The protest of hundreds of Canadian truckers against the mandatory vaccination against covid-19 for cross-border trips that keeps the capital, Ottawa, semi-paralyzed, for the eleventh consecutive day, extended on Monday to the main border crossing with the United States, after having caught fire in other cities of Canada, such as Toronto and Quebec, and even beyond the borders between these two countries. In New Zealand and Australia, radical and anti-vaccine groups have shown their solidarity by mobilizing a sector of Canadian carriers. New Zealand truckers have been blocking the streets around Parliament in Wellington since Tuesday, according to Radio New Zealand. Three demonstrators have been arrested this Wednesday during the protests at the headquarters of this institution.
While demonstrations similar to the one that caused the declaration of the state of emergency in Ottawa on Monday germinate in a more modest way thousands of kilometers away, the blockade that the Canadian capital suffers – which has already led to the arrest of more than 20 people, according to sources officials—has been amplified in recent days and threatens even the country’s basic supply chain. Since Monday, trucks and vans from the so-called Freedom Caravan have been blocking the main border crossing between Canada and the United States, the one that runs through the Ambassador Bridge, which links the city of Windsor, in the Canadian province of Ontario, with Detroit, in the state of Michigan, in the USA.
Canada sends 75% of its exports to the United States, and an average of 8,000 trucks cross this border crossing every day, about 765 kilometers from Ottawa. More than 40,000 people and goods worth 323 million dollars (282 million euros) pass through it every day. Despite the partial reopening on the Canadian side, the passage is still blocked as the Michigan Department of Transportation keeps the US border closed.
On Tuesday night, the Windsor police reported on their social networks that only a limited number of private vehicles could transit in the direction of the United States. On their Twitter social network account, the police of that Canadian city urged other drivers to look for “alternative” routes, such as the Blue Water Bridge, which connects Sarnia, also in the province of Ontario, with Port Huron (Michigan). . This long detour motivated the protests of several users on social networks. 60% of Canadians oppose the mobilization of the anti-vaccine sector of the country’s truckers, according to a poll released on Monday.
Congestion continues along Huron Church Rd. Limited traffic is being allowed into the US through the Ambassador Bridge. Officers are on scene maintaining traffic points, public safety and enforcement. Please avoid the area and use alternate route. Thanks for your patience. https://t.co/bDo26C9qbP
— Windsor Police (@WindsorPolice) February 8, 2022
In an emergency session convened on Monday in the country’s lower house of Parliament, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had declared that, after more than a week of occupying downtown Ottawa, the truckers’ protest “had to stop.” ” and urged the carriers and the thousands of members of the anti-vaccine groups that support them to return home. Trudeau also claimed that the protest is “blocking” Canadian democracy and the Canadian economy. After the paralysis of traffic in the passage with the United States, the Minister of Public Security of Canada, Marco Mendicino, affirmed, for his part, that the authorities “will continue working” to “maintain the supply chains through the Ambassador Bridge, as well as like the wheels of our running economy.”
Join EL PAÍS to follow all the news and read without limits.
Ottawa Police Deputy Chief Steve Bell informed the media that same day that officers have immobilized many of the heavy vehicles participating in the protest on the streets of Ottawa. Bell also revealed that, in a quarter of the 418 vehicles counted in the capital, the police have verified the presence of children, exposed to the intense cold of the Canadian winter, the constant noise of the horns, the inhalation of carbon monoxide and the lack of access to hygiene and sanitation services. The mayor of Ottawa earlier this week called for 1,800 more police officers to contain the protest.
While nearly 500 trucks continue to block traffic in Ottawa, residents of the capital’s center have shown their outrage at the inconvenience caused by the protest. Some residents of the city have denounced that the thousands of protesters who invaded the center over the weekend even forced the closure of stores. “We are all fed up,” Marika Morris, a resident of the area, told Reuters. “They have no right to take us hostage,” she settled.
Residents’ nerves have also been shaken by the constant honking of horns. On Monday, an Ottawa judge ruled that truckers must stop touching them for 10 days.
“There has been nothing but love, unity and peace here,” said John Van Vleet, a truck driver from Ontario. “For me it is important to come here to fight for my freedoms,” said this transporter, who denied the accusations of violence against the group.
The demonstrations have also spread to other Canadian cities, such as Toronto and Vancouver. Since Monday, the truckers’ protest has even drawn support beyond Canadian borders with rallies in New Zealand’s capital Wellington and Canberra, Australia, themselves dubbed the Freedom Rides.
The protest began on January 29 when some 3,000 truckers from across Canada arrived in the capital with their vehicles. They were joined by between 10,000 and 15,000 protesters, including members of far-right radical organizations. Two weeks earlier, on January 15, the Canadian government had imposed mandatory vaccination against covid-19 on cross-border truckers.
Those foreign drivers who have not been vaccinated are prohibited from entering the country. Canadian truck drivers without an immunization schedule must self-quarantine for 14 days upon return to Canada. The United States launched the same measure on January 22. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau then pointed out that the implementation of this policy represents one of the best ways to keep new travel-related infections under control. The Canadian Trucking Alliance, which opposes the Freedom Ride, estimates that some 16,000 truckers who cross onto US soil regularly are not vaccinated (15% of the total).
Follow all the international information in Facebook Y Twitteror in our weekly newsletter.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.