Vehicles clog downtown streets as truckers and supporters continue to protest coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination mandates, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on February 10, 2022.
Blair Gables | Reuters
DETROIT – Canadian officials are preparing to take action against a group of truckers who blocked the country’s busiest border bridge between the US and Canada in protest of the COVID-19 vaccination mandate.
The blockade, now in its fifth day, has halted traffic on the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, which accounts for a quarter of the goods traded between the two countries.
Chief Justice Geoffrey Morawetz of the Ontario Superior Court on Friday approved an injunction request from the city of Windsor and business leaders and groups, including the Canadian Association of Automotive Parts Manufacturers, to end the blockade.
Morawetz said the 10-day injunction, though approved, will not go into effect until 7 p.m. Friday to give protesters time to leave. Windsor police immediately warned that protesters blocking streets could be arrested and their vehicles seized, according to the Associated Press.
Lawyers for those seeking the 10-day injunction said they don’t necessarily expect protesters to completely leave the area, however the ruling is designed to ensure vehicles can cross the bridge.
“The intent of this order is to ensure that there is a flow of traffic,” Morawetz said.
An estimated 10,000 commercial vehicles cross the bridge every day carrying $325 million in goods, according to the Michigan Treasury Department. That includes about $50 million for car manufacturing.
The ruling comes after Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency in Canada on Friday and told a news conference that authorities plan to enact temporary orders to fine protesters blocking the bridge. with up to C$100,000 ($78,500) and sentence them to prison. up to one year in jail.
“Make no mistake: This is a pivotal moment for our nation. The eyes of the world are on us right now, and what they see is not who we are,” he said. “As a province, as a nation, we must collectively draw a line. We must stand up for the values that define us.”
The protest has drawn the attention of the White House in recent days, as the blockade has caused parts shortage for some companiesespecially car manufacturers. general motors, ford engine, honda engine, toyota engine Y Stellantis all have had to cut or limit production shifts due to part shortages caused by protesters.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday promised President Joe Biden “swift action” on steps to restore traffic on the bridge, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at a briefing.
A person makes a peace sign and trucks honk their horns again, as truckers and supporters continue to protest coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination mandates, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on September 11. February 2022.
Lars Haggberg | Reuters
“The president expressed concern that American businesses and workers are experiencing serious effects, including slowing production, reduced work hours and plant closures,” he said. “The Prime Minister promised swift enforcement action, and the President thanked him for the steps he and other Canadian authorities are taking to restore open passage of bridges to the United States.”
Protesters agreed just before Ford’s comments to open up a lane of traffic coming off the bridge. CBC News reported on Friday. The decision also came before an Ontario court hearing began Friday afternoon regarding an injunction seeking to end the blockade.
A lawyer representing the Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association of Canada, which is part of a group seeking the injunction, argued that the fact that a lane is open should not affect any court decision.
“It can be closed as fast as it can be opened,” attorney Michael Wills said. “We are operating under the assumption that the bridge is closed.”
The blockade has caused the total or partial closure of several plants in the United States and Canada for Detroit automakers, as well as for Honda and Toyota. The impacts range from complete plant closures to canceling shifts or sending workers home early once they run out of parts.
The lockdown exacerbates an already tumultuous time for car production, as companies continue to grapple with a protracted shortage of semiconductor chips that has led to sporadic plant closures over the past year.
GM spokesman Dan Flores confirmed Friday that production of the first shift of heavy-duty trucks at a plant in Flint, Michigan, was affected by parts shortages due to the lockdown. Production is expected to resume for a second shift Friday afternoon, he said.
Ford is operating an engine plant in Windsor and an assembly plant in Oakville, Ontario, on reduced hours, spokeswoman Kelli Felker said Friday. The automaker also halted production Friday of its medium-duty truck production in Ohio because of the problem, she said.
“This disruption to the Detroit/Windsor Bridge hurts customers, autoworkers, suppliers, communities and businesses on both sides of the border already experiencing two years of parts shortages as a result of the global semiconductor issue, COVID and more.” he said in a statement. statement sent by email. “We expect this situation to be resolved quickly because it could have a widespread impact on all automakers in the United States and Canada.”
Spokespeople for Honda and Toyota have also confirmed production impacts due to parts shortages at select plants in the US and Canada.