Michael Rodriguez

February 14, 2022

-Edmonton Sun


The Alberta RCMP has arrested a “small organized group” of armed protesters participating in a blockade at the Coutts border crossing in southern Alberta.

Mounties said they executed a search warrant early Monday morning on three trailers associated with the group, finding 13 long guns, handguns, multiple sets of body armour, a machete, a large quantity of ammunition and high capacity magazines. Following the search, they arrested 11 people.

“The group was said to have a willingness to use force against the police if any attempts were made to disrupt the blockade,” said the Alberta RCMP in a media release.

“This resulted in an immediate and complex investigation to determine the extent of the threat and criminal organization.”

Police said an example of the “militant mindset of a small segment of the protest” arose Sunday night around 8 p.m. when a semi and a large tractor attempted to ram a police vehicle. The officer was able to maneuver his vehicle out of the way, and the RCMP is now searching for the tractor driver to take him into custody. Both the tractor and the semi have been seized by police.

During an unrelated press conference Monday morning, Premier Jason Kenney said the recent enforcement action “underscores the severity of what has been happening.”

“Now that the RCMP has successfully resolved, this potential threat, they will proceed — I am informed — with enforcement against others who are involved in the blockade and around Coutts,” he said.

“The Government of Alberta has successfully procured all of the necessary heavy equipment and service to operate that equipment to assist the police in removing commercial vehicles and other vehicles that may be blocking our highways.”

Kenney said cross-border traffic between Alberta and Montana has operated “largely unimpeded” as the other five ports of entry have continued to operate, some with expanded hours. He said protesters have not closed the border, and have only added further hassle to those crossing it.

“All you’ve done is inconvenience thousands and thousands of hardworking truckers who have been trying to do their job, to make a living, just forcing them to drive longer distances for no point,” he said.

“You’ve sent your message. We encourage people to continue to express their views in a lawful and peaceful way. But the ongoing blockade of our borders and our highways at Coutts will no longer be tolerated.”

The arrests follow news of Mounties handing out dozens of tickets over the weekend, most under the Traffic Safety Act.

“The Alberta RCMP will resume efforts to end the illegal blockade which has prevented access to the Coutts border. We encourage all participants who are involved in this illegal action to leave immediately or relocate to the designated site for the legal protest,” said the Alberta RCMP.

The convoy of semi-trucks and other vehicles is still choking traffic leading to Coutts, Alberta’s busiest border crossing, for the third consecutive week, as tensions continue to rise with authorities and governments nationwide. The protest, and those like it across Canada, are targeting public health restrictions associated with COVID-19.

Enforcement at the convoy protests nationwide could get a boost Monday. Citing unnamed sources, the CBC reported Trudeau plans to invoke the Emergencies Act, a rarely used provision that allows the federal government to override the provinces and authorize special temporary measures to ensure security during national emergencies anywhere in the country.

The Emergencies Act has never been used in Canada, but its predecessor, the War Measures Act, was invoked by Trudeau’s father, Pierre Trudeau, in 1970 during the October Crisis and during the First and Second World Wars. The CBC said the government has no plans to send in the military.

On Saturday, the Canada Border Services Agency announced it had temporarily suspended services at the Coutts border crossing until further notice.

In a statement, the agency said it “recognizes border disruptions affect both travellers and industry” and said it was working to restore normal operations as quickly as possible.

Commercial traffic is being rerouted to other ports of entry, with the closest locations in North Portal and Regway in Saskatchewan and Roosville and Kingsgate in B.C.

There has been no movement at the Coutts port of entry since last Tuesday at 8 p.m., hours before Alberta’s vaccine passport program was lifted. Protesters in the area are digging in despite an easing of COVID-19 restrictions as they seek a full lifting of provincial and federal restrictions and mandates.

Meanwhile, in Windsor, where protesters had blocked Canada’s largest port of entry at the Ambassador Bridge for almost a week, officers moved in with force Sunday. They arrested up to 30 people and seized several vehicles. The bridge reopened Monday morning.

Survey says, “Go home now”

New polling data from the Angus Reid Institute shows that while the nationwide convoy protesters have made themselves heard, they’re driving public opinion on their cause in a negative direction.

More than two in five poll respondents said the protests have made them less likely to support governments lifting masking mandates and vaccine requirements for cross-border travel. The poll also suggests nearly three-quarters of Canadians (72 per cent) believe the time has come for protesters to “go home now, they have made their point.”

The online survey was conducted from Feb. 11 to 13, a representative randomized sample of 1,622 Canadian adults who are members of the Angus Reid Forum. A probability sample of this size carries a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.