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Business leaders call for immediate end to Ambassador Bridge protest

·4 min read
WINDSOR, CANADA - APRIL 10: The Ambassador Bridge spans the Detroit River to connect Windsor, Ontario, to Detroit, Michigan Friday, April 10, 2020. Nurse Renée Amyotte crosses the border from Windsor to Detroit to work exclusively at Detroit Medical Centre's Hutzel Women's Hospital. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Amyotte was one of many healthcare workers who lives in Windsor, but works in hospitals on both sides of the Windsor-Detroit border. Since the pandemic, healthcare workers have had to agree to limit where they work to a single location. (Photo by Tara Walton for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Business leaders are calling on an end to the protest blocking traffic at the Ambassador Bridge. (Photo by Tara Walton for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Business leaders called for an end to the protest that brought traffic to a halt at the Ambassador Bridge, a critical economic link between Canada and the United States and the busiest border crossing in North America.

The border crossing between Windsor, Ont. and Detroit reopened to U.S.-bound traffic after being blocked in both directions due to anti-vaccine mandate protests on Monday evening. Limited traffic was being allowed into the U.S. through the bridge, Windsor Police said shortly after noon on Tuesday, and commercial vehicles were being redirected to the Blue Water Bridge in Sarnia, Ont. Police urged people to avoid the area and use alternate routes.

The Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) listed the Ambassador Bridge as temporarily closed as of 11:58 a.m. ET on Tuesday. The Michigan Department of Transportation said the Ambassador Bridge remained closed on the U.S. side and advised those headed to Canada to use the Port Huron crossing.

Windsor Police said more than 100 protesters remained on the scene of the demonstration early Tuesday.

The Ambassador Bridge is the busiest border crossing between Canada and the U.S., with an average of 40,000 commuters, tourists and truck drivers crossing the border carrying more than $300 million worth of goods each day.

"The blockage of the Ambassador Bridge is completely unacceptable," Rakesh Naidu, president and chief executive of the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement on Twitter.

"Everyone has the right to protest but not at the cost of other people's lives and livelihood. Businesses already reeling due to COVID-19 will be further hammered."

Matt Moroun, the chairman of the Detroit International Bridge Company that owns the bridge, released a statement on Tuesday saying "international commerce needs to resume."

"The Ambassador Bridge and the Moroun family sympathize with truck drivers and those caught up in this blockade. We recognize that truck drivers are essential workers that work hard to deliver necessities to all of us, and that the Canadian government has done a tremendous job with vaccine rates," Moroun said in the statement.

"The Ambassador Bridge has a solemn obligation to facilitate safe and efficient international trade and travel. We encourage the appropriate officials to take prompt action to alleviate the situation as quickly as possible in a manner that reflects mutual respect."

The border crossing is an especially critical link for the automotive industry. Automotive parts and components cross North American borders (including Mexico) up to eight times before a vehicle is assembled, according to the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers' Association.

Flavio Volpe, the president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association (APMA), says about $100 million in automotive parts cross the Ambassador Bridge on a daily basis. Given most automotive manufacturers operate under a just-in-time production model, Volpe says there are only enough parts "for a day or two" before production will be affected.

"Anytime you are unable to make a shipment it's a problem," Volpe said in an interview.

"Our message is enforce the laws that are on the books... We all have the right to protest in both countries. But you don't have a right to park your car in the middle of the street and leave it there, and you don't have the right to block an international border crossing."

Perrin Beatty, the president and chief executive of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, also called for an immediate end to the blockade.

"The illegal blockade at the Ambassador Bridge is an immediate and grave threat to the wellbeing of our citizens and the ability of our economy to recover," he said on Twitter.

"It needs to be peacefully ended now."

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the crossing is a vital trade artery between Canada and the United States.

"Many essential workers, including frontline health care workers, rely on it to get to work," he said on Twitter. "Police are on the scene to ensure traffic is moving safely."

With files from the Canadian Press

Alicja Siekierska is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow her on Twitter @alicjawithaj.

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