In a new chapter of the never-ending Covid saga, protesting truckers have blocked the vital Ambassador Bridge border crossing between the United States and Canada, demanding that strict entry rules on both sides are relaxed and, most pressingly, that vaccination requirements are scrapped.
Since the pandemic first started, Canada has enacted one of the strictest border policies in tackling Covid, as well as rapidly spreading variants like Delta and Omicron. At one point, it only allowing entry to Canadian citizens and residents.
Similarly, the United States also imposed stringent testing requirements that have dismayed returning Americans. Now, it seems discontent is reaching a boiling point in Canada, with truckers calling for the “right to choose” to be immunized or not.
Ambassador Bridge Targeted By Protest With No End In Sight
As reported by the BBC, truck drivers on the Canadian side have fenced the crucial Ambassador Bridge, a tolled suspension bridge that is regarded as the single most important connecting point between the United States and Canada. This means that those planning a cross-border trip in the next few days, even if brief, might have to reconsider.
Although U.S.-bound traffic is still being allowed, Canada-bound travelers driving from Detroit could face disruption as all lanes remain effectively closed. With both Canada and the U.S. unlikely to lift vaccination requirements anytime soon, the protests have no end in sight.
Truckers have joined forces in calling for the vaccination mandate for international travelers to Canada to be scrapped, with anger at other restrictions and the government’s tight grip on citizens also being evident.
Business associations have urged truckers to clear the bridge “immediately” to ensure the flow of goods, which has also come to a standstill following the blockade. Similar protests are also spreading across Canada and beyond the capital of Ottawa, reaching yet another border crossing between the U.S. state of Montana and the Canadian province of Alberta.
With the Ambassador Bridge being the number one international border crossing in North America, the events will continue to have repercussions for the community of travelers, as well as businesses, in the weeks to come. Cross-border trade via Ambassador also comprises nearly 30% of annual trade between the two countries.
As Canadian Transport Minister Omar Alghabra commented, “this is really a serious cause for concern“. On the U.S. side, White House press secretary Jen Psaki has stated the White House is monitoring the protests “very closely”. At present, those who must return to Canada are being advised by Michigan authorities to divert to Port Huron, where the crossing is still open.
However, as protests grow larger, travelers arriving soon via a land entry point are advised to keep up to date with recent developments and have contingency plans in place. In a statement, representatives of business associations on both sides called the truckers’ decision an “attack on the well-being of our citizens and the businesses that employ them”.
Canadian Authorities Consider Physically Removing Protesters
On Thursday, February 10, the U.S. Secretaries of Homeland Security and Transportation urged their Canadian counterparts to “use federal powers to resolve this situation”. In an attempt to end the impasse, an Ontario court has even blocked access to online donations received by protesters, who have reportedly already raised over $8 million.
Also on Thursday, protests again spread to a third border crossing, this time between the province of Manitoba and the state of North Dakota. Lloyd Brubacher, one of those involved in the demonstrations, has stated that all they want is a “right to choose to vax or not to“, with many deeming it a “fight for the next generation”.
Police in Windsor, Ontario, also hinted at the possibility of physically removing protesters, with Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens telling the CNN that, unless protesters leave peacefully, “there will have to a path forward“. On the other hand, Dilkens conceded that “such action may inflame the situation” and they do not want to risk additional conflict.
Protests seem to echo an industry demand for the scrapping of testing mandates at the Canadian border, although aviation officials are hardly this confrontational. Recently, Air Canada, West Jet and Toronto’s Pearson Airport teamed up in writing a letter addressed to the Trudeau administration calling for the strict testing rules to be lifted.
West Jet even went as far as canceling 20% of its scheduled flights in March due to “outdated” travel restrictions, further pressurizing the government to re-evaluate its stance on Covid. So far, Canada is yet to change existing requirements. Concomitantly, the CDC has also said the U.S. is “not ready” to end mandatory testing for international travelers.
What Are The Rules For Entering Canada And The United States?
Currently, in order to enter Canada, not only one has to be fully vaccinated, but also provide proof of a negative molecular test, such as an RT-PCR. The test must be undertaken at most 72 hours before travel.
Additionally, travelers may also be randomly selected for testing on arrival, which then entails a mandatory quarantine until results are available. For that reason, travelers are advised to plan in advance before boarding a flight.
When it comes to the United States, passengers do not face a potential quarantine on arrival, but are still expected to present a negative Covid test issued one day before arrival.
The measure is a cause for concern for many U.S.-bound travelers, and especially American citizens, who may not be allowed to return to the U.S. on the intended date if testing positive while abroad.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com