KINGSTON, Ont. — The country’s busiest highway may grind to a near-halt on Apr. 19, in Eastern Ontario if anti-free trade activists from Ontario and northern New York State get their way.
A group calling itself the People’s Community Union plans to clog Hwy. 401 through the region before “locking down” the St. Lawrence Seaway on their way to Quebec City to protest the Summit of the Americas and the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).
An on-line itinerary posted by the group invites activists heading east towards Quebec’s capital to stay with billets in Kingston Apr. 18, before a caravan heads east along the key trade corridor the following day at only 60km/h.
“It’s a legal action, an action that is making a difference to where things are going and allows people to gather together and speak in unison,” David Silburn, one of the activists, tells local media. “A lot of people are intimidated by direct action. This is something a lot of community members can be involved in. These are corridors of trade — like the 401 — that pass by our communities that don’t benefit our communities in terms of jobs. A lot of that trade is flowing freely but unfairly.”
The region’s police forces say they’re ready for the group and prepared to lay charges. When farmers took to the 401 to protest a lack of government funding, they left one lane open, a police spokesman explains. If members of the caravan don’t do the same they will likely face Highway Traffic Act charges, including driving unnecessarily slowly or driving at less than the normal speed.
“If you were on the 401 shipping a commodity you would be upset,” the spokesperson adds. “Our primary concern is public safety, keeping the peace and ensuring the flow of traffic.”
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