A judge on Friday ordered truckers demonstrating on the Ambassador Bridge on the U.S.-Canada border to end the blockade they have carried out for the past five days, disrupting the flow of goods between the two countries and crippling the auto industry. It is unclear whether the judge’s order will lead Canadian police to evict the protesters, who have blocked the international bridge with trucks and other vehicles in protest against mobility restrictions imposed to try to curb the coronavirus pandemic.
Judge Geoffrey Morawetz, chief justice of the Ontario Superior Court, said Friday during a virtual hearing that the order will go into effect at 7:00 p.m. local time so protesters have time to abide by it. Windsor police have warned protesters blocking streets that they could be arrested and their vehicles could be confiscated. The judge’s ruling came after four-and-a-half hours of a hearing in which Windsor city authorities and lawyers representing the auto industry argued that the blockade was severely affecting the economic activities of the city and the region.
Protesters have claimed that they are within their rights to peacefully protest against vaccination mandates, which are hurting their jobs. Across the border in Detroit, Michigan, several car factories, including Those of Ford and General Motors, had to halt production because protests in the Canadian capital dislocated the already fragile supply chain. In Ontario, Toyota and Honda also halted production.
“In Michigan, our economic momentum is at risk because commercial traffic is paralyzed on the Ambassador Bridge and heavily jammed on the Blue Water Bridge,” state Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement Friday. “I continue to take steps to ensure that Michigan workers and families are supported,” he added. About 25% of goods moving between Canada and the United States pass through the Windsor International Bridge.
Earlier Friday, Windsor, Ontario, Mayor Drew Dilkens told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota that if the city received the warrant, police would ask protesters to leave by court order, and if they refused, “one by one we will start towing the cars if required,” he said. “All of us respect that the hallmark of our respective democracies is that we have the right to express ourselves, to protest and to demonstrate, that’s fine,” Dilkens said. “What is not right is deciding to block the busiest commercial border crossing between our two nations.”
Blockades over protests in Canada:
The protests were sparked by truckers opposing Canada’s new rule requiring them to be fully vaccinated when crossing the Canada-U.S. border or facing a two-week quarantine. Since then, his “Freedom Convoy” has attracted supporters who resist other COVID-19 preventative measures, including mask-wearing mandates, closures, and restrictions on gatherings.
At a press conference on Friday, the prime minister said that many of the protesters who are part of these lockdowns do not represent about 90% of the truckers who, according to the Canadian government, have been vaccinated against covid-19. And while much of the country may be tired of COVID-19 restrictions, Trudeau said, the pandemic is not over and “we will continue to follow the science and do whatever it takes to keep Canadians safe.”
“If you joined the protests because you are tired of covid, you must now understand that you are breaking the laws. The consequences are becoming more serious,” Trudeau said. “We have listened to you,” he added. “It’s time to go home now.” Trudeau also said at the press conference that he spoke with Dilkens about the impasse at the Detroit access point, “to offer the full and continued support of the federal government.”
Also on Friday, Ontario’s premier declared a state of emergency and promised “serious” consequences for those involved in the blockades. “I will convene the Cabinet to use legal authorities to enact urgent orders that will make it clear that it is illegal and punishable to block and impede the movement of goods, people and services along critical infrastructure,” Doug Ford said.
Failure to comply could bring a year in prison and a $100,000 fine, he said. “We will also provide additional authority to consider withdrawing the personal and business licenses of anyone who fails to comply with these orders,” Ford said.