Windsor

Ontario judge extends injunction against Ambassador Bridge protesters indefinitely

An Ontario Superior Court Judge has indefinitely extended an injunction preventing protesters from blockading the Ambassador Bridge.

Injunction was initially ordered Feb. 11 to disperse protests around key Ontario-U.S. trade link

On Monday, traffic was once again flowing across the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ont., linking Canada to Detroit. An Ontario court on Friday extended a 10-day injunction issued to end the bridge blockade by pandemic mandate protesters. (Nicole Osborne/The Canadian Press )

An Ontario Superior Court Judge has indefinitely extended an injunction preventing protesters from blockading the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor.

Chief Justice Geoffrey Morawetz handed down the ruling on Friday following a court hearing.

On Feb. 11, Morawetz initially ordered a 10-day injunction against the protesters that led to the end of the bridge blockade. The bridge, a key trade link between Ontario and the U.S., reopened on Sunday.

For three weeks, protests that began against pandemic mandates have been interrupting traffic and services in different parts of the country, including in Ottawa, where police on Friday began dismantling an occupation of the streets around Parliament Hill. The Windsor bridge blockade lasted six days. 

The request to extend the injunction was brought forward by the City of Windsor, the Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association (APMA) and the attorney general of Ontario.

The original plaintiffs were the APMA, Global Automakers of Canada and Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers Association, because of the costs incurred to the auto industry during the six-day blockade. 

"Life has not returned to normal in Windsor or on Huron Church Road," Jennifer King, lawyer for the city, told the judge on Friday.

The original injunction stated anyone having notice of the order is prohibited from "impeding or blocking access to the Ambassador Bridge and indirect or direct approaching roadways and access points" for 10 days. 

In a statement Friday, the city said it is seeking to become a lead plaintiff in extending the injunction due to the impacts still being felt along Huron Church Road, which has continued to be monitored by police after the blockade was finally dispersed Sunday night. 

The injunction authorizes police or "designated agents" to remove any vehicles, personal property, equipment, structures, or other objects that impede or block access to the bridge, and approaching roadways.

It allows for the arrest and removal of anyone police believe have "reasonable and probable grounds to believe is contravening, or has contravened, any provision" of the order, although they can be released if they agree to obey the order.

People are free to engage in peaceful protests that don't impede or block access to the bridge or approaching roadways, the order states. 

'Life has not returned to normal,' lawyer says

King said 10 bylaw infraction tickets were handed out on Feb. 11, after the injunction was issued, providing videos showing "defiant protesters" saying they'd continue to stay despite orders to leave. 

By Saturday, the protest group surged to 600 to 800 people, and by Sunday protesters and vehicles remained in the area, King said, until a number left on their own and police moved in making 44 arrests and towing vehicles. 

She also brought forward evidence that Windsor police intercepted a convoy en route to the Ambassador Bridge this week.

"There remains a risk that protesters will return to blockade the bridge," said King. "Police monitoring of social media both during and after the protest demonstrates this risk." 

She also told the court of an effort by protesters to "regroup" this weekend in Windsor. 

She argued Ward 2 has continued to be impacted by protesters, unable to commute easily from the area, with businesses also impacted.

Antoine d'Ailly, counsel for Citizens for Freedom, a non-profit representing Windsor individuals who support the blockade, argued Friday there is "certainly no imminent threat" for future bridge blockades.

He submitted photos to the court that show access to the bridge has been cleared, and since police intercepted a convoy heading toward Windsor some 250-kilometres away, it proves there is no threat.

The injunction was granted the same day Premier Doug Ford announced the province would be in a state of emergency to deal with vaccine mandate protests in the province, including the one in Windsor.

Police monitoring Huron Church Road 

Police remained in the area of the former demonstration site along Huron Church Road on Friday. 

Many east- and west-bound access of the main throughway to the bridge remains blocked, as officials are concerned protesters may return.

Extension an important tool for city, police

In a statement issued Friday, Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said the extension provides the city and police with "the full tools required to keep Huron Church Road clear and keep the Ambassador Bridge open for commercial trade and commerce."

"Windsor police and our provincial and federal law enforcement partners are monitoring the national security threats associated with this border crossing and will continuously work to open sections of Huron Church Road, when it is safe to do so."

King told CBC News after the court proceeding that the injunction shows the city is taking the protests and blockades at the Ambassador Bridge seriously.

"What's important about this type of injunction ... is that it's to enforce bylaws," she said. "What this does is says you cannot breach city bylaws, which are already in place."

"The consequences of breaching a court order can include being prosecuted under the Criminal Code, and it can include enforcement in court."

On Wednesday, police said a convoy of several transport trucks from Ottawa that were believed to be heading to Windsor was "successfully intercepted."

Windsor police Chief Pam Mizuno told a news conference Wednesday that a convoy of six or seven trucks about 250 kilometres outside the southwestern Ontario city was spotted in the previous 24 hours.

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