Canada protesters, police standoff set to continue on Sunday despite court order

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A tense standoff between Canadian police and protesters opposing COVID-19 restrictions was set to continue on Sunday, as a court order and threats of arrest have failed to end a blockade of a key Canada-U.S. border crossing.

President Joe Biden has asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to use federal powers to the end blockade of the Ambassador Bridge, North America’s busiest land border crossing. Since Monday, protesters in trucks, cars and vans have blocked traffic in both directions, choking the supply chain for Detroit’s carmakers.

Despite a court order to end to the occupation and a state of emergency imposed by the province of Ontario, home to the city of Windsor, police have failed to disperse the crowd and resume cross-border traffic.

Police moved in early on Saturday, pushing protesters back from the foot of the bridge, but more people streamed into the area in the afternoon and the operation appeared to have stalled. Late on Saturday, Windsor Police arrested a 27-year old man for a criminal offence in relation to the demonstration.

Despite a state of emergency imposed by the province of Ontario -- police still have failed to disperse the crowd and resume cross-border traffic.
Despite a state of emergency imposed by the province of Ontario — police still have failed to disperse the crowd and resume cross-border traffic.
REUTERS

“I am very hopeful still that police can … try and get to these folks in a reasonable way and have them understand that it’s time to move on,” Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens told CBC News. “We can no longer afford as a country to keep it closed.”

The bridge carries about $360 million a day in two-way cargoes – 25% of the value of all U.S.-Canada goods trade.

Concrete barricades have been set up in front of the police near the bridge to keep protesters from reclaiming any ground.

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 17th day on Sunday. But it has now morphed into a rallying point against broader COVID-19 curbs, carbon tax and other issues, with people joining in cars, pick-up trucks farm vehicles.

A court order and threats of arrest to end the blockade of a key Canada-U.S. border crossing have failed, as more people stream into the area.
A court order and threats of arrest to end the blockade of a key Canada-U.S. border crossing have failed, as more people stream into the area.
NurPhoto via Getty Images

Protests erupted across several cities in Canada on Saturday, with some 4,000 people in downtown Ottawa. Financial capital Toronto had some 1,000 demonstrators, though the police had shut key access roads to the central business district.

In the west, hundreds of protesters chocked intersections along Pacific Highway with vehicles leading to the Canada-U.S. border crossing in South Surrey, British Columbia. Several, camped out near the border crossing, vowed to stay “as long as is needed” until all COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

Strangling bilateral trade, protests have spread to three border points, including the in Alberta and Manitoba.

Canadian police have said the protests have been partly funded by U.S. supporters, and Ontario froze funds donated via one U.S. platform GiveSendGo on Thursday.

Canadian police believe the protests have been partly funded by U.S. supporters, as Ontario froze funds donated through GiveSendGo.
Canadian police believe the protests have been partly funded by U.S. supporters, as Ontario froze funds donated through GiveSendGo.
NurPhoto via Getty Images

Ford Motor Co (F.N), the second-largest U.S. automaker, General Motors Co (GM.N) and Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) all have announced production cuts. Companies have diverted cargo to stem losses during the cuts.

The estimated loss so far from the blockades to the auto industry alone could be as high as $850 million, based on IHS Markit’s data, which puts the 2021 daily flow in vehicles and parts at $141.1 million day.

“This is the busiest border crossing, so it’s not just automotive,” Mayor Dilkens said. “We are talking about things that impacts the entire nation here. That’s why finding a resolution is so important.”

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