Province wants to give police more training, set up new emergency response team in wake of border closures

Blockade by farm machinery at the Bluewater Bridge Feb. 6

The province wants to make sure long border blockades are a thing of the past.

It’s introducing legislation to allow police to respond immediately to protests at international border disruptions.

In February, protestors blocked Windsor’s Ambassador Bridge for several days. There was also a closure of the Bluewater Bridge for a number of hours on a Sunday in February of farm machinery.

It was part of a nation-wide protest which led to dozens of transport trucks blocking the roads in the nations capital for nearly four weeks.

The Windsor bridge blockade was only cleared after an auto parts industry association went to court for an injunction. It took a joint force of Ottawa Police and the OPP to clear the Ottawa protest.

In a news release, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones says the legislation would make it illegal to obstruct certain transportation infrastructure if the blockage disrupts economic activity or interferes with the safety, health or well-being of members of the public. That includes international borders, prescribed international airports and other infrastructure that is of significance to international trade.

The proposed legislation also provides police officers with more enforcement tools including issuing roadside suspensions of drivers’ licences and vehicle permits, seize licence plates of vehicles in an illegal blockade and to remove objects and store them.

The fines for offences would be stiff including $100,000 for individuals and up to $10 million for corporations.

It’s also proposing more training for police on public order policing, establishing a permanent Emergency Response Team at the Ontario Provincial Police and purchasing heavy tow trucks to be able to remove large equipment if necessary.