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As Canada’s capital remained paralyzed by nearly two weeks of protests against pandemic measures, a new road blockade has effectively severed Canada’s busiest link with the United States, threatening to undermine an important sector of the economy. from the country.
Although smaller than the protests that rocked downtown Ottawa, the new protest is targeting the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit. The bridge is a lifeline for the auto industry, which depends on a steady flow of parts and components across the border to keep factories running in Ontario and the US Midwest.
Heavy trucks and private vehicles blocked traffic bound for Canada. On Tuesday morning, the Canada Border Services Agency classified the bridge as “temporarily closed.” But Windsor Police said on Twitter that the traffic was moving again to the United States through a secondary bridge entrance.
Most of the trucks at the Windsor protest were covered in flags and posters denouncing vaccination mandates and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Mr. Trudeau himself had his own message for protesters in the nation’s capital, whom he accused of undermining Canadian democracy: “It has to stop.
Addressing the House of Commons in Ottawa on Monday evening, the Prime Minister said the protests, which began in opposition to Covid-19 restrictions, were harassing Ottawa residents “in their own neighbourhoods”.
They are “trying to block our economy, our democracy and the daily lives of our citizens”, he said.
Mr. Trudeau said on Twitter that hundreds of members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had been mobilized to support Ottawa police officers and promised that the Canadian government and the city would employ “all necessary resources to bring the situation under control”. On Sunday, Ottawa authorities declared a state of emergency.
The prime minister faced further dissent within his own party on Tuesday, when Joël Lightbound, a Quebec Liberal MP, spoke out against Trudeau’s handling of the pandemic, saying those concerned about the government policies had “legitimate concerns”. .”
He said Mr Trudeau should not “demonize” people concerned about pandemic restrictions.
In Ottawa on Tuesday, several hundred trucks continued to paralyze downtown, but the incessant honking of previous days seemed to have died down. Reports on local radio in Ottawa said residents were able to sleep undisturbed for the first time in more than a week. But many businesses have been shuttered during the protests, losing tens of millions of dollars.
The protests in Ottawa began in January with a loosely organized convoy of truckers and protesters opposing the mandatory vaccination of truckers crossing the Canada-US border. But it turned into a protest against pandemic restrictions in general and Mr Trudeau’s leadership.
The Ottawa protests have also become a rallying cry for powerful far-right and anti-vaccine groups around the world.
Far-right figures from many countries, including the United States, Australia and Germany, hailed the protests, spreading the images and arguments even more widely. Some, including in the United States, want to replicate the protests.
Donors poured millions of dollars into Canadian protesters in online campaigns.
Now the protests are threatening the supply chain of an industry with strong ties between Canada and the United States.
Flavio Volpe, president of the Auto Parts Manufacturers Association, a Canadian trade group, said about $300 million worth of goods crosses the bridge daily, with about $100 million related to the auto industry. Most assembly plants, he said, have enough parts for a single day of production, raising the possibility of layoffs in the event of a prolonged border disruption.
“The idea of a group hiding under the trucking profession, although not supported by the trucking associations, to disrupt that is brain dead,” he said.
Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario, denounced the blockade of the bridge Tuesday, noting that it is used by many healthcare workers.
Detroit authorities are redirecting traffic bound for Canada to a border crossing about two hours away in Port Huron, Michigan, and Sarnia, Ontario. Another Canadian protest convoy closed a highway leading to this bridge on Sunday and slowed border traffic.
A border blockade between the western province of Alberta and Montana that began Jan. 29 continues to slow and sometimes close the border in the town of Coutts.