Trucker convoy forces Canada’s largest province into state of emergency

The Ontario premier’s declaration is the strongest yet from Canadian authorities who have let hundreds of trucks paralyze the capital city for two weeks. The demonstrations have spread to border crossings, including the vital Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.

The “freedom convoy” demonstrations began as a movement against vaccine mandates for truckers who cross the Canadian border from the U.S. But as the protest gathered momentum backed by a well-funded, highly coordinated campaign, it transformed into action against all Covid-19 restrictions and Canada’s political establishment.

Organizers have refused to move until all provincial and federal Covid measures have been abandoned; others say they won’t leave until Trudeau resigns from office.

Some leaders of the movement have been connected to right-wing extremists, raising fears of violence if authorities decide to crack down with force.

The campaign has inspired copycat protests in other countries — and American officials are bracing for a U.S. version of the convoy to begin rolling perhaps as early as this weekend.

The Canadian protest on the edge of the Detroit River caught the attention of the White House.

The Biden administration quickly called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to use federal powers to end the border blockade at the Ambassador Bridge, which sees a quarter of all U.S.-Canada goods trade.

Trudeau has condemned the protests, but has steadfastly refused to meet with the occupiers or take any significant federal steps to end the occupations.

The prime minister has committed federal resources to local authorities, but he has warned that calling in the army could escalate the situation and endanger Canadians.

As the protests drag on, police in Ottawa have so far handed out tickets and made a handful of arrests.

Ottawa Police Chief Derek Sloly has complained about a lack of resources for his department since the start of the protest in his city. But he said Thursday that he’s hopeful more help will be on the way soon.

For the most part, the occupiers have yet to budge.

The cross-border trade disruption comes at a challenging time in the U.S.-Canada relationship. Trudeau and his Cabinet have poured a lot of energy into pushing back against President Joe Biden’s America-first policies — and urging U.S. lawmakers to ensure that Canada is part of any of their neighbor’s supply chain strategies.

On Thursday, Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) posted tweets that caught the attention of the Canadian business community. “It doesn’t matter if it’s an adversary or an ally — we can’t be this reliant on parts coming from foreign countries,” she wrote.

Since the Biden administration got involved, Canadian decision-makers have picked up their pace in dealing with the convoys.

“People around the world are wondering, is this a safe and stable jurisdiction to invest?” Ford said. “My answer to them is yes, it is.”

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