Manitoba police prepare for more truck convoys and counter-protests over the weekend

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People block Highway 75 with heavy trucks and farm equipment to prevent access to the Manitoba-US border crossing in Emerson, Manitoba on February 10, 2022.JOHN WOODS/The Canadian Press

RCMP say they have not arrested or fined anyone involved in a blockade near the US border crossing in southern Manitoba.

Officers were present at the protest near Emerson and continued to work with organizers to reach a peaceful resolution, Mounties said in a statement Friday.

“The RCMP are on site and will remain on site until the situation at the border is resolved. We will continue to use discretion to guide our response to this evolving situation,” said Supt. Rob Hill.

“Let me emphasize that the appropriate use of police discretion should not be confused with lack of enforcement. We must always assess the situation on the ground and this may require us to wait for a lower risk opportunity. to enforce the law rather than escalate the situation.

Dozens of protesters set up a blockade about two kilometers north of the border on Thursday to show solidarity with similar protests in Ottawa and across the country calling for an end to COVID-19 vaccination mandates and other pandemic restrictions.

The RCMP estimated that there are approximately 50 tractor-trailers, agricultural equipment and passenger vehicles that have blocked access to the border, with the exception of emergency vehicles and cattle trucks.

On Thursday, members of the protest declined to speak to the media.

Canada’s public safety minister was due to speak with the Manitoba government on Friday about the blockade. Marco Mendicino said the province had asked his office for help, but he didn’t specify what was being asked of the federal government.

Mendicino said he was happy to see an agreement allowing the livestock trade to continue, which will help minimize the economic effect of the protest.

Ottawa will provide all possible resources to help, but it’s up to the RCMP to enforce the law, he said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said everything was on the table to end the illegal blockades, but he could not say when that would happen for fear of violence.

Also Friday, Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson announced the province is accelerating plans to lift public health orders related to COVID-19. The decision had nothing to do with an ongoing protest outside the legislature or one near the border, she said.

Stefanson urged Trudeau to reach out to US President Joe Biden now that the protests have affected both countries.

“There’s nothing unique about Manitoba,” Stefanson said.

She said she also plans to speak to North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum.

“There needs to be some kind of plan on the part of the federal government to make sure that we can have the movement of goods across our border and that it’s not restricted in any way.

Trudeau said he spoke with Biden on Friday about the blockades that have affected the economies of both countries and the flow of foreign funding to protesters.

The Canada Border Services Agency said it still processed vehicles entering Canada at Emerson, but urged travelers to use the ports of Boissevain and Sprague in Manitoba or North Portal in Saskatchewan.

RCMP said they are aware of multiple protests planned across the province over the weekend, including on multiple highways.

Winnipeg police said they were preparing for several protests in the city, including a counter-protest at the Legislative Assembly.

“Discussions with the organizers of these events are continuing,” police said in a statement. “We strive to balance everyone’s right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, as well as the rights of the general public, local residents and businesses to a safe environment.”

With files from Kelly Geraldine Malone in Winnipeg

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