Ontario government rolls out legislation to protect border routes


Article content

Proposed Ontario government legislation designed to better protect primary road arteries leading to the Canada-US border should go a long way in preventing any future blockades from even happening again in Windsor, said Mayor Drew Dilkens on Tuesday.

advertisement 2

Article content

The Keeping Ontario Open for Business Act includes an array of stiff penalties that allow for roadside suspension of drivers’ licenses and vehicle permits by police, seizure of license plates when a vehicle is used in a blockade and legal removal and seizure for 30 days of any objects making up an illegal blockade.

Maximum penalties include up to one year in jail and a fine of $100,000 for any individual involved in an illegal blockade. Directors of any corporation involved can face up to $500,000 in fines, plus a year in jail one year, while corporations can face up to $10 million in fines.

The proposed legislation in large part has been introduced in response to the week-long shutdown of the Ambassador Bridge in mid-February caused by an array of protesters who parked their pickup trucks and other vehicles on Windsor’s Huron Church Road.

advertisement 3

Article content

Police from several jurisdictions had to be called in to assist Windsor police to forcibly end the blockade, which eventually included tents, barbecues, a DJ booth and bouncy castles for children blocking access to the bridge.

Anti-mandate protesters are shown on Wyandotte Street West near the Ambassador Bridge entrance to the United States on Thursday morning, February 10, 2022.
Anti-mandate protesters are shown on Wyandotte Street West near the Ambassador Bridge entrance to the United States on Thursday morning, February 10, 2022. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star

“This absolutely sends a strong signal and will make any sensitive person think twice before they undertake this type of protest again and block an international border crossing,” Dilkens said.

“A lot of people looked at the events of last month of how it was even possible that a small amount of people were able to hold hostage the economy of our nation. A signal has to be felt how there will now be severe consequences for that type of action.”

Aside from the proposed legislation, the government will also allocate $96 million to better respond to potential protest blockades that may impede the border or airports.

advertisement 4

Article content

It includes added spending for police in areas of emergency management and intelligence, plus establishment of a permanent Emergency Response Team. It also includes the purchase of equipment such as heavy tow trucks.

“Ontario is a strong, reliable trading partner and we are signaling to the world that we continue to be open for business,” said Premier Doug Ford. “We will do everything in our power to protect our workers, job creators and international trade relationships from any future attempts to block our borders.”

Police begin arresting protesters on Huron Church Road near the Ambassador Bridge.
Police begin arresting protesters on Huron Church Road near the Ambassador Bridge. Photo by Julie Kotsis /Windsor Star

Highway 402 leading to Sarnia’s Bluewater Bridge was also among border routes which experienced costly economic blockades by protesters.

“Hundreds of millions of dollars worth of essential goods for people and businesses pass across our international borders every day,” said Caroline Mulroney, the province’s transportation minister.

advertisement 5

Article content

“Taking steps to ensure our border crossings can continue to operate regularly in the event of disruptions like those experienced earlier this year is vital to the ongoing safety and security of the people of Ontario and our economy.”

The legislation is also being introduced to help provide legal authority to end illegal blockades without the need for declaring a State of Emergency as was done by the premier to address the situation in Windsor.

The bill was tabled for first reading Monday and scheduled for debate and second reading at Queen’s Park later this week. From there, it will go committee for hearings and eventually final reading, but it is unknown how quickly that will occur.

Anti-mandate protestors are shown on Huron Church Road near the Ambassador Bridge on Thursday, February 10, 2022. They installed an inflatable beaver in the area.
Anti-mandate protestors are shown on Huron Church Road near the Ambassador Bridge on Thursday, February 10, 2022. They installed an inflatable beaver in the area. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star

Local MPP Lisa Gretzky (NDP — Windsor-West) believes the proposed legislation should go further and include sufficient resources and funding for municipalities, such as Windsor, to better deal with similar incidents in the future.

advertisement 6

Article content

“This doesn’t look to me like it is doing much more then what is already in law,” she said. “The biggest piece is around towing so you are not reliant on individual towing companies which were reluctant to tow (on Huron Church) because they were afraid of repercussions.

“The government needs to provide resources to be more proactive. This wasn’t a secret the convoy was coming to Windsor. A lot more preemptive action should have taken place. There were a lot of concerns how long it took the provincial government to respond.”

Automotive manufacturing associations and the city itself were forced to rely on the courts for an injunction before the provincial government also acted by declaring a state of emergency and providing added police, Gretzky said.

“So, I’m not sure how this bill changes that,” she said. “There is nothing in there that talks about the province helping municipalities with costs and resources to better respond to any future blockade.”

[email protected]

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user follows comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your e-mail settings.


Leave a Comment