GREAT FALLS — The Royal Canadian Mounted Police has released a statement regarding a large number of truckers and supporters currently gathered at and near the Coutts Port of Entry on the north side of the Alberta-Montana border.
RCMP says the assembly has become an unlawful blockade after protesters choose not to comply with law enforcement. The Canadian law enforcement agency say the protesters are impeding the ability for emergency vehicles and the flow of trade goods.
Semi trucks continue to be backed up for miles in the area as part of a larger movement in Canada called a "Freedom Convoy." The convoy was initiated to oppose Canada’s vaccination mandates, which require that truckers entering Canada quarantine for two weeks if passing into the country without a COVID vaccination. The largest part of the convoy arrived in the Canadian capital of Ottawa on Saturday, with estimates of between 1,000 and 2,000 trucks - and thousands of supporters - filling the streets of the city.
On Monday afternoon, the RCMP released the following statement:
What may have begun as a peaceful assembly quickly turned into an unlawful blockade. While the Alberta RCMP has been in a position to conduct enforcement, we have been engaged with protesters at the Coutts border crossing in an effort to find a peaceful and safe resolution for all involved. We thought we had a path to resolution, the protesters eventually chose not to comply.
As of this morning, further action is being taken by the Alberta RCMP as this blockade continues to impede the ability for emergency agencies to provide full services to area residents. It has also negatively impacted the flow of goods and services, and impedes the public's freedom of movement.
A Highway is considered essential infrastructure. It is unlawful to wilfully obstruct, interrupt or interfere with the construction, maintenance, use or operation of any essential infrastructure in a manner that renders the essential infrastructure dangerous, useless, inoperative or ineffective as per the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act of Alberta. Anyone who actively blocks a highway—or aids, counsels or directs a highway to be blocked—may be subject to arrest and charge under this act.
Persons participating in this blockade can also expect enforcement of any contraventions of the Criminal Code of Canada, the Traffic Safety Act and Use of Highway and Rules of the Road Regulations at this location and area roadways.
The Alberta RCMP uses necessary measures to protect the fundamental freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, to promote the safety of all citizens, to enforce laws and to maintain peace and order. In turn, it must be recognized that while everyone has a right to peaceful freedom of expression; the general public, local residents and businesses also have the right to a safe environment and freedom of movement. This event is not a peaceful assembly.
Alberta RCMP would like to advise that commercial vehicles should contact Canada Border Services Agency for further information regarding border crossings.
The RCMP has not yet released any details of what "further action" it is taking, nor indicated whether anyone has been arrested at this point.
U.S. Customs & Border Protection said in a news release on Monday afternoon (January 31, 2022):
While the Port of Sweet Grass in Montana remains open, the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) has closed the Coutts, Alberta Port of Entry to inbound traffic. As a result, travel north into Canada via the Coutts Port of Entry is currently unavailable. Drivers are advised that even though the Port of Sweet Grass remains open, their ability to enter the U.S. at the border crossing may be impeded by the continued closure of Canadian Highway 4 north of the Port of Entry.
The Ottawa Citizen reported on Monday: "The Canadian Trucking Alliance, the main advocacy body for truckers, has disavowed the protest, saying the vast majority of its members are fully vaccinated and are continuing to work. The core organizers of the protest insist that they are not anti-vaccine but instead oppose mandates that require vaccination for people to work."
- Traffic closed at Coutts-Sweet Grass port of entry
- Trucks backed up for miles at Alberta-Montana border
- "Potential travel delays" at Port of Sweetgrass
- People gather on Hi-Line to support 'Freedom Convoy'