Windsor mayor goes to court to end ‘unlawful occupation’ by convoy of anti-vax border truckers

The mayor of Windsor, Ont., said his city is heading to court to try to end what he called an ‘unlawful occupation’ at the foot of the Ambassador Bridge that has stopped all traffic bound for Canada to use the key border crossing.

The planned legal action detailed by Drew Dilkens came as protesters carrying flags opposing COVID-19 measures moved to the Canadian side of the bridge, with some saying they hoped the blockade would cause economic strain.

Dilkens said he hopes city officials will be before a judge before the end of the day to seek an injunction to end the protest that began Monday in solidarity with one in Ottawa.

“To those who are considering joining the protest. Let me say this, you are not welcome here,” he told an afternoon news conference.

“We plan to appear before a Superior Court judge as soon as possible, hopefully today, and I hope the facts of this application speak clearly to the court about the need for intervention.”

Dilkens said the protesters were encroaching on municipal property and could be evicted to allow the safe and efficient movement of goods across the border.

“Yesterday I spoke about the importance of a peaceful resolution, and I still remain hopeful that this goal can be achieved,” he added.

A number of large rigs and pickup trucks were parked at the Windsor end of the crossing, preventing traffic from Detroit from entering the country and significantly slowing traffic heading for the United States. Local and provincial police are stationed nearby, but they are not preventing protesters from joining the demonstration.

Politicians have pointed to the economic impacts of the border bridge closure, and automakers have slowed production due to a lack of supply.

A participant in the Windsor protest said that was exactly the point.

The mayor of #Windsor goes to court to end the border blockade of #truckers. #onpoli #cdnpoli #truckerprotest #Ontario #Windsor

“They’re going to lose money. Yeah sure,” said Stephanie Parent, a Windsor resident who stops by every day of the protest.

“But we have people who have been out of work since these mandates came into effect, since these companies imposed these policies, forcing their employees to get vaccinated…As long as it doesn’t directly affect you, you don’t understand not really the ramifications.”

Parent says she got vaccinated to keep her job, but she doesn’t think she should have made such a choice. She expects the protests to last as long as the government recommends vaccination mandates, she said.

Maria Stricescu, who attends the Windsor protest on weekdays and the Ottawa rally on weekends, said her focus was even broader.

“We don’t want these mandates anymore. The mandates have to go. Some people in some groups – and I agree with them – we want to see a different government,” she said. “We want to see Justin Trudeau step down.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday evening that he and Ontario Premier Doug Ford are working to get the situation under control.

“The blockades in Windsor and Ottawa are endangering jobs, hindering trade, threatening the economy and hampering our communities. They must end,” Trudeau tweeted after a conversation with Ford on Wednesday evening.

Meanwhile, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer said the protest is hurting “Michigan working families who are just trying to do their jobs,” noting that the Ambassador Bridge is America’s busiest land border crossing. North.

“It is imperative that local, provincial and national governments across Canada defuse this economic blockade,” she said in a written statement. “They must take all necessary and appropriate steps to immediately and safely reopen traffic so that we can continue to grow our economy, support well-paying jobs and reduce costs for families.”

The protest at the Windsor border mirrors that in Coutts, Alta., which blocked traffic for more than a week in solidarity with the so-called “Freedom Convoy” that moved into Ottawa.

But unlike the Coutts Passage, which connects to Sweet Grass, Montana, the Ambassador Bridge is the bridge between two automotive powerhouses: Detroit and Windsor.

Automaker Ford of Canada operated its plants in Oakville, Ont., and Windsor at reduced capacity on Thursday, saying the bridge disruption could have a widespread impact on automakers on both sides of the border.

Stellantis said U.S. and Canadian factories reduced second shifts Wednesday night due to parts shortages caused by the bridge closure.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance called on all levels of government to act to end the lockdowns, which they said were causing “significant losses”.

“Many of those protesting have their lives disrupted by certain policies, in turn ironically disrupting the lives of their fellow Canadians,” Stephen Laskowski, president of the group, wrote in a statement.

“Whether it’s the dedicated truck driver who is stuck at the border and unable to get home to his family; or the factory worker who is fired from work because critical products and raw materials are not delivered, the only people to whom these blockades have hurt the Canadian workers who have kept our nation moving.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on February 10, 2022.

Michael A. Bynum