Coutts border blockade enters 3rd day

Click to play video: 'Protesters block Alberta highway near busy U.S. Border crossing'
Protesters block Alberta highway near busy U.S. Border crossing
WATCH: A trucker blockade protesting Canada's COVID-19 restrictions continues to cause huge backlogs and delays at a busy border crossing in Alberta. Heather Yourex-West reports. – Jan 31, 2022

Tractor trailers remain loaded and unable to move as protestors continue to blockade the Canada-U.S. border crossing at Coutts, Alta.

Working truckers looking to cross and deliver their loads of all sizes and contents, continue to be frustrated by the blockade that’s into a third day.

Gurmit Gall is trying to haul bananas to Calgary.

Click to play video: 'RCMP attempting to peacefully negotiate with protesters at blocked Coutts border'
RCMP attempting to peacefully negotiate with protesters at blocked Coutts border


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Gall said the RCMP officers he’s spoken to have been unsuccessful in negotiating passage past the blockade.

“(They’re) not listening to anybody, right?,” Gall said. “Otherwise, (they’re) starting a fight.”

Click to play video: 'Protestors continue blockade at Coutts border crossing'
Protestors continue blockade at Coutts border crossing

Gall and the other truckers say they don’t feel safe and don’t want any confrontations.

Mohammad Ahmed, who is trying to get a load of corn flour across the border, pointed out the apparent hypocrisy of a blockade for freedom.

“If they have freedom not to vaccinate, where’s my freedom? I have no issue with them, but I’m stuck here. Who’s suffering? Me. I’m the one losing money.”

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The ongoing blockade is also affecting American truckers, like Luis Restrepo.

“I’m a truck driver coming from California,” Restrepo told Global News.

“I’m hauling produce. I’m running out of the fuel in my trailer right now. I’m worried about that.”

When the quarter tank of fuel runs out in his refrigerator trailer, the produce Restrepo is hauling from Sacramento, Cali., will begin to go bad and lose its value.

“It’s quite hard for us right now, even in the night time,” trucker Manny Bains said. “We never know if we’ll run out of fuel. What are you going to do?”

Finances and fuel aren’t the only concerns the truckers have.

“With some having family problems, we want to go back to Calgary, but they’re not allowing us to go back. So they are keeping us, they are blocking our way,” Calgary trucker Manjit Singh said.

Monday afternoon, RCMP Cpl. Curtis Peters said efforts had been made to try to ease tensions and break up the blockade, but the number of vehicles in the roadblock was still about half of where it was on Sunday.

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Click to play video: 'Protesters block Alberta highway near busy U.S. Border crossing'
Protesters block Alberta highway near busy U.S. Border crossing

Sunday night, RCMP brought in additional resources — including the special tactical operations unit and tow trucks — in case arrests needed to be made.

“We’re still working now, at this point in time, to continue to resolve the conflict and bring the rest of this within the realm of a lawful protest,” Peters told reporters.

Peters was unable to provide an estimate on when the road to the border would reopen and advised people use other points of entry.

Midday Monday, the Canadian Border Services Agency listed the Coutts border crossing as the only crossing with more than a 15-minute delay. They report that 20 of the 26 border crossings having no delay.

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Click to play video: 'The politics of the truckers’ ‘freedom convoy’'
The politics of the truckers’ ‘freedom convoy’

“While the Coutts, AB. port of entry remains open, there is no vehicle access due to a blockade immediately north of the border crossing that is impeding movement through our port,” a CBSA spokesperson told Global News.

“It is an offence under the Customs Act to hinder the ability of a border services officer to conduct their work.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection lists the Sweetgrass border as closed to commercial traffic.

Peters said the blockaders did permit some truckers caught in the barricade to turn around and head back north from the border, calling it “progress forward in the negotiations.”

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“Between the last couple of days, I believe we have been able to move in the neighbourhood of 100 commercial vehicles out,” the RCMP corporal said.

Singh was one of those truckers who were ultimately able to turn around and return northward. But his freight – Alberta meat – will ultimately be unable to make it to its California destination.

Click to play video: 'UCP MLA Grant Hunter slammed for attending Coutts border blockade'
UCP MLA Grant Hunter slammed for attending Coutts border blockade

Supply, economy impacts

Just 20 kilometers north of the border, in Milk River, Alta., trucker Kevin Yeremenko who originally hails from Edmonton said he understands the protest and blockade, but disagrees with the methods.

“I support what they’re doing. But because I support what they’re doing doesn’t mean they should stop what I’m doing,” Yeremenko told Global News.

“They should be letting a few trucks through so we can at least get our job done.”

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Peter Van Liere has been part of the blockade since Saturday morning.

“What we’d like to see is everything go back to the way it was in 2019 before all of this started. All the mandates lifted, all the restrictions gone and (all) that put into legislation, so this does not happen again,” Van Liere told Global News.

He noted the blockade isn’t against vaccination, and didn’t have information on how many people or vehicles were included in the protest, nor who organized the roadblock.

Click to play video: 'Calgarians opposed to COVID-19 restrictions join nation-wide protest'
Calgarians opposed to COVID-19 restrictions join nation-wide protest

“As long as it takes. Everybody is prepared to stay as long as it takes,” he said. “We’re not compromising our stand until this whole thing is done away with.”

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Van Liere, a Lethbridge county resident, seemed to think the impact on the supply chain of a multi-day border barricade was justified.

“It’s never a right time and it’s going to disrupt some stuff. But within the communities and within a nation here, there’s going to be enough supply for quite some time yet.”

Monday afternoon, the Canadian Meat Council tweeted that its members would be adversely affected because of the Coutts barricade.

“There are over 150 loads of Canadian Beef stuck at the #coutts border. Our members are going to have to slow down production if this keeps up,” they wrote.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau thanked the nearly 90 per cent of vaccinated truckers who continue to “keep our economy moving.”

“Truckers have tough jobs: long hours on the road, days away from their families. Real challenges, particularly over the past two years, as they’ve continued to step up to put food on our shelves and on our tables to support us with life saving medication and supplies,” Trudeau said Monday.

“We have relied on you and you can rely on us to continue to stand with you and allow you to do your jobs safely.”

On Monday morning, Transportation Minister Rajan Sawhney tweeted her support to end the blockade and reopen the border crossing, saying she’s heard from dozens of Alberta truckers who have been stranded stateside since Saturday.

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“Some haven’t eaten. Others have medical issues,” Sawhney wrote.

“Everyone has the right to protest peacefully, but our supply chain and the livelihoods of those trying to cross the border should not suffer because of that.”

–with files from Tom Roulston, Heather Yourex-West, Global News

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