automakers include GM, Toyota, Ford, Chrysler, and Honda.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul tweeted that she was ready to take action against any Freedom Convoy protestors. At this time it appears there may be more protestors spreading across the Canada-U.S. border. The number of people and vehicles at the Ambassador Bridge but others are talking about joining the cry for freedom.
Written by Jeanette Vietti
CNN: The Canadian protesters aren’t just truckers. Here’s who has been showing up and what they want; by Paula Newton
The Washington Post: Police start to clear ‘Freedom Convoy’ protesters on Ontario border bridge. Tear gas used on Champs-Élysées crowd by; Amanda Coletta, Claire Parker and Andrew Jeong
Fox News: Canadian truckers: Police move in on protesters blocking Ambassador Bridge: LIVE UPDATES; by Brie Stimson, Emily Zanotti and Adam Sabes
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