Canadian truckers block highway at US border to protest Covid vaccine mandates

·3 min read
File: Canadian truck drivers staged a protest against vaccine mandates on Tuesday  (AP)
File: Canadian truck drivers staged a protest against vaccine mandates on Tuesday (AP)

Dozens of Canadian truck drivers have blocked the highway near the US-Manitoba international border to protest against Covid-19 vaccine mandates.

Videos shared on social media showed truck drivers carrying Canadian flags and holding a demonstration on the Manitoba Highway 75, which connects the Emerson community in Manitoba with the US city of Pembina in North Dakota.

The demonstration slowed down traffic on both sides and caused delays for vehicles both entering and leaving Canada.

The drivers were protesting against Canada’s new vaccine mandates for truck drivers, which came into force on Saturday.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police Manitoba said in a tweet that “a demonstration involving a large number of vehicles” was affecting traffic on the highway near the Emerson Port of Entry.

“Both northbound and southbound lanes are affected,” the tweet said. “Please drive with caution if you are in the area and expect delays.”

The police added that they were monitoring the site.

Protesting trucks at Emerson circled the area amid blaring horns on Tuesday. Jim Thorpe, a truck driver who was crossing the border, said that it took him thirty minutes to get to the border from the start point of the protest, according to Global News.

“Truck drivers are circling MB-75 between Emerson Duty Free and the Commercial Inspection station blocking all lanes heading south to the United States and Northbound traffic coming from the USA,” he added.

Under the new rules, Canadian truck drivers who are not vaccinated or partially vaccinated will be allowed to enter the country but must undergo quarantine as well as Covid-19 tests. Unvaccinated foreign truck drivers will not be allowed entry.

On 22 January, new vaccine mandates for truck drivers will come into effect in the US, which will also bar unvaccinated truck drivers from crossing the border.

These mandates are part of the countries’ efforts to deal with the sudden surge in coronavirus cases driven by the Omicron variant.

Last week, Canada’s health minister Jean-Yves Duclos defended the government’s vaccine mandate as the “right thing to do”.

“That has been known for many months, and truckers in very large numbers have chosen to be vaccinated. That’s the right thing to do, not only to protect themselves, obviously, but also to protect their businesses and the industry,” Mr Duclos said.

Trade associations have opposed the vaccine mandate, and said that it would put pressure on supply chains amidst Covid-19 induced staff shortages, reported CBC.

According to the Canadian Trucking Alliance, about 10 per cent of the 120,000 Canadian truckers who cross the border may not be able to work those routes because they haven’t been vaccinated.

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