Remarks on the ongoing blockades across the country and the situation in Ukraine
I am here today to provide an update on the illegal blockades, whether in Ottawa or at our borders in Windsor, Coutts, Emerson. I also want to talk to you about the situation in Ukraine and this morning’s meeting with President Biden and other allies.
The illegal blockades are hurting Canadians. Whether they’re in Ottawa, Windsor, Coutts or Emerson, they’re endangering jobs, they’re threats to our economy and to public safety. The blockades are hurting small businesses and neighbourhoods.
At the border, they’re impacting trade, supply chains and manufacturing.
The people these blockades are hurting are everyday families, auto assembly workers, farmers, truckers, and blue-collar Canadians. This morning I spoke with David Cassidy of Unifor who told me how badly this is hurting workers in southern Ontario. We both agree that blockades are unacceptable and that they have to end for the good of all Canadians.
Yesterday, I convened the Incident Response Group, where I was joined by several ministers and senior officials. We continue to work closely with the municipalities and provinces to put an end to these blockades. I also shared the most recent development with the other party leaders, and I reiterated that all Members of Parliament from all parties must speak out against these illegal acts.
On Wednesday I spoke with Premier Ford, and yesterday with Mayor Drew Dilkens of Windsor to offer the full and continued support of the federal government. Minister Alghabra as well as Ministers Blair, Mendicino and LeBlanc are also in regular contact with their counterparts.
Ontario’s announcement this morning is responsible and necessary. We will continue working alongside all partners to get the situation under control.
This morning I had a direct call with President Biden to talk about our shared challenges at the border. I updated him on the situation, particularly in Windsor. We discussed the American, and indeed global influences on the protest. We talked about the U.S.-based flooding of the 911 phone lines in Ottawa, the presence of U.S. citizens in the blockades, and the impact of foreign money to fund this illegal activity. President Biden and I both agree that for the security of people and the economy, these blockades cannot continue.
So, make no mistake, the border cannot and will not remain closed.
I want to remind everyone that politicians don’t direct police in a democratic society, but I can assure you that the RCMP is working with provincial and local police departments to enforce the law. Everything is on the table because this unlawful activity has to end, and it will end.
Of course, I can’t say too much more now as to exactly when or how this ends, because unfortunately we are concerned about violence, so we’re taking every precaution to keep people safe. But the absolute safest way for this to end is for everyone to return to your communities now. If you’re still participating in illegal blockades, you’re hurting your neighbours, so it’s time to go home, especially if you have kids with you.
In recent weeks, we have seen that funds are being raised to support the blockades, including funds from abroad. It is important to understand that these funds cannot support illegal activities.
Canada’s banks are governed by laws, regulations and practices that ensure funds cannot be used for criminal act… or illegal activity, and these blockades are illegal. Canadian banks are monitoring financial activity very closely and taking action as necessary.
I want to make something very clear, the illegal blockades seeking to take our neighbourhoods and our economy hostage, and the collective COVID fatigue we are facing, are two very separate things. If you joined the protests because you’re tired of COVID, you now need to understand that you are breaking laws. The consequences are becoming more and more severe. You don’t want to end up losing your licence, end up with a criminal record which will impact your job, your livelihood, even your ability to travel internationally, including to the U.S.
We’ve heard your frustration with COVID, with the measures that are there to keep people safe. We’ve heard you. It’s time to go home now.
And to the people who are tired of this pandemic – that is all Canadians – I want you to be able to get back to the things that you love. I hear you, all of you. Parliamentarians hear it in their communities, we all hear from friends and family.
From people like Laurie from here in Ontario who wrote to me to say she disagrees with the bad behaviour of the blockaders, but she’s also tired of the restrictions. Or Helen from Toronto, who’s worried about what the restrictions are doing to children’s mental health. I understand. We don’t want these measures to last longer than they should, and we never did. But the truth is, because of all of our efforts, we saved more lives in Canada than in many other countries. We helped people like Samuel from Courtney B.C. who also wrote to tell me that as a health care worker, our measures are keeping him safe.
It is because we worked together and were vaccinated that we recovered more than a million jobs. People have been asked to get vaccinated precisely because we want to avoid lockdowns and restrictions, and that’s what Canadians have done. Looking ahead, we continue to work with public health officials and follow the best scientific advice to keep people safe and protect health care workers.
Every day we consider and reconsider what’s possible and what’s best to protect Canadians. I have multiple meetings every week to talk about what the next steps are, and this morning, for example, I spoke with Dr. Tam and Minister Duclos, among others, about the plan to adjust travel measures under federal jurisdiction.
As Canadians, it’s important to continue being there for one another. We’re fighting a virus; we’re not fighting each other. People are making sacrifices and have been for the past two years. It’s never the time to hurt our economy and fellow Canadians with illegal blockades, but especially not now after all we’ve sacrificed together, after all we’ve done to get back to the things we love and reopen our lives.
Before I conclude, I’d like to speak about the situation in Ukraine. We continue to work very closely with President Biden and our allies. This morning we had a virtual summit to discuss our diplomatic, economic and military efforts.
During the summit with President Biden and allies, we discussed the importance of finding a peaceful solution. That remains our focus. We’re all concerned that Russia is continuing to build up its troop presence and looking actively for excuses to act. Instead, Russia must de-escalate. The West is standing firm together, coordinated, and ready to impose severe costs, including sanctions, if Russia invades Ukraine once again. We’re also strengthening our support and presence through NATO, and we will continue to support Ukraine democracy, sovereignty and independence, and more than anything else, continue to support the people of Ukraine.
This is an evolving situation, but the bottom line is this: we’re not seeking confrontation with Russia, but we’re resolved to stand firm with the Ukrainian people’s right to determine their own future. Merci beaucoup.