Canadian lawmakers say demonstration of truckers over Covid curbs at key points on border with US threatens economy and supply chains between both American neighbours.
Canadian lawmakers have expressed increasing worry about the economic effects of disruptive demonstrations after the busiest border crossing between the US and Canada became partially blocked by truckers protesting vaccine mandates and other Covid-19 restrictions.
The blockade at the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, prevented traffic from entering Canada while some US-bound traffic was still moving, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said on Tuesday, calling the bridge "one of the most important border crossings in the world."
It carries 25 percent of all trade between Canada and the United States.
Canadian Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said such blockades will have serious implications on the economy and supply chains.
"I've already heard from automakers and food grocers. This is really a serious cause for concern," he said in capital Ottawa.
Convoys 'terrorising' people
Speaking in an emergency debate late on Monday in Parliament, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the protesters are "trying to blockade our economy, our democracy."
The daily demonstrations staged by the so-called Freedom Truck Convoy are centered in Ottawa, where demonstrators have used hundreds of parked trucks to paralyse parts of the capital for more than 11 days.
Ottawa's city manager said all tow-truck companies on contract with the city have refused to haul away the big rigs. The protests have infuriated people who live around downtown, including neighborhoods near Parliament Hill, the seat of the federal government.
Dave Weatherall, a federal civil servant, lives near the truckers' prime staging area in a city-owned parking lot outside of the downtown core.
"They’re using the lot to terrorise people in Centretown," he said, asking why the city has allowed the convoy to remain parked on its property for free and without intervention.
Demonstrations have spread to locations on or near the Canadian border such as Coutts, Alberta.
"The border at Coutts continues to open and close at the discretion of a group of protesters who believe they are above the law. It has to stop," tweeted Rachel Notley, Alberta's former premier and current opposition New Democrat leader.
Protesters have said they will not leave until all vaccine mandates and Covid-19 restrictions are lifted. They also called for the removal of Trudeau's government, though it is responsible for few of the restrictive measures, most of which were put in place by provincial governments.
Francois Laporte, the president of Teamsters Canada, which represents over 55,000 drivers, including 15,000 long-haul truck drivers, said the protests do not represent the industry in which 90 percent of drivers are vaccinated.
Call for ending protests
US and Canadian business groups demanded truckers end their blockade.
"Business associations on both sides of the border are calling for a swift and immediate clearing of the Windsor-Detroit Ambassador Bridge blockade and a timely re-opening of the bridge," the groups said in a statement.
"As our economies emerge from the impacts of the pandemic we cannot allow any group to undermine the cross-border trade that supports families on both sides of the border," said the 60 business groups, which include the Detroit and Canadian chambers of commerce.
The Quebec government said most Covid-19 restrictions would be lifted across the province by March 14, except for mask mandates and the vaccine passport system.