Canadian police on Wednesday threatened to arrest trucker-led protesters who have shut down downtown Ottawa and disrupted cross-border trade out of anger at Covid’s health rules, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau labeled the move “unacceptable”.
Addressing the House of Commons as protests hit the two-week mark, Trudeau warned that truck blockades on two major bridges connecting Canada to the United States threatened the country’s economic recovery from the pandemic.
“Clogs and illegal demonstrations are unacceptable and negatively affect businesses and manufacturers,” Trudeau said. “We must do everything we can to end them.”
Hundreds of large trucks are now paralyzing the streets of downtown Ottawa, the mayor is declaring the situation out of control and declaring a state of emergency.
“We are letting you know that anyone who blocks streets or helps others block streets may be committing a criminal offence,” the police said in a statement.
“You must immediately cease any further illegal activity or you risk being charged.”
The so-called Freedom Convoy began in western Canada in January — launched in anger over demands that truck drivers be either vaccinated or tested and isolated when crossing the US-Canadian border.
But the move has turned into a wider protest against Covid-related restrictions and the Liberal government of Trudeau, and has spotlighted pandemic curbs around the world.
– ‘Dramatic situation’ –
Copycat protests have sprung up as far as New Zealand, with social media calls for similar gatherings in Europe and the United States.
And more protesters have joined the blockade of the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor and Detroit in solidarity with the trucker movement that has brought downtown Ottawa to a standstill.
“We are all tired of this pandemic, but these illegal blockades must stop,” Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne tweeted.
The suspension bridge, he noted, “is the most important land crossing in North America and is critical to our supply chains.”
More than 40,000 commuters, tourists and truck drivers carrying $323 million worth of goods travel across the area every day.
Numerous Canadian and American chambers of commerce and industry associations demanded that the bridge be cleared, saying, “As our economies emerge from the effects of the pandemic, we cannot allow any group to undermine cross-border trade.”
Montana, another major trade link between Coutts, Alberta and Sweet Grass, has also been clogged by protesters for several days.
“This is a dramatic situation that affects the well-being of Canada’s relationship with the United States and has a huge impact on how companies can conduct their business,” University of Ottawa professor Gilles LeVasseur told AFP.
He said Ottawa and Washington should intervene.
“We are all tired, we are all frustrated” after two years of pandemic restrictions, Trudeau told reporters earlier in the capital, adding that Covid vaccinations are “the way we are going to the other side”.
More than 80 percent of Canadians have received two doses, while 50 percent of adults have also received a booster.
(This story was not edited by DailyExpertNews staff and was generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)