Multiple border crossings blocked amid Canada-wide protests against COVID-19 rules

Protesters seeking an end to COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other public health measures are demonstrating for a third weekend at sites across Canada, and solidarity demonstrations are being held in other countries.

Police clear part of Windsor, Ont., blockade; Coutts, Alta., crossing temporarily suspended

Protesters seeking an end to COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other public health measures are demonstrating for a third weekend at sites across Canada, and solidarity demonstrations are being held in other countries.

The Freedom Convoy, as it's known, rolled into Ottawa in late January and has inspired similar protests across Canada, including blockades at vital border crossings.

The protests have caused widespread disruptions, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday that police and all levels of government are preparing to take action against the demonstrators if they do not stand down.

On Saturday, Trudeau held a meeting with senior officials where he stressed border crossings cannot, and will not, remain closed, and all options remain on the table, according to a statement issued by his office.

What's happening across Canada

In the Atlantic provinces, a crowd of protesters outside the New Brunswick Legislature in Fredericton grew to nearly 700 on Saturday afternoon, according to the mayor's advisers. A long, honking line of cars winding around the block drew cheers into the evening. As it began getting dark, some protesters started to disperse, leaving about 200 people as of 6 p.m. AT.

A Nova Scotia protest in support of the convoy, comprised of up to 300 people, was met with a counter-protest in Halifax.

In Prince Edward Island, cars, trucks and even some tractors travelled through Charlottetown in what was billed as a "slow roll" protest. The local police chief said 500 to 700 vehicles took part.

WATCH | Drone footage shows Charlottetown convoy:

Drone footage shows convoy protest rolling through downtown Charlottetown

2 years ago
Duration 2:39
The view from above as a convoy of Islanders protesting vaccine mandates drove through downtown Charlottetown on Saturday, Feb. 12.

In the Prairies, several border crossings were impassable on Saturday. The Manitoba border crossing that connects Emerson to Pembina, N.D., was blocked by a convoy of about 50 trucks and farm vehicles, while demonstrators also gathered at the provincial legislature in Winnipeg.

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) said services at the Coutts crossing in Alberta have been temporarily suspended due to similar protests.

In Edmonton, a court injunction obtained by the city to address noise from protests against public health restrictions appeared to have little effect as trucks and semis rolled past the provincial legislature for a third-straight Saturday, though some cars were stopped by a dozen counter-protesters on foot and on bikes. Close to 700 people also marched along Jasper Avenue in downtown Edmonton.

Protestors, including one dressed as a chicken, attend a rally against COVID-19 restrictions in Edmonton on Saturday. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Meanwhile, a convoy of at least a dozen semi-trucks and dozens of other vehicles met at a border between Saskatchewan and the U.S. The convoy had trickled through a few RCMP and Saskatchewan highway patrol check stops on its way, parking in a plot of land near the Regway-Raymond crossing. 

In Ontario, where Premier Doug Ford has declared a state of emergency, police moved in Saturday to enforce an injunction to end a days-long blockade at the Ambassador Bridge, linking Windsor to Detroit. Yet a crowd of defiant anti-mandate demonstrators remained on the street leading to the bridge well into the evening.

At the Peace Bridge near Fort Erie, hundreds of people drove vehicles around town for several hours, honking, after they were diverted from the border crossing. Others continued to the bridge on foot. Roughly 70 people, including children, walked onto Queen Elizabeth Way as police stood by. Some adults tried to stop transport trucks and other vehicles from continuing into Canada. Police kept one lane open for incoming traffic as protesters stood on the highway.

People protesting COVID-19 public health measures stood on the Queen Elizabeth Way, not far from the border crossing that connects Fort Erie, Ont., to Buffalo. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

More than 1,000 people gathered peacefully near the Ontario Legislature in Toronto. In Ottawa, police estimated 4,000 protesters were in the nation's capital on Saturday and announced a new "integrated command centre" with provincial and federal partners to "enhance the ability to respond to the current situation."

In Quebec, protesters in Montreal marched and listened to speakers at a park, which included People's Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier. A smaller group of counter-protesters also held a short march, calling the movement against pandemic measures "a front for the far-right."

In British Columbia, the main route to the Pacific Highway border crossing to Washington in Surrey, B.C., has closed after being clogged by anti-mandate protesters. While the border remains open, DriveBC camera footage shows protesters walking toward the Pacific Highway crossing after breaking through an RCMP barricade.

What's happening around the world

Protests inspired by the Canadian demonstrations are being seen in other parts of the world this weekend.

France's Interior Ministry said about 32,000 people participated in protests throughout the country, including 7,600 in Paris, on Saturday. At least 500 vehicles in several convoys attempted to enter the capital city at key arteries but were intercepted by police, who fired tear gas at protesters. Police said they made 54 arrests and handed out more than 300 tickets by mid-afternoon.

A convoy protester waves a Canadian flag in Paris on Saturday. (Benoit Tessier/Reuters)

In the Netherlands, dozens of trucks and other vehicles ranging from tractors to a car towing a camping van arrived in The Hague, blocking an entrance to the historic parliamentary complex. Protesters on foot joined them, carrying a banner emblazoned with "Love and Freedom, No Dictatorship" in Dutch.

In the United States, a convoy of motorists gathered in Port Huron, Mich., which sits opposite Sarnia, Ont., in support of protesters in Canada. A dozen protesters on the Canadian side held flags and waved, while others honked.

In New Zealand, demonstrators protesting COVID-19 mandates gathered for a sixth day in Wellington on Sunday, despite heavy rain and strong winds lashing the city. Social media posts showed protesters occupying streets outside the city's Parliament building with tents, trucks and vans.

With files from The Canadian Press, The Associated Press and Reuters