Alberta premier says told Mounties being assaulted at Coutts trucker border standoff
Published February 1, 2022 at 7:44 pm
COUTTS, Alta. — A trucker blockade in southern Alberta at the United States border turned violent Tuesday after some protesters breached police barriers to join the demonstration and some Mounties were reportedly attacked.
“I’ve received reports in the last hour of people aligned with the protesters assaulting RCMP officers, including one instance trying to ram members of the RCMP, later leading to a collision with a civilian vehicle,” said Premier Jason Kenney.
“This kind of conduct is totally unacceptable.
“Without hesitation, I condemn those actions and I call for calm.”
RCMP were not immediately available to comment on the assaults.
Events moved swiftly after RCMP announced Tuesday afternoon that negotiations to have the protesters leave on their own had failed and it was time to enforce the law at the Coutts, Alta., crossing.
As teams of officers approached truck cabs, some drivers began slowly peeling off and heading away.
At the same time, however, north of Coutts, other protesters breached a police barricade and drove down the highway to join the blockade.
Two of those protesters were seen in tractors with Canadian flags, racing down a ditch along the highway.
“We (began) to remove some vehicles from the protest area. A few left. I didn’t get an exact count of how many went out. And then we received notification that additional protesters were arriving on the scene and came around our secured area,” said RCMP Cpl. Curtis Peters.
The blockade has snarled and stalled traffic at the border crossing since Saturday, leaving travellers and truckers on both sides stranded and locals unable to access goods and services, including medical care.
The RCMP noted that while peaceful assembly is allowed, the demonstrators were contravening federal and provincial laws that forbid anyone from impeding access to critical infrastructure.
Kenney said the situation in Coutts remained fluid and urged travellers to use border crossings at other points of entry in the province. The premier said he is working with the federal government to see if they can extend service and working hours at those locations.
“We can expect there will continue to be some interruption at the Coutts border crossing perhaps for some time to come as the RCMP deals with the road blockage there,” said Kenney.
The demonstration started in solidarity with demonstrations countrywide and in Ottawa against cross-border truckers having to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and other public health measures.
Early Tuesday, the line of trucks had thinned out but still stretched two abreast as far as the eye could see in chilling wind and -20 C temperatures.
Canadian flags flew from some trucks. Others sported upside-down Maple Leafs and homemade signs and placards: “True North Strong Proud and Free.” “Mandate Freedom or Liberation is Coming.” “No Fear, Freedom Rules.”
Coutts Mayor Jim Willett has said the protest was isolating the village’s 250 residents.
Mail delivery had been stopped and some children were forced to stay home from school Monday because their bus could not get into the community. There were reports of residents not receiving at-home medical care.
The blockade also left truckers stranded in the U.S.
Lovepreet Singh said he arrived in Edmonton on Tuesday after waiting in Montana with 150 other trucks and a full load of fruit and vegetables for more than two days.
Singh said it was a frustrating wait that put the health of some truckers at risk.
“That’s not how Canadians behave,” said Singh in an interview.
“There are people (who) have medical issues like blood pressure issues, thyroid issues, asthma.”
He said many of those waiting ate pizza every day from a nearby store while listening to a constant refrain from police to sit tight and wait.
Singh said he eventually detoured through icy roads in British Columbia at a cost of seven extra hours and $400 in gas.
Some truck drivers who left earlier risked driving through snow squalls, he said. One rig hit the ditch.
“We don’t make enough money to survive in these kinds of situations,” said Singh. “It’s even hard for us to pay all the bills and (provide) for our family.”
— With files from Fakiha Baig in Edmonton
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 1, 2022.
Alanna Smith, The Canadian Press
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version misspelled Mayor Jim Willett’s last name.insauga's Editorial Standards and Policies advertising