Ontario to introduce new measures to block further blockades

The Post has learned the Ontario government will introduce measures to prevent a repeat of the freedom convoy blockades

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OTTAWA — Ontarians could soon find their driver’s licenses and vehicle registration revoked for participating in illegal blockades.

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And those vehicles could also find themselves being hauled away by provincially owned tow trucks, preventing future issues with blockade removals hampered by reluctant towing operators.

The National Post has learned Ontario’s PC government will introduce new measures at Queen’s Park on Monday, meant to prevent a repeat of last month’s freedom convoy blockades.

If passed, law enforcement will be able to direct owners and operators to remove their vehicles from illegal blockades, be able to remove items used to illegally block roads, and be given the power to suspend both drivers’ licenses and vehicle registration of participants.

The Ford government will also announce $100 million in new spending, including public order training for law enforcement agencies and establishing a permanent Ontario Provincial Police emergency management team.

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The money will also go towards provincial procurement of what the government described as “critical equipment” — which according to a government source includes the purchase an undetermined number of tow trucks.

Last month, officials tasked with clearing blockades in downtown Ottawa and at land border crossings found few towing operators willing to haul away convoy vehicles — either out of solidarity for the movement or fear of harassment and reprisal from supporters.

Last month, Provincial Towing Association of Ontario President Mark Graves told The Canadian Press that the government needed to prove it was ready to protect the safety of towing companies ordered to clear blockades.

Police were able to compel companies to cooperate under measures introduced via Feb. 15’s invocation of the federal Emergencies Act — with many participating towing companies covering up company names and logos on their trucks — but Monday’s measures appear to be an attempt to bypass future delays caused by reluctant wreckers.

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The measures, said a provincial government source, are meant to prevent future border blockades and discourage those from organizing or taking part in actions targeting Canada’s economy or the flow of international trade, while also protecting Canadians’ right to legally protest.

On Feb. 7, blockaders affiliated with the freedom convoy parked transport trucks and private cars along roads at the foot of the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ont. for nearly a week — choking off over a quarter of Canada’s daily cross-border commerce with the United States, stalling billions of dollars in trade and idling automotive assembly plants in both nations.

The blockades also left lawmakers south of the border questioning the wisdom of American reliance on Canadian parts and assembly for the vulnerable automotive sector, already reeling from the effects of the ongoing global supply chain crisis.

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Similar blockades also halted international traffic at border crossings at Emerson, Man., Coutts, Alta. and Surrey, BC

The Windsor blockade lingered, even after a Feb. 11 provincial state of emergency and subsequent court injunctions, outlawing the blocking of critical infrastructure such as highways, airports, ports and bridges, with fines approaching $100,000 per day and a year in jail for offenders.

Local, provincial and federal police descended on the Windsor blockades Feb 13., ordering the occupiers to leave and arresting anyone who refused — allowing officials to re-open the Ambassador Bridge after a six-day closure.

Nearly all of the border blockades were cleared before the federal emergency measures were invoked — a move the Canadian government took under significant pressure from American officials including Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and even US President Joe Biden, who on Feb. 10 urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to use federal powers to end the crippling blockades.

• Email: bpassifiume@postmedia.com | Twitter: @bryanpassifiume



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