The mayor of Windsor, Ont., said his city was heading to court in an attempt to end what he called an “illegal occupation” at the foot of the Ambassador Bridge that’s halted all Canada-bound traffic from using the key border crossing.
The planned legal action detailed by Drew Dilkens came as flag-bearing protesters opposed to COVID-19 measures made themselves comfortable on the Canadian side of the bridge, with some saying they hoped the blockade would cause economic stress.
Dilkens said he hoped city officials would be in front of a judge before the end of the day to seek an injunction to end the protest that began on Monday in solidarity with one in Ottawa.
“To those who are thinking about joining the protest. Let me just say this, you are not welcome here,” he said at an afternoon news conference.
“We plan to be in front of a Judge of the Superior Court as soon as possible, hopefully today, and I’m hopeful that the facts of this application speak clearly to the court about the need for intervention.”
Dilkens said protesters were trespassing on municipal property and could be removed to allow for the safe and efficient movement of goods across the border.
“Yesterday, I spoke to the importance of a peaceful resolution, and I still remain hopeful that goal can be achieved,” he added.
A number of big rigs and pickup trucks have been stationed at the Windsor end of the crossing, stopping traffic from Detroit from entering the country and significantly slowing U.S.-bound traffic. Local and provincial police are stationed nearby, but they aren’t blocking protesters from joining the demonstration.
Politicians highlighted the economic impacts of the border bridge closure and automakers slowed production due to a lack of supply.
One participant at the Windsor protest said that was exactly the point.
“They’ll lose money. Yeah, of course,” said Stephanie Parent, a Windsor resident who’s stopped by every day of the protest.
“But we have people that have been without work since these mandates have come into effect, since these businesses have imposed these policies, requiring their employees to to get vaccinated … Until it affects you directly, you don’t truly understand the ramifications.”
Parent said she got vaccinated in order to keep her job, but she doesn’t think she should have had to make such a choice. She expects the protests to last as long as the government recommends vaccine mandates, she said.
Maria Stricescu, who’s attending the Windsor protest on weekdays and the Ottawa rally on weekends, said her goal is even broader.
“We do not want these mandates anymore. The mandates need to go. Some people in some groups – and I agree with them – we want to see a different government,” she said. “We want to see Justin Trudeau out of his position.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday night that he and Ontario Premier Doug Ford are working to get the situation under control.
“The blockades in Windsor and Ottawa are endangering jobs, impeding trade, threatening the economy, and obstructing our communities. They must stop,” Trudeau tweeted after a conversation with Ford on Wednesday evening.
Meanwhile, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said the protest is hurting “Michigan’s working families who are just trying to do their jobs,” noting the Ambassador Bridge is the busiest land border crossing in North America.
“It is imperative that Canadian local, provincial and national governments de-escalate this economic blockade,” she said in a written statement. “They must take all necessary and appropriate steps to immediately and safely reopen traffic so we can continue growing our economy, supporting good-paying jobs and lowering costs for families.”
The protest at the Windsor border mirrors one in Coutts, Alta., that’s blocked traffic on and off for more than a week, in solidarity with the so-called “Freedom Convoy” that set itself up in Ottawa.
But unlike the Coutts crossing, which connects to Sweet Grass, Mont., the Ambassador Bridge is the gateway between two automaking powerhouses: Detroit and Windsor.
Automaker Ford of Canada ran its plants in Oakville, Ont., and Windsor at reduced capacity on Thursday, saying the disruption at the bridge could have widespread impact on automakers on both sides of the border.
Stellantis said U.S. and Canadian plants cut short second shifts Wednesday night due to parts shortages caused by the closure of the bridge.
The Canadian Trucking Alliance said called on all levels of government to act to end the blockades, which they said were leading to “significant losses.”
“Many of those who are protesting having their lives disrupted by certain policies are, in turn, ironically disrupting the lives of their fellow Canadians,” Stephen Laskowski, the group’s president wrote in a statement.
“Whether it’s the dedicated truck driver who’s stuck at the border and unable to get home to his or her family; or the factory worker who is sent home from work because critical products and raw materials aren’t being delivered, the only people who these blockades hurt are the hard-working Canadians who have kept our nation moving.”
—Maan Alhmidi and Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press