2nd day of Ambassador Bridge protest halts vehicles from leaving Michigan, limits Windsor to U.S. traffic

2nd day of Ambassador Bridge protest halts vehicles from leaving Michigan, limits Windsor to U.S. traffic

by Sue Jones
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For a second day, protesters are preventing vehicles from using the Ambassador Bridge, a key commercial Canada-U.S. link, halting traffic from Michigan to Windsor and limiting bridge use from Ontario to the state.

Ambassador Bridge

Truckers and other protesters block traffic in both directions to Windsor, Ont.’s Ambassador Bridge, linking Canada to Detroit, on Tuesday. People began gathering on Huron Church Road, which leads to the bridge, on Monday. (Darrin Di Carlo/CBC)

The latest developments:

  • Minister of emergency preparedness, public safety minister give update on protests in Ottawa, Coutts, Alta., Windsor, Ont.
  • Windsor police say one U.S.-bound lane is open, moving very slowly.
  • CBSA says bridge “temporarily closed,” diverts commercial traffic to Blue Water Bridge in Sarnia. 

People protesting pandemic restrictions and lockdowns are preventing vehicles from using the Ambassador Bridge for a second day, with traffic halted from Michigan to Windsor, Ont., and limiting traffic to the U.S. 

The bridge is one of the busiest international land border crossings in Canada and a major route for transport trucks.

On Tuesday, protest cars and trucks are lining Windsor’s Huron Church Road, the main road connecting Highway 401 to the bridge. Police are asking people to avoid the area, which has been clogged since Monday afternoon.

Dozens of vehicles are jamming the area around the bridge in solidarity with convoy protests targeting Ottawa and including other parts of Canada. 

An unvaccinated truck driver, Jack Dyck, was among protesters at the site on Tuesday. He hopes Ottawa will drop the policy that all Canadian cross-border essential workers — including truckers — must show proof of vaccination at a port of entry to avoid testing requirements and quarantine. 

“We’re not giving up. It’s gonna stay until they drop all mandates, as long as it takes. We have to. We get more backup coming, and we’ll just keep pressure on as long as it takes,” he said, adding he used to cross for work, but “can’t anymore because of the vaccine.

“I don’t take the jab and I’m not planning on it, and I have a family, I have a house. So I figure, I just quit for a couple of weeks. I’ve been off for just about three weeks, just doing this, trying and hopefully they can drop it so I can get back to work.”

WATCH | Protesters tell CBC News why they’re halting traffic at the bridge: 

Protesters say they’re ‘fed up’ with COVID-19 restrictions

Protesters tell CBC News they are fed up with COVID-19 restrictions and feel they have not option but to demonstrate for their freedoms. 1:02

Other protesters told CBC News late Monday night that they had no plans of leaving. 

“We did the rally Saturday, Sunday; we got here today around one o’clock.… By the looks of it, we’re here to stay,” said Nick Friesen, who is from nearby Leamington, Ont., and had set up a barbecue on Huron Church Road. 

Sam Kovak of Woodslee, Ont., said he was at the protest “for my kids, just to get it back to normal.”

“They haven’t played hockey, it’s been a disaster. Just end, give us back what we need to live again. [Prime Minister Justin] Trudeau, [Ontario Premier] Doug Ford, just listen to us.” 

Nick Friesen Ambassador Bridge Protest Feb 7 2022

Nick Friesen, whose among the protesters, set up a barbecue on Huron Church Road in Windsor on Monday night. (Michael Evans/CBC)

Kovak said he is frustrated after he and his wife started a business — a hockey training camp that teaches mindfulness — believing COVID-19 restrictions were lifted for good, but couldn’t survive having to close their doors again. 

“I was in Ottawa the past two weekends; all the people I talked to were vaccinated. It’s got nothing to do … just give us our freedom back,” he said. “Now we’re in the exact same position [as] two years ago; my kids are still sitting at home, my wife is still sitting at home.

“We’re sorry, but we have to make a stand.”

Limited traffic to U.S. a major impact to trade, says MP

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) listed the Ambassador Bridge as “temporarily closed” just minutes before midnight Monday, in an update to its website dedicated to border wait times.

Windsor police were able to keep one lane of U.S.-bound traffic open Monday and Tuesday, accessed from a side street adjacent to the bridge’s entrance area. No lanes are open to allow vehicles to exit the Ambassador Bridge into Canada. 

It’s not immediately clear why CBSA would deem the bridge as temporarily closed, although one lane is operating slowly. 

Ambassador Bridge Protest Feb 7 2022

Protesters carry homemade signs on Huron Church Road on Monday. (Michael Evans/CBC)

Ontario Provincial Police and the CBSA are directing cross-border travellers to use the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel, and  commercial traffic to the Blue Water Bridge in Sarnia, Ont., nearly a two-hour drive away.  

The CBSA reported a delay of two hours for commercial outbound traffic at the Blue Water Bridge Tuesday afternoon. 

Windsor–Tecumseh Liberal MP Irek Kusmierczyk, who’s condemning the protest, said he is in talks with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the public safety minister and the minister of transport. 

“Blockading the Ambassador Bridge is like standing on the windpipe of our community. This is how serious this is. This is about impacting jobs. It’s about impacting livelihoods,” Kusmierczyk said. 

WATCH | Liberal MP says the border closure will impact trade and commerce: 

Wdr Irek

Border closure has major impact on commercial trade, says Liberal MP

Windsor-Tecumseh Liberal MP Irek Kusmierczyk said the Ambassador Bridge border closure will impact people’s jobs and livelihoods. 0:51

Kusmierczyk said the federal government is available for support, but since it’s a local issue, local authorities need to handle it.

“It’s a policing matter. It continues to be a policing matter,” Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra told reporters Tuesday. 

Alghabra said he hopes the protestors will stop their demonstrations at the busy border crossing, due to the implications any delays have on livelihoods and the economy. 

He said he’s offered Ontario’s Minister of Transport and Kusmierczyk assistance, but that it’s not for the federal government to step in. 

“[The protest is] just before the border, so for now it continues to be a municipal and a provincial jurisdiction.”

According to Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens, about $300 million worth of commercial traffic crosses the border in the city each day, including about 10,000 transport trucks using the Ambassador Bridge. 

WATCH | Protest blocking bridge ‘cannot be allowed to continue,’ says Windsor’s mayor: 

Dilkens Bridge.jpg?Crop=1

Protest closing bridge ‘cannot be allowed to continue,’ Windsor mayor says

The Ambassador Bridge is Canada’s busiest international border crossing, says Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens, and the protest that is largely shutting it down cannot be allowed to last long as the bridge is a ‘vital backbone to Canada’s economy.’ 6:39

“It is one thing to protest, and set up and be an annoyance in the streets of Ottawa, and another thing to come down and shut own the international border crossing where a large majority of trade flows, so we’re doing our best,” Dilkens said to CBC News. 

“The Windsor police are doing their best to work with the protesters, but I would submit that you have some folks who are making irrational decisions and you’re trying to find and set a rational solution, but you’re not working with rational actors in every case.”

Minister of Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair and Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino on Tuesday also gave an update on the situations in Windsor as well as Ottawa and Coutts, Alta., where there are similar protests. 

Mendicino told reporters that additional supports have been provided at other Ontario crossings, including Blue Water, to help with an influx of travellers rerouted from Windsor. 

The minister said he understands how important it is to keep the roads leading to the bridge open, and has spoken to Dilkens, Kusmierczyk and Windsor-West NDP MP Brian Masse about the issue.

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