As It Happens·Q&A

Canada must end the Ambassador Bridge blockade, says Michigan congresswoman

The ongoing blockade of the Ambassador Bridge is "a Canadian government issue," but it's one that affects people on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border, says a Michigan congresswoman.

Protesters block the border crossing between Windsor and Detroit for a 4th day

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell says Canadian officials must bring an end to the blockage at the Ambassador Bridge that connects Windsor, Ont., to Detroit. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Story Transcript

The blockade at the Ambassador Bridge has Americans wondering whether the U.S. is too reliant on Canadian manufacturing, a Michigan congresswoman says.

Protesters demanding an end to pandemic restrictions have been blocking access to the bridge that connects Windsor, Ont., to Detroit for four days as of Thursday. It's one of several anti-mandate protests across the country.

The demonstration has, so far, remained limited to the Canadian side of the bridge, which is a major U.S.-Canada trade route, especially for the automotive industry. However, traffic has been blocked in both directions. 

Auto-industry groups, backed by the City of Windsor, Ont., are seeking an injunction to have the protesters removed.

Democrat Debbie Dingell is the U.S. representative for Michigan's 12th Congressional District. Here is part of her conversation with As It Happens host Carol Off. 

Congresswoman Dingell, we're hearing a lot in Canada about stoppages [and] slowdowns in our auto parts factories. What are you hearing about work stoppages in Michigan today?

More plants have gone down, not only in Michigan, but around the country, and it's been intermittent over the last few days. 

What are you hearing from the White House as to what concerns they have and what they might do about this blockade?

I know that the White House is very focused on it. There are people from a number of our cabinet departments that are looking at it from a variety of issues. 

It is on, at this moment, the Canadian side of the bridge. It's a Canadian government issue. And I think that people are hopeful that the Canadian government will step up and deal with this.

WATCH | Protesters speak with police: 

Protesters speak with police after blocking another key road in Windsor, Ont.

12 months ago
Duration 1:42
Police and protestors blocking the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ont., attempt to negotiate late Wednesday night. Overnight, protesters blocked the only available route to the bridge, halting traffic in the city's downtown core.

What concerns do you have about how the politicians in Canada are handling this?

I am very reluctant to take individual shots or to give people advice. But I do know that both of our countries at federal, state and local level are all being impacted by this right now. 

I am always someone that encourages people to talk at all levels, to try to bring people together, to listen to what the concerns are, to find the solution.

Your government, your country, your economy is being as impacted as our economy is. So I would encourage all of you to be having conversations necessary to address this critical issue for your workers, as well as ours.

How would you expect your government to respond if the same blockade happened on the U.S. side?

It is interfering with many issues, not just economic issues, but, you know, health-care issues. What if there's an emergency on the bridge?

Or, quite frankly, we have many nurses from Canada that work in our hospitals. 

So I think everybody respects the right to protest, but we also respect the right of workers to earn their income, to keep our economy flowing, and to keep our borders open.

The conversation in Canada is that if this was happening on the U.S. side, it would end shortly after it began because the United States would act very swiftly. Do you think that's the case?

I believe that is the case.

And would you like to see Canada act more swiftly then?

I think Canada's got a responsibility to get this bridge opened, yes.

WATCH | Ontario Liberal leader suggests strategies to stop protests blocking the bridge: 

Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca says here are measures to take to stop protesters

12 months ago
Duration 1:19
Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca visited Windsor Thursday, offering his strategies on how protesters can be stopped in Windsor and across Ontario.

Just as far as what long-term effects this has on the confidence of this integrated supply chain between our two countries in automaking, I know your colleague in the [U.S.] House [of Representatives], Elissa Slotkin ... says [the U.S. should] bring American manufacturing back home to states like Michigan. Do you think that this raises the question about disintegration?

Our two countries have had a very long friendship. I think I was probably very swift with my tongue yesterday. You import ... parts from our side of the country as well. 

I think that if this has an extended period of time, it is going to make all of us use this as further evidence that we shouldn't be reliant on another country.

I do cherish the friendship that we have between our two countries. I hope that this will not damage it.

But when things like this happen, and it shows what you were talking about, how we become dependent on another country and don't have control over what is happening, then I am somebody, like my colleague, who believes we need to bring more of our supply chain home.

A blockade in front of the bridge, which links the city to Michigan, has entered a fourth day. (Darrin Di Carlo/CBC)

When you say that you were too swift with your tongue yesterday, I think the quote [you're referring to is:] "We are not getting parts into Michigan. This is the problem with just-in-time supply chains when we're reliant on other countries." Is that what you're referring to?

That is what I was referring to.

Just finally, there are many people in the United States who are supporting this blockade and what's going on in Ottawa as well — many politicians, including [Sen.] Ted Cruz, but he's not alone in that. What do you say to American politicians who are cheering on this blockade and the truckers' convoy?

I believe in the right to protest. I believe in the freedom of speech. I think they're fundamental principles of our democracy.

I also believe that we've got to protect our workers and that everyone has got a right to a livelihood. 

I think there are a lot of very complicated issues here. And I would also ask people to look at who are actually part of these trucking convoys. Most of your trucking associations, your trucking workers, are not part of these convoys. I think there are people that are trying to cause trouble and effectively doing it.

And I hope we will all be very careful because I love my country. I believe in our democracy. I respect your country, and I respect your culture and your attitudes. But these kind of tensions that we are seeing right now are attacking the fundamental pillars of both of our governments.

Does it surprise you to see this going on in Canada?

I'm not surprised by anything in this day and age, to be perfectly frank. 


Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Katie Geleff. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.

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