Live Updates: Latest news on trucker protests in Canada

Credit…Geoff Robins/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Multiple blockages on some of the busiest roads connecting Canada to the United States are disrupting supply chains for major automakers, leading to production stoppages and stoking alarm that protests in Canada are threatening the country’s economy and trade with the United States, its largest trading partner.

Automakers, already suffering from a global shortage of the semiconductors needed to power their cars, are particularly hard hit by the partial closure of the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit, Michigan, to Windsor, Ontario, and accounts for approximately a quarter of the trade between the two countries.

Trucks make thousands of trips over the bridge in both directions each day, carrying $300 million worth of goods, about a third of which is tied to the auto industry, a major employer in the Midwest and Ontario.

The lockdowns are a spillover from protests in Canada’s capital, Ottawa, which began nearly two weeks ago when loosely organized groups of truck drivers and others converged on the city to protest vaccination demands for truckers crossing Canada from the United States. In addition to the blockades, the protests have turned into a battle cry against pandemic restrictions in general and the leadership of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Along with protests in Ottawa and blockades in other parts of Ontario, the protests have presented a challenge to law enforcement trying to tame them. On Thursday, Ottawa police also warned on Twitter that his 911 lines were flooded with non-emergency calls. “This puts lives at risk and is totally unacceptable,” he wrote on Twitter.

Local reports also said a group of protesters drove to Ottawa International Airport on Thursday morning, honking their horns and driving around the airport.

As border blockades in Ontario continued, Said Deep, a spokesperson for Ford Motor Company, said Thursday morning that the company is currently operating its Oakville and Windsor plants at reduced capacity.

“This Detroit-Windsor Bridge disruption is hurting customers, autoworkers, suppliers, communities and businesses on both sides of the border who have already experienced a two-year shortage of parts as a result of the global semi- drivers, Covid and more,” Mr. Deep said. “This could have a widespread impact on all automakers in the United States and Canada.”

Scott Vazin, a Toyota spokesman, said the border closure would prevent the company from being able to manufacture anything at its three Canadian plants for the rest of the week. But he said the overall impact on the company’s business would be limited.

“A few days shouldn’t be so important,” he said. “We certainly hope the blockade will end.”

GM said it canceled two shifts Wednesday and Thursday at a Lansing, Michigan plant that makes sport utility vehicles.

Protesters also swarmed the Ambassador Bridge entrance to the United States from Windsor on Wednesday evening, closing it in both directions, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Canada’s national broadcaster, reported.

During a Wednesday briefing, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said the blockade posed a risk to auto industry supply chains and that the administration was also monitoring potential disruptions to Michigan agricultural exports to Canada.

Omar Alghabra, Canada’s transport minister, called for an end to what he described as “illegal blockades” as the Ontario government suggested curbing protesters by revoking permits for commercial vehicles.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer released a statement Thursday calling on Canada to reopen traffic on the Ambassador Bridge. “It is imperative that Canadian, local, provincial and national governments defuse this economic blockade,” the statement said. “They must take all necessary and appropriate steps to immediately and safely reopen traffic so that we can continue to grow our economy.”

Some of the protesters in Ottawa have clearly been fringe, sporting Nazi symbols and desecrating public monuments. Others also described themselves as ordinary Canadians driven to take to the streets out of desperation.

Far-right and anti-vaccine groups around the world have amplified the Canadian protesters’ message on social media, raising millions of dollars in online campaigns. The protests have also inspired copycat convoys in France, New Zealand and Australia.

Paris police officials issued an order on Thursday barring a convoy of truckers and drivers from traveling to the French capital to protest the country’s vaccination pass program, part of a move directly inspired by protests led by Canadian truckers.

In Canada, Trudeau has faced a barrage of criticism from opposition politicians, including the claim that overzealous restrictions are keeping Canada in a permanent pandemic state, and that he has been too passive in the face of protests that undermine Canada’s image on the world stage.

But in a sign of growing impatience with the protests, even among former political supporters, Candice Bergen, interim leader of the Conservative Party, on Thursday called on protesters to “bring down the barricades”, citing disruptions to the economy.

Constant Méheut contributed to the report.

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