CORNWALL, Ontario – On the morning of Saturday, Feb. 12, traffic on the Seaway International Bridge at the intersection of Brookdale Ave. and Water St. in Cornwall was slowed by a number of tractors, pick-up trucks, and protestors opposed to COVID-19 mandates and restrictions.
The protest which numbered between 50-100 people on Saturday morning was not entirely blocking traffic, but was slowing it down. Officers from the Cornwall Police Service (CPS) and OPP were on-site observing the demonstration.
The Seaway International Bridge connects the City of Cornwall to Akwesasne. The bridge is the only connection for those who live on Akwesasne to mainland Canada. Mohawk Council of Akwesasne (MCA) Grand Chief Abram Benedict released a statement Saturday morning about the protest.
“The Mohawk Council is aware of the current protest at the end of Brookdale Avenue within the City of Cornwall. We are concerned with Akwesasne Mohawks’ ability to reach essential services and travel without restrictions between Akwesasne and Cornwall. The Three Nations Bridge Crossing provides access to the United States, but it is the only link between Akwesasne and Cornwall. Given the unique location of CBSA Cornwall, Cornwall Island residents must cross this bridge to get to the mainland. Protests need to respect this unique situation of the Cornwall crossing, remain peaceful and limit the traffic disruption to Akwesasne families,” Benedict’s statement reads.
Cornwall Mayor Glen Grant told Seaway News that he was down at the protest on Saturday morning and that the protest seemed to be peaceful. Grant also stated that members of the CPS that had been sent to Ottawa to support the Ottawa Police as they deal with the similar protest in the nation’s capital had been recalled.
Mayor Grant said that there was no indication as to when the protest at the Seaway International Bridge would end.
The protest in Cornwall began one day after Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared a State of Emergency to deal with the protest in Ottawa, and the anti-mandate protesters blocking the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, ON.
In his Emergency Declaration, Ford said that he could no longer tolerate individuals “holding Ottawa hostage” and blocking traffic at border crossings.
“To those who’ve attempted to disrupt our way of life by targeting our lifeline for food, fuel, and goods across our borders, to those trying to force a political agenda through disruption, intimidation, and chaos my message to you is this: your right to make a political statement does not outweigh the right of hundreds of thousands of workers to make their living. It does not outweigh our right to get food across our borders. Your right to make a political statement does not outweigh the rights of a million people in Ottawa to live peacefully without harassments and chaos in their own homes,” Ford said.
The Premier said that he and his cabinet would make it punishable to block or impede traffic at international crossings, 400 series highways, municipal and provincial road ways, rail lines, and at airports.
Those who violate this Emergency Order could face up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
In a statement to the media, CPS did not state whether or not they would be handing out fines or making arrests in relation to Premier Ford’s Emergency Declaration at this time.
CPS issues statement on protest
Shortly after 12 p.m. on Saturday, the CPS issued a statement in regards to the protest at the Seaway International Bridge.
“The Cornwall Police Service (CPS) respects the rights of Canadians to exercise their freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. All members of the general public, road users, residents, and businesses also have the right to a safe environment. Our police service recognizes the need to balance individual rights and freedoms with the need to maintain public peace and order. For this reason, the CPS is looking to maintain open communication with everyone involved in the demonstration and use a reasoned and tempered approach, while ensuring the proper use of police discretion to guide our response,” the statement from CPS reads. “We are closely monitoring the demonstration at the Cornwall Port of Entry and are working collaboratively with our law enforcement partners to proactively respond. The CPS has initiated communications with the main organizers; however, we must urge anyone involved to not engage in illegal activity, nor endanger members of the public or first responders, including police personnel, or jeopardize public peace. Those found committing crimes and acts of violence will be investigated and charges will be laid. This includes enforcement of traffic related offences and the investigation of any criminal acts.”
The CPS also stated that they were mindful of the concerns of the residents of Akwesasne and that they were working with community partners to ensure that access to critical infrastructure was maintained and that traffic flowed in a safe and orderly manner.
“The Cornwall Police Service has mobilized our policing resources to ensure public safety, while maintaining peace, order and security,” said Chief of Police Shawna Spowart. “I want to assure the residents of Cornwall, Akwesasne and Stormont, Dundas & Glengarry, that we are working closely with our law enforcement partners to minimize disruption to our communities and that any acts of violence or unlawful activities will not be tolerated.”