As the anti–vaccine mandate truckers continue to dig in across Canada, a major disruption at the border has closed factories and businesses, costing millions to the North American economy.
The Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit to Windsor, Ontario, has been hampered for several days by protests. While the protest has been conducted more by pickup trucks than big-rigs, it has been holding up the lanes and only letting traffic going to the United States through. The bridge is a key cog in both the U.S. and Canadian economies as it carries about 25 percent of trade between the two countries.
The halting of trade has bottlenecked automaker Ford’s ability to get parts from the U.S. to its plants in Windsor and Oakville. Ford has shut the doors of its Windsor plant and reduced the work schedule in Oakville.
“This interruption on the Detroit-Windsor bridge hurts customers, auto workers, suppliers, communities and companies on both sides of the border,” Ford said in a statement. “We hope this situation is resolved quickly because it could have a widespread impact on all automakers in the U.S. and Canada.”
Shortages also forced the automaker to temporarily shut down a plant in Michigan. Another border closure, this one at a far-less-used border between Alberta and Montana, has also been shut down for several days.
Meanwhile, support for the convoy internationally only continues to grow, with numerous copycat protests popping up.
In Ottawa, the main site of the protest, the convoy entered its 13th day ensconced in the heart of the city, and organizers say they are not leaving until their demands are met. The group went to Canada’s capital to protest vaccine mandates, but organizers and rally attendants preach against a wide range of right-wing grievances, much of it aimed at ousting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (Vaccine mandates, for the most part, are issued and governed by the provinces, not the federal government.)
The organization of the convoy is nebulous, but earlier this week some of those in charge held a press conference, and they decried Trudeau refusing to meet with them. One of the speakers, Tom Marazzo of the anti-vax police and veteran group On Guard for Thee, offered to sit at a table “with the Conservatives, and the NDP, and the Bloc as a coalition.” They argued they’re not going home until the “job is done.”
On Thursday, Marazzo walked back his comments, saying they have “no interest in federal politics” and pushed back on any goal to “overthrow the government.” Marazzo said all they want to do is “end the mandates” and implied they wouldn’t leave until a law is put in place to prevent any future mandates.
In the livestream, Marazzo accused some municipal politicians of wanting to escalate the “use of force” against the movement, and said Trudeau wants a “violent outcome.” The group believes that the state is preparing to take action against them and get “this over by Saturday.”
“We are prepared to be arrested, peacefully. We have legal representation already prepared,” said Marazzo. “We know that the Canadian armed forces are doing their staff checks right now. We know that police forces all across Ontario are being asked to get involved.”
Some experts have warned of the risk of violence that may come from police intervention.
The group also said they have no skin in the game with the Conservative Party of Canada. In the early days of the protest, CPC politicians were cozying up to those gathered in Ottawa against vaccine mandates, but on Thursday, their interim leader Candice Bergen (who just a week ago reportedly told some of them, “don’t stop, it’s working”) called for the protest to end.
“I believe the time has come for you to take down the barricades, stop the disruptive action and come together,” she said in a speech. “The economy you want to see re-opened, is hurting.”
The group is set up not only near the Parliament in Ottawa but they have also built two encampment areas where they carry out logistical and supply work. Recent reporting has painted a picture of these areas as far more organized than widely thought. The group is also trying out new tactics, such as attempting to clog up traffic at the Ottawa airport.
Meanwhile, smaller “trucker” protests across the country are seeing other types of disruptions. Manitoba RCMP said a 74-year-old man was unable to get his 82-year-old sister to an emergency room because he was held up by a convoy. It took him an hour to go just one kilometre.
“This situation is completely & utterly unacceptable & it cannot be repeated,” reads a tweet by RCMP Manitoba. “We uphold & recognize the right to peaceful demonstrations. However, it is not a right to prevent fellow Manitobans from accessing emergency medical care.”
Other tactics like swatting (including one incorrectly called into Ottawa, Ohio instead of the Canadian capital) have been reported as well. Ottawa Police said they’re aware of a “concerted effort to flood our 911 and non-emergency policing reporting line."
"This endangers lives and is completely unacceptable," they tweeted.
Follow Mack Lamoureux on Twitter.