Charges from Ambassador Bridge protest in Windsor, Ont., now up to 90
Unclear if any of the charges are related to the federal Emergencies Act invoked Monday
Dozens of charges have now been laid in relation to pandemic mandate protests in Windsor, Ont., that blocked Ambassador Bridge traffic, police said in releasing the latest figures a day after the Emergencies Act came into effect.
At least 46 people face a total of 90 charges in the bridge blockade, which started Feb. 7 and ended Sunday, police said Tuesday.
However, it's unclear if any of the charges stem from the federal act coming into force. CBC reached out to Windsor police for more details, but they said they weren't immediately available.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet brought the Emergencies Act into effect Monday, giving more power to the federal government during a crisis. Trudeau said under the act, police are given more tools and the federal government is able to impose fines of up to $5,000 for breaking the law, pursue imprisonment not exceeding five years, or both.
RCMP are also permitted to enforce municipal bylaws and provincial offences, which is unusual as the RCMP does not normally carry out policing functions in Ontario.
Cabinet is also directing banks and financial institutions to halt the flow of funds to protest organizers.
"We have been there to support local police of jurisdiction and we are now putting forward fresh tools to do that," said Trudeau.
What's unclear is if the legislation may affect any of the dozens of protesters who've already been charged in the Ambassador Bridge blockade. Police enforced an injunction from an Ontario court on the weekend, leading to the reopening of the bridge on Monday.
Of the 90 charges, some individuals may face more than one count.
Here's a breakdown of what we know so far:
- 43 people charged with breaching a court order.
- 43 people charged with mischief over $5,000.
- One person charged with obstructing justice.
- One person charged with failing to attend court.
- One person charged with dangerous driving.
- One person is facing a Highway Traffic Act Charge for failing to remain.
Charges may be barrier to entering U.S.: lawyer
The charges could be a concern for people trying to cross the border, according to Windsor immigration lawyer Eddie Kadri.
"If criminal charges are going to be pursued and convictions are secured — if those convictions equate to crimes of moral turpitude — then they're going to have barriers of entrance into the United States," said Kadri.
"Even with a criminal charge but not a conviction, if they do attempt to cross into the United States, and the U.S. becomes aware of that charge, that charge stays on your record, it doesn't get removed or expunged from the U.S. system."
People must disclose information, including any charges against them, if asked by a border officer, said Kadri. While many charges may not fit the U.S.'s definition of "moral turpitude," Kadri said a wide range of crimes could be included.
"The element of criminal charges here really changes the game for some of these people, specially for those whose livelihoods depends on crossing the border."
Kadri said people can pursue waivers to be able to cross the border again, but they'd need to do that for their entire lives to be admitted to the U.S.
Windsor—Tecumseh Liberal MP Irek Kusmierczyk said that's something that could happen whether or not individuals are charged under the Emergencies Act.
"If Canadians undertake unlawful behaviour — even before the Emergencies Act — they're subject to certain penalties and consequences, and often times one of those consequences is if they have a criminal record, or if they have been convicted of unlawful behaviour, they may not be permitted into Canada or into the United States for example, and vice versa," he said to CBC News.
"Part of the Emergencies Act that is being implemented here is to introduce additional penalties and additional authorities for all levels of government."
When asked what prompted him to decide to invoke the never-before used legislation now, Trudeau said: "For me, the conversations I had with our Windsor MP, Irek Kusmierczyck, who was talking about the impact of the disruption of the Ambassador bridge almost as soon as it started happening. The impact on workers in the auto sector in the Windsor area and up the supply chain in southern Ontario ....
"The direct impact hurting the exact people these convoy protesters are purporting to represent."
Border must be treated with 'gravity,' MP says
Kusmierczyck explained the act is meant to target certain areas or infrastructure, like the Ambassador Bridge, to protect from future protests or blockades. Since the protest took place on a municipal road, jurisdiction fell to the City of Windsor, while the act now allows for RCMP to step in more quickly, he said.
"As we've seen over the last few days, the border and any interruption of the border is a national security issue and as such we must treat it with the gravity it requires," he said.
It's something Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens is also watching for, as the federal government releases more details on the act.
Areas around the former protest site near the Ambassador Bridge have remained closed off by police, and the city is in a "heightened state of alert," over concerns protesters may return, said Dilkens.
"For those folks who live in the City of Windsor, this is not a pleasant experience now," he said Monday, explaining the effects of the blocked roadway.
The mayor said he wants to see solutions to open the roadway for municipal use, calling the bridge closure "not a Windsor-Essex issue" but a "national issue."
With files from John Paul Tasker, Dale Molnar, Tony Doucette
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