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Ontario Superior Court grants injunction to remove protesters from Ambassador Bridge


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Ontario Superior Court grants injunction to remove protesters from Ambassador Bridge

There’s an intensifying demand for an end to the protests paralyzing downtown Ottawa as well as border crossings near Coutts, Alta., Emerson, Man., and the busy Windsor-Detroit Ambassador Bridge. Follow live updates here on Friday.

8:27 p.m. Shortly after a court injunction went into effect ordering protesters to clear the Ambassador Bridge entrance or face penalties, police could be seen distributing flyers to protesters encouraging them to leave.

“Did you know? The Province of Ontario has declared a State of Emergency,” the flyers read, referring to Premier Doug Ford’s announcement early Friday morning.

The flyers warned protesters their occupation of the bridge would be illegal as of midnight.

Fines for non-compliance can include a maximum fine of up to $100,000 and up to a year in prison.

The protesters, however, have not indicated any plans to leave the site voluntarily.

Around 6:30 pm, before the injunction went into effect, protesters voted to stay at the blockade until police force them to leave.

It is not clear when police will remove the blockade.

As of 8:20 pm, a throng of protesters remained at the intersection of College Avenue and Huron Church Street, playing music and waving Canadian flags.

7:40 p.m. The City of Edmonton says it has been granted a temporary injunction to address nuisance noise from vehicles that participate in protests against public health restrictions.

The injunction, which was granted by Alberta’s Court of Queen’s Bench, says people who are involved in a protest convoy must refrain from sounding vehicle horns, airhorns or other devices that create unnecessary noise.

City officials say in a news release that they sought the injunction after getting complaints from residents and businesses about protest convoys on Jan. 29 and Feb. 5.

It’s believed another protest is planned for Saturday.

7:07 p.m. It’s often said trust is fragile; once broken, it is difficult to rebuild.

What we’ve witnessed in the streets of downtown Ottawa, in several provincial capitals, and at key international border crossings is a breakdown of trust — one that threatens to carry long-term consequences.

On the one hand, the “Freedom Convoy” demonstrators no longer trust governments’ handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. For some, that trust was perhaps never there. For others, it was lost for a variety of reasons: from a lack of communication and shifting messaging from government officials, to too much time spent confined at home surfing the internet listening to disinformation, to political leaders who have made decisions based on political calculations rather than data.

But the loss of trust goes far beyond the protesters.

Read the full column by the Star’s Althia Raj.

7:07 p.m. The damage is done.

Finally propelled into action by compounding economic losses, authorities are at last taking measures that will restore order, allow people to get back to work and business to resume after the disruptions of the so-called “Freedom Convoy” demonstrations.

But Canada has taken a reputational hit that will be hard to overcome. The emergency steps in Ontario and the escalation of police intervention may resolve the immediate crisis at hand, but the longer-term harm will be much harder to undo.

Over the past two weeks, we have seen a flagrant disrespect for so many virtues that made the Canadian economy an attractive place to invest and grow.

Read the latest column from the Star’s Susan Delacourt.

7:02 p.m. The U.S. is obsessed with security. Canada is obsessed with trade.

That’s an axiom of international relations I heard first from Lindsay Rodman, an American national security expert, and since then from people whose jobs involve cross-border relations. Its truth often proves to be a kind of skeleton key for understanding how the two countries approach various issues.

It came to mind as the so-called “Freedom Convoy” turned into an international spectacle, in which Canada’s ability to demonstrate it can provide security may be key to its trade future. As this has become clearer, Canadian federal and provincial officials seem to have snapped into crackdown mode.

The Star’s Edward Keenan writes from Washington.

6:10 p.m.: A sense of anticipation was building at the base of the Ambassador Bridge on Friday evening, as protesters and police waited for a key injunction allowing for the removal of the five-day blockade to go into effect.

Roughly 50 protesters stood huddled in the intersection of College Avenue and Huron Church Road, waving Canadian flags and “F— You Trudeau” memorabilia, and honking truck horns while police surrounded the perimeter.

The rainy weather had not deterred protesters, who arranged the blockade with sofas, a barbeque and a trampoline for kids.

About 40 vehicles — ranging from long-haul trucks to smart cars — lined the roadway leading to the bridge, many with messages scrawled onto the sides.

“If these wheels don’t turn, you don’t eat!” read the front of an A.D.T. Transportation truck.

The protesters amped up their chanting as they got word that the Ontario Superior Court had granted an injunction on behalf of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association — supported by the City of Windsor and Ontario’s Attorney General — to remove them.

The injunction goes into effect at 7 p.m., when police will be able to remove protesters and issue fines as high as $100,000.

The auto industry group had argued, successfully, that the economic toll of the blockades justified the removal of protesters.

Several of the protesters watching the hearing through an iPhone screen, however, scoffed at the arguments.

“Oh, now they’re worried about the economy?” asked Jason Brown, 50, who was laid off from his job several times during the pandemic.

“Well, now they know how we’ve felt for the past two years.”

4:50 p.m.: The Ontario Superior Court has granted an injunction to remove protesters from the Ambassador Bridge.

Justice Geoffrey Morawetz said the injunction will go into effect at 7 p.m. tonight, giving protesters a chance to clear the area.

Police presence is growing around the base of the Ambassador Bridge, while protesters have amped up their chanting and horn-honking.

4:45 p.m. Ottawa police say they still have not received a definitive answer from the federal and provincial governments about whether they will supply the necessary reinforcements to put a safe stop to demonstrations in the capital.

Chief Peter Sloly says the Ottawa Police Service will continue to use the resources they already have as best they can.

Earlier today the prime minister said he did not accept the contention that the City of Ottawa had exhausted its tools and its resources.

Police board chair Coun. Diane Deans says those comments from the prime minister were “unfair.”

She says many believe the federal government was slow to recognize the demonstrations in Ottawa as a national crisis, and if the prime minister believes Ottawa has enough resources he should explain how that is the case.

4:40 p.m.: Premier Scott Moe is asking protesters who are planning a demonstration at a Saskatchewan border crossing Saturday to not obstruct other people’s freedoms.

Moe says trucks that cross the border are driving Saskatchewan’s economy by carrying goods to U.S. markets and bringing back materials to help run farms, canola crushing plants, potash mines and forestry mills.

Protesters are planning to demonstrate against COVID-19 mandates at the Regway border crossing Saturday afternoon, making it the first border protest in the province since the trucker convoy arrived in Ottawa.

Moe is encouraging protesters to stand up in a way that respects other people’s rights and freedoms.

4:15 p.m.: The city of Ottawa on Friday asked the Ontario Superior Court of Justice for an injunction against people continuing to violate city bylaws during the protest in the city by antigovernment demonstrators.

City solicitor David White says it is hoped the injunction will rein in the “widespread disregard” for the law by people participating in what police say is an illegal demonstration.

In particular the city is looking for an injunction against noise, idling, fireworks, open air fires, encroachments on highways and illegal use of parks and city facilities.

3:00 p.m.: In a statement, Niagara Regional Police Service spokesperson Const. Phil Gavin said the force was aware of planned protests at the Peace Bridge crossing in Fort Erie, Ont. on Saturday, “and will be monitoring to ensure participant and community safety.”

Gavin said the force was waiting to see legislation outlining details of the state of emergency Premier Doug Ford declared Friday to determine what “further enforcement options” could be at its disposal.

“Once the legislation has been received, we will carefully review to determine how it may assist our officers in response to any demonstrations that we may see in Niagara,” he said.

2:45 p.m.: Protesters and police in Windsor, Ont. are awaiting a key decision from the Ontario Superior Court that could decide the fate of a days-long blockade that’s prevented vehicles from travelling along the Ambassador Bridge.

By 2:30 p.m. Friday, police from across southwestern Ontario had converged near the intersection of College Avenue and Huron Church Road, where several dozen protesters are waving Canadian flags and blocking the four-lane entrance to the bridge with pickup trucks and vans.

The rainy weather has not deterred protesters, who have arranged the blockade with sofas, a barbeque and a trampoline for kids.

Several had gathered around phone screens early in the afternoon to watch a press conference given by Prime Minister Trudeau, who told protesters their blockades “were hurting every day families.”

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The protesters had offered to open one lane of traffic early Friday morning, but reneged on the decision shortly after, holding true to their promise to “hold the line.”

Windsor police, Waterloo police, the OPP and the RCMP were all roaming the vicinity of the Ambassador Bridge Friday morning.

An injunction from the Ontario Superior Court, which has yet to be grant, would mandate protesters to end the blockade or face arrest.

2:15 p.m.: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday afternoon called Ontario’s decision to declare a state of emergency over the ongoing blockades “responsible and necessary”.

He said he had spoken to U.S. President Joe Biden this morning about protesters blocking the flow of traffic along Windsor’s Ambassador Bridge.

“We discussed the American, and indeed the global, influences on the protest. We talked about the U.S.-based flooding of the 911 phone lines in Ottawa, the presence of U.S. citizens in the blockades and the impact of foreign money to fund this illegal activity,” Trudeau told reporters.

“President Biden and I both agree that for the security of the people and the economy, these blockades cannot continue. So make no mistake. The border cannot, and will not, remain closed.”

The prime minister also directly addressed protesters involved in the border blockades and those occupying downtown Ottawa, telling demonstrators it was “time to go home.”

“Everything is on the table because this unlawful activity has to end,” Trudeau said.

“I can’t say too much more now as to exactly when or how this ends because unfortunately, we are concerned about violence.”

A failure to respond to warnings to leave would be met with a stronger police response, the prime minister added.

But Trudeau said a military solution to the ongoing crisis, which would see the Canadian army deployed against its own citizens, “is something to avoid having to do at all costs.”

“Of course, we have to be ready for any eventuality, but it is not something we are seriously contemplating at this time,” he said.

2:05 p.m.: Toronto’s top cop says there is a “very robust” policing plan in place as the city braces for the threat of a second weekend of truck convoy protests, demonstrations that have wreaked havoc in parts of the province and prompted Ontario to declare a state of emergency Friday.

Based off “intelligence” about possible protests, Toronto police Chief James Ramer said Friday the force has scaled up its response to the threat posed by the so-called “Freedom Convoy,” demonstrators protesting COVID-19 vaccine mandates who have taken up occupancy in parts of downtown Ottawa and formed a blockade at the U.S. border.

Ramer said this weekend there will again be a “large police presence” in the downtown core and continued road closures on major downtown streets; Queen’s Park Circle from College to Bloor streets has been closed since Wednesday and officers have since blocked off College Street between Bay and Yonge streets.

Ramer would not provide details about how many protesters or trucks could be arriving in the city over the weekend, but said the force is “preparing for every eventuality.”

“We have a very robust plan that is very nimble and allows us to scale up or scale down whatever is required,” Ramer said.

1:30 p.m.: Flyers posted to social media suggested protesters from both sides of the border were planning to converge on the Peace Bridge that links Fort Erie, Ont. and Buffalo, N.Y. on Saturday.

Fort Erie Mayor Wayne Redekop said his community was bracing for possible disruptions to traffic, businesses, emergency services, and residents who either have family or work on the U.S. side of the border.

“Having seen what’s going on in other places in Ontario, we certainly are concerned that something of a similar nature would occur here. We’re hoping that it won’t and we’re hoping that good sense will prevail, that peaceful protesters will be peaceful and that they will keep their convoy moving along,” he said.

While Fort Erie’s 30,000 residents might bear the brunt of any protests, Redekop said that given the importance of the crossing to the provincial and federal economies, other levels of government “need to get engaged here.”

He said local officials have been in contact with regional, provincial and Niagara Parks police, as well as the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority, and would assist with issues like directing traffic. But there is only so much the town can do.

“These are also provincial and federal issues that we need assistance on …You cannot expect municipalities to manage international borders without help,” he said, adding that he had confidence “the police will do what they need to do.”

The Peace Bridge is Canada’s third-busiest crossing for trade and its second busiest for all traffic. It’s used by more than 1.2 million trucks and more than 4.7 million passenger vehicles each year, according to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation.

Redekop said his hope was that “those who want to express their rights will recognize that there are large numbers of other people in our communities who also have rights, and that rights have a flip side, and that is responsibilities.”

12:05 p.m.: Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said Friday that federal changes to pandemic border measures are under “constantly” under review and changes could come next week.

Duclos did not specify which measures would be dropped or kept.

“With the worst of Omicron now behind us, our government is actively evaluating the measures in place at the border, and we should be able to communicate changes very soon.”

He said some changes could come as early as next week.

Duclos told reporters, however, that “we know that vaccine mandates work” in protecting people and boosting vaccination rates at the federal and provincial level.

Duclos said in January, arrivals testing showed a six to nine per cent positivity rate for incoming travellers who had shown up at border points with a negative PCR test.

Still, Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam admitted, “we have to adjust our border measures because it is impossible to stop importation of every case.”

Federal ministers welcomed Ontario’s declaration of the state of emergency as a significant and positive step.

Intergovernmental affairs minister Dominic LeBlanc called the measures announced, especially penalties for those who use trucks for blockades, “a very important series of additional steps.”

Read the full story by Tonda MacCharles

11:55 a.m.: WINDSOR—Protesters blocking the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor could be removed from their posts as early as Friday evening if a court injunction is granted to the municipality and an auto manufacturing group this afternoon, says one legal expert.

At noon on Friday, the Ontario Superior Court is hearing an application for an injunction from the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association, with the City of Windsor acting as an intervener.

The city and industry group will likely argue before Chief Justice Morawetz that the blockade at the bridge is effectively “breaking the supply chain” and depriving businesses of critical revenue by impeding the flow of goods worth millions of dollars per day, said Jason Squire, a legal expert and partner at Lerners LLP.

An injunction, which would give police the authority to remove the protesters from the bridge, could be granted as soon as this afternoon or this evening.

Mayor Drew Dilkens announced plans to seek an injunction Thursday afternoon. “In legal terms, the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association and Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association will be the main applicants, with the City of Windsor and Chamber of Commerce as supportive intervenors,” said Dilkens.

Meanwhile, the protesters have backtracked on earlier plans to open one lane of the Ambassador Bridge; they’re now closing the lane again.

Read the full story by Jacob Lorinc

10:50 a.m.: Premier Doug Ford is declaring a state of emergency in Ontario over the trucking blockades that continue to paralyze parts of Ottawa and threaten jobs and manufacturing at border crossings.

“Today, I am using my authority as Premier of Ontario to declare a state of emergency in our province,” Ford said at a news conference Friday morning.

“And I will convene cabinet to use legal authorities to urgently enact orders that will make crystal clear it is illegal and punishable to block and impede the movement of goods, people and services along critical infrastructure. This will include protecting international border crossings, 400-series highways, airports, ports, bridges and railways.:

He said the province will also be “protecting the safe and essential movement of ambulatory and medical services, public transit, municipal and provincial roadways, as well as pedestrian walkways. Fines for non-compliance will be severe, with a maximum penalty of $100,000 and up to a year imprisonment.”

The province will also “provide additional authority to consider taking away the personal and commercial licenses of anyone who doesn’t comply with these orders.”

He said: “We are now two weeks into the siege of the City of Ottawa. I call it a siege because that is what it is. It’s an illegal occupation. This is no longer a protest. With a protest, you peacefully make your point and you go back home. And I know that the vast majority of people did that. They came, they peacefully demonstrated, they made their point, and they left. And I want to say to those people — you have been heard — Canada has heard you.”

Read the full story by Kristin Rushowy

9:20 a.m.: At a news conference Friday ahead of a budget debate at his executive committee, Mayor John Tory said governments need to take “whatever steps are necessary to maintain the peace.”

“The first thing I’m obviously concerned about, in looking at these potential protests here or elsewhere, is the safety of people and respect for everybody’s rights … People shouldn’t have to, because someone is exercising their rights, worry then about their own right to go to work, or their own right to be safe, or their own right to get to the doctor’s (office) …

“People need to be at work, they need to support their families, they want to be at work, they want to be able to go to the doctor, they want to be able to live peacefully in Toronto or elsewhere.

“So I think you see that all kinds of actions being undertaken by police authorities and by other governments, including the one here, to try to make sure that you, yes, respect the rights of people to peaceful, respectful protest but, when it goes beyond that, to take whatever steps are necessary to maintain the peace.

“This is a country founded on peace, order and good government. I think that those are very important words, that we could be taking a serious look at as I think we all are just now as we try to move forward.”

9 a.m.: Mayor John Tory and Toronto police Chief James Ramer are set to announce details of the city’s plans for the expected return of anti-vaccine mandate protests this weekend.

The pair will be speaking at a 1 p.m. Friday news conference livestreamed on YouTube.

The Toronto police board held a special confidential meeting Thursday, at which Ramer briefed the board on the details of the police plan.

In a statement, the board said the meeting was called because the anticipated truck protest meets this threshold for “a major event/operation or organizationally significant issue.”

Earlier this week, police closed streets around Queen’s Park following online posts saying the protesters were set to relocate from Ottawa.

It was unclear at the time whether the protesters’ threats were genuine; an organizer speaking to the Star said: “No. It’s a game.”

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