One of the most recent blockades taking place is at the busiest land border crossing in Canada — the Ambassador Bridge.
The bridge links Windsor, Ont., to Detroit, where the blockade has halted some auto output and left officials scrambling to limit economic damage.
A state of emergency, according to Canada’s Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, is a present or imminent event that requires quick action to protect the health, safety and welfare of people and to limit damage to property or the environment.
“The Ambassador Bridge in Windsor alone sees $700 million of two-way trade every single day,” said Premier Doug Ford at a press briefing on Friday, addressing the ongoing blockades. “And that trade employs hundreds of thousands of Ontarians…those jobs feed millions of families. They are a lifeline for our province and its economy.”
Here’s everything we know about the state of emergency so far.
What happens next?
Ford says he will enact orders making it “crystal clear” that it is illegal and punishable to block and impede the movement of goods, people and services along critical infrastructure.
This includes protecting international border crossings, 400-series highways, airports, ports, bridges and railways, according to the premier.
The state of emergency will also include protecting the safe and essential movement of ambulatory and medical services, public transit, municipal and provincial roadways and pedestrian walkways.
Last Sunday, the City of Ottawa too declared a state of emergency after over a week of trucker convoy demonstrations in the nation’s capital.
The trucker convoy arrived in Ottawa on Jan. 28 from across the country. It has since parked itself in the downtown core in protest against government COVID-19 measures, including a vaccine mandate for cross-border truckers and the requirement to wear face masks inside businesses.
Over the past week, the demonstrations have been criticized for loud honking and harassment of residents, businesses and media covering the events. Global News has found connections between the organizers and extremist elements in Canada.
When will the state of emergency go into effect?
The state of emergency will be in effect as soon as Premier Doug Ford signs the order, which, according to his office, will be done by Friday night.
The state of emergency has to be ratified by cabinet within 72 hours. This is why it’s still not clear when authorities would begin issuing fines or seeking jail sentences.
“This will not impede the rights of Ontarians to peacefully protest. It will provide additional tools to help stop the illegal occupation of Ottawa and the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor,” said Ford.
While the protest began as an expression of truckers’ opposition to a cross-border vaccine mandate, it has since shifted into a much broader expression of discontent with the government — and with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The end date of the demonstration is unclear, too.
What are the fines?
Ford said people who try to block or impede the movement of goods, people and services along critical infrastructure will be fined with a maximum penalty of $100,000 and up to a year imprisonment.
“We are strengthening our police forces’ tools and powers to resolve this situation,” said Ford.
The province will also provide additional authority to consider taking away the personal and commercial licenses of anyone involved in the blockade.
On Wednesday, Ottawa police warned “Freedom Convoy” protesters that they “could be arrested” if they continue to block city streets.
To date, cops and bylaw officers in Ottawa have handed out more than 1,300 tickets for traffic violations, made 23 arrests and have 85 active criminal investigations related to the protest.
What's the legal justification?
On Feb. 7, City Solicitor David White released a memorandum to Ottawa’s Mayor and Members of City Council providing an overview of how to end the trucker convoy protest, and that included the option for declaring a provincial state of emergency.
According to the memo, a provincial state of emergency would allow the province to make orders that would regulate and prohibit travel or movement to, from, or within any specified area.
The orders under the state of emergency will provide enhanced tools for law enforcement on the front lines, Ivana Yelich, a spokesperson for the Office of the Premier of Ontario, told Global News in an email Friday.
While these “emergency orders will be temporary,” Ford said that the province has “every intention to bring new legislation forward that will make these measures permanent in law.”
“We are taking the steps necessary to support our police as they do what it takes to restore law and order,” he added.
On Friday, the Ontario Superior Court has also granted an injunction preventing protesters opposed to COVID-19 measures from blocking the Ambassador Bridge border crossing in Windsor, Ont.
Chief Justice Geoffrey Morawetz said the injunction will take effect at 7 p.m.
Pressure from the United States
The blockade at the Ambassador Bridge has impacted a key U.S. trade corridor for four days, damaging auto production and drawing calls for action from the White House.
U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has urged Canada to use federal powers to ease the Ambassador Bridge blockade, a step Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has not yet taken.
Calls for action piled up on Friday from Ford, which warned of a widespread impact on all automakers in both nations.
The stock of Canadian autoparts maker Magna International fell 4.4 per cent on Friday after it said it had seen an initial hit from the bridge’s closure.
Trudeau says he is working with municipal leaders to end the blockade. His intergovernmental affairs minister, Dominic LeBlanc, said at a virtual briefing on Friday that Canada has been “very engaged” with its U.S. partners over the crisis.
“Just because somebody doesn’t agree with a particular public-health measure doesn’t entitle them to damage hundreds of millions of dollars of cross-border trade, or create enormous disruption and abuse on the streets of the nation’s capital,” LeBlanc told reporters.
Trudeau said on Friday that allowing the blockades to continue is not an option.
“The border cannot and will not remain closed,” he said, and described the decision earlier in the day by Ontario Premier Doug Ford to declare a state of emergency as “responsible and necessary.”
“Everything is on the table because this unlawful activity has to end and it will end,” Trudeau said.
— with files from The Canadian Press and Reuters