Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency in the largest province of Canada to end what he called truckers’ “illegal occupation” of the national capital Ottawa and their blockade of the country’s border with the US.
Ford said that he would “urgently enact orders that will make crystal clear it is illegal and punishable to block and impede the movement of goods, people and services along critical infrastructure”, including international border crossings, major highways, airports, ports, bridges and railways, reports Xinhua news agency.
Thousands of Canadian truckers and their supporters descended on Ottawa in late January to oppose the government’s vaccine requirement for truckers crossing the border into the United States, which has the same policy.
Hundreds of protesters have remained in the capital, and have no intention to leave until the vaccine mandate and other pandemic-related health restrictions are rescinded.
The Canadian government does not intend to comply with such a request from the protesters, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at a news conference in Ottawa on Friday, noting the protesters need to understand “it’s time to go home”.
He told reporters that police at the federal, provincial and municipal levels will enforce the law.
“Everything is on the table because this unlawful activity has to end and it will end,” said the Prime Minister.
“Of course, I can’t say too much more now as to exactly when or how this ends because unfortunately, we are concerned about violence. So we’re taking every precaution to keep people safe.”
Trudeau was asked whether he would call in the army to assist the Ottawa Police Service, which has yet to receive all of the 1,800 additional officers requested from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Ontario Provincial Police.
“Using military forces against civilian populations in Canada or in any other democracy is something to avoid having to do at all costs.”
On Friday, Trudeau spoke to US President Joe Biden about the truck blockades at three border crossings, including the one at Windsor-Detroit, which the Prime Minister said has resulted in six automobile-manufacturing plants having to shut down for several days because car parts could not get through the Ambassador Bridge from Detroit to Windsor.
On late Friday, an Ontario judge granted an injunction sought by three vehicle manufacturers associations authorizing police to remove any vehicles that block access to the bridge, and arrest anyone who fails to comply with the court order that lasts for 10 days.