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Emerson residents ‘held hostage’ by truckers blocking Canada-U.S. border

Emerson border surrounded by protestors. Tara Emerson

Typically a quiet border town, Emerson is a community of roughly 700 people that has been at the forefront of an ongoing blockade involving Canadian truckers protesting health mandates.

“It’s kind of sad that regular people are being held hostage,” says Wayne Aresny, who lives in Emerson.

Aresny travels through Emerson daily for work and says many residents in the area feel they’ve been unjustly affected by demonstrators.

“There’s a lot of people that have to go through that particular intersection who are just being impeded. You don’t know if it’s going to be a 15-minute wait or an hour wait.”

Read more: RCMP keeping an eye on various protests planned in Manitoba this weekend

Emerson residents rely on crossing the border for tasks as simple as getting mail or going to work, he said.

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“A lot of people are trying to avoid the roadblocks or going down rural roads to get through. But this is a rural area. Not all rural roads are plowed, so there’s people getting stuck.”

All four lanes of Highway 75 at Provincial Road 200 remain blocked, said the RCMP on Sunday.

Residents were able to get through the intersection previously by driving on the shoulder, but Aresny says protestors have since blocked that off.

“We’re being drawn into this, whether we want to or not.”

Initially, RCMP estimated 50 vehicles at the blockade. By Sunday afternoon that number grew to roughly 75.

“This number continues to fluctuate as vehicles arrive and depart the blockade,” said Manitoba RCMP in a press release.

Read more: Convoy vehicles break through RCMP barricades as B.C. border crossing effectively closed

Police are advising motorists to expect major delays and to avoid the Emerson area, if possible.

Emergency vehicles and some agriculture transports have been able to pass through the blockade, RCMP say.

No tickets have been issued and no arrests have been made.

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The effects of multiple border blockades throughout Canada could be devastating, says Atif Kubursi, a professor emeritus of economics at McMaster University.

“The real issue here is how long is it going to last,” Kubursi says.

On a daily basis alone, $120 million in merchandise trade comes from the U.S., he says.

“We’re not talking about a peripheral impact, we’re talking about a substantial impact.”

Food products and machinery are the main items crossing at the Emerson border. Kubursi doesn’t expect prices to rise because of the blockades, but he does believe store shelves could begin to look bare if the protest continues.

“We’re talking about a very substantial proportion of our needs, and what we generate as income from exports depends on these trucks.”

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