As Canadians’ impatience and frustration with the occupation of their national capital intensifies, the protests continued to echo globally on Wednesday, this time in France, where dozens of trucks and vehicles left southern France for Paris to vent their anger over their country’s vaccination policies.
The demonstrations in Canada’s capital of Ottawa — by loosely organized groups of truck drivers and protesters opposed to vaccination requirements for truckers crossing into Canada from the United States — have inspired copycat convoys in New Zealand and Australia as well. And there are talks of another in the works in the United States.
Far-right and anti-vaccine groups around the world have amplified the message of the Canadian protesters on social media, raising millions of dollars in online campaigns.
The main Facebook group for the French demonstrators has attracted more than 300,000 followers in just a few days. The movement calls itself “Convoi de la Liberté,” a direct translation of “Freedom Convoy,” the slogan for the Canadian movement.
In Ottawa, life continued to be disrupted by the presence of more than 400 trucks blocking roads. Residents got some relief on Tuesday night when the drivers of the trucks for the second night refrained from blasting their air horns, a form of protest that was enjoined by a court order on Monday afternoon.
At the other end of Ontario, in Windsor, a road blockade continued to prevent trucks from entering Canada across the Ambassador Bridge between the city and Detroit. The bridge is critical to the automobile industry, an important sector of the Canadian economy, which relies on the movement of parts across the border to keep factories in Ontario and the Midwestern United States in business.
Trucks headed to Canada are being directed to another crossing between Port Huron, Mich., and Sarnia, Ontario. But that two-hour detour has created a backlog in Sarnia; late Wednesday morning the Canada Border Services Agency estimated that clearing the bridge at Sarnia will take four and a half hours.
At the Stellantis minivan assembly plant in Windsor, two shifts were cut short Tuesday because of parts supply issues related to the bridge blockade, said LouAnn Gosselin, a spokeswoman for the company. Production resumed Wednesday morning, she said, and the company is working with parts suppliers to to prevent further shutdowns.
On Wednesday, truck protesters were also still interfering with another border crossing between the Western province of Alberta and Montana.
Although most Canadians support the public health measures that Canada has taken to combat the pandemic, the truck protesters have nonetheless tapped into fatigue with pandemic restrictions. On Tuesday, Scott Moe, the conservative premier of Saskatchewan, who has voiced support for the protesters, announced that the province would end vaccination and testing requirements on Feb. 14. Indoor mask requirements will continue until the end of the month.
In Alberta, Premier Jason Kenney announced that the province’s vaccine passport program would end as of Wednesday, and that mask mandates in schools would be lifted next week.
Most Canadian trucking groups have condemned the convoys and blockades, and said that more than 90 percent of drivers were vaccinated. Despite protesters’ claims that the mandatory vaccination of truckers would lead to border disruptions and supply shortages, the Canadian government said that it has not seen any change in truck traffic on its border.
The protesters in Ottawa converged on the city nearly two weeks ago, but a strategy for retaking the city from the truckers — who vow to remain until their demands to, among other things, rescind the vaccine mandate, are met — continues to elude law enforcement. It has also emboldened critics of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his response to the pandemic.
Ottawa’s police chief, who declared a state of emergency on Sunday, has vowed to end the protests but has said the city needs 1,800 more officers to do that. Mr. Trudeau said on Twitter that hundreds of Royal Canadian Mounted Police had been mobilized to support Ottawa police officers, and promised that the Canadian government and city would employ “whatever resources are needed to get the situation under control.”