Canadian truckers continued their protests against the government’s anti-coronavirus measures over the weekend despite freezing temperatures and several police interventions, news agency MIA informs.
Police attempted to break up blockades on the key border bridge between the city of Windsor in Canada and Detroit in the US. Arrests were made and numerous vehicles were towed away, according to Windsor police on Sunday. “There will be zero tolerance for illegal activity,” the police tweeted.
Protests also continued elsewhere in Canada, such as at other border crossings and in the capital Ottawa. In Ottawa, there were also numerous arrests, the police said.
“Overnight, demonstrators exhibited aggressive behavior towards law enforcement including refusing to follow directions, overwhelming officers, and otherwise subverting enforcement efforts,” they said in a statement. There were also counter-protests. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met his crisis team over the weekend “to help provinces and municipalities get the situation under control and end the ongoing illegal blockades and occupations taking place across the country.”
Trudeau had already not ruled out the violent dissolution of blockades in view of the trucker protests that have been going on for about three weeks and called the blockades illegal. One of the affected provinces, Ontario, has declared a state of emergency. For weeks, thousands of people have been demonstrating in Canada against coronavirus measures and vaccination regulations.
They have been blocking parts of downtown Ottawa with trucks and other vehicles. The protests were first about vaccination regulations for truck drivers and then about the government’s pandemic restrictions as a whole. In January, a regulation came into effect that also requires truck drivers returning from the US to show proof of vaccination.
The blockade of the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor and Detroit – as well as other border crossings – led to the halt of car production by six manufacturers due to a lack of parts, according to Trudeau. Twenty-five percent of US-Canadian goods traffic flows over the bridge – the equivalent of $310 million worth of goods per day. The region is closely interwoven economically across the border.
That is why Trudeau had also spoken with US President Joe Biden on Friday, when they both agreed that the blockades cannot continue for reasons of human safety and economic security, Trudeau said afterwards. The White House expressed similar sentiments – and also announced on Sunday that the two countries would continue to work closely together on the issue.
According to Trudeau, the demonstrators, many of whom belong to the political far-right, are supported by donations, about 50 percent of which come from the US. Large parts of the population had supported Trudeau’s sometimes very strict anti-coronavirus course in the past two years.
Recent studies, however, indicate a possible reversal of the trend, even if the picture is not yet clear.
Some Trudeau supporters also perceived measures to tackle the rampant Omicron variant of the coronavirus, such as new travel restrictions and closures of the interiors of bars and restaurants imposed by local governments, as excessive.