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Tag: canada truckers

Trudeau Invokes Emergency Powers To Quell Anti-Vax Protests

Ottawa (AFP) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday invoked rarely-used emergency powers to bring an end to trucker-led protests against Covid-19 health rules, as police arrested 11 people with a "cache of firearms" blocking a border crossing with the United States in Alberta.

Trudeau will use the Emergencies Act to give the government extra powers in a national crisis to bring an end to the trucker-led protests now entering a third week, according to public broadcaster CBC.

Hundreds of big rigs still clog the streets of the capital Ottawa.

And the threat of violence lingered, as federal police said they arrested 11 protesters with rifles, handguns, body armor, and ammunition at the border between Coutts, Alberta and Sweet Grass, Montana, just a day after another key US-Canada border crossing was cleared.

"The group was said to have a willingness to use force against the police if any attempts were made to disrupt the blockade," the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in a statement.

Ontario, meanwhile, announced the lifting of vaccine passport requirements.

The truckers and their supporters are pushing back against mandatory vaccines and a wider anti-establishment agenda that has triggered copycat movements in France and the Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand, with some US truckers mulling a protest for March.

Facing growing pressure to act, Trudeau said Friday that all options "were on the table" for ending the "unlawful" demonstrations that are hurting the nation's economic recovery.

He discussed the situation with premiers across the country and convened a special federal response group on efforts to end the occupation of Ottawa and remaining blockades of border crossings in Alberta and Manitoba.

The Emergencies Act has only been used once in peacetime -- by Trudeau's father, former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, during the October Crisis of 1970.

It saw troops sent to Quebec to restore order after the kidnappings by militant separatists of a British trade attache and a Quebec minister, Pierre Laporte, who was found strangled to death in the trunk of a car.

Protests Spreading

The "Freedom Convoy" started with Canadian truckers protesting against mandatory vaccines to cross the border between Canada and the United States.

But its demands now include an end to all Covid-19 health measures and, for many of the protesters, the toppling of Trudeau's Liberal government -- only five months after he won re-election.

The truckers have found support among conservatives and vaccine mandate opponents across the globe, even as Covid-19 measures are being rolled back in many places.

In Paris on the weekend, police fired tear gas and issued hundreds of fines in an effort to break up convoys coming from across France.

The Netherlands, Switzerland and Austria have also seen copycat movements, and Belgian authorities said Monday they had intercepted 30 vehicles as police scrambled to stop a convoy of trucks.

Canadian police over the weekend cleared a blockade on the Ambassador Bridge, which handles an estimated 25 percent of trade with the United States, and had disrupted business in the world's largest economy.

Truckers Dig In

Monday morning in Ottawa, as a deep freeze rolled in, protesters remained defiant despite threats of jail and fines of up to Can$100,000 (US$80,000).

Leaving "is not in my plans," Phil Rioux, behind the wheel of a large truck, told AFP.

"It's by maintaining the pressure that we have a better chance of achieving our goal," the 29-year-old explained.

"There are other customs checkpoints that are blocked, more will be blocked elsewhere," he added.

Earlier Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced the lifting of vaccine passport requirements by March 1 in the province -- following in Alberta and Saskatchewan's footsteps.

Ontario, Canada's populous province, had reimposed at the end of December among the most restrictive health measures in the world.

"We're going to get rid of the passports," Ford told a news conference, explaining that the vast majority of people were vaccinated and that the peak of cases sparked by the Omicron variant had passed.

Meanwhile, Ottawa residents were growing more frustrated, saying the protest has made them prisoners in their own homes.

Most businesses downtown are also closed or have had almost no customers after officials warned residents to stay clear of the volatile protests.

"It's a little quieter now, there are less honking but it's annoying... (because) there's no other way to get to work than by walking" past the demonstrations, said Haley, a young woman on her way to work who declined to give her last name.

Like thousands of counter-protesters who blocked more trucks from entering the downtown this weekend, she called for the prime minister to end the crisis.

Key Border Bridge Still Blocked As Anti-Vax Protesters Refuse To Disperse

Windsor (Canada) (AFP) - Canadian demonstrators led by truckers angry over Covid-19 restrictions defied police and kept occupying a key bridge Saturday, while thousands more rallied in the capital as a two-week-old protest showed no signs of abating.

The demonstrations have inspired copycat protests that are now spreading around the globe, including to France, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Australia.

In Ontario, where authorities have declared a state of emergency, the provincial supreme court had ordered truckers to end their blockade of the strategic Ambassador Bridge, which links the city of Windsor in Canada to Detroit, Michigan in the United States.

The protest has forced major automakers in both countries to halt or scale back production and Washington on Friday urged Ottawa to use its federal powers to end the blockade.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised "an increasingly robust police intervention," adding that borders cannot remain closed and "this conflict must end."

Canadian police, backed by armored vehicles, began clearing the bridge, taking down tents erected in traffic lanes and persuading some drivers to move their trucks.

But by Saturday evening, after hours of facing off against the demonstrators, the police had not completely cleared the span. Most of the cars and trucks blocking it were removed but hundreds of people refused to budge.

Windsor police spokesman Jason Bellaire said the aim was to clear the bridge peacefully, but he could not say if it would be cleared by the end of the day. There were no immediate reports of arrests Saturday.

The Ambassador Bridge is vital to the US and Canadian auto industries, carrying more than 25 percent of merchandise exported by both countries.

Two other US-Canada border crossings, one in Manitoba province and one in Alberta, remain blocked by protests.

'I'm not dead'

In Ottawa, crowds of thousands packed the streets of the city center, the epicenter of the movement, blaring horns, playing music, dancing and drinking hot coffee against the bitter cold. Very few police were on hand.

"I've been supporting the cause from the beginning," said 38-year-old Marc-Andre Mallette.

"I'm not vaccinated and I'm not dead," added Mallette, a sewer worker from the town of St.-Armand, near the US border.

Truckers originally converged on Ottawa to press their demand for an end to a vaccination requirement affecting truckers crossing the international border.

But the movement has spread, as the protesters -- mostly insisting they want to protect their freedoms, but some displaying swastikas or Confederate flags -- now seek an end to all vaccine mandates, whether imposed by the federal or provincial governments.

Anti-Trudeau signs and chants have become common along the clogged Ottawa streets.

Political opponents say the prime minister has been far too slow to bring the protests to an end.

Trudeau has repeatedly insisted the protesters represent a small -- if noisy -- fraction of a population that has largely followed vaccination requirements and guidance.

But anti-Covid measures in some provinces have been more restrictive than in much of the world, and the truckers' message has resonated more widely than authorities expected.

One opinion survey found that a third of Canadians support the protest movement, while 44 percent say they at least understand the truckers' frustrations.

Protest in Paris

Since the movement began, some central Canadian provinces have announced plans to end mask and vaccine requirements in coming weeks, with the numbers of Covid-19 cases falling. But the two most populous provinces -- Ontario and Quebec -- have yet to follow suit.

The truckers have found support among conservatives and vaccine mandate opponents across the globe, even as Covid measures are being rolled back in many places.

In Paris on Saturday, police fired tear gas and issued hundreds of fines in an effort to break up convoys of vehicles coming from across France in a protest over Covid restrictions and rising living costs.

While some protesters made it to the glitzy Champs-Elysees, they were unable to block the city's streets.

In the Netherlands, a vehicle convoy brought The Hague's city center to a standstill in another Canada-style protest.

In Switzerland, hundreds of protesters marched in Zurich to protest Covid-19 restrictions, while several thousand others rallied against them, Swiss media reported. Both rallies were illegal, and police used tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets to disperse the crowds.

In Australia, an estimated 10,000 protesters marched through capital the Canberra to the parliament building to decry vaccine mandates.

And in New Zealand, anti-mandate activists have been camped on the lawns of parliament in Wellington for days in a protest inspired by the Canadian convoy.

Canada Braces For Action On Border Bridge Blocked By Protesters

By Kayla Tarnowski and Ismail Shakil

WINDSOR, Ontario (Reuters) - Canada was bracing for more protests against the government's pandemic measures on Saturday, with the focus on the vital U.S.-Canada bridge that remained blocked by demonstrators defying a court order and emergency measures and disrupting the North American auto industry.

The "Freedom Convoy" protests, started in the national capital Ottawa by Canadian truckers opposing a vaccinate-or-quarantine mandate for cross-border drivers, entered its 16th day on Saturday.

Protests have spread to three border points, including the Ambassador Bridge, North America's busiest land border crossing, where dozens of vehicles have crowded since Monday, choking the supply chain for Detroit's carmakers.

Ford, the second-largest U.S. automaker, said on Friday it had temporarily halted work at its assembly plant in Ohio. General Motors and Toyota Motor Co also announced new production cuts. Companies have diverted cargo to stem losses amid production cuts.

A judge on Friday ordered an end to the Ambassador Bridge blockade, but some 100 protesters continued to occupy the bridge early on Saturday with trucks and pick-up vans, preventing the flow of traffic either way.

The Ontario government, which declared a state of emergency in the province of on Friday, has threatened fines and jail for protesters if they do not leave.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has come under pressure from opposition party leaders to intervene, while U.S. President Joe Biden's administration urged his government to use federal powers. Trudeau has promised Biden quick action to end the crisis.

Trudeau, after a call with Biden on Friday, said all options were on the table to end blockades, adding that the consequences were becoming "more and more severe."

"We've heard your frustration with COVID, with the measures," Trudeau told reporters, addressing the protesters' concerns. "It's time to go home now."

East of Ottawa, people were expected to gather in Fredericton in the province of New Brunswick for a weekend demonstration. Local police said officers were stationed at entrances to the city to ensure traffic can continue. Canada's financial capital Toronto was also bracing for more weekend demonstrations.

Ottawa police chief Peter Sloly said officers were on standby to begin enforcing the new laws and warned of consequences for law-breakers in anticipation of people joining the protesters over the weekend.

"The Ottawa police service is better equipped and better resourced to deal with this anticipated influx," deputy police chief Steve Bell told city officials in a meeting.

(Reporting by Kayla Tarnowski in Windsor and Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru; Writing by Denny Thomas; Editing by William Mallard)