As Canadians’ impatience and frustration with the occupation of their nation’s capital grows, protests continued to echo around the world on Wednesday, this time in France, where dozens of trucks and vehicles left the south of France for Paris to express their anger at their country’s vaccination policies.
Demonstrations in Ottawa, Canada’s capital, by loosely organized groups of truckers and protesters opposed to vaccination requirements for truckers entering Canada from the United States, have also inspired copycat convoys in New Zealand and Australia. . And there is talk of another in preparation in the United States.
Far-right and anti-vaccine groups around the world have amplified the Canadian protesters’ message on social media, raising millions of dollars in online campaigns.
The main Facebook group of French protesters has attracted more than 300,000 followers in a few days. The movement is called “Freedom Convoy”, a direct translation of “Freedom Convoy”, the slogan of the Canadian movement.
In Ottawa, life continues to be disrupted by the presence of more than 400 trucks blocking the roads. Residents were relieved on Tuesday evening when the drivers of the the trucks for the second night refrained from blowing their horns, a form of protest that was ordered by a court order on Monday afternoon.
At the other end of Ontario, in Windsor, a roadblock continued to prevent trucks from entering Canada over the Ambassador Bridge between the city and Detroit. The bridge is essential to the automotive industry, an important sector of the Canadian economy, which depends on the movement of parts across the border to keep plants in Ontario and the US Midwest running. On Wednesday, Drew Dilkins, the city’s mayor, said he would ask the federal government to help him deal with the blockade.
Trucks bound for Canada are directed to another border crossing between Port Huron, Michigan, and Sarnia, Ontario. But this two-hour detour created a backlog in Sarnia; Late Wednesday morning, the Canada Border Services Agency estimated that clearing the bridge to enter Canada at Sarnia would take four and a half hours.
On Wednesday, trucks traveling in the other direction from Sarnia to the United States were stranded when protesters blocked the only highway leading to that city.
At the Stellantis van assembly plant in Windsor, two shifts were cut short Tuesday due to parts supply issues related to the bridge blockade, said company spokeswoman LouAnn Gosselin. Production resumed Wednesday morning, she said, and the company is working with parts suppliers to avoid further shutdowns.
On Wednesday, truck protesters were also interfering with another border crossing between the western province of Alberta and Montana.
Social media posts announcing a possible protest in downtown Toronto prompted police to block roads surrounding the provincial legislature building on Wednesday morning, repeating precautions they had taken ahead of the weekend’s protests -end last.
Although most Canadians support the public health measures Canada has taken to combat the pandemic, the truck protesters have nonetheless benefited from fatigue with the pandemic restrictions.
On Tuesday, Scott Moe, the Conservative premier of Saskatchewan, who has expressed support for the protesters, announced that the province will end vaccination and testing requirements on February 14. Indoor mask requirements will continue until the end of the month.
In Alberta, Premier Jason Kenney announced the province’s vaccine passport program would end on Wednesday and mask mandates in schools would be lifted next week.
Most Canadian trucking groups condemned convoys and blockades and said more than 90% of drivers were vaccinated. Despite protesters’ claims that mandatory vaccination of truckers would lead to border disruptions and supply shortages, the Canadian government said it has seen no change in truck traffic at its border.
Protesters in Ottawa converged on the city nearly two weeks ago, but a strategy to retake the city from truckers – who vow to stay until their demands, among other things, to overturn the vaccine mandate, are satisfied – continues to evade law enforcement. It also emboldened criticism of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his response to the pandemic.
Ottawa’s police chief, who declared a state of emergency on Sunday, pledged to end the protests but said the city needs 1,800 more officers to do so. Mr. Trudeau said on Twitter that hundreds of members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had been mobilized to support Ottawa police officers and promised that the Canadian government and the city would employ “all necessary resources to bring the situation under control”.