Roughly a week after protesters started to gather in large numbers at the Coutts border crossing, Alberta’s minister of municipal affairs sought assistance from Ottawa, Global News has learned.
The letter obtained by Global News shows Ric McIver penned the piece on Feb. 5 to both Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino and Minister of Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair.
“As you are aware, Alberta is currently experiencing significant issues with the free movement of vehicles and supplies in southern Alberta with direct impacts to our largest border crossing with the United States,” the letter stated.
During the first week of February, RCMP were unsure when protesters were going to leave as a second blockade, further up Highway 4, had also started to grow.
“Despite our best efforts to resolve this ongoing issue, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have exhausted all local and regional options to alleviate the weeklong service disruptions at this important international border,” the letter read.
The letter said it was a collaborative effort by RCMP along with local and provincial officials to try and persuade the protesters to remove their vehicles — but that effort proved to be unsuccessful.
McIver also pointed out due to “negative consequences,” Mounties were unable to secure the proper equipment to remove the trucks, trailers and tractors that were stationed in the area.
“Attempts to procure these services with providers from across the western provinces and the United States have failed,” the letter said.
McIver asked for approximately 70 semi-tractor trailers and about 75 personal and recreational vehicles from the area to assist with the removal of the illegal blockade with the commitment that RCMP and other law enforcement partners would remove demonstrators and bystanders from the area prior to arrival.
“I and my colleague, the minister of justice and solicitor general, or our respective staff members, are available to discuss these requirements but am hopeful that Alberta’s request will be received favourably and responded to promptly,” McIver wrote.
Kenney remains against Emergency Act
The leaked letter comes after Alberta Premier Jason Kenney tweeted on Saturday he will be launching a court challenge against the federal government’s Emergencies Act.
“The federal government’s invocation of the Emergency’s Act is an unnecessary and disproportionate measure that can violate civil liberties, invades provincial jurisdiction, and creates a very dangerous precedent for the future,” Kenney said in a video posted to his Twitter page.
The premier said it’s essentially unnecessary as “we’ve demonstrated here in Alberta, at Coutts” that provincial law enforcement was able to deal with illegal road blockades.
More than two weeks after the Coutts blockade started, RCMP made numerous arrests along with confiscating weapons and ammunition. However, during that time, access to the U.S. border was limited or at a complete standstill due to the ongoing protest.
At one point, the Canadian Border Services Agency temporarily suspended entry at the Alberta-Montana border crossing.
Kenney insists Alberta had resources it needed
Justin Brattinga, the premiers’ press secretary, responded to the question of why the province asked for help when the premier claimed on Saturday that “provincial law enforcement was able to deal with illegal road blockades.”
Brattinga said the province originally asked for help from the federal government and RCMP at Coutts “in part because local Alberta RCMP remains under the control of the federal government. Ottawa denied our request.”
“The Coutts situation required federal resources — not the use of legislation that suspends civil liberties,” Brattinga added.
— with files from Kim Smith and Mercedes Stephenson, Global News