But what might ultimately be necessary might not be prudent in Trudeau’s eyes. He warned last week of the risks of calling in the military.
“You have to be very, very careful before deploying the military in situations involving Canadians,” Trudeau said at the time.
For now, the federal government seems content to delegate tough decisions to provincial and local authorities. But police have only made a handful of arrests since thousands of protesters submerged downtown Ottawa, closed a border crossing at Coutts, Alberta, and closed the Ambassador Bridge that connects Detroit to Windsor, Ontario. For the most part, the occupants have not moved yet.
The pressure on Canada is mounting now that critical infrastructure – the Ambassador Bridge – has been blocked for days.
At the end of a long day Thursday, news broke that Ontario was planning to impose significant fines on protesters who blocked the bridge. The Globe and Mail also reported that the province could seize vehicles and suspend business licenses.
“Everyone wants to know, when are you going to move in? Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said earlier today when announcing the city was seeking a court injunction to end the blockade. “We hope we don’t have to move in. We hope we can get protesters to see the light of day and recognize that the easiest way out is for them to voluntarily get in their cars and leave.”
He said the protest in Windsor was leaderless, making it difficult to negotiate.
The closure of the bridge has blocked the flow of goods for the automotive sector and other industries along a span that supports about 25% of trade between the United States and Canada. It has also forced factories to cancel shifts in both countries, affecting thousands of workers.
Phone calls and meetings
The economic impact has the attention of President Joe Biden.
US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg have each urged their Canadian counterparts to use federal powers to end the border closure, a House official said Thursday. White.
“The President’s Office and senior White House officials have been mobilized around the clock to end this quickly,” the official said.
representing Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) launched a series of tweets which surely set off the alarm bells in Ottawa, where Biden’s protectionist policies are causing serious concern. “It doesn’t matter if it’s an adversary or an ally – we can’t be so dependent on parts from foreign countries,” she wrote.
Dilkens said Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s office offered to do whatever was necessary, including sending heavy equipment to remove the vehicles.
The Prime Minister’s Office said later Thursday that ministers and officials have been in close contact with U.S. officials and officials “to align efforts to resolve this situation.”
Trudeau also announced that he had convened an emergency Cabinet committee, the Incident Response Group, to discuss solutions to what he called “unlawful blockades and occupations”. He also said he spoke with Dilkens and briefed opposition party leaders.
“We will continue to work closely with municipal and provincial governments to end these blockades and ensure they have the resources they need,” Trudeau tweeted.
But there is still no sign of a quick resolution.
Federal lawmakers in Canada have offered police and other resources to municipalities on the front lines, but they stress that ending the protests is not within their purview.
For the long term
The ‘freedom convoy’ protests began as a movement against vaccination mandates for truckers crossing the Canadian border from the United States, but have expanded into a well-funded and highly coordinated campaign against all restrictions of Covid-19 and the Canadian political establishment.
Organizers said they plan to stay until all provincial and federal Covid measures have all been removed; others say they won’t leave until Trudeau resigns.
The local police forces involved have requested provincial and federal resources to reinforce their presence on the ground.
Dilkens said he fears an aggressive push by police could lead to violence and his primary focus is public safety.
Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly said Thursday that officers, including those brought in from other cities, were beginning to reduce a convoy’s “footprint.”
Sloly has been criticized for being slow in the capital, where around 400 trucks are still blocking the streets. With the occupation about to enter its third week, he told a press conference that the ministry still expects more support from other levels of government.
“Application has grown and will continue to grow as resources become more available,” he said.
In defending his ministry, Sloly argued that the protest has significant levels of fundraising, coordination, communications and command centers across Canada and beyond.
The roadmap is out
“No one wants to take responsibility for what could very well end up being a messy process,” Stephanie Carvin, a national security expert at Carleton University in Ottawa, told POLITICO.
Carvin, an expert on terrorism and critical infrastructure protection, said an elegant way to deal with convoys might be to apply administrative law. She calls it “the Al Capone approach”, noting that the notorious gangster was eventually arrested for banality tax offences.
She said provincial authorities could revoke drivers’ licenses for truckers for engaging in illegal activities. Police could also check to see if their logbooks are up to date, their air brakes are working, and fuel is safely stored.
“Ottawa is the most bureaucratic city on the planet. It is a weapon we can exploit,” she said, noting that local authorities Once closed a lemonade stand because the girls running it didn’t have a license.
Carvin said the extremist elements of the group likely wanted a clash. It is important that the authorities do not give it to them by finding non-violent solutions, she said.
Security expert Wesley Wark, who advised former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, told POLITICO the convoys surprised authorities, who responded with soft policing.
“All levels of government pass the buck to each other but disguise it as consultations and tables,” Wark, senior fellow at the Center for International Governance Innovation, wrote in an email. “Hope for a peaceful end rests only on hope and on some inner sense of Canadian decency.”
Wark offered a roadmap for the release.
First, he declared that the leaders of the occupations must be arrested, while being clear with the public that the movement was a “clownish effort of democratic subversion”. Wark said all protesters not considered extremists should be asked to leave, with a deadline.
He recommends that the police and military separate resisters from convoys into smaller components by using barriers, setting up highly visible surveillance of the area and moving step by step.
At the end, he said a national inquiry would be needed.
“This is not a strategy to end the occupation peacefully, but it is a strategy that could bring about a largely peaceful end,” he said.