Speed Reads

Reopening the economy

Major Canada-U.S. border bridge cleared of anti-vax protesters, reopened, as Ottawa residents get fed up

The Ambassador Bridge linking Detroit to Windsor, Ontario, fully opened to traffic Sunday night after police cleared the remaining Canadian anti-vaccine protesters who had blocked the bridge for seven days. The Ambassador Bridge is the busiest U.S.-Canada border crossing, facilitating about a quarter of all trade between the two countries.

A Canadian judge had ordered an end to the bridge blockade on Friday, and Ontario Premier Doug Ford then declared a state of emergency authorizing fines of up to 100,000 Canadian dollars ($79,000) and a year in jail for anyone illegally blocking roads, walkways, or other critical infrastructure. Police arrived in force Sunday morning and cleared the remaining trucks and protesters, arresting more than two dozen people and towing or seizing 12 vehicles that refused to leave.

Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association, put the price tag of the week-long blockade at about a billion Canadian dollars ($790 million), plus the harm to Canada's reputation as a reliable trading partner. 

"In Windsor we have at its core, several dozen people who are macroeconomically illiterate and absolutely disrespectful of their own community," Volpe told BBC News. "Never has a tantrum cost so many people so much."

The capital, Ottawa, is still gummed up with protesters demanding "freedom" from all COVID-19 restrictions. Mayor Jim Watson said on Sunday he had agreed to meet with protest organizers if the truckers and other demonstrators would vacate residential areas and congregate near Parliament Hill by noon on Monday. He showed a letter from the organizer, Tamara Lich, in which she agreed to the arrangement, but Lich later tweeted that "no deal has been made."

Amid mounting frustration at Ottawa police for failing to clear the protest, hundreds of residents formed counter-protests Saturday and Sunday, successfully blocking some trucks from joining the protest downtown.

"It just feels like I'm living in a different country, like I'm in the States," counter-protester Shannon Thomas, 32, told The Associated Press. "It just makes me really sad to see all these people waving Canadian flags and acting like patriots when it's really the most sad and embarrassing thing I've ever seen."

Ottawa police said Saturday morning that they had issued more than 2,600 tickets and made 26 criminal arrests among the entrenched demonstrators, adding that they have a plan to "end this unlawful occupation" as soon as reinforcements arrive.