New measures proposed to protect movement of people and goods at international borders
The Ontario government is introducing a suite of new measures to protect international border crossings from unlawful disruptions that hurt people and businesses. These new measures include legislation that, if passed, would enable law enforcement to better protect jobs that rely on international trade and shield the economy from future disruptions like the recent illegal blockade of Windsor’s Ambassador Bridge, which led to factory closures, shift reductions and halted billions of dollars worth of trade.
“Ontario is a strong, reliable trading partner, and we are signalling to the world that we continue to be open for business,” said Premier Doug Ford. “We will do everything in our power to protect our workers, job creators and international trade relationships from any future attempts to block our borders. The world can be confident that Ontario is open for business.”
The Keeping Ontario Open for Business Act, 2022 would, if passed, better enable the province to respond immediately to future disruptions to international border crossings such as bridges and airports when those disruptions interfere with public safety, the economy and international trade.
The proposed legislation would provide police officers with additional enforcement tools to impose roadside suspension of drivers’ licences and vehicle permits, seize licence plates when a vehicle is used in an illegal blockade and remove and store objects making up an illegal blockade.
The government is also investing nearly $96 million in new measures and tools to support province-wide responses during unlawful demonstrations and illegal blockades that impede international borders and airports. These include:
- Enhanced training through the Ontario Police College for all law enforcement services to support safe and effective public order policing
- Improvements to the operational strength of the Ontario Provincial Police in the areas of emergency management and investigations and intelligence, including the establishment of a permanent Emergency Response Team, and
- Purchasing equipment such as heavy tow trucks that are necessary to keep borders open.
“Our government is focused on public safety and ensuring that people and goods can move across our international borders unimpeded,” said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones. “That’s why we are taking the steps necessary to protect international border crossings, which are critical to the public. These measures are narrow in scope and will not impact the right to peaceful, lawful and temporary protests.”
“We are taking swift action to provide police and prosecutors with new tools to keep people safe and protect the vital economic lifelines that drive the prosperity of our communities,” said Attorney General Doug Downey. “We will never hesitate to protect people’s jobs and prioritize public safety.”
“Hundreds of millions of dollars worth of essential goods for people and businesses pass across our international borders every day,” said Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation. “Taking steps to ensure our border crossings can continue to operate regularly in the event of disruptions like those experienced earlier this year is vital to the ongoing safety and security of the people of Ontario and our economy.”
Ontario declared a provincial emergency February 11, 2022, under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act in response to impacts of the “Freedom Convoy” protests and unlawful blockades to provide police with temporary powers needed to address the situations.
Under Ontario’s Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, an emergency is a situation or impending situation that constitutes a danger of major proportions that could result in serious harm to persons or substantial damage to property and that is caused by the forces of nature, a disease or other health risk, an accident or an act whether intentional or otherwise.
The proposed legislation would better equip the province to respond to future economic and social disruptions to border infrastructure that is critical to international trade, without declaring a state of emergency.