Detroit Regional Chamber > Media Coverage > Ambassador Bridge reopens after nearly weeklong blockade

Ambassador Bridge reopens after nearly weeklong blockade

February 14, 2022
Crain’s Detroit Business
Feb. 14, 2022
Rob Gillies and Corey  Williams

The busiest U.S.-Canada border crossing was open Monday after protesters demonstrating against COVID-19 measures and other anti-government issues blocked it for nearly a week.

Police in Windsor, Ontario, arrested 25-30 protesters and towed several vehicles Sunday near the Ambassador Bridge, which links Windsor — and numerous Canadian automotive plants — with Detroit.

The bridge reopened to traffic late Sunday night, bridge owner Detroit International Bridge Co. confirmed. Canada Border Services also confirmed that the bridge is open.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration on Sunday acknowledged the resolution to the bridge demonstration, which it said had “widespread damaging impacts” on the “lives and livelihoods of people” on both sides of the border.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer noted the bridge shutdown caused “significant financial loss” to Michigan’s economy and workers as manufacturing plants had to halt production due to a parts shortage and agricultural exports were delayed or blocked.

The Michigan Department of Treasury estimates 10,000 commercial vehicles cross the Ambassador Bridge each day with $325 million of goods. Approximately $50 million is from automotive parts. Nearly 30 percent of the annual trade between Michigan and Canada comes across the Ambassador Bridge.

“It’s important to ensure that this does not happen again,” Whitmer said in a statement Monday.

After protesters began blocking bridge access Feb. 7, automakers began shutting down or reducing production — at a time when the industry is already struggling with pandemic-induced shortages of computer chips and other supply-chain disruptions. The crossing sees 25 percent of all trade between the two countries.

A judge on Friday ordered an end to the blockade at the Ambassador Bridge, and Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency allowing for fines of 100,000 Canadian dollars (about $78,000 US) and up to one year in jail for anyone illegally blocking roads, bridges and other critical infrastructure.

The Windsor protest began to dwindle Saturday after police persuaded many protesters to remove vehicles blocking the road to the bridge.

Meanwhile, a weekslong protest in Canada’s capital city Ottawa has paralyzed downtown, infuriated residents who are fed up with police inaction and turned up pressure on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. A senior government official said Trudeau will meet virtually with the leaders of Canada’s provinces on Monday morning. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Demonstrations against COVID-19 restrictions and other issues have blocked several crossings along the U.S.-Canada border and hurt the economies of both nations. They also inspired similar convoys in France, New Zealand and the Netherlands. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security warned that truck convoys may be in the works in the United States.

While the protesters are decrying vaccine mandates for truckers and other COVID-19 restrictions, many of Canada’s public health measures, such as mask rules and vaccine passports for getting into restaurants and theaters, are already falling away as the omicron surge levels off.

Pandemic restrictions have been far stricter in Canada than in the U.S., but Canadians have largely supported them. The vast majority of Canadians are vaccinated, and the COVID-19 death rate is one-third that of the United States.

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