Anti-mandate protest set up near Northgate border crossing in Sask.

Initial plans to stage two demonstrations, including one at North Portal, changed when RCMP turned people away from the border village Saturday.

RCMP say protestors turned away from North Portal Saturday

Anti-mandate protestors line up on the Saskatchewan side of the Northgate border crossing on Feb. 19, 2022. (Cory Herperger/CBC)

An anti-mandate protest planned near Saskatchewan's only 24-hour border crossing with the U.S. was detoured to a nearby point of entry Saturday.

The North Portal crossing is located 40 kilometres southeast of Estevan, Sask., along the Canada-North Dakota border. 

On Thursday, police issued a public statement that protestors would need a staging area on private property to be there.

When CBC News arrived in North Portal Saturday afternoon, RCMP said protestors did not have permission from local land owners and authorities turned them away. 

Some protestors then travelled 20 kilometres east to the Northgate crossing for a demonstration on private property nearby.

When CBC News arrived, between 25-30 people were lined up, waving Canadian flags and holding signs saying "freedom over fear."

"The spirit of this is unity for community. It's a bunch of peaceful people wanting to connect here," said Marlene Swan, who was at the protest.

Swan said the event was organized before police began dismantling a larger demonstration organizers called the Freedom Convoy in Ottawa. 

She added that she was glad to have a chance to speak out against "government overreach," and directed a message to Canadian members of parliament.

"The reason your constituents were on the highways and byways and overpasses and the downtown core of Ottawa is because they don't feel represented by you," she said.

Members of the RCMP check in with travellers along Highway 39, near North Portal, Sask. on Feb. 19, 2022. (Cory Herperger/CBC)

North Portal initially braced for up to 200 vehicles

According to the name and logo of a private Facebook group called Southbound and Down, a convoy of vehicles planned to gather near Saskatchewan's border crossings starting Friday, with a message to "mandate freedom" — a counter to government mandates around COVID-19. 

On Wednesday, the Village of North Portal notified residents by mail and in a Facebook post about the protest and council's policy to remain neutral. 

"According to information available, the protest will involve 60-80 semi-trucks and up to 120 passenger vehicles," the post read.

"The village will not be providing any public services to the event, such as water, lagoon use, garbage removal, public building rental or other regular village services."

Village council noted that travellers can expect to be asked by police why they are travelling through North Portal for the duration of the protest,

On Thursday, RCMP notified the public and media Thursday about planned demonstrations for both the North Portal and Northgate points of entry.

RCMP warned of an increased police presence, adding that parking along Highway 39 would not be allowed and would be enforced by officers.

"We are making extensive efforts to engage with all stakeholders before and during the demonstrations to ensure everyone involved is aware of the current legal boundaries of a peaceful and lawful protest," RCMP said in a news release Thursday.

At the time, police said anyone without access to a private staging area would be turned away by members onsite.

Sask. premier addresses protests

Premier Scott Moe spoke directly to people attending anti-mandate protests following a provincial COVID-19 briefing Friday. 

"You have the right to have your voice heard. You have the right to a peaceful protest. However, the Emergencies Act is in place," he said.

"I would hope that each of you has communicated with law enforcement or with those involved in your convoy to ensure that that your voice is being heard and is being heard within the confines of what the law is today." 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act for the first time in Canadian history on Feb. 14, giving the federal government temporary powers to handle ongoing blockades and protests against pandemic restrictions.

It also gives police more tools to restore order in places where public assemblies constitute illegal and dangerous activities, such as blockades and occupations, Trudeau said Monday.

Under the act, RCMP can enforce municipal bylaws and provincial offences where required. 

Border services 'ready to respond'

Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) did not comment specifically about the planned protests at the Saskatchewan border crossings. 

However, in an email response to CBC News, CBSA stated the following:

CBSA "continuously monitors its operations and is ready to respond, with police of local jurisdiction if necessary, to any events impeding operations at ports of entry.

"The Agency is also continuously monitoring changes in demand and may allocate resources, adjust staffing levels and hours of service (if needed) to minimize processing times and potential delays."

The agency advises media and the public to visit its regional Twitter accounts for updates on any service interruptions. 


Daniella Ponticelli is a reporter for CBC Saskatchewan. She has worked in print, broadcast and digital journalism in Manitoba and Saskatchewan since 2012. Get in touch with Daniella at or on Twitter @dponticelliTV.

With Files from CBC's Noemie Rondeau