Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency in the Canadian province of Ontario Friday following substantial economic losses stemming from the so-called Freedom Convoy’s anti-vaccine mandate protests. in Ottawa and other locations, including the Ambassador Bridge linking Canada and the United States. Ford warned that there would be “severe” consequences for those partaking in the Convoy, which he referred to as the “Ottawa siege.”
Ford recognized Canadians’ right to free speech but added that those rights “are not without reasonable limits.” Ford also shared that the Convoy has significantly disrupted the international trade of food, fuel, and other goods. This trade is essential to Ontario’s economy, which is “built on trade especially with partners in the United States.” In his announcement, Ford said:
I will convene Cabinet to use legal authorities to urgently enact orders that will make crystal clear it is illegal and punishable to block and impede the movement of goods, people, and services along critical infrastructure. This will include protecting international border crossings, 400-series highways, airports, ports, bridges, and railways.
The emergency order includes severe penalties for noncompliance, including a “maximum penalty of $100,000 and up to a year in prison.” Although the order is temporary, Ford is pursuing legislation to make the measures permanent. An Ontario court already granted Ford’s request to freeze the funds for the “illegal occupation” of Ottawa.
Ford assured Canadians that the order will not impede their right to peaceful protest. He also shared that Ontario will soon eliminate Covid-19 restrictions, including the vaccine passport system. He later tweeted a message to the protestors, saying, “It’s time to end these occupations and go home.”