How anti-vaccine protests in Ottawa sparked Windsor demonstrations

The protests have been building up in Windsor Essex over mask and vaccine mandates and lockdown measures, CBC Windsor News reporter Chris Ensing says.

A view of the Ambassador Bridge at night

What started as a protest against vaccine mandates morphed into something else. It turned into a traffic jam, a trade blockade of pickups and semi-trucks driven by their anti-mandate owners, shutting down truck traffic at the Ambassador Bridge for another day. 

CBC Windsor News reporter and anchor Chris Ensing says the protests at the Ambassador Bridge builds off of the protests in Ottawa as well as a culmination of events that’s happened in Windsor Essex the past couple of weeks. Convoys and drivers have been honking their horns, demonstrating their disapproval of vaccine mandates and other COVID-19 restrictions.

“Any vaccine mandate that an employer forces you to get vaccinated for your job is the sole issue for many of the protestors that I spoke with,” Ensing says. “But there are people who are going up against other regulations and restrictions that have come in place here in Canada, including mask mandates and lockdown.”

Traffic is at a standstill at the Ambassador Bridge, Ensing says.

“It’s mind-blogging to have Huron Church just empty of transport trucks, no one going into Canada from the United States,” Ensign says. “And the only way a truck can get into the United States is this back single access point, which truckers are being able to use, they got to navigate through the city to get there.”

Ensign says there are several personal vehicles blocking Huron Church and about 100 protesters by the bridge who have settled in.

“They got a barbecue out there. And they tell me that they’re not going to leave and they feel until they feel as if those demands are met,” Ensign says.

Listen: CBC Windsor News reporter and anchor Chris Ensing discusses what sparked the Windsor protests.


Russ McNamara, WDET News: Has this sentiment been building for a while? What was the trigger point for all of this?

Chris Ensing, CBC Windsor News: In Windsor Essex, we’ve been seeing it. We’ve had protests and rallies around anti-lockdown measures and around conversations about whether or not masking is needed and health regulations that have been put in place here. [Windsor Essex] … has really dealt with COVID-19 in a way that we haven’t seen elsewhere, some of the highest rates of infections, some of the highest death rates, but we continue to see a sentiment among people who want to return to normal. And with the vaccine passports coming in play here locally, you can’t sit down at a restaurant to eat unless you have two vaccines that you can prove, unless you can go to work and show you’re double vaccinated at a lot of employers. It was a touching point that seems to after at least this protest that’s happened in Ottawa has really sparked this movement here in Windsor.

It seems like members of the American right and many Republican politicians and right-wing hosts have seized on this protest as a way of dismissing all COVID-19 related vaccine mandates and restrictions. How is this playing to Canadians and Canadian politicians?

That’s interesting here locally as seeing how people are reacting to what they’re watching unfold in front of them. Locally, it took a long time to hear from elected officials to talk about what’s going on here. The first day where that lockdown of Huron Church and the Ambassador Bridge happened, we didn’t hear much. Our local federal politician here, Irek Kusmierczyk, said that he needed the protesters to go, he’s part of the Liberal government. The prime minister here has called the convoy that took place in Ottawa as very divisive, using extreme language the protesters here took issue with.

But we’re starting to hear from truck drivers who are trapped in this protest, a lot of people say they’re protesting for, upset because they can’t get home. They’re stuck on Huron Church. They’re away from their families. They’re rattled, frustrated, [asking] what’s going on. We hear neighbors who are talking about the noise. And the big thing is the auto industry. I just finished listening to one of the experts who deals in cross-border trade specifically around auto parts manufacturing, and says the industry can survive 24 hours, maybe 48 hours. But if you get to a point past that, he says stock buildup isn’t enough to maintain, layoffs might happen at plants. And he doesn’t see that going well for the protesters who are out there. But those protesters who are out there feel as if there’s a groundswell of support around them and they’re very passionate about what they’re what they’re fighting for.

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  • Russ McNamara

    Russ McNamara is the host of All Things Considered for 101.9 WDET, presenting local news to the station’s loyal listeners. He's been an avid listener of WDET since he moved to metro Detroit in 2002.