RCMP say they have not arrested or ticketed anyone involved in a blockade near the U.S. border crossing in southern Manitoba.
Officers were at the protest near Emerson and were continuing to work with organizers to reach a peaceful resolution, the Mounties said in a statement Friday.
“The RCMP is on scene and will remain on scene until the situation at the border is resolved. We will continue to use discretion to guide our response to this evolving situation,” said Chief Supt. Rob Hill.
“Let me stress that proper use of police discretion should not be confused with lack of enforcement. We always need to assess the situation at ground level and that may require us to wait for a lower-risk opportunity to do enforcement rather than inflame the situation.”
Dozens of protesters set up a blockade about two kilometres north of the border on Thursday to show solidarity for similar protests in Ottawa and across the country calling for an end to COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other pandemic restrictions.
RCMP have estimated there are about 50 semi-trailers, farm equipment and passenger vehicles that have blocked off access to the border, expect for emergency vehicles and livestock trucks.
On Thursday, members from the protest declined to speak with media.
Canada’s public safety minister was to talk with the Manitoba government Friday about the blockade. Marco Mendicino said the province reached out to his office for assistance, but he wouldn’t elaborate on what’s being asked of the federal government.
Mendicino said he was pleased to see an agreement to allow livestock trade to continue, which will help minimize the protest’s economic effect.
Ottawa will provide whatever resources it can to assist, but it’s up to RCMP to enforce the law, he said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that everything was on the table to bring illegal blockades to an end, but he couldn’t say when that would happen because of fears of violence.
Also on Friday, Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson announced that the province is speeding up plans to lift COVID-19 public health orders. The decision had nothing to do with an ongoing protest outside the legislature or the one near the border, she said.
Stefanson urged Trudeau to reach out to United States President Joe Biden now that the demonstrations have affected both countries.
“It’s nothing that is unique to Manitoba,” Stefanson said.
She said she also planned to talk to North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum.
“There needs to be some sort of a plan on the part of the federal government to ensure that we can have the movement of goods across our border and that that’s not curtailed in any way.”
Trudeau said he spoke with Biden on Friday about the blockades that have affected both countries’ economies and the flow of foreign funding to protesters.
The Canada Border Services Agency said it was still processing vehicles entering Canada at Emerson, but was urging travellers to use ports in Boissevain and Sprague, Man., or at North Portal in Saskatchewan.
RCMP said they were aware of multiple planned demonstrations throughout the province over the weekend, including on several highways.
Police in Winnipeg said they were preparing for several demonstrations in the city, including a counter-protest at the legislature.
“Discussions with the organizers of these events continue,” police said in a statement. “We strive to balance the right of everyone to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, as well as the rights of the general public, local residents and businesses to a safe environment.”
With files from Kelly Geraldine Malone in Winnipeg
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