Justin Cracks Down
The blockades by Canadian truckers that had completely shut down the U.S.-Canada border crossing at Detroit have been cleared by reopening the Ambassador Bridge, and as of Friday, Ottawa police have begun moving against truckers occupying central Ottawa.
Despite these actions on the part of the Canadian government, the truckers comprising the “Freedom Convoy” hold their ground in defiance of threats of a police crackdown as they continue to disrupt other trade routes and cities, occupying the country’s capital for the third week.
The members of the Freedom Convoy appear unyielding despite days of warnings from police and the government -- risking arrest and having their rigs seized and bank accounts frozen.
Unfortunately for the truckers, the government crackdown began early in the week of February 13th, when the Canadian Prime Minister invoked Canada’s Emergencies Act, enabling law enforcement agencies to declare the blockades illegal, tow away their trucks, arrest the drivers and suspend their licenses.
In an apparent move by the government to avert a clash, on Thursday, February 17th, Trudeau and some of his top ministers warned the protesters to leave.
Despite the warning, hundreds of truckers continued blocking the streets of Ottawa -- Canada’s capital -- and stood their ground, defiantly blasting their horns. On Thursday, February 17th, the same day the government warned the protesters to leave, police streamed in, threatening to break up the nearly three-week protest against Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said the government began locking truckers out of their bank accounts as threatened. She stated, “It is happening. I do have the numbers in front of me.”
Two of the organizers -- Tamara Lich and Chris Barber -- were arrested, but officers did not force the demonstrators into compliance with the law.
The police continued negotiating with the protesters, attempting to de-escalate the situation, politely asking them to go home. Ottawa Police Chief Steve Bell said, “We want this demonstration to end peacefully. If they do not peacefully leave, we have plans.”
These plans were revealed on Friday, when police began moving against the protesters in force, clearing out several downtown streets. But the core of the protesters remained, surrounding the parliament. It appears that Ottawa police may have underestimated the amount of force they would need to end the protest.
At the same time, the Freedom Convoy has inspired similar convoys in France, New Zealand, and the Netherlands.
“It’s high time that these illegal and dangerous activities stop,” declared Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “They are a threat to our economy and our relationship with trading partners,” he continued. “They are a threat to public safety.”
Meanwhile, the truckers are prepared to keep protesting. Although GoFundMe shut down $10 million in funds raised to support the protest, funding has continued to reach the truckers by other means.
Consequences for America's and Canada's Supply Chains
Grocers reported bare produce shelves and the skyrocketing cost of hauling everything from tomatoes to lettuce from the southern U.S. up and through the Canadian border -- jumping 25% just days after new rules came into effect that require American truckers to be fully vaccinated to cross into Canada.
Canada relies on imports of fresh fruit and vegetables from the U.S. -- its biggest trading partner -- in winter. The vaccine mandate is expected to put additional strain on a supply chain already facing weather disruptions and labor shortages.
According to estimates from the American Trucking Association, only about 50% of U.S. truckers are vaccinated. This weekend, the U.S. will begin requiring truckers as well as foreign travelers to be vaccinated. That will take as many as 16,000 drivers off the road at a time when hauling demand is high.
About $45 billion worth of goods crosses the Canadian border every month. Canada is the top export market for 32 U.S. states and it is the truckers who are responsible for most of the goods shipped.
Governments are being urged by supply chain experts to rethink their strategies amid the current wave of omicron infections. Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University said that public health officials need to strike a balance between saving lives and keeping food secure.
Rick Wall, president of Richland Transport in Winkler, Manitoba -- a company that hauls farm equipment to the U.S. -- said the majority of his truckers are not vaccinated. “It’s going to be a detrimental blow to the company,” he said.
Censorship and Whitewashing
Biden’s hypocrisy has been exposed in his refusal to stand up for the truckers, disparaging them as a “small fringe minority,” echoing Justin Trudeau.
It appears that, despite the Canadian government’s crackdown, Canadian truckers will continue to protest, creating more problems with the supply chain. This will give the Canadian and U.S. Democratic media outlets even more license to smear the truckers.
Additionally, a Facebook group with over 130,000 members has been canceled off the social media platform for organizing a U.S. convoy amid allegations that the movement was being promoted by “right-wing extremists.” The administrators of the group deny these allegations.
Are the Trucker Convoys Coming to the U.S.?
If Biden and Congress are willing to open a dialogue with the truckers about the vaccine mandates, for example, the protests could end.
However, if he refuses to open a discussion with them as did Trudeau, the American truckers could call for a sick-out. The truckers would continue to strike, possibly affecting the entire North American continent and beyond.
Robert Steven Ingebo is president of FRI Corporation