Blockade of Alberta-Montana Border

Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation spoke out about the blockade set up at the US.-Canada border crossing at Coutts, Alberta. This border crossing was shut down on January 29 by a convoy demanding an end to all vaccine mandates. Chief Adam pointed out that if the protesters were Indigenous, the RCMP would have already arrested them. "If peaceful protests of critical infrastructure at Coutts is allowed, then we expect the same to be true in the future should Indigenous people engage in similar forms of protest," he said.

Chief Adam was referring to Alberta's Critical Infrastructure Defence Act. "If it only applies to First Nations, then the Premier and his caucus should do away with it altogether," Chief Adam said.

Many truckers also spoke out against the disruption at the border. Highway 4 from Lethbridge to the U.S. border at Coutts is part of the CANAMEX corridor, and continues in the U.S. as Interstate 15. The CANAMEX corridor was established under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) linking Canada to Mexico through the United States, and required the respective countries to upgrade the designated highways as an important trade corridor. An estimated 800 to 1,200 trucks cross the Coutts-Sweetgrass entry point daily.

While the media described the convoy as "massive," truckers explained that the vast majority of the trucks stuck on the highway were not part of the blockade. Punjabi truckers released a video in which they estimated that more than 1,500 truckers were caught in the blockade since January 29, sitting with full loads. They explained that they were without food, and that some of them were in urgent need of medication. No one was listening to them, they said.

The border remained completely closed until February 3, when some kind of agreement was reached and two lanes were opened. However RCMP continued to report that very little traffic was actually getting through and urged "motorists" to stay away. Not a word about the conditions of the truckers held hostage at the border with nothing to eat and medical emergencies. The blockade continued despite repeated reports that those involved had agreed to lift it, at least while they traveled to Edmonton for a rally.

Pressure on Kenney intensified with calls for an end to the blockade coming from three associations of feedlot owners, ranchers, and farmers, the Alberta and Saskatchewan Division of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, the Canadian Meat Council, and the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers, amongst others.

On February 3, Kenney released a video in which he declared to all who were demanding an end to COVID-19 restrictions that "I'm on your side" and said that he sympathized with them. Then in the evening he held a "Facebook Live" chat in which he essentially met all the demands made by those involved in the blockades for an end to COVID-19 restrictions. The province's COVID-19 cabinet committee would vote to lift the restrictions exemption program (REP) "early next week" he said, and a phased plan to remove almost all public health restrictions later this month as long as there is declining pressure on the hospitals.

There are now more COVID-19 patients in hospital than at any time during the pandemic, as well as a high death toll. Nonetheless, in a Facebook Live event Kenney stated: "After two years of this, we simply cannot continue to rely on the blunt instrument of damaging restrictions as a primary tool to cope with a disease that will likely be with us for the rest of our lives." Covering up the failure to provide enough resources to the health care system or adequate all-sided prophylactic measures, he merely declared, "We must find a way to get our lives back to normal." This is par for the course when a brutal dictate of anti-social measures is enforced.

Both Premier Jason Kenney and Opposition Leader Rachel Notley initially denounced the blockade and called for the border to re-open. At the same time, Kenney was in Washington calling for an end to the U.S. requirement that truckers be fully vaccinated to enter the U.S. Despite warnings from Kenney that the blockade was illegal and must end, and threats to use the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act, nothing happened. The RCMP responded that, "We continue to work with the blockade participants to re-establish safe passage," even as new blockades were reported, agreements were announced and immediately breached.

Ezra Levant, editor of Rebel News announced that he had provided the blockaders with a lawyer at their request, who would negotiate on their behalf, and launched an appeal for "crowd-funding" a legal defence fund for the blockaders, despite the fact that no charges had been laid against anyone.

At no time did any organization claim responsibility, and those responsible for the blockade never identified themselves. Despite this, official media whose hallmark is to never establish a vantage point in their reporting based on warranted conclusions as revealed by actual investigation and facts, continue to refer to the perpetrators as "truckers."

As this kind of anarchy and violence swirls around us, it is important to remember: Don't blame the truckers! They are not the organizers of these events.

(Photo: R. Muldaner)

This article was published in

Volume 52 Number 2 - February 6, 2022

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