Protesters must clear the area blocking the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ont., a Canadian court ruled on Friday afternoon, in a decision to clear a lane for traffic to move freely over the bridge, which carries about a third Canadian-American trade and blocked for days by protesters.
The ruling, handed down by Chief Justice Geoffrey Morawetz of the Ontario Superior Court, took effect at 7 p.m.
The court order was part of a flurry of legal activity as Canadian officials struggled to contain protests that began in the Canadian capital of Ottawa two weeks ago, when loosely organized groups of truck drivers and others converged on the city to protest vaccination requirements for truckers entering Canada. The protests have turned into a broader battle cry, largely from right-wing groups, against pandemic restrictions and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s handling of the pandemic.
Protesters blocked roads leading to the US border at four points: Windsor, Ontario; Sarnia, Ontario; Emerson, Manitoba; and Coutts, Alta.
On Friday evening in Windsor, as the time for the court order to take effect approached, police cruisers were seen arriving at a staging area near the blockade. The scene resembled a party, with fireworks, music and a chorus of cries of “freedom” in response to honking.
Lori-Jean Hamilton Nugent, a Windsor resident who works in the retail sector, said she would comply with the injunction.
“We won’t resist,” she said. ” That’s all. Do not resist. Does not cause problems. Go say your piece. We will find another way, there will be another day. It’s not going to end with them breaking that one crowd. It’s too much everywhere in Canada—everywhere in the world. Like everyone woke up and said, ‘Yes, those truckers are right.’ »
She added: “And that’s what I think we all have to realize is that we want freedom, we better fight now because if we don’t fight now we won’t get it. maybe not in another week.”
On Friday, the City of Ottawa filed for an injunction to quell the protests as city officials braced for an influx of additional protesters this weekend.
Earlier in the day, Doug Ford, the Premier of Ontario, declared a state of emergency for the entire province, and Ottawa police prepared for the arrival of thousands of protesters for the third consecutive weekend.
If the protesters do not leave peacefully, “there will be consequences, and they will be severe,” Ford said, adding, “Your right to make a political statement does not override the right of thousands of workers in win their life”.
He said the maximum penalty for failing to comply with provincial orders would be $100,000 and a year in jail, plus potentially revocation of personal and business licenses.
Mr Trudeau weighed in on the crisis on Friday, saying the best outcome would be for protesters “to decide for themselves that they have been heard, that they have expressed their frustrations and their disagreements, and that now is the time to leave”. residence.”
But because they haven’t, there will be “increasingly vigorous police action,” Trudeau said at a news conference in Ottawa. He added: “This blockade of our economy that is hurting Canadians across the country, Canadians who have been affected by these blockades – this conflict must end.
Automakers have been particularly hard hit by the partial closure of the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Windsor and Detroit. Trucks cross it thousands of times a day carrying $300 million worth of goods, about a third of which are related to the automotive industry. The blockades left automakers short of crucial parts, forcing companies to close some factories from Ontario to Alabama on Friday.
The Teamsters union — which represents 15,000 long-haul truckers in Canada, but generally not those who protest — denounced the blockade, which threatens thousands of jobs.
In Windsor, before the court order took effect, Robin Ghanam, with a Canadian flag strapped to his shoulders, stood near an open trailer where a group of men were talking to an Ontario police officer .
Ms Ghanam, who is from Windsor, said she traveled to Ottawa for five days to support the convoy. She said the intention of the group on the bridge was to remove the Covid-19 mandates.
“I believe it’s the busiest bridge in Canada, it’s where we need to be because it’s about shutting down the economy,” she said. “They did this to us for two years. We give it back.
Bengali Shashank and Allison Hannaford contributed reporting.