Calgary

Protest convoy continues to block traffic to U.S. border: RCMP

RCMP are advising against travel along a section of Highway 4 in southern Alberta, as a large demonstration disrupts traffic Sunday.

RCMP says traffic is unable to get to border crossing and Coutts, Alta. inaccessible

Alberta RCMP have issued a travel advisory against travel along Highway 4, from south of Lethbridge to the Coutts border crossing. (Submitted by Jake Zacharias)

RCMP say a large demonstration continues to block off Highway 4 in southern Alberta on Sunday morning near the village of Coutts, Alta., largely stopping traffic to and from the Canada-United States border crossing.

Cars, trucks, farm tractors and other vehicles have filled the highway — from south of Lethbridge, Alta., to the Canada-United States border crossing in Coutts — in support of a national trucker convoy that has arrived in Ottawa, with a stated goal of protesting the trucker COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

On Sunday morning, RCMP said the Coutts border crossing was open — but motorists can't reach it because of the vehicles filling the highway.

Access was blocked to the village of Coutts on Saturday night, which was preventing emergency vehicle access to the community.

"That's one of our concerns at this point, is to be able to have ambulance, fire and police access into the village of Coutts, if someone needed to get in or out in an [emergency] basis," said RCMP Const. Curtis Peters.

Peters said RCMP is engaging in conversations with those involved in blocking the road.

In a tweet posted shortly after 4 p.m. Saturday, RCMP said it was advising motorists to stay away from Highway 4 south of Lethbridge to the border crossing.

"Traffic is not moving in either the northbound or southbound direction," the tweet read.

The protest in southern Alberta is in concert with a separate national convoy, which launched from the four corners of Canada to go protest the new rules on Parliament Hill. Thousands of participants have arrived in Ottawa, with traffic jams reported throughout the region.

Coutts Mayor Jim Willett says the protest arrived near the village on Saturday morning, though RCMP have been diverting traffic towards Milk River, Alta. (David Rossiter/The Canadian Press)

Earlier this month, federal rules for unvaccinated or partially vaccinated Canadian truckers entering Canada from the U.S. took effect. 

Truckers who are not fully vaccinated must get a PCR test and quarantine.

Organizers reached out to Coutts Mayor Jim Willett earlier this week, letting the office know the convoy would not block entrances to the village.

The protest arrived near the community after 10 a.m. Saturday, and was "everything they advertised it would be," Willett said.

"It's very long, stretching off as far as you can see."

Though he is not a truck driver himself, Jake Zacharias said he attended the protest on Saturday to support his friends who are. He said many plan to stay near the border "until the mandates are lifted." (Submitted by Jake Zacharias)

The protest came through the truck scale house, then was turned away by RCMP at the first entrance to Coutts prior to reaching the U.S. border, Willett said.

"Anybody in the convoy is being redirected back up the highway back up to Milk River," he said. "They're not getting anywhere close to the border."

Meanwhile, the Canada Border Services Agency is monitoring the situation and is ready to respond to "any events impeding the flow of traffic" at the Coutts border crossing, an agency spokesperson told CBC News.

Border crossings are ports that must not be accessed by people not trying to cross, the spokesperson said.

It's an offence under the Customs Act to hinder a border services officer from being able to do their work, they added.

Another protest, also in support of the national trucker convoy, arrived at the Alberta Legislature Saturday afternoon.

With files from Raffy Boudjikanian

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