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Key US-Canada bridge re-opens as Ottawa protest persists

WINDSOR, ONTARIO (AP) – The busiest United States (US)-Canada border crossing was open yesterday after protesters demonstrating against COVID-19 measures blocked it for nearly a week, but a larger protest in the capital, Ottawa, persisted as city residents seethed over authorities’ inability to reclaim the streets.

Demonstrations against COVID-19 restrictions and other issues have blocked several crossings along the US-Canada border and hurt the economies of both nations. They also inspired similar convoys in France, New Zealand and the Netherlands. The US Department of Homeland Security warned that truck convoys may be in the works in the US.

Police in Windsor, Ontario, arrested 25 to 30 protesters and towed several vehicles on Sunday near the Ambassador Bridge, which links Windsor – and numerous Canadian automotive plants – with Detroit. The bridge re-opened to traffic late Sunday night, a spokeswoman for bridge owner Detroit International Bridge Co confirmed. Canada Border Services also confirmed that the bridge is open.

After protesters began blocking bridge access on February 7, automakers began shutting down or reducing production – at a time when the industry is already struggling with pandemic-induced shortages of computer chips and other supply-chain disruptions. The crossing sees 25 per cent of all trade between the two countries.

“Today, our national economic crisis at the Ambassador Bridge came to an end,” said Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens. “Border crossings will re-open when it is safe to do so and I defer to police and border agencies to make that determination.”

About 750 kilometres northeast of Windsor, the protest in Ottawa has paralysed downtown, infuriated residents who are fed up with police inaction and turned up pressure on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

A senior government official said Trudeau will meet virtually with the leaders of Canada’s provinces. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorised to
speak publicly.

The city had appeared to have reached a deal in which protesters, who have jammed downtown streets for more than two weeks, would move out of residential areas, but those prospects soon faded.

A protester holds a sign to support trucks lined up in protest of COVID-19 vaccine mandates and restrictions in Ottawa. PHOTO: AP