Production at auto plants on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border stalls as protesting truckers vow to keep blocking routes | Business

Canadian truckers clogging key routes between Canada and the US over their opposition to COVID-19 mandates say they’re not going anywhere in an act of defiance with rippling effects on both sides of the border.

The protests, which began nearly two weeks ago in Ottawa, Canada’s capital, were ignited by truckers who oppose the nation’s new COVID-19 rule that requires them to be fully vaccinated when crossing the Canadian-US border or face a two-week quarantine.

The so-called freedom convoy has since drawn others who are resisting COVID-19 preventative measures, including, mask mandates, lockdowns and restrictions on gatherings.

In addition to clogging Ottawa’s downtown core, demonstrators have been occupying critical roadways between Canada and the US for days, and the impact is already being felt in both nations, with US officials warning that the country could see similar protests soon.

In Windsor, Ontario, Ford’s Essex and Annex engine plants halted production Wednesday due to supply challenges caused by the blockade at the Ambassador Bridge — which connects Detroit and Windsor.

General Motors’ plan in Delta Township, Michigan, also canceled a production shift due to the blockade and a spokesperson said they’re “working closely with our logistics providers” to mitigate any further impact on operations.

Wednesday marked the third day protesters impeded access to the bridge, the busiest international crossing in North America.

The blockades have burdened other truck drivers with long detours to move between the two nations.

The Blue Water Bridge connecting Port Huron, Michigan, and Sarnia, Ontario, about a 60-mile drive northeast of Detroit, is open to traffic, but there was a three-hour delay Thursday morning for Canadian-bound commercial traffic, according to Canada’s website for wait times.

“These are truck drivers who are legitimately trying to traverse the border, supply our factories and continue with commerce,” James Freed, city manager for Port Huron, told CNN.

John D’Agnolo, the president of Unifor Local 200 representing 1,700 workers at Ford’s Essex and Annex engine plants, told CNN he’s hopeful production can resume Thursday.

“They will run with that they have at the plants, and then they’ll have to send the workers home,” D’Agnolo said. “We hope the protesters move away from the border. They are really impacting not only our workers but the whole community.”

But it doesn’t seem that’s happening anytime soon.

Protests at standstill

The demonstrations have reached a deadlock, with many protesters refusing officials’ appeals to end the contentious demonstrations popping up across the country.

“I want all these mandates gone, and I’m not leaving until all the mandates are gone. So I am here for the long haul,” Dylan Friesen, a protester in Ottawa, told CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan Wednesday. “They can try to get rid of us, but we’re not leaving,” Friesen said.

Friesen explained he was let go from a job at a transport company in Ontario for not taking the COVID-19 vaccine.

“That’s not right for companies to be able to decide that and take away our right to earn money and support our livelihood,” Friesen said.

Canada has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, with about 4 in every 5 Canadians fully vaccinated, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Nearly 90% of Canada’s truckers are fully vaccinated and eligible to cross the border, according to the government.

Samuel Gauthier, who supports the truckers protesting in Canada, told CNN he’s unvaccinated, which has prevented him from accessing certain businesses in his home province of Quebec.

“I can’t go skiing, I can’t go to Walmart, I can’t go to Canadian tires, I can’t go to Home Depot, I can’t go to restaurants, I can’t go to bars, I can’t go to the gym,” Gauthier said, noting restrictions in Quebec have been “a bit more intense than in other places in Canada.”

Meanwhile, officials are pressing demonstrators to stop blocking the critical pathways.

“I’ve said consistently we welcome the freedom of people to protest lawfully and peacefully, but this is not a lawful protest,” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said during a news conference this week.

The border crossing between Coutts, Alberta, and Sweet Grass, Montana, has also been blocked by protesters in recent days.

“This and other road blockages constitute a safety hazard a serious interference in the lives of others,” Kenney said.

Alberta Justice Minister Sonya Savage echoed that stance.

“The situation has become intolerable, and it has to end,” Savage said. “They need to recognize that this protest is not lawful.”

Similar protests may spread across the border, US officials warn

Meanwhile, US officials warned that truckers in the country could stage similar demonstrations this month in cities from coast to coast, including near the Super Bowl on Sunday.

The US Department of Homeland Security issued a bulletin Tuesday to state and local officials, saying it “has received reports of truck drivers planning to potentially block roads in major metropolitan cities in the United States in protest of, among other things, vaccine mandates for truck drivers.”

“The convoy will potentially begin in California as early as mid-February and arrive in Washington, DC, as late as mid-March, potentially impacting the Super Bowl LVI scheduled for 13 February and the State of the Union Address scheduled for 1 March, ” the bulletin said.

A DHS spokesperson told CNN in a statement that the department “is tracking reports of a potential convoy that may be planning to travel to several US cities. We have not observed specific calls for violence within the United States associated with this convoy, and are working closely with our federal, state, and local partners to continuously assess the threat environment and keep our communities safe.”

A federal law enforcement official told CNN that early last week, authorities began seeing calls on a variety of online forums for the events in Ottawa to expand into the US

The official said that law enforcement and security officials guarding the Super Bowl in Inglewood, California, are preparing for any possible disruptions.

The CNN Wire

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