The Ambassador Bridge is now open following protests
The Ambassador Bridge is open after a week of protests.
‘Dumb and Silent, we are led to slaughter like sheep.’
That’s what one sign read at a protest blocking Huron Church Road in Windsor.
For 7-days, protesters blocked the largest international border crossing in North America, the corridor responsible for ¼ of all Canada-US cross-border trade.
Huron Church Road and other roads leading to the Ambassador Bridge were partially or fully obstructed by protestors. Windsor police and Campus Community police are present to monitor the situation. They have made themselves at home, several trucks, tents and portable toilets- and speakers blasting music for the last several days, and a lot of Canadian flags- more Canadian flags than you typically see on Canada day. In a way, the blockade looks like a week-long street party. Their favourite chants are ‘Freedom’ and ‘Let’s go Brandon.’
The Ambassador Bridge is vital for daily trade and commerce between Canada and our biggest trading partner, the United States of America. Every day, over $300,000,000 worth of goods cross the border, on 10,000 trucks.
To summarize the economic ramifications: every business on either side of the border depending on a daily supply of goods through the bridge had almost come to a screeching halt.
Windsor Tecumseh MP Irek Kusmierczyk in an open letter that ‘”we condemn in the strongest possible terms the unlawful and reckless obstruction of the Ambassador Bridge that risks jobs and livelihoods in our community while blocking the supply of essential goods including food and medicine.”
How did we get here?
The ‘Freedom Convoy’ had begun two weeks ago as a demonstration against the latest vaccine mandate. The federal government had recently passed a mandate requiring all nonessential Canadian workers returning from the US to either be fully vaccinated- two doses- or undertake a 14-day quarantine.
In November, the Government of Canada announced that effective January 15, all cross-border truckers would be required to get the vaccine. The United States has the same requirements.
To be clear, this isn’t strictly about vaccines for truckers per se. It’s that for a lot of people, but this appears to be the last mandate that broke the camel’s back. 90% of truck drivers already vaccinated, approximately 30,000 would be affected by the mandate.
We’ve had vaccine passports since the late summer, in the province of Ontario. Proof of vaccination or an approved exemption is required to visit campus.
Doug Ford declared a state of emergency for the province on Friday, February 11, because of the protests. On Twitter, he announced: “Today I am using my authority as Premier of Ontario to declare a state of emergency in our province… What we are seeing in Ottawa and our border crossings is no longer a protest. With a protest, you peacefully make your point and you go back home. The right to protest does not outweigh the right to get food, fuel, and goods across our border. That is why we are ensuring our police have the tools and powers to resolve the situation and restore order.”
What do the protestors say?
Alexa Brown is the President of 1L Dual JD, and she says her classes were impacted, “as of right now, the blockade hasn’t significantly impacted our travel since most students in the program use the tunnel and the convoy hasn’t been there. It has been stressful regardless in the sense you never know if or when they may move to block the tunnel. Otherwise, it made it much more difficult to move around the area, you have taken more scenic routes to get to grocery stores or other things on Huron Church.’’
Another UWindsor student says this has really started to impact him, ‘the constant honking, yelling, busy streets and cops affect mental health and it’s taking a huge toll. Not just the constant noise but not knowing what’s going to happen on a walk to campus or trying to drive near campus and the surrounding area. It’s scary.’’
We asked two protestors- Virginia and Jonah, Windsor locals, why they were attending the protest and what the point of the protest was.
They made it clear that they were in solidarity with the Ottawa protests and confirmed that because they weren’t getting anywhere in Ottawa, they came down here, to escalate. Now the government is paying attention to them.
Virginia, a local protester, says, “It’s not fair or legal or right for the government to mandate vaccines the way that they are…‘Truckers were exempt for ‘quite a while and should continue to be exempt.:
Virginia is not a truck driver, she works in the service industry.
Virginia also says, “peoples jobs depend on being able to go to work, if you don’t want to take a medication that doesn’t have long-term data, why are your jobs more important than our jobs?”
An unidentified man interjected- he used to work as a health and fitness salesman, lost his job to covid lockdowns, and hasn’t gotten it back because he refuses to take the COVID vaccine. When discussing the jobs being jeopardized by the Ambassador Bridge blockade he asked ‘what about the jobs affected in the last two years by the lockdowns and coercion?’
He said there is a ‘drastic difference’ between the two years of lockdown, with people exhausted, the drug and alcohol dependencies, is ‘far exceeding’ a ‘five to seven-day shutdown of an international crossing.’
February 11 was Jonah’s third day at the Huron Church blockade. He joined the protest because ‘something needs to be done. He wasn’t at the Ottawa protest, but felt they needed ‘help’. They went for the Ambassador Bridge, because ‘’it’s close to home, and because they’re standing up for everyone’s rights. The right to walk into a restaurant without having to show off ‘medical history, or for children to play hockey without needing a vaccine.’’
Even though his children are required other vaccination to attend school, he says, ‘those vaccines work, this vaccine doesn’t work.’
He said that the majority of people catching Covid are vaccinated and that it was ‘like the flu’. “Answer me this, how many cases of the flu have we had in two years? It’s been non-existent. Wearing a mask 8 hours a day isn’t healthy because you’re breathing in bacteria.”
He continued: “The government has to start listening to the people. And guess what? They’re crying because we’re stopping the auto industry. How about all the restaurants and small businesses affected by the shutdowns?“
‘We have been vaccinated since childhood, but those vaccines have proven themselves. This vaccine came out of the blue, no testing. If you came up with a new vaccine tomorrow, the government would test it for 10 years. You can’t tell me this is such a crisis that people have to have it.”
‘What would it take for you to trust the COVID vaccine the way you trust the other vaccines?’ we asked.
‘Test it, prove it’s effective. Explain how my half-sister has a stroke two hours after her booster. Two hours, later, do the math, or as Trudeau says, ‘trust the science’. “
That was one of many reasons he was out here, another being that the mandate is ‘unconstitutional’. He later acknowledged he was against ‘any mandate’ that coerces you to do something you don’t want to do.