WINDSOR, Ontario – A judge on Friday ordered an end to the four-day blockade of a Canada-U.S. trade corridor by anti-coronavirus mandate protesters and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised President Joe Biden swift action to end to the crisis.
The order could lead police in the city of Windsor, Ont., to clear truckers who piled up dozens of vehicles near the Ambassador Bridge, North America’s busiest land border crossing and a choke point for Detroit automakers.
Superior Court Judge Geoffrey Morawetz said his order would go into effect Friday at 7 p.m. Eastern Time (0000 GMT) to give people time to clean up the area. Trudeau told reporters earlier that no action was on the table.
Authorities have diverted shipments to stem losses amid production cuts by companies such as Ford. Ontario declared a state of emergency on Friday and the judge approved the request by Windsor authorities in hopes of forcing a halt to the protests.
Occupying the access roads leading to the bridge on Friday, protesters expressed defiance and there were few signs they were backing down.
“Canada is supposed to be a free country,” said Liz Valley, a protester from Chatham, Ont. “When that freedom is threatened, we must stand up.”
“The Prime Minister promised quick action to enforce the law, and the President thanked him for the steps he and other Canadian authorities are taking to restore open passage of bridges to the United States,” said- he added.
Trudeau told reporters he agreed with Biden that the blockades cannot continue. “Everything is on the table because this illegal activity must stop and it will end,” Trudeau said.
The Biden administration had previously urged Canada to use federal powers to ease the blockade of the Ambassador Bridge, a step Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government failed to take. Trudeau said Friday that his government was not seriously considering using the military during the protests.
The leader of Ontario, where police have avoided using force to disperse protesters, sought pressure on Friday by threatening fines of C$100,000 and up to a year in prison for non-compliance .
Announcing the penalties as part of the emergency measures, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said they were necessary to “make it clear that it is illegal and punishable to block and obstruct the movement of goods, people and services along critical infrastructure”.
Windsor police issued a statement warning of the arrests, but it was unclear if and when authorities would start issuing fines or seeking jail time.
As car production cuts mount, Ford, the second-largest U.S. automaker, said on Friday it had temporarily halted work at its Ohio assembly plant. General Motors and Toyota also announced further production cuts.
Shares of Canadian auto parts maker Magna International fell 4.4% on Friday after saying it suffered a first blow following the bridge closure.
Beyond auto sector losses, the three obstructed U.S.-Canada crossings account for 33% of Canada’s trade with the U.S., valued at $616 million a day, Export Development & Development said. Canada.
Closing the bridge could worsen the limited supply of new vehicles in the United States and contribute to the already rapid rise in the price of new vehicles, IHS Markit said in a report on Friday.
Even if the blockade ends, a return to normal will take several weeks as shortages ripple through the supply chain, IHS Markit said.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, home to nearly a fifth of all US auto production, told CNN: “The Canadian government must do whatever it takes to address this issue safely and quickly.”
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