Canadian officials are denouncing an “unlawful” blockade of a border crossing between the United States and Canada and reports of violence, as a self-described “Freedom Convoy” of truckers and their supporters opposed to vaccine mandates continued its demonstrations for a fifth day.
Vehicles have blocked off access to the Coutts border crossing in southern Alberta since Saturday, creating traffic jams and disrupting the flow of goods and services — reportedly in support of those who arrived in the Canadian capital, Ottawa, over the weekend to protest a federal coronavirus vaccine requirement for cross-border truckers and other public health measures.
The RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) would take action to clear the blockade under local laws that prevent interference with critical infrastructure, after attempts to negotiate with the protesters broke down.
Canada and the United States announced last year that they would require truck drivers entering their respective countries to be fully vaccinated. Canada implemented its measure Jan. 15, while the U.S. requirement started on Jan. 22. Most cross-border trade between the two countries occurs over land.
If Canada were to drop its rule, unvaccinated Canadian truckers would still be unable to enter the United States. The protest has snowballed into a demonstration against Trudeau, who was reelected in September with a minority government, and against coronavirus restrictions in general, which are imposed mostly by provincial governments.
Organizers said on the convoy website that its action has lasted nearly five days. The Canadian Trucking Alliance, an industry group, said Saturday that many of the people at the weekend’s protests “do not have a connection to the trucking industry.” The alliance said the vast majority of its members are fully vaccinated.
In Alberta, officials said they were “aware of other blockades that have appeared in the immediate surrounding area” of Coutts and that they expect interruptions at the crossing to continue for “some time to come.”
Local lawmaker Grant Hunter, of the right-of-center United Conservative Party, sparked a controversy when he posted a photo from the Coutts border crossing over the weekend with the caption, “I brought the grandkids down to the Coutts border today to show them the importance of standing up for freedom and liberty.” In a follow-up statement on Tuesday, Hunter wrote that he exercised his “constitutional right” to support the protest and its goal of ending public health restrictions. “When I was there, the highway remained open to traffic and was not blocked off,” he said. “I have stated my support to get back to normal in Alberta and move from pandemic to endemic.”
“That being said, a peaceful protest is not a blockade that stops people from moving freely and so I ask those who are blocking the Coutts border crossing to let people through,” he wrote.
Sonya M. Savage, Alberta’s energy minister, tweeted Tuesday that while she supports “Canadians’ democratic rights to peaceful protest,” she believes that “blockades of critical infrastructure cross the line.”
“This blockade must end,” she said.
Timsit, Anabelle and Coletta, Amanda
The Washington Post
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