The Canadian government plans to crack down on the owners of trucks involved in the protests and blockades that have swept the country, a senior official said on Monday after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took the extraordinary step of declaring a national emergency.
“We are today serving notice: If your truck is being used in these illegal blockades, your corporate accounts will be frozen, the insurance on your vehicle will be suspended,” Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said. “Send your semi-trailers home.”
Freeland made the threat after Trudeau announced that he was invoking the country’s Emergencies Act in response to the protests. It gives the federal government broad powers, including the ability to suspend some civil liberties, for 30 days.
By invoking the act — a first by any Canadian prime minister — Trudeau said the federal government will be able to deploy more police resources to keep border crossings including the Ambassador Bridge open and support efforts to reopen others. It will also give the government the power to force tow-truck operators to remove semi-trucks blocking borders.
Hundreds of commercial trucks remain in protests near the U.S.-Canada border in Coutts, Alberta, and Emerson, Manitoba, and in the Canadian capital, Ottawa, as part of the Freedom Convoy.
Freeland provided no details about how truckers and carriers involved in the protests would be targeted. The protests have included many owner-operators bonded to carriers — with and without their blessing.
The measures targeting truckers and carriers follow a threat by Ontario Premier Doug Ford that commercial drivers involved in the protests could lose their licenses.
Trucking industry group backs government; protest organizer tells supporters to ‘hold the line’
Much of the Canadian trucking industry has distanced itself from the protests, which began in response to the COVID-19 vaccine mandates for cross-border truckers. The largest industry group, the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA), individual carriers and individual drivers have condemned the protests.
The CTA welcomed Trudeau’s decision to invoke the emergencies act, but said in a statement that it will be “clarifying with federal officials regarding other legal consequences/penalties facing those engaged in illegal blockades utilizing personal and commercial vehicles.”
“Order must be restored to our borders and critical infrastructure that are being blockaded,” CTA President Steve Laskowski said in a statement.
In anticipation of Trudeau’s announcement, one of the leaders of the Freedom Convoy, Tamara Lich, said the protest will remain in Ottawa until all COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
“Hold the line,” Lich said during a news conference.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association criticized Trudeau’s use of emergency powers.
“The federal government has not met the threshold necessary to invoke the Emergencies Act,” the association said in a tweet.
Hundreds of millions of dollars in trade disrupted
The blockades at the borders have, ironically, largely impacted the trucking industry and its cross-border drivers, who are overwhelmingly vaccinated. The protests have added hours of transit time for drivers — including unpaid time waiting in traffic for many — and slowed down the operation of carriers.
The most significant blockade shut down the busiest commercial crossing between the U.S. and Canada, the Ambassador Bridge, for a week until its reopening late Sunday. Freeland said the Ambassador Bridge blockade affected CA$390 million ($306 million) of trade per day.
“Critical supply chains are being disrupted,” Trudeau said. “This is hurting workers who rely on these jobs to feed their families.”
Protests are continuing to block traffic at U.S.-Canada border crossings in Coutts, Alberta and Emerson, Manitoba.
- Ambassador Bridge reopens as protests block other US-Canada border crossings
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- Ambassador Bridge blockade enters 4th day; protesters block new border crossing