Ontario declares state of emergency, threatening fines and jail time to end blockade

The province of Ontario has invoked a state of emergency and says it will use the threat of hefty fines, jail time and vehicle licence seizures to end a blockade that has crippled trade between Canada and the United States.

Border traffic at the Ambassador Bridge, which links Windsor to Detroit, has been shut down since Monday as part of a nationwide protest against pandemic restrictions, snarling nearly C$300m (US$235m) of trade each day.

“There will be consequences for these actions, and they will be severe,” said the premier, Doug Ford, as he announced the province’s plan to combat the “disruption, 脅迫, and chaos” of protests that have paralyzed the country’s most critical trade route.

He also called on protesters to end a “siege” of Ottawa that has dragged on for more than two weeks, saying they were effectively holding residents of the city hostage.

“It’s time to leave. And it’s time to do so peacefully.”

Penalties for blocking key routes, including bridges and highways, would include fines as high as C$100,000 and up to a year in jail, Ford said.

ジャスティン・トルドー described the measures announced by Ford as “responsible and necessary,” adding that his government was looking at various options to end the blockade.

“Everything is on the table because this unlawful activity has to end, and it will end,” the prime minister told reporters Friday.

Trudeau said officials were worried about the prospect of violence, but said that bringing in the military was a last resort. “We’re taking every precaution to keep people safe, but the absolute safest way for this to end is for everyone to return to your communities, now.”

A court hearing is scheduled for noon on Friday as the city of Windsor seeks an injunction to forcibly remove protesters from the international bridge. Mayor Drew Dilkens has called the blockade “a national crisis” and officials in the US have grown impatient with the stalemate which has slowed hundreds of millions in cross-border trade.

The US homeland security secretary, アレハンドロ・マヨルカス, and the transportation secretary, ピート・ブティジェグ, urged their Canadian counterparts “to use federal powers to resolve this situation at our joint border”, a White House official said on Thursday.

Ahead of Ford’s announcement, protesters opened one lane of the bridge to allow traffic through. But as the delays ripple through the economy, a number of automakers, some of the largest employers in the region, have been forced to scale back production.

"今日, the best advice I have for people illegally blocking the Ambassador Bridge is to GO HOME,” tweeted Flavio Volpe, head of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association. “The immeasurable damage you have SELFISHLY done to [カナダ] will be shouldered by your fellow citizens who will be talking about you for the next 30 年. ‘I lost my job for your stunt.’”

Friday’s announcement by Ford, leader of the Progress Conservative party of Ontario, marks his government’s second legal action against protesters and their truck blockades. 今週はじめ, his government obtained a court order to freeze any donations meant for the protesters raised through GiveSendGo, using a provision of Canada’s criminal code includes a clause that allows funds outside the country to be frozen. 木曜日に, the American online fundraising platform 主張 that Canada had “absolutely ZERO jurisdiction” over how the company managed its funds.

Ford’s declaration of a state of emergency in the province follows a similar declaration by the city of Ottawa last week, and comes in sharp contrast to federal Conservatives, who previously cheered on the protesters but have started backtracking their support.

木曜日に, しかしながら, the interim Conservative leader, Candice Bergen, called on protesters to dismantle their blockades and return home.

“The economy you want to see reopened is hurting. You protested because you love your country and you want your freedoms back. That message has been heard," 彼女は言いました. Bergen had previously called the convoy of truckers in Ottawa a “passionate, patriotic and peaceful” group of Canadians concerned about freedom at a time of Covid-19 restrictions, posing for pictures with protesters.

Bergen faced criticism last week after an internal email showed that she had been reluctant to call on protesters to leave, instead wanting to make the issue a problem for the prime minister.

Justin Trudeau met with opposition leaders Thursday night, but the prime minister has so far ruled out meeting with the protesters, who have called for pandemic health measures like vaccine and mask mandates to be fully repealed.

アルバータ, Manitoba and Saskatchewan have scaled back their public health restrictions in recent days and Ontario has indicated it too might rescind certain rules.

But Ford said any decision will be made based on consultations with the province’s health officials, rejecting the notion that the protests have played a role.

“I will never ever negotiate with people that break the law," 彼は言った.