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Amid growing speculation that the truck drivers behind the Freedom Convoy may ultimately bring down Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government, efforts to crack down on the popular protest against COVID-19 mandates are reportedly being ramped up.
The development of “draconian rules” being imposed comes as three border bridges crossing into the United States have been blocked in Ontario, Alberta and Manitoba.
“Ontario has brought in more draconian rules to crack down on Freedom Convoy truckers — including vehicle seizures and fines — just days after honking was banned and after the US told Canada to use federal powers to end the blockades,” the Daily Mail reported. “President Joe Biden on Thursday urged his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau to impose further rules as the bumper-to-bumper demonstration on the city’s Ambassador Bridge forced auto plants on both sides of the border to shut down or scale back production.”
The Ambassador Bridge connects Windsor, Ontario with Detroit, Michigan, and “is North America’s busiest international land border and usually carries more than $327 million of goods per day on over 8,000 trucks, accommodating 27 percent of the approximately $400 billion in annual trade between Canada and the US,” the British newspaper noted. The blockade has forced General Motors, Ford and Toyota to shut down plants or otherwise curtail production.
Canadian Transport Minister Omar Alghabra called on Ontario — Ottawa is located in the providence — to cancel protesters’ commercial truck licenses.
“The provinces have extensive regulatory powers over commercial trucking and road transportation to help end this unlawful occupation and disruptions of commercial trucks blockading the streets and highways,” Alghabra said, according to CBC.
“These powers could include, for example, quickly enforcing the provisions of … Ontario highway safety, to begin suspending commercial licenses and also insurance of commercial owners of equipment blockading the streets for days on end …”
Under Trudeau’s Covid-19 vaccine mandate, trucker drivers driving international routes must be fully vaccinated, and while the overwhelming majority of driver are vaccinated — 85 percent — they strongly oppose the order.
Protesters have brought Ottawa to a standstill and police are using the threat of potentially seizing children from truckers who have their families with them.
The Ottawa Police Service said in a statement Wednesday that police are working with the Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa, which is funded by the Ontario government and has the power to take children from their parents, to address “child welfare concerns” at the protest.
“Police have a role to play in observing any potential dangers and will report them immediately to CASO. In matters that involve a child or youth who is in the protest area, CASO will work closely with the OPS to respond to the concern,” the statement read.
Ottawa police have also been confiscating diesel fuel needed to keep the trucks running during the frigid winter temperatures — most truckers are living in the rigs and need to be able to idle to provide heat.
— Ottawa Police (@OttawaPolice) February 6, 2022
Taking an all-of-the-above approach, Ontario Premier Doug Ford got an injunction Thursday to freeze millions of dollars in funds raised via a GiveSendGo fundraiser.
The province obtained an order from the Superior Court of Justice that prohibits anyone from distributing donations made through the website’s ‘Freedom Convoy 2022’ and ‘Adopt-a-Trucker’ campaign pages, Global News reported, citing a spokeswoman for Ford.
The move comes on the heels of GoFundMe freezing more than $10 million raised for the truckers, saying that while they believed the intention of the Freedom Convoy 2022 fundraiser when it was first created, the company had since obtained “evidence from law enforcement that the previously peaceful demonstration has become an occupation, with police reports of violence and other unlawful activity.”
Campaigns were quickly set up on the Christian fundraising site GiveSendGo, and as of Thursday have raised over $9 million combined.
The defiant crowd-funding site responded in a tweet, “Know this! Canada has absolutely ZERO jurisdiction over how we manage our funds here at GiveSendGo. All funds for EVERY campaign on GiveSendGo flow directly to the recipients of those campaigns, not least of which is The Freedom Convoy campaign.”
Know this! Canada has absolutely ZERO jurisdiction over how we manage our funds here at GiveSendGo. All funds for EVERY campaign on GiveSendGo flow directly to the recipients of those campaigns, not least of which is The Freedom Convoy campaign.
— GiveSendGo (@GiveSendGo) February 11, 2022
Speaking of draconian measures, Harvard professor and CNN analyst Juliette Kayyem said in a tweet opposing the working-class protest for individual freedom, “Slash the tires, empty gas tanks, arrest the drivers, and move the trucks.”
“Trust me, I will not run out of ways to make this hurt: cancel their insurance; suspend their drivers licenses; prohibit any future regulatory certification for truckers, etc.,” he added. “Have we learned nothing? These things fester when there are no consequences.”
Trust me, I will not run out of ways to make this hurt: cancel their insurance; suspend their drivers licenses; prohibit any future regulatory certification for truckers, etc. Have we learned nothing? These things fester when there are no consequences. https://t.co/JnKOy7EuHd
— Juliette Kayyem (@juliettekayyem) February 10, 2022
Trudeau continues to take a hardline stance against the truckers, who he has called racists and accused them of perpetrating violence, refusing to meet with them or consider their concerns.
He said Monday protesters are “trying to blockade our economy, our democracy and our fellow citizens’ daily lives. It has to stop.”
The liberal politician took to Twitter on Thursday in a series of tweets, vowing to end the “illegal blockades.”
“This evening, I had several meetings that were focused on the illegal blockades and occupations happening across the country. They’re harming the communities they’re taking place in – and they’re hurting jobs, businesses, and our country’s economy,” Trudeau tweeted, adding that he will “continue to work closely with municipal and provincial governments to end these blockades.”
He also appealed to conservative members of Parliament, who largely support the truckers, to “denounce these illegal acts.”
Finally, I briefed the leaders of the opposition parties on the current situation and the latest developments. I stressed how important it is for all Members of Parliament, from every party, to denounce these illegal acts – and to call for an end to these blockades.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) February 11, 2022
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino has also blasted the protesters, calling them an “angry crowd.”
“We cannot allow an angry crowd to reverse a course that continues to save lives in this last stretch” of the pandemic, Mendicino said.
The protest north of the border threatens to move south into the United States, with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security informing local and state law enforcement agencies that it has received reports that truckers are planning to “potentially block roads in major metropolitan cities,” the Associated Press reported.
The DHS warned of a convoy potentially beginning in Southern California that may disrupt traffic around this weekend’s Super Bowl being played in Inglewood. The AP said the bulletin noted that the convoy could be heading to Washington, with the goal of arriving in time for President Biden’s State of the Union address in March.
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