Doug Ford, the premier of Ontario, declared a state of emergency for the entire province on Friday, as the police in Ottawa braced for thousands of protesters to descend for the third consecutive weekend of a crisis that has disrupted international supply chains.
“With a protest, you make your point and you go back home. I know that’s what the vast majority did,” Mr. Ford said at a news conference. “My message to those still in Ottawa, those still in our border crossing, to those who brought their children: Please take them home. And it’s time to do so peacefully.”
Otherwise, “there will be consequences, and they will be severe,” he said, adding, “Your right to make a political statement does not outweigh the right of thousands of workers to make a living.”
Hundreds of miles away, along the border with the United States, Mayor Drew Dilkens of Windsor, Ontario, sought a court order to let him remove protesters from the Ambassador Bridge, which carries roughly a third of U.S.-Canada trade. A hearing was set for noon on Friday.
“The individuals on site are trespassing on municipal property,” Mr. Dilkens said Thursday, and if necessary “will be removed to allow for the safe and efficient movement of goods across the border.”
The crisis began two weeks ago, when loosely organized groups of truck drivers and others converged on Ottawa to protest vaccination requirements for truckers entering Canada. It has swelled into a broader battle cry, largely from right-wing groups, against pandemic restrictions and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s handling of the pandemic.
Automakers have been particularly affected by the partial shutdown of the Ambassador Bridge, which links Windsor and Detroit. Trucks cross it thousands of times a day carrying $300 million worth of goods, about a third of which are related to the auto industry.
The Teamsters union — which represents 15,000 long-haul truck drivers in Canada, but generally not the ones involved in the protests — denounced the blockade, which threatens thousands of jobs. General Motors, Ford Motor and Toyota have canceled some operations because their factories could not get parts manufactured in Canada.
In Ottawa, the Canadian capital, the scene on Thursday resembled a raucous party, with hundreds of people milling between the cabs of giant trucks parked in the middle of the street. The song “Life Is a Highway” pumped from loudspeakers on an empty trailer that has been converted into a stage. But the crowd had thinned somewhat, with empty spaces where trucks had been.
“Some guys had to go back to work, and the police wouldn’t let us refill those spots,” said Johnny Neufeld, 39, a long-haul trucker from Windsor.
On Thursday, Ontario secured an order from the Superior Court of Justice barring the distribution or use of donations collected for the protesters through the Christian fund-raising platform GiveSendGo, including more than $8.5 million raised by a campaign called “Freedom Convoy 2022.” But the company, which is based in the United States, indicated that it planned to defy the court order.
“Canada has absolutely ZERO jurisdiction over how we manage our funds here at GiveSendGo,” it tweeted. “All funds for EVERY campaign on GiveSendGo flow directly to the recipients of those campaigns, not least of which is The Freedom Convoy campaign,” a reference to the slogan of the Canadian protesters.
The protests have attracted the attention of far-right and anti-vaccine groups globally, raising millions of dollars online and inspiring copycat protests in at least two countries, New Zealand and Australia.
Marco Mendicino, Canada’s minister of public safety, said Thursday that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were sending additional officers to Ottawa and Windsor. An increased police presence in Ottawa was apparent on Thursday, with officers patrolling in groups of six to a dozen.
Mr. Trudeau has ruled out sending in the army; there are few precedents for doing so in Canada, which does not have provincial equivalents of a national guard. Late Thursday, he said he had convened an “incident response group” and briefed Canada’s opposition parties on the situation.
Some protesters have clearly been on the fringe, wearing Nazi symbols and desecrating public monuments. Others describe themselves as ordinary Canadians driven by desperation.
In declaring a state of emergency, Mr. Ford, the Ontario premier, called the protesters occupiers and hostage takers.
“As a province, as a nation, we must collectively draw a line,” he said. “We must stand for the values that define us.”
Ian Austen, Shashank Bengali and Allison Hannaford contributed reporting.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism