While unvaccinated truckers and various other health mandate protesters were stopping traffic in downtown Ottawa, two border blockades in the Canadian prairies stopped the flow of border traffic and supplies. The two Canada-U.S. ports of entry, one between Alberta and Montana, and the other joining Manitoba and North Dakota, were blocked by unvaccinated protesters late last week. Those mandate protester groups have halted cross-border traffic for five days.
Ironically, the protesters, which included truckers and farmers, were stopping cross-border trucks from hauling their loads, many of which that deliver to farms and agri-food businesses across the Canadian Prairies. At the beginning of these blockades, there were some members of the general public who were in sympathy with protesters. But as the hours and days went by, much of that sympathy evaporated. Canadian law allows the right to peaceful protest, and border services officials and RCMP officers attempted to negotiate with protesters to leave. But mid-afternoon on Tuesday, the Alberta RCMP cited the protest unlawful under Alberta’s Critical Infrastructure Defense act.
Jim Willette is mayor of Coutts, Alberta, a small village that sits immediately adjacent to the border crossing into Sweetgrass, Montana. Since late last week, the village of Coutts has been blockaded by the protesters. Willette said he lost patience with the protesters when the situation became a de facto occupation.
“I had no gripe with the protest until it became a blockade and an occupation. And, it’s very ironic that people are willing to take away my freedom of movement, and that of everyone else, in order to demonstrate for a freedom of movement. It’s okay for you but it’s not okay for me. And that’s just a silly argument.”
Cross-border Corey Cryderman sympathized with the protesters until their blockade started to cost him money. “Truckers, most of us are paid by the mile. So, if I’m sitting here, I’m not making any money to pay my bills. I do kind of sympathize with what they’re trying to do, but at the same time, if it’s making life difficult for me, then I kind of lose that sympathy.”
And Canadian long-haul trucker Robert Sullivan was stuck in a lineup on the Montana side of the border for five days. Sullivan says that with that delay, he’ll now have to sit for another day and a half in order to drive legally.
“We have to run on log books. We have a certain amount of hours that we can drive each day and for each week. I am out of hours. I’ve got a total of four hours and 58 minutes of drive-time left before I have to shut down for 36 hours.”
Many of the protesters have now dispersed, however some protesters refused to leave, and secondary blockades were set up further to the north of Coutts. Charges under Alberta’s Critical Infrastructure Defense Act and the Transportation Act have been laid, and some protesters could be facing fines of $25,000.