TORONTO — The Biden administration urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government Thursday to use its federal powers to end the truck blockade by Canadians protesting the country’s COVID-19 restrictions, as the bumper-to-bumper demonstration forced auto plants on both sides of the border to shut down or scale back production.
For the fourth day straight, scores of truckers participated in what they called the Freedom Convoy. They blocked the Ambassador Bridge that connects Windsor, Ontario with Detroit. It disrupted the flow and supply of auto parts and other products between these two countries.
According to the White House, Alejandro Mayorkas, Homeland Security Secretary and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg met with Canadian counterparts and asked them to resolve the standoff.
Marco Mendicino Federal Public Safety Minister said Royal Canadian Mounted Police reinforcements have been sent to Windsor, Ottawa, and Coutts in Alberta, where another border blockade has occurred.
Trudeau met virtually with leaders of Canada’s opposition late Thursday and said he spoke with Windsor’s mayor. Trudeau’s office said there is a willingness to “respond with whatever it takes” to end the blockades.
Doug Ford, Conservative Ontario Premier, tried to stop funding the protests. He successfully asked a court for a freeze on millions of dollars in donations to the convoy via crowd-funding site GiveSendGo. Ford called the protests an occupation.
Canadian officials had previously ordered GoFundMe not to fund protest organizers who used the site for approximately 10 million Canadian dollars ($7.8million). GoFundMe determined that the fundraising effort violated the site’s terms of service due to unlawful activity.
Drew Dilkens, Windsor Mayor announced that the city will seek a court order to end the occupation because of mounting political and economic pressure.
“The economic harm is not sustainable and it must come to an end,” he said.
The U.S. authorities prepared for similar truck-borne protests instigated by the Canadians. Authorities also ban roadblockades in Paris and Belgium to stop disruptions.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said in a bulletin to local and state law enforcement agencies that it has received reports that truckers are planning to “potentially block roads in major metropolitan cities” in a protest against vaccine mandates and other issues.
The agency said the convoy could begin in Southern California as early as this weekend, possibly disrupting traffic around the Super Bowl, and reach Washington in March in time for the State of the Union address, according to a copy of Tuesday’s bulletin obtained by The Associated Press.
The White House said the department is “surging additional staff” to the Super Bowl just in case.
Online chatter calling for drivers to gather in Paris and Brussels over the next few day led to the European ban on roadblockades and the threat of heavy fines and prison.
The Ambassador Bridge, which is 25% of all U.S.-Canadian trade, is the most busy U.S. border crossing. It was also the fastest.
Ford stated that its Windsor engine plant has reopened after it was closed on Wednesday due to a lack of parts. But the factory and the company’s assembly plant in Oakville, Ontario, near Toronto, were operating at reduced capacity, the automaker said.
Due to parts shortages in the U.S., GM sent the first pickup truck crew home early Thursday morning at its Flint, Michigan, heavy duty pickup truck plant.
Stellantis had to cut off Friday’s first shift at its Toledo Jeep plant, Ohio because of parts shortages.
Honda will also temporarily suspend production of one assembly line Friday during the day shift at its plant in Alliston (Ontario). It’s because of border delays. U.S. plants are expected to operate normally Friday.
Toyota announced that three of its Ontario plants were closed for the remainder of the week due to parts shortages. Production was also halted in Georgetown, Kentucky.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer urged Canadian authorities to quickly resolve the standoff, saying: “It’s hitting paychecks and production lines. That is unacceptable.”
For nearly two weeks, hundreds have been paralyzing Ottawa’s streets in trucks. They have now closed three border crossings at Windsor, Coutts, Alberta (opposite Montana) and Emerson, Manitoba (crossing from North Dakota).
The protesters are decrying vaccine mandates for truckers and other COVID-19 restrictions and are railing against Trudeau, even though many of Canada’s precautions, such as mask rules and vaccine passports for getting into restaurants, theaters and other places, were enacted by provincial authorities, not the federal government, and are already rapidly being lifted as the omicron surge levels off.
Trudeau did not change his stance against the removal of vaccine mandates. He also refused to lift a requirement for all truck drivers entering Canada to be fully vaccinated. But because an estimated 90% of the nation’s truckers are already inoculated, some conservatives have called on the prime minister to drop the mandate.
Many Fox News personalities cheered the convoy on and encouraged it. They also received support from Ted Cruz, former President of Texas, and ex-President Donald Trump.
The Associated Press found more than a dozen Facebook groups with approximately 500,000 members. These are used by the Associated Press to rally support for the Canadian protests and plan similar ones in America and Europe.
Truckers from the Detroit area had to travel 70 miles north to Port Huron in Michigan and cross the Blue Water Bridge. This was due to the blockade blocking their entry to Canada. There was a two hour delay before they could leave the U.S.
The U.S. auto sector is in a difficult time right now because of the blockade. Because of the shortage of computer chips worldwide, new vehicle supplies are already very low. Automakers have had to temporarily close their factories.
“The disruptions we are seeing at the U.S.-Canada border — at the Detroit-Windsor Ambassador Bridge and at other crossings — are adding to the significant supply chain strains on manufacturers and other businesses in the United States,” the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers and Business Roundtable said in a joint statement.
“We respectfully urge the Canadian government to act swiftly to address the disruption to the flow of trade and its impact on manufacturers and other businesses on both sides of the border.”
Krisher and Mike Householder, Associated Press Writer, contributed from Detroit. Aamer Madhani and Ben Fox, AP writers, contributed from Washington.