Advertisement

Surrey, B.C. border crossing open again, but questions remain over repeated blockades

Click to play video: 'Surrey border crossing reopens but questions remain over repeated blockades' Surrey border crossing reopens but questions remain over repeated blockades
The Pacific Highway border crossing in Surrey was open again on Sunday, but the second closure in as many weeks of the key link with the U.S. is raising questions about managing protests against COVID-19 measures. Kamil Karamali reports – Feb 20, 2022

The Pacific Highway border crossing in Surrey, B.C. was open again on Sunday, but the second closure in as many weeks of the key link with the U.S. is raising questions about managing protests against COVID-19 measures.

“These ongoing protests are really sabotaging our economy, sabotaging our infrastructure, and sabotaging the livelihoods of businesses, jobs and families,” Surrey Board of Trade president and CEO Anita Huberman told Global News.

Read more: Surrey, B.C. border crossing reopens after new convoy protest

As B.C.’s largest base of manufacturing, and a border city that relies on exports, Huberman said the repeated closures are taking a significant economic toll on Surrey.

“It’s really unacceptable,” she said.

Surrey RCMP insist they were prepared for Saturday’s convoy protest, which came less than a week after officers had to move in and make arrests to clear a previous demonstration, which closed the crossing for several days.

Story continues below advertisement

On Saturday, police proactively closed access to the crossing as hundreds of convoy protesters arrived at Highway 15 and 8th Avenue.

Saturday’s protest was largely peaceful, though it devolved into a potentially dangerous situation at one point when demonstrators swarmed media, spitting on some journalists and banging on vehicles. RCMP are investigating that incident with the potential for charges, they said.

“The protest varied in nature,” RCMP Cpl. Vanessa Munn said.

“Obviously there were people here who had the intention of being peaceful, but as we have seen with the video circulating, there were assaults, there was harassment of the media, so incidents of that nature were obviously not peaceful (or) lawful.”

Story continues below advertisement

Asked why police were not more prepared for large or potentially aggressive crowds given last week’s protest — which included vehicles driving through a police barricade — Munn said Mounties had “lots” of resources in the area and were ready for a variety of situations.

Click to play video: 'Access to Surrey border crossing closed amid new convoy protest' Access to Surrey border crossing closed amid new convoy protest
Access to Surrey border crossing closed amid new convoy protest – Feb 19, 2022

“We use a measured approach as well, as we do strategic enforcement. We have to be aware of the safety of everyone including our officers,” she said.

“Sometimes doing enforcement in a crowd that size … making arrests or issuing violation tickets can escalate the situation.”

Read more: Ottawa’s convoy occupation mostly clear, but police ‘not done’ with operation yet

While the border crossing was the site of the largest protest Saturday, at one point RCMP were called to the home of Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth, where a smaller group of demonstrators had gathered.

Story continues below advertisement

That incident and the aggressive behaviour towards reporters drew a sharp rebuke from B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix Sunday.

Click to play video: 'Police continue arrests, towing trucks in Ottawa' Police continue arrests, towing trucks in Ottawa
Police continue arrests, towing trucks in Ottawa – Feb 19, 2022

“We do have a right in this country to dissent and to criticize. This is a democracy and we’re very proud of that. But we don’t have a right, I think, in the exercise of that, to attack other people’s freedoms,” Dix said.

“Whether its a journalist, whether its an elected person such as Mike Farnworth, weather its healthcare workers in Victoria, whether its the people of Centertown in Ottawa, we don’t have the right to abuse other people and other people’s freedoms in the interest of our own freedoms.”

Meanwhile, back at the border crossing where a much smaller crowd returned Sunday, protesters vowed they weren’t going anywhere.

Read more: Watchdog probes Toronto mounted officer, Vancouver police over Ottawa incidents

Story continues below advertisement

Dan Johnston, who described himself as the “preaching patriot,” said after two years of COVID-19, he believed the mandates were about “social control not safety control.”

“We’re fighting for freedom, and you only have freedom if everybody has it. Right now people can’t go to restaurants, people can’t go to pools with their family, all because of what they are saying is a deadly virus,” he said, arguing COVID was “just the flu.”

“What’s being imposed upon us is tyrannical, and the mandates are actually illegal … They can not force you against your human rights to put a mask on 24/7.”

Sponsored content