TORONTO — The Biden administration urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government Thursday to use its federal powers to end the truck blockade by Canadians protesting the country’s COVID-19 restrictions, as the bumper-to-bumper demonstration forced auto plants on both sides of the border to shut down or scale back production.
For the fourth day straight, hundreds of truckers participated in what they called the Freedom Convoy. They blocked the Ambassador Bridge that connects Windsor (Ontario) to Detroit. It disrupted the flow and supply of parts, auto parts, and other goods between the two countries.
The White House stated that Alejandro Mayorkas (Homeland Security Secretary) and Pete Buttigieg, Transportation Secretary, spoke to their Canadian counterparts. They urged them all to work together in resolving the dispute.
Marco Mendicino Federal Public Safety Minister said Royal Canadian Mounted Police reinforcements have been sent to Windsor Ottawa and Coutts in Alberta, where another border blocking is taking place.
Trudeau met virtually with leaders of Canada’s opposition late Thursday and said he spoke with Windsor’s mayor. Trudeau’s office said there is a willingness to “respond with whatever it takes” to end the blockades.
Doug Ford, Conservative Ontario Premier, tried to stop funding the protests. He successfully asked a court for a freeze on millions of dollars worth donations through GiveSendGo crowd-funding website GiveSendGo. Ford called the protests an occupation.
Canadian officials had previously ordered GoFundMe not to fund protest organizers who used the site for approximately 10 million Canadian dollars (7.8 million). GoFundMe determined that the fundraising effort violated the site’s terms of service due to unlawful activity.
Drew Dilkens of Windsor announced that the city is seeking a court order to end the occupation, despite mounting political and economic pressure.
“The economic harm is not sustainable and it must come to an end,” he said.
Authorities in the U.S. prepared for similar protests by truck drivers inspired from the Canadians. Paris authorities also banned roadblockades to prevent disruptions.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said in a bulletin to local and state law enforcement agencies that it has received reports that truckers are planning to “potentially block roads in major metropolitan cities” in a protest against vaccine mandates and other issues.
The agency said the convoy could begin in Southern California as early as this weekend, possibly disrupting traffic around the Super Bowl, and reach Washington in March in time for the State of the Union address, according to a copy of Tuesday’s bulletin obtained by The Associated Press.
The White House said the department is “surging additional staff” to the Super Bowl just in case.
Online chatter calling for drivers to gather in Paris or Brussels within the next few days prompted the European ban on roadblockades and threatened with prison sentences and heavy fines.
As 25% of trade flows between the U.S. and Canada, the Ambassador Bridge is the main U.S.-Canadian border crossing. It was also the busiest.
Ford announced that the Windsor engine plant was reopened on Thursday, after it had been closed Wednesday due to a shortage of parts. But the factory and the company’s assembly plant in Oakville, Ontario, near Toronto, were operating at reduced capacity, the automaker said.
Due to part shortages, GM, the U.S. pickup truck manufacturer, sent its first shift home early Thursday morning.
Stellantis had to cut off Friday’s first shift at Toledo’s Jeep plant, Ohio because of parts shortages.
Honda temporarily will stop producing on one line of its assembly plant at Alliston in Ontario during Friday’s day shift. It’s because of border delays. U.S. plants will run as normal Friday
Toyota announced that three plants of its Ontario operations were closed during the week due to parts shortages. Production was also halted in Georgetown, Kentucky.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer urged Canadian authorities to quickly resolve the standoff, saying: “It’s hitting paychecks and production lines. That is unacceptable.”
For nearly two weeks now hundreds of trucks-carrying protestors have blocked the streets in downtown Ottawa.
The protesters are decrying vaccine mandates for truckers and other COVID-19 restrictions and are railing against Trudeau, even though many of Canada’s precautions, such as mask rules and vaccine passports for getting into restaurants, theaters and other places, were enacted by provincial authorities, not the federal government, and are already rapidly being lifted as the omicron surge levels off.
Trudeau did not change his stance against the removal of mandates regarding vaccines. He also refused to lift a requirement that truck drivers enter Canada be fully immunized. But because an estimated 90% of the nation’s truckers are already inoculated, some conservatives have called on the prime minister to drop the mandate.
This convoy was cheered by Fox News personality and former President Donald Trump. It also received support from Ted Cruz of Texas.
More than a dozen Facebook pages, which have more than half a million members, were identified by the Associated Press as being used to rally support for Canadian protests and plan ones similar in America and Europe.
Truckers from the Detroit region had to travel 70 miles north towards Port Huron in Michigan to bypass the blockade. They then crossed the Blue Water Bridge. This caused a delay of two hours leaving the U.S.
Blockades are occurring at the worst time possible for America’s automotive industry. Because of the shortage of computer chip chips worldwide, new vehicle supplies are already very low in the United States. Automakers have had to temporarily shut down factories.
“The disruptions we are seeing at the U.S.-Canada border — at the Detroit-Windsor Ambassador Bridge and at other crossings — are adding to the significant supply chain strains on manufacturers and other businesses in the United States,” the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers and Business Roundtable said in a joint statement.
“We respectfully urge the Canadian government to act swiftly to address the disruption to the flow of trade and its impact on manufacturers and other businesses on both sides of the border.”
Krisher, Mike Householder (Associated Press Writer), contributed their work from Detroit. Aamer, Ben Fox, and Amanda Seitz were AP writers from Washington.