Border blockades cleared as pressure mounts on Freedom Convoy protesters

Blockades have been cleared from all Canada-U.S. border crossings as a police presence continues to build in downtown Ottawa, targeting Freedom Convoy protesters who have occupied the city for almost three weeks.

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Ottawa police were officially warning protesters about arrests on Wednesday, while police in Windsor, Ont., intercepted vehicles believed to be attempting to re-establish a blockade at the Ambassador Bridge.

Barriers were being established around government buildings in Ottawa on Thursday morning. Police also announced that they’ve established 100 checkpoints to block those who do not have a reason to be in the area.

“If you want to leave under your own terms, now is the time to do it,” interim Ottawa Police Chief Steve Bell said to protesters during a media briefing Thursday afternoon.

“Action is imminent.”

When asked about heavy tow capabilities, Bell said police are not seeing any issues with being able to remove vehicles at this point.

The latest actions come as the federal government moves to impose the Emergencies Act, which introduces powers to compel tow truck operators to clear blockades, freeze protester bank accounts, suspend insurance coverage, and apply terrorist financing rules to crowdfunding companies that have supported the protests.

The border blockades themselves disrupted daily trade that typically amounts to $48 million at the Coutts, Alta., crossing; $73 million at Emerson, Man.; and $390 million in Windsor. In a press briefing on Thursday, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said it was no exaggeration to suggest those protests cost the economy billions of dollars.

“By blocking supply chains, these illegal blockades are doing considerable harm to our economy and all Canadians,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday in the House of Commons.

“These illegal blockades are being heavily supported by individuals in the United States and elsewhere in the world,” he added, noting that about half the funding has come from U.S. sources.

Yves-Francois Blanchet, leader of the Bloc Quebecois, noted the border was opened, arms were seized, and the Ambassador Bridge itself were all reopened without using the Emergencies Act.

“There are no more blockades at any borders. What’s left are the trucks parked outside,” said Conservative leader Candice Bergan, referring to the Act as “sledgehammer”.

Bergan criticized the vaccine mandate that was applied to border-crossing truck drivers on Jan. 15, noting that there was no scientific evidence to back the move. The U.S. imposed its mandate on cross-border truckers on Jan. 22.

“We all want the trucks in Ottawa to move,” she said. But she described the Emergencies Act itself as an overreach.

A class action lawsuit launched by Champ and Associates on behalf of Ottawa residents affected by the protests has also expanded to include 13 protest organizers, 34 defendant truckers, and eight donors who have contributed money to the convoy.

Bell insisted that police are ready to block any supporters from reaching the protesters occupying Ottawa’s downtown core.

“This weekend will look very different than the past three weekends,” he said.

  • This is a developing story and is being updated as more information becomes available.