March 21, 2022
The Doug Ford government is set to introduce new legislation today that would prevent illegal blockades at international border crossings, giving law enforcement additional tools to suspend vehicle permits and seize licence plates.
The legislation was spurred by a roughly week-long “siege” at the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ont. in February that disrupted traffic and prevented the transport of goods across the Canadian border.
“When the bridge was blocked, supply chains were seriously disrupted, manufacturing facilities closed and employees sent home because parts were not arriving on time,” Solicitor General Sylvia Jones told reporters Monday in Mississauga. “Ontario’s reputation as a reliable place to invest took a hit, which caught the attention of the president of the United States at an important time in our trading relationship.”
If passed, the “Keeping Ontario Open for Business Act” would provide police with the power to impose roadside suspension of drivers’ licences and vehicle permits, as well as seize licence plates when a vehicle is used in an illegal blockade.
Enforcement officers will also be given the power to remove and store objects used in border crossing blockade, officials added.
The government says it is investing nearly $96 million to support these enforcement measures, including enhanced training through the Ontario Police College, improvements to the “operational strength” of the Ontario Provincial Police and the purchasing of equipment such as tow trucks.
The solicitor general specified the legislation is specific to illegal blockades at border crossings “that impact economic activity and international trade.”
“We scoped it very narrowly and it will have no impact on the right to peaceful lawful and temporary protests or protests that happen elsewhere in the province,” Jones said.
“Our goal is to keep Ontario open for business.”
Premier Doug Ford promised to create legislation protecting Ontario’s border crossings in early February following two weeks of protests in Ottawa and a days-long blockade in Windsor. Law enforcement officials were given the temporary power under a province-wide state of emergency to fine those blocking the transport of goods and to remove vehicles if necessary.
However, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) has argued the proposed permanent legislation could be a “knee jerk” reaction to the occupations.
“There could be times when those powers don’t make any sense, that those powers would be used by police to shut down a protest that really isn’t causing the types of disruptions that we’ve seen in Ottawa,” said Abby Deshman, the director of the criminal justice program with the CCLA, previously told CTV News Toronto.
“That’s a very, very unique situation that, frankly, we haven’t seen before. So to pass legislation like that, that’s so broad on the basis of one example, that could impact all protests going forward is really concerning.”
The legislation will only apply to on international border crossings such as airports and bridge corridors.