Truckers have vowed to descend on the Canadian capital of Ottawa to protest the cross-border COVID-19 mandates, but the government isn’t backing down.
In a statement Tuesday, several Canadian officials, joined by the Canadian Trucking Alliance president, doubled down on the importance of COVID-19 vaccines as the “most effective tool to reduce the risk of COVID-19.” Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, one of the signatories, said separately that the decision was for the own good of Canadians.
“What we are doing right now is for the protection of truck drivers, but also for the protection of our supply chains and our economy,” he said.
The Canadian government currently requires unvaccinated Canadian truckers to quarantine for two weeks upon re-entering the country. According to the Canadian Trucking Alliance, whose president has sided with the vaccine mandate, the quarantine burden may sideline up to 32,000 of the approximately 160,000 cross-border truckers.
The trucker protest comes amidst reports that the supply chain crisis in Canada has been getting worse. The Toronto Star reported Monday that Greater Toronto Area shoppers have noticed more empty shelves in grocery stores, a phenomenon the newspaper attributed to weather, the Omicron variant, and “the vaccine mandate for truckers at the border.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has continued to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations and booster shots, and, in remarks on Monday, chalked up concerns about supply chains from conservatives as “fearmongering.”
“I regret that the Conservative party and conservative politicians are fearmongering to Canadians about the supply chain, but the reality is that vaccination is how we’re going to get through this,” Trudeau told reporters, according to The Guardian.
The full statement from the transport minister, labor minister, employment minister and CTA president can be read below:
The global COVID-19 pandemic continues to have an impact on all Canadians. Within the trucking industry, the pandemic has led to unprecedented challenges. Despite these circumstances, truckers have delivered for Canadians.
Vaccines, medications, personal protective equipment, food, and supplies continue to arrive where they need to be thanks to the efforts of our dedicated commercial truck drivers.
The vast majority of all consumer products and food are shipped by trucks. Furthermore, the trucking industry remains vital to Canada and injects billions of dollars into the economy.
Since the outset of the pandemic, the Government of Canada and the Canadian Trucking Alliance have engaged regularly with one another and with other key partners to identify emerging issues and mitigate disruptions. This engagement has been critical to keeping trucks moving, while also keeping Canadians safe from COVID-19.
The Government of Canada and the Canadian Trucking Alliance both agree that vaccination, used in combination with preventative public health measures, is the most effective tool to reduce the risk of COVID-19 for Canadians, and to protect public health.
As the pandemic continues, it remains critical that essential goods reach Canadians as quickly as possible. In fact, this is a top priority for the Government of Canada and the Canadian Trucking Alliance.
To reach this goal, and to bolster Canada’s economic recovery and long-term competitiveness, it’s important to tackle two major challenges facing industry – supply chain constraints and labour shortages.
These issues are not easy to solve, and they must be addressed by long-term strategies that will achieve real and lasting results.
Moving forward, the Government of Canada, the Canadian Trucking Alliance and the industry at large will continue our shared dialogue on the challenges facing this sector. By working together, we are confident that we can find solutions that will help Canadians and industry alike.