Alberta RCMP say the effort to remove vehicles at the border protest at Coutts, Alta., is being hampered by a lack of willing tow companies.
“Unfortunately, they were unwilling to become involved when it was implied that helping law enforcement with removal would likely damage their livelihoods into the future,” Deputy Commissioner Curtis Zablocki said Tuesday afternoon.
“We’re still exploring ways to remove vehicles from the sites, and we’ll continue to exhaust all avenues as long as this illegal activity continues.”
Zablocki did stress “there are very definite actions taking place” by RCMP officers and negotiators to try to defuse the illegal protest near the Canada-U.S. border that has stretched into 11 days.
Late Monday night, RCMP posted on Twitter that traffic had been barricaded along Highway 4 leading to and from the border. Tuesday afternoon, police said one lane in each direction had been reopened. Early Tuesday evening, RCMP said north and southbound lanes were closed by the blockade once again.
The safety of everyone on the scene has been a guiding principle, the RCMP deputy commissioner said.
“These safety concerns are very real and unnecessary risks will not be taken. As the police service leading this operation, it’s our discretion as to how and when enforcement is used.”
Acting Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Sonya Savage said the province hasn’t yet applied for an injunction against the protest and blockade, citing the desire to allow the RCMP space and time to come to a peaceful resolution.
“Applying for an injunction is an additional tool that we could bring if it would help bring a conclusion to the blockade,” Savage said. “But at present time, we have not applied for an injunction.”
The acting solicitor general added the province is also looking at options under the Emergency Management Act.
“There’s also the Civil Forfeiture Act,” Savage added. “Property that’s involved in the commission of a crime can be seized and forfeited to the Crown. So those are pretty expensive vehicles that are on the side of the road – tractors and other equipment – that could be seized and forfeited to the crown.”
She also addressed reports of rural MLAs meeting with protesters.
“They do not have authority to negotiate with the protesters on behalf of the government of Alberta. In fact, that would set a very, very dangerous precedent of negotiating with people that are breaking the law, or potentially threatening to break the law, and who are asking for government policy changes in return for them stopping breaking the law.
“That sets a dangerous precedent and would abrogate the rule of law.”
Zablocki said trained RCMP negotiators had made inroads with the protesters, noting the number of vehicles making up the protest have gone down to about 50 from 250 a week and a half ago.
“It is time to end the illegal activity and coats and allow for safe, free-flowing and unimpeded travel,” the deputy commissioner said.
“I’m asking all of those who continue to organize this protest to move activities to a state that is lawful and safe for all involved.”
He also said investigations have been ongoing through the entire episode.
“There will be charges, and this does not end when the road is cleared.”