Normal traffic has resumed at the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border in eastern Canada after police removed a protest blockade that left hundreds of trucks with live loads stuck for a day.
Officers from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) arrested three people late Wednesday. They were part of a protest over COVID-19 travel restrictions.
The RCMP had previously warned, in a statement, that the protest was illegal and “has caused many disruptions on both sides of the border to individuals, businesses and vital services such as health care.”
Blockade brought ‘panic’ to trucking industry
Protesters began blocking the Trans-Canada Highway on the Nova Scotia side of the border on Tuesday, cutting off the only road linking the province to the rest of Canada and the U.S.
“Panic has started to set in because there is seafood and perishables that have to move,” Jean-Marc Picard, executive director of the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association, told FreightWaves on Wednesday, before the blockade was removed. “Reefers are going to run out of fuel.”
The blockade affected some local trucking operations serving the Port of Halifax. Most of the intermodal trucking avoided disruption, since the majority of loading happens after containers move via rail to a CN facility in New Brunswick, a port spokesperson said.
The protest came after Nova Scotia’s government announced it would reopen its borders to its neighboring provinces for nonessential travel, but left more restrictions for neighboring New Brunswick. The restrictions require travelers to take a COVID-19 test and self-isolate for up to 14 days depending on their vaccination status.
Nova Scotia officials said the restrictions for New Brunswick are in response to that province lifting travel restrictions with the rest of Canada.
Restrictions rankled some residents in border region
The move struck a nerve with some residents in the border region, who have called the measures draconian and have cut them off from family members and even health care.
In response, provincial lawmaker Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin said in a post to Facebook that residents would be “shutting down the Trans-Canada Highway until the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border is open for our families.” She called on Nova Scotia’s premier, Iain Rankin, to reverse the policy.
The protesters heeded her call and blocked a portion of the highway. They subsequently moved to the border itself.
Smith-McCrossin has since told protesters to abandon the blockade, saying she would take her case to Rankin. (The premier has reportedly refused to meet her, but called the situation “unacceptable.”)
Picard said political leaders Smith-McCrossin and Rankin share blame for the blockade.
“The fire started with the political side,” he said.