HALIFAX — Nova Scotia has issued a highway blockade ban, citing areas near the border with New Brunswick, ahead of demonstrations that are expected to be held in parallel with Saturday’s trucker “Freedom convoy” protest in Ottawa.
In a directive released under the province’s Emergency Management Act late Friday afternoon, Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister John Lohr prohibited partial or complete blockades on all the roads in the province, before specifically citing the provincial border and the trucker protest.
“It is a criminal offense to block a highway anywhere at any time,” said ministry spokeswoman Krista Higdon in an email.
“The directive applies to people who stop or gather alongside Highway 104, the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border, or at the Cobequid Pass toll area in support of the 2022 Freedom Convoy, the Atlantic Hold the Line event, or others organized to interfere with traffic. Allowing people to gather in those areas would put themselves and others at risk. ”
The move follows comments made earlier this week by Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston.
“My message to anyone planning a blockade of a highway is – do not do it,” Houston said Wednesday. “Nova Scotians have no patience for highway blockades and, personally … I have even less, so just do not do it.”
In June 2021, protesters decrying pandemic border restrictions brought traffic to a halt for about 24 hours on the Trans-Canada Highway between Sackville, NB, and Amherst, NS, before police cleared the road and arrested three protesters.
This past weekend, protests near the border in support of the “Freedom Convoy” slowed but did not block traffic on the highway, said David Kogon, mayor of Amherst. He said his understanding from those protesters was that they would attempt to do the same again this weekend.
“The blockade they had in (June), when they completely blocked the highway created huge problems,” he said. “The hospital services had to be reduced because doctors and nurses could not get to the hospital and things were canceled.
“So, we’re very concerned that that kind of thing could happen. But last weekend, that’s not what they did. ”
“I think (the province is) trying to bail and reduce problems at the border by saying they’re going to act and not let an illegal blockade happen.”
Blockading a highway is a federal criminal offense; the new provincial directive not only reinforces that, but prohibits gathering along the side of, or in the area of the transborder highway, with the intent to interfere with “the normal flow of traffic.”
Making those acts a provincial offense means that police can issue a summary offense ticket. Under this directive, the fines can be steep – $ 3,000 to $ 10,000 for an individual and as much as $ 100,000 for a corporation.
RCMP spokesperson Const. Jeff Wilson said the Mounties have moved some additional resources into the area in anticipation of protests.
But with another major winter storm scheduled to hit the Atlantic provinces – by some forecasts dropping 45 centimeters of snow near the border – Wilson said there could be significant safety issues.
“We’re all hoping that people make good decisions and account for the safety of the people involved,” he said. “If we do have an Atlantic weather system coming through, it certainly could potentially be a dangerous situation.”
In October 2021, the Nova Scotia government controversially passed the Protecting Access to Health Services Act, which banned protests that blocked access to hospitals and health-care facilities. It joined Quebec and Alberta, which both have similar bans.
With file from The Canadian Press
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