Ontario declares state of emergency as lorry protest drags on in Canada's largest province

Premier Doug Ford had been resisting the move for days

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Ontario Premier Doug Ford has issued a province-wide state of emergency after more than two weeks of protests against vaccine mandates and Covid-19 restrictions have paralysed parts of the country.

The move allows Mr Ford greater authority to “urgently enact orders that will make crystal clear it is illegal and punishable to block and impede the movement of goods, people and services along critical infrastructure”, he said at a press conference on Friday.

For five days, protesters associated with the “Freedom Convoy” have blocked the Ambassador Bridge connecting Windsor, Ontario, to Detroit, Michigan, effectively shutting down the most important economic artery between the two countries.

The bridge carries 25 per cent of the trade between the US and Canada and has caused major supply chain issues for the car industry.

Mr Ford said it was time to “draw a line” and that the move would protect “international border crossings, 400-series highways, airports, ports, bridges and railways” as well as the operations of “ambulatory and medical services, public transit, municipal and provincial roadways".

The Ontario premier had resisted acting against the protesters for weeks and refused to meet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on multiple occasions.

“This is the very first time we're seeing the province act in a forceful manner,” said Stephanie Chouinard, associate professor at the Royal Military College of Canada and Queen’s University.

Ms Chouinard said the premier should have acted earlier.

Mr Ford, who pleaded with protesters in Ottawa and Windsor to “go home”, referred to the situation in Ottawa as a “siege".

About 400 lorries are currently parked in the capital, obstructing both traffic and business.

News of the decision was met with apathy and derision among the protesters in Ottawa.

“It's a joke,” said lorry driver Steve Carano. “He's making a mess.”

“I think the language he used is escalating more than de-escalating,” said one protester, identifying himself only as Daniel.

“They're not in charge, we're in charge, and that's the whole point of this,” he added.

The chief judge of the Ontario Superior Court issued an injunction on Friday evening to end the blockade at the Ambassador Bridge. Protesters have until 7pm to clear out and allow traffic through.

Updated: February 12, 2022, 6:36 AM
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