Manufacturing plants at the heart of North America’s automotive industry face potential shortages, shutdowns, layoffs and multimillion-dollar losses as “freedom convoy” protesters continue to block traffic on the busiest border crossing between Canada and the United States.
The Ambassador Bridge, between the car-manufacturing cities of Detroit and Windsor, remained mostly blocked on Wednesday, as business associations warned that manufacturers in the region risk losing $50m a day because of delays.
Vehicles are Canada’s second-largest export, with the US buying more than 90% of that supply.
David Adams, president of auto industry group Global Automakers of Canada, told the Guardian that between 5,000 e 7,000 trucks use the Ambassador Bridge daily to deliver automotive parts. The bridge is responsible for 27% of all Canada-US trade.
“It’s a pivotal border crossing," Egli ha detto. “Some of the plants are at risk of being shut down.”
The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said the US government was watching the protests closely. “The blockade poses a risk to supply chains, for the auto industry," lei disse.
Meanwhile hundreds of protesters remain encamped in Canada’s capital, Ottawa, and others blockaded a second international bridge in Alberta also remained.
Flavio Volpe, head of Canada’s Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association – said the blockades, organized in the name of Canadian truckers who oppose mandatory mask mandates – could result in layoffs for the very people the protests purportedly represent.
Volpe described the blockade as a “brain dead move”.
“By allowing the protests to continue, we’re giving the impression that you can take over the country with a couple Hyundai Tucsons and a flimsy cover that you’re representing a group that has clearly said you do not,” Volpe told the Guardian.
He said that the blockade could ultimately lead to the shutdown of automotive parts manufacturers on both sides of the border.
“This is literally the stupidest thing you could do,” he continued.
Tra 50 e 75 vehicles and 100 individuals were involved in the blockade, the Windsor police chief, Pam Mizuno, said on Wednesday.
At the same news conference, Windsor’s mayor, Drew Dilkens, said that the demonstration had so far been “peaceful and without incident” but added that local authorities had requested additional support.
He also said he didn’t want to “risk additional conflict” by removing protesters.
Police have repeatedly been accused of turning a blind eye to brazen infractions of the law as protests proliferate across the country.
The protest movement was initially spurred by a federal vaccine mandate for truck drivers crossing the Canada-US border, but has evolved into a mixture of anti-vaccination, anti-mandate and anti-government complaints.
In Ottawa, 23 arrests have been made and hundreds of tickets have been issued by local police. But the downtown area remains paralysed by rows of trucks and other vehicles, some of which are parked directly in front of the Canadian parliament.
Police say a considerable amount of financial support is coming from the US, which has enabled protesters to stay in place.
Dozens of small businesses and their employees have been affected by the blockades, some of them having to close for the duration of the protests to avoid run-ins with the protesters – many of whom are unvaccinated and who refuse to wear masks inside.
Convoy representatives have said they have no intention of leaving until their demands are met. Late on Tuesday, one organizer prompted concern with comments that the protest convoy would move on to Canada’s most populous city, Toronto, but he later said he was just “playing a game” with the police.
But on online protester channels, calls were made to block additional border crossings between Canada and the US, further threatening a trade relationship valued at more than US$700bn.
Meanwhile anti-vaccine mandate protesters in France launched their own “freedom convoy”, with many displaying Canadian flags. Alcuni 200 protesters assembled in a parking lot in Nice, on France’s Mediterranean coast, saying that they planned to head first to Paris, then on to Brussels to demand the scrapping of rules barring people from public venues if they do not have a Covid-19 vaccination.