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Canadian judge OKs police removal of truckers blocking Ambassador Bridge

Ambassador Bridge
A Windsor judge gave the protesters until 7 p.m. to clear the area before the order allowing police to clear access to the Ambassador Bridge took effect on Friday. (Shutterstock)

Feb. 14: Ambassador Bridge reopens after Canadian border crossing protests

A Canadian court on Friday issued an order paving the way for police removal of trucks blocking Detroit’s Ambassador Bridge, signaling the possible end to a protest costing Michigan’s economy tens of millions of dollars a day.

Ontario Superior Court Chief Justice Geoffrey Morawetz granted the injunction after a motion filed by auto interests, backed by the City of Windsor seeking to end the blockade.

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Morawetz said the order would take effect at 7 p.m. Friday.

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“This gives individuals the opportunity and time to clear the area,” he said in the initial ruling.

The span linking Detroit to Windsor, Ontario, has been largely shut down since Monday by Canadian “Freedom Convoy” truckers, protesting a U.S.-Canada mandate that requires truckers to be vaccinated for COVID-19 to enter either country.

By Friday, calls for Canada to end the impasse grew among state and federal officials, while  the province of Ontario declared a state of emergency, as its premier pledged new legal action against protesters, including fines and jail time. 

According to estimates by Anderson Economic Group, an East Lansing consultant, the bridge logjam will cost $51 million in lost direct wages in Michigan its first week alone, a number it said “would climb at an accelerating pace” the longer the standoff continued.

 “With the industry already short-handed and production lines awaiting parts, any further interruption is very costly,” Anderson Economic Group CEO Patrick Anderson said.

General Motors this week shut down several shifts at its vehicle production plant near Lansing due to parts shortages tied to the closure of the span that normally carries 8,000 trucks and more than $323 million in goods a day. Ford Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. halted some operations in Canada stemming from the shutdown, while Honda planned to stop production on assembly line at its plant in Alliston, Ontario.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the bridge is the busiest international land-border crossing in North America and accounts for nearly a third of the two-way annual trade between Canada and the U.S., estimated at more than $600 billion

Responding to the potential economic crisis, officials on both sides of the border are ramping up pressure to end the impasse.  The blockade at the Ambassador Bridge also led to massive traffic backups earlier in the week at Port Huron’s Blue Water Bridge, as truckers sought other routes into Canada.

Canadian protesters have also closed border crossings at Coutts, Alberta, opposite Montana and at Emerson, Manitoba, across from North Dakota.

On Friday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said she was urging U.S. and Canadian officials to find a way to open the Ambassador Bridge.

“I've obviously been burning up the phone line speaking with people from the White House to the Canadian ambassador to our congressional delegation, and some of the leadership in the Canadian government," Whitmer said.

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U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Pete Buttigieg, transportation secretary, urged their Canadian counterparts “to use federal powers to resolve this situation at our joint border,” a White House official said on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security is warning law enforcement across the country that a convoy of truckers protesting Covid-19 vaccine mandates could begin in the United States, with the potential to disrupt Sunday's Super Bowl near Los Angeles and cause other disruptions.

A DHS bulletin issued Tuesday to state and local officials said the agency "has received reports of truck drivers planning to potentially block roads in major metropolitan cities in the United States in protest of, among other things, vaccine mandates for truck drivers."

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