Trudeau defends COVID restrictions amid truck blockades

TORONTO (AP), -- Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, resisted any relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions Wednesday amid mounting pressure from protestors using trucks to blockade Washington and the U.S. border crossings. This was in response to growing pressure from those who used trucks to blockade the capital as well as the vital bridge to Detroit.

Trudeau defends COVID restrictions amid truck blockades

TORONTO (AP), -- Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, resisted any relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions Wednesday amid mounting pressure from protestors using trucks to blockade Washington and the U.S. border crossings. This was in response to growing pressure from those who used trucks to blockade the capital as well as the vital bridge to Detroit.

As the omicron surge levels down, a growing number of Canadian provinces are moving to ease some of their precautions. Trudeau however defended the federal government's measures, including one that angered truck drivers. This rule, which took effect Jan. 15, required all truckers entering Canada to have been fully vaccinated.

Trudeau stated in Parliament that "the reality is that vaccine mandates and the fact Canadians stepped forward to get vaccinated up to almost 90% ensured that this pandemic did not hit as hard here as elsewhere in the globe."

Protests against COVID-19 restrictions have been a major problem in Canada in recent weeks. While traffic could not enter Canada, U.S. bound traffic was still moving.

25% of all trade between Canada, the U.S. and Canada is carried by the bridge. Canadian authorities are becoming more concerned about its economic consequences.

Federal Bill Blair, Emergency Preparedness Minister, stated that "they are basically putting their foot on all Canadians' throats." They are cutting off vital supply lines."

Protesters also blocked the Coutts border crossing in Alberta for about a week. About 50 trucks remained there Wednesday. In a protest that started late last month, more than 400 trucks paralysed downtown Ottawa, Canada's capital.

Ottawa police gave a long-awaited warning that protestors should clear the streets or face criminal charges.

Protesters are calling for Trudeau to be removed, but most of the restrictions in the country have been imposed by provincial governments. These include the requirement that individuals show proof of vaccination "passports" in order to be allowed into restaurants, gyms, and movie theaters.

Alberta, Saskatchewan and Quebec announced this week plans to reduce or eliminate some of their precautions. Alberta, Canada's most conservative province dropped its vaccine passport immediately, and got rid of all masks at end of the month.

Rachel Notley, an Alberta opposition leader, accused Jason Kenney of allowing an illegal blockade to dictate public healthcare measures.

Despite Alberta's intentions to eliminate public health measures altogether, protests continued.

"We have guys here -- they've already lost everything due to the mandates and they're not giving in and they're willing stand their ground until this is done," protester John Vanreeuwyk from Coaldale (Alberta), said.

He said, "Until Trudeau moves,"

Drew Dilkens, Windsor Mayor, stated that police have not taken people out of the Ambassador Bridge Blockade because they don't want to inflame the situation. He said, however, that he would not allow this to continue for any extended period.

According to police, the demonstration included between 50 and 74 vehicles as well as about 100 people. According to the mayor, some protesters said they were willing to die for the cause.

Dilkens stated, "I'll be brutally truthful: You are trying have a rational discussion, and not everybody on the ground is rational actors." "Police are doing the right thing by trying to be moderate and work with everyone in this situation so that no one gets hurt and everybody can move on.

Truckers from the Detroit area needed to travel 70 miles north to Port Huron in Michigan to cross the Blue Water Bridge to Canada. There was a 4 1/2 hour delay at that bridge as the U.S. left.

Stellantis (previously Fiat Chrysler), Ford, General Motors and Ford all reported that both factories on the other side of the border were operating smoothly Wednesday afternoon.

Mike Wall, an IHS Markit auto analyst, stated that the longer the blockade continues, the more likely it will be that both automakers and parts suppliers experience manufacturing disruptions. According to Wall, it takes just one part to shut down an entire factory.

Benjamin Dichter, one the protest organizers, stated at a news conference held in Ottawa: "I believe the government and media are severely underestimating the resolve, patience, and determination of truckers."

"Drop the mandates. He said, "Drop the passports."

Fox News personalities promoted the "freedom truck convoy". This attracted support from many U.S. Republicans including former President Donald Trump who called Trudeau "a far left lunatic" who had "destroyed Canada through insane Covid mandates."

Pandemic restrictions in Canada have been much stricter than those in the U.S. but Canadians have generally supported them. Canada's COVID-19 mortality rate is only one-third of that in the U.S.

Canadian truckers are approximately 90% vaccinated. Trucker associations and large-rig operators denounce the protests. Trudeau could lift the ban because the U.S. has the exact same vaccination rules for truckers entering the nation.

Candice Bergen, Interim Conservative leader, stated in Parliament that countries all over the globe are lifting restrictions. She also noted that Canadian provinces are doing so. She accused Trudeau, accusing him of wanting to live in "permanent panic."

She stated that many of the reasons used previously to restrict Canadians are now in decline. The prime minister must forget about his ego. He must do the right thing for the country. He must end all mandates. He must end all restrictions.

Ontario is Canada's most populous province, accounting for almost 40% of the country’s population. The deputy premier stated that the government has no plans to abandon vaccine passports and mask requirements.

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